Monday, January 14, 2019

He Intercedes for Us

Oh weary caregivers, beloved of the Lord, isn't it encouraging to know that our Lord Himself intercedes for us?


Thursday, January 10, 2019

Birdsong in Winter

This little Carolina wren brightened my day today.  
Those who have experienced loss know that the date of a loved one's passing resounds in the heart each anniversary thereafter. We don't get used to missing a loved one.  We adapt, and are able to enjoy life again, but the sorrow becomes a part of us--and that's ok.

Today is the 22nd anniversary of my father's death.  I am able to smile now when I feel the sorrow of remembrance, because it is an affirmation of how deep our love for one another was, and is. Because Dad knew Jesus as his Lord and Savior, I know we will meet again, but I will continue to miss him until then.

This afternoon the little bird in the photo above landed on the rail just outside the window adjacent to the table I use as my desk.  I am rarely able to get clear images of the birds who land at our feeders because I use my phone for photos, and I need to be quite close to my subject if I want to bring it into proper focus.  But this little guy stayed within camera range long enough for me to snap 14 clear photos.

He then flew to the dormant lilac bush next to the feeder and began to sing.  He continued singing until it was nearly dark and all the other birds had gone to roost for the night.  It was unusual; a sound of spring in mid-winter.

Please don't worry.  I do not think the bird was my dad in disguise or any such nonsense as this.  I don't even think my dad sent the bird; I don't believe he has authority to do that!  But I know someOne who does.

How sweet to serve a God who feels our sorrows, has compassion for us, and is able to provide encouragement  when our hearts have wavered under the burdens of the long cold of winter.  We are 15 years into the winter of my mother's Alzheimer's disease, and I am her only relative.  I'm weary of the burdens of caregiving, responsibilities that do not stop just because she has entered nursing home care; in some ways the obligations have increased. The Lord knows this, and the little bird today reminded me that grief is temporary, sorrows will end, and spring will indeed arrive.

Meantime it is precious to receive the encouragement of hope from the hand of the Lord who loves us.  He hasn't left us to bear our burdens alone; he bears them with us and for us.  He knows how to strengthen and encourage a weary heart, and I am grateful for His encouragement today.

Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Psalm 73:25-26


Thursday, December 27, 2018

Comfort for Those Who Suffer Anxiety

I have found a C.S. Lewis quote that is important for those who struggle with self-condemnation because of ongoing struggles with anxiety:
"Some people feel guilty about their anxieties and regard them as a defect of faith. I don’t agree at all. They are afflictions, not sins. Like all afflictions, they are, if we can so take them, our share in the Passion of Christ.”  Find this quote and its full references via Biblegateway's daily C.S. Lewis reading, HERE.  
This affirms the truce I've made with my middle-of-the-night fears that, by God’s grace, are converted into intercessions for loved ones and the transcribing of God’s guidance into words that can benefit others. Nowadays, when I awaken afraid, I treat the anxiety much as one would respond to a backache; Lord, here it is again, what shall I do about it?  I've learned to skip the why-do-I-have-to-be-like-this angst.  Anxiety isn't so much a sin  for me as it is a result of how I am knit together, and by His enabling grace, the Lord is glorified through this weakness of mine when I allow it to lead me to the foot of the Cross.

My son and daughter both have children of their own now, and they have each become acquainted with the heart-stopping alarm of seeing one's children suffer trials.  I would say to them:  Don’t be hard on yourselves when you suffer fear for yourselves or your loved ones.  Don’t try to ignore anxiety or seek escapism from it.  Let it cause you to run straight to the Lord.  This habit of taking every fear to Him will bring great blessing to you and to your loved ones as you allow the Lord to convert your fears into intercession for those you love.  

The Lord is unfailingly compassionate to those who are afraid. But if we won't admit to our fear, we won't confess it, and we won't allow the Lord to transform it into blessing.

***

Note:  I felt this was an important post for my adult son and daughter, and sent them an email that perhaps clarifies and summarizes the message I wanted to convey in this post:  

So, I have a word for you both from the Lord, and felt led to turn it into a blogpost, but I'm not sure I have accomplished my assignment!  In a nutshell--it isn't a sin or a weakness to be afraid. Fear is a potent motivator that will send us either to suppression (which can make us sick and angry) and escapism (which can make us addicted) or to the foot of the throne. We are not able to decide not to be afraid just because we know it isn't Godly to be afraid. Fear will send us one way or the other: to escapism, or to the Lord.  

Please read the post when you have time, and let your anxieties for your precious children take you straight to Jesus.  

Friday, December 14, 2018

Safe Shelter

This is a detail of one of my mother's oil paintings.  The inviting shelter of this cabin reminds me of the Lord's protection and guidance for those who call on His Name.

Providing care to a loved one who is infirm brings unanticipated challenges.  The aspect of my mother's care that has cost me the most stress has been assuming the responsibility for her finances.

I am not a numbers person.  In school, math classes cost me the most effort of any of other academic studies, and in professional life, my ineptitude at my first job as a bookkeeper provided the impetus for me to become a teacher. I thought that I (and my employers) would be better off with me serving in a capacity that better suited my natural talents.

Fast-forward to the time when my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Mom had never shared details of her finances with anyone. I didn't even know who had done her taxes, and her dementia had robbed her of the ability to remember. Bills had been lost or misfiled, I could find no records, and I felt overwhelming panic.  Here I was, a person whose biggest financial challenge to date had been to balance my own checkbook, now confronted with a mess of unpaid bills and questions with seemingly no answers.  Untangling the mess took months of time, and because of my sense of inadequacy regarding numbers and bookkeeping, my go-to response when confronted with her financial mess was fear.  I learned to pray much, to complete each new task as well as I could, and to trust that things would work out in time even when unanswered questions remained.  And they did.

 The Lord has been so compassionate to me this week when I've cried out to Him with my latest concerns. I've been reminded time and again that He is my shelter.  He is on my side, and so I have no need to fear.

Friday, November 16, 2018

When We Lose Control


I was offended when, immediately following a surgery, I tried to explain to the nurse why I was weeping.  She said, "It's the loss of control."

She was probably right.  Drugged, in pain, wearing a hospital gown, my weight posted on a chart within direct line of my (and everyone else's) vision; yes, I had certainly lost control.

So many things about our lives force us to admit we are not in control. We can't control the course of a loved one's Alzheimer's, indeed, as Scripture says, we are so frail that we do not even know what will happen tomorrow!*

I'm currently awaiting results for a round of medical tests, and once more I've had to admit I'm not in control as I wait, and wait some more.  I've found a curious relief in this waiting place, the relief of a child who doesn't know what is going to happen but is unbothered, because she trusts her father's wisdom.  I trust the Lord.  I am grateful that He is with me in my waiting.  I do have moments of nervous fear but for the most part I am able to take a deep breath and rest in the knowledge of His love.

*James 4:14


Monday, October 29, 2018

Pray More, Worry Less


I have been a fearful person my entire life, afraid for myself for those I love. This not an honorable confession for a Christian to make.

Various sources disagree on the exact number of times Scripture tells us not to be afraid, ranging from 70 to 365 times, depending on translation and interpretation of the intent behind the words, but we can be confident that our Lord has repeatedly urged us not to be afraid.

Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary sheds light on reasons we need not harbor fear:
"God speaks with tenderness; Fear thou not, for I am with thee: not only within call, but present with thee. Art thou weak? I will strengthen thee. Art thou in want of friends? I will help thee in the time of need. Art thou ready to fall? I will uphold thee with that right hand which is full of righteousness..."* 
"Cast "all your care;" personal cares, family cares, cares for the present, and cares for the future, for yourselves, for others, for the church, on God. These are burdensome, and often very sinful, when they arise from unbelief and distrust, when they torture and distract the mind, unfit us for duties, and hinder our delight in the service of God. The remedy is, to cast our care upon God, and leave every event to his wise and gracious disposal."**
Since my mother entered nursing home care, I have struggled more with fear for her.  During most of the hours of every day, she is out of my range of sight or ability to help if she has need.  When Mom lived here at home she was dependent on me for help with every activity of daily living, and releasing her care into the hands of others who do not know her needs as well as I do has been difficult. 

I believe that prayer for Mom is my most effective labor on her behalf and I do attempt to pray more and worry less, I really do. As Mom says, "Jesus is right here with me (she pounds her chest and glares fiercely at me, full of conviction and wanting to be sure I understand).  What more do I need?"
~~~

*Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on Isaiah 41, public domain 
**Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on  1 Peter 5, public domain 



Sunday, October 14, 2018

Flowing With God's Will in Prayer


A few nights ago, I was lying in bed nearly asleep, when a precious insight straight from the Lord came into my mind.  For a few moments I could see clearly how trust in the Lord's perfect love for my loved ones could allow me to pray for them, but simultaneously to have peace in regard to them; "acquiescence" is the word that came to mind.  Acquiescence to the flow of the Holy Spirit's power, the Father's love, and the Savior's sacrifice on behalf of those I love brings peace.

Our hearts can move the heart of God, and so we should not hold back from pouring out our hearts to the Lord on behalf of others.  This is in no way a recommendation to detach from those we love just because their burdens are uncomfortable for us to share.  But I am learning that underlying my outcries to the Lord and shared heartaches with loved ones, there can flow a deep river of peace.  As I allow my prayers to flow according to God's will (and not in fear of it), my prayers become more powerful.  

We who have been cleansed by the Blood of Christ have no need to fear His good, pleasing, and perfect will.  In any crisis we have only to find the path of His provision, and although heartaches may come, we can have peace because our Lord loves us eternally, has planned for us perfectly, and once we have accepted Him as Lord, He does not let us go.

~~~

A reminder of who we are in Christ is the best way to dispel fear, both for ourselves and for our loved ones...