Welcoming Wednesday: The Sacred Journey: Finding God in Caregiving

This is the day to share things! Today I’m thrilled to introduce or remind you of an upcoming free virtual conference and a new book release called “The Sacred Journey: Finding God in Caregiving.”

Caregivers, as they pour out physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual strength, are unsung heroes. But caregivers also need care. They need encouragement, inspiration, courage, comradery, and support.

On March 13, from 11am-1pm EST, the Boston Church and HOPE MA are sponsoring a free virtual workshop, The Sacred Journey: Finding God in Caregiving.

The workshop begins with a panel featuring Roger and Marcia Lamb, Jeanie Shaw, Sam Shaw, and Rich and Lisa Fischer as they share Scriptures, insights, and practical habits that helped them find God when at times he felt far. They will discuss ways they discovered anew God’s presence as they walked this sacred caregiving journey.

Breakout classes include: Caring for children who need special care taught by Frank and Rhoda Astone and Peggy Malutinok; Caring for parents and other adults with Rich and Lisa Fischer and Danielle Petruzzi;, caring for a spouse with Carl Christenson and Chantel Cornely; Grief in caregiving with Roger and Marcia Lamb; care for the caregiver with Sam Shaw and Jeanie Shaw; resources in caregiving with Patrice Gattozzi, Anne-Mer Slebodnick, and Maureen McCartney; and financial and legal matters with Guillermo Adame.

Spread the word to caregivers and their families, neighbors, friends, and anyone who wants to become more like Jesus as they care for others.

Register now:

https://zoom.us/…/tJAud-mpqDspEtHgxsDll69i0QroLREcDcfg

And—In conjunction, my brand-new release is now offered now at IPIbook.org, also entitled The Sacred Journey: Finding God in Caregiving. This book is a collection of vulnerable, inspirational, and informational stories by caregivers who have found God’s support amid their trials.

Preorder at: https://www.ipibooks.com/products/the-sacred-journey-finding-god-in-caregiving

I have to layover WHERE?

I won’t mention the company’s name, but suffice it to say it was not named “Competent”.

My request was simple. At least I thought so. Due to recent health challenges (I thank God I’m getting well), my husband and I needed to revise our travel plans. We had been scheduled to go on to Madrid after spending several days in Munich, Germany. This travel was needed for business, but we felt that both legs of the trip (Munich and Madrid) were more than “our legs” could handle. So, the night before we were to leave I called the travel company to cancel the “Munich to Madrid and then back to Munich” portion of the trip. We simply desired to move the date of our Munich to Boston return trip so that we would arrive home a few days earlier than previously planned.

That’s not so hard to understand is it?  Apparently it was. I was on the phone for an hour and a half trying to make this change. Several times, as I was put on hold the call was dropped. And…when I was finally able to request the change, the agent “helping” me was absolutely determined that this change of date required a necessary layover. And…this layover was to be in HONG KONG! Untitled design

I explained to this agent again and again that the route she was demanding made no sense, given the way the world was put together. I even told her (looking at the company’s web site) that there was nothing on this route remotely resembling her stated necessity. The route did not exist.

She was not moved. She repeatedly stated that an earlier flight back to Boston from Munich was not possible without a layover in Hong Kong…and an additional $11,000.

I wondered if she was also going to suggest that I reserve an oceanfront hotel in Iowa. I would not have been surprised. I told you the company’s name was not “Competent”.

Sigh.

Realizing that this conversation with the agent was going to go nowhere (except Hong Kong) I decided it would be better to initiate this change once we got to Germany. Honestly, I was afraid that if I kept speaking with her our entire flight would be in jeopardy.

Fortunately, upon arrival in Munich the change process was seamless. Our flight was moved up three days and was direct—without a stop in China!

As I recounted this little exchange with the travel agent I had to laugh as I realized this situation was all too analogous to my life. (To be honest, I’ve cried more than laughed so it was nice to laugh.) Lately, I have felt that numerous situations in life have been rerouted against my wishes—and I’ve often felt that the rerouting has not made sense. In my mind there is a simple and direct route to my life’s “destinations”…and then someone says I must layover in China? Really?

The layover is not efficient, sensible or even fathomable to my imagination.

While I did have the choice to decline the proposed airline route with the layover in Hong Kong, I can’t always refuse to go places life takes me. Sometimes the routes of our lives travel in directions we don’t want to go and which don’t make sense to us. They may involve layovers we neither want nor expect and cost more than we desire to pay. With each “change in reservations” life hands me, I must trust that God knows what he is doing and that I am safe in his care. I really am.  And he really does care.

And, I must remember that I always have a choice in how I respond to the rerouting. God is a really good travel agent. In fact, he is a perfect travel agent. He sees things I can’t see, and often “allows” me to go places I don’t wish to go. He also keeps me from places I intended to go when they aren’t best for me.

I am sure of these two things, though I must at times remind myself:

God is better at directing my life than I am.

God always acts in love, because that is who he is.

Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD‘s purpose that prevails.
Proverbs 19:21  

In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.
Proverbs 16:9

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.  Isaiah 55:8-9 

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him.There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 1 John 4:16-18 

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:28-31 

In Due Time

Three little words.  Hard words.  In. Due. Time.

I have been holding on to this scripture:

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.   (1 Peter 5:6-7 emphasis added)

Due time can feel so elusive. Isn’t it due time yet, God? dreamstime_xl_4965945 (1)

Yet I wait, and trust, and over and over give my anxieties to him…holding to the truth that he cares for me…even when I am tempted to doubt that truth. I’ve had plenty of anxious thoughts—especially because the nerve tingling physical pain I’ve experienced also brought on shivering and anxious feelings—and thoughts that would at times go to worst-case scenarios. Note to self:  Don’t google your symptoms.

I’ve struggled to find the words to pray, so I’ve prayed through the Psalms—which have become more and more meaningful to me through these weeks of pain. I cherish the love and scriptures that friends have sent, texted, and written in cards. They really help.

Over the past six weeks God has put me back in the “school of trust”. I know that one day I will be able to share about all the things I learned about God, myself, and others through this time but right now I just feel humbled, under God’s mighty hand…and eager to be lifted up.

I’m humbled by the complete lack of control I have over my situation and my utter weakness. I’m humbled knowing that others are fervently praying for me. I’m humbled to be on the receiving end of meals and help from family and friends—instead of the giving end. I’m humbled by love.

I know many of you have been through more difficult times than I–though I’ve had my share. Many of you have lived with chronic illness or shared a loved one’s pain. Some of you have gotten back tests or x-rays that were not normal. I’ve been in extreme pain for six weeks and have had seemingly every test and picture imaginable which have all come back normal, giving no answers except—“this must be some strange viral infection.”  Fortunately, most of the intensity of the pain has now morphed into muscle soreness, weakness and extreme fatigue.  So, there’s progress. I am getting better. Meanwhile, my husband’s legs are getting worse and I feel more helpless in being able to help him right now. God, when is due time?

All too often, when I’m preparing to write or teach I receive more life lessons and illustrations than I want. At the time I prefer to “pass” on these lessons. Right now I’m working on a new book entitled, “An Aging Grace”. I guess I should have known better than to pick this subject! I don’t really feel like I want to learn hard lessons about God’s grace in aging. Perhaps I should write a cook book instead.

However, I know that it in these “in between” times…before the lifting up part…God’s mighty hand is still there. Though at times I may feel squished under that hand,  I remember it is a protective hand…one that cares for me.

Lessons of love are often learned in times of pain…during the time before “due time”.

In many of my books I’ve shared lessons I’ve learned from God and his word through some crazy, some funny, and some difficult life situations. In “My Morning Cup” there is a little coffee cup icon printed in each chapter that separates the crazy situation I experienced from the lessons I learned.  What the little cup does not tell is the many things that went through my mind and heart before those lessons learned “in due time.”

For example: I share lessons learned about God’s faithfulness after waking to discover someone with a knife in my back. However,  I did not share about the nightmares that followed, or about the fear that came into my heart every time I heard a motorcycle (since the guy rode off on one.)

I share a chapter about a junior high teacher who lost her mind, threw my books and shook me against the lockers while spouting off about a scheme I had to “get her”.  And I was one of her favorite students! The coffee cup icon separates the situation from the lessons I learned, but doesn’t tell of the fear I had of going back to school and wondering when the proverbial shoe would drop again. It doesn’t tell of times I transferred the feelings from that moment to unrelated situations where authority incited fear. Life lessons are learned “in due time”.

So…I’ll keep reading in 1 Peter 5 as the passage describes our inward battles before  “due time” comes.

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.
(1 Peter 5:8-11)  

Never forget that God’s hand is with you, as he cares for you. He will himself make you strong, firm, and steadfast.  In. Due. Time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Imagination Overtakes the Nap

Exhaustion was nearing as Gracie and Emery (two of my granddaughters) headed upstairs for their naps. They were sharing a room for their rest time—since as cousins and best friends they desired to be together every possible moment during Gracie’s two- day visit. It had been a busy morning full of swimming and playing, so their moms thought it best they rest for a few hours after lunch.

After about an hour, the two came downstairs dressed like this.2476 Obviously, rest was not on their agenda—seemingly having been replaced by the myriad royal duties of princesses.

I smiled as this picture floated through my mind’s eye this morning as I sat on the front porch reading and meditating on God’s promises.

You see, I was struggling with anxious and fearful thoughts about several difficult situations that had arisen. When I get fearful I tend to look for something I can control (or at least try to control…as if I could). Certainly, a room needs to be cleaned or some task needs to be finished, right?

I then realized that I can be much like these little girls who were supposed to be resting—but instead of resting their imagination carried them to far away places.

God has given me every reason to rest in his presence and promises. So why do I get anxious when he has given me all that I need?  I find I must continually take time to refocus my heart on his greatness and his compassion. Otherwise, my imagination can take me to places of worry—doubting his capability and mistrusting his reliable love. When that happens, I don’t rest in his presence and promises.

However, when my heart is truly at rest… trusting God’s infinite wisdom, power and unimaginable love for me—my heart is secure and at peace.

Several scriptures refreshed my heart today. I encourage you to read them. They remind me:

  1. Rest is found in God’s presence

My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken. (Psalm 62:1-2)

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” (Psalm 91:1-2)

The LORD is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion. The LORD protects the simplehearted; when I was in great need, he saved me. Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the LORD has been good to you. (Psalm 116:5-7)

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:28-29)

2.  I am too often tempted to resist the rest he offers. (Not a good thing to resist)

This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it. You said, ‘No, we will flee on horses.’ Therefore you will flee! You said, ‘We will ride off on swift horses.’ Therefore your pursuers will be swift!  (Isaiah 30:15-16)

 This is what the LORD says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’  (Jeremiah 6:16)

  1. We must decide whether or not to take the rest God offers us.

 For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience. (Hebrews 4:8-11)

 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. (1 John 3:16-20)

May God’s rest overtake your (and my) imagination.

Who’s the Boss?

Recounting a recent conversation between my daughter and my nearly three-year-old granddaughter, I was reminded of the struggle it can be to let go of control in our lives.  (Disclaimer:  Gracie is as joyful and sweet as they come…but the inner struggle occasionally gets the best of all of us, whether we are two or ninety-two years old.) IMG_1286

K:  Gracie, you haven’t been potty since this morning. You’ve had a lot to drink and you need to go potty before you take your nap.

G:   I don’t need to go.

K:  Yes, you need to go.

G:  No, I’m not going potty. I can hold it.

K:  You will try before you go to bed.  Gracie, you are not going to win.  I’m going to win.  You might as  well go potty now.

G:  No, I will win.  I’m the boss.

K: (With eyes bulging and praying to keep her cool amidst the sassiness)  What?!  You are not the boss.  And you will go to the potty now or be disciplined!

G:  (Knowing discipline is eminent) I’m going potty!  You and daddy are the boss!  You and daddy are the boss!

Sounds rather two-year-oldish, right?  Well, I can certainly relate to the struggle.  I can struggle with letting God be in control (as if I could possibly be in control of God, anyway).  I can think I must figure it out, work it out…anything but faithfully waiting and trusting. I am reminded of the discourse between God and Job.  After God questions Job (on who is in control) Job replies:

  Then Job replied to the LORD: “I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted.  You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.’  My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.  Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” Job 42:1-6

It’s not hard to see the fight for control in a two year old.  It can be more difficult to see it in ourselves.  So, what do your struggles for control look like?  Here are some of mine.

It’s all too easy when my husband has neuropathy and doctors can’t yet find out why… to spend more time on Google than on my knees.  The struggle (not in my mind but in my actions) comes with my desire to fix things…thus becoming more self-reliant than God-reliant.

It can be an inner struggle for me to trust that God is always out for my good.  Instead I can dwell in fear.  I can take most anything and find a way to worry about it.  When I do this, I am taking control of my life and plans, rather than entrusting them to my Father, who loves me so much he eagerly hears me, watches over me, sings to me, and allowed his only son to die for me.

I can feel a struggle for control when I feel anxious and repeat conversations in my head after someone hurts my feelings or something isn’t fair…somehow thinking it will be better staying in my mind than releasing it from my grasp and giving it to God…fasting and praying that God will move in the situation and help all of us learn things we need to learn.

It can be a struggle to let go of control and say “I’m sorry” when I feel like someone else has “more to be sorry for,” as if my doing the right and humble thing would somehow make matters worse.

When my plans for my life get disrupted and God has other (or divergent) plans I can say (in grown up words)…”I’m not going potty.  I don’t need to.”

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. James 4:7-8, 10

However, when I pray and read and meditate on God’s truth, it’s much easier to say, “I’m going potty. You are the boss.”  And truthfully, that’s a really good thing. The result of my granddaughter’s trust and obedience made her feel better, left her kidneys healthier, and saved the sheets from a wash.   Likewise, as I let God “take the wheel” of control in my life…. I feel much better as peace and joy take over the place where stress and anxiety once resided.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:6-7 (NLT)

 

 

 

When Your Finish Line Moves

I cry for the city I love.  When we moved from the southern part of the US to Boston, over 25 years ago, I quickly felt I’d found the place I was meant to live.  There is no place I know with more charm, four season beauty, gutsiness, and sports enthusiasm. Truly, God has set my boundaries in pleasant places.  (Psalm 16:6)

Though tragedy struck here yesterday, inspiration abounds.  I’m inspired by those who ran the marathon, I’m inspired by those who supported the runners and I’m inspired by those who ran to help.

One particular younger friend of mine inspired me, who when her finish line was moved…just kept running. 150430_671996925760_1611996319_s

I’m reminded how we painstakingly prepare for the course of life we know.  We study, train, and try to equip ourselves to be successful.  However, as the scriptures state:

In his heart a man plans his course,

        but the Lord determines his steps. Proverbs 16:9

    Many are the plans in a man’s heart,

        but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. Proverbs 19:21

 

    This is what the Lord says–

        your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:

    “I am the Lord your God,

        who teaches you what is best for you,

        who directs you in the way you should go.  Isaiah 48:17

 

Rachel planned for this marathon all year long.  Yet, because of someone’s senseless act of terrorism she was not able to cross the finish line for which she was headed.

What do you do, when in the middle of your race, everything changes and you don’t know where you are going?

Well, Rachel kept on running.  Some of her friends ran beside her, and her husband, along with some friends marked out a new course….complete with a finish line and tape.

I realize how often life doesn’t go quite as we plan.  Circumstances of life change, things around us and things within us change.  As Solomon states:

    I have seen something else under the sun:

     The race is not to the swift

        or the battle to the strong,

    nor does food come to the wise

        or wealth to the brilliant

        or favor to the learned;

    but time and chance happen to them all.  Ecc. 9:11

 

However, for a disciple of Jesus we have something (someone) to hold on to and someone who has gone ahead and marked our course.  It may be a different course than what we have planned.  In fact, it likely will be.  There is a course marked out for you and me… those who have gone before will help cheer us through to the finish line.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Hebrews 12:1

Thanks Rachel, for not being bummed out when your finish line changed.  I’m so grateful, as I  run the course marked out for me, that I’m surrounded by my spriritual family that cheers me on, and runs along beside me. It makes a difference.

I remember fondly, though with tears, standing by my Dad’s side as he crossed the final finish line.  Knowing he had lived his life wholeheartedly following his Lord, and loving His Word….when he breathed his last my sisters and I were able to exclaim, “You did it Dad.  You made it!!”

 

However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me–the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace. Acts 20:24

For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. [7] I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. [8] Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day–and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. 2 Timothy 4:6-8