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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”.

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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…

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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.

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(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

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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.

 

 

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!

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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.

Psalms of Deliverance for caregivers

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Deliverance from pride and selfishness

“Before I was afflicted, I went astray, but now I keep Your Word.” (Ps. 119:67) Living in the land of affliction and sorrow washes this world’s crud and dust out of your eyeballs. You begin to realize how vain and empty many of your pursuits are. It’s so easy to lose focus on God’s Word and what He desires for your life.

The world of the needy and broken, once perhaps invisible to you, tugs at your heart.  Christ’s commands are clear — don’t be oblivious to the prisoners, the ill-treated, the poor, the fatherless, and the widows!  This is the short version of the list.

Remember those who are in chains, as if imprisoned with them, and those who are ill treated, since you are also in the body. Hebrews 13:3
For the Music Director. A Psalm of David. Blessed are those who consider the poor; the Lord will deliver them in the day of trouble. Psalm 41:1
“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” James 1:27

 Through our tears, we see the needs we never noticed before. The beauty of Christ and His love for the straying, the needy, and the broken — for those of His Bride living outside the covenant church community — shines in His Word.

Deliverance from depression and despair

The Psalms are chock-full of David’s many pleas for help in life’s struggles. Just start reading Psalms 3-7 for starters. The list is SO long. If I counted, the cries for help may account for more than 50% of the Psalms.

Life was so hard to face, that David even calls the LORD the “Lifter up of my head”.

Do you know what it’s like to not want to lift your head off of your pillow? I mean, you really, really don’t even want to get out of bed and face another day.

If you’ve never experienced this feeling, be grateful! Grief upon grief blindsided me with these feelings. Until then, I never understood what David meant describing the LORD as the “Lifter of my head.”

Perhaps your chronically ill spouse can describe these feelings in detail. Mine has. It’s a dark, deep pit that feels bottomless. No earthly hope of normal. No true recovery or semblance of wellness in sight. Prolonged pain, agony, and sorrow feel inescapable.

Yet, this week I’m delighting in my patches of daffodils and anticipation of a newborn niece.  I revel in the wonder of Heaven and Home, and those waiting for me just beyond this life. Feelings of joy gurgling out like a frozen stream melting in the spring sunshine — LORD, you amaze me!

I’m living proof that you can find JOY in God even in grief and sorrow (give yourself time, dear one.) Better yet, Jesus is LIVING proof that all the powers of death and hell cannot suppress our living Savior and His plan from eternity.

So many of the Psalms start in despair and end in praise! I highly encourage you to envelop yourself in this portion of God’s Word when your life is absolutely horrifically awful. That’s how David described his life at times, just sayin’.

The Fall and the Curse — we still smart and groan waiting for the final chapter and “Thy will to be done on earth as it is in heaven”.

 

Deliverance from the “strife of tongues”

My “survivor” friend who has lived through two beastly awful lung transplants said it best. Expect people to say stupid things when you’re hurting. It’s true.

We’re all born with the “tongue of fools” (see the Proverbs for a full description), and need the prayer, “teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.” Social media proves this point. Every. Single. Minute.

Another friend, a young mother of four, is dealing with her young husband’s stage four cancer diagnosis.  As she put it, “the fixers” come out of the woodwork.

Let me clarify. Yes, yes, and YES! Please bend over backwards to help your friends suffering through illnesses and loss. Help with their needs in a hands-on way. Encourage them from the WORD, too.

But be gentle. Be humble. Be kind.

You cannot fathom every detail of their situation and know the best possible solution to their problems. It’s not even your job to “fix” their problems. Your health solution might work. Please don’t be offended if your friend decides to take another route.

Deliverance from evil (the evil within and the Evil One)

“You who love the Lord, hate evil! He preserves the lives of His devoted ones; He delivers them from the hand of the wicked.”

Evil within rears its ugly head in so many ways. Frustration and resentment of your suffering, anyone? WHY is a legitimate question, but not one that we are always going to get an answer for. Again, the Psalms show deliverance from despair to grateful praise, from fear to trust, from doubt to hope, and from sorrow to joy.

Jesus also prayed for His disciples and future generations of believers in John 17:

15″ I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one.

Deliverance from trouble

Trouble and illness are evil twins. They walk hand-in-hand. Sometimes you cannot even describe the troubles accurately to anyone. I’m so thankful for the intercession of the Holy Spirit who prays with us and for us before the Throne of Grace.

So many unintelligible prayers I’ve sent up saying, God, YOU alone know the depths of this trouble and have the keys to deliverance in Your hands. I can’t even figure out exactly what to ask for, except for this: please help!

“You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble; You shall surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah”
“In my distress I called upon the Lord, And cried out to my God; He heard my voice from His temple, And my cry came before Him, even to His ears.”

Deliverance from false friends

“Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted, Who ate my bread, Has lifted up his heel against me. “
While this is certainly a prophecy looking forward to Jesus and His crucifixion, it was also the experience of David.  His son Absalom tried to steal his kingdom right under his nose, and a portion of David’s friends defected to Absalom.  What a bitterly painful time in King David’s life!
Long-term chronic illness has a way of separating the “sheep from the goats”. An elderly music student of mine once told me, Honey, you only really get a few true friends in your life, and trouble will sort them out for you.

What is truly beautiful is when the family of God stands by you in suffering! David had faithful followers who fled with him and supported him in the wilderness, too.

Then you see the love of Jesus in the hands and feet of His church.  Some of our recent deliverance has come through the community of believers who have stepped up to help us in significant ways during our cancer battle and the stroke(s) that have followed.

Deliverance into our Eternal Home – “I Can Only Imagine”

Back to that conversation about “normal”. Chronic illness completely robs a life of many forms of normalcy.

So does being born with special needs. So does a serious car accident or other traumatic injury. Broken families, broken lives… will the sorrow never end?

sheep in a rocky pasture

How about this lovely word picture of the Good Shepherd finally leading His sheep to their Eternal Home?

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the House of the LORD forever.”

Many days this hope, this deliverance -going Home- is what holds our hearts together.

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.