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Getting real about fear and faith…

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Last Lord’s Day I heard a sermon on faith.

Abraham was the primary example used, though there are many, many choice examples in Scripture.

“Do not fear, Abram, I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.” Genesis 15:1

At this point, Abram doesn’t just say, Yes, Lord. Instead he pops his hardest, most troubling question on God. What about that promised son, God?

Abram (soon to be renamed Abraham) had his doubts and fears.

He brought those fears to God directly instead of running away from God. He talked to God honestly about what was bothering him. His doubts did not mean he had no faith. Fear and faith often work hand in hand.

Faith boldly brings fear and doubt to God!

 

God IS our shield of protection through the fiery storms.

Right here and now we are facing major surgery. We can’t know all the possible outcomes. This surgery is only addressing one of many ongoing health issues. No guarantees! More trouble to come. It’s a fearful spot to live in.

So many friends I know are in similar tight spots. I listen to a lot of uncertainty, fear, and doubts.

” I am your Shield.”

Shields protect and defend. Shields often were emblazoned with the emblem of their cause.  Protection and identification in battle.

I recently heard that the Navy Seals are trained never to swim away, but to punch a shark on the snout should it come close for an attack. The only way to deal with fear is to face it head-on.

Now, did Abram go blazing his fears to everyone? I really don’t think so. This seems to be a very private conversation.

In fact, God got very angry with the 10 spies to Canaan. Why? They came home from Canaan and started spreading their fears to the entire nation. Sadly  the fear polluted everyone’s mind except for Joshua and Caleb!

The devastating result was an entire generation that would never see God’s promises fulfilled. They died in the wilderness wanderings that lasted forty years.

I don’t know about you, but to me that is way too long to camp! I think it is okay to put on a brave face, especially for the sake of your children.

One of the bravest acts I’ve ever personally seen was my sis saying goodbye forever in this life to her two precious children.

I wasn’t actually in the room but waited for the little ones to come out.

With smiles and balloons they said to me after this visit — Mommy might go to see Jesus!

Of course, they didn’t understand the gravity of the situation. But what I DID understand is that brave, loving Mommy didn’t frighten them with her intense emotions. It was a peaceful goodbye. It was a mother’s last act of sacrificial love for her children.

Faith doesn’t allow fear to win. You might be shaking in your boots, but faith in God’s promises propels you forward!

God told Abram to look up and count the starry hosts. Number the stars? Impossible quest even with today’s scientific advances! This impossible number was how many “sons of faith” Abraham would have.

“And Abraham believed God…”  Isaac, the son of laughter, was only one of myriads of sons of faith to come.

Number the stars? Go start listing God’s promises. Our tears will turn to laughter someday.

And it’s okay to shed some tears and fears with a discrete, careful friend. But make sure you run to God first. God is our Shield.

 

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Joy unspeakable at the journey’s end…

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Peter was told by Christ that he was going to have walk on a path he didn’t want to go on when he got old. He received a rare gift — insight into his own future.

Church history tells us he was crucified upside down. He asked to be turned upside down, saying he didn’t deserve to be crucified in the same position as His LORD and Master.

How many caregivers are walking on a path we would never have chosen willingly?

About six months into my marriage a wise and lovely older lady at church looked at me and said, “This wasn’t what you signed up for, was it?”

Hospital stay, doctor’s visits, jobless, sick husband, and no diagnosis it was terribly frustrating position to be in.

My friend didn’t pretend to understand all about my situation, but her words of kindness and sympathy have traveled with me all these years.

Did I mention I was pregnant?

Being pregnant was both the fulfillment of a long-awaited desire and my worst nightmare at that point. I was so excited AND scared.

How was I going to provide for our child on single salary?  What on earth was wrong with my husband? Why couldn’t he just pull it together?

Our car was repossessed in the middle of the night — actually due to no fault of our own.  Our payments showed as debited from our bank account and the credit company didn’t receive them. The bank admitted the payments were set, but neither bank or credit company would take responsibility for payments “lost in cyber-limbo”. A lawyer told us we could never win a fight against two big companies with deep pockets.

In fact, now the credit company asked for about half of what was owed in order for us to get our car back.

Utterly impossible to cough up that money in our situation! We were paying out of pocket for specialists’ visits on a very small salary.  We lost our car.

Being repo’d in Maryland is akin to organized thievery. We had valuables inside that car that were never returned to us. We lost our car AND the belongings inside.

Amazingly our credit score was clean because the bank admitted it wasn’t our fault. It just wasn’t their fault, either, according to them.

My personal opinion is that the credit company and the repo company were in cahoots. Thieves. Enough said. Their day in front of a just Judge is coming.

Then our landlord decided to sell the cheap apartment house we were renting. The new owners decided to fix the foundation and jacked up the house too swiftly.

Yes, we were living there. My husband was sick in bed when the walls and floor began to heave.

One week before my daughter was born, I came home from work to crooked doorframes and cracks that ran along the joints of wall and ceiling. It looked like an earthquake had hit.

Miraculously, we qualified for a small home loan, due to no car payment and a decent credit score (and looser lending rules)!

God took care of us despite the cruel and unjust loss of our car. Thankfully we still owned an old beater car that was completely paid for.

A week after our daughter was born, we moved. God has kept this roof over our heads for almost 13 years.

There has been nothing easy about this journey, though. Not one single easy year! However, our Good Shepherd has never, ever left or forsaken us.

Peter speaks pointedly and lovingly, too, about fiery trials. He faced a hostile government, spent time in prison, and ended up giving his life for his faith in Christ.

You have had to suffer various trials, in order that the genuineness of your faith, which is more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tried by fire, may be found to result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ,

           Whom having not seen, you love; and in Whom, though you do not see Him now, you believe and you rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory, receiving as the result of your faith the salvation of your souls.” I Peter 1:6-9

While we hold on to hope and reach for moments of joy, the only true joy is found in loving Jesus.

Ah, the other piece of sage advice from my lovely friend.  “Not what you signed up for? Just know your husband can never meet all your needs. You need to be satisfied with Jesus.”

She then told me how poor and broke they were in their first year of marriage. No baby crib, just a blanket folded into an open dresser drawer for their little one.

 I’ve forgotten the other details but it was clear –  her first year of marriage wasn’t what she signed up for.

One of these days we’re going to meet our perfect Bridegroom. Peter describes this as “joy unspeakable and full of glory”.

It just doesn’t get any better than this. The best is yet to come!

We already know how much He loves us — freely, fully, without any good reason to love us. He just does. He has told us that nothing can separate us from His love. He’s committed to us for the long haul.

I’ve had three ladies tell me personally in the past few years how their husbands just decided they were done with the marriage. Just done and up and left.  No more relationship.  The pain in their eyes ripped at my heart.

At points in caregiving, you may feel like your husband’s left you in another senses. One dear lady put it this way, “My husband after his injury just checks out. It’s like he’s stopped trying!” She felt so very alone.

Chronic illness is a physical and mental battle. So is caregiving.

I wouldn’t trade places to experience the pain and physical suffering.

But being a loving caregiver is also an excruciatingly fiery trial at times. Anyone who says differently hasn’t walked in our shoes for very long. Probably never.

You and I are left scrambling to keep all the ducks from tumbling over the Niagra Falls.  Forget keeping the ducks in a row!

The only one Who truly understands is Jesus. It’s a good thing He’s our High Priest and no one else. There isn’t another living soul I’d trust to intercede for me before God.

“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize wiht our weaknesses, but One who was in every sense tempted like we are, yet without sin. Let us then come with confidence to the throne of grace, that we might obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:15-16

Christ is our sympathetic Bridegroom. He already has His ear and heart tuned to hear us. We have His full and undivided sympathetic attention when we enter into His Presence. How often does that happen in this age of cell phones and technology?

The road we wouldn’t have chosen is taking us to glory — where we will see our glorious Jesus face to face.

“I Can Only Imagine” was played at my sister’s funeral last year.

Can you imagine? Love like no other awaits at the end.

 

 

 

Not forsaken by God…

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Sometimes we feel like we are swimming alone in the ocean of our own troubles and sorrows. I’m here to share that sometimes we have to look for the mercies of God on purpose.

Mercies can be as small as this beautiful sunflower that volunteered to grow in my garden this year.

Surrounded by mercies great and small we still feel alone on this journey!

It’s true in a way. No one human can fully understand the unique challenges each of us face. “The heart knows its own bitterness.”

Families facing disabling health issues are each truly unique. Pain levels differ. Meds differ. Finances differ. The level of challenge differs! Solutions that work for one will not work for another.

What is not unique is that sorrow and trouble chase us all during our time on planet earth. “In this world you will have tribulation.”

Some folks seem to get off scott-free. If we’re fair, we will admit we have no idea what sorrows they actually have lived through or will yet face. Tragedy smacks us in the face every time we see even a small bit of news.

“And I will pray the Father, and He WILL give you another Counselor, that He may be WITH you forever: the Spirit of truth whom the world cannot receive, for it does not see Him, neither does it know Him.” John 14:16-17

Jesus is speaking to His disciples and, truly, all who would yet become His disciples.

It is the last teaching He gave them before going to the cross to lay down His life to atone for sin.

He knew they would be sad and afraid! He knew they would feel alone — perhaps forsaken.

His heart of compassion shines through yet again.

He leaves them with the most amazing and wonderful of promises! Through the Spirit’s ministry and indwelling, they would never be alone in their struggles. Beautiful, merciful Savior!

His Spirit is one of our greatest mercies. Counselor, Guide, Comforter, Intercessor, Helper — these are some of the key roles this often-forgotten member of the Trinity works in your life and mine.

Do you ever wonder how to pray for a situation that seems so hopeless and impossible that you have no idea what or how to pray?

We often fall back on the grand promise of Romans 8:28 that “all things work together for good to those who love God…”

Wait! Back up a few verses: “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness, for we do not know what to pray for as we ought but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words. he who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” Romans 8:26-27

Are things so hard and crazy confusing that you don’t even know how to pray? The Spirit has you covered in Divine prayers.

Are you out of options? Your groans and sorrows are not hidden from Him.

Whatever your struggle, dear sister in Christ, let’s stake our claim on His mercies this week.

“I believe

I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.

Wait on the Lord; be strong, and may your heart be stout; wait on the Lord.”

Sounds kinda like a Romans 8:28, doesn’t it? Only it’s actually Psalm 27:13-14.

When you hang out in the Psalms, you find lots of relevant prayers to fuel your conversations with God, even if you just sigh and groan and praise along with the Psalmist.

Like me, maybe this verse has been your prayer? ” Turn to me, and be gracious to me for I am isolated and afflicted.” Ps. 26:16

Chronic illness brings a lot of crazy to all of our lives, right?

I believe…I am not forsaken! His Spirit is with me on the days I just groan. 

How about you?

I know I’ve missed a few weeks blogging, but I’m committed to encouraging words wherever I can find them and fit them in. Hugs and groaning prayers for you, too, cause I really don’t know what you need. 

 

 

How to scoop the p**p from your mind

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Psalm 40 trashed me this week. I almost had to pull off the road and just let the waves of sorrow and hope roll past.

“I waited patiently for the LORD, and He turned to me, and heard my cry.

He brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set me feet on a rock, and established my steps…”

I’m waiting for you, LORD, and you haven’t forgotten me in this horrible pit. It stinks down here.

I think it prepared me for a conversation with my daughter. She was angry and hurt.  She added to the morning snarkiness. It was a lovely drive to church. Hmmm….

People in pain are sometimes a pain to be around. I’m not going to lie to ya. Very few of us are “heroic” all the time, right?

It actually takes a lot more grace to be kind and selfless when you’re chronically ill. Family always sees the “poopy” side of each other any day. Add pain and chronic illness. It’s a recipe for lots of poopy days.

So I took a long walk with my daughter to help us scoop out some poop.

First scoop: God is good. Satan is bad. Don’t get the two mixed up! 

Then I read about the tragic death of a 17 year old on her way to a missions trip. The “blame God game” was alive and well in the comments section. Venom dripped out of so many tongues that I clicked off pretty quickly.

Second scoop: God owes us a happy life full of wine and roses! NOT!

Instead, remember what He has given us. We are forever in His debt. His love and forgiveness through His own beloved Son! His mercies and forgiveness are beyond measure to those who believe. This life’s pain is a temporary drop in the bucket compared to eternal life.

It’s unbearably excruciating at times. It feels like it will last forever. But the pain is so temporary. Paul calls it “light affliction”!

Third scoop: God has forgotten about me down in this miserable pit of my current circumstance! 

No, He listens to you, just like he listened to David. He thinks of us with thoughts at cannot be numbered.

“O, Lord, my God, You have done many wonderful works, and your thoughts toward us cannot be compared; if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered.”

Almighty Creator God thinks about me. How can that be?

Dear caregiving wife, if you’re at all like me, it’s easy to let our minds fill up with poop! It’s up to us to keep shoveling it out and to spend time with others who will uplift us in prayer, promises, and praise! Sometimes we need to hand our kid a shovel and gently help them scoop, too. 

This link below is my loving shovel for you. I was so blessed by this article.

http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/six-words-to-say-through-tears 

What helps you keep from being sucked under in that miry pit? Hand me a shovel, too, please! 

Not forsaken…

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It’s been a “community of the broken” week for me.

In fact, I’ve seen two of my clients this week sick and uncertain as to their futures. One is awaiting surgery to clear carotid artery.

Another older lady is ill in the hospital with no family in town to help out. She’s facing possible rehab.

Then my husband has told me every single day how bad the pain levels are. He’s  barely left the bed.

Finally, another friend shared her heart. Her husband is in a very dark place right now. Tragic loss hit their family almost two years ago. He is not a believer.

 How much sadness, pain, and hurt can one heart bear? Mine just plain aches.  Oh, Jesus, Wonderful Counselor, help! Oh, Spirit, be my Comforter! Father of mercies, send Your mercies.

Today I sat in a very small church group. Less than thirty of us learned about a community of 4 million that occupy a shanty town in east Africa.

Real people live there. Poverty, violence, and disease are rampant.

Forgotten by major relief organizations,

unloved by the evangelical community around them,

unaided by their government–

they are seemingly without hope in this life.

Yet http//:DiscipleSupport.org brings Jesus to these forgotten sufferers every single week. You need to look them up. Give if you can. Pray.

If I had not been crushed by my share of heartache, my ears would not have been connected with my heart. God knows. I believe I will pray for these forgotten ones for the rest of my earthly days.

I was also reminded of each of you lovely, behind-the-scenes caregivers. You pour out your energies daily. Your struggles with overload, financial strain, and watching someone you love suffer are often invisible to others. 

Christian caregiver, you are not invisible to God!

You bring Jesus’ love and light to your family when the day seems darkest.

Loving one another is loving Him.

After loving God with all your heart, soul, and mind, this is the second greatest command! 

Matthew 25

39When did we see You sick or in prison and visit You?’

40And the King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’

Hell is being forever forgotten. Forsaken. Cut off forever from God’s mercy.

41Then He will say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

Dark lonely days right now? In Christ you are never forsaken.

 “Let your manner of life be without covetousness, being satisfied with the present; for He Himself has said: “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

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?