Thursday, 21 November 2013

Take Hold of His Robe

A couple of weeks ago, feeling totally exhausted, completely drained, burnt out and at the end of my rope, I called out to God (not out loud, just in my head) for a touch from His hand. There is power in His touch and I thought if He would just reach down and touch me, I would have the strength to go on.  A tap on the shoulder, a pat on the back, a kick in the pants...any of those would do. If He would reach out and place His healing hands on me, I'd be okay. Almost instantly, after my quiet shout out to the Lord, I remembered a woman who was the epitome of someone totally exhausted, completely drained, burnt out and at the end or her rope. A woman I read about in the Gospels and then really got to know and came to appreciate when I read the book 'He Still Moves Stones' by one of my favourite authors, Max Lucado.
Max Lucado says this about the woman: "We don't know her name but we know her situation. Her world was midnight black. Grope-in-the-dark-and-hope-for-help-black."
This is her story from Mark 5:24-34:
A large crowd followed Jesus and pressed very close around him. Among them was a woman who had been bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.

At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”
“You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ”

But Jesus kept looking around to see who had touched him. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, be encouraged, your faith has made you well. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”
Max continues to elaborate this woman's situation:

A chronic menstrual disorder. A perpetual issue of blood. Such a condition would be difficult for any woman of any era. But for a Jewess, nothing could be worse. No part of her life was left unaffected.
Sexually...she could not touch her husband. Maternally...she could not bear children. Domestically...anything she touched was considered unclean. No washing dishes. No sweeping floors. Spiritually...she was not allowed to enter the temple.

She was physically exhausted and socially ostracized.
She was a bruised reed. She awoke daily in a body that no one wanted. She is down to her last prayer. And on the day we encounter her, she's about to pray it. Risky decision. To touch him, she will have to touch the people. If one of them recognizes her....hello rebuke, goodbye cure. But what choice does she have? She has no money, no clout, no friends, no solutions. All she has is a crazy hunch that Jesus can help and a high hope that he will....

By the time she gets to Jesus, he is surrounded by people. He's on his way to help the daughter of Jairus, the most important man in the community. What are the odds that he will interrupt an urgent mission with a high official to help the likes of her? Very few. But what are the odds that she will survive if she doesn't take a chance? Fewer still. So she takes a chance.
"If I can just touch his clothes," she thinks, "I will be healed."

Occasionally I crash. Taking care of a man with ALS is a big job. It's sometimes too big. Even though we have excellent help, I burn out. Though mentally, physically and emotionally spent, there is no 'calling in sick' or 'taking a leave of absence'. A couple of weeks ago, not able to even pray out loud, in my head and in my heart I asked for a touch. And then this woman came to my mind and inspired me to reach out and touch Him. "Take hold of His robe," I have been repeating to myself since then..."Take hold of His robe!"
Are you exhausted? Burnt out? At the end of your rope...perhaps hanging by a thread? Are you feeling helpless, hopeless, alone, afraid? Are you worried, sick, broke or just simply broken? Take hold of his robe...take hold of His robe!

God’s help is near and always available, but it is given to those who seek it. – Max Lucado

PS – I have had a few weekends away over the last year, thanks to the help of great home care staff and a wonderful team of family members, including Nathan who stays with Mike overnight and who is able to assist Mike with all his needs. Mike says Nathan is an excellent care giver. I have a hard time leaving Mike for a few hours, let alone a couple of days, but I’ve learned that a little time away for me is beneficial for everyone.


Monday, 11 November 2013

Grasping at Straws

Clean teeth and fresh breath have always been very important to Mike. Before he gave up control of his oral hygiene routine, he brushed, flossed and rinsed with mouth wash a number of times a day. He carried dental floss with him in his pocket and kept some in the car. He would always take a step back when conversing with someone if he didn't think his breathe was fresh. Same when I went in for a kiss, if he hadn't recently cleaned, he'd turn his head and give me his cheek.

I remember watching Mike brush his teeth with a hand that just wouldn't cooperate. He was losing the ability to hold his tooth brush and I knew he wasn't getting the cleaning he desired. But he kept doing the best he could and never gave up. He struggled for a while before I suggested I help. Without hesitation, he handed over his tooth brush. He didn't really have a choice; it was that or gingivitis. Plus, he was getting good at letting go.

Brushing Mike's teeth has become more and more of a challenge. He struggles to grip a straw with his lips and draw water up to his mouth. It can take a really long time, but Mike likes to rinse well before and after brushing. So, with the same persistence he has had for so many other things, he keeps trying and doesn't give up. He is patient with himself. When water enters his mouth, he smiles a little. His lips unable to seal tightly, allow some water to dribble out. After he swishes the water around in his mouth the best he can, he loosens his lips and the water spills out and rolls down his chin and I catch it in a dish. And then he repeats the process. He laughs at me sometimes,  on my knees, I must look bored as I wait but really I'm intrigued at his determination. My arms get tired holding the cup in one hand and the dish in the other. He probably thinks "some fitness instructor you are". He used to say that to me when I would cruse around a parking lot looking for the closest spot. When he drove he always went straight to the back of the lot where there were lots of spots to park.
Anyway, Mike just never gives up. He doesn't quit. He has displayed the same constant determination at every stage of this illness without fail. Maybe sometimes on the inside he is screaming "I quit!", but on the outside he is composed, calm, okay. He has had to let go of almost everything, but he still perseveres, he is still determined. He was once a strong, fit, athletic man capable of so much. Now with all his might, he draws water up a straw.

"If God has made your cup sweet, drink it with grace; or even if He has made it bitter, drink it in communion with Him. If the providential will of God means a hard and difficult time for you, go through it...You must go through the trial before you have any right to pronounce a verdict, because by going through the trial you learn to know God better. God is working in us to reach His highest goals until His purpose and our purpose  become one." Oswald Chambers