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Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Prayer

Treasured Friend,

Caregiving is never easy. And in this Christmas season with all the celebration going on around us (perhaps even without us) and with its added responsiblities and the added reminder that normalcy for us may be a thing of the past, we may be tempted to be discouraged.

In those moments when I'm watching courage drain out of me faster than my bathroom sink empties, the temptation is great to give up on expecting anything from God, to give up on even asking Him for my daily supply. Despair oozes up as courage drains down. And instead of running TO God in those moments, I'm tragically tempted to push Him away.

In case that sounds familiar to you on this Christmas week, I want to encourage you not to give up on prayer. We may not get the answers we want, just when we want them. (I got a poignant reminder of that this week.) But the blessing and the beauty of prayer is that it isn't about us at all. It isn't about getting our answers. It isn't even about giving God our want-lists. Not one bit.

No, prayer is all about the one-on-one relationship Christmas made possible -- the one-on-one relationship between our Creator God and us. He is at once supreme over the universe and intimately concerned with the intricate happenings of your life and mine. He longs to hear from us and to talk to us. He gave us the unique gift of prayer just so that could happen. He wrapped it up in love, and His Son offered it to each of us when we accepted Him as our Savior. Prayer was His idea. And in the end, it truly is all about Him.

Here's what I wrote in my book, Praying Like Jesus:


[T]he nature of gifts [is this:] They do not just please the recipient, but they also express the personality and the joyful spirit of the giver. It is as much fun to choose a gift for a loved one as it is to see her joy in receiving it.

God's gifts are no exception. James writes, "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights" (James 1:17). ... The gifts God gives to us are many. Salvation, of course, is the pinnacle of these. But He also gives us abundant life; enjoyment of beauty; love, joy, and peace. Sometimes He gives us items from our wish lists. Other times He gives gifts we didn't know we wanted. And some of His gifts come wrapped in the tissue of sorrow, pain, or disappointment. The child with Down's Syndrome who becomes a sweet blessing. The parent whose funeral celebrates a God-filled life. The loss of a job that challenges a believer to attend seminary.

Hear Jesus' words in His masterpiece of oratory, the Sermon on the Mount: "If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" (Matthew 7:11). God's gifts, like His character, are always good. They flow out of His loving heart. But they flow the most when we humble ourselves and ask of Him. Jesus invites His followers to "keep on asking, and you will be given what you ask for. Keep on looking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened" (Matthew 7:7 nlt).


So as you're opening a gift or two with your name on it this Christmas, remember the gift of prayer God offers to you with open hands. In this season of celebrating the coming of His Son as the Child Who would grow to be our Savior--remember to use and consider precious the gift He provided to each of us--the gift of anytime/anywhere access into His presence where we can keep on asking and know He will hear and answer.

That being said, my Christmas prayer for you this year is that you will be courageous and tenacious in lifting your heart's Christmas prayer to heaven's throneroom -- where it will be received personally and answered by Our Father Who is in heaven.

Blessings and prayers -- and Christmas Joy!

Julie

© 2011, Julie-Allyson Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Christ(mas) Love

Treasured friend,


It’s Christmas. Or nearly so. The season of getting, right? The season of accumulating the biggest stack of cards and the tallest pyramid of presents, right? The season of making our lists and handing them off to someone else to fill. Oh, wait. That makes it sound a lot more like standing in line at the pharmacy with our list of prescriptions (which I did for an hour the other day to try to get Dad’s new meds filled).

Well, of course that’s not it. No, we all can rattle off the real reason for Christmas—giving, right? Well, sort of. The Christmas story in one verse pretty much boils down to: GodsolovedtheworldthatHe GAVE …
 
The way that reads gets close to my usual understanding of the verse—to me it's always been all about celebrating the giving of Jesus Christ as the sacrifice for my sin, the Savior of my soul, the initiator of my new life as a reborn-in-spirit person destined now for eternity in heaven.

But what if the real meaning isn’t about the giving any more than it is about the getting? What if the real motivation is hidden in that quickly glossed-over section of John 3:16:

For GOD so LOVED …

I suspect that the essence of the true story of the birth and death of the Son of God is wrapped up in those two words: God loved. The all-sufficient Creator of the vast expanses of universe and the tiniest quark and everything in between needed nothing. He wanted for nothing. And if He had wanted anything, He could merely breathe or speak it into existence. That, in fact, is exactly what He did when He wanted to express His vast store of creativity.

And yet, because His heart beats with kindness, with compassion, with unmerited mercy, with amazing grace, with longing, with love for the helpless beings He created in His own image—because of all that, He did something about our condition—He gave Himself away to be subjected to unspeakable torture. But again, the giving away isn’t the big story here—it’s all about that amazing God-love that was behind the scenes of the giving. Fueling and motivating and underwriting it.

In the same way, the story of holding Christmas in our hearts and expressing it year round to the people in our lives who need it daily, is equally less about the giving we do and more about the motivation for that giving. As caregivers, we do give. It’s in the job description, if you’ll recall an earlier entry in this blog. In fact, so pivotal is giving to our calling that it’s in our title!

But the motivation of the giving means everything. Do we give our time and energies to our ailing, aging loved ones out of duty. (God said to honor our parents, so I’m going to do it if it kills me?) Is it out of guilt? Is it out of a desire for others to hold us up on pedestals (what a sweet daughter you have!)? Is it out of anger or frustration? Is it out of sheer grit and determination?

Some days, our caring may be tinged with these—on our less-than-good days. But I love the truth that as believers in Christ, as recipients of the God-love that reached down to us in the incarnation of Jesus Christ, we gain the potential of reflecting and exhibiting that God-love in the real world where we live. I suppose that’s why God made such a big deal in my life earlier this year (in February, as you’ll recall) about returning to my first love in Him. Because in my growing cold of heart, my calling was running even colder yet. And He wanted something better for me, better for my parents … He wanted it all to be done in love.

Getting up before dawn to make breakfast and shuttle Dad off to his blood test--done in love. Spending the day in the waiting room with Mom preparing for her surgery—all about love. Advocating for them both--because of love. Interpreting confusing documents—even that's with love. Giving shots. Ordering meds. Just sitting and listening to whatever is most important to them—maybe the most love-gesture of all.

So my Christmas challenge—to myself first, and you’re free to take it up for yourself if you’d like—comes from 1 John 4:

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. 1 John 4:7-12

Let’s ask for our heavenly Christmas gift this year to be all about expanding our capacity to love God and love each other as God loves us. Let’s ask for the ability to live out this love in such a way that anyone who does not know God and has never seen Him—will see Him unmistakably in us as we care lovingly for our aging parents. Maybe then we’ll all get a healthier perspective on the real meaning of Christmas:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

A blessed Christmas to you and your loved ones – from our house to yours!


Julie

© 2011, Julie-Allyson Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com. Scriptures quoted from ESV unless otherwise indicated.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Help in Choosing Levels of Care

Treasured friend,

As you know, I seldom do much here in this blog to promote other websites. But today I'm making an exception ... I was contacted by the editor of a great website that I know you will find useful whenever you need to make difficult choices about living arrangements for your aging loved ones. The site is: http://assistedlivingtoday.com. There you'll find guides to five levels of care: assisted living, memory care, nursing homes, home care, and independent living. If you don't need this today, keep it on file--you may need it tomorrow.

Blessings and prayers,

Julie

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanks for Caregivers!

You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many. 2 Corinthians 1:11

Treasured Friend

Here in the U.S., we're getting ready to celebrate the national holiday, Thanksgiving. As every chef and one-day-a-year cook knows, it's coming up tomorrow. (I realize and cherish the fact that we have regular readers of this blog in dozens of countries on at least 5 continents--but please do allow me the privilege today of commenting on my culture--I promise if you read on, you'll find something useful for your journey, as well.)

While we may seem to have turned it into the national celebration of gluttony (I just pulled the pumpkin pies out of the oven, as evidence!), the deeper meaning hasn't gotten lost on most of us--that of treasuring and honoring God for His abundant provision on our behalf.

It may not always seem abundant -- but it is. It may show itself in the abundance of love in our households -- or in our greater households of faith. It may show itself in the abundance of strength He provides in His grace and mercy as we work diligently to fulfill our challenging callings.

I'm most thankful this season for the abundant number of people He provides to surround us on the caregiving journey. People who encourage, who uplift, who send messages of comfort and peace, and most importantly who carry this ministry and our little family to God's throne room in prayer regularly.

Just yesterday I received a FB message from a dear friend and colleague who regularly holds us up in prayer. I was hard at work writing my new book, and a little message appeared in the lower corner of my screen -- a lovingly worded reminder that she was praying, right then. Oh, what a blessing that message is--one to keep and cherish and re-read any day I feel alone on the journey. And what a powerful reminder it gave me of the close connection we can establish with each other (even across long distances and many miles) through the power of prayer.

That's what caused me to choose as my Scripture of Thanksgiving this year, the one from 2 Corinthians 1 that you read above. It talks about the help prayer provides to the recipient, and the blessing it reflects back on the pray-ers. All of this because of the One to Whom the prayers are directed--our loving God and Father, in the name of His Son Jesus Christ.

So, whether you're the caregivee or the caregiver -- or someone on the margins, holding up those doing the hard work of caring for aging loved ones, I challenge you to take Paul's strong request to heart. Choose at least one caregiver whom you know and hold her regularly -- early and often (like we're said to vote here in Chicago) -- before God's throne in meaningful prayer. She won't be the only one sharing in the blessings as God sees fit to answer your prayer. You'll be the recipient of more blessings than you could even imagine.

Oh, and if you're looking for other ways to support and encourage your favorite caregiver, check out my practical article, Priceless Gifts for Caregivers: http://issuu.com/julie-allysonieron/docs/priceless_gifts_for_caregivers.

A blessed and happy Thanksgiving to all. I thank my God every time I pray for you.


Blessings and prayers, Julie

© 2011, Julie-Allyson Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Sources of Respite

Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands! Psalm 90:17 (ESV)

Treasured friend,

Occasionally, I pass along to you information about sites and resources where you can find continued encouragement and refreshment in the caregiving journey. Recently, I received a message on my Facebook caregivers page (http://www.facebook.com/#!/OverwhelmedCaregivers) from a fellow FB page on a similar topic. After checking out their offerings, I commend their site to you: http://www.caregivervillage.com.

Here's what their executive vp Sharon K. Brothers, who has worked in senior care for three decades, has to say about the site:



The work of a caregiver is hard. It’s exhausting much of the time. You don’t earn a medal for doing it – you should, by the way – but you’re also doing something that’s an even greater achievement than completing a marathon. You’re giving of yourself: your time, your energy, your work. And you’re doing it selflessly.


In Caregiver Village (www.caregivervillage.com), a virtual community that is filled with family caregivers caring for people with all kinds of problems, the hard work of family caregivers is celebrated. Tips, suggestions and tools to reduce the stress of caregiving abound in the Village. Even more importantly, caregivers share their stories through journaling and in group discussions, giving each other help with problems, support and encouragement.


There’s even a game to give caregivers a break while they follow the travails of Cara and her friends, learning along with them how to better manage some of the tasks and stress they encounter along the way.

So, then, as always I encourage you first to go to God's Word and to Him personally in prayer--for courage and strength equal to your task; next go to real people in your life (loved ones, church family, fellow caregivers) for nurture and support; and finally use resources like my caregiving handbook (http://www.joymediaservices.com/jms2011golive_004.htm), our blog and Brothers' Caregiver Village to help equip you for this journey into honoring your elders in a way that honors your Lord.

Blessings and prayers, Julie

2011, Julie-Allyson Ieron

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

God, why don’t You step in and do something?

Treasured friend,


If you’ve ever had trouble understanding why the loving God you serve with all your heart would wait to answer your prayers—or fail to act on your behalf—then this week’s observations are especially for you.


God, do You see me flailing about in the dark waters, about to drown?
God, have You forgotten that I’m out here?
God, do You care?


How often do we, in any dark night of the soul, whisper prayers of desperation like these? And when it is our loved one suffering, and we know God could help, He could bring healing or comfort or energy or strength or courage or victory, but we feel Him only from afar and then He chooses not to act—it is then especially that we are susceptible to discouragement, to faltering faith, to stumbling into despair.


Oh, my flawed, human heart, how it longs to understand the mysteries of God and yet how blind it is to His real activity, His real purposes that are so much grander, so far superior to what I think ought to be.


Musings like these led me to a familiar passage in the Gospel of John—a passage whose meat I’ve been quick to pass by, instead rushing on to the dessert of the eventual answered prayer. It’s the story of the death of Lazarus. Notice, I said the death and not the raising. For if we skip too soon to the end of the story, we’ll miss a key lesson about the way God works so often in our lives. Or at least that’s what I’d been doing for so long.


As I read, I keyed in on a troubling series of two verses—troubling, because it blows out of the water every preconception I have about how God’s love ought to operate. Check it out in John 11:5-6:


Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.
So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. (ESV)


In the Greek it’s even stronger. That word we translate as now, actually is a transition word that’s more like “on the contrary.” As in: you might think this sounds contrary to what’s true, but for sure Jesus loved the Lazarus family. And the phrase he stayed is a two-word phrase that means something like he really stayed. As in: you might be incredulous, here, but I assure you it’s true when I tell you he stayed put for two days. (We lose so much in our bland English language!)


Because (really?) Jesus loved these three, He waited far away from them and let events unfold that they found dismaying, grieving, absolutely inconsistent with their previous relationship with Him. How could He do this to them, of all people—they’d fed Him, hosted Him in their home, offered friendship and service and attentiveness. They’d believed in Him. And this was how He repaid them? They sent word to Him in faith believing, and instead, they got a Master who stayed away and let the enemy of death have its say in their lives.


Ouch! I feel their pain, don’t you? It may be the enemy of death or unemployment or financial worries or health concerns or pained relationships. Whatever it is in your life, you may just be in a season when the Master isn’t doing anything to resolve it.


Or … so it seems.


But scoot back one verse, and He actually explains that this is going to happen and why this is going to happen (before it does!) I like the way the NASB renders Jesus’ pre-explanation: “This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it” (John 11:4).


Anyone who was truly listening to the Master would have heard that the end of the matter wasn’t what it seemed. There was a higher purpose involved here, one of ultimate intent—one that would do what God deems so important—show His hand at work, bring glory to Himself, and draw hearts to trust Him. (Don’t believe me? Skip down to v. 45: “Therefore many of the Jews who came to Mary, and saw what He had done, believed in Him.”


So, my grieving, exhausted, in-need-of-reassurance friend, God loves you. And it may be that because of that love, He’s working behind the scenes on your behalf—on a project that will not only bring ultimate good to you, but ultimate glory to Him.


Take comfort, treasured one, in the knowledge that just because you don’t feel Him near, God isn’t at all surprised or unwilling to act on your behalf. He’ll do it—His way, in His time. I see it in the story of Lazarus and his sisters—and I’ve seen it in obvious evidence recently in my own situation. Take it from Lazarus and Martha and Mary, take it from the apostle John—and if you must, take it from me—because He loves you, He will intervene on your behalf. Hang on with all that’s in you until He does.


Blessings and prayers,

Julie

© 2011, Julie-Allyson Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Gospel Truth

Treasured friend,

A few months ago, our church (The Orchard Evangelical Free Church) hosted a Saturday morning seminar. Dad was doing well that day, so Mom and I were able to get away for the morning -- and we enjoyed the event together. One major chunk of the morning was dedicated to creating the "talking points" outline of our personal journeys of faith. The assignment was to go home and flesh out the outline into a brief story we could share when someone is open to hearing about how we came to trust Christ for ourselves.

We made it a mother/daughter project to complete our stories. And, once we shared them with each other, we realized that each of us was part of the other's faith story.

So often in the dailyness of caregiving responsibilities, it's tempting to lose sight of the bigger reality. We found this exercise to be one that helped us refocus on the main thing--the fact that we have come to know, individually, from years of experience that God loves us, Christ died for us and lives in heaven waiting for us, and the Holy Spirit of God is interceding for us every moment of our challenging journeys.

With that in mind, Mom gave me permission to share her story with you, alongside mine. We'll start with hers--since she's older (don't tell her I said that!).

Joy's Story

When I came to a real relationship with God –

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. Romans 1:16 (ESV)

As a 7-year-old I came to Christ in a worship service; the children’s minister of the church where my father preached led me in a prayer of admitting my sins and asking Jesus to forgive me. But as I grew, I only had a "fear" of God -- of displeasing Him. I know I loved Him, but I showed it by making sure externally I did all the right things that my church said to do, and stayed away from all the wrong (worldly) things my church said a Christian shouldn’t do. Something was still missing from the vibrant relationship I somehow knew was available to me.

When I was a teen, our church held a revival series over several months. And as I attended night after night I felt somehow touched by Christ—closer to Him than I’d felt before. Having more of a desire to please Him than a fear of displeasing Him.

I continued to see evidence of God's hand over me throughout the years. When John and I married we were careful to live a godly life. He read the Bible to me each evening; over the course of the years, I can’t tell you how many times we went through the entire Bible together in that way. We shared our testimony of Jesus whenever we had the opportunity. But I always wished I had a more systematic and complete understanding of God’s Word.

Fast forward to when God blessed John and me with a child. I really got serious about spiritual things – read the Bible to Julie every morning in language she could understand. I got into the Word for myself now and I couldn't get enough of it. So I began attending three Bible studies each week, along with other Christian events where that hunger was being satisfied. Now my faith really began to grow. I began to realize the great privilege of prayer—of deep communication with the God Who loved me and gave His only Son for me. It began to be more about relationship with Him, getting to know everything I could about Him—rather than being motivated by fear. I started to see my daughter’s excitement about knowing Christ for herself—and we grew together. It amazed me how deepening relationship with Christ and His Word made a difference in my relationships with my husband and daughter, too.

During that time I became one of five women in a gospel singing group. We traveled the Midwest, singing and sharing our stories of faith in various churches and denominations, some of whom I know didn't understand why our faith was so important to us, and that Jesus meant everything to us. But once I found Christ for myself -- not my parents - not my husband - not my daughter -- BUT Jesus was for me, I couldn’t help but tell others what I’d found in Him. So, at many of our concerts I had the privilege of sharing this story of faith and of leading the audience in a prayer that could start each of them on their own personal journeys with the God of the Word.

More than a far-away God, Christ became my companion - Savior -Lord of my Life - I wouldn't have lived it any other way.


Jul's Story
Go Tell Jesus You're Sorry

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 (ESV)

One command from my mother became the initiator of my one-on-one relationship with God and His Son Jesus. The command came on one of many days when I had sassed back at her. (Come to think of it, she must have given that same command often during my childhood) I wasn't a particularly naughty child, rather compliant, actually, but my mouth was just a little quicker than my mind--and I wasn't able to edit it all back. So I sassed. Again. And Mom got that look on her face: "Go to your room. And don't come out until you've told Jesus you're sorry."

Now, I must tell you I was a churched kid. I knew all the stories about Jesus and His taking little children in His arms to bless them. I knew He was God's Son born on Christmas who died on Easter to pay for the sins and shortcomings of people. Yes, I knew enough about Him to do what she was asking me to.

So, I stormed off to my room. The door hadn't even closed yet when my tender little heart broke--because I knew I was guilty. I'd sassed. No doubt about it. And sassing made God sad--just like lying or disobeying my parents or any number of "little" sins my little heart had committed.

With that crushing sadness, I crunched up in a little ball on the floor, in the two-foot space between my bed and dresser. And I said, "Jesus, I'm sorry. I know I was wrong. I didn't mean to do it, but I did. Please forgive me. I want to be in Your family--so please make me like You--and in case I do it again in the future--I probably will!--I don't want it to keep me from heaven."

That tender-hearted moment was the kernel that started my life-long journey toward knowing Jesus as my forgiver and the One I've asked to be in charge of my life.

Five or six years later, when I was a totally mature 8 years old, I wanted to be sure I had it all lined up just right, so I walked down the aisle of a church in Florida when a preacher offered an invitation for anyone who wanted to be God's child. I knew I wanted that--so when he prayed, I agreed along with him. God, I'm a sinner (remember that sassing?). God I could never be good enough on my own to meet your perfect standard. But Jesus was perfect. And He loved me enough to lay down His perfect life as payment for my sin. I ask You to apply His payment to my account. And make me Your child. Take over my life and lead me."

Those may not have been the exact words, but they were the gist of it. When I went to college and my faith was tested by friends and even professors, I was still absolutely convinced that God exists and Jesus made this way for me to heaven--where I can know I'll be with Him one day.

In all the years between then and now (never mind how many there have been) I have done my best to learn to know Him better. He has called me to a full-time ministry of writing and speaking His truth to audiences I get to see face to face (in person, on TV, and listening by radio/internet) and readers in countless countries around the world—most of whom I may never meet. Through my books and articles, I get to share the good news of the gospel to those who don’t yet know my Jesus. And I get to encourage (even challenge) those who do know Him to deepen their relationships with Him through studying His Word in fresh ways.

But, ministry calling aside, He's been my friend, my confidante, my forgiver, and my life-planner (Lord) all these years. I knew way back then that He could be trusted with my little heart. So, now as a long-time believer, I can say along with the apostle Paul, “I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day” (2 Timothy 1:12; NASB).


Mom and I hope our sharing these stories with you accomplished two goals:

1) If you have been considering Christ's claims, we pray that our stories will show you the path to your own personal relationship with God, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

2) If you have your own story of faith, we pray that you'll take the time to write it down, so you can both see how God has proven Himself faithful to you and then go tell others that amazing news.

Oh, and if either (or both) of those apply to you, drop us a line and let us know. We'll keep it to ourselves if you like. Or, even better, we'd love it if you'd post it here to encourage others to do the same.

Blessings and prayers,

Julie

© 2011, Julie-Allyson Ieron, Joy Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com

Friday, October 14, 2011

Joy Comes to the CCU

A joyful heart is good medicine. Proverbs 17:22 (ESV)


And Sarah said, “God has made laughter for me.” Genesis 21:6 (ESV)

Treasured friend,

I just shared with my friend Rhonda, whose dad is recovering from bypass surgery, a memory from my own dad's bypass.

You need to find the funny even in the really bad times, or you'll go nuts. With that in mind ...

Dad was in CCU after his bypasses with tubes coming out of everywhere and his hands restrained; we were appalled at how he looked. Fortunately there are no mirrors in CCU, so he didn't know how bad it was.

He couldn't talk, of course, because of the ventilator and feeding tubes. He was clearly feeling miserable in every square inch of his shrinking frame.
Someone--the night nurse, I think--taught him how to communicate by spelling out words in the air--rather Helen Keller-like. One of the first times he was awake when we got our 5 minutes per hour to spend with him (that's the limit for visits in CCU), he kept spelling out S-K-R-A-C-H in the air with his finger; then he'd grab for my hand. When I reached to hold his hand, he'd push it away a little and weakly scratch the back of it.

It took a while. But we finally figured he thought he had been scratched. Feeling like the mom of a toddler, I tried to sooth him. 'It's okay, Dad. I know a scratch hurts, but it'll go away.' With all his grave wounds, a 'skrach' didn't seem like a big deal. You had to love the spelling, though -- those drugs in surgery certainly do a number on the thinking centers. (To think this was the man who taught me to spell!)

He couldn't be stopped, though. The air spelling continued--with great flourish on the K. And each time, he grew more insistent and more frustrated.

Finally, the nurse who had taught him this rudamentary communication interpreted for us: he wanted us to scratch his head -- he had an itch.

Even in the bleakest moments, a ray of hope often comes in the form of a good chuckle. May the Lord bring one of those into your life today! Even years later, this story still ripples a round of laughter through our little circle.

Blessings and prayers,

Julie

© 2011, Julie-Allyson Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Waiting Game

But those who wait upon GOD get fresh strength. Isaiah 40:31 (MSG)

Treasured friend, 

Patience may be a virtue, but it’s not one of mine. Yet the Bible's wisdom literature (Psalms and Ecclesiastes, in particular) have a lot to say about this virtue of waiting—especially of waiting patiently for the Lord to intervene on our behalf.

It could be in the big stuff—or the daily stuff. We know enough of our God to know He is aware and He stands waiting, too. He waits beside us and in us, ready to act on our behalf.

Today, I’m thinking about patience, because this moment while I write three of my caregiving friends are waiting for the big stuff. They sit numbly expecting news of the outcome of their parents’ heart tests and surgeries. One is physically sitting in her office at work, at her desk, looking like all is normal—except it isn’t, because her heart is in another state, anxiously awaiting word from family members who are nearby as her father's life is in the heart-surgeon’s hands. The others are, like Mom and I have been so many times over so many years, sitting stiffly in the plastic chairs of the hospital waiting room, sipping burned coffee from Styrofoam cups without even noticing the acrid flavor, blankly flipping frizzled magazine pages, and stealing furtive glances toward OR doors that sport the menacing warning: No Admittance Beyond This Point. Waiting room attendants know not to make eye contact with waitees—because this is a time of introspection, of fear, of coming face to face with the unknown. There’s nothing any other person, however trained or empathetic, can really do for the waitees in those moments. Nothing except pray, which is what I'm doing for each of these friends today.

There are no guarantees. Actually, there is one guarantee—if the rapture doesn’t come in the mean time, all of us will face this moment—both with our loved ones and for ourselves—and the outcome won’t be what our humanness wants to hear.

In our waiting room times with Dad, we’ve been so relieved to see a smiling surgeon emerge with a smug look of his having cheated eternity on Dad’s behalf—at least for now. But, I can remember once while we were waiting for Dad, some church friends were sitting beside us—and their news from the surgeon wasn’t nearly so good.

I suppose that’s what makes the wait so long—and the dependence on our God so great. I love the way Eugene Peterson paraphrases the familiar Scripture above: wait upon God … get fresh strength. It’s so vibrant. And so direct. Strength to face whatever. Strength from the hand and nature of a loving God. Just knowing God knows and cares and supports and loves us through these times is immeasurably strengthening. And His strength, like the living water of life He offers at our salvation, is limitless—fresh—sweet.

In case you have a waiting room in your future—or in your day, today—I’d like to share a list of Scriptures that mean something to me in those hours. I gleaned this particular list from a book called “Treasury” that comes with my WORDsearch Bible Software library. (Every verse in the ESV translation has similar lists of other times its key topics appear throughout both Testaments.) It’s a treasure I’ve discovered only recently—and hope it brings you comfort, joy—and yes, especially strength—today:


Isa 8:17 — I will wait for the LORD… and I will hope in him.

Isa 25:9 — It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

Isa 30:18 — Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him.

Ps 25:3 — Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame

Ps 25:5 — Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.

Ps 25:21 — May integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for you.

Ps 27:14 — Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!

Ps 40:1 — I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry.

Ps 123:2 — Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maidservant to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the LORD our God, till he has mercy upon us.

La 3:25 — The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.

La 3:26 — It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.

Ro 8:25 — But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

1Th 1:10 — and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.


Take a few moments, if you would, to meditate on each of those truths, one by one. Several have become especially meaningful to me as I've done that. Here's what jumped out at me: None who wait for the Lord will be ashamed … the Lord inclines to and answers our cries … our God will have mercy on us … the Lord is good to the soul who seeks Him … we may not see it, but we can hope in patience—and assurance.

And the best of all, the one that gives real strength to every believer in the waiting room …the reminder of that last verse from 1 Thessalonians: this isn’t all there is. We wait, more than anything, for the Son of God, once dead and now alive forever more, to deliver us once and for all and carry us into His eternal kingdom—more alive than we’ve ever been, and in perfect health from that moment throughout eternity.

So, my waiting friends, I pray for you today, that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ would grant you peace and grace in your anxious times—and renewed assurance that this life, in its entirety, is only a dim and slim moment in light of a glorious eternity.

I pray for you and your loved ones the assurance of salvation that comes from placing your faith in Jesus Christ's sacrifice of His own life on Calvary--to pay for all of our sins: yours, theirs and mine. If you have trusted in His death and resurrection on your behalf, you will indeed find fresh strength in your waiting room--because the Lord of Heaven and Earth calls you His very own child and promises to be with you always.

Take courage, my friend. Take courage!

Blessings and prayers,

Julie

© 2011, Julie-Allyson Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com

Friday, September 23, 2011

We Are Not Abandoned

At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me ... The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
2 Timothy 4:16-18 (ESV)

Treasured friend,

In my personal devotions for the past several weeks, I've been focusing my attention on Paul's words to his spiritual son, Timothy, spoken with intensity and tenderness and challenge in the letter we call 2 Timothy. Toward the close of this book--which was written toward the close of Paul's life (rather like the changing of the guard)--the Scripture quoted above captivated me. I suppose that's partially because, as you and I both know, so often we caregivers feel exactly like Paul did.

All deserted me, is what he wrote. I'm in this alone--is what he felt.

Now, it's true that Paul was being dragged in chains into the venues of pagan magistrates--so, truly his plight was more immediately life-threatening than ours. But the emotion he expressed is so often the same as we experience in our daily drudgery.

Which of us, in the middle of the most intense caregiving seasions, hasn't felt what Paul is expressing here? I'm here--and all the people who said they'd stand with me are somewhere else. For some, helping me was too challenging--too saddening, so they went away. For some, other priorities drew them elsewhere--to their own work. For others--and this is the worst--my tragic predicament may even bring an opportunity to wring their hands in glee, as they stand by and watch me dangle here on the precipice of despair.

That's the situation Paul paints for us. He, the great apostle of faith, experienced the depths of discouraging abandonment. I don't know about you, but that makes me snap to attention to discover how he made sense of it and how he found the strength to hold onto faith in the midst of it. I want to know--because down deep that's how I want to face my day today.

First, he forgave and prayed for those who deserted him. Don't let God hold this against them, he prayed. Sounds a lot like Jesus on the cross: Father, forgive them, for they don't know what they're doing. Come to think of it, Jesus felt that same abandonment--our same abandonment--as He prayed in Gethsemane and hung on the cross. We couldn't find two better examples to follow.

It's tempting to soothe my hurt feelings by harboring bitterness against those who ought to be a help and even moreso those who have become hindrances instead. But the apostle (and Christ before him) would have none of that. Because that would lead to wallowing--and perhaps even to sin if I allow it to take root. Let this sin against me go, God. Don't count it against their account. It takes some serious spiritual strength to pray that prayer.

Then, Paul turned his attention toward a greater truth than what he could touch with his hands or see with his eyes or hear with his ears: I may have looked alone. I may have felt alone. But I was never alone--because the most important One of all was with me. Not only with me, but standing shoulder-to-shoulder beside me, accompanied by His vast throngs of warriors. And in His mere presence, He gave me the strength and courage and energy and ability I needed. I know it came from Him--because in myself I was empty, but at once I found myself strong enough to endure. I've been there, too, finding a resevoir of strength--and wisdom--at my disposal, with no earth-based explanation of how it got there. Yes, we may feel alone, but for the Christian, we can place our life-grip firmly on Christ's promise, I will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).

Finally, Paul looked ahead at the outcome he knew to be true, even if it was absolutely hidden from his sight in that moment: God's still greater than my circumstance. He promised He'd get me out of this and set me firmly into my home in His heavenly kingdom. I know that to be true. So, I'll hold to that promise in faith--and bring Him praise and glory right now. That's what I will do. And I'll continue to do it until my faith becomes sight.

I hope and pray that Paul's example has strengthened your resolve, as it has mine. Our challenge is to place our eyes on the God Who is with us and in us--and press on into our day. You may feel alone, as may I, but we're not alone--not by a longshot!

Blessings and prayers,

Julie

© 2011, Julie-Allyson Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

When You Weep

Treasured friend,

Jeremiah—I’ve always held this particular prophet of the Most High God in the highest esteem. In fact, if you asked me who my favorite Bible characters are, Jeremiah would be up there in the top ten. For sure.

Surprised? Let me tell you why.

God called Jeremiah as a young man (we who think of him at all often remember him as a scraggly bearded old man thrown in a pit by a jealous and angry king’s henchmen—but in the first chapter of his prophetic book, he is the young son of a priest). Not only did God call Jeremiah, but He chose for this tenderhearted youngster a mighty difficult road. One that would cause the prophet’s heart to break time and time again over the lot of God’s people in an era of great terror—an era when the nation would be overrun with enemies because of the people’s grievous sin.

Being faithful to this calling would overwhelm Jeremiah to the point that he would be remembered to posterity as the weeping prophet.

I can relate to a weeping prophet. I can relate to heartbreak—especially the heartbreak of watching those I love suffer. In our cases, as caregivers of our aging parents, the suffering is a result of the normal scheme of life on this fallen planet. No matter—the emotional exhaustion of the tragic circumstances we can’t control too often sends us off to a pit of weeping every bit as deeply as Jeremiah.

But it isn’t just Jeremiah’s weeping that grabs me and won’t let go. It’s the words God spoke to and through him that speak to me. God didn't fault the prophet's frequent questions of, are You sure about this God? Did You really mean for this to befall Your people? (Sound like any of your prayers? Could be some of mine on nearly any day of the week.) Instead, God spoke calm and comfort to the prophet--counter-cultural calm and comfort. Comfort that sustained the prophet through moments when the storms of chaos swirled and uprooted his entire world.

So, this morning, I got out one of my old, well-worn, crumble-spined Bibles and scanned the book of Jeremiah for just a few of the words God spoke through the weeping prophet— that have touched my heart and sustained me over the years. I share them with you in hopes you’ll catch a fresh, reassuring glimpse of the way God is at work in the most difficult circumstances of your life.

Jeremiah 1:7; 9  But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak.” … 9 Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the LORD said to me, “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth.”

Jeremiah 1:19 I am with you, declares the LORD, to deliver you.”

Jeremiah 9:23-24 Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, 24 but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”

Jeremiah 29:12-14 “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, declares the LORD”.

Jeremiah 31:16-17  Thus says the LORD: “Keep your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears, for there is a reward for your work, declares the LORD …17 There is hope for your future, declares the LORD.”

Jeremiah 31:25 “For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish.”

So, my caregiving compatriot, you just heard if from God’s own lips: there is a reward for your work; there is a hope for your future.

And, even more than that, I especially love that last word from Jeremiah 31:25—about how tenderly God says He’ll treat the weary and languishing soul. I know weary. So do you. Let’s covenant together to take that promise from God into our caregiving tasks today. Let’s commit to each other that every time we feel exhausted and overwhelmed—weary of the journey—we’ll let God know about it, at that very instant.

God, I’m weary. Soul weary. You promised to satisfy and replenish me. Please, do that for me in this exhausting moment. And, I ask You to do the same for every one of my caregiving friends who are feeling the same fatigue just now.

When God answers your prayer, will you drop me a note to let me know about it? Your gift of refreshment from Him will be an encouragement and uplift to me.

Blessings and prayers,

Julie

© 2011, Julie-Allyson Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Why Does God Allow ...?

What kind of a God wouldn’t do something about this awfulness in my life?
Why doesn’t God do what I want Him to do?
Why doesn’t God answer me?
Why should I have faith in a God Who doesn’t give me what I want?
Why should I even think God is out there at all?

Treasured Friend,

Standing by while those we love suffer causes our fragile hearts to form this litany of questions. That's natural. Yet left unchecked, they’ll lead us down a slippery slope. Don't believe me? See if you recognize the slide in this story:
It wasn’t long ago that I picked up a bestselling autobiography. The author was young when she prayed in a time of crisis. But God didn’t do what she asked. So she penned the line, “That was the day I lost my faith.” I stuck with the book for a while (although I haven’t finished it yet); and as far as I’ve gotten, in several hundred pages and decades of life, she hasn’t yet seen her faith overcome that tragic loss. But that one line has stayed with me, perhaps because of its hopelessly misguided conclusion.

There’s a problem here. A lack of maturity, I suppose, that’s common to us all. A temper tantrum of sorts, a spoiled child pounding our fists at the heavens and irreverently threatening, If You won’t do what I want, I’m going to make You suffer. In fact, I’m going to make You downright miserable until You tire of my hissy fit and give me what I demand. And if You still won't do it, then ... then ... I won't like You anymore! So there! Take that!

What I’ve found is that the problem of suffering and the questions it causes to arise in our hearts bring to the surface the human propensity to see the world—and God—as revolving around us, rather than the opposite. The ancients—although they had a less sophisticated base of scientific knowledge—had infinitely more wisdom about these things than we do. They suffered profusely. God didn’t give them the immediate deliverance they asked for. Their loved ones suffered, too. But they came to an altogether different conclusion about God and how He answers prayer.

“When I consider the heavens, the moon and the stars that You created,” David penned, “What is man that You are mindful of him, or the son of man that You visit him?” (from Psalm 8). This from the man who saw his camp plundered, his wife and children carried away by the enemy. And yes, he questioned—but he didn’t throw away his faith with the tragedy. Instead of looking inside himself for the answers, he looked up. And he was absolutely amazed—awed—astounded by Whom he saw.

With David, I look around at this world—my world—and I realize how small I am. In its suffering, its decay, its temporary nature, I see the contrast between myself and God. God’s power is infinite, mine is insignificant. God’s authority is transcendent; mine is puny. God is eternal, I’m not--I had a beginning, and from this earth's perspective one day soon I'll have an end. It’s really all about Him, and not nearly so much about me. What a difference that perspective shift makes in the kinds of questions my heart asks.

Then there’s good old Job and the line that is packed with the depths of suffering and the heights of faith: “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15, NKJV). As much as it pains me to admit it, God is free to do what He wishes with me—and even with my loved ones. He is, because He is the Creator, Sustainer, unrivaled Ruler of the entire universe. This is Who He is, whether or not I acknowledge it to be so.

Why doesn’t God do what I tell Him to do? Because He’s God and I’m not. He sees a greater scheme—and holds a grander plan in the palms of His hands. I play a role in those plans because of His great mercy, but my role is small—and the entire production is ever so far beyond anything that I am.

What does this have to do with you and the suffering you’re undergoing beside your aging loved one today? When you come to the moment of asking those questions about why God hasn’t given you the answered prayer you’ve sought, I pray you come to the same conclusion as the Psalmist and Job. That conclusion is this: the amazing thing isn’t that you haven’t received what you wanted from God, but rather that the awesome Creator of all things invites you to carry your requests to Him, to trust Him, to know Him. When you come to know Him personally, through His Son Jesus Christ and the Spirit Who lives inside everyone who believes, you will be able to trust Him with the outcome of events in this tired old world that's all subject to continued decay.

So, voice your questions to your Creator/Friend, and then say with me, and with old King David, “Oh Lord, our Lord, Your magnificent name transcends the earth and overflows the heavens” (adapted from Psalm 8). This magnificent God is the best answer to any question your heart could form.

Blessings and prayers,
Julie

© 2011, Julie-Allyson Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

When My Foot Slips ...

Treasured friend,

My FB friend John Simonson posted this Scripture today:

‎"When I thought, "My foot slips," your steadfast love, O LORD, held me up. When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul." ~ Psalm 94:18-19

It is so fitting for us, as caregivers, that I wanted it to encourage you today.

I've done something to my wrist and am working one-handed (with my right thumb immobilized in a prescription splint) these days--so I'll keep my comments minimal.

Just meditate on this passage with me today--and be consoled. Oh, and if you think of my folks and me, please keep us in your prayers!


Blessings and prayers,

Julie


© 2011, Julie-Allyson Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com

Monday, August 15, 2011


Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed (1 Peter 4:12-13; NIV).

Treasured friend,

I daresay this Scripture offers an upside down perspective on caregiving (and the challenges of aging that our parents are enduring). Don’t be surprised that life isn’t what you expected, that it isn’t perfect and sweet and without opposition—that aging happens, and even if you don’t count wrinkles and gray hair, it usually isn’t all that pretty a picture. But instead of wallowing, count it as another opportunity to relate to Christ—and to look toward the joy that awaits us. He showed us how as He endured the cross, despising the shame, all for the “joy set before Him” (Hebrews 12:2).

That, I’ve found in recent weeks, is easier preached than accomplished. It’s so much more natural to respond with sullenness to personal setbacks, emotional and physical exhaustion, disappointments in people and circumstances, distressing world conditions. Joy? How can tumbling world markets bring joy? How can broken relationships be a source of rejoicing? How can an injured body make me overjoyed? It would take too many lines for me to list off the litany of grievances that have been getting me down low since I’ve written to you last. And none of them has felt anything near joyful. No, I can’t say I’ve put Peter’s instructions into practice—at all.

Then again, were this response natural, the apostle wouldn’t have had to instruct believers then—or now—to rejoice. The Greek word for rejoice describes greeting something with gladness, saluting it with calm happiness. It can actually be a salutation—“be well.” Be well, spiritually, when physically you’re not. Be well and at peace knowing this isn’t all there is—that there’s a world to come that’s absolutely real and utterly fantastic—its finish never chips or tarnishes, its relationships never end or disappoint, its length is endless--literally. Be well as you remind yourself that the pain of this time and place may be obscuring the truth, but the heavenly reality is still there, behind the storm clouds that will soon pour themselves out and evaporate.

The key, I suppose, comes in the last verse of the chapter:

 So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good (1 Peter 4:19, NIV).

Trust God—commit it all to Him because, as Paul would say, “He is able to keep what I’ve committed to Him against that day” (2 Timothy 1:12). So, get it together, Jul. Continue to do what you know is good and right. Don’t look around at others who aren’t living in holiness and yet seem to be enjoying blessings and a cushy life. Think of the way David put it in the Psalms: “don’t fret because of evildoers” (Psalm 37:1). Instead, the Psalm seems to be the source Peter used. Because its prescription and his are so similar: “Trust in the Lord and do good. Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord” (vv. 3-4, NASB). Live where you're living. Do what you know is right and just for you to do as a follower of the Living God. And do it all as service to Him. Then the joy will follow--maybe today, and definitely tomorrow.

It’s a challenge I’m going to make a solid attempt to live up to starting today … how about you?

Blessings and prayers,
Julie

© 2011, Julie-Allyson Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Treasured Friend,

I want to say a huge thank you to all of you who listened and prayed for me yesterday when I was a guest on the Chris Fabry Live show on Moody Broadcasting Network. I just listened to the podcast—and all the places where I wasn’t sure how to answer caller questions, it was as if God’s Spirit guided the answer—I almost didn’t know where it was coming from. Your prayers … at work. Even the commercial break short programs seemed to fit in with the content of our conversation.

The presentation was one that's relevant to us as caregivers, even in our exhaustion ... returning to our first love. I hope and pray there is both encouragement and challenge in what we said on air.

We had opportunity to tell lots of friends/neighbors who aren't believers about the broadcast -- and if they did indeed listen, they heard the gospel clearly presented. Our continued prayer is that the Lord will work in their hearts to draw them to Himself.

I am grateful for your prayer partnership. 

In case you'd like to listen now or later, here's a link to the streaming broadcast online:

Blessings and prayers,

Julie

© 2011, Julie-Allyson Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Upcoming Radio Interview with Chris Fabry

Hi friends,

Hope you'll be able to listen in live on Tuesday, August 2 between 2-3 p.m. Central. I'll be a guest on the nationally broadcast "Chris Fabry Live" radio program. It runs on the MBN radio network (that's 90.1 FM in Chicago) -- and is also available online at moodyradio.org.

Chris is one of the most insightful interviewers -- and we'll be having a great conversation about going deeper in our Christian lives. I think you'll find it energizing, challenging, and encouraging.

Please pray with us, too, that the message will be God-honoring and will touch hearts.

Blessings and prayers,

Julie

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Treasured friend,

Way back in the cold snow of winter, I taped the most wonderful hour-long caring for aging parents interview with CAN-TV's Everlasting Love program. Barbara A Karpouzian (host) and Don Albert (producer) gave me permission to post a 10-minute clip on YouTube. So, here 'tis -- for encouragement, challenge, and a closing prayer from my heart to all my fellow caregivers.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_qjM-g74LNE&feature=channel_video_title

Blessings and prayers,
Julie

© 2011,



All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com

Monday, June 27, 2011

It Could Be Worse ...

Treasured friend,

We've had some week in our neck of the woods. Tornadoes. Downed trees and live power lines on the ground. Power outages -- ours lasted 65 hours; a few others in our neighbhorhood went even longer than that. And more storms are on the way today.

I sprained my wrist from pulling the starter on our portable generator (which eventually did generate enough power to keep Dad's meds cool in the fridge and the basement dry). Dad fell and is now limping after missing the bottom stair in the dark (while I was out on the patio trying to start said generator). We moped in darkness for three days and three nights--running short on patience, and shorter on the necessities of life. And we found ourselves wondering how Abe Lincoln studied by candlelight to become a lawyer, and how Noah's wife and daughters-in-law survived cooped up in that dark ark for 40 days and 40 nights.

We decided that none of us would make good (or happy) campers at this stage of our lives. (Come to think of it, when we did camp in our earlier lives, we weren't very happy campers then, either!)

Then we went to church yesterday to find that a dear friend and fellow caregiver suffered a tree through the roof in our same storm--and our predicament didn't seem so bad. Everyone, it seemed, had an equally challenging story to share.

Now that the power is back on, I finally got to scrolling through the endless emails (do you know how many can accumulate in 65 hours??) in my box. Among them I found an ad for this book that apparently is on Oprah's book club list for the summer: Someday This Will Be Funny.

Now, I haven't read the book (probably won't, actually), but the title gave me pause.

What a great way to look at the crises of a week like this one ... someday we'll laugh about this, or at least we won't be crying/fretting/stressing about it anymore. Someday so many of the things I consider major deals today will fade into oblivion and may even be a source of a chuckle or a to-the-bottom-of-the-toes laugh.

I don't see it yet, of course, but I can look in faith to that one day. After all, as the opening line of Hebrews 11 reminds us, "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" (v. 1; ESV). I have faith that even this series of setbacks--and the many others of a more serious nature that we've experienced in the last year--don't come as a surprise to our loving Father. We can have faith that in all this He is at work. We can have absolute assurance that one day we will sit beside Him, review it all, and see how He worked in it to accomplish the best. We can also have the assurance that from that vantage point in eternity we'll admit (even if grudgingly) that some of it was actually a little funny.

I pray a hearty laugh for you today, no matter what else happens. Please pray the same for me.

Blessings and prayers,

Julie

© 2011, Julie-Allyson Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

For the grandparents among you ...

My friend Lydia E. Harris has created a lovely Bible study/devotional book titled Preparing My Heart for Grandparenting. It's published by AMG, and would make a great resource for you or the grandparent you love. It's filled with Scripture, practical suggestions, even activities you can do together. Topics include prayer, being a role model, investing in their lives, listening to joys and tears, making an eternal impact. Lydia tells a wonderful story--as you may know from her other books. If you're a grandparent, or are looking for a gift for a new grandparent, check this book out.

Blessings and prayers, Julie

Friday, June 10, 2011

Job Description: In-home Caregiver

Treasured friend,

As I’ve been playing the role for a while, I decided a job description for an adult-child caregiver of aging parents could be useful. What I came up with is a list of qualifications that pretty much transfers to any in-home, 24-7-365 caregiving job. It started as I was trying to figure out why I’ve been feeling more overwhelmed than usual—and to bolster myself because I’d been feeling less-than-productive in many areas of my professional life.

See if you have what it takes—or if you recognize your job in this list.

NASCAR driver—must be able to beat all other drivers in the hospital parking garage to the last handicapped parking spot. Why doesn’t a hospital, by definition, create more handicapped spots? I mean really!
Personal chef—microwaving leftover skills a must; defrosting skills helpful—especially understanding the use of the microwave’s defrost function and being able to operate it without assistance.
Patient companion—willingness to sit in an easy chair and watch reruns of Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts without getting frustrated over your own laundry piling up.
Ambassador/diplomat—talent to reestablish emotional calm when service providers try to force the issue of paperless billing, auto-deposit, and online bill-pay.
Psychologist—the ability to guess at what’s behind a loved-one’s question without using Freud’s theories to dig deep and place the blame squarely on one’s parents (counterproductive when dealing with one’s parents).
Translator—ability to take gleaned understanding at the meaning behind the response and explain it to other loved ones, service providers, and medical team.
Legal advisor—uncanny capacity to comprehend legal and medical mumbo-jumbo and translate it into legitimate English—this is a must. Also, a practiced hand at witnessing and signing legal and medical forms.
Banker—aptitude to understand and explain the latest round of hieroglyphics generated by the mega-bank’s computer system; willingness to do same every single time a new report comes in snail mail.
Electronics technician—must possess the skill for resetting all digital clocks on radios, appliances, and the VCR whenever the power blips; also must know everything about computers and satellite TV boxes—and be able to extrapolate exactly how the loved one got to this particular locked-up screen—again!
Medic—must be ready to kiss boo-boos and make them better. Boo-boos include insect bites, stubbed toes, mystery bruises, and test-prick wounds.
Nurse’s aide—required to produce or generate test-prick wounds; must be practiced and convincing at the mantra, “This won’t hurt at all.”
Excel spreadsheet guru—must possess the capacity to rig up makeshift fax system, log (and type accurately) test-prick results, and transmit generated spreadsheet via fax to medical team weekly.
Patient advocate—has the talents of understanding the emotionally charged reactions to diagnoses and reminding the medical team that patient is a person, not a series of test results.
Make-it-all-better specialist—a calming, soothing, understanding, listening attitude is essential!

This is only slightly exaggerated from the tasks we’ve been called on to perform this week. Maybe that overwhelmed feeling isn’t quite so groundless as I’d thought when I woke up this morning.

As I searched The Word for a bit of comfort or assurance, I found this little statement that I’ve glibly quoted in the past. It took on new meaning today—and sounded less flip as it rolled off my fingertips onto the screen: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13; NKJV).

May your list of job qualifications, like mine, always fall into that “all things” category, through Christ our loving, patient, and eminently qualified Lord.


Blessings and prayers,
Julie

© 2011, Julie-Allyson Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com

Monday, May 23, 2011

Reminded of the Word of Truth

Treasured friend,

This evening I was rereading my April entry – and feeling sheepish as I read. I’ve begun dozens of messages to you, but haven’t gotten far before I was interrupted, needed elsewhere, or otherwise distracted. So, my treasured friend, I offer you my sincere apology.

By way of explanation—but by no means excuse—since I’ve last written to you, our family has sat by several sets of friends, fellow caregivers who have been through the ultimate challenge: watching loved ones decline, then enter the care of hospice, all the while knowing where the path is leading … that the journey of their beloved charges would carry them into eternity with their Lord.

We’ve seen faithful saints who’ve lived a lifetime in God’s service finish the course well—and collect their prize of eternal life. We’ve listened to words of comfort from preachers in services of tearful celebrations, and we’ve come to realize anew the fact that words, even beautiful words out of the Psalms or out of Paul’s writings to the early church, simply can’t express the range of emotions in these most poignant of all human moments.

And yet words are what we have to offer—as we come up against this frustrating reminder of the limitations of our humanity. Words, gentle hugs, tearful eyes, the squeeze of a hand. We’re here. We care. We’re praying. We won’t forget to hold you up in the days ahead.

That’s what we have in our comfort arsenals. That, and the truth of the Word made flesh, Who made His dwelling place among us—Who lived to demonstrate the Creator’s understanding of our pain at the curse of death—and who died to make a way for us to live. The paradox of faith in Christ. It takes dying to live.

When our hearts are torn by death’s separation—His presence seems just a little closer, a little more tangible. And we become a lot more desperate to feel it for ourselves. In those moments we long to be reminded of His promises, the words from His very own mouth—spoken to prepare His loved ones’ hearts for the painful separation from Him that they were about to experience. They then, like we now, didn’t understand what was about to take place, couldn’t see the bigger picture, could only be gripped by panicked and fearful emotions at the prospect of their Lord going to a place they couldn’t immediately follow. And yet, He offered these beautiful words …  

Your heart must not be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if not, I would have told you. I am going away to prepare a place for you. If I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come back and receive you to Myself, so that where I am you may be also. You know the way to where I am going.” “Lord,” Thomas said, “we don’t know where You’re going. How can we know the way?” Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:1-6, HCSB).

Over the weekend, I had the privilege of using these words, and others spoken by Christ and expounded on by Paul, to reassure an old friend’s troubled questions about eternity (raised in her heart by the misguided and ill-spoken words of a charlatan Armageddon predictor).

Here is what I told her (and I'm telling you) that I know to be true—because Christ said so--check out His Word for yourself to see whether what I'm telling you is true. Here, then, is what I know: We know the way—the only way—to the place where we will be with Christ … and with our loved ones who have died in Him. The way is so simple that so many of us complicate things, so that others (surely not we ourselves) miss it. The way is clear and direct because Christ made it so.

He faced the recesses of hell Himself. That day on Calvary’s cross He entered death’s domain, He tied up the guardians of hell, and He conquered them once and for all—for every one of us who dares to believe—to ask Him to buy us back from slavery to sin—to apply His life-blood to our sin accounts. This is what He asks us to believe and receive—“If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. … For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:9, 13; HCSB).

Perhaps words are enough to offer after all. Words from the mouth of our Lord, offering comfort and a compassionate challenge—your heart must not be troubled. … I will receive you to Myself. And the words of our own mouths: Lord Jesus, I choose to believe You and receive the free gift of salvation that You paid for on my behalf--with Your blood.

With those words, eternal companionship with our loving Lord opens up for each of us. So that at death's moment, we'll be more alive in Him than we ever were on this earth.That’s what happened to our friends this week. And when it’s our time—well, I can’t speak for you, but as for me, that’s the promise that will carry me through the end of this life and into the promised joys of eternity with Christ. That’s what I’m living for … and what I’ve staked it all to believe.

I pray you have this same assurance in your own heart—for your eternity, and for the eternity of the one you care for today.

Blessings and prayers,
Julie

© 2011, Julie-Allyson Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com

Monday, April 18, 2011

A New Name ...

Treasured friend,

This evening as I was enjoying the gift of 30 minutes to relax quietly, I turned on a CD containing medleys of hymns and gospel songs. And I was transported to the church where I grew up and to the one I attended during college and grad school. Those were good days--marked by a sweet, sincere faith. Days of putting our hearts into our faith journeys. Both churches leaned toward the holiness traditions, and they were peopled by caring, compassionate believers who took seriously the idea of the family of faith.

I grew up with the hymnal beside the Bible in the pew pockets. And I was enriched by both--because both spoke of the true gospel--and how it works in real life every day.

I learned to harmonize by reading along in the hymnal--and became a strong, confident (and hopefully in-tune) alto in the process. My mind was sharp in those days (that sharpness may just be wasted on the young!)--sharp and absorbant, to mix my metaphors. Because in the repetition of the hymns Sunday after Sunday (certain of the elder folks asked to sing the same songs week after week--as my pre-teen eyes rolled) I not only internalized the truths, but the lyrics--all 4 or 5 verses of them.

My grandfather, in addition to being the preacher/pastor, also was the song leader. You could mark the calendar by the songs he chose. If it was Christmas it was "One Day" -- "One day when heaven was filled with His praises ... Jesus came down to be born of a virgin/lived among men my example to be ..." If it was Easter, it had to be "He Lives," and "Up From the Grave He Arose!" To this day, it isn't truly Easter until I've heard those two songs--even if Mom and I have to play them on organ and violin in our own living room. Will we be playing them next week? You bet!

I didn't realize it at the time, but those hymns along with gospel song lyrics popular in the 1970s, got under my skin--and pierced straight into my heart. And they echoed back to me in the most unlikely moments. Like one Sunday morning I recall at East Side Church of God in Anderson, IN, where I worshipped during college. Our pastor had given a passionate sermon. And, as always, the altars were open to anyone after he was finished. The instruments played quietly, while believers and seekers alike (although I don't think we called them seekers back then) were welcome to pray. There was no altar call or invitation, yet folks left their seats and knelt there for private moments with the Lord. The pastors would come alongside each one, pray for a moment, then move on.

Anyway, this particular Sunday, a buzz swept through the choir loft as the senior pastor whispered something to the choir director. When it made its way to the alto section, I got in on the act. A sinner had made the decision to follow Christ--right there at the altar on that ordinary Sunday morning. And the pastor wanted to celebrate by singing "A New Name in Glory." But no one knew the words.

Who knew all those years of brother or sister so-and-so calling that song number would come in handy? I tapped into my brain's computer and pulled out the words (first verse and chorus thank-you-very-much!). I started scribbling them on the back of an offering envelope--barely finishing as the organist struck up the intro. "I was once a sinner but I came, pardon to receive from my Lord ... There's a new name written down in glory/and it's mine! Oh, yes, it's mine!"

There was a party that morning at East Side's altar, accompanied by a joyfully sung rendition of C. Austin Miles' lyric that might even give the angels a run for their money. I can't remember ever finding that song as meaningful as that morning--because it was so timely--so relevant--so real. Someone I knew, who shopped in the same grocery and probably washed his clothes at the same Laundromat--was born again to new life, eternal life in Christ--that day, before my eyes.

It was one of the songs that played on my CD collection tonight. And it transported me back. To the sweetness of a sinner's name being written in glory while the angels (and the saints) sang joyfully to celebrate a soul coming home. And it put my tough day into a more productive perspective. So little of what I do--and what troubles me--will make it into eternity; precious little of the grousing I do ("No, Dad, you're diabetic so you can't have a chocolate cherry!" "No crackers with your soup, or I'll have to give you another insulin shot!" "Don't jerk your hand away when I'm trying to get a prick for your blood test!") has any significance, relatively speaking, when put alongside a sinner asking Jesus Christ to take her sins away through His shed blood on Calvary.

I'm glad Jesus gives us this glimpse into eternity, something to cling to in the everyday. Because He does open paradise for sinners (our pastor preached on that yesterday morning, in the second of Christ's statements from the cross, when Jesus said to the thief hanging at His side: "Truly, today you'll be with me in paradise" Luke 23:43). And the angels do rejoice when a lost sinner receives Christ's gift of salvation (Luke 15:10: "I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents" NIV).

By remembering this fact that's more real and more substantial than anything I can touch or do on this earth, I am reenergized and refocused to take on another day.

I hope and pray you are, as well.

By the way ... in case you'd like to hear this song played or read its lyric, I found a site online that plays a simple arrangement of it and includes all the lyrics--and they're not even scribbled on the back of an offering envelope!: http://my.homewithgod.com/heavenlymidis2/newname.html

Enjoy!




Blessings and prayers,

Julie

© 2011, Julie-Allyson Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: orders@joymediaservices.com