Broken body, whole soul

No, Jesus did not heal everybody when He walked this earth.

I was reminded of this fact today. He raised the dead, made the lame to walk, caused the blind to see, and healed many in just the little corner of earth that the country of Israel occupies. He didn’t travel to another continent or even another country outside of the Middle East.

His miracles were extraordinary to those who witnessed them. However, soul-healing was THE mission our Father in Heaven gave JESUS.

“He was wounded for our transgressions,

He was bruised for our iniquities…and by His stripes we are healed.” Isaiah 53

A broken body can know peace and inner healing from all of sin’s scars.

Equally loved and equally forgiven are those may seem like the weakest members of Christ’s body.

I need to remember this when the chronic illness journey gets impossibly long. This person matters as much as any “whole” person in God’s kingdom.

Don’t you love to see a good movie trailer? Reading of Jesus’s earthly ministry makes us long for the “whole movie”. There’s coming a day when all the brokenness of God’s children will be fully and completely healed.

Tears will be wiped away. He will make all things new.

Meanwhile, caregivers are to be Christ’s hands and feet of mercy and compassion.

We can’t heal bodies or minds. But we can point to Jesus, the soul-healer. These long, pain-filled days are temporary. Healed souls live, truly live, forever.

God give us soul-nurturing words, courage, and a heart full to the brim with Jesus’s love to face this week.

Serving Jesus even in the shadows is a life well-spent. I needed to be reminded of this today. God sees all. He knows.

Are you living in the shadows, too?

Keep turning your face to the Light of life.

“The Sun of righteousness shall come with healing in His wings.” Malachi 4:2

 

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?

 

Looking for hope…

IMG_1497

(Found this art on Facebook with no credits. So, to whomever, thank you!)

Our church celebrates the Resurrection. Every. Single. Week. What a hope-filled day!

I can tell you from personal experience when someone you love is dying or has died being surrounded by those who love God makes a  huge difference.

That upper room filled with grieving disciples, well, I can just imagine it. They were together. They were looking for HOPE when all seemed hopeless. They were comforting one another. They were  living in community.

Chronic illness and caregiving is isolating. Depending on the degree illness — so very isolating. Hanging on to hope, to friendship, even, can seem like a lost cause.

Recently I spoke to a senior saint who cared for her husband. She said she lived from years at the edge of our small town and didn’t know anybody! I was heartbroken for her.

If you’re single-handedly supporting the family and picking up the slack at home, time for fellowship doesn’t seem possible.

I’m telling you now, don’t walk this road alone! Just don’t! You’ll end up being sheep-steak for the Enemy!

Get on your knees now and ask. Keep asking. I’m telling you, I needed local friends in the worst way, and God has provided. Pray this for your husbands, too.

Remember Pilgrim of Pilgrim’s Progress? He lost his friend Faithful to a martyr’s death. Then God sent him Hopeful. Love that!   Pray for a Hopeful. Pray for a friend who will love, encourage, and keep you on track. I think that is a Biblical prayer.

 I’m hoping you’ll also find community and encouragement here on this blog. The Apostle Paul loved and prayed for the Roman Christians before he laid eyes on them.

Let’s be that loving community of the broken.

Let’s lift up each other’s feeble hands and weary feet.

Let’s pray for each other, near and far.

Let’s look for hope in our Risen Lord and Coming King today and every day.

 

 

 

 

 

3 ways to unlock Doubting Castle

IMG_1381

Survey question: how many of you have read Pilgrim’s Progress in some form? Watched the film version?

If you have, you may recognize this blog’s title. If you haven’t, I will give you a tiny overview of the plot line. The key character is Pilgrim. He is on a dangerous journey to the Celestial City. Alone at times, he also meets and travels with two key friends for part of his   journey.

One important fact to note is that the author John Bunyan wrote this classic allegory in prison.

Quite a few tales of courage, faith, and redemption have been linked to prison time.

Joseph — betrayed, lied about, imprisoned;

Corrie and Betsy Ten Boom incarcerated by the Nazis for hiding Jews;

Les Miserable’s Jean Valjean languishing in a wretched labor prison for the paltry crime of stealing a loaf of bread are just a few examples.

The particular prison Doubting Castle in the Pilgrim’s Progress is run by the GIant Despair. He lurks around the countryside and snags those who have strayed off course or missed a sign for the Celestial City.

The Giant Despair caught Pilgrim and his friend when they took a side road.

Ever met this demonic Giant? I know I have. I’m sure our husbands have.

Chronic illness and depression are bedfellows.

The Psalmist wrestled with Despair. “Why are you cast down, oh my soul? Hope in God.”

He admits in Psalm 34, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous.”

HE couldn’t pretend the pain, sorrow, and affliction didn’t exist. It does.

If you aren’t currently undergoing some personal hardship or sorrow, just scroll down your Facebook or turn on the TV. The tragedies will sucker-punch your soul. (If you have a tender heart of compassion like Jesus, that is.) What a broken world!

Well, it’s one thing if your sick husband is chronically depressed.

It’s quite another thing when that depression spills over to your heart. You’re the caregiver. The heart of the home. Someone has to keep their head above water, right?

Like Pilgrim and his friend in the stone cold dungeon of the Castle of Despair, neither one could figure out how to break free. No way out. No strength to fight the Giant. Certain doom!

Suddenly they remember the key on a chain around Pilgrim’s neck. It’s called the key of faith! In the nick of time, they try the key. It fits the lock.

Making a daring jailbreak, they return to the narrow path that leads to eternal life.

I love the key of faith reference! So many times I forget about that key. Faith was a gift given to me by God.

When trial strikes, I feel the panic attempt to swallow me like being hauled off to a dark castle dungeon. Like a friend wrote to me recently, I hate that feeling! I should know better!

Time and time again I have seen God answer prayer and provide for our current need when we cry out to Him in prayer. So this little post is a reminder to me and an outstretched hand of hope and encouragement for you.

1.) Take time to “Be still, and know that I AM God.”

Like that famous line of poetry ( Browning?),”How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” Remembering AND naming God’s great acts and His attributes is very faith- building. Pray these attributes.  God, I know You are faithful. I know You are just, yet merciful. I know there is no limits to Your resources. Your wisdom is bigger far than my problems right now.

2.) Like Israel’s stones of remembrance, make a list of answered prayers.

Yes, there is surprising power in the worn out cliche, Count your blessings, name them one by one. When I do this, my eyes just can’t stop leaking! Sometimes, like Paul and Silas, you start praising and the prison door does swing right open. Other times, your patience and faith will grow when you feel like you are forgotten in prison like Joseph. But God was with Joseph all along.

3.) Ask a friend to pray with you.

That happened to me this week, also. A friend reached out to me. We shared prayer requests. It was so very encouraging! Dear ones, do not hesitate to ask for prayer. Right here. Right now. Not only will I pray for you, I know other readers will.

Pray for me, for us? I want to hold tightly to the key of faith as my husband starts chemo this week. Also, months of pain management has failed to help. Chronic pain! Ugh! It’s wicked ugly awful! It wreaks havoc on body and mind.

With Jesus’ strength, He will keep our souls and our feet on the paths of righteousness straight to the gates of the Celestial City. Mutual prayers needed. Share below, please!

 

 

 

 

Store up comfort…

IMG_1521

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

IMG_1506

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…

crackedmud

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?