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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.

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WONDER and a “real” struggle for families of the chronically ill

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The struggle is REAL, married or single, sick or healthy, rich or poor.

We all struggle with loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Loving our neighbor as ourselves is a natural victim of war when we lose the fight in some area of loving God first.

As John Calvin, famed reformer put it, “Our hearts are full time manufacturers of idols.” We struggle with worshiping ourselves, our space, and our desires. I think chronic illness in the house has so many ways of bringing this struggle to light.

EVERYTHING in the household revolves around the needs of the one who is suffering. The meal schedule, the meal plan, the budget, the family schedule — this list goes on. Even the chronically ill person tends to expect and sometimes plain demand this type of attention, especially if they’re the husband.

Not to trample the chronically ill or special needs community. I’m an advocate. All. The. Time. However, in the recent movie Wonder, the special needs hero Augie falls prey to this trap, as does his mother especially. Everything revolves around making sure Augie gets what he needs to survive his first year of public middle school.  More than that, though, his family is already used to centering their lives around his medical and emotional needs. The oldest child’s needs are easily ignored while she struggles with the loss of her best friend.

In the end, Augie learns an important lesson. He learns to appreciate his truest and best friends and to be concerned about their needs, too. It’s a one-in-a million, good-for-the-soul movie that I could easily watch again. Hope I’ve wetted your appetite!

One thing’s for sure, God did not design anyone to find full joy and satisfaction outside of Himself.

That’s a lesson I keep coming back to over and over again. At this point in my life, I’m “almost” a single mom and definitely a full-time caregiver. There’s nothing normal about my marriage. Some of you can relate to this very well. Others, well, I understand that you can’t. That’s okay.

After the latest of multiple diagnoses were slammed in our faces, I threw up my hands and said, Okay, God. Your kingdom come, your will be done in my life in this situation. Any hope of normal is gone. Just please work for Your glory and our good as You promised to those who hope in You.

However, I’ve seen a ton of “normal” Christian marriages that I don’t envy in the least. Some of them break my heart. Again, the struggle is real.

Marriage is God’s good plan and design, but it’s easy to make an idol out of it. Like any human relationship, marriage is also easily ruined by sin and selfishness. I loved an article I read about singleness and marriage on the blog Lies Young Women Believe. There’s food for thought for married women, too. Good stuff!

Read this blog post and especially the comment section!

When life is topsy-turvy, our covenant-keeping God says, Return to me. Be still and know that I AM God.

His beauty, His love, His faithfulness, His truth, His compassions, His mercies are what keeps me going. There isn’t a friend on earth who can fathom all of our personal struggles. Not gonna happen, though we should try to BE that friend who is like our God. Full of compassion. A listening ear. A tender heart. A giving spirit. A truth-speaker. An encourager.

A prayer for Loving God

In a nutshell, my Ideal Lover is described in the words above. I want to be bound to Him by cords of love forever.

What about you? If you’re running low on love, there’s a Psalm for that. If you’ve forgotten Whom you should love best — well, there’s a Psalm for you. Whatever your real struggle, I promise you, there’s a Psalm for that, too.

Out of (my) darkness, light

For you will cause my lamp to shine;

Light, beautiful light! Light and hope walk hand in hand.

My girlie and I shared a surge of joy to see the first promising signs of spring in our yard. The daffodils have poked up their pointy, green heads to welcome the light. Hello, beauties! You’ve survived the winter, and just look at you, sweet things. Can’t wait to see you bloom in a month or so!

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Having someone to share this with is a GIFT. It’s a joy. Life is a gift. I’ve hugged my girl more than a few times this week with tears in my eyes.

There’s no getting around the darkness of this week. Dark news for families in Florida. Sadness unspeakable. I weep with you and for you.

This morning’s sermon from Mark 12 pointed to the age-old struggle between light and darkness. Depravity seeking to trip up Deity. Dark minds devising schemes — this Man cannot be who He claims to be!

Eternal Wisdom spoke rays of light and broke through the darkness. Every. Single. Time.

That Light still travels through the written Word reminding me of Him. The Perfect One. Jesus came to show us the Father, “I and my Father are one.”

My darkness once again was enlightened. The Greatest Commands clearly spoken through the Word — a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.

“Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is this, ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment. The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other command greater than these.” Mark 12:29-31

Dear Caregiver, I’m breathing a prayer right now. May this be light to your darkness should you be wondering, What on earth am I doing with my life?

You are loving your neighbor. You are laying down your life for your friend. You are a promise keeper. You are following in the footsteps of your LORD and MASTER.

Your care-giving path might be very challenging and dark — physically, financially, and emotionally.  But if you are His and seeking to listen to His voice, His word will enlighten your darkness.

When I began looking for books on long-term care-giving, I was appalled at the options many gave. Find joy on the side. A mistress. Or an affair is okay as long as you aren’t hurting another marriage and family. For some, a nose-dive into pornography is the drug of choice.

Let’s be very honest. Cancer and other long-term illnesses are cruel thieves. Thieves steal lovely things in the dark, secret places. Jesus shines the light of Love into those dark places and says, Never stop loving your neighbor, just like you want to be loved. This life is SUCH a short period of darkness compared to FOREVER.

Just love already and never let go.”This is my command, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

A beautiful new day waits, just as He rose from the dead the third day. That Resurrection Day brought tears of joy and hope to me today. I couldn’t stop them. It’s very, very hard to have a front-row seat to suffering you can’t fix. Knowing a new day is coming is a Light that penetrates the dark.

My loved one had a stroke this January during the dark of winter days. Then a surgery this week. That’s why the silence on my blog.  Loving my neighbor hasn’t been all daffodils and sunshine, I can tell ya.

But take it from one who keeps turning her face to the Son  — that Light truly does shine hope in my darkness. I want to offer that Light to you, also.

Wait for the LIGHT with me. Seek His face in His written Word. He will sit beside you in the dark. He will hold your hand with everlasting love. Often He will send His people who listen to His voice to sit with you in the darkness and lovingly care for you, too. I’ve been blessed that way.

LIGHT! HOPE! RESURRECTION!  Really, what is there to lose in the end?

Psalm 91 — A hiding place for caregivers

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Is it okay to chat a little? I’ve found myself blessed with an additional morning hour due to fog and icy conditions. Everything’s blanketed in white and gray outside my window.

Ladies, I haven’t forgotten about you.

You’re caregivers. You’re busy wearing many hats. You may be caring for a parent, another relative, or like me, your spouse.

On these extra frigid winter mornings or any day that life gets overwhelming, you just want to hide in a corner, or never emerge from your warm cocoon of blankets. Your own personal retreat. Hey, even just a few minutes of personal space, right?

My daughter is starting to get that — “I see you need some space, Mom.”  (Yeah, like my own personal “time-out” depending on the day.)

Have you ever read The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom? If not, go grab a copy NOW for winter reading. Once you get past the first few chapters, I think you’ll be hooked.

So, I played hookie from writing this blog last Sunday. My daughter and I went next door to our neighbor’s and watched The Hiding Place with her. (Do read the book first.)

Corrie and Betsy, sisters, best friends, and partners in crime — the crime of saving Jews from the death camps. One sister, Corrie, would survive Ravensbrook concentration camp. The other did not. Corrie Ten Boom tells her story.

One particular scene stands out. Betsy is giving thanks for the fleas/lice that share their bunkhouse and beds. Corrie is feeling anything but thankful.

A short while into their stay in “hotel Ravensbrook”,  they discover the cruel guards avoid their bunkhouse? Why? Well, the fleas. Their precious New Testament stays hidden. They are able to have little Bible studies with their bunkmates without getting caught. Light in the darkest of places! A Hiding Place for themselves and others.

“Because you have made the LORD, who is my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling, there shall no evil befall you, neither shall any plague come near your tent;

For He shall give His angels charge over you to guard you in all your ways. They shall bear you up in their hands, lest you strike your foot against a stone.”  Psalm 91:9-12

How is the Most High a refuge and dwelling especially for caregivers?

  • He cares for YOU. “Cast all your care upon Him, because He cares for you.” I Peter 5:7  When you’re pouring out your life for another, it’s tempting to feel neglected and alone. You are not. I am not alone. God’s ear is always open to the cries of the humble.

  • Christ KNOWS all about you. “Before Abraham was, I AM.” Nothing is hidden from His eyes. (That’s a comfort only if you are not hiding from God and His truth.) My loved one is the most complex patient his doctor has seen in 20 some years of practice. That’s not comforting. Knowing God knows ALL is.

  • NOTHING. Not. One. Thing. “Can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.” You can’t be hidden from His face. It’s not possible. Romans 8:31-39

  • It’s okay to ask to be hidden by Him. I’ve asked for shelter and protection many times. “Keep me as the apple of Your eye. Hide me in the shelter of your wings.”  “Keep me from the strife of tongues.” (Oh, dear! That’s another post for another day. — Those tongues can be well-meaning, misinformed, and unintentionally malicious, even in Christ’s body. The Psalmist has a bit to say about that, too.)

Refuge. Shelter. A Hiding Place.  No, not like the ostrich — burying her head in the sand to hide from reality. But like the tiny chick, I’m so small.  I need the shelter of strong, powerful wings.

May He be your Refuge and Hiding Place this week!

 

Psalms — songs and prayers for every season of care-giving

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A prayer request hit my inbox again this past week with the nasty, six-letter “C” word in it. Cancer.  ” Please pray for us. This season is so hard for my family. It’s the first year without both of my parents.”

She was caregiver for her mom who passed away this summer due to cancer.

Simple words of kindness and comfort, well, these seem like such a small offering in comparison with her pain.

“I’m so sorry. You’re in my prayers.” When you’re in pain, you just want to know that people care.   Warm hugs and gentle words have been healing to my soul.

The year 2017 — a year of great suffering and loss for so many with floods, hurricanes, fires, and savage shootings — just the tip of the iceberg.

Really, isn’t every year a repeat of the story that began long ago of sin, suffering, pain, and death?  Thankfully, Christ’s coming — God with us — shines brightly through the pages of history. Light out of darkness.

The years that we personally grapple with loss and suffering are the ones that sear our hearts and change our lives forever. Then we learn to go on living day by day.

I say this with love and tears of longing for my sis-in-love in heaven. She brightened our lives in such a special way.

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God with us, our Immanuel, speaks words to us — the words we need to hear — of love, comfort, longing, joy, fear, sorrow, pain, repentance, forgiveness, trust, and praise for us to pray and sing back to Him in the Psalms.

Every book of His Word is important. Don’t get me wrong. But the Psalms are the heart-throb of communication between God and man.

There is never a season that we don’t need the Psalms. Never a day I breath, when a Psalm doesn’t meet my heart’s need.

This coming year I thought I would focus on prayers and comfort for caregivers from the Psalms, so near and dear to my heart. My hope and prayer is that this will be a well of encouragement to you also. Right now, I’ve got about 14 topics on the list. Just the beginning…

What topics for caregivers would you like to see addressed from the Psalms? Please let me know in the comment section below.

Many thanks for reading, praying, and sharing with me on this little tiny corner of a blog this year.

 

 

 

 

 

What’s your identity, dear care-giving sister?

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When you’re a caregiver, especially long-term, your whole identity can become wrapped up that term — care-giving!

It’s not all wrong.

If you’ve been put in that position, you’ve been called by God to exercise great mercy and compassion toward someone in need.

Depending on how great the need, your life revolves around this mission.

It’s exhausting. Draining. Sometimes soul-sucking. Like the last two nights for me…We’re waiting for yet another surgery.

Corrective where the last surgery failed to do its job. It’s a six week wait. Meanwhile, the ramifications for my loved one are brutal. Up and down every few hours all day and all night in sheer misery.

I’m not saying this so you can send a boatload of pity my way. No, indeed. I just want you to know I’m walking in your shoes. I get it!

Your life as a care-giver may be totally and completely upside down right now.

You may find yourself careening of the edge of mental and physical wholeness.

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Your relationship to your spouse changes in so many ways, it’s hard to describe them all.

At my wit’s end a few weeks ago, I yelled (not screamed) at my loved one — very ill and refusing to go to the doctor. I almost called the ambulance, but wanted to avoid that drama.  Yelling beat that option, but it wasn’t pretty. I felt like a meanie.

Sure enough, a trip to the doctor was the first stop on the journey of multiple doctor’s visits that led to the revelation of needing a third surgery in 18 months.

Yep, the infection could have been life-threatening, but my yelling possibly saved my loved one’s life. Could I have accomplished this another way? I don’t know.  Honestly, I don’t.

Sick and sorrowful of heart, I needed a healing ointment for my soul.

I found it. Church, God’s people, God’s Word, and time alone with my Heavenly Father.

Am I totally whole now? Is all the hurt left behind. NO! But I know WHO I am in Jesus Christ and WHAT riches of love are mine.

I’m not just a caregiver! I’m a beloved daughter of the King. I’m a joint heir with Jesus. He’s preparing a “forever home” for me, His adopted daughter.

Like Jesus warns us in the Gospel of John, “I have told you these things so that in ME you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But be of good cheer. I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Someone somewhere sagely stated – You’re always in one of three stages in life. You’re entering a great trial. You’re enduring a great trial. Or, you will be enduring a great trial soon.

Life IS hard, but God is good.

HIS goodness endures to all generations, if we will have the eyes to see it.

Right after his Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, Jesus told the fickle crowds that followed Him (soon to crucify Him instead of praise Him) —

“Yet a little while the light is with you.

Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you.

He who walks in darkness does not know where he is going.

While you have the light,

believe in the light that you may become sons of light.”  John 12:35-36

Don’t stumble in the darkness in days of sorrow!

Believe in your identity in Christ.

Don’t forget who you are in Jesus, dear care-giving sister.

He’s the only Light that is guaranteed to kindle a flame in your darkness.

Faith, hope, love, and peace to you today!

3 ways to care for your child’s heart with a chronically-ill parent in the house…

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I was thinking about sorrow, chronic illness, and the havoc it wreaks on a family.  Then the breaking news about little Mariah Woods scrolled across my news feed. Three years old. Stolen. Possibly killed by a madman of a boyfriend.

Suddenly a friend posted an anniversary post of her husband’s death, purposefully leaving behind his wife and two daughters. My heart broke all over again. The circumstances of his death at the time were almost unbearable.

 

Loreenna McKennitt’s 1985 album, Elemental, features a song, “The Stolen Child.” That last line… the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand… OH. My. Heart.

“Come away oh human child
To the waters and the wild
With a faery hand in hand
For the world’s more full of weeping
Than you can understand.”

I’m a “greenhouse” parent. I believe in sheltering a child’s heart, soul, and life and gradually exposing them to the stormy elements of this life.

 Don’t share my philosophy? This post may annoy you. Please keep reading. Be open-minded enough to at least hear my point of view, okay? You can post your point of view in the comments respectfully.

1.  SHUT off the news! Yep!

Our family news is filtered. Mainly we use the internet for news. We watch a bit of TV.  We almost never watch the news as a family.  It’s just so full of the works of the flesh listed in Galatians 5:19-21:

  • adultery
  • sexual immorality
  • impurity
  • lewdness
  • idolatry
  • sorcery
  • hatred
  • strife
  • jealousy
  • rage
  • selfishness
  • dissensions
  • heresies
  • envy
  • murders
  • drunkenness
  • carousing

“I warn you, as I previously warned you, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Apostle Paul, Galatians 5:21)

Ever overheard comments like, it’s all bad news?  Kinda matches that list above, huh?

2.) Decide what to share with your child about your loved one’s health issues.

Here’s where it gets sticky. Prayers for wisdom are needed. I’ve seen too much harm done to children when their parents lie to them to keep them happy.

On the other hand, too much information will be too heavy for them to carry in their hopeful little hearts. Just like their growing backs are not meant for heavy loads, so their growing minds, hearts, and emotions can only handle so much.

How much information is too much? That’s a huge wisdom prayer request that not even your best friend forever can fully advise you on.  You can seek input and counsel, but in the end, no one can decide for you. Deciding wisely will impact your child for good or ill.

My daughter just became a teen. For the past year or so, she’s been asking more and more questions. She deserves answers.

I’m not going to pretend everything’s okay. I’m not going to lie and say, it’s all gonna be all right. Since genetic information related to all the autoimmune issues directly affects her health and future, she needs to know more information now.

However, I always assure her that our great God never leaves or forsakes His children. He loves broken people.  He bends down to hear the prayer of the poor and needy. 

Life HURTS madly at times, but God stoops to suffer with us in our afflictions.

A friend of mine lost her husband to a dramatic suicide six years ago today. Her husband burned the house down on himself — literally and deliberately — after suffering with clinical depression for years. My daughter and I had to drive by the haunting burnt shell of that house every month for a few months on our way to work. I couldn’t hold back the tears.

She asked questions. I only gave her the short answer. Why? She knew the girls who lost their father. Her little heart could not handle that crushing load.  Why would someone’s daddy ever do that?

But what of my friend’s children? There was an investigation, of course. She had to handle the information so much differently for them. Thankfully, today they are thriving.

3. Don’t hide in your own hurt and ignore your hurting child.

Busy, busy care-giving momma,  here’s the huge dilemma! Your work load may be almost unbearable. Like a single parent, you carry all the responsibilities at times. Add the care and worry of a chronically-ill spouse to the load, and you feel like you are dead lifting a ton of steel. Maybe someone is there to “spot” you. Maybe not.

Your child cannot thrive without feeling connected. They will start bottling up a world of hurt or acting out their hurts in destructive ways. YOU are responsible for filling their “love tanks”.

Here are a few practical ways to help your child feel loved and cared for even when you’re overwhelmed: 

  • HUG daily.  I make it point, even on the prickly days.  HUGS are huge.
  • Say goodnight. Always say good night. That routine matters even to a teen.
  • Read even just ONE verse of the Bible at night before bed.
  • Encourage a conversation. A flood of hurt might pour out. That’s good. Listening is the biggest deal here.
  • Share a treat together. It’s like opening a package of love and happiness.
  • Try very hard to share at least one meal a day together.
  • Point out good things. Catch them doing good.

No “faery” can take your child or mine by the hand and lead them away from the sorrows of this world.

Instead, Christ’s love and Spirit — that’s what I’m banking on to carry my child through the deep waters and a world full of weeping. God will be a Father to our children when their human father cannot.

Mommas, we are His instruments!

That’s frightening, amazing, and humbling. Mothering in a world full of hurt isn’t for sissies. It’s a harder job than I could have ever imagined.

Will you pray with me and for me?

O, Jesus, God with us, may Your love conquer and lead in our hurting families. Send Your light and truth to guide and protect our ways.