Monday, December 30, 2013

He Led them Where?

When tragedy struck and my world was shaken I had to find a way to figure out what was going on. I have to admit my faith (or what I thought had been faith) was shaken as well. There were times I was angry with God and didn't understand how He could let awful things happen. I began to read His word with new eyes. It didn't take long to realize that the Bible is full of stories about hurting people and our heroes are our heroes because of the things they faced - not the things they avoided.

This morning I found this scripture as I was reading Isaiah. In chapter 48 verse 21 it says They did not thirst when He led them through the deserts. I'm thinking there are several key points here the first being that they didn't thirst even in the desert. He provided all along the way and this is something I can attest to. I've always seen God provide and never questioned it at all, but when my son was injured in an accident and my world turned upside down I sat in a hospital with him for 4 months, then in nursing homes with him for another year before getting to bring him home. During all that time of being "unemployed" I saw God provide and lead me into learning how to make a living in new, creative ways. I can honestly say I have had my needs met and God has provided so that I have not thirsted in the desert.

The second thing that stuck out to me in this verse this morning is He led them...He did what? They didn't stumble on the desert because of their own ignorance or bad choices? He led them through the deserts. He did not lead them around, over, under or take them on a pathway so that they could avoid it altogether - He led them right through it. My flesh cries out Why didn't He take them another way?  But my heart says  absolutely the perfect plan.  It's in those dry times that we actually get to know Him better. Sometimes His silence drives us to search for Him desperately. He took them right through the driest, most barren place - on purpose!

And the last thing that stands out to me today is that "deserts" is plural - more than one! It was not just one desert and then they were done - it was deserts! For the caregiver the crisis is not a one time event - but continues day after day. There are bad days - and there are better days; but every day has its own set of challenges - plural! And He is there to lead us right on through all of them.

Today as I face several real challenges I will meditate on a few things. Firstly, that He has led me to this place and He will lead me through it. Secondly, I'll meditate on the truth that He did not drop me in the middle of a desert - He walks through it with me - holding my hand. (And sometimes carrying me along the way!) And thirdly, I'll meditate on the fact that I do not lack - He is my provider and He has given me His living water to quench my thirst. No matter how "hot" life gets, or how difficult the situation becomes I know that He has protected my soul for eternity and I do not have to thirst for Him. That's the spiritual side - the natural side is that I will trust Him to continue providing natural needs as well as spiritual.

Will you join me?

Monday, December 16, 2013

With or Without Words

When Jesus came to Gethsemane, His first response was to pray. Then in Mark 14:33 these words stuck out to me this morning: and He began to be very distressed and troubled. How could that be? Jesus told the disciples repeatedly to not be troubled, yet we read here that He is in deep distress. Did He contradict Himself? Of course not!

He told the disciples that were with Him that He was deeply grieved to the point of death. And then He began to pray. There are a couple more things that stick out to me here. One thing is that He told those close to Him how He felt. As caregivers, we do not tend to do that very much. For the most part, we are the ones carrying the load and in many cases we are walking it alone. Sometimes there may not be anyone close enough to tell that you're having a difficult time, are depressed or overburdened. Other times, we just cannot admit our weakness as we don't want others to think we cannot carry the load - we have to be strong for those we are caring for, right?

How could Jesus make Himself that vulnerable? Because He was going to go past them. He simply told them how He felt crushed underneath the burden He was soon to bear to Calvary - and then went past his "friends" and straight to the Father with His prayers. And you know what? He prayed that the pain would pass...He asked the Father to remove it. How many times has that been the cry of the caregiver? But we are in good company. Jesus did not have His burden removed. He submitted to the master plan of the Father and endured the cross on our behalf.

When He came back to the disciples, He found them asleep. He asked them if they could not pray with Him for just one hour...wouldn't it be great to find someone willing to pray with the caregiver for an hour? I think of the few times when friends have taken the time for even a quick prayer with (or for) me and how much it meant. I have a couple of friends that are very good about that actually. They ask me some hard questions to find out how I am really doing. When I tell them my concern of the day - they say, "is it okay to pray about that right now?" Of course! It means so much for someone to take that time to call or to say that quick prayer...maybe we should start a "prayergivers" network for caregivers! lol

Jesus then tells the disciples that He really does understand for the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. And then you know what? He went right back to praying! I'm so thankful for this reminder today. It doesn't matter how sleepy everyone around us might be - we can continue to go to Him in prayer. And what about those days that we just don't have it? Caregivers understand that there are those days when your body, soul and spirit are just too tired to go on. But we do it anyway - there are certain things that just have to be done regardless of how we feel; or if we no longer feel. But in those moments of despair remember that first of all - we are in good company! And He can hear our heart's cry - with or without words.

Today I will meditate on the nearness of God. I'm thankful that Jesus does not snub me for my despair or distress - He understands and holds me closer. I'll meditate on this closeness today and pray from my heart for strength to make one more day of the journey.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Joy and Obedience - It's not what you Think!

This week I am meditating and praying Psalm 51:12 and Romans 15:13 and asking God to restore joy. This morning I stayed in Psalm 51 and looked at what follows David's request for the Lord to restore his joy. He prays for joy then says, and make me willing to obey You. Isn't that an odd combination? Lord, restore my joy and make me willing to obey You? Are the two interconnected in some way? When did David not obey the Lord? In this case, the Psalm was written after his affair with Bathsheba and his disobedience did end up stealing his joy. Not only did he desire for the Lord to restore his pre-sin joy - he also needed the Holy Spirit's assistance in being willing to obey God rather than the lusts of the flesh.

For the caregiver, our situation may or may not be connected directly to any sin. Personally, I had nothing to do with my son's injury or the irresponsibility which caused it. But as caregivers, we are still responsible for our daily actions and we need to be willing to obey the Lord. However, my view on obedience has definitely changed. Before the transition that caregiving brought in my life obedience looked more like going to church, leading "worship," teaching Sunday School or going on the mission field. What does obedience  look like from the cave of caregiving?

At first glance I thought maybe I could just discard the last portion of this scripture since it really didn't seem to pertain to my situation. (That would be convenient, wouldn't it?) But after some contemplation and meditating on it a little bit I realized that it may actually be more difficult to obey Him from here. I no longer have such a churchy picture of what that looks like - and I must rely on my own heart - and on His heart in mine.

The scripture in Hebrews 10:16 pertaining to the new covenant comes to mind: I will put my laws in their hearts so they will understand them, and I will write them on their minds so they will obey them. This is our new covenant which was promised to Jeremiah. (Chapter 31) It's in our hearts to be pleasing to Him and to obey His nature. It's not really difficult at all - and it really has nothing at all to do with the "church" as we see it today. It's more about what David was talking about in Psalm 51 - my version would read: Let me not succumb to my own thoughts or desires - but let me crucify my flesh even in this cave and be more like You.

Today my meditation will be on yielding my heart to Him - rather than the feelings and emotions that go along with caregiving. I will think about how He made it easy for me - by placing His law in my heart and granting me understanding. I'll rest in Him and consider how to make my emotions chase after Him instead of chasing after a quick fix, or a feel-good moment. Will you join me?


Monday, December 9, 2013

Permission to Enjoy

I was visiting on the phone with a friend yesterday and we were comparing notes from our stress filled lives. Don't think we were having a pity party, we were not. We were actually talking about various strategies we could use to help us cope with the stress that life has presented us. Our conversation was more along the line of finding the best way to deal and keep our attitudes in good shape without being overcome by things like depression. We finally decided that we needed our joy restored - even in the midst of the storms we are facing.

We all know how demanding and strenuous the life of a caregiver can be; and sometimes it can simply be overwhelming. No matter what type of event caused us to become caregivers, it was likely traumatic. For me it was a phone call announcing the automobile accident my adult son was involved in. Even though it's been over 5 years, it can seem disrespectful to enjoy life, or even to laugh. But lately I have given myself permission to laugh, permission to "go on" and enjoy life as much as is possible.

My friend and I prayed that our joy would be restored and that we would be able to enjoy life even in its discomforts. Two scriptures came to my mind almost immediately. I thought of Psalm 51:12 in which David prayed that the Lord would restore the joy of salvation. But my mind also went to Romans 15:13 in which Paul prays this for the Roman Christians: Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.(NASB)

The funny thing is that these are scriptures I prayed over my son for several years until I saw God restore him to Himself. And now my soul is crying out for my soul to see its joy restored - in Him. One conclusion my friend and I came to is that God keeps our soul. No matter what happens as life plays out before us - nothing can harm our soul. Because of  this - I can rejoice in the power of His salvation!

No matter what we may be facing today our soul is secure in Him. My meditation this week will be on being hidden in Him and allowing Him to restore my joy. I will give myself permission to laugh and live again. Today my prayer will be that He will fill me with all joy and peace in believing -- will you join me?

Monday, December 2, 2013

Seek and Ye Shall Find?

For the last few days I've been reading and meditating on Psalm 42. The first verse has been made into choruses and songs many times and is very familiar: As the deer pants for the water - so my soul longs after You. It seems to me that this beautiful verse has been romanticized and adapted to the corporate worship setting- like we are seeking an experience corporately. But that does not make a lot of sense when read along with the rest of the psalm. We have to look at some of the other phrases throughout the passage to get a sense of the desperation of the soul of the writer.

Our faith simply cannot allow us to overlook some of the heart-wrenching phrases such as:


  • Day and night I have only tears for food
  • My heart is breaking
  • Why am I discouraged?
  • Now I am deeply discouraged
  • Why have You forsaken me?
  • Why must I wonder in darkness oppressed by my enemies?

Most of these are followed with encouraging answers such as:

  • I will put my hope in God!
  • I will praise Him again!
Evidently the psalmist found himself in a very sticky situation and was grasping for hope from outside himself. He was facing an onset of discouragement and fighting off feelings of being forsaken and alone. He kept telling himself to put his hope in God and that he would praise Him once again. Seeking God like the panting deer looks for water is a matter of sheer desperation. And you know what? It's okay.

In many cases the day to day life of the caregiver can be lived out in desperation - constantly seeking trying to find God in our circumstance. It does not mean we have sinned, or that we've distanced ourselves from the One we love- it's just not a comfortable place - and He's still right here - even when life gets ugly. It's okay to be desperate for Him in an un-church way - and it's okay to be thirsty for Him outside of corporate worship. We do not have to go to church to find Him. And we can be as determined as the sons of Korah in saying I will put my hope in God - I will praise Him again.

Today I'm going to meditate on the truth that He is here with me whether I feel Him or not. It's okay for life to be discouraging - but I will continue to seek for him from the desperate soul. And I will find Him....here. 

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Feeling Disconnected

Being a caregiver can often mean long hours shut in at home; this can leave you feeling disconnected from mainstream life. There's no doubt that we cannot enjoy some of the "normal" social activities of life but there are days when this can wear on you more than others. With very little social interaction there can come this "social isolation" that just leaves us feeling alone.

When I battle with this type of disconnection from life's normalities, I let my mind wander through some of my favorite Bible heroes who likely felt the same thing at times. I often think and speak of Joseph whose own brothers sold him into slavery to get rid of him - to try and crush his dreams. And then after he maintained his own integrity and held on to God through that type of struggle, he was unjustly imprisoned. Talk about the epitome of being socially isolated! Yet Joseph never gave up on God. He sat for long periods of time in prisons that are a far cry from the discomfort of prison today - and just held on. He refused to become disconnected from his source - God.

Today I am encouraging myself to hold on to Him even in this place free from social interactions. Like Joseph (most likely did..) I have questioned the dreams that I thought He had given me. And you know what? He's big enough to handle my questions. And even though I cannot see the future and I question if I even received dreams from God or not, I do not question His existence. I know Him too well to let Him go...and that keeps me connected to Him.

No matter if we are feeling lonely, disconnected or isolated like Joseph - there is a foundation of God that stands sure - He knows those that are His. (2 Tim. 2:19) Time is no problem for God and He knows we are His. Today I will meditate on this truth - that He knows me. And I will be content with that. Will you join me?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Womb of Seclusion

Psalm 139 has been a long time favorite. As a child I read it and marveled; and then I read it to my children and marveled even more. How could this God be so "intimately acquainted" with all my ways? How could He know me inside and out? Even more amazing, how could He know everything about me, all my quirks included and still love me? This is what I get out of Psalm 139 - that He really does know me inside and out - but continues to love me no matter what He saw before the world began, what He has seen while I have walked through time - or what He sees about my future here in time and with Him. I guess what gets me most is that He looks at my life in its entirety - and He doesn't look away. He never says it's too ugly, too messed up or too anything for Him.

In verse 12, I read this: but even in darkness, I cannot hide from You. To You the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and night are both alike to You. (NLT) I like that because to me it says that the things that can hinder my vision, do not block His. When it looks dark to me - it's not dark to Him. If things look blurry to me - they do not appear blurry to Him. When I am stumbling around trying to reconnect with faith, find my way in the dark or just trying to figure out a way to not give up in the pain -- He sees quite well. The darkness is not dark to Him!

He can see past my pain, confusion, hurt and despair - and right into the womb of my heart to the things He is birthing inside. God has not left our hearts unattended for even one moment. Just like when we were being formed in the womb of our natural mothers - and He watched me be formed in utter seclusion (v. 15) - He is watching the things He birthed in our hearts be formed in the utter seclusion  of the life of a caregiver. Even though there are times when we can feel we do not live like the rest of the world; and that we live a very secluded lifestyle - He is watching His purposes form inside of us in the midst of the seclusion.

Today I will meditate on what He has planted inside of me. And if I am not sure what that is - I'll ask Him to show me. I'll ask Him to show me how Christ is being formed in me - (Galatians 4:19) Will you join me?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Don't "Should" on Yourself

Do you ever find yourself comparing your life to others? It can be pretty easy to get caught up in comparing our situations to those of other caregivers. And in this world of social media craziness it can be even easier to look through status updates and see what the rest of the world is up to. If I'm not careful, a brief look through Facebook updates can plunge me into depression because I see what the rest of the world is getting to do today while I am trapped in my home.

I see my friends are at the gym, grabbing a Starbucks coffee, shopping at the mall or attending a concert. These are daily, or at least common activities for many people. But for the caregiver they are not plausible or possible in many cases. It can be easy to fall into the trap of comparing our lives with others whether they are caregivers or not, but it's not wise. Paul even warned the Corinthians about comparing themselves among themselves. (2 Corinthians 10:12) He told them that it was "foolishness" as translated in the NLT. And it can be a huge trap for caregivers that are living in seclusion, socially isolated; even though we are here by choice and willing to remain.

So if we cannot compare our lives with each others, or with the free world, how do we know how we're doing? Psalm 119:5-6 has our answer: Oh that my actions would consistently reflect Your principles! Then I will not be disgraced when I compare my life with Your commands.(NLT)

The true measure of a (spiritual) man is found in scriptures. It's not so much how we stack up with the rest of the world, the rest of the church or even other caregivers. It's how we stack up when we are compared with the Word. I must say on many counts I fall short. I do grumble and complain, I get angry, I am impatient at times. I even feel like I am hopeless or faithless some days. But instead of perusing through Facebook statuses to see how I should be feeling or what I should be doing - I should be looking into His word to find out how I should be responding to life, to others, and how I should be conducting my life.

It's really not worth the time to sit around and think about what I should be doing.Instead of should-ing on myself I will stay in the Word, and give it the utmost priority in my life - it will bring about changes. Remember, it will not return to Him without accomplishing what He sent it to do! (Isaiah 55:11) His Word will work in us to perfect us and make us look like Him. So instead of checking out everyone else and how they are dealing with their lives, perhaps it's time to check Him out and see what tools He has given us to live this life.

Today my meditation will be on how I am conducting myself. I will check to see if my actions reflect His principles; and make changes in myself where they do not. I will compare myself with His commands, and not my friend's FB status! I will embrace His word - and let it carry me through today. Will you join me?


Monday, October 21, 2013

Very Welcomed Indeed

Have you ever been somewhere that you just didn't feel welcomed? Maybe it was a party, someone else's home, a classroom setting or even a religious function. Whatever the reason, there was just an "air" there that made you feel unwelcome. This can be a very uncomfortable place to be in, can't it?

Sometimes I can feel this way when I take my son out. Doors don't open right or ramps are not constructed properly and it can be difficult to get him in places that are supposed to be "handicap accessible." And on occasion I've made a purchase and trying to get the wheelchair, packages and myself back out the door can just make me feel out of place. It's not so bad now that I'm used to it, but there have been times when I felt like I was really sticking out and no one really cared.

Yesterday during my morning devotion I happened on this scripture in Ephesians 3:12 which says: Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come fearlessly into God's presence, assured of his glad welcome. I really like that one! Not only are we accepted and invited to come into His presence, we are assured that we are welcome there. I've never really thought about it before - but we have several songs that used to be popular like Holy Spirit Thou Are Welcome in this Place,  and Welcome Holy Spirit. But I don't think we have a song that speaks of how welcome we are in His house.

I'm just kind of overwhelmed with the thought that He is quite alright with me coming to see Him, talk with Him and pour out my heart before Him. And not only are we welcome - He is glad we are there!

Today I will meditate on how happy He is to see us when we seek out His presence. I'll enjoy thinking about how glad He is to see me! And I'll be content with Him in His presence today.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

True Cost of Servanthood

Jesus made an interesting statement in Mark 10,  He said: Whoever wants to be a leader among you must first be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be the slave of all. For even I, the Son of Man, came here not to be served but to serve others, and to give my life as a ransom for many.

In the Western church we hear very little about servanthood that is not manipulative or demeaning on the part of "leadership"; and many times boastful on the part of underlings. But Jesus came and presented Himself as a servant without any fanfare; it was just His nature to serve us. I really think this is an element of caregiving that many do not realize. In many cases it's a natural thing; but that doesn't mean it's always pleasant or easy. For many of us it just makes sense to take care of a parent, child or other family member who needs help and we just step into the role.

That's what Jesus did - He saw our need for a Savior and He just stepped into it  eagerly. It says that He did not consider the pain - but instead the joy that would be ahead: Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross. (Hebrews 12:2) He did not give as much consideration to what it was going to cost Him as it did to how His act of servanthood was going to affect mankind. When we become a caregiver we are more concerned with our loved ones' needs than what it will cost us. And in many cases, it actually costs us "our life." -- but we know that that is not what matters at all.

True servanthood comes with a cost that many are unwilling to pay. What a privilege we have to care for one of God's children. He has entrusted them to us. And as we take on this role of caregiver we must understand that even though it seems like the world (and the church) do not care that we exist for the most part - we are highly esteemed in the eyes of the Lord. We look like Him -

Today I will meditate on the supreme price He paid to serve me. I'll consider that the cross cost Him everything.... and I am the joy that was set before Him. Will you join me?




Monday, October 7, 2013

Do We Look Like Him?

If we really take time to think about it, caregivers look a lot like Him. I know, we will all modestly say, "Oh,no we are far from that." But this week in our devotions I want to look at some ways that we do look like Him. (That is the point of Christianity isn't it?) Now I'm not saying we are perfect, or that we have it all together because that is probably not going to ever happen in a caregiver's world. But day after day we continue to care for our loved one(s) without giving up. If we take a serious look, we'll find that we do indeed have Christ-like qualities.

In the New Living Translation, Romans 2:4 is translated this way: Don't you realize how kind, tolerant and patient God is with you? God patiently waits for His children to come to Him. We patiently care for our loved one day after day - whether we see any change or have any hope that the situation will change or not. All of that is irrelevant to providing care.

Have you ever heard someone referred to as having "the patience of Job"? He was very patient during his time of tribulation. Once again we see a man face great adversity and patiently wait for God to act. If I am honest, I am usually more patient with the one I am caring for than I am with God. Job uttered these words that "faith-ers" like to ignore: Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad? So in all this, Job said nothing wrong. (Job 2:10 NLT) In our world "God is good" is way overused especially when things are going great. When the bank account is full, bills are paid, health is stable, then we are happy, happy, happy; and God is good. But is He not still good when things are going downhill? If He is the God we proclaim Him to be - He is God and He is Good - no matter how our circumstances change. And for the caregiver our circumstances can change in a split second.

The fact that we are still clinging to Him in the midst of the trial is proof that we have patience. To run to Him in the storm proves we are still patiently waiting on Him. And day after day as we patiently care for our loved ones whether we observe positive changes or not - we show patience. Today I will meditate on how patient God is with me and how He patiently waits for me to bring my life to Him. Will you join me?


Saturday, October 5, 2013

When the Caregiver Gets Tired

I have found it useful to keep a personal blog as it gives me a place to put and leave my emotions. I really didn't start it for that purpose. My intent was to share the difficulties and challenges that I face as a caregiver and talk about how to keep faith (which has been totally redefined for me) while walking through the heat of the furnace on a daily basis. Last night as I was writing an entry in From the Furnace, I found my own encouragement in Isaiah 40:28-29. The New Living Translation says it this way:
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.
He gives power to those who are tired and worn out;
He offers strength to the weak.

 On a day when emotions were fried and strength was gone, I found this scripture to be very encouraging. I particularly like that it says He won't grow faint or weary. And I like that He will give power to those of us who are both tired and worn out; along with strength when we are weak. It seems He really has us covered on this one! Caregiving can be a very tiring position to be in and we can get up in the morning already worn out! It is very comforting to know that when the chores and tasks of our day are bearing down on us - He offers His strength and power; and He asks for nothing in exchange.

Today I will meditate on how His strength carries me through. I'll also concentrate on how I can be a better receptor of the encouragement, strength and power that the Holy Spirit shares. We know as caregivers we put our own needs on hold; and that we do not always accept help well. Today I will meditate on His help and on how I can position myself in Him to receive it. Will you join me?

Friday, October 4, 2013

She Does What?

This morning I was scrolling down facebook to see what happened in my world while I was asleep and saw a post from Jillian Michaels. She was out catching the premiere of a new movie. I always associate her with fitness and workouts and somehow in my mind she should not be at a movie. She should be somewhere kicking someone into gear and motivating them to get in shape! lol. When I see Jillian Michaels I always think of fitness or working out - her watching a movie did not fit with the image I had in my mind.

I wonder what people think when they think of caregivers. Do they think that that is all there is to our lives? While caregiving for many of us is indeed a 24/7 job, we still have to do our day-to-day tasks just like everybody else - on top of taking care of another person's needs. Caregiving is a difficult and time consuming position, but we still like the things we used to  do before like reading, hiking, running, watching a movie or having dinner with friends. But in many instances these activities are no longer reasonable; and sometimes they are nearly impossible.

How does God see caregivers? We really do not have our own class in His eyes. There's not likely a "special awards" program for us in heaven. *smile* But it is a good thing that He does not see us any differently than anyone else. He cares for us and loves us just the same as everyone else. He does not esteem us any lower than others. It can seem like the world (and church world) forgets about us, leaves us out, or ignores us. But God loves us exactly the same.

Romans 8:35-37 in the New Living Translation says this: Can anything ever separate us from Christ's love? Does it mean He no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or are hungry or cold or in danger or threatened with death? (Even the scriptures say, "For Your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.") No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ who loved us.

I am so glad that His love and care for us does not change with the tides of life. God is the only constant in our crazy worlds. His love for use will not wane or subside - but remains constant. As caregivers we can have crazy days; we really never know what might come up next. But one thing is sure - His love will remain steadfast.

Today, no matter how crazy it might get I will meditate on His constant and consistent love for me. Will you join me?

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Never say "Never"

I've always heard that we should never say "never." I guess that's basically because we really never know what a day may hold. But last night while I was reading, I came across this scripture in Psalm 8. Verses 9 and 10 say this: The Lord is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. Those who know your name trust in you, for you, O Lord have never abandoned anyone who searches for you. (NLT) If anyone can use the term "never" it'd be Him!

Far too many times I have heard stories of caregivers who feel that their family and friends have abandoned them. On one hand, I really do understand that for the most part, people do not know what to do with us. We cannot always "get out" like others and when we do not fit the mold of the world, and sadly the church, we can be abandoned. Isn't it comforting to know that He will  never abandon us?

I love the passage in Isaiah 43 which says: When you go through deep waters and great trouble I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord your God. (NLT) He did not say we would avoid going through difficulties - but He did say we can walk through them and He will not abandon us.

It's far too easy for people to just walk away from uncomfortable situations today. That can leave the caregiver hanging in social isolation. But today, I will turn my thoughts and meditations to how He will never abandon me. I'll meditate on how He is a present help in trouble. Not necessarily a rescuer from trouble - but one who is with me no matter how rough or smooth the road lays out before me. I'll meditate on His ever abiding presence. Will you join me?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Power of a Touch

I was noticing something the other day as I was looking through pictures. whenever there is a picture with me and my son in it - I am almost always touching him. If I am standing, I usually have my hand on his shoulder and if I am sitting, I have my hand on his leg or his arm. It never really is anything I am thinking about; but in most cases, I am simple reassuring him that I am there and everything is fine. It also lets him know that I am never far away. I don't have to say anything - just my touch is reassuring.

My son and I at a friend's birthday party.

I think I feel the same way about God; I just need to feel His touch to be calmly reassured that He is near, He is with me and we're all going to be okay. Several scriptures come to mind when I think about God being near.
  • But as for me, how good it is to be near God! (Psalm 73:8)
  • We give thanks because You are near. (Psalm 75:1)
  •  But for me, the nearness of God is my good (Psalm 73:28-CJB)
 There is a comfort in knowing that God is nearby. My prayer today is from Psalm 71:12 - O God, be not far from me: O my God, make haste for my help. (KJV) I will meditate on His nearness today and turn my thoughts to His touch. He may not be making a big show - but His gentle touch helps me remember that He is never far away. This is my meditation for today - will you join me?

Monday, September 30, 2013

Who Lives Here?

For most of us lives can be very hectic at times; and this is true no matter what our role is in life. Yesterday during my morning reading I re-found this scripture in Nehemiah 10:39b - So we promise together not to neglect the temple of our God. (NLT) God has told us that we are His temple. He lives in us. His purposes for us did not change just because we became a caregiver or life got difficult or ugly. Everything He said about us is still true - because we are His temple and He still lives with us.

There's an old saying that goes something like this: you find out who your real friends are when times get tough. I personally have found this to be true. When the battle rages on in our lives it seems that fewer and fewer people continue to walk through it with us. That does balance out because we make new friends along the way. But in many instances our old friends really do not know what to do with us anymore - our lives changed when we became a caregiver and many just can't make that transition. But God does.

Actually, He knew about it beforehand and was well prepared to carry us through, walk through the fire with us and hold us up so we would not fail. We are still  His temple and He still lives in us and abides with us. Therefore it is important for us to take good care of His temple - ourselves. It can be easy for caregivers to slip into depression; and even easier to neglect ourselves by becoming overwhelmed in caregiving. But we must take care of this temple that we share with God.

God's promises never fail - He is still faithful even if life falls apart or it doesn't look so glamorous. He will not change His mind about us - and He still likes to hang out with us. Today I will purpose to take care of the temple God lives in. I will feed it spiritually and make sure that I tune in for what He may choose to share with me today. I don't want to miss a moment with Him because of the numerous distractions. Today I will purposefully think about how He still lives in me - I am still His temple, His dwelling place. Will you join me?

Monday, September 16, 2013

Will He Come for Me?

For many caregivers social isolation is a real challenge. It can take major effort to either find sitters for our loved one or make travel arrangements. Scheduling any kind of outing can be overwhelming enough that it is easier to sit at home - and that becomes the norm. It's not as simple as just jumping in a vehicle and running to town, out to eat or to catch a movie.

In many instances caregivers are walking alone. People have good intentions most of the time but when the journey becomes too long they move on with their lives and leave the caregiver isolated and alone. Many churches simply don't know what to do with us since we do not fit into their little boxes. They don't have the perfect mold to put us in so we remain largely ignored in far too many cases.

A couple of weeks ago I was thinking about the effects of being socially isolated. It seems to me that people want us to come to them rather than taking the time to come to us. (What ever happened to old fashioned visitation?) I was wondering about Jesus. How did He handle people? Does He expect me to come to Him as well? I immediately thought of several scriptures like come to me you who are weary and I will give you rest. But what if I'm too tired to come? Will He come to me?

Shortly after this I opened my Bible and re-discovered this scripture in John 14:18: No I will not abandon you as orphans, I will come to you. I was elated to say the least! He will come for me!

How comforting it is to know that He will indeed come to us - He will bring us comfort and peace! Today I will meditate on the truth that He is coming to me to strengthen me and give me what I need for today's journey back to Him. Will you join me?

Monday, August 26, 2013

Same Question - Different Attitude

There are a couple of passages that really bothered me for a long time because they contained similar questions which brought about very different responses by God. Both of the questions  are in some way asking, where is God? That's actually a question I have asked many times. If God is near why has all this happened? Why am I suffering? Why doesn't it seem like He's answering my cries? Those questions usually pop up on long, dark nights when my son is having some sort of issue that it appears God does not care about.

I hate to tell you (assuming you've asked similar questions at least once), but others have already had the same question go through their minds - we're not original at all! Finding people in the Bible who've asked similar questions is not difficult at all really. (Check out Psalm 13) But in Exodus 17 and Judges 6 the same question came up. The children of Israel asked Moses, Is God with us or not? It says that they tested God by asking if He was still with them. This was clearly unacceptable to God.

But Gideon asked a similar question in Judges 6 when the angel appeared to him. His response to the angel's statement - "The Lord is with you, mighty man of strength" was not an argument about whether he was a mighty warrior or not - remember he's hiding out at night from the Midianites that he's soon to defeat. His argument was, If God is with us, why has all this happened to us?  The angel's response was not one of anger - he simply told Gideon to go in this your strength. This seems to indicate to me that his question was full of strength - but why?

It is my opinion that the two similar questions were rooted in very different attitudes. The Children of Israel were grumbling and complaining and arguing with/about God's presence. They were discontent and probably lazy to boot! Gideon's question seems to be rooted in the fact that he was still looking for God - but felt like He left them.  God's different responses in the two similar situations seem to be because of why and how  the question was asked. It seems that questioning where God is is okay if we are still looking for Him.


It's all about attitude. Today I will meditate on how present God is even in suffering. Even though my world has changed and I can feel abandoned at times, I'll ask where God went - as I keep my eyes on Who He is. I'll not demand that He makes changes in my life or situation (not that that has ever helped!), but I'll let my soul quietly search for Him and His peace today. Will you join me?





Friday, August 23, 2013

Out of Context

Did you ever feel like your whole life was "out of context" with the rest of the world? Don't take me wrong - I'm okay with where I am (right now) - but sometimes I watch everyone else is this highly socialized world talk about going to do this and going to do this while I feel I am captive in my own house. The absence of a real social life can be very draining; but we cope; in our own out of context ways!

I thought about being out of context as I was reading Psalm 22 today. We almost always hear verse 3 separated out from the previous verses. Pastors and song leaders use verse three to try and get us to "worship" and invite God's presence in -- but isn't He already here? They tell us He is "enthroned on praise" and that is true - but it's the praise our broken lives gives birth to if you look a the first two verses. Actually, we only hear verse one on Easter - My God, My God why have you forsaken me?  But when have we ever put these scriptures together? The first two verses are the psalmist crying out and feeling separated from his God. the next couple it seems he's trying to remind himself who and where God is. Have you ever felt separated from God? We know we are not -- but it can certainly feel like it sometimes.

The rest of Psalm 22 is like the first few verses. David cries out from his fear, abandonment, trouble, and helplessness. And then he will remind himself once again of God's faithfulness, strength and presence. Sound familiar? -- it sure does to me!! (It's okay - I'm used to being alone! lol)

In the culture of the church we've not been allowed to express our feelings of hopelessness, despair, helplessness or fear. But I think this psalm is a good reminder that it is quite alright to be honest about our feelings; and then try to find God in them - rather than separate from them. How will I know I need His peace if I do not admit mine is gone? How do I run to Him as a fortress if I never acknowledge there is a battle?

It's okay to see our own wretched state -- and bring it to Him with a clean, open, and honest heart. Today I will remind myself that He is close to me in the lowly situation -- He is my fortress because there is  a battle - and He is my strength because I am weak....

If you come looking for me - I'll be running to Him. Care to join me?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Contentment vs Peace

In Philippians, Paul said that he had learned to be content in whatever state he found himself in - whether that was in a state of abundance, or a state of lacking. Faithers tend to ignore this verse unless they are misquoting it to make a point. How does it interpret into our daily lives, especially for the caregiver? Are we supposed to be content with the fact that our loved one is hurting? Or should we be content that they can no longer care for themselves? What does it mean to be content?

First of all, Paul wasn't giving a command to be content. It was not meant as "instruction." He was making a statement about his own life and how he had found that he was content - or at peace with himself and God no matter what life threw his way. It seems in this part of this short book he is expressing gratitude to the Philippian church for once again having compassion on his needs and offering help. He said it nicely but in verse 10 he basically ( in my loose interpretation) says - you ignored me for awhile but found a way to help me once again. How easy it can be for the caregiver to feel ignored.

We do not fit into society's perfect mold and therefore the world around us goes on as we sit watching. Paul is like - you cared for me for awhile, didn't help me at all, and now you are once again offering help. He is grateful - not bitter. How easy it can be to become bitter at life if we are not careful. Contentment is not the enemy. We have to find a peace in God in order to deal with the dealings of daily life. We don't look or live like the rest of the world and they do not know what to do with us...we must find our contentment and our peace  in Him regardless of whether there is anyone around to help us or not.

I think this is what Paul is saying. He states that he had learned to just be content with what he had each day whether that was much or little. He said  I have found the secret of living in each situation... That's what can be such a struggle for the caregiver - learning to live in the situation.

This is my meditation for today - that I will live in Him - and in the situation I will find life no matter what struggles or difficulties may present themselves today. I'll live in Him today! Will you join me?

Monday, July 15, 2013

Can You Hear Me Now?

Have you ever just reached the point of desperation? As a caregiver it seems I live on the edge of desperation a lot! lol. These are times when my life and my faith seem to conflict the most. I can pray and pray until I run out of words and it seems like God just isn't listening. My Bible thumping background haunts me because I know scriptures like 1 John 5:15 - And this is the boldness which we have toward him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us: and if we know that he hears us whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions which we have asked of him.

When I was taught that scripture it was by what I call the faith-ers. It was in the context of believing that God hears us and jumps at our command. Over the years I have found that concept to be in error. My next thought today is this So is healing not in His will today? I don't suppose I will ever really know why He chooses to do as He does; He is God of course and can see the whole picture while I can see only part - and not very clearly. 

My trouble is that if I am totally honest with myself - I don't know that He hears me. I trust that He hears me when my heart cries out - but how do I know that He hears my heart's cry? don't suppose there is any way to know...

But I can turn to another scripture for some help. Psalm 61:1-2 says this O God listen to my cry! Hear my prayer! From the ends of the earth I will cry to You for help, for my heart is overwhelmed. Lead me to the towering rock of safety, for you are my refuge, a fortress where my enemies cannot reach me. (NLT) I have sung this scripture for years but today it really rings from my heart as I ask God to hear my prayers; hear my cries. I know He has been my shelter for all these years and I have no plans of running to anyone or anything else! He is my rock - my strength - my song. Today my heart cries to Him to hear me and rescue my heart from the enemy's snare.

My meditation today will be a cry to Him for help. I will remind myself of His faithfulness and strength. And I will trust Him to carry me today.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Can he say that?

This morning I picked up My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. He used a verse out of Joshua that I thought was very interesting. In chapter 24 verse 19 Joshua makes a statement that I guess I have totally overlooked all these years: You cannot serve the Lord. I  looked it up myself because I didn't think anyone could make such a bold statement. How could an individual, leader or not, tell someone that they were not able to serve God?

We are all too familiar with verse 15 where Joshua boldly proclaims that his house is going to serve God. But then he turns around and tells the people that they can't? Can he do that?

The people got serious about God when Joshua told them that God wasn't going to forgive them of their adulterous and idolatrous ways. (v.19) And in verse 21 they are adamant: we are determined to serve the Lord! At this point, Joshua tells them they are accountable for this decision and they must destroy all their idols and turn their hearts back to God.

We do not always recognize our idols because they are not made out of precious medals; but we have them. Maybe it's healing - we seek it more than we seek Him. Or for some perhaps it's prosperity - and we give our money to the white-washed preacher who says we'll be blessed for giving. Sadly, for many Western Christians - it's the church. Everything we know about God fits inside those four walls. And for those of us who do not fit the pattern -- they just shake their heads.  

What idol do you need to get rid of today? What takes your focus off of Him? Is it the fiery situation?  Service to the church? the basic pains of life?

Joshua 24:25 - So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day at Shechem committing them to a permanent and binding contract between themselves and the Lord. Who is your "contract" with? Is it with a church? a friend? a mentor or a minister? Break it.

Today I will refocus on Him. I will diligently search my heart and my life to see if anything has stolen my focus. Then I will give it back to Him. As for me and my house we will serve the Lord.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Who Sees Me?

I've been thinking about Hagar all day today; there's something stuck in my mind about the situation she found herself in. Genesis 16 tells us about how Sarah gave Hagar, her maid to Abram to bring forth a child. But when Hagar found out that she was indeed with child, she treated Sarah with "contempt" and found herself looking for a place to live! There are many details to this story - just like each one of us has our own unique details about how we ended up in the wilderness of life trying to survive. For Hagar, she made some obvious mistakes - for many of us who live in the furnace it was not mistakes that ended us up in the furnace. The furnace is hot no matter how we ended up there!

Verse 11 may be the verse that sticks out to some of us as it says: for the Lord has heard about your misery. I suppose that it can be a good thing for the Lord to be aware of what is going on in our lives. But what stood out to me today is in verse 14: the God who sees me.There just seems to be something a little more personal about Him seeing me than just hearing about  me. It means He is attentive and watching; it's more active and not so much passive. He sees me.

No matter how hot the furnace, how difficult the struggle gets, or how long or dark the night...He sees me. For some reason today I just feel like I need God to see me; to walk with me and hold me. It is comforting to know that He does not look away just because the picture gets ugly.

It is interesting to me that Hagar called the place, "well of the living One who sees me;" and God called the name of her child Ishmael which means, "God hears." Today I will meditate on the truth that God is first the living God; and secondly on the truth that He does indeed see and hear my heart. As furnace walkers, let us take comfort in these truths today. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Quietly Discarded

There are times that I joke about living in a cave; and even though things are said in jest it really can seem that way at times. Many times the caregiver lives a very isolated life where activities outside the home are very limited. For awhile this used to wear on me but it has finally settled in and my cave is a very safe place, a peaceful place and I am actually finding that I do not do as well outside the cave as I used to.

Others really do not understand the caregiver's cave. There's just no way for others to understand the lack of freedom that can be experienced. You cannot just jump up and go grab a few things from the store, have coffee with a friend or go to an afternoon matinee. The things that are commonplace for the majority are rare for the caregiver, if they exist at all. We cannot expect others to understand our situations - they are not living the experience with us. We do not fit society's mold and sometimes we can feel quietly discarded.

No one will actually say anything - not that it would help. Have you ever just felt politely ignored? When people do not know what to do with you they are not impolite - they just ignore! Even the church can be this way. They do not know what to do with those of us who are homebound and cannot fit their church-going mold. So we do not exist to them. I won't bore you with the details of all the churches or church people who have politely ignored us. lol. But I will tell you that one pastor asked me what I needed and I replied with one word: fellowship. He eagerly said they could do that. (I think he was relieved that I didn't ask for money lol!) But most of those who live in situations with continual pain whether it's physical or emotional have probably already guessed what happened. I never saw him or any people from that church again. I'm not mad - they just don't know what to do with us so they politely ignore us. We become quietly discarded because we can't function in their world. No blame -- just the way it is.


The term that came to my mind earlier this week was cast away. There are times when the caregiver can feel like society or even life in general has just cast us away. We are here - we are breathing - but we don't really exist. When I started meditating about being cast away and realizing that our existence is not in this world but in Him, my mind went straight to 2 Corinthians 4. The apostle to the early church Paul says this we are afflicted in every way...but not crushed. Now for those faithers out there -- they would call this admission a negative or faithless confession. It is not. Paul is stating the obvious. Until we can view where we are in honesty - we'll never be able to view Him in truth. Paul did not stop at this he went on to describe the utter despair he was feeling:  perplexed but not despairing; persecuted but not forsaken; struck down but not destroyed. That about sums it up.

I would like to add quietly discarded - but not rejected. Even though much of the world ignores our situation - God is still fully aware. He has not rejected us - He has not left us. Life may have struck us down but we are not destroyed!! Even though it feels like life has cast us away - to live in the caregiver's cave - God caught us and holds us even now.

Today I will meditate on how He is my present help - He holds me - cherishes me and loves me. I will picture Him holding me...and then I'll rest in Him. Will you join me?











Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Step Out of the Traffic!

This has been a very busy week around here: supplies that do not come in, nurses that drop in unexpectedly, aides that don't show up (they're fired)  - and it's only Tuesday! For the caregiver it simply never stops! Life can be a tilt-a-whirl that never takes a break, just keeps spinning and spinning with no relief in sight. *sigh* Sometimes it seems we cannot even slow down enough to take a breath. It only takes a few minutes for everything to snowball on top of you when you are already underneath the load and emotions are already on "high."

Maybe it's just me, but in those times it can be very difficult to figure out what is the "right" thing to pray. After a few years of caregiving (or suffering otherwise) we've pretty well prayed it all out. That can add frustration too. So yesterday when it all caved in on me again I did what I taught others to do for years. I went right to Psalm 46:10. It's good in any version: KJV says Be still and know I am God. The NASB says: Cease striving and know that I am God. the CEV says it this way: Calm down and learn that I am God." The Message says it like this: Step out of the traffic! Take a long loving look at me, your High God. I guess that about sums it up...when life is overbearing, pain unmanageable, people not present - just be still, cease striving, calm down and step out of the traffic

When you live in the furnace like caregivers do life can become overbearing at any second. Sometimes we do good to even know we are saved! But when it is too much - it's time to quiet our soul in the presence of the One who created it... and say with or without breath -- I still believe You are God. Somehow this acknowledgement that doesn't really change anything....changes everything.

 Take a moment today to remember that He is still God. Remind yourself that whatever ongoing tragedy is occurring in our lives has not dethroned God. As we quiet ourselves simply in honor of His existence...the world becomes a much quieter place around us. He will give us strength to walk another day. 

Today I will remind myself that He is still God - has always been God - and will continue to be God. Be quiet my soul....He is still God!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Ever Been Disappointed?

Life can be disappointing at times and the caregiver can find themselves having to constantly pull themselves up by their bootstraps as the old saying goes. Most likely the very reason we had the opportunity to become a caregiver was one of life's huge disappointments. Perhaps it was a tragedy such as a wreck or an accident, or maybe it was a serious diagnosis; no matter what it was it certainly was not the way we had envisioned our lives turning out - and that can be very disappointing.

1 Peter 2:6 is a quote from the Old Testament that says this: Behold I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious corner stone, and he who believes in Him will not be disappointed. (NASB) When life is full of disappointing news we can start to think that God didn't know what He was talking about. To be completely honest, I was very disappointed in God when my son was seriously injured in an automobile accident. After all weren't we led to believe that since we served God our kids would be safe? Well, I was. When the grave news started settling in and I realized that God was not coming in riding on a white horse to rescue me out of the situation - I was disappointed in what I had believed.

When we look at this scripture in context, we will see that it is talking about the body of Christ - and offering ourselves as an offering to God. (1Peter 2:5) It's not so much talking about life being free from disappointments. I think it's saying to me today that no matter what disappointments may come my way in life - we will not stand before God disappointed. As we continue to trust Him for our daily existence (necessary for the caregiver's survival!), we will not stand before Him and be disappointed. He will not be disappointed in us -  and we will not be disappointed in whom we put all our trust and belief.

We can become very focused on what we see right now that we forget there really is a bigger picture. He will  keep our souls - we must keep our bodies. They are subject to decay (thanks Adam and Eve!), they will wear out, get injured, become weak etc. But our spirit man will not have to stand before God with an ounce of disappointment - He is able to sustain us and present us holy and blameless before Himself - no matter what life brings our way.

Today I will meditate on how He sustains and strengthens me through life's disappointments. Will you join me?

Thursday, May 30, 2013

So Ambiguous!

My mentor told me one time that I was ambiguous but I didn't know what it meant at the time and so I had to go look it up. After I discovered what it meant, I realized I had two very different opinions about a lot of things. Over the last few days I've felt sort of divided about how I feel about God too. (It's okay - He understands and isn't mad at all!)

On one hand - I love God with all my heart and trust Him fully. On the other hand I really don't understand why bad  or difficult  things have to happen in life; or how come He allows them. I think I found a Psalm to help me sort it all out. It's Psalm 42 and it starts out with the psalmist discussing how they long for God. As the deer pants for water - that's how my soul longs for God.  I feel that way; even wrote a chorus about being thirsty for His presence to invade every part of my life.

Verse 4, talks about how the psalmists remembers hanging out with God's people. I recall being very involved in "church" and even leading in worship. Sometimes I must admit I miss it, even though I do not ever want to go back to the same life I lived before I became a caregiver. Many times for the caregiver, attending church and being able to fellowship with other believers is simply a thing of the past.

Verse 5 the psalmist seems to dive deep into despair and tries to encourage himself by saying why are you in despair my soul? Why are you disturbed within me? But then he answers himself by saying Hope in god, for I shall again praise Him. When I saw the psalmist struggling with these two extreme emotions - totally longing for God and trusting Him - even thinking about worship; and then swinging all the way over to wondering where God is and feeling lost in despair - I was encouraged.

I was not happy that someone else was going through such a difficult time sorting through emotions like I do - but it encouraged me that God saw fit to include it in His word. This leads me to think that He understands that we are weak - that we need Him - that we must have His strength to carry this load! It's almost like He left it right there in Psalm 42 to tell the caregiver that we do not have to be in despair, but to remember that our hope is in Him - not in ourselves!

Today I will continue to meditate on His strength being in me to help me carry on. I'll speak to myself like the psalmist did and I'll tell my self to hope in God and praise Him for the help of His presence.




Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Life on the Sidelines

Even in our technological world it can seem like we are cut off from life. The caregiver cannot always get out and about like everyone else; sometimes even though we can keep up with others via television and Facebook, it seems everyone's life goes on where ours stopped. This is a normal part of caregiving; and one we must deal with. I usually deal with painful areas such as these by finding something similar in scripture; we can find comfort in situations when we see that someone else has lived through similar circumstances. It allows us to grab hold of some hope that tells us we can get through this season!

As feelings of isolation swept over me last week, I began to feel like life had discarded me. Immediately I went to the Word for hope and peace. In 2Samuel 9 we find King David looking for any survivors of the household of Saul. He finally found Ziba who had been one of Saul's servants and he asked Ziba if there was anyone at all left in Saul's household as David wanted to show God's kindness to them." (v.3) Ziba replied to the king that there was one of Jonathon's sons still alive -- but he's crippled. It seems he said it in such a way that indicates Mephibosheth wasn't worthy of being blessed because of his disability. But I love David's response- he did not ask how crippled Mephibosheth was or anything about his condition - he said Where is he? David went on to give Jonathan's son a place at his own table and he lived with David the rest of his days.

Mephibosheth ate at David's table as if he was one of his sons. David made sure that Mephibosheth received all of Saul's belongings and ordered that other people take care of him by farming his land; all while Mephibosheth lived in the palace!

I tend to think of it this way - my life is crippled; my son is crippled and discarded by society. He has no "friends"as he cannot give back to the relationship. It can be very easy to feel that life has discarded us altogether. But as I read on through 2 Samuel I found an interesting verse in chapter 14. It says this: God tries to bring us back when we have been separated from Him. He does not sweep away the lives of those He cares about.

Even if we feel like we are living life on the sidelines - God has not discarded us! Others may not understand what we are going through and many may not ever reach out to us in our pain. But God does know where we are and who we are and what we are going through. And just like David sought out Mephibosheth - God seeks us out to bless us, to hold us and offer us a place at His table.

Today I will meditate on the fact that I am a King's kid! I'll think about how He has provided and continues to provide for my family. I will picture in my mind what it must look like for Him to come looking for me! And I'll smile....will you join me?

Monday, April 22, 2013

The God Who Gives

After talking about encouragement yesterday I studied it a little further. This morning's plan was to share Romans 15:5 which says: Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus.(NASB) First of all, it's pretty amazing that He just gives us encouragement. There's no stipulation - when you pray, if you ask, if you follow all the rules in the book; it just says He gives patience and encouragement. As a caregiver this is good to know, because if I feel that I am lacking in persevering or encouragement I know I can go to Him and ask Him to help me make it another day...and He will.
 

As I was meditating on this particular scripture I stopped on the phrase the God who gives and did a quick search. What I found was pretty amazing. He really gives us a lot! Here's a list of some of the scriptures that I found by searching the God who gives - these are only the NASB version too - if you run other versions through Bible Gateway's search you'll find a lot more!

I found that God gives:

  • songs in the night (Job 35:10)
  • grace and glory (Psalm 84:11)
  • breath and spirit (Isaiah 42:5)
  • rain in its season (Jeremiah 5:24)
  • the Spirit without measure (John 3:34)
  • the victory (1 Corinthians 15:57)
  • His Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 4:8)
  • life (I Timothy 6:13)
  • wisdom (James 1:5)
That's a pretty good list of the things God just gives away, don't you think? As caregivers our needs can be on many levels emotional, spiritual, physical, in relationships, financial, etc. He knows we are flesh and blood and He knows we can be needy. Notice there are no things listed here - houses, cars, lands. It's all stuff to help us carry on while we are still traveling this side of eternity. It's like He is going to make sure that we are equipped to make it through this life to eternity. All of these are needed now - wisdom, life, rain (spirit and soul!), Holy Spirit, grace, songs in the night and encouragement - which is where we started! What do you need to make it today? He has it - and He gives it.

Today I will meditate on how He gives to us freely. I will think about how encouraging it is to know that He has already provided the things I need to make it through one more day. Today I'll meditate on all these things that He gives and I will be thankful for His provision of peace and encouragement. Will you join me?


Sunday, April 21, 2013

Where'd Y'all Go?

As caregivers we can spend a lot of time alone or with just our loved one. When they are non-verbal, it adds an extra dimension to the loneliness we can feel. Loneliness and depression can be major struggles not only for the caregiver, but for those who are going through life's trials that are continuing with no end in sight.

There are lots of scriptures on encouragement in the Bible; but I noticed that about 80 to 90 percent of them involved someone encouraging another person. I had to chuckle since that's sort of part of the problem for caregivers - there's no person around to offer us that encouragement. This can add to the feelings of aloneness and loneliness. So once again - it's up to us to do it! And that- we can!

First of all, it's important to realize that during those times when we become burdened beneath the load - it is not a lack of faith.If we take an honest look around - we run to Him and cling to Him more tightly when we feel that we cannot take another step. There is no lack of faith for the weary or battle worn soldier-it's inevitable that we will get tired, weary, and oftentimes even discouraged under the daily load of care that we bear. Clinging tightly to our God is not the lack of faith - it's a demonstration that we are still holding on. So don't beat yourself up for being tired, weary, or discouraged...it's part of the package.

In I Samuel 30:6 David found himself in a very tight spot. They had just sent him home from a battle he was really wanting to fight. He was fully capable, ready and willing but some of the men did not fully trust David yet; so the commander sent him home. As he and his men came into camp they found it ransacked and raided. Their wives were gone, their children were taken captive and the warriors were distraught. It says that they wept until there was no strength left to weep. (v.4) Now that's a picture for you - these battle hardened soldiers crying and crying. (I don't feel so bad now! lol)

To add to the discouragement- the other men started talking about stoning David and blaming him for their misfortune. He was in a very tight spot. Just like the caregiver, he found himself in a place with no one there to encourage him. So what did he do? The old KJV says he encouraged himself in the Lord. The NASB says that he strengthened himself in the Lord his God. And that may well be where we are today  - we must encourage ourselves.

Today I will encourage myself by meditating on the truth that God is walking in this living furnace with me - He has not abandoned me. I will meditate on the truth that He  strengthens me to walk this walk. I will also concentrate on clinging to Him today. Will you join me?

Monday, April 15, 2013

TheThings We Don't Understand

Why do bad things have to happen at all? Ever wonder that? I've given it a lot of thought over the last few years. Tragedy can certainly wreak havoc on what we are used to calling faith. I was always taught rather directly or indirectly that faith kept bad things from occurring. It made me feel like if I really trusted God, then things like traumatic brain injuries, strokes or any type of debilitating illness wouldn't happen to me or my family. That's just not true! Everyone of our Bible heroes are heroes because of the adversity they faced. But does every story have to have a good ending?

Moses got the children of Israel to just outside the promised land - he didn't really deliver the goods. He also disobeyed God and didn't get to go in himself. We don't like to think about that though because it destroys our little "Disney" endings. Gideon is a favorite story of mine - but we don't like reading past the part where he wins the battle to learn that he ended up making an idol that eventually led him and all his followers astray. Sounds depressing doesn't it?

When I look at my life as a caregiver I am not really seeing a happy ending. It's a prison I chose and would not have it any other way. But it is not generally pleasant and there is pain and grief every single day. God never promised us a happy ending here on this earth. And no matter what people say, He didn't promise us a life of bliss free from personal struggles either. The days and nights can get so long sometimes. He did promise us that He would keep our souls. He keeps the part of us that makes us - us. Nothing, no type of tragedy can take my soul - even in death I will be with Him. Job even understood that. In Job 19:25-26 he says this: I know that my Redeemer lives, and that He will stand upon the earth at last. And after my body has decayed, yet in my body I will see God. I will see Him for myself. Yes, I will see Him with my own eyes. I am overwhelmed at the thought!

I really can't see where God promises to keep our lives free from tragedy. But He does keep us. He holds us when the night gets longer and darker than we could have ever imagined. He strengthens us when the days get worrisome and tiresome and we do not know if we can go on one more step. He encourages us when we are not sure there is an end in sight. We will see Him! Even if He is the one carrying us through to the other side!

Today I will meditate on the truth that He is with me now - no matter what the circumstances are shouting at me. I will trade Him my piddly strength and be clothed in His to make today. I will walk toward Him whether or not I see a "happy ending" in sight! Today - I'll walk with Him and meditate on the fact that He is walking beside me (except when He has to carry me!). Will you join me?

Friday, April 12, 2013

Controlled and Sustained

I've been out of the "main-stream" life now for about 4 and a half years and I am still rethinking faith. As far as God goes, there's no doubt in my mind that He is. But I frequently return to the topic of faith because as westerners I do not think we really get it. So last night and this morning during my devotions I read and reread Hebrews 11 - The Hall of Faith for believers. This time it was verse 13 that stuck out to me the most.

Verse 13 states: These people all died controlled and sustained by their faith, but not having received the tangible fulfillment of God's promises...This statement is very contrary to our western church culture. We are taught to say it 'til we see it and when we see it somehow we think that we can measure faith by tangible means. However, here in Hebrews our list of Bible heroes never saw what they were praying for yet are respected for their faith.

Faith is not so much believing 'til we're receiving as it is holding on to what we will never be able to see. Faith is not weakened by a sick or ill body. Faith is not lessened by dire circumstances. Tragedy cannot touch faith, troubles cannot diminish faith. Now faith is... Knowing that God is...period and continuing to hold on to Him no matter what the circumstances is faith.

Peter demonstrated faith when he jumped out of a boat in a storm. Daniel demonstrated faith from inside the lion's den. Noah was carried through the flood by faith in God. Verse 36 gives us a rather serious look at faith as it says: they were stoned to death, sawn asunder, slaughtered by the sword, destitute, oppressed, cruelly treated  all without receiving the promise - of the Christ. In our mamby pamby "Christian" world here in the United States we do not know anything about that yet. We are still caught up in what faith can get us - or so we think. But for real furnace walkers we understand that sustaining faith that does not make all the "bad things" go away - it simply sustains you while you walk through...still clinging to Him.

Today I will meditate on His eternal presence and how He is still with me in the fire. (Seriously - where would He go? He's omnipresent!) I'll think about holding on to Him more tightly and getting to know Him more intimately as He sustains me in the fire. Will you join me?

Monday, March 18, 2013

A Couragous Start

There is no doubt that it takes courage to be a caregiver; it also takes courage to deal with many of life's toughest battles. I like the story in the Bible about Benaiah who chased a lion into a snowy pit to kill him. Now that's courage! He didn't just chase a lion away but chased him down and jumped into the snowy pit with him to attack him.Now I am not into chasing lions, but I do admire his courage. Check out his amazingly courageous story in 2 Samuel 23.

There are days when we do not feel courageous at all and it can be very tiring to have to fight with various health related agencies over and over again; it can sap your strength if you're not careful. As believers we know we do not function in our own strength anyway - He gives us strength to face each day and to accomplish our tasks. But there is also a certain amount of want-to on our parts and it even takes self-motivation to follow Him. It will not happen without a conscious decision. Keeping ourselves going can be very tiring. Tenth Avenue North has a song called, "Worn." It's a great song for caregivers - check it out. One phrase says "I'm worn even before the day begins." This is not always the case - but many days it seems it takes our strength just to get out of bed! Love drives us on.

Being on the tired side of things, I was very excited to find this scripture this morning in my reading. Isaiah 57:15: I refresh the humble and give new courage to those with repentant hearts."  (NLT) I stopped and read it several times and my first thought was what it takes to have a repentant heart. Does this mean I need to run around all day repenting of present or past sins and incessantly asking God to forgive me? Not at all. It's a state of being. I think...it is purposefully staying humble before Him and keeping our hearts in a position to change and yield to His Spirit in us. We live repentantly by listening to His voice. When we stay up close to Him we will hear when He gently says Don't do that. And we stop. Living repentantly means that I am constantly listening for His instruction so I can follow Him more closely. It's like living constantly with a readiness to change. And this is when new courage will come.

Today I will meditate on listening to Him with my whole being. I will consciously think about living with that readiness to change per His command. I will remain pliable in His hands. Will you join me?

Saturday, March 16, 2013

I Got Your Back!

This morning as I was reading about some of Paul's hardships in 2 Corinthians 6, I thought about the caregiver. He really nailed a few things on the head for us even though our hardships take very different courses. He talks some about having patience and working to exhaustion and  sleepless nights as well as our sincere love, purity and kindness all through the power of God. Verse 9 says we are close to death, but here we are still alive! Sound familiar? In verse 10 he talks about how our heart aches, but we still have joy and many spiritual riches to share. As I was reading this passage I thought about how much all of this seems to apply to our situations as well.

But something else caught my eye - verse 7 says this - God's power has been working in us. We have righteousness as a weapon, both to attack and to defend ourselves. I thought about that a lot and even matched it up with Job and how he had to keep telling his "friends" that he was righteous before God. His circumstances did not indicate his standing before God. It's the same with us - There are times when I feel so faithless and occasions when well meaning church people have added to that burden. But think about it a bit - our circumstances do not alter God's righteousness in us. We are covered by the blood of Christ no matter what trials life brings our way. We wear his righteousness as a breastplate as it protects our heart (Eph 6) - and Jesus is our righteousness and He never changes.

Today I will continue to meditate on the title of today's blog - But I will remember that God has my back! His righteousness covers and is strong enough and unwavering enough to cover me in both good times and bad! Will you join me?

Friday, March 15, 2013

Will You Carry Me?

God is so awesome! Yet sometimes it feels as though He has moved a long way away. Mentally, and in my heart, I know He hasn't; but it can feel like He is not working in the present. He is though. This is one aspect of faith that we forget about in our materialistic culture - it's not about getting stuff - it's about believing He's there and cares whether we can see Him, feel Him, sense Him or not.

Yesterday, I was looking for a scripture that would remind me how awesome His is, how majestic He is and how present He is. I found this one in Deuteronomy. It's at the very end of Moses' blessing over the people before he died. This little phrase toward the end of his blessing caught my eye - verse 27 says: The eternal  God is your refuge, and His everlasting arms are under you.(NLT) I stopped and thought about that simple phrase a lot. He is my refuge - but He is an eternal being so that means He has been my refuge, is being my refuge and will continue to be my refuge - forever! (I like that!) And His arms are not just appendages...they are everlasting arms - He will not get tired of carrying me!

I was thinking how much I love to hold and play with my grandchildren. But after awhile my arms can get tired. As much as I love them, I have to put them down so I can rest now and then. But not God. His arms are everlasting.  His strength lasts forever...that means that He has always been carrying me, is carrying me now and will continue to carry me - forever! (I like that too!)

Sometimes I am more like the child as life plays out...you know. They want to have you hold them until something more intriguing comes along. That's when they want to get up and run around and only come back when they think they need you! We would love to just sit and hold them - but they get too busy and only come back when they get hurt or it's convenient.

Today I will meditate on my everlasting, eternal Father. I'll even attempt to rest in Him and let Him hold me today. Will you join me?

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Comfort in the Midst of Affliction

Every day for the caregiver can be filled with various types of afflictions or discomforts. It's easy to be distracted by the battle because of the intensity with which we must live every single day. Just yesterday evening as I was trying to get ready to retire myself I thought of all the things we had accomplished during the day. There's preparing special foods as well as foods for myself (and they are not even close to being the same!), getting my son up, laying him down, working on mobility, working on cognitive skills, struggling because I am trying to help him get better and he really wants to go back to bed! lol And that just scratches the surface. Add to that these types of activities the fact that on top of working with our loved ones we still have all the "normal" things to accomplish like laundry, dishes, dusting (does anyone do that anymore? lol), and various other sundry household tasks. Plus for some of us we also have jobs. For me it is working at home - but it is still working. Do I sound afflicted yet? lol

As a general rule when I am overwhelmed I will turn to the Psalms and often I will read through the longest one - Psalm 119. Verse 50 is one of my all time favorites. I actually found it back in 1986 when I was ill with some mysterious disease that they never figured out. I really thought I was going to die! I was so ill and so weak, I just lay on the couch and dwindled away. While I was sick I actually didn't have the strength to lift my Bible up so I could read it - plus my eyes burned if they were open. But once I was on the mend - just as mysteriously as the condition had occurred - I found this scripture in Psalms 119:50  This is my comfort in my affliction; for thy word hath quickened me. (KJV) I realized during the time of sickness that His word still spoke to me and brought me comfort.

In our times of affliction as a caregiver His word can still put life in these tired bodies! I think I found comfort most in the simple fact that his word still touched my heart. His word does not change with the circumstance. It is forever settled in Heaven. No matter what types of difficulties or trials we are walking through today - allow this truth - that His word does not change to bring you comfort. If His word still "quickens" or speaks to you - then you are not dead. And even if you do not feel it - but you continue to look to His word for strength and guidance, then be comforted by the fact that you have not given up yet! Even when we do not sense Him - if we seek Him we will find Him.

Today I will meditate on the fact that I'm not dead; physically nor spiritually. How do I know? Because I am still longing and looking for Him. I'll turn my gaze to His word and allow Him to bring comfort to my soul. Will you join me?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Silently Taboo

Maybe it is just Western believers who take scriptures apart and use the sections we like and ignore the rest. Over the last 4 years of caregiving I have "found' pieces of scriptures which have been somewhat ignored. Perhaps because it does not match our own theology. Somewhere along the church-y path it seems we were indirectly (I hope not directly) taught that pain was wrong - even a sin. Maybe no one said it, but various things led me to interpret sermons to mean that pain was not acceptable. When's the last time you heard a sermon on how to handle those pains in your heart? The soul pains that the caregiver suffer are deep and oftentimes unexpressed, because we indirectly are led to believe that they are taboo.

We even ignore books of the Bible that don't match our anti-pain theologies. When is the last time you heard a sermon from Lamentations? Right. Because the prophet penned that book when he was in intense pain for the losses he saw his people, God's people, going through. If we do hear Lamentations mentioned in a sermon I'd lay money on the fact that it is probably the 22nd and 22rd verses of chapter 3. The Lord's lovingkindnesses never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.  (NASB) That is a wonderful scripture and really does offer much peace and hope. I need to know that His mercies are fresh and keeping me alive in Him every single day!

We do not hear the context of these courage building scriptures. Here's what the prophet shared about the anguish of his soul leading up to these true nuggets: My soul has been rejected from peace; I have forgotten happiness. So I say, 'My strength has perished, and so has my hope from the Lord.' Remember my affliction and my wandering, the wormwood and bitterness. Surely my soul remembers and is bowed down within me. This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. (NASB) That's verses 17 to 21 in which the prophet shares honestly how he felt and pours out his anguish in an open and transparent manner. We really do not see that a lot today. Perhaps because it's not allowed. It is silently taboo.

The more I live the more pain I see , not just for the caregiver who lives in daily soul pain. People are diagnosed with serious life threatening diseases, children are killed in car wrecks, and loved ones are lost. Pain is real - and if we ignore it - we cannot take it to the Lord in exchange for His mercy. He cannot help me carry a load that I will not acknowledge I have.

Today, I will meditate on acknowledging my pain and giving it to Him. I will think about how great His mercies are and how thankful I am that when my strength has perished He will lift me up. Will you join me?

Monday, March 11, 2013

Social Isolation

One of the things I hear a lot about is social isolation. Most caregivers become such under varying circumstances for me it started with an automobile accident followed by a hospital stay. At first the SICU waiting room was filled with concerned people. As the usual "custom" visitors began to dwindle when it turned into a 4 month hospital stay; and dwindled even more as we moved to the first nursing home. By the time we moved to our first apartment visitors were pretty much nonexistent. This is typically how it goes and it's not that people do not care, it's just that they went on with their lives and somehow had the illusion that since you are "home" yours sort of went on too. That's just the way it is.. no blame.

 Caregiving can end up being a lonely place - but you eventually adjust to this social isolation and it finally becomes the norm.  As a general rule, caregivers do not have the freedom that many others have. They cannot decide on the spur of the moment to go see a movie, go to lunch with friends or grab a cup of coffee with someone. Many cannot even take care of personal errands except when an aide is present. Even if our loved one is mobile it is not so easy to just jump and run to buy necessities. It all has to be carefully planned out and it greatly involved depending on the mobility level of our loved one. All of this can lead to a feeling of abandonment. 

When we feel like the world has kept turning and left us sitting still we can consider this scripture in Psalm 27:9-10. The psalmist prays: Do not hide yourself from me. Do not reject your servant in anger. You have always been my helper. Don't leave me now; don't abandon me, the Lord will hold me close. Even if my father and mother abandon me, the Lord will hold me close.

I am guessing that David had moments he felt isolated from the rest of the world. He was basically running and hiding from Saul who wanted to kill him. I'm sure there were some lonely moments in some dark caves while he was hidden away that he felt abandoned. But he encouraged himself in the Lord more than once! In this psalm he goes on to talk about seeing the Lord's goodness in the land of the living. And then he makes this statement seemingly to himself in verse 14: wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord. (NLT)

Today I will turn my focus to the Lord who will never abandon - never leave me alone. I will meditate on these two phrases from this psalm: you have always been my helper and  the Lord will hold me close. This will by my meditation for the day - will you join me?

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Lord Will Hold Me Close

Psalm 27 seems to have a little bit of everything. David starts out by pretty much disclosing his crazy emotions. He expresses fear and trembling and tries to console himself by saying he will remain confident even if he is attacked. I think many days, as caregivers we can feel like the world continues to attack in an ongoing battle. Our daily struggles can take many forms which can sometimes feel like we were put here on earth to just get others to do their jobs responsibly. (Those who work with health related agencies will understand that one!)

Even as David is consoling himself and working on releasing his fears to God, he begins to think about living in God's house. David states that this is where he is concealed when trouble comes.(NLT) He goes on to say that in God's house he is lifted high above his enemies  and from there he will offer sacrifices, shouts of joy, singing and praise. I am not so sure David is solely talking about the physical temple or tabernacle in Jerusalem. David understood that God was his rock, his hiding place...it looks to me that he was just simply talking about hiding in Him. I want to relearn how to do that.

As the days get tough and continue to be filled with broken, no shattered, dreams and constant pain, or hopelessness we tend to crawl back out away from Him instead of remaining hidden in Him. If we do not protect ourselves we can get so wrapped up in our own pain and fail to keep our eyes on Him - our source of strength. David could get busy running and forget to hide in Him! We are not much different. I've found over the years that we tend to run to our "religion" first - But there is a day that it will no longer make any sense and theological reason is tested and falls short. What a perfect time to return to Him! Theology nor religion can carry us through these days - it will take the supernatural strength of God to carry the load.

David must have understood that even though the struggle was physical, as is ours, he listened for God to call him away. He said in verse 8 - My heart has heard You say,"Come and talk with me." And my heart responds, "Lord, I am coming."  What a beautiful interaction between man and God! In this moment of surrender David states The Lord will hold me close.

Today I will meditate on letting Him hold me close. I will concentrate on simply resting and waiting patiently for Him. I will let Him be my rock today.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Faith for the Furnace

Yesterday I was looking through some old files I had stored on a previous hard drive and came across a recording by Nicole C. Mullen: My Redeemer Lives! I listened to it and thought of how that song is such a wonderful reminder that our God does indeed live. My mind then went to the scripture where the phrase is found  - Job 19:25. Such a wonderful song - why did it have to be Job that said it first? None of us read Job - it's rarely taught in a Sunday School lesson and I cannot recall a single sermon that used Job as the primary character.

We are afraid of Job's story because we do not understand it. Much like the church seems to be afraid of those of us who are suffering in our own furnaces because they do not know what to do with us. I suppose we can be thankful that they do not come and park on our doorstep offering such accusations as Job's "friends." (*smile*) Does it seem to you that sometimes well meaning church people want us to feel as though we don't have faith or we would have been able to escape this furnace? Isn't it more likely that we have faith for the furnace - that faith is what helps us navigate through these fiery trials of life rather than avoid them? I think so...but that's just my opinion.

When Job made the statement I know my redeemer lives, he was talking to his friends who were trying to convince him that his "house was evil" or all of this would not have come upon him. I found in the first part of the chapter that he describes the anguish of social isolation well. As many times we are cut off (not really on purpose - but once again because people do not know what to do with us) from the ones we love. And if the trial lasts for years - people no longer call or drop cards in the mail as they used to. This type of social neglect and isolation can wear on a soul and Job really describes it well in chapter 19. He even goes so far as to say that his "complaint is with God." That's raw honesty right there - might do us all some good!

But then in verse 25 it's like the faith inside of him took hold and all that he just said didn't matter as much as this: but as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and that He will stand upon the earth at last. And after my body has decayed, yet in my body I will see God. Yes, I will see Him with my own eyes. I am overwhelmed at the thought! Today I will say with Job - I know my redeemer lives! And I will  see Him... because I will seek for Him with all my heart - even in the furnace. Will you join me?