Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The True Battleground

Does it ever seem like you are just truckin' along and everything is going great when BAM! Seemingly, out of nowhere your thoughts start running away with you? Maybe it's just me, but that totally happened to me this morning.

I got in my recliner, coffee in hand, Bible in lap, all ready to read a bit. I'm cruising through the Psalms and hit chapter 81.  In verse 11, God has noted that His people are not listening to Him. They stubbornly pursue their own desires. And by 14 He says if they would listen to Him - He would subdue their enemies.

That's when my mind went nuts on me. My initial response was something like - so if I get myself together and really pursue God - really listen to Him He sill subdue MY enemy? My greatest enemy in my thinking is a brain injury. Well, if God could "subdue" that - my life would be so much easier. And from there I got mad once again because I don't figure God's going to swoop in and take the TBI away.

But as I kept rolling some thoughts around and trying to get un-mad at God again, I realized the TBI isn't my worst enemy. My enemy isn't even life. We understand the life of a caregiver is not easy and every day brings difficulties  needing to be worked through. Everything is complicated, even the most basic of our daily chores like cooking, eating, bathing etc. It's all complicated and it can get to the place where it nags at us chipping away at our faith and trust in Him. That's when I recognized my enemy.

It's not a TBI that I honestly do wish was not there, but it's in the day-to-day grind of living life as a caregiver that chips away at my faith. Trying to control my thoughts and battle against depression can be an enemy. I want to trust but life can be so frustrating. I can't tell you how many times I've honestly wanted to blame God and throw my hands up in the air to give up on my faith. I have these weak moments when I feel as though I am totally overcome by life. And that chipping away at my faith, the eroding of my trust in Him, battling the crazy thoughts that go through my mind - that's the enemy.

As difficult as it is, and as simple as it sounds - if I can turn to Him one more time - He can help me conquer these enemies. He knows I cannot conquer them on my own - and He is not going to let me get swallowed up by them. All He is waiting for is for me to give up the battle and try to trust Him for one more day. And that I will.

Today I will focus my energy on turning my heart to His. I'll listen for His subtle voice and try to shut out the craziness that tries to chip away at faith. My thoughts will be on how He can crush these enemies of my soul, and one more time I will wait for Him. Will you join me?

Monday, May 2, 2016

Still at Work

As I was starting to organize my day and get my thoughts together this morning, my mind kept returning to a familiar scripture. Us church-kids memorized it as children and it serves as a constant reminder that He ain't done with us yet.

Paul writes to the church at Philippi, And I am sure that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on that day when Christ Jesus comes back again. (Philippians 1:6 NLT) I don't know about you, but I was pretty sure when that since I am a caregiver, He had given up on working on me. The day my son had the wreck I lost my life, my goals and my dreams - the ones I thought for sure He had given me. Literally everything in my life changed as I moved into the caregiver role. I thought for sure I was exempt from Kingdom responsibility and the basic requirements laid out and understood by being a church kid. But I was wrong.

As the life of caregiver leveled out and the emotions settled down to a not-so-calm norm, I realized that God hadn't changed the things He had required of me. He still held me to doing right, loving mercy and walking humbly with Him. (Micah 6:8) He didn't lessen these, He didn't tell me that I didn't have to worry about them any more since my life situation had changed. Actually, over time I came to realize that He didn't change what He was requiring of me at all.

At first, I thought this was unfair. But then I began to realize that it wasn't all that bad. Even though my life situation had changed, my standing with God did not change a bit. I was still His child, still had all of the responsibilities that go along with being a child of God - but all of the blessings of being a child of God were also still intact; and Philippians 1:6 was still true. He is still working on and with me.

Even though my life changed dramatically in one instant - His work in my life did not. But the question then remains, what work is He doing in me, that won't be finished until the final day? I think the answer is in chapter 2 verse 13: He works in us both His will and His good pleasure. (NASB) Even though I don't understand why certain things happen, I am learning that He is still working in me - He is still working for me - He is still working on me....and shaping me into the image of Christ - just like every other believer.

Today I will rejoice in the truth that He continues to work on and in me no matter what life throws at me - and no matter how I react. He continues to perfect the image of Christ in me with the goal of me looking like Him. I'm going to rejoice today - because He didn't give up when life got hard - or when I had an attitude and wanted to give up. My meditation today will be on how He continues to work in me for His pleasure - and I will think about how I can completely surrender to His will in me. Will you join me?

Monday, April 25, 2016

It's the "Little" Things

Solomon was right when he penned, It's the little foxes that spoil the vine. As caregivers we have lots and lots of "big" things that make our days more difficult than "normal" people's. And honestly, most days I have finally learned how to have a handle on those. It took awhile to find a new "normal" and adjust to a lifestyle that is anything BUT normal. But we are caregivers - we assess, adjust, and advance - on a daily, hourly or minute by minute bases as needed.

It's little things like this lady, who did have a handicap sticker by the way, who parked just a little bit too far in the loading area. It was just enough that I had to lift my son's chair up and over to get him on the lift.

I may or may not have said a bad word or two while I was trying to decide what to do. I thought about waiting until she came back out so I could giver her a piece of my mind. But I was afraid I might just punch her first. We were tired, ready to go home and both needed some rest so I decided to lift his chair up and over the lip on the lift so we could proceed. I got him in the van, buckled down, then I stored the lift and went around to get in just in time to hear some smarty pants on KLOVE say something about not letting things steal your joy.

Steal my joy? What joy? Did you see that inconsiderate blond lady who parked like that?  But deep down I knew the guy was probably right. I had had a wonderful evening with my family. We went to my daughter's church to hear my grandson sing in the choir, and then we came out to eat ice cream. It had been a fun, relaxing time with my daughter's family and my sister and brother-in-law and this short, blond chick had to park where it made it difficult to get Chris in the van. And just like that - the joy of the evening was snatched away.

As caregivers, we carry a lot - our day is so full of the things we get to do to care for our loved ones - but we walk around in a state of the proverbial "camel's back" and anything or everything can be that last straw. It really doesn't take much most days (maybe that's just me). The world is filled with inconsiderate people - it's our choice how they affect, or don't affect us. It's easy to say - difficult to do!

Today my meditation will be on Romans 15:13 - I pray that the God of hope fills you with all joy and peace because you believe in Him. I'll let Him restore the joy of my salvation  as I recall that absolutely none of these things have an effect on my salvation. It is secure whether there are considerate or inconsiderate people around is irrelevant. My soul, and my son's soul are safe in Him. I'll choose to rejoice in that fact today. Will you join me?

Monday, April 11, 2016

But Can I Forgive God?

Over the weekend, I was looking at the lives of Joseph and Daniel two extraordinary men in the Bible. The two have a lot in common such as interpreting dreams, great wisdom from God, and they were both in captivity. I was writing down some notes on these two when I realized something different about the two of them. They both had to come to the place where they forgave.

Daniel and Joseph were held captive against their wills. In Joseph's case, he had to forgive his brothers for betraying him first of all. Then he had to forgive Potiphar's wife for lying on him and putting him in prison for something he didn't do. He was kind of a double captive. Nonetheless, he had to come to a place to forgive.

For me, I chose to forgive the young man driving the vehicle who caused the wreck that injured my son. At first it was easier really. Then over time it became difficult and was just a choice, but not a true action of my heart. I've had times I was angry with him. He got to go on living, graduated college, playing the drums, getting married, teaching - like my son wanted to do. But unforgiveness doesn't bring my son back - nor does it make my life any easier. Day by day it's a choice to not carry bitterness or a grudge. I'll be the first to admit it ain't always easy.

But on top of forgiving the person at fault (if there was one) the caregiver has to forgive God. This may be one of our biggest hurdles. Ultimately, it's His fault we are caregiving, whether we are caring for a child, a parent or someone else. If we believe God is truly in control then at the bare minimum He let it happen. This was a very tough spot for me for a very long time.

Eventually though, I forgave God. I found that unless I forgive Him, it's very difficult to trust Him again. But you know what? If we can't quite find that spot on any given day - we can express it to Him. He is big enough to carry it. I usually tell Him exactly what I feel, how angry I am at Him, how frustrating life is, or how disappointed I am with how He orchestrated life. And so far - He hasn't fried me down to my toenails - and chances are He won't.

I believe He honors a heart that is honest with Him. He is strong enough to carry our loads; and us as well. He never kicks us to the curb, but patiently waits for us to pour out our hearts before Him. I'm sure Daniel and Joseph had their moments. They had to; they were in some very tough circumstances. Let us learn to pour our hearts out before our King in open honesty. When we trust Him with the worst - He amazingly fills us up with His grace.

Today I'm going to rejoice in the fact that I don't have to hide my true feelings from God. I can talk to Him one-on-one. I can pour out all the bad, and good, things in my heart before Him and He will refresh me as I wait on Him. My efforts today will be to be bluntly honest with God. I'll turn my thoughts to the grace He supplies when I really pour it all out before Him and trust Him for one more day. Will you join me?

Thursday, April 7, 2016

What Makes a Conqueror?

This photo is from an obstacle race I did a couple years ago. It doesn't show it, but I had climbed up on a wall of hay bales. If you notice, I'm covered in mud because I'd just come through the deep, thick mud pit. Then I reached the very tall wall built solely out of large bales of hay. I climbed to the top and felt like I'd won even though I had a few feet left to go.

Why did I feel so victorious? Because I had come through lots of obstacles already. I knew I was nearing the end and was going to get a finisher's medal. At that point in time, I was a conqueror! I had beat all the obstacles but just needed to walk across the finish line.

What made me feel like a winner? I certainly wasn't, and never will be, the first person across the finish line. I was literally on top of the world because of what I had just come through.

This morning in my devotions, I stopped to think about a scripture I came across in Proverbs. The New Living Translation put chapter 14 verses 26 and 27 like this: Those who fear the Lord are secure; He will be a place of refuge for their children. Fear of the Lord is a life giving fountain; it offers escape from the snares of death. I thought about these two scriptures quite a while, and here's what I came up with.

Verse 26 talks about being secure because of the fear of the Lord. As a caregiver, I first question this as God didn't save me from caregiving. But then it says He is a refuge for my children. What I took away from that is when my daughter sees me relying fully on God - she learns to trust too. It can be the same with spiritual children and other onlookers as well. Our testimony isn't that we escaped the obstacles - it's that we are daily overcoming them to continue to trust in Him! Others see that and realize when they face struggles - He can be their refuge too.

Verse 27 speaks of fearing God being a life-giving fountain. I could stay on that for awhile, but the last part of the verse is what stood out to me. We are saved from the snares of death - not the snares or trials or pitfalls of life - but snares of death. Our eternity is secure no matter what we face in life. We face absolutely no fear in death - our souls are secured in Him.

Today I will meditate on how He is the keeper of my soul. I'll see my struggles today as obstacles I must go through so I can be a conqueror. I will think about how He can use them to make me and my faith stronger. And I'm going to think about how great it felt to be on top of the hay stacks - covered with mud- because I had overcome the obstacles - not gone around them. My thoughts will be on how He makes me an overcomer in everything I face. And I will be grateful for His presence in my life today. Will you join me?





Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Huge Sigh!

This morning as I was trying to focus during my devotions and prayer, my head was going 900 miles per hour. That's not much of an exaggeration, either. I was running through my mental list of all I have to get done as well as the roadblocks I know of, like not getting all of my son's supplies this month and tying to figure out when and how to go make those purchases.

As caregivers, we already have so much on our plate on any given day and these seemingly "little" problems can be huge. So my mind is going over finances and our schedule to see how to fit these additional items in, plus having to figure out how to work with less time available for the afternoon.. My mind was racing through all these tasks and chores when I heard myself heave a huge sigh. I felt so overwhelmed.

Of course I'm overwhelmed, I'm a caregiver, lol! It's not imagined - there really is a lot going on and there are no easy tasks. Lately I've found I go to bed tired - and wake up tired. I was thinking about all this and all the things I need to get done today when this very familiar scripture was triggered by my thoughts. I know you know it too:

Give all your worries and cares to God,
For He cares about what happens to you.
(1Peter 5:7 NLT)

I know I know this scripture - but this simple reminder helped me catch up to myself this morning. Not one thing got taken off my list of things to do. And as a matter of fact, I headed out the back door to my little backyard and worked in my wanna-be garden for a while. In the process, I emptied myself out before the Lord and I gave Him the whole shebang. I poured out my heart and let Him fill it back up. This waiting on Him is really hard work. But I'm finding when we purposefully wait on Him - He takes up that slack and fills up our empty spots with more of Him. And with that - I will face this day.

Today while I am scurrying about to finish tasks, I will take time to breathe Him in. My thoughts and deep meditations will be on how He strengthens me and offers wisdom to those who ask. Today I'll be asking Him for wisdom and waiting for His strength - will you join me?

Friday, March 18, 2016

In the Wilderness

I was studying this morning in preparation for some online Bible courses I'm starting to write and I found myself in Jeremiah 2 and this part of the second verse jumped off the page and into my heart. God is speaking to His people and says: I remember.....your following after Me in the wilderness, through a land not sown.

Now most of us did not plan as a child to grow up and be a caregiver. It's a strange land for most of us when we find ourselves there.It's an unknown land and we didn't spend time directly cultivating the skills we would need. I mean really, who knew we would need to know how to do some of these things?

Not only did we not really plan on being a caregiver in most instances, it can be a lonely and dry place. We eventually find a new normal and learn to function and work with what we have; but loneliness and social isolation are definitely areas we find ourselves having to deal with. It can be a real-life wilderness. And that's why this verse grabbed me this morning. I found comfort in realizing that God remembers how I seek Him in the wilderness.

At the very start, one of my prayers was that He would shield me and protect me from becoming bitter on this journey. The way to protect ourselves from that is to seek Him while we walk through the furnace. We all have good days and rougher days - but being a caregiver is not for the weakling, or the fainthearted. To carry on day after day and not become bitter we must purposefully seek Him.

Just like my faith was redefined during those early caregiving years, I've learned a new way to look at seeking Him. Indirectly, we are taught in many church settings that seeking Him and petitioning Him are synonymous. They are not. If we are continually asking God to do something or to act on our behalf, or even to rescue us - that's not seeking. That's begging.

Seeking Him in my understanding is reaching out to hear His heart, feel His touch and see His face. It's not really about getting Him to change my circumstances as much as it's about allowing His presence to change me.

Today I will meditate on how much I need His nearness. My thoughts will be on desiring to know Him, to know His heart and not just what He can do. I will turn my heart toward His and seek Him no matter how dry the wilderness becomes or if I'm overcome with a flood. I will seek to know Him and His heart. Will you join me?