Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Peace of Integrity

I'm still reading Job and really enjoying it. One thing that is standing out in my mind is how his friends keep arguing that there is some sort of flaw in Job or he would not be in this terrible situation. I guess it stands out to me so much because I had people say these same types of things to me when I was very ill in 1986. (It's a long story I'll try to write somewhere else - but obviously I lived!) Job's "friends" attack his character each time they speak because they were trying to analyze it according to their own religious dogma. Yet all the way through Job maintains that he has not sinned to cause all the tragedy to come upon him. Isn't that among some of our first thoughts after a tragedy strikes and we try to settle into a new normal?

In Job 13:15 Job makes one of the most faith-filled statements that is contained in scriptures. He states that even if God slays him - he will still trust Him. Some versions say still hope in Him.  While this is a powerful viewpoint on life and Job is making the declaration that no matter what happens to him while journeying through life he will continue to trust and hope in God - the next statement is what caught my heart today.

In the last phrase of this verse, Job says Nevertheless, I will argue my ways before Him. He was not going to back down on the fact that he had integrity with himself and God. I think he trusted God enough to know that if he had done something wrong the Lord would have informed him of such.  David made a similar statement in Psalm 101:2  when he said I will live a life of integrity in my own home. How powerful is it to know that we have integrity with ourselves? Plus we know that we are pleasing Him in our actions.

I'll be the first to admit that I cannot say I am blameless...there are those days that I lose it. Aides don't show up, supplies are delayed, doctors do not return calls...I get frustrated. Don't we all? My peace is not found in my actions always being the purest...but in the fact that after I punch the punching bag a few times, run a couple of miles and mutter a couple of curse words...I do finally run to Him! And you know what? He's always right there - even when I am not "perfect"!

Today I will meditate on His ever abiding presence - even when I am frustrated. I will learn to turn to Him sooner when things get out of hand. And I will commit to having integrity in my own home.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Some Kind of Warrior

David was a warrior who faced many battles. The warrior side of him is seen even when he was a youth and went out to face Goliath who was many times his own size. In 1 Samuel 17:28, it says that even after Goliath's lofty threats, David ran out to meet him. David would face many battles after that monumental day. But there would also come a day when he would have to encourage himself in the Lord.

Sometimes it can seem like the caregiver's day is one battle after another; and like David, we must many times encourage ourselves in the Lord. It takes some kind of warrior to do that, don't you think? I know - most caregivers are not going to think of themselves as warriors! Our M.O. is more along the lines of well, we just do what we do. While that is true and we feel like we just put one foot in front of the other most of the time...we are doing much more than that. Let me explain.

As a caregiver I have battled depression and that is not uncommon for us. But how many times have you thought for sure that you were down for the count...when all of a sudden out of nowhere came encouragement? Maybe a phone call from a friend, a brief email or even a facebook status just said the right thing. Instead of being down for the count you felt yourself (almost involuntarily) pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps like the ole timer's used to say! That's because you are some kind of warrior! And because your heart is in what you are doing for your loved one as well as your heart being hidden in His - it's inevitable that you will eventually win out.

I've never thought of Job as an encouraging book but lately I have been reading it and finding great encouragement (may write a study guide for it later lol!). In Job 6:10 he said this to his "friends" but it is still my consolation, and I rejoice in unsparing pain that I have not denied the words of the Holy One. Job was a warrior just like you! Even in the midst of the pain and grief that can be an everyday thing, the heavy load many caregivers carry alone and the dark night of the soul...we continue to press on through the unsparing pain to hold on to His words. That's some kind of warrior!

Today I will meditate on the truth that He gives me the strength for the battle. I'll think about how David ran into battle with Goliath...and how he encouraged himself in the Lord. I will also think about what makes me a warrior...will you join me in holding on to His word for one more day?

Friday, December 21, 2012

Still Here

This week I decided to return to Job. It may sound odd to those most familiar with his story, but I was actually looking for some comfort. While his friends did not offer him much comfort or hope, my thinking was that by reading some of the things Job said I could gain a better perspective and find peace in dealing with the situation. So far, I haven't got past chapter 1. I hope we can take this journey through the book of Job together.

The first thing that caught my attention was that Job was blameless, a man of integrity, and he stayed away from evil. (You do know that Job wrote the book, right? *smile*) The second thing that caught my attention was further down when Satan confronted God about Job. He said that God protected Job, his family and all of his possessions from harm. He suggested that if Job lost everything, he would curse God to His face.

This is where I stopped for some inner reflections. As a caregiver, nothing is easy. Everything in our worlds have likely changed; and for me it has literally been everything. I have to look at myself and measure my own integrity - or lack of integrity. I certainly cannot honestly say that I have always said real pleasant things to God during this trial of faith; and I cannot say I have always had faith. But I can say that I have not cursed God or walked away from Him because of the tragedy, losses, or pain.

Losing everything is interesting because only then can you find out what you are truly holding on to. Only in the deepest trials of life do we find where our hope lies. Life doesn't lie. Instead, it reveals where our trust is, where our hope is and how we choose to make it through the dark night of the soul. We are still around. We are still seeking God; and He is still our provider and the keeper of our souls. Will I ever measure up to the patience or integrity of Job, not likely! lol. But I can say that even with a life of loss He is still my God!

Think about perspective today. Are we cursing Him for the storm? Or are we thankful He has chosen to walk through it with us? Let's be thankful today that He is still an ever-present God!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The God Who Sees

It is difficult to understand the life of caregiving unless you are a caregiver. And even then, each situation is so very unique we do not always have the capacity to understand each others' situations. Sometimes it hurts most when those we think are supposed to care do not seem to. That can be family, friends or health care professionals. It's really frustrating when they don't get it. You know?

Sometimes one of the most frustrating things about caregiving is the inability to have a schedule. We can keep a shell of one, but it seems there's always something that comes along to disrupt it. Our loved one has a bad day, aides don't show up, nurses decide to come during the only time you were going to have to yourself for the week....yes that really happened! And the load becomes heavier...not even because of the caregiving itself, but because of all the baggage that comes along with caregiving.

This morning has been one of those mornings for me; made up of those situations that make the regular load just a little bit heavier. But my mind went to Hagar. She's not usually one of our favorites by any means even though the situation was not totally her fault. In Genesis 16 she bears some of the blame since she was taunting Sarah. I suppose I found it comforting that God met her where she was even though she was not perfect. Most of us did nothing wrong to end up in a caregiving situation, so I guess it makes the possibility of God seeking us out more likely! lol.

Hagar was distraught and had run away from her mistress who was treating her harshly.  She was pregnant (thank God that's not a factor!), being treated badly because she mouthed off, and was stuck out in the desert with no one to see after her. But God found her. It's not the encounter I want to focus on though, it's what she said afterwards. In Genesis 16:13 Hagar said, the God Who sees me."  She existed to God and that mattered.

Today I will meditate on the fact that I am not out here alone. That God does indeed see me; that will carry me through this day. He sees me...

Friday, November 16, 2012

Am I Dead Yet?

Did you ever have one of those days that when you thought it couldn't possibly get any worse, it did? Yesterday it was like that around here. I do not have to explain the wide range of horrible emotions that go through the caregiver's heart when they feel even for an instant that they missed something. We can feel like we do a very poor job - it does not matter if it's true or not. You see a sore, miss a feeding; it could be anything that just happens because even though caregivers are awesome - we must admit we are not perfect.

On one hand we get this superman mentality like, if I can do this (caregiving), I must be able to do anything! This is accompanied by emotions from the other end of the spectrum that are associated with feeling like life is over for us. This is most likely the way it will be from here on out for many of us. Life as we knew it BC (before caregiving) is no more. The lifestyle we had may have slowly oozed away with the declining health of a loved one; or it may have been stripped away in an instant by a tragedy.

When we are down this can weigh on us very heavily. We cannot just jump up and go to the movie, to have coffee with a friend or to the store. Even if our loved one is mobile it's not always as easy as it sounds.  I did not die when I became a caregiver. I still love, laugh, cry, work and play like I did before; it just looks a lot different and is in a different setting than it used to be.

While I was thinking about life BC yesterday and dealing with pressing issues I had this wonderful epiphany. I am not dead. And immediately my mind went to Romans 8:11 which says:  But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. The Old KJV says He will quicken - put life into my body. I held on to that scripture yesterday as it got tougher the longer the day went. I meditated on the truth that His Spirit lives inside of me to give me strength.

Today, I will continue to meditate on this truth. He lives inside me...and I am not dead yet! In Him no matter what my life looks like, I am alive! I will move out of the way today and let His life live this life through me! (Galatians 2:20)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

He's Got This!

Things can pile up very quickly in the day of a caregiver; an aide cancels, your loved one is ill. There are tons of things that seem to need to be done just this instant and by noon you are already exhausted and have an entire day of chores that still need to be completed. When you realize you actually don't have time to attend an online Time Management seminar, you know it's pretty bad! Well that is just the tip of the iceberg for how the morning was here today.

As I sipped the fresh coffee, I began praying and asking the Lord to carry me. For caregivers the day can just look too long sometimes. A brief mental search of scriptures brought nothing up so I fired up the computer after finishing a few important chores and didn't find one about Him carrying (although I am certain that He does because there are times like today when there is no strength...I know you understand.) The search then turned to Him catching me when I fall. The caregiver does not have to worry about falling away from Him because we need Him too much! But we can certainly fall beneath the load even on the best of days. For those days I need Him to catch me!

While I was looking for a scripture that talked about Him catching me I found this one in the Message. It says:  If your heart is broken, you’ll find GOD right there; if you’re kicked in the gut, he’ll help you catch your breath.(Psalm 34:18) That's where I am right now. I feel like I have been kicked in the gut and caregivers can just simply live with a broken heart! There is a grief over the loss of what was as well as what our future (which is now a present) was supposed  to look like. He can deal with all of that!

Today I will rest in the fact that He is going to help me catch my breath so I can adequately finish out this day. I need His right here presence today so I will embrace Him as I square my shoulders back and prepare to face the rest of today. Tell yourself: He's got this!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Can He Afford That?

After yesterday's thoughts about how the Lord gives us patience, hope, peace and encouragement I looked at a few more scriptures along that line. (We may stay on this thought for awhile!) I ended up in John 14:27 where Jesus tells us I am leaving you with a gift; peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give isn't like the peace the world gives, so don't be troubled or afraid.(NLT)

In this world today I am not sure we are aware of what it really feels to have peace of mind and heart. The world is in turmoil all around us and our lives as caregivers can be full of it. We can get up in the morning, have ourselves all together (emotions included) and something will occur to try and remove our peace. Perhaps an aide does not show up or there's a confrontation with a health provider who really does not want to do their job (or so it seems), or maybe it's just that our loved one is not having the best day - which means we do not either. But all of a sudden it can be a crazy day when we were so geared for a peaceful one. So since He can give  us His peace - I'd say let's take it! But can He afford that? What will He do for peace?

I am really kind of kidding here obviously He will still have plenty of peace of His own - He is  peace! But somehow I find comfort in the King of all creation who has unwavering peace of mind and heart  thinking about me...considering that I may run low today and He generously offers His peace to calm my heart and mind. Somehow that is a very comforting picture.

Today I will rest in His peace and the fact that the timeless One took some time to share His soul peace with me.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

God Who Gives...

To be honest, many times because of my work load (which is in addition to caregiving) I do not always take the time to do a proper "devotion" in the mornings. I am sure other caregivers totally understand! And sometimes I do not write one here everyday although that was my intention when the blog was first setup. Some days I feel more like I need to find one than share one...but then comes the day I can crawl out of that all too familiar caregiver's fog we discussed before and scramble up some small bit of hope or encouragement that could be beneficial.

This morning when I first woke up I had Romans 15:13 on my mind for some reason so I turned to it in my Bible and reread it. It says this: I pray that God, who gives you hope, will keep you happy and full of peace... I do not have to go around looking for hope since He gave it to me! But then, if you look at verse 5 of the same chapter, you will read this: May God, who gives you this patience and encouragement help you live in harmony...Further on down in the chapter in verse 33 we read this: and now may God, who gives us his peace be with you all. That's quite a bundle of gifts if you ask me. He gives us hope, encouragement and peace! I believe with that thought I can make it through today.

As a caregiver, these are four essential resources that help us be able to carry the daily load. I need  hope just to believe that everything is going to be okay, and that He is still with me and helping me through each moment. I need patience just to keep walking on this extremely long (seemingly unending) journey. And I need encouragement to have the strength to continue on; I need God to tell me it's going to be okay and that I can do this because I am not doing it alone - even if I feel like it sometimes. I need peace - in my mind, my heart and my body; peace is so important and because of the turmoil of each day it can seem so far away...

I am thankful today and will meditate on the truth that He gives me peace, encouragement, patience and hope to live today.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Simply Overwhelmed

This morning as I was getting up to bolus my son and start getting prepared for the day, I was overwhelmed. Of course this is nothing new for the caregiver. Many times we've discussed here the long list of things that have to be done on a daily basis. (For those who may have missed it - it begins with bathing, laundry, feeding, transferring, range of motion exercises and so forth...) For someone who is not a caregiver, think about every single  thing you do in a day - now think about how it would be if you were not able to do any of it yourself. For the caregiver in many circumstances we must do all the daily living skills two times; once for ourselves and once for our loved one. Just caregiving on any given day can be overwhelming.

Now add to all that additional trips to therapy and trying to make a living at home. (I am a freelance writer) This sort of describes where I was when I woke up this morning...simply overwhelmed.

My mind went immediately to Psalm 61. It's a familiar scripture so I began to just sort of pray it in my own way. Hear my cry O Lord, Attend unto my prayer...from the ends of the earth have I cried unto you...when my heart is overwhelmed please lead me to the Rock that is higher than I...(sorry I memorized the old King James as a kid.) Then the Psalmist David goes on to seemingly encourage himself: for Thou hast been a shelter from the storm, a high tower, Lord from the enemy. And that is where I am today. Life is a little overwhelming today - so I will ask to be led to the Rock who can shelter me. Then I will remind myself of how He has sustained me in the past. He will remain my rock, my shelter, my place of refuge. He hasn't moved - nor will I.

Today I will tuck myself up under His wings and rely on Him for strength to carry me through...one more day. Will you join me?

Friday, October 19, 2012

Temporary Shelter or Permanent Home?

One of my Facebook friends posted Psalm 18:2 on their wall early this morning so I pulled out my Bible with my morning cup of coffee and read through this familiar and favorite passage. I read over it a couple of times and then I just meditated on the first couple of verses. As I was reading and rereading and meditating my thoughts began to be focused on how He could be my rock and my fortress.

David was on the battlefield when then was written and I am sure there were many times he crawled up into a rocky area and sought refuge and safety. Sometimes the life of a caregiver can parallel a battlefield as we are many times the only advocate our loved one has. It's a shame but lots of times I find myself battling for things that are included in his care plan; for the things and care my son is supposed to get anyway. God is indeed our rock during those times.

But a fortress is a little bit different. When David is referring to a rock it could be interpreted a cave, or a solid place to seek temporary shelter, or safety. It may or may not have supplies like food or water packed inside. But a fortress is more permanent. It has everything that is needed to survive and thrive. The area is surrounded by protective walls with gates that shut to keep out the enemy. There are food and water supplies along with many of the things just needed for daily life.

I thought about how thorough God is. He is my temporary shelter when I am in the heat of a battle. I can run, hide and find safety from the flaming arrows of the enemy. But He is also my fortress - I can live there - in Him.

This will be my meditation today. I will look to Him to provide all I need just to make it through today. As Jesus said each day has its own trouble. So just today - I will trust Him for peace, sustenance, strength, wisdom and anything else that might be needed. And I will do the work I am called to do...rest in Him.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

What Time I Am Afraid

Maybe it's just me, but there can be  a lot of fears in caregiving.I am afraid I will hurt my loved one (not purposefully of course), make a wrong decision or just mess something up. It's very difficult to make decisions on behalf of someone else...for me anyway! Then since I am a caregiver to my son I worry about what happens when I am gone? Who will care for him then? There are also concerns about getting older and how that looks now as opposed to BC (before caregiving). If we are not careful thoughts can overrun us and charge our emotions with fear.

That's why this morning I turned my meditation to a scripture that I taught my kids when they were little. It's Psalm 56:3 and it simply says what time I am afraid, I will trust in You. It was written by an adult David while he was not faring too well in battle. What? David was afraid too? Is that possible? We are so conditioned to think that it is a grave sin to be afraid of anything - and so we tend to secretly shake and try to keep our deepest fears hidden. Well, let me be the first to admit: I am Afraid!

There is no sin in being afraid - and it's not lack of faith. The sin is in relying on man to save us instead of trusting in the Lord. David didn't say "I'll never be afraid." He said when I am afraid I will trust. We will get nowhere and remain emotionally immature until we can admit our own feelings of fear and helplessness. And really, until we can get there - we won't trust Him!

So today - I will admit my fears; I will share them with Him. And then - you got it - once again - I will trust in Him.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Inside Out

Some days are easier to bear than others, for whatever reason. It could simply be our emotional state, how we feel physically, series of good or bad things that happen, or just dealing with the day to day grind of the caregiving situation. During the times we are stretched beyond our strength we can become tired inside and out! When weariness sets in there is really no one who can help but God!

Ephesians 3:16 in the old King James Version of the Bible Paul prays that they will be strengthened with might by the Holy Spirit in the inner man. The New Living says that He gives you mighty inner strength through the Holy Spirit. Either way since we are believers, Holy Spirit is living in us and He can give us strength from the inside out. It must be part of the Holy Spirit's overall job description because in Acts when they were told to go wait for the Spirit, they were told that they would receive power from on high.

 So it should not be surprising to know that He can fill us up with the Lord's strength for whatever lies ahead of us today or behind us from tomorrow. I say it that way because it may be yesterday's tragedy that brought us to today. But no matter where we find ourselves today He can give us strength to walk it out and since He lives inside our being this strength comes from the inside and strengthens our whole being body, soul and spirit.

I think the key may lie with us in that we must learn how to wait on God. That's a lot more difficult than it sounds. Especially for caregivers as we are many times having to motivate ourselves to keep going, not lose heart and press on into today. But verse 11 may also give us a little help on releasing His strength inside to strengthen our outside. In this verse Paul is still praying the same prayer for the Ephesians and he prays that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts...I love that! We already discussed how we all have the same Christ and no one has any more of Him than another. But the last part of this verse tells us how to let Him be more at home in our hearts - as you trust in Him.

Isn't that the key? We must learn to trust Him more - not that we get more of Him but so that He is more comfortable in our hearts. Today I will put my energies to work to trust Him more so that He will be comfortable in my heart and I will be positioned to receive His strength.


Monday, September 24, 2012

Second Class Citizens?

Sometimes little phrases can carry a big punch. This morning as I was reading in 2 Corinthians these two words grew larger than life for me: we all. I know - it's just two words and they are found in verse 18 of chapter 3. But we all with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory just as from the Lord the Spirit. This verse and phrase stuck out to me as a caregiver this morning because sometimes we can feel like God's second class citizens.

It can be easy to feel that way because we are so separated from the "rest of the world." It's not easy to get to "church" if we can go at all. And if we cannot play by their rules for the most part they just ignore us. It's not really their fault they just don't know how to minister to us, friend us, or love us from where we are. Some teach these passages here in 2 Corinthians as if they are only applying to the pastor, apostle or other ministers... but you know what? Paul said we all!

Preachers, pastors, prophets, five-fold, nor the Pope have any more of Christ than we do! WE ALL  are being transformed into the image of the Lord; WE ALL  are filled up with Christ. God did not change His intents and purposes for us just because something happened along our way. Caregivers are not second class citizens in heaven. As a matter of fact the one of the last things Jesus said to a person on this earth before He died was to His disciple John. In John 19:25-27 He told John to take care of His mother.

We have no less of Christ in us because of our earthly position as caregivers; and ministers of any sort have no more of Christ in them because of their position. We are all hidden in Him and He is in us period. We may for the most part be ignored by the church, or just not fit in with them like we used to but we can hold our head up high and know just like Job - Our Redeemer Lives! And He lives in us no differently than in anyone else. We are not heaven's second class citizens, we are children of the King and He is walking through this furnace with us as we are still being transformed into the image of Christ here in the earth.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Easy Stuff

It can be quite the battle to keep from being cynical or hard for lots of people these days, but especially for those who are in a constant daily struggle. We can wonder where God is and if He is still watching us why some things happen. And add to that being abandoned by people we loved and trusted and you have the makings of an emotional mess. Then on top of all that - we have to deal with the crazy health system; some people who are just doing a job with no heart and some who are not even doing the job part! It can be so easy to just feel like we are mad at everyone and if we are not careful we can turn our "expectors" off...it's easier that way.

In the midst of all the struggles we must endure each day there are times when we can feel like we suffer great loss. The lives we used to know and enjoy have passed away and many are prisoners in their own home...or that's the way it feels sometimes. Some days we count these losses; others we adjust and smile and just trudge on through.

Hosea 10:12 talks about breaking up the "fallow" ground. (that's old KJV!) I always thought that fallow just meant hard. But a little more study and I found out that it means ground that's already been plowed and then has sat and become hard again. If we do not guard our hearts carefully our hearts can be fallow.

The end of verse 11 says that Judah  must break up the hard ground and then the Lord will rain righteousness. Judah means praise...When we praise Him even in the hard times, it will keep our hearts from being hardened. But that's not always easy - even though it's doable. Sometimes there doesn't seem to be a place to start.

Two things are mentioned in verse 12 that are unchangeable: righteousness and love. In these crazy worlds caregivers live in where things can change dramatically from one second to the next, these two things will never change. They are the easy stuff. We do not have to work at all - they will not leave us! He is our righteousness no matter what life throws our way; and His love for us cannot be changed!

Today let us  praise Him for His steadfast love. Let us praise Him that He is our righteousness and we do not have to work to please Him. He is happy with us and we are hidden in Him.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Run and Not Grow Weary

As a runner I view this commonly used scripture differently. I have run just enough miles (only about 500 this year so far) to know that there are certain spots that weariness can set in an stop you if you let it. Well, as a caregiver this morning I became weary and this scripture came to mind.

But as I thought about how weary I was and what it means to wait on the Lord so that He could renew my strength my mind went to the preceding verses so I decided to look it up and read it once again. The verses just before this most quoted one talk about young people growing weary and tired; of vigourous young men falling terribly. That's in verse 30. And back up one more verse to Isaiah 40:29 and it says that He  gives strength to the weary. and that He increases power to him who lacks might.

When we were younger we thought we were invincible. We drove fast and took all sorts of crazy chances because "bad" things were not going to happen to us. And maybe sometimes we still try to live our lives in high gear. Maybe until we come to the end of our own strength we do not think to ask for His...to wait for His. Until we lack might - He can offer no power. Until we become weary - He can offer no strength. Perhaps this is because as caregivers what must happen in a day just has to happen we cannot stop because we are tired, frustrated or want to quit. So we press on...and on...and on...

Will you join me today as I just take some time to wait? An old song says, "I am tired, I am weary I am worn." Indeed. Once we can stop and admit we have no might - we have no strength - He will fill us up. This is when we gain new strength. Let us wait on Him yet again...

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Are You"Two" Tired?

 Take a second and think about all the things you did yesterday... Now think about all the things you have to complete yet today... Does it make you tired just thinking about it? Caregiving can be physically draining; and we can easily just be physically tired. But the trouble is that it is also emotionally draining.Then we are "two" tired. Our body feels like we are dragging ourselves around to complete all the necessary tasks that must be accomplished in a day...and then we have to handle the entire situation emotionally as well. There may be better days where things go smoothly, aides show up and supplies arrive on time...but there are always those times where decisions have to be made for someone else and it can wear us down...and we become two tired- body and soul.

And then the real trouble begins when we get three tired: body, soul and spirit. Not only do we have to take care of a whole other person while trying to maintain our own health and well being we can wonder where God is in all this. (or at least I do...) And if He is here with us - why isn't He doing anything? Does it ever feel that way?

It may be time to exchange strength with Him.We know according to Isaiah that God never gets tired. And we know by our own experiences that we do!  Psalm 29 is one of my long time favorite passages because it starts in verse one with us giving God our strength. And it ends in verse eleven with Him giving us His strength. I think it works better after we complete verse one first. We must give Him our strength- as small as it may feel - and as difficult as it may be to find right now - when we gather up or muster up what little we can find and pour it out before Him in praise and thanksgiving - we will get His strength in return.

Now take a minute and find something to be thankful for - no matter how small it may seem. Once you find the first thing to be thankful for another will follow...and another...

It's all about perspective. No, we do not live in an ideal situation. It's tiring, emotional and draining and we can be two tired or we can even be three tired. (body, soul and spirit) Even though we may feel we have no control over our circumstances we can still control our hearts and minds.Today let us take time to turn our thoughts to His greatness (Isaiah 40 is a great place to start; or Genesis 1); and put our effort into purposefully finding things to thank Him for...(breath, food, children, our minds) and as we pour this out before His throne we will find that He will make a great exchange by giving us His strength instead of ours to walk through today.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Sharing Grace

One of the things caregivers can miss the most is just living. That spontaneity of being able to decide on a moment's notice that you want to go to a movie, or run to the mall. The caregiver most times really does not have that option. We can miss the things we used to enjoy, like hiking or shopping; or just going to church. For the most part we finally get used to just staying home - but that doesn't mean our freedom isn't missed.

Somehow for me, when I can find someone in scripture who I at least think understands in some measure it can bring peace. Paul made what I feel is a very interesting statement in Acts 20:22-24. He said that Holy Spirit had told him that he was going to face afflictions and imprisonment in every city. He didn't hang his head and cry about all his losses (like I do!); he said this instead: But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. 

Now most of us did not know what was coming - and some have an idea. It can be difficult in the struggle to figure out why He called us to begin with and some who were in ministry before can feel as though they have been stripped and a lot of it does not make sense anymore. But God doesn't change His mind. It may just look a lot different than it did BC (before caregiving).

Paul continued to share the grace of God even though he found himself in prison. What better way to share how His grace is carrying us through - than right here from the midst of the fiery storm? It can be so easy to get underneath the heavy load and lose our focus. But what if we saw every phone call, every person who comes to help, or to visit as an opportunity to share His grace? Today that will be my focus, I will look at every encounter as an opportunity...will you?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A Deep Breath for My Soul

Did you ever turn around in the middle of the afternoon and wonder where the day has gone so fast? When everything works like it should, a day can be hectic. Supplies come in, meals get delivered, aides actually show up; the front door just keeps swinging some days. It's a good thing, but it can sure be like a whirlwind sometimes, especially if you factor in all the other daily caregiving that is not optional. If we are not careful a day can get away from us and we are left scratching our heads wondering which way it went.

Yesterday was like that around here and so when I found Psalm 131:2 this morning during my morning devotions it brought a quiet in my soul that was much needed. The psalmist said, But I have stilled and quieted myself just as a small child is quiet with his mother... And then he goes on in the last verse to say his hope is in the Lord.

What stood out to me here was that the psalmist said he quieted himself...he quieted his own soul before the Lord by reminding himself that his hope was in Him. For today I will keep my soul at ease by meditating on the Lord who is my hope, my help and my strength. Funny, when I stop to think about that for just a minute it's like a deep breath for the soul...

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Sometimes I Feel Two-Faced!

As a caregiver life can be ambiguous in that we are certain that we are uncertain. But this week in my studies I found that we are in very good company.I frequently read Psalm 119 as I find it very encouraging and it always points my heart back to His word. This week a couple of  verses in particular caught my attention.

In verses 27 and 28 (NLT) the psalmist has that sort of ambiguous tone. The end of verse 27 states I will meditate on your wonderful miracles; but the very next verse starts with I weep with grief...And of course true to David's nature he has these two phrases sandwiched between thoughts about the Word.

I found that sometimes this oddity describes the way we can feel. On the one hand, we are so thankful for all that God has done.We have done several devotions about being thankful in the midst of our furnace where we take time to purposefully find things (some days are more difficult than others) to thank Him for. Thankful for small progresses or that the aide actually showed up; perhaps long awaited supplies finally arrived, or just thankful that He gave us breath and strength to face another day.

And then in the next moment we may be weeping with grief over the situation or out of compassion for our suffering loved one. When I find passages like this one, it helps me feel at least like I am somewhat normal. It's okay to thank Him with one breath and wonder what's going on with the next - it's the nature of the situation.But our final answer lies a couple of verses further down.

Verse 30 says: I have chosen to be faithful; I have determined to live by Your laws.Today let us determine to walk in His word no matter what our circumstances look like. Even in those ambiguous moments where we feel joy and grief at the same time - let us turn to His word for our comfort.  Let us recall that He is walking through this furnace with us so we will not lose heart.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

An Old Familiar Psalm

It is very important for caregivers to try to find the positive things to rejoice in each day. We can rejoice in any small improvement in our loved one we are caring for, be glad the aide actually showed up to help, rejoice that at least the few necessities that are provided and covered by insurance showed up, or be thankful for a call or visit from a friend. Although the battle can be difficult, small things can help lighten our load on many days.

There are those days where we just struggle - with everything. And some days we just get through. After a series of days, weeks, months of just trying to get through yesterday one of my favorite worship leaders posted a new song he had written. It is called, "When I Worship You." It was the song of the day for sure. I played it over and over. It's on the front page of his website if you want to check it out: www.dennisjernigan.com

The phrase that stuck out to me yesterday was about Him being with me. Somehow that simple thought not only stuck with me, but really helped carry me through the day. It reminded me of a very familiar psalm. Psalm 23 contains a verse that says, Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for thou art with me. (That's old KJV there!) He is the constant in my fluctuating day-to-day life. No matter how dark, or how light the valley grows - He is with me. I may be crying one minute and laughing the next, good news with one phone call and bad with the next - but He is with me.

Today just meditate on the fact that He has not left us in the storm. He is the only constant in our lives and He chooses to stay with us. A phrase in one of my favorite choruses says:

 I can't comprehend His vast presence 
as heaven and earth He does fill
Yet His choice of habitation
is in a heart that is still...
Today, let us remember that He will not leave us unarmed, or alone. He is walking through this furnace with us...and if you get a chance go watch that video by DJ. It's the worship song of the day!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Who's Tired?

It can be the same day-in and day-out for caregivers. There are generally a lot of comments on Facebook on Friday's about being glad it's the "weekend," and on Monday's you see all the posts about how horrid Monday's are. But for the caregiver it really means nothing most of the time as most days are the same; over and over and over again! Do you ever just get tired? (Of course I ask this knowing that we do!) For me it is comforting to know that He never gets tired.

Right now in my very small circle of friends I know people who are in pain, a family who lost 2 family members in a day - one was their son, a bicyclist who was run over by a car this weekend, a person with a brain tumor, people with cancer, and that's just the beginning. The sad part is there are not many "church" people reaching out to these in pain. Why? As a general rule they are good at lending a hand in an emergency - but there is no endurance for the long hauls that many people find themselves in. I am so glad that God does not get tired!

Isaiah 40:27-28 says this in the New Living Translation: O Israel, how can you say the Lord does not see your troubles? How can you say God refuses to hear your case? Have you never heard or understood? don't you know that the Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth? He never grows faint or weary. No one can measure the depths of His understanding. As I read this today while bearing all my friends and acquaintances before Him, I saw this in a totally different way.

I had always thought of the term "everlasting" to mean the Forever God; and of course it is. But for me today it meant something special...that He has the grits and the guts to keep going with us through our trials. He can out last it - He has what it takes. And the other part was about the depths of His understanding. I know it means in essence that we can't measure how deep His understanding is in light of creation...but I believe it is correct in context to state the He understands us far more than we give Him credit for. He is not some distant God standing afar off wondering what we are going to do with life. He is near. He is not tired and He really does understand us.

Today let these thoughts comfort you. Allow Him to understand your situation. He probably understands it better than you do! Allow Him to be your strength today. He is alive! He is near! He is energetic and full of understanding...and He won't give out on the journey!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Help! I've Fallen and I Can't Get Up!

Do you ever feel that way? Sometimes our days can be so very busy with all the tasks that must be done to take care of our loved ones that the weight of those responsibilities and our emotions can make us feel that way. We cannot wait until the emotions drag us down to the depths of despair because it is a very difficult climb out. I am finding that as soon as I feel overwhelmed I must take action so that depression does not get a hold on my emotions. Once they take you under - it's a long climb out!

The second emotions start firing at you and trying to drag you under is when you have to stop it. That sounds really easy - but in reality it's a whole struggle in itself. But we can do this. This morning I encouraged myself with Psalm 121. The psalmist is looking for his source of help. Where does my help come from? There are days that it seems there is no help for us. But we, like the psalmist, must lift our eyes to answer our own question -My help comes from the Lord! He is our source of strength. You know as well as I do it's a waste of time to sit around and wait for someone to encourage us! lol...We really must learn how to encourage ourselves in the Lord. Many times that is easier said than done.

Take a few moments (when you can find them!) and read through Psalm 121 today. Meditate on the truth that He is our strength. He is our help and the keeper of our soul. It helps me relax when I can remember that He is the one who can keep me whole - emotionally and mentally - as I learn to lean on Him.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A State of Mind

There is no way to describe all the things that may pass through a caregiver's mind in a given day. There are many thoughts about all the tasks that must be completed in the day, dealing with various health care personnel, as well as thoughts about the future. And there are the same daily chores of dealing with finances, work and family that non-caregivers must deal with too. If we are not careful our minds can get away from us. For many of us that may mean a lot of fear, dread or even depression. Thankfully, there is a way to defeat the types of thoughts that try to drag us down emotions first.

There is an interesting passage in Philippians 4 that has helped me keep myself in the right state of mind. Honestly, some days are easier than others because we live in a situation that doesn't have a "hold" button. There is no pausing in caregiving; some days it is literally putting one foot in front of the other to get through the day. Our minds can work against us - or we can make them help us out. Quite honestly some days it is easier to keep a positive state of mind than other days. But Philippians 4:8 instructs us to keep our minds on things that are right, pure,lovely, and good. There is always  a positive way to look at things - but it may be difficult to find it!

The interesting thing about Paul's instructions to keep our minds on good things is that it follows a key way to be able to accomplish it. Verse 6 says to let our requests be made known to God with thanksgiving. When we look about us and find things to be thankful for it will be easier to keep our minds on good and pleasant things.

Today look around you. Even though we are not in an ideal situation with pain all around and in every dimension, there are good things happening too. Let's take some time to thank God for the good things He is doing in our lives even in the midst of the storm. It may take a conscious effort to keep our minds on Him - but the peace that will guard our hearts will be worth it. Be thankful.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Secret to Hope

It's funny how a tiny ray of hope can change everything. Proverbs 13:12 says that when hope is deferred  or delayed it makes the heart sick. That's pretty serious because when we get to the point that our heart is sick, our soul is not well then we are in a troubled condition. Personally, I can say that when those dark times swing around and I begin to lose hope it makes it very difficult for me to deal with everyday stuff. I call it tired from the inside out. Not only is it a terrible place to be - it's very difficult to try to get out of as well. But let just a tiny ray of hope shine into a situation that's been darkened by life - and Bam! Everything changes.

Romans 15:13 is a prayer that the apostle Paul is sending out for the Christians in Rome. He prays that the God of hope will keep them in peace and that He will make them overflow with hope through Holy Spirit's power. Hope is one of the three things that will endure according to 1 Corinthians 13:13.  And Titus 2:13 says that we are looking forward to that blessed hope when we will see His glory revealed.

There's just something about having hope. Maybe there's not a chance that some situations are ever going to change into what we would like for them to be...but God can place hope in our hearts as we trust Him. Sometimes hope can seem elusive - and we have to go find it. If we are ever going to find hope - we'll have to look for it in Him. He is our hope - on both sides of eternity. Today I purpose to look for a ray of hope in Him. It's not in the doctors, nurses, or anything here and now - but my hope is in Him. That's the secret to having hope today - looking for it in the right place! in Him!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Ever Wanna Give Up?

Have you ever just wanted to give up? I mean, face it  - life can be tough especially when you are faced with daily challenges and adversity. But if giving up was a real option - What would you give up to? We really are not alone when we've had all we think we can handle. For many of my acquaintances our days are filled with pain in one way or another. Some of my friends live in constant physical pain and then there are many who like me, and other caregivers, have this nagging emotional pain that does not ever go away. Either way it's pain on a very high level.And there are days it does not seem worth it to go on.

We are not alone! In Jeremiah 20 we find that he had been beaten and placed in prison in stocks - only for speaking God's words. He must have been in every kind of pain imaginable. His body hurt from the intense beating, his soul hurt and even his spirit was in pain as he cried out I will not remember Him or speak anymore in His name...Jeremiah really wanted to give up for at least a second. Recently- I have felt the same way! But...

Just like Jeremiah when we reach that point of all we can carry - we have something, someone, Who will carry us. Jeremiah goes on to say that just at that point when he really wants to give up and give in - he finds that God's word is in him like a fire and he cannot hold it in! And even though everyone was literally against him Jeremiah found that the Lord is with me like a dread champion! And He is with us too - no matter what we face.

When it gets to be too much - we may take a rest - but we will never give up! As we continue to hide His word in our heart we will find that the Holy Spirit is right here with us - carrying us and comforting us through the turmoils of life. He really is our peace - but instead of giving up on life because of the pain - we must give in to Him in spite of the pain. He will comfort, He will carry and He will protect our spirits from harm. Let us trust Him for one more day.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Maybe it's Backwards...

I do not have to describe the huge emotional swings caregivers can experience even in a matter of minutes. And when we do have those moments when we are really down - who is there to help us up? Sadly, many of us suffer silently and alone. This just makes the process of working ourselves back out into some sort of hope - even more difficult. But it's do-able...

To be totally honest - I have been on the downward side of things of late. It's been more difficult than usual to try to get my head back up above water so I could breathe again. And I think I still have a ways to go. This morning I was thinking of Psalm 13 - O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever? (It is somewhat comforting to see that a person He used to write the Bible felt the same way I do!) How long will You look the other way? How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day? How long will my enemy have the upper hand? (NLT) I can honestly say I feel this way during those long, dark nights when my loved one is ill and I feel so hopeless and helpless to offer help.

Sometimes it seems like God does not hear us - and if He does it seems He is ignoring us. But as I started climbing out of the deep dark emotional hole I gave way to some other thoughts. Perhaps we have had it backwards - thinking that God is there at our every beck and call. But who in their right mind would think in a natural kingdom that the king was there for them...but they are in the kingdom to serve the king - not the other way around. Perhaps we are supposed to be available for His every beck and call...

Think about some of the scriptural references - there are many where man called out to God indeed. But how many more are there where God reached down and called an individual - not the other way around. It certainly helps me sort through this deep valley of emotions to think about being here for Him - and knowing that He is a gracious king! Today - let us focus on being here for Him and treating Him as our king...one we gladly serve.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Some Things Never Change

This morning I was reading Romans 8 about the different callings in the body of Christ. My mind took off on some adventurous thoughts about how that works from here. Our thinking can become very clouded by circumstances. This is only because we tend to view our callings and our gifts from the setting inside the modern church. This can be detrimental in many ways...our gifts and callings did not disappear when tragedy came our way- it's in our spiritual DNA.

Think for a few minutes about Joseph - one of our heroes! He had dreams as a child. I am sure they seemed far away from the prison cell he was being unjustly held in. But God never changed His mind. Honestly dealing with the callings on my life has been one of the most difficult things to deal with - me trying to figure out how God was going to pull it off. But He can use adversity to His advantage and for His purpose. Turmoil and trouble do not interrupt His plan or purpose. It may just look differently than we thought it would.

Joseph was still instrumental in getting the Children of Israel to Egypt in the first place. Sure, his planning and administrative gifts were beneficial and saved lives. But ultimately the children of Israel ended up in captivity as a result many years down the road. But one thing that Joseph said should have kept the light of hope alive in their hearts...when God gets you outta here take my bones with you.! However, great victory does not come without a great battle or struggle.

So here we are captives in our own homes; in our own lives. But God has not changed anything He has said about us. He is not discouraged nor distracted by our present situation.The callings on our lives do not change based on our situations - good or bad. It just may not look like what we thought. We are still an integral part of the body of Christ. What we were before crisis struck - we still are.

We are still teachers, leaders, encouragers, etc. We just have a different platform to do it from. Take a minute to look around you today and see how you may still be functioning in the giftings that He placed in you. Think about the opportunities you may have- aides, friends or family who come by. Maybe you have the capacity and the connections to set up a Bible study in your home; or maybe you can use one of the many different online resources to video teaching sessions or music sessions. Perhaps you can make one simple phone call a day to help encourage someone else who is going through a trail...the possibilities are still endless- but they did not end. If you were a foot or a hand, an nose or an eye in the body of Christ before crisis struck - you still are. Allow God to show you any opportunities He has placed before you.

Monday, May 28, 2012

What Did You Say?

Do the days all start to feel the same sometimes? Each day has the same list of tasks that the caregiver has to perform. I see people glad it's Friday, or can't wait until the weekend. But most of the time one day is just like another for the caregiver and the chores really do not change much from day to day. Weekends or holidays are pretty much the same except maybe there will be no aide to help. If we are not careful we can slip into this boring existence and can live on the edge (or in the middle of) burnout. That's when we must be extra careful about what we say.

I remember when I was younger I would go visit my grandmother in the nursing home and all she would do is gripe about how we didn't come to see her often enough. Although I knew that was true it always made for a very unpleasant experience and I dreaded going to see her and sadly even avoided it when I could. Personally, I do not want to become that person. If we are not careful we can get so caught up in our cave-dwelling existence that we do not make others visits or phone calls pleasant ones.We must guard our mouths and choose to speak about pleasant things even when our hearts are hurting or lonely.

Proverbs 21:23 says this: he who guards his mouth and his tongue guards his soul from troubles. For the caregiver who may not even get to visit with others too frequently this means that whether we do actually have a visitor or not we have to watch our mouths to protect our hearts. What we allow ourselves to say can determine if our heart becomes bitter or remains tender toward God and man.

Today I will find pleasant things to speak. I'll talk about His goodness rather than my pain. I'll speak thankful words for all He has done and is doing in our lives. My heart will guard my heart today as I determine to speak peaceful words of praise. While speaking "all the right words" may not help the painful situation to go away - it can mean my journey through life's turmoil is a much more pleasant one.Today let us speak words of peace. Find someone else to encourage today - it will change your own heart.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Where Did the Kingdom Go?

Sometimes it seems like we can be so cut off from the rest of the world. We just have to face it - our lives are different. We cannot always come and go like others. It's not always possible to just jump up and run to the store just because a necessary item is running low. Trust me - it even takes careful planning to not run out of toilet paper and trash bags! Many times the caregiver may feel like we live in a cave and totally separate from the rest of the world. For many, going to church regularly, or even at all, is out of the question. This morning I was reading Romans 14 and came to verse 17 which says this: the kingdom of God is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. I found this very comforting.

We are not missing out on the Kingdom of God just because we live separate lives. Actually, we may be closer to the Kingdom than many common church goers. These three things righteousness, peace and joy are ours because we not only live in the Kingdom - but the Kingdom is  in  us as believers. No matter what our lives look like to ourselves or to others the Kingdom is near  us - the Kingdom is in  us.

We have His righteousness which covers us and this is how we appear before God. As caregivers we can understand living in His peace- as ours was robbed long ago. And when joy seems far removed and pain seems so near - we can rejoice that we are His. It's interesting that these three characteristics of the Kingdom of God remain when the rest of our world has been so shaken. The Kingdom of God is still within us. It is a choice whether we walk in it or not each day. Today let us dwell on these three aspects.

Let's meditate on the truth that His righteousness covers us no matter what life throws our way. And dwell on the truth that His peace fills our hearts even in the midst of this present turmoil.Then let us rejoice that there is nothing in time that can take these away- nothing that can reduce the level of righteousness He covers with, nothing that can remove us from His kingdom - we are permanent residents! The Kingdom is in us - let us rejoice!

Friday, May 18, 2012

What's Rest?

For years I have taught about entering into His rest. I've said that striving to enter His rest is the only work we should be doing.Lately it seems that this topic keeps coming back up. But for those of us who live in a world without natural rest - how are we supposed to enter His rest?

For the caregiver there is barely time to turn around. Many of us live with a constant soul pain because the internal pains associated with the level of loss just do not cease. Plus there are the day to day struggles that just plain caregiving brings. How are we supposed to enter His rest from here?

I love Hebrews 4 on this topic. And specifically, verse 7 sticks out in my mind today. It says that He fixed a day - today. He was pleading for His children to enter into His rest on that fixed today way back in Exodus 17; and then repeated the "today"in Psalm 95. And now it's another today here in Hebrews4. He fixed today so that it is always the today we are looking for. so today determine to figure it out! determine to rest from your works of trying to please Him. You see, we do not have to do anything to please Him. Jesus did it all. And when we can rest in that truth - we will find rest for our souls.

As caregivers we work all the time. But today let's stop working to try to please Him. It's time to rest in the work Christ did on the cross. Let us follow verse 16's calling to draw near to His throne of grace so that we can find mercy to help in our time of need. This is accomplished when we stop striving to please Him. He is pleased with us...when He looks at us He sees Christ. I know that is hard to understand because of the way we look at ourselves. But let us take a rest today from the way we look at ourselves. He sees us covered, righteous and beloved. Let us rest in this truth today.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Who is He?

When my son had his vehicle accident he was in ICU for about 3.5 weeks. Since I was from out of town I just set up camp in the ICU waiting room.One morning when I was there alone for some reason Psalm 121 came to mind. I realized that although my son was at the time getting very good medical care, the medical staff was not where my help was coming from. The nurses or doctors were not my source of help but the Lord was my helper.

Psalm 121:2 says my help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth. It goes on to say that He is always on watch - never sleeps. And furthermore He is also our keeper (v.5) and even our protector (v.7) However, it says He is the protector and keeper of our soul...He keeps and protects that part of us that makes us - us.

When life around us seems to be in turmoil - He will keep us. It's comforting to someone like me who messes up a lot that He will not throw us away. No situation gets so out-of-hand that He walks away. He will continue to keep, protect and help us. Our job is simply to not look anywhere else for our source but to continue looking to Him.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Rest for the Soul

We have no need to rehearse any or all of the reasons that caregivers become tired. After months of cargiving there can be a weariness that sets in. It's more than the body simply being tired - it's a soul tired. That covers the mind, will and emotions. Sometimes we can be too tired to feel, too tired to think and we just go on functioning because we're breathing basically. There seems to be no where to take a breath or a break; and the daily duties certainly won't wait for us to stop for any amount of time. What do you do when you get soul tired?

The answer, of course, is to Come to Him. Jesus offered strength for the soul when we come to Him. In Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus offers this rest. He bids us who are weary  and those who are heavy laden (burdened) to come to Him for rest.Then He goes on to speak of how gentle and humble He is. Somehow there is comfort in trusting in His gentleness and humility. And from His gentle and humble state He offers us rest for our souls. He did not say we would find physical rest - but rest for the soul. A place where our mind, will and emotions can be peaceful and calm. The scripture that comes to mind here is casting all your care on Him for He cares for you.When we can quiet ourselves before Him He will bring peace to the turmoil of our minds and emotions. It takes an act of our will just to come to Him - but in that place is peace.

Think about Peter when he hopped out of the boat in the middle of a raging storm. He wasn't sure it was Jesus out there to begin with. But he said, "If it's You, bid me to come." Perhaps Peter knew that he would recognize the One who had bid him to come before. He knew how it touched his heart when Jesus initially asked Peter to come, follow Me. And even in the storm Peter knew the nature of Jesus' bidding. Can you hear Him today in your storm? He is continually asking us to come. Will you take a few minutes to quiet your will and come to Him today? He has true peace for your soul. Rest in Him.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Do We Have the Time?

Do you ever feel like others don't have the time to deal with you? I know the world is a busy place and it is no different for the caregiver; but wouldn't it be nice if someone had a few minutes to share a cup of coffee with you?  Aides do not come even though they are scheduled because they had something more important  to do. They do not say it that way - but that's the raw truth. And getting someone to sit for a couple hours here and there (even for pay) can be difficult because it seems that everyone already has plans. Many times it adds to the solitude of the cave - that feeling that you can't get out - And yet at the same time it's easier to just adjust to being in the cave than it is to try to find someone to help...because it seems no one has time.

 There are days where it seems like we ourselves do not have time to turn around twice. The chores and tasks associated with caregiving can easily suck a day away. We must feed, bathe, and transfer our loved one throughout the day. Maybe we have to do therapy, range of motion or other mobility exercises. If we are not careful we can look up and an entire day has passed. Maybe we don't have time either.

Do we have time to spend with Him? It is very important for us to take time to spend with our Father. Just as we can sense that no one has time for us - perhaps God "feels" like He is not important enough to us for a small amount of our time. Maybe He is waiting for us to just come to Him. In Isaiah 55, the prophet bids us to Come to Him. Jesus also said for those who are weary to come to Him and find rest. (Matthew 11:28) Let us find a few moments today to just come to Him and present ourselves before Him in humility. He is waiting on us to come...let us find rest for our souls in Him today.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Through the Pain

Trying to view God through the pain everyday brings can be so very difficult for the caregiver. This is partly due to the fact that the pain we are in never really goes away. Our hearts are always crying as we see our loved ones as they are...and not how, or even who, they used to be. It's heart wrenching and there is no rest from the pain. If we are not careful this can cloud our view of God; and foster many questions. lots of whys...

Job managed to see God through the pain and in the midst of heart wrenching circumstances. When at first all of his children were snatched away in just one day he fell to his knees and cried out to God in worship. I do not think he sang any of our nice little choruses we have today, nor did he sing a hymn. The turning to God in the pain  was the act of worship. It's so easy to do the opposite sometimes.

Then later in Job when his own body was in intense pain and agony he made a statement that baffles me. He said even though God slays me - I will yet trust Him. Is that trust? Is that faith? Perhaps it is the depth of worship. No song, no offering, no stained glass windows... just a heart so pliable in the hands of God that life itself does not even matter.

No matter how intense, deep or constant the pain in our hearts (and bodies) may be today let us turn our affection to Him...praise Him for Who He is...this is worship.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

I'll Take That as a Challenge!

Benaiah got a whole 4 verses in the Bible, but this dude was a warrior of warriors. He actually earned himself the position of being over King David's bodyguard. How? Well in just this short passage we find out that he did several phenomenal things. He killed 2 of Moab's best warriors. He also went into hand-to-hand with an Egyptian warrior; the thing was that Benaiah only had a club and the Egyptian warrior had a sword. I guess Benaiah decided he'd rather fight with the sword so he took the sword away from the Egyptian and used it to kill him. There's no disgrace like being killed with your own sword!

But the thing that I find most intriguing about Benaiah is that he killed a lion. That is enough when you think about the lack of technological and tactical weaponry back then. But he had other factors. Not only was he facing a lion (the king of the jungle!) he was in a pit; and besides that it was snowy which means no place for a good foothold. That's all admirable enough. But here's the one little phrase that keeps running through my mind this morning he chased a lion down into a pit...He then caught  the lion and killed it. Did you get that? He chased the lion into the pit...he wasn't simply defending himself from the lion and just happened to survive - he chased that kitty down there and killed it on purpose!

That's how I want to tackle today. Surmounting challenges start piling up and thoughts of defeat run rampant. Caregivers have so many daily challenges and in so many different arenas it can be tempting to give up and become a victim of circumstances. But not today! Today let us take on the attitude of a warrior. Let's chase our lions into snowy pits and kill them instead of sitting down and letting it have us for lunch! Take today - it's yours. You are still breathing, trusting, living...don't give up - don't give in. I will choose today to forget about passivity and live with purpose and passion. I may not be able to chase down a lion but I can chase down and kill out fear, doubt and any other thing that tries to take the peace He gives me and replace it with fear. Not on my watch! Not today! I'm challenging life back today - will you join me?

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Keeper

Psalm 121 is a wonderful reminder of how He keeps us. It is not the health professionals who are our helper or keeper - it is the Lord. They can perform some wonderful services, but it is and will always be God who keeps us. As I reread this psalm yesterday I thought of my caregiving journey. As many, it had a traumatic start and has been a rather long one so far. But my thoughts went to how He has not failed to carry me.

There have certainly been times that I have been angry at God; times when my faith faltered greatly. But He has not failed to hold me even when my faith didn't hold up. He is the keeper of my soul. There is absolutely nothing that can harm the eternal part of me - He will hold me and keep me hidden in Himself.

These types of circumstances that makes caregivers out of us can definitely try our faith. There can be so many questions from the start - and really no answers to be found. This can be so very frustrating especially at a time when you feel your "life" has been jerked out from under you. We fumble around trying to make sense of a world that has suddenly changed only to find that our "world" now revolves around caring for someone else. Faith can seem so very foreign...

But the Keeper - just keeps on keeping us! He does not let go of our hearts no matter what we face in this life. He doesn't let go because our faith falters, He won't let go when we ask thousands of questions and doubt that He even exists. He will not turn us loose in those moments of great anger or deep grief. He just keeps keeping us.

Find comfort today in whatever you may be facing - He will not let you go. Today I am thanking Him for keeping me - no matter how I feel or what I face - He continues to keep...let Him keep you today.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Serving Christ First

I am so glad that we have a consistent God. He does not change with the winds of time; He never lacks strength or gets tired!...on the other hand - I do get tired, change and lack strength. Some nights I am ready to go to bed long before there is any chance of getting there. Other nights I am still up into the wee hours of the morning working on a project or something.  God is constant. That is such a comfort to me in a world where everything can change in a second.

This is why I was so excited when I came across Colossians 3 in my readings this morning. Toward the end of the chapter Paul is talking about family and work relations. He is not talking to "church workers." Verse 23 he admonished the Christians to do their work heartily for the Lord, instead of for men. And goes on at the end of verse 24 to say that no matter what type of "work" we are doing - it is Christ that we serve.

Today as you go about the normal (if there is anything "normal" in your life!) activities of caregiving think about how you are serving Christ. For me, this brings great humility of heart. As I am caring for my son who is total assist, and can do nothing on his own yet, I think about how he is Christ's. God did not give my son away the day he had the wreck. His blood purchased my son and there is nothing that can change that. So when we care for our loved ones, we are serving Christ by taking care of His loved one as well. Let us serve Christ today in our hearts, attitudes and minds as we go about our many caregiving duties.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Adversity Fit For A King

In 1 Samuel 30 the psalmist king David had found himself in a terrible spot. He had been running from Saul for years and had joined up with the Philistines. Remember them? They are the ones who sent out Goliath way back when David was just a kid. And now David found himself on their side of the field.Funny how ironic life can be. 

The trouble was that because of David's history of killing their giants and such, he was not to be trusted; or so they thought. Imagine this: they are on the verge of a historic battle and the warrior David has a hand itching that wants to grab a sword and go help them out. But their leadership told him that he could not go. Not so much because they didn't trust him; but the other soldiers might feel like they needed to watch their back with him on the battle field. They were still scared of him. They were also concerned that he would not be able to fight against his own people. They knew his heart.

So David begins his journey back to Ziklag. He and the men with him found that their homes had been burned to the ground and an enemy had come in and captured their families. Think of this picture that is given in verse 4 of chapter 30. David and all the men with him wept until they had no strength. Have you ever wept like that? I know I have.

Now to make matters worse the people who are with David are blaming him and talking about stoning him! (v6) He didn't quite look like the king God had promised...yet. It says David was greatly distressed. But David encouraged himself in the Lord. Quite honestly, there wasn't anyone else there willing to do it! I really cannot imagine being in this type of position. However, as caregivers it is very likely that we have seen much distress. And many times we end up walking much of the journey alone. This translates to no one being there to encourage us when we get discouraged. (At least no one is talking of stoning us...yet!)

There are days we must as the old saying goes pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps and keep caregiving. It's not going to take a break just because we need one! Today - if there is no one else there with you to encourage you - be strong. Encourage yourself in the Lord. Remind yourself that He is still with you. Be reminded that it is God that gives us heart-strength to carry on each day. Hum a song of praise, read a few scriptures, or say a prayer of thanksgiving - I assure you there is something to be thankful for each day. Whatever your method...take a few moments to encourage yourself in Him today - you're doing a great job!

 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Where do you put it?

Some days it seems we can have it all together. Everything is going along good, emotions are intact, and the day overall just isn't bad. And then outta nowhere....someone says something about faith that makes it sound like you don't have any since you are in adverse circumstances. Is it just me, or does it happen to you too? I'm beginning to think that faith is a little like courage; if there isn't some challenge to address it doesn't really count.  

When the statement occurred I was flooded with questions and hopelessness tried to swallow me up. Because if it all relies on me - what I believe - what I say - what I can change with my attitude - then what is my faith in: myself. True faith believes period. The fact that we are still clinging on to Him even when everything around us does not seem to make any sense at all, or doesn't seem to be changing at all is the deepest faith - not the lack of faith. I must say that I do not have any confidence in myself - I cannot change my circumstances. I can only change my attitude in them.

Joseph could have confessed and recited his dreams all he wanted in that unjust prison cell...but until it was God's time...nothing was going to happen. What Joseph did have to guard was his heart. He had to keep his heart and trust in God in the midst of the circumstance. Job could have quoted every healing scripture there was...but until it was God's time...nothing changed. Abraham could not make Isaac (the promise) arrive any sooner - he tried, remember? He ended up with an Ishmael.

These are some of our faith heroes...faith did not change their circumstances nor was it measured by them! Do no measure your faith by your circumstances!!! Are you still clinging to Him? Do you still trust Him? Are you still waiting on Him? ...that's faith.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

How Strong?

Yesterday we looked at Ephesians where Paul told the Christians to stand. Today let's check out Psalm 31:24. The psalmist says this: be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who hope in the Lord. I think this will be my motto today: I will be strong. That really sounds funny to me as a caregiver - like there's really an option! lol!

It seems like there's a choice being given here: be strong - or don't. The understood subject is "you" - you be strong. That's just the first part of the psalmist's instructions. He goes on to say let your heart take courage. This implies another choice. We can let our heart take courage or reject it.

Today we must trust that He is giving us His strength to walk this journey; and He will encourage our hearts - if we let Him. Think about allowing His strength and courage to take over the space in your heart today.Allow His peace to walk you through whatever you may face today.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Fully Armed

When we wake up in the morning we never know what a day is going to bring. Each day is filled with much uncertainty. Some days it feels like everything is a fight. You know? Trying to get aides who come on time - or show up period, dealing with government agencies and various types of health care providers can be draining. And of course all of that is on top of the difficulty of taking care of another.

Do you ever just get tired of fighting? I know I do. It can feel like we are struggling uphill simply trying to get others to do their jobs so we can do ours. Sorry I do not have a check list of how to make those sorts of things go smoother or faster! (Don't you know I wish I did!!?) But here's what I am thinking today.

If you get tired of fighting and struggling; just stand. In Ephesians 6 the apostle Paul told the church to stand. He did not tell them to progress, to struggle, to fight or to do anything else at all. He just said when you have done all , stand firm. (Eph 6:13b) Now tell me something - if you see someone standing fully armed having on all their fighting gear and armor - does it make sense to attack them? No way! When we are standing in God's armor (which is much stronger than our own...) we are fully armed for any attack or scheme the enemy of our souls might bring our way.

Today - meditate on standing in His full armor. Don't even think about fighting.. just think about standing there with the confidence that He has provided. You know we cannot lose this in the end, right? Today - Just stand!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

No "Delete" Buttons?

Do you ever wish life had a "delete" button? Maybe even a "do over" button would be nice occasionally. There are times I feel like if I could do some things over I would either change the way I did them or not do them at all! Isn't it amazing that God does not feel that way...ever!

He never wishes He did something differently; and never hopes for do-overs. He knew everything would happen the way it has. He knew my faith would falter when great tragedy struck. He also knew of the times I would be angry with Him and silent before Him. He even knew I would question His existence. Actually, He knew every single question and doubt that would enter my heart and mind in the face of tragedy...but He did not give up on me! He did not cast me away and mutter words of disgust. He simply waited until I came back to the point where I could not live without His touch in my life.

Caregiving can place different levels of demand on us depending on the particular situation. However, no matter how involved it is - from total care to minimal assist - we must admit that our lives look nothing now like they did before. Romans 10:29 reminds us that the gifts and callings of God are irrevocable. He does not have a "delete" button. He will never stop loving us, caring for us and reaching toward us. Even when we are not sure what we believe about Him - He is constantly, consistently desiring to live in us, with us and through us!

So be encouraged today by the fact that God is not going to delete anything! His love and care will never wane...and He's not wanting any "do-overs" - He's simply waiting on you to walk with Him from wherever you are today.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

It's a big, big house...

One of the difficult parts of being a caregiver is being separated from the mainstream. There are many times that we can feel very alone. And this alone-ness can eat away at your soul. You can feel very disconnected from friends and even family as time goes by. It's not always an every day thing but there are certainly periods of time that you can feel this deep loneliness.It's not really anybody's fault - they mostly just do not know what to do with us since our lives are so different. But we are a part of something much bigger.

Ephesians 2:19 says this you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and are of God's household...Somehow even in the loneliness there is comfort in knowing that we are a part of His household. We are not separated from God nor the true body of Christ. If we think about how huge His household must be it helps to bring comfort and wash away a small bit of the alone-ness.

We think of our household as those who are residing with us in this present time. But God's household spans all time. Every person that we read about in scriptures that followed after God is in His household. All the believers from the beginning of time to the very second you are reading this post - are all in His household. As big as it is - we are a part of it!

Take some time today to think about your rich heritage in Christ. He took away all the walls of separation and made us into one body. God's family encompasses time - and we fit nicely into His household. Instead of dwelling on the present alone-ness today - consider how Christ has made us a part of His eternal family.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Finding Wisdom

For caregivers each day can bring with it many decisions that must be made. These are difficult enough when making them for ourselves, but for those who are taking care of someone else they can be quite frustrating and even more difficult. While we cannot always look up word for word what we should do in each situation, we can turn to scripture for wisdom.

Proverbs 2:6 states this: The Lord gives wisdom. From His mouth come knowledge and understanding. That just about covers it all really. He will give us wisdom. James chapter one says that He gives wisdom to those who ask of Him. That part is actually pretty simple. What makes it difficult is waiting on His answers. We tend to ask for wisdom and then try to walk on in our own strength. Wisdom is not impatient and sometimes it dictates that we do not make decisions too hastily. We can ask - and He will give us the wisdom to walk through difficult days and make difficult decisions.

The other part of this verse says that from His mouth come two things: knowledge and understanding. What comes from our mouth? Our words. So from His word - spoken or written we can gain understanding as well as knowledge.

These three - wisdom, knowledge and understanding, are not withheld from us because of adverse circumstances. His promises are all still just as true for us today as they have ever been. Today - remember to ask Him for direction for the big things; then remember to ask Him for wisdom in the small things too. Stay in His word to find knowledge and understanding.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Sow What!

The life of a caregiver does not include enough time to get bored. And although the loneliness can chip away at our soul, there are never two days alike and plenty of chores that simply must be done every single day to keep us plenty busy. Sometimes I look at how much I need to get done in a day and wonder if I will make it. Many times I wonder what it is that God wants from me...from here. Life looks so different now. Years have been spent doing the religious things and sadly enough it seems I am so guilty of mistaking those activities for relationship. But these circumstances did not take Him by surprise - He sort of planned ahead for them.

In Psalm 97 there are a couple of very interesting points. Verse 10 reminds us that we are to hate evil and love God. There are no stipulations for when times get tough or situations change; it's always the same. But the next part of verse 10 says that He preserves the souls (not the bodies)  of His godly ones; He delivers them from the hand of the wicked. This is so comforting I think. He will preserve and protect my soul. No circumstance, no situation, no occurrence can harm my soul or my salvation. Salvation cannot be altered by trials or tribulations; my soul is safely secured in Him.

Verse 11 is what really caught my eye this morning. It says light is sown like seed for the righteous and gladness for the upright in heart. Of course my first thought was how does that work? After a little meditation I think I got an answer. He sows seeds of light for those who are righteous so that when it is dark - we can still find our way. He sows gladness for the upright so that when trouble abounds - we can still be glad in Him. He planned ahead for our adversity. It does not say that He handed us light or gladness; it does not say that he gives it out when we come to Him. No - He planted it and allowed it time to grow and mature for the exact time we would face our darkest hour. He prepared light for us to be able to see Him in the darkness life brings our way.

He has equipped us to walk this journey hidden in Him no matter what troubles present themselves along the way. Today rejoice in the truth that you are a child of the light - and that He has removed you from the kingdom of darkness and placed you in His kingdom of light - the light He prepared for you to walk in!

Monday, March 19, 2012

You Think He Knows?

As caregivers some days are better than others; as with life itself. Some days it's easy to find that groove and stay on schedule to get everything completed. And then there are days where it seems like everything just piles up on top of you. We carry a constant load; even on our best days - or our infrequent days out - it remains the same. Some days we can simply take in stride and then other days little things pile up. (The aide doesn't show up and you planned on running to the grocery store, to the bank to deposit a check for covering expenses, or to the pharmacy to fill prescriptions. Or you plan a day out and the person who is supposed to watch your loved one bails on you at the last minute.) Any little thing can topple us on any given day...and it can all add up to a much heavier load emotionally. But it's okay. We are like the energizer bunny..we just keep going and going and going...you do not get to stop being a caregiver.

So how do we deal with the day to day struggles, disappointments or heartbreaks? Rest in Him. Nahum 1:7 says this The Lord is good. When trouble comes, He is a strong refuge. And He knows everyone who trusts in Him.(NLT) He is indeed our strong refuge. He has enough strength to carry us and our extra baggage! He is not just a refuge - not just a place to hide (which is good) - but He is a strong refuge. We can hide in Him and He is strong enough to protect us, carry us and give us some of His strength to make the day. And you know what I like best about this scripture this morning? The last part.

He knows everyone who trusts in Him. For me that brings an immediate peace. He knows that I trust Him. And He also knows how weak I really am - but that I still will continue to trust in Him. Today just embrace that truth - He knows you trust Him. He knows that we are trusting Him for our next breath, strength to make the day, wisdom to make appropriate choices, and hope. Know He knows you trust Him.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Do You Ever Wake Up Tired?

As a caregiver, you know those mornings when you just wake up tired. It may be after a sleepless night or having to get up all through the night to care for your loved one; but you just wake up already tired before the day has even begun. Those days you feel like you'll never have strength again and it feels like you've just always been tired.

When I have those nights where sleep was constantly disrupted, my thoughts go to Isaiah 40:28. The prophet asks this question:  Do you not know? Have you not heart?  Have I heard what? The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth...does not become weary or tired. Isaiah takes his readers through three descriptions of our Father: God, Lord and Creator. And then he reminds us that God does not get tired or  weary! He never runs down and never rolls His eyes - no matter what my day brings His way.

He is constantly watching over us to shield us with His grace and protect our hearts with His peace. I am so glad on days when I wake up tired that I can realize He will give me strength as I continue to wait on Him. (That's on down in this same chapter.) So today let us wait on Him for renewed strength. Today I will rest in His love as I listen closely for Him to sing over me. Care to join me?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

How Long is Forever?

It is interesting to me that Jesus promised that when He left this earthly realm He would send a comforter. The Greek indicates someone who will walk alongside you, someone to stay right by your side to help and comfort you along the way. Why didn't He send a healer? I know that God heals, there is no doubt about that - why didn't Jesus use any of the other names of God when speaking of the Holy Spirit's indwelling?

He could have send He was sending a healer, provider, a peace maker or a way maker. God certainly does all of those things through the work of Holy Spirit here on earth. But Jesus chose instead to refer to Holy Spirit as comforter, teacher and guide in John 14-15. The fact that Jesus started John 14 with do not let your heart be troubled and then repeated it again in verse 27 of the same chapter indicates there would probably be some things arise in the apostle's lives that would be unsettling or troublesome.

Jesus indicates that Holy Spirit will teach us and guide us into all truth. But He called Him the comforter for a reason. (He never wastes anything!) Life can be unsettling, the life of a caregiver can stay that way! Those of us who are breathing (caregiver or not) experience life altering situations. Many things happen along the journey that we didn't expect. It may be illness, car wrecks, the loss of a child or any number of things that we really didn't foresee as part of the way things were going to work out...Jesus knew...

He knew that on this journey of life some of these huge things would attempt to disrupt our vision of God. Holy Spirit is sent to us to empower us to always keep God in view. No matter what life throws at us, no matter what comes up (or goes down) in a day's time - He is the constant comforter who is always explaining the Father and His love to us.

You know what the cool thing is? Jesus said that Holy Spirit will be with us forever. That is a concept that is difficult to grasp. Everything we know and experience has a beginning and an ending. But the presence of Holy Spirit in our lives has no end. He has made His abode in us and is there to stay. I think this is one of the most comforting things to me. He doesn't ever look at a situation and say, "Oh no!" Or "I didn't see that coming!" He is calmly residing in us to help us work through every situation that presents itself to us. He is here forever. He is not going away because we got angry with God or His plan. He doesn't tuck and run when those situations become more complicated. He is the only constant in our lives.

Today let us rejoice in the ever-abiding presence of the Holy Spirit. Embrace His comforting touch today.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Two Kinds of Broken

I heard a chorus last week that had this phrase in it: brokenness that separates. It really made me think of a lot of different aspects of brokenness and I came to the conclusion that there are two kinds of brokenness, and I am acquainted with both of them. There is a brokenness that God is near - the kind that says, Lord, I am broken before You and I need you. But there is a time when we are broken and in our self-preservation we draw away from Him.

It is not a bad thing to be broken before Him in humility. This is the type of brokenness that He is near, this is when we can come to Him bleeding and needing help. But the other brokenness is sustained by our departure from His presence. This separation comes as we try to hold on to the hurts in our lives and not release them to Him and allow Him to mend.

I have experienced this kind of broken - the kind that makes you mad and so you withdraw from Him in anger. I did not understand why these things had to happen (my son's automobile accident) - I had trusted God with my children and it seemed He had violated my trust. There were many days that I was simply angry with Him in my brokenness.

But there came a point when I knew I could not continue without His touch. This is where brokenness took on a different role in my life. My broken heart needed His oil to mend and I presented myself before Him once again...in humility and asked Him for help to carry the load that life had placed on my back. This humble brokenness is the one He is near...Psalms 34:18 says that the Lord is near the brokenhearted. We must acknowledge this closeness and not turn away from His touch - no matter how much life hurts.

Today I will make it my goal to keep myself before Him in humility. I will ask Him to bring healing to all the broken places in my life...will you join me?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Good Morning!

Jeremiah is sometimes called the weeping prophet. To many he seems to be a very big whiner. But he carried such a passionate burden for the people of God that he wept much of the time. If you briefly turn through the pages of Jeremiah you will find some very harsh things God had to say to his people. And besides obeying God and having to speak to His people in such a manner, he was imprisoned and persecuted.

Lamentations gives us a closer look into the tender heart of this prophet. (Yes, a prophet does have a tender side!) He wept over the disobedience of his own people and he did not understand why they didn't just obey God. I am sure when he was mercilessly thrown into the mucky pit he wondered if his life was over. He was left to sink in the muddy mess and basically left for dead. Do you think he ever questioned God's call on his life? As a caregiver and the huge life changes that role brought I have found myself questioning God about many things.

But in Lamentations 3:19-24 Jeremiah turns his thoughts to the Lord once again. In verse 19 he says that he remembers his afflictions. He did not ignore them. As caregivers there is absolutely nothing about our situations that can be ignored! Jeremiah speaks of all the emotions he has had - bitterness, wandering, and afflictions. In the next verse he says his soul is bowed down. Have you ever felt that way under the load? I am sure we all have from time to time.

Jeremiah then goes on to encourage himself in the Lord. He reminds himself of why he still has hope. God's unfailing lovingkindnesses and His compassion are enough strength to make another day on. He says that they are new every morning... sufficient to carry me through each day I must face. And then he speaks of God's faithfulness...through the storm, through the furnace, throughout this life - He remains faithful!

Therefore  - we have hope in Him!