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One faith-stretching step at a time…

One step at a time

I frequently get asked by folks, “How do you handle all of this?”

This, referring to serious chronic illness, child-rearing, and working full-time.

While I’m not always “handling” things the way I should, I do know THIS is a marathon. It’s not a sprint. We’re almost fourteen years into this chronic illness journey.

Today my husband candidly informed me that he was lying in bed contemplating whether cutting off his legs or smashing them with a sledgehammer would be less painful. Truth, ladies, just bein’ real.

Pain meds aren’t working. We’re in a snarled mess with our insurance. Someone keyed in his birthdate wrong in January.

Everything that has to be reauthorized, including his anti-inflammatory biologic drugs, has been on hold for the past few weeks. No cancer treatments for three weeks, either. I’m biting back sarcastic words as I write this.

It’s a full-time job just trying to get the insurance company to get its act together. Who has time for that? These are soul-trying days.

I’ve been praying. A Lord’s Day series on the Holy Spirit has been just the ticket. What I need right now is more ability to “handle things”.

Like yesterday when my daughter  angrily yelled, “Honk the horn, Mom!” She had just seen a driver dangerously cut me off. I muttered something about an idiot, and then apologized.

“How can you say that, Mom?” she asked. “They were being idiots.”

Well, yes, but I need to be kind. To do this, I need a power outside of myself. I’m NOT big enough, strong enough by myself.

So this morning in my brain fog and through my tears I prayed. I asked for the Holy Spirit to be my Teacher and Guide through the preached Word today. I’m definitely reaching out to all three persons of the Holy Trinity in a new way.

Hello, sermon! Can anyone quote Phillipians 3:1 for me without looking it up?

I really had to smile when I saw the text. It was like God was pointing His finger directly at me. In intense, amazing love, of course. REJOICE!

I will be even more candid, ladies.  I love this senior saint who fills the pulpit temporarily. But sometimes his sermons are as scattered and his voice as dry as breadcrumbs tossed to the birds. NOT TODAY!

He did forget to mention what I find so dear about this book of Phillipians. Paul was writing from prison. He was writing about rejoicing. He was cut off from family and friends, suffering cold and hunger, and he was talking about rejoicing!

So today. Today, I was able to come home heart full to the brim with truth to digest. Then I cooked a healthy meal for us to digest.

Thankfully, the hubby was able to limp downstairs and join us. Next, I tried to rest my body, but ended up crawling into bed next to him, taking his hand and talking to him. So much encouragement needed!

What would our compassionate Lord do? He would remind us of WHO He is.  We talked. Remember when?

In spite of the load of troubles we’ve experienced, God has watched over us and provided for us. He has shown us the Light of His love in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Both of us heard the truth of God’s Word in some form as we were growing up — myself with Christian parents, him with a Christian aunt. That’s a huge mercy!

With a hugely stressful childhood and a body with serious issues NO one would ever choose, my husband’s past is not pretty. Mine has some ugly streaks, too. That’s what sin and selfishness does. Like the curse on the fairy-tale Beast, original sin haunts us all.

Our present isn’t very pretty, either. I gave you a brief snippet and left out a lot of details for sure. However, there’s grace evident in our lives. Love that covers a multitude of sins. Forgiveness. Mercy. Provisions.

Facing what we do, it would be only human to completely “lose it”.

In fact, we’ve come close at times. Dangled over the precipice of sanity. Pain pushes the envelope.

Does my life really matter? Only Jesus’s love makes it matter! Chosen of God, accepted in the Beloved, redeemed!

The evidence is there: faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

While we’re wrestling with pain and serious physical anomalies, faith keeps hope alive. The struggle builds those faith muscles.

In fact, today our conversation turned to the past. My husband admitted if he had known twenty years ago he would have to face what he is facing today, his faith might have been shipwrecked.

My mini-miracle of the day is that we spent time together rejoicing in how God’s carried us.

On a pain-filled day when my husband couldn’t go to church, that’s real. That’s the work of the Spirit. Ask, and you shall receive.

We talked about our fears for the future, too. I’m reminded of a wonderful little quote from the late Elizabeth Elliot, missionary wife of the martyrd Jim Elliot and author of many encouraging books.  She had three husbands die, if I am remembering correctly.  On the topic of handling grief and hard things she was carried forward by this among many truths.

“Do the next thing.”

There it is. One faith step at a time, you reach for your next duty.

Ask for strength. The same Spirit that enabled Jesus to triumph in the forty day wilderness temptation dwells in every believer.

We can even rejoice, knowing that Jesus suffered the same temptations and trials. He was faithful. Only through His Spirit can we be faithful, too. I’m ashamed to say I’ve reached for the sword of the Spirit far too little. Lesson learned, I humbly hope and pray.

How about you? Do you remember to ask for the Spirit’s help in your unique problems? Do you find ways to rejoice? Let’s ask together this week, okay?

 

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.

 

 

 

 

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. 

 

To lighten your darkness…

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How dark is your night? What wakes you up with tear-drenched eyes? What throbbing ache lies in your soul that you cannot heal?

I’ll share just a bit of mine. This weekend.

We packed up four walls of beautiful and heart-rending memories.

Too soon.

Just like the beautiful soul that lived there — beloved, beautiful wife, sweet mommy of littles, kindest sister, best friend to many.

Aged thirty-three.

Four walls of heart-rending pain. Cancer, you evil monster from the pit!

Four walls of sparkling, soul-tickling laughter.

Four walls of caring and generosity.

Four walls of faithful, priceless love.

When you lose love like that, it’s like losing the Hope Diamond.

This packing was a ritual I needed to be part of. Four-plus years of traveling back and forth to this place, this crucible of suffering and beauty. These people I love so dearly.

It’s a tiny place in the city.

My sis went home to her Father in heaven, the only Father she ever really knew, while her husband, my brother, was remodeling her dream home in the country.

She made him promise to finish it. Soon.

She wanted her husband and babies to have that happy place in the country.

Away from the harsh city lights and sounds. The scream of sirens and tormented souls.

Away from the careless neighbors whose throbbing music kept her awake when her body needed rest to heal.

On those sleepless nights she would organize. Make things better for her family. Plan surprises. A light in the darkness! Her light was a small, lovely reflection of the LIGHT of the world.

Jesus says, I am the Light of the world. He who follows me will not walk in darkness, but have the Light of life.

This is why I get up in the morning.

Even though the darkness of grief. Even with the downward spiral of my husband’s health.

When I grope for hope in the darkness, Jesus lights my path.

I’m not hiding from His light.

But how do I manage to see it through the thick darkness? I open His Word, and His light always finds me.

My daughter and I have a nightly ritual. I read to her. God’s Word shines at the end of the day.

My goal is to shine the Light in her life as she learns the darkness of this world.

It’s out to suck her under. To teach her lies. To tangle her feet in its’ hopeless web.

I want her to recognize darkness for what it is — a plot of the Father of Lies to take her to his cruel, eternal, dark kingdom of unquenchable torments.

You don’t want any part of that darkness. I don’t.

If it’s too hard to even lift your head to the Light at this moment, keep reading. Please!

Let’s talk. This life of suffering was never meant to be a solo journey.

There are parts of your journey through darkness I may never understand.

But the One who made you knows you perfectly!

He wanted you to read these words about Him today. As God become flesh, He can fathom the depths of your pain like no other living creature can. Isaiah 53 says He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.

I will pray for you if you post in the comments below.

My prayers will be like a tiny, flickering candle in a huge cavern.  Still, the Father knows your name and will hear the cries of this little candle.

Let the Light of the world shine in your soul.

John 8:12English Standard Version (ESV)

I Am the Light of the World
12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

His mercies and compassions will amaze you and the darkness will begin to fade. Please let me pray. Post below to let me know you want prayer.

What to do with illness and empty pockets?

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Living with chronic illness financially is like pouring your money into a sieve.

I just finished reading a beautiful, true story of a young couple who chose life for their conjoined twins. The surgery to separate them occurred this weekend.

How on earth did they fund such specialized care, I wondered. As I read further, I realized both parents had to quit their jobs to care for these special needs children and to plan for the needed surgery.

They’ve been living without tv or internet access. Their bills have been paid through fundraising and the generosity of the community around them.

Second-hand clothes and groceries have been donated to them on a regular basis. Without all this help, they would not be where they are today.

What a hugely humbling position to be in! Anyone want to walk in those shoes?

 But these folks chose not to murder their unborn children. They chose life.

None of us have directly chosen chronic illness. We have, however, chosen to remain faithful to our chronically ill spouse!

While it is more blessed to give than to receive, remember that receiving means you have enabled someone else to be blessed.

God gives grace to the humble as I Peter states. Grace is very simply defined as undeserved favor.

In the big picture, ALL of God’s children are the very needy recipients of grace. No one is more important or more deserving than the other.

The book of James has some harsh words for rich believers who ignore the needs of the poor. We are all expected to extend God’s grace to each other.

This week I had to humbly ask for help. It was hard. But I knew I would end up in bed for the weekend if I loaded our ton of wood pellets into our house by myself. My husband cannot lift.

When I put the word out, the response blew me away. I knew I was inconveniencing folks. I had to remind myself it was a blessing for them, too.

What can you give up to try to live within your means?

  • Cheap heating fuel, anyone? We have central heat. It costs us a fortune to run it. Thus the extra labor and effort of keeping a wood pellet stove running instead.

  • Unfortunately, I cannot run a business very well without Internet. But the young couple above were using public wifi to cut that bill. Maybe that is an option for you, or maybe not

  • Consignment stores, thrift shops, well –those do take extra time to pick through to find the right size and needed items. If I pop in consistently, I find much of what we need secondhand.

  • Do you really need data on your phone? I found a cell plan that works for us. Unlimited talk and text. No data. No affiliate link here!

How do you deal with the needs you cannot meet on your own?

  • Say “yes” to donations. It’s humbling being the “needy” friend. I tend to be silent about our needs. There is always a list, though. What is amazing is the opportunities I’ve had to bless others by passing along extra things I’ve been given. To do so, I had to accept the freebies, first.

  • Practice praying for what you do need! One of God’s names is Jehovah-Jireh, God will provide. God stretches my faith by keeping me on my knees. James 1, again! His supplies are vastly beyond my puny needs. I pray for a lot of little things on my list. Right now there are some big things, too.

  • Go ahead. Ask. We are supposed to bear each other’s burdens. Sometimes folks have no idea how to help. They aren’t in your shoes. It isn’t their fault. I watched personal items, paper goods, food items, and comfort measures flow into my brother and sister-in-law’s home during the four years she struggled with cancer. They had a few fundraisers for bigger needs. Every. Single. Bit. Helps.

 

Practice profound and genuine gratitude. Grace is a gift. It is not an entitlement. 

A couple of helpful websites for money ideas are:

http://www.daveramsey.com. We’re still in the “dream” stage of debt-free living.

See my past post.Four common frustrations you may face this week

http://moneysavingmom.com/  the most encouraging!  I use her tips regularly. Do you have any great money tips or encouragement? Please do share in the comment section below!

You don’t need an Evite to care…

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Just finished a wonderful online conversation with a sweet lady who knows how to care.

Seriously. She has touched base with me every few days or so since my sis-in-love died.

She texted Bible verses to my sis every day faithfully for years to encourage her in her battle against cancer.

She also visited. She laughed with my sis! Laughter meant so much to my sis who grew up in tough circumstances.

Chatting with her, she misses her friend who also died of chronic illness a year ago. Someone else she took the time to encourage on a regular basis.

Maybe encouragement isn’t your gift. But, listen up, please!

If there are chronically ill people in your congregation, the Bible says, if one member suffers, all the body should hurt, too.

NO excuses, right? You need to find ways to care. Love in action is a true mark of a true body of Christ.

Many chronically ill people make a huge effort to appear normal when they go out in public. They may even look perfectly well.

Like my sis, they are also walking around with stage four cancer, or an incurable chronic illness. They still put that smile on their face. Or they laugh uproariously. It is their way of loving being with normal people for a bit.

And if they know Jesus, it is the joy of the Lord. Spending time with God’s people should be a taste of heaven.

Their husbands or wives are most likely carrying a huge load to keep it all together. You ladies know what I mean.

  • Guess what? Being a caring encourager means seeing the hard and listening to the sad things, too!

Are you just a Sunday, see-you-at-church friend? Or are you for real?

Do you just need help and ideas of how to communicate caring? Let me throw a few thoughts into your idea jar.

  • Easiest first. Send an email or text regularly. Why? Touching base is caring. Even if you never get a response, don’t hold back! God communicates His love to us in His written Word! We need to write notes to those who are hurting.

  • Maybe a phone call is appropriate. Maybe not. Try to find out if that would be difficult or annoying. Step one is the way to go if you don’t live nearby.

  • Try snail mail, too. We have loved getting notes from folks over the past month.

  • Bring a meal. Food and rest are often the biggest challenges of the ill. I often wished I could feed my sis more often. Keeping up with her healthy diet was almost a full-time job. Shopping, food prep — all this takes a toll. It can be hard to keep up with in a normal family.

  • Chronic illness is expensive in so many ways. Healthy food and body supplies cost more. Gifts of money or other tangible needs are often most deeply appreciated. It is hard and humbling to ask. It is also fearful. Like, what will these people think if we have a great need we cannot meet. We’re losers and leeches on the Body, right?

  • Don’t just say it! Pray, really and truly. Pray with your friend in person if at all possible. Even if you stutter and stumble. I cannot tell you how meaningful the prayers of complete strangers have been to myself and my family. Just wow!

    Silence is not always golden.

    You do not need to say much.

    You should listen more.

    Listening and being with your chronically ill friend is golden.

    Don’t wait for an Evite to comfort and encourage those around you.

    God has called us to this — to love one another with a pure heart fervently.

    I am throwing out the challenge? How are you going to encourage the hurting THIS week?  I have a couple of cards I must mail.

    What do you think? How would you like to be encouraged? Please post in the comment section below to help everyone reading. Your help would be greatly appreciated!

One word of hope and Mimosa…

Mimosa — the name of a lovely flowering tree — also is the name of a lady of courage. Let me tell you her true story.

Mimosa and I became friends through the pages of a book written by Amy Carmichael in the 1920’s. I’ll have to introduce you to Amy properly on another day. Both lived in India a hundred years ago.

Right now as I write this, there are other ladies living in refugee camps. Life is sparse. A hundred years ago and now? Faith has cost them all they own.

The gospel, the Good News! All Mimosa had was a few moments introduction to God as the living, loving God of all gods, the one Who made her and all things. She was visiting the Dohnavur Fellowship where her sister Star lived. Then her Hindu father snatched her away, refusing her pleas to hear more.

Though the “stick danced” for Mimosa, a little flame of understanding lit her heart. She firmly refused to smear ashes on her forehead for Siva, the family’s god of choice. She had a heart of love for the loving Father God she knew almost nothing about.

Fast forward to an arranged marriage, an unscrupulous family member who weaseled her dowry away from her, and a husband whose caste did not encourage him to work. Three babies later and no money, Mimosa toiled in the fields to keep food on the table. She prayed regularly in her little pantry, spreading out her sari to God.

With no Bible, no church, and no Christian fellowship, Mimosa clung to the few things she had learned about God as a child. Her neighbors and her family mocked her faith. But the worst was still to come.

Her husband was bit by a poisonous snake and went blind and mad. She had no one to watch her babies while she worked in the fields, and then her infant son became very ill. While her husband was bedridden and her little son lay dying, her roof caved in during monsoon rains, and she had to find temporary shelter for her family.

“I am not offended with you,” Mimosa told God. Her infant son had died. The village blamed her for his death as she refused to buy a charm for his healing. More cruel mocking in her hour of pain…

Her husband regained his sight and sanity but had no urge to better his family. Often he lived with relatives leaving Mimosa to fend for herself. Mimosa bore two more sons.The main trouble was keeping the rice and curried vegetables on the table. One night she prayed for food and it seemed no answer was coming. She did not want to dishonor God in her unbelieving village by asking for help.

A knock at the door around midnight — there stood the one kind relative she had. She lit the lamp, for he had been unable to sleep until he brought over rice and curried vegetables. Mimosa and her boys feasted at midnight.

No Bible studies, no pat on the back, no words of encouragement. She could not read nor write. Her sister Star did not know how to reach her.

And then her oldest boy smeared Siva’s ashes on his forehead so that he might work at a Hindu shop.

Her heart broke. She wanted her boys to know the one true God. Yet how could she teach them?

At Dohnavur her sister Star was praying for Mimosa. Never giving up hope of seeing her and her boys.

Once again Mimosa remembered Dohnavur, prayed, sold her last dowry items, and set out to make sure her sons had the chance to really learn about God. The village was in an uproar. She would be breaking caste. Her husband and the relatives he lived with opposed her. Yet she still set out with her boys on foot. Three days later they arrived.

 Spreading out her sari to God and not smearing ashes to Siva on her forehead finally brought Mimosa and her sons to a place of truth, comfort, and safety. One word from God’s Word had been a lamp to her feet all those years.

Sisters, keep praying in hope. Whatever hardships you are facing, hope in God’s love and Word.