Thursday, April 30, 2015

Tenacity and Attitude

Do you ever wish there was some sort of caregiver's training available? I have found it to be more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants situation. We learn as we go and become experts on our loved one's condition. I started out pretty timid when it came to advocating for my son. But I learned over the years how to get things done. Perhaps some of the things I learned are not proper, or socially acceptable, but when it comes to getting people off their back ends and doing their job for my son - oh well!

I've always been one who has had a little attitude, but the tenacity and attitude that I've witness develop in myself as a caregiver has surprised me. We not only evolve into this caregiving role, we learn how to handle situations; hopefully with grace. But then there are those times when we know we have to grab the bull by the horns and get things done. I've found that even the quietest, gentlest person can become a bull fighter when needed.

In the Bible, my example is Benaiah. Never heard of him? I'm not surprised. He's only mentioned in two spots and he only gets about two verses. He is mostly unseen, like the caregiver. He most likely spent years training as a warrior and a fighter but all we get is this little glimpse into who he was. Here's what is said about him in 1 Samuel 23:20-21:

Then Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, the son of a valiant man of Kabzeel, who had done mighty deeds, killed the two sons of Ariel of Moab. He also went down and killed a lion in the middle of a pit on a snowy day. He killed an Egyptian, an impressive man. Now the Egyptian had a spear in his hand, but he went down to him with a club and snatched the spear from the Egyptian's hand and killed him with his own spear.

What I noticed first of all is that he ran into the pit to kill the lion. He did not wait on the lion to come out or attack - he ran into the pit. And it was a snowy day which means that footing would be tricky. He did not take an easy route, he saw what he needed to do and got it done. That's the tenacity of  a caregiver!

I find this little mentioned man to be intriguing. He is full of tenacity and attitude. I see caregivers the same way. We are not just sitting idly by and waiting for anything - we know how to get up and get going and get what is needed done. Most of us have most likely taken out a lion or two in our time as caregivers. You know, those situations that roar at you?

Today I am going to think about the changes that God has brought about in my life through caregiving. I will meditate on how it is God who gives me strength for the battle. I will turn my thoughts to the ways He has helped me deal with the situation in a positive way. And I will face today with tenacity and attitude, will you join me?

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Behind Before I Begin

Caregivers typically have long lists of things that need to be done every day. If you think about it, they are taking care of another whole person and for many who take care of an individual who is total care it means doing all the basics at least twice every day; once for yourself and once for your loved one. Some mornings we can get up ready to take on the world and get a day's worth of chores done. Other days we can wake up feeling behind before we even get started.

I wonder if Moses ever felt that way. He could be considered a caregiver of sorts. He had millions of people that he was leading across to the Promised Land. They all had to be fed, clothed and cared for. I can't imagine what Moses dealt with on a daily basis. And while he didn't have to meet some of their basic physical needs, they looked to him for direction, sustenance, and guidance. I think what has amazed me about Moses' character was that no matter how rough it got and how crazy the Israelites acted his prayers were full of mercy and love toward them. God even told Moses at one point that He would wipe them out and start over with new people and make another great nation starting with Moses. (Exodus 32) Moses immediately cried out for mercy for his people. I want that kind of heart. I have to ashamedly admit that I would more likely tell God to,  "Go ahead, I'll wait right here!"

But in reality isn't it that deep mercy, concern and care that keeps us at our loved one's side? No matter how rough it becomes we just roll up our sleeves a little further to make things happen. There are so many aspects to caregiving besides taking care of physical needs. Moses wasn't just "in charge" of the Israelites, he was in love with them. He advocated on their behalf numerous times. I don't think we are really much different. No matter how difficult it gets, the caregiver is not looking to meet their own needs but those of the one for whom they are caring.

Well you know what? God cares for us, for you and me the caregiver. 1 Peter 5:7 encourages us to Cast all your cares on Him, for He cares for you. I think there are a couple of ways to look at the phrase He cares for you. On one hand He cares for or takes care of us much like we do our loved one. And on the other hand is the perspective that says He cares for you  meaning He can do all the caring and you won't have to. We can relax as we remember that He is in control. He's got the caregiver's back and He will take care of us and do the caring for us when we need Him to.

Today I will let anxiety go. I will meditate on the truth that He cares for me as much as (or more than) I care for my loved one. I'll think about how God is my caregiver. I'll turn my thought to how much He loves me and I will let Him do the caring for me today.  Will you join me?

Monday, April 27, 2015

Search Me O God

When my son was first injured and we were living in the hospital, I knew I had to find a way to get adequate exercise so I took up running. I thought it was an inexpensive sport that I could virtually do anywhere. It's been sort of a lifeline for me over the years. Running has become what I do to deal with the difficulty of caregiving. It helps me physically but it also helps me beat depression and clears my brain. It's really about the only thing I do, and the only reason I get out. 

Yesterday, I ran my 16th half marathon. I proudly added my finisher's medal to my overloaded rack on the wall. But I had something happen during my race that had to do with caregiving. As I neared mile 5 of the course there was a drumline playing. It totally caught me off guard. My son was the drum caption and the center snare for his college drumline before his accident. Seeing a drumline live brought back a flood of memories and I collapsed in tears. Eventually, I gathered myself and continued down the course to finish the race.

Things can be so much more than what we see and we never know what a person is dealing with on the inside. In Psalm 139, David talks about how God sees our insides. He knows our comings and our goings. Sometimes people are scared to see that deeply into another person; and sometimes we are too scared to let them look. But God sees past our fears, our emotions and the walls we build to keep others out. He sees what makes us tick. And He still hangs around!

I encourage you to take time to read this psalm today and think about how intimately God knows you. David says in the last two verses:
Search me O God and know my heart,
Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
And see if there be any hurtful way in me, 
And lead me in the way everlasting.

Our hearts are safe with God and He knows and understands everything we feel. He knows what makes us tick and He's not afraid to be close to us.

Today as I meditate on how He knows my thoughts, I will think about His closeness. My thoughts will be on His ever abiding presence and the fact that He is not afraid to continue to hang around even through life's storms. I'll think about how He loves me in the midst of the hurt and difficulties. And I will relax and let Him search my heart. He is safe, He cares. He loves.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Reachin' for those Bootstraps!

Did you ever hear the saying pull yourself up by your own bootstraps? In essence, it means to grab hold and get yourself out of where you are. For the caregiver there are many days we feel like we have to pull ourselves up out of the fog that surrounds us. Because we can be socially isolated, it can be difficult to find the encouragement we need on those days when life weighs in too heavily. On these days we may find ourselves trying to find our proverbial bootstraps so we can pull ourselves up enough to function. We don't always have another choice.

Some days I find myself reaching for those bootstraps to get my attitude and outlook to a point where I can face the day. That doesn't count making it through the day, just facing it can wear us out at times. Where is your go-to spot? What does your bootstrap look like? My bootstraps (what I use to get out of the caregiver's fog) is usually Psalms. I've always enjoyed the Psalms because David and the other writers are so upfront and honest with their feelings. They don't sugar coat it but instead they lay it out there like they see it at the time.

Today my thoughts go to Psalm 13 where the psalmist empties his soul by saying:
How long O Lord? Will You forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
How long will I take counsel in my soul
Having sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long will my enemy be exalted over me?

We get the picture that David was feeling on the bottom and that he was in a position where he felt he needed to pull himself up by his own bootstraps! He asks God to keep him from being overcome by the enemy and for Him to hear his cries for help. I can pray that a lot of mornings, can't you?

But I love David's style because he never leaves it hanging. He goes right into his own solution - and demonstrates what it looks like to get a good hold on his bootstraps! It might be that he is simply reminding himself of the fact that he has trusted in the Lord's lovingkindness. Then he makes a statement of what he intends to do with that My heart will rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord.

It can be easy to focus on the negatives and the heaviness of the load the caregiver carries. But no one can carry it for us, even if we have tons of helpers along the way. We must get to the point where we can declare our part - I will trust. I will rejoice. I will sing. I'm going to find my I will's.

Today I will trust the Lord for strength to face my tasks. I will meditate on His mercy and the truth that He is carrying me and strengthening me for the journey. I will trust in His strength rather than in my own. I will rejoice in His never failing love; and I will sing of His heart which is always turned toward me and never away. Will you join me?

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Did You Hear That?

As if the life of a caregiver didn't have enough daily ups and downs, it can seem like life just feels the need to throw a few more circumstances at us sometimes. Yesterday, my day had so many ups and downs my emotions were all drained out by evening. There was good: the mobility van was fixed and running. Then there was bad: now the lift is broke. Of course I had cancelled our ride arrangements for the next two days since I was getting the van back. So we are stuck at home again for a little bit. But such is a day.

Needless to say, today I feel the need to heed the words of Psalm 46:10 Be still and know that I am God. It is difficult to be still when your thoughts are running all around in your head. So I am sipping my second cup of coffee and trying to get my head and my heart to slow down and take this day one second at a time instead of in a whole lump all at once.

I found myself in Psalm 143 during my devotions as I was trying to calm myself down to face the day. The psalmist starts out with a plea to God to:
Hear his prayer
Listen to his pleading
Answer his pleas for help
Caregivers can find themselves in situations where we just want God to hear us, listen to our hearts and answer us in His faithfulness. David goes on in this Psalm to explain what he is feeling at the moment:
My spirit is overwhelmed
My heart is desolate
My heart feels like fainting

He's crying out for answers and help in his situation. And the caregiver asks for nothing less. In verse 7, David says answer me quickly Lord, before my spirit fails. Who hasn't felt like that? Any number of situations can arise in a day of caregiving and we feel like we are just going to faint if God doesn't provide some answers. They don't even have to be the ones we want or like - but we just need some answers.

This morning as I was trying to slow my heart and mind down and absorb something from His word, my eye fell on verse 8. Let me hear Your lovingkindness in the morning. Can we hear mercy? Is His lovingkindness real enough to feel? Of course my head went off with tons of questions; but my thoughts ended up with the woman the Pharisees brought to the temple. You know, the one the leaders brought to Jesus to condemn? (John 8) 

They were saying she had been caught in sin and should be stoned. But Jesus did not condemn her. He asked the one without sin to throw the first stone at her; and they all just walked away. I wonder if she heard mercy that day? She certainly heard the hate and condemnation in the voices of the Pharisees. Today I need to hear mercy in His voice. While I'm going to guess that God does not fix vans or redeem us from every single situation we face as caregivers, I am going to lean on Him for direction and answers today. 

Today I will meditate on His great, endless mercy. I will purposefully lean in close to Him and listen for His heart beating for me. My thoughts will be on how He can bring peace into a tumultuous situation and calm the emotionally raging soul. And I will cling to His peace today. Will you join me? 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Digging Down Deep

Sometimes there's no rhyme or reason for the way caregivers feel. A day can be going along fine and our routine normal and then out of nowhere comes a wave of emotions or depression. Some days I wake up and am overcome by the mere thoughts of the day's tasks that lie ahead. Today is one of those days. How can I be tired before I even get started? And how can I be running behind before one task is done? I don't know. It can be difficult to determine  the exact cause of emotional distress. No matter what lies behind it, it must be worked through to finish the day's tasks.

Days like this are simply tiring but I'm afraid caregivers have many of them. How do we find encouragement and strength to get through the day and get everything done? No one is going to give us a day off! That's for sure. We find ourselves needing to dig down deep to encourage ourselves to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

David found himself in a position where he was all alone and his world had crumbled around him. He was fighting on the wrong side of the war with soldiers who didn't trust his motives so he was excluded. His wives were missing and he was trying to find a way to encourage himself in the Lord. He was in a position to dig down deep and find a way to make it through. Sometimes it feels like everyday is like that.

Today no matter how deep we have to dig, there is a way to find encouragement to make it through. Personally, my first thought is that He is with me. My mind goes to Psalm 46:1 where the psalmist says that God is a very present help in time of trouble. Verse 7 of this same psalm reminds us that the Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jakob is our stronghold. I remind myself that He has been with me for the entirety of this caregiving journey and He's not going anywhere!

Not only is He with me - He is carrying me on days when I feel like I can't go another step. He is a stronghold where I can hide from the storm until I catch my breath. But He also has a strong hold on me and my heart.

Today I will meditate on the truth that He has a hold on me and He's not letting go! I will turn my thoughts to His presence and the fact that He will remain with me through the toughest days and nights - and He has no where else to go! My heart will rejoice because He has my back and He gives me strength for the day. Will you join me today?

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Great-grandmother to a King

This week we've been talking about how adversity can offer a door to hope. It's not that hope makes the pain of losses any less, but it does give way to a brighter future no matter what the circumstances are. Today's character is Ruth; it's such a beautiful story. As most stories do, it starts out with conflict and trouble. Ruth had married young and her husband died after about 10 years. To make matters worse, as real life does, there was a famine in the land. Naomi decided to return to Judah to her family since her husband and two sons were dead.

Ruth decided that she was going to remain loyal to Naomi and go with her to Judah. Naomi tried to discourage her by telling here there was no hope. She told Ruth, Go for I am too old to have a husband. If I said I have hope, if I should even have a husband tonight and also bear sons would you therefore wait until they were grown?....for the hand of the Lord is against me.(Ruth 1:12-13)

The custom of the day would have been for Ruth or Naomi to marry a brother of their deceased husband who could raise up children in his brother's name. Naomi had no other sons and she was a widow herself. There really was no hope in the womb. Ruth decided to see despair as a window of hope and she pledged her loyalty to her mother-in-law and returned to Judah with her. This had to be a difficult decision. She had lost her husband and was leaving her native land and traveling to a foreign one. But her great adversity became very hope-filled.

Naomi's kinsman, Boaz ended up redeeming Naomi according to the custom of the day. This meant that he ultimately provided for her and took her as his bride. Through their union - which occurred because of an adverse situation, Ruth gave birth to Obed; he was Jesse's father. And Jesse was the father of our beloved King David. So even though her situation was painful, she became the great-grandmother of a king.

Things had looked bleak, as they often do in life. Naomi stated there was no hope and she felt like the hand of the Lord was against her. It can be easy when life piles up on you to feel that way. Honestly, I've felt that way many times. It can seem like there is nothing good and that life has taken aim at you. Or maybe it's just me! Caregiving is a rocky ride at best and stressful situations abound and have a tendency to snowball on you at times. But there is always hope. Adversity and pain are not signs that God is against you. Sometimes it seems options are few and there is no end to pain. But there is always hope on the horizon. Remember that He is the God of hope. From the darkest seasons of our lives will come a ray of light and hope will arise. What an opportunity to trust Him more!

Today I will meditate on how He opens up a door of hope even in adversity. I will not dedicate my time to my trouble; but instead I will look ahead to where He is leading. When I feel like life has blinded me - I will trust Him to give me new vision and hope. I will trust Him for today and for tomorrow for there is hope. Will you join me?

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Joseph's Journey

Yesterday I spent more time thinking about how adversity can open the door of hope. My thoughts led me to Joseph. God had given him dreams when he was a young boy and his family had made fun of him and judged him for it. I am sure he wondered some about those dreams as he was imprisoned for something he did not do.

Joseph's situation was dire. First of all, prisons back then were nothing like they are today. While our prisons are not pleasant, they are humane. I figure it had to be a very lonely place for Joseph. His family was far away and they weren't coming to look for him. Did he think back about those childhood dreams?  I wonder if he thought about his brothers and family while he was there. Did he ever think about what it would have been like if he hadn't been betrayed and sold by his brothers?

I also wonder if forgiveness and acceptance were daily choices for Joseph. In my situation, someone else caused the accident which injured my son and made me a caregiver. Sometimes I think about what my son would have been doing if the accident hadn't occurred. This can easily make forgiveness a daily choice. Just like Joseph most likely sat in a dark prison, caregiving can seem very dark and lonely at times. But it doesn't mean the dreams are dead.

God didn't say, I know I gave you dreams Joseph, I just forgot this other stuff was going to happen. He didn't erase the dreams because of life's adverse situations. Instead, the prison became its own door of hope. Of course, we read these chapters in a few minutes while Joseph lived out years of his life. In one chapter we see that he is brought out of prison and becomes a great leader. In another his brothers come seeking food and there is a great reunion. And then they lived happily ever after.

Joseph's dreams came true but not in the way he thought they would; and not in the time frame he would have probably preferred. His adversity became a door of hope for his whole family. And in the end, his dreams played out just like God had promised.

Caregiving can be a lonely place and it can seem like there is never a light in the end of the tunnel. But just like Joseph we have choices even in our situation. We can choose to forgive, and keep trusting God or we can quit. It's as simple as that. Maybe life isn't playing out like we thought, and maybe our dreams seem on hold. But we have a choice over our attitude and whether we will use adversity to find hope or use it as an excuse to become bitter. Me? I choose to look for the door of hope each day. Some days I have to look harder than others to find the positives, to find hope. But it's there if we look for it.

Today I will meditate on the hope that knowing Him brings. I will purposefully look for the positives today and rest in hope even in adversity. I will set my mind on things above and let God handle the big stuff. I will choose to forgive and I will keep dreaming even when it looks impossible. Will you join me?

Monday, April 13, 2015

A Door of Hope

The first couple of chapters of Exodus contains two things that I have found very interesting. In the first chapter  I found it interesting that the midwives were directly blessed by God for disobeying Pharaoh. Verse 21 state that they feared God and He established households for them.  Even though it was a very tough time for them and their people, they continued to trust and fear the Lord rather than caving in to man's evil commands.

In chapter 2 we read about the birth of Moses and how his mother protected him until he was found by Pharaoh's daughter in a basket in the Nile. Those who are familiar with scripture know that as the story unfolds, Moses becomes the deliverer who God uses to take His children out of Egypt's bondage and into the promised land. This time of great adversity became a door of hope for the Children of Israel.

The caregiver's life can be filled with adversity and some days every breath can be a struggle. But there's a scripture in Hosea 2:15 that says the valley of achor will be a door of hope. "Achor" means pain or trouble. Sometimes when we are facing another day of caregiving we can't see the hope that lies beyond our present circumstances. And there are times when we are so busy with caregiving that we forget there is anything else out there. But adversity gives way to hope.

For me personally, I was able to become a writer after becoming a caregiver. When my son was injured I began looking for work I could do online because I knew he was going to need care for the long haul. It was an area I would have never explored before. Over the last couple of years I also completed a Master's degree. I would not have taken the time to do that had I not been in this situation. While those things do not make the caregiving go away - they give me hope that I can make a living for us without compromising the care of my son.

Adversity has a way of bringing out the best and the worst of us! If we can take a deep breath, manage our attitude, and move forward with grace there is hope. Moses didn't look like a leader lying in that basket floating in the Nile. The midwives were not trying to change a nation, they just desired to honor God. The times of adversity that they faced were painful and trying at best - just like caregiving. But the adversity gave way to hope for an entire nation of people.

Our struggles are making us stronger in faith whether we recognize it or not. Just like the butterfly's wings are strong enough to fly because of the fight to get out of the cocoon, our faith becomes strong as we fight to face each day. And faith gives way to hope; and there is no shame in hope.

Today I will meditate on His faith-full-ness when my faith feels so small. I will turn my thoughts to the good things that have happened since I became a caregiver. I will look at my adversity as a doorway for hope and allow it to enter my heart and life to bring about grace and change. Will you join me?

Friday, April 10, 2015

I'm Okay

It can be difficult to answer some of the simplest questions like How are you? The easiest answer is I'm okay. But a lot of people don't really like that answer. What are we supposed to say? I'm sure they do not want a rundown of what our day really  looks like. We could say: tired, frustrated, exhausted, too busy to breathe, hurried, emotionally drained... you get the idea. So we opt for a simple I'm okay and just leave it there. It's okay to be "okay".

Okay is an in-between term that lies somewhere between really good and horribly bad. Maybe it actually signifies a balance in our lives for the moment. It's actually a fair answer to a very difficult question. We can also use it when we just really are not sure how we are doing for the moment. What caregiver has time to check to see if they are okay or not? Sometimes when I get up I might consider my energy level and assess how I feel; but we don't have time to think about if we are okay or not - we have to get going there is so much to get done and really how we feel is irrelevant.

I think of the story in 2 Kings 4 where the prophet had prayed and blessed the Shunammite woman with a son. When he died she went right out to find the prophet. Elisha's servant ran ahead and asked how she and her family was. Even though her son had just died, she said, "It is well." In today's vernacular that would be about the same as It's okay. Yet her son had just died, so was she lying or was it a statement of faith? Sometimes just saying I'm okay takes great faith.

By the time the woman got to the prophet her true feelings were displayed. She fell at his feet and he recognized the anguish in her soul. Then she spoke from the pain she was bearing. Are you ever worried that someone will "push the wrong button" and you'll just spill your guts? That someone will hit just the right nerve and you'll start saying what you really think and feel? We can stay guarded all we want but sometimes there is a deep pain or grief that remains unspoken. I'm okay really is the best answer sometimes.

It doesn't mean you are lying or weak of faith. It means you are holding on for one more day. To say I'm okay also means you are not acknowledging defeat but are pushing forward and continuing to move in a positive direction no matter what the circumstances look like. It's not a negative statement at all; but rather an acceptance of yes I can do this. It might be the most positive statement filled with all the faith in your heart.

Today I will meditate on the fact that I'm okay. I will think about how God has my back and how together we can handle anything life and caregiving brings. My thoughts will be on how God pours His strength in me so I can care for another; and today I will think about how He has not left me alone on this journey. My meditation will be on the truth that He equips me for the journey and because of His strength, grace and mercy in me - It really is okay. And that's a good place to be. Will you join me?

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Daily Bread

As a general rule I am a planner. I'm pretty flexible inside my "plan" but I like to have everything organized, thought out and well planned. At the same time, I can get by with some fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants days. The one thing about caregiving is that a schedule can mean absolutely nothing. Everyday stands (or falls) on its own. Joni Erikson Tada is someone I've followed for many years now. I read her book about how she was injured and became a quadriplegic in her teens. She says the thing about having a disability is that it's so daily. There isn't a day off - ever. Caregiving is the same.

We don't have weekends, holidays or days off. Even though I try to get out of town two or three times a year just to have a break I'm on call and never really "off" even though I get somewhat of a break from daily tasks. Caregiving is a constant - ever moving, never ending, never done job.

As I am getting in bed at night my thoughts are combing back over the day's activities and turning toward tomorrow's. Last night as I was drifting off to sleep I thought of how daily caregiving is and I prayed for strength for another day. I thought of Lamentations 3:22-23 that tells us His mercies and lovingkindness are new every morning. I thought about how I was going to need a fresh dose upon rising this morning!

Jesus taught His disciples to pray give us this day our daily bread. And while God was leading the Children of Israel across the desert to the Promised Land, He provided them just enough manna for each day.

So today I have to say that I trust Him to carry me and provide for me just what I need for today. Tomorrow is to be planned for but not worried about. Today He will give me the mercy, grace, peace and sustenance to make it to tomorrow. And then He will do it again!

It's the day-to-day struggles that can get us down if we do not stay focused on Him. That constant grinding of daily activities can wear us down. So today I will focus just on today and His provision for it. I will meditate on His fresh mercies this morning and trust Him to see me through until I face another day tomorrow.  My thoughts will be on His sustaining grace and how He alone can make each day new. I will trust Him for strength for today. Will you join me?

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

What a Wait!

I've never been very good at awaiting no matter what the situation. From doctor's offices to DMVs to standing in line at WalMart - I just don't do well. It may be that my mind is going a hundred miles an hour, or it could be that I finally have time to think of all the things I could be doing instead. Whatever it is about my makeup waiting just doesn't fit me well.

We've talked a lot in our devotions about waiting on God and maybe I have seen just a tiny bit of improvement since I've become a caregiver. We have some great examples of men and women of faith who waited on God patiently; and some who waited not-so-patiently too. Abraham and Sarah waited for years for God to fulfill His promise; and Joseph waited many years for his dream to come true. When we read the scriptures we can cover several chapters in a matter of minutes and it can be easy to forget that years passed between one chapter and the next.

Last night I was reading in Daniel. I love his story and how he remained faithful to the Lord even though he was in a tough physical situation. We can read this entire book in just a few minutes but we are talking 70 years from the first chapter to the last. That's a lifetime of waiting.

In chapter 9 of Daniel, we find him looking back over the prophecies that were given by Jeremiah. Daniel had most likely read and reread these prophecies during his captivity and he recalled that God promised it would only last 70 years; and it had been 70 years. That's a long time to keep the faith and to continue to trust God through daily adversity. As caregivers, our journeys are not always super smooth or pleasant but most of us have not been in our situation for 70 years.

So Daniel realizes that the 70 years are complete according to the Word of the Lord and he sets himself in prayer. Toward the end of the ninth chapter, he prays this:

Our God listen to the prayer of Your servant,
and to his supplications
For Your sake, O Lord 
Let Your face shine on Your desolate sanctuary.
O my God, 
Incline Your ear and hear!
Open Your eyes and see our desolations...

Caregiving can be a lonely place and sometimes, like Daniel, we just need God to hear and to see us. Our challenge is remaining faithful during the trials of day-to-day living. It can be difficult to be patient. And while there are some pleasant days - each day can be filled with hard work that leaves us exhausted mentally, physically, and emotionally at the end of the day.

Today as we take care of our loved one, let us meditate on simply remaining faithful in our walk with God and meditating on the truth that He has not left us to walk it alone. 

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

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Some Things Never Change

It took me awhile to learn that it was okay to grieve the life I lost when I became a caregiver. Of course, it's not healthy to park there emotionally, but it is okay to grieve over what was lost. I think at first I felt guilty for grieving, like maybe I didn't want to be my son's caregiver if I was sorry over what I had before his accident. Once I grieved, cried and got it out of my system though, I was able to move on and be a better caregiver by giving my full attention to his needs.

There are a lot of things that change as we transition into the role of caregiver. For some there are a few schedule changes but for others it is an entire lifestyle change. In my situation I lost the freedom to come and go as I wanted to, the spontaneity of life no longer existed. I had to gather all my stuff and my son's stuff up into one location which took quite a long time. I physically moved twice after his wreck to try and provide better care and to make sure he was close to family.

For a long time I felt the loss of my "former" life; but now it seems so far away. Contentment did not come over night. Yes, I know Paul said that he learned to be content  in whatever state he was in but it was a rather sharp learning curve for me! My whole world changed that morning I got that phone call, plans were on hold and all my possessions left behind. But this morning I am reminding myself of some of the things that never changed  in my life.

In Jeremiah 31:3, God tells the prophet that He has loved with an everlasting love. His love for us does not change when we face adversity. His care for us is not moved by life's hard knocks. The psalmist said that God is a very present help in time of need. (Psalm 46:1) His presence and His love are just two things that will never change. Our whole world can be turned upside down and inside out - but He will be constant in His love, His mercy, His grace and His ever abiding presence in our lives.

He won't leave us to walk it alone. I look at it this way. My son needs my full attention and care. He became an adult, left home and was about to finish college and in an instant became like a baby again. I did not walk away from him when life got tough. In the same way, God will not abandon us just because life no longer looks ideal. He is ever present, ever helping, ever sustaining us by His love. Some things never change. And for this I am thankful.

Today I will meditate on His ever abiding presence and never ending love. I am going to let that carry me through today. I will purposefully think about the mercy He continues to extend to me on this caregiving journey; and I will rest as I trust in Him. Will you join me?

Friday, April 3, 2015

Quick Change of Clothes

I don't know about you but lately my days seem overly busy and downright crazy at times. It can be so easy to get carried away in the details of caring for another. And try making one simple change to something as basic as a meal plan, changing a supply order or going with a new company for an aide and a snowball effect of crazy events can begin. There's a reason we can feel like we have too many irons in the fire. We do. But they are all necessary in order to take care of ourselves and our loved ones.

Caregivers have days where we are just tired. It does not change the long list of chores we have to accomplish for the day, but we can be tired before we even begin.

It can be easy to get caught up in the world of caregiving and forget about ourselves. We sort of wear this caregiver's mantle because we need to. We can be that take-charge-kind-of-person it takes to get things done. Who else is going to do it, right?

This morning when I arose I thought about how tired I was before the day even got started. In my daily devotions, I found myself in Isaiah 61. There were several phrases that caught my eye today.

comfort all who mourn
giving a garland instead of ashes
oil of gladness instead of mourning
mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting

I paused and thought about just these phrases in the first three verses. Honestly, I wondered if I could have some insteads. Garlands, gladness and praise sounds good to me! My thoughts sort of landed on that last one, a mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. 

We are the same person we were before we became a caregiver; but it's important to remember that before we are a caregiver, we are a child of God. Today, I decided to take off my caregiver mantle for a little bit and put on a mantle of praise.

It's as easy as it is difficult to praise God. If you don't know where or how to begin, just think about the things He's done and tell Him "good job!" Even in our crazy lives there is something to be thankful for - I like to start there. Just take a moment or two to express your thanks to Him. It will change your perspective and lighten your heart.

Today I will meditate on Him and His great works in my life and in the lives of others. I will intentionally find ways to praise and thank God. My thoughts will be on His greatness rather than my weakness. I will imagine I have on a mantle of praise today. Will you join me?

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Can You Hear Me Now?

One thing that can upset an already jam-packed day is for your loved one to become ill. Most caregiver's schedules are already tight enough without having to take care of the additional issues that arise from an illness, no matter how brief. This week, my son has been ill and to add to the complications, we had been in a situation recently which demanded we change doctors. This meant that I was dealing with a doctor who does not know my son's medical history and does not know me.

I called and spoke to the nurse several times only to basically be blown off as she finally said, "Why don't you just take him where you normally take him." (Yes, that just happened!) I was not happy about that at all and my first thought was, If I'm going to do what I was doing before, why did I change? 

What they don't understand is how complicated some of the simplest life tasks can be in a caregiving situation. I have to make ride arrangements 24 hours in advance and my son is sick and declining. But as caregivers we tend to just suck it up and get it done, don't we? I took Chris back to the clinic that I preferred to begin with only to find out he was in worse shape than I even thought. I reported it back to the new doctor before I even left the premises because he needed chest x-rays. They decided since he was doing so poorly, they would send the doc out after all. I'm like really?

So the doctor comes out and totally confirms what I learned at the clinic and what I'd been saying all along. Don't you hate it when you feel like no one's listening? Perhaps these types of situations are why I like the story of Hagar from Genesis 16. The situation wasn't perfect, and there were unacceptable behaviors all around. But Hagar found herself in distress. This is when the angel of the Lord came to her and told her she was pregnant and to name the boy Ishmael which means God hears. 

It's only a few chapters later where we see Hagar and Ishmael in another bind. Chapter 21:17 says God heard the boy crying. Once again "God heard." Yesterday I had a sense of satisfaction knowing that now the doctor was listening. We can rest assured that God hears us too. But He doesn't make us jump through lots of hoops before He takes time to listen.

He hears more than just our cries. He hears beyond our words - and connects with our hearts. He hears our emotional plea, our deepest thoughts, joys and fears.David expresses this best in Psalm 139:3 You are intimately acquainted with all my ways.

Today I will meditate on the fact that God is purposefully listening to my heart. When my thoughts run rampant today I will remember that He hears them, and I will reel them in and allow His peace to reign in my heart and mind. I will take time today to listen for His heart too. Will you join me?

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Why Can't Life have a "Pause" Button?

Caregiving is not an easy task period; and any given day can bring numerous surprises both good and bad. You just never know how a day is going to go. You never know when you are going to run out of steam, or when you'll have a burst of energy. People can surprise you by not showing up, or they can surprise you with an unexpected text asking if you need any help. The emotions can be all over the place for a variety of reasons.

In the midst of caregiving - life continues for everyone else and life itself doesn't take a break. As a caregiver, we deal with our personal situation plus all the "normal" stuff life throws at you. We get sick, we read cutoff notices, vehicles break down, friends are diagnosed with serious conditions, and family members pass away. Caregiving doesn't give us a break from life - life continues just as it would if we were not in the role of caregiving. Sometimes, I would like to find a huge pause button for life. Can't it stop for just a little bit and let me catch my breath?

Between the rest of life and caregiving it can feel like we never get to come up for air sometimes. But God has our backs. I think of Psalm 18:28 in these tough moments. For You light my lamp; the Lord my God illumines my darkness.  He can bring hope and light into any situation.

In this same psalm, David mentions more than once that God girds him with strength. I envision it as if God wraps His strength all around him. Maybe I see it that way because that's what I feel I need when life and caregiving collide. A little bit of His strength goes a long ways - and a little bit of His light brightens a large area. The darker the room - the more impact a little light can have.

In this verse, David speaks of God's light twice - he notes that God lights his lamp; and God shines His light into the darkness.

Today I will reflect on His light while I'm looking for the "pause" button. Even though we may feel overwhelmed, He will bring light into the situation. My meditation today will be on His strength in me and I will allow Him to carry me through this day. I will purposefully look for His light as I journey through today. Will you join me?