Friday, March 18, 2016

In the Wilderness

I was studying this morning in preparation for some online Bible courses I'm starting to write and I found myself in Jeremiah 2 and this part of the second verse jumped off the page and into my heart. God is speaking to His people and says: I remember.....your following after Me in the wilderness, through a land not sown.

Now most of us did not plan as a child to grow up and be a caregiver. It's a strange land for most of us when we find ourselves there.It's an unknown land and we didn't spend time directly cultivating the skills we would need. I mean really, who knew we would need to know how to do some of these things?

Not only did we not really plan on being a caregiver in most instances, it can be a lonely and dry place. We eventually find a new normal and learn to function and work with what we have; but loneliness and social isolation are definitely areas we find ourselves having to deal with. It can be a real-life wilderness. And that's why this verse grabbed me this morning. I found comfort in realizing that God remembers how I seek Him in the wilderness.

At the very start, one of my prayers was that He would shield me and protect me from becoming bitter on this journey. The way to protect ourselves from that is to seek Him while we walk through the furnace. We all have good days and rougher days - but being a caregiver is not for the weakling, or the fainthearted. To carry on day after day and not become bitter we must purposefully seek Him.

Just like my faith was redefined during those early caregiving years, I've learned a new way to look at seeking Him. Indirectly, we are taught in many church settings that seeking Him and petitioning Him are synonymous. They are not. If we are continually asking God to do something or to act on our behalf, or even to rescue us - that's not seeking. That's begging.

Seeking Him in my understanding is reaching out to hear His heart, feel His touch and see His face. It's not really about getting Him to change my circumstances as much as it's about allowing His presence to change me.

Today I will meditate on how much I need His nearness. My thoughts will be on desiring to know Him, to know His heart and not just what He can do. I will turn my heart toward His and seek Him no matter how dry the wilderness becomes or if I'm overcome with a flood. I will seek to know Him and His heart. Will you join me?

Thursday, March 17, 2016

What's the point?

There are many aspects to caregiving and some of them are beautiful like having the opportunity to love a person beyond what they can "give back." Another touching point is being able to offer such intimate, loving care. I tell my son that I am grateful I get to take care of him - I'm glad he's mine.

But as we all know, it is a tough job and we can face frustrating circumstances every single day. They can range from dealing with medical professionals who are not listening to us, aides that do not show up or don't do their jobs, to supplies that do not come on time and even the fact that at times our loved ones don't respond in the way we wish they would. On those types of days or during those types of hours, it's easy to wonder what's the point? 

I'm not pondering the point of caregiving as much as the point of our faith. This question was answered for me this morning as I opened my Bible to the first chapter of 1 Peter where actually, he is encouraging the saints to rejoice even in the midst of various trials which are proving, or purifying, their faith. I notice the trials are not conflicting with faith. They are not tearing away at faith. They are actually helping faith mature. So as we face our daily struggles, our faith is NOT getting weaker, nor diminishing in any way - it's actually getting stronger and purer with each passing day. An analogy might be how lifting weights doesn't cause our muscles to go away - it causes them to get stronger and be able to lift more. In the same way - walking through the furnace helps our faith grow and become stronger...even if it doesn't feel like it... by the way - you are still standing - right? Then it's working.

Verse 9 was where I stayed focused this morning because it says the outcome of our faith is the salvation of our souls. When faith has its perfect, or mature work in us, it doesn't magically make all the "bad" things go away so we have heaven on earth. The final product of faith is a saved soul no matter what we walked through to get there.

Our situations, whatever they may be, are not the end all. Faith continues to work in and through those of us who believe no matter what we face, no matter what life brings our way - and no matter how we deal with it. Faith will not train us how to be an escape artist - but it will work toward our salvation and it won't let us down.

Today I will meditate on how faith is making me stronger. I may not feel it or look like it - but faith is maturing in me. I'll turn my thoughts to the fact that faith is not going to rescue me out of my situation - it's going to carry my spirit through - unharmed to the end. In this I will rejoice - that no circumstance can make my soul be unsaved....it can't touch my heart which is hidden in Him. Will you join me?

Monday, March 14, 2016

What is "Normal" Anyway?

One thing common to caregivers is the feeling of alone-ness. For me, it's somewhat different than just feeling lonely. It's more intense, more enduring and the social isolation can chip away until it feels like there's nothing left. This morning I opened my Bible to see what I could find that might fix the draining feelings of being alone, My mind went first to Hebrews 13:5 where the writer is reminding the readers that God promised to never leave or forsake us. But since I always like to read verses in their context, I backed up a few verses and my attention focused on verse 3.

Verse 3 instructs the reader to remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them;  and the verse ends up telling them the "why" behind the instruction -  you yourselves also are in the body. It struck me as rather odd that the writer of Hebrews was having to remind the body of Christ that they were to visit the prisoners. I found it odd because they were in the midst of great growth as far as the body of Christ was concerned. We might call it a revival today. And yet right in the middle of huge church growth the believers are having to be reminded to visit those in prison.

Then he worked his way down to verse 5 where he has to remind them to keep themselves free from greed and the love of money. He tells them to be content with what they have because He will never leave or forsake us. Odd things to be reminding believers of in the midst of a move of God, don't you think?

I would think prisoners could understand some of the caregiver's feelings of being alone. They are often forgotten and feel isolated I'm sure. And there's not much you can do about feeling alone, is there? Even if we can go do something normal we are so different and can feel like we stick out like a sore thumb. Our lives are just different, and there's not much we can do about it. We can't expect others to understand our situation either. And so here we sit alone. Again. And Again.

At times it an feel like no one is willing to come into our worlds; and it's not always possible for us to go into theirs. But God is not scared of our situation, caregiving and caregivers do not make Him want to stay away. We make Him want to draw close. He is near the brokenhearted. He wants to bind up the brokenhearted not throw them away or ignore them. Get this: He comes to us. And then He won't leave!

Today I will meditate on His enduring presence in my life - even when I feel like I'm a mess. In my alone-ness, I will remind myself that my life is not too scary for Him - He chooses to walk this out with me. When I feel alone today - I will turn my thoughts to this scripture and remind myself that He has already taken up residence in me - and He is not going to leave. And once again, I will rest in Him. Will you join me?

Monday, March 7, 2016

He Is Faith-Full

My devotions this morning ended up in 2 Thessalonians 3:3. This verse starts with a basic truth stated very simply: The Lord is faithful. Just that statement took my mind to 2 Timothy 2:13 that says this: If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.

I cannot say I have always been "faithful" on this caregiving journey. It has a way at chipping away at the false definitions of faith that are fostered by some of today's erroneous teachings. I can say my faith has been completely redefined.

But on the CG journey I have felt like I lost faith. I've cussed, ranted and raved about things I have not liked on this journey. I've felt like God wasn't there. Many a night I've stood in my son's room, or in the hallway in the wee hours of the morning and looked toward the heavens and cried out, where are You now? I need you here! as I tried to get my son's fever to break or was contemplating a midnight run to the ER.

But when the morning comes and the sun rises yet again - just as He put it in place all those years ago - I realize He walked through the long dark night with me. Even though I felt totally faith-less; He was faith-full. I believe it was Hudson Taylor that said when we feel like we don't have any faith - it's okay because God is still full of faith or faith-full for us.He has all the faith we need.

Today I am going to meditate on His faithfulness. I'm going to purposefully turn my mind away from my feelings of faithlessness - and focus on the truth that He is always faithful - there's no lack and there is no gap! With my thoughts and heart I will embrace His faithfulness and I will willingly let it carry me through today. Will you join me?

Thursday, March 3, 2016

What's in A Name

Yesterday after I wrote the devotion, I couldn't shake Job from my mind. I kept thinking about the last few verses of the book and how quickly it smoothed his "life" over with what seems to be a he lived happily ever after.

God restored Job's health and wealth and he went on to have more children. I thought about that for awhile. Just because he had 10 more kids doesn't mean he didn't miss his first set of kids. These 10 didn't make up for the loss of his first children. He had still raised them and loved them and his memories of them were still in tact.

On my caregiving journey I have good days and bad days. I have pictures of my son BC (before crash). Some days when I see them, they tear at my heart. I remember how he was and see him as he is. Other days, I enjoy the memories we made and honestly wouldn't trade for having had the opportunity to make them. Most days I miss him too much to express with words. Even though it's different now - I still love him - he's my son. Adding another son - would not replace him or the spot he has in my heart.

It can be easy to look at the end of Job's story and think it all worked out perfectly, and on one hand it did. But the loss of his children was never erased. Our losses as caregivers don't just disappear when we have a good day. A lot is really up to our attitude and how we take on the new while carrying the old. Every day is an opportunity to be swept under by our emotions and the struggles we face; or to rise above them. Some days, I have to admit, I do well to keep just the tip of my nose out of the water to keep from drowning. Other days I adjust well.

So with Job still on my mind this morning, I got up and opened my Bible to chapter 42 one more time. Then I decided to look up the meanings of the names of his daughters. Jemima was Job's first daughter after his trial. It means beautiful as the day. His second daughter was named Kezia and it means fragrant as a perfume. And his third daughter was named Keren-happuch which means child of beauty. He could have named them anything - and these are the names he chose. I think it's significant.

The names of his daughters were all focused on beauty. Even though he must have grieved the loss of his other children, he focused on the beauty of these ladies. It seems to me that Job was looking at the beauty of the moment instead of the pain of the past. Job embraced the new and moved forward positively.

For me, the pain of the loss of the past can be haunting, but today I will try to let it go. I will think about the beauty of the moment instead. I will meditate on the works I see God doing in and around me today and not focus on the losses endured. My thoughts will be on His restoration and His protection of my soul, and I will rest in Him once again. Will you join me?

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Only One Word

I've always been intrigued by the story of Job in the Bible. When I was younger I didn't really get it; but as life unfolded it made more sense. And even though I would never even try to compare my situation to the hardship Job endured, I feel like in a small way I can relate to some of Job's experience. I have been known to look at people with open mouth and a blank stare when they compare themselves to Job and all they have is something like a broken fingernail or a flat tire. Ever hear one of those stories? Their car broke down or something and they are claiming they understand Job. And I'm like, really?

I'd have to say a caregiver's life is not nearly on the scale of what Job went through but it does help bring some understanding. Sadly, I'll never be able to say I didn't "sin with my mouth" during my journey of faith, but I can say I've always come back around to trusting God. Maybe that's the important part....

Here's what I was thinking about Job this morning. I skimmed through some of the discourse between he and his friends and still find ignorance amazing. Poor Job. Here he was having lost literally everything and now his friends are grieving him more by telling him it's all his fault because he had to have sinned somehow. I will say on this caregiving journey I had feelings that God must be punishing me and that there was some way I had displeased Him or He would not have allowed it to happen. Of course, as I read through all our Bible heroes I realized we all face something.

So I don't know how long Job was bullied by his friends and kept denying he'd done something wrong, but what I noted is that when God spoke - He said not one word about it. He didn't tell them Job was cool and his friends were crazy. When He finally spoke up He asked them Where were you?  I love chapter 38 as God describes HIS account of creation and how He set the boundaries for the waters of the earth and told "their proud waves" they could only come so far! These last chapters of Job are powerful as God and Job interact with God asking the questions and Job having no answers.

Then at the very end of chapter 42 God instructs Job's friends to go offer a sacrifice and have Job pray for them. How humbling that must have been for them after all they put Job through. And verse 8 sums it all up- God says to the friends: My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer on your behalf. I will not treat you as you deserve, for you have not been right in what you said about me, as my servant Job was. (NLT)

All that talking they did and God told them they were wrong in what they said about Him, and Job was right. That's all Job got - just that little phrase. But it was one word from God! And it was enough. By looking at God's answer to Job and his friends, I have to think Job was so confident in his relationship with God that he never questioned it. He knew he was righteous no matter what life hurled at him.

Today I am going to meditate on how God's righteousness is enough to cover me during the trial. My thoughts will be on how my righteousness is in Christ and there is nothing in heaven or in earth that can remove it from me. And I'm going to confidently rest in Him today. Will you join me?

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Patient and Passionate

I like organization. But I'm beginning to think caregiving and organization are distinctly opposed to one another. No matter how much I try to organize or make a schedule to try and keep up - the further behind it seems I get. Playing "catch-up" is a daily game - and I keep losing, or so it seems.

Don't get me wrong - I am SO thankful for my jobs and being able to take care of my son. It's just that it seems like I put off the thing I feel is the most important to me. God.

It's not like I don't want to spend time with Him, it's just that when I get up at 5 each morning I make my coffee (real priorities here!) and bolus and change Chris. By the time I get set down to drink my first cup, there's tons of things in the forefront of my mind needing to be done, NOW! And so it begins - the circus I call a morning. The aide comes, there's errands to run. Every time I turn around it's time to feed Chris, which means pureeing another meal; or change him or do some therapy. When I'm not doing that - there's tons of work to do. I end most days feeling like I fall way short. Needless to say - I can easily get lost in the shuffle of a normal day.

When I get all caught up in the day-to-days, it's easy to remember I'm valuable to God - to anybody really. But the verse that comes to mind - and I have to remind myself of is Exodus 34:14 which says You must worship no other gods, but only the Lord,, for He is a God who is passionate about His relationship with you. He's patient and passionate. He so longs to be involved in my life and foremost in my heart. And while He passionately pursues us - He also patiently waits for us to "get it."

That fills me with awe for Who He is and how He loves us. We can know passion; and we can be patient - but how can those two dwell together? It seems like they are opposites like my attempts to be organized and caregiving are. Yet He is so determined to have us He will do anything He needs to in order to be with us. He can be patiently waiting - or passionately pursuing. But He's always desiring to be with us. He doesn't look at us and see a caregiver - He sees His beloved.

Today I'm going to meditate on the fact that he's waiting for me to sort through my day to spend time with Him. He is patient and passionate - and He wants to be with me. I'll turn my thoughts to stopping so He can catch me. I'm going to spend my day thinking about how to patiently, passionately pursue Him today. Will you join me?