Caregiving Unexpectedly

“Honey, your meeting was cancelled in NYC, and the Government is shut down, don't you think you should just stay home?” My mother, always the voice of caution, was speaking to me on the phone.

“No, Mom,” I said, “my luggage is packed and I'm all ready to go, I'm not feeling a block at all when I pray, and I think I'm supposed to go anyway.”

Sometimes I go places without really knowing what is going to happen, just that I am directed and enabled to go.

“God sends me around,” I tell people.

Last year in January I was working on a painting of my own, had a couple dog portrait commissions, and was doing final editing details for printing my anti-GMO book, Scripture Seeds and Science.

This year, I came into 2019 with no commissions. I was free to go and do new things, as long as my finances held out.

I tend to do much better in life when I have clear goals, but sometimes a time of “dormancy” is needed, when all looks rather bleak and blank. During these times I feel rather aimless, not needed by anyone - and I like feeling needed.

It's usually a good time to ask, seek and knock in prayer, for new direction in life.

The Gentiles worry about the future, but Christians are not to be like this. We are to be about our Father's work.

Still, gathering daily food is the responsibility of all birds. Since I usually find work in more populated places, when I can speak with people, staying in my bedroom studio while the snow fell didn't seem such a great idea to me.

I had bus tickets leaving Vermont on a Tuesday and a Wednesday. They had been purchased weeks before, for $1 each. I could literally change where I lived for $20, roundtrip, if all went well. 

I needed food to eat either here or there. I didn't see much difference. This is the flexibility and availability of life, when you don't have a 9-5 job.

I'd heard on December 20th from my very kind 87-year-old friend in New Jersey that she had broken her hip in early December and was in a rehab center. I usually stay just outside NYC when I travel in that direction.

I'd put out a request just after the holidays that I was seeking another place to stay, but no one I'd written to had room for me, except one family in New Jersey.

I called an old friend to ask how she was doing, not to ask for housing help, and was surprised when she told me she could definitely give me a couch to sleep on.

My heart shot “fifteen feet in the air” when I realized I could still go to NYC!

Because a large snowstorm was approaching, I left on Tuesday for Boston, escaping the day before snow and sleet arrived, thankfully.

An example to emulate, by God's Grace: "She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy."


Helping Michelle


On the first day of my trip, I was waiting in downtown Burlington, Vermont all day, for my 4 PM bus to Boston.

The early commuter dropped me off at 8 AM. I had read a book awhile, then been to the library to get some work done online. A friend had taken me and my heavy luggage back to the main bus terminal, where I still had three hours to wait.

An elderly woman in the Downtown Transportation Center was in front of me in the line to speak to the agent, and she seemed very upset. She was disoriented and confused as to where she was and where she was going. She spoke broken English, with a French accent.

Because I was there so early, there was plenty of time to help this sweet lady. I asked her where she was going, and she replied she was heading south to Boston, to see her son.

She had no mobile phone, so I called her son for her, and left a message. It occurred to me that she may have gotten off the bus too early, in which case she needed another ticket to continue on.

But then her son called me back, and explained his mother was actually heading north to Montreal, and had just left him and Boston that morning.

She had gotten off her Montreal bus too soon. In ten years of visiting her son, three times a year, I was told this had never happened 

I called my younger sister who was at her place of work, and she generously agreed to come take this lovely French lady, who seemed to have Alzheimer's, and keep her safe until her son could drive up from 

My sister came to meet us just before my bus left, and we switched off watching Michelle. She was taken safely home to Canada later that evening by her concerned son.

I am so grateful for my kind family, who loves to minister, work together and reach out when there is a need. 

When I'm traveling and text my siblings, within five minutes they will all text back, “We're praying for you, Elise! Let us know when you arrive safely.” My ministry to others is not possible without their prayers.

My kind friends who host me in Boston were also a large part of this latest trip. Their hospitality has been so wonderful to experience. It was neat to see how the Body of Christ works together, so that all parts are blessed!


Wood, Bricks, Steel and Glass – NYC


NYC


I arrived in NYC on Wednesday, a day earlier than planned, and immediately saw I had walked into a “situation”.

People have needs. Especially the elderly and infirm. And most especially those who caregive for the elderly.

My old friend had been caring for an 89-year-old man around the clock for many months with little respite and no payment. She was exhausted. She told me her heart was doing funny things, and she felt like she was "swimming through a fog" trying to function each day.

I had no definite plans or constraints on my time, just some desires, and I pitched in to help her, taking the elderly man to and from the bathroom at night, so my friend could get some uninterrupted rest.

There was little food in the home, so I bought some good food and cooked for them, serving in any way I could. Listening to the concerns.

I was shocked when someone I met at my NYC fellowship asked, “What makes helping them your responsibility?”

“Nothing,” I replied, “just that they invited me into their home, and they have needs I can help meet.”

My brother wanted to know the same thing, when he called to find out how I was doing. He has his own ministry to the homeless in Vermont, but I guess he thinks I'm too poor to give to anyone else.

And I get it, helping others takes energy. It's often messy, getting involved in other people's lives. But sometimes all someone needs to really change their lives for the better - spiritually, physically and emotionally - is a helping hand.

When I am able to reach out or speak up to help or encourage someone else, I sometimes feel compelled to do so. 

That is what the ecclesia is for, that is what God left us on earth to do – not just think of ourselves, our own comfort and pleasure!


Tali Roth Classical Guitar concert – quite fabulous – a Foundation for the Revival of Classical Culture event


Why Should We CARE for the Poor and Needy?


One of the major concepts of the Holy Bible is that God the Father cares for those in need of help. He often works through people to show His love.

He didn't come to earth as Emmanuel (God with us) to save those who didn't have any needs.

Christ came to seek and to save those who were lost. Those who have the humility to acknowledge their need.

He takes special care of the poor, widow, elderly, fatherless, stranger, and infirm. He helps those who cry out to him, who call upon His name.

And He also helps those who don't call for his help. He pursues those who don't even want His presence. (Isaiah 65:1, Romans 9:24-26, 30 and Romans 10:20, Ephesians 2:12-13.)

Our Father in Heaven sends rain on the just and the unjust. (Matthew 5:45) No one can say God doesn't care for them.

I realize there are many places in this world which are presently torn apart by famine, war, evil government systems, bad weather and disease. In the midst of all these tragedies, our Father's care is still seen and felt.

In the New Testament, Jesus Christ is seen during his three short years of ministry healing the sick, demon-possessed, blind, and lame.

Jesus told the disciples that when He left, he would send the Comforter, the Holy Ghost, to teach us all things, and bring all things to our remembrance, whatever Jesus has said unto us (John 14:26). 

Jesus told his followers, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father” (John 14:12).

How many of us can say we are doing those Greater Works Christ mentions? I'm not saying I can, just that I know this is what He asks of me.

If we are truly Sons of God, we will take on His Likeness, His Character, His Compassion for those who have less than ourselves.

Last year I lived debt-free on less than $8,000, before any expenses. I'm really not someone who is “rolling in dough” according to this world's standards, but I consider myself very wealthy because all the riches of the glory of Christ Jesus are mine! (Ephesians 1:18)

And there are many folks who have less than I do.

I know I cannot help everyone I see who is in need, but I can certainly help those put in my path, those who have offered me help, those God directs me to assist.

Pigeons in NYC


Caregiving


Sometimes you really can't SEE needs, unless you've been there before.

Seven years ago, I was the main caregiver for my older sister. She had had a benign 35-lb. ovarian tumor, and I had taken care of her six weeks before her surgery, and then cooked meals for her for three months afterward.

The hardest part of the time before surgery was at night, when she needed help getting up and going to the bathroom.

Because her tumor was weighing on her bladder, she needed help every hour to 1.5 hours. I was getting practically NO sleep, for three weeks before the hospital stay. My own body was crashing.

I had begged my sister's friends, to please come and help us at night, but all of them refused, telling me they were only available to come in the daytime.

I didn't need their help as much in the daytime - just at night. I was responsible to see she followed a certain protocol each day, so her life would hopefully be preserved.

And so, in seeing my friend's need for help to get some real rest, I understood her exhaustion.

When I had helped my older sister, I had very little funds. But I had two hands and I gave her my very life.

She lives today because, by God's great grace, I was made willing to lay my life down for her.

My older sister had been a great example to all of us, caregiving herself for others over many, many years. She was by my grandfather's bedside reading the book of John to him when he went Home in 1998. And she had also given herself unselfishly to serve when my sister-in-law was dying in 2007. Then she had gone to help care for an old friend's husband in Maine, sleeping next to him when he died of diabetes in 2009. 



Left-hand portion of a long narrow painting of Paris’ streets – it’s very old, hanging in NYC and is for sale!

What Can We GIVE? 


Well-known author and speaker Elisabeth Elliot spoke often in her books and radio shows of how we are to become “Broken Bread and Poured out Wine” for others. 

Certainly, this is not to be done in our own strength. And what does that really mean? 

Helping others often means we sacrifice, by God's grace, our own lives, our health, and our time. 

We become willing to suffer and “die”, so others can live.

·       Some people give money to the poor, or charities helping the poor, and money is certainly needed by many.







·       Other people may not have much money, but can give their time, strength, advice and their presence to meet physical needs. Sometimes time is a far more valuable and needed gift than just money.

·       Some change lives by giving clothing, needed items or meals.

·       The gift of a personal note, kind wishes, and healing words are also helpful.

·       Prayer is always needed.

·       Sometimes people have no voice, and need our help speaking out, to come into collaboration with others.

I met a doorman in our building, and explained the needs of this family. He was immediately interested in helping, too.

He told me his own story of how he came to believe in God's Love for him, and he reached out to help with a financial gift. It made all the difference! His gift greatly lowered my friend's stress level regarding financial needs they had for basic necessities, like bed-sore bandages and toilet paper.

Middle section of old Paris street painting hanging in a NYC shop!


Giving the BEST We Have


Growing up, I watched my mother give the very best she had to those who had less than we did.

She once felt motivated to give an expensive bottom round roast to a needy family. My mother said she'd found out ten years later in a testimony time at our church that this roast had had a huge impact on the faith of this family. It was found at the bottom of a bag, underneath the cheaper pasta and ground beef. They never knew who had given this gift, but it spoke volumes.

My mother would sometimes remark that Christians tend to be the worst “cheapskates” and she taught my siblings and I that this was wrong.

Giving someone something you don't want anymore because it's ripped or broken isn't the type of giving our Father wants of us.

As my mother would give to others, usually at a cost to our own family, we would learn how to minister, too, by watching her actions and faith.

It's sad that some who claim to follow Christ have become known in places for greed, stinginess, and for literally using or abusing those who are generous with their time and finances.

Followers of Christ are to be known as Givers, not Takers!

My friend commented that Food Banks often give away very low quality food. When you are caring for someone who is ill, they need the BEST quality foods, to help them regain their health and strength.

Right-hand side of very old Paris streets painting hanging in a NYC shop!


Financial Tests of Faith


“You're very generous, Elise,” a friend told me after Bible Study one night.

I thought on this and disagreed. I often feel I'm very stingy and NOT generous. I keep money very carefully, perhaps too carefully. I may be generous with time and advice, but with money I tend to pinch every dime, and dole it out only for needs. 

As I don't have a steady increase, no checks arriving monthly from anyplace, I feel responsible to pay my expenses, to not burden others, I very rarely feel able to give a lot of money away.

Since losing our home ten years ago, tithing “10% of my increase” to a church, which had been the long-time habit of my life, became disrupted.

I was forced to move often, and now I felt like I was the “poor and needy” the scriptures talked about.

I knew the tithe was originally supposed to be hard goods from the soil, and in the current day has been largely replaced by just monetary gifts.

And I noticed how the New Testament speaks about giving to the poor and needy, not mentioning the tithe.

Paul says in Galatians 2:10, “Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward (or, zealous) to do.”

I was challenged at the beginning of this year by Matthew 6:19-34 to not worry about how I would live in the future.

And recently, in NYC, these verses came to mind again, to have faith that if I gave my diminishing funds away to help someone else, God would take care of me.

The widow of Zarephath came to mind (I Kings 17), who gave her remaining flour and oil, providing Elijah with a meal during a famine. God blessed this woman's faith, and she and her son then lived through the famine, because their oil and flour jars never ran out until the rains came.

I thought about the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37), too, and how he helped the wounded man in a ditch.

Why did this Samaritan man feel caring for the wounded stranger was his responsibility? The scriptures tell us, “he had compassion on him” in Luke 10:33.

If I were lying wounded in a ditch, I'd want someone to help me, too.

The feeding of the 5,000 also came to mind. How God miraculously made five loaves of bread and two fishes expand to feed so many people, with leftovers to spare! I figured God could expand my meager offerings, too.

I had to act, to offer, to give first – in order to see what God would do.

Our Father promises in Psalm 18:25 to show mercy to those who show mercy. I don't know about you, but I'd like to be in that number who are shown mercy!

We are told, “Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the LORD will deliver him in time of trouble.” ~ Psalm 41:1

And in James 2:14-17 we are told, “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or a sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, if dead, being alone.”

Proverbs 28:27 says, “He that giveth unto the poor shall not lack: but he that hideth his eyes shall have many a curse.”


Beef Pho – We ate out once…she needed to get out of the apartment and have a break.  A kind friend took me out once, too!



Being Present


My friend told me I was the only one who they had ever offered shelter to, who had rolled up their sleeves to help them. This was sad to hear. They were very hospitable and kind to me.

The elderly man I helped to the bathroom each day had cataracts and couldn't see much, but he told me after a couple days of knowing me, “I can't see you, but I think you're a very nice woman.”

I guess he can see less than I do, but in a similar fashion, for I don't see the details of people as much as I feel their spirit and character.

Because he can't see to watch his TV, I read a book to him in the evenings, or listened to them read together, and it was very peaceful. 

I felt real unconditional agape Love in that small apartment.

I challenged his biblical ideas and doctrine one night, reading four passages of scripture, which explained how the triune God is necessary – not just the Holy Spirit. He believes Jesus is not needed, but I told him that without the precious and pure blood of Christ, we cannot be cleansed in order to receive the Holy Ghost. God cannot look upon our sin without the blood of Christ because He is Holy.

He liked the place kept hot, and it must have been 90 degrees in the apartment. He was dehydrated, not eating all that well, and didn't like to drink much water or juice.

“You need to drink more,”  I'd encourage him. “I hear that six times a day!” he'd protest loudly. “You can either drink more, or you can go to the hospital and they'll put you on an IV.” He would then laugh, and drink a few swallows more.

During his last hospital stay, they had left him to sleep on a hard wooden bench all night long, and he'd come home with six deep bedsores. He was terribly afraid of having to go to the hospital again.

He wanted to “go out drinking vodka and eating cream pies!” he told us emphatically...but we didn't have the funds to buy him everything he wanted.

It was not a terribly comfortable situation to be in. I slept on their couch in cramped quarters, getting woken up every couple hours each night, for thirteen nights. But being there enabled me to help.

“I need a hand,” he would say at 2 AM. “Okay, I'll be right there,” I told him.

He needed help getting out of bed. “I'm falling!” he'd sometimes cry, dizzy with vertigo, “hold onto me!” “I've got you,” I assured him.

This happened every couple hours throughout each night. I wasn't sleeping much at all.

But I felt the grace of God lifting me up. I had encouragement and prayer from other believers.

Soon I, too, will “go the way of all the earth.” All people in their last days in this world deserve to be treated with great kindness and dignity. 

Because of the aging population in our country, I can only imagine the weight of the needs coming in the next few decades, as the Baby Boomer generation becomes older and needs in-home care!


One of two beautiful Chamber Music concerts I attended with my friend. These musician's dress colors reminded me of how in the Electric world, primary colors are Red, Blue and GREEN - not yellow, as in painting! Very appropriate when playing Beethoven. I read the program today and noticed taking photos was not allowed....ooops.


Our Father's Care for Me


My original plan had been to go see some old friends in New Jersey for the final week, and work on some new paintings. That plan changed when I realized my friend in NYC really needed help and more rest. 

I had brought along a heavy box of my blank notecards, and wound up selling around $180 of cards, providentially. 

Another lady in NYC put $40 in my pocket, as a gift.

I saw God take good care of me, as I helped care for others.


Western Sky Just Before Leaving Vermont in Early January


Kareem, Billy and another Homeless Man


A little kindness goes a long way. I was once selling art on the streets in NYC, and I feel for those on the street for any reason today.

I was on the subway one Friday evening, heading home from Bible Study, when a man with an eye patch came onto the car, singing, and requesting financial help. He said he was grateful that he was not homeless. I didn't feel called to give money, but I spoke to him, learned his name, Kareem, and he thanked me for speaking kindly to him. He said the Friday crowd was very hard on him.

____________________


The day before leaving NYC, I walked about seventy blocks from mid-town to 125th street to see a friend, and do some errands along the way. I walk as often as possible in NYC, to save the $2.75 metro fare.

I came across an older man who was limping, dragging his possessions behind him in a small rolling cart. He had on mismatched boots.

I asked if I could help him to drag his cart? He said no, he was okay, but his entire being lit up with joy that I had spoken to him! He was lonely.

I explained I was an out-of-work artist, in the city on a shoestring, and he offered me money. I told him, “No, I don't want your money, I just wanted to talk with you.” He laughed and said that's what he tells everyone, too. He said, “People give me money all the time.”

He told me his full name, Billy was the short version, and his birthdate, and asked mine. He said he'd been living on the street for a long time, and that he liked it!

He told me he was wearing two pairs of socks, three pairs of pants, and several coats. I'd say it was around 15 degrees outside, with a bitterly cold wind blowing.

“I'm going to Lincoln Center,” he told me.

“Ohh, what will you do there?” I asked.

“I'm performing,” he replied.

“Oh!” I said, surprised, thinking maybe he had some sort of street act, but it was such frigid weather outside that day!

“Just kidding,” he laughed.

I told him I had to walk faster to keep warm, and so he grabbed me and gave me a big smacking kiss on the cheek as we parted.

____________________


On the final morning, while walking as fast as I could, dragging my luggage at 6 AM to catch my bus heading home, I heard someone next to me ask, “Would you have a dollar for a homeless man to get a coffee?” He was smoking a cigarette.

“I'm an out-of-work artist, leaving the city this morning with a $1 bus ticket,” I replied, not slowing down. People asking for money is one of the hardest things about NYC for me.

“Ohh, that's an awfully nice coat you have on,” he said.

“Yes! Thank you, I got it for $6 at a thrift shop!” I said with elation, glad for how God clothes the lilies, and me. I don't think he was asking me for my coat, just admiring it. 

“Sounds like something I'd do,” he said.

I agreed. We wished each other a good day.

____________________

My friend continues on, serving her old friend as an unpaid caregiver, and she still has a huge need for more rest. I hope she has renewed hope and feels more supported since my visit.

May we all be encouraged to give our “hoarded resources” when God calls, and experience our Father's full giving has only begun.

I remain your artist-friend, with love,

Elise


Lyrics from The Compassion Song

from my old days of teaching 

CHARACTER FIRST! Education:


Everywhere I see them/Hurting desperately/What can I do to help them? How can I meet their need? I know I'm busy with my things/I've got my own life too/But there are people who need me/I know what I must do...


Chorus: Help the hurting people/Treat them all with care/Look for those who need me/I find them everywhere/So I'll help the hurting people/I can't afford to wait/I must help them quickly/Before it is too late.



____________________



“And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry.” ~ I Timothy 1:12


“For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.” ~ Hebrews 6:10


“The righteous considereth the cause of the poor: but the wicked regardeth not to know it.” ~ Proverbs 29:7


“She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.” Proverbs 31:20 – said of the Virtuous Woman


"Is not this the fast that I have chosen? To loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? When thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh? Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the LORD shall be thy rereward [protection]." ~ Isaiah 58:6-8







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