Friday, July 3, 2015

When the Word uses Words

Many people think the life of the caregiver is one full of constant distress. In one way this is true in that there is never a dull moment and always something or someone to tend to. But once the initial shock is over, and we accept our role and find a new normal, life just goes on like it does for everybody else.

That's of course not to say that the caregiver's life is an easy one or that we are not concerned and busy with many different tasks....daily. Even though our minds and bodies go a hundred miles an hour all of our waking hours, there can still be an underlying heart peace.


John 14:27 tells us that God gives us a peace that is not like the world's version of peace, which is not peace at all. I have to be the first one to say that not letting my heart be troubled and not letting  my heart be afraid are not easy tasks and it takes a lot of effort on my part.

He gives us His peace; a peace that is way beyond our understanding (Philippians 4:7.It is up to us whether or not we yield our hearts to His peace. It's there - He gave it. But it's on us to tap into it, relax with it and enjoy it.

One of my favorite people is Tyler Perry who writes and plays the character Madea in plays and movies. In Diary of a Mad Woman, Madea shares a word of wisdom straight from Tyler Perry's heart. In this scene Madea is talking about the story where the disciples were in the boat with Jesus and a storm arose and Jesus stood up and said three simple words, Peace be still.

Madea's point is this. Jesus is the word according to John 1:1. And in this story the Word is using words. When the Word speaks words He speaks them in past, present and future tense. So when Jesus said Peace be still.  Peace was already still. So according to Madea (Tyler Perry) peace was still, peace is still and peace is still being still! While Madea's method is a little unorthodox, what she says in this scene is revelatory.

Peace is eternal it is up to us to tap into the source. Then the next task is to keep our hearts there and allow His peace to reign in our hearts. (Colossians 3:15)

Today I will make a conscious effort to allow the peace He gives to rule in my heart. I will fight off anything that comes to disrupt this peace. My meditation will be on how His peace is eternal and never goes away. Today I will rest in His peace. Will you join me?

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Rest? Who Needs Rest?

When I first brought my son home I soon realized that a good night's sleep was a thing of the past. It was like having an infant again where even if they sleep well, you wake up with every little sound they make. I finally adjusted and relaxed a bit until now I do get some sleep.

In case you hadn't noticed, I'm pretty high strung and very active inside and out. I hate to sleep - I know I need it but it seems like such a waste of time. Do you know what all I could get done in that 6 hours? Yes, 6 hours, that's what I try to give myself because I just can't stand to sleep away one-third of the day.


Actually, sleep and rest are two different things and as I have battled my own medical conditions of late (perhaps brought on by lack of sleep? *smile*) I have learned the importance of sleeping and resting. Sleep is the way we rest our bodies so they remain strong and fight off disease. But rest is an inside thing. Maybe that's why Jesus said in Matthew 11:29 that He would give us rest for our souls.  Our mind, will and emotions need to find that place of rest more than our bodies do. If our minds are going too fast or our emotions run high there is no good sleep anyway. Our mind and emotions can rob our bodies of necessary rest.

God understands the caregiver's need for rest; and He is gentle with us. There are days when we think we cannot move one more step. And then have to take our loved one to urgent care or the ER. We step up and do what needs to be done knowing that when we do get back home it's going to be a long night. We can go without sleep, and many of us do much of the time; but He can give us rest for our souls.

There is a place in Him where our souls can be comforted on the most difficult of days. Hebrews 4:9 tells us that there remains a Sabbath rest for His people. Even though the caregiver's life is far from normal to others and it can be very hectic - there is a rest we can walk in. Remember Matthew 11:29? Jesus prefaced that by saying Come to me. Even though the church tends to ignore the caregiver, Jesus does not shun us because we look different and live differently than others. He reaches into our chaotic, painful world and gently says, "Come to me and I will give you rest."

Today I will make a conscious effort to come to Him. My meditation will be on the truth that He loves me and cares for me. I will turn my thoughts to working at resting in Him. Will you join me?

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Un-sacrificial Sacrifice

There is no picture perfect view of a caregiver as each situation is unique. Some caregivers spend time looking in on a loved one and checking to make sure things are going along smoothly while others provide total care for their loved one. No matter where we fit on that scale caregivers give up some portion of their lives to take care of another.

In 2008 I was perched to explore the world. I had gotten rid of everything, moved to Chicago and was scheduled to go to South Africa the following January with a Bible school. Those hopes and dreams faded after I received the phone call about my son's wreck. Instead of flying to Africa, I was headed back to Louisiana to be with my son. Although it was quite the process to work through- It doesn't feel like a sacrifice; it's just what needed to be done.

In Philippians 3:7-10 Paul talks about how he gave up everything to know Christ. Verse 10 states he was conformed to His death. As a caregiver we allow ourselves to "die" in order to provide for our loved ones. We give up something on some level to be able to do what we do to care for someone else. We are acquainted with sacrifice; and we look like Him. 

Earlier in Philippians 2:6-7, Paul stated that Jesus emptied Himself He made Himself nothing, humbled Himself and became like us. Why? Hebrews 12:2 says that He did it for the joy set before Him. He did not consider the cross in His death - but He considered us.

While caregivers may or may not feel  like we are sacrificing anything, there are times we realize we really lost our lives in the shuffle.  As difficult as it is sometimes there is a joy and a satisfaction that comes from caring for a loved one. I'll be the first to stand up and say it is a difficult journey and a battle everyday. But I count that all as nothing because of the love for my son.

Jesus felt the same way about us. He willingly gave it all up and laid it all down and counted it as joy; not a sacrifice.  When we lay down our lives to any extent for our loved ones, we look a lot like Him.

Today I will think about how great a love God has for us - that He prepared a way for us to get back to Him before He ever said, "Let there be light." I will meditate on what value He must place on us to love and care for us that much. I will smile today in light of His unsacrificial sacrifice and I will rejoice that He loves us as much as we love the ones we care for. Will you join me?

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Aren't you glad we don't have a screen on our foreheads displaying our every thought? Sometimes it might be useful, but I know there are lots of things that run through my mind every day that I would not want anyone to know about.

Caregiver's thoughts are busy - they have to be because we have so many things to work out every single day. Many times I've condemned myself for my own thoughts not realizing it really is the way we work through stuff. But there are lots of thoughts that simply cannot be shared with others. For the caregiver there can be lots of things that we choose not to share.

When I first brought my son home from the nursing home and started working with him full time, I realized how difficult life was for him. He struggles to do anything. I had some thoughts many would find unacceptable. The only one I dare share is that my thoughts were that it would've been better for him to die in the wreck rather than live this way. Immediately I condemned myself for thinking that only to do some research and find that it was totally normal to have those thoughts and emotions; they go with the grieving process. They are normal to have - but not normal to share.

I started thinking about this because this weekend during my personal devotions I found myself in Luke 7, a passage I've read probably thousands of times. But this time, I saw something different. It reads like this:

Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him (Jesus) saw this,
he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet He would know
who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, 
that she is a sinner."
And Jesus answered him,

I stopped there because that's what grabbed me. The Pharisee was upset that Jesus was letting this "sinner" wash His feet and had these judgmental thoughts. They were just thoughts - but Jesus answered them. If He knows the thoughts of the Pharisee, don't you think He knows the heart and thoughts of those who love Him?

Psalm 139:3 says He is intimately acquainted with all my ways. He knows my thoughts, actions and even the intents of my heart. Verse 1 of this psalm says He understands my thoughts.  I will rest in that today - knowing that He knows my thoughts - the good, the bad and the ugly - and He understands them. He understands me, the caregiver.

Today I will rest in the fact that God understands me - He gets me; and He offers no condemnation. I will rejoice in the fact that He is intimately acquainted with all my ways and knows me inside out. I'm okay with that. My goal for today will be to relax and not try  futilely to  hide my thoughts. I'm going to let Him run around in my thoughts and heart all day unrestrained and yield to His presence in my life. Will you join me?

Monday, June 29, 2015

So Great a Love

One of the best things I have purchased as a caregiver is a baby monitor. I found I was not getting up as much throughout the night because if I heard my son I could glance at the monitor and just see if he needed me or was just moving around a bit. It also allowed me to go outside for my coffee and Bible study but still be able to keep an eye on him and hear him. This is very helpful especially on the mornings he chooses to sleep in a little bit.

As a caregiver for someone who needs help with just about everything but breathing I have to watch and listen for him constantly. There are not many breaks and this little monitor lets me hear and see him in a way that gives me a little bit of freedom too.

Just like I keep an eye on my son and an ear open for his every sound, God is always leaning in our direction. He always has His eye on us; and He is always listening for our voice. 2 Chronicles 16:9 states that the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is perfect toward Him. He is always looking for that opportunity to be strong in us and for us.

1 Peter 3:12 tells us that the ears of the Lord are over the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers. He listens for us. In my imagination I see Him standing in the heavenlies leaning over with his ear cupped with his hand listening for the faintest cry of the heart that is turned toward Him.

Just like we get tuned in to our loved ones and are anticipating their cry, moan, or any noises at all; and just like we watch over them day and night to help them when it's needed - God watches over us intently. Why? Because we are His children.

1 John 3:1 tells us that He loves us so much He calls us his children. He loves us and holds us by His side. In the same loving way we care for our loved ones He loves us and cares for us. I've said many times that I learned about His love by being a caregiver. Love keeps me by my son's side - just like love held Jesus to the cross for our sake.

Today I will meditate on how much He loves us. I'll think about the love I feel when I hold my son close and realize that He feels that same way about me. I will allow Him to hold me close today as I turn my thoughts to accepting the love He pours out on us, His children. Will you join me?

Friday, June 26, 2015

On this Journey

Ever have one of those days when you just need to be reminded that He is with you? I've had a few. He can send subtle reminders that He is near through a beautiful sunset, a rainbow stretched across the sky or the laughter of a child. Somehow these little lights in our day can help us remember that He is with us and He has not placed us on this earth and forgotten about us.

I try to remind myself that we have the promise that He will never leave or forsake us. That is found in Hebrews 13:5 but it's actually a quote from Deuteronomy 31. In this chapter Moses is prepping the Children of Israel for a shift in leadership. He first tells the people that God is not leaving or forsaking them. Then he turns to Joshua and tells him that God is going with him and will never leave or forsake him.

Then in Joshua 1:5 when God gives Joshua his charge He specifically tells Joshua again that He will never leave or forsake him on the journey. Hebrews is just a re-quote of what God told Joshua and the Children of Israel as they were preparing to go on into the promised land.

Something else that is in all three of these passages is the reminders to be strong and courageous; and to not be afraid. Since God has our back, what is there to fear? He is with us, no matter where we are in life's journey and therefore there is nothing to fear. We as caregivers can be forced to face many fears from what being able to provide for our loved ones, to providing proper care to what will happen when we are gone. But no matter what kinds of crazy thoughts (and even rational ones) go through our minds He is with us on this journey. You know, God is omnipresent; He is everywhere - He has to be with us - He has no where to go! (smile)

I just need to be reminded that He is with me right here, right now. I'll close out today with the words to a song I wrote many years ago - they seem appropriate.

How could such a great God dwell among us?
This mighty One of Israel
God of power and of all might
yet in our hearts He longs to dwell.

I can't comprehend His great presence
as heaven and earth He does fill
But His choice of habitation
is in a heart that is still.

Today my meditation will be on how God could be and live anywhere  but He chooses to live in me. I will meditate on the truth that He is with me because He wants to be; I will allow my heart to smile at His presence. Will you join me?

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Attitude Latitude

One thing that I have learned as a caregiver is how much attitude comes into play. I think it really helps to choose to have a positive attitude. But sometimes our latitude or position as an advocate makes it difficult on our attitude. We are many times in positions where it takes some true grit to endure and to get things done on behalf of our loved ones.

Many would say that because of our latitude we have a "right" to let some things get out of control. I have to admit that there are days when it's a very big struggle to try and keep my attitude in line with Christian values. There are many emotions accompanying the caregiving package. We do get angry sometimes, sad at other times and emotions can just be all over the place some days. There's a lot on our plate every single day. But our attitude has a lot to do with how we handle an overloaded plate.

Running on overload does not excuse poor decisions or bad behaviors. We are still accountable for every word we say and responsible for where our thoughts roam Our attitude has a lot to do with how we live our days. I can get really down and have battled depression as a caregiver (some say it's part of the package too), but overall I tend to try to keep a positive attitude. It makes the day go somewhat smoother.

Psalm 57 is a passage that has a special place in my heart as I discovered it when battling a mystery illness in 1986. It described my emotions to a T as I felt like I was being swallowed up by sickness. Those around me thought I was dying. During that struggle this psalm brought me great comfort.

It's the second part of the psalm that stands out to me now. David says I will several times depending on the version you are reading. These are attitudinal declarations; he said:

I will sing and give praise
I will wake early
I will praise You
I will sing to You

Many times I've said that as caregivers we live in the furnace. We are constantly in the fires of life and they don't often let up. And even though it seems like it would be fair for us to be exempt in some areas, our attitude is still our choice, and we can't let our latitude determine it for us.

Today I will turn my thoughts to praising Him for what He has done. I will purposefully delight myself in Him. I'm going to guard my mouth a little more closely and work a little harder at staying positive in the fight. My thoughts will be on His goodness rather than the situation; and my meditations of Him will be sweet. Will you join me?