Thursday, June 8, 2017

Miraculous Preservation

A common concern among caregivers, especially parents of children who have disabilities, is what will happen to our children if they outlive us. And as middle age comes, depending on the degree of toll in caregiving and other life circumstances, we caregivers tend to fear that our bodies may wear our long before we actually die. What then?

And so we pray a lot. As we're able, we do some planning. Having an estate plan in place offers some peace of mind as does doing lots of documentation for those who will be inheriting the caregiving responsibilities. Our family has had many conversations about this and those are always very reassuring as well. But at the day's end, when my body is aching and I'm weary to the bone (as they say), I'm left with taking it all to the Lord in prayer and begging him to preserve and protect my husband and I for as long has He possibly will!

Today I was reading the accounts of a missionary who travelled a ship between England and China in the 1930s. The ship's route took them through the Red Sea with full views of the desert places where the Exodus occurred. Audrey Johnson's pondering jumped off the page at me with reassurance that God's capacity to preserve and protect His children is not limited by our physical bodies and minds.  

Audrey wrote:
Probably no one who reads Exodus can fully enter into that miracle of absolute dependence upon our faithful God who revealed Himself so clearly that throughout Israelite history and Psalms this miraculous preservation and protection was never forgotten. Think for instance of Deuteronomy 29:5 (which says): 
"For forty years God has led you through the wilderness, yet your clothes haven't become old, and your shoes haven't worn out" (TLB).
Audrey Wetherell Johnson

I want to remember this verse and the underlying promise it carries for our family too. Nothing has changed about God, His promises or His abilities. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday as He is today and forever. His character, power, goodness and accessibility remains as certain for me as it was for Moses. In fact, it's even better because I (we) have access to God through the indwelling Holy Spirit!  

The very same God who so faithfully cared for the people of Israel makes the same kind of promise to me. His protection may look differently than I'm expecting but it remains dependable and will surprise me in the best of ways.

Whether you are a fellow sojourner down the caregiving road with me or someone who just needs reassurance, let us be confident of this — God is creatively preparing all kinds of "miraculous preservation" for us and for those we love.

Jeremiah 29:10-13
This is what the Lord says: “You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again. For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,” says the Lord."


This post was inspired by the book Created for Commitment by A. Wetherell Johnson, founder of Bible Study Fellowship.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Selective Sharing

A few months ago, I posted this statement on Facebook:
"I don't believe it can be overstated how stressful and wearying it is being the parent of someone with significant developmental and medical needs. There is also unspeakable joy. But make no mistake that this life is OFTEN more than overwhelming. I speak for my own family and many others when I ask you to pray hard and regularly for anyone you know living this life. We need your persevering friendship and sometimes help. We wish we didn't need help, and very often we don't even know what to ask for. But we can't do this alone. Practical, emotional and spiritual encouragement is a gust of wind in our sails."
This got a reaction. Most people who responded were caregivers themselves. They resonated deeply with the sentiments I expressed. The rest of those who responded were encouraging friends whose comments usually indicated that they were praying for me. I was grateful for the prayers but even more moved by the hunger among caregivers to feel NOTICED and HEARD.
Since so many caregivers practically begged me to get this word about their (our) chronic stress out more broadly (on their behalf), I posted again the next day with a very personal and rather lengthy explanation about my own chronic stress and why I talk about it the way I do.  I wasn't expecting to post it yet again on my blog but subsequent conversations suggest it deserves one more share. So here goes...
WHY DO I SHARE WHAT I DO, WHEN I DO (AND WHEN I DON’T, WHY I DON’T)?
There are a variety of reactions I encounter whenever I talk about how chronic stress is affecting my family and others in intense or complicated, often long-term circumstances. 
SHOCK
WORRY
APATHY
DEFENSIVENESS
RESONANCE/APPRECIATION
Obviously, not every reaction is helpful to a family like ours. But trust me, I understand most people are well-meaning and I’m very hesitant to criticize any reaction — I mostly appreciate ANY reaction (except apathy). Larry and I don’t expect perfection in understanding but we do hope people at least care and try. And we hope people won’t over-simplify what we are experiencing. That feels like invalidation of something that is very big and very real for us.
Some people want to better understand this so I’m going to try and explain more about it today and I’m going to be pretty transparent. I know that I’ll be articulating perspectives that are not just my own because I’ve had emotional discussions with others about this very issue, one as recently as this morning when a friend called me from another state about the post I shared yesterday. Yup. This hit some nerves.
When we don’t talk about our challenges very often, it is not uncommon for people to think that all is well. Some others who have some idea that life is ALWAYS hard over here at the Jamiesons think we are just trying to keep a “stiff upper lip” or are wanting to be self-sufficient in our challenges. Some people believe we are trying to be “missional” in an effort to “look” put together with the power of God. Seriously, we’re not trying to hide anything or even prove to anybody that “God’s got this.” 
Don’t get me wrong, I certainly hope my life points people to Jesus and shows that God is fully able, accessible and worthy to be praised. Because He most certainly is. I don’t know how anybody lives through a crisis like this without a relationship with Jesus Christ. But that’s not what underlies my philosophy (or for lack of better word, strategy) for deciding when and how to share the inner realities of my situation. Of course we hope people will somehow see Jesus in us — whether through how He meets us in our challenges or for any other reason! Don’t we all want to see evidence that the living God is real? 
But the way I express my stress publically is way more selfish than that. 
Larry and I are, first and foremost, trying to live in a way that helps us thrive as individuals, a couple and a family. In the process. We just want to live within relationships that are REAL. I gave up trying to tough things out a long time ago. I do just exactly what I have to do every day to survive and thrive. So, trying to look “good” or more “Christian” is far from the reality for me and Larry. We always want to be authentic with people and we highly value people who are willing to be real with us. In truth, there are a whole host of reasons why I talk about our specific challenges or overwhelm rather infrequently compared to how often we are actually struggling.
For today, it’s important to me that you know WHY. God seems to have prompted me to just lay it out here for whoever cares. So…in no particular order…these are just a few of the reasons why I personally don’t talk often or widely about the specifics of my personal stress…
  • I’m not always in touch with the reality of how extremely stressed out I am.
  • I function on autopilot a lot.
  • I don’t want people feeling sorry for me. 
  • I have all the same stresses everybody else does and would really like those to be recognized as part of who I am too.
  • A whole lot of people would rather just believe that “it’s all good” over here. 
  • Some people just want to cheer me up. 
  • Some people tell me, “you deserve to feel sorry for yourself.” This isn’t helpful for me. I appreciate the attempt at empathy but I don’t believe this is right thinking and it is rarely helpful for me to go to that place.
  • I spend a lot of my daily energy trying to pace my energies and emotions. That means I have to spend proportionately high amounts of time with Jesus and in prayer. Since my physical body is increasingly deteriorating due to Carly’s 24/7 cares, my age, long years without adequate sleep, etc., I have to give some priority to taking care of me as best I can (which is never really enough). I need more naps than the average person because I spend a lot of time awake at night. I need to serve others. It’s a great outlet for me — gives me a sense of purpose and keeps me from feeling consumed with my own challenges. Needless to say, all of that doesn’t leave a lot of time left over for complaining and explaining. 
  • Sometimes I’m just plain tired of explaining.
  • I don’t like people dismissing me as a “drama queen.”
  • I get tired of feeling like I have to be one of the world’s “teachers.” 
  • I weary of the disappointment of trying to build understanding and having my hopes and needs for resonance dashed when people don’t “get it.”
  • I don’t want to get my hopes up that someone will care (reach out) only to be disappointed.
  • When my situation is most overwhelming, I feel unable to explain my situation or emotions. My mind and heart feel too complicated to explain. So, if I feel able say anything at all, I just try to articulate even one thing I know people can pray about or help with. But that can give the impression that just one thing is weighing on me. (Yet, rest assured, whatever I am saying out loud is probably just the tip of the iceberg with lots more behind it.)
  • It helps keep me out of depression and those woe-is-me places if I focus on what is going well and what I’m grateful for.
  • Focusing on Carly’s strengths gives her the best shot of reaching her potential. 
  • Focusing on Carly’s strengths (instead of why she’s making things hard for me) feels more respectful to her.
  • Any time I talk about how hard it is caring for Carly, I risk undermining our ability to ever find or hire respite helpers (because people think they won’t be able to handle it).
  • I don’t want to worry my family.
  • I don’t want people to quit sharing their own concerns with me because they feel badly that their own issues may seem insignificant next to mine.
  • I often feel misunderstood and since I’ve been misunderstood a lot in my life, I avoid that pain.
  • I don’t want to feel analyzed.
  • I get tired of talking about the same thing. Being “that person.” Sounding like a broken record.

When you boil it all down, this is probably the biggest reason why you don’t regularly hear about or see the degree of my stress:
I WANT TO LOOK AND FEEL AS NORMAL AS POSSIBLE. 

I don’t want to look normal for your benefit. I want it for me. 
So even though taking a shower, fixing my hair and putting on a cute, comfy outfit to go out in public takes the alignment of stars at my house and risks masking a reality about how much I need your prayers, help and friendship — I’m going to risk it. Because for a couple of hours, I’m happy to be clean and out in a “normal” world feeling like a “normal” human being with a “normal” life. Any illusion is for me. Not for you.
And here’s one more thought for you to chew on. If I wrote about this regularly, many of you would have stopped reading my posts a long time ago. You’d be too overwhelmed, irritated, or numb. My perpetual drip of whining would wear you down and lose its oomph. (For some people, it already has. They not even curious and are no longer reading this right now.) 
So, consider this “rant” my way of trying to get your attention and urge you to remember there are friends around you struggling mightily with chronic hard stuff — whether or not they look like it or sound like it. Please don’t check out on them, whether they are good at how they handle their communication or not. (Doing this well is hard and even harder when you’re stressed out and/or sleep deprived.)
Thank you for listening.
I’ll write again soon. 
But not too soon.

NOTE: This blog is a repost from an "Open Letter" Lisa shared on Facebook in April 2017.


Friday, May 26, 2017

Maria’s Glory Story

Maria Palomino recently spent a few hours helping to update and organize the Lending Library list for Walk Right In Ministries. As she worked, we had fun chatting about the value of certain books and it was interesting for me to learn which books caught her personal interest. Since she's a young adult, I was particularly impressed by her eagerness to learn and inspired by her hunger to grow in faith.

One book in particular was intriguing to Maria so she asked to check it out and read it. Not long after, it led her to an opportunity for ministry.

Maria wrote:

I have been a Christian ever since I was 12 years old, however I never thoroughly dove into the scientific and archeological evidence regarding what I believe, or how to argue for the validity of the Bible. So when I noticed the book Surprised By Faith by Don Byerly in the WRIM Lending Library, I was intrigued. I knew that when I was done reading this book, I would need to share it, specifically with those who are consumed by questioning Christianity and the Bible as being absolute truth in comparison to other religions and texts.

I actually ended up using this book for my English project and presented the information in front of my class. The student teacher came up to me afterwards and told me he was a Christian as well. Coincidentally, we both had Hebrew tattoos on our left arms! Anyway, the minute that I finished the book, God placed on my heart the name of a friend of mine who was going through exactly the same kind of questioning. I texted his dad right away and encouraged him to get his son to read Surprised By Faith as part of his homeschool curriculum. He ordered it right away, read it himself, and then passed it on to his son who is still finishing it.

I have faith that the Lord will use this book as a vehicle to expand His kingdom and I am excited to hear back from my friend!

It is a privilege to see how God used Maria’s service to this ministry by providing her with an opportunity to encourage a friend in his faith!

Thank you, Maria, for enthusiastically and courageously sharing this story which helps us to see the presence, power and goodness of God among us.
__________________________________________
To learn more about what is available in the Walk Right In Ministries Lending Library and find out how to borrow these FREE and valuable resources, contact us at info@walkrightin.org for a complete listing and our simple lending process.



Tuesday, February 14, 2017

My Childhood Memory of a Sunken Old Pier


When I was 9 years old, we rented a house on the southern shore of Lake Ontario for the summer while my dad was on a work assignment in Canada. Among my many treasured memories of that season, I often think about swimming with my sister and our friends off that rugged beach. There was so much to explore.

Thirty Mile Creek trickled right through our back yard offering wriggling smelt to watch and rock dams to build. About 100 yards off in one direction on the beach was an abandoned cement pump house where farmers gathered lake water for the surrounding orchards of peaches, pears and cherries. (Did I mention what an idyllic location this was, like right from the scenes of a nostalgic movie?) Its roof provided a warm and flat spot for our beach towels — a private hideaway from parents for a picnic and giggles while sun tanning.

Just a few yards in the other direction about 50 feet off shore were the remains of an old shipping pier used in the early 1800s. Since the top of that pier lay just a few inches under the water’s surface, you couldn’t see it from the shore unless the waves were very high or the water was perfectly calm. In between high swells, the water dipped low enough to reveal just enough of that worn pier (or at least a ripple in the water) so we could spot our destination and swim out to it. Once we were in the water though, we had to swim blind — just feeling around with our arms and legs for that fun resting spot where we would sit and sometimes linger for hours. It could get exhausting treading water and trying to be the first one to find it. It was also a bit eerie to swim around not knowing the moment when your body would bump the slimy edge of that ancient (150-year-old), algae-covered relic. Among our favorite games to play out there was like a snowball fight. It involved pulling clumps of soft, mossy algae off the surface of the sunken old block of cement and tossing it at each other. It would stick to your target’s skin quite nicely actually.

Despite the fierce competition, we had a common understanding. If one person always stayed on the pier, then we wouldn’t lose sight of it and everyone swimming in various directions would always know the quickest way back to our safe place. We’d take turns being that person who stayed close to our “moorings” but, make no mistake, it was very helpful to keep at least one person grounded on that foundation. If not for that, it could get exhausting (truth-be-told, even dangerous) trying to find it again, especially if the waters were rough.

What a fun reminder of good times and precious friends this is! And the spiritual metaphor is not missed on me today as I’ve been reminiscing on the heels of sharing this quote to Facebook a few days ago:
 

"One of the most encouraging examples of friendship in the Bible is
that of Saul's son Jonathan with David. On one occasion when David was in great trouble,
we read that Jonathan went to meet him 'and helped him to find strength in God' (1 Samuel 23:16).
Friends that do that for us are very precious."

(from Zeal without Burnout by Christopher Ash)
 
Christian friendship has often been an important place for me to find a “mooring” of sorts. Especially when the waves of adversity were rough in my life or when I was flailing around trying to find God in the deeps of my circumstances where the way to safety was hard to see. Throughout much of my life, I’ve been privileged to have friends who cheered me on and showed me the way back to the Foundation. Sometimes we hang out there together and other times one of us has to hold on tight and call out to the rest, “come this way!” Often, it’s just plain fun resting in that anchoring place with each other. Other times it’s hard work not getting knocked off by the waves or slimed by the craziness around us. But always there has been something so satisfying about clinging to our Rock and Refuge together.

Christian community is a beautiful thing. It’s an essential resource for staying grounded and safe in faith. It’s a fun place to grow and make new discoveries about the Rock, the foundation of our faith, Jesus. Avoiding connection to others who are clinging to the Rock is dangerous. Treading water alone or trying to duck and hide under the waves to avoid getting slimed ultimately gets us in trouble.
 

Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm,
for God can be trusted to keep his promise.
Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.
And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another,
especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.
Hebrews 10:23-25

On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God.
Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him;
God is a refuge for us.
Psalm 62:7-8

“Beware!” I sometimes remind myself.  Friendship, at times, has distracted me from God Himself and offered an illusion of security. To be sure, friends often sustain us but they can’t ultimately save us. Only the solid, reliable refuge of Jesus saves and satisfies us to the uttermost. I love swimming out in the deeps of life experiencing grand adventures together but we will all ultimately wear out without a dependable resting place. Let’s enjoy the full greatness of friendship as only possible within community that is moored to The Rock of Ages!


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