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When no one understands your troubles, dear caregiver, God does!

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Does explaining a complex health situation to friends and family ever feel exhausting, frustrating, and seemingly futile to you?

I’ve seen quite a few posts on social media where this is attempted. Sharing needs publicly sometimes is a wonderful thing. Outpourings of love and sympathy truly do uplift the one suffering. Social media can be used as an avenue to share Christian love and community.

What if even one fact gets twisted or blown out of proportion?

Many of us do not want to live our lives like we are on reality TV.

Truth. When we received the initial diagnosis (first of four autoimmune disease diagnoses) of rheumatoid arthritis, half of our friends and family couldn’t even get that straight. They forgot. Not only that, some shared misinformation with others, church family included.

What they remembered was the blanket of “fibromyalgia”. Some medical gurus report that this is a label doctors throw at chronic pain when they can’t find the underlying cause.  NOT truth. That should be another post for another day.

Some of the gossip that circled was that my husband was lazy. A wimp who couldn’t fight through the pain for his family and hold down a job. Any kind of job. Even working at McDonalds would be better than not working at all.

The truth was, they didn’t have all the facts needed to make this judgement, righteous though it seemed.

What they didn’t get was the gut issues that were also a huge issue. McDonalds or any job involving food smells and lengthy time on the feet was an impossible solution.

With so many details to explain that we just started saying, “It’s complicated”. It was and is too hard to explain. The health issues have not simplified. They have become increasingly complex.

Indeed, the human body is complicated and complex.

There is nothing simple, nothing “cut-and-dried” about it.

Truthfully, as the primary caregiver, I have struggled at times with my own levels of compassion and understanding for this complex individual that even I cannot fully understand!

I’m the only one, however, who has the both the tree and the forest view. Even the doctors have not seen and walked in my husband’s daily shoes.

I’m the closest family member who has seen the long-term unfolding of these health issues as well as the close-up daily impact of these problems. Of all people on the earth, I need to be the most compassionate and understanding.

When friends have complained to me about their selfish or foolish “normal” husbands,  I’ve wanted to say, “Don’t you get it? You are so blessed. You have someone who at least pays the bills and tries to take care of you, however imperfectly.”

However, I was wrong. Her tears matter to Jesus, too!

Caring about the problems any Christian sister faces with her marriage are just as real and important as the problems I face. The huge differences in our situations should not hold back our mutual love and concern.

Caring deeply for one another in Christ’s love is a two-way street.

It’s a life-giving road that God requires His true disciples to walk down. There is no escaping the repeated commands of Christ to love one another. Tender compassion for one another is a sign — a mark of a true believer. NO matter if we don’t and can’t completely understand another’s situation, we should always err on the side of grace.

You cannot give this type of compassion if you’ve never seen or received it.

I have a close family member who seems almost utterly incapable of giving or receiving gracious love. It’s caused a great deal of family trauma. Even though this person “preaches” the gospel, it’s hard to judge if they’ve ever fully grasped the good news for themselves.

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us,

in that while we were yet sinners,

Christ died for us. ” Romans 5:8

Understanding that God loves us perfectly in Christ through no goodness or deserving of our own and accepting this holy sin sacrifice in our place is the first step toward loving others. We cannot truly love without His love.

Where do you turn when you feel utterly without human love and understanding?

When you feel alone and afraid — whom do you run to?

I’ve had this experience lately. If I try to explain our complex health situation, I leave out some important fact or detail. Misunderstanding follows. I try to detangle that. It may or may not work. I can see how the Salem Witch Trials were started.

I’ve met a few others with extremely complex health scenarios lately. None of their doctors can figure everything out, though it seems they are trying hard. Friends and loved ones are struggling to understand.

It’s gut-wrenching. It’s frightening. It feels so crazy and lonely! No one wants to walk this road. Yet, somehow, we are called to walk in community together. How?

Remember the LORD Your Maker! The One who made and fashioned you understands you completely.

“You know me completely.

My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in secret,

and intricately put together in the lowest parts of the earth.

Your eyes saw me unformed,

yet in Your book all my days were written,

before any of them came into being.” Psalm 139: 14-16

This includes your loved one whose body is totally out of whack! He or she is seen, known, and cared for by their Maker.

If we don’t believe this, how pro-life are we?

The fall of man and the curse of sin is the first explanation that we can reach for when we just cannot understand what is going on!

” We know that the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now. Not only that, but we also, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan within ourselves while eagerly waiting for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.” Romans 8:22-23

It makes sense. This world is not evolving to greater goodness and wholeness. In fact, the brokenness becomes more clear and evident each day we wake up and turn on the news.

Walk the halls of any hospital for days, like I did this past week, and you will see incredible human brokenness on every hand. We try to buff and polish it. We try to hide the pain and suffering, just like we do with death in our culture.

Death and suffering can only be hidden for so long. These enemies are reality. They are ugly.

I heard a top oncologist who has practiced for many years at the renowned John Hopkins Hospital speak at a cancer fundraiser a few short years ago. He blatantly said that our treatments for many types of cancer are still dismally ineffective. There is still so much even the best doctors do not understand about treating their patients.

This is also true of many, many chronic health conditions and genetic defects.

There is One whose understanding and compassion cannot fail.

His redemptive plan is right on track. His kingdom will come, His will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

This I call to mind, and therefore I have hopeIt is of the LORD'S meriesthat we aer not consumed;His compassions do not fail.They are new every morning;great is Your faithfulness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Are you a “courage club” member?

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It’s nearly the one year anniversary of my sister-in-love’s homegoing! At this time last year she was in the hospital dying — I didn’t know she was dying at the time.)

I was watching her little ones for the week, ages 4 and 7. Then the call came. The shock. Only 48 hours to live! With babies in tow, we hightailed it to the hospital.

During my last visit at home with Jess she had mentioned her friend’s book launch, The Courage Club. She wished she had written about  her own cancer journey and the lessons learned along the way. I could hear the regret in her voice.

Don’t worry, sis! We haven’t forgotten you or the courage God gave you in your brief 33 years of life. This post is for you! We all need a share of your courage for this journey. Like Elisha prayed, I want a double portion of your spirit.

As one of her caregivers, I had a front row view. What I witnessed was extraordinary faith! She knew how to “be strong and of good courage”.  Bear with me. I want to share some of the nitty-gritty.

I’m hoping to leave a few of  her footprints in writing.  Footprints this big from a tiny person are hard to follow.

Courage club members put on their big-girl panties and do hard things!

You don’t ask for big things from God and sit on your duff. Labeled stage 4 cancer after her double mastectomy, Jess asked for healing. Then she rolled up her sleeves and went to work. Her diet changed from processed foods to organic, gluten-free foods that often tasted and smelled very strange. Never mind the green smoothies!

Next, she learned how to swallow pills. Couldn’t handle vitamins before, but she did it! She joked and choked. Score!

Add the needles, IVs, the nausea, the hormone changes, the loss of hair, lack of sleep, and unremitting pain, at times.

Courage club members make a path for joy in suffering.

Oh, my! The things we laughed about! The bodily fluids and functions we discussed!

The memories she made with her family are precious! We begged her to slow down. Never mind that. Spending time with those she loved was top priority.

When she was feeling rotten, she planned happy outings for her kids. I got to execute  some of those! Quiet house for her, happy day for the littles.

My girl will never forget her Aunt Jess and wearing fake mustaches and fedoras together.

True to her last wishes, those she loved had a final party together with her in a hospital waiting room. Despite terrible pain, she looked around and positively beamed at those she loved.  That was, hmmm, maybe forty of us? For a hospital it was a BIG party.

Courage club members care about others even in the middle of their own suffering.

Her phone was always filled with messages. Other cancer patients were continually calling her. They knew she would find time and an encouraging word to give them

Then there was Beau. Early twenties with end stage cancer. At this point most of his friends had disappeared. Not Jess. With help, she planned his final birthday party at the hospital. It was the last birthday she planned.

She excitedly told me how she had told more people about Jesus in her last year, all because of “blessed cancer” as she nicknamed it.

Courage club members never give up hope!

Hope spurred her on for four years of stage 4 aggressive cancer. She never made it to the last specialist she planned to see. Her liver failed. But her hope hadn’t.

She admitted to me after Beau died that she was scared. It was the only time I ever heard her say that. It was probably her realization that her own brave fight was almost over, though neither of us could bear to admit it at the time.

Her motto was, With God, nothing is impossible.  We shared a love for Michael Hyatt’s Living Forward. She was smiling at the future, just like the Proverbs 31 woman.

I wrote the following post in the middle of this four year cancer fight.

Week 9: Five Ways To Keep Up Your Courage, Dear Heart!

I really had no idea how MUCH I would need to keep up my own courage.

You see, at the same time Jess was dying, my own chronically ill husband was diagnosed with cancer.

Turned out to be stage 3. We’re facing a second surgery soon.

Unfortunately much of our fight this year has been with a broken medical system on top of fighting cancer and chronic pain.

It has been stressful, horrendous, and courage-sucking. We’ve felt like cogs in a broken gear system. We’ve even been shamed for courageously bucking the system and fighting for compassionate, prompt care.

A few caring docs along the way have brightened our path. We’re SO grateful for those. They are bright spots of compassion. Compassion is often sorely lacking in the medical field.

Compassion ought to be the number one requirement for every tech, office worker, nurse assistant, doctor, and nurse.

Courage club members learn compassion for the suffering.

Jesus showed compassion all along his earthly journey. He came to “show us the Father.” He touched the hurting that many despised.

He demonstrated ultimate compassion in laying down His life as the sin-sacrifice.

His courage spurred Him on to the cross. “Who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the Father.”

Are you a part of the Courage Club? Let’s lift each other up in prayer this week,  and keep up your courage, Dear Heart!

Sis, thanks for giving me such big footprints to follow. You continue to inspire me, and your legacy of love and compassion fuels my fire to keep loving and living forward. Till I see you again…