Thursday, January 29, 2015

Fighting the Downward Spiral

For caregivers, emotions can run on edge. Oh, eventually we adjust to the hectic life and can hold it together through all the basic stuff. We really don't have much of a choice so we get used to aides not showing up, not getting enough supplies, and advocating for our loved one on a daily basis. The daily chores become routine as do all the things we have to get done to care for another person. For some of us that basically means you do everything twice because they need total care. We adjust, figure out we are still alive, and we even learn to laugh again. And then something happens.

We get used to the craziness and then a vehicle breaks down, the hot water heater malfunctions or we get sick. It really doesn't take too much because we run on overload. For me personally it can mean the emotions go toward that downward spiral. Even though there are some strategies that I've learned to use to help prevent me from bottoming out - it is a difficult fight and each step "back up" takes every bit of energy that can be mustered.

In times like these I think of David and of one scripture in particular: David encouraged himself in the Lord. (1 Samuel 30:6) And like the caregiver, he had to -- no one else was around! David had been anointed king but had instead faced a multitude of troubles. He had a lot on his plate at this time since his own had rejected him, he was running from Saul, had joined in with "the enemy" (Philistines), and they didn't trust him to fight with them. THEN the Amalekites came in and tore up Ziklag and took all the women and children. David was just a little bit upset. Like the overloaded caregiver, he already had enough on his plate. But he stopped the downward spiral and encouraged himself in the Lord. 

If my sources are correct, David wrote Psalm 16 while facing the struggle at Ziklag. He starts out with a prayer for God to preserve him  and then declares that he will trust the Lord. I'd say that's a great place to start each day. He says things like:

You are my portion
I will bless the Lord
I have set the Lord always before me
I will not be moved (because He is at my right hand)

It sounds to me like David knew how to reach down, up or around and find his source and supply in God. I think two things that stick out to me today as I fight the strong pull of the downward spiral are in verses 9 and 10. In verse 9 David says My flesh will rest in hope.  I really like that! And in the next verse he says You will not leave my soul in Sheol. I'm going to take that to mean for me that God will not leave my soul in turmoil and anguish. To encourage himself, David looked toward God first and then reminded himself of the role God played in his life. Verses 7-8 line that out pretty well. Here David says:

I will bless the Lord
I will set Him before me
I will not be moved

Then in verse 9 he says therefore my heart is glad and my  glory rejoices - and  I will rest in hope.

Today I will meditate on who God is to me and I will rest in hope. I will set my mind on the truth that He is with me and He has not and will not abandon my soul (mind, will, emotions). I will try to see myself in His hand; in His heart today. I will also be reading this psalm over and over today. Will you join me?

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

After all That?

We are finally at the end of Psalm 119! I've said before that I really enjoy this psalm I'd encourage you to take the time to read it again and again. David's heart is revealed in this psalm. We see him on the mountain rejoicing to broken and deep sorrow. But overall it reveals  a heart that is seeking the ways of God.

I find the final verse of this chapter very interesting. After all the seeking and longing after God the last verse says: I have gone astray like a lost sheep. What is that? All of this talk of praising God, longing after His ways and His word and you go astray? It was just a few verses ago in v. 165 that he said Great peace have those who love Your law and nothing shall offend them. How can I love the word, be offence-less and then go astray? It happens.

Thankfully, David didn't leave it hanging like that - his next phrase (or perhaps prayer) is Seek Your Servant. After penning 176 verses about how he is seeking God, he is asking God to seek him. I like that! When we are seeking God with all of our hearts - looking into His word for guidance and direction; and we accept His strength for the journey - all we need is a glance from Him. What peace it brings just to know he is looking our way. We are not politely ignored!

It's so easy to get lost in the shuffle even when we are seeking Him. Sometimes I need Him  to find me!

Today I will meditate on the truth that He is seeking me with more intensity than I am seeking Him! I'll consider how much He values me that He would come looking for me on those days I just don't have the strength to try. I'll enjoy His embrace today...will you join me?

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Breath of Life

You can probably tell by now (assuming you're still reading) that I like Psalm 119. It's the longest chapter in the Bible but it is so rich. Today we'll look at verses 153 to 160. David starts out with a plea for the Lord to consider his affliction. Ever felt that way? There are times we can feel very loved and watched over and the next thing you know we feel like He's packed up, moved away and left us to ourselves. (or maybe that's just me!) David must have felt some of those emotions to ask God to consider him once again.

Something that seems to stand out in these few verses is David's request to be revived once again. It's noticeable throughout the entire chapter but three times in this passage he asked for the lord to revive him.

revive me according to Your Word (v. 154)
revive me according to Your judgments (v. 156)
revive me according to Your mercy (v. 159)

It makes me think that David didn't care what means God used to do it -- he just needed to be revived! Boy, can the caregiver relate to that on some days.Our cry can easily become "give me life!". There are days when the Word seems to be beamed down from heaven straight into our hearts; and days it feels like we couldn't hear God speak if He used an audible voice. But no matter what it feels like on any given day, the word is life. (John 6:63) When we give our attention to seeking Him and His word, it brings life to our soul whether we see it, feel it or not. It goes directly into our hearts and feeds our faith - even when our flesh feels like we are in a major disconnect. 

Caregivers tend to be survivors - we can't help it, really. It becomes our very nature over time if it wasn't before we began the caregiving journey. But sometimes we have to admit we cannot do it ourselves. One thing I've heard myself say is that caregiving has shown me how strong I am; but it has equally revealed my weaknesses. We must learn to trust in Him - more than we trust ourselves.We have to become more dependent on Him and trust Him to breathe His life into us through His word.

Today I will meditate on His word and think about how it breathes life into my spirit. I'll pray for His strength to make the next part of the journey no matter what it brings; and I will rely on His strength instead of my own. Will you join me?

Monday, January 26, 2015

Mercy's Filter

I don't know many caregivers who wouldn't pay for a good night's sleep. Personally, it's not too bad for me overall but for short periods of time I may have to get up during the night. Early on I secured a mattress that helps prevent bed sores which means I don't have to turn my son every 2 hours. It really helps when we can get chunks of sleep like 4-6 hours at least. But then there are still those nights usually several in a row when I am disrupted throughout the night. Usually on top of just having to get up during the night there are other issues occurring like illness or discomfort to address.

David says in Psalm 119:148-149:  My eyes are awake through the night watches, that I may meditate on Your word. Hear my voice according to Your lovingkindness... I must say that when I am up during the "night watches" it's not always so I can meditate on the Word. In fact, it's never so I can meditate on His Word. You really don't want to know the kinds of things I think or say when my sleep is disrupted. But I can promise that my prayers are not always pure at 3 in the morning. I'm usually concerned for my son and so my prayers may sound more like yelling at God things like, "Where are You now?" or "Can You even hear me?" I have crazy thoughts like  can you see me? Have You even noticed my situation? Do You have any answers? Is there any hope?

...just bein' honest.

But the psalmist also prayed for the Lord to hear me according to Your lovingkindness or mercy. I pray that God hears my cries for help through His mercy and not from my desperation. Perhaps He filters my earnest anguished thoughts through mercy's filter. I really believe He does. When we are at our most desperate point - He looks at us through mercy not disdain. He sees we are desperate - He knows we need Him. And He extends His mercy every time.

The last portion of verse 149 reads this way: revive me according to Your justice. David is asking God to hear me and revive me. This is my prayer today.

Today I will meditate on how He extends His mercy even to me! I'll think about how He filters my cries through His mercy and revives me by breathing His life into my being. Will you join me?

Thursday, January 22, 2015

You're an Original!

No two people are exactly alike. Even identical twins who look alike can be very different in their thought processes and ways they deal with life. No two caregivers are alike and no two situations are alike. We are all originals - worth saving.

In Psalm 119:94 the psalmist states: I am Yours, save me! Our flesh is just dirt and it's not what God is interested in saving. We are a spirit being and God saves the real us - that part of us that is not going to die. There is only one  of us - only one spirit being that makes us - us. We are an original through and through and God sees us as worth saving. He went to extremes to make sure we had a way to get back to Him.

I think there is a lot in this desperate plea for salvation. The two verses prior state this: Unless Your law had been my delight, I would then have perished in my affliction. I will never forget Your precepts for by them You have given me life. It would be very easy for caregiving to consume us and for many it does mean losing our own lives to care for another. But even in our affliction - His law, His word can be our delight. We must admit that sometimes we hold on to it with just a little thread of strength! But it sustains us even in our affliction. His word gives us life and light to make it through each day.

As life continues to shape us into the individuals we are, we must continue to hold on to His word. It's too easy to give up and become bitter and hard. But when life gets hard we must cling to His word with even more diligence and allow it to shape us until we look like Him. This is our comfort in our affliction that we can still look like Him - His word still works in us and for us. We do not have to perish in any affliction - we may have to endure it! But His word is able to sustain us and give us life.

Today my meditation will be on the truth that He gives me life. His word gives me the strength to breathe. I'll turn my heart and mind to accepting His help for the journey instead of trying to make it on my own. Will you join me?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Walking it Out

It can be the day-to-day grind that is so difficult for the caregiver. Even though each day can bring it's own set of "surprises" and circumstances, the caregiver's life just goes on. There is often no relief or end in sight. If we are honest, no matter how positive we choose to be and how hard we remain focused, there are times when it seems overwhelming. Our situation can be constant and unchanging. Some have hope of a "better" day while others quite frankly, do not. Joni Eareckson Tada says that disability is just so daily. It's the same for the caregiver - there isn't always a break. It's not as much about learning how to "take a break" in the middle of the journey - as it is learning how to walk it out.

What I mean by walking it out is how we handle the day-to-day grind. How do we respond when pressure rises in an already pressure-filled situation? (I won't tell how horrible my responses are if you won't! - or maybe I'm the only one who explodes now and then!) Sometimes it can seem like we are dealing with thousands of issues on a daily basis - and others forget that there is actually so much more to our lives than just caregiving - even though it consumes our lives.

We have children, grandchildren, aging parents, our own health issues, financial decisions, friends, and perhaps tons of other responsibilities too. How we walk it out says a lot about us and our character.

In Psalm 119:74 says this: Those who fear You will be glad when they see me because I have hoped in Your word. This is how I want caregiving to appear in my life - when others see my walk - they find joy and hope because they see that I have hoped in His word. I don't want them to see the frustration, agitation or craziness I can portray. I hope they can look past all that and see that in the middle of the storm I am clinging to Him, that I find hope in Him.

It seems life is really about learning to trust Him no matter what comes. One hymn said it this way: He is all my hope and peace. I must agree. And even on the crazy days - He is a constant source of peace and hope.

Today I will meditate on the truth that He is my peace - He is my hope. I will turn my thoughts to His peace and put my hope in  Him. "Put" is a verb - an action word. I will focus on actively placing my hope in Him - for He is my hope and peace.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

On Our Own?

Life can bring with it many afflictions - sometimes life just hurts. And it doesn't need any help from unexpected tragedies or sickness - it's just painful. It is really up to us how we choose to respond to pain life deals out. And don't you hate it when someone tells you it's a character building  experience? What experience is not a character builder? In each circumstance we face we are staring down a choice - how are we going to handle this?

Are we going to fall apart? Run crying to a friend? Give up and quit? Shut down our emotions? You may list anything else here that is your MO (Mode of Operation)! I'm not saying that these are right - or wrong - just typical responses when we don't know how to deal with situations. But no matter what - eventually we have to work through it and live. Caregivers are no different. We don't get a separate instruction manual than the rest of the world! Our choices are the same as everyone else's and our decisions just as individual as the next guy.

In Psalm 119:50 the psalmist states: This is my comfort in my affliction: for Your word has given me life.  I clung to this scripture years back as the very fact that His word still "quickens" me, still speaks to me, still brings healing, hope and peace even in my affliction - is a very comforting thing. Wouldn't it be awful if when we faced trials His word shut down and waited for us to come around? Thankfully it's not that way! His word is alive, the writer of Hebrews said.

Verse 52 says basically that the psalmist comforted himself by remembering God's word. Ever been there before? Caregiving can be a lonely place and we can live in social isolation. There may not be anyone nearby to help lift your hands and your heart during those dark nights of the soul that are unavoidable. But when we are on our own - we still have His word and we can comfort ourselves.

As a matter of fact, verse 55 gives us another clue to how rough it was for the psalmist. He states I remember Your name in the night. It's those dark, lonely times that can get us isn't it? That's when we feel  the most alone - but when we are "on our own" is when we have to dig down and let His word comfort us. That's right - we actually have to be willing and yielded to His word to receive His comfort.

Today I will meditate on being yielded to His word. I will turn my thoughts to Him and put my heart in His hands. I will let His word bring me comfort, peace direction and correction today. (Correction? who said anything about that?!)  Will you join me?