Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Syncing Back Up

I'm a relatively active person, I think, and I'm a casual techie. This works well for me since I love to run and can use an activity band to monitor my progress and my health. It's amazing what that little wristband can tell me about my body.

It measures my heartbeat, which is the primary reason I use it. But it can tell me how many steps I take in a day, my average resting heartbeat, the minutes and intensity of my workouts, and the quality level of my sleep. But, from time to time it needs to be synced up with the app on my phone. I get some information from the wristband, but nothing like what I get when it's all synced up.

Once the band and the app are together, I can see lots more details about my workouts, sleep habits, weight loss (or gain!), and even the weather forecast for the next 7 days. It's amazing how much information can be stored on this little watch-like device. But, I don't get all the benefits unless I sync it up!

Well, this morning, I needed to be synced back up with the Word. Ever feel that way? We have the whole package because we are in Him. He's in us, we are in Him and He doesn't withhold a thing from us, but sometimes we get lazy and forget what we've got. As caregivers, we get tired, I know! Sometimes we are just flat out weary - we carry a lot. We do a lot. Every.Single.Day. If we are not careful, we start running on empty. No worries, though, we just need to take a few to sync back up with the Word.

I was reading in Isaiah 40 this morning. I love this chapter! It's got a little bit of everything and when it's all broken down it's quite the amazing sequence. It starts with God comforting His people. It's got some instructions like clear the way for the Lord,  and make a way for God to come through.  That's a thought right there - are we making a way for Him to come through our lives? Does He have our permission (not that He needs it) to walk through our day? Or to walk into our lives?

Isaiah goes on to talk about the breath of God. He encourages the reader to leave fear and look at our God. Verse 9 says - Here is your God! Then he shows us the tender side of God as He comes like a shepherd for His flock.Then the prophet goes into a description of the enormity of God and gives a brief description of creation. And then in verse 27, he assures us that God sees. And He ain't tired either.

After displaying His power, creating all things, protecting us and holding us tenderly, He doesn't grow tired. As a matter of fact, He still has strength to share. He gives strength to the weary. And He still has to give to those who are just wrung out. That's amazing.

Are we tired? He offers rest.
Are we weary? He offers strength.
Are we worn down? He offers new hope.

He's got whatever we need for this moment. And when we get into the next moment - He'll have what we need there too! He's got us covered, protected and filled with His strength. We don't have to rely on ourselves to get through the day - we can trust Him.

Today, I will refocus on Him. I will purposefully wait for Him to give me strength rather than relying on my own to carry me through. My meditations will be on His greatness, His power and I won't worry about my lack of it. I will remind myself that He doesn't grow weary of the journey. I can't wear Him out - He won't quit. And I will trust Him for one more day. Will you join me?

Monday, September 18, 2017

Detach-ables

Please forgive me in advance as my thoughts and studies have been all over the place this morning. The title I chose is because of how detached we can feel or become as caregivers. I'm sure we've all had friends who have detached emotionally because they were not sure what to do with us.

Sometimes it seems like people avoid us like the plague, like they're afraid we are going to ask something of them. Many seem to think we just want money - lol. I'm just shaking my head on that one. It seems like people think we are down and out just because we are caregivers. And while I appreciate their concern, and their heart - it's not stuff we need most. They don't realize we need them.

This morning I was thinking about Job's friends. When they saw his distress and pain - they came and sat. It says they sat for like a week and never said a word. That's because there weren't any words they could say that would make sense. They couldn't make anything any better by talking. They just sat with him. Speechless. But at least they sat there.

One of the hardest parts of caregiving is the emotional detachment from friends. They don't have, or don't think they have, what it takes to walk this out with us. They don't realize one of our biggest needs is their friendship - even in the hard times. But when those "hard times" don't just go away after awhile they detach. It's not their fault - they don't know what to do.

Sometimes friends emotionally detach because they can't bear your pain. It hurts them to see you like you are, or to see your loved one like they are. Our friends need permission to grieve too. In my personal situation, sometimes they don't know what to do with this Chris. They loved the old one - but this one is different and they can't adjust. I understand that. But it still leaves us to deal with their emotional detachment.

What I find cool about it all is that God never emotionally detaches. He is all in.All the time. I was reading in 1 Corinthians 6 this morning. In verse 11 it says we are washed, sanctified and justified in Christ. And He's not taking it back - He won't detach and walk away. We get a package deal in Him that's not retractable or detachable!

He also tells us He will never leave us or forsake us. Like I said, he's all in. I love that He won't leave and that His works can't be washed away by life. We are washed, period. We are sanctified, period. We are justified, period. It's all because we are in Him. It may feel like He is sitting quietly beside our pain like Job's friends, but He won't detach.. He won't take His works in us back. We are hidden in Him for all time - and for eternity too!

Today I will rejoice that He doesn't detach when life doesn't make sense. My thoughts will be on His completed work in us that life can't wash away. I'll turn my meditations to how we are complete in Him, and that we are seated in Him in heavenly places. I'll be thankful for His complete work and I will trust myself - my whole self body, soul and spirit - to Him for one more day. Will you join me?

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Courage to Grieve

To every caregiver out there – I applaud you – for your courage to grieve. For far too long, the world and the church have looked down on grieving. It’s so common to condemn a person for grieving and expect them to just shake it off. 

But caregivers have the uncanny ability to pull it all together for everyone else’s sake – so as to not make them feel uncomfortable. You’ll never know their grief. But caregivers grieve.

For many, it’s daily. For some, it’s grieving what could have been but will never be. For others, it’s grieving what was and will never be again. You have the power to grieve, the right to grieve, the courage to grieve.

You see, caregivers get up every morning looking to do the same thing they did yesterday, and the same things they will do tomorrow. Over and over and over again. Their soul gets lost in the shuffle and there’s grief over the life they can’t live – the one they won’t live. Because they are caring for another whole person. It takes courage to get up each morning knowing the day will be wrought with grief.

It may come as a surprise, following a memory. It may come as a pain wishing for what could be. It may come for no apparent reason at all. You may grieve the losses you see in your loved one. Or you may grieve the loss of your own life… but grief will come.

Yet every morning – your feet hit the floor with a list of must-dos and a lot of should-dos and a few probably-oughta-dos. Sometimes, grief is but a momentary distraction, sometimes it overshadows every.single.thing.you.do. But you shake it off – only because you have so much to do that you can’t deal with it – can’t be weighed down by grief. But not because you lack the courage to grieve – you just don’t have time.

For some caregivers, grief comes in the evening, at the end of the long day. Grief for what you didn’t get done. Or maybe there’s grieving for all you had to do, those unspeakable things that have to be tended to. Those things you do that make you uncomfortable, but must be done for your loved one. Greif can come knocking as you finally lay yourself down for the night, leaving many un-dones to face tomorrow. Grief can be for the things you no longer get to do for you…not that you want to anymore- it’s okay. But grief comes.

Grief can be over relationships – now gone by the wayside. You may grieve for all those you thought were close friends, but they didn’t have “it” to stay by your side for the long haul. Caregivers understand, not everyone can walk this walk with you – not even from a distance. But grieving comes over those you wish were still close. The solitary life of caregiving can be grievous, lonely and solemn. But you won’t tell anyone… when grief comes knocking. You may lower your head but for a moment – but not for long. You have the power to grief and you have the courage to grief – you just don’t have the time.

So you wipe your tears, lift your head and put your hands back on task. There’s much to do when caring for another – you have the courage to grieve – it is right there all.the.time. You understand it. No one else does. You know that grief will come back – frequently. Pain is a constant companion. You have the courage to hurt; to grieve. You have the courage to get up in the morning knowing full well it’s going to come knocking again. But you persevere, for the sake of your loved one. There’s no quit. There’s no give up. There’s no can’t do. Your loved one is foremost – you must keep going. You do keep going. You will keep going. In the midst of the pain, the misty tears and the grief. Because you love.

I love your courage to face uncertain days knowing that grief is certain. A sort of living grief that doesn’t ever quite let go. But because of love… you endure. But you do more than that – you joyfully endure. Why? Because you understand a piece of God’s love for you. You understand when He said He endured the cross – despising and disregarding the pain and the shame because you do it every day for the one you love.

You embrace the living grief because you know it won’t go away. But you never give in to the spirit of grief – and I applaud you. Caregivers face the grief head on without ever giving their soul to it. Courage to face it – and not be overcome by it. In case no one has told you today – You’re awesome! And you look a lot like Him.

 Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.


Friday, September 15, 2017

Greater Love

Sometimes, does it feel like we live in a prison, even though we joyfully serve our sentence caring for our loved one? And of course, I think there are those times (if we're all honest) when we not-so-joyfully serve too. Those times are few, but they do occur from time to time.

Personally, I've dealt with depression which is common for caregivers. I mean come on, we deal with a LOT! And it's day in and day out. We carry a heavy load, many of us by ourselves. Taking care of an entire other person is a difficult task. It's actually very complicated yet many of us have mastered it. We know how to get what we need for our loved ones, we are accustomed to their schedules and accommodating to adjustments that need to be made. It can be exhausting. And it can be rewarding. We just keep putting one foot in front of the other and moving through our days, weeks, months, and years. Because we love them.

Jesus told us that there is no greater love - than to lay down our lives for our "friends." I have to take from that statement that there's no greater love than laying down our lives for our loved ones. We are a picture of love. I truly believe I understand one fragment of the love for us that held Him on that cross - because it's the same love that holds us by our loved one's side even when it hurts.

We all learn to cope in different ways, and I've developed some of my own strategies for battling depression and other negative emotions that can try to sweep me away. Last night, as I was preparing for a lesson I did on Facebook live I found myself in an interesting passage. I was teaching out of Acts 16 where Paul and Silas were thrown into jail. They didn't give up. They didn't pout (I have!), they didn't sit there and cry or moan (I've done both!). They didn't cuss (I've done that too!).

At midnight - the end of one day and the start of another - they sang praises. We wouldn't have blamed them if they'd cried or fussed a bit! We'd have said to them what I'm sure has been said to you - it's okay to feel this way. And it IS! But there's a better way too. As they praised God even in their circumstance, their chains fell off and the doors sprung open.

I'm learning I can change the course of my day, my emotions, and my thoughts by taking a little praise break here and there. It can change the climate of my home and heart to find something (no matter how hard I have to look) to thank Him for. Psalm 77:11 says to me - if I don't see something He's doing right now, then I will thank Him for what He's done in the past. We can find something to thank Him for - and that's the place to start.

Today, I will be purposefully thankful. No matter how hard or long I have to think - I'll find something to be thankful for. My thoughts will be on Him and how great He is - no matter what may be staring me in the face. I will turn my meditations to all He is - and all He's done and let them overtake negative thoughts. I will set my mind on Him - and I will LET His peace rule in my heart one more day. Will you join me?

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

At the End of the Day

Last night as I was getting ready for bed, getting Chris' last bolus in, making sure he's dry and comfortable I realized something about myself. It seems that no matter how much I DO accomplish in a day, at the end of the day I feel like there was so much left undone.

The house is still standing, laundry is done, I finished some work tasks, lights are still on... I have coffee. In reality, a lot was accomplished but I can still feel so far behind. Of course, there's still a full list of things that have to be done tomorrow. But tomorrow, I'll get up and go through my caregiving routine, work at my jobs some (hopefully) and still feel at the end of the day like I left a lot unaccomplished. It's a vicious cycle really.

As caregivers, many of us get up in the morning with just as much to do today as we did yesterday. Nothing is ever really done - we do the same things over and over again. It can start to feel like we can never do enough - or personally, I start to feel like I'm not enough. Thankfully, He is enough! He is more than enough. And just like He carried me yesterday, He'll carry me through today. I can rest in that thought.

This morning I found this phrase in Psalm 138. In verse three, David says this: On the day I called, You answered me; You made me bold with strength in my soul. I thought about that for a little bit. He strengthens our soul - that part of us that is made up of the mind, will and emotions. The part of us that makes us - uniquely us. In Ephesians 3:16, Paul prayed that the believers would be strengthened with might by the Holy Spirit in the inner man.

Sometimes I can't imagine God walking this path with me. But I also can't imagine walking it without Him. No matter how I feel about my day, or at the end of my day, I know He walks with me and that's what keeps me putting one foot in front of the other. He is there with me at the end of the day - and at the start of the next day, when I rise - He'll already be there too.

Actually, He's already walked my days out. Long before we were born - He ordained our days. We are His. We are His work. David ends this psalm with a plea - do not forget the works of Your hands. And we can rest assured He won't. Just like we get up every day and go through the routine of caring for our loved ones - He is waiting as daylight dawns to care for us for one more day too.

Today, I will focus on the truth that He is walking this out with me. I'll meditate on the truth that He's already been right here - and when the day is done - He'll still be right here. I will wait on Him and let Him strengthen my soul. I'll work on resting in Him - and letting Him carry me through one more day - will you join me?

Monday, September 11, 2017

Shelter in Place

First off, let me apologize for being absent for so long. I don't need to explain how hectic a caregiver's life can get to you guys. Suffice it to say the last few weeks have been a battle, but I'm back up and going somewhat. I've taken a lot of time to just think things through - assess my life and look at where I am in this journey. Nothing's easy, is it? But we keep putting one foot in front of the other. 

This morning, I was sharing with a group on Facebook that in 1986 I was very ill. The doctors never really figured out what it was, but I was so sick. I lost down to skin and bones, had absolutely no energy or appetite. It was dire and my mom even went so far as to start planning my funeral. During that time, I found one verse to hold on to. I was so weary I couldn't hold my Bible up to read but a verse at a time. I found it easier to just memorize it. So I did. It's found in Psalm 57:1 and goes like this:

Be merciful to me O God, be merciful to me
For my soul trusts in You
In the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge
Until the destruction passes.

In the old King James Version the last part says "until calamities are past." Now here's the "problem" for caregivers. The destruction doesn't just pass by it. Our souls are constantly being attacked. It's like living in a war zone day after day. Circumstance tries to chip away at both our faith and our sanity. It can take everything we have to hold it together on the rougher days. But the good news is that we can stay in His sheltering arms. He is always there to help us, comfort us and to carry us when needed!

I thought about those sitting through the hurricane in Florida today. Many of them have "sheltered in place." They pull everything in, close the storm shutters and wait for the storm to pass. It comes through and beats their houses unmercifully. Eventually, after some very long, dark hours, the storm goes away and they come out to assess the damages. 

Today, caregiving feels like that. But the thing is with caregiving is that the storm doesn't dissipate. Some days it beats on the house harder than others, but it doesn't go away. I think that may be one of the most difficult things we face. There's not an end. When other people are facing situations we can say, "this will pass." But that's not true in caregiving. It is more like the energizer bunny - it keeps going and going! lol. 

Now here's what I am thinking today. We are in a safe spot. The rest of the world cannot see us or experience what we are going through. The storm is ravaging our house - but we are sheltered in place.In Him.  And that's the best place to be.

So even on the tougher days, and there are no easy days, we can stay sheltered in place in the shadow of His wings. Though life is raging and pounding on the outside of our house - we are safe in His arms.

Today I will remind myself that I am safe in His arms. I'm going to sit and let Him hold me. I'll practice giving Him my cares rather than trying to carry them on my own shoulders. My thoughts will be on how safe and peaceful it is with Him and I will "let the peace of God rule in my heart" today. I won't try to get out of His lap, but I will stay sheltered in place as the storm rages around me. And I will trust Him for one more day. Will you join me?

Monday, August 21, 2017

Sons of God

I've been doing a study in 1 John over this past weekend, I'm trying to write a study guide for this short and powerful book. There are several recurring themes that John keeps returning to, even though there's only 5 chapters. It wasn't divided up into chapters when he sent it as a letter to the church, that's the way we did it. So why did he keep saying some things over and over? Maybe he, or God, had a message they were trying to get across.

Of course, we think about love and see it throughout John's gospel as well as his letters. But another topic that keeps coming up is how we are sons of God. So I thought about what that meant to the church and culture back then, what it means to the church today, and what it might mean for caregivers.

I think sometimes these very significant terms become cliche and we lose the depths of their meanings. So I purposefully stopped and thought about what it means to be a son of God. Obviously a son or daughter is being implied here - a child of God. I thought about how I'm my daddy's child. He loves me. He cares for me. He provided for me when I was a child and even taught me to be a responsible adult. Sometimes he sat down with me and taught me specific skills other times I learned by just hanging out with him.

Then I thought about how I am a parent. I love my kids and grand-kids! I repeated the same process with my kids when they were growing up. I always went for relationship over what I preferred they do or not do as they got older. And we developed pretty deep friendships in the process. Then, the unthinkable happened. My son was in a wreck. He's not the same. He can't reciprocate my love, he can't hold a conversation, he can't do the things young men are supposed to do - like marry and give me grand-babies. But he's still my son and I love him no less.

It can be easy for us to draw this line of separation between us and God - He's up there in the sky and we're down here trying to do life. But just like I don't love my son less because of his difficulties, even though it pains me greatly, he didn't stop being my son. And no matter what life throws at us or how badly we mess up, or how dysfunctional we are, like my son - we are still the sons of God.

Timothy says, He knows those who are His.

We are His and He's okay with that! He doesn't feel stuck with us - we are His child. He is going to care for us no matter what life throws at us - just like I continue to care for my son even though he's not able to do anything normal 33 year old men can do. When he can't speak - I speak for him. When he can't walk - I push him in a chair. When he can't eat - I feed him. etc. God has this same watch-care over us as His children. While it doesn't amaze me that I take care of my son - it does amaze me how God takes care of me - because I'm His child. 

Today I'm going to think about how I am God's child, and nothing can change or disrupt that. He cares for me like I care for my children (only more). My thoughts will be about what it means to be His child, and I'll meditate on how He cares for me even when I'm broke. He provides what ever level of care is needed for me - because He cares for me. I'll be thankful that He is my Father - and He's not looking to ditch me along the way! And I'll just crawl up next to Him today and tell Him thank you. I'll let Him love me as His child today - will you join me?