Refined by Fire: A Journey of Grief and Grace by Mary Potter Kenyon

I Have Experienced Grief and Still Am.

I bought and read the Kindle Edition of Refined by Fire: A Journey of Grief and Grace by Mary Potter Kenyon. Having my mother pass away in December 2014, my father dies in June 2017, and cancer takes my wife of 43.5 years in April 2018, I have experienced grief and still am.

She Walks The Journey as Your Guide

The author has walked the grief highway and shares not only her experience and insights but helps the reader be aware of what they may encounter on the journey. One area I could relate to was my concern for how my children were handling grief and I felt the need to take their feeling into consideration when I made choices I knew would impact my family. Starting new traditions for Thanksgiving and Christmas was a struggle for me.

I had my middle child, then 38, graduate from seminary earning a master’s degree just three weeks after my wife’s death. One of my wife’s goals had been to live to see him walk across the stage. Five weeks before the graduation while she was in hospice she said she wouldn’t make it and my heart broke realizing death was imminent.

I drove across the country in May 2020 to attend a writer’s conference. During the drive I started talking, forgetting my wife was deceased. I drove past a Cracker Barrel Restaurant between Birmingham and Huntsville Alabama I said we had stopped there to eat on several previous trips to see her sister that lives in eastern Tennessee. I had to pull over and cry for about fifteen minutes.

Experienced Comfort

Mary sharing similar events in her book had me realizing my experience was normal for me and needed Kleenex to get through the book which I found hard to read – not because of the writing, but because of the memories reading caused me to relive. I recommend the book. Read in August 2020.

Gene, Everywhere

Talya Boerner is a master storyteller.

Gene Everywhere took me back to the three-years period of time I was my 90 years-old father’s caregiver after my mother died. So much of what the author wrote tugged at the memories and experience I had with my father.

The prose is spectacular.

Talya’s prose is spectacular. Her picture painting and showing the story transport you into her home. You smell the smell, hear the sounds, and feel the genuine love she developed for her at times crotchety father-in-law. Without giving any spoilers, you’ll experience a beautiful story unfold, have your heartstrings tugged and be flooded by memories if you ever cared for a parent or parent in law. Again, the books’ prose is exceptional. I highly recommend the book.

Psalm 62:2 (NLT)

“He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will never be shaken.” Psalm 62:2 (NLT)
 

Need Strength? Need Peace of Mind?

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Resting in the Lord

4.1 My Story

You may be like my late wife was when she was battling Stage Four Melanoma cancer. She found herself very tired. She needed rest. My daily caregiving also left me weary. Like my wife, I needed rest.

The managing of my wife’s schedule took a skillset even an air traffic controller would envy. First, she had the neverending visits to her primary medical team. The army of medical doctors was the primary care physician, the surgical oncologist, managing oncologist, dermatologist, gastro endocrinologist, thyroid doctor, cardiologist (the heart must be healthy enough for the treatments) and radiologist medical doctor. They did the routine checks, prescribed the medications and treatments, performed biopsies and surgery as well as ordering the tests.

A group of medical technicians did the grunt work of tests and treatment procedures. In this category was blood work, PET scans, CAT scans, MRIs, days and weeks of radiation treatments and the lymphedema therapy.

At home, my wife did months of daily chemotherapy prescription medications, spent hours waiting for UPS or FedEx to deliver the refrigerated prescriptions from the exotic, super expensive pharmacy, did 24/7/365 lymphedema therapy at home with the machine that sounded like Darth Vader with a sleeve that looked like the nose of Snuffleupagus on Sesame Street.

Added to these challenges was managing her work schedule to maintain health insurance. These alone were enough to have her constantly exhausted. Unfortunately, more daily challenges were adding to her fatigue.

My wife’s eating schedule controlled her life. She had to take the prescription meds and wait two hours to eat or eat and wait several hours before she could take the medications. The routine dictated the time of day when she woke and went to bed.

You get the picture and can relate. Like my wife, you get tired. Yes, the patient gets tired. The caregiver also gets worn down. The caregiver makes sure the loved on stays on schedule and task. As the caregiver, you need to rest. You need God.

4.2 Resting in the Lord

Part of learning to care for a person with a chronic illness understands the need for resting in the Lord.

Caregiving for a loved one with a chronic illness can leave you tired and weary. I am talking about becoming bone tired. I am talking about the type of fatigue that vacations or even a sabbatical cannot cure.

4.3 Bible Verse

Exodus 33:14 (KJV), “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

4.4 What the Verse Means

The Lord is telling Moses that God will personally go with him. The Lord will give him rest. He is informing Moses that everything will ultimately be fine for him.

For the caregiver, this doesn’t mean that your loved one will be healed in this life. Final healing may not happen until heaven.

The application for the Believer in Christ is the Lord also personally goes with us, gives us rest, and promises to sustain us during our caregiving journey.

4.5 Pray Using Scripture

  • Heavenly Father thank you for your presence going with us.
  • Lord Jesus, thank you for the rest you give us.
  • God, we ask to experience your rest again this day.
  • Let us use Sundays as the day of rest and worship.

4.6 Responding to God’s Hope

  1. Remember a recent time you felt God’s presence. What were you doing? Recall how you felt his presence.
  2. Ask God to go with you and be with you today as you work and go about your caregiving responsibilities.
  3. Are you getting enough rest? Are you reading your Bible regularly? Are you getting enough sleep? Are you taking time to be still?

Photo Source: Pixabay

This blog is from the book, “Caregiving: Biblical Insights from a Caregiver’s Journey” by Jimmie Aaron Kepler, Ed.D. The book is available in paperback or eBook format at Caregiving: Biblical Insights From a Caregiver’s Journey


To get occasional updates on the writing of Jimmie Aaron Kepler please complete the “Email Sign-up” found in the far left column of the blog.

Tears Are Normal

3.1 My Story

“I removed the tumor. The tests also showed it has spread to her lymph nodes. I removed thirty-four of them,” said the surgical oncologist.

I stared at her. She was slowly becoming out of focus as I became teary-eyed. I knew the initial diagnosis of Stage 3 Melanoma Cancer was terrible. I knew the Melanoma spreading into the lymph nodes was very bad. I knew this would kill my wife. Even though I was trying hard not to, I started sobbing.

The surgeon then said the words I needed to hear. She said, “It’s okay to cry.” She took me in her arms, and I wept.

With her four simple words, I stopped pretending to be a macho man, let down my guard, and let the emotions of the moment take over. Today wouldn’t be the last time sobbing would overcome me. I would cry many more times over the next thirty-four months. Even now at one year since my wife’s passing, the crying returns from time to time.

Remember, it’s okay to cry.

The Bible tells of Jesus crying when Lazarus died. The Heavenly Father cares about our tears. Today’s Bible verse tells what God’s word says about crying.

3.2 Tears are Normal

When you’re a caregiver part of accepting the hope available through Jesus Christ is realizing that tears are normal. Daily living with a chronic illness or caring for a loved one with a persistent disease or terminal illness will bring tears. It’s okay to cry. Even Jesus wept (John 11:35 KJV, “Jesus wept.”).

3.3 Bible Verse

Psalm 56:8-9 (KJV), “Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book? When I cry unto thee, then shall mine enemies turn back: this I know; for God is for me.”

3.4 What the Verses Mean

Why would God keep tears in a bottle? The idea behind the keeping of “tears in a bottle” is a remembrance. King David, the writer of these verses, is expressing a deep trust in God. He knows that God remembers his sorrow. He knows God remembers his tears. King David also is sure the God will never forget about him. David is confident that God is on his side.

3.5 Pray Using Scripture

  • Heavenly Father, thank you for making us where we can cry and experience the emotional release of the resulting tears. Teach me to understand and accept that my tears help me identify and help me deal with my feelings.
  • Lord Jesus, thank you for letting me know crying is okay.
  • Almighty God, it is comforting to know that you notice and keep track of my tears.
  • I turn the sorrow concerning the chronic illness of my loved one and my ability to care for them over to Yahweh-Rapha (God that heals).
  • I pray that my family and I would feel the freedom to cry out to you God and let the tears flow when the release is needed.
  • I pray that my family and friends would be supportive, loving, and understanding during the times the tears flow.
  • I pray I would hold on to God during these times without questioning and accept God’s comfort.
  • Help me to have the confidence of King David, the author of these verses, and say with him – for God is for me.

3.6 Responding to God’s Hope

  1. Have you given yourself and your loved ones permission to cry? Remember it’s okay to cry. Share with your family members that there are times when you cry. Your sharing will permit them to shed tears. There are times when they need to cry.
  2. Remember that God will not forget about your loved one. He does not forget about you or the other caregivers. Thank God for remembering you and not forgetting you.
  3. What is the first concern you think of when it comes to caring for your loved one? Tell God what that concern is and remember, it’s okay to cry. Tears are normal.

Photo Source: Pixabay

This blog is from the book, “Caregiving: Biblical Insights from a Caregiver’s Journey” by Jimmie Aaron Kepler, Ed.D. The book is available in paperback or eBook format at Caregiving: Biblical Insights From a Caregiver’s Journey


To get occasional updates on the writing of Jimmie Aaron Kepler please complete the “Email Sign-up” found in the far left column of the blog.

How to be Courageous

How to be Courageous

2.1 My Story

One of the first thoughts I had when my wife received the diagnosis that she had stage three Melanoma was how am I going to care for her and love her unconditionally until she dies.

I knew the Melanoma was going to kill her unless God intervened. I wondered if she would follow the doctor’s orders. Would my wife let me help her? How would she react? Could I handle being her caregiver?

In time all the questions were answered. The solutions didn’t happen in one day. There was some give and take.

My spouse had to have a heart to heart with me along the way, which included telling me to back off and give her some space as I was smothering her with kindness and care.

She didn’t need me reacting as if every little event she encountered was a life or death situation. I learned what she needed was for me to be there. She desired my calm, steady presence.

A simple example was when I had a ball game on the television, and she came into the room, I would change channels on the TV to her favorite HGTV program. I stayed in the room with her instead of going to the bedroom and continuing the ballgame. If I were cleaning, doing other housework, or even reading, I would stop, give her my attention, and be with her.

In her last days of hospice care, she told me how much my just being there meant to her. She said I could get the house spotless after she was in heaven, but until then, she needed the ministry of my presence. She needed me to be courageous as I spent time with her.

2.2 How to Be Courageous

Part of caring for a person with a chronic illness understands how to be courageous the Lord.

Caring for a person with a chronic illness is a scary daily challenge for both the person with the disease, their family, and you as the caregiver. Through Jesus Christ, we can be strong and courageous.

How can we do this?

We cannot do this in our strength. Daily the Lord Jesus our God goes with the Christian. We need to remember, He goes with us. We need the Lord to strengthen us.

Today’s Scripture tells us the Lord will not leave or forsake the Believer in Jesus Christ.

2.3 Bible Verse

Deuteronomy 31:6 (KJV), “Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.”

2.4 What the Verse Means

Because Christians have God with them, they should be of good courage. The courage comes from their confident assurance in God, which faith gives. This faith in Christ allows us to face each day bravely knowing we shall have the ultimate victory through Him. 

2.5 Pray Using Scripture

  • Heavenly Father, please help me and my family to continue to be courageous in the face of this illness.
  • Holy Spirit, I ask for Your comfort. Help me to not fear or be in dread of the challenges I face as a caregiver. Help me not to grow weary.
  • Thank You for letting me know it is the Lord our God who goes with me and that He will not leave me or forsake me.
  • I pray my family and loved ones’ would confess faith in Jesus Christ where they too can experience the comfort available to Christians.

2.6 Responding to God’s Hope

  1. What are two areas that you are fearful of failing in as you care for your loved one? Name them.
  2. Take the two items you identified in question one. Admit your fears to God. Ask God for the faith you need to face fear courageously.
  3. Realize that God has entrusted you already with your loved one’s care. He’s put them under your supervision; God will equip you for the daily challenges you face. Thank God for the confidence He has placed in you, and for the way, He helps you daily as you care for your loved one.

2.7 Takeaway

Part of caring for a person with a chronic illness understands how to rely on the Lord.


If you are not a Christian, accepting Jesus Christ as your Savior is a prerequisite to obtaining God’s peace.
Click HERE to find out how to become a Christian. You can trust Jesus Christ and become a Christian now.

Photo Source: Pixabay

This blog is from the book, “Caregiving: Biblical Insights from a Caregiver’s Journey” by Jimmie Aaron Kepler, Ed.D. The book is available in paperback or eBook format at Caregiving: Biblical Insights From a Caregiver’s Journey


To get occasional updates on the writing of Jimmie Aaron Kepler please complete the “Email Sign-up” found in the far left column of the blog.

It’s Okay to be Afraid

1.1 My Story

My eyes locked on to the bloody spot on the lower left front of my wife Benita’s blouse.

“What’s going on? What’s with the blood?” I asked pointing to the half-dollar sized strain.

My heart was aching. It looked terrible, scary. I knew this couldn’t be good.

Miss Benita gazed down toward the damp crimson. Her eyes looked tired, sad. She said, “It’s my mole. It started bleeding.”

I recalled the small mole I had first noticed over forty years earlier on our wedding night. I had playfully kidded her about it that night calling it her beauty mark. I found out that was the wrong thing to do. She was sensitive about the mole.

“What’s going on?” I said. I could hear the fear, concern, and the demand for an answer in my voice.

She lifted her eyes meeting mine. I could see the tears forming. She smiled weakly and then said, “I think I must have scratched or irritated it, maybe at work. It started bleeding a couple of weeks ago. It scabbed over a couple of times, but when I thought it was healing, I would do something to cause the scab to bleed. I thought it would get better. Instead, I think it may be getting infected. It may be getting worse, and it’s not healing,” she said.

Melanoma Cancer, I thought.

“Has Dr. Z looked at it?”

She shook her head, “No, not yet. I didn’t want to mess up our vacation to Colorado and your writer’s conference,” she answered with a forced smile and then lowered her eyes.

I took her hand, lovingly squeezed it, and hugged her holding her close. We were out for an afternoon of shopping in a local furniture store and enjoying each other’s company.

I nodded and then said, “Let’s go home where I can look at it.”

She stared at me, our eyes locking for a few seconds. It was as if she was saying I’m sorry. She looked sad. Then she nodded.

She knows this is very bad, I thought.

We held hands, walked unhurriedly through the store, and to the car. I drove us home in silence.

Once home, I led her to the bedroom and closed the door. She unbuttoned the blouse and removed a blood-soaked gauze bandage. The mole was oozing blood through a cracked dreadful-looking scab.

The mole had grown from the size of an eraser on a number 2 pencil to about the size of a quarter. It had changed from a light brown to a horrible black since I last remembered seeing it.

Melanoma Cancer, I again thought.

“Let’s call the dermatologist. I think that’s Melanoma Cancer,” I said with a seriousness that scared even me.

Miss Benita’s lips tightened, and eyes narrowed at hearing the words. She shook slightly and exhaled.

I asked, “Do you want me to call and get you an appointment or do you prefer to call?”

She glanced at herself in the mirror looking at the mole. “I’ll call the dermatologist. Dr. Z will refer me there,” she said.

The dermatologist performed the same day an in-office surgery removing the mole and adjacent tissue. The physician had the test expedited. She called late that night with the biopsy’s results.

“I wrote down what the doctor told me. She said, ‘It’s malignant. It is a type of cancer called Melanoma, and it’s an advanced stage three. The depth of cancer determines the stage. It’s within one centimeter of being stage four.’ I know it’s bad. I could hear the doctor’s quivering voice and her choking back tears. She told me this is serious and could kill me,” said a shaken Miss Benita.

The dermatologist acquired an appointment with a surgical oncologist. She said I needed to go to the office with my wife. Her finding us an appointment the next morning at 8 AM showed the urgency of the situation. My wife had surgery within a couple of days.

The surgery’s findings were terrible. It was Melanoma Cancer. The cancer had spread to the lymph nodes.

The oncological surgeon removed thirty-four lymph nodes. The physician told me the five-year survival rate for these findings was less than ten percent.

While my wife was still in recovery at the hospital, the surgeon told us some of the treatment options and that when not if, cancer recurred it would be restaged to Melanoma stage 4 and would be terminal. There was no cure. She said death was the ultimate destination of this journey barring providential intervention or a new medical and pharmaceutical breakthrough.

I knew Melanoma stage 3 was too big for me to handle. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I had already moved into a new role as a caregiver. I also realized the future my wife and I had planned together had suddenly changed.

Our hopes and dreams vanished. They were replaced by feelings of fear and hopelessness. I was overwhelmed just thinking about the day to day struggles of caregiving. I faced the fear of the unknown.

So many questions flooded my mind. Would my wife survive? How long would she live? What would be the quality of her life and mine? How would we pay the medical bills? How much help was she going to need from me daily? How could I be strong and help her? How was this going to affect our day jobs?

I also was concerned for our three grown children and granddaughter. What I needed was hope.

The purpose of this book is to share the hope Christians have and the hope that my wife and I exercised through our faith in Jesus Christ. It shares my journey as a caregiver.

“Caregiving: Biblical Insights from a Caregiver’s Journey” offers Biblical guidance and support helping you in your role as caregiver. It will help you connect with the perfect love which casts out all fear, the love of Jesus Christ.

The day I noticed the blood on Miss Benita’s blouse, my wife and I prayed together. We shared I love you and claimed, Psalm 56:3 (KJV), “What time I am afraid I will trust in thee” and 1 Peter 5:7 “Cast all your cares on the Lord for He careth for you.”

This story does not have an Earthly happily ever after ending. My wife lived 1001 days from the first surgery. Then she died. The faith we both had in Jesus Christ allowed us to face each day with hope.

Yes, even with our hope because of our Christian faith we still were afraid. However, our trust in Jesus Christ leads us through the process moving us from fear to a calmness that could only come from God. The fact that my wife was a Christian gave us a real-world spiritual happily ever after ending. She is in heaven today, and one day, since I am also a Christian, I will join her there.

1.2 It’s Okay to be Afraid

Fear of the unknown and fear of the journey you are beginning is part of the process of learning to care for a person with a chronic or terminal illness. It’s a scary assignment. When you’re a caregiver, it’s okay to be afraid.

You also need to learn to accept the hope for the caregiver that’s available through Jesus Christ. The hope available through the love of Jesus Christ will help you face and handle the fears you will encounter in your journey of caregiving.

1.3 Bible Verse

1 John 4:18 King James Version of the Holy Bible (KJV), “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.”

1.4 What the Verse Means

John says that perfect love produces courage in the day of judgment. It casts out fear.

How does the perfect love of Jesus Christ accomplish casting out fear? Perfect love casts out fear because it produces a likeness to Christ and Jesus Christ is the Judge.

There is another way in which love produces boldness. It does this by its casting out fear. The entrance of perfect love through Jesus Christ is for fear a “cease and desist” letter. It is an order to quit.

When love arrives, it brings hand in hand with itself courage. Boldness is the companion of love, only when love is perfect. Only professing Christians can experience this perfect love of God, a love that casts out fear.

As Believer’s in Jesus Christ, we can face the future, including being the caregiver of a loved one with a chronic illness, and even death with the peace that only comes from Christ’s perfect love.

If you are not a Christian, accepting Jesus Christ as your Savior is a prerequisite to obtaining God’s peace.

1.5 Pray Using Scripture

  • Lord Jesus, thank you that there is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear.
  • Heavenly Father help me to keep my mind focused on you and your love for me.
  • God, help me remove any fears I may have as I look to the future by turning them over to you daily and as new ones occur.
  • Provide your grace to meet the challenges I encounter daily. I cannot travel this journey alone but can with you.
  • Help me to know without any doubt that as a Believer in Jesus Christ my ultimate future is in Heaven. Help my loved one to trust in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior if they are not a Christian. Prepare their heart to hear the Gospel and to accept Christ as Savior.

1.6 Responding to God’s Hope

  1. List two examples of times you have been afraid (Psalm 56:3 and 1 Peter 5:7).
  2. Remember two times you have trusted in God since your loved one’s diagnosis with a chronic illness (Psalm 56:3 and 1 Peter 5:7)
  3. List two cares or concerns you are facing. Cast (or give) those cares to the Lord remembering that “He careth for you.” (1 Peter 5:7).

Photo Source: Pixabay

This blog is from the book, “Caregiving: Biblical Insights from a Caregiver’s Journey” by Jimmie Aaron Kepler, Ed.D. The book is available in paperback or eBook format at Caregiving: Biblical Insights From a Caregiver’s Journey


To get occasional updates on the writing of Jimmie Aaron Kepler please complete the “Email Sign-up” found in the far left column of the blog.

Prayers for the Chronically Ill: 60 Prayers – Kindle Edition – Free on Amazon

Prayers for the Chronically Ill: 60 Prayers – Kindle Edition 

The Kindle eBook “Prayers for the Chronically Ill: 60 Prayers” is available for free on Amazon. Click FREE BOOK to get your copy.  Please share with your friends that they can get a copy of the book at no cost. It is free through Sunday, September 29, 2019, 11:59 PM PDT.

Book Info: Prayers for the Chronically Ill

What do you do when the future you had planned for yourself, your child, or with your spouse is suddenly erased?

A person confronting a chronic illness may feel uncertain about the future. Their hopes and dreams may be placed on hold or have to be altered. They may feel hopeless and helpless.

Prayers for the Chronically Ill is a resource to help persons connect with the perfect love which casts out all fear, the love of Jesus Christ.

The follow-up book, “Caregiving: Biblical Insights From a Caregiver’s Journey” will be out in November 2019.

Click FREE BOOK to get your copy.  

As of this writing, Prayers for the Chronically Ill is  # 2 on the Amazon Best Sellers List in Physician & Patient Caregiving Category.

Free Kindle eBook

Prayers for the Chronically Ill: 60 Prayers – Kindle Edition 

The Kindle eBook “Prayers for the Chronically Ill: 60 Prayers” is available for free on Amazon. Click FREE BOOK to get your copy.  Please share with your friends that they can get a copy of the book at no cost. It is free through Sunday, September 29, 2019, 11:59 PM PDT.

Book Info: Prayers for the Chronically Ill

What do you do when the future you had planned for yourself, your child, or with your spouse is suddenly erased?

A person confronting a chronic illness may feel uncertain about the future. Their hopes and dreams may be placed on hold or have to be altered. They may feel hopeless and helpless.

Prayers for the Chronically Ill is a resource to help persons connect with the perfect love which casts out all fear, the love of Jesus Christ.

The follow-up book, “Caregiving: Biblical Insights From a Caregiver’s Journey” will be out in November 2019.

Click FREE BOOK to get your copy.