Monday, August 22, 2016

As Honest as a Psalmist

I was working on a project over the weekend and found myself enjoying the depth of the Psalms once again. I know I spend a lot of time in these chapters, but I've always enjoyed them. Maybe it's because I am a songwriter, a poet or always running from a lion. (lol)

For whatever reason, my love for the psalms and identifying with the psalmists who wrote them have grown over the years. The candidness about their true feelings and how they turn the related emotions around into pure worship amazes me.

This morning I found myself back in Psalm 37, one of my long-time favorites. Although the entire chapter is wonderful, my focus remained on the last two verses where David says:

The Lord saves the godly;
He is their fortress in times of trouble.
The Lord helps them,
rescuing them from the wicked.
He saves them,
and they find shelter in Him.

I zeroed in on two or three things that stuck out to me. First of all, not once, but twice, David mentions the Lord saving the godly. He saves them - He is their fortress. He saves them - He is their shelter. I'm not sure what the technical difference is between the two, but to me a fortress is a shelter, but a shelter is not necessarily a fortress. Whether He is our shelter or our fortress (I'm thinking a fortress is bigger and stronger and more stable than a shelter) we needed saving. Either way I figure, He's got us covered!

The second thing that grabbed my attention was the phrase: in times of trouble. We don't need "saving" from nothing. I live in Oklahoma and we only go to the cellar when there is a storm, but we don't live there all the time. God is our fortress in times of trouble. For the caregiver, I think this is an ongoing thing. Maybe it's just me - but it seems every day I am faced with discouragement, raw emotions, struggles, fears and uncertainty. I find I need Him every second of every day.

If I am as honest as a psalmist - I'd tell you how my thoughts and emotions have tried to run away with me this weekend. I'd tell you my soul was in despair.  If I was as honest as a psalmist I'd say my emotions tried to carry me away on a stream of fear. I'd tell you I've told God I don't know if I trust You anymore. If I was as honest as a psalmist I'd tell you I've questioned everything. 

But if I were as honest as a psalmist I'd also tell you I've learned to rely on God for everything. I'd tell you I have clung to Him more tightly and every doubt, fear and moment of uncertainty have ended up in deepened praise, raw worship and utter amazement at the glory of God.

Today, I will turn my thoughts to His glory rather than my story. I will on-purpose run to Him with my raw emotions and crazy thoughts and I will give them all to Him. I will back up and live out verse five of this psalm. I will commit everything I do to Him, and trust Him to help me. And as my life is poured out in this act of worship, I will rest in Him for one more day. Will you join me?

Thursday, August 18, 2016

One More Day

Did you ever feel like you're a bit schizo? I'm not making light of a legit condition, but as a caregiver it's so easy to be up one minute and bottom out the next. And on some days it seems like it takes very little to have those extremes.

In my situation personally, I've found myself bottoming out lately. I see all the things my son's friends are now doing and I wonder where he would be if the accident had not occurred. I know it's futile - but the mind still goes there. It fills with questions about would he be married? Have children? Be a famous drummer? Would he have achieved his goals? Where would he have lived? How would he have interacted with his sister's kiddos? The list could go on I know for a fact because questions like these can wreak havoc in my head and heart.

I'm sure it's not the same for every caregiver, but we each deal with our own set of questions. So this morning for my devotions, I turned to an old favorite, Psalm 42. I knew that's where I'd find this verse:

Why am I discouraged?
Why so sad?
I will put my hope in God.

I took the time to look back over this familiar psalm written by Korah's sons. The psalm starts with longing for God, and an intense desire to be with Him. And then immediately the thoughts of the enemy enter in the mind - where is your God? What caregiver hasn't asked that? It's too easy to look at situations and wonder where God is, as if He isn't already in the situation. Trust me - He's invested in each of our situations. He's right here - no matter what we feel or don't feel.

The psalmist goes on to express his broken heart as he looks back over how it used to be. He used to  lead worship. He used to  sing and give thanks and celebrate the Lord as a worshiper. I can relate to this as BC (Before the Crash) I led worship in the church setting too. The past can haunt us if we let it.

Then in verse 6, the psalmist says Now I am deeply discouraged...he states openly and honestly just how he feels. It's the next word that is pivotal. But...I will... I will remember Your kindness. And then his tone changes. Instead of thinking about the past and what he felt he had lost, the psalmist is now experiencing waves of God's love.

The writer of Psalm 77 does something similar. He basically says, Lord, I can't see a thing you are doing right now, but I will think about all you've done. Sometimes we just can't see what He is doing and working in our lives in the present moment. But that does not mean He's not working at all. God is always working for His good pleasure. He is always working things out for good - for His good. We may not see a thing and it may seem like He's moved far away - but He has not.

Today I will do just what these two psalmist have modeled, I will turn my thoughts to all God has  done already. I'll meditate on His faithfulness, how He has been a comfort, a stronghold, my protector and provider. My thoughts will be on all He has brought me through. I won't look at what I'm going through right now - I'll tell my soul to look to Him. And then, I will rest in Him and trust Him for one more day. Will you join me?

Thursday, August 11, 2016

What Impresses God?

I've been watching the Olympics this week and thoroughly enjoying them. I guess working from home does have some benefits! I am amazed over and over again by the many athletes. I admire their dedication, tenacity and endurance. Even on some of the sports I don't normally watch I am glued to the TV in awe of these elite athletes.

During my devotions this morning I was reading in Psalm 147 where it says The strength of the horse does not impress Him; how puny in His sight is the strength of man. I kind of smiled at the thought of God not really being all that impressed with our strongest athletes. While they are wonderful, strong and way above the cut as far as we humans are concerned, their strength is basically nothing in comparison to God's.

One of my favorite passages includes the last few chapters of Job where God describes creation from His point of view. It reminds us of how strong He is, how weak we are and how much we need Him! While we are admiring the strongest among us, God is probably just shaking His head.

Psalm 147 goes on to say in verse 11 Rather, the Lord's delight is in those who honor Him, those who put their hope in His unfailing love. He doesn't admire our physical strength - it really does not impress Him. What does impress God then? He is impressed by our trust in Him and our fear of Him.

I did a brief search through Bible Gateway and looked at just Psalm 147:11 in all the English translations. This verse has lots of interpretations. Basically it boils down to the fact that He takes pleasure or even enjoys those who wait for Him and those who trust in His love, mercy or unfailing love.

He is impressed when we trust fully in Him. I believe He smiles when we lean a little closer in to Him and it brings joy to His heart for us to rest in Him and find our hope Him. And like a proud father, maybe His heart beats just a little harder - hard enough for us to hear it if we lean in close. Sometimes, the day of a caregiver is so loud, hurried, busy and loud we have a difficult time hearing His heart. It requires our quietness.

Today I will quiet my heart, soul and mind as I lean in a little closer to hear His heart. My meditations will be on how I can cultivate the hope and trust He is impressed with. My thoughts will be on His unchanging love and dedication to us - His children. And I will rest in Him for one more day. Will you join me?

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

What is normal anyway?

One of the difficult things for caregivers (or at least for me) is the emptiness and sense of loss we can deal with on a daily basis. For me, when I look at all the cool things other runners get to do and how they travel and participate in some of the most creative or scenic races - while I sit here in flat Oklahoma and don't get to play....it can get discouraging. Seeing all the things I don't get to do can wear on me and I can battle lots of negative emotions. 

But when I came across Psalm 119:5-6 this morning it helped me refocus. It says this:

Oh that my actions would consistently reflect Your principles!
Then I will not be disgraced when I compare my life with Your commands.

Why am I comparing myself with others? What if I compared myself with the word? Can we find ourselves in these ancient pages? I think so.

I have shared before that as we lay down our lives day after day for our loved ones - we look like Him. I'm reminded of the scripture no greater love....and we demonstrate that daily. Maybe you can see yourself in David - daily facing Goliaths that stand in your way. Or perhaps you identify with Daniel - and feel your faith is tested in a den of lions. We might identify with any one of our Bible heroes. Maybe we demonstrate how patient God is with us by working patiently with our loved ones. 

Maybe as caregivers we are tenacious like Benaiah. He was one of David's Mighty Men. He chased a lion into a snowy pit, fought him and killed him. He stood up against all odds - weaponless against a lion, and killed him while trying to keep his footing in the snow.(2 Sam. 23:20) This could go so many directions - but it boils down to finding ourselves in those pages. I believe we can.

As caregivers we really can't compare our lives to what most would call normal, because we have our own normal. We rarely see ourselves in the entertainment world - no one talks about us. They really don't know what to do with us and our individual situations can elicit emotions in them that they don't know how to process. So we don't see a caregiver's class - we are politely ignored by society. We cannot compare ourselves to that. But we can measure our lives and our hearts by the word. Isn't that the true standard anyway?

Today I am going to shift my focus to what is happening in the word instead of what is happening in the world. I'll make God's attributes my meditations and set my mind on whatsoever things are honest just, pure, lovely and good report. I'll think about what I look like to Him rather than what I think I look like to everybody else. And I will curl up in His lap - let Him hold me - and I will rest in Him for one more day.Will you join me?



Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Freedom is in the Wait

I got up this morning with the tasks of the day wearing on my mind. Do you have mornings like that? It seems like the alarm not only wakes up your body, but it wakes up the mind and signals it to start running (or thinking) a marathon. That's what it was like for me this morning.

Over the years, I have learned a few strategies that help with that a bit. I write down what I have to do for the day now and prioritize what has to be done first. It seems like it helps me get more organized and get more accomplished in a day. But it doesn't help slow my mind down one bit. Actually, it seems like it frees it up to run other races.

My usual morning goes something like this:

  • push snooze 3-4 times when the alarm goes off at 5:30
  • drag out of bed around 6
  • put on coffee
  • change and bolus Chris
  • get coffee, Bible, notebooks and laptop and head for the recliner
  • stare at wall sipping coffee while my mind goes through daily tasks at 100 mph
  • open Bible......try to make sense of what God is trying to say......
That's about it - every morning.

This morning my Bible fell open to Psalm 119 and the first verse I saw was 45 which says I will walk in freedom for I have devoted myself to your commandments. And off went my mind in a hurried rush. As the question queen I had about 100 of them rolling out of my mind immediately. I thought about how David must not have been a caregiver because freedom is something we definitely don't have. It's something we gave up to be able to care for our loved one. Our lives seem to be anything but free. 

My mind starting racing about true definition of freedom and how my freedom isn't measured in the natural - but in the spirit. Jesus said it is the truth that makes us free. BC (before caregiving) I participated in prison ministry and one of the most touching songs I heard was written by a prisoner who wrote about being free in Christ even though he was living a life behind bars. As caregivers it can feel like life has us on restrictions. That can be difficult to sort through.

But what did the psalmist know about freedom? Or what did he know about the lack of freedom?And why did he throw it in here - in the middle of this psalm? I think he saw God's word as a liberating factor in his life. David had spent years running from Saul, waiting for the promise of kingship. He never raised his hand against Saul even though he could have rightfully taken the throne God had promised him. Instead, he waited.

There's that four-letter word wait again. It keeps coming up doesn't it? Is it just me or does it feel like every day is spent waiting on Him anymore? What are we waiting on Him to do? In truth - He's waiting on us too - He just wants us to bring it all to Him. All of it. All our fears. All our doubts. All our frustrations. All our anxiety. He says to bring it all to Him - and He'll take it as a trade-in for rest. 

That's what Paul said. He said to give Him all your cares -  Why? So He can do the caring for you! So we can walk this life free from fear, guilt, frustration, doubt....and that's what our freedom is all about. It's not about being able to come and go as we want (although that would be nice). It's about not having life burden us down - being free in Him.

Today I am going to explore this freedom. My thoughts will be on how truly free I am no matter what my situation looks like. I will meditate on how free my spirit is; and I'll turn my thoughts to how He will take all my cares. He'll take everything I give Him - but nothing I withhold. And today I'll find it in myself to figure out a way to let go - and let God. I'll let Him do the work as I just rest in Him. Will you join me?

Monday, August 8, 2016

Whether or Not You "Need" It

The last few days have been more hectic than usual around my house. I've had friends and family in and out to celebrate my birthday in one way or another. It's been a wonderful weekend and I'm all birthday-ed out. As we go into a new week, I think about how I'll deal with the alone-ness that is surely to creep back up on me.

I think one of the things we have to deal with as caregivers is being alone. As a single caregiver, I can spend a lot of time all alone and since my son is non-verbal I used to go days without even hearing other's voices except on TV.

Thankfully, my online jobs have changed that and I see and talk to people via video calls frequently. I have also had my health coaching classes I watch via video. It's certainly not as good as in-person, real discussions - but it's been better than nothing. Oddly enough, sometimes if I have a lot of outside contact now - I actually deal with over stimulation. I have to chuckle at that, but it's true. When you live in a caregiver's cave the world can be an overwhelming place.

The good thing is that I've had a wonderful few days filled with phone calls, visits and even an outing. But now we are back to the grind. I'm already feeling like I'm in back to the cave mode as I adjust to the many hours alone once again. It was a nice break.

So what's a caregiver to do as the solitude threatens to swallow them up? For me, I'll slide right back into that place I've found in Him. In Psalm 73:28, the psalmist said this But as for me, how good it is to be near God! I have made the sovereign Lord my shelter, and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things you do. (NLT)

The caregiving journey is similar to any other journey through time - we have the choice whether or not we make Him our shelter. On the rough days I am certainly glad to run to Him and hide from the harshness caregiving can dish out. On the nicer days, I still need the calm of being in His presence and letting Him shelter me.

Today I will be meditating on how He is the ever-present shelter. He protects my spirit and soul from being overcome by the complicated daily routine of caregiving, even when I'm overwhelmed. I will make Him my shelter today (and everyday), and any chance I get to tell someone about how His grace sustains me on this journey - is going to get an earful. But I am going to start with myself. Yes, today I will remind myself of how He has been carrying me for this 8 year (so far) journey. And I will tell myself how He will carry me for another day today. I will rest in him one more day - will you join me?

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Small Enough

Over the weekend I found myself going through my Yahoo email. I have been neglecting its upkeep and had tons of emails. I decided to go through it and delete the ones that no longer mattered. I did not realize I had emails from as far back as 2005!

I had two or three from my son, which had obviously been sent prior to his accident in 2008. Among them I found a jewel of an email. In it, he thanked me for being a cool mom, and for all I did for him, specifically in his pursuit of God.

Yes, my eyes did sweat just a bit as I read over the words he typed long ago. I read them as if he meant them today. But past that, he made a statement that I shared on Facebook and I can't seem to shake it. He said this: I'm in God's hands and I'm too small to get out.

I've thought about that phrase and even though it is a few short words, it is power-packed. He said so much by saying so little. Since I read it, I've been thinking about it a lot. I think about the fact of being in God's hands - and being okay with that. My life is not in my own hands even though it is largely governed by the decisions I make. I'm in His hand. In my mind, I picture a huge hand... and I'm cradled gently inside.

But it's really the second part I'm too small to get out that my mind can't let go of. It says to me - It is futile for me to try and get out of God's hand. I'm not big enough, strong enough, or smart enough to figure out how to worm away from His grasp. But it also speaks of surrender. If I realize my own humanness and frailty - I'm not going to even try. I surrender to His hand.

To me, it means I surrender to His protection, provision, and power in and over my life. It means I let  Him hold me, I'm not fighting to get away or trying to get out of His grasp anymore. One scripture that comes to mind is Psalm 95:7 and it says We are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand. I always thought that was an odd scripture. Shouldn't we be the sheep of His pasture? And the people of His hand? I used to think the psalmist had it backwards. But we are not just sheep out in the pasture - we are in His hand and in His heart.

Psalm 95:6-7 is a song we used to sing back in the day. Come, let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the Lord our God our maker. For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand. Being in God's hand - and realizing we are too small to even try to get out - is not only an act of surrender - but of worship. One of trust. I'm content in His hand - because I do not need to be anywhere else.

Today I am going to think about total surrender to Him. My thoughts will be on trusting Him enough to quit wriggling and squirming around in His hand - and just resting. My efforts will be on finding that place where my soul totally surrenders to Him. And I will be content - and I will rest. Will you join me?