Monday, March 27, 2017

That's Impossible!

Do you ever read the Bible and get frustrated? I do. And immediately afterwards I feel guilty. But feelings are feelings now, aren't they? This morning after making coffee, changing and bolusing my son, I sat down with my Bible and a fresh cup of coffee to read a bit. My pen was in Zechariah so I just started reading there in chapter 8 which starts talking about God's passionate love for Mount Zion and Jerusalem.

It continues talking about how He is going to rescue His people and restore them. Zechariah says God will bring all His people back home and basically restore their fortunes, reestablish them and give them peace. In verse 12, God says He is going to plant seeds of peace and prosperity among them. I wonder what that looks like when it plays out in real time.

For a long time, I thought God was going to ride in on a white horse and rescue me and my son too. Of course that didn't happen. Then I struggled with anger, bitterness and frustration. Caregivers have to work through a lot of that sometimes. I learned that restoration didn't look quite like I thought - but He can restore. I learned that whether my son got up and walked again or not - my faith is still in God. He didn't restore my son, but He did restore my faith.

Maybe He didn't restore my BC (before caregiving) life, but He did restore my passion for Him. Perhaps I was looking for lands, houses and wealth - while He was doing a supernatural work restoring my heart and my passion for Him. Oh yeah, remember David says He restores my soul. Isn't that the part that matters most anyway?

As I went back and re-read the passage in Zechariah 8, my eyes fall on verse 6 which says, all of this may seem impossible to you now, a small and discouraged remnant of God's people. But do you think it is impossible for me, the Lord Almighty? He did not scream, yell, rant or rave when He pointed out their discouragement. It wasn't derogatory for Him to remind them they were but a small people. The thing is, He could see them through and through and He sought to restore them anyway.

Here's the cool part to me. He said I will bring them home to live safely in Jerusalem.They will be My people, and I will be faithful and just toward them as their God. That's the part He can restore - and that part - changes everything.

He will not stop being my God when I am small and discouraged. Compassion moves Him toward us - not away from us. It's not impossible for Him to restore our brokenness. This body isn't the important part, it's that part of us that isn't going to die that needs His touch. The secret areas of our heart where no man can see is what needs to be made whole. And He can do that.

Today, I will yield my soul to the work of His hands. I won't look for restoration in the natural realm - but I will wait for Him to do His work in my soul: in my mind, will and emotions. And rather than hold it back because I'm still a little bit mad at Him, I'll move out of my comfortable cave - and let Him see me, let Him touch me. I'll let Him touch and restore the deep recesses of my heart that I don't show to anyone. That place where discouragement lives. I will turn my thoughts to His compassion for us and His deep desire to see us whole before Him. And I will let. Yup - I'm gonna let Him work in me today as I trust Him for one more day. Will you join me?

Friday, March 24, 2017

Peeking Out of the Cave

Do you feel like you are in a constant state of change? Sometimes I am afraid to put my feet down so to speak, as everything is bound to be different before I get them settled. Today will be different too, as each day is unique and yet redundant at the same time.

We do the same caregiving tasks over and over, day after day. Today, though I have the promise of an aide. And now that I have settled in to an aide-less routine, that means changing it all up again. It sounds silly and like it wouldn't matter, but it really does change a lot.

For instance, I want to make sure our laundry is sorted out because when aides are not coming regularly I do some of it together. I also have to get Chris fed, bathed or up (depending on his sleeping schedule) before the aide comes - or figure out when it fits in. I pretty much have to change the way I do my mornings since I have word he's really going to come. (His boss told him if he didn't show up today, she'd restaff him. Why she didn't say that to the one who is supposed to come 3 days a week I have no idea.) I'm trying not to get too excited about maybe getting to run outside or go grab a few groceries because you never really know.

I'm thinking it would be really nice if people just did their jobs. But today I'm wondering if that's just a bit much to ask. I really feel like aides, and maybe even others, don't really know their value. Maybe they think it's just a "job." They don't understand the break they can give us or how much it helps for them to tackle some of our daily chores. They just want to get their paycheck. But that is not in any way a demonstration of their true value.

When it comes to relieving the caregiver, a good aide is invaluable. They don't seem to get that. Even doing a couple loads of laundry, vacuuming or sitting with my son for a few minutes so I can run is worth more than anyone can pay. Especially if I get to run out and be free for a few minutes! They are not here long and I have to balance it all with work so I often have to choose between getting some errands done or going for a run. I also have to do everything with one eye on the watch because I have to be time conscious. But it can make or break my day. They don't understand the value in that.

As I am thinking about aides and how they can really make a difference for caregivers if they put just a little heart into it, I wonder if we underestimate our value to God, and to others for that matter. We can feel cut off and separate from society like we live in a cave with no real value to give. Ah, yes the caregiver's cave. It can be a humble, but safe place to be.  It can also be lonely and dark sometimes. And when we do dare to peek out - it looks so different out there.

Our days, our jobs, our lives can look so different, in fact that it's much easier to stay tucked inside rather than venture out to see what our lives appear to be lacking. I have to guard my attitude sometimes because I hear people outside my cave whining about what I consider a simple matter - an outside the cave matter. Looking at life out there can make me feel more alone - more separated, and of less value. But this is simply not true.

We are the apple of His eye - of great value. God didn't take anything back from us as His children because we became caregivers. Every single promise still holds true. We are still in the beloved, His son still died for us, we are still the righteousness of God in Christ. He still calls us His own. And the list could go on and on. We are still part of His greatest treasure.

Today, I am going to think about how valuable I am to God, even if I don't feel like it. Life may discard us - but He does not. I'll turn my thoughts to His great love for us - even caregivers - and aides. I'll meditate on the value He must place on us. I'll think about what it means to be His prized possession or to be precious in His sight. And that should fill my mind up today - as I trust Him for one more day. Will you join me?

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

How do You Smell?

I was reading Isaiah 55 this morning and several things jumped out at me. One of them was verse 10 which says He was pleased to crush Him. That made me think of how they make essential oils (which I use daily) and how perfume is made as well. In either of these processes, it's the crushing that brings out the sweet fragrance.

Now, I have to admit that sometimes in the crushing - the fragrance that has been released was not pleasant. Remember crushing stink bugs as a kid - that was not nice, nor did it smell good. Crush a garlic and you'll smell garlic. But you will get whatever is inside of what's being crushed.

Caregiving can be a crusher that lets us know what's truly inside. As a matter of fact, it's more like a constant crushing, I refer to it as living in the furnace. It never stops. This can reveal our character - what we are really made of - what we really smell like.

I've seen both as it pertains to myself. There are times when the crushing comes and out pops the sweetest poem, song, thought or action toward another. And then of course, there are the times when the crushing brings out cussing, screaming and the I just can't take it anymores. It can depend on the day, or the moment really.

But as I'm looking through this chapter, I see that He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.  He was despised, afflicted and crushed for our iniquities. It also says He was despised and forsaken of men. Wow. Some of the feelings we can deal with as caregivers - Jesus felt them too. He understands rejection and never quite fitting in. He understands taking the blows for someone else. He understands when others look away because we look too hideous. And He did it all for others - not for Himself. The ultimate caregiver.

He was crushed so we could experience salvation, He was bruised so we could be healed. He was beaten so we could be justified. He laid His life down so we could all live. When He was crushed the beautiful fragrance of redemption poured forth.

Day after day we lay our lives out there for our loved ones - and it smells good to Him. The fragrance of our crushing brings out a sweet smell that is identifiable as love. The same love that held Him on the cross for us - is the love that holds us by our loved one's side. That smells good to Him.

For me, it's easy to see how He loves others with that kind of love, but I can't always grasp it for myself. I think as caregivers we get so outwardly focused, partly because we have to be, that we can't see it for ourselves. But He loves us. He calls us His. He redeemed us - He didn't die for everyone except caregivers.

Today I will turn my thoughts to His great love for us....for me. I'll meditate on how it can be possible for Him to feel the same measure of love for me as I feel for my son, and even more. I will roll it around in my head and try to comprehend His love for me, and my work will be to accept it and to trust Him for one more day. Will you join me?

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Who Am I Really?

It's so easy to get lost in the shuffle. We don't have to go through the list of all the things we have to do in a day, or the numerous people who come through weekly to check on our loved one, or the paperwork we have to keep up with - all to provide proper care. But most of these activities are based around the one we are caring for - not around us.

My "love language" is time. If you spend time with me I feel loved. You can lavish gifts on me  (not that anyone has tried that recently! lol) and I won't necessarily be able to translate that as love. But spend time with me and I will feel like you care.

The social isolation of caregiving and the always feeling like you're out of step with normal can start to wear on you. Lately, I'm so much more comfortable with caregiving - and not struggling as much about going into public places. I guess that happens when you don't have an aide for an extended period of time and you just have to adjust. I also nearly ran out of coffee - that'll get you out of the house. ;-)

But over the weekend, I had to do some thinking and dealing with the feelings of rejection. It can be easy to feel like life itself has rejected us - like we don't really belong anywhere. It's not true - but it can feel that way. To be honest, even small things like aides not showing up can wear away at one's self-worth. The one aide needs to get fingerprints. This is his second week to not work and for me it sends the message we are not worth his time to go get that done. And of course the company doesn't offer a fill-in. This and many other things can wear away at one's self-worth.

Last week I was dealing with this issue, actually caused by another event and I felt myself slipping into the abyss. Feelings of worthlessness, rejection, and aloneness tried to weigh me down. I started rehearsing some of the scriptures that reminded me of how much He loves me - no matter what life looks like or if I have to do it alone.

I compiled the list and labeled the file Come Away my Beloved. Because the truth is that we are His beloved - no matter what our lives look like to us or to others. Whether we are a sole caregiver or actually have some help, whether we can attend church or can't get out much at all. It doesn't matter we are still His beloved. That's who we really are and it doesn't change, period.

Today I am going to focus on the truth that I am His beloved child. My thoughts will be on His acceptance of me - I will turn my meditations to how much He loves me and cares for me in this life I am living for Him. I'll rest in His love for today. Will you join me?

Monday, March 20, 2017

Not True!

One of the things I do to "deal" with caregiving is run. I started while my son was initially in the hospital because I was looking for a way to be active. We spent almost 4 months in the hospital after his wreck. I stayed with him and never left except for very short outings to do laundry and such. I read a lot, but finally started a running plan just to get some activity in as the sitting wore me out.

It took me three weeks to work up to the beginning program, but eventually I trained for that first 5K. I found running to be a great stabilizer for me. When I run, my body releases tension, my head seems to clear and I just feel better in general.

Yesterday I finished my 22nd half marathon. I hadn't trained properly for it so it was a tough one. That and the fact that I'm coming off an injury I sustained in an 8 mile trail race  back in January made for a rather painful race. On a tough race like that all the "good thoughts" disappear about 7 miles in. I get frustrated with myself and my mind starts turning toward negative thoughts.

Yesterday I started thinking about how overweight I am and my lack of self control as it pertains to eating and training. The half-marathon mind cannot be held accountable as it gets crazy in there - but at some point for whatever reason, I thought about how "ugly" I must look. Then I thought about my life and literally had the thought, my whole life is ugly.

The second I heard that thought go through my head - I heard this resounding Not True! It was sort of like God pulled out a huge "not true" stamp and landed it on my head. It was funny to me - and the thoughts it initiated kept me going for a good mile or two more. Even though many parts of caregiving can be "ugly" or difficult, or not the normal picture of life, there's still much beauty in it.

I thought about how beautiful it is to lay down one's life for another. That's what we do isn't it? Jesus said there's no greater love than this. That's beautiful. The way we care so much for another whole person and strive to meet every need - no matter what that need is at the moment - He thinks is beautiful. 

Sure, it's tough. Sure it's not the normal picture of how life is supposed to be. Sure, we lose a lot of freedom by choosing caregiving - but He thinks it's beautiful. Now when I think something that's not true - I'm going to envision a huge "not true" stamp coming down on the top of my head! lol

As I opened my Bible this morning for devotions, I just happened on the passage in Luke 7, and I felt it applied. Jesus was dining with one of the Pharisees and a woman who had a shady past, an ugly life, began to wash Jesus' feet. The Pharisee thought 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.  The truth is - He did know. And He found beauty in it. Jesus used this imaginary "Not true!" stamp to negate the Pharisee's thoughts as He explained that this woman performed acts of kindness, of caregiving if you will, when the Pharisee did not. He found it beautiful - not ugly.

May we all experience the "Not true!" stamp when we think what we do is less than beautiful. I've said it before but it bears repeating that as we demonstrate our love through caregiving - we look a lot like Him. And I feel that He is pleased.

Today I am going to purposefully let Him show me the beauty in my situation. My thoughts will be on how He takes good care of my soul with the same type of love that I provide care for my son. I'm going to think about how this woman washed Jesus' feet out of pure love and how He saw the act. I believe that's how He sees us as caregivers too. He is just as passionate for us as we are for our loved ones, just as protective, compassionate, and loving - maybe more. I will turn my thoughts to these truths today. I'm going to trust Him and rest in Him for one more day - will you join me?

Friday, March 17, 2017

But Can I Forgive the Aides?

When I became a caregiver, everything changed. It was both instant and gradual. Instantly I was thrust into learning all about brain injuries and how to provide personal care for another adult. As time went on, as it tends to do, I learned more until now I'm literally helping write a course on it.

A caregiver pretty much lives in a state of adaptability. We never know what a day may bring and we have to be ready to change on the fly in order to handle whatever might come up. But we are still sons, daughters, moms, sisters, dads, brothers, etc. Many friends walk away, the church doesn't know what to do with us and usually our jobs either adapt to our new responsibilities as caregivers, we no longer have them or we adjust in some other way like working online.

I think our Christian walk is similar in this way. The second we accept Christ - we are changed. Bam! We are a new creation. But over time a we learn more about Him and become more like Him we see continued changes. This is true for everyone. The more time we spend with Him the more we'll look like Him as He tends to rub off on His kids.

This morning I was reading in Colossians 3 and in verse 10 Paul says we have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him - And then the next verse says there's no distinction - all believers are renewed; the Greek and the Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free - and I'd like to add caregivers or caregivees - Christ is all, and in all.

I stopped there in my reading and thought about that for awhile. Our roles as caregivers take absolutely nothing away from who we are in Christ. For that matter we still have the responsibility of pressing in to Him - no matter what life throws our way. No one ever gets it so bad they get an exempt card. 

On one hand, this is good. I am still eligible for His love, grace, mercy, peace, and many abundant blessings. But then I realize that since nothing changes in the spirit realm when we become a caregiver I still have to put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. I still have to live out verse 13 - bearing with one another, forgiving each other and put on love.
I'm glad to not be exempt on the good stuff - but can I catch a break on the rough stuff? Do I still have to deal with caregiving and the struggles and still be patient? Even with aids (two of them now) that don't show up for over a week? I still have to forgive? Everyone?


And that might just be the difficult part. But I can't move on to the last three verses of this chapter until I've done these. Only after I embrace his love, forgiveness, gentleness and mercy - can I let His peace rule in my heart and let his word dwell in me richly.

Caregivers are not exempt on either end, and that's a good thing. I also think He works those things in and through us as we learn to lean on Him more for each day's needs. Today I just need grace. At least I already know the aid isn't showing up as he texted last night - so I can adjust my schedule and chores accordingly. But can I forgive the aids for leaving me in a lurch? Can I work through the depression that seems to close in when I don't get those little breaks? Can I forgive them? They really do not have a clue how beneficial their services are - can I just be thankful?

Today I will shift my focus from frustration and fury to forgiveness. My thoughts will be on how patient He is with me - and I pray I can be the same with others. I'll rejoice in the fact that I still have everything Christ has to offer - my status being His - didn't change when caregiving started. And I'll do some inner reflection and let Him shine the light on the things I still need to change. I will yield to Him as He continues to change me into His image one (tiny) step at a time. I'll rest in Him as He brings about change - and I'll trust Him for one more day. Will you join me?

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Broke, Broke, or Broke?

You know how caregiving days go. Even though there's nothing easy about it, some days are good, some are better and a few are downright rough. There can be a number of reasons for a rough day. It might be physically rough, mentally rough, emotionally rough or a combination of any of those plus any number of other reasons. Yesterday, I just felt broke. I'm learning to take it all to Him. He's not afraid of my broken state.

Yesterday, I was thinking about how broken I was and in the process I realized there are three basic types of "broke." I can be financially broke - which thank God for His provision - I am not. I can be broke - like not working and needing to be fixed broke. Or I can be broke - like broken before God, humble and broken.

 I'm in the middle of a challenge called the psalmist challenge. I designed it myself as part of a project I'm working on. For 30 days I have to take a few minutes to play, sing and pray. So far, every day I have written a short poem or song at least. It's interesting what we can hear when we tune our ears in. So I decided to take my "broke" self to Him. But did He want it? Would He turn me away because my life felt ugly like people do?

I thought of the scripture in Psalm 34:18 that says The Lord is near the brokenhearted and I wondered if it had any defining qualifications on it. Is He near me if I feel like I'm broken and cannot mend? Is He near me if I am broken emotionally and feel like I can't move on or take one more step? Or is He near me just when I am humbly bowing before Him overcome with His presence? Is He near me when I feel spent, exhausted and done?  I'm thinking it's "D" all of the above.

God is not afraid of my broken state. He doesn't shun me when I am riddled with fears. He won't cast me aside when I am overcome by the daily rigors of caregiving. When people avoid me because they don't know what to say - He draws close. Broke, broke or broken - none of them scares Him, and He draws near.

I am not entirely sure which the psalmist is talking about in this verse. He goes on in verse 19 to say there are many afflictions for the righteous. I'm avoiding the next part of that verse as it says the Lord delivers them out of them all. You and I both know He's not riding in on a white horse today to carry us away. So what does that mean? Contextually, I believe it means He rides through it with us - carrying us all along the way. Those steps we don't have the strength to make - He makes for us. He doesn't remove everything and make life all hunky-dory, but He does endure it with us and carry us through it.

So, no matter if we feel broke, broke or broke, He draws near and He beckons for us to draw near to Him. He's not afraid of our broken state. He won't turn and look away because of the pain like people tend to do. He walks right up to us in the midst of the fiery trial and says, Come near. He will pull us right up to Himself just like a father gently holding a hurting child. He brings comfort. He will not abandon.

Today I will meditate on His nearness. I'll turn my thoughts to how He longs to hold me near to His heart when I am hurting the most. My thoughts will be on how He picks me up, brushes me off, holds me, and is walking through this with me; even carrying me when need be. I will rest in the fact that He is present - ever present. And I'll trust Him for one more day - will you join me?

Here is the video of the short song I wrote yesterday about how He draws us near whether we are broke, broke or broke. Come Near.