Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Enough

You know the caregiver's drill. Up and at 'em, gotta keep movin' lots to do every single day. Sometimes, I can feel like I'm stretched to the max! There's always something that needs to be done and I've finally learned that one of the things that needs to be done is rest. Just sitting down and stopping for a few minutes, sipping a cup of coffee, maybe sitting out in my back yard and enjoying some fresh air or any other activity that lets me feel like I'm in "off" mode for a few minutes can help me regain my focus and renew my energy. But it can also cause me to sink into that "I'm not enough" feeling that many experience.

Caregivers have jobs that are cyclical, they are never done. We can end up in a vicious cycle that leaves us feeling inadequate, and in some way, less-than. On a personal level, it seems most nights when I finally get to bed I'm leaving multiple tasks undone, like I can never quite catch up. And it's unending.

I woke up this morning feeling like I was running behind. I thought, give yourself a break - you just woke up! lol As I often do, I turned my thoughts into prayer. After a few minutes of skimming a few verses in the Bible looking for something to grab hold of for today I just had this quiet come over me. All of a sudden, I felt like I was enough. It was simple but pure.

We don't have to do anything to be accepted by God. We are enough. You are enough. I am enough. there's no striving, working, or pushing ourselves to be His. We just are period. There are no hoops to hop through, no 20 point checklists to make sure we measure up, and He's not sitting up there waiting for us to do enough so we can be included in "the club." He doesn't have a pen and pad to take notes. He's just waiting for us to turn to Him. It's that simple and that doable.

Today I'm going to meditate on how simple it is to turn to Him. My thoughts will be on being enough for Him. I will picture Him waiting with open arms for me. My meditations will be on how we are accepted in the beloved, and how we are the beloved of God. No tricks, shortcuts, or checklists - we just are His. That makes me smile. Now I can rest in Him for one more day - will you join me?

Monday, June 12, 2017

God in the Middle

Welcome to Monday! I always chuckle a bit when I hear people fuss about going back to work on Monday or dreading that the weekend is over. For many caregivers, weekends are no different than other days - there's no "evil power" lurking on Monday - it looks just like any other day to most of us. In some ways Monday can be a break for us - aides and other medical professionals get to take their weekends off so our help comes back on Mondays. Sort of reversed I guess.

When I woke up this morning I had what I thought was an odd scripture running around in my head. I even had to look for it a bit - it was though the earth be removed and cast into the midst of the sea. I knew it was in a familiar passage, but it took me a few minutes to locate, before I found it in the middle of Psalm 95.

I can easily quote the first part of this psalm, and run to it quite frequently. It says God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble. I love that, especially the very present part. And toward the end of the Psalm is another super familiar verse I have come to love. Be still and know I am God. But for years, I've skipped all the part in the middle - it didn't make sense, especially between these two powerful go-to verses.

Right in the middle is where I found though the earth be removed and cast into the sea. There's a lot of destruction in the middle of this Psalm. We tend to attribute all the psalms to David, and he did write most of them. But I glanced up and saw that this particular Psalm is written by the Sons of Korah. You remember Korah, right?

The story is in Numbers 16. Korah assembled a crowd against God's leaders, Moses and Aaron. Moses said - God can choose between us. The next day Moses said - everyone on God's side stand with us - those with Korah stand with him. And the earth opened up and swallowed Korah's crew.  (verse 32) So the "sons of Korah" who survived, obviously stayed away from Korah and survived. They chose God over family and it was a good thing. So when they  say though the earth be removed they have a good basis for that, they understood it. In verse 8 they said it was God who wrought desolations in the earth. But they also understood that God was with them in the midst of all the "bad stuff" they saw happen.

I think their dedication to God and His purposes were deeper. They understood the glory of God -they had seen it in the wilderness. They understood God as their refuge, as their strength, and the very present help in trouble. But they also saw the God who sent the plagues, delivered the children of Israel, wiped out Pharaoh's army, and did wonders along the way. They understood that in the "middle part" when the earth was eating people, there was still a place with God. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God.

What I want to walk away with today is that we can know that God in the middle. He's the same when everything is going great, and when everything is not so great. He does not change no matter what we face. He is constant. He is present. He is God. Circumstances do not dictate to Him. And that is my praise point for today.

Today I will turn my thoughts to Him as my ever present help in trouble. My meditations will be on His unchangeable-ness. (new word!) I'll rejoice that He does not sway with my circumstances, or my moods. He's not a moody God. He is sure. He is steadfast. He is mine. And with that I will trust Him for one more day. Will you join me?

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Captain of my Soul

Do you remember the last big decision you had to make? For me, if I have several choices it seems I can make better choices. I don't like feeling trapped. Choices can play an important role in the life of a caregiver. On one hand, it can be difficult making choices on behalf of another person. It's complicated when they cannot voice their opinion. And sometimes we can feel like we don't have choices in our own lives. But we do.

When I first became a caregiver, life as I had known it was ripped away. I felt trapped. I'd been preparing to go to Africa, was loving living in Chicago, working three jobs only to find myself in a small apartment back in Oklahoma. The aloneness ate at my soul. Not only did I feel trapped I also felt like my power of choice had been taken away.

A movie sparked a memory of the poem, Captain of my Soul and got me to thinking. I realized I did still have choices, even in my situation. I can choose for my soul. I know we've talked a lot here about how it's our soul that God protects. Changing my perspective was key to changing my attitude and my outlook on life even in difficult circumstances.

I think one thing I enjoy so much about the psalms is David's candor. He never denies or ignores the problem. It's in the conflicts we see him reaching for God with more determination. That's a choice. As I was reading in Psalm 119 this morning, a couple of verses stuck out to me. The first one that made me stop and think was verse 143. It says Trouble and anguish have come upon me, yet Your commandments are my delight. He didn't act like everything was going great - he faced the situation he was in and chose to delight in the Word. We can do that too.

Another one that stood out was verse 147. he said I rise before dawn and cry for help, I wait for Your words.  Then he goes on to say in the following verse that he anticipates the night watches so he can meditate on His word. Who likes to do that? The night watches are most difficult. But David decided to look forward to them so he could be uninterrupted in his meditations on the word.

No matter what life throws at us - or throws us in to - we always have choices. We can choose to run to His word, or away from it. We can choose to seek Him in the midst of the storm, or avoid Him. What choices are you making for your soul today? Paul said he had learned to be content in any circumstance. He said he knew how to get along in prosperity and poverty because his greatest need, like David's was to be with joined with God.

Today, I'm going to think about the choices I can make. I will spend some time thinking about what it means to be the captain of my soul. I will choose to embrace Him and the Word today. I'll let His words be the delight of my soul. I choose to cling to Him - and enjoy His desire to be near. And I'll choose to trust Him for one more day. Will you join me?

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Timeless Truths

I woke up late this morning and I dislike feeling like I'm running behind all day. I'm not sure why I've been so tired lately. Maybe it's just part of the old-age equation, or the caregiving equation. Who knows? It certainly couldn't be because I'm burning every single proverbial candle from both ends, right?

After I got my coffee and answered a few pings on one of my work apps, I sat for a second to catch my breath. Sometimes I need to remind myself to breathe - today is one of those kinds of days. My work load has increased and I've made some changes to my schedule - including changing when the aide comes. It's going to be lots better I can tell, if the adjustment doesn't kill me. (smile)

I glanced toward my Bible and laptop and thought of this devotion. What do we need to hear today? The answer came quicker than the question had. It was plain and simple. My grace is sufficient for you. So I let that be my meditation for a few minutes. My first thought was to discount it as an answer we use for anything overwhelming. But then I had this other thought....

John 3:16. Ever heard of that one? Even the world knows this Biblical reference. Well, it hasn't gotten old. It's just as good today as it was yesterday and still as true as ever. We never "throw it away" or consider it to be out of date, right? So why should I discount His grace is sufficient for me, and think of it as random?

This is the glory of His word. Every single jot and tittle still stands. Isaiah 40:8 says His Word stands forever. That means to me that I can reach in and get whatever I need for any given situation. It is still  applicable to life today as His word doesn't fade over time. It's solid truth.

So today, I will meditate on this timeless truth - His grace is sufficient for me. I'll turn my thoughts to how His grace can reach from eternity into time and carry me through this day I have to live. And with that thought - I'll  rest in His grace. It's in the letting. I'll let His grace be my sufficiency today. And I'll trust Him for one more day. Will you join me?

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Always a Winner

Isaiah 54:17 says no weapon formed against you shall prosper. I recall learning this scripture and committing it to memory when I was in my early 20's. It soon became one of my go-to verses whenever I faced a struggle or attack of any kind. When life hit a rough spot, I'd begin to proclaim No weapon formed against me shall prosper. And sure enough, before long the situation would resolve, I'd get it worked through, or God would deliver me out. There was always a way through and life always went on. But I was missing this one little point.

The whole idea behind this encouraging scripture is to be able to look life's struggles in the eye and declare they are not what identifies us, defines us, controls us or brings us down. We forget sometimes though that weapons will  be formed. We will face struggles. We will meet with obstacles. We will have hardships to endure. This is not a magic potion that keeps all the bad stuff from happening. It's encouragement to know that when things come at us - we will still win. Trials and tribulations are going to be part of life - but no matter what life throws at us - but we will come out as winners - as overcomers every single time.

As caregivers, we can face a lot of stuff. Every day. Personally, I struggle with depression. The aloneness and social isolation can be debilitating. The quietness of being alone can be deafening. I also struggle with fear. What am I afraid of? Pretty much anything and everything. (smile) The feelings and emotions of caregiving can make for some pretty powerful weapons for the enemy to forge against me (us?). But they are not going to win because I won in Him.

I can hold on to this scripture - and realize that weapons are  going to be formed against me. There's not a pie in the sky life that is free from obstacles, hurt, grief, problems and such. This scripture doesn't promise that there aren't struggles - it doesn't say you'll never have an attack again; or there will never be a weapon formed against you. There will always be something - but we always have the power to win.

How am I so sure we win? Because of the second part of the verse. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their vindication is from Me, declares the Lord. Vindication in this verse is also interpreted as righteousness. We don't have to work to be righteous. 1 Corinthians 1:30 says that Jesus became righteousness for us. He is our righteous covering and no matter what comes at as or what is forged against us - we are righteous in Him. Caregiving isn't big enough to change our standing in God. No struggle defines us - He does!

Today I will turn my thoughts to being hidden in Him. I'll meditate on the truth that He is my righteousness and I'll let that define me today - not the struggles. I'll be thankful today that He doesn't look at me through a lens of my struggles, but He looks at me through the righteousness he provides. He sees me righteous, holy and complete in Him, even if I feel broken and incomplete. I'll remind myself that when He looks at me - He sees me in Him and I'll trust Him for one more day. Will you join me?

Monday, June 5, 2017

An Intense Need

Today is a new day. That may seem like basic knowledge - but I need to hear and believe that this morning. I do not know about anyone else, but I've had a few rough days lately. The odd thing is that things are going quite well. My head tells me there shouldn't be a struggle as nothing much is actually going on. But no matter how hard my head tries to convince me that all is well, my heart is discouraged and having a difficult time. 

I suppose there doesn't really need to be a reason. Caregiving is tough and no one is going to argue with that. Especially not anyone who has done it for any amount of time on any level. For whatever reason, I'm having trouble sorting out the emotions at the moment. The good thing is that I know it will work out, I'll level out and I'll carry on. It's what I do. It's what we do - pretty much every single day. We pick it up - plaster on a smile - encourage our hearts and continue to put one foot in front of the other no matter what we face.

This morning I was reading in a familiar passage that I've read many times before. I started in Isaiah 53 where Isaiah was in the middle of prophesying about the crucifixion. I was meditating on He bore our griefs and sorrows. It may be more accurate to say I was thinking that since He bore them - why do we still have them? How do we know He bore them? Is it by faith - the same faith that we hold on for healing whether we see it or not? I have no doubt He heals. But I also know that there are still people battling illnesses so it's not all gone forever. I must assume that our griefs and sorrows are like that too - I really don't know.

I know that caregivers can live with what is called a living grief. We grieve over our loved one - in my case, it's a grief over the son I lost - even though his body, and he, is technically still here. Others may grieve over what never was. There's also a different grief we can experience as we see our elderly loved ones begin to decline later in life. No matter how it is sliced up - grief is grief. And it's difficult. and sometimes it's constant.

During those times, I'm learning to lean in to Him just a little closer. Maybe I'm becoming needy - but it's a needy I don't mind because I realize my intense need for Him. I need Him to carry me. I need Him to comfort me. I need Him to hold me. I need Him to be near me. I just need Him, and I'm learning there's nothing wrong with this kind of needy.

Do you need Him today? Is there an area in your heart you need Him to touch? I have some areas that are in need of His touch for sure. No matter where we are in our walk - caregiving or not - our hearts cry out for His touch. There are areas set apart just for Him and nothing else will do.

Today I am going to meditate on this intense need I have for Him. My thoughts will be not so much on what I think I need - but on who I need. I'll turn my thoughts to His presence and rejoice that He is walking this with me. I'll be content to have Him near - and I'll trust Him for one more day - will you join me?



















Thursday, June 1, 2017

No Room in the Inn

 Do you ever get "it" all gathered up and have it under control? As caregivers we understand that emotions can be everywhere, especially until we get used to our new normal. Then we level out to a place where emotions running on high is a regular. For me, I have settled into caregiving and gotten used to living on this special type of edge. I'm okay most of the time, by just about anybody's standard, but it doesn't take much to send me on over. And it doesn't have to be anything huge, just something new or different introduced to my new norm.

This is where I have been; all leveled out. Hanging on, doing good. And then.......

First, decisions to go out are still difficult. I'm not sure anyone understands that. There are times when I want to get us out, but I get so tired just thinking about all it takes to do that. And we stay home. It's also a lot emotionally to step into many normal settings. No matter how much better my son is doing, we are doing, we still stick out like a sore thumb. There is no longer any such thing as a quiet entry. 

Last night I was struggling with such a choice. Do I stay home and work? Or do I take off a bit, load Chris up and drive out for some live music and "bike night"? After much contemplation, I decided the best choice for my son was to suck it up and get us out there for a couple hours. So I loaded him up and drove out to bike night. It was crowded and the handicap spots were taken. I was surprised by the rush of emotions I felt and had to work through. My assumption is that the cars in the handicap spots were there legally - but I felt like we were so left out. There was no room for us, not in normal life. I drove around two or three times trying to figure out a way to make it work, but there wasn't a place for us so I returned home disappointed and slightly broken.

It's really not that big of a deal, and I really should be used to it - but it's like being displaced....in life.. permanently. As I was trying to sort out the emotions I prayed. Lord, where do I put all this? Will this ever be different? Do I really need for it to be different? How do I adjust to this in a healthy way?  I tried to refrain from using superlatives like this always happens or no one ever has room for us.  But they seemed to flood my busy mind.

After we stopped for ice cream (chocolate is an anti-depressant :-)  and I got my thoughts all sorted out - I realized no matter what happens, no matter where we "don't fit" or how we stand out or can't get in - there's always room in His heart, and at His feet. So that's where I headed with my emotions and my heart.

The psalmist said in the 94th psalm - When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your consolations delight my soul. I've read it before, but this time I noticed the term multiply. I'm thinking maybe more like exponentially multiply within me because my head runs away with 'em!

In the 139th Psalm, David said, Search me O God and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts.  I think what sticks out to me is that He knows and He hears every single thought - now that's crazy intimate. I soon became overwhelmed with the thought that He could keep up with the super hyper way my head runs - and it didn't scare Him away. There was still room for me at his feet, in His heart. And actually, not only was there plenty of room with Him - He makes room for me, for my son, my heart and my thoughts. We are welcome there with Him - up close and personal.

His peace and acceptance still amaze me. I've walked with Him for what seems like most of my life - and He still wants me near. When it feels like we are most alone - when it seems like no one is walking the rough road with us - when it feels like we are shunned by the norms of the world and others stare awkwardly - He opens up His arms and His heart even wider to make sure we feel accepted. He loves every part of us - even the broken parts.

Today, I'm going to meditate on His acceptance once again. My thoughts will be on how He loves us in our brokenness, in our abnormal life, and welcomes us wholeheartedly. I'll tune my heart in to how much He loves us - and how welcome we are to be in His presence. As a matter of fact, I'll meditate on how eagerly He awaits us and I will rest in that feeling and trust Him for one more day. Will you join me?