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WONDER and a “real” struggle for families of the chronically ill

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The struggle is REAL, married or single, sick or healthy, rich or poor.

We all struggle with loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Loving our neighbor as ourselves is a natural victim of war when we lose the fight in some area of loving God first.

As John Calvin, famed reformer put it, “Our hearts are full time manufacturers of idols.” We struggle with worshiping ourselves, our space, and our desires. I think chronic illness in the house has so many ways of bringing this struggle to light.

EVERYTHING in the household revolves around the needs of the one who is suffering. The meal schedule, the meal plan, the budget, the family schedule — this list goes on. Even the chronically ill person tends to expect and sometimes plain demand this type of attention, especially if they’re the husband.

Not to trample the chronically ill or special needs community. I’m an advocate. All. The. Time. However, in the recent movie Wonder, the special needs hero Augie falls prey to this trap, as does his mother especially. Everything revolves around making sure Augie gets what he needs to survive his first year of public middle school.  More than that, though, his family is already used to centering their lives around his medical and emotional needs. The oldest child’s needs are easily ignored while she struggles with the loss of her best friend.

In the end, Augie learns an important lesson. He learns to appreciate his truest and best friends and to be concerned about their needs, too. It’s a one-in-a million, good-for-the-soul movie that I could easily watch again. Hope I’ve wetted your appetite!

One thing’s for sure, God did not design anyone to find full joy and satisfaction outside of Himself.

That’s a lesson I keep coming back to over and over again. At this point in my life, I’m “almost” a single mom and definitely a full-time caregiver. There’s nothing normal about my marriage. Some of you can relate to this very well. Others, well, I understand that you can’t. That’s okay.

After the latest of multiple diagnoses were slammed in our faces, I threw up my hands and said, Okay, God. Your kingdom come, your will be done in my life in this situation. Any hope of normal is gone. Just please work for Your glory and our good as You promised to those who hope in You.

However, I’ve seen a ton of “normal” Christian marriages that I don’t envy in the least. Some of them break my heart. Again, the struggle is real.

Marriage is God’s good plan and design, but it’s easy to make an idol out of it. Like any human relationship, marriage is also easily ruined by sin and selfishness. I loved an article I read about singleness and marriage on the blog Lies Young Women Believe. There’s food for thought for married women, too. Good stuff!

Read this blog post and especially the comment section!

When life is topsy-turvy, our covenant-keeping God says, Return to me. Be still and know that I AM God.

His beauty, His love, His faithfulness, His truth, His compassions, His mercies are what keeps me going. There isn’t a friend on earth who can fathom all of our personal struggles. Not gonna happen, though we should try to BE that friend who is like our God. Full of compassion. A listening ear. A tender heart. A giving spirit. A truth-speaker. An encourager.

A prayer for Loving God

In a nutshell, my Ideal Lover is described in the words above. I want to be bound to Him by cords of love forever.

What about you? If you’re running low on love, there’s a Psalm for that. If you’ve forgotten Whom you should love best — well, there’s a Psalm for you. Whatever your real struggle, I promise you, there’s a Psalm for that, too.

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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!

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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?

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.

 

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 Beatitude…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?