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How to scoop the p**p from your mind

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Psalm 40 trashed me this week. I almost had to pull off the road and just let the waves of sorrow and hope roll past.

“I waited patiently for the LORD, and He turned to me, and heard my cry.

He brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set me feet on a rock, and established my steps…”

I’m waiting for you, LORD, and you haven’t forgotten me in this horrible pit. It stinks down here.

I think it prepared me for a conversation with my daughter. She was angry and hurt.  She added to the morning snarkiness. It was a lovely drive to church. Hmmm….

People in pain are sometimes a pain to be around. I’m not going to lie to ya. Very few of us are “heroic” all the time, right?

It actually takes a lot more grace to be kind and selfless when you’re chronically ill. Family always sees the “poopy” side of each other any day. Add pain and chronic illness. It’s a recipe for lots of poopy days.

So I took a long walk with my daughter to help us scoop out some poop.

First scoop: God is good. Satan is bad. Don’t get the two mixed up! 

Then I read about the tragic death of a 17 year old on her way to a missions trip. The “blame God game” was alive and well in the comments section. Venom dripped out of so many tongues that I clicked off pretty quickly.

Second scoop: God owes us a happy life full of wine and roses! NOT!

Instead, remember what He has given us. We are forever in His debt. His love and forgiveness through His own beloved Son! His mercies and forgiveness are beyond measure to those who believe. This life’s pain is a temporary drop in the bucket compared to eternal life.

It’s unbearably excruciating at times. It feels like it will last forever. But the pain is so temporary. Paul calls it “light affliction”!

Third scoop: God has forgotten about me down in this miserable pit of my current circumstance! 

No, He listens to you, just like he listened to David. He thinks of us with thoughts at cannot be numbered.

“O, Lord, my God, You have done many wonderful works, and your thoughts toward us cannot be compared; if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered.”

Almighty Creator God thinks about me. How can that be?

Dear caregiving wife, if you’re at all like me, it’s easy to let our minds fill up with poop! It’s up to us to keep shoveling it out and to spend time with others who will uplift us in prayer, promises, and praise! Sometimes we need to hand our kid a shovel and gently help them scoop, too. 

This link below is my loving shovel for you. I was so blessed by this article.

http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/six-words-to-say-through-tears 

What helps you keep from being sucked under in that miry pit? Hand me a shovel, too, please! 

Not forsaken…

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It’s been a “community of the broken” week for me.

In fact, I’ve seen two of my clients this week sick and uncertain as to their futures. One is awaiting surgery to clear carotid artery.

Another older lady is ill in the hospital with no family in town to help out. She’s facing possible rehab.

Then my husband has told me every single day how bad the pain levels are. He’s  barely left the bed.

Finally, another friend shared her heart. Her husband is in a very dark place right now. Tragic loss hit their family almost two years ago. He is not a believer.

 How much sadness, pain, and hurt can one heart bear? Mine just plain aches.  Oh, Jesus, Wonderful Counselor, help! Oh, Spirit, be my Comforter! Father of mercies, send Your mercies.

Today I sat in a very small church group. Less than thirty of us learned about a community of 4 million that occupy a shanty town in east Africa.

Real people live there. Poverty, violence, and disease are rampant.

Forgotten by major relief organizations,

unloved by the evangelical community around them,

unaided by their government–

they are seemingly without hope in this life.

Yet http//:DiscipleSupport.org brings Jesus to these forgotten sufferers every single week. You need to look them up. Give if you can. Pray.

If I had not been crushed by my share of heartache, my ears would not have been connected with my heart. God knows. I believe I will pray for these forgotten ones for the rest of my earthly days.

I was also reminded of each of you lovely, behind-the-scenes caregivers. You pour out your energies daily. Your struggles with overload, financial strain, and watching someone you love suffer are often invisible to others. 

Christian caregiver, you are not invisible to God!

You bring Jesus’ love and light to your family when the day seems darkest.

Loving one another is loving Him.

After loving God with all your heart, soul, and mind, this is the second greatest command! 

Matthew 25

39When did we see You sick or in prison and visit You?’

40And the King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’

Hell is being forever forgotten. Forsaken. Cut off forever from God’s mercy.

41Then He will say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

Dark lonely days right now? In Christ you are never forsaken.

 “Let your manner of life be without covetousness, being satisfied with the present; for He Himself has said: “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

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?

 

Store up comfort…

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That’s what I like to think my blog is: a store house of comfort.

A place that is real.

Caregiving wives have their hands full in a different sort of way. You and I need to feel we are not alone.

This week I received a lovely little surprise in the mail. A lady in our church mailed a new devotional to me. Her gift will go on my upcoming post “ways to help your hurting friend” list.  So I’ve been taking time to rest, refresh, and read for my soul’s sake today.

Otherwise, this coming week is so busy, so stressful that I could just quit. Quit. Right. Now.

Ever had one of those weeks? Where does a caregiving wife go to hand in her resignation? Especially when the weeks and months ahead look just as intense!

Time for a focus reboot.

Time to quit for one day. One beautiful day in seven exists in which God Himself chose to rest from His creation labors. Time to sit and cry and read and pray in my chair in a quiet house (for the moment). So let me share from my beautiful devotional today, okay?

January 11…”Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. (Isaiah 40:1)

“Store up comfort. This was the prophet Isaiah’s mission.

The world is full of hurting and comfortless hearts.

But before you will be competent for this lofty ministry, you must be trained.

And your training is extremely costly, for to make it complete, you too must endure the same afflictions that are wringing countless hearts of tears and blood.

Consequently your own life becomes the hospital ward where you are taught the divine art of comfort.

You will be wounded so that in the binding up of your wounds by the Great Physician, you may learn how to render first aid to the wounded everywhere.

Do you wonder why you are having to experience some great sorrow?

Over the next ten years you will find many others afflicted in the same way. You will tell them how you suffered and how you were comforted.

As the story unfolds, God will apply the anesthetic He once used on you to them.

Then in the eager look followed by the gleam of hope that chases the shadow of despair from the soul, you will know why you were afflicted.

And you will bless God for the discipline that filled your life with such a treasure of experience and helpfulness. (No author given, just says selected.)”

This sweet comfort reads like a sermon on II Corinthians 1:3-6

“Blessed be the God even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,

the Father of mercies,

and the God of all comfort;

Who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble by the comfort which we ourselves are comforted of God.

For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so also our consolation abounds by Christ.

And whether we be afflicted it is for your consolation and salvation,

which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer:

or whether we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.”

Praying you, too, will find comfort and strength for this coming week, dear sisters.

 

 

Rest for the restless soul

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Sometimes life flings such a shock at you that you wonder if your heart will ever be at rest again.

I remember the sleepless nights after the stage 4 diagnosis came for my sis now with Jesus. Her baby son, all smiles and dimples, was only six months old. Her little princess was three. Loving husband and precious kids. Life was almost perfect. Then it broke.

Somehow I knew God was bigger than this, but fighting through to a place of peace was more like several rounds in a boxing ring than a one-two punch. Tears when I least expected, nights when I couldn’t sleep for the pit in my stomach as I gave her to God over and over again.

Watching her suffer, rebound, and suffer again ripped my heart to shreds. It was a four year boxing match. Sorrow and peace, beauty and ugly pain at war with each other. God’s goodness versus evil suffering.

“I can’t wait for heaven,” my brother said to me with a voice of intense, quiet sorrow at our final visit to her home before the call from the hospital. It was a longing for rest. An overwhelming desire for that final home — the other world we are made for.

I hear the same tones in my husband’s voice. The long, sleepless, pain-filled nights. Brain fog. Fatigue. Medical issues that no one but Jesus can heal in that final day. The day-to-day of trying to live with diagnoses that no one would ever want to face.

My heart feels the same restless tossing and turning. But the amazing power of God’s Word breathes life and hope into my soul. When I am crushed, He was already crushed for me. Bruised and broken for my sins.

 I cry with the Psalms. God, you are the Lifter up of my head. When I can’t lift my head to face the day, You will go before me. I am on this journey with You. The faithful who have gone before prayed the prayers of David, Make haste to help. Hear me speedily!

I am not ashamed to be weak if You will be my strength.

Yes, God is my Refuge from the “strife of tongues”, from those who will purposely cast the worst possible light on our life situation and struggles. Psalm 70 and 71. Yes, those enemies do exist. Satan being the chief accuser of Job and saints through the ages — many follow in his steps, even false brethren.

Shame. Confusion. Fear. The enemies of the heart’s peace and rest.

“The Lord is the strength of my life. Of whom, then shall I be afraid?”

What shame, when we are clothed with His righteousness?

What fear, when we know our final home, our destination is prepared especially for us?

Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in me. (Words of Christ) In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” John 14:1-2

(I’m pretty sure my place has a lovely garden, a room full of musical instruments, an art studio, and a chef’s kitchen with plenty of room for family and friends to gather and linger.)

Though our longing hearts may be restless for home, fearful of this dangerous journey, yet our God never leaves His children alone.

He shut the mouths of the hungry lions for Daniel, was with Joseph in prison, kept His three faithful witnesses from even being singed as He walked with them in their blazing furnace, and parted the Red Sea when the entire Egyptian army was racing toward the unarmed Israelites with chariots and weapons of war.

The list of His marvelous care for His children is too long to write.

Come to Jesus this week, dear sister! He is ever praying for you at the Father’s right hand. His wounds have paid your ransom. Let His love soothe your restless heart and lift your head up to face another week. I’m praying for you, too!

 

 

Jesus, Savior, pilot me…

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photo credit: dreamstime.com

There’s a reason the Navy has a saying, almost like a blessing, “Fair winds and following seas.”

The fear factor of ocean travel has always been a level ten for me. I think it’s amazing! I wonder at the vast courage of a several thousands of years of men, women, and children who have embarked on multitudes of sea voyages.

Without the hundreds of thousands of brave travelers, we would not have the global knowledge and technological advances we enjoy today.

The Horatio Hornblower movies, BBC version, was like viewing a foreign world for me. The vast unknown and the thought of a wild storm at sea makes me a landlubber. A cozy home, a bit of solid earth under my feet, a garden, loving friends and family nearby, and a few animals, well, that’s my happy place. My comfort zone.

Just a few weeks ago, one of my husband’s doctors said his body was undergoing “The Perfect Storm.” More bad news.

It’s a wild ride here. Things beyond our control, and out of the doctor’s control are raging in our lives right now. Like a ship being tossed by waves that are several stories high, we have no idea how to survive this. God is our only Rock of safety and Refuge in this storm. There’s no other Help for us. We’re not shaking our fists at Him. 

Even when and if the storm ceases, our ship is never going to look the same again. Not here on this earth. Battered, scarred, broken pieces dangling and useless… at least that’s what we’re tempted to think right now in the middle of the raging seas.

Maybe broken is beautiful?! God’s plans are not lost at sea. He brings all of His children safely to the Golden Shore. No wonder Jesus slept through the storm while his disciples thought, “Don’t you care that we are about to DIE?”  He trusted His Father completely.

Guess what? I’m waaay out of my comfort zone as a care-giving wife. It’s not a voyage I would have chosen. Lately I’ve done a lot of yelling and crying out in fear, just like Peter’s failed attempt to walk on water. “Lord, save me.”  I do trust You. I’m just not perfectly trusting like Jesus who could sleep in the middle of a massive storm. “Lord, help my unbelief.”

I cannot possibly fathom the outcome of this storm. I don’t know how to navigate these stormy seas by myself. I cry. every. single. day.

I know for sure some  of you ladies are right there with me. The sisterhood of the storm-battered and broken. So I’m reminding all of us, myself most of all,  of three simple ways to let Jesus pilot us through these storms.

Number one: Keep God’s Word before you every single day. Listen. Read. Write down a verse.

I am blessed to have the Psalms on CD. I sometimes have time to listen to Sermon Audio online. The Lord’s Day finds me in church. At times I cannot hold back the tears as God’s Word echoes truth to my heart. Truth is my life raft.

Number two: Tell God every single thing. Every doubt. Every fear. Every angry thought. He hears your cry above the howling storm.

He already knows. Pour out your heart before Him. He can take it. Quite possibly no other human can. We’re tempted to really wish they could.  It’s impossible for us to fully understand anothers’ burden. Even Christian counselors can’t see every facet of what is going on in your story. Helpful, but not always right. Like Job’s friends and wise counselors, none of them got it quite right, though they did have a lot of godly knowledge.

However, God knows every last hair on your head. While He often does use others to help guide us on our way, when the going gets too complicated, His wisdom never fails. Cry out to God who alone is our salvation.

Number three: Remember you are not the first or only person to sail through impossibly stormy seas.

Check out Hebrews 11 through 13. Read the stories of brave folk who lived through wars. I  love a couple biographies, especially. One of them has been made into a movie, The Hiding Place. Corrie Ten Boom and her family were doing God’s work in Holland during WWII, rescuing Jews who were being rounded up by the Nazis.

Then some ugly, twisted soul tipped off the Gestapo. Corrie, her sickly sister Betsie, and her aged father were sent to concentration camps. Corrie was the only one to physically survive to tell the story. Beatings, starvation, personal humiliation, slave labor, cold, illness, fleas, watching her sister suffer, and not being able to bury her — she survived raging seas and stormy sorrow.

She lived to praise and glorify God, though her ship was battered and scarred.

Now that’s how I want my story to end. What about you? Are you hanging on for dear life? Post in the comments section, so we can pray for each other.

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.