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The broad strokes of God’s love

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Dear Sister in Christ, dear fellow care-giving wife, it’s the best of days when you are mind-blown, blown away, filled to overflowing with the knowledge of God’s love for you.

NOT all days are like this. In fact, most days we trudge along. One step, one foot in front of the other.

Then God takes off the blinders when you just refuse to let go of Him and His love. God, I will not let you go unless you bless me. Like Job, you know deep down — though He slay me, I will trust in Him.

Just one tiny glimpse of a few truths of Scripture where God shows His love, and I feel like the richest lady on earth. I’m writing this to remember this day. I’m setting up my memorial stones, and telling myself, remember. Don’t forget. God loves you dearly, fully, completely in Christ Jesus.

I want to tell you, too. I’m hoping you will be encouraged along with me. If you’re at all like me, you need it. You struggle like me to desperately believe and hang on to hope in God’s unfailing goodness and love for you.

What sparked this epiphany? Valentines Day? Naaah. Actually, that’s a hard holiday for those of us whose husbands are too laid up with health issues to be that romantic knight in shining armor.

In fact, I’ll turn off my FB feed that day. I don’t need to feed the feelings of longing when I see my friends light up and share all the wonderful things their truly good hubs do for them. I am blessed by their godly love. I really am. But I don’t need to wallow in what I am missing.

What I have is actually waaay more wonderful!

The Lord my Maker is my Husband.

He sings over me.

He rejoices over me.

He came looking for me, and brought me into His house of love.

He says all the riches of His eternal kingdom are mine forever.

He tells me over and over that He will provide for my needs. And He has. So very faithfully and just in time.

Where do I see His love painted in such big, broad brushstrokes? First, in Jesus’ broken body, hanging on the cross for my sins, eternal love is painted in blood.

Next, I see His compassion poured out on those whom society rejected: the weak, the blind, the sick, the lame, the lepers, the prostitutes, the tax collectors (thieves by their day’s standards), and the Prodigal Son. This means compassion for sick husbands, too, unable to provide for their wives.

The disabled, the abnormal, the “special needs” among us all find equal grace and equal royal privileges at the foot of the cross.

Let me illustrate this point.

In the Bible, mentioned more than once, are a special category of people called “eunuchs”.  Ha! I’d always glossed over that until recently.

Eunuchs are a special class of people also mentioned in Augustine’s works, known as “hermaphrodites”. A certain class of these were forbidden by the Law of Moses to enter into temple worship. (Deut. 23:2) Outcasts by no fault of their own.

But Jesus did not ignore this problem. (Matt. 29:12)  In fact, unique prophecies included eunuchs with amazing promises given to them.

One of the most remarkable of these eunuchs was Daniel. A man who could not enter God’s temple entered into God’s presence in prayer so faithfully that angels literally fought the powers of hell to bring answers to his prayers.

In Isaiah 56 God lavishes beautiful, rich promises on these persons with special needs and physical abnormalities.

Finally, in a burst of gospel beauty, Philip encounters the Ethiopian eunuch who is reading Isaiah. Philip is specifically commanded by the Spirit to speak to the eunuch about Jesus.

The eunuch then asks a loaded question,

” What prevents me from being baptized?” Acts 8:26-28

Philip, a blue-blood Jew, understood what doors God’s grace had opened.

Boom! Baptized then and there. No second-class church membership for this eunuch.

In Christ alone we find this wholeness, a total acceptance in the Beloved. His perfect love lavishes His perfect beauty on His children. Now that’s more than any husband could give to me this Valentine’s Day.

 

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Jesus, the Light in our darkness

Encouragement for 2017

Now may the God of perseverance and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another in accordance with Christ Jesus,

Romans 15:5

This should be the theme verse for my blog.

Perseverance and encouragement.

That’s the bottom line for surviving and  even thriving with chronic illness in the house.

The road seems long. The path is full of hairpin curves. You feel like you’re driving on a mountain road on a rainy, foggy night. (Did that one night. It was as bad as the ice storm I drove through once. White-knuckles all the way!)

No one, not even the doctors, has all the answers. In our case, they seem to find more questions than answers. How can so many things be wrong with one body!?

Only the God, whose hands made and fashioned you (Ps. 139), can know the depths of uncertainty and fear as you face each new challenge.

Fear. It has to be cast at His feet. It will cripple your soul. So many times God tells us, do not be afraid.

Fighting that battle right there with you, sisters. I’ve cried some downright ugly tears this year.

When you’re so broken you have NO idea what to do next, you make a choice. I’ve pulled out Romans 8:28, the Psalms, yes, ALL of God’s Word, and said, okay. I believe.

What next, God?

The surrender of trust fills your heart with faith and encouragement. Faith to find the mercies in each new day, faith to persevere and say, yes, God is good. Satan is bad. Don’t get the two mixed up.

In the end, Love wins. Eternal, persistent love of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for His adopted children will not fail. HIS kingdom come, His will be done.

 Along the way, let’s find that harmony and hope with each other. Let’s persist in love and encouragement.

I’m planning to keep blogging here for that one reason. One ray of light, one encouraging word, one candle for Jesus — that’s all I can do. Shalom in Jesus, sisters, for 2017! So drop me a line now and then. What bugs you? How can I encourage you?

 

Walking with the broken…#brokenhelpingbroken

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Today’s sermon on Romans 13:8-10 was a reminder of the most beautiful and important of four-letter words known to man.

It is also the most misused and misunderstood.

LOVE.

I was hungry and thirsty to rewind the sermon in my mind. I wanted to hear more. Needed to challenge myself more. Beautiful pearls of truth need to be studied with greatest care.

Of all the virtues that I most covet, this is the crown jewel. So I cracked open Matthew Henry’s commentary first thing. He speaks.

LOVE is a debt.

The law of God and the interest of mankind make it so.

It is not a thing which we are left at liberty about, but it is enjoined us, as the principle and summary of all duty owing one to another; for love is the fulfilling of the law; not perfectly, but it is a good step towards it.”

Love is a debt. We owe Christ our eternal happiness. When we serve our chronically ill husbands, we are living the law of love.

I watched my grandfather faithfully love his wife through the tortuous path of Parkinson’s. It was an seemingly endless cycle of loss as her capacities lessened. The day she died, he wanted to die, too. His loving faithfulness was the steely example I’ve needed. His living proved you can make it through Christ.

This ugly world does not have to suck you into the muck of its adulterous slime pit. His footprints are in the sand before me.

Then, there’s my brother. What lovingkindness and gentle care he gave to his wife through four years of battling stage four cancer! He’s a young “buck” still, but his feet kept to the path of marriage vows with beauty and tenderness in the midst of heart-wrenching pain, sleepless nights, financial loss, and many days of solo parenting.

Both men knew this truth. We owe a debt of love to Jesus! God become flesh and became our atonement for sin —  that we can never repay.

His love requires us to love one another.

I am forever grateful for faithful men who set this example.

We are bombarded with messages to love ourselves. Doctors and therapists push us to seek our own happiness.

Well, if that’s what life’s all about, we would all leave our chronically ill spouses in the dust!

There’s a strange beauty that comes in walking with the the broken that cannot be obtained any other way. When you learn to love through the ugly, God’s love in Christ comes to light.

The desperate neediness of the pain-filled hours remind us that God chose not leave us alone in our terrible plight. He did not abandon us.

Instead, His truth brings hope.

His love gives eternal life to those who forsake sin and call on Jesus as their Savior and Master.

Who would you rather have as a boss? Satan, whose motto is grab all the happiness you can possibly snatch in this life, or Jesus, whose eternal love rescues us from eternal hell?

He calls us to walk in love for others. Satan calls for loving ourselves first.

I’m still running my race here with the long-term, degenerative chronic illnesses. I haven’t finished my course yet.

But Love calls me.

It calls me upward and onward with searing, painful beauty.

Love is calling you, too, dear sister.

We didn’t “sign up” for this non-fairytale marriage. We, however, were called by His love to love our neighbor as ourself, no matter how broken they are.

May the beauty of the LORD rest upon you and grant you peace, joy, and hope in believing this week.

May you be carried by the beautiful love of the Lord Jesus.

 

Secrets in the shadow of the Almighty

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I love a good mystery! The intrigues of history and human character, well, they intrigue me.

But I confess, I never expected my personal path through life to contain so many mysteries.

My husband bumped into more major complications this week in his mysterious health history. As each new drama unfolds, could life be any more complicated?

To make matters more heart-wrenching, an old “like” of a Facebook post from my lovely, now departed sis popped up on my feed. Since then, I’ve been following the heart-wrenching updates of a little girl struggling with her 8th bout with recurring cancer.

Eighth bout! Just stinking awful.

Part of me wants to turn off the feed as the cancer epic is just so painful for me to watch.

It’s much easier to pass on by the suffering instead of stopping and getting involved like the Good Samaritan. When you stop to help, to pray, to care, personal pain twists like a knife-blade in your gut.

Your eyes leak tears at the most inconvenient moments.

So how is it that, Blessed are those who mourn? Drum roll, please.

The second half of that Beautitude…for they shall be comforted.

Sweet, sweet comfort from God Himself — now who doesn’t want that! Ever watched a sobbing little one find comfort in his parent’s arms?

I would venture to say that getting comforted was one of my most meaningful childhood memories. Maybe not my sweetest, cause my heart was broken at the moment.

But now, in the fires of real life affliction, sometimes I envy the sweet little ones who simply have to run to the open arms of a waiting parent. There all their troubles dissolve.

I feel deeply for those children who have never known such tender comfort from a parent.

Tender comfort in the fires of affliction is the setting of Psalm 91:4.

“He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge.”

 Pestilence.

Traps.

Terror by night.

Flying weapons by day.

Death. Destruction. Plague.

During these truly terrible times, the Almighty offers Himself as a shadow, a place of refuge, and a fortress.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I just want and need a place to hide. It’s storming hard right now. I need a shelter, a refuge.

Dear sister, what is most encouraging in this Psalm is the promised “end of the story” for those who set their love on the Almighty and make Him their refuge. Please, please read the whole sixteen verses! I will quote for you just one part of the promised ending.

“Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore will I deliver him. I will set him on high because He has known my name. He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him.”

So the secret’s out. Running to Jesus for comfort is the path through trouble. I did not say the path that avoids trouble, for “many are the afflictions of the righteous”.  Hope these few thoughts remind you to seek and dwell in the secret place this week. Let me know how I can pray for you, too, okay?

 

 

 

 

 

Lovin’ through the crazy…

Well, I’d be lying if I said life was all peaches and cream right now.

Focusing on gratitude really helped me see the humor in my crazy life this week. Yesterday was the icing on the cake! I watched tired, grumpy kiddos for a family who is going through the fires of fighting cancer. I ended up in the wrong place due to a GPS error. Traffic was horrendous. I’m a country gal. Hate traffic. A professional panhandler hit me up while I had said kids in the store. And the man in front of me bought every single avocado in the store — one of the big items on my grocery list.

To top things off, the cat vomited and my hubby tracked it all over unknowingly!

Let’s revisit the kids and chronic illness theme. As a parent, once you think you have figured out how to handle one stage, a new one hits. Multiply this time ten with the many different ways chronic illness effects children.

Time to fill up the love tanks. The kids just need someone who loves them through the crazy. Time. Attention. Hugs. Correction. Encouragement. Isn’t that the way the heavenly Father loves us?

  • Love like the Father in Heaven. He does not ignore us or or need for correction. Hebrews 12:5-8
  • He loves His children even when they don’t deserve it. Romans 5:8-9
  • He loves to give good gifts to His children. James 1:17
  • He showers us with love and mercy. Ephesians 2:4-7
  • Our Heavenly Father listens to us and wants us to talk to Him! Matthew 6:6-13

When you see life is crazy, love like there is no tomorrow!

My daughter was with me caring for the kids. I had to encourage her to be patient many times. The tired littles had fun. My girl talked my ear off on the long drive home. Non-stop. The tired me wanted her to stop. The Father God love in me soaked it up. Life is hard, but God is good.  Make me a reflection of  His holy love, I pray. Prayers appreciated from you all. We face more crazy days ahead with a surgery for my hubby sometime this summer.

How can I pray for you in this crazy life we lead? Let me know, okay?

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!

 

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!