Friday, May 22, 2015

It's a New Day!

Overall I keep a pretty positive attitude especially considering my situation. But when someone enthusiastically says "It's a new day!" I nearly get mad. Because a new day for many caregivers looks just like the day before. We still have the same tasks to perform as we did yesterday and sometimes it's just over and over and over. I know that a routine is important for my sanity but every once in awhile a break would be nice.

Sometimes caregivers can feel like they are tired of being tired. The psalmist must have understood this when he said in Psalm 73:26:  my heart and flesh my fail... For caregivers looking at a "new day" can seem like it's just "another day."

It's important that we don't lose heart while caregiving. Yeah, that's just a little more pressure. Not only do we have to provide care for a whole other individual and meet all of their physical, mental and health needs - there's always someone to remind us to take care of ourselves. When? When do we have time to meet our own needs? Many of us turn those needs off and pour ourselves into our loved ones. We have to.

And even on the good days it can feel like our heart and flesh are failing. We wake up tired but we just keep going. Why and how? Most likely it's because of what the psalmist says in the second part of this verse because God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Caregivers really do know what it means to go in God's strength and most of us wouldn't hesitate to say He is the only way we are making each new day.

It's the verses leading up to verse 26 that the tell us how the psalmist (and the caregiver) draw on the strength God provides. Verses 23 to 25 say:

Nevertheless I am continually with You;
You hold my right hand.
You guide me with Your counsel,
and afterward You will receive me into glory.
Whom have I in heaven but You?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides You...

Knowing that God guides us, receives us and holds our right hand (symbolic of power) is enough to help us make one more day. When He is all we have in heaven and all we desire in earth His strength will fill our hearts and carry us through.

Today I will meditate on my need for Him in earth - but not just for His help; I need His presence in my life. My thoughts will be on the truth that He accepts and receives me as a caregiver. We are not cast away and He doesn't gawk at us because we look different than most. I will choose to rest in the strength He pours into my heart today. Will you join me?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Thing I Fear Most

In Job's lament found in chapter three, he made a statement that faith-ers have used against him for years. He said: the thing I greatly feared has come upon me.(KJV) As a caregiver there can be many fears that we have to deal with. Our fears might lead to questions like:

  • What if I can't provide for my loved one?
  • What if I get sick and can't take care of him/her?
  • What happens to my loved one once I am gone?
These are all valid fears and are running around somewhere in the back of our minds most of the time. Because they are not imminently upon us we don't have to think about them too often; but they are still there. Another fear that I have had is that I would become bitter through the ordeal. It's been one of my most frequent concerns and the center of many prayers that the Lord would help me in my quest to prevent bitterness from setting in.

Caregiving can take a toll on you - but it's the rest of life (which we are not exempt from) that can take you down. We all have those times when we feel like everything is crashing in and we have to face our fears. How do we walk through this valley and keep a positive attitude? It's too easy to feel abandoned by other people, and life itself. We're just hanging here with a choice. How am I going to deal with this? Are we going to cave in and be angry and God and everybody? Or are we going to stand up, adjust our clothing and take life on one more time?

Isaiah 26:3 is a scripture that comes to mind in times like this. It says You will keep him in perfect peace - whose mind is stayed on You. To me, perfect means mature. When we keep our minds fixed on God instead of our situations He provides perfect peace or a mature peace; a peace that stands. My job is to refocus my thoughts on the Lord and keep them from gravitating toward my situation or life's events. 

Today I will shift my focus to God's word and allow it to be my meditation. I will purposefully turn my thoughts to the God I trust and keep them off the troubles of life. I'll think about how I trust Him to see me through and I will allow His perfect peace to invade my heart as I let go of frustration and fear. Will you join me?

Monday, May 18, 2015

When the Caregiver Needs a Caregiver

Have you ever felt terribly alone and hopeless? I think those feelings come with the caregiving package as a general rule and perhaps everyone has felt them at one time or another. But when stuff starts to pile up on you it can make an already difficult situation even harder to deal with. The aide doesn't come in, the van broke down, or you, the caregiver doesn't feel well. Any of these can make for difficult days but then there are times they all happen at the same time. Even though we'd like to we just can't give up. What would we give up to? Where would we go? Despair can easily set in when situations are overwhelming. But one look at our loved one and we remember why we are doing this "job" to begin with. Somehow they help us keep it in perspective.

We can think of their vulnerability, their needs and just the fact that we love them and want to protect them and it helps us adjust our own attitude. That's when we seem to reach down a little further and dig out a better attitude and strength we didn't even know we had to face one more day. Are there ever days when you wonder if someone would have that kind of stick-to-it-iveness for you? Maybe we wonder that but we don't have time to dwell there - there's too much to get done to spend time thinking about that.

I'm thinking that God is the only one who is really sticking to it for the caregiver. We get weary, people who help us get weary - but God never gets weary. Some days I can feel like the energizer bunny and I keep going and going. Other days, I wind down and it takes all my energy and strength to just get out of the bed in the morning. God never feels that way. As a matter of fact, in Isaiah 40, verse 28 states that He never gets weary or tired. And the next verse says He gives strength to the weary. Days like today I have to raise my hand and say, "Me! I need strength to make it today!" And He always equips and encourages me from the inside out.

I am amazed at how He can encourage when there is no hope and strengthen when there is no might. So far I haven't seen an intake valve - but He puts it in there somewhere. Knowing He is with me and hasn't abandoned me along the way encourages me to take one more step. This morning I was reading in Psalm 95 where it says we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand. I wondered why the psalmist says people of His pasture and not the sheep of His pasture. Then I thought, it really covers everything. By being the sheep of His hand  puts us in His hands, where we are near His heart. And the people of His pasture puts us where our needs are met- we are well taken care of by the Master Caregiver.

Caregivers need to be reminded that as much care and love we put into taking care of our loved ones - God matches it in taking care of us. He watches us more closely and covers us more fully. I take comfort in the fact that He is my caregiver today. And for today - I can rest in that.

Today as I care for my son - I will look at each act of kindness and love and think about how God does that for me. My thoughts will be on His tender, loving care for me as I care for His child. And I will rest content in His arms as a small sheep trusts and relies on the shepherd. Will you join me?

Friday, May 15, 2015

Over the last year I had some of my own health problems and was even in the hospital for a few days. It was amazing how many people stepped up to help with my son during that time. You know all too well how miserable it can be to not feel well. It brings a wide range of emotions that are difficult to deal with and you can feel so inadequate. My daughter stepped right up to the plate and others drove in from out of town to give her a hand. And then of course, once I was better they were all gone! (smile)

During one visit to the doctor's office she prescribed me some meds for high blood pressure. (Go figure, right?) And she said that they would be good for me since they also helped calm down anxiety. I laughed and said, "You think I'm anxious?" I have always been high strung and being a caregiver hasn't replaced or changed any of that. Actually, I started running as a way to deal with the stress of caregiving and am now training for another marathon. You'd think that would alleviate some anxiety, wouldn't you?

Caregivers have to handle so many different things in a day our thoughts can run a hundred miles an hour or more. We have all the regular daily tasks and sometimes have them organized and manageable. But then let one thing get out of whack and "anxiety" doesn't even come close to describing how we can feel. But it only takes a few seconds of thinking it through and coming up with new strategies and it's all back on an even keel.

There are probably some anxious moments for the caregiver every single day. In Psalm 94:19 the psalmist says: When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your consolations delight my soul. Multiply is probably the best word to describe how our crazy thoughts can run away with us on any given day. Explode might be another appropriate way to describe it! But when our questions and thoughts are in "run away" mode we can stop, breathe and consider our true Help. And He will fill us with His peace, hope, comfort and joy.

Today I will work to control my anxiety and work at resting in Him and relying on Him. I will practice self control and not let my thoughts get away from me too quickly before I reel them back in. My thoughts will be on the hope, comfort and peace He provides me so I can make one more day. I will rest in Him today - will you join me?

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Can You Find One?

I noticed something different starting with Psalm 144. David changes the tone and starts these last few pieces with praise. Before that, he started several of them with feelings of despair and cries for help. I will be the first to say that when trouble pops up I'm going to go straight to Him first, there's no other refuge or shelter to run to for me. For several psalms David has been asking for the Lord's help and for the last few he shifts his focus to praise.

As caregivers we have good and bad days inside our cave. Our emotions can run very high and swing from one end of the spectrum to the other in a matter of a few minutes. Some situations, like mine, we deal with a living grief. My son is gone, but he's still here. For many, it's not going to get any better and there is no relief in sight. This can make for a rocky emotional situation. If you are like me some days you can handle it fine; other days - we just won't talk about! Suffice it to say that our emotions can be all over the place!

If we, like David, can turn our focus to praising God even in our very difficult situations we can help ourselves out. I will be the first to admit that some days I just don't feel like it. Period. But if I can talk myself in to picking up the guitar and strumming a few chords and maybe singing something like Psalm 61 I can find myself resting in His arms and filled with praise. Psalm 61 is a prayer for help that goes like this:

Hear my cry, O God
Attend unto my prayer
From the ends of the earth will I cry unto You.
When my heart is overwhelmed
Please lead me to the rock
That is higher than I.
For You have been 
A shelter from the storm
A high tower from the enemy.

And just those few phrases can give us a place to start. Sometimes we have to purposefully look for something to praise Him for. Honestly, I've had days where I've been angry with God for not taking me out of the situation. But if I take the time to look hard enough and long enough - there's always  something to praise Him for. When I start my day off with praise it's going to go a lot smoother. 

Sometimes we can get bogged down and have to find a "praise spot" during the middle of the day too. On one hand it can seem difficult to find something in our situations to praise Him for. But I can always start with Psalm 61 and thank Him for always being present, for being a safe refuge to run to when I'm on overload and for sheltering me during the storm.

Today I will purposefully praise Him for just being God. I will turn my thoughts to His ever-abiding presence in my life and for always being there to run to. My meditation will be on how He is that rock that is bigger than me and my situation and I will praise Him. Will you join me?

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

I am Your Servant

It's too bad that life doesn't have a "hold" button sometimes. Each caregiver has unique circumstances to deal with on a daily basis and it can be overwhelming. We get used to our "new normal" after awhile though. God equipped humans to be able to adjust and move forward. It can still take a long time to be "okay" with a lot of aspects of caregiving though. For instance going out can be a trying but rewarding experience for many. Even when you get used to it there is so much involved in just grabbing a few groceries it's exhausting. Common everyday tasks can be much more complicated for caregivers. Then add to that other life changes like aging parents and it can be overwhelming to say the least. In my case, my parents are aging and even though I am a caregiver for my handicapped son, my role with my parents is slowly evolving into that of a caregiver as well. What can we do when we are overwhelmed?

I know I spend a lot of time in the Psalms, but I just enjoy the way David is so open and honest about his thoughts, feelings and emotions. In Psalm 143 he is crying out for the Lord to hear his cries and in verse 4 he says my spirit is overwhelmed within me; my heart faints within me. Boy, what caregiver hasn't felt that at some time or another? There are days, thankfully not every day, where you just feel like you can't handle one more thing!

The other thing I like about David and the Psalms is that he talks himself out of it. As I read through the rest of Psalm 143 I found some strategies that I can adapt and use myself. They go something like this:

I meditate on Your doings
I stretch out my hands to you
I trust in You
I lift up my soul to You
I take refuge in You

Those statements are all mixed in with his heartfelt prayers for help. But the final statement in the psalm sticks out to me: I am Your servant. I think that with this statement David was handing it all, himself included, back to God to handle. To me it was a statement of total submission to God. Like he's praying and asking God for help, turning his thoughts and heart toward the Lord and then settling it all with a huge sigh and a I am Your servant. Period.

I think that may be the key when we are totally overwhelmed by all that life throws at us; yielding totally to Him. I want God to use everything that happens in my life to draw me closer to Him and to teach me more about Him and His ways. Personally, I don't think God causes these things to happen - they are just part of living; but since they have happened I don't want them to be wasted. I want to grow and learn in the midst of the trials. He has not given up on us and He won't stop working on us.

Today I will meditate on yielding my soul (mind, will and emotions) to Him. I will yield  my control and let God have it all: the good, the bad and the ugly! I will turn my thoughts and my heart to totally trusting Him to turn every situation around for something good. I will trust Him. Will you join me?

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Always on His Mind

It's easy to get lost in the shuffle of caregiving, isn't it? There are so many  tasks required to take care of someone else that we can forget to take care of ourselves. Aides, doctors, nurses and other professionals focus on our loved ones, and they should. But we can slowly slide back out of view and be nearly forgotten. It's easy to feel insignificant and small in the scheme of things.

There have been times since I became a caregiver that I would go days without talking to another person. Perhaps this is due to the age of technology. I might text with someone or "chat" via a social media outlet; but I've literally gone days without speaking to someone. Sometimes I miss the art of conversation. I want to hear someone laugh not just type "lol." We need to hear inflections in their voice and see facial expressions. When we don't, we can begin to feel so very alone and wonder if anyone cares, if anyone sees; or if anyone even thinks about us at all.

The good news is that we are always on His mind. As a matter of fact, God told Jeremiah that He knew him before he was formed in his mother's womb. In Jeremiah 1, the Lord spoke to the prophet and said Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. And before you were born I consecrated you. God knows us intimately even when people don't take the time to get to know us well. He is aware of our darkest, loneliest moments and we are on His mind. We are not forgotten. The truth is that we don't even know what people may be praying for us or thinking about us at any given time. But we can rest assured that God has us on His mind all the time.

David said it this way in Psalm 139 - How precious are Your thoughts about me, O God! They are innumerable! I can't even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up in the morning You are still with me! (NLT) 

Today I am thankful that He is always with me and I am always on His mind. My meditation today will be of His ever-abiding presence and His continuous thoughts of me! I will rejoice today that He does not forget me or my situation - but I am always on His mind. Will you join me?