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?