Tag Archive | hope

Looking for hope…

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(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.

 

 

 

 

 

Keep your dukes up, sis!

My headline today makes me swallow back the tears again.

It’s what I said more than once to my sweet sis who went to heaven this summer.

Her fight is over. She went out in faith and love. My fight and yours — well, that is very much ongoing.

The fight theme is very much a thread that runs from the beginning to the end of the Bible. But I despise war! I hate a family feud. Raised voices and angry tones make me sick inside. I’m not even fond of cutting jokes and sarcasm just to be sarcastic.

“That old serpent, the Devil” doesn’t give us much choice. He walks around on a search and destroy mission. I could feel his slimey breath this week. The horror of a yet another diagnosis. Answers we didn’t want. A doctor who delivered the news in such a callous, crass, self-serving way that I called her the “b” word. Something I have never called another human being.

You know when Satan is seeking to destroy your faith. He uses people — those who are His willing instruments. Yes, like Hitler’s cronies, or those who fund and work for Planned Parenthood, those instruments seek to convince you that their way is the ONLY  and BEST option. Whatever the abominable system calls for is right. It must be. Some group of wealthy doctors, philosophers, and politicians says so.

GOD calls us to fight for our covenant marriages, for our children, for whatever is true and lovely and right! Like a friend of mine who found out she is carrying a Down’s baby — NO! NO way, your other “option” is not even an option!  I don’t want to fall prey to Satan’s mind games.

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.

RESIST him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.” I Peter 5:8-9

We have to keep our weary heads in the game, dear sisters. Be sober, clearheaded, truth-filled thinking. Be vigilant, always watching our backs with our weapons handy. Gotta keep those dukes up.

I felt so tired and alone, trying to be strong for both of us with the forked tongue of the Serpent right there in front of me. My husband was feeling so weak, and sick, and tired of being sick and tired.

What’s a body to do? We prayed. We cried a lot. We’re not done doing  either.

I can’t. I can’t do this alone. Neither can you.

“God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God that He may exalt you in due time.

Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” I Peter 5:5-7

Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, will not leave us to fight alone.

Jesus, who bore our griefs and carried our sorrows, understands the deepest agony of our earthly sorrows.

Jesus, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, is interceding for us in glory.

Jesus, that great shepherd of His sheep, is preparing a place of greatest peace and beauty for us when this earthly fight is done.

Keep fighting on your knees, dear one. Keep your dukes up.

 

 

 

3 Ways to rehydrate your soul…

Sometimes the well just runs dry. Like me missing my last posting goal, which is every Lord’s Day.

I have not yet learned how to automate this encouragement mission. You and I are down in the trenches together. We have a set of unique challenges as caregiving wives.

I really want to be there for you. I want us to bear our burdens together.

So, I was refilling my own well last weekend.

When you are constantly pouring out, you realize you need to be refilled or else. Emotions take charge. You grow frazzled with those you love. Worse, you either run on auto-pilot, living life without meaning, or you get zonked. Too. Weary. To. Take. One. More. Step.

No! I did not have time or money for some super wonderful Bible conference.

I did not get away to some wonderful, restful ladies retreat. I did not get a spa treatment. But, I did take spend time with special people.

1.) Talk with a dear friend in person if at all possible.

Seriously! You need to cry on someone else’s shoulder sometimes. Our husbands can be extremely needy or distant, depending on their current health and mental struggles. We need community and friendship!

A VERY wise elderly Christian friend of mine told me you only get a few true-blue trusted friends in a lifetime. As sisters in Christ, we ought to have more than a few.

But even Christians gossip.

Don’t give us the benefit of the doubt.

And they surely don’t “get” our husband situation.

I don’t say this to be mean or bitter. Truth hurts, though. It is seriously hard to find a true Christian friend you can trust with your secrets and not feel judged, in the wrong sense of that word.

Maybe it is because you have to find a friend mature enough to handle suffering. A lady who is wise and discreet is a treasure.

Add warm and caring to that…Someone who will not hold you at arm’s length because all is not perfect in your life. I hope I can be that kind of friend. We all need that friend! Do you have one or a few?

2.) Soak your soul in the WORD. I listened to sermons and Scripture music. His Word is a lamp that lights up the dark.

This should have been number one on the list. We need God’s Word like plants need water. Although I visited another church, I still spent His day in His house.

It was so worth it! The dark places come to light under the light of the Word. There healing begins. God’s truth tells us what’s wrong, what’s right, and how to make what is wrong right.  To stay healthy, gotta keep growing!

3.) Count your blessings. It sounds trite. It is so true. You get joy from drawing water out of the well of salvation.

I could be living in darkness without Jesus.

How does anyone handle chronic illness, loss of a loved one, severe financial strain, and caregiving joyfully without the hope of new life in Christ?

His redeeming love is my greatest blessing! “If anyone be in Christ, he (or she) is a new creation.”

My soul sings when I take time to meditate on His love, power, and goodness.

If you are in a dry and dark place, reach for His Word, His love, and the love of His people.

 

 

 

Small and broken, vast and mighty

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photo credit: Danielkordan.com

At least we got to say goodbye. The final goodbye some do not get. So hard. So sweet in the sense of, I’ll see you again, dear lover of Jesus….Dear sister-in-love, loving wife to my brother, joyful momma to my niece and nephew.

Like Job now, we sit in our dust heaps and seek healing for our wounds. So very small and such broken people we are!  And, once again, nothing has changed since Job’s millennia. A few offer real comfort.

Others pass by or avoid our ash heap and say nothing. A common problem faced by those with chronic illness — lonely on their ash heaps, or worse, fending off word-arrows of accusations. Who really wants to visit the cancer wards? Or the sickbed?

The words leap off the pages of Job like they were written only yesterday.

“He alone has spread out the heavens and marches on the waves of the sea. HE made all the stars — the Bear and Orion, the Pleiades and the constellations of the southern sky. He does great things too marvelous to understand. He performs countless miracles…if He snatches someone in death, who can stop Him? Who dares to ask, What are you doing?” Job 9:8-10, 12

When you know someone you love is dying, the whole world comes alive in vibrant technicolor. You can almost taste the moments.

The sunset on July 26 was beyond amazing here. I could see the edges of His majesty, and almost peer through the clouds to ask, Please don’t let her suffer anymore. Please take her home. She cannot even communicate to us anymore if she needs more pain meds.

Some days your chronically ill friend or spouse may say these words. Please just take me home, God. Life hangs by threads of pain. And we dare to ask, What are you doing?

Such a question God never answers. He speaks to Job on his ash heap.  He tells him to look up. To look around. To recall the day of creation.

Some answers are so vast that our finite minds cannot hold the infinite realities.

Like a pebble tossed into a vast, still lake, my sister’s life touched hundreds of people with the ripples of her life, breast cancer journey, and faithful death trusting His plan. Your life matters! Who knows how your story may inspire and encourage another?

We cannot possibly understand how our light ( but very painful and terrible in the moment) afflictions are working an eternal weight of glory, only for those who are lovers of Jesus, God’s only beloved Son. Fellow ash-heap sitters, sit, mourn, and share my comfort. Look at that sky and wonder!

 

 

One word of hope and Mimosa…

Mimosa — the name of a lovely flowering tree — also is the name of a lady of courage. Let me tell you her true story.

Mimosa and I became friends through the pages of a book written by Amy Carmichael in the 1920’s. I’ll have to introduce you to Amy properly on another day. Both lived in India a hundred years ago.

Right now as I write this, there are other ladies living in refugee camps. Life is sparse. A hundred years ago and now? Faith has cost them all they own.

The gospel, the Good News! All Mimosa had was a few moments introduction to God as the living, loving God of all gods, the one Who made her and all things. She was visiting the Dohnavur Fellowship where her sister Star lived. Then her Hindu father snatched her away, refusing her pleas to hear more.

Though the “stick danced” for Mimosa, a little flame of understanding lit her heart. She firmly refused to smear ashes on her forehead for Siva, the family’s god of choice. She had a heart of love for the loving Father God she knew almost nothing about.

Fast forward to an arranged marriage, an unscrupulous family member who weaseled her dowry away from her, and a husband whose caste did not encourage him to work. Three babies later and no money, Mimosa toiled in the fields to keep food on the table. She prayed regularly in her little pantry, spreading out her sari to God.

With no Bible, no church, and no Christian fellowship, Mimosa clung to the few things she had learned about God as a child. Her neighbors and her family mocked her faith. But the worst was still to come.

Her husband was bit by a poisonous snake and went blind and mad. She had no one to watch her babies while she worked in the fields, and then her infant son became very ill. While her husband was bedridden and her little son lay dying, her roof caved in during monsoon rains, and she had to find temporary shelter for her family.

“I am not offended with you,” Mimosa told God. Her infant son had died. The village blamed her for his death as she refused to buy a charm for his healing. More cruel mocking in her hour of pain…

Her husband regained his sight and sanity but had no urge to better his family. Often he lived with relatives leaving Mimosa to fend for herself. Mimosa bore two more sons.The main trouble was keeping the rice and curried vegetables on the table. One night she prayed for food and it seemed no answer was coming. She did not want to dishonor God in her unbelieving village by asking for help.

A knock at the door around midnight — there stood the one kind relative she had. She lit the lamp, for he had been unable to sleep until he brought over rice and curried vegetables. Mimosa and her boys feasted at midnight.

No Bible studies, no pat on the back, no words of encouragement. She could not read nor write. Her sister Star did not know how to reach her.

And then her oldest boy smeared Siva’s ashes on his forehead so that he might work at a Hindu shop.

Her heart broke. She wanted her boys to know the one true God. Yet how could she teach them?

At Dohnavur her sister Star was praying for Mimosa. Never giving up hope of seeing her and her boys.

Once again Mimosa remembered Dohnavur, prayed, sold her last dowry items, and set out to make sure her sons had the chance to really learn about God. The village was in an uproar. She would be breaking caste. Her husband and the relatives he lived with opposed her. Yet she still set out with her boys on foot. Three days later they arrived.

 Spreading out her sari to God and not smearing ashes to Siva on her forehead finally brought Mimosa and her sons to a place of truth, comfort, and safety. One word from God’s Word had been a lamp to her feet all those years.

Sisters, keep praying in hope. Whatever hardships you are facing, hope in God’s love and Word.

 

 

 

 

Truth be told…

To tell you the truth, the last thing I feel like doing right now is writing.

That is a terrible thing to say to your reader friends, I know!  But I’m just being honest here, saying what I would say to a really good friend. I’m drained. Two nights away from home and watching my sis-in-love suffer terrible pain as she struggles with cancer, and then my husband calls. He and my sis both spent the night awake. Raw pain. Real suffering. Maybe I should just shut my mouth right now before I am an epic failure at encouragement.

Oh, but Jesus met me at church even though I was late and bleary-eyed.

As tired as I am, I cannot wait to give you snippets of Isaiah 62 which was faithfully taught to us this morning. Nothing fancy. No bells and whistles. Just truth spoken with quiet passion. So here is the good news, sisters.

“You shall be called by a new name which the mouth of the Lord will name.” Is. 62:2

Legally my name is no longer Lost, Forsaken, Doomed! I’ve been adopted as joint-heir with Christ. My inheritance is far better than the richest oil sheik!  Even though I can’t claim a single rich relative, I am a royal daughter.

“You shall be a crown of glory in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem…” Is.62:3

Ever wish you could be a princess for a day? Or a week? Or even just have someone to clean and cook for you for a week?  Now we’re talking! Some of you know what I mean.

“For the LORD delights in you…” Is. 62:4

Now this is the sweetest thought to me. If you grew up feeling and knowing that your father delighted in you, you were one blessed child. So many parents do not know how to communicate their love wisely and well. Many children are downright neglected and abused.

God leaves us in no doubt of His dear sweet love for His children. He planned from ages past to rescue, redeem, and adopt His children. Then He clearly and repeatedly states His unchanging love for us. I can never hear this enough. I forget this too often. It was a healing balm to my bruised and aching heart today. I had to share this comfort with you. Hugs!

 

My Mom, my humble hero

My mom lived in over a dozen homes in my first ten years of life.

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No, she was not in the military.

She got married when she was 18 and my Dad was 19. She moved wherever my Dad could find a job and affordable housing. Like Ma Ingalls of Little House fame, she made a home for us wherever we went. Curtains in the windows, homemade bread, and a tablecloth on the table were standards in my home. My mom showed me heroic courage in her cheerful acceptance of old houses, old cars with no AC, and garage sale clothing. She was over 3,000 miles from her parents and all of her family. I cringe when I think of how hard this was for her in those early years with three little people. No support, no money to call home — we were literally all she had, and she loved us like there was no tomorrow.

She taught me to be thankful even when life was tough.

“Cheer up, ye saints of God, there’s nothing to worry about, nothing to make you feel afraid, nothing to make you doubt. Remember Jesus never fails, so why not trust Him and shout. You’ll be sorry you worried at all tomorrow morning.” Mom would sing this to us as we were stuffed in the back seat of the car with 4/50 AC on many a blazing hot day in coastal SC. (4/50 AC refers to 4 windows rolled down as you travel down the highway at about 50 miles per hour.) It seems ludicrous now. We were far from saintly. We whined and scrapped with each other constantly.

She made us be nice to each other — eventually.

“If you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all.” Mom wore this saying out. She also made us think of five nice things to say to each other when the sibling insults got out of hand. I appreciate this so much now as my siblings are my dearest friends. We learned a lot about kindness and forgiveness from Mom telling us our rude ways were not acceptable. I am working on this now with my daughter. I soon figured out that not all moms teach this to their children. I am blessed.

She read many wonderful stories to us.

Yes, the Little House books were on the list. Most of the stories were of brave (or scared) people doing brave things. We actually did not miss TV in our early growing up years. We had real heroes that came to life in the pages of books we shared. I was very, very familiar with all the heroes of faith in the Bible, heroes with flaws, but brave men and women of faith nevertheless. A child needs heroes.

What does this have to do with chronic illness and caregiving?

Gratitude comes from faith that all things, even the yucky or terribly hard things, are working together for good to those who love God. Romans 8:28.  In I Corinthians 13, we learn how love is supposed to look in everyday life. That kind of love is often tested when your hurting spouse is cranky because of suffering, or you have to shoulder his responsibilities along with your own. Saying five nice things to him can really be a challenge! Thank the Lord, Mom made me practice. Do I always succeed? No, I can relate closely to those flawed heroes of Bible fame.

Because of Mom’s example of cheerful faith, gratitude, and perseverance, I am encouraged in my rocky, uphill climb of marriage to a chronically ill husband. My mom is truly my humble hero.

What if your mom is not your hero?

  • I have dear, dear people in my life who have had terrible moms. That is the raw, bleeding truth. Some of these people have become amazing moms. That did not happen by accident! God chooses the weak things to confound the mighty.
  •  Off the top of my head I can mention a few amazing ladies to use as your personal role models. For examples of faith, courage, and compassion, read the lives of Amy Carmichael or Gladys Alyward. There are many more in history.
  • Look for a truly wise, godly mentor at your church. Ask around. Whom do the moms look up to and turn to for advice?
  • Make a list of areas you want to grow in using I Corinthians 13 as a guide. Study the Bible passages that relate using a concordance.
  • Pray for God to continue to do His good work in you. In the sermon today we were  reminded how God’s Spirit prays for us when we do not know how to pray. That is me all the time!

Go ahead and share in the comment section if you have a hero in your life. Those stories are good for the soul!