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Hopegrams

Hope Rays

Shining the light of hope into dark places

Finding My Voice

Karen Sebastian - Saturday, October 31, 2015


I’m not there yet, nor have I become perfect; but I am charging on to gain anything and everything the Anointed One, Jesus, has in store for me—and nothing will stand in my way because He has grabbed me and won’t let me go. Philippians 3:12 Voice

One of my husband's most endearing qualities was that he never complained. He was selfless and giving to others to his own neglect. When he started having trouble swallowing we went to quite a few different doctors. He started speech therapy. He diligently did his exercises yet was not improving. He basically stopped eating and became so dehydrated I took him to the Emergency Room. We know that the ER wait depends on TRIAGE principles. Those who are critical get help first.

I had to learn to speak up for the one who was too sick to speak for himself. This is something that I had learned years ago as I cared for my mother-in-law. 

My husband was severely dehydrated. Once they put him on IV's he felt a lot better. Of course, it was on the weekend so they wanted to send him home. That's when I found my voice. When the doctor came in with his release papers I relayed his history and how long it had been since he could eat and that he barely could swallow water. I knew that if we went home we would be back in the long wait in the ER before the weekend was over. I spoke firmly and assertively. The doctor looked surprised because up to this time I had been very soft spoken and we had laughed a lot. He changed his decision and they admitted my husband to the hospital. 

One of the important roles you play as a caregiver is to be an advocate for your loved one. The medical system is complicated and has many twists and turns. You will have many opportunities to become impatient, angry and rude. Overburdened medical caregivers may even start the fight. If you choose to win it, you may lose in the end.

Hope Tools

Remain calm

It is tempting to get angry when we feel that our loved ones are not getting the attention and treatment we think they need to receive. Usually this anger is masking fear. The problem with anger is that it clouds our judgment and may produce the opposite effect from what we were seeking. What can calm you is to switch to the left brain mode. An excellent way to do this is to take a deep breath; get out a piece of paper; summarize the desired results.

Remember your manners

You truly do not know the rules of the establishment. Usually the gate keepers are the ones enforcing these rules down to the detail level that it can make you crazy. 'Please' and 'Thank You' go a long way in greasing the system especially if you want to break the written and unwritten rules in some way or another

Ask for clarity

A good script is, "May I respectfully ask for more information on why it would not be possible to _________________________." I learned that the patient has many more rights than they realize. Get on their side and do your best to see things from their perspective. The goal is to move in the direction that is best for the patient. Acknowledge that you could be wrong and simply want more information. Become an avid reader of the fine print. Learn the vocabulary.

Prayer

Dear Lord thank You that in the roller coaster of caregiving that You give us everything that we need to move forward with Your plans for _______________. None of this takes you by surprise so I thank You for sending me allies who will work toward the best outcome possible. I thank You that You have called many to serve in this capacity. Allow us to be a blessing to them as well. I am grateful that I can remain at peace no matter what chaos is circling all around me and when I don't know what is going to happen next I can trust You - because You do. As I find my voice, may it reflect your grace and mercy toward all those who work so hard to care my loved one. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Author, speaker, corporate trainer, ordained minister and Hope Catalyst, Karen Sebastian enjoys sharing her rich life experiences with others – engaging them in adventurous discoveries of the beauty of hope in a dark, cloudy world. To increase hope and improve relationships with yourself and those that you love, sign up to receive Karen's emails.

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You may order Karen's latest book, The Power of Hope in Mourning here.


Standing Tall

Karen Sebastian - Saturday, October 31, 2015


We continue to shout praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary – we can stand – out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.
Romans 5:3-5 (The Message)

We lived with FSHD for over a decade. Facio Scapular Humeral Dystrophy is an adult-onset form of Muscular Dystrophy (MD). My husband, Bill, was diagnosed with FSHD in 1999. When we left the neurologist’s office that day I was picturing all the changes we would more than likely see in our lives – i.e. ramps, handicapped parking, etc. I knew very little about MD other than watching Jerry Lewis’ telethon to raise awareness and money to fight this disease. I soon learned that there are many types of dystrophy – even many that go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.

My husband, Bill, ws an amazing man. He had a pastor’s heart and deeply cared for others. He had struggled for years with ongoing weakness especially in the heat. Yet, he kept going with no complaints and the strong desire to serve others. He finally realized that the physical demands of leading a small church (where you do just about everything from mowing to cleaning the bathrooms to preaching and visiting folks in the hospital) were too much. He retired from full-time ministry but the caring heart kept beating.

The changes were so gradual that it is like the growth of your children. You don’t realize it is happening until others see them or you put the mark on the wall. Bill started experiencing difficulties swallowing and increased shortness of breath. Both of these problems came together and resulted in a 911 call. Since then the problem with swallowing gotworse. A swallowing test revealed that his epiglottis was not doing its job of closing when he swallowed. To make that worse, the fear of choking has made it a full time job just to get liquids down. The automatic coordination of many different body parts that allows you to swallow hundreds of times a day was not working for him.

This new situation with Bill’s ability to swallow felt like a life changer. I could only think of often we ate together. Family gatherings all centered around food.

Hope Tools

Let go

I needed God’s perspective to make it through this difficult situation. I felt so helpless. When I asked for His truth, I instantly had a mental picture of what I was doing. I saw myself trying to carry Bill. I was dragging him as best I could but we were both in so much pain. I let go of Bill and looked up. Suddenly, God became the size of an adult while we were the size of toddlers. He picked Bill up and took me by the hand. We started walking together. I don’t understand it all yet I know that God is good and He has a plan.

Shout praises

Sometimes we come up against a wall and the last thing we want to do is praise. This verse tells us to shout praises while we are still in trouble. It's so important to recognize that your current situation is temporary. Begin to pull out the promises from the Word and trust God to be faithful to His promises for you. There is something about speaking these promises over yourself as loudly as you can! It begins to release the power of the Word and aligns your Spirit with what the Lord is doing.

Be alert for what God's doing next

This is a hope stance because we know that God isn't finished with you yet. He has great plans regardless of what lies you are believing right now. Ask Him to replace those lies with His truth in your life. As you do that, you will be able to enjoy the miracles even before they happen.

Prayer

Praise was not on my priority list this morning when I got up yet You challenge me to shout praises to You even when I feel like the walls are closing in on me. Thank You for developing a level of patience that is supernatural because it does not focus on the present trials but on what you are doing in the midst of it all. I choose to be on high alert as to what you are doing next. I want the grace to live in this level of expectancy no matter what is going on so that I never feel shortchanged. I want to stand out in the wide open spaces of Your grace and glory. I thank You that I can stand tall and continue to shout praises. Romans 5:3-5 (The Message) In Jesus' Name. Amen.

Author, speaker, corporate trainer, ordained minister and Hope Catalyst, Karen Sebastian enjoys sharing her rich life experiences with others – engaging them in adventurous discoveries of the beauty of hope in a dark, cloudy world. To increase hope and improve relationships with yourself and those that you love, sign up to receive Karen's emails.

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You may order Karen's latest book, The Power of Hope in Mourning here.



Finishing Strong

Karen Sebastian - Saturday, October 31, 2015

I’m not there yet, nor have I become perfect; but I am charging on to gain anything and everything the Anointed One, Jesus, has in store for me—and nothing will stand in my way because He has grabbed me and won’t let me go. Philippians 3:12 Voice

Perfection is so over-rated.

I learned during this writing challenge that I have within me the abilities to keep going. I was going to use the series to promote my latest book and highlight quotes. (Which is what I will do soon.) Instead, I took the plunge to write about caregiving -- my next book.

At first it was so hard and I wanted to give up. There was something special about day seven. I woke up so angry at myself for even starting the challenge. What was I thinking?

I sat down that day and just started writing and something broke. I had two days that were dedicated to the joy of watching grandchildren and I still need to write them. I let myself rest. Writing is not for the short-term. My goal is to share my life experiences with others who need hope.

Perfection does not inspire hope. Brokenness and vulnerability, however, inspire and connect us with others who are hurting.

There is only one perfect one - Jesus. As I pursue Him and His will for my life I can rest in knowing that I don't have to hang on for dear life. Actually, He is holding on to me. He is accomplishing His purpose in my life and there is not waste in His economy.

Caregivers need hope and I can share what the Lord has taught me. I put aside all perfectionism and share my heart. 

Would I do it again? Absolutely!

Author, speaker, corporate trainer, ordained minister and Hope Catalyst, Karen Sebastian enjoys sharing her rich life experiences with others – engaging them in adventurous discoveries of the beauty of hope in a dark, cloudy world. To increase hope and improve relationships with yourself and those that you love, sign up to receive Karen's emails.

 Facebook  | Instagram | LinkedIn | Twitter | Home

You may order Karen's latest book, The Power of Hope in Mourning here.

Enjoying God's Presence

Karen Sebastian - Saturday, October 31, 2015

My presence will travel with you, and I will give you rest. Exodus 33:16 Voice

Caregiving can truly become a long, lonely journey. It's time for caregivers to unite and stop isolating themselves from life giving rest and the presence of the Lord. In the midst of the hard times, the presence of the Lord and His rest make all the difference. His presence brings hope in the darkest of nights. His presence is also embodied in those who love Him and serve Him.

The context of this verse is that God speaks these words to Moses as he takes on the task of leading the children of Israel from Egypt to the Promised Land. He had no idea what was ahead but he did know that he didn't want to go if the Lord's presence was not with him. No matter what stage of the caregiving journey you are facing you have the promise that you can find loving-kindness and mercy from the Lord at every turning point and crisis.

If you are running on empty today take time to rest. Get away from the situation for a few days. Others can pick up the responsibilities that you fill. Gain a new perspective and grow as a person. Surround yourself with others who can support you. Open the door to help others and let them help you. 


Hope Tools

Make time for what feeds your Spirit

Take time to replenish your personal well of strength and resilience. One of the greatest gifts I received from a dear friend is that she would come and sit with my husband every Sunday morning so that I could go to church. They both enjoyed a wonderful time of 'speaking' about grace. Bill would write on his white board and she would get so excited about the depth of truth that he shared. This time of gathering with my church community allowed me to recharge and be ready to face the next week.

Reconnect with what makes you come fully alive

What stirs up a passion within you? Kindle that fire. What do you love to do? Go do it. Get up off that couch and take steps toward your future. Your loved one has a journey and so do you. For me, it has been writing. This was something I had always wanted to do. I felt I had books inside me. I started with the HopeGrams blog and have continued (with a few stops in between). I now have two published books and working on the third one called, The Power of Hope for Caregivers: Navigate the Journey. (I'm not sure about the tagline yet). I want to make sure that all my life experiences can help someone else who is going through a dark time.

Prayer

Lord, thank You that You fill me when I'm empty. I can feel so alone in this caregiving journey yet you promise that you are with me. I thank You for Your presence even when I don't feel it. You extend your favor toward me in such abundant ways. Give me the insight to see all the ways you are caring for me when I need it the most. Thank you for deep rest. I lean in to Your presence and breathe in peace and hope. In Jesus' name. Amen.


Author, speaker, corporate trainer, ordained minister and Hope Catalyst, Karen Sebastian enjoys sharing her rich life experiences with others – engaging them in adventurous discoveries of the beauty of hope in a dark, cloudy world. To increase hope and improve relationships with yourself and those that you love, sign up to receive Karen's emails.

 Facebook  | Instagram | LinkedIn | Twitter | Home

You may order Karen's latest book, The Power of Hope in Mourning here.



Finding Treasures

Karen Sebastian - Friday, October 30, 2015
I celebrate because of your promise like someone who discovers great treasure. Psalm 119:162 Voice

Life can be challenging when you are a caregiver. You can get so busy and be so tired that you forget to celebrate. It may simply be from from sheer exhaustion or so many things to do day after day.

This verse encapsulates the whole balance between hope and faith and what we experience in our lives. Hope tells us that God has a good plan for our lives. He has promised to provide every need in abundant and surprising ways. The promises are there for each of you. You have a choice whether you place value on the promise and begin to live like it is a treasure. Your life will be transformed when you live like you treasure the promises He has made to you. You will celebrate before it's happened - and that is the true definition of faith.

Hope Tools

Express gratitude for what others take for granted

Most of us don't truly appreciate all that God has given us when we are healthy. Many go through life complaining about minor aches and pains. Others don't like their bodies and wish they were different. When you have someone who faces physical challenges on a daily basis in your life it makes you grateful that you can hop out of bed, can breathe, can swallow, etc.

Celebrate wacky holidays

It seems that holidays all accumulate around the end of the each year. It's during these special days that families get together. But what about the rest of the year? Go look it up on the internet and you might find even more excuses to get together with family and friends. For example, on November 7th it's Bittersweet Chocolate with Almonds Day. Who knew?

Find your favorite promise and treat it like a treasure

For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and hope. Jeremiah 29:11 - That's one of my life verses. It's a favorite and a treasure because it helps me in the tough places of my life. When I think about the difficult places of my life I can know that God always has a plan and it brings me great comfort to trust in the One who has a bigger perspective than mine. What's your treasured promise?

Prayer

Thank You, Lord, for the very fact that You have given me so many wonderful promises. These promises awake hope in me to know that no matter what I may be going through right now I have the treasure of knowing that there is a wonderful plan in it all. Thank You for changing my perspective about my promises. I treasure those verses that are becoming a part of the very fiber of my life. I have found a treasure because I have found YOU and what you say comes true. I pray that I will live like I believe this. In Jesus' name. Amen.


Author, speaker, corporate trainer, ordained minister and Hope Catalyst, Karen Sebastian enjoys sharing her rich life experiences with others – engaging them in adventurous discoveries of the beauty of hope in a dark, cloudy world. To increase hope and improve relationships with yourself and those that you love, sign up to receive Karen's emails.


 Facebook  | Instagram | LinkedIn | Twitter | Home

You may order Karen's latest book, The Power of Hope in Mourning here.


Finding Comfort

Karen Sebastian - Thursday, October 29, 2015

As a mother soothes her child, so I will comfort you. Isaiah 66:13 Voice

Once my husband needed full-time care, I served as his primary caregiver. At one point, I was able to continue with my training business which required me to be out of state. My daughter tells me that the first night that she came to the house to get her dad ready for bed she was shocked at how much he had gone down. My husband was very private and never complained. I guess I had just taken the decline as a matter of course and adjusted to the "new normal." She sat in her car and just bawled. Caregivers need comfort.

It's natural to want to shield others from pain - especially your children. One of the hardest things for my husband was to let our children take care of him. In the final months before he moved to Heaven, he needed help with almost everything especially with taking care of getting him to the bathroom and cleaning up "accidents." In the journey with illness, it's important to be vulnerable and let others help with the hard and messy parts. Caregivers need help.

Over the next few months, we worked out a system where our children were able to support me in my caregiving responsibilities. Bill developed a bed sore which allowed him to have a home health nurse visit several times a week until that was cleared up. A friend offered to come on Sundays so I could go enjoy a worship service without distraction.

Hope Tools

Find balance

Make a commitment to do something for yourself every day. It doesn't have to be big. It may just be that you ask someone to come and stay with your loved one while you go for a short drive to get a cup of coffee. You are still an individual person who has a tough job. Don't lose who you are in the long journey.

Accept help

Stop being so strong and heroic. We talked earlier about losing your caregiver super-cape. When others say what can I do to help, take them up on their offers. Stop being afraid to bother others or to put them out. They will be thrilled to help out and it will give them special time with with their loved one. One of the most comforting things you can receive is a warm hug. Don't hesitate to ask for them.

Prayer

Lord, thank You for the promise to care for us as a mother with her child. What a wonderful picture when our hearts are broken and the bottom seems to have dropped out of our world. Open our eyes to see the many ways that You are providing this comfort and joy. We do not have to isolate ourselves or make it through hard times alone. You are always close to us as we cry and You send others to comfort us as well. Thank You for all that You provide. We will receive it as straight from Your heart to ours. In Jesus' name. Amen.


Author, speaker, corporate trainer, ordained minister and Hope Catalyst, Karen Sebastian enjoys sharing her rich life experiences with others – engaging them in adventurous discoveries of the beauty of hope in a dark, cloudy world. To increase hope and improve relationships with yourself and those that you love, sign up to receive Karen's emails.

 Facebook  | Instagram | LinkedIn | Twitter | Home

You may order Karen's latest book, The Power of Hope in Mourning here.


Remaining Unshakable

Karen Sebastian - Wednesday, October 28, 2015

I will not be alone, because the Father will be with Me. I have told you these things so that you will be whole and at peace. In this world, you will be plagued with times of trouble, but you need not fear; I have triumphed over this corrupt world order (John 16:32-33 VOICE).

The Father is with me. I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world. - same verse in the Message.

Have you ever been in an earthquake? I have been in several. Growing up in Central America, they were part of our daily existence especially in Guatemala and Costa Rica. I moved to California for college and had a few close encounters with the earth shaking under my feet. They didn't happen every day but when they came, they made your heart start beating rapidly and you held on for the few minutes that seemed to go on forever. Caregiving can feel like you have built your house on a major fault. All may look good on the surface but there is a sense of dread when the shaking starts because you're not sure how much damage there will be once it stops.

Scripture never promises that we will not have trouble in our lives. In these verses, Jesus is preparing his followers for very difficult days ahead. He is giving His own example of the trust He has in His Father because He is always with Him. He knew that they would abandon Him in His darkest hour. Whath do you do when you world starts shaking?

Hope Tools

Embrace the truth that you are never alone

When our world is shaking we can feel so alone. The panic that hits when you aren't sure what to grab on to when you've received a devastating diagnosis slowly subsides yet you are not sure where to turn. Who do you call? You worry that they will not be able to handle it well either and you will then have someone else to comfort. We also have this crazy feeling that we need to be strong for everyone else. Who started that one? Pray about who you tell about our shaking and make a list. See how they respond. Those who support you will get to stay on the list. Those who do not do as well, you can reach back to later when you're stronger. Ultimately, you know that the Lord is very near to the brokenhearted so call to Him for help as well.

Prepare for the big one

If you live in California you have heard a lot about the emergency preparedness for when they get hit by "the big one." It means knowing where to stand when it's shaking, what water and food supplies to have, When caring for someone who is dying it's amazing that we can avoid conversations that person wants to have about their wishes. Don't deprive them of that honor to be heard during some of the most critical conversations of their lives. Let them be vulnerable and open. It's okay to cry together. These are priceless times. Break down the walls that are isolating them too.

Enter deep peace

I love the Message version of these verses because it says that when we trust the Lord He will make us unshakable, assured and deeply at peace. I long for deep peace. I want to launch into that part of inner space. I encourage you to do the same. There is no easy formula yet this is what the Lord is calling you to do. He wants to work from the inside out. So slow down and let the peace settle in.

Prayer

Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for the warning that we would have difficulties in our lives. It's appropriate and yet You also want us to recognize that You have already traveled this road before us. You healed all who came to You for healing. As we claim healing for our loved one who is ill, we also know that you want us to trust You in every detail. I bring you the fear of the next shaking in our journey. Thank You for the promise that we can be unshakable especially as we see how deeply we are loved. Thank You for the promise that I can walk with assurance and deep peace. I receive this peace right now in Your powerful name. Amen.


Author, speaker, corporate trainer, ordained minister and Hope Catalyst, Karen Sebastian enjoys sharing her rich life experiences with others – engaging them in adventurous discoveries of the beauty of hope in a dark, cloudy world. To increase hope and improve relationships with yourself and those that you love, sign up to receive Karen's emails.


 Facebook  | Instagram | LinkedIn | Twitter | Home

You may order Karen's latest book, The Power of Hope in Mourning here.


Finding Energy

Karen Sebastian - Tuesday, October 27, 2015

God is energizing you so that you will desire and do what always pleases Him. Philippians 4:13 VOICE

There is no exhaustion quite like it. I thought I was tired when I my kids were babies. This was different. This was a bone deep, depleted feeling that overcame my entire body. It was partly because of lack of sleep but I've been sleep-deprived before. i was wearing many hats as a wife, mother, minister, employee and caregiver. I didn't ever really sign up to be a caregiver - it just happened. Gradually, over time, as I kept taking the path of least resistance. I took on more and more and no one seemed to notice. There were times when I hit the wall during each of the three different seasons as a caregiver - for my mother-in-love, my mom and my husband. I call it 'Caregiver Fog." Here are some Hope Tools to help you shift gears and regain your clarity and focus.

Hope Tools

Stick to your routines

It can seem impossible to do the familiar when everything has changed. It's vital that you do what you always do every day before you start the race against time. Routines calm you and bring normalcy to what is a crazy time. Make the time to sit down to eat a meal together. Share fun times and laugh together.

Take a deep breath

One of the main reasons for burn out is the feeling that you have more to do than you can accomplish. It seems like you will never catch up. All the pieces of your life seem to be breaking one by one. When a crisis comes you go into that mode and function through it. When you are anxious your breathing becomes shallow and you stop getting the life-flowing oxygen your body needs during this crisis. If it seems like you are running too fast to catch your breath then it's time to stop and take a deep one. Set your timer for ten minutes and deep breathing. Take a deep breath from your diaphragm; hold it to ten seconds; release it slowly. Continue to do this until your alarm goes off. Let your mind float freely to whatever thoughts are there. Do not stop to analyze them. The benefits of doing this are that your heart rate will slow own, the crazy thoughts in your brain will become calmer and you will begin to feel peace. Once you are finished, take the anxious thoughts to the Lord and let Him carry them for you.

Serve from your heart

Resentment steals your joy. Bitterness stops the flow of energy. If you are feeling overburdened and that others are taking advantage of your kindness, speak up. Don't stuff the feelings. Have a family meetings where you express what needs to be done for the loved ones(s) who need to be cared for. It will ease the tension and allow others to have the great blessings that can be their's when they come alongside the tangibly show their love. Don't let anything disturb peace. Do not assume that they don't want to help. They probably feel as overwhelmed as you did in the beginning. Break down the tasks into manageable pieces that allow them to each take part. As you share in the burden and joy of caring for someone so that there are no regrets in the future.

Prayer

Dear Lord, thank You for working in my life when I am in a hard place. I am in one right now and ask that You would give me the desire to keep going and doing all that I do. I want to stop pleasing people and start focusing on pleasing You. I am grateful that you not only give me the ability to be obedient but the desire as well. I receive renewed strength and energy as I focus on You. In Jesus's name. Amen.


Author, speaker, corporate trainer, ordained minister and Hope Catalyst, Karen Sebastian enjoys sharing her rich life experiences with others – engaging them in adventurous discoveries of the beauty of hope in a dark, cloudy world. To increase hope and improve relationships with yourself and those that you love, sign up to receive Karen's emails.

 Facebook  | Instagram | LinkedIn | Twitter | Home

You may order Karen's latest book, The Power of Hope in Mourning here.




Believing in Healing (Part 2)

Karen Sebastian - Monday, October 26, 2015

Two and half years after God healed my husband's breathing issues and allowed him to go home from the hospital we were back at the office of the pulmonologist who had become his doctor. The muscles had continued to weaken and the diaphragm in particular had stopped working completely. Without this function working, Bill was dependent on a ventilator for his next breath. Through it all, his faith was strong and his confidence that God was his healer never wavered. I don't know how this works except I saw this miracle transpire every day. I would go in to help him out of bed and before he got up he would point to his legs. I knew that meant that we were to pray for healing. For each day, he received strength and grace. He managed to get up, go to the bathroom, ride his scooter to the living room where he camped out the rest of the day. I worked from my home office and checked on him regularly.

He loved to listen to praise music and his favorite song was, "This is the air I breathe." As soon as I would hear that song, I would run to his chair and grab his hand as we praised together. We were grateful for every breath. Most of us take so much for granted. My gratitude for basic body functions grew exponentially. It became harder and harder to get him to the doctor appointments. I began to check in to getting a van where we could more easily get him in and out.

Our family gathered often around Bill's chair. We created events such as Western nights in order to honor his love for the old westerns. We created priceless memories in this season that we realized was a reprieve. The ongoing miracle was that despite having the grandkids around him he did not get sick. He didn't even get a cold during this whole season. Here's a slide show of the Western night.

Bill's last doctor's appointment stands out like none other. The pulmonologist urged him to get a tracheotomy as he was not getting enough oxygen through the mask. We had tried a variety of masks. Bill had his white board there and wrote a huge NO! followed by a small thank you at the bottom of the message.

As we rode home in the car I started nagging him about why he was refusing what could be a life extension. His white board was in the back so he signed what I thought was, "I'm H-E-L-D."

When we got him settled again in his chair I asked him to explain again why he was not agreeing to get the tracheotomy. He took the white board and wrote, "I'm H-E-A-L-E-D!"

The last time Bill had felt like this God had healed him. I gave him a big hug and he hugged me back. I left a few days later for another state to do some training. I had not left him for many months yet we needed the income. Our kids agreed to care for him. While I was there I got "the call" that changed my life forever. My daughter called me to tell me that Bill had died during the night. (For all the details, you may read The Power of Hope in Mourning: Ride the Waves to Comfort.)

It was a crazy experience driving the distance to the airport and making the last flight out of the day. Miracles abounded that day. As I settled into my seat on the plane next to the window I let myself feel the sadness. In my mind's eye I was able to see the true healing. Bill was running around Heaven on strong legs, raising his hands to worship his Savior, singing to the top of his lungs, breathing in the breath of Heaven. He was indeed H-E-A-L-E-D!

Hope Tools

Look for the blessings

Things don't always go the way we want them to go. I wish I could have continued to care for my precious husband. I am grateful for every day of life we shared and look forward to seeing him again in Heaven. God gave us a gift of two and half more years together. We were blessed because we knew to take advantage of the time that we had. We created precious memories. Not everyone get that privilege.

Bless

Blessings are a matter of perspective. Blessings are a choice. Sometimes it takes everything in me to declare blessings in the middle of the trials. I could choose to be bitter that the second healing took my husband from us or I can bless the Lord, with everything in me, for all His compassion, goodness and mercy toward us. Only He knew what my husband was going through. My part is to trust and bless His name. Some times the blessings come with tears and comfort flows.

Prayer

Lord, I praise you that we can express our praise and gratitude to you from every part of our being. You are so awesome and wonderful in our lives. Thank you for reminding me of all the good You have done. For starters, you forgive and release me from all condemnation because of what Jesus did on the cross. On top of that, you heal all my dis-ease. This means that You give me peace in every circumstance. You deliver me from death itself by promising to bring me live eternal in Your presence because of your unfailing love and compassion. When it feels like I am drying up inside You fill me with good and beautiful things. I will be satisfied as long as I live. I am strong like an eagle and my youth is restored. I praise you with everything in me for these benefits and blessings. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Starting October 15 and running through October 31, you can to enter to win a $500 DaySpring shopping spree as a reader of the #Write31Days blog challenge by clicking here.

Author, speaker, corporate trainer, ordained minister and Hope Catalyst, Karen Sebastian enjoys sharing her rich life experiences with others – engaging them in adventurous discoveries of the beauty of hope in a dark, cloudy world. To increase hope and improve relationships with yourself and those that you love, sign up to receive Karen's emails.

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You may order Karen's latest book, The Power of Hope in Mourning here.


Believing in Healing

Karen Sebastian - Sunday, October 25, 2015

But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in His wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture. Malachi 4:2 TLB

We had waited all day for the surgery team to take Bill, my husband, to get a tracheotomy. They never came. We checked many times throughout the day yet heard nothing. (Click here to get more details.)

I had gone home and rested well. As I drove toward the hospital that early morning I felt a renewed sense of hope and peace. An old chorus was ringing in my head, "With healing in His wings ... the Son of Righteousness shall rise with healing in His wings." Bill had written on a paper the night before, "God is healing me. I'm healed."

The clouds started to turn pink as I drove along. By the time I pulled into the parking lot at the hospital the sky was a brilliant display of color and the sun was beginning to peek through the horizon. I realized that I had missed many glorious sunrises since Bill's long hospital stay. It's easy to become consumed with the inside workings of the hospital and caring for your loved one who is ill. 

As I clicked the button to get access to ICU, I said a prayer for strength for the uncertainties of that day. I walked past several patients who were hooked up to machines and said a quick prayer for each one. When I walked into Bill's room he was sitting on the side of the bed. The ventilator was turned off.

"Hi gorgeous," he said with a smile. He was weak but sitting on the side of the bed.

I ran over and hugged him. I was overjoyed to hear his voice.

We spent the rest of the day with one specialist after the other coming in. The pulmonary specialist sat at the end of the bed and stared at him for a long time. He kept shaking his head in astonishment. Bill just sat there and smiled. They scheduled his surgery for the feeding tube and moved him out of ICU. A few days later we went home with instructions on how to use the feeding tube.

God heals and sustains. We were given the gift of two and half more years together. They were tough ones in some ways and glorious in others. In the roller coaster ride of care giving this day was one of the peaks. 

Hope Tools

Take time to enjoy each day

This day was a reminder that I needed to take better care of myself. In caring for my husband, I had neglected my daily walks. I was consumed with what was happening inside the walls of the hospital. It's okay to take time away. You are not the one bringing the healing. Relax and find something to enjoy each and every day.

Faith grows as you exercise it

Faith is being sure of what you hope for, and certain of what you do not see. Hebrews 11:1

Faith means that you believe no matter what happens. Your hope is to see restoration and healing. That day we saw the manifestation of God's healing power to restore Bill's breathing. As you press in to the experience of trusting God in every circumstance, faith grows and expands.

Prayer

Thank You, Lord, for the faith and hope that rise every morning along with the sun. This reminds us that Jesus, the Son of righteousness, also rises with healing in His wings. Thank You for healing all those who are suffering today. You are the Healer and we believe You to bring Your touch to every person who needs it today. In Jesus' name. Amen.


Author, speaker, corporate trainer, ordained minister and Hope Catalyst, Karen Sebastian enjoys sharing her rich life experiences with others – engaging them in adventurous discoveries of the beauty of hope in a dark, cloudy world. To increase hope and improve relationships with yourself and those that you love, sign up to receive Karen's emails.

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You may order Karen's latest book, The Power of Hope in Mourning here.




Hopegrams

Hope Rays

Finding My Voice

Karen Sebastian - Saturday, October 31, 2015


I’m not there yet, nor have I become perfect; but I am charging on to gain anything and everything the Anointed One, Jesus, has in store for me—and nothing will stand in my way because He has grabbed me and won’t let me go. Philippians 3:12 Voice

One of my husband's most endearing qualities was that he never complained. He was selfless and giving to others to his own neglect. When he started having trouble swallowing we went to quite a few different doctors. He started speech therapy. He diligently did his exercises yet was not improving. He basically stopped eating and became so dehydrated I took him to the Emergency Room. We know that the ER wait depends on TRIAGE principles. Those who are critical get help first.

I had to learn to speak up for the one who was too sick to speak for himself. This is something that I had learned years ago as I cared for my mother-in-law. 

My husband was severely dehydrated. Once they put him on IV's he felt a lot better. Of course, it was on the weekend so they wanted to send him home. That's when I found my voice. When the doctor came in with his release papers I relayed his history and how long it had been since he could eat and that he barely could swallow water. I knew that if we went home we would be back in the long wait in the ER before the weekend was over. I spoke firmly and assertively. The doctor looked surprised because up to this time I had been very soft spoken and we had laughed a lot. He changed his decision and they admitted my husband to the hospital. 

One of the important roles you play as a caregiver is to be an advocate for your loved one. The medical system is complicated and has many twists and turns. You will have many opportunities to become impatient, angry and rude. Overburdened medical caregivers may even start the fight. If you choose to win it, you may lose in the end.

Hope Tools

Remain calm

It is tempting to get angry when we feel that our loved ones are not getting the attention and treatment we think they need to receive. Usually this anger is masking fear. The problem with anger is that it clouds our judgment and may produce the opposite effect from what we were seeking. What can calm you is to switch to the left brain mode. An excellent way to do this is to take a deep breath; get out a piece of paper; summarize the desired results.

Remember your manners

You truly do not know the rules of the establishment. Usually the gate keepers are the ones enforcing these rules down to the detail level that it can make you crazy. 'Please' and 'Thank You' go a long way in greasing the system especially if you want to break the written and unwritten rules in some way or another

Ask for clarity

A good script is, "May I respectfully ask for more information on why it would not be possible to _________________________." I learned that the patient has many more rights than they realize. Get on their side and do your best to see things from their perspective. The goal is to move in the direction that is best for the patient. Acknowledge that you could be wrong and simply want more information. Become an avid reader of the fine print. Learn the vocabulary.

Prayer

Dear Lord thank You that in the roller coaster of caregiving that You give us everything that we need to move forward with Your plans for _______________. None of this takes you by surprise so I thank You for sending me allies who will work toward the best outcome possible. I thank You that You have called many to serve in this capacity. Allow us to be a blessing to them as well. I am grateful that I can remain at peace no matter what chaos is circling all around me and when I don't know what is going to happen next I can trust You - because You do. As I find my voice, may it reflect your grace and mercy toward all those who work so hard to care my loved one. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Author, speaker, corporate trainer, ordained minister and Hope Catalyst, Karen Sebastian enjoys sharing her rich life experiences with others – engaging them in adventurous discoveries of the beauty of hope in a dark, cloudy world. To increase hope and improve relationships with yourself and those that you love, sign up to receive Karen's emails.

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You may order Karen's latest book, The Power of Hope in Mourning here.


Standing Tall

Karen Sebastian - Saturday, October 31, 2015


We continue to shout praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary – we can stand – out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.
Romans 5:3-5 (The Message)

We lived with FSHD for over a decade. Facio Scapular Humeral Dystrophy is an adult-onset form of Muscular Dystrophy (MD). My husband, Bill, was diagnosed with FSHD in 1999. When we left the neurologist’s office that day I was picturing all the changes we would more than likely see in our lives – i.e. ramps, handicapped parking, etc. I knew very little about MD other than watching Jerry Lewis’ telethon to raise awareness and money to fight this disease. I soon learned that there are many types of dystrophy – even many that go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.

My husband, Bill, ws an amazing man. He had a pastor’s heart and deeply cared for others. He had struggled for years with ongoing weakness especially in the heat. Yet, he kept going with no complaints and the strong desire to serve others. He finally realized that the physical demands of leading a small church (where you do just about everything from mowing to cleaning the bathrooms to preaching and visiting folks in the hospital) were too much. He retired from full-time ministry but the caring heart kept beating.

The changes were so gradual that it is like the growth of your children. You don’t realize it is happening until others see them or you put the mark on the wall. Bill started experiencing difficulties swallowing and increased shortness of breath. Both of these problems came together and resulted in a 911 call. Since then the problem with swallowing gotworse. A swallowing test revealed that his epiglottis was not doing its job of closing when he swallowed. To make that worse, the fear of choking has made it a full time job just to get liquids down. The automatic coordination of many different body parts that allows you to swallow hundreds of times a day was not working for him.

This new situation with Bill’s ability to swallow felt like a life changer. I could only think of often we ate together. Family gatherings all centered around food.

Hope Tools

Let go

I needed God’s perspective to make it through this difficult situation. I felt so helpless. When I asked for His truth, I instantly had a mental picture of what I was doing. I saw myself trying to carry Bill. I was dragging him as best I could but we were both in so much pain. I let go of Bill and looked up. Suddenly, God became the size of an adult while we were the size of toddlers. He picked Bill up and took me by the hand. We started walking together. I don’t understand it all yet I know that God is good and He has a plan.

Shout praises

Sometimes we come up against a wall and the last thing we want to do is praise. This verse tells us to shout praises while we are still in trouble. It's so important to recognize that your current situation is temporary. Begin to pull out the promises from the Word and trust God to be faithful to His promises for you. There is something about speaking these promises over yourself as loudly as you can! It begins to release the power of the Word and aligns your Spirit with what the Lord is doing.

Be alert for what God's doing next

This is a hope stance because we know that God isn't finished with you yet. He has great plans regardless of what lies you are believing right now. Ask Him to replace those lies with His truth in your life. As you do that, you will be able to enjoy the miracles even before they happen.

Prayer

Praise was not on my priority list this morning when I got up yet You challenge me to shout praises to You even when I feel like the walls are closing in on me. Thank You for developing a level of patience that is supernatural because it does not focus on the present trials but on what you are doing in the midst of it all. I choose to be on high alert as to what you are doing next. I want the grace to live in this level of expectancy no matter what is going on so that I never feel shortchanged. I want to stand out in the wide open spaces of Your grace and glory. I thank You that I can stand tall and continue to shout praises. Romans 5:3-5 (The Message) In Jesus' Name. Amen.

Author, speaker, corporate trainer, ordained minister and Hope Catalyst, Karen Sebastian enjoys sharing her rich life experiences with others – engaging them in adventurous discoveries of the beauty of hope in a dark, cloudy world. To increase hope and improve relationships with yourself and those that you love, sign up to receive Karen's emails.

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You may order Karen's latest book, The Power of Hope in Mourning here.



Finishing Strong

Karen Sebastian - Saturday, October 31, 2015

I’m not there yet, nor have I become perfect; but I am charging on to gain anything and everything the Anointed One, Jesus, has in store for me—and nothing will stand in my way because He has grabbed me and won’t let me go. Philippians 3:12 Voice

Perfection is so over-rated.

I learned during this writing challenge that I have within me the abilities to keep going. I was going to use the series to promote my latest book and highlight quotes. (Which is what I will do soon.) Instead, I took the plunge to write about caregiving -- my next book.

At first it was so hard and I wanted to give up. There was something special about day seven. I woke up so angry at myself for even starting the challenge. What was I thinking?

I sat down that day and just started writing and something broke. I had two days that were dedicated to the joy of watching grandchildren and I still need to write them. I let myself rest. Writing is not for the short-term. My goal is to share my life experiences with others who need hope.

Perfection does not inspire hope. Brokenness and vulnerability, however, inspire and connect us with others who are hurting.

There is only one perfect one - Jesus. As I pursue Him and His will for my life I can rest in knowing that I don't have to hang on for dear life. Actually, He is holding on to me. He is accomplishing His purpose in my life and there is not waste in His economy.

Caregivers need hope and I can share what the Lord has taught me. I put aside all perfectionism and share my heart. 

Would I do it again? Absolutely!

Author, speaker, corporate trainer, ordained minister and Hope Catalyst, Karen Sebastian enjoys sharing her rich life experiences with others – engaging them in adventurous discoveries of the beauty of hope in a dark, cloudy world. To increase hope and improve relationships with yourself and those that you love, sign up to receive Karen's emails.

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You may order Karen's latest book, The Power of Hope in Mourning here.

Enjoying God's Presence

Karen Sebastian - Saturday, October 31, 2015

My presence will travel with you, and I will give you rest. Exodus 33:16 Voice

Caregiving can truly become a long, lonely journey. It's time for caregivers to unite and stop isolating themselves from life giving rest and the presence of the Lord. In the midst of the hard times, the presence of the Lord and His rest make all the difference. His presence brings hope in the darkest of nights. His presence is also embodied in those who love Him and serve Him.

The context of this verse is that God speaks these words to Moses as he takes on the task of leading the children of Israel from Egypt to the Promised Land. He had no idea what was ahead but he did know that he didn't want to go if the Lord's presence was not with him. No matter what stage of the caregiving journey you are facing you have the promise that you can find loving-kindness and mercy from the Lord at every turning point and crisis.

If you are running on empty today take time to rest. Get away from the situation for a few days. Others can pick up the responsibilities that you fill. Gain a new perspective and grow as a person. Surround yourself with others who can support you. Open the door to help others and let them help you. 


Hope Tools

Make time for what feeds your Spirit

Take time to replenish your personal well of strength and resilience. One of the greatest gifts I received from a dear friend is that she would come and sit with my husband every Sunday morning so that I could go to church. They both enjoyed a wonderful time of 'speaking' about grace. Bill would write on his white board and she would get so excited about the depth of truth that he shared. This time of gathering with my church community allowed me to recharge and be ready to face the next week.

Reconnect with what makes you come fully alive

What stirs up a passion within you? Kindle that fire. What do you love to do? Go do it. Get up off that couch and take steps toward your future. Your loved one has a journey and so do you. For me, it has been writing. This was something I had always wanted to do. I felt I had books inside me. I started with the HopeGrams blog and have continued (with a few stops in between). I now have two published books and working on the third one called, The Power of Hope for Caregivers: Navigate the Journey. (I'm not sure about the tagline yet). I want to make sure that all my life experiences can help someone else who is going through a dark time.

Prayer

Lord, thank You that You fill me when I'm empty. I can feel so alone in this caregiving journey yet you promise that you are with me. I thank You for Your presence even when I don't feel it. You extend your favor toward me in such abundant ways. Give me the insight to see all the ways you are caring for me when I need it the most. Thank you for deep rest. I lean in to Your presence and breathe in peace and hope. In Jesus' name. Amen.


Author, speaker, corporate trainer, ordained minister and Hope Catalyst, Karen Sebastian enjoys sharing her rich life experiences with others – engaging them in adventurous discoveries of the beauty of hope in a dark, cloudy world. To increase hope and improve relationships with yourself and those that you love, sign up to receive Karen's emails.

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You may order Karen's latest book, The Power of Hope in Mourning here.



Finding Treasures

Karen Sebastian - Friday, October 30, 2015
I celebrate because of your promise like someone who discovers great treasure. Psalm 119:162 Voice

Life can be challenging when you are a caregiver. You can get so busy and be so tired that you forget to celebrate. It may simply be from from sheer exhaustion or so many things to do day after day.

This verse encapsulates the whole balance between hope and faith and what we experience in our lives. Hope tells us that God has a good plan for our lives. He has promised to provide every need in abundant and surprising ways. The promises are there for each of you. You have a choice whether you place value on the promise and begin to live like it is a treasure. Your life will be transformed when you live like you treasure the promises He has made to you. You will celebrate before it's happened - and that is the true definition of faith.

Hope Tools

Express gratitude for what others take for granted

Most of us don't truly appreciate all that God has given us when we are healthy. Many go through life complaining about minor aches and pains. Others don't like their bodies and wish they were different. When you have someone who faces physical challenges on a daily basis in your life it makes you grateful that you can hop out of bed, can breathe, can swallow, etc.

Celebrate wacky holidays

It seems that holidays all accumulate around the end of the each year. It's during these special days that families get together. But what about the rest of the year? Go look it up on the internet and you might find even more excuses to get together with family and friends. For example, on November 7th it's Bittersweet Chocolate with Almonds Day. Who knew?

Find your favorite promise and treat it like a treasure

For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and hope. Jeremiah 29:11 - That's one of my life verses. It's a favorite and a treasure because it helps me in the tough places of my life. When I think about the difficult places of my life I can know that God always has a plan and it brings me great comfort to trust in the One who has a bigger perspective than mine. What's your treasured promise?

Prayer

Thank You, Lord, for the very fact that You have given me so many wonderful promises. These promises awake hope in me to know that no matter what I may be going through right now I have the treasure of knowing that there is a wonderful plan in it all. Thank You for changing my perspective about my promises. I treasure those verses that are becoming a part of the very fiber of my life. I have found a treasure because I have found YOU and what you say comes true. I pray that I will live like I believe this. In Jesus' name. Amen.


Author, speaker, corporate trainer, ordained minister and Hope Catalyst, Karen Sebastian enjoys sharing her rich life experiences with others – engaging them in adventurous discoveries of the beauty of hope in a dark, cloudy world. To increase hope and improve relationships with yourself and those that you love, sign up to receive Karen's emails.


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You may order Karen's latest book, The Power of Hope in Mourning here.


Finding Comfort

Karen Sebastian - Thursday, October 29, 2015

As a mother soothes her child, so I will comfort you. Isaiah 66:13 Voice

Once my husband needed full-time care, I served as his primary caregiver. At one point, I was able to continue with my training business which required me to be out of state. My daughter tells me that the first night that she came to the house to get her dad ready for bed she was shocked at how much he had gone down. My husband was very private and never complained. I guess I had just taken the decline as a matter of course and adjusted to the "new normal." She sat in her car and just bawled. Caregivers need comfort.

It's natural to want to shield others from pain - especially your children. One of the hardest things for my husband was to let our children take care of him. In the final months before he moved to Heaven, he needed help with almost everything especially with taking care of getting him to the bathroom and cleaning up "accidents." In the journey with illness, it's important to be vulnerable and let others help with the hard and messy parts. Caregivers need help.

Over the next few months, we worked out a system where our children were able to support me in my caregiving responsibilities. Bill developed a bed sore which allowed him to have a home health nurse visit several times a week until that was cleared up. A friend offered to come on Sundays so I could go enjoy a worship service without distraction.

Hope Tools

Find balance

Make a commitment to do something for yourself every day. It doesn't have to be big. It may just be that you ask someone to come and stay with your loved one while you go for a short drive to get a cup of coffee. You are still an individual person who has a tough job. Don't lose who you are in the long journey.

Accept help

Stop being so strong and heroic. We talked earlier about losing your caregiver super-cape. When others say what can I do to help, take them up on their offers. Stop being afraid to bother others or to put them out. They will be thrilled to help out and it will give them special time with with their loved one. One of the most comforting things you can receive is a warm hug. Don't hesitate to ask for them.

Prayer

Lord, thank You for the promise to care for us as a mother with her child. What a wonderful picture when our hearts are broken and the bottom seems to have dropped out of our world. Open our eyes to see the many ways that You are providing this comfort and joy. We do not have to isolate ourselves or make it through hard times alone. You are always close to us as we cry and You send others to comfort us as well. Thank You for all that You provide. We will receive it as straight from Your heart to ours. In Jesus' name. Amen.


Author, speaker, corporate trainer, ordained minister and Hope Catalyst, Karen Sebastian enjoys sharing her rich life experiences with others – engaging them in adventurous discoveries of the beauty of hope in a dark, cloudy world. To increase hope and improve relationships with yourself and those that you love, sign up to receive Karen's emails.

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You may order Karen's latest book, The Power of Hope in Mourning here.


Remaining Unshakable

Karen Sebastian - Wednesday, October 28, 2015

I will not be alone, because the Father will be with Me. I have told you these things so that you will be whole and at peace. In this world, you will be plagued with times of trouble, but you need not fear; I have triumphed over this corrupt world order (John 16:32-33 VOICE).

The Father is with me. I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world. - same verse in the Message.

Have you ever been in an earthquake? I have been in several. Growing up in Central America, they were part of our daily existence especially in Guatemala and Costa Rica. I moved to California for college and had a few close encounters with the earth shaking under my feet. They didn't happen every day but when they came, they made your heart start beating rapidly and you held on for the few minutes that seemed to go on forever. Caregiving can feel like you have built your house on a major fault. All may look good on the surface but there is a sense of dread when the shaking starts because you're not sure how much damage there will be once it stops.

Scripture never promises that we will not have trouble in our lives. In these verses, Jesus is preparing his followers for very difficult days ahead. He is giving His own example of the trust He has in His Father because He is always with Him. He knew that they would abandon Him in His darkest hour. Whath do you do when you world starts shaking?

Hope Tools

Embrace the truth that you are never alone

When our world is shaking we can feel so alone. The panic that hits when you aren't sure what to grab on to when you've received a devastating diagnosis slowly subsides yet you are not sure where to turn. Who do you call? You worry that they will not be able to handle it well either and you will then have someone else to comfort. We also have this crazy feeling that we need to be strong for everyone else. Who started that one? Pray about who you tell about our shaking and make a list. See how they respond. Those who support you will get to stay on the list. Those who do not do as well, you can reach back to later when you're stronger. Ultimately, you know that the Lord is very near to the brokenhearted so call to Him for help as well.

Prepare for the big one

If you live in California you have heard a lot about the emergency preparedness for when they get hit by "the big one." It means knowing where to stand when it's shaking, what water and food supplies to have, When caring for someone who is dying it's amazing that we can avoid conversations that person wants to have about their wishes. Don't deprive them of that honor to be heard during some of the most critical conversations of their lives. Let them be vulnerable and open. It's okay to cry together. These are priceless times. Break down the walls that are isolating them too.

Enter deep peace

I love the Message version of these verses because it says that when we trust the Lord He will make us unshakable, assured and deeply at peace. I long for deep peace. I want to launch into that part of inner space. I encourage you to do the same. There is no easy formula yet this is what the Lord is calling you to do. He wants to work from the inside out. So slow down and let the peace settle in.

Prayer

Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for the warning that we would have difficulties in our lives. It's appropriate and yet You also want us to recognize that You have already traveled this road before us. You healed all who came to You for healing. As we claim healing for our loved one who is ill, we also know that you want us to trust You in every detail. I bring you the fear of the next shaking in our journey. Thank You for the promise that we can be unshakable especially as we see how deeply we are loved. Thank You for the promise that I can walk with assurance and deep peace. I receive this peace right now in Your powerful name. Amen.


Author, speaker, corporate trainer, ordained minister and Hope Catalyst, Karen Sebastian enjoys sharing her rich life experiences with others – engaging them in adventurous discoveries of the beauty of hope in a dark, cloudy world. To increase hope and improve relationships with yourself and those that you love, sign up to receive Karen's emails.


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You may order Karen's latest book, The Power of Hope in Mourning here.


Finding Energy

Karen Sebastian - Tuesday, October 27, 2015

God is energizing you so that you will desire and do what always pleases Him. Philippians 4:13 VOICE

There is no exhaustion quite like it. I thought I was tired when I my kids were babies. This was different. This was a bone deep, depleted feeling that overcame my entire body. It was partly because of lack of sleep but I've been sleep-deprived before. i was wearing many hats as a wife, mother, minister, employee and caregiver. I didn't ever really sign up to be a caregiver - it just happened. Gradually, over time, as I kept taking the path of least resistance. I took on more and more and no one seemed to notice. There were times when I hit the wall during each of the three different seasons as a caregiver - for my mother-in-love, my mom and my husband. I call it 'Caregiver Fog." Here are some Hope Tools to help you shift gears and regain your clarity and focus.

Hope Tools

Stick to your routines

It can seem impossible to do the familiar when everything has changed. It's vital that you do what you always do every day before you start the race against time. Routines calm you and bring normalcy to what is a crazy time. Make the time to sit down to eat a meal together. Share fun times and laugh together.

Take a deep breath

One of the main reasons for burn out is the feeling that you have more to do than you can accomplish. It seems like you will never catch up. All the pieces of your life seem to be breaking one by one. When a crisis comes you go into that mode and function through it. When you are anxious your breathing becomes shallow and you stop getting the life-flowing oxygen your body needs during this crisis. If it seems like you are running too fast to catch your breath then it's time to stop and take a deep one. Set your timer for ten minutes and deep breathing. Take a deep breath from your diaphragm; hold it to ten seconds; release it slowly. Continue to do this until your alarm goes off. Let your mind float freely to whatever thoughts are there. Do not stop to analyze them. The benefits of doing this are that your heart rate will slow own, the crazy thoughts in your brain will become calmer and you will begin to feel peace. Once you are finished, take the anxious thoughts to the Lord and let Him carry them for you.

Serve from your heart

Resentment steals your joy. Bitterness stops the flow of energy. If you are feeling overburdened and that others are taking advantage of your kindness, speak up. Don't stuff the feelings. Have a family meetings where you express what needs to be done for the loved ones(s) who need to be cared for. It will ease the tension and allow others to have the great blessings that can be their's when they come alongside the tangibly show their love. Don't let anything disturb peace. Do not assume that they don't want to help. They probably feel as overwhelmed as you did in the beginning. Break down the tasks into manageable pieces that allow them to each take part. As you share in the burden and joy of caring for someone so that there are no regrets in the future.

Prayer

Dear Lord, thank You for working in my life when I am in a hard place. I am in one right now and ask that You would give me the desire to keep going and doing all that I do. I want to stop pleasing people and start focusing on pleasing You. I am grateful that you not only give me the ability to be obedient but the desire as well. I receive renewed strength and energy as I focus on You. In Jesus's name. Amen.


Author, speaker, corporate trainer, ordained minister and Hope Catalyst, Karen Sebastian enjoys sharing her rich life experiences with others – engaging them in adventurous discoveries of the beauty of hope in a dark, cloudy world. To increase hope and improve relationships with yourself and those that you love, sign up to receive Karen's emails.

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You may order Karen's latest book, The Power of Hope in Mourning here.




Believing in Healing (Part 2)

Karen Sebastian - Monday, October 26, 2015

Two and half years after God healed my husband's breathing issues and allowed him to go home from the hospital we were back at the office of the pulmonologist who had become his doctor. The muscles had continued to weaken and the diaphragm in particular had stopped working completely. Without this function working, Bill was dependent on a ventilator for his next breath. Through it all, his faith was strong and his confidence that God was his healer never wavered. I don't know how this works except I saw this miracle transpire every day. I would go in to help him out of bed and before he got up he would point to his legs. I knew that meant that we were to pray for healing. For each day, he received strength and grace. He managed to get up, go to the bathroom, ride his scooter to the living room where he camped out the rest of the day. I worked from my home office and checked on him regularly.

He loved to listen to praise music and his favorite song was, "This is the air I breathe." As soon as I would hear that song, I would run to his chair and grab his hand as we praised together. We were grateful for every breath. Most of us take so much for granted. My gratitude for basic body functions grew exponentially. It became harder and harder to get him to the doctor appointments. I began to check in to getting a van where we could more easily get him in and out.

Our family gathered often around Bill's chair. We created events such as Western nights in order to honor his love for the old westerns. We created priceless memories in this season that we realized was a reprieve. The ongoing miracle was that despite having the grandkids around him he did not get sick. He didn't even get a cold during this whole season. Here's a slide show of the Western night.

Bill's last doctor's appointment stands out like none other. The pulmonologist urged him to get a tracheotomy as he was not getting enough oxygen through the mask. We had tried a variety of masks. Bill had his white board there and wrote a huge NO! followed by a small thank you at the bottom of the message.

As we rode home in the car I started nagging him about why he was refusing what could be a life extension. His white board was in the back so he signed what I thought was, "I'm H-E-L-D."

When we got him settled again in his chair I asked him to explain again why he was not agreeing to get the tracheotomy. He took the white board and wrote, "I'm H-E-A-L-E-D!"

The last time Bill had felt like this God had healed him. I gave him a big hug and he hugged me back. I left a few days later for another state to do some training. I had not left him for many months yet we needed the income. Our kids agreed to care for him. While I was there I got "the call" that changed my life forever. My daughter called me to tell me that Bill had died during the night. (For all the details, you may read The Power of Hope in Mourning: Ride the Waves to Comfort.)

It was a crazy experience driving the distance to the airport and making the last flight out of the day. Miracles abounded that day. As I settled into my seat on the plane next to the window I let myself feel the sadness. In my mind's eye I was able to see the true healing. Bill was running around Heaven on strong legs, raising his hands to worship his Savior, singing to the top of his lungs, breathing in the breath of Heaven. He was indeed H-E-A-L-E-D!

Hope Tools

Look for the blessings

Things don't always go the way we want them to go. I wish I could have continued to care for my precious husband. I am grateful for every day of life we shared and look forward to seeing him again in Heaven. God gave us a gift of two and half more years together. We were blessed because we knew to take advantage of the time that we had. We created precious memories. Not everyone get that privilege.

Bless

Blessings are a matter of perspective. Blessings are a choice. Sometimes it takes everything in me to declare blessings in the middle of the trials. I could choose to be bitter that the second healing took my husband from us or I can bless the Lord, with everything in me, for all His compassion, goodness and mercy toward us. Only He knew what my husband was going through. My part is to trust and bless His name. Some times the blessings come with tears and comfort flows.

Prayer

Lord, I praise you that we can express our praise and gratitude to you from every part of our being. You are so awesome and wonderful in our lives. Thank you for reminding me of all the good You have done. For starters, you forgive and release me from all condemnation because of what Jesus did on the cross. On top of that, you heal all my dis-ease. This means that You give me peace in every circumstance. You deliver me from death itself by promising to bring me live eternal in Your presence because of your unfailing love and compassion. When it feels like I am drying up inside You fill me with good and beautiful things. I will be satisfied as long as I live. I am strong like an eagle and my youth is restored. I praise you with everything in me for these benefits and blessings. In Jesus' name. Amen.

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Author, speaker, corporate trainer, ordained minister and Hope Catalyst, Karen Sebastian enjoys sharing her rich life experiences with others – engaging them in adventurous discoveries of the beauty of hope in a dark, cloudy world. To increase hope and improve relationships with yourself and those that you love, sign up to receive Karen's emails.

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You may order Karen's latest book, The Power of Hope in Mourning here.


Believing in Healing

Karen Sebastian - Sunday, October 25, 2015

But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in His wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture. Malachi 4:2 TLB

We had waited all day for the surgery team to take Bill, my husband, to get a tracheotomy. They never came. We checked many times throughout the day yet heard nothing. (Click here to get more details.)

I had gone home and rested well. As I drove toward the hospital that early morning I felt a renewed sense of hope and peace. An old chorus was ringing in my head, "With healing in His wings ... the Son of Righteousness shall rise with healing in His wings." Bill had written on a paper the night before, "God is healing me. I'm healed."

The clouds started to turn pink as I drove along. By the time I pulled into the parking lot at the hospital the sky was a brilliant display of color and the sun was beginning to peek through the horizon. I realized that I had missed many glorious sunrises since Bill's long hospital stay. It's easy to become consumed with the inside workings of the hospital and caring for your loved one who is ill. 

As I clicked the button to get access to ICU, I said a prayer for strength for the uncertainties of that day. I walked past several patients who were hooked up to machines and said a quick prayer for each one. When I walked into Bill's room he was sitting on the side of the bed. The ventilator was turned off.

"Hi gorgeous," he said with a smile. He was weak but sitting on the side of the bed.

I ran over and hugged him. I was overjoyed to hear his voice.

We spent the rest of the day with one specialist after the other coming in. The pulmonary specialist sat at the end of the bed and stared at him for a long time. He kept shaking his head in astonishment. Bill just sat there and smiled. They scheduled his surgery for the feeding tube and moved him out of ICU. A few days later we went home with instructions on how to use the feeding tube.

God heals and sustains. We were given the gift of two and half more years together. They were tough ones in some ways and glorious in others. In the roller coaster ride of care giving this day was one of the peaks. 

Hope Tools

Take time to enjoy each day

This day was a reminder that I needed to take better care of myself. In caring for my husband, I had neglected my daily walks. I was consumed with what was happening inside the walls of the hospital. It's okay to take time away. You are not the one bringing the healing. Relax and find something to enjoy each and every day.

Faith grows as you exercise it

Faith is being sure of what you hope for, and certain of what you do not see. Hebrews 11:1

Faith means that you believe no matter what happens. Your hope is to see restoration and healing. That day we saw the manifestation of God's healing power to restore Bill's breathing. As you press in to the experience of trusting God in every circumstance, faith grows and expands.

Prayer

Thank You, Lord, for the faith and hope that rise every morning along with the sun. This reminds us that Jesus, the Son of righteousness, also rises with healing in His wings. Thank You for healing all those who are suffering today. You are the Healer and we believe You to bring Your touch to every person who needs it today. In Jesus' name. Amen.


Author, speaker, corporate trainer, ordained minister and Hope Catalyst, Karen Sebastian enjoys sharing her rich life experiences with others – engaging them in adventurous discoveries of the beauty of hope in a dark, cloudy world. To increase hope and improve relationships with yourself and those that you love, sign up to receive Karen's emails.

 Facebook  | Instagram | LinkedIn | Twitter | Home

You may order Karen's latest book, The Power of Hope in Mourning here.