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Dear social media user — you don’t need the details to pray…

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I’ve hinted at this before. You don’t need all the details to pray for a Christian friend.

I’ve swallowed the words. I’ve “beat around the bush”. But today was the first time I’ve come right out and said it kindly, but boldly to a fellow Christian. “You don’t need the details to pray.”

We were discussing the pros and cons of social media. Then it was suggested that I keep up a Facebook page for my husband’s health issues. I laughed a little laugh, and said, “Well, it would read about the same most weeks. Doing lousy! You don’t need the details to pray.”

I think the reason the conversation spun in this direction was because of those who do feel free to post all their ups and downs, highs and lows, and needs great and small on social media.

I’m in some of those groups. Praying for a little girl stricken with brain cancer right now. But, I don’t get online and ask nosy questions! I don’t PM them for more details, either. Why? It’s. NOT. My. Business.

This may work well for some folks. If that’s you, please don’t feel judged! My dear one has done some of this vulnerable sharing in the past. Rarely ever, now. Why? It’s very hard to build true friendships on social media alone. Oversharing has resulted in some serious fallout.

And how do you judge when someone is not truly committed to your best interest, loyal in Christian love ? Trust is built over time.

A true friend will walk with you faithfully through the hard times as well as the good.  Sharing details with untried friends is like baring your chest and walking through a thicket of blackberries. You’re bound to get shredded by the thorns of everyone’s educated opinion. Or get betrayed by the sharing of information they accidentally let loose.

Church prayer chains can be as challenging as social media.

I’m sorry to say I’ve been the unwilling recipient of some church prayer chain conversations. Not my church family, but truly lovely ladies in many ways. Still, the details they felt entitled to discuss about a third party! Really?

Is that necessary to your prayers? Don’t you realize that what you are sharing about another is actually gossip?

Do you need to dig for the details of where, what kind of cancer, what treatments someone is undergoing, etc…? Why do you NEED to know this information to pray?

Some ladies, I fear, have mastered the art of the compassionate voice so that they can extract information and details that they eagerly share with their inner circle. Men aren’t exempt from the “dig for information”. After all, journalists — male or female — are just another version of Sherlock Holmes.

My own sis-in-love mentioned the challenge of how to answer people’s many questions about her stage 4 breast cancer. What an added stress! I often didn’t know her latest test results, even though I was on her care team and cared deeply. I didn’t pry into her private and painful details. She was also concerned about who would see her house suffering from survival mode.

What your suffering friend most needs is words of caring and prayers. Acts of kindness, helping them share the load while they are in survival mode, will never be forgotten.

“Keep me from the strife of tongues” is a phrase used in Psalm 31:20. While it is written in the context of King David’s enemies, we also see a legitimate prayer model for protection from this specific form of damage.

 

All throughout the Scriptures, we find prayers and warnings regarding our words. It’s too big of a study to attempt here. Read the book of James and the book of Proverbs for starters.

We’ve all been guilty of sharing details we shouldn’t have at some point in our lives. It’s something we should feel godly sorrow and repentance for — with prayer and determination to please God in this area.

Why? Why would details be damaging? How often is it that we relate a story only to find ourselves being corrected on some detail or another? We’re so human! This is how gossip and misinformation start. You miss one or more crucial details from your friend’s story. It happens to the best of us!

I cannot tell you the times when folks have asked me to give them details about the health issues we face. Then, I accidentally left some important detail out! Weeks roll around before I have time for a personal conversation with that person again.

Or consider the spin or “flavor” that gets added to the details? Our personal opinion about the situation?

In truth, we may be close to or actually spreading lies about our neighbors if we dig for more information than we need.  Only the wisest among us handle sensitive information with the kindest and most discreet of hearts.

Even when we’re dying to know more… JUST STOP!

“Child, said the Lion, I am telling you your story, not hers. No one is told any story but their own.”

C. S. Lewis                           The Horse and His Boy

 

Pray for each other! Love not just in word, but in deed and in truth.

Let’s take a cue for the books of I and II Peter, written for a suffering, scattered church family. It takes intention and planning. See the word effort?

“Make every effort to add virtue to your faith;

and to your virtue, knowledge;

and to your knowledge, self-control;

and to your self-control, patient endurance;

and to patient endurance, godliness;

and to your godliness, brotherly kindness;

and to your brotherly kindness, love.

For if these things reside in you and abound,

they ensure that you will neither be useless nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” II Peter 1:5-8

 

The end of all things is near. Therefore be sober and solemn so you can pray.

Above all things, have unfailing love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.”

I Peter 4:7-8  

I’m blessed to see brotherly kindness and unfailing love as the pinnacles of our Christian faith and walk.

We’ve been truly blessed, also, to experience the brotherly kindness and love poured upon us by church family — a small glimpse of God’s eternal mercies.  LOVE brings LIGHT and HOPE to dark trials.

Keep unfailing love as that highest goal, dear care-giving wife. God knows all the details of your sorrows and needs. He will be your refuge and help.

 

 

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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.

What’s your identity, dear care-giving sister?

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When you’re a caregiver, especially long-term, your whole identity can become wrapped up that term — care-giving!

It’s not all wrong.

If you’ve been put in that position, you’ve been called by God to exercise great mercy and compassion toward someone in need.

Depending on how great the need, your life revolves around this mission.

It’s exhausting. Draining. Sometimes soul-sucking. Like the last two nights for me…We’re waiting for yet another surgery.

Corrective where the last surgery failed to do its job. It’s a six week wait. Meanwhile, the ramifications for my loved one are brutal. Up and down every few hours all day and all night in sheer misery.

I’m not saying this so you can send a boatload of pity my way. No, indeed. I just want you to know I’m walking in your shoes. I get it!

Your life as a care-giver may be totally and completely upside down right now.

You may find yourself careening of the edge of mental and physical wholeness.

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Your relationship to your spouse changes in so many ways, it’s hard to describe them all.

At my wit’s end a few weeks ago, I yelled (not screamed) at my loved one — very ill and refusing to go to the doctor. I almost called the ambulance, but wanted to avoid that drama.  Yelling beat that option, but it wasn’t pretty. I felt like a meanie.

Sure enough, a trip to the doctor was the first stop on the journey of multiple doctor’s visits that led to the revelation of needing a third surgery in 18 months.

Yep, the infection could have been life-threatening, but my yelling possibly saved my loved one’s life. Could I have accomplished this another way? I don’t know.  Honestly, I don’t.

Sick and sorrowful of heart, I needed a healing ointment for my soul.

I found it. Church, God’s people, God’s Word, and time alone with my Heavenly Father.

Am I totally whole now? Is all the hurt left behind. NO! But I know WHO I am in Jesus Christ and WHAT riches of love are mine.

I’m not just a caregiver! I’m a beloved daughter of the King. I’m a joint heir with Jesus. He’s preparing a “forever home” for me, His adopted daughter.

Like Jesus warns us in the Gospel of John, “I have told you these things so that in ME you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But be of good cheer. I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Someone somewhere sagely stated – You’re always in one of three stages in life. You’re entering a great trial. You’re enduring a great trial. Or, you will be enduring a great trial soon.

Life IS hard, but God is good.

HIS goodness endures to all generations, if we will have the eyes to see it.

Right after his Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, Jesus told the fickle crowds that followed Him (soon to crucify Him instead of praise Him) —

“Yet a little while the light is with you.

Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you.

He who walks in darkness does not know where he is going.

While you have the light,

believe in the light that you may become sons of light.”  John 12:35-36

Don’t stumble in the darkness in days of sorrow!

Believe in your identity in Christ.

Don’t forget who you are in Jesus, dear care-giving sister.

He’s the only Light that is guaranteed to kindle a flame in your darkness.

Faith, hope, love, and peace to you today!

Hug ’em anyways, momma…

Well, I got my share of momma hugs this weekend, but I also got the brunt end of a bad mood, too. What to do?

IMG_0876We’re rapidly moving from tween to teen this year. It’s a hard, hard time to have a parent sick in bed regularly while the other parent is trying to keep all the plates spinning. But, nothing, and I mean nothing is worth losing connections with my daughter.

We recently watched a very, very inspiring movie called The Queen of Katwe. Even though the mom is a widow in that true story, I could relate to her so vividly is some respects. Granted, I don’t live in a third world country. I’ve always been able to find work, and get help with bills when needed.

But I can relate to setback after setback. I felt that momma’s pain in living technicolor. When she realized how much chess meant to her daughter, she was willing to sell her most prized possession to help her daughter succeed. Success happened but not overnight. I won’t spoil the ending for you. If you’re like me, keep a box of tissues nearby.

It will take extra grit and sacrifice to swim against the life-sucking illness. Love fiercely, momma!

Love finds a way. Love found me begging God on my knees for a good, safe homeschooling community three years ago. I tried to form my own, but the lack of commitment made it fall apart.

My daughter is an only. We needed friends and enCOURAGEment for our journey. God answered. He brought a nationally known group to form a community in our area. I was able to tutor to pay the fees. (People commit to what they pay for. Truth!)

You know what? I got a huge thank you from my daughter this year for making her go the past three years.  She was initially afraid to try. Now she loves it. She excels at most of her work. That didn’t happen by accident!

Pray fiercely, momma! Ephesians 6:10-18

Turns out I was not the only momma praying for help. We were able to share burdens and bear each other’s burdens. Now I pray for wisdom as we navigate teen years and chronic illness in the house.

It’s a challenge but also an opportunity.

I want her to find her gifts and talents and hone them! I want her to be resilient, compassionate, gritty, and full of hope in God. So that means I’d better keep praying big prayers. Can’t quit now!

Hug ’em fiercely, momma! See that stinky attitude as a cry for love. Swipe the screen-time while you’re at it.

Chronic illness, well, it’s no fun for anyone to witness. When you live with it, that’s even harder. Some days it makes me angry, too. My child, on the road to sorting out all her inner workings, well, of course she thinks this stinks! At the stinky moments, sometimes a quiet tone and wrapping your  arms around the huffy child is just what the doctor ordered.

Moms, we’re a safe haven. We’re a venting station. I want my child to be able to tell me exactly how she’s feeling. Nicely, of course, but truthfully. (We’re working on the “nicely” part still. Snagging the Kindle seems to help). A nice cup of hot tea helps, too. Or cocoa, depending on the kid.

Then I want to direct her to Abba, Father. She’s starting to see. Mom prays. About. Everything. I can’t fix things. But God is our very present Help in time of trouble. Psalm 46. He knows our thoughts. Psalm 139

Fierce loving, praying, hugging mommas, you’re my inspiration! Maybe  chronic illness will be the catalyst to make our children extra gritty and kind. Maybe their souls will be supercharged to trust God for big things. How’s that for a prayer request?

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2.) Say yes to visitors.

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

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

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

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

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

Although the fig tree shall not blossom,

neither shall fruit be in the vines;

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

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

Yet I will rejoice in the LORD.

I will joy in the God of my salvation.

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

Habakkuk 3:17-19

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

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

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

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

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

Thine be the glory forever and ever, Amen.

 

What Master do you serve?

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

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

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

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

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

This statement from Philippians 2:1

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

Comfort. Consolation. Fellowship.

Add mercies… likemindedness,

lowliness of mind,

each esteeming the other better than themselves.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Being real today, caregiving wife

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Real. Genuine. Authentic.

The above as opposed to being fake and phony, well, I hope this post is still encouraging. If I pretended that living with a chronically ill spouse was all sunshine and roses, hmmm?

It’s a hard balance to strike. Scripture tells us to bear our own burdens. It also tells us to bear one another’s burdens.

We don’t know each other’s burdens unless we are truthful about them. That means a measure of honest sharing and openness.

But whom do you trust with your personal brokenness? Seriously!

 Not all listening ears are created equal. The verse my mom always quoted to her quarreling brood was Ephesians 4:32. Thank God for Mom instilling civility!

Only open your heart to those committed to this: “Be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”

Trust me. I’ve taught kids professionally for more than a dozen years now. Kindness is a learned skill, not a natural quality. Bullying, anyone?

 Blogging has been hard for me in this sense. I’ve feared my audience, really. When I push the publish button, I often feel naked.

I just wanted you to never, ever be where I was. I want you to feel supported, loved, and prayed for. Deeply and kindly loved…

Why? I did not know a single other Christian woman with a chronically ill husband at that time. I felt so alone.

I could often not really connect with other women in my church — stay at home moms with healthy husbands. I still try. I love that there are women who love me like Jesus when I have such a different path in life. Each category of woman has their own struggles

Gradually I’ve learned I’m not really alone.

Still, there is not much of a network.  We’re such a chronically tired, hard-working bunch of women.

I’m glad you’ve found my blog. It’s a start, knowing you are not alone, right?

It is my hope and prayer that you’re being encouraged even as I share my struggles. Mostly I want you to see Jesus in the struggles. He is real. Truth. Life. Light. Living Water. Bread of life.

Remember Jehovah Jireh? We saw His major hand of provision for us this week through His people.

Knowing His love makes the struggle bearable.

So, what would you like to genuinely, authentically like to hear about?

What are your biggest struggles? What are your fears as wife of a chronically ill husband?  What would you like to read here?

Please share in the comment section below.

I promise you a kind, tender, listening heart. It’s been broken often enough to care. (Yep, that’s our therapy cat above. He’s doing a good job, too. Cute, isn’t he?)