Community

 Community- everyone needs one. Whether we believe it or not, we can all benefit from it.

A few months ago, Paul and I had the opportunity to help organize a support group for people that do home dialysis. Some of the people are sicker than others, some more depressed than others, but everyone has a common thread of living with dialysis. There are people that share their feelings of frustration from lack of independence, the illnesses that accompany kidney disease,  the side effects of dialysis, and the mental anguish that can occur. It has been therapeutic for all of them to know they are not alone. To have a commonality with others that are dealing with a serious illness has been comforting. Likewise, it has brought a measure of peace to those of us that are the care givers. Knowing that other dialysis caregivers feel helpless at times and are often exhausted has helped relieve that feeling of being the only one going through a difficult situation. Yes, community can help bind people together, create friendships and help heal brokenness. 

We are grateful to also have a church community that is there to listen, offer help, and pray for us. They have been an indescribable lifeline for us.

Perhaps many of you have a group of friends that are an encouragement.  My community of friends show support and share advice with one another, along with praying for difficulties that arise for each of us. The groups I have make me stronger and help me persevere. 

Do you belong to a community that helps you through life? If you don't, a church community is a great place to start. Jesus had His community of disciples. He didn't need them as much as they needed Him and most of all, each other to navigate through the unknown territory of following the Savior of the world.

Proverbs 27:17 says: As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.

We're all in need of being sharpened. Getting with your community can help you make it happen.

Exhausting

Sometimes life can be incredibly exhausting. It's easy to be caught up in too much to do, not enough time, and too many responsibilities. Exhaustion can bring frustration, anger, tears, and the desire to give up. Once in a while, I let it affect me to the point of wanting to escape. To just get away from the overwhelming feeling and forget about all of my responsibilities. 

Everyday life can cause those feelings but it can be exacerbated for caregivers, especially when the person being cared for is struggling. When they're suffering from relentless pain or other difficulties, the caregiver can feel totally helpless since there's nothing that can be done to relieve the suffering.

I've had some days like that recently. My husband's pain from neuropathy has gotten worse and other medical issues are surfacing. I sit by, watching the suffering with no solutions.

Psalm 55:22 says, "Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken."

When I have those days or moments where I'm at the edge and mentally ready to jump off, I need to always remind myself to give it to the Lord. It's not for me to handle this alone. He'll sustain me. He's got this.

Does God Really Answer Our Prayers

Why does it seem that some of our prayers go unanswered? We pray diligently, often multiple times a day with the hope that our determination will yield the results we want. We cling to the scripture from James 5:16, that says "the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man accomplishes much," because we think our multiple prayers should qualify as a fervent prayer that God will answer. When that doesn't work, we try to be a better person thinking that our actions will boost our chances of a better outcome. Then, in desperation, we bargain with God, in the hopes that maybe, just maybe, He will say yes to that far-fetched tactic.

In 1984, I tried all of those things when my husband became ill. We also had special prayer services at our church, along with multiple other churches praying for his healing. Yet, 32 years later, that prayer hasn't been answered.....or has it?
He's still alive and was able to work for over 20 years. He was told by a reputable physician at a world renown hospital that he only had a 20% chance of living more than 5 years. That was in 1985. I'd say our prayers were answered, just not in the way we expected.

We don't always get the answer we're hoping for when we pray. That doesn't mean we shouldn't pray. God wants us to be in prayer because it brings us closer to Him. It's saying we need Him and we can't do it alone. That is what He wants us to feel- that we need to depend on the Lord to maneuver through this life. He may have different plans for us and sometimes those plans are hard to understand. God can see an infinite picture of our lives that we could never see or imagine. We can't comprehend what's ahead of us in this life, but He knows and will plan our route accordingly. Regardless of what happens in this life, one promise we can count on is that He will never leave us and that is truly the comfort we need.


The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Deuteronomy 31:8

A Positive Attitude that only God can Provide

Every August, we celebrate another year that Paul has been on home hemodialysis.

Eight years ago, it was very overwhelming to think how much our lives would change. Not being a fan of change, it caused a lot of anxiety for me. The reality that our time in the evenings wouldn't be our own anymore, but be dictated six times a week by this dialysis equipment, was difficult to accept.  We trained for almost six weeks at a dialysis center in another city. As the time came for our training to be completed, I became more anxious about us doing this ourselves, in our home, without the safety net of the nurses at the clinic. In the beginning, we had some tense moments which still happen on a rare occasion, but now it's a part of our lives. It took a lot of prayer to get my attitude adjusted but it has made the difference in how we deal with this day after day. Now, it's just part of our daily routine.

We're so thankful that we have this opportunity to lengthen his life.  It also allowed him to continue working for seven more years. Over time, we've been able to realize the many blessings there have been from this lifestyle change.

On a much larger scale, a shining example of positive attitudes through God's strength has been the West Virginia flood victims. Earlier this summer, heavy rains caused unthinkable flash flooding in several areas of our state. Many lives were lost and many more homes were destroyed. The damage has been unimaginable. Yet, through all the pain and devastation, we saw people tell reporters that they would be okay and their homes could be replaced. There were those saying God would get them through this. There were those that were thankful for what little they had left. I heard several stories of people not wanting to take flood relief supplies because they thought others needed them more. Their attitudes are helping them to persevere. God is giving them strength to see the light at then end of this tragic, dark, period in their lives.

What is it in your life that needs an attitude change? Do you need the strength that only God can provide for that change? Pray about it. Ask Him for it. He can do it. Attitude IS everything when it comes from above.

 

Straighten the Paths

It seems organization has become a big business in the past few years. There are stores dedicated to it, Internet sites, magazines, books, and even consultants that help us organize our homes, offices, and our entire lives. 


For several years, that was my New Years resolution-to completely organize my home. Each year I would fail and once again, it would appear on the list of goals for the following year. I would fantasize about what it would be like to have my entire house organized. Not a paper out of place, no clutter to be found. Boxes of odds and ends that I was sure I might one day need, would finally be gone. How freeing I imagined that would feel. 


I stopped making resolutions a couple years ago. I grew tired of never succeeding. An organized home continues to be a goal of mine but I keep my expectations low. 


Likewise, my life needs organized, particularly my spiritual life. I am a failure at daily Bible study. I've longed to have uninterrupted quiet time every morning for prayer and study, and a time set aside in the evening. I know the tone of my day starts in a more positive way when I have accomplished this, but it is always short lived. 


My life, I tell myself, is too busy. I use my husband's illness as a crutch. By the time we do his dialysis in the evening, I've become too tired to "use my brain" and I prefer a more vegetative state with Pinterest or Facebook to pass the time. I need to remove the clutter from my mind and make room for more positive thoughts.


 It really comes down to commitment and allowing God to take control. I say that the Lord is first in my life, but am I completely practicing that?  I need to give my time to God and let Him plan my day and organize my life. It would help to start with a couple scriptures:


I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you. Who directs you in the way you should go. Isaiah 48:17b


In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:6
Now it's time to let Him lead and straighten the paths!

 

God Showed Up

"God showed up" has become a popular phrase in recent years. Although the true meaning refers to God being extraordinarily present in a particular circumstance; it seems on the surface to sound as if God is somewhere else and then appears, or "shows up".  The Bible says that God is always with us- ...."because God has said, never will I leave you; never will I forsake you".  Hebrews 13:5b.  So if we believe the Bible, then we can be assured that wherever we are, God IS always with us.
   

Hopefully, most people have seen "God show up" at some point in their lives. Those with chronically ill loved ones or are chronically ill themselves, have possibly experienced God's hand in their lives many times.   


This past week, I witnessed this with my chronically ill husband.  Paul has a manmade graft in his arm that is used for his kidney dialysis. A weak spot had appeared in the graft, and one evening it began to leak blood. That leak quickly progressed into what seemed like floodgates being opened and the bleeding could no longer be controlled. By the time we arrived at the Emergency Room, he was unconscious, in shock and barely breathing. I was taken into a private room with a pastor and told by a nurse that they weren't sure he'd survive. That's when God truly made Himself known. The pastor prayed with me and within minutes I was told that Paul was alert enough to nod his head in response to questions.  To me, it was all God. Not only did I see God work through the ER staff, but through the care and concern of strangers in the waiting room,  and in the comfort and help of the pastor and support staff. God had His hand in the entire experience.


We have been blessed to experience other times that God has shown His power and we've been able to give Him the praise.


However, sometimes situations don't have a happy ending. I've been in some of those as I know so many others have, too. Is God not there in those times? Of course, He's there! We just need to look more closely for Him.. He is there to comfort, provide strength, and help heal our hurting hearts. He is there putting the pieces back together in ways better than we could ever imagine. Philippians 4:19 says "And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of His glory in Jesus Christ".


If you're not seeing God's handiwork in your life, just keep looking. He doesn't just "show up".  He's always right there with you!

Is The Glass Half Empty or Half Full?

"Is the glass half empty or half full?"  We've all heard this saying many times and recently it once again came to mind. 

We'd had a rough week with the equipment we use for my husband's home hemodialysis.  He has kidney disease and six evenings a week at home, we do a milder version of the same treatment that is done three times a week in the dialysis center. This particular night found me on the phone with the company's tech support, for the third time that week.  I was informed that the problem was apparently not fixable and would require new equipment, which would arrive the next day.  For that evening, we would have to resort to Plan B, which would require more work on our part.  I expressed my disappointment and mentioned to the support person that it had been a frustrating week.  Although it wasn't his or anyone else's fault, he apologized to me for this
happening. 

Then it hit me- or should I say convicted me. My glass was not half empty.  This situation was not a big deal.  I shouldn't have whined as if it was a big deal.  In reality,  we just had to put forth a little more effort to achieve our goal.  No one was physically hurt from this situation.  No one's life was threatened.  It was a small bump in the road.  When I thought about all the people that were dealing with grief, loss and other major trauma in their lives, it was silly of me to think of this as a reason to complain.  I have Jesus in my life and I need to remember that my glass is not just half full but always overflowing.