Monday, August 28, 2017

Caregiver Chronicles: How the High Maintenance Missionary Does a STMT at Home


Five weeks ago, Sam (my neighbor) and I had a dreadful conversation about his future. It went better than I expected. He's been in my home ever since. 

I can't remember who at my office first recognized this work of caring for Sam as a kind of outreach, but we've been calling this a "short term mission trip" (STMT) from the start. As Director of Prayer and Outreach, I'm doing quite a bit of both (prayer and outreach) from my home. 

Most evenings, I send a STMT report to my coworkers at Home Office. I give details of the day, share funny things that have happened, and ask for prayer for our needs. Sometimes those reports make people laugh. Sometimes they cry.

The strange thing about this is how God prepared me in advance. I've filled out numerous spiritual gifts inventory questionnaires in the past. I've always scored highest on prophecy with teaching a close second. 

A few months ago, my pastor and I discussed spiritual gifts and he disagreed with my assessment. "I think you have administration and teaching," he told me. I suppressed a snort. Me? Administration? 

He gave me another inventory to complete and told me to let him know the results. Yep. You guessed it. He was right. Administration is now first, with prophecy and teaching a close second and third.

God knew the gift of administration would be essential for doing this work, and He gave it to me in advance. I'm so very grateful. Since I was prepared in advanced to do everything at once, this isn't as hard as it might have been. 

I haven't set an alarm in years, but I still get up most mornings at 5:00 or 5:30, unless I'm up in the night with Sam. Last night, I was up. Today, I slept later, and considered it a gift from God.

When I wake up, I get up. That's a key element in getting everything done.

When I get up, I get going. That's another key element.

My day starts with a cup of coffee and quiet time, and it's the most essential element of the day. (The quiet time, not the coffee.)

After quiet time, I start writing the blog for the day. Usually, I write as fast as I can type, then hit publish. If the blog post seems "raw" some days, that's because I serve "fresh meat" most of the time. 

Once the blog is finished, the task of posting to social media sites takes another 30 minutes. 

I go straight from blogging to getting Sam up and ready for his day. He's very unsteady on his feet, so sometimes I drag him to the bedside commode (BSC) and on to his chair, rather than support him as he walks. This is a precarious task that is often accompanied by wobbling, arms flailing, and lots of holding tight.

Then, it's breakfast time. Sam needs more protein, so I usually scramble eggs, add a slice of quick bread, thicken a protein supplement, and give him coffee and meds. I get him cleaned up, dentures rinsed and in place, bed made, and the BSC emptied and cleaned.

While all that's happening, Home Office is usually having a devotional and prayer time. As soon as they're finished, Maria emails me the list of missionaries and I head to my computer, where I spend most of the morning praying for and emailing missionaries, connecting with Untapped Power Grid coordinators, and working on talks for upcoming speaking engagements. 

Around noon, I stop to fix lunch for Sam, eat a quick bite myself, then back to the computer. If I haven't started the washer, I do that then. 

There's a surprising amount of laundry on this STMT.

Somewhere in there, I get dressed, stop to feed the horses and bunnies, walk the dogs several times, and, when there's room in my day, try to get a bit of yard work done. 

A constant stream of people stop by to see Sam. I hope this doesn't sound negative, but this is my home, not a medical facility. I'm not accustomed to strangers having the freedom to enter my home just because they want to come. 

I haven't turned anyone except the cyberstalker away, but, if I don't personally know the person who comes, (not "knowing" from social media but from in-person life) I don't leave them alone in my house. I stay in the room with them. 

Does this make visitors uncomfortable? I hope not, but I can't imagine anyone wanting to leave a stranger alone in their house, even if they say they know Sam. I pray people understand. 

In the afternoon, I work on writing projects. That's mission, too, because I've started converting the digital James study to a paper format. 

Sam likes to watch the news and Wheel of Fortune, so I try to have his dinner ready by 5:30. Then, we get him cleaned up, change him into pajamas, and move him to bed.

Most days, I've already been going full-steam-ahead for more than 12 hours, but, after Sam's in bed, I start replying to comments on social media. I'm rarely doing birthday greetings, thank-you-for-sharing notes, and most interactions on social media, but I'm doing the best I can.

Sam has a wireless doorbell ringer and I have the doorbell by my bed. At night, he rings it if he needs me. It's so loud that I can't fail to hear it. Most nights, I'm able to sleep straight through.

Is this overwhelming? Sometimes. 

For the most part, we've developed a rhythm to our day that works. Knowing I'm called to this gives me a lot of peace.

Do I have "me time"? Not often. Do I get to go out to lunch with friends or do all the things I used to do? Not usually. However, God has sent friends to help just when I need it, every single time.

Is it hard? Sure it is, but there are many blessings in the midst of this that I could not receive any other way. 

It's a season. Not a life time. That truth helps carry me through, even when I'm tired and whining. I want to do this well. I've understood from the start that I won't be doing this for eternity. It's a short-term task.

There are many hard things to which God calls us, and we need to do them so we can become the men and women of faith He intends us to be. 

It's easy to look at a gigantic task, count the cost, and think it's too hard, but it's not. It's merely God-sized. With His help, we can do anything He asks us to do. This is what a disciple does: walk by faith, and obey, even when it's hard. 

To what giant job has God called you? 

Don't let fear and uncertainty rob you of the joy and blessings God has planned. If He's called you to it, He knows He can help you through it. He also knows that every act of obedience comes with its own blessings. 

That big task God has for you will be accomplished the same way my task is being done. One step at a time.

"For by You I can run upon a troop; And by my God I can leap over a wall." Psalm 18:29 esv
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If you're not familiar with why I'm sometimes called "The High Maintenance Missionary," it's probably not what you think. Click on the link to find out more. 

In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: When Priorities Determine Action

If you feel led to partner with this ministry (US, Middle East, the digital world), here's the link to give your tax-deductible donations: Global Outreach Acct 4841 

Or you can mail your check or money order to: Global Outreach/ PO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802. Be sure to put Account 4841 in the "for" line.