Tuesday, January 17, 2017

2-Way Psalm

This morning I was reading in Psalm 91. It's been a favorite of mine for years even though I can't grasp it's full meaning. We see the psalmist talking about staying in the shelter and the shadow of the Almighty. And then he goes directly into his own declaration.

I have a vivid imagination, and I'm a writer. So these two verses illicit quite the scene in my mind's eye. As a writer, an inspiring thought goes through my mind and I grab pen and paper to try and capture it. You never know where a thought will lead you - to a devotion, a song, a book!

My active imagination sees David in full armor, of course, as he has a thought and runs to "jot down" these words of inspiration:
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.

And then I see him set back and let those words sink into his heart as he meditates on them for a few seconds only to jump up and boldly declare:

I will say to the Lord, "My refuge and my fortress!
My God in whom I trust!"

Then, at least in my imagination, he goes back to pen the remainder of this moving psalm. For several verses the psalmist discusses in second person how you will be protected, guided, and free from terror. Here are a few things that stood out to me that "you" (being the one who trusts in the Lord) will do:
you will not be afraid
you will be carried by angels
you  will tread on lions and cobras
you will trample down young lions and serpents

And then in the last three verses, the psalmist hears from God. He totally shifts from first and second person. In first voice the psalmist pens:

Because He has loved me, I will deliver him
I will set him securely on high,
because he has known my name.
He will call on Me and I will answer him
I will rescue him in trouble
I will rescue him and honor him
with a long life I will satisfy him 
and I will let him see My salvation.

I wonder. Do I know His name? Do I call on Him? Do I call Him my God?  Yes I do. I call Him my shelter, I crawl up in His lap, I hide under His shadow daily. I let Him carry me! He is my sanctuary - and I am His. He is my beloved and I am His.

So today I will turn my thoughts to how He lovingly watches our lives play out. My meditations will be on how He longs to rescue my emotions and show me His salvation. Even though I'm not sure exactly what that looks like when it comes, I will continue to trust Him. I will continue to praise Him and I will continue to declare to the Lord: You are my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust!" And I will rest in Him for one more day. Will you join me?

Monday, January 16, 2017

Oh for Grace to Trust Him More

My thoughts are all over the place this morning and I'm trying to reel them back in and keep them balanced. I'm sure I'm the only one who ever has to do that, right?

Cargiving is not for the weak of heart, that's for sure! But today it's not having the heart to carry on - it's the battlefield of the mind that is the problem. In my heart, there's no question. The stamina is there and no choices need to be made at this point.

But my head has to deal with the day-to-day struggles of caregiving. There are so many things going on around me right now that just set me off the edge with tons of questions. Some are simple, like why? I wonder why this ever had to happen. Why my son was ripped away. Why my shattered heart can't heal. Why the grief doesn't go away. Why my life was boxed up and seemingly put on hold.

I've said before it's not the actual caregiving that is the difficult part, it's the heart issues, the living grief and the beating your emotions take on the journey. And that's where I am today. Sorry. But I've learned it is better to be brunt and honest about my emotions - it's the only way to "move on."

In my mind, I see myself like a little girl gathering up this bundle of problems and heading to the throne to see how God is going to fix it. I stand there with my arms full, tears running from my eyes and looking at God with no words left to say. It feels like my life is a big why followed by a huge question mark.

I can think of several scriptures but none bring comfort, none make it all better. Real and raw still exists. It never really goes away, I just deal with it better on some days than on others.Somehow I have to figure out how to put on my big girl panties and walk through one more day.

So, I turn my mind away from my pain and grief and to His word. I think about Joseph and how dejected and lost he must have felt sitting in the dark, dank dungeon for something he didn't do. He figured out how to trust. And I think of Job (I think I'll read Job this week). He lost everything but trust. He didn't even hope God would restore him, he just trusted God with his life. I want to be more like that, even on days when it doesn't come so easy, days like today.

And that is what I will do. I'll think about Job's words, two scriptures stand out. I first think of how he answered his wife when she said he should just give up and die. He answered her with this: Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity? I have to agree. I get so tired of people using the phrase "God is good." when everything goes there way - but I don't hear it at all when things are not going like they planned. He is good period. It's irrelevant whether things are going good or bad - God is good.

The second thing out of Job is his ultimate statement of trust: Though God slay me - yet will I trust Him. That's where I want to be too. I WANT to say that I trust Him on mornings like this when life is crushing me. The words to an old hymn come to mind:


Jesus, Jesus how I trust You
How I've proved You o'er and o'er
Jesus, Jesus precious Jesus
Oh for grace to trust him more...

Today I will meditate on these two scriptures out of Job. I'll pull out my guitar and sing through the verses to this song and let the words sink in. I know God's not trying to slay me...so I need to trust Him to carry me through these times when trust comes harder. I'll turn my meditations to thinking about the times I know He carried me, provided for me and my family and showered me with His great love. I will work on keeping my thoughts there today... and I will trust Him for one more day... will you join me?

Thursday, January 12, 2017

3 Simple Words

During my devotions this morning I got a phrase stuck in my head. I as reading 1 Corinthians 1:9 and it starts with 3 simple words: God is Faithful. I spent a few minutes letting those words sink in. I look back over my brief 56 years and think about all the times BC (before caregiving) and during that He has proven His faithfulness.

This phrase is used twice by Paul in this book. Here are the two verses where he uses this exact phrase:

God is faithful, through whom you were called 
into fellowship with His son, Jesus Christ our Lord....
There has no temptation taken you but such as man can bear;
but God is faithful,
who will not let you be tempted above what you are able;
but with the temptation will also make a way of escape 
that you may be able to endure it.


It's those 3 simple words that stick out to me. In the second verse above it's interesting also that He didn't promise a way out of our temptations and struggles - but enables us to endure it. What's up with that? Why didn't He provide a pre-planned escape route? That would have made sense to me. 

So I thought about that for awhile and finally reached my conclusion. In the first chapter, the first use of the phrase, Paul is explaining our calling - it's not about traveling the world and preaching (although that's what I always dreamed of doing), teaching Sunday School, pastoring a church, or anything else in "ministry." It's really that simple. We do not have to go to Bible college, serve on a deacon board or anything else to "fulfill" our call - it is plain and simple - the believer's true call is to fellowship with Him. And you know what's cool about that? The caregiver isn't left out! We can fulfill our calling from our living room!

Once again God has made it easy to get to Him. He may not have pre-planned an escape route to help us escape our troubles and struggles - but He made sure we could always get back to Him. As a matter of fact, He ensured that before He ever said, "Let there be light!" 

Today, I will meditate on these 3 simple words: God is Faithful. I'll turn my thoughts to how He planned out a route back to Him before time began. I'll think about how He sustains us and empowers us right in the midst of our pain. I will rejoice in knowing I can make one more day - and I will rest in Him. Will you join me?



Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Making a List - Checking it Twice

This morning I continued reading in 1 Peter. I've been meditating on how what He has given us is eternal and wanted to continue that thought. A caregiver's life or even each day canWe  be topsy turvy with things changing on a dime, some days everything is uncertain. This makes it difficult to make plans with family, activities or any thing like that. You never know what a day will bring - we kinda learn to go with the flow and adjust as you go. I think the constant change in a caregiver's life, day, hour and second is why I'm finding these un-change-ables so intriguing.

So this morning I made a short list from 1 Peter 2: 9. Here are four things that will not change for us as believers no matter what picture life paints:

We are a chosen race
We are a royal priesthood
We are a holy nation
We are His possession...

For me, looking at how drastically my life changed with that phone call over 8 years ago - it gives me something solid to stand on just knowing His kingdom didn't change that day, nor did my status in His kingdom.

In the natural - we can't change our race no matter what we do. We cannot change our blood line no matter what we do. We cannot change our birthright - even if we don't accept it. I'm starting to love these things!! Just thinking about how we are His kids and will always be His makes me smile. 

Today I will continue thinking about how His kingdom stands no matter what happens in this earthly kingdom. My thoughts will be on being apart of the God-race, a member of the holy nation of God and part of His royal priesthood. I will focus on being His possession, His kid, the one He loves and I'll rest right there for the day. Will you join me?

Monday, January 9, 2017

Beyond the Reach of Change

For some reason, the last few days have been particularly difficult for me. Memories flooding my mind of the way my son was BC (before the crash) just kept flowing. Sometimes I have to stay off social media to protect myself from seeing what his friends are doing. I'm happy for them, but he got cheated out of life.

I'm still learning new strategies to combat depression and other crazy emotions that go along with caregiving. One of them was of course, getting back to writing my devotions down here. And that's why we are here! :-)

Yesterday I made a few decisions about work and projects that gave me quite the energy boost. I sorted through the things on my plate and am removing all non-essentials. I found that when I took control rather than feeling like I was underneath the load of it all - my energy, perspective and emotions took a huge swing in a positive position.

This morning, when I woke up and reached for my Bible I was thinking I needed to read something about how He accepts us just like we are. This might offer me some affirmation of some sort and help me go ahead and kick those mully-grubs on away.

I found myself in 1 Peter looking for a particular verse that I honestly don't recall right now; but I went back and started in the first chapter where I found what I needed. Isn't that a lesson in itself? When we get in His word and dig around - He'll make sure we find just what we need!

Although this whole chapter filled my heart back up and pushed doubt, fear and depression away - I settled in verses 4-6. Here's what they say in the New Living Translation:

For God has reserved a priceless inheritance for his children.
It is kept in heaven for you, 
pure and undefiled
beyond the reach of change and decay.
And God, in his mighty power will protect you
until you receive this salvation 
because you are trusting in Him.

There was so much more in this chapter, but I bolded the words that seem to leap out at me today. What God has given us and prepared for us is pure and undefiled. Life can't mess it up!! I can't mess it up! It is pure and there is no power or time that can corrupt it. 

And this phrase: beyond the reach of change is what grabbed me. Time cannot water down what He is doing in time. Time will not erode what He has prepared for eternity. It cannot be changed. It does not matter what does or does not happen in time....What He's doing, has done and continues to do cannot be changed. Time is not strong enough to stop or change our inheritance in Him.

So even though our lives are rocked with trauma, sickness, or any other obstacle or situation - He has protected our inheritance in Him. He has protected US in Him and according to Philippians 1:6 - He'll continue working on it until time itself comes to a stop - and we step from one reality into the eternal reality and claim it!

Life can throw some hard blows - but it cannot stop what God is doing.

Each day can bring difficult challenges - but they cannot interrupt what God is doing.

Time can drag us through endless suffering - but what God is doing and has done will continue when time stops!


Today, I'm encouraged once again as I turn my thoughts to the power of the eternal. I'm not sure my head has a good grip on "eternity" but my heart sure is getting it right now! My thoughts will be on the incorruptible treasure I have in Him today. My meditations will be on the truth that what He says - goes. He won't take it back. He won't change His mind. And He won't let me go! And I can rest in Him for one more day. Will you join me?

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Are you Engaged Yet?

As a caregiver it can be easy to feel sort of "cut off" from the rest of the world. Our lives usually look much different than the status quo. And even though I can get out and about more now, there was a time I referred to my life in the cave.

The social isolation can be one of the most difficult side roads of caregiving. It doesn't seem to happen overnight, but slowly. One day you look up and realize not only has your world changed, but your people groups have too. Sadly, in many cases there are few people, if any, who can stand to walk alongside the caregiver.

We may not get invited to social events. If we do get invites, it can be difficult or even impossible to attend. Sometimes, for me, just the thought of trying to manage my schedule so it coordinates with Chris' needs, get him dressed, fed at the right time, and loaded in the van is too overwhelming to even attempt going out. This drives the stake further in and separates me from things I used to enjoy doing. Other times, I load him up and head down the road. Social life can be virtually non-existent, slowly dwindling or barely hanging on - if there is any hope of it at all.

One thing I really wish for my son is for him to have a friend. He had tons of friends before his wreck and they were all so young when it happened, they really didn't know what to do with it....or with him. What do I expect? He cannot communicate - can't hold a conversation. He can't go out with them. He can't even relate to them anymore and of course they cannot relate to him. So he is left inside himself - to battle alone. That breaks my heart and is one of the pains of caregiving.

On the other side of that proverbial coin though, is us. We are here and many times fail to communicate with God. Having discussions and conversations with Him requires faith. How many times have we (or I) failed to talk to God because we don't hear back from Him, don't think He can hear us, or we think we (or He) cannot relate to us anymore? How that must hurt His heart sort of like mine hurts for my son's lack of interaction.

God can be so easy to ignore as we go about our busy days. I have a "google mind" as one of my friends put it. It goes 900 miles an hour and each term, picture, thought or question generates pages of results over and over again. It can be tricky to get it slowed down enough to engage with God and hear Him. Just like it's difficult for my son's friends to stop long enough to communicate with Chris - whether he can engage or not. How many times do you think God tries to engage us and we sit there silently or going so fast we "don't have time" to hear Him? I'm determined to slow myself and my mind down enough to engage with Him - for He is the source of life.

Today, I will learn to "be still." I'm going to purposefully stop and listen for His input. I will step out of the way and let my heart engage with Him. I'll consider myself "engaged" to Him and anticipate his eager response. My thoughts will be on giving Him the highest seat in my heart. I will rest in Him, I will listen for His slightest move and I will rest in Him as I trust Him for one more day. Will you join me?

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Superhero to Zero

There are days when I feel like Superwoman. I get adequate hours in at work, a lot accomplished on my writing, my devotions done, goals met for Chris, housework done and maybe even get us out for a nice run.

And then there are days I do not.

I'm sure I'm the only caregiver who has days where I worry a lot about what I need to get done, spend time wringing my hands, drinking coffee and staring at the wall. I'm all spaced out - I'm on overload and breathing is enough work for the day! (Am I alone?)

Of course, there are also plenty of days in between where I get tasks completed, but not near what I had hoped. Those days I have to encourage myself and reaffirm the things I did get done and just let the rest go. That's where my thoughts were when I realized - I'm not Superwoman. Not only do I not have the body build for that role, I simply can't do more than what is humanly possible. I can't do more than what is cargiving-ly possible either!

I have to hang up the cape and learn to be content with what I can get done each day. It's okay if I storm the city gates and tear down the walls only to build new ones on Monday. And then feel like Chris' basic care is all I have the energy for on Tuesday. I have no idea how we can go from superhero to zero all in a day, but we do. At least I do!

We can see in Philippians 4, that Paul may have also had some of these feelings. His caregiving was much different than ours as he had the responsibility of taking care of all the new baby Christians, and the church that was still in a baby state needing tons of extra attention to help bring order. His plate was full too - just different from ours.

It's easy to quote verse 11 where Paul said he had learned to be content in whatever circumstances he was in. But contextually, he is speaking of facing some rough times of his own. He goes on to say he knew how to live in prosperity - and with want. He knew how to be full - and go hungry if need be. He knew how to have abundance - and suffer need. The faith-ers don't like to think about going hungry, having needs or suffering. They seem to think if they ignore it it will go away - or it doesn't exist and can be confessed away. And while I am a big proponent of guarding our confessions and keeping out mouths in line with the Word, we still have to deal with the gritty day-by-day and take it as it comes.

Right now, I am struggling to keep my head above water. I've got far more on my plate than what I will be able to physically accomplish. I'm willing to hang up my cape and go from superhero to zero and be content in Him.

Today, I will turn my meditation to His provision. I will wait on Him instead of thinking I can do it all myself.  I'll contentedly be the zero in life's equation today and let Him be the Hero. Instead of worrying, I'll turn my thoughts to all the ways He has provided for me over these caregiving years - and even before. My thoughts will be on Him - not me. I will trust Him for one more day. Will you join me?

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Unplugged

If anyone understands me I know it's you, my fellow caregivers. And thankfully, we are a forgiving bunch. I know I've been MIA for quite awhile but I'm refocused and ready to go again. I found myself totally overwhelmed by everything and just had to unplug for a bit. I'm all plugged in now and we're good.

Of course, caregivers can't unplug like others can as there are some things that simply cannot be let go. Even if we "take a break" there are some things that can't be ignored. I can cut back on my work, rearrange my daily schedule, simplify my daily processes like cooking and cleaning - but caregiving can't be "cut back" on.

Each day is about the same whether we're feeling it or not. We don't get to just break from bathing, feeding, dressing, or exercising our loved one just because we're on overload. Add to that complicated situation those things that may seem simple to others like aides that don't show up as scheduled, nurses who like to make surprise visits, making a living and "normal" family matters and daily life and for me it means I gotta check out for a bit and find myself in the pile. And that is why I've been MIA for awhile.

With the new year I have a new determination to do some things I want to do. One of them is keep up this blog and some others as well. I want to write some of my stuff instead of just for "the other guys." So here I am.

I opened my Bible this morning to remove the bookmark and my eyes fell on this verse from Isaiah 49:

And now says the Lord, 
who formed me from the womb
to be His servant.....

That little phrase stood out to me - He formed me to be His servant. I am made to worship Him no matter what life throws at me and no matter how crazy the days may get around me. I was born for this.

But the last phrase in this verse stood out to me as well. It says My God is my strength. Not only did He form me so my every breath and actions could worship Him, He gives me the strength to continue. Talk about a cool package deal, right? We are not out here on our own trying to find a way to keep on worshiping Him in the midst of the fiery furnace - He is empowering us to serve Him. There are no exclusions. No exceptions. No unlesses....we are His servant and He is our strength. I like that.

Today I will meditate on being born to worship and serve Him. I can do that with intention today. I'll refocus my thoughts and actions on how He empowers me to walk with Him, how He carries me through the rough days and walks with me through the lighter ones. I'll think about what it means to be invited to walk with Him, the King of Kings. And I will rejoice once again that He has not left me to face life alone. I'll be content in Him and rest in Him for one more day. Will you join me?