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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”.

praying woman ben-white-139141-unsplash

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…

doorways

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.

Grief IMG_2273

(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.

 

 

 

 

 

Spa treatment in the Psalms?

piano-1396971_1280I was glad that I had my Psalm I.V. hook-up yesterday. Sometimes ya just don’t know what’s gonna hit ya.

I know, explain myself, right? Since I had a longer drive to work, I took advantage of listening to some of my favorite Psalms set to music while I drove.

Instead of tuning into a business training podcast on the way home, I turned Psalms on again. I could not get enough. I needed this spa treatment for my aching soul.

Do you ever have days and weeks when your heart just won’t stop hurting?

It’s been a stinky few weeks.

What’s my work? Well, I’m still doing a few weekly housekeeping jobs a week to make ends meet in addition to giving private piano lessons five days a week.

Writing web copy, blogs, and content for professional service and wellness companies full-time is my goal. I also love working with educational materials. I’m blessed with a few writing clients.

I need more writing work, though. It fits with our crazy schedule jammed with doctor’s visits.

In fact, hello! Sharing is caring. You can view some of my professional work samples here!

Right now, though, I’m still serving some older clients I’ve had for at least ten years.

elderly couple

One of them has been in and out of rehab twice this year. Her Parkinson’s is getting the better of her and she lives alone.

She was so sick when I got to her house that my heart was torn in two when it was time to leave her alone.  She had tears in her eyes, and so did I.

Tears upon tears — my loved one learned of the passing of a sweet friend this week, only 32, who was diagnosed with cancer shortly after we got his cancer diagnosis. Her husband left her and her two little boys after her diagnosis.  Her mom and Christian friends stepped in to care for and love on them.

Sickness, sorrow, pain, and death — the tears had been flowing freely the night before at our house.   For two weeks my dear one has barely left the bed.

Life is still blessedly good, though.

The provisions have been there for our needs. Friends and church family love on us. We’re not alone.  My girlie and I did well with schooling this year. In fact, what she’s learned amazes me!

I’ve been trying to keep my head in the business game AND help my daughter with her bedroom switch and a DIY room decor redesign. It involves Mom scrubbing paint off of her hands between students. There are boxes and piles almost everywhere at my house. 🙂  Sound like fun?

paint brushes

The room is going well, and that’s a happiness project well worth the effort.

I’m ready for some sort of a spa day, I think.

When you sit in the Walmart parking lot alone — like I did this afternoon — in your car for five minutes because….It’s the Walmart kind of spa treatment?

Because why? The words to a song move you so deeply you can’t keep your game face on to get your groceries.  Hillary Scott got to me this time. Thy Will Be Done

After all, I was safely home, home from the big city — and I survived this trip. It was Thy will that made me put my foot down, Lord, and say —  I’m taking you to this appointment. Now I know one reason WHY.

I survived driving three hours to see a specialist while my loved one was spewing chunks for more than half of the trip. Obnoxious traffic and no opening to pull over, so ya just roll down the window. ‘Nuff said.

For the way home, I found a convenient bag in the trunk of the car. Shew! Saved by a Walmart bag (and that’s a love/hate relationship, ha!).

Then the tears started again. No, I’m not leaving you alone in your misery. Never! Why would you ask this? Knife to my heart!! I’ve stood by you for how many years of chronic illness?

I know it’s the pain and misery talking. I know it’s the long years of wear and tear on a frail body.   It’s the death of a friend deserted by her spouse.

In the middle of this chaos, this survival mode that won’t go away, a sweet friend sent me three lines today that made me feel so loved and included.

Three lines, a heartful of Psalms, and a song born out of deep personal pain — that’s not an accident, dear friends! That’s a direct line from my Heavenly Father saying, dear daughter of Mine — you are NOT alone.

Fabulous answers and quick solutions? Don’t really have any for you.

But go — love on your hurting friends. Send those three lines.

Mingle your tears with an elderly friend who is also walking a lonesome valley road.

Worried about money? Me, too. But people are more important than money. Every. Single. Day.

Soak in the Psalms — a genuine spa treatment for every raw emotion and question you face. When you wonder how to stay sane, that’s what the Psalms are for. Cry them. Sing them. Pray them back to God.

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion FOREVER.”  PSALM 73:6

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!

sad woman statue

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.”

waterfall-2811052_1920

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 of Deliverance for caregivers

chains

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.

Out of (my) darkness, light

For you will cause my lamp to shine;

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

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

daffodils

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

caring for your children's hearts

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

1.  SHUT off the news! Yep!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mommas, we are His instruments!

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

Will you pray with me and for me?

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