Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A Different Kind of Finish Line

I've run quite a few races somewhere around 122 now over the 6 years since I started running. I've crossed every single finish line of every race I started. I've crossed some feeling like I could take on the world, and crossed some in so much pain I though I've never run again. Some races are good and some are endured. This photo is the first race I ever took my son to. I am working on being able to take him to more - just working out some chair issues.

I started running just after I became a caregiver as it was a way to work out frustrations and stress. No matter how I have crossed each finish line the point for me is that I've showed up - and kept going. I'm not fast but I don't have to be. I just have to be in the moment.

Here's why I was thinking about running this morning. My thoughts first started in Psalm 61 as it's my go-to psalm when I feel totally overwhelmed like I do today. My emotions are all over the place and my thoughts seem so random. Some of that is due to the holiday. I thought of all the people who don't have normal  Thanksgivings. Caregivers are one type of people  who find holidays less rewarding in many ways. But there are lots more out there who suffer through holidays such as families who just lost a loved one, those dealing with terminal illnesses, elderly with no family, single people who live in a "couples" world, etc. This list could go on forever - everyone doesn't have a picture perfect Thanksgiving.

I think what put me on overload was thinking about all I have to get done to spend Thanksgiving with my family. I still have my workload as I don't get actual days off;  and there's caregiving which never takes a break. These combined today and I just felt overwhelmed. So I ran to my favorite psalm for these types of days, Psalm 61. If I could loosely combine the New Living Translation and the Message's to form my own interpretation just for today it might read something like this:

Oh God! Listen to my cry and my prayer!
I am crying to you because my heart, mind and emotions 
are overwhelmed in this moment.
I am down to my last gasp of air -
but with it I cry out to You:
Lead me to the rock....

You alone are my safe place
You are my fortress
You have given me a lifetime pass to Your safe-house
You have offered me an open invitation to be Your guest.
You take me seriously, and welcome me 
as one who knows You and loves You...

So in this moment where I feel so fragile, I remind myself to run to Him. That's the finish line I am looking for today. This finish line ends with me calling it quits to my own way of dealing with emotions and the craziness of the day - and has me end up in His arms, in His safe house, where I am always welcome and have that lifetime pass. That's the finish line I'm looking for at the end of the day.

Today I'm going to try to calm my mind and heart down enough to hear Him breathe. I'm going to make it my goal to run to Him - and cross that finish line - the one that leads me to crawl up in His lap and allow Him to keep my soul safe. I'm going to run to Him  and not  away from Him today. And I'm going to listen for His heartbeat. I'll give Him all my anxiety and frustration and be thankful He is still with me - and waiting for me. Will you join me?

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Big Picture

One of the things I've dealt with all my life is rejection. Finding myself in a caregiving position made those feelings go a little deeper as I actually felt rejected by life. I didn't feel like I was part of the "big picture" and the rest of the world was passing me by as I sat in my comfy caregiver's cave.

My first reaction to feelings of insignificance always takes my thoughts to Psalm 139. I like how it describes God seeing us being formed in the womb and how He is knows us literally inside and out.

But then the psalm goes on to say that He wrote all the days ordained for us in His book before we ever lived one. On one hand I fall to my knees and exclaim how special that is - that the creator has literally walked all my days before me. That's really cool if you think about it for a bit.

But then on the other hand, I'm like, Really? This is what you wrote for me? This is it? There can be so many whys for the caregiver and scriptures that used to bring comfort can just generate  questions. These questions are somewhat answered in Romans 9:20 that says Who are you O son of man who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, 'why did You make me like this' will it? 

And immediately I'm humbled right back into my spot. I repent for being haughty and begin to ask Him for help to make it through one more day with my faith intact. Whether or not I feel significant in the big picture is irrelevant because I am significant to Him. He knows my every breath and thought... and still hangs around. Plus - we touch many more people than we imagine. Therapists, aides, nurses, doctors, delivery people, church people, equipment staff, and many other people walk in and out of our lives on pretty much a daily basis. How do they perceive us? Maybe I should ask How do they perceive Him in us?

Just because we feel like we are not as much a part of "the real world" doesn't relieve us from our duties as believers to be a light in the darkness. We spread the light to everyone we come in contact with -where it goes from there quite frankly is none of our business. He does with it as He desires. He does with us as He desires.

So today I will rest in the fact that He is up close and personal with me...right here in the cave. I will trust once again that He has not left me - and I am not sitting in the dark. I'll remind myself that I am still a light in a very dark world and He is still using me to touch lives. I'm going to yield to Him today and look at life outside my cave. It really comes all the way back around to trusting Him for one more day - and remembering that He is still intimately acquainted with all my ways. I'll trust Him for that for today. Will you join me?

Monday, November 23, 2015

Famine of the Soul

Have you ever had those days where you feel like life is dragging you into the deep dark mire of depression? You can feel its grip tightening with every breath and it's reflecting in every sluggish move. I have to admit I feel that way today. I can't blame it on any one thing - but a series of events have had this effect on me and honestly I don't always know how to get out or break its grip.

As I opened my Bible this morning, mostly out of habit to be truthful, my eyes fell on a couple of verses out of Psalm 32. Verses 7 says this: You are my hiding place; You preserve me from trouble; You surround me with songs of deliverance. 

This is what I call a "two-way" psalm because between verse 7 and 8 it changes from second person to first person - like God is answering the psalmist. These are cool to me because it's like God interrupts the psalmist mid stream to get His thoughts in. Because verse 8 just pops out of nowhere with: I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you.

So that got my attention and I thought about it a bit and then turned a page and saw this in Psalm 33:16-18:

The king is not saved by a mighty army
A warrior is not delivered by great strength.
A horse is a false hope for victory;
Nor does it deliver anyone by its strength.
Behold the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him,
On those who hope for His lovingkindness,
To deliver their soul from death
and to keep them alive in famine.

I think the biggest issues of being a caregiver are not physical but emotional which is our soul. We can live in a sort of famine of the soul where our emotions stay raw and open. Even though becoming a caregiver bringing about some physical changes, it's the soul that is ravaged by grief. Our soul gets its workout everyday just trying to navigate through all the emotions. But God will keep us alive in this famine of the soul.

Both of these psalms speak of His eyes being on us. I have to trust that no matter what I feel or face He is watching over me. I have to trust that He will instruct me - and I will hear Him. I have to trust that He is always watching, always listening and always ready to step in when I can't bear anymore. Well, I don't usually really give it all to Him until I get to that point. So today - I'm at that point! (smile) So I choose to give it to the One who is watching over more time.

Today I'm going to try to consciously give Him my grief, pain, tears and struggles. I can't see Him watching over my soul and I can't feel Him rescuing my soul from famine; but I'll trust Him anyway. I will choose to trust Him to heal and protect my soul today. I'll lean in to Him with just a little more effort and trust He sees all, He knows all, and He's got my back today. Will you join me?

Friday, November 20, 2015

Let Me Hear

This morning during my devotions I came across this one little phrase in Psalm 142:8. It sort of just jumped out at me really and it says: Let me hear Your lovingkindness in the morning; for I trust in You.

My eyes were just drawn to it and I began meditating on it, and it became my prayer. You see this morning, like most mornings, I woke up with my huge "to do" list running full speed in my head. As usual I got up, made coffee, changed and bolused Chris, then sat down at the computer trying to figure out where I was going to start on the long list of work I have to do for clients.

Then I thought about just skipping devotions since I have so much to do today. Chris has therapy, I started a new class and I have tons of work to get done. I'm tired already, *sigh*. But I decided to take the time to put first things first and this scripture all but jumped off the page at me. I really do need to hear His lovingkindness. But how do you hear lovingkindness, especially when your heart and head wakes up in fast gear?

I paused to think about what the psalmist must have meant by hearing His lovingkindness. Maybe it's going to be different for each person, but for me, hearing His lovingkindness in the morning means knowing and acknowledging that He is giving me what I need in the morning to make it the whole day through. And then the next phrase for I trust in You.

So this morning, I pause to intentionally hear Him. I listen to His heart telling me His mercy and lovingkindness are here with me today to help carry me through all I have to get done. And then once I really hear that in my heart -  I accept it because I trust Him. And all of a sudden, I don't feel so alone or overwhelmed - because I trust that no matter what I do today, or where we go, His lovingkindness will be carrying me.

Today I will keep my mind on his lovingkindness. I'll rejoice that He is with me on this journey and never leaves me. I'll remind myself that He is just as committed to the journey with me - as I am to the journey with my son. and I will trust Him for one more day. Will you join me?

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Anticipating the Need

My son is non-verbal which can make it difficult sometimes to figure out what he is wanting or why he is uncomfortable. I usually say I'm pretty good at playing "guess and check" where I guess what to fix and then see if that's what makes him happy. It seems like I'm right most of the time but of course I never really know.

Sometimes I wish he could just tell me he needs some Tylenol; or that he's ready to go lie down. But he can't. I've had to figure out his silent signals and interpret what he needs or desires. On one hand, it seems like we've been working on that for some time - but actually it sort of came naturally. Probably because we are connected at the heart.

I think when it comes to communicating with God as our caregiver it can be similar, not that we can't tell Him what we need, but that sometimes we don't really know what we need. He can interpret our silent pleas for help. Along the journey there have been times I've had too many words (meaning I've said things to God I should not have said); but there have also been times of extreme pain when I didn't know what to say. And He's okay with either one.

For me - I have to anticipate my son's needs; but God already knows what I need. In Matthew 6:8 Jesus said that the Father knows what you need before you ask. He is not anticipating our needs - He already knows them. I think sometimes it's more about us learning how to receive His help. He knows and has already provided peace, comfort, joy and everything we need for life and godliness. (2 Peter 1:3) He listens to our verbal cries and hears our silent cries for help - and has already met the need.

It's up to us to learn how to rest in Him and how to receive peace, comfort and whatever else we need from Him. He's already extended it to us because He anticipated the need long before it existed. There's something very calming to me about acknowledging that.

Today I will meditate on how He provides everything I need. I'm going to take some time to look back over this caregiving journey and acknowledge how He's been with me all along and how He has provided what was needed all along. I'll meditate on how He knows  my need and has already provided for it. Will you join me?

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Caregiver's Caregiver

Last week while I was writing one of the devotions I made some sort of statement about how God is our ultimate caregiver. So this week I will be taking a closer look at how He caregives for us....

We've talked many times about how we look like Him when we care for our loved ones. We exhibit several qualities when we demonstrate our love for our loved ones by taking care of their needs. We are up-close-and-personal with our loved one and totally engaged in making sure their needs are met - usually long before we ever even acknowledge any of our own needs...that's just the way it is.

One of the characteristics of a caregiver is as provider. I do everything in my power to provide whatever my son needs. As a caregiver - their needs are of the utmost importance. Sometimes that means just covering the basic stuff like food, shelter and love. But we also do whatever else is necessary like range of motion, creating social outlets, shopping, just about anything needed that is in our power to do. When my son gets his therapy days (15 sessions in each discipline each year) I rearrange our whole schedule to accommodate so he gets what he needs. It's the nature of a caregiver....because it is just like His nature to care for us.

When I started on this caregiving journey I started looking online for work. I had no idea what was out there but I knew I wanted to be able to take care of Chris. I knew I'd need to be flexible so I could work from anywhere. I was willing to do whatever I needed to make sure his needs were met. God feels the same way about us? Need an example?

How about this: God knew man was going to fall. He knew Adam and Eve were going to screw this whole thing up. So what did He do? He made a way for us to get back to Him before He ever said, "Let there be light."  How do I know that? Revelation says He was the lamb slain before the foundation of the world. That says to me that long before God ever started creating the earth- He made sure there was a way for us to get back to Him. He provided a way.

I've seen His provision all along the way too. He has always opened just the right doors to ensure all of our needs are met. Abraham said He was our provider. He provided a raven to feed the prophet, He had water gush our of the rock, He provided manna that fell down from heaven...and He is still our provider today. Just like we do all we can to provide for our loved one - He continues to provide for us.

Today I will make an effort to thank Him for the ways I see Him providing for us. And I'll try to be more conscious of the different ways He uses to make sure our needs are met. My meditation will be on God as my provider, and I'll rest in Him today as I let my heart be thankful for all He has done and continues to do. Will you join me?

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Power of Silence

Last night I was reading up on a new blog and it was talking about the power of being silent. The writer was discussing pain and adversity and how sometimes there is simply nothing to say and it's okay. This got me to thinking about Job's friends and how when they heard of his distress they came and just sat with him. They didn't say a thing, which we learn later was a good thing! But they just sat and mourned with him in his time of loss.

When my son was first in the hospital I had a friend who did just that. She flew in and came and just sat. I was staying in his room with him as he was in isolation there was room for a couple of chairs. She just sat with me for 4 days. There really wasn't anything to say to make it better....but she was there.

What caregivers find out way too soon is how fast people can just disappear from their lives. When they don't know what to say, or don't know how to make it better, they silently walk away. But it's quite alright to just be there - even if you're silent.

As I was reading I started thinking about a couple of scriptures that match up with this thought. The first one of course is Psalm 46:10 that says Be still (or quiet) and know I am God. And the other one is Deuteronomy  6:4 that says Hear O Israel, the Lord is out God, the Lord alone. In my mind (I haven't researched it yet) Be still  and hear are the same. They are both saying - stop what you are doing for just one minute and listen. 

As caregivers our lives can be so hectic; a single day is filled with all sorts of related tasks we barely have the time to breathe sometimes. If we can get our insides quiet - we can hear Him. He's still there. He's still waiting for us to come to Him - like always. He still loves us. He still wants to hold us - we just have to be still.

Did you ever try to hold a toddler who had other ideas? They wanted to go get this toy, or grab that snack. You can barely keep a wriggling toddler in your lap for just a short bit before they are off to something more exciting. I wonder if caregivers are like toddlers in that we forget to just be. We have so much to do (but we do for real!) that even if we try to be still for a minute our mind is racing about all the things we have yet to do. But there's power in being silent and still.

Isaiah 30:15 says that in quietness and confidence our strength. I'm picturing myself like a little kid all crawled up and snuggled into His lap right now.

Today I will purposefully quiet my soul before Him. I'll let Him hold me and heal my soul. My meditations will be on His peace and His caregiving of me. I will direct my thoughts to how He continues to love, listen, and care for me. And I will be silent as I let His confidence and strength fill my being. Will you join me?