Illness, Resilience and Spirituality

Two years ago I began corresponding with Marguerite Bouvard. She was looking for contributors for an anthology on illness and faith. I offered to write a chapter about my family’s experience caring for our son during his treatment for leukemia.

We continued to e-mail back and forth. I wrote my chapter, and Marguerite edited the anthology that includes the stories of twelve people that refer to different faith traditions:Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Native American,Yoga.  The book is titled Illness, Resilience and Spirituality.

Now I have the book in hand, and as I read through the chapters I see vulnerability as well as resilience. The book is not theological. It is the way twelve people have encountered illness and death, along with the questions that come with human frailty.

A serious illness leads to a search for hope. Some chapters have a perspective that seem self reliant. Other chapters find hope through the Bible and prayer. A couple of chapters mention how the faith of a grandmother was influential. 

Victoria Molt’s account of faith and prayer through mental illness touched me. My brother’s illness has sensitized me to the isolation that many with mental illness experience. 

The importance of a faith community stands out in many of the chapters. 

The chapter that I wrote is the first in the book and is titled, “Prayers Through Illness and Loss”. The book is available on Amazon. 

This post is linked with Booknificent Thursday and Literary Musing Monday

When Pain Leads to Prayer

After Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden God said, I will greatly increase your pain in childbearing; withpain you will give birth to children. Genesis 3:16

Was this a punishment or a way of reminding Eve to seek God’s help?

In my own life, periods of suffering have motivated me to communicate with God. When our son was diagnosed with leukemia I experienced great emotional pain. I learned to open my heart and ask God the questions that were weighing heavily. The Psalms were helpful in guiding my prayers. I prayed for God’s help and guidance.

Pain can cause us to pause and seek help.  

For a period of time I attended women who labored and gave birth at home. As labor intensified they sometimes prayed. One mother asked her husband to pray. Another mama asked me to pray.

As I observed the prayers I saw faith and motherhood in a new way. Beginning motherhood with a prayer for God’s help was right.

Christmas is coming. Do you wonder about the birth of Jesus? Certainly Mary experienced pain. What was it like for Mary?

Mary and Manger

Yes, there was pain and stress but God demonstrated great love and grace in the incarnation.

Jesus experienced the ultimate pain as he approached death on the cross. He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. “Father if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. Luke 22: 42-44

Pain, prayer and love are connected.

The prompt for the Five Minute Friday community is: WITH

The manger scene is courtesy of FreeVintageArt.com

Pray for Our Elected Officials

Whew, the election is over.

The mood in our country has been intense.

For the first time I went door to door,

passing out flyers, in support of my state representative.

Now there is time to pause and reflect.

People have many different burdens and concerns.

Many are hurting.

We are all sinners in need of forgiveness.

The government can’t save us.

Only Jesus can.

The issues facing our country are complex.

Now is the time to pray for our elected officials.

Pray that they will seek wisdom from God.

It is Friday and I am joining the Five Minute Friday writers. The prompt today is: BURDEN

When the News is Bad

Newspapers have been running stories about the sexual abuse by priests in the Catholic Church. The Chicago Tribune has had a series of articles about sexual abuse at Willow Creek Church. The lead article in the current issue of World Magazine addresses sexual abuse in Protestant churches. It is all around us.

It is grievous that that there is so much abuse and confusion about sexuality. I know that many Christians and Catholics are deeply saddened.   It is tragic that  God’s  plan  for  sex,  marriage  and family is torn and distorted in our culture AND the church.

What can we do? We must rush to the Lord in prayer. We can pray that the abusers acknowledge their sin and repent. We can pray for healing for the victims. We can pray for those in church leadership to be wise and establish boundaries of behavior that are enforced.

Prayer
photo courtesy of pixabay.com

If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14

As people of faith we can pray for our families  and  be willing to discuss sexuality with our children and grandchildren. The family is God’s foundational unit for passing along truth.

The prompt for Five Minute Friday is: RUSH.  Visit this writing community by clicking here.

Crisis & Prayer

Today I am joining a community that is writing on the prompt: PAUSE

Life has been on pause.

No, that is not quite right. The nonessentials of life have been on pause.

A week ago my grandson developed a critical illness and has been in a pediatric ICU. My daughter has been at his bedside. My husband and I have been taking care of the other children.

We have been learning their daily patterns, seeing more of their school projects. It has been an intense week. Grandpa has earned the title of Grand Nap Master for his ability to coax the toddler to take a nap.

The days have been stressful but touched with little blessings. We are thankful for the prayers on behalf of our family. A dear friend sent me scripture verses. This one has encouraged me:

Psalm 62:5-6  Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from Him. Truly He is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will not be shaken.

The evening before major surgery my grandson’s youth group held a prayer meeting. About fifty people, many of his friends, showed up to pray.

We are blessed by God’s love being displayed by faithful friends.

UPDATE: Our grandson is recovering after two surgeries for a bleeding brain aneurysm. We praise God for answered prayer. We are grateful for the skill of the medical team and the advances in medical technology.

UPDATE on 8/3/18: After a summer of therapy our grandson is preparing to begin high school in a couple weeks. We are praising God for his progress and continue to pray for returning strength and adjustment/healing of limitation in his eyesight.

Visit Five Minute Friday by clicking here.

Call the Midwife: the Spiritual Aspect of Childbirth

It is the 7thseason of Call the Midwife, and I make time to watch it. This weeks episode had me in tears. Death is hard, but I am glad that the current series has reflections on faith. When it first aired I wondered how close it was to the book that it is based on.

In the fall of 2012 I wrote this blog post:

If you liked the new program, Call the Midwife, airing on PBS, you will like the memoir written by Jennifer Worth. A few years ago I came across The Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy and Hard Times. Jennifer was a midwife for the east end of London in the 1950s. The TV program is based on her book.

The PBS program is accurate in presenting episodes described in the book. I did go back to check the validity of the  premature  birth  story.    According to the memoir the baby was born at 28 weeks gestation after the mother had taken a bad fall. Despite being very sick and weak the mother refused to let the medical staff take the baby to the hospital.

She kept the baby on her chest, skin to skin. She expressed colostrum from her breasts, and every half hour she used a little glass tube to drip the colostrum into the tiny baby’s mouth. By instinct she was keeping the baby warm and nourished.

This was a 1950s example of kangaroo care motivated by maternal love and instinct.

Jennifer Worth recorded that the baby survived without impairment.

The program left out spiritual messages in the book. As a young midwife, Ms. Worth was frightened by the situations that she was thrust into. She wrote how the prayers of the nuns gave her calmness. Ms. Worth gave insight into the emotions she had while preparing to attend the premature birth.

She wrote: The knowledge that sister Julienne would be praying for us had an extraordinary effect. All the tension and anxiety left me, and I felt calm and confident. I had learned to respect the power of prayer. What change had come over the headstrong young girl who, only a year earlier, had found the whole idea of prayer to be a joke?

Prayer was part of my home birth experiences. At times the husband prayed. Occasionally I prayed.  Although I am not a poet I wrote some lines to remember the  scene  at a birth I attended, assisting a physician.

Labor pains came gently
through the night.
Morning light streamed
on her rocking chair.

Her labor intensified.
She walked, clutched my arm,
And listened for
encouraging words.

Her movements
were intuitive. She labored
with position changes
and firm massage.

She knelt down
and asked me to pray.
No pain medication.
She asked me to pray.

I prayed as she moaned
And released her body
To surging waves of pain
Her body pushed.

A circle of crown,
head and shoulders,
a baby girl was born
in the afternoon glow.

Childbirth is a time to lean into God.

Sharing this post with Literary Musing Mondays  and Booknificent Thursdays.

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Surrendering in Prayer

Today a community of writers will take the prompt that Kate Motaung has given and  write  for  five minutes  (or sometimes a little longer).        I enjoy linking up with Five Minute Friday and seeing where the word takes us. Today’s prompt is: SURRENDER

Every morning my husband and I read a  daily  devotion  from  God’s  Wisdom for Navigating Life by Tim Keller. The verse for this morning comes from Proverbs 3:11-12

My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.

My thoughts go back to the time that our son was battling leukemia. It has been almost 30 years ago. Steven’s illness was not a punishment—it was suffering that God allowed. God loved us during that difficult time; we experienced it through scripture and the community of friends that stood by us.

My husband and I fought for the life of our son with every means possible. We did research. We eventually accompanied Steven to the Cancer Research Center in Seattle where he had a bone marrow transplant. We provided his care at home.

Throughout this time we were praying. I talked with God during the long nights. I wept and cried out to him in the shower (so Steven would not see my anguish). As the cancer progressed and eventually took Steven’s life I surrendered to God in prayer.

Now, when I look back I can see how that time period refined my faith. I was talking to God, speaking to him about my pain. I saw the way Steven trusted God as we spent time in God’s word. God guided our family through a period of suffering. Steven’s sisters have grown in their faith and are now ministering to their own families.

If you are in a period of suffering the best thing you can do is pray. Lay your pain and suffering before the Lord and trust that He will carry you through, building your faith.

Click here to visit Five Minute Friday.

Meeting Life’s Challenges

In the past few weeks I have read a couple of books about women overcoming difficulties in life. Sue Detweiler’s book is about the value of prayer. My review of Women Who Move Mountains is here.

Mountain View

Kristina Cowan wrote about birth trauma and post partum depression. She has included research as well as her experience as a woman of faith walking through this most difficult time. The number of women experiencing birth trauma seems to be rising. My review of When Post Partum Packs a Punch is here.

When Postpartum Packs a Punch

Currently I am reading Redeeming the Feminine Soul: God’s Surprising Vision for Womanhood. Our culture has so many mixed and confusing messages about sexuality. The author takes us through her own misconceptions and what she has learned. How do we recognize error? How do we guide the young women in our area of influence?

Julie Roys’ book is thought provoking and worthy of discussion. When I have finished the book I will write a review.

Every season of life has challenges. We can be victorious through prayer, study of God’s word and thoughtful discussion in the community of believers.

This post is linked to Five Minute Friday. Every Friday Kate Motaung gives a word prompt. And then we write for five minutes. Today’s prompt is OVERCOME.  Visit this writing community by clicking here.

Linking with Booknificent Thursday

A Lifeline for Our Soul

The September heat wave is over. While the temperature soared into the 90s we did not get any rain, and my herbs needed frequent watering. I grow thyme, basil and dill in pots.

The basil was always first to alert me. The leaves would begin to droop and I would get out the watering can. Just an hour after watering the basil was revived.

Lifeline for the Soul
Basil

With all the discord in our culture, my spirit can get dry. When my spirit is dry I am short tempered; my words are not gracious. I may miss an opportunity that God has placed in my path.

I need the refreshment of God’s word and I need time in prayer. I am glad to participate in a weekly Bible study. I am motivated to spend time in the Bible each day, working on the lesson.

The Bible and prayer refresh my spirit—it’s like a drink of water. //

As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God.

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
Psalm 42: 1-2

I was fortunate to see Rep. Scalise’s speech to the House of Representatives when he returned to the House floor. Just happened to turn the TV on. He had been shot at a baseball field where congressmen were playing a baseball game for charity.

He talked about the power of prayer. As he lay wounded on the ground, waiting for the ambulance, he prayed. He prayed for himself and the others that were on the baseball field. During his speech he gave thanks for the way God answered his prayers.

We can bring every situation to the Lord in prayer, remembering to give thanks for God’s faithfulness.

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This post is linked to Five Minute Friday. Many thanks to Kate Motaung, our gracious leader. Today’s prompt is DEPEND.  Visit this writing community by clicking here.

I am also joining Grace & Truth link-up and Lyli’s community of faith, Faith on Fire.

Job’s Prayer is Acceptable

My Bible Lesson for this week focuses on the attributes of God. Scripture references in the book of Job point to God’s omniscience and omnipotence. This book reveals some deep truths.

The book of Job gives clues to the scientific nature of our world. It also shows a relationship between God and man.

After Job loses his children, his home, his cattle and his health, he lays his situation before God.  As he suffers, he poses questions to God.  AND God answers him.

In the last chapter of the book Job acknowledges God’s omnipotence and sovereignty. God honors Job in his struggle for answers. God admonishes the friends who were misguided in their assessment, and He gives Job the opportunity to pray for them.

. . . and the Lord accepted Job’s prayer. Job 42:9

Wow! //

When we are going through difficulties we can tell God our struggle. When my son was battling cancer I stood in the shower crying out to God, telling him my anguish. I developed a deeper prayer life.

God did not answer my requests in the way that I expected, but he answered and my faith grew.

Whatever struggle you may have, you can bring it to the Lord in prayer. He accepts us where we are. God desires us to grow in faith.

This post is linked to Five Minute Friday. Many thanks to Kate Motaung, our gracious leader. Today’s prompt is ACCEPT.  Visit this writing community by clicking here.