Monday, May 22, 2017

Part-time God?

I've been doing some research for a project I'm working on and it has had me looking back through much of the Old Testament. I love the New Testament, but I equally enjoy the Old Testament, so I don't mind a bit!

While doing some of the background reading, I spent some time reading in Exodus. I find this to be one of the most exciting books in the Bible. Even though there is a lot to glean from this adventurous book, one little scripture captured my attention.

Exodus 25 is smack dab in the middle of the instructions God is giving Moses for building the tabernacle. This section of scripture is so important because the blueprints God gave Moses are shadows of the heavenly according to Hebrews 8. And that's why I paused to meditate on Exodus 25:30. Here's what it says:

You shall set the bread of the Presence
on the table before Me
at all times.

On one hand, it would be easy to read quickly over this one verse without understanding its significance. But me? Nope. I can get hung up on a thought or phrase for long periods of time until I exhaust it through study, thought and divine revelation (sometimes!). Why do I think this little known verse is so important? And why is it significant to caregivers? (I'm so glad you asked!)

It's this one little phrase at all times that sticks out for me. Since we understand from the writer of Hebrews that it's heavy with symbolism, I have to think that the Bread of the Presence being on the table at all times signifies the constant-ness of His presence. He doesn't look at me like a part-time job. He is ever present, ever ready to be part of my daily life.And that just makes my day!

When I became a full-time caregiver, I didn't realize how my relationships with others might change. Many "friends" were not able to make the journey with me. I recall when my son was still in the hospital and a friend asked what they could do for me. I said - call me every day. I needed someone to just help me see outside my fog... I didn't talk to them again for over 6 years. 

Relationships can be very different for the caregiver - but God is our constant. He is that at all times bread of the Presence. There's no part-time care for us, part-time watching over us, part-time loving us - He's all in! He continues to invest in our lives because He knows we'll all reap the results in eternity. And just like that bread of the Presence was to always be on the table in the tabernacle, His presence is always on the table of our hearts. Remember, He told us in the new covenant the word wouldn't just be recorded on stone like it was in Exodus, but that His word would be written on the tablets of our hearts. (Hebrews 8, Jeremiah 31) He's in us. He's with us. His presence is ever-abiding. We are not His part-time job... He's all in.

Today I am going to keep my thoughts on how He is full-time focused on my heart. My meditations will be on how ever-abiding He is. He doesn't walk away, He doesn't forget to call, He doesn't call it quits. He is constantly available for me and is always watching over my heart. God isn't a part-time God - He's all in. I'm going to rejoice in that truth today as I rest in Him and trust Him for one more day. Will you join me?

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Facing the Enemy

One of the side effects of the alone-ness that accompanies caregiving is when things go wrong, there's no one close to blame. Of course, I'm kidding just a little bit. As a sole caregiver, I am left alone to make decisions both big and small. Sometimes they are right - and sometimes they are wrong, but they are mine and I own them!

So when I was reading Psalm 94 this morning about the attack of the enemy David was experiencing, I looked up (figuratively) to see no one there....still. It's just me and Chris day in and day out. I don't have someone breaking down my door to come in. There's no one standing outside mocking me; and no one is spouting out discouraging words to try and make me quit.

So how can I relate to an enemy like David faced? Mostly, my enemies, for they are many, are the voices in my own head. I second guess almost every single decision. Sometimes, it feels like my own faith is mocking me for holding on through this storm. Thoughts can run around crazy in my head. Discouragement is always knocking at the door, but I don't have to open it. I do not have to embrace crazy thoughts.....they are not always all mine. Even though I cannot relate to David's facing a battle worn enemy, I can identify with a barrage of thoughts, events and situations that constantly attack my heart, emotions and mind.

In the heat of the battle for the faith, I have to pull out these three verses from Psalm 94 to hold on to today:

Unless the Lord had been my help,
I would soon have dwelt in the land where there is silence.
When I said, "My foot is slipping,"
Your mercy and loving-kindness O Lord, held me up.
In the multitude of my anxious thoughts within me,
Your comforts cheer and delight my soul. (Amp)

Now that's some things to think about right there! When we feel ourselves slipping into discouragement or feel depression trying to close in we can trust His mercy to hold us up. Personally, my thoughts are my worst enemy sometimes. A simple memory, or thought can spark a series of hurtful thoughts and I feel my mind and emotions being dragged down into the pit. Over the years, I've developed strategies to try and keep my head above water when the enemy comes in like that. But it is His mercy that keeps me afloat!

We are in good company with the psalmist here. David said he was experiencing a multitude of anxious thoughts. That's an everyday occurrence for many of us. It's a constant struggle to keep them from taking root in our minds and hearts. As an over-thinker, I have us all dead before anything actually happens! (Hopefully, that's just me! lol)

But I can always trust God to comfort my soul. He can delight my soul in ways that another person cannot, because He can touch parts of me that people can't reach. He pours in His joy, peace and comfort when I run to Him. His mercy holds me up.

Today, I'm going to give Him all my anxious thoughts one.more.time. And I will pour them out before Him and let Him replace them with peace and comfort. I'll rejoice in the fact that He is big enough to handle my crazy thoughts and calm my fears. My meditation will be on how He delights my soul, just by being present. And I'll lean in to Him a little closer as I trust Him for one more day. Will you join me?

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

What do Running Shoes and Caregiving Have in Common?


This weekend was the annual Oklahoma Brain Tumor Foundation Race for Hope. They do the races each year to raise money for OKBTF, a foundation that offers help to families who are dealing with a member who has a brain tumor. Some of my family has done it several times but this year was the first year we got together and formed a team for my sister, Tina, who has a brain tumor. It's non-cancerous and not growing, but she had a shunt put in back in 2008 that has to be maintained or the tumor blocks the fluid from draining properly from her brain. The sitter couldn't sit with Chris so I took him with me and my son-in-law sat with him while the rest of us did the races. For some reason, my newest great-niece enjoyed talking to Chris, even though he didn't talk to her. They had a great silent conversation!

So, as a runner I am always thinking about running shoes. When I started running, I didn't know there were special shoes for running, I just wore what I had. Now I understand there are actually four different types of running shoes. After I run between 400 and 600 miles, depending on the shoes, they need to be replaced. Each runner has their preference as far as shoes go and some runners use different types of shoes based on what type of run they are doing. For me - I go for cushion. I need the extra padding so my feet don't hurt.

To have the best run and take the best care of your feet, each runner selects the type of shoe needed for the types of running they do. For instance:


  • Endurance  shoes are for runners who log tons of miles. These guys may run 100 miles or so every week. (unbelievable!)
  • Speed shoes are designed to be lightweight so they don't weigh down the runner who is trying to go faster and faster.
  • Cushion is for those of us runners whose feet hurt, especially on longer runs. They also help provide some cushion for those old knees.
  • Stability shoes are designed to offer support for those who have fallen arches or awkward cadences when they run.
As I was thinking about getting new running shoes this morning I thought about these four types and realized as caregivers we need all four. Now, of course they can't make one shoe that meets all these needs for all the different runners. Each caregiver has their own set of needs too. The difference for us is that we need all four of these. We have to be able to endure day after day of endless tasks that have to be done for our loved ones, endurance. It doesn't take us long to figure out how to be efficient with our responsibilities so we can get more done in less time, speed. On any given day, we need the comfort of Holy Spirit to soothe our souls, cushion. And we need His strength to help keep us keeping on without faltering, stability.

Runners have to choose which type of shoe they want to use for each run, or race. But for caregivers - we really need all four of these every single day; or at least I do! I really wanted to find one scripture where all four of these were promised - maybe you can think of one - but I couldn't. But there is always Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. 

I guess the thing is, no matter what we need today - whether it is one of these four key areas or something else, He is that. He can pour His strength in us so we can endure this day. He gives strength to the weary (Isaiah 40:39). He provides us with comfort when our souls need a little bit more cushioning. (Isaiah 61:2) He is our rock, our sure foundation - the One who holds us up when the journey gets rough. (Psalm 18:2) He is always on time, even if it feels like He's not! (2 Peter 3:9)

Basically, He is. Maybe this is what He was communicating to Moses when He said I Am. He just is. Whatever we need today - He is. He's our all in all - everything all wrapped up in one. Comfort, peace, help, strength, endurance, security, stability, etc. You name what you need and He's got it. He is it. He can provide it.

Today, I will trust Him for everything I need. Personally, that's endurance right now. But you know how caregiving goes - that might change at any given second. But no matter what, I'll continue to trust Him to be that. Whatever that is at any point in my day. My meditation will be on how He is here and He's a now  God. He is the I Am. I'll turn my thoughts to His beyond-abilities. He can do beyond what we can think of, He can do beyond what we can imagine. So I will just let Him be God in my life today. I'll be still.. and just know He is God. And I will trust Him for one more day - will you join me?

Monday, May 15, 2017

The Bitter - Sweet

This was a crazy weekend for us and my emotions are ALL over the place. If I'd rest for a few minutes, I'd probably find out that I'm exhausted! Given half a chance, I'd crawl away to a cave and sleep for days and come out saying, who knew? As caregivers, we don't have that luxury. As a matter of fact, since we were out both Saturday and Sunday this weekend, I thought Chris would crash but he's awake at 4:30 this morning. Seriously?

Yesterday, we went to church. I know - quite remarkable we made it two Sundays in a row, right? After being out on Saturday it was a bit much for Chris and he was obviously uncomfortable. So, on one hand, it was nice to be in services with my sister's family and my mom and dad. On the other, I wish Chris could have been more comfortable.

For me, yesterday was a double whammy. For one, I enjoyed being with family, loved being able to
be with my daughter's family and the grandkids. We had a long row at the restaurant and it felt nice being there together. We set Chris' chair at the end so it wasn't sticking out into a walkway but since he wasn't feeling good, I didn't feel comfortable feeding him there.

Mother's Day was awkward for me emotionally. I can't tell you how much I love my daughter and enjoy every single second with my beautiful grandchildren. But on Mother's Day in particular, I miss the children Chris can't have. That might not make any sense to anyone else - but it's part of the grieving process for caregivers of children. There can be many questions- if he hadn't had the wreck. Who would he have married? Would they have children? What kind of job would he have? Would he even show up for holidays? A beautiful day can be turned into sorrow so easily and emotions can be all over the place.

For me - that's only half of it. The other half of the double play is watching my mom in slow decline. I'm not directly her caregiver, but she's slowly fading from us. Even the doctor who diagnosed dementia said it's moving fast. She's not chatty like she used to be. The mom I know would have talked to most of the people at church yesterday and known most of their stories by the time we left. The good thing is for now, she knows who we are - at least while we are with her. She gets who's married to who and whose kid the grandkids are mixed up, but she knows us when we are talking to her or sitting with her. It's so very sad to lose her this way.

Personally, it bothers me that I can't provide more care for my mom. I'm still thinking of getting a bigger place so I can do more. But I also realize I do have my hands full with Chris. I get frustrated. I can't be the daughter/caregiver because I am the mother/caregiver. I'm the rescuer. When things go wrong or there's a problem that needs fixing - I'm the one who wants to find solutions and answers. But for these life-situations, there's not always a fix.

So here I am with full hands and a full heart looking up to Him one more time. Where do I put all this? What do I do with these raw emotions? I go the only place I know to go - to my knees before His throne. Then, I take action by doing the only thing I can do. I lay it all down before Him. None of my emotions or thoughts are unknown to Him - I have nothing to hide and nowhere to hide it from a God who sees all.

He knows the frustration. He knows the pain. He knows all the longings of the heart. What comes to mind is when the Children of Israel were coming out of Egypt. They crossed the Red Sea and then came to Marah, which means bitter. It was named Marah because the waters were bitter - and they couldn't drink there. God handled too much water by leading them through on dry land. But now, what will He do with bitter waters?

He instructed them to cut down a tree and throw it in the water. What? Since when does a tree have the natural qualities to make bitter water sweet? When it's a cross. Sometimes, life brings us by bitter waters and it takes the cross to make them sweet enough to drink. It's His grace that carries us through the rough days. His mercy working in us that makes our bitter walk sweeter.

So in this moment, I'll chose to refocus on the cross. I will remind myself that He bore my shame, my pain, my sorrow and my grief. And today - I'll let Him. I'll empty my hands and my heart before Him and wait on Him. To heal.To restore.

Today, I'll shift my focus away from my emotions and back to Him. (This might take all day to do too!) To start, I'll make a grateful list. I'll begin writing out on paper things I can think of that I am thankful for. That'll be my starting place and it will allow me to shift my focus off these raw emotions and in a different direction. My meditations will be on all He's done for me to bring me to this place, and I'll be thankful. I'll take a posture and an attitude of thankfulness as I make today my personal Thanksgiving Day. My thoughts will be on all He's done - I'll take a look back at the promises He's fulfilled and the other times in life I've seen Him make the bitter water sweet, the Red Seas of my life He's led me across safely. And I'll say thank you to Him one more time as I trust Him for one more day. Will you join me? Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Just Three?

After reading through chapter 4 of 2 Corinthians yesterday, I decided to skip on over to chapter 12 for my reading today. Here's where we find Paul talking in a little more detail about his struggles and troubles. Maybe I don't physically have to endure the beatings and imprisonments like Paul, but my soul has been chained, my soul broken and my emotions drained out like blood. Thankfully, these are not things we feel every single day, but at times as caregivers we become emotionally spent, physically exhausted and just feel beat up by life. I'm so glad to have a place to run when life or caregiving overwhelms. A place I can hide...and heal.

So, I'm reading Paul's discussion on his struggles and pertaining to his thorn in the flesh, he says he asked God three times that it might leave him. I just stopped and stared. Three times? That's it? You're going through hell on earth and you only ask God three times for relief? I'm not there now - but I have been under such oppression that I was begging - and I mean beggin' for relief.

My only answer is that Paul must have gotten his answer after his third time. When God said My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness Paul got it. He understood. Then he changed his stance. Rather than begging for everything to be taken away (we all know how effective that's been, right?), he began to rejoice in his weaknesses. Sounds ludicrous right? But it's not.

Now instead of being in begging mode - bowing beneath the load, Paul is rejoicing that through his own weaknesses, God's strength will be glorified. He said, when I am weak, then I am strong. Kind of sounds like he's talking through both sides of his mouth like a politician, doesn't it? But he isn't. He came to the realization that in his weakest moment - he was still strong because the Spirit of the Living God lived in him to lift him up and carry him through. In that truth - he gained strength for the journey.

Maybe I've focused too much on my own weakness, and not enough on His strength. His strength that is in me is enough. It's enough to carry me through - His power is easier to see in my weakness than if I'm trying to be the "strong one." In order to be truly strong, I must lose myself. When I lose myself in Him, His strength abounds. Ephesians 3:16 says that we are strengthened with might (or power) through His Spirit in the inner man. The Amplified says it this way: May He grant you out of the rich treasury of His glory to be strengthened and reinforced with mighty power in the inner man by the Holy Spirit Himself indwelling your inner most being.....

Can we grab hold of the truth that the Spirit of the living God is LIVING inside of us - to strengthen us, guide us into truth (which doesn't change due to circumstances), and empower us to live this life? He gave no stipulations - no exemptions. He's not standing outside waiting for us to "get it together." He's indwelling us. Walking this through with us and empowering us along the way.

Today, I'm going to turn my thoughts to how Holy Spirit lives in me. As I recognize my great weakness, His power fills up all my empty spaces. My meditations will be on how I gain strength just because He's here. And I have the power to face one more day - with Him - the One who doesn't take a break, doesn't get tired, doesn't quit and never loses strength. I'm going to be thankful that I see my weakness today and that His strength is in me helping me trust in Him for one more day. Will you join me?

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Day at Hand

What are you doing today?  Don't you love it when someone asks that. If you're like me, you don't bore (or scare) them with all the details that come in the caregiving package. I usually, chuckle and say something like, "Oh nothing extraordinary" or "just normal stuff." Because I know they don't really want to know. And it's certain that they cannot even imagine some of the baser things we have to deal with on a daily basis - those unmentionables! But day after day we do the necessary tasks to ensure our loved ones are taken care of and have what they need. It can be so easy to get our focus on the tasks at hand and forget why we are here in this earth to begin with.

Our role as caregivers wasn't necessarily our plan. As children, we didn't say, "I want to grow up and take care of my son with a brain injury." We just took the hand life dealt us - no matter what "kind" of caregiving we do. But that's not why we were born. It does not define us.

This morning, I was reading in 2 Corinthians 4 and I started thinking about so many of the verses that stuck out to me. These are all still true - or they were never true. God still shines His light in our hearts so we can have the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. (v.6) That light still shines, still beckons, still reveals Him in our hearts. It never stops.

And then what I find interesting is that Paul goes right into how we have this treasure in an earthen vessel. One that experiences pain and loss. One that in Paul's words can become afflicted, perplexed, or persecuted. But through it all Christ is to be continuously revealed in and through us. This purpose doesn't change.

Another thing I noted was that Paul used the phrase don't lose heart two times in this one chapter. I'm guessing he was talking to himself as well as others. Why? Because no matter what we are facing in this body Christ is renewing our inner man. And then he finishes out the chapter talking about our momentary, light afflictions...which cannot even be compared with the glory Christ is working in us. He says it is far beyond all comparison. Those  are some powerful words.

Paul's final thoughts remind us that during our affliction we are to keep our focus - not on the day at hand but on the Eternal Day. We are to keep our heart's focus on what we cannot see - and not on the things we can see. That's not always easy - there's so many things to distract us from the glory He is working in us.

Today I will shift my focus to the work of glory that the presence of Christ is bringing about in me. I will turn my thoughts to the life and power He has placed in me and I will rely on that to carry me today instead of my own strength. I will make my meditations be on this treasure we have in our earthen vessel... this house of clay - holds the Spirit of the Living God. That's empowering. I'll keep my thoughts on eternity today and not on the temporal. And with that - I will find the strength to trust Him for one more day. Will you join me?

Monday, May 8, 2017

Grasping at Straws

I had about a billion things on my mind when I woke up this morning. That might be a slight exaggeration, but not much of one. As the thoughts of the weekend poured through my mind waiting to be sifted, sorted and processed - I couldn't decide what I needed more of as I opened His word to feed my soul.

Where to start? I picked up my Bible and read a verse here and there. They were all good. It's like looking in the fridge for something to eat and you're not sure what you want and everything looks good. I heard of the passing of two friends over the weekend, I tried out a new church, took Chris out twice (which is a huge feat in itself), and have a potential romantic relationship.....(what?) we don't get a break from caregiving to live life. It comes at us no matter what. We already live in a state of overwhelmed and adding anything to it can just put us into overload. Or maybe that's just me.

So, I'm sitting here looking at the scriptures and trying to figure out what it is I need, and what I can share with you today. Do I need peace? Maybe number one for today is a need for comfort? But I also need direction and clarity. I feel very needy all of a sudden (lol). So I opened my Bible to John 14 as that's where I've been studying. It was great to be reminded that Holy Spirit lives in  me - He doesn't pack up and move away when life gets complicated or difficult.

Then I moved to Proverbs (looking for wisdom) and on to Psalms (looking for peace and comfort). As you can see, I skimmed around a bit just looking and gleaning. I am not even sure what I need the most of, then it hit me. He is what I need - whatever that may be. God is with me - He is in me. I don't even have to figure out what it is I need the most - I just need Him. And He is right here.

Caregiving is overwhelming - life+caregiving = ? I don't even know what! lol. I don't have to look for "outside resources" because I have the Spirit of God living inside of me. Once again I reiterate the truth that He didn't move out or step away when we became caregivers. He didn't say - too much for me - I'm out. He moved into our hearts with the plan to stay - no matter what. He walks it with us.

So I do not know what you need today - I'm not even sure what I need today; but I know that it is okay with Him. The main thing to do when we feel like we are grasping at straws is to reach for Him. Let Him bring His peace, direction, comfort, understanding - it's a whole package deal. And He's right here. Wherever "here" is for you. For me.

Today I'm going to think about how He is all I need - whatever that need is - whether I can define it or not. He's everything that is needed. 2 Peter 1:3 will be my meditation. (His divine power has given me everything I need for life and godliness through my knowledge of Christ.) I'm going to rest in that right there - He was not only my righteousness - making me godly and holy, He made provision for me to live life in him. My meditation will be on how He has provided everything I need for living this day. And in that truth - I'll rest in Him and trust Him for one more day. Will you join me?