Monday, February 19, 2018

An Old Favorite

Yesterday a friend asked for prayer as they were facing some physical challenges. One of the groups I'm a member of starting praying in chat. Somewhere in the discussion following, this old favorite scripture came up. I'm sure you remember this one God is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in time of trouble. Psalm 46:1.

Someone in the group made a statement that I thought was odd. They said, "That's a good scripture, but I thought it was only for funerals."I guess it is a good one for funerals, but I've held on to it during many other troubling times in my life.

Over the years, I've found Him to be a reliable help in time of trouble. And he doesn't rank trouble. There's not a scale of 1 to 10 and He's only going to be there for anything ranked above a 5. Right? It doesn't quantify or qualify - just a pure, simple - He's there.

I'm so thankful that my situation, your situation, no situation here on earth changes one iota in heaven. The rest of that Psalm talks about the earth moving, mountains falling into the sea and scary stuff like that - and none of it moves Him.

There is not one thing on this earth powerful enough to knock Him off His throne. No situation can be presented before Him that changes heaven. It can be earth-shattering to us - and He remains faithful. Stable. Constant. Present.

Today, I'm going to remind myself of His constant presence in my life. I'll think about the fact that I haven't scared Him off yet, and I'm not likely to do so anytime soon either. I'll make it a point today to be thankful for His presence. I'll turn my thoughts to how He wants to be with me, and I'll be thankful as I trust Him for one more day. Will you join me?

Monday, February 12, 2018

Full Package Deal

I decided to take another look at the Sermon on the Mount. It's the focus of my live devotions I do for a group on FaceBook. This morning, I was looking at the Beatitudes and it sparked some thoughts.

First of all, I am so thankful not one word of it has changed, not one promise has diminished just because I became a caregiver. I know I harp on that a lot - but it is super important to know that absolutely nothing about God or His kingdom changed or was moved because my situation on earth changed.

Secondly, His word never loses strength. The power of His blood never fades. He is still merciful, peaceful, and beautiful.

As I'm looking through the beatitudes, I noticed something. Jesus said, blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. He didn't promise there wouldn't be any mourning. He just told the disciples that when there is mourning - there is comfort.

Becoming a Christian doesn't exempt us from any of life. We still have ups and downs, we still have gains and losses, friends and enemies - bad stuff still happens. We still hurt, love, cry and die. The difference is that He walks with us through life's struggles. We are not exempt from any of life because we are a caregiver either. But we are also not exempt from any of the blessings of the kingdom of God!

Jesus said in verse three blessed are the poor in spirit for they shall see the kingdom of God. Once again, there is no exclusionary statement saying unless you are a caregiver. Actually, there's nothing like caregiving that helps get us to that point where we realize we are poor in spirit, we are in a state of desperate need for Him. But, when we realize the desperate need of Him to walk through this life, He will meet us there with the entire Kingdom of God!

Today, I'm going to think about how desperately I need Him. My thoughts will be on how this flesh, this caregiving flesh, houses the Spirit of the living God. His kingdom has come near and He's not moving out anytime soon. I'll turn my meditations to how His promises still stand and I get the whole package deal - His kingdom - because I just need Him. And I'll trust Him for one more day - will you join me?

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Grace Reigns

While it is a joy and an honor to take care of our loved ones, there is a very painful side to caregiving. Our hearts hurt on many levels. Personally, I grieve the loss of my son and all he could have become. I also grieve the loss of my mom - who she was before dementia. And now, as life has brought more change, I grieve for my daddy who is struggling with this part of life too. He has spent over 50 years with mama - she has been his life. Much like my son, she is still here but gone.

Last night I called my mom's sister to explain the new arrangements with mom. She didn't take it too well. She is grieving her loss of mobility as she is barely getting around with a walker at 87 and is needing more constant care. Can I say, my heart hurts?

People are mostly gracious and compassionate to caregivers. But there are times when you are looked down on as if you don't have faith - or you wouldn't be in this situation. I have felt this from church-like folks many times. They want to condemn your choices and can send some pretty negative signals. Social isolation hurts too.

A few weeks ago, I was in a down, painful spot. I felt the condemnation of those who wanted to look down on me. What I found was His grace. I sat and penned these words - hoping to put some music to it possibly later. His grace is so amazing - gently carrying me through the storm.

His Grace Reigns

Fighting the same thing over and over
I never seem to win
Like a horrid monster returning
Again, and again
When will the nightmare end?

The more the pain
The more grace reigns
Down on me
Time and again
In the midst of my sorrow
And in the deepest pain
His grace reigns

My heart is so broken
Don’t know what to say or do
The “proud and the mighty” say
“just look at you”
A sight to behold
I ask – does my walk offend you?

The more the pain
The more grace reigns
Down on me
Time and again
In the midst of my sorrow
And in the deepest pain
His grace reigns

Throw my pain back in my face
Tell me to look the other way
Because I have “no faith”?
Shame on you don’t you recall
Job prayed for his friends
Then they were healed one and all

The more the pain
The more grace reigns
Down on me
Time and again
In the midst of my sorrow
And in the deepest pain
His grace reigns

Today, I will just think about the grace He has extended to those of us hurting inside. My meditations will be on His great grace - his work of heart. As I sort through my various emotions - I'll keep turning my heart to the peace He pours out, the strength He gives when I rest in Him and the hope of His eternal love and grace. I'll crawl up in His heart today and let His grace reign. Will you join me?

Wednesday, February 7, 2018


No one needs to tell you caregiving is hard. For many of us, it's one of the most difficult things we've ever faced, at least it makes the top 5 list! It's not easy physically. It is not easy emotionally. It can be draining and tiring. However, it can also be the most rewarding experience in your life. It can bring joy. For many, it drives us into a deeper, more intimate place in God. Maybe it sort of balances out in the end.

Protecting that intimate place with God is probably the most important key to keeping our sanity intact. Yet, there are moments when that seems so difficult. Those down moments. I'm sure I'm alone on this one.. right?

In many ways, I think it's our perspective that can protect us. But it can also be what sabotages us. This holds true for anyone in any situation. What we choose to hold in our gaze will consume us. We have to deal with caregiving face on, of course. But if we focus on it, it can drag us into depression, guilt, frustration and many other deep, dark places.

I understand we must be attentive to the needs of our loved one, but for me personally, nothing trips me up more than taking my eyes off Him. When I start focusing on life, and all that is going on around me - I become overwhelmed by it. The opposite is also true - when I turn my gaze to Him - I am overcome by His faithfulness, His grace, His compassion, and the truth that He chose to walk this out with me.

What we set our eyes on - will control us. It's what we give ourselves to. No wonder the author of Hebrews said fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author, and finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him, who endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

I had almost lost heart. I did grow weary. But just in time, I turned my gaze to Him, and He lifted me up out of despair. It's up to us what we focus on. It's up to us what changes us. When we focus on Him, we can let Him carry us again. Our perspective protects us when we choose to look at Him from our situations - no matter how good or how difficult.

Today, I will fix my eyes on Him. I'm going to shift my gaze from what's going on in this horizontal plane to what's going on vertically. I'll turn my eyes to the One who authored and finishes my faith - the One who has been carrying me - and will continue to walk through time with me. The weight of life seems lighter when I'm looking at Him. It's not as confusing or overwhelming when I fix my eyes on Him. I'll turn my thoughts away from all those things that are digging at me, and I'll meditate on His grace, on His love, on His ever-abiding presence and the peace He gives that surpasses understanding. Will you join me?

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

He Listened

Bible, notebook and coffee
I would say that today is a rough day, but with caregiving, that pretty much describes every day so it's nothing unusual. Today my sweet mama moves into a nursing facility where she can be watched and cared for closely. My heart grieves over my mom who is getting on in the later stages of dementia. And my heart hurts for my daddy who is grieving too. They spent their last night together last night - and this morning is the move. It's heart-wrenching. He's been her caregiver for several years already and told me he can't take care of her anymore. I assured him that this is taking care of her.

As a full-time caregiver our emotions can run on raw, and dealing with the day-to-day stuff is difficult enough. It's like that last straw that breaks the camel's back, or the last apple that upsets the applecart. Emotions can run stretched and tight. Yesterday, I let God know exactly how I felt about it all. I was frustrated, angry, disappointed and hurting. And I dumped it all out before Him. And He listened.

So, this morning as I was preparing for live devotions, two verses stood out to me. We are working our way through Psalm 119. Verse 145 says I cried to You with all my heart and then again in the next verse David says, I cried to You!  Been there - done that. I am pretty sure there's not a caregiver out there who hasn't done that! But maybe it's just me. lol.

I can pour my heart out at the foot of His throne - and He doesn't get mad at me or fry me down to my toenails. He could, you know. He listens. He waits. He lets me rant and rave. He knows I'm frustrated - He understands.

The next verse that lept off the page at me was verse 151. You are near O Lord, Your commandments are truth. And that is where I camped. How many times on this caregiving journey have I gotten to the point where I can't think, I am numb from feeling too much. It seems I know absolutely nothing. But I can break it down to two truths to hold on to.

  1. I know God is there.
  2. I know His word is true.
Sometimes, I just have to go back to the bare basics and whisper, God, I know you exist. That may be all I know - and I visit that thought frequently. I know He is there. No matter how rough it gets - even in my mind - I know His word is true.Sometimes that is what makes it rough - I wish I had it in me to give up, pack it all away and quit. But I just don't. His word is forever established - it was established before He said, "Let there be light!" And it will still be established throughout eternity. His word was established before the Bible was in print. (Now that's a thought.) It just leaked out of the pens of men who got close enough to Him to hear His eternal words. They got close enough to the Kingdom of Heaven they heard some little blips and wrote 'em down. :-)

Today, I am going to meditate on these two truths: God is near. His word is true. When I feel myself slipping into that emotional abyss - I'll remind myself He is near. His word is true. I'll turn my thoughts to the eternal - foreverness of His word. I'll cling to Him and trust Him for one more day - will you join me?

Monday, February 5, 2018

Finding Joy

I spent yesterday afternoon with my parents and siblings. We hadn't all been together in around two years. My siblings and I had a few words with each other - but it was because we love each other and needed to iron some things out. It was actually kind of fun to have a spirited discussion. I think we upset Daddy a bit because he doesn't like to see us argue - but we had to work it out. And we did. So it was good.

Life has handed all of us some pretty big blows. Now on top of all the different things we are each dealing with, Mom is going to a nursing home. She is a handful. The bruises are from the last fall she took when she passed out - but it's not as bad as it looks - she's on blood thinners. Anyway, it's time to get her more help. Tuesday she'll be moving into a very nice facility. It's an emotional time for all of us, but we do know it's best for her and for Daddy.

As I embraced my sobbing Daddy yesterday, I thought where's the joy in this? It's so difficult to see mama being taken over by dementia and then to see Daddy's grief. Mama hasn't been herself for at least 5 years now. For me, it's a grief similar to the one I have with my son. He's still here, mama is still physically here - but we grieve over the version of them we miss. This living grief can eat away at you, can't it? It's difficult because you still see the person - but the person they were no longer exists.

This morning as I was doing my devotions, I stopped on Psalm 119:143. The NLT translates it this way: As pressure and stress bear down on me, I find joy in Your commands. I began to think about that verse for a while. David understood pressure and stress whether he wrote this particular passage while he was king - or while he was still running from Saul. He understood. But he also understood that no matter how the pressure and stress mounted, he could find joy in the word of God. And we can too.

No matter what we are facing, the word of God can speak into the situation. Even if the situation itself doesn't change - we can change in the situation.What do you need today? Peace? Joy? Wisdom? Hope? D - all of the above? I promise you can find what you need in the word of God. In Psalm 42 and 43, David said Why am I so discouraged? Why so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise Him again - my savior and my God!

Lots of things attack our minds and souls - discouragement, hopelessness, despair, sadness, depression, oppression.... need I go on? Oh - I could! There's a huge list of emotional stuff that chips away at our spirit, our heart, our soul. But we can always find joy in His word. We can always find a word in due season. There's one for D-all of the above!

It's amazing how we can be distraught, discouraged and in despair (I speak for myself here!) and one verse, a simple meditation can be the spiritual medication for the moment. Just one word from Him can lighten the load and get us through. If we will let it - His word brings healing, strength, hope, etc. Whatever we need - He's got it. No matter how deep we have to dig down to make it through one more day - He's got it - and He's got us.

Today, I'm going to shift my focus from the stress and pressure - and to His word.  I will put a sticky note up on my computer with my verses for the day - and when I feel overwhelmed - I'll read them, absorb them. My meditation will be on His word today - His faithfulness. His peace. I will chase His word down today and let it carry me, still me, speak to me and bring comfort and peace. And I will trust Him for one more day. Will you join me?

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

One Word

You know I've been studying and working/walking through Psalm 119 taking a section a day. Today I landed in verse 114. It says this: You are my hiding place and my shield; I wait for Your word. I tried to finish my daily reading, but thoughts were distracting me.There are so many nuggets to take away from this one verse.

My first thoughts were of hiding in Him, of staying nestled up close to Him during the storms of life and the struggles that can come along with caregiving. I thought about sometimes how He just holds my heart in His until mine syncs to the rhythm of His. I thought about those midnight hours when Chris has been sick or uncomfortable and I didn't know what to do - and He was the calm in the storm. I knew Him as my hiding place long before caregiving, but caregiving brought it home to me. There is a place in Him I can crawl up and let it all go. There's no condemnation, no rebuke, no misunderstanding - just His gentle touch.

Then I thought about how He is a shield to those of us who believe. David said in another psalm: You O Lord, are a shield about me, the glory and the One who lifts my head. (Psalm 3:3) Hindsight is 20/20 and there are so many instances where we can look back and see how He was a shield around us, how He covered us and kept us from even knowing what was going on the outer side of that shield.

I think for me, the shield is a quick, temporary protection from some sort of attack. Life throws darts at all of us, it just seems to caregivers that the darts are bigger. lol. I started to say when life gets hectic, but for caregivers, it just is hectic day in and day out. Emotions stay raw. Hurt is always on the surface and deeply rooted in us as well. There are daily grief and sorrow. Our life-related struggles are greatly multiplied and many days all we can do is gather the strength to make it through. That's what the hiding place is for - to crawl up in Him and live. The shield, to me is for those extras - the friends who abandon, the client who didn't pay on time, the sudden fever our loved one spikes or news of the death of a loved one. We live in the hiding place - and duck behind the shield when events get sticky. He does both well!

But then, that last little phrase really got to me. I wait for Your word.That helps us know what we should be doing while ducking behind His shield or resting in Him as our hiding place. We are waiting for that word from Him. It only takes one. A simple, peace be still calmed a raging storm one time, remember? A simple, take up your bed and walk gave the crippled man a new life. When we are hiding in Him, it doesn't take that much, really. Just I am with you calms, comforts and reassures us of His ever-abiding presence. You are mine reminds us that we are indeed His child and He cares, He knows, He sees, and He hears. He'll never leave us. It just takes one word to save our hearts, relieve our fears and change our day.

Today, I am going to listen for that one word. I'll crawl up in His hiding place, the one I know so well. I will listen for His gentle voice to speak to me - to calm the raging storm in my soul. I purpose to get to know that hiding place a little better, and stop trying to do it all on my own. I will hide in Him, listen for Him and let Him comfort me today. Will you join me in listening for that one word?