Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Trying to See Past Today

One of the difficulties I've had as a caregiver is trying to plan the "future." It's just so uncertain - everyday is uncertain. You just never know what is going to unfold, what's going to work, break or who is or isn't going to show up. It's tough enough getting through each day one step at a time without giving consideration to the future too. In my devotions this morning I sort of stumbled across a scripture that helped me see just a little bit past today.

In 2 Corinthians 4 Paul explains that we have the treasure of Christ in this "earthen vessel," or our bodies. What's interesting to me is that after sharing this wonderful bit of information with us he goes on to discuss how much trouble we can face in this clay pot. Caregivers can relate to these situations I think - we are:

hard pressed - but not crushed
perplexed - but not in despair
persecuted - but not forsaken
struck down but not destroyed

Even though we can go through this wide range of emotions - our lives didn't stop when we became caregivers. We are still living lives that are full of Christ. He did not leave us (like some of our "friends") when the going got tough, or the picture got ugly. This is why we "don't lose heart" as Paul goes on to say in verse 16. Perhaps we are in a tight spot - life has dealt us a blow - but we can focus on what we are not: crushed, in despair, hopeless, forsaken or destroyed!


We can chose to look at the parts of the picture that are more enduring, more pleasant. You know what? We did not stop being like Christ when we laid down our lives to care for another. Actually, we started looking a whole lot more like Him.

Think about it. Even though we may feel frustrated, discouraged or tired - we've become more like Him. Don't believe me? The caregiver's life may not look like everyone else's - but we do start to look more like Him. Caregiving requires patience - beyond what I could have ever  dreamed! We are dedicated to the journey and we do what we do because of a deep love. That looks just like Him!

I was leaning over my son's bed one day, telling him I loved him. I realized it was my love for him that kept me on this journey with him. And then it dawned on me - it was the same love that held Christ to the cross. Just like Christ willingly gave up his life for us and love held Him to the cross - our love holds us in the caregiving role. You look a lot more like Him than you thought, huh?

Today I will chose to look past what I see in my life - and I will see Him. My meditation will be of His great love for me - and His dedication to see Himself in me - no matter what life throws my way. Will you join me?

Monday, December 29, 2014

Hangin' Out at His House

Psalm 27 has been a long time favorite of mine and as I was reading it recently there were a few things that really stuck out to me. Verse 5 really rings true for me today: In the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion.  I really like that for two reasons - the first one is that the psalmist says "in the time of trouble." This indicates that he experienced times of difficulty in his own life. It doesn't say "since God got me out of trouble" or "helped me avoid trouble," it says IN the time of trouble. There's not always a quick escape!

The second thing that sticks out to me is that during troublesome times- He hides me at His house. I really like that. He does not cast me aside or treat me like I am unworthy or meaningless - but He puts me up in His own house when I am experiencing trouble.

David indicates that he works hard to stay in God's house. His desire was to be in the Lord's presence and dwelling constantly with Him so that he could enjoy the beauty of the Lord. And God accommodates.

Verse 1 stands out to me right now too - the fact that HE  is the strength of my life.I do not have to be afraid of the situation or the circumstances and I do not have to give in beneath the load. (although I do have those days, don't you?) He will carry me and strengthen me for the journey and all it may pose along the way. He will not abandon me when the going gets tough - He'll stand beside me, give me His strength and help me make it through today. That's all we need to do anyway - is take it one day at a time.

Today I will meditate on the truth that He is my strength - I don't have to conjure up my own; and that He lets me stay in His house - free of charge - until the storms of life pass by.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Never Disqualified

I've run a few races where certain actions can disqualify you. For instance, if you are not lined up at the start line when the gun goes off - you are disqualified. One race course in OKC goes through an affluent neighborhood and if you step on the grass you get disqualified. Sometimes it can feel like we got disqualified from living our lives when we became a caregiver. For me and many others lives not only changed drastically - they changed completely. It can take years to feel like you are "living" again.

Thankfully when it comes to God and His presence caregivers are not counted out!

This morning I was reading in Psalm 24 and verse three is taken right out of Psalm 15. It says:

Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord?
Or who may stand in His Holy Place?

The psalmist answers his own question in verse 4:He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to an idol.

We do not get cast away because we are caregivers even if our life doesn't quite look like others.We have the same criteria as everyone else who is living and breathing on this earth: clean hands, pure heart and no idols. Even though we live on uneven ground it seems we are all the same before God. He doesn't give us a break because we are caregivers, nor does He remove His requirements for caregivers. We still have to keep our hearts pure and our hands clean. We cannot have any idols in our lives but must live lives dedicated solely to Him.

It can feel like the church DQs us - because we don't fit in their box. It can seem like life DQs us since we live much differently than most. But God does not DQ us - we have the same access to His presence as everyone else. He welcomes us to come to Him, and to rest in Him.

Today I will meditate on the truth that I am welcome in His presence - even with all my "baggage"! I'll yield my thoughts to His acceptance of me and the fact that He chooses to be with me right here in this mess!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Tenacity to Trust

Today's Bible heroes are Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; or as we usually refer to them the three Hebrew children. They faced great adversity even at a very young age. They were first of all taken as captives and slaves into a foreign land where they were treated anyway but kindly. Of all the slaves these three and Daniel along with many others were taken to be trained as servants for the king. They were removed from their families, mutilated, lost life as they knew it and were kept as prisoners in a foreign, pagan land. But I love their faith and tenacity - two things the caregiver needs to survive the day!

In Daniel 3, the king had set up a golden idol and everyone was instructed to bow when they heard the music playing. The 3 refused to do so pledging their allegiance to God alone. The edict stated they would be thrown into a burning furnace if they did not bow to the idol set up by the king. When they did not bow the king was angry and when he questioned them they made this faith-filled statement:

O Nebuchadnezzar,we do not need to defend ourselves before you.
If we are thrown into the blazing furnace,
then God whom we serve is able to save us.
He will rescue us from your power, your majesty.
But even if He doesn't, 
your majesty can be sure we will never serve your gods
or worship the gold statue you have set up. (Daniel 3:16-18)

What I really like about this story is that they were not looking for a way out. They were not waiting for God to ride in on a white horse to save them from harm. They said He is able to save us; but even if He doesn't we are not going to bow. 

The caregiving journey has no designated length and for many there is really no end in sight. It would be wonderful if God chose to come in and bring immediate healing and restoration - no one's going to turn that down! No one's is questioning His ability to do so. But in our hearts, we must have the faith, trust and tenacity to say whether He saves us or not we will still serve Him.

Today I will meditate on how awesome God is; and how my situation does not diminish His power. I will set my heart on Him and continue to trust Him in the situation knowing that whether it changes or not - He is my God and I will serve no other.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Tis so Sweet to Trust in Jesus

Another favorite Bible hero of mine is Job. I know he didn't lead an army, build a boat or slay a giant, but he intrigues me nonetheless. I cannot fathom the sense of loss that he went through. First of all losing all his children in a day would be too much to bear. But he also lost his crops, livestock, and ways to provide for his family. Then ultimately he even lost his health. My mind just really cannot wrap around all of that.

One of the things that stands out in this story isn't really about him at all - it's about his friends. Even though they were not perfect, when they heard of his hardship - they came. And they sat. For seven days they felt his pain and grief so strongly that they sat in silence with nothing to say. As a caregiver I can say that those friends that just sit during the time of trouble are priceless...and few.

But what gets me about Job is actually his level of trust. I think that's why he's my hero. In Job 13:15 he stated that even if God killed him - he would still trust. I have to honestly say I have never made that statement. I've been angry with God for "taking away" my son - I always work my way back around to trusting Him but I have not found that single spot where I can just recklessly abandon to Him and freely say that I trust Him no matter what. But Job did; and I admire that.

While that level of trust does not just appear overnight, I do think we can work toward it at the bare minimum. I commit to leaning more on Him each day and learning more about Him and His ways in order to trust Him more fully.

Today I will meditate on trusting Him fully. I will think about how He does have my best interest at heart - even if I don't feel like it; or when I do not like the circumstances. And I will make a conscious effort to simply trust Him today. Will you join me?

Monday, August 25, 2014

Who's to Blame?

I've been thinking about some of my favorite Bible stories the last few days and on Hebrews 11 where we see so many of our heroes of the faith listed. None of them would have been heroes at all had they not faced and overcome some sort of adversity. This week, we'll be taking a look at a few of them. Today, we'll start with Joseph.

The story of Joseph is found in Genesis. His brothers were jealous of him because of their father's favoritism. They also didn't like the fact that he had so many dreams which didn't always seem to be too favorable to them. So they sold him as a slave and told Daddy he died. Talk about sibling rivalry! He spent years and years as a slave in a foreign nation and then was thrown into prison on false charges. But he maintained his faith. He continued to believe and trust in God.

Joseph didn't have a neighborhood church to attend to help him keep his morale and faith intact. Actually, he was in some pretty dark circumstances. There's so much to the story but let's just concentrate on his brothers' betrayal.

God blessed Joseph and He even blessed Pharaoh because of Joseph. After many years Joseph became Pharaoh's right hand man and was a very powerful ruler - Just like his dreams had prophesied. Finally, his brothers came to him because of a horrible famine in the region and Joseph had been given wisdom by God and had a stock pile enough to take care of everyone for the duration. His brothers bowed down before him to request food to live - just like the dreams had prophesied.

Joseph had no bitterness toward his brothers - and personally, I wouldn't have blamed him it he had! He had to have forgiven them to handle the situation as he did. Now, he did have a little fun with them and messed with their heads since they did not recognize him, but there was no animosity in his heart that we can tell.

In Genesis 50 after Jacob, their father had died, the brothers were terrified that Joseph would harm them or try to get them back for the things they did. That's called a guilty conscious, and it made them miserable. They concocted this huge story to try and protect themselves. But Joseph told his brothers that what they had meant for evil - God had used for good.(Genesis 50:20) And he vowed once again to take care of all of them and their families.

The point is that Joseph did not blame anyone, he did not whine and he did not try to get restitution - he let the past go. Sometimes there are people to blame for us being in a caregiving situation. But we must choose to forgive; we must choose not to blame. It will not change the situation and it will only lead our own hearts into bitterness. Like Joseph, we must trust God from where we have found ourselves.

Today I will trust that God has my heart no matter how difficult the walk. I will not blame anyone - but trust Him where I am. I will meditate on His goodness and not let bitterness have even a second to take root in my heart. I will be thankful for His goodness and faithfulness even in the cave. Will you join me?

Friday, August 22, 2014

Feeling Left Out

Because our lives are so different from the main stream, it is easy for us to feel left out. Watching others go on vacation, make a coffee run or just meet up with friends can make us feel like we're sitting on the couch while the rest of the world is enjoying itself. Social isolation is real for the caregiver as people in general just don't know quite what to do with us. "Church" presents its own set of problems in this arena.

Many of us can't attend church services or have so many obstacles to get there it's not feasible. The good thing is that we are part of the universal body of Christ. Just because we are separated from a physical church building on the corner, does not separate us from the body. We are no less a part of the true body of Christ than others. We may just need to broaden our ideas about what and who the body really is.

The body of Christ reaches beyond the church downtown, it's time inclusive. That means that we are part of the body with Paul as well as the 12 disciples. We could even say that spiritually speaking the body covers much more than just the New Testament believers. Think for a minute of the "Hall of Faith" from Hebrews 11. We have some pretty impressive family members including Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, David and Isaiah. We are not excluded from the true body of believers - we are a part.

Perhaps you say that you are just the little toe - but that little toe is important to the whole. If your little toe was removed you'd have to learn to walk again as it balances the whole body. There are small parts but no one plays a small role in the body.

Sometimes I think that caregivers and their loved ones are a test for today's church. There have been times that I felt totally ignored and like I could no longer relate to the church world today. We do not fit in the church's box so they really aren't sure what to do with us. Some churches thankfully, think outside the box and reach out with love and compassion.

The Lord looks at us in the spirit. We are a huge part - he sees us inside-out and is far more concerned about the parts of us that cannot be easily seen. He watches over our soul and sees our true heart rather than our position in the world today. He sees us as we really are. When the "world" is stripped off - what do we look like?

Today I will meditate on the fact that I am a part of the body of Christ and without me it's not complete. I'll think of God's inclusive love, compassion and acceptance just like I am - undone - but whole. I choose to rest in His acceptance today. Will you join me?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Resident Strength

One of the areas caregivers must deal with on a regular basis is tiredness. Even in the "best" situation possible, caregiving is a strain and makes you tired. One scripture I run to frequently is found in Isaiah 40:28 which says that the Lord never  gets tired or weary. You know, it is way beyond me to even be able to imagine never getting tired. But God has "resident strength" or a strength that abides at all times. He never throws in the towel because He can't go on one more step.

When I finished my first marathon I really thought at times I could not go on one more step. But I kept going and completed it. The finish was far from pretty - but it was done. God does not get "done." He just keeps going and going and never runs out of steam. He's never too tired to carry us.

Keep that picture of His unending strength in your mind as we look at Ephesians 3:16 which says:

that He would grant you,
according to His riches in glory
to be strengthened with power
through His spirit in the inner man..

Not only does God never get tired or weary - His spirit lives inside of me. That means that He is a constant source of strength for my weary soul. When I think I cannot make one more step, He can carry me in His strength. His strength is unending, inexhaustible and -- it's inside of me.  

Today I will meditate on the power of His might - the constancy of His strength. Then I will think about how this untiring powerhouse lives inside of me to give me strength. Will you join me?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Digging Deeper

In yesterday's blog we talked about "let." It's a little word, with a huge impact. Today we'll look at the very next verse in Colossians 3. Verse 16 says to Let the word of Christ dwell within you....Once again, the word "let" is synonymous with allow.

Paul is urging the young Christian church to allow God's word to put down deep roots into their hearts. He's talking about a lot more than just a simple surface relationship - Allow His word to indwell you. It's easy for circumstances to crowd out our entire belief system if we do not guard our hearts carefully, When my son was injured in an automobile accident - the happenings that followed for months shook my faith to its core. That's totally natural; but I was faced with a choice. Am I going to continue to trust God?

Situations will have impacts on us, but it's up to us what we choose to hold on to. In my own personal struggle there were times when my greatest frustration was the fact that I couldn't give up. I wanted to - but He is so alive in me that I could not walk away and say I never knew Him. I did  know Him - I just didn't understand what He allowed to happen, or why He allowed it to happen. That's a perfectly normal response.

As the journey continued I discovered that I really had no other hope but Him. I had nowhere else to run for strength, hope and peace. That brings me back to my choice to let His word thrive in me. I want to move everything out of the way that might hinder His word from taking up residence in my heart. Jeremiah 31:33 states that He will write His law in our hearts. I suggest that from there it's up to us to allow (or let) it to take root and push out all doubts, fear and unbelief so that we can hold on to His truth.

Today I purpose to allow His word to take root in my heart. I want to rest in Him to the extent that nothing else but Him matters. I'll allow His word into my heart and life to make changes so that I can trust Him more. Will you join me?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Follow Peace

The caregiver's life can feel anything but peaceful. There are just so many things that have to be done for your loved one every day. For me, my son is not capable of doing anything for himself. That means that I am responsible for doing everything from getting him bathed, dressed, up in the chair, to making sure he is fed. That's all just the start of the day. One way to gain an understanding of what the caregiver does is to think about all those basic things you do each day -eating, bathing, dressing, brushing your teeth, washing your face, going for a walk, etc. But because you are doing for another - you are doubling all of those efforts. That coupled with having to fight with insurance companies, various health providers and aids, can all lead to very not-so-peaceful days.

My Uncle Calvin had a saying that he always used when someone was facing any type of decision or situation - follow peace. Sounds simple, but in real life applications it can be confusing and difficult at best! There's a little three letter word in Colossians 3:15 that might help out a little bit. It says: Let  the peace of  Christ rule in your hearts....

"Let" might not sound like too much - but it is powerful because it's a choice. As caregivers there comes a time when we have to relax control (not an easy task) and let God's peace hold us. It is a conscious decision that we must make. We have a choice - but we must choose to allow His peace to rule. Our other options include being totally stressed out, worried and overly concerned about our overwhelming circumstances. Even though our given circumstances may not undergo even a small amount of change when we yield to His peace - they do become more manageable and less of a burden.

Today I am determined to let go and let God! I'll yield my troubled heart to His peace that passes my understanding. Our circumstances should not be our god; He is our God and today I will meditate on His immense peace and yield my heart to be overwhelmed by His care. Will you join me?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Can we just be Honest?

There are some topics that caregivers are not going to discuss with others - not even other caregivers. Our emotions can be too raw too much of the time and there's no place where the pain or grief totally stops. Many days we just suck it up and continue to care for our loved one and give no regard to our own emotions and feelings. Sometimes this is how we actually survive the difficult role we must play for another. We can get very absorbed into their care and forget about our own pain and suffering. But then there are times when it can all come crashing in on us; emotions and thoughts run through our hearts and minds like crazy. What do we do with the rushing river?

As I was reading Psalms 15 this morning one phrase really stuck out to me.

O Lord, who may abide in Your tent?
Who may dwell in Your holy hill?
He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness
And speaks truth in his heart.
Psalm 15:1,2

No matter how good or how bad our day is going or how crazy our emotions might be today - we can always speak the truth in our hearts. It's actually very important to be honest about our feelings and the things we may be dealing with. God already knows - and when we pray - we have no need to shroud the truth. By simply being honest with him about our fears, doubts, mistakes and pain - we have free entry to His presence. And that is where we are refreshed and gain the strength to face one more day of caregiving.

Why would we try to conceal the truth of what we hold in our hearts? Are we afraid He will be disappointed in us? Perhaps we feel that He will reject us if He saw it all. But He already sees it all - and loves us anyway. He has the power to walk with us in the furnace so that we are not consumed by the fire. He carries us over the stormy waters so that we are not overcome by its waves. He is the only thing that is stable in our lives - let us run to Him with all of our questions and concerns.

Today I will meditate on His ever abiding presence and rejoice that I can literally tell Him everything. He will think no less of me because I do! I'll rejoice in His acceptance today - and turn to Him in my pain and grief. Will you join me?

Monday, August 11, 2014

I'm a Refugee!

Last night as I was laying in bed reading trying to find sleep, I came across Psalm 16. I know it's been there all along, but last night several of the verses really spoke to me and my situation. I'll spend this week sharing devotions from this particular Psalm.

The first verse grabbed my attention right away. David starts out with Preserve me O God. In my mind, "preserve" translates to "save." I hear David's heartfelt cry for God to help him. I don't have to tell other caregivers how many days have begun with a similar prayer; and how many days have ended with the same prayer. It's not even that we need to be saved from our situation, but we desire our souls to be preserved in the heat of the furnace. One of my prayers throughout this whole ordeal has been for God to help me keep my faith strong. I've prayed that I would not let these trials make me bitter - but help me emerge stronger in Him. That's what I think of when I pray "preserve me O God."

The second part of the verse is a totally different type of statement. David goes on to say, for I take refuge in You. Even though he continues his thought - Lord I need you to preserve me - because I continue relying on you as my refuge. In my mind it is an intentional statement of faith. What I mean is that it surpasses time. In trying to understand how strongly David was relying on the Lord for preservation of faith and life I think it is correct to read into it a little bit more. And if not - this is my wordier version - You have always been my refuge - You are my refuge today and will always be my refuge - I run to no other - I look for no other!

Today I will meditate on God's power to save - His power to preserve our souls through faith even in the fiery trials of caregiving. And I will declare that He is my refuge; I will purposefully look to Him for strength, direction, wisdom and peace. Will you join me?

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Wisdom, Peace and Coffee

Caregiviving can mean some very long nights; sometimes it seems like they won't ever end! That's how I felt this morning as I went in my son's room after a long night of listening to him cough. It's not that parents aren't used to it - it's just that you can get so tired, so weary. I had already started his breathing treatment just a little after 5, made my coffee and was getting his bolus together. While trying to decide what medicine to try to see if it would make him feel better, and trying to decide if we need to make yet another trip to the ER, I heard myself utter this simple prayer: Lord, today I really need wisdom...and your peace...and my coffee of course!

It's difficult when you are making choices that affect another person's life and well being and sometimes it weighs on you heavily. Not only can He give His wisdom and offer our hearts His peace - He can make sure the coffee doesn't run out! (lol)

This has been a long year with lots and lots of struggles so far. Sometimes I just get tired - no weary and at times it's so difficult to keep your head up. I keep reminding myself that Isaiah tells us that God never gets weary. (Isaiah 40:28) I'm so glad that He does not get tired of walking this through with me. Sometimes I feel the weariness of others too. Weary days mean high coffee days for me! So I just tagged that on to the end of my simple prayer today.

Proverbs 2:6 tells me that God gives wisdom. So does James 1 for that matter. It's something He has a large supply of and He's not selfish. Today I pray that we have His wisdom for making it through today. He is the God of Peace (Romans 15:33) and I really need Him to fill me up to the rim of my coffee-cup heart with His peace today!

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. (Romans15:13)

Today my meditation will be on pursuing Him as the God of MY peace and asking Him to supply the wisdom needed to make one more day. Will you join me?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Who Cares?

It can be easy for caregivers to think that no one cares. But in most instances, we know people do - they just do not know how to express it or show it. I remember when my son was first injured and how many caring people came through the SICU to see him. After 3 weeks we moved to an isolation room on a regular floor and still there were quite a few visitors that came through. As the hospital stay alone turned into a 4 month journey I knew that visitors would continue to taper off. I didn't take it personal; it's just the way it is. Sometimes this can feel like people do not care. But that's not really true it's just that they do not know what to do with the situation over the long haul.

Very few people have what it takes to continue walking an extended journey with you. But that does not mean that their intentions are bad. Folks just don't know what to do when the battle continues on. A lot of people are very good at being there for someone who is in "fix it up" mode; but have no clue what to do past the initial shock and trauma. They get to return to their normal lives while you are left to try and figure out how to get used to your new "normal" which is anything but normal. In most cases everything has changed including the friends you had. And it can be easy to slip into thinking that no one cares. Most people really do care - they just don't know what to do about it...so they ignore you.

2 Peter 5:7 tells us to cast all your care on Him, for He cares for you. I look at this last phrase "He cares for you" in two different ways. On one hand we can think of it as He cares for us - or is concerned about our needs, pains, and wants. He cares what goes on in our lives and offers us peace and comfort. The other way to look at it is that He does the caring for us - so we don't have to. For me, either one of these can be very comforting!

Have you ever had times that you felt like He didn't care? Honestly, I have. When life gets hectic and feels out of control it can be easy to wonder where He went and if He really cared why all of "this" (whatever your "this" is) ever had to happen in the first place. But remember all our favorite stories in the Bible - it is likely that they are our favorites because of how the person overcame adversity not escaped it altogether. We gain courage when we think about how David killed Goliath, Daniel was rescued from the lion's den, or Moses took the Children of Israel across the Red Sea. He was with them caring for them in their trouble.

Today I will meditate on the truth that God is with me and that He is going to do all the caring today! I'll think about how He cares for me by providing for my every need, comforts me and watches over my soul. Will you join me in letting Him care for us today?

Friday, February 7, 2014

When There's No End in Sight

Most of the crises in life have an end. Something happens, we work through it; we live through it and move on. I've received notes from individuals who were even in a caregiver's role for a short time due to an accident or illness. But for many caregivers there is not necessarily any end in sight. For some of us the rest of our lives looks like this...whatever "this" is to you. That can be a difficult thing to swallow.

This morning I was thinking about Isaiah 43 and how the Lord promised that we would face the fire and the flood; and that He'd be with us through them. But even these scriptures indicate we'll get through  them at some point. But for some that either looks impossible or very far away at best. What do you do when there's no end in sight? How do you cope when there is no promise that this trial will be over soon? You hold on.

Eternity will come; but it can be difficult to set our gaze on eternity when our pain is so in our face. Can eternity help us get through today? Ecclesiastes 3:11 says that He put eternity in our hearts. We are already in eternity - but we anxiously await for the day our "faith becomes sight" as it was so eloquently put in the hymn It is Well With my Soul. And we must remember that the writer of this treasured hymn wrote it in a moment of extreme soulful pain. He had lost his family in a tragedy - not something that can be erased even though you move on.

Eternity reminds us that we have this treasure in an earthen vessel.(2 Corinthians 4:7) And that this earthen vessel which houses the Holy Spirit of the living God is not exempt from affliction, persecution, or distress. The Apostle Paul explained to the Roman church that God can work everything out for our good when we trust Him - that does not mean that pain goes away or our trial ends speedily - but that there will be good come from it. Sometimes it's the changes in ourselves. We learn to trust Him more and that has value in eternity.

In the latter part of 2 Corinthians 4:7 Paul says that we have the treasure of Christ in this clay pot - so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves. No one understands better how powerless we are than the caregiver. But today I will rest in the truth that He is inside of me carrying me (and sometimes dragging me ) along. I will gain strength by acknowledging that He is my strength and that He has put His eternal Spirit inside of me to walk with me through the fire and the flood. And He does not get weary like I do.

My meditation today will be on how my body houses an eternal God. I'll think about how He lives in me and gives me strength even when there is no end in sight. I'll let Him work His works in me today - He did not change His goals when I became a caregiver or when tragedy struck. He is with me - through the fire - through the flood. And I will allow Him to carry me today - will you join me?

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Doing Our Part

When I started with the theme about being still this week I really didn't know it was so much work (see yesterday's post!). But as I went through the different scriptures I realized there is a lot resting on our shoulders to be still. Exodus 14:14 is one I have heard all my life and it says: The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent. (NASB) The context is Moses and the Children of Israel standing on the edge of the Red Sea with Pharaoh's army pressing in from behind. In verse 13, Moses tells them that they are going to see the Lord's salvation and God's going to take care of the oppressor. Verse 14 then goes on to say He will fight for them. However, they have to do their part as well - keep silent.

I let my mind form the picture of what is happening here as if I was standing there listening to Moses. I have an army of people who really do not like me and I do not know if they want to take me back into slavery or just kill me. Then in front of me is  a raging river that is impassable. And Moses wants me to keep silent? He instructs me to wait on the Lord and let Him do all the work? Doesn't Moses know I'm a caregiver and I know how to get things done? I'm used to doing it all myself!

As caregivers we have learned to adjust to just about any situation that presents itself. We are one of the most adaptable people around and we tend to have to fight in just about every arena just to survive. We have to argue with health care workers to just simply do their job, delivery people who can't seem to do what they said, the system to get proper supplies, and the list goes on and on and on. But He wants us to keep silent or be still? Only if we want Him to fight for us!

Now I understand that there are things we cannot let go and it can be a fight to get things done. We cannot give up in that arena. God's not going to call FedEx or DHS for us. There are things we have to take care of and I'm not talking about sitting down and just seeing what He can get done in the natural realm today. I'm talking about settling our souls down and getting our minds and hearts to a place of stillness so that His peace can overtake us and He can fight the battles of life for us. 1 Peter 5:7 says for us to cast all of our anxiety on Him, because He cares for us. That's what I'm talking about - I think you'll find when you let Him carry you spiritually, the natural will be much easier to deal with.

Today I'm going to meditate on being still, and keeping silent. My goal is to not complain (tall order I know!) about where I am in life. I'll give every anxiety over to Him as He enables me to handle everything that life chooses to throw. I'll do my part of finding my rest and peace in Him - will you join me?

Monday, February 3, 2014

Being Still is Hard Work

Last week I thought a lot about God's presence and how it is always with us so we are never really alone. That led my thinking to Psalm 46:10 which says Be still and know that I am God. This was the theme for yesterday's broadcast Actions Required. On one hand being still before our wonderful God seems like it would be a very simple thing. But it's not really about just getting quiet, which can be very difficult for the caregiver to begin with. That little conjunction "and" indicates to me that further action is required. Be still and know He is God.

Being still goes beyond finding a quiet place to read and study, or simply stilling our souls to meditate on Him, although that is part of it. Finding time may be a more difficult task in that the caregiver's day can be filled with activity. In many cases we hit the floor running long before dawn and don't stop until late at night. We live a hectic life even if we are mostly contained in our homes. But it is very important to take time to quiet ourselves down and simply acknowledge His lordship in our lives. Not only must we be still we must also know He is God.

When we take the time to purposefully quiet ourselves before Him, we are acknowledging Him as the most important thing in our lives (no matter how hectic they may be). We may say for the moment:  Lord, there is nothing more important in this moment than to acknowledge you are my God. This is the beginning of learning to rest in Him and trust Him for our strength. I love those moments when I can put all of the crazy parts of life on hold and just sit with Him awhile. Not only can purposefully taking this posture before God help make your day better - it can improve the rest of your life!

Today I will meditate on laying aside all the "crazy parts" of life and acknowledging His lordship in my life. I will concentrate on how I am fully His and there is really nothing else that matters. As I acknowledge that He is my God, I will trust Him for one more day - and purposefully lay my heart at His feet in worship. Will you join me?

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Making a Move

I don't know anyone who really likes to move. Maybe you do, but I really don't like it at all. But when we do have to move from one location to another don't we take all of our possessions with us? We may discard a few items that we have learned we can live without - but as a general rule the basic concept of moving is taking all of our stuff from point A to point B.

In John 14:23, Jesus said If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. When we make a move we take all our stuff and so does God. We did not get just a little piece of God - when He moves in He brings it all! Paul says that we have the great treasure of Christ in this earthen vessel.

Earlier in John 14, Jesus said that He would give us the Spirit of Truth and that He would be in us. Not just walking alongside, which is good - He lives in us. He is a part of us and we are a part of Him. I love verse 20 of that chapter that says In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me and I in you. Talk about a package deal!

As caregivers it can seem that life has shortchanged us so to speak. But God does not do that. When He comes to make His abode in a person He brings all of Himself and does not hold anything back. Our theme this week has been about how He is with us and in us. Today I will meditate on how He brings all of Himself when He moves in. I'll consider how He lives in me and I live in Him. I want to think about how He does not hold anything back and has absolutely no reservation to giving me all of Himself. I'm going to let that overwhelm me today! He trusts me enough to give me everything.

This will be my meditation today - will you join me?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Where did He Go?

I'm taking comfort today from the fact that God is not only with me - but He cannot leave me. If we are honest, as caregivers we do experience those times that we feel like He has abandoned us altogether. But today I have been thinking about the fact that it is literally impossible for Him to leave us. After all, where would He go? We can at least understand the basic concept of His omnipresence with our finite minds. This means that He is literally everywhere so that leaves nowhere for Him to go. He really cannot leave us so there are no truer words spoken than Hebrews 13:5b - I will never leave or forsake you.

But these words go back way before the author of Hebrews reiterated them. They were spoken to Moses in Deuteronomy 31. And then God reminded Joshua in the first chapter that He would not leave. Today this means a lot to me. On one hand I can understand that God cannot leave me - it's an impossibility. On the other His words to his children in Deuteronomy, Joshua and Hebrews to me mean that even if He could He would not leave! He's committed to us for the long haul.

Today my meditation will be not so much on the fact that He is with me - as the truth that He chooses to be with me. There is a stark difference between someone who is just committed to being with you and sticks it out because of that commitment and one who chooses to be with you for good no matter what might come.

This day I will recall to mind God's unchangeable presence that is walking with me through this storm and continues to abide with me. Today I'm going to rest in Him and enjoy His presence. Will you join me?

Monday, January 27, 2014

God don't live at Church

Despite how we may feel at times, we are never alone. One thing that I realized this weekend was how the traditional "church" can make a caregiver feel when they cannot attend meetings. On our end, it can be discouraging because the fellowship is really valuable. But it's important for us (at least for me) to remember that God don't live at church.

Yesterday morning one of the groups that I had joined on facebook had a post for everyone to share what they learned at church. Well, I cannot go to church - and the church certainly does not come to me! That got me to thinking and I set up an account with blog talk radio and did the first broadcast yesterday called God don't live at church. Honestly, once I got started I really encouraged myself. You can hear it if you want:  Coffee with Caregivers

As I was sharing, it really hit me how this enormous, powerful and creative God lives right here inside of me. I was in awe. I read Isaiah 40 and how the prophet describes how God holds all the water in the world in the palm of His hand. That's an amazing chapter. But I also really like God's own account of creation that is in Job 38 and 39. They can simply leave you speechless. But so can the fact that we have all of God inside this human vessel. That we are His choice of habitation. And at the same time He is literally everywhere - and has nowhere to go! He's inside us period! And that's to be the theme of this week's devotions.

My first scripture selection is Ephesians 3:16 - that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man so that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith. Gain strength today by acknowledging that His Spirit is inside you. And you don't have a separate Holy Spirit since you can't "go to church," nor do you have less of Him due to the circumstances. The fact that we are caregivers have no influence whatsoever on the package deal we get with the Holy Spirit. We have all of Him inside our being.

Actually, if you are hurting you are mentioned specifically in scripture. The Lord is near the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18); He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds (Psalm 147:3). Now that's some good stuff right there!

Today I will meditate on the fact that God is near me, with me, and His Spirit is inside me. I will carry on today in the strength I gain from Him making me His home. Will you join me?

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Out of Obscurity

Most of the caregiver's world can be lived in obscurity. Many times our ability to get out is limited by the level of mobility of the one we care for, or the availability of those who relieve us. For most of us, much of our time is spent living in the quietness of our homes and we are obscured from the rest of the world who does not understand us or know what to do with us. (smile- it's okay and we aren't contagious!)

I started thinking about this during my morning devotions. When I picked up my Bible this morning it was opened to 1 Samuel. I started reading about Samuel who happens to be one of my favorite OT prophets. God told him to go anoint one of Jesse's sons as the next king to replace Saul who had been rejected. Jesse didn't even bother to bring David out. Samuel looked at each of Jesse's other sons and knew they were not the one to be anointed as king and finally he asked Jesse if there were any more sons. Jesse said, "well there's the youngest who is out keeping the sheep." They summoned David from his obscure post and Samuel said - yup, that's the one! And right there the ruddy young man was anointed as king. Then he went back to keeping the sheep.

What I really found interesting is that in this same chapter just  a few verses down, King Saul is found being tormented by evil spirits. When they start looking for a psalmist that can minister God's peace here comes David again; out of obscurity. So two times in this chapter (sadly we have no way of knowing how much time had lapsed) he is called out of his obscurity where he was alone and minding his own business. Once to be anointed as the next king and second to play his harp for the king that he is to replace.

It seems that David remained very unassuming during this time period. He kept himself humble before God and man. I mean what are the chances that the same kid the prophet sought out to anoint is then sought out to play the harp for the king he is to replace? Of course Saul has no clue and loved David at first. But we know that eventually he became jealous and the road to the throne for David became a rocky one - even though he was anointed for it.

My encouragement this morning is found in this passage. Our roads as caregivers are anything but smooth no matter what types of circumstances surround. But that does not mean we are any "less" anointed or appointed for what God had in mind to start with. Even though the road may be bumpy and uncomfortable, what God says still stands. He never promised it would be easy getting to where He called us to be - He only assures us that what He has said about us is always in tact. He never changes His mind.

Today I will meditate on the things God says about me. Psalm 139:17 says how precious are Your thoughts toward me O Lord! How vast is the sum of them. No matter how obscure our lives have become we are not hidden from His sight. I will meditate on the truth that He has not forgotten me, and He still has His eye on me. I will rest in that truth today - will you join me?

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Can I do that?

Every day for the caregiver is not unpleasant, but it is tough. We have our moments when things are bright. For me it is when my son seems to connect and shares a spontaneous smile, or does something new that he had not been able to do before. There are days that go by with no great incidents - I like those days. So even though it is a stressful position to be in doesn't mean it's always heavy to bear. There are small moments of relief here and there that help keep us moving on.

Caregivers are unique people in that they are taking care of the needs of others, usually before their own. As a caregiver we can be sort of a refuge by providing a safe place for our loved ones to rest, recuperate, recover or just live. Actually, we go to great lengths to try and make them as comfortable as possible in the present situation. We don't want them to suffer any more than is absolutely necessary - and any is too much at all. Our homes are a haven where we provide protection and provisions. We are tougher than nails- we have to be! We don't take nothing off a nobody! Seriously, caregivers don't have time for a lot of foolishness and sometimes people think we are harsh or uncaring but the opposite is true. We are just trying to protect our own. But who's going to protect us?

Psalm 34:8 says O taste and see that the Lord is good; how blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him! Two things I want to point out. One is that we are blessed when we take refuge in Him. He has provided a safe place for us. He knows when we sob ourselves to sleep at night. He sees us when the load does become heavy to bear and when we feel like our loved ones have fallen through the system's cracks; or we feel overlooked by church and society. He knows and offers us a safe place.

The second point is that the responsibility of action lies on us. We are blessed when we take refuge in Him. We must run to Him and to the safety of His arms. He will not pull us away from our worries if we choose to embrace them...He patiently waits for us to take action. We have to seek Him and His refuge and strength. It's sort of like having a huge meal prepared and set before you - but no one can eat it for you! He cannot take refuge for you- it's a choice and action that is in your power.

Today I will meditate on taking refuge in Him. I will choose to embrace Him and the strength, peace and comfort that He provides rather than the worries and problems that are present. I will purposefully and actively take refuge in Him today. Will you join me?

Monday, January 13, 2014

You Can't Order that Online!

In many cases the caregiver is not able to get out of the house much, or at least not very easily. Because of this, over the last few years I've learned you can order almost anything online. I order toilet paper, cleaning supplies, clothes, household goods, furniture, electronic devices, books, music, movies, medical supplies and that's just all I can think of off the top of my head. I even order frozen foods! There are some places that ship fresh fruit - but so far I haven't found it to be cost effective. But I've also learned that there are a few things that simply cannot be ordered online. Things like milk and butter, hair cuts, manicures, massages and dog grooming just cannot be ordered online!

I have found that in most instances caregivers are very frugal and creative; they have this knack for problem solving and figuring out how to get the impossible done. Whether we ask for help, order it online or find some other way to get it done - nearly everything is possible. But perhaps the most crucial need of the caregiver cannot be ordered online, or fulfilled by anyone else. We have to be able to encourage ourselves. As we face a barrage of decisions and situations each day we can either succumb to the pressure and allow ourselves to be depressed - or we can encourage ourselves in the Lord.

David found himself in a very sticky situation in 1 Samuel 30. He and his men came back to Ziklag to find it ransacked and their wives and children taken captive. Everyone blamed him and were talking of killing him; and he was greatly distressed (v.6). But as he stood there with nothing - it says David encouraged himself in the Lord. There are times when the caregiver has to make the choice to be crushed or encouraged; and sometimes (most times) we have to do it ourselves. Even if someone brings an encouraging message we must choose to embrace it - or stay underneath the load.

Today I am going to choose to take my courage and strength from the Holy Spirit. No matter what types of difficulties I may face today I will not let them take me under and suck me into the "caregiver's fog." I think of all the times throughout the Psalms when David used the phrase "I will" or "My soul will" and I really think he was making a conscious choice to trust, worship, praise, etc. Today I will do this same thing- My choice is to trust Him for this one more day and lean on Him for strength to make it through. I will meditate on His greatness and I will be encouraged in Him today - will you join me?

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Ishmael? - That's a good name!

Growing up in the Western church I always heard about Ishmael in a negative light. He was "Abraham's mistake." It's not Ishmael's fault he was born! I've met a few people named Ishmael over the years and wondered why anyone would choose the name of a "banished vagabond" as a name for their child. Even though I understand the prophecies the Lord gave Hagar about Ishmael, I see it a little differently today.

As I awakened to start my crazy day at 5 AM like I do every day of the week, I was already tired. It's difficult to start out the day tired, but caregivers understand that things just have to be done, tired or not. My early morning thoughts were about Hagar at the well and how she was elated that God could see her and her unborn son. So I opened up my Bible to Genesis 16 and scanned through the chapter.

Hagar ended up in this position because of an injustice. Her master was Abraham and his wife, Sarah. Hagar was given to Abraham for the purpose of bearing a child to begin with. That was the goal. This was due to Sarah's impatience while waiting on the promised of God. We know two women in one house are not going to get along. Verse 4 says that Hagar looked down on Sarah because she had conceived but I have a suspicion that Sarah might have had a little jealousy herself. Anyway the two parted ways under not-so-pleasant circumstances.

Pregnant Hagar is driven away after being "treated harshly." Could it get any worse for her? Here's where it gets good. Verse 7 says now the angel of the Lord found her  by a spring of water in the wilderness. If he found her, he was looking for her! The angle sent her back (never quite understood that) but before he did, he told her to name the child Ishmael - God hears. Then in verse 13, Hagar realized that God saw her there at the well. She said, You are the God who sees.

There are three points that brought me comfort this weary morning. One was that God found Hagar - He was seeking her out. The second thing is that God hears - even though there was no mention of prayer. And the third thing is that God sees. He has found me! He hears the deepest unspoken cries of my heart! And He sees exactly where I am!

Today I will meditate on the truth that He does know me, He sees me and He hears me. Call me Ishmael!