Friday, October 30, 2015

Do We Have What it Takes?

The question do we have what it takes can seem kind of shallow and unnecessary to ask caregivers, right? We've already figured out how to roll up our sleeves, dig in and get it done. We have developed our own skill set some of which were part of our makeup before becoming caregivers; but we have also honed many skills as we have gone along.

We learned to advocate, picked up on the right keywords to get things done, learned medical vernacular, figured out how to get the "right numbers" when we really need something done and opened our homes to total strangers to accept help. (nurses, doctors, aides, etc)

While we are still the same person we were before caregiving - we have also evolved. We learned how to get up in someone's face. I recall when my son was still in the hospital and I discovered his catheter had had absolutely zero output all day - he was in horrible shape. They couldn't send anyone in because the nurse was at lunch. Madea's words ran through my mind  you only have to go crazy up in here one time.

Now I am a very composed and gathered person for the most part as I was in ministry for many years and you learn how to keep your composure at all costs. But I purposefully chose to go out in the hall and lose it. And I did it up good! Since I had been there for over 3 months and never made a scene nurses came from everywhere to see what was up with mama. They took care of my son's needs right then. I share that to say - as caregivers - we learn to do what we need to to get the right things done.

We know what we have to do and we are willing to do whatever is needed to ensure our loved one is well taken care of. But do we have what it takes to wait? I have to say many times I do not. This morning during my daily devotions I came across (okay so my Bible fell open to) Psalm119:114 and it leaped out at me. It says this

You are my hiding place and my shield
I wait for Your Word...

When my mind is swirling with all that I have to get done today and everyday, can I slow down and just wait for Him? Sometimes I need to just chill out and wait for His grace, wait for His hope, wait for His strength to flood my being. It's so easy for us as caregivers to get pulled out and taut to where we have zero relief. When I find myself in this position it just makes it that much harder to wait for Him and to hear Him when He speaks.

Today I will take many deep breaths as I refocus on waiting for Him. I will turn off all the noise in my head and purposefully rest in Him. My thoughts will be on His peace, His love, His abundance, His grace and His mercy as I shift my focus from myself and back to Him one more time. Today...I wait. Will you join me?  

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Are There Two of Me?

One of the things I've found caregivers must learn to deal with is the wide range of emotions. I'm not even talking about the "big stuff" like depression and the like. I'm talking about the day to day fluctuations of sadness to joy, contentment to unrest. Maybe I'm the only one who thinks they are emotionally schizo. One minute (or second depending on the day) I'm so happy and things are going well, and the next I've bottomed out and feel like a failure as a caregiver. On any given day emotions can vary greatly. My son does something new and I'm full of joy but then the next second I think that I should be celebrating his marriage or his first child instead of the fact he finally touched his nose. Is this just me? 

This morning in my daily reading of scriptures I found something of interest to me in Psalm 108.The first 5 verses or so David talks about how glorious God is. He seems to be full of praise and waiting for God's answer to his prayers. Then his tone changes; and the last three verses are quite different. Now the last verse was a popular song in the 70's church, We sang and sang about how valiant God is and how He was going to tread down our enemies. It was a fun, uplifting song. But this morning I noticed that just two verses back - David wasn't feeling it.

In verse 11, David feels as though God has rejected him. So in just a couple of verses, he goes from Where did you go, God?  to God is a valiant warrior who is treading down my enemy. And just for today - I could relate. One second I feel totally abandoned by God - left alone in this world to deal with a trying situation; and the next I know that it is God who is giving me strength to fight this battle and I can sing His praise. Sometimes I feel like there are two of me - two extremes - extreme despair all the way to extreme thankfulness... and you know what? It's okay. God gets me. And He is beside me as a valiant warrior to defeat my enemies (fear, doubt, confusion....)

So today I will meditate on the first 5 verses of this chapter. I will like David, determine to sing to the Lord and offer up praise - even if it is a sacrifice. I will sing of His loving kindness, mercy and truth. Those things don't change based on our circumstances.  I will exalt Him in my heart and let Him reign over my crazy feelings. Will you join me?

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Not Invisible to God

How many times have we been places and it seems like we are invisible in the crowd? We actually went to a church one Sunday and not one person spoke to us, they all just walked right around us like we were not even there.

This past Sunday we visited a church and so many talked to both of us - they spoke to my son and get this - they even touched him. Unless you've been there you won't understand that. It can start to seem like we have leprosy or the plague. I actually fought back tears as I saw person after person touch his shoulder and speak directly to him even though he didn't seem to care. (I think he wanted to stay in bed!)

Many times people encourage us to "get out of the house" without realizing what it really costs. Most of the time we are totally alone in our struggle. Over time, I've gotten used to taking up a whole aisle in a store as I push Chris in front of me and pull the basket along behind. We are quite the sight. This is just one setting where we can feel like we stick out like a sore thumb. But add to that the fact that we are primarily politely ignored and it can feel like we are in an emotional vacuum. Standing in the middle of a crowd we seem invisible.

Being acknowledged this week as real people had me thinking along these lines. I started thinking about how He is intimately acquainted with all our ways; and that He saw us while we were forming in our mother's womb. He really does see us; even if we are invisible to the world. (Psalm 139)

My thoughts raced back to Hagar in Genesis 16 where Hagar had been forced out from Sarah after she got pregnant and cocky.The angel comes to her and tells her that the son in her womb is going to be a donkey of a man and that he's going to live a life at odds with basically everyone. But her response is perfect. To me the angel didn't say real "nice" stuff about Ishmael - which by the way means "God heard."

Even though the angel told her Ishmael is gonna be a wild one - Hagar says this: "You are a God who sees." She was seen she was not invisible to God. That's what she got out of this angelic encounter - that God could see her and where she was. That's so important for us caregivers I think - just to know that He has not abandoned us like so many - He is here, He knows, He hears, and He sees us.

Today I will meditate on the truth that God knows right where I am and He knows the true condition of my heart. He sees the situation and can see into my heart - He sees the confusion, the loneliness, the frustration...and it's okay. My thoughts will be on His ever abiding presence and His habitation in me today. Will you join me?

Monday, October 26, 2015

Whatcha Lookin' At?

The daily rigors of caregivng can get to you eventually. Well, actually, it's not the caregiving that always puts us into overload. We get used to the day-to-day activities we have to perform. It's not unusual to go from daylight to dark without much of a break just to get things done. And somehow we even get used to those unexpected things like an extra trip to the store to buy supplies or a "quick" trip to the doc or urgent care.

Those are extras that we become accustomed to and we have those "special modes" we slip into. I know exactly what to grab as we head out the door to the ER. And when we get there I am somewhat prepared to stay a few hours to a few days whatever it takes! I'm not saying it's easy- we just learn how to make these adjustments on the fly. Adaptability is one of the first skills caregiving forces us to master. (smile)

But let something happen outside our normal hectic zone and it's a major adjustment. Honestly, for me it's mostly my attitude that needs to be adjusted. I do pretty good in my normal, but crazy schedule but if I get sick or something is big enough to interrupt the daily schedule - I can lose it. (I know no one else has ever done this or felt this way - right? Is it just me?)

When things finally settle down back into the normal frenzy we've grown accustomed to - we must shift our focus. This morning I was reading in 2 Chronicles 20 and came across verse 12 which says - O Lord we are powerless before this great multitude who are coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on You.

Even though we are not facing a huge army and may not have thousands physically gathering against us, it can feel like life is stacking up against us. Daily life is the multitude coming against us; and we may not know what to do. Then there's a "but" - but our eyes are on You. I always go back to Psalm 121 - I will lift my eyes (action required) to the mountains -where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord Who made heaven and earth.

Today there is a lot on my plate and many things to work through on top of the already full plate I had. And I really don't remember asking for a second helping! lol. But I will chose to look to Him for peace, wisdom, direction, and help. My help comes from the Lord - we know sadly enough that no one else is likely to show up! lol.

Today I am going to shift my focus from all the chaos I see around me - to Hin. I chose to place my eyes on Him and look to Him for what I need just to make it through today. He is ever present - when I feel overwhelmed (or even if I don't) I will direct my thoughts to His ever abiding presence. I will make a conscious effort today to keep my mind steady on Him. Will you join me?

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Faith, Hope and Depends

As a caregiver, there are just some things about which we cannot speak. We silently feel each other's pain and have an understanding of what a normal day may look like. We wipe up drool, pick up spilled (or spit out) food, and perform tasks we cannot speak about to protect the dignity of our loved ones. But we all could share some crazy stories if we were alone! Are you nodding your head?  Even though we don't speak about it, we understand.

We really do seem to live in an alternate world from everyone else. On a daily basis we deal with all the normal  stuff - and then our own set of what's normal. That might mean we have learned how to bolus a feeding through a tube, check 02 levels, take blood pressure, give a bed bath and change depends. But even though what we do daily looks a lot different from the rest of the world's normal day - spiritually we are no different at all.

This morning I was reading Proverbs 17:3 that says: The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the heart. On one hand I'd have to say that caregivers basically live in the furnace. And on the other hand, I still have to say we live in the furnace! (smile) Life is always trying, even on the best of days we deal with our own set of struggles. But God has no different requirements for us than anyone else. We don't get a get out of jail free card. There are no exemptions - He's still working in us to make us into His image.

Sometimes I find this frustrating - other times it's comforting. Why do we have to deal with all of this, and still let Him work out issues on faith, trust, and hope? Don't we deserve a break? And on the other hand, it's a comfort to know that He did not abandon us - but still has the same requirements and expectations He always had for our spirit man.

So even when we are up to our elbows in... whatever we are dealing with - He still is working in us. He still is turning up the fire to refine our faith. He is still working His good will and pleasure in us. His Holy Spirit is still in us - strengthening us - and building the relationship between us and Him. I'm not sure why, but that actually gives me hope and comfort.

Today I will look at the fiery furnace differently. My thoughts will be on how He uses it to refine me into His image and I will meditate on how He continues to mold me and work with me even in this situation. I'll think about His unchanging love, mercy, and faithfulness. I will let His spirit comfort me today as I move closer to Him in my heart. And I will rest - in the midst of the fire and depends....I chose to trust His care of me. Will you join me?

Monday, October 19, 2015

What do you see?

I have a love-hate relationship with James 1:2. I love it because it's in the Word of God; but I hate it that I have to do it! Some days I don't want to "count it all joy." I'm sure no one else feels that way, I mean after all as believers we are not supposed to feel different than what the Word says. But there, I said it. Sometimes I can't see past my situation to find any joy at all. But maybe that's why verse 5 follows.

In my mind this first chapter of James has always been all divided up into nuggets. Verses 2-3 explain how we are to address the trying of our faith through the various trials and difficulties we face in our lives. And then verses 5-6 tell us to go ask for wisdom. Two totally separate actions, right?

This weekend as I was watching Francis Chan on YouTube (that was our Sunday morning "church" service!), something he said allowed me to connect these two sections. We are supposed to be able to find joy in our trials since they are working in us spiritual maturity and eternal rewards. Verse 5 is not a tag-along scripture - it's what we do when we can't see it.

For me life as a caregiver has been crippling socially, emotionally and even spiritually on some levels. If I am not careful (and most of the time I'm not.) I can be blinded by my situation and fail to see what God is after. I fail to see what He is working in me because of what is going on around me. I have felt like those in Psalm 137 who hung their harps in the willow and refused to sing because of their captivity. They said, how can we sing the Lord's song in a foreign land? I have felt that way.

I'm the question queen and I'm full of them. For nearly 7 years now I've asked questions like: How can I go on? Why can't life make sense? Why did God give me dreams in the first place? Will I ever feel whole again? What kind of life is this? And so on. Caregiving for many of us is not like a journey you take until you reach your destination - it just goes on and on  with no end in sight. How do we count that all joy?

I have to go back to Job to find some answers. When he lost it all he said blessed be the name of the Lord. I did not pass that test! We must lift our eyes up beyond our day-to-day grind. Even though our schedules are hectic and repetitive we are going places spiritually. Even though we cannot see it all the time, He is working in us His good pleasure. He has not given up on us and He has not abandoned His project. What He is working in us is eternal. What He is doing in us will last past time - it will endure past what we see before us. He is still alive in us and shaping us into His image.

There is not one scripture that says He cannot work within our situations. He uses our lives to mold us. I had a friend who said God doesn't waste a thing. And I have to agree. When we yield our crazy abnormal lives to His hand - He can make it a thing of beauty. But we will have to look past what we see to what He sees to "get it."

Today I will not let my hectic day block the view of what He is doing in me. As I go through the day I will meditate on the truth that He has not abandoned ship - but He is still at the helm and will take me safely through. And I will choose to rejoice that He is working in me things that will last through eternity. I can't see them here - because they have value in the spiritual realm. I will count it all joy that He is still working in me and on me to bring about His desires. Will you join me?

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

When We Wake Up Tired

Some mornings I just wake up tired. Perhaps it's because I overdid it yesterday, or maybe it's because I'm looking ahead at what I have to do today. Either way there are these mornings when I feel like I am scraping myself off the bed to get about the day.

I've heard people say that it is so nice you can stay home. I try not to laugh too loudly. I think they have no idea what that actually looks like. Just today I have the nurse coming at 10 for her monthly visit, then I have to get my son fed, changed and loaded to go to therapy by 1:30. That takes the whole afternoon (not at all a complaint - just a fact!), then I'll have to get him back home and fed and in bed for a short rest before we start our evening schedule and then hopefully at some point back to bed late tonight. AND somewhere in all that I have clients who are waiting on work and of course they all need it right now!  whew! No wonder I was tired when I woke up this morning.

It is very hard for me, and many caregivers, to admit to being tired. If we acknowledge its presence, we might succumb to it; and we really don't have time for that!

This morning I did my usual morning routine (after scraping myself up at 6:30 which is late for me!). It goes like this: prepare Chris' meds and bolus, start the coffee pot, change Chris and get him comfortable, bolus him and then grab a fresh cup and head for the recliner for my devotions. all the while the day before me is running through my mind: call the apartment office at 9 - the air still isn't working, have Chris bathed and up by about 9:30, the nurse will be here at 10 or 10:30 (she wasn't sure), after she leaves he has to be fed and dry by 12:15 to load in the van and head to OKC......And then I start running through the clients who want work TODAY! I've been up for an hour - and I really wish I could go back to bed!

But as caregivers we really don't have that option. We will push through the day functioning as well as possible and hope nothing falls apart! There's no time to stop, rest, recover or put broken things back together.

As I am rehearsing and organizing my day in my head (yes - I'm a type A - it is ALL  rehearsed and scheduled!) for a brief moment I allow myself to think I'm really tired.  And immediately I think of the familiar passage in Isaiah 40. It's as if God showed me a snapshot of that page in my Bible. almost like He was asking me the question:

Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Everlasting God, the Lord,
The Creator of the ends of the earth
Does not become weary or tired.
His understanding is inscrutable.
He gives strength to the weary,
And to him who lacks might He increases power.
Though youths grow weary and tired, 
and vigorous young men stumble badly
Yet those who wait for the Lord
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.

I let out a huge sigh as I found it comforting somehow that God acknowledged my weariness. It's not like He doesn't know. So today while I am scurrying about getting done as much as I can - and letting go of the rest (we are only human you know!) I will on purpose - wait for Him. I'll trust Him for strength today and smile because He never gets tired. He's always there to lift me up and strengthen me.

Today I will purposefully acknowledge that I need His strength and I will let Him carry me. My meditation will be on waiting on Him instead of relying on myself. I will wait for Him. I will rest in Him. And I will make it! Will you join me?

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Yet He Remains Faithful

Last night as I was going through our bedtime rituals. I just stopped and looked at my son. He was lying down, resting and soon to fall asleep. I think all mothers like to watch their kids sleep. I just stood there by his bed and let my mind wander a bit. I thought about our journey and all we've come through to this point.  And I rehearsed some of my fears of what may happen when I get my ticket out of this place called time - or I get too old to care for him. The thought of him being left in a home made me shutter.

I thought of the people we met along the way and the ones I saw literally, just walk away. It's never been in me to do that. I thought of how much I love my son and how that holds me at his side no matter what.

I felt the bond between us strengthen as I grabbed hold tighter with my heart. It made me more determined to be sure things are in order so he doesn't ever have to feel abandoned. I can't imagine putting him somewhere and walking away. In that deep emotional moment it was like I felt God was saying the same thing about me; about us, His children.

He has that same intense desire to be with us. He will not abandon us. The scripture that came to my mind at that point was 2 Timothy 2:13 the passage (v. 11-13) reads this way in the NASB:

It is a trustworthy statement:
For if we died with Him
we will also live with Him
If we endure
we will also reign with Him
If we deny Him
He cannot deny us
If we are faithless
He remains faithful
for He cannot deny Himself

Two things ran through my mind He is faithful and He cannot deny Himself. Just like I can't stand even the thought of leaving my son's side - God cannot bear the thought of being separated from us. He remains faithful. Add to those thoughts verse 19 of the same chapter - The Lord knows those who are His and you have a win-win combination. He knows us - and He ain't going anywhere!

Today I will meditate on His faithfulness. My thoughts will be on the truth that He knows me. I will turn my thoughts to accepting the truth that He loves me and that love binds our hearts together and He is not going to leave...for any reason. Will you join me?

Monday, October 5, 2015

Reminding Ourselves

As I was reading through Psalm 71 in my morning devotions I recalled an old hymn called, Remind Me Dear Lord. I only remember a few of the phrases of that old song but sometimes it's really how I feel. At times I really need Him to remind me that I am still His child, He still loves me and He is still with me. Other times I need to remind myself of these solid truths.

I assume that David wrote Psalm 71 but it doesn't say that for sure - just that it is a prayer of an old man. Sometimes caregiving wears us down until we can just feel old. This Psalm was a great reminder for me this morning.

First of all, I noticed the things the psalmist reminded himself of regarding how he had reacted to God. He said things like:


  • In You I have taken refuge
  • Be to me a rock - to which I can continually come...
  • My mouth is filled with Your praise
  • I will hope continually; I will praise you more
  • I will make mention of Your righteousness - Yours alone
  • I will praise you with the harp
  • I will sing praises with the lyre
  • My lips will shout for joy when I sing praises to You
  • My tongue will utter Your righteousness all day long
That's a lot of determination, hope and courage right there! Maybe he can say these things because they are mixed in with a variety of declarations he makes regarding his relationship with God. He says things like:

  • You are my refuge
  • You are my rock and fortress
  • You are my hope
  • By You I've been sustained since birth
  • You took me from my mother's womb
  • You are my strong refuge
  • You have taught me from my youth
These are all powerful statements of faith, I think. He is declaring his absolute trust and confidence in God and reminding himself of all God has done over the years of his life. As caregivers it can be easy to feel like God and life have forsaken us and left us to drown in day to day responsibilities. These are some wonderful declarations we can make that help us remember who He is to us - and help us remind ourselves that we will continue to trust and stand.

But here's the other thing I noticed in this Psalm: the psalmist sheer desperation. Right in the middle of trusting Him and hoping in Him the writer lets us see the pain that's in his heart. He says things like:

  • Listen to me and save me
  •  Rescue me from the hand of the wicked
  • Do not cast me off 
  • Do not forsake me when my strength fails
  • Do not be far from me
  • Do not forsake me
For some reason this really encouraged me today- to see that the psalmist was in a state of despair with trouble all around and yet he did what was important and needful. He called on God for help, ran to him for refuge and continued to declare his trust in Him.

Today my meditation will not be on surrounding troubles or on the struggles we face as caregivers. My thoughts will be on the fact that I'm gong to continue to trust Him no matter what a day brings. I will sing. I will praise. I will continue to run to Him. I'll take some time today to think about all I have seen Him do in my life and in the lives of those I love; and I will be thankful. Will you join me?

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Does "Everything" Mean Everything?

Sometimes as a caregiver it can feel like we are "missing out" on life. There are many times we just can't do what we used to do because of our responsibilities of taking care of another. It may mean that we cut some of our favorite activities to try and lighten our load, or it might even mean we lack any sort of social life at all.

For a long time I felt like I lived in a caregiver's cave. There was almost no social interactions and even now that we can get out and about even on a limited basis I am leery of scheduling outings. We just never know what a day is going to look like. It can be difficult to plan since we don't know what kind of day our loved one is going to have; and this can keep us from many activities.

Even now that my son and I can get out more, I'm very limited on how long I can spend out. I have to get back home to change him or to feed him. And honestly, sometimes the fear of what might happen while we are out keeps us home. There are tons of what ifs.

These can make us feel like we don't have "a life" like others. We can feel like life has shorted us somewhat. But I have found that God didn't short us a bit.

2 Peter 1:3 reminds us that He has given us everything we need for life and godliness. Everything - means everything. He didn't say that because we are a caregiver and have what appears to others as "less" of a life - we don't get all of His Holy Spirit. He does not exclude us from His spirit living in us. We have no less of Him than any other believer. The big-name TV preachers don't have more of Him than we do. Pastors don't have more of God or more access to Him than we do; and neither does any other leader in or out of the church.

Ephesians 3:16 says that we have the power of His spirit in our inner man It's a package deal. No one has a partial Christ. Even when a child comes to know Him - there is no junior Holy Spirit. As believers the Holy Spirit of God lives in us. We get no less of Him as a caregiver than anyone else. We all have the power of the Holy Spirit living in us working to transform us into His image.

We are partakers of his divine nature according to 2 Peter. And we demonstrate His love by taking care of our loved ones. We can offer the world a picture of His grace that they cannot see anywhere else. His spirit fully equips us for that.

Today I will meditate on the truth that I have full access to God and that I am not limited by being a caregiver. I will turn my thoughts to the fact that He did not withhold anything from me but my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. I did not get short-changed when it comes to having the fullness of God. That makes me smile....Today I will rejoice in this - that the fullness of God lives in me! Will you join me?