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I’m Thankful to God That Jesus Didn’t Quit

My daughter writes each day about something she is thankful for that day. I was so touched by the following post she had on Facebook last night, that I just have to share it with you.
 
By Sarah Johnson
Today I’m thankful to God that Jesus didn’t quit.
Imagine. You’re in the desert. It’s hot. Like, really hot. You’re exhausted. You’ve been chained up and beaten. Not only with fists, but whips, chains. Every inch of you hurts. You have open wounds all over your body. Your sweat, your salty sweat is rolling into those open wounds. Stinging like tiny needles being dragged along your skin. You can’t wipe it away. Your feet are raw from walking, every pebble or hunk of dirt they scrape against as you step is excruciating. You are dragging a heavy wooden rugged cross on your shoulders. The wood from the cross shoving splinters into your sunburned shoulders with every step. Your vision cloudy from the blood dripping from your head into your eyes. You can’t wipe it. Your mouth so dry you feel panicked. There is no water. You hear your heartbeat pounding in your ears. Bouncing around inside your head. Only slightly muffled by the shouting of people wishing to see you die. Every breath is more painful than the last. You are about to die, but not soon enough. You know you will be nailed to that cross on your back and left to hang for hours. You know you’re about to die one of the most painful deaths possible.

You could stop it all.
With one word you could make the suffering end and feel no more pain.
Do you do it?
Do you quit?
Most would. In fact, I’d like to argue that all would, given the opportunity. All except Jesus.
The Son of God.
Our Lord and Savior.
He continued His suffering. He valued our eternity more than His life on earth. More than His comfort. More than Himself.
Jesus came to this earth specifically to minister to us and ultimately die for us, so that we may live eternally with Him. At anytime He could’ve said “nope, this is too hard, I quit”, but He didn’t. He faced torture and death and didn’t turn away. He completed His mission. He endured all the ridicule, hatred, beatings, and lashings for us. So that we could one day know true peace in Heaven. He did this knowing a lot of us would spit in the face of His sacrifice. He did it anyway. Wow! He. Did. It. Anyway!
We set today aside to focus on the fact that Jesus died to save us from sin. Is it the exact anniversary? Probably not. Does the date on the calendar really matter in the grand scheme of things? Nope. Although we can’t be exactly sure the date this event occurred, it’s nice to have one set aside in recognition. We should be focusing on it everyday, but as humans, when we do stuff daily it seems to loose it’s feeling of being special. It just becomes an everyday thing. Ordinary, even. Once a year celebrations give us the opportunity to refocus on the extraordinary. To help our human brains keep special events special. What could be more special than someone dying to save your life?
Happy Good Friday everyone!

Hold My Hand

Dear Lord,
I don’t know why you do the things that you do
or why you let happen the things that you choose.
I’ve often doubted your wisdom and resented your ways;
not willing to accept what I was facing that day.
Like when I was a young and my friends turned away,
I was sad and alone and tempted to stray
but you taught me the value if I would obey
and brought me a new friend I have to this day.
I went on through school and a nurse I became
my dreams of my childhood were just not the same
I landed a job that allowed me to grow
in ways that prepared me for what I must know.
The trials of a marriage destined not to succeed
taught me reliance on faith for my everyday needs.
Single parenting was hard and many failures I see
Looking back at my choices and need to be me.
But God was right there standing close by my side
keeping me going and being my guide.
A special needs child and another too free
some hard times, some good times, some just meant to be
Though hardships were many and challenges not few
to loving and caring adults they both grew.
My spouse I did meet through your influence as well
A personal ad I did answer, do tell.
We married but struggled in our attempt to unite
our children and habits and expectations weren’t right.
I prayed we’d find closeness and a true family become
But try as we might that “oneness” didn’t come.
Then much to our sadness MS found its way
into the dynamics of family each day
I asked many times “why us?” and I prayed
for a miracle or something to take it away.
But in your wisdom this hardship worked out to our good
We’re closer and happier than we thought that we could.
So thank you, Lord Jesus, though I don’t understand
I’ll trust you and turn to you, just keep holding my hand.
Amen

Thus the Week Before Christmas

Thus the week before Christmas and all through the house
Not a creature was stirring not even my spouse
A small Christmas tree had been placed on a stand
So he could “see” Christmas from his power wheelchair
The last of our children this past year had been wed
So most of my parenting worries I’d shed
While Lynn takes a nap, I put on many hats
I cook and I clean and on my keyboard I tap
When out of the quiet, I hear Lynn start to chatter
I listen intently wondering what’s the matter?
“Hey Sweetie,” he calls, “can you come get this trash?”
Now what is he doing? I muse as I dash.
The room as I enter looks peaceful and glows
With the lights from the tree and the wreath’s bright red bow
When what to my wandering gaze should appear
But his hand inching forward and heading straight to the gear
With a fear of disaster, I step over a split drink
Knowing in a moment he’d cross the room in a blink
More rapid than careful toward the joystick I aim
As he questioned my purpose and asked me my name.
Waking up a bit more, he asked, “What’s that you’re fixin?”
I give him my answer and head back to the kitchen.
In less than ten minutes once again he does call,
A deep sigh I do make and turn back toward the hall.
As I care for his needs and my hands I do dry,
I think of our blessings and tears of joy I do cry
I admit that at times my thoughts are quite blue
But I know in my heart that our faith is our glue
When I fear we won’t make it, I see I have proof
That our Lord is providing with His Word as the root.
His promises have power; His love does abound
His voice is a whisper, it makes not a sound.
Through Christmas He gave us the hope of new life
In His wisdom He gave me to Lynn as his wife
With God’s grace and Lynn’s love, there is nothing I lack
Through my service to both, a small portion I give back.
As I settle back into my chores for the night,
I pray for endurance, understanding and insight.
With a smile I keep going, there’s more to get done
But Christmas is here and we’ve been saved by the Son.
Merry Christmas!

English: Nativity scenes in Sanok
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cheesecake Makes it All Worthwhile

English: Orthodox Christmas decoration Српски ...
Nativity  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I love Christmas.  I’m sure I’m not alone when I say it’s my favorite time of year.  I love the excitement, the beauty, and especially the meaning….but it IS a lot of work.
The reason I did not write a blog last week is that I was busy decorating for Christmas.  You see, I must have about 2o tubs of Christmas decorations.  I have stuff for the inside and stuff for the outside and although it takes a long time and my poor arthritic joints are crying the blues, I enjoy every minute of decorating. However, now it’s a bit more challenging to get all that decorating done and it takes twice as long as it used to do.
Once upon a time, I used to get all my decorating done the day after Thanksgiving. I would start early in the morning and keep at it till it was all done. Now, I always have the first three hours of any day devoted to Lynn’s morning routine of hygiene, toileting, and exercise. Then he rests in bed for 30-60 minutes depending on how restless his legs become.  During that time I eat breakfast and start cooking whatever is in low supply for his diet.  Then I get him up, connect him to his peddler, work to get him comfortable, and head back to the kitchen to finish cooking. Shortly after this he’s ready to eat breakfast.  All and all I usually start being able to decorate about 2-3:00 p.m.
Though he really does try not to bother me too often, on average I get a “call” from him every 45 minutes to an hour.  When I answer the call, I’m usually involved with him from 15-20 minutes depending on what he can think to ask me to do.  (He stores up his requests so that he won’t bother me as often).
On advantage to decorating now is that once Lynn goes to his room after his morning exercise, he does not venture out again till the next day. Therefore, I can spread out whatever I’m using as much as I need to do.  I don’t have to worry about him running over debris with his wheelchair or moving things to where I can’t find them.  All decisions related to how or what I decorate are totally mine.  His participation is very limited.
While Lynn has never been one to go all out and decorate like I do, he has always enjoyed the season’s festivities as well.  We both were involved in choir at church and so we had rehearsals and get-togethers we enjoyed as we prepared for the Christmas cantata.  There were family and friend get-togethers where we socialized with those we may not have seen all year.  And Lynn loved to cook.  He loved to invite family and friends over and provided them a feast.
Now all that has changed.
Lynn still wants to have family and friends over for get-togethers but now I do all the cooking (and I’m not a gourmet cook like he was; nor do I especially like the challenge of cooking for a group).  If we have people in, I have to split my time between making sure all the food is prepared and everything is available and running smoothly and taking care of Lynn’s needs.  I get to do very little socializing. I stay near Lynn all the time; watching for signs of fatigue or getting overheated.  We often have to excuse ourselves so he can bet cathed. He doesn’t like to be fed in front of others so I get him finger foods to nibble on and later I feed him something when he goes back to his room. All too often he feels miserable when others are having fun and that becomes very depressing when it happens so often.
But there is one bright spot for him that he always looks forward to.  Lynn always “cheats” on his diet at holidays and gets a big slice of cheesecake.  He loves cheesecake and he looks forward to it with excitement every holiday.  Somehow that slice of cheesecake seems to make it all worth while.
Even with all the challenges and disappointments, Christmas is a special time of joy, love, and sharing.  It’s more difficult than it used to be, true; but it has never lost that special place in our hearts. We still recognize the meaning of Christmas as a time of newness and birth. Christ’s arrival brought hope and promise of a better tomorrow. It was a time of celebration and love. It’s still that for us.  It’s a time of joy, remembering that there are possibilities of a better tomorrow in the year ahead. There is the love of family and friends which is renewed when we gather together.  There is the promise that thought we struggle with Lynn’s condition each day, there will come a time when we join Jesus in heaven and Lynn will walk again without any fatigue or stiffness and with lots of energy and strength.   It’s no wonder I like Christmas.

How am I Thankful? Let Me Count the Ways

I’m ashamed to say that I often use this blog to vent.  When I’m tired and discouraged, I find it therapeutic to talk it through on this blog knowing that there are those out there who have gone through the same things or are experiencing them now,  and that helps to know I am not alone.  When I receive comments of support and encouragement, it’s better than my own private therapy session. So I’m thankful for those who listen to me whine and share and to those who share with me as well.
I’m thankful for my husband.  Though providing for his care is overwhelming at times, I’m thankful that he is here for me to care for.  I’m thankful for his encouragement and his caring.  He’s always looking for ways to make my life easier and to provide his support.  I admit that I often don’t allow him to care for me because I’m so used to caring for him, but I appreciate his reaching out to me.
I appreciate his humor; he is often able to see the funny side of life.  I appreciate his faithfulness; he strives to be a faithful servant of our Lord, Jesus Christ, with whatever abilities he has.  I appreciate his knowledge; I’ve met few people who know more trivia than he does!  Plus he seems to know something about just about anything!
I’m thankful for Lynn’s abilities. His mind is very alert and as I said above, he’s very intelligent and useful.  Though he cannot physically do many things, he can tell me how to do them or guide me on how to get someone else to do them. Though he can’t write, he can speak and he can see so he uses software to write on his behalf and therefore, remains productive and has goals.  Though he has selective hearing, his ability to hear has not been touched by MS. When he puts his mind to it, he can clearly hear the same as I do. His essential organs still function to keep him alive and healthy though not untouched by medical limits.  Though he was a gourmet cook and can tell what’s in a dish by taste and though I tend to burn more than I like to admit, he always compliments what I make him and phrases my cooking to others.
I’m thankful for my job, my boss, my staff.  I love what I do and where I work.  I love the people I work with and for.  Their encouragement keeps me going and the work gives me purpose and reward…as well as enough income and benefits to provide Lynn with the care he needs and both of us with all our essentials and many of our wants.
I’m thankful for my children and their spouses and my awesome grandson who brings us so much joy with his love of life.  All of our children would drop whatever they are doing at a moment’s notice to come to our rescue if needed.  We KNOW we are loved by them and we know how fortunate we truly are to have been blessed with such good people in our lives.  Not only do we love them as our children but we love and respect who they are as individuals in this world.  We are truly blessed by their presence in our lives.
In the same way we are blessed by our extended family.  Lynn and I both have wonderful, caring, and supportive parents and siblings. Each side of our family gives us love in abundance and it’s so special to spend time with them when the opportunities come.
I’m thankful for our church family.  Our church family truly walk the walk of Jesus’ loving example.  Gethsemane Church of Christ is a powerful example of walking the faith; of giving and giving and giving through God’s love; of reaching out to show they care and of never forgetting that you exist.  The last we were able to go to church was in the fall of 2009.  I was rehearsing with the drama team for Christmas.  Lynn went into the hospital and they had to find a substitute for my part.  Though I was replaced in the role, they never replaced me or us in their hearts even though we’ve been “out of sight” and could have been “out of mind” for some time now.  They have never stopped caring and for that

Lynn and Eli enjoying a ride
Lynn and Eli enjoying a ride

we are truly thankful.
I am most of all truly thankful for the knowledge that I have a Savior who will forever be with me.  It’s amazing how He faithfully meets our needs.  He doesn’t remove the challenges; no Lynn still has MS and my arthritis is making it more difficult by the day to provide his care; but He gives us the resources we need just in time; every time.  Sometimes His answer to our cries is “wait” and sometimes it’s “no” but it’s always, “I’m right here; just hang on.”  He is our safety net and the light in the storm.  Always loving; always caring; always there…forever and ever.
For all these things and so many more, I am truly thankful and awesomely blessed.

What Do You Feel Guilty About?

That question was posed to me yesterday during a get-together with several other caregivers.  My first thought when I pondered that question was, “what don’t I feel guilty about?”  I realized in listening to the others share, that I don’t give myself enough credit for doing the best I can.  For example….
I feel guilty that I get annoyed at Lynn when he interrupts me over and over again when I’m trying to do other things.  I hear him call my name less than five minutes after I’ve been in his room helping him for fifteen and my first thought is, “what now?”  Then I go into his room fussing about why he couldn’t have said something while I was still there. Often his issue is something he could not have anticipated and something he really needed.  I realize that in my mind, I’m accusing him of being thoughtless of my time when really all he’s doing is asking me for help with something he really cannot do himself.  More times than not, it’s something I would have wanted done if I was him so I can’t really blame him for asking…Then the guilt comes rolling in…Why can’t I have more patience?  How can I get angry at someone just asking for help when he really can’t do it himself? What kind of caregiver am I to resent helping him? …and other thoughts which I am sure you, too, have experienced at times.
Then there’s the guilt for not doing my job as well as I used to.  I’m not as prompt in answering calls or getting back to emails.  I can’t come into work to meet with people face to face except once a week.  I’m not there to brain-storm resolutions to issues or even just to share concerns.  I don’t turn out as much work as fast as I used to.  Therefore, the guilt piles up and I feel that I’m letting everyone down at work as well.
Of course, there’s also extended and immediate family guilt.  I can’t attend family gatherings unless they are held at my home.  I can’t help out with family needs as much.  I often have  to cut conversations short to go take care of something for Lynn.  I can’t be there to support them and care for them the way I once did…More guilt.
I don’t spend time in worship as I used to.  I was very involved in my church before Lynn’s hospitalization.  I was often at church five out of seven days. We rarely missed attending a Sunday.  I tried to always pitch in to help others.  Now I’m lucky if I  find time to listen to the sermon off the internet from the previous week on Sunday morning. 
When I step back and take a look at what I’m feeling guilty about, I realize I’m ridiculous. I’m feeling guilty about being human! 
If I only had one of those things to do, then I could devote lots of time and energy to perfecting what I do, but that’s not the case.  I have to divide my time among so many needs that it’s impossible to do more. 
Imagine this:
If I was a home-made delicious apple pie that was never cut, then I would look and smell good but either would not bring much joy to anyone or if eaten all at once, I would make them sick.  If I could be cut, instead, into eight pieces, then eight people could share in the joy of my deliciousness or I could bring joy to fewer people more times.  But what if, I’m cut into sixteen pieces?  Does that mean I’m not delicious and I don’t bring joy?  No.  I would still taste just as good, though I could not bring as much immediate joy to those sharing in the pie.  I have not lost my value or the delicious flavor available to those who can sample the taste, I am just spread out to many who share the limited joy of smaller pieces.
Maybe that’s a weird analogy but it sort of works.  I still am me with all I have to offer and share, but I have just so much of me to go around.  The smaller my pieces become, the less joy I have to share with any one person.  If the ingredients were “thinned down” so that the pie would go further then it would not taste as sweet or bring as much joy so I have to allow myself to do the best I can with the pieces I have to offer at that time and not look for ways to thin myself out so much.  That also means I have to give up my way of wanting to be perfect with what I do.  I need to allow myself to let some nonessential things go, buy rather than make things, accept help and ask for more, not promise to turn around projects as fast as I once could, etc.  I need to learn to care for myself in the same way that I care for others and give myself permission to be less than perfect as long as I do the best I can at that moment.  I am still an awesome caregiver, a very skilled worker, a follower of Jesus, and an awesome Mom even though I can’t be all things to everyone I used to be at every moment. It’s time to step off my own pedestal and have a little reality check.  I’m okay and I’m doing a good job with what I have and can physically manage at any given time. 
So, time to kick guilt to the curb.  “Get thee behind me Satan. I’m a child of God and I’m doing just fine so take the guilt knife out of my back and get lost!”

God's Blessings

Often my journal entries discuss the challenges of being a caregiver but today I want to share a blessing–my church family.
Before Lynn was diagnosed with MS, he and I were very involved in our church.  We both were in choir; I helped produce drama enactments to support the sermon;  Lynn played drums for the praise band; we both played  hand bells; and we both were in dinner theater productions.  Three years ago, Lynn had to drop out of most of the activities he did due to fatigue and loss of coordination and strength.  Two years ago, I had to drop out due to my need to be home to care for him.  Since December 2010, neither of us have been able to attend church but are blessed to be able to attend through listening to the sermons on the church’s internet site.
Though we were well-known when we attended, there were many people who did not know us when we attended and I am sure that there are many more who have never met us or had any contact with our family since we had to stop attending church.  I share that fact to emphasize that the blessings we receive from our church are not due to a family connection or special relationship.  No, the blessings we receive from our church are due to the outflowing of God’s love for us through them. I think you will agree when you read what they have done for us.
First off, we are on the prayer list regularly and we get uplifting cards for all occasions and sporadically throughout the year telling us that we are being thought of, prayed for and remembered.  That is such a comfort when we live our lives in somewhat of an isolated fashion.

  • When Lynn started having difficulty walking, a group of men put in a ramp on the back of our deck so he could come in and out using the wheelchair instead.  Without that ramp, he would not have been able to leave the house for medical appointments much less any other trip.  The labor and supplies were provided by church members.
  • We asked who in our church could advise up on getting a handicap shower installed.  Within days, a shower had been ordered and two men from church installed it.  Not only was the labor free but the shower was provided by donations from the church members.
  • When Lynn was in the hospital two years ago and I was depressed because I could not decorate for Christmas, a group came over and decorated our home.  Not only did they decorate, but discovered that our refrigerator was on its last ice-cube and they got us a nice second-hand one that works wonderfully (without multiple containers to catch the leaks it produces like my last one.)  Last year several people came over once again to help with putting up decorations AND taking them down.
  • Groups have come over to rake leaves, mow grass, clean up debris after storms, and do all types of yard work.  One group came and tore down an old play house and a fence that was falling down.
  • One of the angels from our church cooks for us each month.  She fixes all of Lynn’s special diet meals and freezes them in individual containers so all I have to do is thaw out a meal when it’s time to feed him.  You can’t image (or maybe you can) how much I appreciate not having to take the time to prepare those meals three times a day.  Several members contribute to the cost of the food she prepares so that most of what he eats, doesn’t cost us a thing.  There is another Sunday school class that brings us bottled water every two weeks.
  • One of the members comes each Thursday to help Lynn with his writing (typing).  She helps him write his blogs or chapters in his book or whatever other correspondence he needs to get out so I can concentrate on my work.

If the church finds out we have a special need, they take care of it or at least help us find a way to meet the need. Every once in a while we even receive donations to help us with some of our expenses (which you know are a lot if you’re caring for someone with special needs.) I know there is much more they have done than I have listed here.
In fact, what lead me to write this was what happened while we were on vacation.  We came home to a house that had a new coat of paint, a newly stained deck, and fresh landscaping for my azalea beds!  A group got together to spend their time off this past week painting our house while we were on vacation!  What a blessing they have given us!
Our church, Gethsemane Church of Christ in Mechanicsville, Virginia, (http://www.gethsemanechristians.org/welcome/) is a God centered place of worship.  Their mission to follow Christ faithfully through word and deed and to demonstrate Christ’s love through action.  The blessings they have provided our family are not unique to us.  They have done the same for many other members.  If a member has a need, they try to help.  They are not a wealthy church or a large church; they are a rural community church made up of average people who love their Lord and each other.  We are truly blessed by their generosity and faith and by the Lord that they (and we) serve. 
I wanted to publicly thank them for their love and support over the years.  As a caregiver, I can’t do it alone.  As a person with MS, Lynn has much he cannot do.  But through the love of Christ demonstrated through these saints of the Lord, we are truly blessed each and every day. 
I hope you are fortunate enough to have such a church family as well.  Their actions are not about religion or a particular faith-based group but are instead a commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ, our savor, and our healer, who never forsakes us and who will be there for anyone who chooses to be his follower.  Thank you, Lord Jesus, for being there for us.

Answer to Prayer

 

I have often mentioned in my posts that God takes care of us and that our church is an ongoing support group for us.  I want to share with you how I know prayers are answered.

 If you follow my blog you know that several weeks ago I wrote a blog about how much I needed a conversion van.  Lifting Lynn in and out of our Impala is extremely difficult and there have been many times that I only managed to move him safely with God’s help through prayer.  I had received a lot of encouragement to look into purchasing a van.  As you know, there are really no resources for getting a handicap accessible vehicle.  There are some scholarships or discounts but the cost of converting a van is very expensive. Therefore, those discounts only go so far in helping. 

We knew we could not afford a new vehicle that we converted ourselves. The cost of a new car plus the $15-$25,000 just to adapt it was too much.  Therefore, we went to our church to ask if anyone in the congregation knew of anyone who was selling one.  We wanted someone reliable that someone we trusted also trusted.

 

Someone did.  Someone I didn’t even know personally from our congretation who had read my email request but she took the time to make contact and let us know about her neighbor.  The van was listed on Craig’s List and it was very reasonably priced for a conversion van.  It was also in very good condition.  The owner has been so accommodating, bringing us the car to check out, getting it inspected and brakes changed, keeping us informed and answering every question we had.  I feel very comfortable with him and the vehicle.  If anything goes wrong with it after we buy it, I feel certain he would not have known it was a possibility.

 

After I sent out the request for help, I just knew in my heart God would send us something… and he did, in only about a week.  By this time next week, we should have a vehicle that I can take Lynn out in without the trauma to me or him.

 

I feel very blessed today and very hopeful.  I often write about the challenges in our lives but I wanted to share a triumph this time.  This was truly an answer to prayer.