Monday, March 30, 2015

Ever Changing But Always the Same

I enjoy reading the last few chapters of Job where God takes over the conversation. In chapters 38 to 41, God takes the time to describe creation from His point of view. There are many questions that God asks of Job during this passage and we all know He isn't looking for "information." He already knows the answer - He is measuring Job's response.

In Job 38:12, God asks Job if he's ever commanded the morning to appear and caused the dawn to arise in the east. Then in verse 19, God asks, where does the light come from and where does the darkness go?  Put this with Psalm 104:19 where it says the sun knows where to set; and you have a full day orchestrated by God.

The sun never "rises" and forgets which way to go. It is so designed and set in place by God. He started it in Genesis and nothing has been able to interrupt the process. Except for that one time on Joshua's behalf where God caused the sun to stand still. Day and night continue the way God set it up to work. No matter what our daytime hours bring - it doesn't stop for any reason good or bad. I actually have learned to hate the statement life goes on. I've heard that a lot and once my life changed to where I was living out tragedy day by day I found it offensive. I wanted to say, No, your life went on. Mine stopped.

But the truth is that even though in the midst of tragedy life seems to stop - it really does just keep moving. God didn't stop His eternal clock because I ran into a road block or a tough time. Time just continues to unfold a second at a time, a day at a time. The sun continues to rise and set.

I actually find it comforting that the sun isn't thrown off course just because I have a rough day; and it doesn't speed up or slow down based on my emotions. What God put in place stands, period. The fact that His system still works brings me comfort and peace. It means to me that everything He's promised is still in tact. His word still applies to the caregiver. His promises are still true - no matter what life brings.

If we want a picture of His renewed grace just watch a sunrise or a sunset, each one totally unique from the others. What a picture of constancy and creativity; ever changing but always the same. That's how God moves in our lives. He under-girds us with His patience and strength and yet explodes with mercy and grace to make another day.

Today I am going to watch the sun as it moves across the sky; and I'll meditate on God's constancy. I will turn my thoughts to His unbreakable love, mercy and grace. I will rejoice that my day does not orchestrate His - He orchestrates mine. Will you join me?

Friday, March 27, 2015

Say What You Mean - Mean What you Say

If there is one thing I have learned since I became a caregiver it is to be open and honest with my feelings. I learned that God is big enough to handle my "real" feelings - there's no need to "protect" Him. People I had more difficulty with because you're never sure how someone is going to take what you say and how it's going to affect them. Over and over I've had people tell me that they appreciate the openness and transparency with which I write. But it didn't come easy for me. Maybe I just figured I didn't have anything to lose; or perhaps I just got too tired to filter everything any more. Who knows?

I've been open and honest with God for a lot longer since I figured He already knows what I really think, so why would I try to hide my emotions or thoughts from Him? But being open with people has been another story. I have trust issues for sure - and I'm not denying that. Actually, this openness that I am just discovering is something I've admired about David and the other psalmist. In too many instances, the "church" has directly or indirectly taught us that our emotions are a sin. I've been told, Don't say that  or even you shouldn't feel that way. What other way can I feel, but how I feel? (smile)

David doesn't seem at all worried about what people think about his feelings and emotions. He just lays it all out there before God and man. And David was a king - he was in the public eye which means that a whole lot more people actually cared what he thought. I think sometimes he seems ambiguous, or divided in his thoughts. For instance, in Psalm 25:15 He makes a bold statement of faith:

My eyes are continually toward the Lord,
For He will pluck my feet out of the net.

He makes a plea for grace followed immediately by some strong emotions. 

I am lonely and afflicted
the troubles of my heart are enlarged
bring me out of my distresses

In some of the circles I've been affiliated with we were not even allowed to say we were lonely, afflicted or distressed. Using these "negative" terms was considered to be showing a lack of faith. But I think that we cannot honestly ask God for help with something we cannot acknowledge. And how can we honestly accept His help if we refuse to declare our needs? 

God is big enough to hear our earnest plea for help. His hearing is good enough to hear our silent cries in the night. As caregivers we are used to carrying the whole load; and we typically feel like we have to act like super heroes and do it all on our own - or we are failing. (Maybe that's just me!) But today is a good day to just be honest with God about our emotions, feelings, struggles and victories. Another psalmist said God is a very present help in time of trouble. I like that He is very present. 

Today I am going to roll all of my cares over onto God's big shoulders. I'm going to be honest with Him about the troubles of my heart, and I am going to trust Him for one more day. Will you join me?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Sandwiched by Faith

I love reading the Psalms and particularly enjoy the ones written by David. He seems so open and honest with his feelings and doesn't typically hold anything back. David doesn't worry about what everyone else might think about him, he just lays it all out there. Sometimes it can seem like he goes from one emotional extreme to another all in one psalm. That's something many caregivers are very familiar with. Each day can bring a wide range of emotional challenges and changes until we start to think we are losing it for sure. But we are in good company it seems.

In Psalm 31, David makes a lot of "I" statements. In the first few verses, David is declaring his trust in God. He says some things like:

I have taken refuge (in You)
I commit my spirit (into Your hands)
I trust in the Lord
I will rejoice and be glad in Your lovingkindness

These are some very powerful declarations and worth grabbing a hold of in our own lives. They are perspective changing declarations that can help us get our attitude in the right place when things have gone crazy in our lives. But at the same time David is making these powerful statements he lets loose with some honest and raw emotions. He says things in the next few verses like:

I am in distress
My life is spent in sorrow
My strength has failed
I have become a reproach
I am forgotten...
I am like a broken vessel

What caregiver has not gone through this range of emotions? On any given day we can feel like we just can't make it one more second, our strength is gone. And oh how familiar we can be with being forgotten. Loneliness can be one of our greatest battles along with depression. We can feel reproached, forgotten and alone...like we are broken and beyond repair. I'm so glad that David took the time to preserve this psalm because we can start to feel not-so-alone knowing that our emotions are not foreign - others have experienced them too and were not afraid to write about it.

In the church world these feelings are oftentimes forbidden. We are told it is because of "lack of faith" that we feel them. We are further reproached because we can't seem to get a handle  on things. So we stuff it all inside and become more recluse. But if David felt them and God approved that they be in our beloved scriptures - they must be a normal part of life. While we need to work through them like we see David do- we should not be shunned or condemned for feeling them.

We do see David get past his emotional hurdles. He begins to turn his focus off his situation and onto God. After he lays it all out there (which is really good to do sometimes) he starts to  encourage himself by saying things like:

I trust in You, O Lord
You are my God
I will call on You
Save me in Your lovingkindness
How great is Your goodness
You hide us in Your secret place

It's sort of funny that he sandwiches his emotions between his statements of faith. Seems like a really good place to put them to me! So it's okay to acknowledge how we really feel - actually it's healthy. Just remember to turn your thoughts back to God when you're done. We can pour our hearts out to God and be totally honest about things that are common to caregivers: anger, depression, hurt, and loneliness. And then declare who God is - whether we feel it or not!

David ends up speaking to the reader and reminding us to trust the Lord who preserves the faithful.  And he offers hope for those who hope in the Lord. 

Be strong and let your heart take courage
all you who hope in the Lord.

Today I will acknowledge the areas where I struggle. And then I will declare that He is my God and my hope is in Him. I will I let  my heart be encouraged and I will declare I trust in You O Lord, You are my God!  Will you join me?


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

What Does God Want From Me?

Before my caregiving days I functioned in many roles in the church. As a youth pastor I taught the young people scriptures like Jeremiah 29:11 - that the Lord has good plans for them - for health and a future. Sometimes on the other side of caregiving, or even during life's strongest trials scriptures like this one can become muddled. If God has good plans for me, why is this happening?

His intentions for us never change. My mind goes back to the Children of Israel. God told them in Leviticus 22:33 that He brought them out of Egypt to be their God. And He said in Exodus 34:14 that He is a jealous God. The New Living Translation interpreted this verse to say He is a God who is jealous about his relationship with you. God's desire to have a relationship with His people has never changed; and is not likely to make a sharp turn over 2000 years later!

God performed mighty miracles to bring His children out of Egypt's bondage. But it was not an easy road after that - they did not have it made from there on out. In fact they faced many trials and struggles along the way. They had no water - and God provided; when there was no food God provided. He showed up each time they had a struggle even though their first thought was Let's go back to Egypt!

Caregiving is not an easy road to travel and everyone's picture looks very different. But even on a rocky road, God's heart is to have a relationship with His people - those who believe in Him - you!  He is not going to take all the bumps out of the road, or remove all the rough spots along the way. But He is going to walk it with you and His whole desire is to be in relationship with you.

I am a runner and have run a few half marathons. That's not always easy and training can be rather rough at times. But on occasion I've done training runs or races with friends. There's nothing like a long, hard stretch of road with nothing to do between the start and finish line - but talk and run - to help build a relationship. You find yourself opening up about life's deepest hurts and sharing insights that have helped you along the way.

I believe that's what God wants for us as we travel the rocky roads of life. It's what He desired from the Children of Israel as they journeyed to the Promised Land. He just wanted relationship - and that's all He wants from us today.

Today I will meditate on the fact that He wants to spend time with me - He wants me to talk to Him and share my joys, hurts, victories and failures. I will turn my thoughts toward Him today and think about how He walks this long and lonely caregiving road with me, because He wants to. And I will thank Him for desiring a relationship with me. I will engage with Him today and look for His peace while I listen for His voice in every situation. Will you join me?

Monday, March 23, 2015

There is a River

Sometimes it bothers me when I hear complaints about it being Monday. It seems to me that on many levels the caregiver's days are all the same. There's not much relief on the weekends and our chores remain the same for the most part with maybe some small changes. I don't think that a day is necessarily bad or good just because of its position in the week. Even in our crazy not-so-normal lives our attitude can go a long way in making a day "good" or "bad." We cannot always change anything about our circumstances and we cannot always find ways to lighten the load - but we can always change our attitude and make the best out of what we have.

We all have days that are better than others but some days seem to bring a lot more of a struggle. What are we supposed to do on those days? Typically my thoughts run to the scriptures when I am overwhelmed, and particularly the psalms. Sometimes what seems like the simplest phrase can bring healing and restoration. That phrase for me today is found in Psalm 46:4.

There is a river 
whose streams make glad 
the city of God,
the holy dwelling places
of the Most High.

I read a scripture or passage and then meditate on what sticks out in my mind. There is a river is what captured my thoughts today. To me a river is symbolic of refreshing; but just standing by the rolling water can help one relax and become calmer. I think we can experience that same relaxation by experiencing the river of God  in our lives.

Caregivers can be operating under a huge load of chores and tasks that it takes to just make it through the day. Minimally, the caregiver can experience the burden of care. Which means that many caregivers may not have to do all the physical chores, but there is still a lot of mental work that has to be done as well as choices made on behalf of another. It can be a large load for any heart and mind. How would we experience this river?

When we take a break and turn to His word we are sitting by the river. When we say a prayer and express how we know it is God who is carrying us - we are sitting by His river. Today I invite you to open your Bible with me to Psalm 46. Feel His refreshing as we read:

God is our refuge and strength
a very present help in trouble
therefore we will not fear,
though the earth should change
and though the mountains slip into the sea
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains quake at its swelling pride.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God
the holy dwelling places of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her
she will not be moved
God will help her when morning dawns.

We are God's dwelling place - individually and collectively. He is in us and we can experience the peace of His river even in the midst of turmoil.

Today I will meditate on God's presence in my life; and I will welcome Him. I will turn my thoughts to His peace and let Him bring me the relief my heart and mind needs. I declare today a rest day - and I will purposefully rest in the peace He brings to my heart and life. Will you join me?






Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Power of Weakness

Sometimes I hate it when people tell me "you're so strong." It's not because I don't like to be complimented, but more that I really don't feel "so strong." I also feel like the statement is left hanging like they meant to say "you're so strong compared to...." what? It's like in the back of their minds they think they couldn't handle caregiving. In reality none of us probably set it as our life goal; but it was handed to us and we adjust the best we can; and they would too. We are all very adaptable.

Maybe it bothers me because I feel anything but strong - I feel so weak. The caregiving journey has helped me to see and deal with my weaknesses. There's nothing like the caregiving role to reveal all those weak areas. Even though I feel very vulnerable and weak, I have learned how to rest in His strength. In 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 Paul was asking God to take away his "thorn in the flesh." There has been much argument over what exactly was giving Paul so much trouble - but whatever it was he asked God to remove it 3 times. God's response was: My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness."

This answer didn't seem to frustrate Paul at all. As a matter of fact it seems that he offered a quick response: Most gladly therefore will I rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. Rather than fighting to get out of the difficulties, he totally yielded to them so that the power of God could manifest itself in him.

Paul was no longer whining or complaining; but began to boast in being weak! When we realize how weak we are, we can begin to rely on God for strength. As long as we feel like we are strong in our own power we will not fully trust Him. I find that it's more difficult to trust Him for things I feel like I can do myself. When it goes beyond what I can accomplish, then I turn to Him for help. So like Paul we can say that caregiving is beyond what we can carry on our own. Then we can be glad we are weak and rather than begrudging the load - we can rejoice that God's grace is helping us carry it; and that His grace is carrying us through it as well.

When I am weak - I am strong because His grace empowers me. Therefore I can boast in my weakness because it is in those times that I can see how strong He is in me.

Today I will meditate on how He is strong for me and in me. I will purposefully yield to His strength and allow Him to carry me. My thoughts will be set on His grace and how it is enough for what I face today; and on His strength in me demonstrating to the world that His strength is perfected in my weakness. Will you join me?


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Less than Perfect

Have you ever had someone tell you that because your loved one wasn't healed you lacked faith? Sadly enough, I have. Yet if we look at all our Bible heroes we'll see that we admire them because of the trials they endured. Each of them give us a picture of how to trust God in adversity; and how to keep faith during intense testing and trials. Adversity is actually the true test of faith. It's in the midst of the trial that we find out just how much we trust God. Can we trust Him when our lives are less than perfect?

The caregiver's life is definitely "less than perfect" if we compare it to others. For some of it caregiving can mean that we are locked up in our own little cave unable to get out and about. For others, there may be some getting out - but there's not quite the freedom we see in the rest of the world. Caregiving can complicate everything on a variety of levels. We can't use the struggles of caregiving to measure our lives. We also cannot use the pleasures of caregiving as an accurate measure of life or faith.

This morning I was thinking about Moses and how he followed the Lord's leading to bring the Children of Israel out of Egypt's bondage. He led the "great escape" and they were free from Pharaoh's grip. But their rejoicing was short lived because they ran smooth into the Red Sea; and Pharaoh's army was closing in behind them.

Just because Moses ran into the Red Sea doesn't mean they were going the wrong direction.

The Red Sea was not a sign that Moses had done anything wrong or made a wrong turn along the way. It simply became an opportunity to trust God more. Moses and the Children of Israel were in a position for God to show Himself strong on their behalf. Caregiving can be a struggle; but it is not a sign of faithlessness or weakness; just an opportunity to trust Him more. It gives us the opportunity to see Him work directly in our lives.

When my son was first injured I thought for sure I'd done something wrong to end up in the situation. But we cannot use struggles and trials to measure ourselves or our lives. Every Bible hero faced something. It shaped them into the hero of faith we admire and enjoy studying today. When we face a Red Sea or an impasse in our lives it's not time to condemn ourselves and wonder what we did wrong; it's just a time to learn to trust Him more.

Today I will meditate on His sustaining mercy. I will think about how He doesn't abandon me when I face a "Red Sea" in my life; but He instructs me and goes with me through the struggles. Today I will thank Him for His wisdom, peace, direction and ever-abiding presence even in the trials. Will you join me?

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Committed to the Journey

The last few days we've been looking at three men of faith: Job, Noah, and Daniel. These are three of my Bible heroes along with many others. But these three men are mentioned together in Ezekiel 14. Twice, the Lord told Ezekiel that if Noah, Daniel and Job were in the land they would be delivered through righteousness. They couldn't "delver" anyone else, but they would be saved if the land was destroyed. I have spent much time pondering why He listed these three men.

What happened to Abraham, the friend of God? What about David, the man after God's own heart? Why not Moses, the one with whom God spoke face to face as a man speaks to his friend? What made Job, Noah and Daniel's stories so unique that God said these three men could deliver their own soul by their righteousness? Their situations were not similar, neither were their trials. Actually, all three faced difficult adversities of very different types. Like the caregiver has to do many times, they faced them alone.

Daniel stood by faith while he was a captive in a foreign land, Noah stood by faith in a wicked generation, and Job stood alone in the face of losing everything. No one could do it for them; and no one can carry your load for you either. Oh it's nice when someone comes to walk alongside you and it really helps to have friends or family along for the ride. But no one can do the caregiving for you. Like these three men of faith we must live what we know - we must live by faith whether we do it alone, or if others are with us on this journey.

We must be committed to the journey. The three men listed here in Ezekiel were committed to the journey of faith and they didn't let life's trials detour them. We as caregivers must be adamant about our journey of faith as well. I've found that it's not so much that I am keeping the faith; but rather it's faith that's keeping me. Our job as caregivers is a difficult one no matter what particulars we deal with each day. But we must keep putting one foot in front of the other, walking by faith. Sometimes we cannot see exactly where we are going and there certainly is no end in sight; but by faith we continue to seek God's direction for each day and simply walk it out like Job, Noah and Daniel. They did not let go - they continued to trust even in adversity.

I admire the tenacity of these three men; and I want to model it in my own life. They rocked their world because of their faith; and we can too.

Today I will meditate on what my faith means to me. I will turn my thoughts to how I can determine to trust Him more for each step I must take today. And I will thank Him that He is with me as I am committed to this journey of faith. Will you join me?

Monday, March 16, 2015

Standing Alone?

All of our Bible heroes faced some type of adversity. The stories about how they overcame or endured that adversity is what makes them our hero, isn't it? Noah is among those listed in the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11. The writer reminds us that was warned by God about things not yet seen. Noah took a huge leap of faith to obey God and began building the ark. He faced his own circumstances and lived in a generation of people who did not believe him. As far as we can tell no one helped him build the ark and no one stood with him. According to Genesis 6, Noah lived in a very wicked generation; he most likely lived in a very lonely place.

The caregiver can live in a lonely place too. In many ways, even if we are able to get out some there are times of isolation. When we do have the joy of getting out it can look so much different than others. For me, it means dealing with my son in his chair. In some settings, that can be isolating enough - no one knows what to do with us; so they do nothing. Yesterday, we walked down to a church in our neighborhood. Only one person greeted us - the speaker. We were sitting in the back to make room for his chair as I didn't want to block an aisle. People coming in the entrance had to walk right past us to get to the seating area. Not one of them spoke to us; not one of them greeted us. The children stared and adults looked away. In that moment I felt so isolated although I was in a crowd of "believers."

Noah faced a different type of isolation in that he was ridiculed for his beliefs. He lacked people to stand with him in his pursuit of God, godliness and righteousness. But he continued to stand.In many instances, the caregiver has to stand alone much like Noah. We must hold up a standard of righteousness even though no one stands with us; and we must do it alone. But verse 8 of chapter 6 it states: Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. Last week we talked some about how God's eye is on the righteous - He's watching over us. And like Noah, we have found grace in His eyes.

We are given the grace to make it one more day - whether we walk the caregiving journey alone or in a crowd. God's grace is sufficient to carry us through the toughest hours. Even those situations where no one knows quite what to do with us; His grace holds us secure in  Him.

Today I will meditate on His sustaining grace. I'll let Him worry about carrying me through today - and I won't work so hard. When I get tired, I will turn my thoughts to His mercy and grace and I will rest in Him once again. I will also meditate on the truth that I am accepted in the beloved and I won't look for man's approval. I'll just rest in His love, mercy and acceptance. Will you join me?

Friday, March 13, 2015

My Times are In His Hands

I can't even begin to imagine what Job went through. If you go back and read the first chapters of Job you'll see how he lost his children, his wealth and sustenance, his possessions and even his health. Sometimes I read Job when I think I can't handle anymore. Early on in my caregiving journey (and sometimes even now) I feel a great sense of loss. I had rid myself of my possessions and was headed to the mission field when my son was involved in the accident. When he was going to be released to "go home" I had nowhere to take him. Add that to losing who he was and I dealt with a heavy sense of loss for a long time.

I compensated for the losses I felt by buying anything I wanted. I'd see a movie, a book or a piece of furniture I liked and I'd buy it. It took me some time to realize I was making purchases and other allowances in my life to try and make up for the great loss I felt. I say that to say only on a very small scale can I begin to understand the enormity of loss Job had to feel. Even Job's friends didn't know what to say in the situation. When they heard of his tremendous trials they came and sat with Job. They sat in silence for seven days, because there really wasn't anything to say. I so appreciate my friends who have been present through this journey even though they may have been uncomfortable and didn't know what to say or do, don't you?

In Job 13:15, he declared, though God slays me - I will trust Him. I've heard it said that this was a lack of faith on Job's part. But I think that it was the ultimate statement of trust. Job was pretty much saying that no matter what the journey brought he was going to continue to trust the Lord.  Even though he was faced with huge losses Job clung to God. I can't say I've had that much tenacity in my situation. I've been angry and didn't care what role God wanted to play in my life. How could He let all this happen? I know nothing happens that doesn't cross His desk for approval first.

And yet gradually I worked my way back around to trusting Him for the journey. Eventually, I was able to say once again that no matter what life brought - it's better with Him than without Him. I found that He was patiently waiting. He wasn't angry, He didn't cast me away; but His gentle presence welcomed me freely. My times are in His hand declared the psalmist. (Psalm 31:15) I must rest in that truth and continue to trust Him.

Today I will meditate on trusting Him more fully. I will not worry about losses, I'll concentrate on His gentle presence in my life. I will rest in Him and trust that my times are in His hands and He's as committed to this journey as I am. Will you join me?

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Quick Escapes

When I first brought my son home I could not transport him by myself. Due to the head injury, he was very stiff and  sometimes wouldn't bend once you got his stood up. This made it difficult to get him in a vehicle. Add to that the fact that I was inexperienced at transfers and let's just say we stayed home a lot! Eventually, I was able to get a handicap van and we enjoyed a brief amount of freedom. It was short-lived as the van is very old and needs a lot of work. Presently it sits in a parking spot outside my apartment. I'm pretty much stranded. You might say I am a captive in my own house for the most part. I do have the option of public transportation and use it a couple of times a week.

Even though I sometimes feel like a captive in my own house, it's nothing compared to what others like Daniel have gone through. In the first chapter of Daniel we find the story of the captivity of a great number of Israelites. He found himself in great adversity. He was:

  • Held captive 
  • Physically mistreated and mutilated
  • Made incapable of having children
  • In a land foreign to his own
  • Separated from his family
Even though Daniel was in a state of adversity, he made up his mind about some things. In the first chapter, verse 8 the Bible tells us that he "purposed in his heart" to not eat the king's food. He refused to defile his body. Daniel was taking a big change here; he could have been killed simply for refusing.Here he was facing great adversity and a life that had become very complicated but he choose to hold to his convictions.

The caregiver's life can be a state of adversity. We can feel like we are held captive by the situation; and at times it seems like everyday is a battle. But like Daniel, we can make up our minds to be pure, to follow our convictions and hold true to the Word of God. We can choose to follow peace in our heart and not allow things in our lives that displease the One we serve.

God saw Daniel's dedication to Him. He did not offer him a quick escape from his situation. There is likely no quick escape for the caregiver. Instead, we see that Daniel was content in the situation and trusted that God would take care of him. Like Daniel we can't just look for quick escapes out of difficult situations, we must determine in our hearts that we will live a life of purity even in adversity. We must determine that we will live a life of purity and holiness before the Lord and not use our adversity for an excuse. We ultimately must trust Him for the safety of our hearts.

Today I will trust Him with my heart. I will purposefully evaluate my life to see if there is anything that might be displeasing to God. And I will remove it. I will not look for a quick escape - I'll look for a way to honor Him in my situation. Will you join me?

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Well, It Sounds Easy

Jesus spoke some powerful words in John 14:27. He was instructing His disciples about what to do after His departure. He explained that Holy Spirit would come and help them. I'm not sure the disciples were quite ready to live life without His up-close-and-personal presence. We all enjoy those times when God's presence is almost tangible. It's the times we can't feel, hear or sense His presence that are the toughest.

Jesus offered these words for His disciples and for us: Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. Even today He offers us a peace beyond our understanding. The caregiver's world is oftentimes anything but  peaceful! There are so many  needs... and so many questions like "How am I going to handle______?" I'm sure you can fill in the blank with any number of things like finances, transportation, or other decisions that sometimes have to be made on a daily basis.

But Jesus specifically said, do not let. "Let" is an action and takes work on our part. We are not to let our hearts be troubled or fearful. It may sound easy, but it's actually rather difficult. Jesus didn't give us any exclusions either! He didn't say, let not your heart be troubled nor let it be fearful.... unless it is a worthy concern; or unless it's too big for you to handle. There is no "unless;" it's just a "don't."

Another thing I find interesting in this scripture is that twice Jesus told us He was giving us peace; and twice He told us to not be fearful. He said, peace I leave, and peace I give. Then He said don't be fearful, and don't be afraid. For me this means that there is enough peace for me to have anytime I feel fearful. His peace is enough to match up with any fears the caregiver may face. We just have to accept His peace while working through to a workable solution.


Today I will meditate on allowing His peace to reign supreme in my heart. I'll wait for His peace before addressing situations and I will purposefully allow His peace to take over my heart and replace my fears. Will you join me?

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Running the Caregiver's Rat Race

Today I am reminded just how hectic the life of a caregiver can be. We might ought to apply for a juggling gig with all the things we have to do some days. We have to make and keep doctor appointments, work with aides and therapists, order supplies, stock supplies, pick up medications from the pharmacy; and that's all on top of the "normal" daily chores that have to be done like bathing, feeding, cooking, pureeing foods and just taking care of another whole adult body. Add to that some of the "normal" activities like babysitting grand-kids or shopping for groceries and you can have a pretty hectic rat race going on.

Thankfully even though our days are typically full, they are not always all that busy and full. Change is a constant friend. Psalm 46 describes some physical changes in the earth like mountains moving and shaking, and the earth being removed. Even though our physical world is not undergoing changes that drastic, as caregivers we live in a changing world where there is always "stuff to do." There's always something that needs our attention.

It's so important for us to take time to "be still." In Psalm 46, the psalmist describes world changing events but then ends it with God's words: Be still and know I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!"  What a beautiful reminder to not only take time to be still and acknowledge the presence of the Almighty; but also a reminder that He will be exalted in our tumultuous situations. Even in a world that is hectic and changing, God is present, The Lord of hosts is with us: the God of Jakob is our refuge. 

Sometimes we just need to quiet our hearts and minds and say, "I remember that You are God." Our situations do not change Him or anything about Him. He is still the same all-powerful God He was before tragedy or trouble struck. Sometimes we must settle ourselves down and just be thankful that our situations are not strong enough to change anything about Him.

Today I will meditate on the fact that He is God all by Himself. He did not change the day I became a caregiver, but remains one constant in my life. I will turn my thoughts to His ever-abiding presence and be thankful that He is with me on this journey called life. Will you join me?

Friday, March 6, 2015

His Eye is On Us

David wrote the first 7 verses of Psalm 32 in first person. He is speaking to God, acknowledging his faults and thanking God for forgiveness. In verse 7, the psalmist makes this statement:

You are my hiding place,
You preserve me from trouble;
You surround me with songs of deliverance.

This he finishes off with a "Selah!" Which simply signals the reader to stop, reflect on what was just said and take a moment to think about its depth. Even though verse 7 is a powerful reminder that God is with us, providing shelter and singing over us even in the storms of life - it's the next verse that catches my eye.

In verse 8 there is a total switch and God is responding to David. He says:

I will instruct you and teach you
in the way which you should go;
I will counsel you
with My eye upon you.

God says He will instruct us, teach us and counsel us. We don't have to wander through life like we are trying to find our way out of a deep, dark forest. He provides all the help we need along the way. While I am thankful for His instruction, counsel, teaching and help, the last phrase stands out to me. God isn't just throwing instruction our direction - He has His eye on us. He is watching us - actively involved.

I take taekwondo and my instructor always has an eye on us. Right in the middle of a sparring match she may say, "when you make that kick..." or "watch for those open shots." And for me she is usually telling me to "keep your guard up" or "don't beat up the white belts." (smile) God is like that - He's not just sitting far away on His throne sending out general instructions. He is watching us and offering us specific strategies on how to deal with life. He gives us wisdom  when we ask. We have what we need - but it is good to know that He has His eyes on us. 

Today I will meditate on the truth that He sees me. I will meditate on how He is actively involved in my life. I will specifically ask Him for wisdom for today - and I will listen. Will you join me?

Thursday, March 5, 2015

I'm not Stuck - I'm Going Through

I have read story after story by caregivers who feel like they are carrying the responsibility all alone; and in too many cases, they are. Caregiving can be a lonely walk. Not only are there limitations when it comes to outings, friends don't really know what to do with your new lifestyle either. They don't realize that your likes and dislikes didn't change when you became a caregiver. Did you like playing cards or going to movies before caregiving? Then it is likely that you still do. But sometimes those outings are no longer practical and in some cases they are not possible. You are the same person but your social scene may have changed. This can add to the loneliness that many caregivers experience.

The good news is that even when you feel all alone - you are not. I find myself returning to a favorite passage in Isaiah 43. It says something like this:

When you pass through the waters
I will be with you;
And through the rivers,
they will not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire
you will not be scorched,
nor will the flame burn you.
For I am the Lord your God...

Caregiving can become a heavy load if we carry it all alone; and we can feel like we are going down for the third time. And realistically, there is a lot to fear. My own fears have involved things like making financial decisions, medical decisions and a whole host of decisions all made for someone else and affecting others. What if I make the wrong decision? It can be a vicious cycle. The good thing is that we are not going through all alone. God is with us!

Notice in Isaiah each phrase includes the word, "through." It doesn't say you are stuck in the water or the fire but when you go through the trials. We are not stuck and we are not going through all alone. He is with us.

This makes me think of Psalm 23:4 where David says even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death - I will fear no evil.  Why? Because You are with me. 

Today I will meditate on the fact that God has not left me hanging in the midst of the trial. He is walking it through with me. I will remind myself that God is with me on this journey and sometimes - He has to carry me. Today I will think about relying more on His strength and less on my own - because quite frankly, mine runs out. Will you join me?

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Family Resemblence

In 1 Peter 4:11, the apostle tells the reader that when we serve we are to do so with the strength  which God supplies. He also says that the final outcome of serving others is to see God glorified.When I first became a caregiver I could not see how God could possibly be glorified. After all, I was headed to the mission field to work for Him. I dealt with a lot of frustration when my "life" as I knew it was disrupted by caregiving. Our illusion has been that the only way to serve God is to work in "the church." If you don't teach Sunday School, lead worship or preach surely you are not serving Him.

Caring for our loved ones is a demonstration of the love of Christ to the rest of the world. John 15:13 quotes Jesus as saying, "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends." We as caregivers offer a true picture of faith, love and compassion. In many instances, the caregiver has sacrificed their own lives in order to provide care for another. Isn't that what Jesus did for us? He paid the ultimate sacrifice.

One day I was caring for my son and I was mourning my old life; but I knew that I loved him too much to think about it too long - or to ever go back. In that moment I realized that it was that type of deep love that held Jesus to the cross. It's the exact same love that keeps us serving our loved ones. We bear a family resemblance, we look like Him when we serve.

Today I will meditate on His great love for me. I will think about the truth that He did not abandon me when life got ugly. Today I will continue to think about His ever abiding presence and peace in my life. I will enjoy Him today as He provides the strength to serve. Will you join me?

Monday, March 2, 2015

Without Complaint?

1 Peter 2:23 tells us that when Jesus suffered He did so without "uttering threats." I take it that He didn't yell back at His accusers or tormentors. He didn't tell them what He could do to them; and He suffered in silence. I can honestly say that I have not done that! I've said some pretty harsh things through this furnace and particularly during those really long nights. The load can become so heavy for caregivers that we speak from our pain or frustration. Many times, we don't really mean what we say - but in many cases, they are things that should never be uttered. Jesus, our example, did not speak out of turn, out of pain, and offered no complaint. He simply entrusted Himself to Him who judges righteously. 

Caregivers deal with constant pain and grief in many cases. If we follow the example our leader gave us - we are constantly presenting our pain and our situation to our Father. And we must let Him judge. Those who are on the outside of the Caregiver's Cave can be judgmental as they are just looking in at - but not actually in our situation.They can oftentimes say hurtful words, make snap judgments, or "should" on us. It can be easy for someone who is not walking through the furnace to judge. Thankfully, our Judge is not a human - He sees and knows all. He sees past our situation and into our hearts. He not only observes our deepest struggles - He understands them; and offers no condemnation.

He sees where we are and what we need; and He offers us whatever we need for our journey. Even though He is very aware of our weak spots, He offers no condemnation and supports us with His love. He offers peace, wisdom, strength...whatever we need right now to put one foot in front of the other. He has it and makes it available to us. We can rest easy in His embrace knowing that when it gets too tough - He is carrying us through.

Today I will meditate on His strength in me. I will turn my thoughts to His peace, patience and lovingkindness. I will let Him carry me when I need it. And I will rest in His embrace. Will you join me?