Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Double Trouble!

Sunday, when the family was gathered, my daughter sneaked over and got a "siblings" pic. I really think Chris is smirking at her. And he's looking at the camera like he knows what he's doing too! When I saw this photo on her Facebook wall, it brought both joy and sadness. It was a joy to have her take a siblings shot, but I know how difficult this has been for her. It's like I hurt for both my children.

Double pain. I grieve over the loss of my son, and I hurt as I watch my daughter struggle to deal with it all as well. One of a mother's worst nightmares. I'm proud of the woman she has become and how she has let it bring her closer to God, but the journey, like each of ours, has been difficult.

I guess caregiving really changes us, but we don't always realize how much or in what ways those changes are affecting us. They keep telling us that we are emerging a beautiful butterfly - but too often I still feel stifled in a cocoon with no flight in site.

I'm sitting here and reflecting on our memories recent and past and wondering what to do with all the emotions. Then out of nowhere I get this text that just says "Psalm 35." I was like - what a jerk to just send a reference and no point! lol So of course, I opened my Bible and read through the chapter. David talks a lot about stumbling, fighting, affliction, and fighting with his enemies. I'm thinking it sounds a lot like one of my days lately.

As I read through this declarative prayer I found two things that stood out to me. I am still learning about praying about my enemies since we don't wrestle against flesh and blood and aides and agencies....But what did stand out what the declaration in verse 10 - All my bones will say, Lord who is like You....." I really like that - I want my bones to cry out even if my voice can't - and declare that He is Lord of my life.

The second verse that grabbed my attention was the final one. And my tongue shall declare Your righteousness and Your praise all day long. May this be so. May I direct my tongue to declare His righteousness each day - no matter what the day brings. 1 Corinthians 1:30 says that Christ become righteousness for us. That truth cannot be changed no matter what happens to us this side of time. And that's a good thing.

Today, I will continue to say in my heart, Lord, there is none like You. And I will thank Him for becoming my righteousness. I'll turn my thoughts back to the cross where He paid the price for me, where He bore my pain and grief so I could remain in right standing with Him. My meditation will be on how He covers me...forever. I will rest in Him today knowing He has done a complete work by making me righteous and I will rejoice in this and trust Him for one more day. Will you join me?

Monday, April 17, 2017

Mind, Will, Emotions

 As many around the world, my family gathered for Easter Sunday. One thing about my family is we have a rich heritage in the Word and in ministry. It was a true blessing to sing a few songs around the piano and especially to take communion together. I'm proud of my Christian heritage, but that hasn't stopped "bad" things from happening.

My head and heart were still full from yesterday as I awoke this morning. My emotions were still all over the place as I opened my Bible (yes I am old school - I want to touch it!) for my devotions this morning. My eyes landed in Psalm 86. David starts out with a prayer for God to hear his cry because he is afflicted and needy.

Now, I don't think David was whimpering. In my mind, he was just stating how much He needed God. He says, save Your servant, who trusts in You. And then goes on with I cry to you all day long.He lifts his soul to the Lord - that's his mind, will and emotions. The part of David that made him uniquely David. Even though our bodies are all unique and we have distinct features and fingerprints, it's our soul that makes us so unique. We think differently, have different experiences to shape us and to draw from in our thinking processes. We have various emotions and feel things differently. It's the core of our being and the part that can trip us up!

David later says, In the day of my trouble I will call on You - for You will answer me. Then he changes his perspective. In about verse 8 he starts praising God. There is none like You. You are graet and do wondrous deeds.. You alone are God. After that, his tone changes. He begins to pray differently. Instead of crying out - now he is asking, Teach me Your ways...Unite my heart to fear Your name...I will give thanks to You...

Today, I want to skip the first part of this discourse and just go to the second part. I feel crushed beneath the load of life this morning, but I will turn my focus on Him. I'll take the cries of my soul - that part of me that feels, and lay it at His feet and then I will praise Him. My prayers and meditations today will be on asking Him to teach me to trust Him more. I'll lean a little more into Him today and yield my heart to the changes He wants to make in me. I'll yield my heart and soul to Him and trust Him for one more day. Will you join me?

Friday, April 14, 2017

Or What?

One of the difficult things about becoming a caregiver is that life goes on. Please note, it's not like most people mean that phrase. Life as we knew it, life as normal, life like everyone else does not go on. For many of us, life after caregiving is far different than before. But it seems like for everyone else - life goes on. There are two sides of this for me. On one hand it can be difficult watching all my son's friends go on with their lives as they should. they marry, have children, develop careers and have nice little lives. While my son struggles with learning to eat, move and talk again.

The other side of that coin is far different though. It's the part of life goes on that can be rewarding. My daughter married before my son's wreck, but she didn't start having children until a little later on. My daughter and I have talked about how we grieve that her kiddos will never know the Chris we knew. There's a real sadness there.

Last night, my daughter called and said that my granddaughter had fallen in the tub, hit her head, and a huge knot had come up. She seemed okay, but as a precaution they were headed to the hospital to get her checked out. I am not even sure if I can describe my range of emotions. I was angry, fearful, and had tons of what ifs running through my head. I'm an over-thinker and I had all these horrible images running through my head. I wanted to pray. I did pray. But God didn't rescue my son - can I trust Him now?  I heard my heart say - God, I can't take something else, I can't handle if my granddaughter is hurt. I lashed out at Him with my thoughts. And very simply, it was like He said, or what?

I was kind of caught off guard by that addendum to my raging thoughts. But I stopped, and thought, yeah, or what? Am I going to just stop trusting Him now? Will I walk away from Him and stop writing, praying, reading my Bible or pursuing Him? And in that moment, I realized there wasn't an or what. There's nothing I can do to manipulate life to go "my way" because, trust me, if there was I would have used it already!

Life is going to still happen and bad things are going to still happen. And I see absolutely no reason to stop trusting Him now. Instead, I find it drives me to Him more. All those deep-rooted scriptures will just dive deeper in my soul. I'll still say of the Lord - He is my help. He is a present help in trouble (any trouble, all trouble), I still run to Him with my heart's cry. I will still trust Him. I do still trust Him. And if something else does happen, I'll just learn to trust Him more. There's not an or what?.

He is the only constant in my life (see yesterday's post!). He will still carry me. He will still comfort me. He will still be with me. I'm not moving - and He's not moving.

My beautiful granddaughter is fine. She had a blast at the hospital I'm told. The nurses loved her and had fun with her and fed her snacks, and she even thought the CT scan was cool. lol She has a huge knot on her head, and a headache (she says her hair hurts).But she's okay. I'm okay. And God's okay with that.

Today I'm going to focus on trusting Him more. My thoughts will be on how He moves in closer when "bad" things happen - never further away. I'll meditate on how He is always present which means He is always right here no matter what the day brings - a true present help in trouble. I'll think about how my family has trusted Him as our refuge over the years - and that's not going to change with me. And today - I'll trust Him for one more day. Will you join me?

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Simple Lesson in Math

I've issued a challenge on many occasions and asked anyone brave enough to come follow me through a day in  the life of a caregiver. You wanna know how many takers I've had so far? Zilch. Zero. Nada. On one hand, I find that a bit amazing since there are so many people ready to lend advice - but not a hand. Of course, on the other hand, I'm not surprised in the least.

Each day brings different challenges depending on the level and type of care we are providing for our loved ones. For me, one day my son is pleasant, easy to work with, eats well and is alert. The next day (or moment for that matter) his body can be rigid, stiff and he can be uncomfortable and upset. He might even sleep all day.

Situations with agencies change constantly too. Yesterday, a nurse shows up without calling and announces that she's Chris' new nurse. (I liked the other one of course.)One month I get supplies, aides show up and I get some help. Other times, nothing seems to go right. As caregivers we learn to use what we have from where we are - adjust, adapt and advance! It becomes the norm after awhile and is really no big deal.

So this morning I was letting all this run around in my head and I thought - there's just nothing constant in my life. Friends change, aides change, companies change hands, jobs change... life is in a continual state of change. But God. He remains the one constant in my life. He has not changed one iota since the day of my son's wreck.

This took me back to my days of teaching math. In Algebra there will be variables and constants. Variables change - you never know what they may be. You can plug anything in for a variable for any reason at all. That's those confusing x's everyone complains about. Then in a problem, you'll also have a number. That's the constant. It will not change no matter what you do to the problem - you can count on it to still be what it was when you started. If you get confused - you can erase everything and go back to that same constant and variable. No matter what variable you use - the constant is still be the same.

I started thinking about how my life has changed - and continues to change. There are many variables coming into play. But no matter what - God is that constant - I can count on Him to remain, no matter what the variables do. No matter how "messed up" a day gets - I can always go back to the constant. If I make tons of mistakes, get out of control or just lose it - I can go back to Him because He is that constant.

His love doesn't change. His mercy doesn't change. His presence doesn't change. The fact that He is with me does not change, period. He is constant. I can count on Him to be the same. Always. The task at hand becomes shifting my focus from the variables, the things that tend to change constantly - and focusing on the Constant that never changes.

Today, I'm going to shift my focus off all the things that constantly change around me to His constant love. My meditations will be of Him and the bare truth that He doesn't change - my situation cannot change Him. I'll turn my thoughts to how He remains with me...always. He's not looking for a way out. I'll take life's algebra problem with it's many variables back to the one constant, Him. I'll remain right there rejoicing in the truth that He remains. Period. And I'll let that thought carry me as I trust Him for one more day. Will you join me?

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

So, How Are You?

Do you get confused like I do when someone asks How are you? As you know by now, I'm an over-thinker and my mind can go a hundred different directions with what seems like a simple question. Do you want to know how I am as a caregiver? Not likely. Or perhaps you want to know how I am physically. Less likely - menopausal, but I did just run my 23rd half marathon, that can be intimidating. Would you like to know how my work is going? Busy, as usual I can't keep up. What about emotionally? You really don't want to know that one - because I can be all over the place for no reason at all - pick an answer from ecstatic to depressed, I don't care. lol

But we all know that no one really wants an honest answer to the question, so we just say, Oh, I'm good.  Or maybe something about being fine and doing well. Because that's the  polite thing to do, and it's safer too because those who are not caregivers can't quite grasp where we are, but it's okay because God does. He can handle it, He can handle us. He's not scared of our emotional ups and downs, our crazy thoughts (maybe that's just me), or our weird little worlds. I'm so thankful for that.

So, this morning I was reading along and came across a verse in Psalms that I've read plenty of times before and I'm pretty sure I've sung it in a song or too back in the day. But today it hit me a bit differently for some reason and  it generated a bunch of questions in my mind - as you see that's not that difficult to do.

Psalm 84:11 simply says- For the Lord God is a sun and shield. That's the first part of the verse, but I didn't make it past that. I guess I usually thought sun - like the big yellow light in the sky; and shield like a piece of armor you carry into battle to protect you. But this morning I realized I wasn't sure that made sense. I was okay with the fact that He is my light, and He is my shield in battle.

But why would the psalmist say it that way? Why would he use two such different terms as if they belonged together? Then it hit me. Maybe the psalmist meant that God is our sun - when we need the light of day; and He's our shield when the heat is too much for us to bear. In short - He's whatever we need right now. If I need the warmth of the sun - He can do that. If it's too hot for me, and I need a break - He can do that too. He can cover wherever we are in the How are you? categories. He can meet us where we are and calm our thoughts.

So the question becomes what do you need today? Or what do you need right now? Do you need direction and a light on your path? Or do you need a break, a moment to get out of the heat and catch your breath? Either way - He;s good for it. He really is everything for us - whatever we need.

Today, I'm going to focus on how He can be my sun - light, direction, warmth. And He can also be my shield - protection, wind-breaker, shelter. I'll meditate on how He really is my everything. He's all I truly need. I'll give Him all the crazy thoughts and emotions - and let Him carry me through one more day. Will you join me?

Monday, April 10, 2017

I Love You O Lord My Strength

As you know, I love the psalms, and I've been studying them looking at them from a somewhat different angle. As I read them, I'm thinking of how David was both a psalmist and a warrior. This has been an interesting study and I've learned a lot. I am making a bit of progress on the project. Hopefully, I'll have something together on it soon and can share it with everyone.

Last night I was looking over my notes and my attention was drawn to Psalm 18. I've always liked this particular psalm, but what I noticed last night was the difference in David in the first few verses and some of the latter verses. He starts out with that psalmist heart by (in my mind) singing - I love you O Lord my strength! And by verse 40 he's talking about smashing the enemy. Now, I realize throughout this psalm, and many others, David gives credit to the Lord for strengthening him for the battle.  David says that God taught his hands to war, and that by God's strength he could run through a troop and leap over a wall. This warrior attributes his victories to the Lord.

In my mind, David cleans the blood off his sword, then picks up his harp and sings about how his God led him to victory. In this psalm, though, David starts out with what I interpret as a softness... singing about his love of the Lord. I love You O Lord my strength.... right before he smashes the enemy.

I think as caregivers we can relate. We know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God strengthens us for this walk. It is He who carries us through the darkest, roughest times. We can sing I love You O Lord my strength!  And mean it. Those tender moments we have with Him can be what carries us through the tougher moments. We can relate to David when he says the Lord teaches him to war. Or when he says You've strengthened my hands for battle. We know that's true.

One minute we are singing His praises and the next we may be in an altercation with the agency that sends the aides. We can be praising Him and then have to tend to the baser needs of our loved ones. It's those tender moments with Him that carry us through the tougher spots we face. Because I love Him I don't want to walk through anything without Him. I need Him to strengthen me to face the day, and I have to get up-close-and-personal for Him to do that.

Today I will rejoice that He gives me the strength for this walk. I'll thank Him for walking it with me and for empowering me to continue walking with Him. My thoughts will be on how He smashes my enemy (fill-in-the-blank... depression, discouragement, exhaustion...). I'll meditate on His strength and how it is strong in my weakness. And I will rely on and trust Him for one more day. Will you join me?

Friday, April 7, 2017

Closer Than He's Ever Been

Crazy, crazy week. I'll spare you the details, but suffice it to say I've seen one of every basic medical worker except a surgeon this week. Yup - including firefighters, EMT personnel, ER physicians and techs, who by the way don't know how to transfer a handicapped person from a table to a chair, to home visit nurses and case managers. It's been one of those weeks - one caregivers are all too familiar with.

Over the last couple of hectic days, I also made a choice. I decided I would not focus on all the things that were demanding my attention. This doesn't mean I abandoned my responsibilities in any way - I just didn't let them have me. Instead of wringing my hands, I chose to lift them. I stopped in the middle of the craziness and focused on Him.

I also refocused in the natural too. How do you do that? I'm glad you asked. It can be easy to get off on some of the many things we can't do because of our caregiving situations. So, instead of thinking about how I couldn't travel, or do this or that, I decided to think about what I have done since I became a caregiver. Here are a few things I've done that might not have happened otherwise:


  • got my Master's in Health Education
  • became a health coach
  • became a full-time freelance writer
  • ran a marathon (just one)
  • learned to love to run
  • worked up to advanced belts in taekwondo
  • learned to work from home
  • taught English via skype to nations around the world
  • taught in an orphanage in Pakistan
That's just a few of the "cool" things I've done since I became a caregiver. Simply shifting my focus made a big difference in my attitude. But I also made this shift spiritually. I started thinking about all He's done for us. I thought about how He has provided all along the way. You can tell I haven't missed a meal! lol We have not gone without for one day. He reestablished me in Him - and in His word and gave me such a deeper meaning of faith - a faith that is now applicable in everyday life. I learned how to be totally open and honest with God about my feelings - and He didn't get mad at me.

His love is sweeter and His grace is closer than they've ever been to me. I think I know Him just a little better and I wouldn't trade for that. His word has new life-sustaining meaning for me. I've heard Him singing over me - heard the song of His heart and felt His tender love for me. His sustaining power is real and his Word is rooted deeper in my heart than ever before. 

He has filled me with peace, comforted me when I was distraught, and walked this journey with me. He has not abandoned me or left me stranded emotionally, physically, or spiritually. He's closer than He's ever been. And for that I am thankful. The psalmist said, the nearness of my God is good.

Today I will meditate on how good it is to have God walking this journey with me. I'll tune my thoughts in to His love and grace and let Him have my focus today. I'll turn my meditations to His ever abiding presence, His sustaining mercy, His everlasting kindness and grace. And that's where I will rest my emotions and thoughts as I trust Him for one more day. Will you join me?

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

From Darkness to Light - Cocoon to Flight

There's just something about getting out in the fresh air and sunshine that revives you. Health-wise I know the sun causes our bodies to make vitamin D, which is essential and not found naturally in very many foods. Pure old sunshine also helps in the fight depression. As the spring weather has sprung, I'm trying to get myself and my son out the door a bit more to benefit from the natural elements.

One of the things I liked about this apartment when I found it nearly 6 years ago was the nice park behind it. There is a very nicely maintained paved walkway and a Frisbee golf course. For the little ones, there's a water pad on the end away from where we live. From my door, to through the park and back is just over one mile, so it makes a nice little walk.

Yesterday on our walk through the park, I saw the beauty of spring. There were several different types of butterflies, and colorful flowers scattered throughout the park. I'm not sure what it is exactly that seeing butterflies and flowers makes better, but at least it makes me smile a bit. Maybe the freshness of spring is just - refreshing. There's the promise of new life and maybe a little bit of hope associated with it.

But as we enjoy the beauty of a new butterfly or a freshly grown wildflower, we don't even see the struggle it took to produce them. The butterfly struggled to break out of the cocoon; and the flower fought through layers of dark soil to emerge into the sunlight. We just see the beauty and forget about the struggle. Somehow we miss the part about the frail little stem that fought through dirt and grit, withstood harsh conditions and fought to produce the little flower that makes us smile. Neither we nor the butterfly remembers the struggle of fighting off the binding of the cocoon to be able to spread wings. Gently they unfolded and as they dried they soon gave way to flight.


Our trouble may very well be that we not only remember the struggles, but are still fighting through them every single day. People say you're so inspiring. I'm like - no I'm surviving. Maybe they see the fruit of the struggle, and yes there is fruit. They see the flower - the love we have for our caregivee, the dedication to the journey, and the sheer tenacity it takes to keep going. What they don't see or understand is the time in the cocoon, or the time underground. But we remember well. That's partly because we are still living it day after day.

All I can hope for at the end of the day is that people see the flower or the butterfly rather than the struggle. These things were on my mind this morning as I read Romans 8. We know verse 28, and at times hate to hear that all things work together for good... I've heard myself think, yeah, I know. But knowing that somehow He can turn all the pain, suffering, and struggles into something good, doesn't help working through the process any easier.

I think we've heard that verse out of context for a long time now. It's our go-to verse for everything we don't understand. But the verses just before it we often ignore.

And the Holy Spirit helps us in our distress.
For we don't even know what we should pray for,
nor how we should pray.
But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings
that cannot be expressed in words.
And the Father who knows all hearts
knows what the Spirit is saying
for the Spirit pleads for us believers
in harmony with God's own will.

We just seem to bypass these two verses since we don't understand them and grab the one that is supposed to make everything better. We miss that He helps us in our distress. That part of caregiving that is similar to struggling to get out of a cocoon. He understands us when we don't even know what we should pray or how to pray, just like the butterfly was waiting for its wings to dry before it takes flight. And then there's this phrase that stuck out to me - He knows our hearts.

Today, I'm going to rest in the fact that He knows my heart. I'm going to turn my thoughts to how He can see the most hidden parts of my soul - and think about how I'm actually okay with that. I want Him to see me, to know me. My meditation will be on how while He's making all this work out for good somehow - Holy Spirit is behind the scenes praying for me to make it, carrying me across the finish line, helping me emerge from the darkness into flight. Yeah, He's got this. He's got me. He's got you. And with that thought - I'll trust Him for one more day - will you join me?




Monday, April 3, 2017

Every Single Time

There are so many different situations caregivers deal with. I think there are entirely different dynamics between taking care of a child and caring for a parent. There's also different emotional packages for those who care for adult children who have become injured or ill, and caring for a child who was born with a condition. Even though each of these are caregiving roles, there's no way to compare them as they are each unique even if there are some similarities.

It's a whole different set of emotions dealing with my son's situation and  dealing emotionally with my mom's slow decline. I'm not specifically a caregiver for her, but she stays with me from time to time and I try to help out when I can. But I kinda got my hands full here. And that's a whole other set of emotions - feeling like I can't provide for my parents as much as I'd like to because I'm already a caregiver.

These are thoughts that are going through my mind this morning as I am working through some of my emotional pain. It may be the only constant in caregiving. And boy is it constant. This weekend has been one of lots of memories. It started with a simple post about the poisonous snakes in Oklahoma. A specific memory of a hike Chris and I took together surfaced. It was a funny memory of a hike cut short due to a snake. I laughed. I cussed. I cried.

Memories can be my best friend, or my worst enemy. I'm glad I have them. But they can cause so much pain. I think I'm making progress whatever that might look like because as memories came up this weekend and pain rose to the top, I didn't get quite as angry with God. It's kind of funny actually. The pain comes up and I don't know anything to do with it but to run to Him. I stand there with a broken heart asking all my why questions to which there are no answers. None that would suffice anyway.

There's this rush of emotions - I'm bringing my pain to Him, but then I'm mad at Him. But I'm bringing my aching soul anyway. Because I don't know of a better place to take it but to the One who can heal. That makes me angry again for a second or two. I think because He is the ONLY one who could do something. But He didn't.

But here I am before Him once again with my broken heart asking Him to soothe, comfort and heal. He never rolls His eyes and says, you again?  He never tells me I can't "come in" because I'm partly mad at Him still. He never turns me away. He doesn't tell me I'm too much to handle or I've run out of tickets to see Him. He doesn't get tired of me. Instead , in my mind He welcomes me,  brushes me off, straightens my clothes and smooths them out, pushes my hair out of my eyes and tells me He loves me. I'm welcome there. Every.Single.Time.

He doesn't get tired of me running to Him with the constant pain and grief from caregiving. Instead He somehow brings comfort and then pours His strength in me. I have lots of scriptures running through my head right now but the most prominent is a familiar one from Isaiah 40. It says this:

O Israel, how can you say the Lord doesn't see your troubles?
How can you say God refuses to hear your case?
Have you not heard or understood?
Don't you know that the Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of all the earth?
He never grows faint or weary.
No one can measure the depths of His understanding.
He gives power to those who are tired and worn out;
He offers strength to the weak.

And that's where I stand up and identify. Hey - I'm in the Bible - that's me!! I'm tired, worn out and weak. But He give me power, and offers me strength. 

Today I will be thankful that He is always there for me and never turns me away. I'll meditate on how He shares His strength with me when I have none left of my own. My thoughts will be on that spot where I feel I am standing before Him broken and alone...and He's not afraid to touch me. I'll be thankful that He meets me with His strength every single time. And I'll trust Him for one more day - will you join me?