Archives

Psalm 91 — A hiding place for caregivers

bird

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!

 

Advertisements

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

burning heart candle

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.

58CB7875-70C0-4CBA-B07B-F2DBDC125078

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?

heartcandle

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.

sittingoncliffedge

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!

Am I cursed by God because of chronic illness?

  • IMG_1356

I know my headline looks like click-bait. But have you ever felt “cursed” by more than your share of trouble in this life? Too many griefs and sorrows?

I was very saddened to hear of the death of Nabeel Qureshi this weekend due to malignant stomach cancer. He was a mighty warrior for the faith. He was young, too. Too young to die of cancer…

Within a few hours of his death my friend Penny also passed from cancer — lung cancer in her fifties.

In her case, cancer struck her husband six years earlier and claimed his life the year before my sis died of cancer. So much sorrow in one family, yet so much reason for hope! I’ll come back and explain this. Bear with me.

Sadly, the so-called “religion of peace” was adamantly posting on his FB wall that Nabeel was cursed because he converted to Christianity.

Was his suffering and death truly the result of God’s curse?

My friend Penny’s death? My sis-in-love?

What about the chronic, painful illnesses of those we love?

Let’s get downright honest:

What about Down’s babies?

What about Trisomy babies?

What about intersex babies?

How about anyone born with any sort of disability or chromosomal abnormality? The so-called “freaks of nature”?

I’m going to walk on some thin ice here.

Some of these conditions we never, ever talk about in our nice Christian circles. Certain conditions are more socially acceptable than others.

Adopting children with disabilities has gotten more good PR in the church lately. I’m very happy about this. After all, HOW PRO-LIFE are we if we ignore the least of these among us?

Almost all of those listed will encounter chronic illness.

Someone out there is giving care to all of these precious souls, I hope. Unless you’re conveniently executing them all like Iceland does? Sigh. Off topic. Yes, and no.

Cursed by God with disability or not? What do you think?

I’m getting ready to plunge through that thin ice now!

I want to be very clear. I’ve spent the last dozen years of my life deeply pondering personal suffering. I’m still not the expert!  Many others have been schooled much more deeply in suffering.

I’ve poured over the Bible and Christian books.

Recently I told one of my elders that I had considered myself a reasonably compassionate person before all of this pile of trouble happened to us. Now I feel like I’ve gotten the rude awakening from God. Girl, you’ve got a lot more to learn! BAM!

Charles Haddon Spurgeon once wrote that Christians ought to be known as the kindest, gentlest, and most gracious of people.

Now Spurgeon was also known to be bold and clear with the truth, no mistaking it. However, he was known for his deep love for people.

He also suffered great physical pain that kept him out of his pulpit for months at a time. Was he cursed?

Here’s where I plunge through the ice completely! My answer? Yes and NO!

If you read the Bible and believe it, then part of this is no surprise. We were all cursed by Adam’s fall. The curse brought sin, death, and suffering upon the whole human race.

Read the first several chapters of Genesis if you have never done so! It’s a must-read if you are struggling to understand the Christian faith!

Satan was the crafty mastermind of this terrible event. When my daughter wailed why, why, WHY does my aunt have to die, I pointed the finger where it belonged. Satan started it. Man fell for it.

Please, child of mine, remember that God is good, Satan is bad, and don’t get the two mixed up. Please, please, don’t fall for Satan’s lies.

In the perfect environment, man freely chose evil. Why? Now that’s the real question. The whole creation is still groaning, waiting to be released from this curse. Romans 8:20-23

It’s a terrible and present reality.

Dear caregiver, you feel its wretched grip when you see those you love suffer.

Wait, what about the “not cursed” part? This is my favorite part. This hope gets me out of bed every morning. First, a refresher on the bad news, but keep reading to the end, please. That is where the GOOD news is parked.

“For all who rely on the works of the law are under the curse. For it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the Book of the Law, to do them.”

The Apostle Paul will explain also in Romans that if you want to go to heaven based on your good deeds, you cannot sin even once! 

“Now it is evident that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, for ‘the just shall live by faith’.

But the law is not of faith, for, ‘the man who does them shall live by them’.

Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law by being made a curse for us — as it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’ — Galatians 3:10-13

 The good news is this: Jesus, fully God and fully man, bore our sin curse in His body on the cross. That means for believers in Jesus our present sufferings are temporary.

He told His disciples, “I have told you these things (long, loving sermon from John 13-16) 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.”

Whatever else I do not “get” about suffering, I know this. My sin curse was laid on Jesus.

Pain and suffering are inescapable. None make it through this life unscathed.

Jesus didn’t sugar-coat this. He told His followers the truth.

He also assured them (and us) of His presence. In the floods, in the flames, in the valley of death’s shadow, He is there.

His rod protects is and His staff comforts and guides us.

In the end, I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. No curse can ever harm us there! I’ll never grieve again. No more goodbyes, no more suffering.  Never, ever, ever again!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting real about fear and faith…

IMG_1650

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.

 

Not forsaken by God…

IMG_1596

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

IMG_0188

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!