Monday, March 19, 2018

Foggy, Foggy, Foggy

Kyrie's Drawing of our family outing
Once again I am sorry for my absence. I pretty much crashed and burned and ended up in that caregiver's fog. Once you're in it, it's so difficult to find your way back out again. This time it was triggered by several things. The funny thing to me is that often it's not the tasks or responsibilities of caregiving that gets me down. Instead, I find it's the more normal things that get to me. This time, it was my son's birthday.

He was 24 when he had the wreck and this year he turned 34. I think all the losses piled up on me, the thoughts of the things he missed. I see his friends marrying, having children, playing music and it wears on me. Plus, he got a couple of phone calls from family and one card. I do get it that he is nonverbal - it's difficult. But his life still matters. He is still here for a reason.

Anyway, it sent me off into a bout with depression and I spent some time trying to crawl out. This last week it broke off of me. I was thinking about some of the power chapters in the Bible. You can probably think of a few. They are just jam-packed with powerfully good stuff. Romans 8 is one of them. It's got verse after verse that you can live on. John 17 is another one. Hebrews 11 too.

I was going through those different chapters one after another and it helped me shift my thinking from my situation and back into line with His thinking. I can so easily get dragged down that road of regret or down the path of discouragement. As caregivers, we don't get tired, we are tired. Oftentimes, there's no one there to pick us up, no one to share that word of encouragement. We have to become like David who encouraged himself in the Lord. But to be totally honest, some days I just don't have it in me to do that. I need someone to pick me up. But I look around and there's no one there. So, it's back to one-foot-in-front-of-the-other just to get through the day.

So, as I was fighting like crazy to get out of the caregiver's fog once again, there was a shift. I was out running and thinking of all those power chapters and walking through them in my head when I was all of a sudden just okay. I can't even explain it. My thought was to only say what He says about me. That is my task for this week.

Today's thought is out of Isaiah 43. Verse 1 says this ...O Israel, the one who formed you says, "Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. I am His. You are His. He has not abandoned us to caregiving - He is with it. Even though it seems like no one has room for Chris in their lives anymore - God says Chris is mine. I can take that.

Today, my thoughts will run along the truth that I am His. My son is His. We are His. He has not abandoned us to fend for ourselves but walks through the fire and swims through the flood with us. I will encourage myself today with thoughts that He remains. God is with us when it's foggy and when it's not! (Talking about the caregiver's fog here... ) My meditations will be on His ever-abiding presence. And I'll rest in Him at least for today while the fog has cleared, and I'll trust Him for one more day. Will you join me?

Friday, March 9, 2018

The Chosen

I was reading in Colossians three this morning for my devotions. This is a power-packed chapter Paul wrote to the early church. Not only is it still relevant, but it is full of encouragement for the believer of today.

Although the entire chapter or book, is an awesome read, I focused on the last verses of chapter three this morning. I got stuck in verse 12 though.Paul says this: So, as those chosen of God, holy and beloved.... and that's where I stopped. I know there's tons of good stuff after that, but this was an excellent stop-and-meditate place.

We are chosen by Him. We are not an afterthought, we didn't get an okay, I guess you can come too - He chose us actually before He said, "Let there be light!" And once again in this passage we find absolutely no exclusionary statement about caregivers. He didn't say, "everyone except caregivers is chosen in the beloved." We are included!

Paul goes on to say we are also holy and beloved. Not just adequate. Not temporarily holy. He made us holy through the sacrifice of Christ. He did a thorough work - a complete work and all we have to do is choose to walk in it. He doesn't see our flub-ups, our mistakes, our doubtings, or even our ranting, raving or cussing. He sees us through the veil of Christ's righteousness, holy and complete in Him.

And lastly, but certainly not the least important - He calls us beloved. That's a lot more than just an I'm-going-go-put-up-with-you-because-I-have-to attitude. He dearly loves us. Caregivers too!

Then Paul goes on to say that since we are chosen, holy and beloved we are to put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Now, there wasn't an exclusionary statement on being loved, holy or chosen - but there's also not one on the requirements put forth here. Just because we are caregivers doesn't mean we are exempt from God's requirements.

For caregivers, every day brings choices that can lead us to be hard-hearted or tender-hearted. One of my early concerns was that I didn't want to become cynical, critical and hard. That's the easy road really. Sometimes our load is so heavy it's difficult to have compassion for others. But when we let Him carry our load - it's easier to have compassion on others and help them ease their load. That may be a prayer, a card, a kind word, an offer to help in some way.

These are choices - since we are to put them on. Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience are all for the putting on. It can be a different perspective for us as caregivers. Yet we have an understanding of what others are going through and see things from an emotional aspect others might not ever get.

Today, I'm going to meditate on being chosen, holy and beloved. I'll be thankful since I know I had absolutely nothing to do with any of those choices - He made them for me. My thoughts will be on how He loves and loves and loves, and on how He cares for me like I care for my son. I'm going to choose Him today, along with compassion and humility. I'm going to lean in to Him just a little bit closer today and thank Him for choosing me. Will you join me?

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Power of Thankfulness

I loaded Chris up in the van yesterday and drove about an hour north to Guthrie, Oklahoma to see my mama. She's been in a nursing facility for a few weeks now and is adjusting very well. Daddy's feelings are still hurt that he had to put her there, but I keep trying to assure him that this is the best thing for her at this point. They provide the 24/7 she needs and he gets some rest so he's not so tired or sick all the time.

She's doing well. I wish I could have gotten a picture of us though. Daddy had to run some errands so Chris and I were there with her for close to two hours. She decided to go for a walk. So she gets her walker and I get behind Chris' chair and as we are heading out the door, her snoozing roommate decides she's coming with. I helped her get up out of her chair and equipped her with her walker and off we went! A motley crew indeed! lol

Mama still knows us, for which I am very thankful. She introduced us to everyone as her "oldest daughter" and her grandson, Chris. Her conversation was all over the place. It was about "that song you wrote about God" and little pieces of memories coming out all along. But she's happy.

It hurts my heart to see her like this - as all those who've gone through this before know all too well. But I think what bothered me the most was that I was trying to remember who she was and it was difficult with who she is right now glaring in my face. That greatly disturbed me and was very emotional.

My mom was a nurse for years, a minister, a pastor - a lover of people. She still is that for sure, she went in almost everyone's room and just chatted. lol. For now, she loves her teddy bears. She talks to them as if they were small children and sings to them. It's sweet - but it's not.

After a couple of hours, I loaded Chris back up and headed home. My heart and my mind were so full and busy. I had no words. I had no emotions. I couldn't cry. (I don't usually anyway.) I was just numb.

I sat last night with coffee in hand, just thinking about life. Then Dennis Jernigan went live on Facebook. He sang so many of the older songs I remember from back when he was just getting started. I couldn't sing. But I listened and worship was like the ointment my heart needed. It brought healing.

After a while, I began to think about what I was most thankful for. It was amazing how my emotions shifted. I am thankful that all the memories running around in mama's head she's living in right now - are pleasant. I'm thankful she's happy and well cared for. I'm thankful she still knows us and enjoys seeing us. Once I shifted to gratefulness, my mind wasn't as foggy. It was a true mood changer.

Today, I'm going to continue with an attitude of thanksgiving. When my mind gets bogged down or my emotions run over, I'll start listing things I am thankful for. I'll begin with being thankful for His presence and healing touch. Then, I'll continue with how He walks with us through these times - never abandons. Maybe from there, I'll continue to be thankful that He is my shelter - a present help in times of trouble, for that I am truely thankful. Gratefulness abounds here today - will you join me? It's a game changer!

Monday, March 5, 2018

And Then it Happens....

I'm not even going to apologize for my absence. I hope you understand when I don't have it together, I just can't post. The last week or two have been extremely trying. It's really just the emotional part. Maybe you have those times when it seems like God is answering everyone else's prayers but not yours. Those times when it looks like everyone is getting a miracle... but you. Sometimes I look around and think it seems as if all the people I know are getting new cars, nice houses, large chunks of cash, getting to go to the mission field like I'd always dreamed. For me, my emotional crash usually comes when other brain injury victims make lots of progress and Chris does not.

Don't get me wrong, I am very happy for them. I'm glad they got all the things we were denied like therapy, castings, and intense, specialized care. But it can start to feel like God has forsaken. I ask questions like why my son? Why did God take his voice, his song? And I don't understand. Honestly, I don't ever want anyone else to go through these things - but I start to take it personally, and it just goes downhill from there. Emotionally that is.

And then it happens....

I'm minding my own business, wallowing in my own emotions and trying to find a way to come up for air. Or, I'm just letting go and wondering if I'll ever swim again, if anyone will come in after me. And He steps in....

Sometimes just the right phrase will get my attention, or the perfect song comes on the radio. Or like yesterday, out of nowhere, this scripture pops into my head. I was minding my own business and from nowhere it seemed, I just hear an old chorus we used to sing in church - taken from Proverbs 18:10.

The name of the Lord is a strong tower
The righteous run to it and are safe.

And that was all it took. My emotions leveled back out to the chaotic normals of caregiving. lol. I hummed and sang it all around the house. Shortly, I was thanking Him for being there in the midst of the storm instead of cursing Him for it. I was okay. For then. It was like we'd had a lover's spat and He was wooing me back to Him. I'm in constant awe at the massive effort He puts into chasing me, calming me and comforting me. 

Today, I will meditate on how He is that strong tower of refuge from the storm, from the battle. I will turn my thoughts to His faithfulness even through my foolishness. I'll purposefully find things to be grateful for today in the midst of life's storm. And I will make sure I stay in His embrace trusting Him just for today. Will you join me?

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Making the "But" Shift

Chris in the mirror
I know it's no surprise that I woke up this morning with my head going 900 miles an hour. Since I took the weekend off and that's when I do a bulk of my work and play catch-up, I am way behind. As soon as my alarm went off my head thought it was the start of a race and took off running with all the things I need to get done today.

Today is sure to be "one of those days" as the aide comes, the nurse informed me yesterday that she's coming by, and the doctor's office called yesterday to let me know they changed my son's doctor (again!) so the new one will be coming by today. I'm like really? All in one day and I'm so behind in work! ugh! You know as caregivers, days are hectic enough without any extras. lol

So as my mind took off running with all the anticipated activities for today, I sighed. I think I'm already tired. But then I thought I'd just stop. Take a breath. Take a moment to think about Him and praise Him - for no specific reason other than the fact that He is still God and He doesn't change.

When I did, this shift happened. I relaxed, even though I still have tons of stuff to do, and everything settled down around me. The shift was very apparent. I immediately thought of Psalm 3. David was worried about all the enemies he saw gathering around him - and while we don't have physical enemies most of the time, we do have emotional ones that nag and tug at us all day long. Our thoughts, emotions, grief, pain etc - can try to drag us down and under all day long, if we let them. Our souls can be surrounded by enemies.

David acknowledged his enemies - but then he made the shift. It happened with a little three-letter word. But. He said, but You O Lord are a shield about me, my glory and the One who lifts my head. He does the same thing in Psalm 5. He is praying for protection from his enemies and he shifts in verse 11 with a but. But, let all who take refuge in You be glad, let them ever sing for joy; and may You shelter them, that those who love your name may exult in You, for it is You who blesses the righteous man O Lord, You surround him with favor as with a shield.

There are several other psalms where David does this. Once we, like David, shift our focus from our circumstances and back to God - with that little "but," we change. Maybe our circumstances are not directly changed and not one thing in the natural rearranges to accommodate us, but we are looking at it from a different perspective.

Today, I'm going to make that shift. Every time my workload starts to get to me, I am going to start praising God for who He is. I'll thank Him for His patience, His wisdom, His protection, His provision... and so on. I'm making the "but" shift today as I trust Him for one more day - will you join me?

Monday, February 26, 2018

A Race Well Run

This weekend was my annual trip to Ft. Worth with my daughter. We take the train down and run a couple of races and just hang out together. It's always so refreshing and fun. We ran the 5K together on Saturday morning, and then yesterday I ran the half marathon. We got medals for the races and I got a third medal for running two races in two days. This morning, I was looking at the medals and thinking. Don't get me wrong - I love my medals. I earned them! But I think the true reward was in getting up this morning and having the satisfaction of a race well run.

Immediately I thought of Hebrews 11:6. Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. (NASB) I thought about that for a little while. I know when time is done, we'll get a reward. We will get a crown of life, plus we get to live with Him for eternity. I wonder sometimes if us caregivers get extra! lol

It's going to be wonderful, of course. Gold streets. Beautiful colors. Angels singing. Being with Jesus!!!! But the reward may be just the fact that He says, well done. I think just knowing we did it - will be rewarding. Knowing we kept the faith even during some of the most difficult situations life can throw at us. Knowing we did it. You know?

But I also think we can feel that right here and right now. Looking around and realizing we live in situations by choice that are "not fair" or not what many people would choose. I think feeling that He is pleased with me and my choice to provide care for my son is a reward in itself. As caregivers, we're sort of a different breed, and I think we look like Him - and we please Him. That's reward enough for me to make it through this day.

Today is one of those crazy days you have after a break - that sometimes keeps you from taking the break to begin with. lol (Some of you know what I mean!) But in each task that gets done, in each step through each day, we can rest assured that He is our reward. David said in Psalm 73:26 - My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. To me - that is reward enough. Whether I get a "medal" in heaven at the end of this race called life or not - I am satisfied that He is my portion. His satisfaction with me is my reward. I can wake up each morning in time knowing I'll hear well done and I'll be satisfied.

Today I will turn my thoughts to pleasing Him. I'll think about this race of life and running it with faith in Him knowing He is my portion, not just in time, but forever. My meditations will be on having faith that pleases Him, and actions that follow that faith. I'll rest in Him as I trust Him to carry me through one more day. Will you join me?

Monday, February 19, 2018

An Old Favorite

Yesterday a friend asked for prayer as they were facing some physical challenges. One of the groups I'm a member of starting praying in chat. Somewhere in the discussion following, this old favorite scripture came up. I'm sure you remember this one God is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in time of trouble. Psalm 46:1.

Someone in the group made a statement that I thought was odd. They said, "That's a good scripture, but I thought it was only for funerals."I guess it is a good one for funerals, but I've held on to it during many other troubling times in my life.

Over the years, I've found Him to be a reliable help in time of trouble. And he doesn't rank trouble. There's not a scale of 1 to 10 and He's only going to be there for anything ranked above a 5. Right? It doesn't quantify or qualify - just a pure, simple - He's there.

I'm so thankful that my situation, your situation, no situation here on earth changes one iota in heaven. The rest of that Psalm talks about the earth moving, mountains falling into the sea and scary stuff like that - and none of it moves Him.

There is not one thing on this earth powerful enough to knock Him off His throne. No situation can be presented before Him that changes heaven. It can be earth-shattering to us - and He remains faithful. Stable. Constant. Present.

Today, I'm going to remind myself of His constant presence in my life. I'll think about the fact that I haven't scared Him off yet, and I'm not likely to do so anytime soon either. I'll make it a point today to be thankful for His presence. I'll turn my thoughts to how He wants to be with me, and I'll be thankful as I trust Him for one more day. Will you join me?