Thursday, February 26, 2015

Faith Looks Different In the Furnace

Life brings us a series of trials. Caregivers are not exempt from trials, tribulations and troubles. We don't get a we don't get a break from life just because we are in a caregiving role. Along with taking care of another whole person, we still deal with friendships, breakups, deaths of loved ones, births, marriages and all the incidents that go with life in general. There is no exemption ticket that protects us from the rest of life just because we are a caregiver. And I'm finding that eventually, we adjust.

Most trials will pass in time; or at least settle down enough for us to handle it. The things we end up facing in life have no impact on eternity. It may be rough and tough here in the present, but our inheritance in Him is not tainted or destroyed because of the sometimes lengthy trials we must face. 1 Peter 1:3-4 tells us that we obtain an inheritance that is imperishable, and undefiled and will not fade away.  It is being reserved in heaven for us. It's not going to disappear, we just have to patiently endure tribulations in order to get to it. But it will be waiting in full!

Faith can look different from in the furnace. It's not so much a way to escape the trial as it is to face it.  The furnace exposes our faith. Verse 6 tells us to rejoice in our trials because they prove our faith in the same way fire purifies gold. However, gold is perishable; it will pass away eventually. Our faith is not perishable, it stands through it all making it more precious than gold.

Our faith is working for us while we are enduring our trial. Faith is what carries us through, even when we don't feel it. I was asked recently how I had kept the faith during my trials. My reply was I haven't - it has kept me. Faith is what holds us together when it seems our world is falling apart. Faith is what carries us through the flood, through the fire and over the mountain. It really doesn't matter if we can feel it or not - it's there with us and working for us. Today may be a good day for you - or you may feel like you are holding on by a thin thread of hope. Either way - or somewhere in between faith is working for you to ensure you can walk through the furnace; to make sure you get to the other side.

Faith comes down to trusting Him. Today I will meditate on how trustworthy God is. I will trust Him with my situation and hold on to the truth that He walks through the furnace with me. I will think about how faith cannot be destroyed even by the most intense of life's fires. I will trust Him. Will you join me?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Measure for Measure

Before I was officially a "caregiver" I lived in an ICU waiting room for three weeks and then in a hospital room with my son for another 3 1/2 months. I had flown in from another state and there was no "home" to return to. One thing I noticed was the instant connection all of the people hanging out in the waiting rooms had. We shared stories, food, laughter and tears; yet we had never met before whatever trauma had brought us in.

We understood each other. One event had turned our lives upside down and even though we had never met we became instantly bonded with one another. I felt like this unique experience offered a picture of how the church should act. We shared our lives for the short time we were together and all of the normal boundaries like social status, economic status and our belief systems really didn't matter. We helped each other out in any way we could. When one was down- another would comfort knowing they may need the same thing within the next hour. We held each other and poured out our hearts. Each person in the waiting area had had a significant event that brought them there and we could be mutually supportive and comforting.

In 2 Corinthians 1:3, Paul states that God is the God of all comfort. In the next verse he explains why God comforts us - so we can comfort others. I noticed that verse 4 says He comforts us in  our affliction - not before or after - but during our affliction He provides the comfort we need. It seems that He is able to provide the perfect level of comfort needed to match the level of suffering or affliction. And since He is the God of all comfort He has enough to carry us all the way through the trial. He doesn't walk half way with us and say, "that's all I got." He is in it with us for the long haul; in it for the duration of the trial.

No matter how intense our days as caregivers may become, how deep or difficult the trial becomes, He provides us the comfort we need to endure.

Why? Why does He comfort us in the midst of our trials? So we can comfort others. We are comforted by the Great I Am and then we are to turn to others and be His hands and feet. No one understands the path like someone who has walked it before. Just like my "waiting room church" who comforted each other in our shared afflictions we as caregivers can receive His comfort and then minister it to others. 

Today I will meditate on receiving His comfort and allowing it to bring peace to my  whole being. I will turn my thoughts toward His word and think about how He alone is the God of all comfort. And I will look for opportunities to share His comfort with others. Will you join me?

Monday, February 23, 2015

I Will Remember

Did you ever feel like God isn't doing anything? Sometimes when we pray we don't see any immediate actions and it is easy to think that God isn't doing anything on our behalf. Over the last few caregiving years many times my thoughts have turned into prayers. All day I am pouring out my heart before the Lord. I'm not asking to be rescued anymore; and I'm not necessarily looking for Him to ride in on a white horse and save me. But I typically am asking for wisdom to handle the various situations caregivers must face. Sometimes I'm asking for help, strength or peace.

It seems like this is what Asaph was doing as he penned Psalm 77. He was at his wit's end, a place the caregiver lives. We mean something entirely different from the rest of the world when we say we are livin' on the edge! Even on a good day it only takes one phone call, one mishap or one small change to topple our worlds. In this psalm, Asaph pours it all out before the Lord. Asaph went so far as to say when I remember God, then I am disturbed;when I sigh,then my spirit grows faint. (v.3) In the next verse he says I am so troubled I cannot speak. I have to admit that I've had many days like that. I've been so distraught that there are not even the right words to form into a prayer. What do we do when we are so overwhelmed with the tasks of caregiving? What do we do when we don't see God doing anything on our behalf?

It seems this is precisely where Asaph was; he was praying but not seeing God at work. These are the times when we can start reminding ourselves of the things we know God has already done. Asaph spent the rest of Psalm 77 listing the things he knew God had done, simply reminding himself of how he had seen God work before. In verses 8 and 9, Asaph asks if God has ceased being compassionate and gracious. Has God forgotten His promises? Has He withdrawn His hand from my life? These are all common questions for caregivers who find their lives have turned upside down. But starting in verse 11, he starts with I will remember....

Asaph shifts his focus from his present distress and focuses on the things he has seen God do. We see this shift in verse 11 - I will remember the deeds of the Lord; Surely I will remember Your wonders of old. I will meditate on all Your work and muse on all Your deeds. And he then begins to list the things he knows God has done. This can be a powerful tool in the hand of a caregiver.

Today even if I don't see God doing anything specific in my life, I will meditate on the things He has done in my life. I will purposefully refocus my thoughts and heart on His ever abiding presence. My thoughts will remain on how He has given peace, walked the valleys with me, offered wisdom for decisions that have to be made. I will meditate on His love, grace and mercy that never changes toward me. Will you join me?


Friday, February 20, 2015

Waiting for the Light of Day

Long nights are one of the most difficult situations a caregiver has to face. It's 2 AM and your loved one is ill or not sleeping comfortably and you don't know what to do to help them. What a miserable place to be in! It's in those dark hours that I struggle a lot with faith. In those dark, lonely hours there is no one to reach out to and I find myself asking questions like Where are You God? Do You see us? Do You care? For many caregivers, the wee hours of the morning can be the hardest time to wait.

Nights in hospitals or just being up with your loved one can lead to sleep deprivation which has a whole host of adverse effects on the body and the mind. We can find ourselves in a perpetual state of waiting on Him. Isaiah 26:8 says we waited for you eagerly. I'm not sure "eagerly" is a word I could use to describe my manner of waiting sometimes. But then, maybe we can.

If I am "waiting eagerly" it would mean that I am waiting in expectancy - knowing that God is right there within reach. To wait eagerly means I am trusting Him for help. I wait for Him because I know He is going to give me the strength to make it through the longest night. He is going to give me wisdom for making decisions about my loved one; and then He'll give me peace about the decisions I've made. So even during the longest fight and darkest night I can wait eagerly on Him for help.

So what do we do while waiting for the light of day? I think the answer is found in verse 3 of this same chapter. The King James Version says -I will keep him in perfect peace - whose mind is stayed on Me.  The New American Standard translates it as The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace because he trusts in You.  Either way it is beneficial to keep our minds on Him while we wait.

I'll be the first to admit that this is not always all that easy, especially in the heat of the moment. But when I choose to keep my mind on a scripture and my heart in a prayerful mode - the going gets a little easier and peace is my reward. Sometimes it doesn't take a long night for the mind to run around in crazy circles. Most caregiving days are lived at a hectic pace. But when we slow our minds down and focus on His grace, His love, and His ever-abiding presence - peace will follow. Peace in our hearts is necessary for this journey.

Today I will meditate on the fact that He is with me and He doesn't bail ship when the going gets rough. I will turn my thoughts to His everlasting grace and never ending love for me. I will let Him carry me through this day. And I will purposefully embrace His peace and rest in Him. Will you join me?

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Waiting with Integrity

Caregivers have unusual enemies. I say that because our circumstances in life offer different perspectives of the battle. We have unique concerns that others perhaps can't even understand. Day-to-day decisions can become very complicated for the caregiver and simple tasks like making meals or figuring out how to go buy groceries can be huge tasks. It can be a huge undertaking to complete the things most people don't even have to give a second thought to. For me I either have to figure out how to do things like buy groceries or supplies inside a very limited time frame while an aide is here or make ride arrangements 24 hours in advance. It's not a simple thing to just go buy a bag of groceries. And what if I'm about out of eggs and the aide doesn't show up? Let's get real with it - what if I'm out of toilet paper and today's the day I gotta get to the store; and the aide doesn't show up?

While others are worrying about their jobs, which coffee to buy at Starbucks or which movie to go see on the weekend, the caregiver is trying to survive another day. Our enemies can be discouragement, exhaustion, or fighting to keep our chin up and remain positive from day to day. In Psalm 25, the psalmist asks the Lord to not let my enemies win. For caregivers our prayer might be, Lord don't let caregiving take me under! Don't let it define me; You define who I am. It's very easy to lose yourself in caring for another person so much that you can't find yourself anymore. That can be the biggest enemy of all.

In verse 16 of Psalm 25, David says I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart are enlarged, bring me out of my distresses. That's getting up close and personal. To ask God for help, we have to be honest with Him. It's not that He can't just reach down and rescue us no matter what we are going through - but true deliverance comes through honest and earnest prayer. How will we know what He has brought us out of if we don't identify it? How will we know what we are fighting if it's not identifiable? Personally, I can get sucked into this huge pit of depression which can be debilitating. I can barely take care of daily caregiving chores. Over time, I've recognized the patterns and learned strategies to preempt a long bout with depression. By identifying it and being honest about it I can avoid the deep, dark pit. It's okay to be specific with our prayers - and it's okay to admit to God how we really feel. (It's not like He didn't already know!)

Verses 20 and 21 say this:
Guard my soul and deliver me;
Do not let me be ashamed 
For I take refuge in You.
Let integrity and uprightness preserve me
For I wait for You.

God is able to guard our souls - that is a lot deeper than just taking care of our flesh. He protects the part of us that truly feels the pain of caregiving. He can keep our being safe - even if our body is broken. It takes integrity to be honest with ourselves and with God. To truly wait on Him means I admit I need some help here! The caregiver can wear themselves out trying to rely on themselves - but there comes a time when we know it's not our strength we are running on. When we wait on Him He will guard us and keep us hidden in Him.

Today my meditation will be on how He guards my soul. I will yield to His peace and His strength and allow Him to carry me - mind, will and emotions - through this day. My thoughts will be on how He preserves me in trouble.  And I will speak honestly with Him about how I really feel - so He can heal my heart and soul. Will you join me?

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

More than Adequate Protection

There have been many times in my life when I have turned to Psalm 27; it just has it all. David talks about trusting the Lord in a very intimate way even through some very tough situations. The psalmist is honest about his feelings and speaks of dread and fear. As he usually does, David reminds himself of Who God had been in his life and asks God to "not abandon or forsake" him. He also takes the time to ask God to teach him, lead him and protect him.

One of the verses that sticks out to me today particularly is verse 5. Here David says: in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle; in the secret place of His tent He will hide me... Not just any day - but the day of trouble - God will hide us. And not hide us just anywhere - He hides us in His tabernacle; and in the secret place of His tent. To me this speaks of intimacy. God doesn't just drop us in a cave somewhere and put His hand over the entrance so the enemy can't find us. Even though that would provide adequate protection, He hides us in His secret place. He hides us in His heart - where life cannot touch us or destroy us.

Perhaps with this intimacy in mind David penned the final verse to this psalm. The first 13 verses seem to be written in  third person. David is speaking about his own personal experience. He's crying out for the Lord to hear him, rejoicing in the Lord's victory and asking God to teach him, lead him, and protect him. But in the final verse it's as if he turns to address the rest of the world and he gives more of a command. Maybe he had no idea of the multitude who would read this passage and find hope when he addresses the reader directly by saying:

Wait for the Lord;
Be strong and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for the Lord.

He changes from first and third person to second person and reminds us all to wait for the Lord. The old King James Version translated it this way: Wait on the Lord; be of good courage and He shall strengthen your heart. "Let your heart take courage" and "He will strengthen your heart" both indicate to me that we must yield to Him and wait for Him and allow Him to strengthen us and encourage us.  Waiting on Him means we let Him do the work while we rest in His faithfulness.

Today I will meditate on His faithfulness and His protection. I will purposefully move out of the way and allow Him to provide intimate protection. I will trust Him for one more day. Will you join me?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

There it is again!

There are many scriptures that talk about waiting on God. It seems to be a favorite theme that runs throughout the psalms. Psalm 62 is just one of the many times there is mention of waiting on Him. Actually, the first verse of this psalm begins with a declaration of My soul waits in silence for God only. Not only is the psalmist, David saying his soul is waiting for God, but he is doing so in silence. Now I don't know about you, but it can be a rare thing for my soul  to be silent. My mouth may not be making a sound but my head and heart are going a hundred miles an hour (on a slow day!).

As a caregiver it can feel like we are always in "waiting mode." Even getting up in the morning means waiting to see what the day will hold. How will our loved one respond to care today? Will the aide show up today? Will supplies arrive on time? Am I going to be able to go grab some groceries or will something preempt it? And that's all the thoughts that start running after hitting the snooze the first time. But no matter how hectic the day starts out we have to learn to wait on God alone. We have to learn to trust Him in every situation.

Psalm 62:5 says My soul, wait in silence for God only, for my hope is from Him. Even though he started the psalm with this thought it's like he needs to remind himself to wait - in silence. Then it seems like he is reminding himself of who God is to him:

My rock
My salvation
My stronghold
My glory
My strength
My refuge

I will trust Him at all times.

I can truly pour out my heart before Him because He is a safe place. He knows what we are going through and understands each intricate detail of our crazy lives. But He never condemns or judges us. He even understands the thousands of thoughts that run through our heads in just a few seconds. And you know what? It doesn't scare Him off! 

Our task is to quiet our souls before Him. This can be a true act of worship as we learn to become quiet before God and wait on Him. 

Today I will work on quieting my soul before my God. I will meditate on trusting Him more fully. I will work on surrendering my mind, will and emotions to Him as an act of worship. Will you join me?


Monday, February 16, 2015

What are you Waiting for?

Yesterday my mind kept going back to a very familiar passage in Isaiah 40. As a runner, I wish this scripture could be more literal. (smile) Verse 31 says They that wait on the Lord will renew their strength, they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary. (NASB)

We are all waiting on God for something. Perhaps we are waiting to have peace over a situation, wisdom for a decision, answers to our questions or hope to arise in our hearts. Waiting is the hard part once we've put it out there before God. Maybe it's because we don't know when the answer will come, or how He's going to answer us. But we can be assured, that He will answer - even if we miss it when it comes.

In the natural, we do get tired; and we do become weary. It's just part of the caregiving package. There are nights with little or no sleep, big decisions that have to be made concerning someone else's health and comfort, and endless chores that have to be done when taking care of another whole person. We can get tired just thinking about the things that have to be done before noon! Weariness is no fun, and it's often not easy to crawl out of, especially without help. I would define being tired as needing to rest; it's where getting a quick nap or sitting down for a bit helps you regain some strength and energy. But weariness is a tougher critter to beat. It's when you are tired and busted body, soul and even spirit. It's bound to happen at some point when you are a caregiver.

Over the last few years, I've learned to adjust the load of caregiving so that I don't wear  out as easily. And over time we can adjust to what many call the "new normal" of caregiving. Our crazy daily routines become easier to bear as we make the necessary adjustments. It's no different than any other situation in that in time we learn coping skills and strategies to make days run more smoothly. (Of course that's not counting the surprises that have to be dealt with.)

It gets easier the sooner we learn to wait on the One who does not get tired (v.28) for our strength. Most of the time - we know very well we cannot carry the load on our own. We have to wait on Him - the only One Who can help us with it. The One who does not get tired will help us keep from becoming weary as we wait for His strength, comfort and hope. When we wait for Him or "hope in Him" as some versions interpret "waiting on Him;" then we learn to trust Him more. He gives us the strength to take one more step and make it one more day.

Today I will meditate on trusting Him more fully. I'll turn my thoughts to resting in Him and waiting for Him. And I will think about the hope, comfort and strength He gives me. I'll concentrate on accepting His hope for today; and I'll let Him carry me through it. Will you join me?

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Do I have to Choose?

This morning I had a couple of scriptures on my mind as I puttered about and got my tutoring done early. The one from 1 Thessalonians 5:23 is still fresh on my mind: Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely and may your whole body, soul and spirit be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  There are only about 3 or 4 times when Paul uses the phrase God of peace. He uses it here and in Romans a couple of times. And of course, Isaiah says that He is the Prince of Peace.

We have the God of peace or the Prince of Peace living right inside of us. Now that hits me as just a little bit funny since the caregiver's daily life can resemble just about anything but peace. I don't know if it's ever not hectic! I would probably use just about any word to describe daily activities - except peaceful. While each caregiver's journey differs, my days are filled with constant activities like laundry, cooking and pureeing foods, straightening the house (this really doesn't happen all that often!), talking to various health care professionals, feeding, changing, bathing, transferring, providing stimuli (without providing too much), designing and doing therapeutic activities (standing frame, puzzles, range of motion) and whew! I'm tired already. And I haven't even touched the things we have to do to keep ourselves sane and happy. It can become quite the circus.

So after I think about how He is the God of peace in my own life - my thoughts shift to another scripture. In Romans 15:13 Paul says this: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  This scripture has been I have meditated on for years. I guess I just love the thought of this God of hope filling me with joy and peace so that I have more hope in Him.

We can see He is the God of peace and  hope. Do I ever have to choose between hope and peace? It seems more like a package deal. We get all of Him when His Spirit resides in us as believers. So it seems that all of His hope and peace would be there as well. I do not have to choose between hope and peace - I get the full package deal! He fills us with His hope - AND He fills us with His peace. I think that's a pretty powerful combination and I can use an extra supply of both.

God does not give us just parts of Himself - He fills us up with all He is. There isn't a junior Holy Spirit for kids; or a senior Holy Spirit for the elderly. There is no "special editions" for special cases like caregivers. We get Holy Spirit working in our lives and He will continue to work to the degree we yield to Him - no matter what situation we are in. Ephesians 3:16 says that we are strengthened in our inner man - just by Him being present  in us.

Today I will be thankful that I get the full package deal and that the Spirit of God is at work in me - even in my situation. I will meditate on the truth that He comes with peace and  hope and I don't have to choose between the two. I will purposefully yield myself to Him and allow God to work in my life today -- and be strengthened by the truth that He still works in me - the caregiver. Will you join me?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

An Apple a Day

Did you ever have a day where you felt totally overwhelmed by your situation? Maybe it's just me, but there are days when I get up and just don't feel like facing all the commotion. Caregiving isn't like just having a job - we can't call in  to work and say we are not coming. Maybe David had some sort of sense of the oppressive forces at work when he said in Psalm 17:9 that the wicked oppress me and the deadly enemies surround me. Caregiving is an all-consuming situation. You're all-in like it or not! And for many of us there isn't a break in sight with no one to lighten the load. Now I know we can adjust to our lives and everyday is not a huge burden. But what do we do with those days where we do  feel overwhelmed? I think verse 8 has our answer. David penned:

Keep me as the apple of Your eye
Hide me under the shadow of Your wings...

That's my heart's desire on good days and bad. I just want to know that God still sees me and that He is still walking through the fire with me. Someone asked me yesterday, how do you know God loves you? My answer was simple - He hasn't left me yet. Even when I've been angry at Him about the situation, He can handle the big stuff and the hard questions. He has stayed with me through the fight (even the one I put up).

I think the heart of this scripture could be summed up this way: God, cherish me in my trouble! Value me even in my distress! It can be easy when caregiving takes over our lives to feel like we have lost value. For me, it meant feeling like I was no longer an asset, but a liability or a burden to others. But you know what? We are all valuable to Him. We are cherished, loved and adored by our God, no matter what type of situation we have found ourselves in.

It's important to note that the psalmist's request to be valued during the fight is reciprocated by God. In Proverbs 7:2 Solomon (David's son by the way) says to keep the Word of God as the apple of your eye. We should value the Word of God just as much as we desire to be valued. And as we value His word, and alter our lives to match it - we will find that we are highly favored of the Lord. Nothing about the way he values us changed when we became caregivers! 

God never changes his promises or His conditions based on our circumstances. He will always love us. He is always with us. He still requires holiness from us. There are no exclusionary statements or exemptions handed out for caregivers! We will always be the apple of His eye. We will always be cherished and loved by our Father.

Today I will meditate on the truth that He will not leave me alone in the struggle. He is with me and He not only loves me deeply - he values and cherishes me. My goal is to reciprocate that to Him; to cherish and value Him above everything else. Will you join me?


Monday, February 9, 2015

It's Out There!

Psalm 91 used to be one of my favorite psalms, until my son was involved in an automobile accident that left him incapacitated. For a long time I found Psalm 91 very frustrating - since God did not protect my son. In another blog I openly sorted through emotions and faith. As I slowly got my bearings and tried to continue to trust the Lord again - I learned to love this passage once again; but from a totally different perspective.

I no longer see it as a cure-all and a "lucky charm" that keeps all trouble far away. It's not so much that trouble stays so far away - it's that He keeps us safe during the storm, during the trouble and through tribulation. If you will read past verse one you'll find some pretty interesting things like:

the snare of the fowler
perilous pestilence
terror by night
destruction laying wait at noonday
plagues
lions and cobras

All of that is out there! And it's not far away. It's a scary place for sure. It's not like we hide in Him for refuge and all this goes away. There's a war going on and danger lurking all around. But He keeps us in the midst of the danger. Think about verses 12-13. Yay - we can tread on lions and trample serpents. But do you know how close you'd have to be  to them to be able to do that? Think about it. 

Yes - all of that is out there. But God will keep our souls even in the darkest, most dangerous times. Our being is hidden in Him and there is nothing that can reach our soul. Verse 15 is God speaking and He says  I will be with them in trouble.  He did not say He would not let trouble happen - but that we have a place to hide to ride out the storm.

Today I will meditate on hiding in Him even though life around me is rumbling. Instead of worrying about my situation - I'll rest in Him and think about His mercies carrying me through this day. Will you join me?

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Superlatives Allowed!

As a general rule we are taught to avoid superlatives. Who hasn't been bitten in the back side by saying I'm never going to (fill in the blank) again!? I catch myself saying things like It always happens like that...  When we use superlatives - it means there is no room for any alternatives. Using always and never in particular doesn't leave any wriggle room, no exceptions allowed. But Paul seemed to like superlatives and in 1 Thessalonians 5 he didn't leave the believer any wriggle room when he penned:

Rejoice Always
Pray without Ceasing
In everything give thanks
Test all things - hold fast what is good
Abstain from every form of evil

When we look at it that way- it's quite the bill to fill. There were no exclusionary statements for any of these instructions. Notice Paul didn't say "in everything give thanks unless your situation is particularly trying or difficult." He didn't instruct the believers to "rejoice always unless you are a caregiver who just can't find joy in the day." He wrote these as instructions to believers in the Body of Christ. He gave no exceptions, no leeway - just do it - always.

I'll be the first to tell you that there are days it is difficult to find something to rejoice about, or to be thankful for. But usually, if we look hard enough - we can find something. Even though each of our situations are unique and we have our own set of daily trials to walk through we can heed and obey Paul's instructions here. We probably get close to praying without ceasing; but the other rules can be very difficult.

The caregiver's situation is a stressful one, and can take a toll on the mind, body and spirit after awhile. It might take some serious effort to accomplish these tasks. But they really just make sense for living life - no matter what that looks like. While we may not be thankful for our situation - we can find something to be thankful for - we are still breathing, we have food on the table, the sun is shining and the birds are singing. I've learned that sometimes it's the littlest things that bring joy to the heart. We can give in to the joy of a child's laughter, a beautiful song, a special message from a friend, or having the time to sit down and breathe for a minute or two. If we give in - it doesn't take much.

When we take the broader look at where we are there are many reasons to rejoice. God sent His word to heal us. He has not left us - and is available for us - constantly by our side. The power of the cross is not weakened by our trying circumstances and the word did not change when we became a caregiver. His word endures forever - even through the battles life brings. God is with us and He's in it for the long haul. 

Today I will meditate on the things I can be thankful for. Even if I can't see the "light at the end of the tunnel" I will keep my eyes open and watching for reasons to rejoice in Him today. Will you join me?




Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Follow Peace

In both letters to the Thessalonians, Paul started out by saying Grace to you and peace from God our father and Jesus Christ our Lord. He knew that their lives were being turned upside down by the opposition they were facing so I think he started his letter by speaking peace over them. Like the caregiver, I'm sure they needed an extra amount of peace.

Caregiving is not thought of as peaceful - even on our best days when things go "as planned." We face numerous decisions and the difficulty is in making them for someone else. Finding peace is not always easy. My Uncle Calvin's go-to advice was always "follow peace." Even though he's been gone home now for many years - I find myself returning to that nugget when I am faced with decisions, especially troubling ones. Sometimes it's easy to sort things out and determine the most peaceful solution; other times it just ain't happening!

If we as caregivers need anything - I'd say it's peace. Without peace we
can't make decisions
can't enjoy life
can't enjoy others
can't sleep
can't eat

Peace is a necessary component of our lives and yet it can seem so far away. In the craziness of a day it can be difficult to remember that the God of peace lives right inside us. We already have access to His peace. The trick is following it  or letting it  rule our hearts.

The Thessalonians are not the only group of Christians that Paul ministered peace to. He said to the Roman Christians:  Now the God of peace be with you all. (Romans 15:33) He also spoke to the Corinthians about the God of peace in 2 Corinthians 13:11 Paul said: Be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace and the God of love and peace will be with you.  Fact is - he started or ended nearly every one of his letters to the churches speaking of the peace of God. 

I pray that everyone reading this blog today will be overwhelmed by His peace. And I pray that you will allow His peace to reign. Sometimes His peace comes and it doesn't make sense to have peace so we dismiss it - today I hope we will all embrace His peace.

Today I will meditate on the truth that God (and His peace) is with me - and is in me. I will purposefully yield myself to His peace and let it rule in my heart. I won't listen to the craziness around me - I will concentrate on yielding to His peace. Will you join me?

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Great Generic Prayers for Caregivers

The Thessalonians lived in turmoil, conflict, tribulation and trials. The caregiver journey can be one which is very trying too. Our days are filled with activities beyond what "normal" families deal with. Many of us have to basically do everything twice; once for our loved one and then for ourselves. This is especially true for those who require total care. It can mean you get a shower, get dressed and eat breakfast; and you have to get another adult showered, dressed and fed as well. And if they have any sort of special diet it means making two separate breakfasts, lunches, suppers and snacks throughout the day. No matter what your caregiving journey looks like - it's not easy.

It can be difficult for people to know how to pray for caregivers. What is it that we need? (A break - we all say in unison!*smile*) Physical help is not always feasible even when people care about you and your situation greatly. And it can be very difficult to know how to pray for the caregiver. 1 and 2 Thessalonians has some scriptures that I like to call "generic prayers." These are fitting for anyone in any situation. We all need them! These are the things that Apostle Paul prayed for the Thessalonians who were going through some very rough times. While I'm speaking specifically for praying for caregivers, these are good - use them for everybody prayers! You can pray that:

God establishes their hearts before Him (I Thess. 3:13)
the God of peace sanctifies them completely, 
and preserves them body, soul and spirit (I Thess. 5:23)
God fulfills His good pleasure in them,
and completes the work of faith with power
He is glorified in them according to His grace (2 Thess.1:11-12)
God comforts their hearts and establishes them
in every good word and work. (2 Thess.2:16-17)
God directs their hearts into His love and into the patience of Christ(2 Thess. 3:5)
God will give them peace always in every way (2 Thess. 3:16)

As a caregiver I find just reading these scriptures encouraging. We did not lose our desire to be holy before Him or to be complete in Him when we became caregivers. There's no button to push to turn off the desire to love Him with all our heart, body, soul, mind and strength. But it can get very cloudy from a caregiver's point of view. Somehow these scriptures, whether prayed or read help clear my view of Him. They help bring peace and hope back into my heart. They are great scriptures to use to pray for caregivers and anyone else for that matter. 

Today I am going to meditate on these scriptures from Thessalonians. As I meditate on His word I'm going to let them melt away the turmoil and allow His peace to reign in my heart. I'll turn my thoughts to what He has done for me - not toward my situation. And I will rejoice that His thoughts and plans for me did not change when I became a caregiver. Will you join me?




Monday, February 2, 2015

The Word at Work

As I sat down for my morning devotions over the weekend I found myself in 1 Thessalonians. One thing I noticed about both first and second Thessalonians is that Paul starts them both out mentioning the afflictions, trials, tribulations, and turmoil the church was going through. But even after acknowledging the conflicts and troubles the Christians were facing Paul offered some comforting words.

In the last part of 1 Thessalonians 2:13, Paul states:  the word of God which effectively works in you who believe. He did not make it seem like they didn't  believe just because they were facing troubles and trials. He actually encouraged them by acknowledging the fact that they are still believers and the Word still works in them.

Sometimes "church people" can make it seem like if you are in a trial or tribulation you do not believe or at least you don't have faith. Paul indicated no such thing here to the Thessalonians. You know, it's not like Holy Spirit packs up and moves out when the going gets tough! He never looks around and says something like, "I don't recall this being part of the package - I'm outta here!" Holy Spirit lives in  us and He's in it for the long haul.

Ephesians 3:16 says that we are strengthened with might through His spirit in the inner man. We gain strength from His residence in us. He won't jump ship when the going gets tough - He'll never leave us stranded. We can gain strength today knowing that Holy Spirit and the Word are both working inside of us no matter what we face; no matter what we feel.

Today I will meditate on the truth the HE lives IN me. I'll turn my thoughts to the fact that no matter what type of struggle or trial is staring me in the face today - He will walk through it with me and He is working in me in the midst of the storm. Will you join me?