Friday, June 15, 2018

Lessons from Caregiving #6: There's no such thing as being ready

(This post is part of a series. For previous posts in the series please see #1#2., #3, #4, #5)

I was six years old the first time I was told to be prepared for a loved one to die.

My deeply loved grandfather had just had a heart attack, 5 years after having colon cancer. He was older when I came along, and my parents didn't want me to be blind-sided if something happened. I was incredibly blessed to have him for 21 more years, but I spent my childhood thinking everytime I hugged him might be my last. When he did go to heaven at age 88, it was suddenly and I didn't get to say goodbye. Maybe that would have helped my grief process - but as an adult, I came to realize that there was no way I would ever "be ready" for my grandfather to die.

I don't blame my parents. Their disabilities have given them an incredibly practical and straightforward look at life and death, and their faith gives them a peace that helps them look hard things in the face and call them what they are. I've inherited a lot of their pragmatism, and for the most part that serves me well.

Except for now.

Now, as I read and watch for symptoms indicating the next stage of caregiving.

Now, as I try to cherish the good times and rejoice in the good days, without the heaviness of what I'm seeing hanging over my head.

Now, as I try to balance my role as caregiver with my relationship as wife. The ever-practical caregiver gets through the day and makes decisions. The wife misses her husband, cries herself to sleep, and has trouble catching her breath.

The lesson I've learned in this is an extension of what I learned with my grandfather: There's no such thing as being ready for a thing we don't want to happen!

We've all read the Gospels and shook our heads at the shock of the apostles when Jesus was crucified. He tried to prepare them. They shook off the warnings. Sure, there were elements of false expectations of the Messiah. But there was plenty of just plain old human nature. We don't like the idea of something, so we pretend we didn't hear what we just heard. That's why denial is usually the first stage of grief.

I haven't figured out completely how to process this lesson yet. In part, as my last post discussed, I acknowledge the wrongness of what is happening. I've learned I have to let myself feel the grief that cycles in and out, because I'm processing gradual losses. (This is why ambiguous grief is often considered the hardest type of grief to process.) So I let myself feel what I feel.

BUT I'm also determined not to let grief steal the joy of good moments though, so I am learning to find ways to just embrace a moment or an hour or a day that comes along, and just BE. I'm learning to live in the tension of Ecclesiastes 3:4 ... that there is
a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
For those of us walking through caregiving, especially with a loved one with dementia, we might have all those "times" in one day. But what I'm learning is to live in each one fully. If I need to weep, I weep hard! I have belly laughs when my husband gets silly with the music. I mourn what I miss. We dance together. 

I'm not ready for what comes next. But I'm trusting that One who is the same "Yesterday, Today, and Forever" is already there, ready to walk me through all the emotions I will feel along the way.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Lessons from Caregiving, #5: It's OK to not "just accept it"

"Evil is negation; love and beauty are the realities." - Augustine

(This post is part of a series. For previous posts in the series please see #1#2., #3, and #4)

We are wise to never forget this fundamental truth: God created a perfect world. We live in a fallen world.

Some of the things we encounter on a daily basis, that feel like ultimate reality, just "the way things are", are reflections of God's design. The beautiful scenery on my walk yesterday. A husband and wife holding their first baby. Justice prevailing. Life.

Other encounters may seem equally real, equally part of the fabric of nature, but are instead a negation. The weeds that choke the life out of the garden. A stillborn child. Justice delayed. Death.

Among the negations is the damage to biology that causes diseases like dementia. The gut-punch that we feel when we get bad news reflects a soul-level knowledge that we don't always take time to verbalize. One of the biggest lessons I've learned is that it's not only ok to say it, but it's crucial to my spiritual health that I never forget: 

This wasn't how it was meant to be.

Yes, God is sovereign. Yes, He uses all things for our good and His glory, Yes, He has a purpose in this. The "rest of the story" of the Creation and Fall is this: Redemption and Restoration. Our hope lies in the One who came to keep us from living forever in a fallen world. 

But when we are living in the depths of the results of the Fall, it does our souls good to acknowledge the reality that something is Wrong. We don't need to rush to "just accept it". It's ok to pray for God to reverse the biological effects of the Fall in our loved one's life. It's ok to seek treatment and work for a cure. It's ok to be mad at the disease and at Satan whose trickery precipitated the Fall in the first place.

Then, and only then, can we embrace the rest of the story: For the Christian, acceptance only comes through the cross. That means we look the worst reality in the face, call it for what it is, and then say, "Jesus is bigger than this." Then look into the empty tomb to find the redemption and restoration on the other side.

This is My Father's World
And Let me Never Forget
That though the wrong seems often so strong
God is the Ruler Yet

Sunday, June 03, 2018

Lessons from Caregiving #4: Remembering

(This post is part of a series. For previous posts in the series please see #1#2., and #3)

I suppose it's not surprising that being a caregiver for someone with dementia involves learning lessons about remembering. I've learned so much about the power of habit, about how memory and the brain works, about emotions and music. And surprisingly, I've learned a few lessons about not remembering as well. This post is kind of a hodge-podge of those lessons.

One of the first things I learned in my "caregiver basic training" was that the last type of memory to go is music memory, What this means is that we can still connect with our loved ones through music often up until the very end. I see this in my sweet husband, when he is having a more quiet day struggling to find words but comes alive to favorite songs. He likes a variety of music, but the most meaningful to him is various types of worship music. I've learned from this about the power of music to speak to the soul, and to ask myself if the music that I listen to the most will connect my soul to my Creator in ways my words may not be able to.

I've also learned that emotional memory never leaves. It also means that even if they don't recall a name or recognize someone in context of a relationship, the emotional memory associated with that person never leaves them. I've learned to ask myself, not just with my husband but in every relationship, what kind of seeds am I sowing to build the emotional memory I want to be associated with me?

I've also learned about the power of habit. Habitual actions literally form "ruts" in the brain, so when parts of the brain don't function effectively to recall short-term memory or learn new things, the "ruts" still function. It's literally like the process of developing the roads in our country during Westward expansion. One wagon train after another followed the same ruts, which eventually became more permanent roads and railroads. I've seen in my husband the daily habit of quiet time continue, even as he struggles to understand the words he reads or how to pray. I even see the power of his positive attitude as a lifelong habit. While he has definitely had his struggles over the years, like all of us, at his core he is a die-hard optimist. His team is always going to win, the weather is always going to be fine, etc. I am convinced this habit is one reason that he has maintained an overall much more positive attitude than many dementia patients. I've learned to ask myself, what habits do I need to develop now that will carry me through when my flesh fails me later in life?

I've learned some things about forgetting as well. I've learned that his memories aren't truly "gone", he just has failures in accessing them. Since his short-term and new memory centers are heavily affected, he often forgets things as soon as they happen. I've learned this isn't necessarily bad! It is a literal picture of "keeping short accounts" and not keeping a record of wrongs. I have prayed for him to remember things, but I've definitely prayed that he would forget some things as well - like a bad day, or that time I snapped at him, or my tears that he couldn't understand. As I have prayed this, I've sensed God using that to teach me that I can learn to let go of things that I tend to hold on to as well, building my "long-term spiritual memory" with the things that matter most.

All of this has spurred me to look at what Scripture says about "remembering".  One of the things I'm learning is that for the believer, remembering is an intentional act. We don't just go through life, hoping that at the right moment we remember the right thing. We work at it, plan for it, train our minds for it.

I'm convinced that one reason God calls His followers to worship together in community is that we are not meant to be alone (Genesis 2:18, the only thing "not good" about creation was Adam being alone). And for that reason, He has ordained that there are spiritual things that happen when we are together that simply don't happen when we are alone. Today was one of those days for me - I thought I was fine, then we got in the prayer circle before church and I was a ball of tears. I ran PowerPoint throughout the service with tears streaming down my face. And God had a special word for me in the message.

One of the spiritual things that happens when we gather is the building up of faith that occurs as we hear the Word of God preached. In the millisecond it takes to go from our pastor's lips to our ears, the Holy Spirit does something with those words that just reading them on the page doesn't do. Sometimes that is something that just strengthens and encourages. Other times, it is something that challenges and stretches us. In the South, we call that "stepping on our toes." It's those days when it feels like my pastor has been listening in on my quiet times that I know God is really shaking me up. Today was one of those days.

He spoke from Acts 3 about the importance of expectancy as we look toward God. How it is equivalent to faith. How we can't give up, even when it feels Jesus has passed us by. How it's within His will and His timing, and may look different than we think, but we keep expecting, even just a little, because that's better than not expecting at all.

I leaned forward, knowing instantly that God was speaking to me, because frankly, I had quit expecting. Quit hoping. Quit looking for anything but the next heartbreaking reality. All afternoon, I wrestled with this truth: "Expectancy is faith." I told God I wanted to get there but didn't know how.

And then I sat down to finally write this blog post I've had on my mind for weeks, and came across this nugget in the Dictionary of Bible Themes: "Remembering should produce hope for the future".

I need hope. So I need to remember. That takes intention. I get to choose what I call to my mind. I'm not going to just let it be a blank slate that Satan and the world can fill. By God's grace, I will remember His goodness. His character. His mighty works. His truth. I will call it to mind, and build hope within my soul. I want to develop the habit of hope, so I will remember.

Lamentations 3:21-24 NET - (21) But this I call to mind; therefore I have hope: (22) The LORD's loyal kindness never ceases; his compassions never end. (23) They are fresh every morning; your faithfulness is abundant! (24) "My portion is the Lord," I have said to myself, so I will put my hope in him.


Thursday, May 17, 2018

Lessons from Caregiving #3: Shaping

(By Repat - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link)

(This post is part of a series. For previous posts in the series please see #1 and #2.)

As I walk through the last year of my 40s, I have been thinking a lot about what has shaped me. What has made me who I am, at my core? What comes out as my default reactions, and why? 

In my heart of hearts, I will always be a small town girl who grew up on a dirt road. This comes out at odd times, but it has defined me in so many ways. When I realized that I would likely never move from the area where I live now, I immediately found myself finding ways to make it feel smaller to me. 

I've also been profoundly shaped by being the child of disabled parents. I can vividly recall the chill bumps that I got the day I was discussing the Holocaust with my dad. I was in 9th grade and we were just studying that horrific era of history. My dad said nonchalantly, "You realize that if I had been born in Germany in 1939 instead of Arkansas, I would likely not have survived childhood." He knew, as I was learning, that the Germans first victims were the disabled. That conversation lay the groundwork for what would eventually become a strong pro-life ethic with advocacy for individuals with disabilities.

Other experiences and moments have shaped me: The man I married. The day I cried out to God asking to live a life without any more regrets. The church we ultimately ended up choosing. I'm a firm believer that our shaping can continue throughout our lives if we let it, and that we face things that change us forever. 

In this caregiving season, I am realizing that being a caregiver is an incredible shaping opportunity. I first learned this with my mother-in-law, but the shaping is even more deep and profound this time. I'm trying to learn how to let it shape me for the better, and for the long-term. Obviously some of the changes are by neccessity temporary - I won't always have the work schedule adjustments I have now, for example. But other changes I find that I am enjoying and want to take into myself for the long haul. 

I'm learning (slowly!) to live in the moments; to find joy in just being in someone else's presence. I'm learning to be less task-oriented and more relational. I'm learning flexibility in ways that are stretching me. I'm learning about family and all the ways that can look. I'm learning about authentic trust, about a faith that has plenty of room for questions and tears. I'm learning to grieve with hope, but to still grieve. I'm learning to slow down and take things one step at a time. As frustrating as it is, I'm learning to wait. To wait on God to move when I think He should be faster. To wait on answers that don't seem to come. To wait on those days I don't know what I'm waiting for. More than anything else, I'm learning to let this hard thing that I would never choose drive me to Jesus more than ever before. 

Caregiving, like other shaping opportunities, will either make me or break me. I don't want to become bitter and resentful. I want to learn the lessons of this season. I want them to make me more like Jesus, for this to become a before and after shot for me. Scripture tells me how to do this - by focusing on His Word and on Jesus Himself. May I do this well, for His glory.
Romans 12:2 NET - (2) Do not be conformed to this present world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may test and approve what is the will of God - what is good and well-pleasing and perfect. 
2 Corinthians 3:18 NET - (18) And we all, with unveiled faces reflecting the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another, which is from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

Lessons from Caregiving #2: The Power of the Spirit

Therefore we do not despair, but even if our physical body is wearing away, our inner person is being renewed day by day. For our momentary, light suffering is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison because we are not looking at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen. For what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NET 

(This post is part of a series. For previous posts in the series please see #1.)

One of the most powerful lessons I am learning is the incredible power of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer.

One of the ways that this disease has affected my sweet husband the most is by making him much less verbal, unable to think of words or express words he is thinking of. Depending on the day, he may or may not be confused about what he is hearing as well. It's easy for me to despair, thinking that this disease is stealing so much of what I have loved for the past 24 years.

But when I look past the temporary, I see the truth of Paul's words to the Corinthians. My husband's inner person is being renewed daily by the Holy Spirit. I see it when he maintains his quiet time habit, even when he doesn't understand the words he is reading. I see it when he tears up or outright weeps at worship songs, when he is having a silent day but starts randomly singing "I'll Fly Away" or joining in with our music. Even when he lacks the words to pray, I see it when he makes the effort, and Paul's words to the Romans take on new meaning:
Romans 8:26-27 NET (26) In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness, for we do not know how we should pray, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with inexpressible groanings. (27) And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes on behalf of the saints according to God's will.
As I struggled through a season of prayers that seemed unanswered and weeks when I didn't hear from the Lord, I watched him continue to love Jesus with the simple faith that has always been so powerful to me. Gradually my prayers shifted. Instead of praying for a specific outcome, I started praying for his spiritual life. I started praying for him to continue to hear Christ's voice, for him to bring honor to Jesus in this season, and so much more. I grabbed Scriptures that drew my attention to the eternal, and I pray them daily.

In the process, I learned a powerful truth. Dementia can steal a lot of things, but it can't steal his faith. Jesus meant it when He promised that nothing can separate us from God's love or take us out of His hands when we belong to Him. The cross truly has the final word.
John 10:27-30 NLT (27) "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. (28) I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, (29) for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father's hand. (30) The Father and I are one."
Romans 8:38-39 NLT - (38) And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God's love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow--not even the powers of hell can separate us from God's love. (39) No power in the sky above or in the earth below--indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.





Friday, May 11, 2018

Lesson from Caregiving #1: Being the Body

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2) 

Readers of this blog know that our family has been going through a difficult season. There is so much I want to share that I am learning through this time, but the demands of each day, coupled with fatigue and my need to process, have made it hard to put the lessons into words. I'm determined to make an effort, though, because I firmly believe that I don't fully learn a lesson until I communicate it to someone else. 

The background: For the second time in my adult life, I have entered into a season of caregiving. Those who have been in this role know there is a difference between helping someone out and actually having the role of primary caregiver. Despite your best efforts, it becomes consuming. It can easily become your primary identity, the thing you think of first when meeting someone new or introducing yourself to a group. It's full of challenges and rewards that no one can understand without actually walking this journey. 

The difficult part about this caregiving season is that it's not the season I expected. My husband and I were the primary caregivers for his mom for several years prior to her death in 2007. I fully anticipated a repeat of that for my parents as they aged, or at least for one of them after the other went to be with the Lord. While they are aging and do need extra care and attention, in God's perfect will and sovereignty the caregiving season He called me to is for my husband. My sweet, loving, generous, funny, caring, chatty, effusive, God-centered husband was diagnosed with dementia last year, confirming suspicions of over a year and a half. To say that I was blindsided is an understatement. I felt body-slammed. Still do, some days. Some of the more recent posts on this blog were written in the depths of that diagnosis as I felt my world spinning out of control. There were many days I held on to a John 6:68 faith, not because it made me feel good but because I had nowhere else to turn. By God's grace, I landed on my feet and grew increasingly assured that even when I'm not holding on to Him, He's holding on to me. 

While all of that struggle was happening in my spirit, my husband's condition was worsening quickly. He went from diagnosis, to unable to drive, to needing someone to check in on him while I was working, to needing full time companion care, all in less than a year. We still haven't figured out everything we need to make it work with me working full time and trying to stretch out FMLA through the full year. I have a lot of support from his kids but they do not live locally. So I did the only thing I knew to do - I made the need known. And I learned a beautiful lesson. 

The body of Christ stepped up in a big way. Our church rallied and soon I had a mom of six taking him on her errands and entertaining her four year old; a single mom hanging out with him every afternoon before her son got home; a young dad taking time to walk and even bringing him over to spend the day with his family. A friend who works 60+ hours a week spent a rare day off hanging out with him. Other friends brought food or ran errands, and countless prayed, listened, and gave much needed hugs. The extended body of Christ stepped in as well - a dear, long-time friend first volunteered her husband for some household tasks and an outing, and then used her gift of connection to introduce us to a retired nurse who is volunteering two full days a week. A co-worker's husband took him to his church group a few times. On a desperate day when there was no coverage, a church friend's mom (who attends a different church) came over for the day. And I am sure I am forgetting something in the midst of all this! 

Why do I share this? Because I think we sometimes need a practical example of what it looks like to do as Paul wrote - "Carry one another's burdens." Yes, we do that in prayer. But when we pray, we should always be willing to become part of the answer to our own prayers. All of these people were willing, and it has been a powerful and beautiful - not to mention humbling - experience.

Here is just a snippet of what I have learned about asking for and giving help through this process: 

  • Ask. That might go without saying, but it really must be said, because so many fail to get help because no one knows it is a need. Scripture is filled with examples of Godly people who asked for help! 
  • Be specific. I know this can be a challenge, because sometimes you don't know what you even need. But as much as possible, be specific about what the needs are. "I need someone from 9-2 on Monday and Thursday" is a lot more clear than, "I need someone to come over." I started a Facebook group for those providing regular help, in order to communicate schedules and plans for each week. But I also tried to share specific needs as they developed outside that group as well, sharing in our church prayer group and occasionally more broadly.
  • Be flexible. Be willing to have the plans change, for someone to share the responsibility with someone else, for it to look different than you would do it. 
  • Be honest. When you ask someone for help it is typically because there is a challenge involved! Be honest about what it  is. Honesty prepares them for what they will face, equips them to do the job, and encourages them that they are not the only one facing challenges. 
  • Be thankful. Thank those assisting in many ways - verbally, and if appropriate financially or with thank you cards. Somehow, make sure they know you appreciate them. This can be hard, since you are probably tired, but it is so encouraging to someone who sacrificed for you. 
  • Be receptive. Be willing to receive the unexpected help. If someone randomly calls that they are bringing food, take it (unless you have no place for it and it would be thrown away, of course - but most things can be frozen!). I am learning to trust the Holy Spirit in the lives of others. If God puts a random thing on someone's heart, there is probably a reason! And if someone offers, try to take them up on it. Trust God is putting you together for a reason.
For those giving the help, let me share just a few of the many things that our church and extended body of Christ have done very well. I have learned much from them about giving help through this process. 
  • Offer. Even if you don't know what you can do, you can offer. You might be surprised what needs you can meet. One of the dearest women in my life works full time and has a full plate as a busy grandma - but she lives close to my local honey source, and she picks up my honey monthly, saving me an errand and getting me home a little earlier.
  • Be clear about what you can do. If you are only available for an hour on Monday mornings, say so. Maybe that is the perfect time to pick up an online grocery order for someone. It's much harder to accept help when you don't know what is being offered or when. 
  • Listen to the Holy Spirit. I'll never forget the week when a sweet friend told me she wouldn't be available, and then texted me that God had changed her mind by reminding her of something from Bible study. I was humbled and learned from her that part of service is being flexible when the Holy Spirit changes the plans. 
  • Find a way not to take no for an answer. I've had friends say, "I'm bringing you food next week; which night is best?" That is much harder to say no to than "Let me know if you need anything." I've also appreciated not having to think about what I need to ask for at times. 
  • Stay in it for the long haul. Your circumstances will change. Their needs will change. But make sure they know that as things shift, you are still there. As quickly as this is moving I have changed the plans on our support team so many times, and I anticipate that will continue to be the case! They are all so sweet and sticking with it for the long haul - something I deeply appreciate! 
Being the body of Christ is about far more than Sunday morning worship, Bible study, prayer meetings, and yummy potlucks. In the day-to-day of our lives, it's about carrying one another's burdens to fulfill the law of Christ - the law of love. 

I am eternally grateful for the lessons I have learned from those living out this law of love in our lives through this season.


(This post is part of a series. For additional posts in the series please see #2; #3; #4; #5; #6)

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Visiting Lazarus

John 11:11, 14-16, 39 NLT - (11) Then he said, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but now I will go and wake him up." ... (14) So he told them plainly, "Lazarus is dead. (15) And for your sakes, I'm glad I wasn't there, for now you will really believe. Come, let's go see him." (16) Thomas, nicknamed the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, "Let's go, too--and die with Jesus." ... (39) "Roll the stone aside," Jesus told them. But Martha, the dead man's sister, protested, "Lord, he has been dead for four days. The smell will be terrible."

You don't have to know a lot about first century Jewish beliefs to capture the anxiety Jesus' followers feel in this moment: Lazarus is dead. It's been four days, he stinks, and the political climate means going into this situation might mean death for Jesus and those close to Him. Add in just a little background knowledge and you quickly learn how much superstition surrounded death in first century Israel. Throw into the mix that Jesus puts His finger on the root issue of unbelief in verse 15, and we have a recipe for running the other way.

Fear.
Anxiety.
Superstition.
Unbelief.

As He so often did, Jesus took a course of action far from what was expected of Him. He waited until Lazarus died though He could have prevented it. He waited until Lazarus was dead for four days, so there could be no doubt that he was really and truly dead (in their minds, the soul left the body after three days). And He didn't allow His disciples to stay in their fear. Quite the opposite. He called them to walk with Him into that fear.

Today, I had a hard task ahead of me. It's the latest in a dreaded series of tasks related to the season I'm in - one of those things you never thought you'd find yourself doing. Key to this story is that I didn't realize that the task was going to happen today. I just knew this series of things was hanging over my head.

This morning, I sat down for my quiet time and while I often save my gospel reading for evening, I felt that prompting that said I needed it this morning. Very quickly, these verses jumped off the page.

One of the things I love about the word of God is that it is living and active. While that is a theological truth, it's also a practical reality. What it means is that at any given time, God can take a word from the pages of Scripture and bring it to life in an intensely personal way. It doesn't happen every day, but if you stay in Scripture consistently, with faith, you will experience it sooner or later.

For me, God's word couldn't have been clearer: Follow Jesus into the place of my fear, my anxiety, my unbelief. I saw, probably for the first time ever, that Jesus was already determined to visit Lazarus. He just invited these scared, weak-faithed men to go along for the journey. When they got there, He would quickly get to the root of their fear and superstition - the unbelief that is at the heart of so much of our struggles. But they didn't know that. In fact, Thomas' words make it clear they thought they were going there to die. In a way he was right. Although it wouldn't happen immediately, they would soon die to their unbelief when confronted with an empty tomb.

I didn't want to do today's task. But Jesus was already planning to go, and I wanted to be where He was. In His grace, He sent someone with me to be His arms and heart. I'm still processing what areas of unbelief He wants to tear down. But what I learned today was that if He calls this weak-faithed woman to walk into my fear, anxiety, superstition, or unbelief, I can be assured that He is already planning to be there, waiting on me to join Him.







Saturday, March 10, 2018

Standing In the Fire

Today is my birthday and in many ways it was one of those near-perfect days. I got to spend it with family that I love dearly and heard from more family, and friends that have become family. It was a moment to cherish in my heart. Yet as so often in life, that beauty came in the midst of storm clouds - literal and symbolic. While we were driving home in a quite severe storm, I got a call that threw me instantly into a symbolic storm. I'm in a pretty stormy life season already, so this came at a point of already-heightened tension.

It's no accident that I had only yesterday read my words from 7 years ago, "Dancing in the Minefields." Last night when I read that, I thought again of the truth that usually the journey we go on with Jesus looks nothing like our expectations. Why should it? Those who walked the earth with Him, even those closest to Him, expected one thing and got something altogether different. Altogether better, but not necessarily what they thought they wanted.

As we were driving through this storm and I was getting storm clouds on the phone, I was also listening to music that nurtured my soul and built my faith. I can't say I'm not anxious. But I'm ending my birthday where it began ... focusing on the One I love above all. If anyone wonders why I love Him so much, there is one line that sums it up: "You stand in the fire beside me." On my darkest days, when I long for a different set of facts, I take solace in this truth: I'd rather be standing in the fire with Him than outside it alone.


JESUS - CHRIS TOMLIN
There is a truth older than the ages
There is a promise of things yet to come
There is one, born for our salvation
Jesus
There is a light that overwhelms the darkness
There is a kingdom that forever reigns
There is freedom from the chains that bind us
Jesus, Jesus
Who walks on the waters
Who speaks to the sea
Who stands in the fire beside me
He roars like a lion
He bled as the lamb
He carries my healing in his hands
Jesus
There is a name I call in times of trouble
There is a song that comforts in the night
There is a voice that calms the storm that rages
He is Jesus, Jesus
Who walks on the waters
Who speaks to the sea
Who stands in the fire beside me
He roars like a lion
He bled as the lamb
He carries my healing in his hands
Jesus
Messiah, my Savior
There is power in Your name
You're my rock and, my redeemer
There is power in Your name
In Your name
You walk on the waters
You speak to the sea
You stand in the fire beside me
You roar like a lion
You bled as the lamb
You carry my healing in Your hands
God, you walk on the waters
You speak to the sea
You stand in the fire beside me
You roar like a lion
You bled as the lamb
You carry my healing in Your hands
Jesus
There is no one like you
Jesus
There is no one like you
Songwriters: Chris Tomlin / Ed Cash
Jesus lyrics © Capitol Christian Music Group