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Getting real about fear and faith…

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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.

 

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Joy unspeakable at the journey’s end…

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Peter was told by Christ that he was going to have walk on a path he didn’t want to go on when he got old. He received a rare gift — insight into his own future.

Church history tells us he was crucified upside down. He asked to be turned upside down, saying he didn’t deserve to be crucified in the same position as His LORD and Master.

How many caregivers are walking on a path we would never have chosen willingly?

About six months into my marriage a wise and lovely older lady at church looked at me and said, “This wasn’t what you signed up for, was it?”

Hospital stay, doctor’s visits, jobless, sick husband, and no diagnosis it was terribly frustrating position to be in.

My friend didn’t pretend to understand all about my situation, but her words of kindness and sympathy have traveled with me all these years.

Did I mention I was pregnant?

Being pregnant was both the fulfillment of a long-awaited desire and my worst nightmare at that point. I was so excited AND scared.

How was I going to provide for our child on single salary?  What on earth was wrong with my husband? Why couldn’t he just pull it together?

Our car was repossessed in the middle of the night — actually due to no fault of our own.  Our payments showed as debited from our bank account and the credit company didn’t receive them. The bank admitted the payments were set, but neither bank or credit company would take responsibility for payments “lost in cyber-limbo”. A lawyer told us we could never win a fight against two big companies with deep pockets.

In fact, now the credit company asked for about half of what was owed in order for us to get our car back.

Utterly impossible to cough up that money in our situation! We were paying out of pocket for specialists’ visits on a very small salary.  We lost our car.

Being repo’d in Maryland is akin to organized thievery. We had valuables inside that car that were never returned to us. We lost our car AND the belongings inside.

Amazingly our credit score was clean because the bank admitted it wasn’t our fault. It just wasn’t their fault, either, according to them.

My personal opinion is that the credit company and the repo company were in cahoots. Thieves. Enough said. Their day in front of a just Judge is coming.

Then our landlord decided to sell the cheap apartment house we were renting. The new owners decided to fix the foundation and jacked up the house too swiftly.

Yes, we were living there. My husband was sick in bed when the walls and floor began to heave.

One week before my daughter was born, I came home from work to crooked doorframes and cracks that ran along the joints of wall and ceiling. It looked like an earthquake had hit.

Miraculously, we qualified for a small home loan, due to no car payment and a decent credit score (and looser lending rules)!

God took care of us despite the cruel and unjust loss of our car. Thankfully we still owned an old beater car that was completely paid for.

A week after our daughter was born, we moved. God has kept this roof over our heads for almost 13 years.

There has been nothing easy about this journey, though. Not one single easy year! However, our Good Shepherd has never, ever left or forsaken us.

Peter speaks pointedly and lovingly, too, about fiery trials. He faced a hostile government, spent time in prison, and ended up giving his life for his faith in Christ.

You have had to suffer various trials, in order that the genuineness of your faith, which is more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tried by fire, may be found to result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ,

           Whom having not seen, you love; and in Whom, though you do not see Him now, you believe and you rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory, receiving as the result of your faith the salvation of your souls.” I Peter 1:6-9

While we hold on to hope and reach for moments of joy, the only true joy is found in loving Jesus.

Ah, the other piece of sage advice from my lovely friend.  “Not what you signed up for? Just know your husband can never meet all your needs. You need to be satisfied with Jesus.”

She then told me how poor and broke they were in their first year of marriage. No baby crib, just a blanket folded into an open dresser drawer for their little one.

 I’ve forgotten the other details but it was clear –  her first year of marriage wasn’t what she signed up for.

One of these days we’re going to meet our perfect Bridegroom. Peter describes this as “joy unspeakable and full of glory”.

It just doesn’t get any better than this. The best is yet to come!

We already know how much He loves us — freely, fully, without any good reason to love us. He just does. He has told us that nothing can separate us from His love. He’s committed to us for the long haul.

I’ve had three ladies tell me personally in the past few years how their husbands just decided they were done with the marriage. Just done and up and left.  No more relationship.  The pain in their eyes ripped at my heart.

At points in caregiving, you may feel like your husband’s left you in another senses. One dear lady put it this way, “My husband after his injury just checks out. It’s like he’s stopped trying!” She felt so very alone.

Chronic illness is a physical and mental battle. So is caregiving.

I wouldn’t trade places to experience the pain and physical suffering.

But being a loving caregiver is also an excruciatingly fiery trial at times. Anyone who says differently hasn’t walked in our shoes for very long. Probably never.

You and I are left scrambling to keep all the ducks from tumbling over the Niagra Falls.  Forget keeping the ducks in a row!

The only one Who truly understands is Jesus. It’s a good thing He’s our High Priest and no one else. There isn’t another living soul I’d trust to intercede for me before God.

“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize wiht our weaknesses, but One who was in every sense tempted like we are, yet without sin. Let us then come with confidence to the throne of grace, that we might obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:15-16

Christ is our sympathetic Bridegroom. He already has His ear and heart tuned to hear us. We have His full and undivided sympathetic attention when we enter into His Presence. How often does that happen in this age of cell phones and technology?

The road we wouldn’t have chosen is taking us to glory — where we will see our glorious Jesus face to face.

“I Can Only Imagine” was played at my sister’s funeral last year.

Can you imagine? Love like no other awaits at the end.

 

 

 

The rest of the story…

Last week I introduced you to Mimosa. Would you like to hear more of her courage? Faith? Hope?

Why listen to such a dreary tale of woe from a century ago? Well, the Apostle Paul speaks of the saints being encouraged by the faith and love of other saints. Mimosa only heard a few minutes of Bible truth in her entire life. She could not read. She had no Christian friends in her village. So it was a huge step when Mimosa left two of her sons to be encouraged and educated at Dohnavur Christian Fellowship.

Upon arriving home, she was so disgraced in the sight of her village that her husband, worthless as he was, also ignored her. Gathering her courage and her two youngest sons,  she decided to return and live at Dohnavur. Why? She was so hungry for God’s Word! She wanted to learn to read it for herself.

Mimosa had an amazing, Christlike heart of love to win her husband. She once again went home to him.

Did he deserve it? Nope. Do any of us deserve His love? Be inspired. Be encouraged. You can love your husband like Christ through His power.

Sunflowers for caregivers

Many years went by, and Mimosa’s husband and four sons all came to faith. Yes! Joy unspeakable and worth all of the pain and suffering…

Who can you encourage and inspire along the way? You and I might feel like nobodies in God’s kingdom. Like Mimosa, we may suffer alone in the hidden places. A hundred years later, someone stumbling along in pain and heartache may be encouraged to keep following Christ by your story and mine.

I, for one, can’t wait to someday meet ladies like Mimosa and Amy, her faithful praying friend. Let’s make the rest of our stories — our “blink and you miss it” lives — worth the read.

Truth be told…

To tell you the truth, the last thing I feel like doing right now is writing.

That is a terrible thing to say to your reader friends, I know!  But I’m just being honest here, saying what I would say to a really good friend. I’m drained. Two nights away from home and watching my sis-in-love suffer terrible pain as she struggles with cancer, and then my husband calls. He and my sis both spent the night awake. Raw pain. Real suffering. Maybe I should just shut my mouth right now before I am an epic failure at encouragement.

Oh, but Jesus met me at church even though I was late and bleary-eyed.

As tired as I am, I cannot wait to give you snippets of Isaiah 62 which was faithfully taught to us this morning. Nothing fancy. No bells and whistles. Just truth spoken with quiet passion. So here is the good news, sisters.

“You shall be called by a new name which the mouth of the Lord will name.” Is. 62:2

Legally my name is no longer Lost, Forsaken, Doomed! I’ve been adopted as joint-heir with Christ. My inheritance is far better than the richest oil sheik!  Even though I can’t claim a single rich relative, I am a royal daughter.

“You shall be a crown of glory in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem…” Is.62:3

Ever wish you could be a princess for a day? Or a week? Or even just have someone to clean and cook for you for a week?  Now we’re talking! Some of you know what I mean.

“For the LORD delights in you…” Is. 62:4

Now this is the sweetest thought to me. If you grew up feeling and knowing that your father delighted in you, you were one blessed child. So many parents do not know how to communicate their love wisely and well. Many children are downright neglected and abused.

God leaves us in no doubt of His dear sweet love for His children. He planned from ages past to rescue, redeem, and adopt His children. Then He clearly and repeatedly states His unchanging love for us. I can never hear this enough. I forget this too often. It was a healing balm to my bruised and aching heart today. I had to share this comfort with you. Hugs!

 

What faith is not…

One of my favorite little fellas gave me this coffee mug.

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I still see the joy on his face when giving me this gift. Precious and priceless! Faith is also a precious gift. I pray for those I love dearly to have true faith. My daughter, my sister — the one I rarely see but love and miss — family and friends facing devastating circumstances are part of these prayers. Jesus prayed for Peter on verge of Peter’s wrenching denial of him. “I pray that your faith fail not.” But what is faith?

The life of faith does not mean a life free of trouble.

“For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” Philippians 1:29

I always tended to think of suffering for Christ in terms of those who are literally being tortured and abused for refusing to deny Christ and His Word. That is the basic meaning, I am sure. But there are many other ways of suffering for Christ. Being committed wives to the men we married for His sake fits, too. Seriously! It takes faith in His promises to stick it out. You do so in faith that this hard road you have chosen to stay on is for His glory and your ultimate good.

A friend of mine wrote a book called The Secret Life of An Unlikely Convert. She challenges professing Christians to think of what they have repented of and given up to follow Christ. She was living a lifestyle she loved. She encountered God’s Word. Slowly studying she soon realized she was living a life of sin outside of God’s boundaries. Her conversion made her life at that time harder, not easier, as she then made choices that led to a radical change in lifestyle.

Faith is not the power of positive thinking!

Don’t get me wrong! I am a huge fan of gratitude and positivity. I love watching inspirational movies and reading positive stories. All the positivity in the world won’t rescue you if you step out in front of a speeding tractor trailer or fail to pay your tax bill!! Faith in faith itself leads to depression and doubt when things are not going well. Instead, we turn to the real and literal Author and Finisher of our faith. He showed his real wound scars to doubting Thomas and said, “Reach out your hand and touch me.”

“Looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our Faith, 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 throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2

 

 

 

My Mom, my humble hero

My mom lived in over a dozen homes in my first ten years of life.

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No, she was not in the military.

She got married when she was 18 and my Dad was 19. She moved wherever my Dad could find a job and affordable housing. Like Ma Ingalls of Little House fame, she made a home for us wherever we went. Curtains in the windows, homemade bread, and a tablecloth on the table were standards in my home. My mom showed me heroic courage in her cheerful acceptance of old houses, old cars with no AC, and garage sale clothing. She was over 3,000 miles from her parents and all of her family. I cringe when I think of how hard this was for her in those early years with three little people. No support, no money to call home — we were literally all she had, and she loved us like there was no tomorrow.

She taught me to be thankful even when life was tough.

“Cheer up, ye saints of God, there’s nothing to worry about, nothing to make you feel afraid, nothing to make you doubt. Remember Jesus never fails, so why not trust Him and shout. You’ll be sorry you worried at all tomorrow morning.” Mom would sing this to us as we were stuffed in the back seat of the car with 4/50 AC on many a blazing hot day in coastal SC. (4/50 AC refers to 4 windows rolled down as you travel down the highway at about 50 miles per hour.) It seems ludicrous now. We were far from saintly. We whined and scrapped with each other constantly.

She made us be nice to each other — eventually.

“If you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all.” Mom wore this saying out. She also made us think of five nice things to say to each other when the sibling insults got out of hand. I appreciate this so much now as my siblings are my dearest friends. We learned a lot about kindness and forgiveness from Mom telling us our rude ways were not acceptable. I am working on this now with my daughter. I soon figured out that not all moms teach this to their children. I am blessed.

She read many wonderful stories to us.

Yes, the Little House books were on the list. Most of the stories were of brave (or scared) people doing brave things. We actually did not miss TV in our early growing up years. We had real heroes that came to life in the pages of books we shared. I was very, very familiar with all the heroes of faith in the Bible, heroes with flaws, but brave men and women of faith nevertheless. A child needs heroes.

What does this have to do with chronic illness and caregiving?

Gratitude comes from faith that all things, even the yucky or terribly hard things, are working together for good to those who love God. Romans 8:28.  In I Corinthians 13, we learn how love is supposed to look in everyday life. That kind of love is often tested when your hurting spouse is cranky because of suffering, or you have to shoulder his responsibilities along with your own. Saying five nice things to him can really be a challenge! Thank the Lord, Mom made me practice. Do I always succeed? No, I can relate closely to those flawed heroes of Bible fame.

Because of Mom’s example of cheerful faith, gratitude, and perseverance, I am encouraged in my rocky, uphill climb of marriage to a chronically ill husband. My mom is truly my humble hero.

What if your mom is not your hero?

  • I have dear, dear people in my life who have had terrible moms. That is the raw, bleeding truth. Some of these people have become amazing moms. That did not happen by accident! God chooses the weak things to confound the mighty.
  •  Off the top of my head I can mention a few amazing ladies to use as your personal role models. For examples of faith, courage, and compassion, read the lives of Amy Carmichael or Gladys Alyward. There are many more in history.
  • Look for a truly wise, godly mentor at your church. Ask around. Whom do the moms look up to and turn to for advice?
  • Make a list of areas you want to grow in using I Corinthians 13 as a guide. Study the Bible passages that relate using a concordance.
  • Pray for God to continue to do His good work in you. In the sermon today we were  reminded how God’s Spirit prays for us when we do not know how to pray. That is me all the time!

Go ahead and share in the comment section if you have a hero in your life. Those stories are good for the soul!

Are you losing your song in the night?

He Who Began A Good Work in You

From Philippians 1:6 this phrase of hope and encouragement lifts up my soul and puts a smile back on my face. I thought you would enjoy this song and these words of encouragement. The Apostle Paul wrote this letter, God-breathed, to a suffering church. If you can imagine for a moment the Roman Empire during the time of Nero who hated Christians with a brutal hatred, and see Paul sitting in a prison cell writing these words.

He is more concerned about what was going on in the Philippians walk of faith than what he was suffering at the moment. He gives several clear, pointed instructions to keep the fellowship of believers on the right track. Be humble. Rejoice in the Lord always. Give thanks in all things.

When we are down in the muck of messy life, almost sucked under by the load of pain, or the huge pile of extra responsibilities on our shoulders, God is still busy doing a good work in the lives of each of His children. He is going to be faithful all the way from now to glory. I am banking on that faithfulness. Many have gone before me who have testified that God has carried them through the darkest trials. I know my desperate weakness. It will be His strength and faithfulness I need to cross the finish line in faith.

Hope the song link works on your end. I am working on learning new techie skills. So, let me know if it worked for you! Blessings on your week!