Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Where Did the Sun Go?

In my devotions yesterday I talked about purposefully looking for a way that nature displays His glory. Well, I didn't actually get out of the house as is common for me. Between caregiving and job responsibilities who has time to get out? But I did discover something about God through nature.

I was watching some videos for my classes to be come a health coach and the speaker said something about the sun. He said something to the effect of "the sun doesn't stop shining if the flower doesn't respond by opening up." That's all my high-speed mind needed to run away. I took that thought and meditated on it for some time yesterday.

The sun doesn't get upset if plants don't respond by growing, blooming or bearing fruit. Day after day the sun "comes up" and does its job; but it can't make the plants respond. I have shared openly about my anger with God when my son became injured. I didn't (and still don't) understand how God could allow someone so full of passion, drive and music to suffer a brain injury. I went through my times of not talking to God and ignoring Him. But His mercy did not stop just because I did not respond.

Every morning the sun "comes up" and every evening it "sets." It continues to do its job no matter how the elements of the earth respond. Psalm 104:19 says the sun knows when to set. It never rises to the full day and then forgets which way to go, or what to do. What a picture of God the sun gives us each day.

He is constantly pouring forth His mercy whether we recognize and accept it or not. He doesn't waver or shut off His mercy, love, and care if we refuse or fail to respond. Like the flower that has to reach up to the sun to receive its nutrients, we have to reach up to our Father to receive life. But He is constantly pouring it out for us - on us. The flower doesn't have a choice - it automatically responds to the sunshine; and automatically opens up to receive all the sun has to offer. Unlike the flower, God gave us a will and the power to choose. I have to say that for a long time, I chose to ignore God. I was angry because my life was snatched away with one single phone call. My dreams were gone, my hope was gone - and I honestly didn't have the desire or energy to pursue them, or Him for a long time.

But what I have found is if we will relax and open up like that flower responds to the sun, He is still pouring out His love, mercy and grace. He didn't stop just because I stopped receiving. As a caregiver, I need Him more than ever before. The really cool thing about God is that He is always right there. Wherever we left Him - whatever that frustration point was (or is) that made us throw up our hands and walk away - He's still there. Like the sun - He is consistent in His intentions for us. We have to choose to be intentional with Him.

Today I am going to think about how God has not changed one iota with my circumstances. My meditations will be how He has remained reigning on the throne through my darkest seasons. I'll turn my thoughts to how His mercy never runs out - and the light is always on  even when I can't see it because of the night. My choice today is to respond to Him - even if I can't hear Him. Like the plant cannot hear the sun but opens up in response - so will I open my heart to respond to Him today. Will you join me?

Monday, February 1, 2016

What Was I Thinking?

If you know me at all whether in real life or through writing or Facebook, you know I'm an over-thinker. My mind races at 90+ miles per hour and I'm not even sure it slows down when my body sleeps. As a caregiver, this can be beneficial in that I will pursue something until I find an answer - or something that will work. Others have found it real annoying - but there's no "off" switch; or I haven't found one yet.

So this morning as soon as my feet hit the floor my mind takes off with all the things I have to accomplish today. I let my son rest some over the weekend and today is back to our regular schedule of therapy and work. Thus, the 100 mile an hour race going on in my head when my alarm went off at 5 this morning. Lately, it's been racing so much when my alarm goes off I'm off to the races and there isn't as much "snoozing" as there used to be... leads to a more productive day ultimately; but also an extra afternoon nap when possible.

So with my mind racing this morning it was hard for God to get any insight, thoughts or direction squeezed in between. Until I slowed down a bit, and focused on His word for just a moment. That sounds easy - but for caregivers, there honestly is not always time to take for slowing down to pause or think. Some days are just plain crazy with caregiving duties - and other days - they are just crazier!

But as I made myself slow down this morning and purposefully opened the Word, He faithfully spoke to my heart. I found my eyes resting on Psalm 19. I learned the first few verses as a child and how all of  creation continues to sing His praise. There is no where that the voice of nature is not heard singing of God's glory. As an adult I learned to cherish verses 7-11 which patiently describe the impact of His Word on our daily lives. And the final verse of this chapter, verse 14 we used to sing back in the old school days when the new thing to do in church was sing "choruses" instead of full blown songs. We sang scriptures over, and over and over again. I can appreciate it now because they really got lodged in my heart and give me something to hold on to through all these crazy days.

Verse 14 says this: Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. I thought about how my mind had been racing all morning since 5 AM, and wondered if my crazy thoughts and weekly goal setting were all things that were pleasing, or acceptable to Him. Were my conversations this weekend pleasing to Him? Can He even keep up with all these thoughts playing in my head? Or does He have a mental capacity DVR so He can pause it now and then and run it back if He missed something? lol

I know our days as caregivers can be extremely busy; and so can our thoughts. But today I will purposefully slow myself down and meditate on Him. I don't know how yet, but I'm going to find a way to discover something new about nature. I want to see a display of  nature demonstrating His glory.

Today I will guard my heart and mind in Him. I will purposefully monitor my thoughts and kick out anything that does not match what He says about me or my situation. I'll be watching for the demonstration of His glory in His creation today. And I will keep my mind and thoughts moving toward Him. Will you join me?

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Invitation

I woke up tired this morning, but that's nothing new for caregivers, right? And honestly, right now caregiving isn't the hard part for me, I've become accustomed to this normal. The difficult part for me right now is trying to figure out how to manage my work schedule along with my caregiving duties. Of course, there are always complications - because we are caregivers. No two days are exactly the same and you never know what is going to pop up unexpectedly.

Unless you are a caregiver, you won't get some of the frustrations that go along with the blessing of being able to care for your loved one. My greatest one of late is the repeated rescheduling of my son's case manager. Evidently she has no idea how much it takes to rearrange our schedule 3 times a week to accommodate her.(But she will have a clue after her visit on Friday- if she makes that one.)

Just my mornings go something like this:

  • Alarm goes off at 5:30 - hit the snooze to about 6
  • Get up (run to the bathroom - weigh in for the day)
  • Make coffee
  • Get Chris' bolus and meds ready
  • Start coffee
  • Go change Chris (welcome to the real world) and get him comfortable - bolus him
  • Back to the kitchen to rinse out the syringe and bolus cup
  • Grab first cup of coffee
  • Head for the recliner with coffee, baby monitor and Bible in hand
Honestly, the little baby monitor is one of my greatest investments! But this is the first half hour or so of my day. Then I start devotions, or that's the goal anyway. 

This morning my frustrations were still high as not getting to go to the store yesterday as planned means I have to change up this mornings schedule as well - all because the CM decided not to come yesterday and come Friday instead. But as I sat in my recliner and sipped my coffee, my Bible fell open to Revelation 22 and my eyes went straight to verses 10 and I read to verse 17 where I landed. It says this:
The Spirit and the bride say, "Come."
And let the one who hears say, "Come."
And let the one who is thirsty, come;
Let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.

I thought about that a bit...I'm thirsty for Him. I need the refreshing water of life. And I can get it for free just by wanting and taking it....

My "google" mind brought up another similar scripture found in Isaiah 55:2 and it goes like this:

Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters,
And you who have no money -
come, buy and eat.
Come by wine and milk without money and without cost.

Wow- His refreshing waters are there for us to partake of - at any time - at no cost. Now I'm on my second cup of coffee- and I'm smiling. My mind went to another familiar scripture in one of my favorite go-to psalms: 46. It says: there is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy dwelling places of the Most High. "Dwelling places?" That would be us. His stream is running to us and through us already.

Let me see if I can pull all this together in my mind. There's this stream of living water and we are invited to drink anytime we want....the refreshing is free, we just have to come and get it. It may sound like it's far away - but it's actually running in our midst....the refreshing is there any time we need it, anytime we can just take a slow, deep breath and breathe Him in. He's here with us.

Today I will let His presence transform my frustration into refreshing. I will purposefully welcome the stream of God's presence to flow through my heart. My meditations will be on how He is just asking us to "come" to Him and be refreshed. I'll think about the rest of Psalm 46 - and how He is present and He is inviting me to come drink of Him. I will accept His invitation - will you join me?






Wednesday, January 27, 2016

You're Doing a Good Job

One of my goals for this year was to read more for enjoyment, and not only for work purposes. I finished my first book of the year over the weekend and am trying to squeeze in another one before this weekend before I go back to my scheduled reading list. I also read lots of other stuff like LinkedIn Pulse on my phone. Today it had a story by a lady and she was talking about writing web content. It caught my interest since that's been a lot of what I've done over the last few years.

She focused on a statement that really got my attention. It simply said: You're doing a good job! It wasn't even directed at me, but it made me feel good anyway. Sometimes as caregivers it's nice to hear that we are doing a good job. It's no easy task taking care of another whole person or having to make decisions on their behalf.

Maybe one reason we don't hear it more is some people really don't understand what we do all day long. I've heard  "it's nice you get to stay home all day." Haven't you? I'm like - I'll trade you one day... just for a day. (smile) And some of it is that we can't talk about some of the most difficult things we do. Our daily tasks may be very different depending on our loved one's needs. For my mom, I've had to start dealing with her as a child in many ways, but she doesn't need to be fed or bathed. But for my son, I have to feed him every single bite, transfer him, bathe him and change his briefs. But we don't talk about those things and when on those rare occasions someone comes to our house, or we go out - most people can't process those nitty gritty chores we get to do for those we love and care for. So how would they even know we need to hear You're doing a good job!?

Then I started thinking about if God ever told anyone they were doing a good job or not. The first scripture that came to mind was when John the Baptist was baptizing Jesus and the Spirit of God descended on Him and said, This is my beloved Son, in Him I am well pleased. And then I went blank. I did a little searching and found the story of the ten talents. The ones who acted responsibly with their talents were told they did a good job.

I branched out to look at some different translations and found this one in the Message:
[Make the most of what God gives] After looking at the 
way things are on this earth, here's what I've decided is the
best way to live: Take care of yourself, have a good time,
and make the most of whatever job you have for as long as God gives you life.
And that's about it. That's the human lot.
Yes, we should make the most out of what God gives,
both the bounty and the capacity to enjoy it,
accepting what's given and delighting in the work.
It's God's gift! God deals out joy in the present, the now.
Ecclesiastes 5:18-20

I thought about that for awhile. I like the "take care of yourself and have a good time" part. But I had some trouble with the finding joy in what I'm doing part. I'd like to ask the writer, do you know what I do? Some aspects of caregiving are anything but joyous; things we can't talk about like changing catheter bags, changing adult-poop filled pants, for example. But I can choose to take joy in my "job" if you want to call it that. 

It's my pleasure to help and take care of my son - and quite honestly - no one can do it better! And no one can do your caregiving "job" better than you either. So smile today and listen as the Father tells you, "You're doing a good job!" Oh - and believe Him.

Today I am going to rejoice in the fact that God is pleased that I chose to be a caregiver. I'm going to envision Him looking down on me and smiling as He sees me being his hands and heart to my son. I'm going to receive this "You're doing a great job!" as if it was directly from Him this morning. And then? I'm just going to smile.....because I look like Him. Will you join me?

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

He Always Showed Up

I often refer to caregivers as furnace walkers because our lives are lived out in the furnace. This morning during my devotions, some thoughts left over from yesterday evening started rolling around in my head.

I first thought of the three Hebrew children as they were thrown into the fiery furnace. Then I thought about Daniel and the entire night he spent in the lion's den. In times past these stories were really frustrating to me as they all were delivered out of their trials while most caregivers faithfully face their furnace day after day. But today my mind took a different route.

For these two stories what stood out to me in my morning devotions was the fact that God showed up. Technically, He didn't deliver them out of the trial, but He walked through it with them. The king in both of these stories had delivered these men of God to their fate - and the king in both stories removed the men from their trials. But God showed up.

God was present in the fire with the three Hebrew children, but He was not visible once the king's men got them out. The Angel of the Lord came and shut the lion's mouths while Daniel spent the night in their den, but the king came and got him out the next morning when he with feeble faith said, O Daniel, was your God who you serve able to deliver you? Indeed He was! But God didn't open the mouth of the sealed den and let Daniel out, He spent the night there with him.

There are so many stories where God showed up to walk through trials with people of faith. I think of Hagar, who was leaving the mistreatment of Sarah. God showed up and prophesied about her son, Ishmael, but then told her to go back to Sarah and server her. He didn't whisk her away on a white horse.

What about Jeremiah? Some of believer's favorite words were penned by this prophet. I know the plans I have for you....But Jeremiah did not escape the captivity of his day. Instead, God walked through it with him. And all throughout scriptures in stories of great trials and tribulations we see God showing up. His presence hovered over the Children of Israel while they made their way, the long way, through the wilderness - but they still endured the wilderness.

He was with Joseph when he was sold by his brothers into a lifetime of slavery; and also with him when he was in prison for something he didn't do. Even though Joseph did some great things through God's direction - he never just went home. 

This morning I am encouraged by these stories of faith in the furnace. God doesn't always make the fire just go away - but He always shows up and walks through it with us giving us the strength and the courage to face each new day.

Today my thoughts will be on the ever abiding presence of God. I'm going to meditate on the fact that He's not afraid to walk through my furnace(s) with me. When it gets hotter - He gets nearer. Instead of always looking for that way out - I'm going to look for signs of His presence in the fire today. I'll listen for Him and look for Him. And when I sense Him, I'll lean in close to see what He has to say. Will you join me?

Monday, January 25, 2016

Speak Fast Lord, I've Got a Lot to Do!

Caregivers no doubt have a lot on their plate, I mean after all, we are taking care of another whole person's needs on varying levels. Some caregivers are taking care of even more than one. I don't know about you, but my morning can get outta hand hectic way too fast. My morning sets the order for my day - which is why I try to do my devotions first thing. If I don't, I may never get the chance again.

This morning I got up with all the things I had to get done today on my mind. I have work to do to keep the lights on, my son's case manager is coming by this afternoon, a new module opens in my class I'm enrolled in (and I haven't finished last week's module), and just all the normal caregiving stuff like bathing, pureeing, feeding, and the different therapies. I'm tired just thinking about it all!

I got up, got my coffee (I never miss that part), sat in my recliner, opened my Bible and thought You gotta speak fast Lord, I only have 'til 7. And then I stopped. Did I really say that to God? Those were my thoughts to the One who puts more into my life than any person on this planet? I don't say that to the cardiologist - I want him to take his time to listen to me and explain everything fully. I don't say that to my son's health care providers; I want them to be thorough and thoughtful. I don't say that to the teachers of my health coaching classes - I don't want to miss anything. I don't say that to my boss on my job or any of my clients.  I tried to cram the thoughtless prayer back into my head but it had already crept out.

I started to feel badly about it for a minute, but then I felt His gentle nudge. My mind went immediately to Isaiah 30:18 that goes something like this: The Lord longs to be gracious to you, and therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. For the Lord is a God of justice; How blessed are all those who long (or wait) for Him.

My next thought was a scripture out of Jeremiah 29:13 - you will seek me and find me when you seek me with your whole heart.

That's really want I want. My desire is to seek him and to have a heart that is constantly reaching out to Him, not just looking to be rescued from the fiery furnace, but knowing He is walking through it with me, holding me; and carrying me when necessary.

Today I purpose to slow myself down and focus on listening to Him. Even though my list of things to get done today is long, much like yours I'm sure, I will turn my heart and my ears to listen for His gentle nudges today. I won't crowd Him out with all my busy-ness. I'll make room for Him to speak to me today; and I will listen. Will you join me?


Monday, January 18, 2016

He Knows When We Stop By

There's not really any easy days for caregivers, I don't think; but some days are more difficult than others. It was difficult for me to adjust to the new normals when I first stepped into the role and it eventually became second nature, but boy did it take awhile. And that still doesn't mean it's easy.

One thing that keeps me going every day is knowing I have a place to hide if I need it. If I start feeling overwhelmed (more so than usual), or like I can't handle it any more, or just get tired - there's a place I can go.

Nahum 1:7 offers me great comfort in saying: The Lord is good, He is a stronghold in the day of  trouble; and He knows those who take refuge in Him. There are three very distinct and encouraging points in this verse and for me each truth holds a deep meaning and gives me strength.

God is Good. I love this phrase even though I feel like it's misused a lot. Usually, we hear it when a person gets what they want. They get a new car: God is good. After a promotion or raise at work: God is good. They were sick and feel better: God is good. What's interesting to me is I don't hear it, or say it myself, when something doesn't go my way. We never hear, my car broke down, God is good. Or something like I got an unfavorable report from the doctor, God is good. It seems to be used only when something went our way. But I propose that God is always good - His goodness does not change with the winds of our situations. I actually wrote a whole blog post about it on my other blog From the Furnace. The fact that He is good - even when life is not - helps me stay grounded because He doesn't change with my situation - He's still good - and He's still God.

He is a Stronghold in the day of Trouble.  Another favorite of mine is Psalm 46:1 which says God is our refuge and strength a very present help in time of need. He is a safe place to run to when life throws us a curve ball. His door is always open to us and He anxiously awaits our arrival so He can pour His peace into our hearts. He is my hiding place - my refuge when it all gets too big for me to carry. I love the fact that I can go running to Him anytime of any day - and you know what? I always found Him waiting for me. Now that's comfort.

He knows those who take refuge in Him. Not only does He wait for our arrival - He knows us. He knew we were coming, which is comforting. But He went past that and knows us. He knows what makes us tick, what sets us over the edge, what gives us peace. Psalm 139 is a great passage that talks about how He knows us inside and out; and He's still not scared to hang out with us! :-)
 Actually He greatly anticipates our arrival and welcomes us with open arms. He knows those of us who take refuge in Him.

Today I will meditate on how He knows me - and still likes me! My thoughtss will be on how He is good all the time, I can run to Him all the time, and He knows me all the time. Knowing any one of these is comforting - but getting a grasp of all three of them is strengthening. I will focus my thoughts on His goodness which surrounds and protects my heart as I seek Him for refuge.Will you join me?