Monday, November 28, 2016

Ye Shall be Quiet

Fear is a terrible thing. The fear of evil is the result of living as a simple one, a scorner, or a fool. (see Proverbs 1)
"But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from all fear of evil."

The fear of the Lord is the opposite of the fear of evil.

The fear of the Lord is discussed often in the Bible. It is many things, but it boils down to our awareness of His presence. (Jim Berg) It is easy to think of it as a fear of his presence, but the reality is that knowing His presence can keep is in line and also comfort us. With the fear of the Lord, there is no fear of evil.

The simple, scorners, and fools do not fear the Lord.

If we fear the Lord - we will be quiet from all fear of evil.

We see something similar in the familiar Psalm 23 passage.

"Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me." The Psalmist had an awareness of God's presence - He feared the Lord. He could fear no evil.

It's so easy to fear evil. It's so easy to fall into the anxiety of what bad things could happen. This is the fear of evil.

That same verse in Psalm 23 goes on to say that the rod and staff comfort him. The shepherd has the tools to take care of His sheep. An awareness of God's presence and of His attributes is the Fear of the Lord, and this can keep us from all fear of evil. Anxiety does not need to have a place in our lives.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Fear-Faith Cycle

If we look back, the fear-faith cycle has been around since that first sin.

The first sin began with a doubt inplanted by Satan: "Hath God said?"

More fear followed with the realization of their sinfulness, and from then on it would continue through today.

The story of the miracle of Peter walking on water, demonstrates the fear-faith cycle very well.

Matthew 14-

It had been a big day for the disciples and Jesus. They had fed 5,000 + people with two fish and five loaves of bread! They picked up twelve full baskets of food after that were left. One would think the faith of the disciples would be pretty strong at this point. Maybe it was, but just like us, our faith can be sky high in one moment and sinking to the bottom of the sea at the next.

After this busy day, Jesus desired time to pray, so He sent the disciples to go ahead of him in the boat. We don't know what Jesus prayed to His Father about. Maybe they were talking about how to make the disciples grow in their faith. God is in charge of the winds and weather, after all. In the midst of the storm that the disciples encountered, Jesus came to them. Their first response was fear as I'm sure most of ours would be if we saw someone walking on water, but they did know Jesus, so maybe it should not have been so unexpected. They had just seen him feed 5,000 + people the day before!

Jesus tells them to be courageous and not to fear. Peter's response is interesting to me. He addresses Him as "Lord," yet he still asks for a sign that it truly is Jesus. Peter knew in his heart that it was Jesus, but He was afraid it wasn't, but then Peter jumps out of the boat. That takes a lot of faith! But then, even as he was walking on water, he becomes afraid when he sees how the wind is making the water so tumultuous. Losing faith in the Lord in that moment, and in the next, he calls out to the Lord to save Him, and Jesus immediately saves him, responding with the well-known statement - ye of little faith, why did you doubt?

Why did he doubt? He had just seen Jesus feed 5,000 + people with 2 loaves of bread and 5  fish! Then he saw Jesus walk on the water. Then he walked on the water himself!

The fear-faith cycle is illogical. If we could just remember our faith and in whom we have faith, we would not need to fear, but we don't do it. It's a sin that easily besets me and many others. Ask Christ today to help you in your unbelief, try to remember the works that Jesus has done, so that you can stop the cycle.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Wide Way and the Narrow - My Hope is Jesus

I feel compelled to write about something that is the most important thing in the world.

The older I get, and the more I go through, the more I have a desire for heaven. I don't have a death wish, but I look forward to the return of Christ and of His renewing this Earth with a new one.

As I look around though, I know that there are many people who will not be joining me in the air or in heaven if death comes first.

The gate is wide that leads to destruction, because so many people are going the path of least resistance. They headed down the path that has is wide, with room for many, and many will walk this path and end up in hell.

The narrow path can fit many people, but the way is often difficult. A narrow path means rubbing shoulders with others on the path, it might be out of your comfort zone, but the end is eternal life. The path is narrow because there are few that find it even though it is the desire of the Jesus that all come to that path. He says that it is not His will that any perish but that all come to repentance.

There are many who claim to know Jesus because of a prayer they prayed, but it's not their prayer that saves, it's the acceptance of what Jesus already did that saves. There are many in this category who look back at that prayer and do what they want. Some will even leave the church, but they will still look at that moment and claim heaven. All throughout the Bible that is not what we see of those who truly know Jesus. Those who know Him will continue in the faith. They will put aside evil and hold onto that which is good. They will not love the world or the things in the world. They will not be loved by the world. The world hates those who truly are living for Jesus. And after all of this, it's not what we do. It's what He did, but because of what He did, Christians should not want to look like those who are not Christians.

There are many who reject Christ and God and anything to do with Christianity. They don't claim Jesus. They want nothing to do with Him. I do not expect these people to love me or Christianity. I expect the worst from them, because even their most moral action brings them no closer to heaven. And many do not mind this, because they do not believe heaven is real. I don't say this to put them down. I say this with sadness, because they have no hope. A Christian's only hope is Jesus. Someone without hope in the hereafter - have only this life. It is a miserable thing to only have this earth - to only have 80-100 years max and after that - nothing.

My hope is Jesus. My hope cannot be in man or in this earth or on my earthly goods. My hope cannot be in my husband, my children, my job. My hope can only be Jesus. When the Jesus takes away His church in the rapture, and so many people are left here on earth. My faith will be sight, and some will see that my faith was real. Many will be deceived. Now is the time to believe before there is no more time. In this world today with possible terrorist attacks happening around the country, there is no room for arrogance. There is no room for hope in your country or your leaders or yourself. Your hope must be in the shed blood of Jesus Christ and His resurrection or you will be miserable here on earth as well as in eternity.

The great thing about being a true Christian is that it's nothing you have to do. He finished it. He even said, "It is finished" making it very clear to us that the work was done. There would never need to be another animal sacrifice to cover sins in the temple, for the blood of Christ cleanses us from all sin once for all. No more would a priest be the only one to go into the Holy of Holies, for the curtain was torn in two as Jesus died. We have direct access to the Father in Jesus name. Only trust what He did on the cross, asking forgiveness for your sin, and you will have hope for this world and that which is to come.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

He Will Restore - Joel 2:25

There are times in each of our lives that may seem wasted. They may be times of sadness or sickness. Perhaps they are times when something prevents us from serving as we would desire. All of these circumstances can leave us feeling disheartened, discouraged, angry, or bitter.

Recently, my husband ran into a verse during his studies that he had never seen before: Joel 2:25, "And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpillar, and the palmerworm, my great army which I sent among you."

During this time in the Bible, there was a great locust plague. It was a terrible time when the locust destroyed everything. God allowed the plague, but in Joel 2:25 He left His people with a promise. The promise is restoration of the years that were eaten up by the locusts.

Sometimes it feels like trials eat up our years. They give us wrinkles and facilitate weight gain. Trials are difficult times and you may feel like you are wasting. The reality is that God will give it back. We see how God gave back to Job after his many trials, but it is important to remember that the restoration God gives us could be after this life. It might be here on earth, but we know assuredly that the restoration will come in eternity.

The army of trials that God allows to be among you and your family could be anything, but no matter what it is, there is restoration of years with God. It's hard to understand how He will do it, but He promises it, and this promise can help us to get through the times when we may feel like we are wasting our time. To God it is never a waste.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

"Martha, Martha" not Just for Type A People

I do not have a type A personality. There is that moment before an event or big meal where I get that surge of adrenaline, but I am not the work until you drop type person. Some would say that's good and others not, but that's not the focus here.

For years I have never applied Luke 10:41 to myself. The setting is a visit at the home of Mary and Martha. Mary is sitting at the feet of Jesus. Martha is rushing around getting things done for his visit, and she asks Jesus to make Mary come and help. His answer is this: "Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things." He then goes on in the next verse to say that Mary has chosen the better thing - to sit at His feet and worship Him.

Now the context is that of someone being worried so much with serving Jesus that they never sit down and spend time with Him. The truth however extends further.

Even though I would not call myself a workaholic, I do tend toward being worried and anxious about many things. This verse actually came to mind today while I was doing the dishes, but it came to mind because my mind was full of various worries. I was careful and troubled.

The Bible says that all scripture is profitable for each of us. This is just another verse to remind me to spend my time looking to Jesus rather than worrying about life.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

No Regrets - Only Reminders

If you heard the Bible story of Hezekiah as a child, you probably heard it told only as a miracle of God. It truly was that. Hezekiah was deathly ill. God sent Isaiah to him to tell him to get things in order, because he would die. When Hezekiah heard this, he cried, he begged. he brought before the Lord his faithfulness to the Lord. He asked for more time. I think this is a natural response. God's response was that Hezekiah could have 15 more years. This seems amazingly merciful. Many reading this probably wonder why God doesn't do things like this today. Hezekiah's response was a strange one. He demanded a sign that would show that God was going to follow through. I suppose this is another natural response especially after just being told you were going to die. (2 Kings 20)

God does do things like this today. He gives people more time - all the time. They just might not know it. We don't have the ability that they had back then to see some of the same signs and wonders like Hezekiah saw that day with time going backward. Many people get a diagnosis of cancer or other illnesses, and their one request is what Hezekiah's was - more time.

Five years ago, my prayer would have been the same. If I found out I had cancer tomorrow, it might be hard not to ask for more time, but we can learn a lesson from Hezekiah that should make us think before praying this prayer.

After Hezekiah was told the sign that would prove he would live for 15 more years, Isaiah told him something else that would take place. Isaiah told Hezekiah that, yes he would live more years, but the sons that he would beget during that time period would be taken as captives to Babylon and be made eunuchs. What a terrible thing to hear after just finding out that you were going to get 15 more years. God wasn't being mean. God never said Hezekiah was ever wrong to ask for more time, but was he right?

The thing about choices is that we make them with a nature that is still sinful. We make wrong choices all the time, but God's plan goes on. There is no way of knowing how things would have gone if we had not done such and such. But in matters of prayer, the life of Hezekiah should make us rethink quick "give me more time" prayers.

A personal example of this took place about 5 years ago. I remember praying a Hezekiah prayer as I never had before. It wasn't for me. It was for my unborn child. I didn't know yet that I was having a boy. I only knew that we had prayed for another baby, I was pregnant, and I didn't want to be having a miscarriage. That day, I didn't think about God's will really. I just wanted this baby. I prayed for it to live. I think it was really a no-matter-what prayer.

And he did live. He lives with us today, and we love him no matter what. Today, for the first time ever he cuddled with me. It was wonderful. This life raising our child with special needs has been a trial, it has also been a lesson, but there are times like today where God's love shines through my child who has for so long been unable to show love.

I don't blame myself for my son's disability. I know that God is in control. If he had not made it that day and I had miscarried, I may have had another child with disabilities right after. God has lessons He wants us to learn, but in thinking about this lesson, I pray differently.

About 2 1/2  weeks ago I started miscarrying. I didn't even know I was pregnant until the following week. This was our first pregnancy after Trenton was born. We were not planning it, but we were not - not planning either. We had left this in God's hands, and when I discovered I was pregnant while I was bleeding, I was many things. I was scared most of all. We left it in God's hands. We didn't make demands. We prayed with an open heart for God's plan, and our baby is in heaven. Maybe he or she was already in heaven before I knew I was pregnant. The point is that I had learned a lesson that I could use for that moment.

I have a feeling Hezekiah probably learned his lesson as well. His "extra" 15 years were full of earthly accomplishments. He is known for being mighty, building a pool, conduit, and for bringing water to the city, but in that, there was surely hardship as well knowing what was prophesied of his son. And such is life until we get to heaven.

We all make choices and second guess them. We all pray prayers for mercy and receive them only to have a different hardship, but still a hardship, but you have learned the lesson that God intended.

I saw a quote recently that was a great reminder. It basically said that if we think we have ruined our lives with a decision, then we need to remind ourselves that we are not that powerful. God is the only one powerful enough to make things happen.

There need never be regrets - only reminders.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Meaningful Life

I believe one of the biggest struggles we all may face is the desire to live a meaningful life and the reality of the life we live and how it measures up to what others consider meaningful.

What is it that makes our lives mean something?

I crave being a part of something - comradeship. God made us to desire this. We see it first of all in the desire to have a spouse, but what if God chooses not to give you a spouse? What if he chooses to take your spouse away? Where is the meaning of your life then?

Some people look to their children to give them meaning in life. Unfortunately, our children are not perfect. They take after us, so how could we expect it? It is easy to try to gain meaning through our children. It is easy to push our dreams on them hoping to gain some meaning through their lives. If we get meaning in life only from our children, then we will be disappointed when they fail us in some way or if God chooses to take them away or even perhaps to never give us children.

Jobs and possessions are a huge way that people look to gain meaning in life, and some people go through life believing that this is meaningful. They may be lonely, but they have money and a good job, and that is enough to them.

I have lived a unique life compared to many people. I spent a number of years in college. I've lived in a variety of places, and had a variety of jobs. Something that I find to be true is that I naturally seek for meaning in what I'm doing. I don't want to just do something. I want it to count for something.

My youngest child who has CHARGE syndrome turned 4 this past May. It's hard to believe it has been 4 years. I think the biggest thing that I have learned in those 4 years is what makes life meaningful. I struggle to accept it at times, but true meaning is only found in one thing.

A meaningful life is what Paul described in Philippians 1:21 so succinctly: "For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." Some might say, "how can this possibly be a meaningful life? It sounds more like a death wish." That is far from the truth. Paul knew the meaning of life. He knew that the only meaning in life on this Earth is found in Christ, and outside of this Earth in death he could actually be with Him which is the best thing. That is the meaningful life - living for Christ here for the Christ there, so that there is only gain in death because we pleased Him in life.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Stayed Life

The stayed life is one that trusts in the character and attributes of God in so much that his own trials, fears, and needs become insignificant in the light of the knowledge of God.

The stayed life, then is one of complete rest in the sovereignty of God.

The stayed life is one of everlasting strength from God. Our eternal God is truly our refuge where under Him are everlasting arms of strength and comfort (from Deut. 33:27).

The stayed mind is not troubled at the thought of earthly loss or death because it is gripped with the unrelenting knowledge of God who is eternal and who is preparing an eternal home for all those who believe in Jesus as Savior.

We must, as the hymn, "Like a River Glorious," states: be stayed upon Jehovah in order to find the promised peace and rest from God.

The stayed life is one of humble prayer. The one who is stayed on God knows that their own flesh prohibits them from knowing how to pray, yet they do so, and in doing so they are assisted by the Spirit who then, with God, works all things for their ultimate spiritual good and for the glorification of God in their life.

The stayed life knows that in order to truly glorify God, he must suffer like Christ so that he can be a joint heir with Christ.

The stayed life loves the eternal God - loves eternity. He is stayed on heavenly things - not this earth. Earthly pain is difficult, but being stayed on who God is keeps him in perfect peace.

Isaiah 26: 2-3
Deut. 33:27
John 14:1
Romans 8

Thoughts gleaned from today's sermons

Revisiting Trenton Part II - CHARGE syndrome

I realize that many of my current friends have never heard the first stories about Trenton that were on my blog.

Not many people have heard of CHARGE syndrome - probably including many doctors. It's a genetic mutation that was originally considered an association illness where a child had certain attributes and were put into one category. Not much has changed except that now most kids are found to also have the gene.

CHARGE is an acronym for the following: coloboma of the eye, heart anomalies, choanal atresia, growth retardation, and genital/ear anomalies. Sometimes renal is in here as the kidneys are often touched too. Usually if a child presents with at least 3 of these attributes at birth they can be given the CHARGE diagnosis. Trenton has coloboma, ear anomalies, and heart anomalies, so our geneticist was pretty certain, and the tests did come back positive.

What we didn't know back then and I learned this year is that Trenton actually carries two gene mutations that can cause CHARGE. One is common, and one had never been reported at the time of his birth. No one really knows what that mutation does except that it's not good. 

Trenton can currently see well even with the coloboma. The placement of his leave him able to see completely unlike what we were originally told. His heart has two other abnormalities that may need repair down the road, and he is currently living on one kidney as the doctor believes his other one has pretty much atrophied. His hearing is a little confusing. We were originally given the diagnosis of auditory dissynchrony where hearing comes and goes with static in between. After using a bone conduction head set though and seeing it increase his hearing ability, I would lean toward auditory processing disorder. It's similar, but rather than a nerve issue, I believe it is more of a brain connection issue. He currently has no speech. 

He is g-tube fed because cranial nerve paralysis is one of the common attributes although not a part of the acronym. One of his eyes will not close all the way, and one side of his face droops slightly. It used to affect his vocal cords for swallowing, but now we believe his inability to eat by mouth is developmental.

He does not walk, but last week he sat independently without fighting it for 30 seconds.

These are pretty much the details of what Trenton has medically wrong with him.

Thankfully, he is a really happy boy, and he can keep himself entertained so easily. I sometimes wonder how it's possible, but I believe that somehow God must give him something wonderful to think about. He's becoming more and more interactive again after losing most of that after we took him off of his heart medication. He developed Cyclic vomiting syndrome at that time too, but he now seems to be doing well with that and growing in interaction as well as we put him back on the medication for the new diagnosis.

I realize this was very informational, but some people may wonder about the details. 

Friday, May 20, 2016

When Everything's Not Okay

If I look back, I can remember the first moments of knowing something was off with my pregnancy for Trenton.  We had an ultrasound at 32 weeks. This was the one that was a precaution since our first son was born early due to low fluid, and we wanted to make sure the same thing did not happen twice.

The same thing did not, but it was far worse. The first results pointed at hydrocephalus and kidney issues. Ironically, neither of those really have been and issue. In fact, he did not even have hydrocephalus even though they measured his brain ventricles constantly after that ultrasound. 

I remember the fear and worst case scenario thinking that he might be mentally handicapped. I stayed home from church that night because I just had to sort it all out. The Lord brought me peace. He brought us peace as we went to continuous maternal-fetal specialist appointments with many ultrasounds. The more we went, the better things seemed. Most things pointed to his heart having a small issue in the aortic arch that could be taken care of with a surgery under the arm and maybe a week or two in the NICU. We were okay with that. We had been there and done that with the NICU, and it was okay. 

I had Trenton by C-section at 39 weeks. I was able to hold him right away, and then they took him away for testing. His heart was worse than expected, and they ended up going in through his chest which was a much more serious procedure. His aortic arch was almost completely blocked, and he had to be given a "transplant" arch from a baby who had died. If they had not known anything was wrong, if we had not had that extra ultrasound, it's possible he would have lost all blood flow to his lower body.

The days following this were a blur. I think we felt strong in the Lord during this time. Our most difficult day was when we were told he would not see when we already knew he had not passed his hearing tests. It was devastating. Thankfully, that eye doctor was completely wrong.

He wasn't swallowing well, so they started discussing a g-tube. I think we just felt like we were pushed forward. We took each step as it came, but I got so I couldn't sit in on the doctor's "discussions" anymore. It was just too much back then. 

God definitely carried us through these days. Trenton came home the day of my 6 week pp appointment. In some ways, those first days were easy in there own way. It is the days after you get home when things have to become normal again, and you have to try and fit your situation into the normal of life that it becomes difficult. These are the days when your faith is tested. It is the times when you are on your own to figure out something new and have to figure out the best course of action that your faith gets tried. Sometimes you make a decision, and it turns out to be the wrong one, and then you know for the next time - maybe unless it doesn't work another way either. 

Life becomes very complicated because this part of your life is so much different than most people around you. You grow weary with explaining and perhaps sometimes you just stop- hoping that no one will ask or that they will somehow just try to understand the why of what your life is today.

In all of this, you know in your hear that God's hand was there. You know that He orchestrated all things saving your son's life for a purpose. The little things become big victories. 

Things did not work out, and everything is not okay, but it's the way it's supposed to be. My son is mentally different in the very least because he cannot communicate, but God was good and still is. 

I remember the day that I thought I lost Trenton early in my pregnancy. I begged for his life before I knew anything about any problems. God gave him life and let it continue in spite of what seemed like would be the end at about 14 weeks. God's purposes were good the moment He began forming Trenton with a different genetic make-up than perhaps anyone in the world. 

The orchestration written by God's hand must contain the low notes of the cello along with the high notes of the flute in order to make music that is truly full that will glorify His name.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Made for the More in Front of You

It hit me the other day as my desires were drawing me toward doing things that I excel at that those traits should make me into a good homemaker rather than something that seems well known or ambitious, yet my home is so often neglected. Creativity should make me a great mother and wife, and yet I'm so often selfish with my time. So often my desire is for more, yet the more is all around me.

Our sin nature strives to change the truth of who we are in Christ making us think that who God made us is not enough.

Our sin nature can throw us for a loop. It can lead us toward anxiety and depression, but the reason we fall into those sins is because we are not living our calling as wives and mothers. We sit and plan our home rather than actually living it. We pin our dreams and activities while our families eat the same meals as always or watch tv rather than do the creative thing I just pinned.

I long for fellowship, but I often run from it. I look forward to alone time, but then I find myself lonely. What we long for is not who we are when what we long for is not drawing us to Christ. Sometimes what we long for will end up simply being as Solomon said, "vanity." Our identity is in Christ. As a Christian, He is our identity. We don't need anymore.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Coffee for the Caregiver - When They say No

I have been helping on and off to give a caregiver I know a break in taking care of a loved one. I try to relieve her in some way, and sometimes do something to help that man for whom she's caring. Since I've known him, I've always received a pretty good reaction to giving him help. But the last time I offered to wash his hair, I received a "no," and today when I said I was there to cut and wash his hair, it was a serious "no." There was no way he was going to let me do this to help him. It hit me hard. It brought tears to my eyes. The man is like a grandfather even though he is not a blood relation. I came there to help him, and he said "no." I left the room, and I just sat looking at some magazines. And then I realized that maybe I had become one of his "caregivers." I was no longer like a granddaughter coming to visit. Now, he felt like I was there to control some part of his life. My anger and sadness simmered to a stop, and I went in and just sat with him still looking at my magazines. I think it surprised him, and he asked me if he was holding me up. I explained my son was outside playing so I had some time. I could tell he regretted his initial reaction to me, and on my way out, he offered me one of the jellybeans I had brought him on my last longer visit.

I learned several things from this visit. I learned that it is hard to care for loved ones. It's hard when they don't "obey" you. It's hard for them to be told what to do, and it's hard to have them not want your help. I also learned that as a caregiver, we can't forget that most of all we are their loved one. We need to sit and spend time with them if we want them to respect us enough to let us help them.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Meditating on God

Psalm 77:12
"I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings."

I find that one of the most difficult times for me is when my hands are busy, but my mind doesn't have to do anything. Doing the dishes is one of those times. I remember a well-known writer for women said the same thing. Our minds are made to meditate on something, and unfortunately if they are left to nothing, nothing good can come of it.

I think our tendency, unless trained to do otherwise, is to think about what happened earlier or perhaps what's happening tomorrow or next week, and the stress builds.

These times can be great times to meditate on God. We can meditate on this works of the past, present, and hope for the future. "Meditate" can mean to murmur. These are times when it's okay to talk to yourself. Speak the truth about God to yourself.

After you meditate on the truth yourself, you can take the time to talk to others about what God is doing.

In this, your meditation becomes not only helpful for you but also for those who know you.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Coffee for the Caregiver - No Guilt Trips

Guilt is something that almost every caregiver struggles with on a daily basis.

If someone is caring for an elderly parent, they probably face the guilt that they might not be pleasing them with everything they do. The parents might not like what they make to eat, or might not like how they care for them. A caregiver might feel that they just can't do enough - whether in keeping a parent clean or the home clean. They feel overwhelmed, and they feel guilty.

The same is true for those dealing with a child with special needs. There are so many options for therapies etc, and sometimes not choosing one or another can bring guilt. Sometimes there is guilt when you make a decision, and then it does not seem like the right one. Guilt can become an overpowering thing if it is allowed to stay present.

So how can you as a friend or family member of a caregiver help with the guilt? You can help a caregiver by not barraging them with suggestions for this and that. I know that I have too often been a suggestion person. It is important to know that the caregiver has likely done hours of research on their particular situation. Don't add more guilt.

The spiritual life of a caregiver is difficult. If you notice that your friend or family member cannot make it to church, do not say, "we missed you on Sunday." You probably mean well, but that can bring a twinge of guilt. Instead, just ask how they are doing, and if you run across a book or Bible study that you have found helpful, pass it on to them.

If you visit someone who is being a caregiver either to see them or the person they are caring for, do not bring up all of the things that they are not doing around the house. Instead, ask if you could give the caregiver a break to get out of the house. When you come over to give the break, ask where cleaning supplies are saying that you just want to give them a hand. You may think that someone who is "just" staying with an elderly person all day would have time to keep a perfect house. The problem is, you are not in their shoes. Staying home 24/7 puts no one in the mood to do housecleaning, and knowing that you can't leave even if you wanted to makes it so much worse. If you want to care for a caregiver, hire someone to clean the house or do it for them.

Often we don't think to bring meals unless someone is sick or had surgery. It might be a good option to bring a meal to a caregiver who is home all day with an elderly person or child. Just like with cleaning, being home alone is tiring, and the person might need a break from cooking.

In all of the help you offer, never make the caregiver feel as if they are not doing a good enough job. Tell them how much they are doing, but say you would like to take some of the load. That will go a long way to encourage the caregiver.

Some caregivers are struggling more than they will ever let on. They might come across as upset or annoyed, but the reality is that they are probably just tired. Try to put yourself in their shoes, and if you can't, do put yourself in their shoes, and give them a break.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Is God in the Mutation?

Over the last four years, I've thought about Trenton in light of what they call his syndrome - a genetic mutation, and I'm not satisfied with that terminology. The meaning of mutation actually means a "permanent alteration" ( in the DNA. I often think of it in terms of something negative however, and I'm sure most people are like me in this.

James 1:17 tells us:
"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning."

"good" here means excellent in the Greek.
"perfect" here means complete or finished.
"gift" in the first instance is something given. "gift" in the second instance is used in only one other place in the New Testament, and here it is the gift of salvation. The Greek means gift, bounty, benefaction.
"variableness" - unchanging
"shadow of turning"- goes along with the unchanging in a way, because this phrase could be pictured with the shadow cast as the earth turns on its axis in a way that brings on night covering a portion of the sun.

So what can we gain from the true meaning of these words? We gain this: Every good or excellent thing given to us is from God. The finished gift of salvation is from God as is the finished product of our lives as we have grown in His likeness. He doesn't change so as to cast a shadow on us one moment and the next bring sunshine.

So what does that say for our difficult circumstances? What does that say for our trials? What about babies born with genetic syndromes that cause sickness? Are these not from God because they seem bad? Are they not from Him when one day things our good and the next they seem hopeless?

On the contrary, because we know God is in control of everything, and everything we are given must go first through the permission of the one true God, we know that everything he gives is excellent because it brings glory to Him, and it brings us to a better knowledge of who He is.

So then as we think about our children with a genetic mutation or an adult with a gene issue that causes cancer or some other disease, should we think of it as something negative? Was God not in control and He just let happen what would? Are these differences mistakes?

We know from the creation of the world, that He said it was all good. Yet we also know that when sin came into the world, so did sickness and death. Yet He has not changed from that first creator. His gifts are still complete and excellent. His creations are exactly as He chooses in spite of the fact that sin has it's hold in each of us when we are born.

Something that I have found with Trenton and I'm sure others would agree with their own situations, is that there are good differences with his particular genetic mutation. As I look at other kids with CHARGE syndrome, I see the most beautiful eyes you will ever see on anyone. I see the thickest most beautiful hair. I see determination that is often negative at first, but can become what spurs them on to do what they need to do.

Everything God creates is good for His purposes and His ultimate end.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Coffee for the Caregiver - Devotional Day 2 - No Good Thing Will He Withhold

Psalm 84:11
“For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.”

I felt the need to use this verse for today. Yesterday you may have felt that there was no hope outside of heaven, and that in some ways is the case. The truth is also, however that God wants us to live in this life knowing that He gives good things to those who love Him.

In Psalm 84:11, we can be encouraged with the truth that He gives grace, glory, and that nothing good will be withheld from us as we walk uprightly. These are great promises to us as we go through the difficulties of life.

God gives grace. Yesterday, you read about His underserved mercy. Grace is also undeserved, but it is a constant for those who have trusted Christ as Savior.

Hebrews 4:16
“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”

We need to ask for the mercy, the grace is there for the asking, and He will help us to find it in every situation whether He takes the trial away or lets it continue.  

God gives glory. I wondered about this, because it is difficult to understand how He would give us glory. He could I suppose lift us up in some way, but as I looked at the meaning of the Hebrew word here, it can mean abundance. I believe that is what He will give to us along with grace in our difficulties and everyday life. He desires for us to live an abundant life.

John 10:10
“The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”

No good thing will be withheld from those who walk uprightly. Sometimes it might seem that every good thing is being kept away from us, but this is a promise of God that we must take to heart. Think about the grace and abundance He promises here. Our lives can be full because God gives us these things even in a trial.

Even His trials are good, because they can glorify Him and make us more like Christ.

Coffee for the Caregiver - Devotional day 1 - Is This my Fault?

John 9:2
“And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?”

The question has been posed through the ages. Job faced the accusation. The accusation may enter the minds of those who see someone going through many trials as well as those who are going through them.

John 9:3
“Jesus answered, neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.”

It is hard for people to understand that God would cause us trials in order for Him to be glorified. To someone who does not understand the gospel, it sounds mean and cruel perhaps. It may seem that those of us who have a disabled child, spouse, or chronic illness must have done something to cause it.

That answer in one way is that we have done something to cause it, but it is nothing we can change.

We are all sinners.

None of us deserves life at all.

Nevertheless, God chose to send His sinless Son to die so that we could live. We live now with “robes of righteousness” that belong to Christ but that God has given to us. In these robes, we still sin, but God only sees the righteousness of His Son. In these robes, we have trials, and God’s desire is for us to look like His Son through these trials, so that He will be glorified.

He chose to save us to bring glory to Him. He is God. He deserves all glory.

In trials, cry out for the mercy of God, because you deserve this trial. We all deserve every trial we are given. God has so often poured His mercy on my life and stopped a problem or healed a sickness. I did not deserve that mercy, just as I did not deserve the mercy to save my soul from eternal death in hell.  Just like He forgave my sins and has prepared a place for me to go when I die, I do not deserve the daily mercies He gives in the midst of trials.

Our hope for eternal life is also our hope for today. Revel in the eternal life that God has given knowing that today is a struggle, but tomorrow will be glory with the Lord.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Thoughts on a Name

My husband was just talking about the importance of a name in the Bible times. I had never thought of it before, but the Bible talks about giving glory to God's name. It seems strange to give honor to a name doesn't it? What it is saying actually is to give glory to the attributes for which God's name stands. Names stood for much more back then than they do today. Names were much more intentional during that time.

Last night in the evening service when my husband was preaching on Revelation 4 where the elders cast their crowns before the Lord. The crown here is not a royal crown that you might expect. It's called a Stephanos or a Victor's crown. This is the type of crown given to Olympic winners of the day.

Growing up, I knew what my name meant. Stephanie means "crowned one." Now I have come to know the real meaning. My name does not mean someone crowned with royalty. I used to be proud of my name meaning this thinking about how our roots go back in Wales with Princess Diana.

Now knowing that my name actually means "Victor's Crown" is so much more significant today in my life. The elders in the Bible are casting Victor's Crowns before the Lord. This means they were overcomers in their life here on earth. They were the ones who Paul was speaking of in Romans 8:35-37, but it includes all of us.
Romans 8:35-37
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or perseution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us."

So if we go through life ending up being victors in the eyes of God, we will be in heaven someday perhaps wearing that Stephanos - Victor's crown. And we will want to give it back to Him, knowing that it is only by His grace that we made it, by His mercy, and He deserves the glory for it.

My name is Stephanie, and God can give me the victory everyday just like my name symbolizes. He can give you the victory too.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Tribute and Admonition to Caregivers

I can't imagine being a single mom and caring for our son. I know there are so many out there who are in this situation. I'm so thankful that God gave me a husband who would be a caregiver with me for Trenton. I know many husbands out there would not be able to handle what he has handled. When Trenton was first born, I couldn't bring myself to measure medicine. He was a pharmacy technician at the time, and he willingly took care of it. Thankfully, God has helped me through that fear of doing it wrong. With tube feeding, we feed Trenton several times during the day, and my husband has fed him so many of those times. It can be stressful. It was especially stressful one year of Trenton's life, and my husband gave up so much to relieve me of the fear I had of what could happen when Trenton would eat. During the sleep deprivation times, he lets me sleep. He is a wonderful caregiver and husband.

As a caregiver who has others who share the responsibilities, it's easy to forget or take advantage of the other person on your "team". For me, I get used to my husband helping me, and I can take it for granted. This is something that is so harmful in a family.

In some families, there are many siblings and a parent or parents who need help. Sometimes it all gets laid on one person. It could be that person is easily pushed, or maybe it is that the other siblings are afraid to help. They might fear what could happen while they are helping. It's easy to have these fears, but it's important to take our responsibilities God gives seriously. God calls us to honor our parents and love others. Being a caregiver is tough, and the brunt of it should never be left on the shoulders of one if there are more who are physically able to help. That is not loving that person or showing love to the parents, and in the end there will be regrets.

As caregivers, let's try to remember that it's God who put us where we are, and it's not easy, but He is so often merciful in our daily situation, and everyday He offers the grace that we need to get through the day.

If you feel alone or neglected and you need help, ask for it. If others who should be responsible are not, talk to them. Do not hold in the anger that can build and turn into bitterness and even physical sickness for you. Lovingly ask them to help. If they do not respond correctly, pray for them, and ask God to give you patience and hope as you are the sole caregiver.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Coffee for the Caregiver

Caregivers are often a hidden group of people. Some are hidden more than others. There are the caregivers who sit night and day by their mother or father who is suffering from a debilitating illness like Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease. Many times they may not have anyone to relieve them for days at a time. They are unable to go to church or out to the store. They are basically hidden away. These people no doubt had friends before their parent became ill. The priority of caring for their parents, however, overtook the priorities of coffee and shopping with friends, and their friends either misunderstood or did not know how to help.

Caregivers may not ask for help because they feel responsible for the one for whom they give care. They probably will not bring up the anxiety and depression they sometimes fall into when dealing with all of the aspects of care that go into their loved one. If they do not know the Lord or if they do not have a spouse to help, they are basically alone. Caregivers are a huge ministry. They minister, but they need to be ministered to as well. There is actually a passage in the Bible that points strongly to this ministry. I recently heard a message on this passage, and I believe it is a message to those who must care for the caregiver as well as to the caregivers themselves.

James 5:13-16 speaks strongly to this topic of the those who are down-trodden. Most of us look at this passage and see the English words sick and think of those sick and dying. The Greek words here, however actually lend themselves more to weakness with the first word where we are commanded to pray and weariness with the second  that can take place if we become so distraught we are unable to even pray.

Verse 13 begins by instructing those who are sick to pray. This word sick in the Greek is used also as the word "weak." This weakness seems to aim more at a depression or sadness rather than physical sickness as in the next part it encourages the merry to also pray or sing praises.

The next verse, though has a more serious tone, and it talks about calling the elders of the church to anoint the "sick" with oil, and the prayer of faith for this person will save them.  The problem with going with the actual word sick the way we think of it is that God does not always choose to heal the sick from their sickness, and the Greek word backs this up as it means weary and is used in only one other spot - Hebrews 12:3 in the same way - not for a person who is sick and dying but for the weary. Weariness is something that can be physical, but it is mental, and also can be spiritual. Those who are weary are those here who probably do not have the strength to pray, so calling the elders to pray for them is their only hope. It is not our practice to anoint with oil. Most likely this could be compared to encouraging someone through prayer and making them a nice cup of coffee, bring them a warm heating pad, and maybe burning a soothing candle to help them relax. The oils were used for different purposes in the Bible, and it may be more cultural, but we can take the purpose behind that these weary people have stopped caring for themselves to this degree spiritually where they are unable to pray and physically where they cannot care for their bodies.

This is a passage for all of us - not just for the elders of the church. We all have a responsibility to minister to those who are weak and weary. It is sometimes hard to see these people, because often their reason for weariness keeps them home. The verse actually says for the one who is weary to call for the elders. This speaks to the truth that sometimes when we are weary, we need to ask for help and prayer. We need to admit their we are struggling, and that is a hard thing to do. I would think it especially hard for someone who has come to the point where they are unable to pray.

So whether you are the weary one or you are the friend of one who is weary, pray and give. It might just be a hot cup of coffee and prayer, but God does not want us to ignore this part of his congregation.