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.

 

 

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.

 

enCOURAGEment for lonely caregivers…

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Confession: I recently got razzed by my husband for indulging in a bit of southern gospel.

To be fair, I returned the favor by mentioning his return to his childhood roots. This genre of music, ahem, largely focuses on how sad and lonesome you are because your lover left you in the dust, the dog died, the bills are piling up, and the old pick-up truck’s run its last mile. 

To tell you the truth, my life kind of looks like his genre of music.

When I got a request from a reader for a post on the lonely side of caregiving, it hit an instant chord with me. If you’re a long-term caregiver, it’s especially true. I was reminded again that caregivers deal with this constantly, but we aren’t the only ones feeling lonely!

One of my senior saints told me again this week for the upteenth and maybe last time, “It’s a great life if you don’t weaken.”

She and her husband have walked with Jesus for more than forty years. They’re in their eighties. He’s faced two bouts of cancer. Since December her husband has been in and out of the hospital.  Last week, their only nearby daughter was in the ICU while they were packing and moving into a senior apartment.

I sat and cried and hugged her. I have never seen her so sad and lonely. “My daughter’s been my rock. I’ve leaned on her a lot. She would be right here helping me today. Now I don’t even know what is wrong with her!”

All the while, her home of more than forty years was suddenly being torn apart like a living plant being ripped up by the roots. This lady has literally kept most things in the same spot for the past ten years that I’ve done housekeeping for them. Every. Single. Item.

My tears dripped and mingled with hers. I wonder if her heart will ever recover from this dual shock. Yet, I pray in hope – hope for her and for myself.

Where is the hope in this, you wonder?

If you’re at all like me, no one near you know really  understands your struggles as a wife to a chronically ill husband.

At home you don’t share your struggles because you don’t want to further depress your struggling spouse.

You certainly don’t want to discourage your children, if you’re a parent.

There’s no human being to talk to, you feel like, who will listen with compassion and not criticize your already bruised heart. However, like me, you have friends. Christian friends who love the Lord — they express their care and compassion in the ways they know how.

But you are too busy trying to survive to get to their Bible studies, their ladies’ nights out, etc., because you are literally doing the job of two people at home. It’s incredibly hard to find time to invest in other relationships.

Jesus is our only true hope in loneliness. My relationship to Him is my top investment.

His hands have made and fashioned me. (Psalm 139) He knows my every move and my every thought. Have you read this passage lately? Put your name into it as you read!

I can pour out all my feelings and needs to Him without shame, because He already knows what I’m struggling with at the moment.

When I do have shame because of sin, I can freely confess this and be freely forgiven. His wounds have paid my ransom.

While we can never receive from another human being this level of understanding, we should not cut ourselves off from Christ’s body, either.

We want to let Christ make us better, not allow ourselves to be bitter.

We have to be willing to continue to love Christ’s body even when it’s messy, even ugly, and imperfect, just like us.

Some things you just cannot share.

Some things will never be understood by someone who has never walked this road.

But share what you can. It takes courage.

Be willing to have some vulnerability. Be willing to say to that friend who asks how things are going, “Yes, life is incredibly challenging. Pray for me to juggle wisely! Or, pray for this upcoming doctor’s visit to actually be worth our time and effort.”

I recently told a friend that my husband has been walking through a very dark valley. She knew this partially already because of some things he had (unwisely) posted on the internet. Sigh.

But, she didn’t know the whole story. I couldn’t and won’t tell her everything, but I did share what I could. If she could see the whole picture, like God does, her perspective would be very different. She’s not God. Neither am I. But I’m the one person on earth that should have the most compassion and understanding for my husband. That’s what Jesus wants from me.

Even Jesus’ closest friends fell asleep during his hour of deepest need. Peter even betrayed him. Jesus does understand loneliness.

I’ve come to understand you have to choose your “inner circle” wisely. Shut out the negative. Shut out those who think they’re helping by criticizing, at least in the sense of limiting contact. But make sure you also keep those close to your heart who truly love Jesus.

Soak yourself in what is true, lovely, and right. Once again, may I recommend the Psalms?

True love and understanding waits for you right here. There is not a sorrow or struggle you feel that isn’t mentioned in the Psalms.

I also love the book of John where Jesus gives out the different I AMs.  I am the Bread of Life. I am the Living Water. I am the True Vine. I am the Good Shepherd. I am the Light of the World.  All I need, He is.

Then there’s Isaiah. The gospel and Jesus are so clearly seen in this book, it’s amazing. Parts of it read like a Psalm. For sure, the prophet knew his Messiah!

The Word. The Church. Christ’s Bride. I find these to be true cures for loneliness. I hope this helps you battle loneliness, too. How may I pray for you this week?

 

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.

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

Washing feet with Jesus…

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Dear caregiving sister,

Did you know that you’re following in the way that Jesus taught His disciples? Your commitment and care for your spouse is like Jesus washing the disciples’ dirty feet.

Those roads in Jerusalem were dusty and mixed with animal droppings. Sandaled feet were gross when they reached their destination! Multiply that times twelve. No wonder no one jumped for the washbowl and basin.

This life I lead, well, it’s not the fulfillment of all my hopes and dreams. Some of them have been crushed along the way.

But through this crushing I’ve come to understand so much more vividly the compassion and self-sacrificial love of Jesus for broken people. Dusty people. Sometimes self-focused. Face it. When you’re tired and especially hurting bodily, it’s hard not to be centered on making life less miserable for yourself.

Compassion for the hurting is a theme I can’t get away from. Compassion goes viral when there’s a precious, beautiful little child involved.

Not so much when it involves an aged senile person or someone suffering a lengthy chronic illness (though we have been blown away by the kindness of friends and church family).

My mom and sister have the care of my bedridden, aged, and often combative and senile grandmother. There’s nothing pretty about their daily job for the past three years now. The diapers, the laundry, the schedule that’s always tied down.

It’s a load I can do little to lighten. My own hands have been full.

Mom and sis are some of the most beautiful ladies I know. Their compassion and care continue to inspire me. Knowing that others are in the trenches faithfully showing compassion reminds me that this is life worth living.

Other beautiful women have served Jesus in the hidden byways: Ruth serving Naomi, Gladys Alyward saving hundreds of orphans, those who served the leper colonies, halfway house workers, Amy Carmichael rescuing sex-trafficked young girls in India, a list of Jesus-followers that grows by the day!

Caregiving seems way less glamorous than the list above, right? It’s certainly not romantic. But the God of all comfort, the Father of mercies sees and knows.

When you show kindness for the “least of these”, you do this for Christ. You and I become more like Christ. Being like Christ! Now isn’t this life’s ultimate goal — the fulfillment of all of your dreams and mine?  If I really stop to remember this, it fills my heart with such hope! His good work in and through me goes on.

 Praying you wake up tomorrow with courage and strength to face a new week in Jesus’ name.

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.