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Sanity space, and a lot of grace

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Anyone else have a few crazy corners of their house?

Keeping a clean house was a special love of my sis who went Home last summer. In fact, at her viewing was a little table with pictures and bottle of Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day spray. Yes, really!

In her healthier days she was known to get to cleaning after her little kids were in bed. Nothing was sweeter than the friend who would come in and clean for her when she was sick! She beamed!

Guess what? One of the business hats I wear is “cleaning lady.”

You won’t find me bragging about this on my LinkedIn. But cleaning houses privately has been a survival business for my family. I’m hoping to hang that hat up in the closet before long.

But I’ve learned a lot of life lessons along the way from some of my dearest clients — senior saints, suffering saints — and busy CEOs of companies, too.

So I started a cleaning blog you can visit if you want. It’s for fun and practical help along the way.   http://cobwebkatiecleaninglady.com

Worn-out lady, when you get home from work, do you want to clean?

If you’re like me and my sis, Jess, you LOVE a clean house. Frankly, you may not have time or energy to keep it all clean. It’s okay. It really, truly is. Trust me.

I’ve had to swallow my pride and embarrassment (cause I know what clean and tidy looks like) and let helping friends see part of my mess recently. My back laundry room is a disaster. I mean it’s wet, mildewing, and cluttered. I. Can’t. Stand. It.  But I do. I go back there every single day.

A new laundry room is in the works. I painted it bright spring green. White trim. It screams “happy”. Can you blame me? It will be my new sanity space when we’re done. Done is coming. Very, very, very slowly.

Dealing with chaos and clutter, and no time?! What to do?

You want to teach order. You crave cleanliness. You have kids and a chronically ill husband. I know it’s an unending trio. Chaos, clutter, and kids. Rather than lecture each other on the state of our houses, let’s choose to eat this elephant one bite at a time.

Welcome, sanity space!  Maybe this will be a blessing to you, too.

I’m working on keeping sanity spaces in my house. I discovered that if there are at least a few rooms that are pretty and tidy,  my whole world feels better. I read organizational tips, cleaning tips, life hacks, and self-improvement books, in  all my spare time. Sometimes I feel like a complete failure, cleaning lady or not.

Realistically, by the time I cycle through cleaning each room, the whole house needs a overhaul again. Instead, I clean a few rooms, and spot clean the rest. I even shut the door on a few rooms completely and tell my child, no guests allowed in here, period!

I’m working on teaching my child to clean. Happily, her bedroom has become her “sanity space”. It’s taken years. But that’s a post for another day.

What about sanity space for your soul? My soul?

That’s what this one day in seven is all about. That’s why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and called it holy. He rested. He meant for us to “unplug”.  We can’t keep going for seven days a week at high speed, years on end.

The Church is meant to be a sanity space for believers. We should find sweet friendship and safe haven within its walls. The Word of God is our sanity space for our souls, too, “sweeter also than the honey and the honeycomb”. Psalm 19: 7-10

Clean souls and cleaner houses — now that needs grace and one day at a time! Do you have sanity space?

3 ways to connect with your child despite chronic illness

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Chronic illness and children in the house — it’s a unique challenge.

In our case, we have just one. A gift from God, she is, indeed. She challenges us and brightens our days.

But having a chronically ill parent is not always a day-brightener for her. Along the way, I’ve come to recognize when we’ve hit a rougher-than-normal patch by how she acts out. Angry. Huffy. Attitude from the sewer. Where’s my sweet girl? She’s still there, I know.

At those moments I’ve been reminded to slow down somehow. Take time. Reach out to her. Find extra ways to connect. Her attitude, outlook on life, and future success depend on me, with God’s help. So help me, God — I can’t fail at this!

She can’t look to the parent sick in bed for much comfort or encouragement, though it does happen at times. Pain and suffering are often the view she sees, and she doesn’t like it. I can’t blame her.

I’m posting early this week, because I was reminded of how very much we have to “REJOICE in the LORD ALWAYS.” It’s a command! A choice, not a feeling.

Joy doesn’t happen by accident in our lives. It takes choosing to smile through a heart full of tears. It takes prayer. It takes a power not my own. Blessed Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, You alone can give me this joy!

So, today was a snippet of that. I had a 200 page book I wanted to study for my writing business. But a friend texted and asked if it was okay for her girls to come over. YES and YES! I made hot tea (chilly and rainy here today). We had tea and snacks, and a fashion show, and giggles. A big chunk of my day is gone. It was so, so worth it. My daughter’s words, “Tea was amazing, Mom.” Really, what was amazing was sharing a happiness moment with friends!

If rejoicing in the LORD is a choice, than how about planning for joy?

1.) Make a “happiness plan” for your child.

It might involve consignment shopping with Mom and spending a little money! Or, it might mean a hike through the woods in a local park. Sometimes a spontaneous change of plans is what it takes to say “yes” to a happiness moment.

Sometimes, a happiness plan requires an inconvenient day off work. When my sister invited my daughter and I to spend the day with her in NYC, it took a barrelful of planning and extra money we really didn’t have (but were gifted). I worked extra hard to make it happen.

The happiness moments, no matter how small, mean a lifetime of memories. A reminder that love was present in the hardest of times. Our children will face their own dark days. Life is hard. God is good. Not being stingy with happiness reminds our children of God’s goodness.

2.) Connect over good books. Read out loud to your child. Most of all, read HIS Book!

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Sarah MacKenzie and the Read Aloud Revival is a good place to start for inspiration. My own Mom started me on this wonderful path. As a young child, even after I learned to read, she still read aloud to us.

Our family has a hard, hard time having a consistent “family worship” time. So, I’ve adopted bedtime as a devotional time. We always read something from Scripture and pray.

However, I’ve read a ton of books over the years that were sheer pleasure out loud to my daughter. We’re currently reading one before our devotional almost every night.

I cannot tell you how much my daughter craves this time. I crave it, too. If I’ve been crazy busy all day long, as often am, or gone at work, this time is golden. It sparks all kinds of talk-time.

During this last year of grieving over her aunt’s passing, we needed this more than ever. I could’ve lost her to bitterness and anger. We’re not out of the woods yet. I see her angry because Papa is sick. We talk. I take the heat.

God is infinitely patient with us. He can handle our worst feelings.  Reading is His idea. Otherwise, He wouldn’t have given us His Book. And HIs book tells us that He knows our words and thoughts before they even leave our mouths. Psalm 139

3.) Plan for Christian community.

One of my great griefs with this chronic illness lifestyle is that my daughter has never attended prayer meetings. We can’t make it to mid-week services. However, she is regularly in church every Lord’s Day. It’s making a difference in her life. The folks she is closest to are fellow believers. She is beginning to see they will love and support her in the trials of life. To me, that is HUGE!

She sees the good, the bad, and the ugly. She knows church is made up of sinners just like us. Sigh. It’s hard to explain things sometimes, but you can’t ignore the truth.

But being there regularly is showing her that in spite of our failures, we were created to love one another because Christ loves us. He loves His body. He laid down His life for the sheep.

We are also part of a weekly homeschool community. I wouldn’t have it any other way. As we share our time and talents with each other, we also inspire and challenge each other to do better. It’s just sogood to have another Momma step up to your child and say, You can do better than that! Or, great job, girl!

Community is messy. We have to learn to refrain from gossip about each other. We have to learn I Corinthians 13 love. It takes oodles of that.

Sometimes it’s really hard to be the weird family where Mom works and Dad has to oversee some of the schooling. The connections to others are worth it.

So keep up the connecting, mommas. We need bucketfuls of extra grace and joy to share with our child on this stormy path.

What do you do to keep connections alive with your child?

 

One faith-stretching step at a time…

One step at a time

I frequently get asked by folks, “How do you handle all of this?”

This, referring to serious chronic illness, child-rearing, and working full-time.

While I’m not always “handling” things the way I should, I do know THIS is a marathon. It’s not a sprint. We’re almost fourteen years into this chronic illness journey.

Today my husband candidly informed me that he was lying in bed contemplating whether cutting off his legs or smashing them with a sledgehammer would be less painful. Truth, ladies, just bein’ real.

Pain meds aren’t working. We’re in a snarled mess with our insurance. Someone keyed in his birthdate wrong in January.

Everything that has to be reauthorized, including his anti-inflammatory biologic drugs, has been on hold for the past few weeks. No cancer treatments for three weeks, either. I’m biting back sarcastic words as I write this.

It’s a full-time job just trying to get the insurance company to get its act together. Who has time for that? These are soul-trying days.

I’ve been praying. A Lord’s Day series on the Holy Spirit has been just the ticket. What I need right now is more ability to “handle things”.

Like yesterday when my daughter  angrily yelled, “Honk the horn, Mom!” She had just seen a driver dangerously cut me off. I muttered something about an idiot, and then apologized.

“How can you say that, Mom?” she asked. “They were being idiots.”

Well, yes, but I need to be kind. To do this, I need a power outside of myself. I’m NOT big enough, strong enough by myself.

So this morning in my brain fog and through my tears I prayed. I asked for the Holy Spirit to be my Teacher and Guide through the preached Word today. I’m definitely reaching out to all three persons of the Holy Trinity in a new way.

Hello, sermon! Can anyone quote Phillipians 3:1 for me without looking it up?

I really had to smile when I saw the text. It was like God was pointing His finger directly at me. In intense, amazing love, of course. REJOICE!

I will be even more candid, ladies.  I love this senior saint who fills the pulpit temporarily. But sometimes his sermons are as scattered and his voice as dry as breadcrumbs tossed to the birds. NOT TODAY!

He did forget to mention what I find so dear about this book of Phillipians. Paul was writing from prison. He was writing about rejoicing. He was cut off from family and friends, suffering cold and hunger, and he was talking about rejoicing!

So today. Today, I was able to come home heart full to the brim with truth to digest. Then I cooked a healthy meal for us to digest.

Thankfully, the hubby was able to limp downstairs and join us. Next, I tried to rest my body, but ended up crawling into bed next to him, taking his hand and talking to him. So much encouragement needed!

What would our compassionate Lord do? He would remind us of WHO He is.  We talked. Remember when?

In spite of the load of troubles we’ve experienced, God has watched over us and provided for us. He has shown us the Light of His love in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Both of us heard the truth of God’s Word in some form as we were growing up — myself with Christian parents, him with a Christian aunt. That’s a huge mercy!

With a hugely stressful childhood and a body with serious issues NO one would ever choose, my husband’s past is not pretty. Mine has some ugly streaks, too. That’s what sin and selfishness does. Like the curse on the fairy-tale Beast, original sin haunts us all.

Our present isn’t very pretty, either. I gave you a brief snippet and left out a lot of details for sure. However, there’s grace evident in our lives. Love that covers a multitude of sins. Forgiveness. Mercy. Provisions.

Facing what we do, it would be only human to completely “lose it”.

In fact, we’ve come close at times. Dangled over the precipice of sanity. Pain pushes the envelope.

Does my life really matter? Only Jesus’s love makes it matter! Chosen of God, accepted in the Beloved, redeemed!

The evidence is there: faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

While we’re wrestling with pain and serious physical anomalies, faith keeps hope alive. The struggle builds those faith muscles.

In fact, today our conversation turned to the past. My husband admitted if he had known twenty years ago he would have to face what he is facing today, his faith might have been shipwrecked.

My mini-miracle of the day is that we spent time together rejoicing in how God’s carried us.

On a pain-filled day when my husband couldn’t go to church, that’s real. That’s the work of the Spirit. Ask, and you shall receive.

We talked about our fears for the future, too. I’m reminded of a wonderful little quote from the late Elizabeth Elliot, missionary wife of the martyrd Jim Elliot and author of many encouraging books.  She had three husbands die, if I am remembering correctly.  On the topic of handling grief and hard things she was carried forward by this among many truths.

“Do the next thing.”

There it is. One faith step at a time, you reach for your next duty.

Ask for strength. The same Spirit that enabled Jesus to triumph in the forty day wilderness temptation dwells in every believer.

We can even rejoice, knowing that Jesus suffered the same temptations and trials. He was faithful. Only through His Spirit can we be faithful, too. I’m ashamed to say I’ve reached for the sword of the Spirit far too little. Lesson learned, I humbly hope and pray.

How about you? Do you remember to ask for the Spirit’s help in your unique problems? Do you find ways to rejoice? Let’s ask together this week, okay?

 

Looking for hope…

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(Found this art on Facebook with no credits. So, to whomever, thank you!)

Our church celebrates the Resurrection. Every. Single. Week. What a hope-filled day!

I can tell you from personal experience when someone you love is dying or has died being surrounded by those who love God makes a  huge difference.

That upper room filled with grieving disciples, well, I can just imagine it. They were together. They were looking for HOPE when all seemed hopeless. They were comforting one another. They were  living in community.

Chronic illness and caregiving is isolating. Depending on the degree illness — so very isolating. Hanging on to hope, to friendship, even, can seem like a lost cause.

Recently I spoke to a senior saint who cared for her husband. She said she lived from years at the edge of our small town and didn’t know anybody! I was heartbroken for her.

If you’re single-handedly supporting the family and picking up the slack at home, time for fellowship doesn’t seem possible.

I’m telling you now, don’t walk this road alone! Just don’t! You’ll end up being sheep-steak for the Enemy!

Get on your knees now and ask. Keep asking. I’m telling you, I needed local friends in the worst way, and God has provided. Pray this for your husbands, too.

Remember Pilgrim of Pilgrim’s Progress? He lost his friend Faithful to a martyr’s death. Then God sent him Hopeful. Love that!   Pray for a Hopeful. Pray for a friend who will love, encourage, and keep you on track. I think that is a Biblical prayer.

 I’m hoping you’ll also find community and encouragement here on this blog. The Apostle Paul loved and prayed for the Roman Christians before he laid eyes on them.

Let’s be that loving community of the broken.

Let’s lift up each other’s feeble hands and weary feet.

Let’s pray for each other, near and far.

Let’s look for hope in our Risen Lord and Coming King today and every day.

 

 

 

 

 

3 ways to unlock Doubting Castle

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Survey question: how many of you have read Pilgrim’s Progress in some form? Watched the film version?

If you have, you may recognize this blog’s title. If you haven’t, I will give you a tiny overview of the plot line. The key character is Pilgrim. He is on a dangerous journey to the Celestial City. Alone at times, he also meets and travels with two key friends for part of his   journey.

One important fact to note is that the author John Bunyan wrote this classic allegory in prison.

Quite a few tales of courage, faith, and redemption have been linked to prison time.

Joseph — betrayed, lied about, imprisoned;

Corrie and Betsy Ten Boom incarcerated by the Nazis for hiding Jews;

Les Miserable’s Jean Valjean languishing in a wretched labor prison for the paltry crime of stealing a loaf of bread are just a few examples.

The particular prison Doubting Castle in the Pilgrim’s Progress is run by the GIant Despair. He lurks around the countryside and snags those who have strayed off course or missed a sign for the Celestial City.

The Giant Despair caught Pilgrim and his friend when they took a side road.

Ever met this demonic Giant? I know I have. I’m sure our husbands have.

Chronic illness and depression are bedfellows.

The Psalmist wrestled with Despair. “Why are you cast down, oh my soul? Hope in God.”

He admits in Psalm 34, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous.”

HE couldn’t pretend the pain, sorrow, and affliction didn’t exist. It does.

If you aren’t currently undergoing some personal hardship or sorrow, just scroll down your Facebook or turn on the TV. The tragedies will sucker-punch your soul. (If you have a tender heart of compassion like Jesus, that is.) What a broken world!

Well, it’s one thing if your sick husband is chronically depressed.

It’s quite another thing when that depression spills over to your heart. You’re the caregiver. The heart of the home. Someone has to keep their head above water, right?

Like Pilgrim and his friend in the stone cold dungeon of the Castle of Despair, neither one could figure out how to break free. No way out. No strength to fight the Giant. Certain doom!

Suddenly they remember the key on a chain around Pilgrim’s neck. It’s called the key of faith! In the nick of time, they try the key. It fits the lock.

Making a daring jailbreak, they return to the narrow path that leads to eternal life.

I love the key of faith reference! So many times I forget about that key. Faith was a gift given to me by God.

When trial strikes, I feel the panic attempt to swallow me like being hauled off to a dark castle dungeon. Like a friend wrote to me recently, I hate that feeling! I should know better!

Time and time again I have seen God answer prayer and provide for our current need when we cry out to Him in prayer. So this little post is a reminder to me and an outstretched hand of hope and encouragement for you.

1.) Take time to “Be still, and know that I AM God.”

Like that famous line of poetry ( Browning?),”How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” Remembering AND naming God’s great acts and His attributes is very faith- building. Pray these attributes.  God, I know You are faithful. I know You are just, yet merciful. I know there is no limits to Your resources. Your wisdom is bigger far than my problems right now.

2.) Like Israel’s stones of remembrance, make a list of answered prayers.

Yes, there is surprising power in the worn out cliche, Count your blessings, name them one by one. When I do this, my eyes just can’t stop leaking! Sometimes, like Paul and Silas, you start praising and the prison door does swing right open. Other times, your patience and faith will grow when you feel like you are forgotten in prison like Joseph. But God was with Joseph all along.

3.) Ask a friend to pray with you.

That happened to me this week, also. A friend reached out to me. We shared prayer requests. It was so very encouraging! Dear ones, do not hesitate to ask for prayer. Right here. Right now. Not only will I pray for you, I know other readers will.

Pray for me, for us? I want to hold tightly to the key of faith as my husband starts chemo this week. Also, months of pain management has failed to help. Chronic pain! Ugh! It’s wicked ugly awful! It wreaks havoc on body and mind.

With Jesus’ strength, He will keep our souls and our feet on the paths of righteousness straight to the gates of the Celestial City. Mutual prayers needed. Share below, please!

 

 

 

 

Store up comfort…

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That’s what I like to think my blog is: a store house of comfort.

A place that is real.

Caregiving wives have their hands full in a different sort of way. You and I need to feel we are not alone.

This week I received a lovely little surprise in the mail. A lady in our church mailed a new devotional to me. Her gift will go on my upcoming post “ways to help your hurting friend” list.  So I’ve been taking time to rest, refresh, and read for my soul’s sake today.

Otherwise, this coming week is so busy, so stressful that I could just quit. Quit. Right. Now.

Ever had one of those weeks? Where does a caregiving wife go to hand in her resignation? Especially when the weeks and months ahead look just as intense!

Time for a focus reboot.

Time to quit for one day. One beautiful day in seven exists in which God Himself chose to rest from His creation labors. Time to sit and cry and read and pray in my chair in a quiet house (for the moment). So let me share from my beautiful devotional today, okay?

January 11…”Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. (Isaiah 40:1)

“Store up comfort. This was the prophet Isaiah’s mission.

The world is full of hurting and comfortless hearts.

But before you will be competent for this lofty ministry, you must be trained.

And your training is extremely costly, for to make it complete, you too must endure the same afflictions that are wringing countless hearts of tears and blood.

Consequently your own life becomes the hospital ward where you are taught the divine art of comfort.

You will be wounded so that in the binding up of your wounds by the Great Physician, you may learn how to render first aid to the wounded everywhere.

Do you wonder why you are having to experience some great sorrow?

Over the next ten years you will find many others afflicted in the same way. You will tell them how you suffered and how you were comforted.

As the story unfolds, God will apply the anesthetic He once used on you to them.

Then in the eager look followed by the gleam of hope that chases the shadow of despair from the soul, you will know why you were afflicted.

And you will bless God for the discipline that filled your life with such a treasure of experience and helpfulness. (No author given, just says selected.)”

This sweet comfort reads like a sermon on II Corinthians 1:3-6

“Blessed be the God even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,

the Father of mercies,

and the God of all comfort;

Who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble by the comfort which we ourselves are comforted of God.

For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so also our consolation abounds by Christ.

And whether we be afflicted it is for your consolation and salvation,

which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer:

or whether we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.”

Praying you, too, will find comfort and strength for this coming week, dear sisters.

 

 

What to do when you’re dried up and worn out

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By the end of winter, I’m not the only one crying the blues.

Some of you LOVE winter. That’s fine with me. I’m not offended. But some of us have to dig deep to remain cheerful and upbeat for the first three months of each year.

We live in an old, 1885 home. It’s never quite snug and warm in every room.

Winter seems to bring a blizzard of troubles, too. It’s as if the minions of hell know we’re at our weakest.

One year we discovered we had to rebuild part of our foundation in FEBRUARY! Just as we had the floor open semi-permanently, a major cold snap hit. It makes me shudder, still, to think about that.

Inevitably my husband succumbs to weeks of a semi-bedridden state. I pick up the slack. Once it was MRSA. Other times, the old immune system just bottomed out.

So enough already of this list of winter miseries. What are some ways to combat the blues?

1.) Try very hard to get out of the house to worship in the Lord’s Day.

I’ll be brutally honest here. There’s been many a Sunday when I open my eyes and can’t feel like getting out of bed. I have to shake myself and make myself get up.

Maybe your husband can’t go at all. Or maybe you are the caregiver for someone bedridden. Maybe http://www.sermonaudio.com can become a secondary church service for you.

I would still encourage you to ask for some help or a fill-in companion so that you can touch base with God’s people in person at least sometimes. The Lord places a special importance on gathering together. Hebrews 10:24-25. David, the Psalmist, speaks of his gladness in going up to the house of the LORD.

I rarely leave worship without at least one encouraging nugget of truth to carry with me.

2.) Say yes to visitors.

I’ve been regretful that I’ve not exercised more of an open door policy. To my shame, I’m always worried about my home being in an acceptable state. My food might not be the finest. Really? Is that important? The simple gift of company is a worth it!

When I’ve invited a guest from church or local friends to visit us, it has done a world of good for my family’s morale. We. Feel. Almost. Normal. Today we had company. It was wonderful! My food? Hmmm… not terrific.

Right now, I have someone else I need to invite over. It’s on my to-do list. The meal will be simple. I will only clean a few rooms. That’s the best I can do.

What about you? Too tired to cook and clean for company? I hear you! Maybe you could even just do snacks on the back patio? Or a cup of tea and sliced apples with a friend? Make the visit as low stress and restful as possible.

 3.) Most importantly, know that God is with you in the valley of the shadow, in all the winter seasons of life. His love is your greatest hope! Here’s a passage I’ve thought about all week.

Although the fig tree shall not blossom,

neither shall fruit be in the vines;

the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat;

the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls:

Yet I will rejoice in the LORD.

I will joy in the God of my salvation.

The LORD God is my strength, and He will make my feet like hind’s feet, and He will make me to walk upon mine high places.”

Habakkuk 3:17-19

The context of these words is fear, trouble, judgement of the nations, and the depth of human tragedy and brokenness.

It’s like being frozen in winter miles from anyone with hungry wolves surrounding you. You alone facing the whole wolf pack…

The prophet finds light and joy in one Source alone. He finds conquering strength. He finds the ability to teeter on the edge of precipices of trouble with the agility of a mountain goat.

In the end, dear caregiving wife, only the LORD can cause you to overcome.

With the eternal aid of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we can find joy on this journey even in our sorrow, weary bodies, and worn souls. Praying we will overcome together.

Thine be the glory forever and ever, Amen.