Monday, November 13, 2017

It is Enough

This week promises to be a busy week, and by that I mean a busier than usual week. My mind and heart are all over the place and I woke up this morning trying to sort through how I will adjust and rearrange to make everything happen that needs to happen. Sometimes it can feel like I always fall short, like no matter what I do, it's never enough.

With tons of frantic thoughts running through my mind this morning I forced myself to consider where God told Paul, My grace is sufficient for you. But I translated that to My grace is enough.

I started thinking about that one word, enough. I did a Bible Gateway search for enough and found several interesting things. That was all I needed to get my mind going in the "right" direction. I thought about the woman in 2 Kings 4. She owed a huge debt and had no way to pay. Her sons were going to have to become slaves to pay off the debt, but the prophet stopped by. He told her to collect all the empty vessels she could and then started pouring oil. There wasn't an empty vessel anywhere near as oil continued to pour until every vessel was full. She had enough to sell and pay off all her debts.

The other story I thought about I found in 1 Kings 17. Another widow and another prophet. He asked her for a cake because he was hungry and she explained she only had enough oil and flour to make one cake and then she and her son would eat... then die. The prophet told her to make him a little cake and one for herself and her son too. When she obeyed then he told her that as long as the famine lasted she would have oil and flour. For the rest of the famine she had enough flour and oil. It lasted until the next harvest.

What's cool to me about this is that these two stories were two different prophets, Elijah and Elisha, and two different women in dire circumstances. But each one of them had enough to meet their needs. As caregivers we stay in a tough spot on many levels. Emotions run high and it can be tense. Finances can be tough and government programs fail. Friends disappear. Many of us walk a lonely walk because others are not quite sure what to do with us - so they stay away. Lately for me, it seems I am watching everyone else "have a life" and I sit on the sidelines watching life go by. Some   days a a notice and a nod would make my day! lol. We can deal with a lonely journey. But I have to say that He is enough.

No matter what crazy things come up today, this week or next - He is enough. He won't run out on us, and He won't fail us. His grace is like that oil that continued to pour. His mercies are new every morning and He never gets tired of picking us back up and setting us back on the right road. His gentleness is enough. His patience is enough. Whatever I need today - whatever you need today - He has enough to help us work through it.

Today I will meditate on this word enough. My thoughts will be on the many ways He is enough in my life. When I don't feel like I am enough - I'll look to Him and let Him be my enough. I will thank Him for being with me and for being like the widow's flask that is always full of oil. I'll rest in the fact that He is enough.... more than enough. And I will trust Him for one more day - will you join me?

Friday, November 10, 2017

That's so Ambivalent of You!

If you know me much at all, you know I love the psalms, and coffee of course. Growing up, I missed a lot of the deepness of the psalms because I read them through religious eyes and failed to see the psalmist's humanity. There's nothing like real life and some time to help you see life with your eyes wide open. When we become real and raw with God - we start to see His work more clearly.

One thing I appreciate about the psalms is the honesty. David, who wrote most of them, was open and real about how he felt whether he was elated or deflated. In a few psalms he sounds like me - very ambivalent in his emotions. On one hand, we trust God fully. On the other, we're angry with Him and trying to sort life out. But then there's the flip-flop back to absolute trust. Crazy ain't it? (I know you understand!)

Sometimes I just look at one psalm at a time. David was usually pretty good about covering it all. He poured out his heart in amazing honesty, told God just how he felt. Then he would ask God questions and usually end it all with a declaration lik. I will trust You.

Earlier this week, I found myself in Psalm 13. Boy, how I've prayed this one. David wrote it, it's included in the Bible so it's "legal," right? Listen to David's heart:

How long O Lord?
Will You forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
How long shall I take counsel in my soul,
Having sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long will my enemy be exalted over me?

Of  course, as usual, David goes on to talk about how he will trust the Lord. Sometimes, we do that on a daily basis. (Maybe it's just me.) But as I was rereading this psalm this week I was like, hey wait a minute! David is also the author of psalm 139. Remember that one? It goes something like this:

Where can I go from Your spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven You are there, 
If I make my bed in Sheol behold - You are there

In this same psalm, David talks about God knowing our thoughts from far off and knowing our words before we speak them. He mentions that God is intimately acquainted with all our ways. And yet, he prayed the prayer in Psalm 13 too. I thought - "wow, David was really ambivalent, wasn't he?" But aren't we as well?

One minute we are declaring how we trust Him and singing 'Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus... and the next asking Him where He went and if He knows what He's doing with our lives. You know what? God gets that. He sees the real struggle we have between our flesh and our faith.  And He waits for us there to fill in the gap.

Today, I'm giving it all to Him. All my crazy thoughts and out there questions, and all my trust knowing that He can handle it. I will trust that He looks past my crazy words into my heart and He knows ultimately, I'm going to trust Him with everything, every,single.time. My meditations will be on how He loves me and won't abandon me no matter how all over the place my thoughts and emotions are. I'll turn my thoughts to His faithfulness, and I'll be grateful that He hasn't asked me to walk this path alone. And with that, I will trust Him for one more day. Will you join me?

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Beyond Words

This morning during my devotions, my eyes fell on the last verse of Psalm 19. It's a simple prayer at the end of a beautiful psalm. David prays, Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer. David has just written about the majesty of God and the wonders of creation. He follows that with the power of the word to change a life and then follows it all with  this simple prayer.

When my kids were growing up we had a rule. They could say anything they wanted to me - as long as they didn't have an attitude. I valued their honesty, and their feelings but explained there was a right time and a wrong time to say the exact same thing. They did well with it and we had some rewarding conversations. As they grew into their teen years, they were able to be honest with me, and I with them. We grew close.

I think God feels somewhat the same way about His kids too. He values conversation. He values our thoughts and wants us to "share words." I have to say though, that I've not always had the right attitude when talking to God. I've exploded on Him lots of times. And He's always loved me through it. I've sat with coffee cup and Bible in hand and poured my heart out before Him and said it just the way I felt it. And He still loves me.

When I get through the rough spots though, I want David's prayer to be mine as well. I really do want the many things that run through my heart and mind to be acceptable to Him. Ultimately, I want to please Him. Don't we all want that?

Now here's the catch. James 3 talks about the tongue. He says no man can tame the tongue. He could say no caregiver can tame that tongue! lol. But we don't really have to. Why not? Because the mouth speaks from the abundance of the heart. (Matthew 12:34) So our true job here is to guard the heart.

Guarding the heart is tough for the caregiver, I think. Emotions can stay raw. We can feel open and bare much of the time. But I'm finding that He's always right there with the balm we need. He's willing and ready to comfort us in our affliction, to hold us in our pain and to carry us in our weariness. He never turns me away even when I'm ranting. He patiently waits until I run out of rant... until I collapse into His arms. And He gently carries me. He understands me beyond my words, and He holds me.

Today I will think about how He waits for me to settle down much of the time and then He holds me. I'll think about how He's not put off with my pain, my worries or concerns. Today, I'll remind myself to take them all to Him before they get the best of me. And I'll trust Him for one more day. Will you join me?

Monday, November 6, 2017

Forgiving God

There's just nothing easy about caregiving, is there? Maybe the choice to do it is the easiest part because it is made based on love, at least for most of us. But the actual walking it out is so difficult. I'm talking more than just the daily chores here. There's the emotional strain, financial strain, worrying over making decisions for a whole other person, who in my situation and many others can't tell you what they want or need. It's like playing a life-size game of guess-and-check. I guess this is what I need to do... check. Was it right or wrong?

Sometimes, taking on a caregiver's role can feel like it's because something went wrong with life. It's certainly not the picture perfect life we envisioned, is it? I taught public school for several years and not one time did a student have a life goal of being a caregiver. Pretty sure that one's not on the list. But we are here. One thing I prayed early on was that I would not let it make me bitter toward life, or God.

Let me be honest and say, God and I have had some talks. I've certainly given Him an ear full from time to time. But there was this one day.....after a series of days that I had to come to the point where I forgave Him. Sounds kinda funny doesn't it. Us forgive God? Yup. If we want to move on with Him we must.

I heard a wonderful preacher teaching about worship and she was using the story of Lazarus. She was at the point in the story where Mary came out to meet Jesus. She told Him if You had been here....

The preacher said so many people are living disappointed with God. I realized that was me. My heart was torn and I fell to my knees and wept as God restored my heart in that moment. At that point I wanted to be close to Him more than anything. I felt like He had failed me. I lost total trust in Him. After all, I was headed to Africa and I was trusting my adult kid's care to Him.

But that day as I was on my living room floor, I realized I had to forgive God for disappointing me. From that point on, restoration continued. Until we can get over being disappointed because He did or didn't do something we expected, we can't move forward. We'll become bitter and hardened. If we face the pain - and take it to Him, and forgive Him, He will heal and restore.

Today, I'm going to reflect on the day He touched and healed my broken heart. My meditations will be on how He met me in that place of disappointment and resurrected my joy, my peace, and my trust in Him. I'll think about how He has not abandoned me on this journey and He hasn't forced Himself on me either. My thoughts will be on how He patiently waits for us to return. And then He picks us up, dusts us off and continues the journey with us. I'll walk this day out with my heart resting in His. Will you join me?

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

No Erasers

I make no apologies for the old picture! It's my favorite of my mom and me. Rumor has it that it was the last time I owned a dress! I'm so thankful that my mom is here this week, even though she continues to forget so many things we used to enjoy. For now, I keep her comfortable and happy, knowing our time is short.

Emotions can be strung tight for the caregiver no matter what type of situation we are in. Our days are full of so many necessary activities we can barely have time to breathe. But breathing is good. If we are still breathing, then there is hope. We can still breathe a prayer to Him bringing Him every concern.

It is an understatement to say my life changed drastically when I became a caregiver. And for some, it wasn't a sudden shock. But no matter what type of situation brought about a caregiver's role in your life, I want you to know you didn't lose a thing. Naturally? Maybe. But not one spiritual blessing is diminished for the caregiver. Every precious and magnificent promise  is still ours! (2 Peter1:4)

See, God has a huge eraser when it comes to wiping away our sins. Sins and their effect were all washed away at the cross. But He wrote His law on our hearts. Hebrews 10:16 says this:

This is the covenant that I will make with them
After those days, says the Lord:
I will put My laws upon their heart,
and on their mind I will write them

The writer of Hebrews is quoting from Jeremiah who had prophesied that God would write His law on our hearts - on this side of the cross. And you know what? He ain't gonna erase it either! He uses His eraser to make our sins disappear - not His word! He has written it on our hearts, and He has given us the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:16) These are solid and sure and He's not taking them back! We do not lose a thing in the Kingdom of God because we are caregivers.

It's a full package deal. We get His peace. He still loves us. We can still take our cares to Him and He will carry them for us. And His word is still written on our hearts. We still have the mind of Christ. We are not excluded from benefits provided the body of Christ because of our caregiving status. 

His word doesn't fade over time. His word will not go away. His word is just as strong as it ever was - He wrote it on our hearts and He ain't taking it back! 

Today I will turn my thoughts to His word. And I will  let His word have free course in my heart and life. My meditations will be on the power of His word, I'll also think about what it means to have it written on my heart. I'll express my thankfulness that He doesn't make any exclusions for caregivers. That He is still with me, still loves me and still values me as His child. Will you join me?

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

When I Take the Time

B&W of Bible, study notes and coffee
Never underestimate the power of quietness. Let me explain. To say my hands are full today is quite the understatement. My hands, pockets, purse, house and heart are full to the brim today. But I love it. I am enjoying taking care of my mom and I'm overcome with a special kind of compassion. That kind of caught me off guard. Double-time caregiving is not for the faint of heart, though, just sayin'! (smiles) It's barely even noon (I know - running late... ), and I'm on a second pot of coffee and need a nap.

What amazes me is when I take the time to just focus on Him for just a few minutes, how He makes it all better. It's funny though, I literally have to "take" the time - it's not handed to me on a silver platter. I have to take that time to find rest in Him. My hands are busy and my heart is full, but when I take a few seconds to acknowledge His presence, to wait for Him, to allow Him to give me rest, He never fails or disappoints.

The prophet Isaiah, in chapter 30, verse 15 called out to the people and told them the secret - in returning and rest you will be saved. Sadly, they would not listen. David, in Psalm 46:10 said, stop striving, and know I am God. The fact that this is in first person lets us know God was talking through David - and admonishing the listener and today the reader to just stop. Be still. Cease striving. And acknowledge that He is God. And you know what?

When I take the time to be still, to return to Him, to rest in Him - He meets me there every.single.time. It's almost like He anticipates my arrival, like He can't wait to see me. It's like He is excited to pick me up - trade my pathetic little strength for His might - and fill me back up until I run out again. Then He waits... for me to take time to come and let Him touch me again.

He is faithful. When we come to Him - He's ready to pour into us. When we realize our strength is gone, He's ready to give us His... while we wait on Him.

Today, I'm going to remind myself that His strength is enough and His grace is sufficient to carry me through. My meditations will be on just knowing He is still God and there is literally nothing that can change that in any way. My efforts will be on waiting for Him and resting in Him and in trading my piddly strength for His might. Will you join me?

Monday, October 30, 2017

All Things Considered

This morning I woke up to a very hectic day ahead. My mom is going to come stay a few days again since my daddy is sick. This just means my usually busy morning got busier since I have quite a bit to do to prepare for her to stay. I also got up knowing it's going to be a full week. It means some schedule changing for me. I won't lie. It's difficult. But I love taking care of my mom. She's so pleasant in her child-likeness that this horrible disease brings on. And she's vulnerable and innocent. I love her.

So this morning's devotions were cut a bit short as I started washing sheets and putting clean sheets on the bed. But, they were so good! I was thinking about how people say "God is good" all the time. But if you notice, they usually only say it when they get what they want. They got a job, God id good. They got a new car (and a large payment) God is good. They were sick and now they feel better - so God is good.  But guess what! He was already good anyway!

I'm so thankful His goodness, His mercy, His love and everything else about Him are not contingent on our circumstances. They remain. He remains. And He is always good.

He doesn't quit being good when something bad happens in our lives. If we get a new job or lose our job - He's still good. If we are sick or well - He's still good. If we are hungry or full - He's still good. His goodness is certain. His mercy is sure. His love is forever. Not one thing about Him changes due to our situations.

Isaiah 63:7 says this  I will tell of the Lord's unfailing love. I will praise the Lord for all He has done. I will rejoice in his great goodness to Israel, which He has granted according to His mercy and love. (NLT) 

Today, first of all, I will praise Him and thank Him for just being good. No matter what. Then, I'm going to purposefully look around my world today to find things to be thankful for. Trust me, there's always something. I'm going to first thank Him for His goodness no matter what my circumstance. And I'll praise Him for being the only constant in my upside down, backwards world! I'll meditate on His goodness toward me - and in me. And I will rest in that. Will you join me?