Thursday, May 26, 2016

Which Way do I Go?

Although this picture doesn't do it justice, sunsets in Oklahoma are gorgeous. I rarely get to catch one and when I do it can be breathtakingly beautiful.

As I was reading this morning, I came across a scripture that seems very simple, but has packed a lot of punch with me over the years. It's Psalm 104:19. The NLT reads: You made the moon to mark the seasons and the sun that knows when to set. It might not seem like much insight, but it has a lot more than we might think.

Over the last few weeks things have been a whirlwind with me. Several things are happening all at once in the many arenas of life: family, work, relationships, physical challenges, finances, etc. And of course, this is all on top of caregiving which is its own world inside a world. Suffice it to say my life, head and emotions have been spinning and I really didn't even know where to start reading this morning.

I opened to Psalm 104 looking for a scripture I'd read in a blog last night and found what I was looking for. I love this psalm as it speaks of the greatness of God and the power of creation. The whole chapter is good, but verse 19 is what caught my attention. To me - it says the sun never forgets to set. It never comes up in the morning and says Which way do I go from here? 

Scientifically, of course we know the sun doesn't come up or go down but that the earth spins to give us that effect. So to me this says - the earth is still spinning on its axis and it remains in the perfect rotational spin to keep all of His creation in balance. What He set into place all those years ago - is still in place. The earth doesn't get off its axis, plants haven't stopped growing, and the birds are still singing. When He does something - He does it right....once.

All of a sudden as I turned my thoughts to the wonder of His creation and His powerful display, my problems began to shrink. In verse 34 of this same chapter, the psalmist finishes by whispering a prayer: may He be pleased with all these thoughts about Him. How do I know he whispered? I don't, but after stopping to recognize such magnificent glory and power it's very likely he did - I know my soul began to whisper and silently worshiped in awe of His splendor and wisdom.

Today I will think about the effort He put into creation, and how He put that same effort into making me. My meditations will be on the glory of his creation and how He watches over it - and me. I will rejoice in His splendor and be silent at His power. I will trust that He made me, and He watches over me. I will rest in that truth and trust this powerful creator for one more day. Will you join me?

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Did you find it?

Did you find it? I did. What were we looking for? Grace to help in time of need. Can you tell I'm still in Hebrews 4? This chapter has really grabbed my attention this week and I've pretty much camped there.

The last verse of this power packed chapter in Hebrews tells us to Come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There  we will receive mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it. (NLT) When we need it? That is probably all the time for the caregiver. This verse starts out with an understood subject, "you." It's understood to be saying "You Come..." and when we come look at what we get!

While I am a caregiver, and on any given day I may need to go to the throne for grace at any given time, this is an open invitation to every believer to take action, get before His throne and obtain His mercy and grace. I don't know about you, but personally I need extra measures of both to make it through some days. And honestly, today I'm just tired. Maybe weary offers a better description. It can seem like we are pushing ourselves all the time with no place to let up and eventually, we get tired. Or at some point - we just stay tired. That's where I am anyway - it may just be me.

There's so much to keep up with. Caregiving is not for the faint of heart! lol. Taking care of another person's needs (all of them) is tiring. And not only does it take its toll on our bodies, we can become emotionally strung out too. It's a tired that runs through your entire being. When I am like this - I just want to sit, drink coffee, stare at the wall; and think. Seriously.  But instead, I will boldly (because it takes courage) get up and take my burdens to the throne room of God. We were invited, after all; and He has an open door policy - we can come anytime we want.

I'm going to take my tired body, weary mind and exhausted soul before Him this morning and I'll lay it all out at His feet. And in exchange, He will fill me back up with His mercy and grace. And I'll make it one more day.

Today I will meditate on how His grace carries me. I will turn my thoughts off my weariness and consider His grace, mercy and truth. I'll trust Him for the strength to make it today. And I will leave all my cares at His feet - and let Him care for me. He is our caregiver, you know. I'll trust in that truth today. Will you join me?

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Working the Rest

Sometimes I think it would be nice if caregivers could be exempt from dealing with the rest of life. But most likely, if we were then I'd be pouting because we were missing out on everything else.

Do you find you are more easily overcome with life in general? It's not like we don't have enough on our plates to begin with. Caregiving alone is a full plate and can be complicated by what seem to be little things like supplies not coming in, aides not showing up or blenders breaking.

Even in the midst of the craziness of caregiving, life still goes on around us. Loved ones pass away, close neighbors fall ill, friends and family seem far away, bills need to be paid and on and on it goes. If we are not careful it's easy to get caught up and carried away in life's whirlwind. So now that I told you what's going on in my life let me tell you what I reminded myself this morning.

Hebrews 4:1 says this: God's promise of entering His place of rest still stands. There is a place of rest in Him and I'm finding it's an art to learn how to get there. It's a lot of work to rest. Who has time? As caregivers there may not be a lot of time in our day to literally stop and rest - but we can remain at rest in Him, if we are willing to work to get there.

On down in verse 3 of this chapter the writer says this place of rest has been ready since He made the world. Life doesn't have to suck us under it's rolling current; but when it does - we can find rest in Him. It's not a new thing to need  to find rest in Him. I think of the old Christian hymn written in 1857 that lets us know those who have gone on before have needed to seek out His rest too. The third verse of What a Friend we have in Jesus goes this way:

Are we weak and heavy laden,
cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge,
take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do your friends despise, forsake you?
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He'll take and shield you;
you will find a solace there.

We are not the only ones who have needed to seek out this place of rest in Him! And you know what? We won't be the last. His rest existed since He made the world, still exists and will continue to exist. Somehow just that every-abiding refuge He prepared for us brings me comfort. 

Today, I will relax. I will seek out that refuge and let my soul rest in Him, even though my body will be busy. I will purposefully acknowledge and trust Him as my refuge and I will rest in Him. My thoughts will be on how He prepared this rest for us - all we have to do is come to Him. And I will put all my thoughts and efforts into resting in Him today. Will you join me?

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Right Kind of Changes

There's no doubt the wilderness changes you, and caregiving can be it's own special kind of wilderness experience. Social interactions change, getting out changes, friendship statuses change, work can be different; just about every aspect of life can be different after we become a caregiver. For some, the changes may be less dramatic, but for others they are enormous. In my particular situation virtually everything changed. How we deal with these changes is a good indicator of our character.

Actually, how we deal with the wilderness reveals unique aspects of our character. The wilderness changes you. I was reading in Hebrews over the weekend and spent quite a bit of time in chapter 4, but this morning I backed up a bit because I wanted to see why the writer started talking about entering into God's rest.

Just before the author's discourse on God's rest he was talking about the children of Israel and how they failed to enter God's rest. Their choices in the wilderness were what separated them from His rest. My loose interpretation is: these same people who loaded up their stuff, spoiled the Egyptians and followed Moses out of slavery to freedom - lost it in the wilderness. They stopped believing God's promise, disobeyed Him and missed the opportunity to enter His rest as a result.

The wilderness isn't an easy place to be. And if you want to look at it one way - Moses was the caregiver for a million rebellious people. How'd you like to tote that around for awhile? They were willing to go with him when they packed up and left the cruelty of Egypt. What were they expecting? Of course they ran smack dab into the Red Sea - God stepped in. And then they ran out of fresh water - God stepped in. And even though they saw God's hand over and over again - they chose to rebel and complain. They were so hardened they missed the opportunity of enjoying His rest. The wilderness changes you.

As we walk through the wilderness of life - we will make choices; we will make changes. One of the first cries of my heart when my son became injured was that I would draw closer to God, not pull away and not become bitter. My desire has been to let life's crucible squeeze out a sweet fragrance and that my life would be lived in a state of worship.

I have not always accomplished this. I have fought, and fit, and spit and cussed many times. I've argued, faltered, given up and been angry more times than I can mention. But in the end - I cling to Him rather than fighting against Him. The wilderness experience forces us to make deep and lasting decisions about our faith and our relationship with God.

Today, I will seek to enter His rest. I'll reflect on the ways the wilderness has changed me - the good and the bad. I'll rejoice in the good and give Him the bad and ask Him for grace. My thoughts will be on His ever-abiding presence and how He hasn't left me in the dry wilderness even when I became a hot mess. I'll embrace His grace today and be thankful for the changes He's brought about in my life, even in the wilderness. Will you join me?

Saturday, May 21, 2016

In the Midst of the Storm

This morning during my devotions this poem just came to me. As caregivers, it can feel like we live in a storm; one that never goes away. My heart is set - I will trust Him no matter what a day brings. Here's the poem I got this morning - I hope it speaks to someone today.


Through the Storm
Lord I want to know You
In the midst of the storm
To see You walk on water
And tell my heart "peace, be still"

Let me....
Feel You, hear You, touch You
As life rocks along
I trust You have me 
In the center of Your will

Carry me above
The deceit of wind and waves
May I hear You above the roar
To be with You is all I crave

May I not be distracted
By the crashing tide
For I'm tucked in tight
Held close by Your side

Though the storm keeps raging
May my soul keep seeking
And may I listen carefully
To hear You speaking

Peace be still...
I'll be still...
and Know You are God

(c) May 21, 2016 J. Olinger

Friday, May 20, 2016

Beyond the Cave

As I was going about my early morning routine of making coffee, bolusing and changing my son etc. I just felt heavy. Over the last few weeks I've been toying with the idea of getting rid of stuff... my house is so full. I do think this is a factor. I simply have too much to keep up with. As I walked through the apartment with one eye open (this is BC - before coffee), I thought of how I need to just go through and get rid of stuff. Lots of stuff.

As I walked through my living room, my medal rack caught my eye and I though about how I carry as little as possible with me when I run. I strip down to shorts and a light t-shirt, put my phone in an arm band to keep my hands free, and wear a small runner's belt to hold my keys. I do not wear long pants even when it's cold. And if it is chilly out, I still wear as little as possible because I don't want anything to weight me down.

With a big sigh, I wondered if I got rid of stuff in my life that was weighing me down, could I run the race of life more easily? Hebrews 12:1 immediately came to mind. The writer says: let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress. and let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.

Once I got my coffee and sat down, I looked it up and read through the chapter. I'm so thankful God continues to show us new stuff when we read His word. He didn't exempt us from learning more about Him and His ways when we became a caregiver, did He?

When I got to verse 12 I read and then reread it. It says this: So take a new grip with your tired hands and stand firm on your shaky legs.  Boy, did I need to hear that this morning! But then, something else caught my attention. The next verse starts out with then those who follow you...

Now I am really focused. You see, the chapter starts out with us running because there is a crowd of witnesses who have already walked the life of faith cheering us on. We are looking at Christ - the author and finisher of our faith, being cheered on by the stories and lives of those who have walked it before... all because there are more folks coming up behind us who need to see examples of His work in our lives.

We can't stop. We can't quit. No matter how difficult life is, how weak we feel, how encumbered we feel - there's more reasons than ourselves to keep on going. They did it - we are doing it - so others can do it too. It can be so easy to get wrapped up in our own little caregiver's cave we forget about others and their struggle.

So today, I'm going to take these weak, tired hands and get a good grip on Him one more time. I'll pull myself up on my tired, shaky legs so I can continue to walk this walk of trusting Him. My thoughts will be on how He empowers me to walk the walk of faith. Those before me have clung to Him with all their strength and I will too! Today I will cling to Him with everything I have and I will keep my focus on His faithfulness. I will trust Him for one more day - will you join me?

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Safe Keeping

As usual, my mind kicked into high gear as soon as my alarm went off this  morning. I've got so much to do! On one hand, that's a good thing because I don't tend to push the snooze as many times when my mind starts running through today's to-do list before I get one eye open. On the other hand it's very tiring.

I will freely admit I am an over-thinker. I either have hundreds of questions to ask before a statement is finished, or I've worked through 101 scenarios in my mind of what could occur, knowing most likely none of them will!

I do the same thing with caregiving and daily life. As I'm going through my list of gotta do's today, and some get-to-do's too, I realize there really is a lot more than just caregiving on my plate. As I mentioned earlier this week, the aide quit so I've not had any help in the daily chore arena for about 2 weeks - and there's no aide in site.

I never thought of myself as a juggler, just not that coordinated; but lately I'm wondering if I should try again! lol. As caregivers we juggle a lot - our daily caregiving tasks, household chores, finances, and maybe when we are lucky some sort of social interactions. Add to that the fact that many of us hold down full or part time jobs or go to school and we can be a hot mess at any time. What's a caregiver to do?

So while my mind was running through the health coaching session I have scheduled for this afternoon, the work I need to get done for my job, how I'm going to try to relax and just enjoy my grand kids today while they are here, whether or not I should go to taekwondo tonight and rescheduling my late payment I got an email about today, I had this novel idea. How about I just give it all to Him?

Of course my mind went to 2 Peter 5:7 - Casting all your care on Him for He cares for you. Actually, I'm learning that this is the easy part. I can give it all to Him for safe keeping. He will guard my soul, he will provide in the area of finances, and He will give me peace in the midst of my day. So what's the problem?  I keep going back to pick up what I've given Him for safe keeping - like I'm there to pick up a scheduled delivery!

It's one thing to give it all to Him and quite another to leave it with Him. I can give it to Him - but will I trust him with it? 

Today I will seriously put my efforts into learning to leave my cares with Him for safe keeping. I will meditate on 2 Peter 5:7 and figure out how to give Him my worries and concerns. My thoughts will be on trusting Him for another day - and letting Him establish His peace in my heart while I wait for Him. I'm trusting Him with one more day - will you join me?