Monday, November 30, 2015

Has God Changed?

I'm late getting today's devotion up because I'm doing double duty this week. My mom is here with me and my son since she can no longer stay by herself. The best thing my siblings and I could come up with was for her to stay here with me until my daddy returns from a funeral out of state.

At first I was a little stressed. As caregivers you know how full our days are and how much it takes to take care of one other whole person - but two? My mom is showing early signs of dementia and at least can take care of herself. So this morning I was a little more overwhelmed than usual and it took me a little while longer to get myself together.

It was time to get Chris up but he was sound asleep so I let him sleep, picked up my guitar and started playing along with my mom. We did tons of older hymns and choruses from days gone by. In the midst of the struggle I started thanking God for my heritage and history in Him.

What came to mind was Psalm 77. The psalmist starts out calling out to God in despair. In verse 7 he was asking if God had rejected him forever. And by verse 10, the writer asked if God had changed.  Will He ever look favorably on me again?  I love this psalm because these are the types of things I say when I am totally overwhelmed.

But in the next verse, the psalmist says that He is going to remember the things God had done in the past. I have a loooong list of things He's done in the past. And this morning for just a few minutes I took a little trip back down memory lane and it seemed to lighten the load of the day just a bit.

I'll be the first to admit that some days I'm so frustrated I don't care what He's done in the past - I need Him now!  Have you ever felt that way? But this morning I let the focus shift from my immediate need to review the journeys in life that He's carried me through. It was just enough for me to know He could carry me one more day.

Today I will turn my thoughts to the fact that He is carrying me through this part of the journey. Whatever comes He is with me and has not left me. His hand has not changed. His love for me has not changed no matter what a day looks like. And so for today I'm going to purposefully consider His ever abiding presence in my life - and I'll let Him carry me today. Will you join me?

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A Different Kind of Finish Line

I've run quite a few races somewhere around 122 now over the 6 years since I started running. I've crossed every single finish line of every race I started. I've crossed some feeling like I could take on the world, and crossed some in so much pain I though I've never run again. Some races are good and some are endured. This photo is the first race I ever took my son to. I am working on being able to take him to more - just working out some chair issues.

I started running just after I became a caregiver as it was a way to work out frustrations and stress. No matter how I have crossed each finish line the point for me is that I've showed up - and kept going. I'm not fast but I don't have to be. I just have to be in the moment.

Here's why I was thinking about running this morning. My thoughts first started in Psalm 61 as it's my go-to psalm when I feel totally overwhelmed like I do today. My emotions are all over the place and my thoughts seem so random. Some of that is due to the holiday. I thought of all the people who don't have normal  Thanksgivings. Caregivers are one type of people  who find holidays less rewarding in many ways. But there are lots more out there who suffer through holidays such as families who just lost a loved one, those dealing with terminal illnesses, elderly with no family, single people who live in a "couples" world, etc. This list could go on forever - everyone doesn't have a picture perfect Thanksgiving.

I think what put me on overload was thinking about all I have to get done to spend Thanksgiving with my family. I still have my workload as I don't get actual days off;  and there's caregiving which never takes a break. These combined today and I just felt overwhelmed. So I ran to my favorite psalm for these types of days, Psalm 61. If I could loosely combine the New Living Translation and the Message's to form my own interpretation just for today it might read something like this:

Oh God! Listen to my cry and my prayer!
I am crying to you because my heart, mind and emotions 
are overwhelmed in this moment.
I am down to my last gasp of air -
but with it I cry out to You:
Lead me to the rock....

You alone are my safe place
You are my fortress
You have given me a lifetime pass to Your safe-house
You have offered me an open invitation to be Your guest.
You take me seriously, and welcome me 
as one who knows You and loves You...

So in this moment where I feel so fragile, I remind myself to run to Him. That's the finish line I am looking for today. This finish line ends with me calling it quits to my own way of dealing with emotions and the craziness of the day - and has me end up in His arms, in His safe house, where I am always welcome and have that lifetime pass. That's the finish line I'm looking for at the end of the day.

Today I'm going to try to calm my mind and heart down enough to hear Him breathe. I'm going to make it my goal to run to Him - and cross that finish line - the one that leads me to crawl up in His lap and allow Him to keep my soul safe. I'm going to run to Him  and not  away from Him today. And I'm going to listen for His heartbeat. I'll give Him all my anxiety and frustration and be thankful He is still with me - and waiting for me. Will you join me?

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Big Picture

One of the things I've dealt with all my life is rejection. Finding myself in a caregiving position made those feelings go a little deeper as I actually felt rejected by life. I didn't feel like I was part of the "big picture" and the rest of the world was passing me by as I sat in my comfy caregiver's cave.

My first reaction to feelings of insignificance always takes my thoughts to Psalm 139. I like how it describes God seeing us being formed in the womb and how He is knows us literally inside and out.

But then the psalm goes on to say that He wrote all the days ordained for us in His book before we ever lived one. On one hand I fall to my knees and exclaim how special that is - that the creator has literally walked all my days before me. That's really cool if you think about it for a bit.

But then on the other hand, I'm like, Really? This is what you wrote for me? This is it? There can be so many whys for the caregiver and scriptures that used to bring comfort can just generate  questions. These questions are somewhat answered in Romans 9:20 that says Who are you O son of man who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, 'why did You make me like this' will it? 

And immediately I'm humbled right back into my spot. I repent for being haughty and begin to ask Him for help to make it through one more day with my faith intact. Whether or not I feel significant in the big picture is irrelevant because I am significant to Him. He knows my every breath and thought... and still hangs around. Plus - we touch many more people than we imagine. Therapists, aides, nurses, doctors, delivery people, church people, equipment staff, and many other people walk in and out of our lives on pretty much a daily basis. How do they perceive us? Maybe I should ask How do they perceive Him in us?

Just because we feel like we are not as much a part of "the real world" doesn't relieve us from our duties as believers to be a light in the darkness. We spread the light to everyone we come in contact with -where it goes from there quite frankly is none of our business. He does with it as He desires. He does with us as He desires.

So today I will rest in the fact that He is up close and personal with me...right here in the cave. I will trust once again that He has not left me - and I am not sitting in the dark. I'll remind myself that I am still a light in a very dark world and He is still using me to touch lives. I'm going to yield to Him today and look at life outside my cave. It really comes all the way back around to trusting Him for one more day - and remembering that He is still intimately acquainted with all my ways. I'll trust Him for that for today. Will you join me?






Monday, November 23, 2015

Famine of the Soul

Have you ever had those days where you feel like life is dragging you into the deep dark mire of depression? You can feel its grip tightening with every breath and it's reflecting in every sluggish move. I have to admit I feel that way today. I can't blame it on any one thing - but a series of events have had this effect on me and honestly I don't always know how to get out or break its grip.

As I opened my Bible this morning, mostly out of habit to be truthful, my eyes fell on a couple of verses out of Psalm 32. Verses 7 says this: You are my hiding place; You preserve me from trouble; You surround me with songs of deliverance. 

This is what I call a "two-way" psalm because between verse 7 and 8 it changes from second person to first person - like God is answering the psalmist. These are cool to me because it's like God interrupts the psalmist mid stream to get His thoughts in. Because verse 8 just pops out of nowhere with: I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you.

So that got my attention and I thought about it a bit and then turned a page and saw this in Psalm 33:16-18:

The king is not saved by a mighty army
A warrior is not delivered by great strength.
A horse is a false hope for victory;
Nor does it deliver anyone by its strength.
Behold the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him,
On those who hope for His lovingkindness,
To deliver their soul from death
and to keep them alive in famine.

I think the biggest issues of being a caregiver are not physical but emotional which is our soul. We can live in a sort of famine of the soul where our emotions stay raw and open. Even though becoming a caregiver bringing about some physical changes, it's the soul that is ravaged by grief. Our soul gets its workout everyday just trying to navigate through all the emotions. But God will keep us alive in this famine of the soul.

Both of these psalms speak of His eyes being on us. I have to trust that no matter what I feel or face He is watching over me. I have to trust that He will instruct me - and I will hear Him. I have to trust that He is always watching, always listening and always ready to step in when I can't bear anymore. Well, I don't usually really give it all to Him until I get to that point. So today - I'm at that point! (smile) So I choose to give it to the One who is watching over me...one more time.

Today I'm going to try to consciously give Him my grief, pain, tears and struggles. I can't see Him watching over my soul and I can't feel Him rescuing my soul from famine; but I'll trust Him anyway. I will choose to trust Him to heal and protect my soul today. I'll lean in to Him with just a little more effort and trust He sees all, He knows all, and He's got my back today. Will you join me?

Friday, November 20, 2015

Let Me Hear

This morning during my devotions I came across this one little phrase in Psalm 142:8. It sort of just jumped out at me really and it says: Let me hear Your lovingkindness in the morning; for I trust in You.

My eyes were just drawn to it and I began meditating on it, and it became my prayer. You see this morning, like most mornings, I woke up with my huge "to do" list running full speed in my head. As usual I got up, made coffee, changed and bolused Chris, then sat down at the computer trying to figure out where I was going to start on the long list of work I have to do for clients.

Then I thought about just skipping devotions since I have so much to do today. Chris has therapy, I started a new class and I have tons of work to get done. I'm tired already, *sigh*. But I decided to take the time to put first things first and this scripture all but jumped off the page at me. I really do need to hear His lovingkindness. But how do you hear lovingkindness, especially when your heart and head wakes up in fast gear?

I paused to think about what the psalmist must have meant by hearing His lovingkindness. Maybe it's going to be different for each person, but for me, hearing His lovingkindness in the morning means knowing and acknowledging that He is giving me what I need in the morning to make it the whole day through. And then the next phrase for I trust in You.

So this morning, I pause to intentionally hear Him. I listen to His heart telling me His mercy and lovingkindness are here with me today to help carry me through all I have to get done. And then once I really hear that in my heart -  I accept it because I trust Him. And all of a sudden, I don't feel so alone or overwhelmed - because I trust that no matter what I do today, or where we go, His lovingkindness will be carrying me.

Today I will keep my mind on his lovingkindness. I'll rejoice that He is with me on this journey and never leaves me. I'll remind myself that He is just as committed to the journey with me - as I am to the journey with my son. and I will trust Him for one more day. Will you join me?

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Anticipating the Need

My son is non-verbal which can make it difficult sometimes to figure out what he is wanting or why he is uncomfortable. I usually say I'm pretty good at playing "guess and check" where I guess what to fix and then see if that's what makes him happy. It seems like I'm right most of the time but of course I never really know.

Sometimes I wish he could just tell me he needs some Tylenol; or that he's ready to go lie down. But he can't. I've had to figure out his silent signals and interpret what he needs or desires. On one hand, it seems like we've been working on that for some time - but actually it sort of came naturally. Probably because we are connected at the heart.

I think when it comes to communicating with God as our caregiver it can be similar, not that we can't tell Him what we need, but that sometimes we don't really know what we need. He can interpret our silent pleas for help. Along the journey there have been times I've had too many words (meaning I've said things to God I should not have said); but there have also been times of extreme pain when I didn't know what to say. And He's okay with either one.

For me - I have to anticipate my son's needs; but God already knows what I need. In Matthew 6:8 Jesus said that the Father knows what you need before you ask. He is not anticipating our needs - He already knows them. I think sometimes it's more about us learning how to receive His help. He knows and has already provided peace, comfort, joy and everything we need for life and godliness. (2 Peter 1:3) He listens to our verbal cries and hears our silent cries for help - and has already met the need.

It's up to us to learn how to rest in Him and how to receive peace, comfort and whatever else we need from Him. He's already extended it to us because He anticipated the need long before it existed. There's something very calming to me about acknowledging that.

Today I will meditate on how He provides everything I need. I'm going to take some time to look back over this caregiving journey and acknowledge how He's been with me all along and how He has provided what was needed all along. I'll meditate on how He knows  my need and has already provided for it. Will you join me?

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Caregiver's Caregiver

Last week while I was writing one of the devotions I made some sort of statement about how God is our ultimate caregiver. So this week I will be taking a closer look at how He caregives for us....

We've talked many times about how we look like Him when we care for our loved ones. We exhibit several qualities when we demonstrate our love for our loved ones by taking care of their needs. We are up-close-and-personal with our loved one and totally engaged in making sure their needs are met - usually long before we ever even acknowledge any of our own needs...that's just the way it is.

One of the characteristics of a caregiver is as provider. I do everything in my power to provide whatever my son needs. As a caregiver - their needs are of the utmost importance. Sometimes that means just covering the basic stuff like food, shelter and love. But we also do whatever else is necessary like range of motion, creating social outlets, shopping, just about anything needed that is in our power to do. When my son gets his therapy days (15 sessions in each discipline each year) I rearrange our whole schedule to accommodate so he gets what he needs. It's the nature of a caregiver....because it is just like His nature to care for us.

When I started on this caregiving journey I started looking online for work. I had no idea what was out there but I knew I wanted to be able to take care of Chris. I knew I'd need to be flexible so I could work from anywhere. I was willing to do whatever I needed to make sure his needs were met. God feels the same way about us? Need an example?

How about this: God knew man was going to fall. He knew Adam and Eve were going to screw this whole thing up. So what did He do? He made a way for us to get back to Him before He ever said, "Let there be light."  How do I know that? Revelation says He was the lamb slain before the foundation of the world. That says to me that long before God ever started creating the earth- He made sure there was a way for us to get back to Him. He provided a way.

I've seen His provision all along the way too. He has always opened just the right doors to ensure all of our needs are met. Abraham said He was our provider. He provided a raven to feed the prophet, He had water gush our of the rock, He provided manna that fell down from heaven...and He is still our provider today. Just like we do all we can to provide for our loved one - He continues to provide for us.

Today I will make an effort to thank Him for the ways I see Him providing for us. And I'll try to be more conscious of the different ways He uses to make sure our needs are met. My meditation will be on God as my provider, and I'll rest in Him today as I let my heart be thankful for all He has done and continues to do. Will you join me?






Friday, November 13, 2015

The Power of Silence

Last night I was reading up on a new blog and it was talking about the power of being silent. The writer was discussing pain and adversity and how sometimes there is simply nothing to say and it's okay. This got me to thinking about Job's friends and how when they heard of his distress they came and just sat with him. They didn't say a thing, which we learn later was a good thing! But they just sat and mourned with him in his time of loss.

When my son was first in the hospital I had a friend who did just that. She flew in and came and just sat. I was staying in his room with him as he was in isolation there was room for a couple of chairs. She just sat with me for 4 days. There really wasn't anything to say to make it better....but she was there.

What caregivers find out way too soon is how fast people can just disappear from their lives. When they don't know what to say, or don't know how to make it better, they silently walk away. But it's quite alright to just be there - even if you're silent.

As I was reading I started thinking about a couple of scriptures that match up with this thought. The first one of course is Psalm 46:10 that says Be still (or quiet) and know I am God. And the other one is Deuteronomy  6:4 that says Hear O Israel, the Lord is out God, the Lord alone. In my mind (I haven't researched it yet) Be still  and hear are the same. They are both saying - stop what you are doing for just one minute and listen. 

As caregivers our lives can be so hectic; a single day is filled with all sorts of related tasks we barely have the time to breathe sometimes. If we can get our insides quiet - we can hear Him. He's still there. He's still waiting for us to come to Him - like always. He still loves us. He still wants to hold us - we just have to be still.

Did you ever try to hold a toddler who had other ideas? They wanted to go get this toy, or grab that snack. You can barely keep a wriggling toddler in your lap for just a short bit before they are off to something more exciting. I wonder if caregivers are like toddlers in that we forget to just be. We have so much to do (but we do for real!) that even if we try to be still for a minute our mind is racing about all the things we have yet to do. But there's power in being silent and still.

Isaiah 30:15 says that in quietness and confidence our strength. I'm picturing myself like a little kid all crawled up and snuggled into His lap right now.

Today I will purposefully quiet my soul before Him. I'll let Him hold me and heal my soul. My meditations will be on His peace and His caregiving of me. I will direct my thoughts to how He continues to love, listen, and care for me. And I will be silent as I let His confidence and strength fill my being. Will you join me?





Thursday, November 12, 2015

Is there a scripture for that?

One of the things I do that drives other people simply mad is needing a scripture for almost everything. But as we know from life in general, as well as caregiving, there's not always a scripture to match a particular situation.

When I am afraid, I can run to Psalms and find passages to help calm my fears. If I come up on financial struggles, I can find scriptures pertaining to God as our provider. Even when I am sick, I can run to our standard group of healing scriptures. And if I don't find immediate relief in any of these circumstances, finding a scripture or passage that is related helps give me something to stand on. Even when the tasks associated with caregiving become overwhelming I have a set of Psalms handy to remind me where to take a heavy or burdened heart - right back to Him.

But it can be difficult to find a scripture that pertains to everything - caregiving or not. There are tons of little things that we don't talk about but that can nag at us. I'm mostly over it now, but for a long time it really bothered me when my son drooled when we were out in public. He does hold his head up better now so it's not quite so bad - but there's just something less than classy (not that I have any class to begin with! lol) about having to wipe drool off the mouth of my grown son... do you know what I mean? I don't mind doing it - I'm not exactly embarrassed by it - but there are times it can get to you.

And then of course there are those unmentionables.  I'm talking about the things we don't mention because we can't. I'll try to be discreet! But when there are incontinence issues there can be embarrassing situations when out in public. We deal with them the best we can- like placing a jacket over the lap if a soiled spot appears. One time I had to leave an appointment at a physician's office because we had a stinky situation. There's no scripture to look up for that one!

What do we do? In most of life's situations we can find a scripture that relates, or at least one that parallels what we are going through. But in these types of what can be awkward situations, where's the scripture for that?

As I was thinking along these lines this morning I think I found one. Isaiah 61:2 says He comforts all who mourn. I think this covers all types of mourning - or loss. And it covers all those things we cannot talk about freely. (But if we could - we'd have some stories to share!!lol) I think when I saw this scripture this morning - I just felt like God was trying to tell me that He's got us covered. No matter what we are dealing with today - and for the caregiver that can be a wide range of possibilities -  He's got us.

Today I will meditate on and accept the comfort God offers. I'm going to meditate on how He has me covered today. Whenever anything comes up in my mind that wants to trouble me today - I'm just going to remind myself that He has me and He's not going to let me go. Will you join me?

Monday, November 9, 2015

Why Does He Sing?

One of the biggest things I had to work through when I became a caregiver was music. I have played the guitar since I was about 13 (won't say how many years that has been!) and I've played the keyboard now for about 20 or so years. I also wrote poetry - started that sometime during my teen years and didn't even realize it for a long time. I don't know why.

Over time the two began to blend together and I wrote music, mostly worship songs. Right after my son's wreck I penned a few songs from a raw emotional state. And then I stopped. Music died. I didn't even want to listen to music much. My son had been a drummer and a song writer and an accomplished musician. It broke my heart to hear music of any kind; and sometimes it made me downright mad.

But over the last few months I have begun to return to that part of my heart and have a look around. I miss my son's music, but I was also missing my own. And I missed hearing Him sing over me.
Zephaniah 3:16 says this:

Cheer up, Zion! Don't be afraid!
For the Lord your God has arrived to live among you!
He is a mighty savior - He will rejoice over you with great gladness.
With His love, He will calm all your fears.
He will exult over you by singing a happy song. (NLT)

I have loved this verse ever since I first read it! We do not have to be afraid because God lives among us. And for the caregiver there are many fears - the church might condemn us for that and say they are lack of faith - but let them. We wonder about each day as well as the future. One of my greatest fears is how my son will be taken care of when I die. This verse says to not be afraid but also says He will calm our fears - with His love. Many time I need my fears calmed. Sometimes I need it many times a day...every day.

And then the last part says He will exult over us by singing a happy song. I love the picture that paints in my mind. I see myself on my knees - as I hold my son stretched out across my lap; and the Lord standing over me singing to me a song of peace. As He sings of His love for me and my son - my heart is filled with joyful peace and comfort. 

He is pleased with us as caregivers. We had to take on His very nature to be a caregiver (in my humble opinion). I honestly think He looks down at us and it puts a twinkle in His eye - because we look like Him. And when He sees us filled with His compassion, His care, His love for another - it makes His heart sing and He just can't hold it back!

Today I will listen for His song. I might find it in the most unusual places, but I'm going to listen for His heart today. My meditations will be focused on pressing in to His heart - and listening for Him instead of trying to get Him to listen to me today. I'll be reshifting my focus to hearing the steady beat of His heart for me.... will you join me?



Friday, November 6, 2015

Behind the Wheelchair

There were a lot of things that changed about my life when I became a caregiver. I used to run on "go" all the time, loved to be in a crowd, and enjoyed hiking, a lot.

The social isolation has been one of the most difficult aspects of caregiving for me. But I didn't really change that much as "me" - I just had to change a lot of what I did. I was still the same person who loved the same things I did before caregiving became my lot in life. I just had to stop many of the things I was doing because something more important needed to be taken care of, my son.

Even though I've always been a very (and I mean very) social and personable person, it's more difficult to develop relationships now for me. I know one reason is that we can't do some of the things others do to build relationships. You know, there's no meeting up for a movie, a cup of coffee or a walk in the park. Even if we do schedule it we have to be willing to drop our plans at the last minute because our loved one is not up to it, they (or we) become sick or any number of crazy things that can happen.

And sometimes it's because people don't see anything past our caregiving. They forget we are a real person behind the wheelchair. Maybe they don't think about getting past the caregiving to the person we are inside, maybe they don't know how. And maybe we don't know how to get out of the box either.

Even though caregiving has brought about many character and lifestyle changes in me, I'm still me. I still like music, I love a good game, I'm all up into sports and I still like my coffee, a good funny movie and my guitar. Sometimes I feel very alone because people don't look past the wheelchair at this person....a caregiver is still a person. It can be a very lonely place.

I'm so thankful that God is intimately acquainted  with me. He knows me inside and out - and he's not afraid of the wheelchair. Psalm 139 gives us a glimpse of how closely He lives to us. He knows my thoughts (cuss words included) and He's not scared away. He feels me and still presses in to be intimately acquainted with me. I love this verse in Exodus 34:14 it says:

You must worship no other gods,
but only the Lord,
For He is a God who is 
passionate about His relationship with you. (NLT)

So even though it feels like those around us don't "push past" who we are and the role we play as caregivers, God is not too scared to be passionate about a relationship. He still wants to know us inside and out. He didn't put any disclaimers on this or any other verse that says, unless you are a caregiver. He still loves us, cares for us, and wants to be in a close relationship with us.

Today I am going to purposefully rejoice that He wants to be with me, even when I can't understand why. I will turn my thoughts to the truth that He passionately pursues me... me.. the caregiver. And I will bask in the fact that He isn't looking for a way out of an "uncomfortable" situation. He doesn't feel awkward talking to me or being with me. I will turn my heart to Him to welcome Him into my world today. Will you join me?

Thursday, November 5, 2015

When in Doubt

When I woke up this morning I was having lots of trouble adjusting my attitude. I'm sure that's foreign to many of you - but after a night of tossing and turning it just happens. When sleep evades me - attitudes abound.

Did you ever just doubt it all? I doubt He loves me, doubt He cares for me, doubt He is with me, doubt He protects me... and the list goes on and on. My mind goes fast so in a matter of seconds I can have every area "covered" in doubt and frustration.

My thoughts run along lines like if He loves me and truly cares for me why has this happened to me? Is this what He really thinks about me and my son? I'm sure I'm the only one who has these little switches that get flipped and then a barrage of questions are hurled out all at one time. It seems worse during times of illness whether it is me or my son.

This morning I got my son bolused and situated and then brought my coffee to my recliner kicked my feet up and started trying to sort through all these questions. For some reason, I'd like to think God led me to it - I thought of the old hymn The Anchor Holds. It remains a favorite in my family. I thought in particular of the part that says:

The anchor holds
though the ship is battered
The anchor holds
though the sails are torn
I have fallen on my knees
As I've faced the raging seas
The anchor holds
in spite of the storm...

It doesn't seem to matter to God how much I doubt and pout - He always has an answer. Immediately my mind went to Paul's shipwreck in Acts 27. He basically told them I told you not to take this journey to start with and this damage wouldn't have occurred then he says keep up the courage and he told that to them two or three times more. 

I figure since they were warned by God to NOT go on the journey and went anyway - and God gave them courage to deal with the situation- He can give us courage too. We are here by no fault of our own. These guys barely made it from the boat to land. Many of them floated on whatever pieces they could find. I feel that way sometimes; like I'm clinging to anything solid I can find. Just let me make it to land.....just for today.

So then another scripture comes to mind. Someone shared it with me the other day and I've read it about every day since. It's from the Message Bible and it says this:

Don't for a minute let this Book of the Revelation be out of mind.
Ponder and meditate on it day and night,
making sure you practice everything written in in.
Then you'll get where you are going;
then you'll succeed.
Haven't I commanded you?
Strength! Courage!
Don't be timid, don't get discouraged.
God, your God is with you every step of the way.

I have to say that caregivers in general are not a timid breed. We've taken life by the horns and bulled our way through. We can be some pretty tough critters when we need to be. But we do get discouraged, tired, weary and worn. We have to reach out there and fight for all sorts of things as we advocate for our loved ones. Today we can also take something else - Let's take courage. 

God hasn't abandoned us. He hasn't forgotten us. He is still with us. Faith is knowing that when we definitely don't feel it.

Today I will encourage myself with these scriptures and I will turn my thoughts to the fact that He is with me every step of the way. I don't get to skip any steps - and they may all feel like they are uphill... but He has not left my side. I'm going to grab hold of what little bit of faith I feel I have left and trust Him for one more day's worth of strength and courage. Will you join me?

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

When God Looks at Me

Sometimes I wonder just what God sees when He looks at me. Just like everyone else I wear many hats and play many roles in life and being a caregiver is just one of them. But when He looks at me, does He just see a caregiver? Does He see a mother caring for her child? Or perhaps He sees me as a grandmother playing with her grandchildren.

Maybe He sees me as a sister, or as a child caring for her aging parents. Or that crazy aunt everyone needs in their lives! lol

Does He look at me and see a runner? A blue belt in taekwondo?

He put the gift of music in my heart - maybe he sees a guitar player or a keyboardist. Does He see a songwriter or a singer? Maybe He sees me as a writer or a poet....

While I was meditating on this the other day this little poem popped out.

I see all the things you do...
I appreciate every part of you.
I see all the ways you spend your time
But when I look at you....
I see you are mine.

We are His. We belong to Him and He calls us His own. He doesn't just see us as a caregiver or any other role we play - He sees us as His precious possession. We are His. 

With these thoughts running around in my head I thought of a childhood experience. I had a doll when I was about 6 and my cousin J.R. loved that doll. He was a couple of years younger than me and we were rivals resembling that of siblings. I would not give J.R. my doll and would hide it from him when he came to my house because I didn't want him to carry it around and try to take it home with him.

His parents finally bought him a doll just like mine and I was relieved. That poor doll though. He carried it under his arm everywhere he went. I had given my doll up and gone on to more important things in life and J.R. was still toting that dirty, limp doll every where he went. One day the body detached from the head. But J.R. didn't let go - he just kept carrying that head around with him everywhere he went. Why? Because it was his. It belonged to him.

Even in our most broken state - God will not let go. He loves us far beyond J.R.'s love of that doll. But he loves us and carries us with just as much passion. We are His! When He looks at us - He sees us and says, "that one is mine!" He claims us - even when family or friends won't - He is not ashamed to call us His own.


Today I will meditate on the truth that I belong to Him. My thoughts will be on Isaiah 43:1 where God says, "I have called you by name; You are mine." No matter what comes today - I will hold on to the truth that He gladly calls me his own. Will you join me?

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Flip Side of Everything


I've talked a lot about seeing God. My favorite story used for reference is Hagar when she realized God saw her and her son. But until this week, I hadn't thought about the flip side of that.

I was reading in Genesis about Abraham offering up Isaac. In chapter 22 verse 8 Abraham said "God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering." I know God does indeed provide for us and I have certainly experienced that on my caregiving journey. But the margin caught my eye as it gave an alternate interpretation of see for the word "provide." My loose interpretation is God will be seen.

I often rejoice in the fact that God can see me and knows my situation intimately. But I paused to ask can I see God?

Honestly, there are those times when I don't feel I can see Him at all. Usually it's at 3 or 4 in the morning when my son is running a fever or moaning in pain and I feel out of options. I must admit I have not acted much like a believer on some of those occasions. There have been many tears shed during those midnight hours and I've cried out God, where are you now? I must also admit I've said lots of other things to God that should not be said - but they were my honest feelings at the time. And I really believe He's big enough to handle our hurts, fears and feelings just as we interpret them in time. He knows eternity is bigger.

During those times that are rougher, it can be difficult to see God. But then He seems to march right into our reality and make Himself known and seen. I saw Him in the caring eyes of two little girls at the grocery store. They asked their mom if they could pray for my son. They had such a true compassion - I'm sure it came from Him.

I saw Him in a young man who reaches out to us and does a 5K to raise funds to help us get a handicap van. I saw Him in the xray technician last time we were in the hospital. I can't explain it, but  the way she touched my son with caring gentleness when taking an xray moved me to tears- because I saw His touch in her hands. (I even talked to her about it.) I've seen Him in the new church we found; people actually spoke to my son (who is non-verbal), accepted him, and even touched him....acted like he exists.

We can get so caught up in the busy-ness of caregiving and forget to see Him in our day to day lives.  But He is present and He is paying attention. Sometimes we just have to look for Him.

Today I am going to purposefully look  for His presence in my life. My thoughts will be on His ever abiding presence and how close He is even if I don't see or feel His presence. I'll look for Him  for when I seek Him - I will find Him. Will you join me?

Monday, November 2, 2015

What about Jakob?

I've read and reread the story of Joseph, and growing up in church it was one of the common Bible stories that we heard over and over. On one hand I think the caregiver can learn from Joseph's patience. He had a dream that seemed could never come true. Life betrayed him. I know the scriptures don't go into Joseph's thoughts but he had to have some serious dedication to God to not lose it during those waiting years.

I think of the betrayal by his brothers. Then the betrayal by Potiphar's wife. Not only did his brothers put him in a pit until they could sell him to the next passerby, Potiphar has him thrown into prison for something he didn't do. He spent a lot of time waiting, wondering, and trying to figure things out I would assume.

While our stories usually focus on Joseph and his determination to serve God through his trials, this weekend as I was rereading the story once again, I thought about Jakob.

In Genesis 37, it says that Jakob wept for Joseph and goes on to say he refused to be comforted. His other children all tried to console him, but his reply was I will go to my grave mourning for my son. He had no idea that Joseph was going to be his leader some day and he had no reason to believe that Joseph was alive - no hope that everything would be okay one day. He lived in grief.

The caregiver can experience what is called a living grief. Depending on the particulars of our situation, we can lose a lot. For my situation, my son is gone, but his body is still here. I have grieved the loss of my son but can't quite "put it away" since there was no funeral or burial. The grief continues. It's the same with my mom. She's experiencing dementia and is not really who she used to be. I have to grieve the loss, even though she's still technically here. 

Many caregivers experience this living grief and it can be some very complex emotions to work through.You can't just "move on" but there's still a sense of loss. Caregivers have given up something on some level no matter what their situation. Some give up jobs, freedom, friends, and many other aspects of life to care for a loved one.

1 Corinthians 1:3 says that God is the God of all comfort.  I really like this little word, all. God can comfort Joseph sitting in the prison cell wondering where the promise is; and God can comfort Jakob who feels like the promise was stolen and is gone forever. God can feel us. He gets us. And He will comfort and strengthen our hearts.

Today I will turn my thoughts to the fact that He gets me. He understands everything I am going through and He pours His strength into me - and gives me strength for today's journey. (everyday is a journey for caregivers) My meditations will be on the truth that He loves me with the same love I have for my son. (Insert whoever you are a caregiver for.) And instead of focusing on the loss today - I'll focus on His provision, His love, His strength, His patience with me and the grace He gives me to make it one more day. Will you join me?