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Friends don’t let caregiving friends sail alone {one vital way to stay connected}

sailing in the dark

No one is immune to trouble.

In Christ’s body we’re one. Yet we’re different. We all serve a unique bodily function. Each function is vital — even those bodily parts that seem useless or weak.

In a perfect world, nobody gets sick or hurt. Sin is conquered. Utopia — the Christian millennium — has obviously not arrived yet. Cancer rates have skyrocketed in the US among other proofs of non-utopian conditions. Persecution of Christ’s body is at an all time global high.

We DO look forward to the time of earthly shalom as well as His eternal kingdom come.

“Thy will be done on EARTH as it is in Heaven.”

Peace on earth is what a faith-filled suffering Job looked forward to as he speaks in Job 19.

23“Oh, that my words were written!
    Oh, that they were inscribed in a book!
24 That they were engraved with an iron pen
    and lead in the rock forever!
25 For I know that my Redeemer lives,
    and He will stand at last on the earth;
26 and after my skin is destroyed,
    yet in my flesh I will see God,
27 whom I will see for myself,
    and my eyes will behold, and not another.
    How my heart yearns within me. (quoted from the MEV)

Jesus plainly said, “In this world you shall have tribulation.”

I and II Peter echo these themes of suffering here and now.

So whatever you do, DON’T be that friend who fails to remind your friend of Jesus who himself suffered while here on this earth. In fact, Isaiah reminds us he was afflicted more than any man.

Bearing the collective sins of the world on his back was the most unbearably hellish affliction anyone could possibly imagine. All of our hatred. All of our lust. All of our envy. All of our anger. All of our greed. All of our gossip. All of our unbelief. The list is endless!

The one thing we often fail to do is to remind our suffering friends every single time of Jesus.

He’s the ONE faithful friend — the ONLY one  who completely understands the pain and struggle you’re enduring.

I say this from a place of humility, as I have failed repeatedly in this area.  Just last night I wrote a note to a suffering friend who had shared a prayer request with me. Three weeks later I followed up. #epicencouragementfail.

Anything GOOD we say about God reminds our friends of Jesus. I’m doing this on a daily basis with my girlie. She’s suffering. The Psalms always have something good to say about God, right?  When our hearts are too tired and sore to sing our Psalms, we read them. I pray them daily. I cannot live without them.

Jesus is our “balm in Gilead”.

On a very dark, lonely day this summer, just a few short weeks ago, I felt the world crumbling again beneath my feet. Other caregivers experience this meltdown. Ask me how I know!

As I poured out my sobbing grief to God, I asked for a sign of His love for me which I truly do believe in.  Asking for signs is NOT a way I lead my daily life. “Blessed are those who do not see me, yet believe,” Jesus told doubting Thomas. Instead, I remind myself of His promises daily. It’s a ritual.

But this day I desperately needed a human touch of love and understanding. NO one wants to call a friend and say, Please. Just tell me how loved I am.  Tell me it’s going to be okay.

Only a very few people merit this trusted space in our lives. Really. Saying such things out loud makes you feel like a raving lunatic and life-sucking leech. If you’ve experienced hurtful abuse by spiritual authorities in the past, reaching out for help is desperately harder. (topic for another post).

The common problem we all share is that our dearest friends are tremendously busy! Even if you need help, you hate to bother them.

My story continues: Here’s how I know God answers prayer.

I’m adding this to my list of “One Thousand-plus Answered Prayers in My Short, Insignificant Life”.

praying woman ben-white-139141-unsplash

On the very afternoon of this prayer, I received a phone call from an older saint I haven’t talked to in over a year. He left a message. I gathered my courage and called back.

His soothing voice was a balm to my very raw spirit. Though his denominational background and affiliation is very different from mine, we share a true faith in Christ alone for our salvation and eternal hope.

Lady, he said, in his warm Southern drawl, I know you’re in a storm. You’re afraid your ship is sinking. I want to remind you that Jesus is in the boat with you right now in this storm. Your ship is not going to sink. And we’re not going to stop praying for you.

He reminded me that Jesus’ closest earthly friends were in the same boat, in the same storm with Jesus. Yet they were afraid while Jesus was asleep. They woke Him up. He rebuked the storm and their lack of faith. Yet he encouraged them in their fears to look to Him always.

When you count up the words of encouragement that Jesus gave to His disciples, they are numerous! He knew they were needed.

I thank God for the encouraging words of my friend that day.

So should our words be. Be like Jesus. Be an encourager.

Encouraging words need to be repeated and numerous, like Jesus modeled to His disciples.

If your family, home, church, and circle of friends is not a place of warm encouragement, start a new trend! New habits take time and intention to form. Like me, maybe your goal is writing that ONE email a day.

If the trend doesn’t catch on, you probably need to find a new church and a new circle of friends.  What ways can you model this ONE micro-step today?

When Dad disappears…

doorways

For some, Father’s Day is when you sit in church and try to hold yourself together because you’re missing a dad.

There are many, many reasons you may not have a dad in your life now.

  • Dad died.
  • Dad and Mom are divorced and you don’t see your father very often or ever.
  • Dad abused you physically, mentally — or both.
  • Dad’s elderly and doesn’t remember who you are anymore.
  • Dad ditched you, and you don’t even know WHO he was.
  • Dad ditched you and you remember who he was, but he doesn’t fit the bill of dad anymore.
  • Dad is chronically ill and disease has taken away the person you used to know and changed dad radically.
  • (You can add your own reasons to this list.)

For whatever reasons you’re not connected to your dad anymore, my heart and prayers go with with you.  Please read on — there’s hope! Father God offers to BE a Father to the fatherless.

For children with a chronically ill father, this post is especially for you. My heart bleeds for my daughter and for all of  those who are “fatherless” in a very different sort of way.

Grief IMG_2273

(meme credit to lessonslearnedinlife.com)

Care-giving friend, recognizing that your children are grieving and may not even realize that’s what’s going on is one KEY to helping them navigate this difficult time. Their grief needs to be acknowledged as valid and deep!

Chronical illness affects every family differently, depending on the types and duration of the illness.  I think there some commonalities:

  • Having a chronically-ill parent is like being on a roller coaster ride that you can’t get off of — until death or significant healing occurs.

One of my favorite photos of my daughter is at the last happiest memory we made together away from home four years ago. She’s beaming, contentedly curled up on “Papa’s” lap, face snuggled into a giant beard, at my brother’s college graduation. Life wasn’t perfect, but life was good at that moment.  Dad had her. Dad held her. Dad was reasonably present in her life. Now Dad cannot. Her old dad has disappeared in so many ways.

I recently spent a good deal of time and money (for us) attempting to make new happy memories in a rare opportunity. I only half-succeeded. Illness has changed life for us in a way that we can never retrieve.

Was the effort worth it? Yes. Learning to love those who are broken is important, especially when they’re your own family members. Our Father in heaven invites these to His table especially — the lame, the halt, the blind. If you’re navigating the teen years, as I am, this flies in the face of their natural self-absorption. Only the power and love of Christ makes this truly, fully a possibility.

Chronic illness as it progresses may mean that Dad’s not there either physically or mentally. Dad’s distant. It feels like you’ve been forgotten and forsaken. You have to learn to love in a different way. Emotionally, it’s a roller coaster ride.

  • Milestones in your child’s life without the old Dad present are significantly painful. 

That recital ( one reason I think my daughter quit piano…), the awards ceremony, the soccer games with enthusiastic dads cheering from the sidelines… Sound familiar?

  • Looking forward to a future without your dad’s support leaves a huge hole in your heart. 

No dad for your wedding, college graduation, or beyond? No Mr.Fix-It to come to your rescue. No dad sitting on the porch with his shotgun as he interviews your first potential suitor? (LOL, an old threat some of us have heard.). No dad safety net.

  • In fact, the “new dad” might be significantly more embarrassing than your child’s “old dad”.

Did dad have a stroke? Lose mobility? Does dad speak with slurred speech or have days when he’s just not “with it”? Chronic illness often amplifies a teen’s usual embarrassment with their parents.

Add the medication factors in, too. Dad might be in bed for many hours a day. When he’s awake he might be unpleasant and unreasonable for family (usually never for the rare visitors) due to pain and medications.

Side note: Chronically ill people are usually able to pull off a bit of “normal” for visitors to try to retain dignity and the often diminishing friendships of those visitors. How many of you have friends after many years of chronic illness who STILL come regularly to visit? You can start counting these friends on one hand usually. Hard truth.

Daily living with chronic illness? It’s a steady drain on your emotional and physical bank account, and ONLY those living inside your four walls see the full scope of this. Not your pastor. Not your friends. Just family.

What’s a momma to do? Is there HOPE? You have to step into dad’s shoes so many times and be both father and mother. It’s impossible, right?

You’re walking through the fires and floods right now, dear caregiver, with and for your children and your chronically ill loved one. Anyone who says otherwise should just shut up like God told Job’s friends to do. Hang on! There is a God who sees your suffering and tears, too.

There is a Father who knows and loves your children as they suffer through fatherless days. I know. I’m treading water with you, as you can see from the silence lately on this blog. Life’s been incredibly hard, but God has not forsaken His daughter.

Here’s the HOPE: Our Father God loves the fatherless and the PRODIGAL child (if your child struggles with anger at God and their earthly father).

Today’s Scripture readings at church were Psalm 103:8-13

Psalm 103:13 Modern English Version (MEV)

13 Like a father shows compassion to his children,
    so the Lord gives compassion to those who fear Him.

 

AND Luke 15:11-24.

Luke 15:11-24 Modern English Version (MEV)

The Parable of the Prodigal Son

11 Then He said, “A man had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that falls to me.’ So he divided his estate between them.

13 “Not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together, and journeyed to a distant country, and there squandered his possessions in prodigal living. 14 When he had spent everything, there came a severe famine in that country, and he began to be in want. 15 So he went and hired himself to a citizen of that county, who sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 He would gladly have filled his stomach with the husks that the swine were eating, but no one gave him any.

17 “When he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have an abundance of bread, and here I am perishing with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.” ’ 20 So he arose and came to his father.

“But while he was yet far away, his father saw him and was moved with compassion, and ran and embraced his neck and kissed him.

21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him. And put a ring on his hand and shoes on his feet. 23 Bring here the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and be merry. 24 For this son of mine was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ So they began to be merry.

Spot on! It was my HOSANNA moment. Remind yourself and your child that you HAVE the perfect Father in Heaven. You are not alone. Your children are not deserted. So hard to hang into when this journey gets long, I know!

What is God like as the Father of your suffering children?

  • He’s abundantly merciful.
  • He’s full of compassion.
  • He sees all.
  • He knows all.
  • He is ever-present.
  • He’s all wise.
  • He’s forgiving (even to the scoundrel son who completely shamed him in front of all of his family and friends — his whole community saw his shame.)
  • He offers a robe of righteousness, clean and pure.
  • He offers the family signet ring to his children. You’ve access to the family business and bank account. (My God shall supply ALL your needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus. How many times do you feel bereft of the physical and financial support of a father, too?)
  • He offers shoes because you are His child, not a slave in his household (slaves didn’t wear shoes in the context of this story.)
  • He celebrates the sinner who repents with a full-blown PAR-TAY.
  • He promises His Spirit to you and your children. (Pray, pray, pray for that promise, dear momma. Don’t ever give up on that one!)
  • So much more… search the Scriptures. The fatherless are IMPORTANT to our Father God.

What does our Heavenly Father mean to you? I’d love it if you’d share a Scripture and bless us all in this struggle.  Our Heavenly Father sees and knows when you reach out a helping hand to the fatherless, dear momma. Your work is SEEN and KNOWN.

 

 

 

 

 

When you pray in secret

secrets-roberto-tumini-12659-unsplash

In my experience, moms have a hard time finding a “secret” place to pray, or even keeping secrets from their kids, right?

So what’s a caregiving momma to do when life hits the fan yet once again? How to keep the stress from overloading your kiddos? How to deal sanely with an insanely difficult medical system?

Today I tried to keep the “secret” — the latest stress that hit our family. Chronic illness generates its own special brand of stress. Dealing with doctor’s offices and the pharmacy?  Often the near top of the “stress” list!

In our small town, there are two main pharmacists at the pharmacy we’ve frequented for years. One of them has a reputation for kindness and bending over backwards to help folks keep their prescriptions in line and filled as the doctor prescribes.

The other pharmacist?

You really wonder if some folks have even a drop of the milk of human kindness or reasonableness in their souls.

Long story, I know, but the pharmacy screwed up our prescription so badly that we had to schedule a 2 hour round trip emergency appointment with our specialist to get the prescription filled again. Counting traffic, gas, and time spent on the phone and the doctor’s office, this pharmacist cost me hours of work time, stress, and financial loss.

The worst part is my loved one is suffering more than usual due to a fall right before the holidays. After the initial shot the doctor gave wore off, severe pain set in.  It’s been weeks of being bedridden and long sleepless nights.

Every caregiver goes through this nightmare at one point or another. Many experience it regularly. I know. Not only have I lived this roller coaster life for years, but I now have a small circle of friends who’ve experienced similar and worse.

Keeping our stresses secret is hard, and sometimes impossible. As a parent you don’t want your child to carry that load with you.

Our teenaged daughter heard the distress call, my advocating on the phone for my loved one, and felt the frustration in the air. The secret was out of the bag. “What’s wrong, Mom?”

If I hadn’t had my secret meeting in my chair with God this morning, these battle wounds could’ve been another crushing blow of discouragement.  You know what I mean.

Beauty often hides in the ashes of suffering and frustration! I saw the mercy. I knew that God had heard my cries for help and mercy for THIS day.

Often we have to wait a month for a reschedule. Instead, we experienced a small miracle. Our specialist had an immediate opening for us that coincided with another appointment in the same city an hour’s drive each way.

See the blessing ? I shared this with my daughter.  “It’s okay, my girl! Really, it is!”

My kitchen soup pot saw my tears of relief and praise. Another secret place, ha! Only God and I and a pile of vegetables heard my cries. I wonder if heaven laughed to see the crazy woman with the knife chopping, crying, and praying?

Dear fellow Christian caregivers, hope is a fragile thing. It needs to be nourished by the Word and prayer wherever and whenever your secret place finds you, by day or by night.

The longer this caregiving journey gets, the more decidedly I know I can’t do this in my own strength. It’s more than I can bear. I’m not strong enough, wise enough, kind enough. I don’t have enough faith, hope, and love.

Christ bore all of our griefs and carried all of our sorrows in His body, wounded for our transgressions.

The magnitude of the awful crushing load of sorrows and griefs is more than I can imagine. ALL of those sorrows!

And so Christ has entered into our sufferings so that we can come boldly into His throne room.

No one fully walks this lonely journey beside you, except the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  No one else can.

Humans can’t put themselves fully into your shoes, even if they try. Most don’t bother. Some do.  Those are your truest friends and dearest earthly treasures.

Friend of a caregiver? Enter into your secret place and pray for your caregiving friend. Their burden is indescribably harder than they can possibly share with you.

As Jesus encouraged his disciples to pray in secret, he reminded them that our Father who sees in secret will reward such prayers openly.

So here’s to spending time in SECRET in 2019, whether it’s that early morning chair, the morning commute, the private vegetable chopping session, or the laundry room, or wherever…

Do you have a secret space, dear caregiver? Please share how you find a quiet secret space when life is noisy and overwhelming.

 

 

Spa treatment in the Psalms?

piano-1396971_1280I was glad that I had my Psalm I.V. hook-up yesterday. Sometimes ya just don’t know what’s gonna hit ya.

I know, explain myself, right? Since I had a longer drive to work, I took advantage of listening to some of my favorite Psalms set to music while I drove.

Instead of tuning into a business training podcast on the way home, I turned Psalms on again. I could not get enough. I needed this spa treatment for my aching soul.

Do you ever have days and weeks when your heart just won’t stop hurting?

It’s been a stinky few weeks.

What’s my work? Well, I’m still doing a few weekly housekeeping jobs a week to make ends meet in addition to giving private piano lessons five days a week.

Writing web copy, blogs, and content for professional service and wellness companies full-time is my goal. I also love working with educational materials. I’m blessed with a few writing clients.

I need more writing work, though. It fits with our crazy schedule jammed with doctor’s visits.

In fact, hello! Sharing is caring. You can view some of my professional work samples here!

Right now, though, I’m still serving some older clients I’ve had for at least ten years.

elderly couple

One of them has been in and out of rehab twice this year. Her Parkinson’s is getting the better of her and she lives alone.

She was so sick when I got to her house that my heart was torn in two when it was time to leave her alone.  She had tears in her eyes, and so did I.

Tears upon tears — my loved one learned of the passing of a sweet friend this week, only 32, who was diagnosed with cancer shortly after we got his cancer diagnosis. Her husband left her and her two little boys after her diagnosis.  Her mom and Christian friends stepped in to care for and love on them.

Sickness, sorrow, pain, and death — the tears had been flowing freely the night before at our house.   For two weeks my dear one has barely left the bed.

Life is still blessedly good, though.

The provisions have been there for our needs. Friends and church family love on us. We’re not alone.  My girlie and I did well with schooling this year. In fact, what she’s learned amazes me!

I’ve been trying to keep my head in the business game AND help my daughter with her bedroom switch and a DIY room decor redesign. It involves Mom scrubbing paint off of her hands between students. There are boxes and piles almost everywhere at my house. 🙂  Sound like fun?

paint brushes

The room is going well, and that’s a happiness project well worth the effort.

I’m ready for some sort of a spa day, I think.

When you sit in the Walmart parking lot alone — like I did this afternoon — in your car for five minutes because….It’s the Walmart kind of spa treatment?

Because why? The words to a song move you so deeply you can’t keep your game face on to get your groceries.  Hillary Scott got to me this time. Thy Will Be Done

After all, I was safely home, home from the big city — and I survived this trip. It was Thy will that made me put my foot down, Lord, and say —  I’m taking you to this appointment. Now I know one reason WHY.

I survived driving three hours to see a specialist while my loved one was spewing chunks for more than half of the trip. Obnoxious traffic and no opening to pull over, so ya just roll down the window. ‘Nuff said.

For the way home, I found a convenient bag in the trunk of the car. Shew! Saved by a Walmart bag (and that’s a love/hate relationship, ha!).

Then the tears started again. No, I’m not leaving you alone in your misery. Never! Why would you ask this? Knife to my heart!! I’ve stood by you for how many years of chronic illness?

I know it’s the pain and misery talking. I know it’s the long years of wear and tear on a frail body.   It’s the death of a friend deserted by her spouse.

In the middle of this chaos, this survival mode that won’t go away, a sweet friend sent me three lines today that made me feel so loved and included.

Three lines, a heartful of Psalms, and a song born out of deep personal pain — that’s not an accident, dear friends! That’s a direct line from my Heavenly Father saying, dear daughter of Mine — you are NOT alone.

Fabulous answers and quick solutions? Don’t really have any for you.

But go — love on your hurting friends. Send those three lines.

Mingle your tears with an elderly friend who is also walking a lonesome valley road.

Worried about money? Me, too. But people are more important than money. Every. Single. Day.

Soak in the Psalms — a genuine spa treatment for every raw emotion and question you face. When you wonder how to stay sane, that’s what the Psalms are for. Cry them. Sing them. Pray them back to God.

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion FOREVER.”  PSALM 73:6

Dear social media user — you don’t need the details to pray…

telephone- details

I’ve hinted at this before. You don’t need all the details to pray for a Christian friend.

I’ve swallowed the words. I’ve “beat around the bush”. But today was the first time I’ve come right out and said it kindly, but boldly to a fellow Christian. “You don’t need the details to pray.”

We were discussing the pros and cons of social media. Then it was suggested that I keep up a Facebook page for my husband’s health issues. I laughed a little laugh, and said, “Well, it would read about the same most weeks. Doing lousy! You don’t need the details to pray.”

I think the reason the conversation spun in this direction was because of those who do feel free to post all their ups and downs, highs and lows, and needs great and small on social media.

I’m in some of those groups. Praying for a little girl stricken with brain cancer right now. But, I don’t get online and ask nosy questions! I don’t PM them for more details, either. Why? It’s. NOT. My. Business.

This may work well for some folks. If that’s you, please don’t feel judged! My dear one has done some of this vulnerable sharing in the past. Rarely ever, now. Why? It’s very hard to build true friendships on social media alone. Oversharing has resulted in some serious fallout.

And how do you judge when someone is not truly committed to your best interest, loyal in Christian love ? Trust is built over time.

A true friend will walk with you faithfully through the hard times as well as the good.  Sharing details with untried friends is like baring your chest and walking through a thicket of blackberries. You’re bound to get shredded by the thorns of everyone’s educated opinion. Or get betrayed by the sharing of information they accidentally let loose.

Church prayer chains can be as challenging as social media.

I’m sorry to say I’ve been the unwilling recipient of some church prayer chain conversations. Not my church family, but truly lovely ladies in many ways. Still, the details they felt entitled to discuss about a third party! Really?

Is that necessary to your prayers? Don’t you realize that what you are sharing about another is actually gossip?

Do you need to dig for the details of where, what kind of cancer, what treatments someone is undergoing, etc…? Why do you NEED to know this information to pray?

Some ladies, I fear, have mastered the art of the compassionate voice so that they can extract information and details that they eagerly share with their inner circle. Men aren’t exempt from the “dig for information”. After all, journalists — male or female — are just another version of Sherlock Holmes.

My own sis-in-love mentioned the challenge of how to answer people’s many questions about her stage 4 breast cancer. What an added stress! I often didn’t know her latest test results, even though I was on her care team and cared deeply. I didn’t pry into her private and painful details. She was also concerned about who would see her house suffering from survival mode.

What your suffering friend most needs is words of caring and prayers. Acts of kindness, helping them share the load while they are in survival mode, will never be forgotten.

“Keep me from the strife of tongues” is a phrase used in Psalm 31:20. While it is written in the context of King David’s enemies, we also see a legitimate prayer model for protection from this specific form of damage.

 

All throughout the Scriptures, we find prayers and warnings regarding our words. It’s too big of a study to attempt here. Read the book of James and the book of Proverbs for starters.

We’ve all been guilty of sharing details we shouldn’t have at some point in our lives. It’s something we should feel godly sorrow and repentance for — with prayer and determination to please God in this area.

Why? Why would details be damaging? How often is it that we relate a story only to find ourselves being corrected on some detail or another? We’re so human! This is how gossip and misinformation start. You miss one or more crucial details from your friend’s story. It happens to the best of us!

I cannot tell you the times when folks have asked me to give them details about the health issues we face. Then, I accidentally left some important detail out! Weeks roll around before I have time for a personal conversation with that person again.

Or consider the spin or “flavor” that gets added to the details? Our personal opinion about the situation?

In truth, we may be close to or actually spreading lies about our neighbors if we dig for more information than we need.  Only the wisest among us handle sensitive information with the kindest and most discreet of hearts.

Even when we’re dying to know more… JUST STOP!

“Child, said the Lion, I am telling you your story, not hers. No one is told any story but their own.”

C. S. Lewis                           The Horse and His Boy

 

Pray for each other! Love not just in word, but in deed and in truth.

Let’s take a cue for the books of I and II Peter, written for a suffering, scattered church family. It takes intention and planning. See the word effort?

“Make every effort to add virtue to your faith;

and to your virtue, knowledge;

and to your knowledge, self-control;

and to your self-control, patient endurance;

and to patient endurance, godliness;

and to your godliness, brotherly kindness;

and to your brotherly kindness, love.

For if these things reside in you and abound,

they ensure that you will neither be useless nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” II Peter 1:5-8

 

The end of all things is near. Therefore be sober and solemn so you can pray.

Above all things, have unfailing love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.”

I Peter 4:7-8  

I’m blessed to see brotherly kindness and unfailing love as the pinnacles of our Christian faith and walk.

We’ve been truly blessed, also, to experience the brotherly kindness and love poured upon us by church family — a small glimpse of God’s eternal mercies.  LOVE brings LIGHT and HOPE to dark trials.

Keep unfailing love as that highest goal, dear care-giving wife. God knows all the details of your sorrows and needs. He will be your refuge and help.

 

 

Psalm 73 — for when you covet an easier life…

depressed woman

One of these days, in eternity future, I’m looking forward to meeting Asaph. Why Asaph, you ask?

And, who in the world was Asaph? Legitimate questions. If we were having this conversation in person, I’d start by answering the second question first.

Well, you know Psalm 73, right? Have you read it?

If you’re having one of those days where you fume at the injustices in the world around you, read Psalm 73.

Asaph is credited with writing this Psalm as well as a few others. Seems like he had a bone to pick with injustice. He was a Levite. You could call him one of the chief temple Music Directors.

Clearly he used his position to express his beef with the world as well as shining truths about God.

Have you had days like this? You’re infuriated at the politicians. Shedding tears over babies being ripped apart in their mother’s wombs. Every. Single. Day.

Some of you, like me, would desperately love to give those babies loving arms and a home, however imperfect. Due to chronic illness, we know the painful reality of secondary infertility.

I have a daughter — I’m very, very grateful. But that same daughter has asked me for a sibling almost since she could talk. She feels the pain of secondary infertility, too.

The cost of adoption and the presence of chronic illness, well…  Then compare the cost of abortion to the cost of adoption — talk about severe injustice!

sad woman statue

Or even closer to home for caregivers —  do you get spitting mad because navigating the medical system to get the help you or your chronically-ill loved one needs is SO crazy hard?

Even worse, you find out you have no coverage for medically-necessary procedures. It’s going to cost you big bucks out of pocket.

Chronic illness is like a financial black hole.

Cancer and chronic illness — two of the biggest legal money-making rackets currently in operation, I’m convinced. Long gone are the days when doctors accepted payments in chickens or eggs (Yes, those were acceptable forms of payment just a hundred years ago.)

Alternative or integrative medicine isn’t immune to industry greed.

Certainly, no one’s winning any affordability prizes in these categories, either. I have family and friends who have poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into trying to get healthy, trying to find which method will work for them.

When we’re actually living in these desperate straits, Asaph’s lament makes total sense to us.

“Truly God is good to Israel, to the pure in heart. But as for me, my feet almost stumbled; my steps had almost slipped.

+For I was envious at the boastful; I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For there are no pains in their death; their bodies are fat.

They are not in trouble as other people, nor are they plagued like others…

they have more than a heart could wish.”

Psalm 73: 1-7

I recently saw a brief tid-bit of a Dr. Phil show.

The mother-daughter duo was there for “help”. The flawlessly made-up daughter was a hot mess of entitlement, mad at her mom because she was getting her spending money cut down to 1k a month.

Upset because her mom had chosen a Mercedes  (she wanted a more expensive car) to give her, you could hear the entire audience gasping at this teen’s audacious words.

First world problems, right?

That’s where the reality of heart-envy sets in.

It’s tempting to say, Girl, look here, I’ll be happy to take that 1k spending money off of your hands. It would pay some extra bills this month.

But that misses the point of this Divine reminder altogether.

“Truly, God IS good to Israel.”

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We can’t base our understanding of God’s goodness on the evil we see in the world around us — injustice, violence, and greed.He clearly states that He is good and does good. Sometimes our eyes and hearts are so focused on the evil that we fail to see His goodness.

When we’re experiencing pain, financial loss, or the slow, painful demise of a loved one, we just want relief. We want answers.

Asaph expressed this struggle: “Thus my heart was embittered, and I was pierced in my feelings. I was a brute and did not understand.”

The beauty is that God does not leave us alone. He is good to Israel (those who are true Israel by faith in Christ alone.)

He keeps His covenant promises.

He is the SAME, yesterday, today, and forever.

All the Scripture Asaph knew to help him understand and know God were the Books of the Law. Imagine that when you read the beautiful words that Asaph pens next!

“Nevertheless, I am continually with You;

You have held me by my right hand.

You will guide me with Your counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.

Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is NOTHING on earth I desire besides You.

My flesh and my heart fails, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Ps. 73:23-26)

 

See Asaph return to trust, rest, and peace, dear caregiver? Dear sufferer of chronic illness? Dear friend or family of someone in dire physical need? You and I are wealthy beyond compare, if we are known and loved by the covenant-keeping God. 

Read the final book of the Bible — the one Asaph had NEVER laid eyes one. His next words tell us about a God who will hand out justice.

He sounds hauntingly like the book of Revelation, written hundreds of years later.

“But those who are far from You will perish; You destroy everyone who is unfaithful to You.” Ps. 73:27

Once again, Asaph quiets his soul and deals a blow to his own discontent. How? What’s the takeaway for me?

“But it is good for me to DRAW NEAR to God;

I have taken refuge in the Lord God, that I may declare all Your works.” Ps. 73:28

I’m so very, very thankful to say — through care-giving for two family members with cancer, chronic illness, multiple surgeries, and recently, stroke — I’ve found this refuge in God. Every. Single. Time.

Has it hurt like crazy still? Like someone keeps shredding my very heart, yes.

When I bow my bleeding heart and seek His face, His WORD speaks to me.

In the pain, loneliness, and suffering that only He can see and understand, His Words light my path with a light so tangible I can almost see it. Real hope. Real peace, in spite of multiple anxieties. Real comfort. That’s why I wanted to share this with you today.

Real struggles, real answers — from my brother Asaph who’s enjoying his final refuge at this very moment.

 

 

 

 

Psalms for the desert of suffering

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“O, God, You are my God: early will I seek You; my soul thirsts for You, my flesh faints for You, in a dry and thirsty land with no water.” Psalm 63:1

This is a bit of a personal update with hopefully a dose of encouragement and inspiration — not quite my usual post.

My girl and I have had a whirlwind few weeks. For one thing, we saw and photographed that saguaro cactus pictured above in Arizona after my loved one’s wedding. We’ve been “there and back again”.

And I am very happy to report that stroke symptoms (January) for my Dear One have reduced in a big way this month. I am careful to ask for continued prayer, though.

The surgery in February was fairly successful — big gratitude for that!

Our car seems to be running fairly smoothly after the deer-related car accident repairs in March, too. Shewie! And I almost forgot to mention the surprise engagement and wedding of a dear loved one which took us by storm this month!

Have any of you, my dear readers, dealt with post-stroke, post-op emotional PTSD?

I feel like that sort of PTSD hit us HARD for a while. I’ve been afraid to post for fear of “unloading” on you. My goal is to be an encouragement — to connect with other caregivers and even chronically ill in our struggles to keep our faces turned toward the Light of Life.

However, on the rebound of all of the extra health drama (above and beyond our normal dealings of four autoimmune diseases warring inside one frail body), we’ve ridden this huge emotional roller coaster.

My Dear One couldn’t fly out to the wedding due to severe edema and risk of another stroke. The pain levels, despite professional pain management, rage out of control at times.

How do you handle your suffering loved one who repeatedly lets you know they would just like to go Home? No, they’re not suicidal (they assure you), but could God just please take me Home NOW? I’m so, so done with the suffering and the pain.

As the primary listening ear, all I could find to say is —

You are so loved. You are cared for. There is a reason you are still here. I’m so very sorry for your pain. God knows and understands where I cannot.

Then I took my ugly tears  and cried out for help to the only One I knew would truly understand. I couldn’t even fully explain the depths of this agony to anyone. How do you describe this kind of pain?

Overloaded. Emotionally ripped apart. What’s a woman to do? It was way MORE than I could bear alone. I begged Him for help on my knees, or even just driving along. So many prayers. So many pleas for help between the unending moments of waiting.

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“My soul waits in silence on God alone; from Him comes my salvation. He only is my Rock and my Salvation; He is my refuge; I will not be greatly shaken.” Psalm 62:1-2

The desert was a good place for me to visit — terrain I could relate to. There was a vast quiet. I needed that.

I could almost hear these verse from the Psalms spoken to me. A dry, weary land. The sign warned of no potable water in the Sonoran Reserve.  Me? I’m like that scrubby mesquite tree taking shelter by the rock.

However, better days, however brief, have come. The pain has eased a bit. Just enough to be bearable. (If you want to know what’s changed and actually helped, comment below with your email — I’ll chat privately via email.)

Some lovely surprises have come our way through church family and friends that have cheered my Dear One. A book or two is underway, penned by the sufferers. Mine is half-written and in much need of a good scrubbing and sprucing up before I send it out into a critical world.

If you’re in a desert place of suffering and pain, please, please don’t forget that you are never alone!

If I didn’t know the suffering Savior, how terrible this journey would be. “Despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. And we hid as it were our faces from him…”

Outcast. Condemned. Alone.

Jesus Christ suffered, the Just for the unjust.  He promises to never, ever leave or forsake His own. He is with us in the desert.What a Lover and Friend!

Those promises are carrying me. Every. Single. Day.