Tag Archive | compassion

When no one understands your troubles, dear caregiver, God does!

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Does explaining a complex health situation to friends and family ever feel exhausting, frustrating, and seemingly futile to you?

I’ve seen quite a few posts on social media where this is attempted. Sharing needs publicly sometimes is a wonderful thing. Outpourings of love and sympathy truly do uplift the one suffering. Social media can be used as an avenue to share Christian love and community.

What if even one fact gets twisted or blown out of proportion?

Many of us do not want to live our lives like we are on reality TV.

Truth. When we received the initial diagnosis (first of four autoimmune disease diagnoses) of rheumatoid arthritis, half of our friends and family couldn’t even get that straight. They forgot. Not only that, some shared misinformation with others, church family included.

What they remembered was the blanket of “fibromyalgia”. Some medical gurus report that this is a label doctors throw at chronic pain when they can’t find the underlying cause.  NOT truth. That should be another post for another day.

Some of the gossip that circled was that my husband was lazy. A wimp who couldn’t fight through the pain for his family and hold down a job. Any kind of job. Even working at McDonalds would be better than not working at all.

The truth was, they didn’t have all the facts needed to make this judgement, righteous though it seemed.

What they didn’t get was the gut issues that were also a huge issue. McDonalds or any job involving food smells and lengthy time on the feet was an impossible solution.

With so many details to explain that we just started saying, “It’s complicated”. It was and is too hard to explain. The health issues have not simplified. They have become increasingly complex.

Indeed, the human body is complicated and complex.

There is nothing simple, nothing “cut-and-dried” about it.

Truthfully, as the primary caregiver, I have struggled at times with my own levels of compassion and understanding for this complex individual that even I cannot fully understand!

I’m the only one, however, who has the both the tree and the forest view. Even the doctors have not seen and walked in my husband’s daily shoes.

I’m the closest family member who has seen the long-term unfolding of these health issues as well as the close-up daily impact of these problems. Of all people on the earth, I need to be the most compassionate and understanding.

When friends have complained to me about their selfish or foolish “normal” husbands,  I’ve wanted to say, “Don’t you get it? You are so blessed. You have someone who at least pays the bills and tries to take care of you, however imperfectly.”

However, I was wrong. Her tears matter to Jesus, too!

Caring about the problems any Christian sister faces with her marriage are just as real and important as the problems I face. The huge differences in our situations should not hold back our mutual love and concern.

Caring deeply for one another in Christ’s love is a two-way street.

It’s a life-giving road that God requires His true disciples to walk down. There is no escaping the repeated commands of Christ to love one another. Tender compassion for one another is a sign — a mark of a true believer. NO matter if we don’t and can’t completely understand another’s situation, we should always err on the side of grace.

You cannot give this type of compassion if you’ve never seen or received it.

I have a close family member who seems almost utterly incapable of giving or receiving gracious love. It’s caused a great deal of family trauma. Even though this person “preaches” the gospel, it’s hard to judge if they’ve ever fully grasped the good news for themselves.

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us,

in that while we were yet sinners,

Christ died for us. ” Romans 5:8

Understanding that God loves us perfectly in Christ through no goodness or deserving of our own and accepting this holy sin sacrifice in our place is the first step toward loving others. We cannot truly love without His love.

Where do you turn when you feel utterly without human love and understanding?

When you feel alone and afraid — whom do you run to?

I’ve had this experience lately. If I try to explain our complex health situation, I leave out some important fact or detail. Misunderstanding follows. I try to detangle that. It may or may not work. I can see how the Salem Witch Trials were started.

I’ve met a few others with extremely complex health scenarios lately. None of their doctors can figure everything out, though it seems they are trying hard. Friends and loved ones are struggling to understand.

It’s gut-wrenching. It’s frightening. It feels so crazy and lonely! No one wants to walk this road. Yet, somehow, we are called to walk in community together. How?

Remember the LORD Your Maker! The One who made and fashioned you understands you completely.

“You know me completely.

My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in secret,

and intricately put together in the lowest parts of the earth.

Your eyes saw me unformed,

yet in Your book all my days were written,

before any of them came into being.” Psalm 139: 14-16

This includes your loved one whose body is totally out of whack! He or she is seen, known, and cared for by their Maker.

If we don’t believe this, how pro-life are we?

The fall of man and the curse of sin is the first explanation that we can reach for when we just cannot understand what is going on!

” We know that the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now. Not only that, but we also, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan within ourselves while eagerly waiting for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.” Romans 8:22-23

It makes sense. This world is not evolving to greater goodness and wholeness. In fact, the brokenness becomes more clear and evident each day we wake up and turn on the news.

Walk the halls of any hospital for days, like I did this past week, and you will see incredible human brokenness on every hand. We try to buff and polish it. We try to hide the pain and suffering, just like we do with death in our culture.

Death and suffering can only be hidden for so long. These enemies are reality. They are ugly.

I heard a top oncologist who has practiced for many years at the renowned John Hopkins Hospital speak at a cancer fundraiser a few short years ago. He blatantly said that our treatments for many types of cancer are still dismally ineffective. There is still so much even the best doctors do not understand about treating their patients.

This is also true of many, many chronic health conditions and genetic defects.

There is One whose understanding and compassion cannot fail.

His redemptive plan is right on track. His kingdom will come, His will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

This I call to mind, and therefore I have hopeIt is of the LORD'S meriesthat we aer not consumed;His compassions do not fail.They are new every morning;great is Your faithfulness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Are you a “courage club” member?

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It’s nearly the one year anniversary of my sister-in-love’s homegoing! At this time last year she was in the hospital dying — I didn’t know she was dying at the time.)

I was watching her little ones for the week, ages 4 and 7. Then the call came. The shock. Only 48 hours to live! With babies in tow, we hightailed it to the hospital.

During my last visit at home with Jess she had mentioned her friend’s book launch, The Courage Club. She wished she had written about  her own cancer journey and the lessons learned along the way. I could hear the regret in her voice.

Don’t worry, sis! We haven’t forgotten you or the courage God gave you in your brief 33 years of life. This post is for you! We all need a share of your courage for this journey. Like Elisha prayed, I want a double portion of your spirit.

As one of her caregivers, I had a front row view. What I witnessed was extraordinary faith! She knew how to “be strong and of good courage”.  Bear with me. I want to share some of the nitty-gritty.

I’m hoping to leave a few of  her footprints in writing.  Footprints this big from a tiny person are hard to follow.

Courage club members put on their big-girl panties and do hard things!

You don’t ask for big things from God and sit on your duff. Labeled stage 4 cancer after her double mastectomy, Jess asked for healing. Then she rolled up her sleeves and went to work. Her diet changed from processed foods to organic, gluten-free foods that often tasted and smelled very strange. Never mind the green smoothies!

Next, she learned how to swallow pills. Couldn’t handle vitamins before, but she did it! She joked and choked. Score!

Add the needles, IVs, the nausea, the hormone changes, the loss of hair, lack of sleep, and unremitting pain, at times.

Courage club members make a path for joy in suffering.

Oh, my! The things we laughed about! The bodily fluids and functions we discussed!

The memories she made with her family are precious! We begged her to slow down. Never mind that. Spending time with those she loved was top priority.

When she was feeling rotten, she planned happy outings for her kids. I got to execute  some of those! Quiet house for her, happy day for the littles.

My girl will never forget her Aunt Jess and wearing fake mustaches and fedoras together.

True to her last wishes, those she loved had a final party together with her in a hospital waiting room. Despite terrible pain, she looked around and positively beamed at those she loved.  That was, hmmm, maybe forty of us? For a hospital it was a BIG party.

Courage club members care about others even in the middle of their own suffering.

Her phone was always filled with messages. Other cancer patients were continually calling her. They knew she would find time and an encouraging word to give them

Then there was Beau. Early twenties with end stage cancer. At this point most of his friends had disappeared. Not Jess. With help, she planned his final birthday party at the hospital. It was the last birthday she planned.

She excitedly told me how she had told more people about Jesus in her last year, all because of “blessed cancer” as she nicknamed it.

Courage club members never give up hope!

Hope spurred her on for four years of stage 4 aggressive cancer. She never made it to the last specialist she planned to see. Her liver failed. But her hope hadn’t.

She admitted to me after Beau died that she was scared. It was the only time I ever heard her say that. It was probably her realization that her own brave fight was almost over, though neither of us could bear to admit it at the time.

Her motto was, With God, nothing is impossible.  We shared a love for Michael Hyatt’s Living Forward. She was smiling at the future, just like the Proverbs 31 woman.

I wrote the following post in the middle of this four year cancer fight.

Week 9: Five Ways To Keep Up Your Courage, Dear Heart!

I really had no idea how MUCH I would need to keep up my own courage.

You see, at the same time Jess was dying, my own chronically ill husband was diagnosed with cancer.

Turned out to be stage 3. We’re facing a second surgery soon.

Unfortunately much of our fight this year has been with a broken medical system on top of fighting cancer and chronic pain.

It has been stressful, horrendous, and courage-sucking. We’ve felt like cogs in a broken gear system. We’ve even been shamed for courageously bucking the system and fighting for compassionate, prompt care.

A few caring docs along the way have brightened our path. We’re SO grateful for those. They are bright spots of compassion. Compassion is often sorely lacking in the medical field.

Compassion ought to be the number one requirement for every tech, office worker, nurse assistant, doctor, and nurse.

Courage club members learn compassion for the suffering.

Jesus showed compassion all along his earthly journey. He came to “show us the Father.” He touched the hurting that many despised.

He demonstrated ultimate compassion in laying down His life as the sin-sacrifice.

His courage spurred Him on to the cross. “Who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the Father.”

Are you a part of the Courage Club? Let’s lift each other up in prayer this week,  and keep up your courage, Dear Heart!

Sis, thanks for giving me such big footprints to follow. You continue to inspire me, and your legacy of love and compassion fuels my fire to keep loving and living forward. Till I see you again…

 

 

Be called trees of righteousness…

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…that He might be glorified. Is. 61:3

Read Isaiah 61. Then hop over to Luke 4. Read the whole drama, and wonder at the roller coaster events of forty-plus days in Jesus’ life. Being tempted by the devil himself. Preaching in synagogues, “being glorified by all” as his popularity increased. Then reading the Scripture from Isaiah 61 in his hometown synagogue (a.k.a, church) and speaking the truth to them boldly and plainly, 

“This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.” Luke 4:21. Wait a minute, they responded, basically, we know this guy. He’s the son of Joseph the carpenter.

When Jesus chided them for their lack of faith, their outrage caused them to collectively attempt to throw him over a cliff for alleged blasphemy. All in a day’s work for Jesus who calmly escaped and continued his life’s calling and mission stated so clearly in Isaiah 61!

Mission statement of Jesus’ first coming :

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me;

 because the LORD has anointed me

to preach good tidings unto the meek;

he sent me to bind up the broken-hearted,

to proclaim liberty unto the captives,

and the opening of prison

to them that are bound;

to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.”

Over and over we see the compassion of Christ for the downcast of society, the poor, the sick, and the disabled.

Like the sad “untouchables” of India, those with leprosy in that day lived in quarantined colonies outside the cities and villages, the poorest of the poor. Jesus physically touched and healed lepers.

He raised the dead. He walked with the lowly and hurting.

“To comfort all that mourn;

to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion,

to give unto them beauty for ashes,

the oil of joy for mourning,

the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;

that they might be called the trees of righteousness,

the planting of the LORD, that He might be glorified.” Is. 61:3

You and I, fellow caregiver, we need to fall at Jesus’ feet. His end goal for us is beautiful. Trees of righteousness. Comfort. Joy. Praise. That’s where I want to be.

Like me, you may be mourning and broken-hearted by the devastation of chronic illness. Pain. Suffering. It’s inescapable. But the journey does not have to end there.

Jesus clearly told his fellow Jews, I am He.

I am the promised Messiah.

I have come to be the Light in this dark world.

I am the Bread of life.

I am the Living Water. My healing from sin and brokenness is eternal.

Is Jesus your beauty, comfort, and joy today?

I know I needed this.

It’s so easy to get sucked under by the constant onslaught of illness and negativity.

You and I — let’s be beautiful trees of righteousness.

That’s my prayer today. Help me, Lord, to be like Jesus. Help me to  love righteousness. To love what is right. Help me to have your compassion. #brokenservingbroken

 

 

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?)

Chronic invisible illness — but you look SO good.

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My hubby had a splitting migraine for most of the week. 

He got out of the house a couple of times but for only a short jaunt. Yesterday he took all of the pain meds he could so that he could walk a few doors down the block to hear some live music.

Twice in a thirty minute time he was told how good he looked by two friends that have some small awareness of his health issues.

I really think they meant it kindly. I do. But some don’t.

They say it in a tone of disbelief. You can almost hear the thoughts tumbling around in their heads. Sometimes small remarks tumble out of their mouths, too.

Oh, you must be pulling my leg about your health issues. You’re not so bad off. Why aren’t you working, again?

 My sis in love got some similar remarks and responses. (No one really expects a stage four cancer victim to hold down a job. That’s a relief!) She was such a fighter and an upbeat person. She made a huge effort to leave the house looking good.

In fact, for most of the four years she fought stage four cancer, you would have to be around her for awhile to catch on. The joy of the LORD truly was her strength.

Being on her care team gave me an inside glance of the true nature of living with cancer in your bones. At home you tend to let your hair down, so to speak.

I saw her sit and groan softly many times through unbearable pain. Gratefully accepting a cup of tea she could barely stomach, though she wanted it so badly. Many barely touched plates of food…

For many years I have regularly seen my hubby struggle to make it out of bed for a few hours at a time. He consistently naps every day after laying in bed until late in the morning. His bones hurt every day, too.

He can look good and still struggle with a boatload of pain.

Looks can be deceiving in so many ways. Tell folks how you feel, and you’re a whiner. Put on your game face, and you’re not as ill as you’re  reported to be.

It’s an odd conundrum that many chronically ill people face and their spouses, too.

Understandably, you feel on the defensive at some of the pointed or careless remarks that get shot your way. I know I do.

I sat and listened as my sis almost cried about several folks asking her when she was due. And, are you excited about the baby?

In fact, she had already lost her ovaries to cancer. Her liver was so swollen she looked like she was starting her second trimester. But she loved her two babies like there was no tomorrow.

How do you deal with these unwitting arrows that people shoot at you?

“HE is my defense. I shall not be moved.”

I have listened to Marty Goetz’ CD, “HE Is My Defense” dozens of times in the past few months. The Scripture set to music heals the wounds. Jesus is the “horn of my salvation”. That horn can either call for help or push its point in my defense.

I need a Defender! I need a Refuge. I need the solid Rock to stand on.

Truth. I, too, have inflicted needless wounds with my tongue. If we live long enough, we all fall short in this area. Greatest. News. Ever. His wounds have paid my ransom.

Forgiveness. I need to extend grace and forgiveness to those who act like we have leprosy because of the chronic illness in our family. Or those who carelessly speak. Why? His Word is ultra clear. If I don’t forgive, it is clear I have not been forgiven. Those who forgive the most love the most like Jesus.

Understand that some folks will never “get” chronic illness. Forgive. Rest in His defending love. What are some ways you respond? How does invisible illness challenge your family?

 

You don’t need an Evite to care…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Silence is not always golden.

    You do not need to say much.

    You should listen more.

    Listening and being with your chronically ill friend is golden.

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

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

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

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

Every life matters…

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Today I sat down to write one of those difficult notes you need to write if you live long enough.

For the past ten years as part of our church family, we have enjoyed the presence of Nathanael. I never held a two way conversation with him, but I’ve rubbed his head as he sat strapped in his wheelchair. He had the biggest smile, but we’ve seen it for the last time on this earth. We’re going to miss his enthusiastic outbursts which punctuated our services at times. He was always welcome in worship. When we got the email announcing his passing, we were encouraged to share with his parents how God has used Nathanael’s life to teach and bless us.

It was no coincidence that I stumbled across my sermon notes on that great command, “Thou shalt not kill”, just as I was looking for my cards to write this note.

I know from personal experience that if you are chronically ill, finding purpose in your life can be a huge challenge when you are feeling low. Getting real here — has your chronically ill husband ever told you he feels worthless?  Did you know there are a multitude of implied ways that we can break the command, Thou shalt not kill? Abortion, murder, and suicide are the most obvious applications.

Failing to value our lives, no matter how insignificant they seem,  borders on breaking this command.

We cringe in horror and are infuriated at the ruthless brutality alive and well all over our globe today. So we should be!  The very existence of certain departments of security points to the basic lack of value for life. Then there is history: Hitler, Stalin, and all their cronies who used their power for evil, crushing people like bugs. But, back to Nathanael — the fact that this severely disabled boy could smile and laugh reminded me to praise God. He was loved and treated with dignity and respect as a being created in the image of God for his less than two decades of life on this earth. His life mattered. Your life matters.

 Everyone is potentially someone who could praise God.

The Westminster divines really hit the nail on the head with this simple statement. We are created to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. As someone who can praise God, your life has worth. When your husband is down, when the pain meds are talking, whatever the case, remind him that he is, indeed, special. As Jesus said, “You are of more value than many sparrows, ” after he had pointed out that the Father sees EVERY sparrow that falls.

Our worth is not measured by our abilities or possessions, but by the One who created us. 

“For by grace are you saved through faith: and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:8-10

Hope this helps start your week off in a different light. Be encouraged! What you do for your husband has value if done for His glory. His life matters and so does yours. Thank you, Lord, for Nathanael, your gift to remind us of the value of life.