Thursday, February 23, 2017

What's That in Your Eye?

There are many aspects about caregiving that are just flat out difficult. It's not for the fainthearted or weak, that's for sure! :-)
Each day can have its own challenges that only caregivers understand. But one thing that I feel is a prevalent battle is the social isolation. My social life is virtually non-existent. And for those who can get out some - it's an understatement to say it's way different from BC (before caregiving).

I can only share how I feel, and maybe it's just me, but I can feel like an insignificant bump on the face of the earth. Not only do I not have a social life, but I feel like I am more of a burden on society than a contributor. There are times I have to stay completely off social media because it can trigger a battle with depression.

BC I was a goer. I loved to travel, I loved to go. I was always hiking, exploring, driving new roads and finding new adventures wherever I was. For me, when I see people posting pictures of their latest vacation, or weekend getaway to the beach, I can start to feel even more isolated and deprived. The caregiver doesn't always have the freedom to go and do like we'd like to.

Yesterday, I found out some decisions about my parents had been made without my input. It wasn't really a bad decision, it just hurt that I wasn't a part of it. Does that make sense? Not only was this decision made without my participation - it basically cut me out of the decision--making process for the future as well. Not really that big of a deal. However, it drove me into a deeper aloneness that seemed to swallow me whole.

It felt as though I was being told one more time - just be your son's caregiver - you are not important. I felt rejected, not needed. Insignificant.

As I awakened this morning, these feelings of insignificance were still swirling around in my head. I struggled to make some sense of it, to find a way to wash it away. So I asked God what He thought. I asked, Am I also insignificant to You? My immediate thought  - I'm sure He whispered it to me - was that I am the apple of His eye.

Now I am familiar with the phrase from scripture but I had to look it up. David prayed in Psalm 17:8 for the Lord to keep him as the apple of His eye. I noticed one translation said the daughter of the eye. Since I'm a girl - I liked that! Then in Zechariah 2:8, God told the prophet that He would protect Jerusalem and that whoever touches her was touching the apple of His eye. I smiled. It felt like God was trying to tenderly tell me He's got me.

I may feel isolated. I may feel socially unacceptable. I am different - and I'm okay with that. Caregivers are still human, you know! (Even though we've been known to pull off some pretty-near super human feats! - where's my cape? lol) We still feel. We can still contribute. It's just different. And even though family, friends and society may feel differently about caregivers - God doesn't.

Well, maybe He does. Maybe, just maybe He pulls us in a little closer, protects us a little more closely, and speaks tenderly to us a little more often. Because caregiving doesn't remove us from being an object of His love.

Today I'm going to look at God knowing I am what is in His eye. My meditations will be on His unchanging love and tenderness toward me. I'll turn my thoughts to how He holds me, He loves me even in my craziness. In my loneliness he hasn't abandoned me. I'll think about how He's walking this out with me day after day. He doesn't quit when it gets ugly. My pain is not repulsive to Him. I am not repulsive to Him. He cares. And with that, I will trust Him for one more day. Will you join me?

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Slightly Irregular

Did you ever shop at an outlet mall and find great deals on clothing marked slightly irregular? Usually they function just as well as other items, but some little something was missing, or didn't look exactly like most. To say the caregiver's life is slightly irregular is perhaps a great understatement, but our lives, our norm - is very different from the rest of the world. Everything we do centers around what's best for someone else and we shape our days around their needs.

Virtually everything we do is different from our daily chores, eating schedules, bathing routines to outings (if we can do them). Many caregivers can do some normal things - but there's so much more planning that goes into some of life's simplest chores. Just going to the grocery store can require lots more work for a caregiver. You may have to deal with equipment, take certain supplies, load and unload a chair into a handicap van, or you may be unable to go at all. Life's simplest chores can be quite complicated.

With lives so "different" it can start to feel like you stick out like a sore thumb. Nothing is normal for caregivers. Sometimes, I think about getting out even to do something simple like going to the store, and I get tired just thinking about all I have to do to make that happen. So I stay home. That's happened to me more than once.

If we are not careful, we can slip into feeling like our lives don't matter at all. We can feel like a slightly irregular pair of jeans that just don't fit right, slightly off. Everything can become uncomfortable. That's when I start looking for something, anything "normal."

My days look different, my job looks different, my whole life looks different. But God looks at caregivers with the same love He looks at everyone. The price Jesus paid is the same for us as for the rest of the world. There are no lines in the Kingdom of God to separate out caregivers and their loved ones. We are still part of His kingdom, we are still His children, we are still His beloved.

This is a common theme throughout these devotions because I have to bring myself back here often. But our standing in the Kingdom of God did not, will not and cannot change when we become caregivers. Our callings are still in tact, our giftings are still the same and everything afforded His children - is still ours. Even though we live a slightly irregular life, every scripture still applies to us. Caregiving doesn't exempt us from anything!

Today I will meditate on the fact that God is still my King, my God, my fortress, my Savior. I'll turn my thoughts to the things in the Kingdom that don't  change with caregiving. I'll think about His grace, His mercy, His forgiveness, and His love today. I'm going to let Him be my rock today. I'll meditate on this scripture nevertheless the foundation of God stands sure, the Lord knows those who are His. I'll rest in the truth that He knows I am His. And I will let that carry me through today and I will trust Him for just one more day. Will you join me?

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Some Things Never Change

There's an old country song I thought of this morning. It goes something like some days are diamonds, some days are stones some days the bad times won't leave me alone. Ever have one of those days? Ever have a series of those days?

It's funny (odd - not haha) that one day I can be so depressed and down and the next wake up ready to take on the world once again. It may be the fact that as caregivers there's not really any other choice so we suck it up and keep moving forward.

I've often wondered if I was spiritually schizophrenic since I can have it all together one second and totally lose it the next. (I'm sure I'm the only one who has EVER felt this way!) One second I'm totally resting and trusting in Him - and the next I'm so angry with God and have tons of questions I'm hurling at Him. God is so patient with me. He really is big enough to carry us - to carry me along with all my baggage. My stuff will never be bigger than Him - even if it seems to be in my own eyes.

Isn't it far too easy to get distracted though? We don't even have to try. Our list of daily duties is so long it embarrasses others who claim to be "busy."  You know it's true! Just taking care of another whole person is a full-time job. We typically do double of everything, especially when there are specific special needs.

On top of caregiving, many have jobs and other responsibilities, it can be quite overwhelming. Since we juggle so many things it makes sense that it can all crash in on us with the slightest misstep. Because we are fearless caregivers - we can reshuffle, pick up the mess and find a way to carry on....at least most days. Other days (I can only speak for myself) it comes crashing in around me and I just sit and stare. Eventually, I'll figure it out, brush myself off, roll up my sleeves and get going again.

In the hecticism of caregiving I can get lost in the shuffle. I lose my focus and forget....a lot of things. But this morning as I got up early to read my Bible I was reminded of a couple of things. Somehow, I ended up in Exodus 34:14. The NLT I have says this: He is a God who is passionate about His relationship with you. I thought about that for awhile because I can be blinded by caregiving and forget the basics.

Caregiving can be big and looming. It can be blinding and numbing. It's so daily. It never lets up. But this morning I'm reminded of a simple truth. He really does love us - and our situations do not change that unending love. His mercy is forever. I'm reminded of a scripture in particular:

Your unfailing love is higher than the heavens.
Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.

As quirky as we can be, He never gives up on us. He is always reaching for us and extending His love and mercy toward us. He really is faithful even when we are not.

Today I am going to try to stay focused on His faithfulness rather than my unfaithfulness. I will direct my thoughts to His love and meditate on His endless mercies toward me. I'm not sure how He continues to love me in my craziness, but I'll think about how patient He is with me. And I'll be thankful that He never gives up! And with that I will trust Him for one more day. Will you join me?

Monday, February 20, 2017

I'm No Job

Let me just get this out there - I'm no Job!  I've been thinking about him a lot and how his response to trouble when it comes is very much NOT like mine. I whine a lot more than he does and honestly, praise doesn't come that easy. Oh, I finally get there - but I always seem to take the long way around.

When Job's trouble started he went straight to his knees; and when it got even more complicated He worshiped. I did not. He seemed so at peace with his life whether he could physically see God's blessings or was standing there stripped bare. Job said we need to take both good and bad from the hand of the Lord. And he said that when things were bad.

For a long time now I've noticed that people tend to say "God is good" only when things go their way. You know, they get a raise, their loved one escapes a horrific wreck, a kid graduates from college, or someone gets healed. Why is it we don't hear that when someone gets fired, a loved one is injured in a car crash or a kid drops out of college? lol I notice we only  say it when the world is on our side.

Here stands Job who was more than just a wealthy man. His "friend" Eliphaz describes Job in the first part of chapter 4 as one who encouraged many a troubled soul to trust in God and as one who supported the weak. Yet here he stands with empty hands and broken body still trusting God. Now sadly, I cannot say I've done that.

This weekend was a series of events that left me emotionally drained and fighting off a cloud of depression. I'll spare you the details because I assume as caregivers you've at least been there on occasion. For me it's  about the time some things seem to be coming together, my son makes improvements, work is constant and I am keeping up and this very abnormal life is chugging along decently, then some little cog gets stuck and I get stuck once again. I stomp around a bit, shake my fist at God for letting this happen to me and my family, and just get overall grumpy.

It seems the whole point of Job's test was to see if he would curse God to His face. But Job did not. He continued to trust, continued to praise, kept on worshiping, and did not waiver in his faith. I on the other hand, when I crash like I did this weekend, eventually come back around to trust and worship. Maybe my trip through emotional distress back to worship isn't taking quite as long as it used to, but I still crash and take that little journey. I can definitely say I am no Job. But I am getting there. Slowly.

Today, rather than condemning myself to die a thousand deaths (lol) I'm going to encourage myself to worship. I'll turn my focus to the things I've seen God do rather than what I think He's not doing. And even though it's not been my immediate response, I'll say with Job blessed be the name of the Lord. I'll remind myself that God is good period, no matter what happens in the day of a caregiver's life. I'll meditate on His goodness, His forgiveness, and His never-ending mercy toward me today. And for just one more day - I'll lay aside my emotions and worship Him for who He is - not for what I want. I'll trust Him for one more day. Will you join me?

Friday, February 17, 2017

Actionable Items

Nothing new around here. I woke up this morning with my mind going 900 miles an hour. It seems there's been so much going on. But of course, that's nothing new for the caregiver, right?

Today I have a new aide - just for Fridays. His other one comes the other three days of the week on schedule all the time - but for some reason can't seem to show up on Fridays consistently. It's one of  the frustrations we have to endure from time to time. Why can't people just do their jobs? It would be so beneficial. But with a new aide that as to be "certified" to do my son's range of motion which means another nurse visit; it complicates my morning schedule. Again.

But this is the new normal.

So this morning I got up and reached for my Bible and thumbed through a few pages looking for a morsel that would carry me through the day. I ended up back at a familiar psalm. It's one I've clung to for years and don't plan on moving away from anytime soon.

Psalm 46 starts and ends with powerful statements. Even though I've read it countless times it still fills my heart. The first verse God is our refuge and strength a very present help in trouble. I still run to Him as my refuge - and I still rely on Him for my strength. And I've always loved the phrase very present. That's a powerful combination I think. I can hide in Him - He gives me strength and He is always present with me.

Now here's the thing - these are what I'm going to call actionable items. At work we do a lot of analysis on websites and we look for areas we can take action on. What can we do? So as I am looking at this favorite verse of mine, I'm seeing my part too. God is always present - that's His part. He is there. He is here. He is period. My part is to go to that refuge and rest. Trying to rest can actually be a lot of work, especially for caregivers!

But further on down in verse 10 we'll find a couple more actionable items. Verse 10 says to be still. That in itself can be a tall order for high strung, Type A individuals such as myself. But it also says know.  We can take action on both of these - we can stop striving, or be still and just know that He is God. No matter what life throws at us or what a day brings He is still God. And in the craziness of the day I have before me - I'm going to do just that.

Today I'm going to work at being still. I'll meditate on the truth that He is God and nothing can dethrone Him. Nothing interrupts His kingship. This means I can always run to Him. My meditations for today will be on his presence in my hectic crazy life. And I'll turn my thoughts to hiding in Him as my refuge. I'll work (take action) on my soul - by quieting it before a holy God. And I will rest in Him and trust Him for one more day.Will you join me?

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Slightly Inconvenienced

This week I've been trying to make arrangements for my upcoming trip. This is the fourth year for my daughter and I to take a weekend away. Sometimes it's so difficult to get out for a day or two. Of course, this planning is on top of all the normal daily stuff I have to do.

I had the weekend all lined out and at the last minute, the sitter for Friday cancelled on me. I was just shy of frantic, a little bit desperate and had to fight off depression's tightening grip.

Times like those start my mind going in a whirlwind. I felt like I was inconveniencing everyone. I'm not a person who likes to ask for help often, and most of the time I'd just as soon do it myself. But I can't sit and get out both! lol It's the curse of independence - sometimes good and sometimes bad.

First of all, I hate to ask for help, but you know there are always people who say Call me if you need anything. But they really don't mean it. Well, they seem to mean it until you call, right? Then it's this or that excuse and for me, it can feel like I am really disrupting their lives. So, I just don't ask. It's honestly easier that way and no one (except me) is inconvenienced.

Caregiving is "slightly" inconvenient. For me, my world stopped with a phone call and never returned to normal. I was in Chicago enjoying life's adventure and headed to Africa the next January and it all screeched to a stop. Dreams crushed, life on "hold" I became a caregiver to my adult, now handicapped son. Not what dreams were made of in my teen years, you know? Not my picture of how life was supposed to turn out.

On one hand, caregiving is a joy - I'm glad I'm the one who gets to take care of my son. I do so because of the great love I have for him. Yet it is not convenient to get things done - fight with agencies and providers, work with lazy aides, and just make it through anything-but-routine days.

As I was being engulfed in the dark cloud of depression yesterday and my emotions were running a muck, I had to think of all the ways God has provided over the years. I sat down with my Bible and coffee (that's a powerful duo!) and actually thought about crying. The tears were...right... there... but I find them useless.

I chose to give my "inconvenience" to God. I asked Him for help. And by the end of the day it had all worked out. Not only that, but future trips I may want to take are covered too. (And it's going to save me some money!)

Once again I'm reminded even in the midst of my frustration that my help comes from the Lord. Nurses, aides, case managers and even family are not my "help." Psalm 121 says I will look to the Lord who made heaven and earth. 

Today my meditation will be on seeing Him as my help. I'll run to Him today with my cares once again. My thoughts will be on letting Him be my strength - instead of trying to be my own. Today I will work on letting Him be my peace. I won't ask Him for peace and then walk away wringing my hands.  I'll rest and let Him work today as I trust Him and rest in Him for one more day. Will you join me?

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Question Queen

My Uncle Calvin always said to "follow peace." I was thinking of that this morning when I got up and my mind was a whirlwind of questions, planning and just getting ready to face another very busy day. (Ha - like that's something new, right?)

My first thought was of the scripture when Jesus was in the boat with His disciples and He stood up and said to the storm, "Peace, be still." I was longing for Him to speak those words to my heart this morning.

On my way to finding that passage, I found myself in Matthew 19. In verse 16 the story of the rich, young ruler begins. I found it interesting so I camped there for a bit. Now, those who know me, know I am the Question Queen. I have a question for just about everything. It can be rewarding sometimes - and a burden other times.

I hadn't realized how many questions were in this passage. The young ruler starts by asking Jesus what he needed to do to obtain eternal life. Jesus answered him with a question - Why are you asking me about what is good? And then answered the initial question by telling the young ruler to keep the commandments.

Now as I recall, there are only 10 commandments Jesus was referencing, but the young man bravely asked which ones? Jesus was patient. I would have smacked the guy and asked him which ones he really didn't want to keep. I found it interesting that Jesus only quoted the ones which dealt with how we treat others. He didn't mention the Sabbath or idols. And of course the (somewhat cocky in my opinion) ruler said he had already kept those and then he asked another question - What am I lacking?

Jesus answered that question too - He told the ruler to sell all you have, give to the poor and follow Me. I'm guessing the young man didn't like that answer any better than the other ones he got. It said he was saddened because he was very rich. Jesus says to this that it is difficult for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God.

Now the disciples have a question - Then who can be saved?  Jesus says that all things are possible with God. This tells me that peace is possible!

With this, I've come back around to my original search - peace. My only question is how do I get it? And the answer is that God gives it freely. Jesus said in John 14:27 that He gives us peace. And it's not a worldly peace that fluctuates like the stock market! It's an ever-abiding peace that stills the storms in our hearts. Now the interesting thing is that Jesus keeps giving us things to do. After He says He has given us peace, He says Do not let your heart be troubled.

Now on one hand, I want to walk away scratching my head like the ruler asking how can this be? But on the other hand - I want to let this peace reign in my heart. So even if Jesus speaks peace to the storm like He did in the boat - it's up to me to learn how to walk in it. And that will be my task for today.

Today I will meditate on the peace he gives. I'll take my eyes off the tumultuous storms and focus back on Him. I'll quiet my soul and listen for His peace. And I'll choose to rest right there. My meditation will be on how to walk in His peace when everything is topsy turvy. I'll work on keeping my heart from being troubled.. and rest in Him for one more day.... will you join me?