Tag Archive | encouragement

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…

 

 

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.

 

 

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.

On our journey to You

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Hello on Monday! My normal time to sit, meditate, and write is the Lord’s Day. SON day. We don’t worship the created sun, but the Son who created all things.

Colossians 1:15-16…Random thought for you…

At this moment I’m using public wifi, waiting for my husband to get done with his pain management appointment.

It’s been a terrible weather weekend. I mention that because we’re not in control of this journey, as much as we schedule and plan.

More than a dozen lives journeyed into eternity in the past twenty four hours due to this nasty weather. Tornadoes tore through the South.

As I was listening to Psalm 84 set to music during our ride to the doctor, I was reminded of the journey, the bigger pilgrimage we’re on. Today matters. What I say. What I do. What I believe and think.

Expect tears on the journey. “Many are the afflictions of the righteous.” Psalm 34

We all have to pass through this valley of weeping. I need to find a way to make these tears a well of living water to encourage others on their pilgrimage.

The tears are very close to spilling from my eyes these days.

A friend at church yesterday told me her dear childhood friend lay dying alone  in a hospital far away. She couldn’t be there with her due to distance and money. Her friend has no family to be with her in the valley of the shadow.

Dying alone. I couldn’t hold back the tears.

If you’ve ever sat by the deathbed of someone you dearly love, you will understand. You want to BE there. You breathe your love to them — God’s love in Christ for them.

My friend and I wept together. Then we praised God. The dying friend had Jesus.

She was on her journey to JOY eternal.

So close. So perfect. The pain is so temporary. Her lonely life was about to be ablaze with His presence.

Being there to weep with my friend and to promise her prayer support was one huge reason for attending church.

I almost didn’t make it. It was another of those bone-weary morning wake-ups. I just did not want to roll out of bed. God tugged at my heart. “Seek My face.”

Seek to see His power and glory every day. His glory is revealed to those who love Him. Romans 8:28-32.

If you seek Him, You will find Him. His promises are rock solid.

There’s no sugar-coating it. Caregiving is hard. Loneliness rears its ugly head. You have to plan on purpose not to be tangled up in the endless cycle of self-pity and loneliness.

Don’t go this journey alone! You need God’s people to journey with you. No matter how little they understand your path, you have Jesus in common. There is a reason God instructs us not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together.

Psalm 84 mentions temple worship with God’s people in His presence.

“Better is one day in Your courts than thousands elsewhere.”

Strength for our journey comes from spending time in His courts remembering who He is.

This week, plan to journey to His courts -to His house- on the Lord’s Day.

If you seek Him, He will be found, and He loves the company of His saints.

Another random meditation. How can it be that God would love to spend time with me? But He does. His Word assures me again and again.

“Keep me as the apple of Your eye. Hide me under the shadow of Your wings.”

This life I live, I cannot live without His love. I pray this finds you fleeing to the shadow of His wings today.

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

 

 

He drew me out of many waters…

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Acknowledgement of Thomas Kincaide’s painting. I took a pic of a portion of a print I own that was painted by him.

Uncharted territory. Many waters. Enemies too strong for me.

Psalm 18 is the inside scoop. David was anointed by God to be the next king of Israel. His life at this point in time looked anything but kingly.

He looked more like Robin Hood and his band of merry men, hiding out from the current administration and foraging for food. Of course, they did a little fighting on the side to keep the enemies of God’s people at bay. His was a story of close calls and narrow escapes.

You can hear the inner anguish  and exhaustion in his voice in verses 4-6,

” The pangs of death surrounded me,

And the floods of ungodliness made me afraid.

The sorrows of Sheol surrounded me;

The snares of death confronted me.

In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried out to my God;

 He heard my voice from His temple, And my cry came before Him, even to His ears…”

Strong, mighty David, distressed and afraid!?!

What blesses me was that he went humbly to his knees.

Prayers of God’s children do not go unheard. Listen to the beautiful promises of verses 25-27:

“With the merciful You will show yourself merciful;

With a blameless man You will show yourself blameless;

With the pure You will show Yourself pure;

And with the devious you will show Yourself shrewd.

For you will save the humble people,

But will bring down haughty looks.”

On my hands and knees this week in that War Room, I knew this.

I am not perfectly merciful, perfectly blameless, perfectly pure.  How can my cries be heard?

But, oh, I’m humbly on my knees asking to be so. To be like the sinless Son of God…And I won’t quit praying! I want David’s triumph. See verses 28-36.

“For You will light my lamp; the LORD my God will enlighten my darkness.

For by You I can run against a troop, By my God I can leap over a wall.

As for God His way is perfect;

The Word of the Lord is proven;

He is a shield to all who trust in Him.

For who is God, except the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God?

It is God who arms me with strength, and makes my way perfect.

He makes my feet like the feet of a deer,

And sets me on my high places.

He teaches my hands to make war,

So that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.

You also have given me the shield of Your salvation;

Your right hand has held me up,

Your gentleness has made me great.

You enlarged my path under me so that my feet did not slip.”

 This broken life can be made perfect, because His way is perfect.

In the suffering, His glory will yet shine through.

My story, your story is not finished yet.

But it takes the Mighty God to come and give us that “happily ever after” ending that we all long for.

Don’t give up in the heat of the battle.

Cry David’s prayers with me.

We can all dance for joy when the answers come!

 

 

 

 

Worship arising from the ashes

 

This is the day that the LORD has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:

But! But perhaps today is a day when the reality of sickness, sorrow, pain, and even death have come crashing down around you.

Maybe you married the man of your dreams, and both of your existences have been shattered by months and years of chronic pain.

You find out your loved one has cancer. Or there is no cure for the disease your loved one has.

Maybe the disease is even nameless because no doctor can put his finger on it. It still exists. Give it a name. The monster is disease!

Disease wreaks havoc on our lives. No one who has not lived with chronic illness can really fathom the depth of this havoc. I’ve given up trying to explain this to those who are healthy. Who can explain the unexplainable?

How? Just how do you and I worship our Maker, Creator, Redeeemer on His holy day when we are so broken? And why would we?

Truth! I woke up this morning wondering about worship. Sad of heart. Weary of the sorrows that have multiplied in my life and those around me. But knowing this: I will worship. I was created to worship. All who live and breath worship someone, something.

Maybe it’s money. (HA! Think — our current political scene). Maybe it’s nature. Or beauty. Or goodness. Or ideology. Education. Or any form of peace, even if it’s based on lies.

What is on the top of your pedestal?

 In this broken world ravaged by war, hate, cruelty, disease, poverty, and death, hardly a day goes by that I don’t breathe this prayer.

Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

“Those who are whole do not need a physician. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

Jesus mentioned worship in spirit and truth to a woman who had experienced five broken marriages and was currently living outside of God’s plan for marriage.

He spoke to this woman at the well —  not righteous by a long shot. And why does he mention worship to her? Not only that, He offers her water, the water of true living.

“…the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.”

Most amazing of all — this next scene. Listen closely! This woman, outcast of society, asks Him about the the promised Messiah. She gets the most clear-cut answer. No hidden message. Earlier Christ clearly exposed her sin, and she knew it. Now He reveals himself, to her and pulls no punches.

“I who speak to you am He.” John 4:26

If you are outside the Christian faith, please know that to be a Christian you have to believe the clear-cut claims of Christ.

Jesus Christ goes on record clearly stating both His Deity and His power to grant living water – eternal life. Either He is truly the Son of God, or He is a flagrant liar.

And to be a follower of Jesus, you need to worship the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.

Do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together.

Why? Because, ” My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.”

When we worship in community, in spirit and in truth, He restores our souls. He leads us beside still waters.

His Word corrects our straying feet and keeps us in paths of righteousness.

And even the imperfect, straying sheep in our flock can learn to reflect His love and wisdom to comfort each other. It may take a lifetime. Some sheep are more ornery than others, truth!

But also remember that He leads His flock gently and cares tenderly for the bruised and broken.

Every elder, every undershepherd ought to have this heart for the flock. With this hope and anticipation, I drag my weary body out of bed each Lord’s Day.  I need rest for my soul. So I seek to hear His voice, not just alone, but in community with His sheep in His house on His day.

Let me encourage you, weary as you may be, to choose worship in community. 

Again, our satellite internet went down yesterday. I was unable to post. My apologies!