Sunday, July 31, 2011

Healing Rest

Early in the mornings I go in and feed my son through his peg tube, change him and get him comfortable. Shortly after that he usually goes off into a deep sleep; a restful sleep. I checked on him just before starting to write this morning and he was out! I thought, he's getting good, restful sleep...healing rest. I figure that when he is sleeping real good and letting his mind and body rest that he is healing. We know rest and healing are connected.

 What does that mean to the caregiver? Because as a caregiver, we have pain every day. It never real goes away because we are dealing with a stressful, painful situation all the time; so it hurts all the time. We see our loved one not able to function fully on their own and to need help with simple, daily living skills. They are not who they were and in my case I grieve a lot over the loss of my son - even though he is still here. Yet he's not still here - not like he was. And as we walk out each day, each step along the way can be filled with pain.

 So as I watched my son sleeping (parents never tire of watching their kids sleep do they?) and was thinking about how rest brings healing, I though about the times I can press through the pain and truly find rest in Him. Those are the times He can heal our broken hearts...but only when we can quiet our souls and minds (sometimes it's more difficult to quiet the soul than the mind...) and truly rest in Him can we find the healing we need. And we must do it every day. Because we hurt every day - and we need His touch every single day.

So find a moment today somewhere, somehow...to rest your soul in His. Let Him wipe away the moment's pain...it will return...but He can handle it! Keep resting in Him....

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Expectations

Things do not always work out as we expect them to. Seriously, who ever planned on being a full time caregiver to a loved one? We obviously had  much different expectations for our lives. Perhaps we expected to travel the world (my own personal one...), or get married again (NOT on my list), lose ourselves in an enjoyable career, or serve in a local community or church. No matter where we thought we were going with life, I think it is a safe assumption that it has not turned out like we expected.

This morning I was reading in Hebrews again (I haven't strayed too far away from it yet), and read this verse in chapter 8.(NLT) When I took them by the hand and led them out of the land of Egypt. In context, God is speaking of the Children of Israel and how He rescued them out of Egypt's cruel slavery. But as He took them out of Egypt the first thing they ran into was a road block that looked like the Red Sea. I really do not think that this is what they expected to happen as He was rescuing them from Egypt...do you?

 Here they are sandwiched nicely between the Red Sea in front of them, and Pharaoh's army pressing in from behind. Do you think this was what they were expecting? Did it look like a great rescue from there I wonder? And we haven't even mentioned that He led them from Egypt to the wilderness! They had to scratch their heads much of the time and wonder what God was up to and where had His promises gone...

I know as a caregiver I have has similar  thoughts as where I am does not look like the expectations I had for this phase of my life. This can be very disappointing - just like the Children of Israel may have been disappointed to see the many miles of wilderness stretch out before them when they were expecting a promised land.

But I am thinking that when God was getting ready to do something big He always provided a wilderness first. He spoke to Moses in the wilderness when He sent Him to get His people. Ezekiel it seems was always dragged off to the wilderness to hear God's voice; and Jesus went to the wilderness to fast and be tempted before He came out with His public ministry...So I am thinking...maybe we are not in as bad of a place as we thought...today I will purpose to hear from Him in my wilderness...how will you spend your wilderness today caregivers?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Not Far Away

I have stumbled over this scripture now for the last two days. I was reading in Hebrews yesterday and it caught my attention. Then this morning when I got my coffee and opened my Bible it just fell open to the same scripture in Jeremiah. Which one am I talking about? The one that says this:


For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel...
I will put My laws into their minds
and I will write them on their hearts
And I will be their God 
and they shall be My people...
 Hebrews 8:10 is a direct quote from Jeremiah 31:33. I figured since I kept stumbling across it I should camp there a little bit and meditate. So I did. And in my meditations I realized that if He wrote His word in us - planted it there if you will, we only have to yield to it. How do I do that? Stop. Seriously, all we have to do is stop our heads from running around in circles, get a grip and listen to Him. Be still and know that I am God comes to mind as does The word of God is nigh thee even in your mouth and heart...

 My conclusion then? He is never far away. No matter how I am feeling on any given day. And it only takes a few minutes to open the word and refresh what He's put inside of us. And really another comforting thing to me is that my loved one though not really who he was - has the word written on his heart as well, he is a believer...and still is. It was not the spirit of the one we care for that was damaged - it's their body. God's word is still written on their heart...and will always be. Not sure how - but I find this a comforting thought.

Monday, July 25, 2011

In Everything Give Thanks

This scripture is found in 1 Thessalonians5:18, someone through it out as a cliche this week so I looked it up. And can I be totally honest and say I really do not want to? And I really just can't. I cannot thank Him for the wreck my son was in that has left him impaired. I honestly, just can't do it. And the worse part is I don't care that I can't do it!

 But the other side of that is I don't think He requires me to give thanks for the injury, the damage or my son's condition that thrust me into caregiving. However, I do believe that there is a silent power that arises when we purposefully find things to be thankful for rather than gripe about. It's an attitude of thanksgiving that He's looking for...because to literally thank Him for the horrible things in life would (for me) be a lie. And I think He looks more toward an honest heart than for one who is lying just trying to make HIm happy. I really think our honesty with Him is a way to display our trust.

 Did you ever see the old classic movie Pollyanna? I am actually old enough that I read the book first! lol! Although it was just a story, this child made a conscious decision to play the glad game. And no matter what was terrible around her she found something to be glad about. I think we can make that kind of attitudinal adjustment even in our adverse situations.

 We are stressed, we're tired, we're strained...but we can make that conscious decision to thank Him for something. I am finding that to be thankful helps my whole outlook. The day is not as dreary when I go through it thanking Him for things rather than fussing about all that went wrong! So today - Thank Him!! (for something!!)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Separation Anxiety

Sometimes there is this huge mental struggle because religion is so works oriented. Maybe it's just me, but there are times I struggle with if He loves me enough...It sounds wrong I know. But we can read through the gospels and see all the miracles Jesus did for others..maybe I'm the only one who wonders why He doesn't come riding in on His white horse for me.

 Even the Old Testament is full of various displays of His miraculous powers. Yet my loved one still suffers. And I cannot help but wonder if He loved others more...But then (my busy mind) immediately jumps to what I would do if He miraculously healed my son. How would I explain to someone else that He loves them as much?

All this crazy thinking lead me straight to Romans 8. It's a long time favorite isn't it? We quickly quote that nothing can separate us from His love. But sometimes during tribulation it's easy to wonder...But a quick look at Paul's discussion is quite revealing. We can grab the concept in verses 38 and 39. It's easy to figure out that no substance, no creation, no power and no position can separate us from His love. Got it!

 But did we skip verse 35 in our analysis? Verses 38-39 are in answer to the question Paul asked back up in verse 35...Who can separate us from the love of Christ?  Then his list of things that may seem to be able to cause a chasm between us and God's love looks like this: tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril or sword...The caregiver certainly has a good understanding of tribulation and distress as it was some form of distress that launched us into the position of caring for a loved one.

 Now verse 37 makes more sense - in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. Notice it's in  the unpleasant circumstance - not over, around, under or any type of avoidance here...but right there in the circumstance His love is there with us to carry us and to keep our souls. Our souls cannot be harmed in any circumstance because that's the part of us that He protects...and loves. Let us take time today to rest in His love for us...for it is unwavering in the face of great trials and tribulations.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Streams in the Desert

Overall the life of a caregiver can be stressful; and that's summing it up mildly. We can have so many variables in just one day that it would be wrong to say it's anywhere close to normal. And really for each caregiver the situational demands are so varied there's no way to compare those either. And just like normal people we have good days and bad days...I am pretty sure that's just a given with life! lol!

 And for those of you who are not caregivers, just remember that on top of the transfers, feeding tubes, incontinence issues, bathing, physical therapy and a wide variety of other tasks that must be done in a day - we still have those normal things too - dishes, laundry, cleaning the house and keeping up the yard!

 But there are those times during the stress and stain of a common day - that He steps in. I am not sure there's a way to explain it; but the peace that comes in those moments where we are so aware of Him carrying us through..well, it's simply indescribable. One scripture that gets close is in Isaiah 43. In verses 19 and 20 He says this: I will make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.

These two things are so refreshing. I really like the road in the wilderness because it indicates a couple of things one there is movement - and we are going somewhere! Our lives can so feel at a standstill sometimes, but if there's a roadway in this wilderness there has to be somewhere to go! This is not the end-all! And who ever heard of a river in a desert? That speaks of sustenance as well as refreshing. It's God sending the extraordinary into a dry situation to bring change.

 Even though it can feel like we are living in a standstill - God is on the move. He will bring us the refreshing - as we wait on Him.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Bad News Bears

Did you ever read a scripture and find it upsetting instead of comforting? I do sometimes but given enough time I can work back through to peace! lol!

 I was reading through Psalm 112 this morning and came across a frustrating verse; actually, two of them in the same psalm! Verse 4 and 6 stuck out to me and my first response was to whine. (I know I am the only one who ever does that!) Actually verse7 caught my eye first: They do not fear bad news; they confidently trust the Lord to care for them. My first thought was I got bad news...that's how I became a caregiver.

 But after I read through the entire psalm a time or two my thinking finally balanced out somewhat. First of all, it does not say they won't ever get  bad news...but that there is no fear in the bad news. And that is followed up by the act of confidently trusting the Lord...even after bad news. It's a matter of trusting Him through whatever life may bring...not avoiding anything we perceive as bad.

Then verse 4 says:When darkness overtakes the godly, light will come bursting in. My first thought here was is that possible? For darkness to over take the godly? Not the sinner, nor the unbeliever but the godly. I found that an interesting statement. Being godly and walking righteously before God does not exempt us from life's situations, trials, or troubles. But the promise is that even when we are overtaken by circumstance and cannot see - His light will come bursting in! I think I like that AND I will watch for His light to break up the darkness that pursues.

 It's all about trust isn't it?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Philippians 4:13

If you've been exposed to church circles for any amount of time perhaps you've heard this scripture thrown around a lot. We see it on facebook posts and on various sites. WE tend to use it to talk ourselves through to victory - and its application is broad. I am not sure we understand it in context though.

 A quick look at the preceding verses lets us see some of the apostle Paul's heart. He states in these verses that he had learned to be content  in whatever circumstances he found himself in. Although he gives very little detail, he says that whether he had plenty or had little it was enough. He also says that he was content whether his stomach was empty or full... and that these extremes were manageable because Christ in him gave him strength to face each situation.

 The context of Phil. 4:13 is not just taking a dive off the positive side of things and trying to make every thing into a facade of ease. But rather it is saying that there's no room to stress; if things get tough it's His strength that will carry us through - and it will pass! And when things are going well - it's still His strength that will carry us through. And this too shall pass!

So no matter what we are facing today - both good and bad, He can effectively carry us through. Our struggle then is to learn how to rely on Him, not in the difficult times - that's when we call on Him most, but learning how to rely on Him in the good times as well.  Rely on Him today - no matter what you are facing easy or difficult! Don't for get Him on the good days!!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

It's So Simple, Really!

Last night I was conducting a Bible study via skype and there were some questions asked about the old Law and if they are all applicable. She asked if there would be a big difference when she gets over to the New Testament, since she's presently reading the Bible all the way through. Immediately I thought of two or three scriptures in the Old Testament that are what I call sums it all up passages.

 We took a look at Micah 6:6-8. Micah is meditating on what God requires. He asked rhetorically if God is pleased when we bring Him rivers of oil, or if we present before Him thousands of rams...And then he goes on in verse 8 to talk about what is pleasing to the Lord...

 do justice
love mercy
walk humbly with your God...

 And that about sums it up! For many caregivers we literally cannot do all the religious things like going to church, singing in the choir....etc. For us, and anyone else who wants to live a life humbly before our God this lets us know how much simpler it is than what we've made it. It's not the religious activity that gets the attention of His heart...it's our heart's activity toward Him. And that's much simpler than trying to jump through all the religious hoops to be pleasing to Him.

 Relax today in knowing that He isn't instituting a whole lot of rules that must be followed before we can reach Him. He's actually reaching out to us and waiting for us to get simple enough to just come...

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Hidden In Christ

When I was a teenager we memorized Galatians 2:20 for a missions project we were doing. I am not sure we really fully understood it. I'm not even sure that I can completely grasp it now! I'm okay until I get to the part about I no longer live....
But over the last few years as I have struggled with the loss of my life as I gradually was molded into a caregiver's life I think I started to understand it better. As caregivers our needs are not last; and for many of us our needs don't even make the list! (you know what I mean!!)We have turned down jobs, vacation opportunities, social engagements and pretty much traded in our lives to care for the one we love.

 I'm thinking that caregivers can understand this concept of being dead, yet alive, and living in Him. As a caregiver what life we have is totally wrapped up in our loved one's life. Every aspect of our day is pretty much dictated by their needs. This even includes entertainment such as watching television, our time to get a bath, eating etc. But isn't that the simplicity of living in Christ, of being hidden in Him?
 As a believer who is dead to this life and alive in Christ every aspect of my being is dictated by His needs, not my own. That really makes it simple for me to understand...as you care for your loved one today think about two things if you will: one - that you are ministering His love to your loved one and two - you are gaining an understanding of being dead to yourself but alive to Christ!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

When I Fall

Ever have those times where it just all caves in on you all at once? Emotions run away from you while you get sucked into the huge black hole of the circumstance? (maybe it's just me!) Faith begins to wane and it seems like there isn't a big enough shovel to dig yourself out....ever been there?

 What's the worse part of it all is how quickly the enemy can come in and start throwing stones of condemnation at us while we are down. He tries to make us think that we are faithless because we haven't been able to change the circumstance. The next step he takes us on through the course of logic is hopelessness..like it's never going to be better or different...and we fall deeper and deeper into the emotional despair. Then he quickly picks up more labeled stones to try to get us convinced that we are not worth God's effort...he attacks our self esteem...until it seems there's not even enough strength to cry out!

 And then the most amazing thing happens - as quickly as it all hits - He washes it all away. Maybe He uses a phone call, a devotion, a song...But somehow surprisingly and instantly He lifts us out...

This is where Micah 7:8-10 kick in.  Do not gloat over me my enemies! For though I fall, I will rise again. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord Himself will be my light. It's not so much about where we are today - because battles will rage - it's more about the whole picture. God does not sit up in heaven with a big stick waiting for us to show some weak little sign of disbelief so that He can condemn us and say Yeah, I knew you couldn't do it... And He certainly doesn't jump on board with the enemy to beat us down in those moments of doubt...He patiently waits for just the right opportunity to lift us out...

 We cannot give completely in during those deep dark moments that we feel so far away from the real world..even though we cannot sense Him at all sometimes...He is there patiently waiting for us to gain strength and sometimes giving us the strength to care enough to search for strength! But He is there...waiting...He is here...He will take up our case!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Caregiver's Fog

Ever just have a day (or series of days) where it's like you're walking around in a fog; it can be so dense you almost feel like you have to remind yourself to breathe? Those are the days where we just function to take care of our loved ones. It doesn't have to be the result of anything specific that happened...just a process that seems to recur every so often because of the day to day life of caregiving.

 After being in the caregiver's fog for a few days it just sort of lifts, doesn't it? And sometimes it is the smallest action on the part of another that causes it to go away: a simple phone card, a note in the mail - it doesn't take much for the fog to descend, but it doesn't take much for it to drift away either! And the funny thing is that it is just gone and the song in our heart returns...no warning either way - the song is gone, there's the fog, the fog is gone, there's the song! (you really aren't crazy! - it's the caregiver's cycle of emotions!!)

 As the fog started lifting for me this morning I had this one song, a simple chorus, that began running around in my heart. I didn't invite it, wasn't even looking for it; and I certainly didn't expect it. Just out of nowhere from the midst of the ascending fog came this old chorus from Psalm 27:14: Wait on the Lord and be of good courage He will strengthen your heart...

So that is what I plan to do at least for today... care to join me? We can wait on Him to strengthen our hearts one more time...for one more day - that's all we get at one time anyway!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Measuring Fruit

Sometimes (not all times) life can seem so barren, dry and unfruitful! It's can be difficult to see past our own four walls. If we are not careful we can focus on our own situations so much we fail to see that there is a world of hurting people out there. And yet all of us share His same promises for provision, peace and comfort. Perhaps it's because of how we used to measure fruitfulness.

Many have measured fruitfulness by church activities. But I have never seen a plant get up and go somewhere else to produce fruit, they produce right where they are planted. And we are to be planted in Him. That is where we will produce fruit. The fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 2:20) and notice that all the fruit produced although easily observed - is not tangible. Our fruit comes from His indwelling - not from the things we do!

Be assured that He will work in you to produce His fruit -  Isaiah 51:3 says this: The Lord will comfort Israel again and make her deserts blossom. Her barren wilderness will become as beautiful as Eden- the garden of the Lord. Joy and gladness will be found there. Lovely songs of thanksgiving will fill the air.

I believe that during this time of perceived barrenness, He is working in us to bring forth much fruit for the kingdom of God. It's just not what the religious world expects but if I remember correctly Jesus walked contrary to the religious world! Rejoice today - there is no barrenness in the heart of one who serves Him fully.He turns our deserts into a beautiful garden!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Transparent Faith

I love the raw honesty of some Psalms. And Psalm 13 is just that; the psalmist David is just pure and honest with his feelings before God. I had a friend one time who couldn't understand how I could express my frustrations with God to God. I had two points to make about it: One - He already knows; and two He is big enough to handle it!

And this raw transparency is what I find in Psalm 13. It seems that David vacillates between total frustration with the situations in his life and his pure trust of the Lord. Did you ever feel that way? One moment I find myself singing all the woe is me  songs and the very next rejoicing in His faithfulness!

 David begins Psalm 13 by sharing his overwhelming feelings of abandonment by God. Of course that's one of those forbidden topics in the church...but it is  a real feeling sometimes. But we, just like David, will work our way through it and find faith once again. In the final verses of the psalm David is resting in the lovingkindness of the Father once again. And in the very last phrase he states that he will sing to the Lord because of His dealings.

 Today I think I will make this my choice as well. I will turn my thoughts to His faithfulness, His provision, His lovingkindness and grace...and I will sing!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Believe that He Is...

Do you ever ask tons of questions? There's not really an expectancy of an answer on some of them,is there? I can usually get past all the questions but then sometimes they pop up so quick I can't even think about a real answer. There are tons of whys...at least for me. My mind gets foggy after awhile and I know He is not really going to rain down answers or miracles. Knowing that He can totally heal - but He doesn't - has been one of the most frustrating parts of my journey as a caregiver.

 Once the questions start it is easy to get sucked under by all the surrounding emotions. (of course that doesn't take much most days anyway! lol) And as I am looking for some of the answers in the Word - or just an answer I always come back to the same thing. I cannot not believe in Him. 

There's something in the core of my being that screams out There is a God! And even though there are no substantial answers to my many questions I can grab hold of Hebrews 11:6 - Without faith it is impossible to please Him. Those who come to Him must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. And that's such a good place to start. Just believing that He is.

when all of our theology is shattered - believe that He is. 
When we don't get any of our answers - believe that He is.
When the storm seems to last forever - believe that He is.

Today this will be my primary focus - believing that He is there for me today. We must trust that He is there and He is very aware of what is going on in our hearts and lives...today - just believe He is...

Monday, July 4, 2011

Covenant Renewals

Josiah has always been an intriguing OT character to me. He became king as such an early age and then the Bible says he did what was right in the sight of the Lord.(2 Kings22) It also says in the NLT that he followed the example of his ancestor David. He did not turn aside from doing what was right.

The young man vehemently followed God's law as it was revealed to him. And in chapter 23 this young king read the entire Book of the Covenant  to the people. And then he (in his place of authority) renewed the covenant in the Lord's presence.

Can you imagine if any nation's leader would actually take the time to read the entire covenant to the people of the land? I will admit that we are only talking about Genesis to Deuteronomy. But even that would be amazing. And then to have such leaders who would stand and say This is our covenant with the Lord and we will keep our end of it and serve Him alone....sorry for the skepticism but it is a nice dream...

 Let's just enjoy the picture from 2 Kings. Here is the king reading the word of God and then reaffirming that it was the nation's covenant with Him.While I don't see any nation doing any such thing today - we can each act as "king" in our homes and renew our covenant with Him. It's a covenant of peace and soul prosperity. We must remind ourselves that it is not a pact that ensures us we will get what we want when we want it every time we want it...But it is a covenant that says our God will (somehow) work it all out for His and our good in the end. It is a promise that He will walk with us through the storm...It is a promise that no matter what this or any day looks like - we will win the final battle and spend all of eternity with Him..

 Take a moment today to stand on His word one more time. Remind yourself that nothing in His promise changes because you are a caregiver. Your circumstance does not negate His promises or His covenant! Take a moment to say that His word is our eternal covenant with Him that cannot be broken. Let Him be our God one more day!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Puffed up Know-it-alls

Don't you just love the conversations that you have with people who act like they know it all? Usually the conversation doesn't get very far because the who know it all can't see past their limited knowledge to hold a true challenging conversation!

 Well, as I was studying this morning this short passage jumped out at me for a couple of reasons. It's actually in the context of Paul's instructions about eating meat that is sacrificed to idols. And then it seems he takes a little rabbit trail when he says the words in these three verses:

 Now let's talk about food that has been sacrificed to idols
You think that everyone should agree with your perfect knowledge.
While knowledge may make us feel important, it is love that really builds up the church
 Anyone who claims to know all the answers really doesn't know very much.
 But the person who loves God is the one God knows and cares for
 (1 Corinthians 8:1-3 NLT)

I found the first part about the know-it-all to be pretty amusing. I have met people like that. And I am sure I've come off as being that way myself at times. Thank God for life's tempering - it is indeed what helps us come to grips with the fact that we really don't know it all! lol!

But there are two other things that stand out to me in this passage. The first thing is that it is not knowledge which builds up the church. Listening to endless sermons may give us a lot of  information about God but that's not how the church is encouraged. Later in this same book, Paul will say that knowledge puffs up. But it is love that builds up the church. But then again we have to see the church not as a building - how can we love a building? But we must see it as us. We are the church and when we love one another and help carry one another's burdens it will build and encourage the church. (Ah! the missing link to modern Christianity!)

 And then the next part that grabbed me was verse 3 - the person who loves God is the one God knows and cares for. Wow! I so want to love Him...and not let my knowledge of Him surpass basking in His intimate love. Just some thoughts for today..

Side Note - I did start some video devotionals for caregivers. There is one up and I will be doing one later today. You can view them at www.livestream.com/reallysimpleafterall.