Archive for July, 2010

August 28, 1963, delivered from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Martin Luther King JR stated boldly:  “I Have a Dream.”

What about you, do you have a dream? I did. As a young adult coming out of a painful set of circumstances, I dreamt of climbing straight to the top of the ladder of success. My aim was for acquiring an impressive position and prominent title. The kind you see displayed on engraved nameplates and tailored suits.

While in pursuit of this dream, I received many awards and recognition which led me to believe that my source of significance and worth were based on what I could do or achieve.  I’m certain I would still be reaching for the next rung, regardless of the negative consequences on my health or family, had God’s word not penetrated my heart.

As I began to study my bible for the first time in many years I saw that I was created for a purpose.  That my life had meaning because of what God says not because of what a title or position implies.  The dream I was chasing after was more of an attempt to rise above past hurts than it was to accomplish great things. The more time I spent searching the scriptures the less time I  needed to be seen in my white lab coat adorned with my “faculty” name tag.  His unconditional love caused me to recognize that I am significant because I am created in His image.  This new way of thinking led me to release my grip on the ladder, walk away from my position, and surrender my dream for His will.

I’ll admit that there are still times when I struggle with “what could’ve been.” When that happens I turn to Revelation 3:5 where Jesus reminds me that while my name may not be engraved with an impressive title, it will forever remain in the book of life and there is no other place I’d rather be recognized.

How about you? Where do you find your sense of worth? Where do you dream of seeing your name?

Rev 3: 5-  Those who overcome will also be dressed in white. I will never erase their names from the Book of Life. I will speak of them by name to my Father and his angels.

How can one know that their name is in the Book of Life? Simply place your trust in Jesus Christ and His plan of salvation.

The Bible tells us that we, all humanity, are separated from relationship with God because we are sinners.  We don’t live up to God’s standards.  He is perfect, we are not. (Romans 3:23) But God loved us so dearly that He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to live a perfect life here on earth yet die a sinner’s death on the cross.  And just as He promised, He rose again on the third day, proclaiming His victory over death and proving He was who He said He was.  His death on the cross was a gift that paid for our sins, and when we place our trust in Him we accept that gift and enter a relationship with God.  Our name is written in the Book of Life when we accept the gift of eternal life through trusting in Jesus Christ. (Romans 6:23)

While a woman’s dreams of success are not necessarily negative or out of  God’s will, I can honestly say that after I released “my dreams” and embraced “God’s will” the true adventure of life began. He can and will do the same for you!

To find a week’s worth of Daily Devotionals related to this story, click here.

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The following story touches on marriage and when two faiths try to blend in a family.  Even though “a lot of the drama” of her situation couldn’t be described in this story…there  just wasn’t enough time or space… this is a great story of God’s faithfulness in drawing two hearts together and we hope you will be encouraged in your own journey!

Growing up in a protestant Christian home with legalistic beliefs, it was expected that I would marry someone of the same faith.  I married a catholic.

When we first met, we knew that we had much in common except one important thing, our religious background.  Many told us that our relationship would never work.    Almost a year later, we married.  We believed that God would help us find our way toward one faith.

Shortly after we married, my husband’s job moved us to the west side of the state.  With many churches to choose from we attended a non-denominational church.  I enjoyed going to church every Sunday, but we remained uninvolved.   We struggled to let go of our religious beliefs we were raised with.   God used this time to draw us closer to Him and to each other.   He blessed us with our daughter, then six months later we were transferred to the east side of the state.

Still carrying religious baggage, we found ourselves in an area that was predominantly catholic.   We searched for a church home for 2 years and found nothing.   My heart ached to have a church home.  It was a very stressful place to be, adding strain to our marriage.  We prayed for a change.

Hope came when my husband heard of a small non-denominational congregation who had been meeting at a school gym.  They were in the midst of building a church that was almost completed.  Our first visit the sermon was encouraging and we continued to attend.  We met many people who extended opened arms and welcomed us in.  After some time, we became involved.

During that time, we experienced the power of God working in our lives to change us. Our son was born, deepening within us a desire to be closer to God.  I joined a ladies Bible study on the book of Ephesians that was in-depth and insightful.  I learned truths about Christ that I had not known, that in his grace He saves because of His great love for all.  There is nothing in this world that I could do to save myself, not religion or law that I obeyed.  Christ alone is sufficient and had sealed my salvation. Praise God for that revelation, not just for me but for my husband as well.

Since then, we have made many moves.  God has been faithful to lead us to a place of worship.   Eighteen years later, we continue to follow after the heart of God.

When our journey began, we did not know how God would work, but we believed that He would.   It certainly was a challenging path to take.  Through it, His word taught us that religion doesn’t save.   He brought our hearts closer to Him, strengthened our marriage, and replaced religion with Truth while removing the “baggage” from our lives.  We are free!

Two hearts drawn together toward God.

We will continue on in the good work that He has begun in us and trust that He will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ.  (Philippians 1:6)

To see a week’s worth of Daily Devotionals related to this story click here.

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The story this week is very dear, but it is not an easy story.  It is a story of abiding love that runs sweet and runs deeper than words on a page can do justice.  It is a story of strength that finds root in true faith in the Lord.  It is a real story about real life, and we pray it will both encourage and inspire you as you live out your own personal story.

Your faith is very important to you.  When did you place your trust in Christ and begin your relationship with Him?
I was born to Christian parents and attended church from my infancy; I don’t remember when I did not trust Christ as my Savior.  I was around 8 years old when I fully understood Christ died for my sins and I put my trust in Him.  I specifically remember praying as an 8-year-old for God to “save me.”
How did you meet your husband Jim?
Jim and his friend Dave (who was dating my girlfriend Donna), came to our little church (of about 100 people) to see a Christmas program.  The plan was for Donna to introduce Jim to another of our friends.  Terry (the other friend) was in the Christmas program as a grandmother (with powder in her hair).  She was too embarrassed to go out after the play to a restaurant, so my friend Donna asked if I would go with her, Dave, and Jim to a restaurant after the play.  Jim was working for an atheist at the time, and he “drilled” me with questions about my faith as if he were an atheist.  I remember thinking “I thought this guy was a Christian.  Why is he asking me these questions?”
As it turned out, he was “testing” my faith and Christianity.  I must have given him adequate answers, because he went home that night, woke up his dad, and said “I think I found the girl I am going to marry.”  He did not ask me out, however, until he checked some others who knew me about my background . . . family, health, etc.  He did not want to become emotionally involved with someone who came from a bad home environment with “emotional baggage” or someone with major health issues.  At the time, I was appalled when I found out he checked up on me.  As a mature adult, I now understand how wise that was.
How long have you been married?
On February 15, 2010, we were married 46 years.  We dated a year before we were engaged, and then we were engaged for 14 months.  When we married we told everyone we planned to have our first child in five years.  I wanted to finish 2 years of college and teach 3 years for a permanent teaching certificate before starting my family.  Kirk was born 5 years and 2 days after our 5th wedding anniversary!
Your marriage has been sweet example of what marriage can be.  What has been a favorite aspect of Jim’s character throughout your relationship with him?
Of most importance has been in faith in Christ.  He has always been very sweet, loving, and caring.
Tell us about your relationship with Jim through the years?
I have been Jim’s helpmate.  Until recently, he was the main financial provider.  I helped somewhat by teaching part-time, but my role was primarily as a stay-at-home mom and wife.
How/when did you realize Jim had Alzheimer’s?
It is difficult to say, maybe 5 years ago…I noticed his driving ability, which at one time was excellent, begin to deteriorate.  That was the first clue.  Secondly, Jim was always able to do almost anything in the “handyman” category.  I began to notice he had more and more difficulty in that area . . . and now today he can do basically nothing.  He can still feed himself if his food is cut, he can still use the bathroom (but only with assistance), he is still loving, sweet, and appreciative of my care, but he cannot do most any other task.
What is the hardest thing about being a caregiver for Jim through this time?
Perhaps knowing, unless God does a miracle, Jim will not get better.  My patience is severely tested when I ask Jim to help put on his clothes, for example, and his brain does not register what I want him to do.  I might ask him to lift his foot, and he sits there not moving.  I must frequently sing the children’s song “Have patience.  Have patience.  Don’t be in such a hurry . . . “
God has shown Himself  faithful to you both through this hard trial of Alzheimer’s in many ways.  What are some specific things you appreciate?
God has continued to help Jim be sweet and loving.  So far he does not wander away, and he is not mean or crabby.  That makes it so much easier to care for him.  When I become impatient or upset, I remind Jim I love him and am NOT mad at him… but “I HATE ALZHEIMER’S!”  I ask Jim’s forgiveness for losing patience, and he always reassures me it is ok.
How do you find strength to “do the right thing”  and remain faithful day in and day out?
I don’t always “do the right thing” as previously mentioned when I lose patience, but God is my strength.  Another primary coping reason is the prayers of our family and friends.  Without prayer support, I am sure things would be much worse.  Christ is my source of strength, and I take a day at a time.
Editor update:  Several months ago, due to his condition deteriorating so quickly, Jim’s wife and kids decided it was best to place him in an assisted living center in town.  His wife and kids visit him daily though he no longer can communicate with them, and they have set up a schedule of friends to come in and assist him in eating lunch and dinner because he is unable to feed himself.  It is amazing to see the Light of God’s love at work in this family and in the friends who serve Jim with his most basic of needs.  Strangers have observed this Light, have commented on it, and have been blessed as well.  Even now in this darkest and most silent of times, Jim is a means to bring glory to his precious Savior, Jesus Christ.
For Daily Devotionals related to this story go to Faith, Marriage, and Alzheimer’s.

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Here is the 8th interview in our special Labor Day Celebration series.   Enjoy!

What is your work?

I do several things for “pay”, but what I LOVE to do and what I consider my dream job is elderly in-home care…or in- home care for terminally ill patients.

How did you choose this career?  Have you been doing it for a while?

In reality, I’ve been doing this all my life although not as a career.  I was always drawn to the elderly and the babies in my family.  In some respects they are not all that different.  They are both very honest with you, very often sincerely appreciative of the simplest of gestures and sometimes both very much in need although they don’t want to be.  After the death of my dear grandparents, I sought out the company of elderly people.  I was asked by a friend of the family if I would like a part-time job doing in-home care for several different elderly people, one with terminal cancer.  I accepted the position right away.

What are some of your favorite things about this job?

I would say the best thing about caring for the elderly and the dying is being able to do things for them that they DESPERATELY need done, but don’t want to ask anyone to do for them.  It’s very fulfilling to do something for someone without making them think it’s a big deal for you.  An example would be having to bathe and diaper an elderly person who although their mind is intact, their bodies have given up the fight.  Often times it is very difficult for them to accept help in general let alone help with something as personal as cleaning themselves after having an accident or feeding themselves.  Their pride is hurt, their dignity gone, their years of independence and strength are far behind them and you can literally see the pain in their eyes over NEEDING someone to do these things for them.  I count it a great privilege and honor to be able to do some of these tasks while making it appear that it is no inconvenience, in no way appalling or concerning for me to do, that it in no way makes me think they are weak or less than anyone else around.  I have held a non-stop, fun and casual conversation with an elderly woman while cleaning her up after loosing her bowels in her bed.  After finishing this up, she looked at me and said “you must HATE doing this.”  I looked her straight in the eye and said “it’s really no big deal at all” and I smiled at her.  I sincerely meant every word.  “That’s good to know,” she said.  She looked completely relieved and at ease.  To make someone who is that much in need, feel completely an ease and as “un-needy” as possible is the greatest feeling ever.  To be able to do something for someone, that they can’t do themselves and that they DESPERATELY need done….but to make them feel it is no inconvenience or trouble at all for you to do, is really what it’s all about for me.

What challenges have you faced with this career?

It has honestly taken over my life and that of my family.  You become very emotionally attached to the people you care for.  It becomes something that the entire family can get wrapped up in since you often spend much more time with people than what your job entails.  This is challenging as you try to balance raising a family and all the busy schedule that goes along with that with the need to slow down and simply give time to people who just have nothing but time.  Another very hard thing to deal with is the death of people who you grow to care about a great deal.  They become like family to you and it is very hard to come to terms with that.

How has God helped you be better at what you do?

He has given me patience.  As much as he has given me however, I still need more.  I have unlimited patience to help an old person get from the car to a wheel chair with my help, but then I can lose patience when I’m waiting for one of my kids to run out to the car after school.  I need to pray continually for God to give me more and more and more patience.

What inspires you to do your best and to remain faithful to this calling?

My grandparents who have both passed away have always been my inspiration.  They were both incredibly patient, loving and giving people.  They never had anything but time for me.  When I would go to their house, the entire world would stop and revolve around me and every word I said.  Everything I talked about seemed important to them.  Everything I did was amazing.  To be that unconditionally and completely loved feels so good.  To have people GIVE that much time just to sit and listen to you talk about nothing important at all, is such a wonderful feeling to receive.  It would always make me feel so good to have been with them.  Whenever I would leave their house I felt so sad that the visit had ended and as I would drive away I always felt good about myself.  To be able to give people who society sees as having nothing left to contribute (the elderly) that feeling of importance and appreciation and worth is addictive to your very core.  My grandparents did this for me my entire life.  I want to give it back as a way of thanking them.

What is one lesson you have learned or piece of advice you can pass on to other women in the workplace?

One thing I have learned is if you are going to spend a lot of time doing something…make it something that counts.  Make it something that you love to do and that makes you feel like you’ve given back to someone else at the end of the day.  If you have children, make it something that inspires your kids and that shows them that there is more in this world than just “me, myself and I. ”

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My life changed on May 16, 1986, the day I began a relationship with Jesus Christ. I was in the hospital, just diagnosed with a disease and I was in despair. I didn’t know how the diagnosis would affect my future. The doctor said I needed to just live with the debilitating disease, but the Lord had a different plan.

My mother-in-law visited me the next day in the hospital and prayed with me. She told me about Jesus and His love for me. I saw the love of Jesus radiating from her. She said I could ask Him for healing.  James 5:14-15 says this, “Is anyone sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him…and the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well.” The next day my hospital roommate had a visitor (not a coincidence) who told me how I could have a personal relationship with Christ. She told me about God’s love and said I could pray to Him, as if I were talking to my best friend. She explained that He would hear and answer me because He cared about everything in my life.  John 15:14-15, “You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants…instead I call you friends.”

I prayed with her and became a child of God. The next day she brought me a Bible and encouraged me to read the Gospels. The despair left and suddenly I felt hope and peace – the kind of peace that comes only from God. Phil 4:7  reminds us of this truth,“… the peace of God, which transcends all understanding…” was now in my life and I was excited about my new life. I had not felt this way before and knew something great had happened.  2 Corinthians, 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old gone, the new has come.”

When I got home from the hospital, I called my mother and asked her to come over. I shared all that God had done in my heart and told her she could have a personal relationship with Him, too if only she would pray to receive it.  My parents raised me in the church, but I didn’t know the Lord in a personal way. Later, my mom shared that I seemed unusually peaceful, as if God has “zapped” me with His loving power and that she wanted what I had. I prayed with my mom that day and she accepted the Lord as her Savior. She went home and told my dad. Since then, my dad, husband, brother and sister have all received the forgiveness of sin through Jesus Christ.

With my new life, I look at others differently, as if I’m seeing them through the eyes of Christ. I’m able to forgive those who have hurt me and love to help others around me. It’s exciting to be a Christian. I know God is on my side. Romans 8:28 tells us, “… in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”

It has been 24 years since I began to follow Jesus. God chose to heal me of the disease. There are times I struggle with everyday life, as all of us do, but I know I have a Savior that is always available and loving me. He has given me a heart to serve others. When I get off track, the Lord knows what will woo me back to Him. He knows me well. Psalm 139: 1-2 says, “O Lord, you have searched me and know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar…”

Thank you, Lord! I’m so happy to be a child of God!  Thank you for giving me freedom from despair!

For Daily Devotionals on this topic, go to Freedom from Despair.

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