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What to do when you’re dried up and worn out

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By the end of winter, I’m not the only one crying the blues.

Some of you LOVE winter. That’s fine with me. I’m not offended. But some of us have to dig deep to remain cheerful and upbeat for the first three months of each year.

We live in an old, 1885 home. It’s never quite snug and warm in every room.

Winter seems to bring a blizzard of troubles, too. It’s as if the minions of hell know we’re at our weakest.

One year we discovered we had to rebuild part of our foundation in FEBRUARY! Just as we had the floor open semi-permanently, a major cold snap hit. It makes me shudder, still, to think about that.

Inevitably my husband succumbs to weeks of a semi-bedridden state. I pick up the slack. Once it was MRSA. Other times, the old immune system just bottomed out.

So enough already of this list of winter miseries. What are some ways to combat the blues?

1.) Try very hard to get out of the house to worship in the Lord’s Day.

I’ll be brutally honest here. There’s been many a Sunday when I open my eyes and can’t feel like getting out of bed. I have to shake myself and make myself get up.

Maybe your husband can’t go at all. Or maybe you are the caregiver for someone bedridden. Maybe http://www.sermonaudio.com can become a secondary church service for you.

I would still encourage you to ask for some help or a fill-in companion so that you can touch base with God’s people in person at least sometimes. The Lord places a special importance on gathering together. Hebrews 10:24-25. David, the Psalmist, speaks of his gladness in going up to the house of the LORD.

I rarely leave worship without at least one encouraging nugget of truth to carry with me.

2.) Say yes to visitors.

I’ve been regretful that I’ve not exercised more of an open door policy. To my shame, I’m always worried about my home being in an acceptable state. My food might not be the finest. Really? Is that important? The simple gift of company is a worth it!

When I’ve invited a guest from church or local friends to visit us, it has done a world of good for my family’s morale. We. Feel. Almost. Normal. Today we had company. It was wonderful! My food? Hmmm… not terrific.

Right now, I have someone else I need to invite over. It’s on my to-do list. The meal will be simple. I will only clean a few rooms. That’s the best I can do.

What about you? Too tired to cook and clean for company? I hear you! Maybe you could even just do snacks on the back patio? Or a cup of tea and sliced apples with a friend? Make the visit as low stress and restful as possible.

 3.) Most importantly, know that God is with you in the valley of the shadow, in all the winter seasons of life. His love is your greatest hope! Here’s a passage I’ve thought about all week.

Although the fig tree shall not blossom,

neither shall fruit be in the vines;

the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat;

the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls:

Yet I will rejoice in the LORD.

I will joy in the God of my salvation.

The LORD God is my strength, and He will make my feet like hind’s feet, and He will make me to walk upon mine high places.”

Habakkuk 3:17-19

The context of these words is fear, trouble, judgement of the nations, and the depth of human tragedy and brokenness.

It’s like being frozen in winter miles from anyone with hungry wolves surrounding you. You alone facing the whole wolf pack…

The prophet finds light and joy in one Source alone. He finds conquering strength. He finds the ability to teeter on the edge of precipices of trouble with the agility of a mountain goat.

In the end, dear caregiving wife, only the LORD can cause you to overcome.

With the eternal aid of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we can find joy on this journey even in our sorrow, weary bodies, and worn souls. Praying we will overcome together.

Thine be the glory forever and ever, Amen.

 

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enCOURAGEment for lonely caregivers…

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Confession: I recently got razzed by my husband for indulging in a bit of southern gospel.

To be fair, I returned the favor by mentioning his return to his childhood roots. This genre of music, ahem, largely focuses on how sad and lonesome you are because your lover left you in the dust, the dog died, the bills are piling up, and the old pick-up truck’s run its last mile. 

To tell you the truth, my life kind of looks like his genre of music.

When I got a request from a reader for a post on the lonely side of caregiving, it hit an instant chord with me. If you’re a long-term caregiver, it’s especially true. I was reminded again that caregivers deal with this constantly, but we aren’t the only ones feeling lonely!

One of my senior saints told me again this week for the upteenth and maybe last time, “It’s a great life if you don’t weaken.”

She and her husband have walked with Jesus for more than forty years. They’re in their eighties. He’s faced two bouts of cancer. Since December her husband has been in and out of the hospital.  Last week, their only nearby daughter was in the ICU while they were packing and moving into a senior apartment.

I sat and cried and hugged her. I have never seen her so sad and lonely. “My daughter’s been my rock. I’ve leaned on her a lot. She would be right here helping me today. Now I don’t even know what is wrong with her!”

All the while, her home of more than forty years was suddenly being torn apart like a living plant being ripped up by the roots. This lady has literally kept most things in the same spot for the past ten years that I’ve done housekeeping for them. Every. Single. Item.

My tears dripped and mingled with hers. I wonder if her heart will ever recover from this dual shock. Yet, I pray in hope – hope for her and for myself.

Where is the hope in this, you wonder?

If you’re at all like me, no one near you know really  understands your struggles as a wife to a chronically ill husband.

At home you don’t share your struggles because you don’t want to further depress your struggling spouse.

You certainly don’t want to discourage your children, if you’re a parent.

There’s no human being to talk to, you feel like, who will listen with compassion and not criticize your already bruised heart. However, like me, you have friends. Christian friends who love the Lord — they express their care and compassion in the ways they know how.

But you are too busy trying to survive to get to their Bible studies, their ladies’ nights out, etc., because you are literally doing the job of two people at home. It’s incredibly hard to find time to invest in other relationships.

Jesus is our only true hope in loneliness. My relationship to Him is my top investment.

His hands have made and fashioned me. (Psalm 139) He knows my every move and my every thought. Have you read this passage lately? Put your name into it as you read!

I can pour out all my feelings and needs to Him without shame, because He already knows what I’m struggling with at the moment.

When I do have shame because of sin, I can freely confess this and be freely forgiven. His wounds have paid my ransom.

While we can never receive from another human being this level of understanding, we should not cut ourselves off from Christ’s body, either.

We want to let Christ make us better, not allow ourselves to be bitter.

We have to be willing to continue to love Christ’s body even when it’s messy, even ugly, and imperfect, just like us.

Some things you just cannot share.

Some things will never be understood by someone who has never walked this road.

But share what you can. It takes courage.

Be willing to have some vulnerability. Be willing to say to that friend who asks how things are going, “Yes, life is incredibly challenging. Pray for me to juggle wisely! Or, pray for this upcoming doctor’s visit to actually be worth our time and effort.”

I recently told a friend that my husband has been walking through a very dark valley. She knew this partially already because of some things he had (unwisely) posted on the internet. Sigh.

But, she didn’t know the whole story. I couldn’t and won’t tell her everything, but I did share what I could. If she could see the whole picture, like God does, her perspective would be very different. She’s not God. Neither am I. But I’m the one person on earth that should have the most compassion and understanding for my husband. That’s what Jesus wants from me.

Even Jesus’ closest friends fell asleep during his hour of deepest need. Peter even betrayed him. Jesus does understand loneliness.

I’ve come to understand you have to choose your “inner circle” wisely. Shut out the negative. Shut out those who think they’re helping by criticizing, at least in the sense of limiting contact. But make sure you also keep those close to your heart who truly love Jesus.

Soak yourself in what is true, lovely, and right. Once again, may I recommend the Psalms?

True love and understanding waits for you right here. There is not a sorrow or struggle you feel that isn’t mentioned in the Psalms.

I also love the book of John where Jesus gives out the different I AMs.  I am the Bread of Life. I am the Living Water. I am the True Vine. I am the Good Shepherd. I am the Light of the World.  All I need, He is.

Then there’s Isaiah. The gospel and Jesus are so clearly seen in this book, it’s amazing. Parts of it read like a Psalm. For sure, the prophet knew his Messiah!

The Word. The Church. Christ’s Bride. I find these to be true cures for loneliness. I hope this helps you battle loneliness, too. How may I pray for you this week?

 

God’s girl…

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Trials and tribulations, worldly situations…yep, it’s a quote from a country southern song.

Sometimes you pick up the phone, and you can hear the hiss of the serpent on the other end of the line. Wouldn’t you think that chronic illness and pain is enough trouble for one lifetime? Cancer? Financial strain? Ever had one of those weeks?

Last Lord’s Day I reminded a senior saint that it is God who is the “lifter up of my head.”

Today she bumped into me at church. “Notice the Scripture reading for today?” Psalm 3.

A week-long struggle with various trials big and small, and I’ve just had to say, God, I’m your girl. You are the reason I can lift my head off of my pillow and get out of bed. You are my Song in the night. You are my peace.

I wept through the hymn today, “How Deep the Father’s Love For Us.”  Why? Because I know as hard as this time in my life is, His love is for real. I’m God’s girl. He’s got my back. I understand a tiny bit of David’s boast, I will not fear if ten thousand men should come against me.

I’m beginning to fathom the courage that countless martys have laid hold of in defending their faith. He gave me strength to hang up the phone on evil. He’s giving me strength to say yes to life.

Saying yes to life is Gianna Jessen, a survivor of a failed saline injection abortion. Go look up her story for a courage reboot! www.giannajessen.com

I keep hearing her voice, I’m God’s girl, His princess! She was rejected as an unborn infant, and now suffers from MS. Yet she has become a beacon of courage, hope, and joy? She knows she is loved!  So are you, dear sister in Christ.

When Daniel was praying, his prayers were being hindered by demonic forces. But when the angel arrived to speak to him, he was told his prayers were heard and that he was greatly beloved.

You are God’s girl, dear believer in Jesus.

Revel in that love. We didn’t earn it. We didn’t deserve it. Jesus’ body was indeed crushed for us. “He that spared not His own Son, how shall he not with Him freely give us all things?”

Lift up your head in your lonely spot, and give Him the shame that you feel for not having the “perfect” Christian family. Your not-so-normal life is under His watchful, caring eye.

Pray like you are God’s girl. Shields up this week!

Don’t let Satan’s jabs or even the well-intentioned words of the clueless Christian crush your spirit. This week I took a free personality test. Took it twice in fact. It actually pegged me well.

I’ve always struggled with being over-sensitive to the words and actions of others. Sometimes I’ve been overly defensive. More often, I’ve cowered and let others just walk over me. Don’t want to pick a fight.

That has been changing. Seemingly incredible odds have served to drive me to my knees again and again.  I pray that God will destroy the plans of the wicked. That He will keep my husband’s doctors from doing harm.

That He will provide each day for our current battles with insurance, schedules, and wisdom to choose wisely. I pray for true sanity in the fog of pain-filled days. I pray for kindness.

Without the Lifter up of my head, I could not face my current challenges. Now I’m learning to speak His truth, praying I do so with compassion and boldness.

I’ve been seeing His loving care in my daily life and answers to my prayers. Just today I was told that God used me indirectly to answer another’s pray. Talk about a courage booster.

Now I’m asking Him to glorify Himself in ways that will show this generation His power and glory. HIS! Not mine. Red Sea parting power belongs to Him. Manna in the wilderness. Power to stop a raging storm!

God’s girl, faith, hope, and love are yours for the asking! Mine, too. He will walk with us in the fiery trials, and never ever leave us alone.

 

 

 

 

Rest for the restless soul

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Sometimes life flings such a shock at you that you wonder if your heart will ever be at rest again.

I remember the sleepless nights after the stage 4 diagnosis came for my sis now with Jesus. Her baby son, all smiles and dimples, was only six months old. Her little princess was three. Loving husband and precious kids. Life was almost perfect. Then it broke.

Somehow I knew God was bigger than this, but fighting through to a place of peace was more like several rounds in a boxing ring than a one-two punch. Tears when I least expected, nights when I couldn’t sleep for the pit in my stomach as I gave her to God over and over again.

Watching her suffer, rebound, and suffer again ripped my heart to shreds. It was a four year boxing match. Sorrow and peace, beauty and ugly pain at war with each other. God’s goodness versus evil suffering.

“I can’t wait for heaven,” my brother said to me with a voice of intense, quiet sorrow at our final visit to her home before the call from the hospital. It was a longing for rest. An overwhelming desire for that final home — the other world we are made for.

I hear the same tones in my husband’s voice. The long, sleepless, pain-filled nights. Brain fog. Fatigue. Medical issues that no one but Jesus can heal in that final day. The day-to-day of trying to live with diagnoses that no one would ever want to face.

My heart feels the same restless tossing and turning. But the amazing power of God’s Word breathes life and hope into my soul. When I am crushed, He was already crushed for me. Bruised and broken for my sins.

 I cry with the Psalms. God, you are the Lifter up of my head. When I can’t lift my head to face the day, You will go before me. I am on this journey with You. The faithful who have gone before prayed the prayers of David, Make haste to help. Hear me speedily!

I am not ashamed to be weak if You will be my strength.

Yes, God is my Refuge from the “strife of tongues”, from those who will purposely cast the worst possible light on our life situation and struggles. Psalm 70 and 71. Yes, those enemies do exist. Satan being the chief accuser of Job and saints through the ages — many follow in his steps, even false brethren.

Shame. Confusion. Fear. The enemies of the heart’s peace and rest.

“The Lord is the strength of my life. Of whom, then shall I be afraid?”

What shame, when we are clothed with His righteousness?

What fear, when we know our final home, our destination is prepared especially for us?

Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in me. (Words of Christ) In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” John 14:1-2

(I’m pretty sure my place has a lovely garden, a room full of musical instruments, an art studio, and a chef’s kitchen with plenty of room for family and friends to gather and linger.)

Though our longing hearts may be restless for home, fearful of this dangerous journey, yet our God never leaves His children alone.

He shut the mouths of the hungry lions for Daniel, was with Joseph in prison, kept His three faithful witnesses from even being singed as He walked with them in their blazing furnace, and parted the Red Sea when the entire Egyptian army was racing toward the unarmed Israelites with chariots and weapons of war.

The list of His marvelous care for His children is too long to write.

Come to Jesus this week, dear sister! He is ever praying for you at the Father’s right hand. His wounds have paid your ransom. Let His love soothe your restless heart and lift your head up to face another week. I’m praying for you, too!

 

 

What Master do you serve?

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Strange question for a blog for caregivers (and friends). Some days you may feel like ALL you do is serve the needs of chronic illness in your house.

I was truthfully bone-weary when I went to church this morning. I could barely stay awake. My husband’s many trips to the bathroom, though quietly attempted, disturbed my sleep. It’s an ongoing symptom that he is on meds for, but needs a surgery for long term relief. His body is broken in so many ways, it’s like living in a sci-fi horror story. He didn’t sleep for the pain, either.

Even, worse, the elderly minister, bless his heart, did not do much to keep me awake. Not his job, I know, but a little passion behind the pulpit never hurts!!

So I used my pen and paper in an attempt to focus. I truly believe God rewards our most feeble, even sleep-deprived efforts to draw near to Him. After all, it is His promise, Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.

One point really rang a bell in my own heart. Here’s where God’s beautiful faithfulness met me this morning.

This statement from Philippians 2:1

If there be any consolation in Christ, any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit….

Comfort. Consolation. Fellowship.

Add mercies… likemindedness,

lowliness of mind,

each esteeming the other better than themselves.

This is where the rubber meets the road in our relationships.

It’s easy to get sick and tired of someone who is always sick and tired, just being real here! I’m a human being, too. 

Wonder of wonders! Joy of all joys — Jesus never gets tired of me, as sinsick and broken as I am.

What He is asking of me in relation to others is to pour out this same compassion. Let His love shine in and through me.

So as I face another week, I’m going to think about comfort and compassion. Christ’s comfort to me. His mercies and compassions that are new every morning.

I can’t serve two masters. He’s the only one I want. When I serve the needs in my house, He’s the one I’m serving.

Now that’s where God met me in His Word this morning. I’m glad I went to church. How about you?

 

Jesus, Savior, pilot me…

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photo credit: dreamstime.com

There’s a reason the Navy has a saying, almost like a blessing, “Fair winds and following seas.”

The fear factor of ocean travel has always been a level ten for me. I think it’s amazing! I wonder at the vast courage of a several thousands of years of men, women, and children who have embarked on multitudes of sea voyages.

Without the hundreds of thousands of brave travelers, we would not have the global knowledge and technological advances we enjoy today.

The Horatio Hornblower movies, BBC version, was like viewing a foreign world for me. The vast unknown and the thought of a wild storm at sea makes me a landlubber. A cozy home, a bit of solid earth under my feet, a garden, loving friends and family nearby, and a few animals, well, that’s my happy place. My comfort zone.

Just a few weeks ago, one of my husband’s doctors said his body was undergoing “The Perfect Storm.” More bad news.

It’s a wild ride here. Things beyond our control, and out of the doctor’s control are raging in our lives right now. Like a ship being tossed by waves that are several stories high, we have no idea how to survive this. God is our only Rock of safety and Refuge in this storm. There’s no other Help for us. We’re not shaking our fists at Him. 

Even when and if the storm ceases, our ship is never going to look the same again. Not here on this earth. Battered, scarred, broken pieces dangling and useless… at least that’s what we’re tempted to think right now in the middle of the raging seas.

Maybe broken is beautiful?! God’s plans are not lost at sea. He brings all of His children safely to the Golden Shore. No wonder Jesus slept through the storm while his disciples thought, “Don’t you care that we are about to DIE?”  He trusted His Father completely.

Guess what? I’m waaay out of my comfort zone as a care-giving wife. It’s not a voyage I would have chosen. Lately I’ve done a lot of yelling and crying out in fear, just like Peter’s failed attempt to walk on water. “Lord, save me.”  I do trust You. I’m just not perfectly trusting like Jesus who could sleep in the middle of a massive storm. “Lord, help my unbelief.”

I cannot possibly fathom the outcome of this storm. I don’t know how to navigate these stormy seas by myself. I cry. every. single. day.

I know for sure some  of you ladies are right there with me. The sisterhood of the storm-battered and broken. So I’m reminding all of us, myself most of all,  of three simple ways to let Jesus pilot us through these storms.

Number one: Keep God’s Word before you every single day. Listen. Read. Write down a verse.

I am blessed to have the Psalms on CD. I sometimes have time to listen to Sermon Audio online. The Lord’s Day finds me in church. At times I cannot hold back the tears as God’s Word echoes truth to my heart. Truth is my life raft.

Number two: Tell God every single thing. Every doubt. Every fear. Every angry thought. He hears your cry above the howling storm.

He already knows. Pour out your heart before Him. He can take it. Quite possibly no other human can. We’re tempted to really wish they could.  It’s impossible for us to fully understand anothers’ burden. Even Christian counselors can’t see every facet of what is going on in your story. Helpful, but not always right. Like Job’s friends and wise counselors, none of them got it quite right, though they did have a lot of godly knowledge.

However, God knows every last hair on your head. While He often does use others to help guide us on our way, when the going gets too complicated, His wisdom never fails. Cry out to God who alone is our salvation.

Number three: Remember you are not the first or only person to sail through impossibly stormy seas.

Check out Hebrews 11 through 13. Read the stories of brave folk who lived through wars. I  love a couple biographies, especially. One of them has been made into a movie, The Hiding Place. Corrie Ten Boom and her family were doing God’s work in Holland during WWII, rescuing Jews who were being rounded up by the Nazis.

Then some ugly, twisted soul tipped off the Gestapo. Corrie, her sickly sister Betsie, and her aged father were sent to concentration camps. Corrie was the only one to physically survive to tell the story. Beatings, starvation, personal humiliation, slave labor, cold, illness, fleas, watching her sister suffer, and not being able to bury her — she survived raging seas and stormy sorrow.

She lived to praise and glorify God, though her ship was battered and scarred.

Now that’s how I want my story to end. What about you? Are you hanging on for dear life? Post in the comments section, so we can pray for each other.

3 Prayers of Hope for January

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It’s January, a month commonly known for depression and suicide, according to an December 2015 article on wwwstatnews.com by Sharon Begley.

It’s also been my experience as a caregiver.  Depression hits hard this time of year. There are medical and physical reasons for this.

(I was reminding a young friend of this today as she goes to visit her sister with postpartum depression. Medical and physical reasons, dear. It’s not a sin issue, so deal gently.)

Once we get to mid March, the mood lightens. Spring is on its way. 

You and I need our weapons of warfare prepped for battle right now. It’s stinkin’ tough to not get sucked into the negative mire.

1) Pray what Jesus taught His disciples, known as the Lord’s Prayer.

“Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name,

Thy kingdom come,  Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors,

and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,

For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

I noticed a similar prayer in Isaiah 64.1   “Oh, that You would rend the heavens and come down….” Is. 64  

Job prayed this prayer, too, and God spoke to him directly!

Father, please come!

Please work do your kingdom work right now in my family.

Please deliver us from all the evil that illness inflicts.

Lead us not into any temptation to sin.

Provide for our physical and emotional needs.

Bring Yourself glory through our fragile lives.

2) Prayer of confession: talk to God about any known sins. Sin weighs one down.

6 But we all are as an unclean thing,
and all our righteousness is as filthy rags;
and we all fade as a leaf,
and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
7 There is no one who calls on Your name,
who stirs up himself to take hold of You;
for You have hidden Your face from us
and have consumed us because of our iniquities.

Isaiah 64:4-7

Sound familiar? Remind you of Romans 3:23?

Remember the promises of Psalm 51, a prayer of confession of King David.

Then look at 1 John 1:9. Faithful, amazing forgiveness through our Faithful Jesus!

 

3) Pray the following prayer of surrender. Even the pain and suffering is part of His plan.

“8 But now, O Lord, You are our Father;
we are the clay, and You are our potter;
and we all are the work of Your hand.
9 Do not be wrathful beyond measure, O Lord,
nor remember iniquity forever;
look upon us, we pray,
we all are Your people.” Isaiah 64: 8-9

The chronically ill and disabled, the seeming lepers of society, are still part of His handiwork and kingdom.

Though original sin in the Garden of Eden created the DNA flaws, The Master Potter knows and cares about each vessel in all our unique flaws and sin issues. ( Not saying the DNA issues are sin. They are not. How we respond to them is a matter of good or evil.)

Ask for His presence to be known to you. “LOOK upon us, we pray, we are ALL Your people.”

Anyone who comes to the Father through Jesus Christ in faith and repentance can pray this prayer.

“The Lord takes pleasure in those that fear Him, in those that hope in His mercy.” Psalm 147:11

“Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in HOPE through the power of the Holy Ghost.” Romans 15:13

While I would rather skip right over winter, maybe I would not appreciate the faith, hope, and courage God grants to my spouse and I to fight through it. 

Hope these prayers help keep you and I on track and encouraged. Pray on, dear sisters! Maybe this will be our favorite winter yet.