Monday, March 13, 2017

Joys in the Midst of Sorrow

Sweet consolations: Middle, l to r: freshly baked apple pie,our 1-year-old granddaughter with her doll and new cowgirl hat, and the sunset backlighting some silk apple blossom stems.  
We're experiencing a cold snap here in Kansas, all the more insulting because it follows one of the warmest Februarys on record for us. We have basked in balmy temperatures in the mid-seventies for too many weeks to feel content with this morning's windchill, which was in the low twenties.  I hope my lilac bush doesn't give up on the early bloom it was obviously planning before today's frigid dawn.

I am rereading Laura Ingalls Wilder's The Long Winter.  I've often thought that in the hands of any other writer, an account of a family nearly starving to death would  have resulted in a story not fit for children. But Laura's focus on love and courage allows us to partake of the comforts to which her family clung when hope of relief grew dim. Her description of a meal of hot tea and coarse brown bread is remarkable not so much because she makes us believe they liked such fare, but because we are thoroughly convinced they were grateful for it.

I am reminded again of my new favorite Bible verse, Psalm 94:19. I can't decide which version I like best for this verse, so here it is in three of my favorites:
When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.  (NIV)
When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.  (ESV)
In the multitude of my anxieties within me,Your comforts delight my soul.(NKJV)
Whether we are enduring a long winter, or a long goodbye because of a loved one's Alzheimer's disease, there are so many things to be thankful for, even in the midst of our suffering.  I guess another way to convey this is in the old adage to count your blessings.  I only know that during this sorrow of seeing my mom fade day by day that the consolations the Lord provides are sweet to my soul.

The joys God provides in the midst of our sorrows remind us that He is present with us, and that we are loved.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Underneath Are the Everlasting Arms

My mother has been in nursing home care for 7 months now. I was Mom's primary caregiver for 12 years, providing her care here in our home. We never expected our Alzheimer journey with her to last so long. I prayed not to have to put her into a nursing home and I prayed not to have to apply for Medicaid. Both of these things have happened. I've tried not to waste time questioning the Lord; and I've caught glimpses of His great love behind these events. He is weaning me gently from a lifelong role of caring for my mother; as her only child I felt responsible for her emotional and physical well being long before her diagnosis with Alzheimer's disease.

God is good.

Hope you enjoy the meme above, created from a photo taken of a spectacular Kansas sunset just west of our farmhouse two nights ago.  God is present with us.  His love is behind everything that comes to us. Blessed be His Name!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Encouragement for Caregivers

Today's post at my devotional blog, One Hundred Days to Freedom, spoke to my heart on behalf of caregivers. We are so often isolated and made to feel that our preoccupation with the needs of just one loved one is somehow inferior to more visible forms of service. And yet we serve a God who speaks of Himself as a shepherd who will seek just one lost sheep.  If you are in charge of even just one of the Lord's lambs, be encouraged. You are precious in His sight.

Find that encouraging reading by clicking the photo above (or the following link), which will take you to a post entitled Strength for Today, Bright Hope for Tomorrow.  

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Happy Valentine's Day to Caregivers

Here is a Valentine for caregivers, who give so much, come to the end of their own strength...and then give some more. The Lord sees your sorrows. He knows how difficult it is to watch your loved ones suffer, and He knows the toll that has been taken upon your heart and spirit. He is upholding you now and has made provision for you on the road ahead.  Be encouraged, dear hearts, the Lord is with you.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

His Comforts Delight My Soul

Clockwise from upper left: Detail from an oil painting done by my mother; antique pitcher found in a box of my dad's rummage sale purchases; coffee with 2% milk rather than skim; the rosemary plant on my window sill with our bird feeders outside; and a heartwarming "sunshine post" from Little Birdie Blessings that, by coincidence, appeared just under a weather report for our area predicting sunshine for today.

We are enduring one of those seasons in life when grief threatens to overwhelm as sorrows and challenges attack from multiple directions.

This morning I turned my heart to praise.  I've earned that praising God as an "ought to" is not very edifying either for the Almighty or for me, and so I asked the Lord to remind me of Jesus, and to help me think about the beauty of His sacrifice for us and of the love of Father God, and to remember the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit within us.  That did it! Praise came bubbling forth, not as an "ought to" but as a response to the beauty of our Lord.

In times of grief the Lord provides comfort and sustenance if we only have the strength to lift our eyes to see, and if we will ask Him to do so, He'll even provide that needed strength!  I didn't do anything right or righteous, I only asked Him to help me to see Him more clearly.

The following Scripture has provided comfort during this time: In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul*.  When we are sad, we may think it is somehow inappropriate to enjoy the small comforts God has allowed.  In truth, these comforts are a part of the Lord's provision for us and we should not withhold our pleasure in them or our thanksgiving to God for allowing them.

At the top of this post, I've shared some photos of the small pleasures that comforted my soul this morning.  I offer these with my love to those of you who are suffering grief of loss today, along with a prayer that you are enabled to receive the blessings of the small comforts the Lord has provided you.

* Psalm 94:19 NKJV

Friday, February 3, 2017

Commit, Don't Dismiss

During my devotion time this morning I was apologizing to the Lord for feeling so depressed.  I assumed I was exaggerating my sorrows and that the pain I feel over seeing Mom sagging in her wheelchair at the nursing home, for example, is not as severe a trial for her to endure or for me to observe as I perceive it to be.  I tend to dismiss my tears or feel that I'm being silly if I give way to depression.  

As I prayed, these thoughts came: 

For the most part, we underestimate both the severity of the trials we face and their impact upon our minds and bodies. The one thing that needs attention is the weight of the burden we feel whenever we do catch a glimpse of how truly grievous our injuries have been.  It isn't that we should dismiss the pain, but that we should commit it into God's hands, because our suffering belongs to Him.  When we dismiss as inconsequential the grief we've endured, we risk inflicting further injury upon ourselves.  

To commit heartache into the Lord's hands is like sending something that belongs to us to a place where it can be taken care of so we don't have to think about it anymore. 

It isn't a simple transaction. My pain over my mother's suffering, among other things, feels as though it is my own, almost as though it is a possession that belongs tucked away in my heart. I must make a conscious choice to release my sorrows into the hands of the One who has offered to bear it on my behalf.  

1 Peter 2:25 calls Jesus "the overseer of our souls."  This is precious imagery that portrays Christ as being in charge of the welfare of our hearts.  We don't cause Him more pain by releasing our suffering to Him; when we  release our sorrows to Him we avail ourselves of His sacrifice already made at the Cross. In fact, a way we might increase our Savior's pain is to refuse to accept the payment He has given for us.  

May we have grace to commit our sorrows into His hands.  

“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”  For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
1 Peter 2:24-25

Monday, January 30, 2017

God's Mercy

The current division between liberal and conservative perspectives in our country is heartbreaking. It is particularly devastating when churches are divided because of differing beliefs and perspectives. I've been praying this morning about such divisions and asking for the Lord's mercy over all of us. I pray we can recognize that much of the divisiveness in the air around us comes from the enemy, who fans the smallest of judgments and discords into flame.  Whenever brethren in Christ are distracted from our main purpose, which is to draw others to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus, the enemy has won a victory.

I found James 2:13 in The Voice Translation some months ago, when I was writing 100 Days to Freedom.  It struck me then, as now, with truth:  Love is the most powerful weapon we have because mercy triumphs over judgment.  When we judge others, we aren't loving others, whether we are casting them out for causes we believe are just or not.

Pray with me for our country, states, cities, small towns, communities, churches, and families:

 Father, please save us from the devastation of divisions among us through the love You have shown in Christ, and let this grace be expressed in our lives by our love for one another.  Let Your mercy triumph over any judgments we might bring upon one another, and may your peace reign among us, in Jesus' name we pray, amen.