Monday, January 25, 2021

The Strength I Need


 I spent my devotions in Psalm 138 this morning. If you have time today, take a minute to read through it. There are several nuggets that spoke to my heart. I want to pull out this verse for my day today. Verse 3 in the New Living Translation says this When I pray, You answer me; you encourage me by giving me the strength I need.

I thought about that for quite some time. Firstly, I think we do gain strength when we pray. It's especially true as we bring our burdens to Him in prayer and then leave them there!  Of course, this is written by the warrior-king David. If anyone knew how to take their troubles to God in prayer and leave them there- it was David! I try to follow his example a lot. He prayed. He praised. He declared! I like that combination.

What I really wondered about this morning though, was how much strength I might actually need for today. Just for today. To say our proverbial plates are full is an understatement for most caregivers, right? So many things that have to be done on any given day. But every day only has 24 hours in it - no matter how it's sliced up. Then I asked, how much energy is God prepared to provide for me today? 

I'm kind of a high-energy personality and it might take quite a lot. lol. 

As caregivers, we never know what a day is going to throw in our lap, right? But it seems that God will give us the strength we need no matter what the level of need is. I think the key must be to trust Him for it. You know, like He gives us peace -not like the world gives - (John 14:27) But it's up to us to accept that peace and then let it reign in our hearts. Maybe the strength I need for today is kind of the same.

No matter what, He will make sure we can make it through today. Besides offering the strength needed to get through today - He also provides comfort, peace, and direction. Plus, He walks through each day with us and never abandons us to deal with the hectic craziness caregiving can bring alone. He's right there whether we see, hear, or acknowledge His presence. Actually, His presence goes before us into the day and then walks with us through it, and provides the strength we need all along the way.

Today, I'm going to thank Him in advance for giving me the strength I'm going to need today. I'll meditate on how He stays right with me no matter how crazy a day may get. My thoughts will be on the comfort and peace He provides - and how they do not wane or weaken over time. I like that. My prayer today will be that I will learn to lean on Him with more of myself and that I'll let Him carry me more. And with that - I'll trust Him for one more day. Will you join me?

Friday, January 22, 2021

Every Straw

 


Do you find yourself getting upset at the little things? I think as caregivers we run on high all the time that our emotions can stay on edge. We program ourselves to handle the big stuff, but those little things nag away sometimes. The big stuff, we just suck it up and handle it on the spot - call 911, call the nurse, or transport. It's the bigger stuff that we are able to kick into high-octane mode and push through. But those little things...

Sometimes, it's the littlest, even dumbest things it seems. Like I get angry because I didn't push the button on my coffee maker hard enough and it didn't start brewing. (Don't kid yourself - that's big stuff! lol) I was trying to reach around the handle on my bowl while eating oatmeal this morning and my sleeve got caught. I didn't even spill anything, but it made me mad that it was in my way. It doesn't take much to reach a max, does it?

Now, maybe this is just me - and you guys are always calm and collected. I know I'm high-strung. lol. But as caregivers, it's easy to live on the edge. For some, we live on the edge but can't express it for fear someone will think we are not able to perform our duties as caregivers. We treat aches and pains and avoid doctor's offices because we are afraid they will tell us to quit. And that's just not going to happen, is it?

But these things wear away at our emotions and drag us through mucky days. And you know what? I think it's just part of the caregiver's life. What's so cool about it all is that God is big enough for the big stuff - yet still concerned about the small stuff. That blows me away. Does He really care that my coffee pot didn't come on this morning? Does He know the company took a payment out of my account after I returned the equipment? Does He know my fears concerning Covid? Or that isolation is eating away at my soul? He does. He knows it all - the big and the "little." And He cares. 

God doesn't turn His eyes and ears away from us just because others think they are small, unimportant matters. He understands the burden we carry - and He sees every straw whether it's the one that will break the proverbial camel's back or the first one in the bag. Paul told us in 1 Peter 5:7 that we can cast ALL our cares on Him and we can let Him do the caring for us.

Now, God doesn't stand up there with a list of categories for things He will not carry. He doesn't toss things back and tell us that it's not on His responsibility list. He takes them all - big, small, and everything in between. Why? He cares for us - as a whole person.

Today, I will be thankful that God cares. I will be grateful that He listens to me offload all the things that are on my heart. He doesn't discriminate. He won't belittle. He won't tell me to suck it up and get stronger. He just cares about every straw on this camel's back. And just like that - a little gratitude and thankfulness go a long way to lighten the load. Today, as I trust Him with my soul  - my mind, my will, and my emotions - I'll thank Him for always being right there when I need Him. Will you join me?


Thursday, January 21, 2021

3-Point Patterns


One of the many things I like about King David is his transparency before God. In a lot of the psalms he wrote, he poured his heart out in pure honesty. I love how he explains his emotions and feelings so vividly. He says things like he cried all night, or like in Psalm 3, he says his enemies have greatly increased. In Psalm 61 he talks about how his heart and emotions are overwhelmed. 

I think there is a parallel for us as caregivers. I've said it before that it's quite alright to tell God how we really feel. If you could hide it from Him, where would you put it? My point, of course, is that He knows anyway. God is fully aware of my fears, thoughts, and the full spectrum of emotions I cycle through pretty much every day. It's okay to be like David and lay it all out on the table before God. It's not like He doesn't know.

But David does two things after baring His soul. First, he reminds himself of what God has done in the past. In Psalm 3, David says You are a shield for me - the One who lifts my head. The Lord sustains me. In Psalm 61 he reminds himself - You have been a shelter for me - a strong tower from the enemy. 

The last thing David does consistently throughout the Psalms is to make a declaration. In Psalm 3 he declares I will not be afraid. In psalm 61 his declaration is I will abide in Your tabernacle - I will trust in the shelter of Your wings.

You'll find this 3-point pattern all through the psalms that are attributed to David. I'm learning to live it out myself. We can come to God with all - every single thing we are feeling and trying to sort through. He is big enough (and smart enough) to handle it. Then, we can help ourselves out by reminding ourselves of what God has done in the past. Thirdly, we can make our own declarations of trust and faith to trust Him for one more battle - one more struggle - one more day.

Today, I'm going to focus on two things. I will remind myself of all the things God has done in my past. I'll spend time thinking about the times I know he spared my life. My thoughts will be on how He has kept me these six decades. And then - I will declare that I will continue to trust Him. I will keep on praising Him and I'll keep on lifting my soul up to Him because I trust Him. And that is how I will trust Him with one more day. Will you join me?

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

No Get Out of Jail Free Cards?

 


Do you ever feel like life just doesn't let up? Sometimes it seems like caregivers should get some sort of exempt card. You know? Something that lets us stay in the cave without having to deal with all the craziness that's going on in the world. Well, it was just a thought. I guess there are no "get out of jail free cards" in life.

A pandemic rages on and we didn't get an exempt card, did we? Political and civil unrest didn't qualify us for one either. We have to deal with all the craziness in the world plus our caregiving responsibilities. Isn't caregiving enough? Dealing with aids who don't show, people and family who do not know how to help so they avoid us, and the traffic of health care professionals of all sorts is enough for any given day. Yet it happens over and over again. How do we stay sane? 

Caregivers are resilient - we just keep going. Every night I go to bed feeling like I failed. I didn't get enough done. It's easy to focus on the things I didn't get done each day and see those as failures, instead of focusing on the fact that I just keep going and I just keep trying. Each morning I get up with a renewed dedication to try harder to accomplish more. But there are so many hours in each day and only so much energy in the tank, you know? lol

Over and over I find myself relying on God. Isaiah said Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength. (Isaiah 40:31) Maybe that's what we feel each morning when we get up ready to give it a go again. David said the Lord will give strength to His people; He will bless His people with peace. (Psalm 29:11) I personally have no doubt that it is God who empowers me to get up each morning and give it another go. How about you?

Our lives require it. Whether we slept or not, eat or not, have time to grab a shower or not - we're like the energizer bunny - we just keep going and going. But for those of us who are believers, there's no doubt that God is our energy source.

Today, I'm going to thank Him for always being there to empower me to make the day - and the long nights. I'll thank Him for continuing to strengthen me and keep me going when I don't even know how I'm doing it. lol My meditations will be on receiving His strength for today's journey. And I'll accept His peace and rest in Him as I trust Him for one more day. Will you join me?

Friday, January 15, 2021

Who am I?

 

cute smile from chris

I know you guys understand when I say that some days are better than others. Emotions can dip on a dime and it often takes a big shovel and lots of effort to get them back up where they need to be. This morning was one of those times for me. Who knows what the reason was, I just felt myself sliding down the slippery slope as depression tried to suck me in. 

In my devotions this morning, I read Psalm 121. I had written it into a song when my son was in isolation in the hospital. I picked up my guitar to play it and thought about sharing it here. But there is something going on with my wrist and it just wasn't going to happen. I'm so glad as this psalm says, my help comes from the Lord. 

Since I refused to give in - I went to the piano and began to just praise Him. Well, it didn't take long once my focus was on Him instead of me. I began to feel the load of the day shift off my shoulders and onto His. I will look to the Lord, my help comes from the Lord - the Maker of heaven and earth. Soon, all my worries were washed away as the notes I played and sang carried them away and to His throne.

Then, I became overwhelmed with the thought that He cares. He sees. He hears. Who am I? I asked myself. That the One who created the world - the Creator - listens to my heart as I pour it out before Him. He doesn't have to. He is God, after all. Yet He takes the time to listen to my hurting heart.

That must be a little bit of how Hagar felt when she realized God heard her cry and saw her tears. He sees it all. When we are up and doing well - and when we are down or just trying to make it through the day. He doesn't have a pause button that He pushes. And He doesn't have a fast forward so He can skip the ugly parts. He sees it all. 

But who am I that He is mindful of me? Who am I that He hears? Who am I that He chooses to see? Yet He does. Because He wants to.

Today, I will shift my focus off of what is going on around me and onto what it must be like around His throne. I'll think about the constant praise that goes on in His presence. My meditations will be on the truth that He knows right where I am, what I am doing, and what I am feeling. He doesn't avoid me - He joins me on this journey in time. By choice. I'll let that overwhelm my day today. Will you join me? 

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Permission to Believe

 


I found myself in a very familiar story this morning as I was preparing for live devotions on Facebook. It's in Matthew 14:22-33. We know this story as the time Jesus came walking on the water. It's also familiar because Peter jumped out of the boat and walked on the water to get to Jesus. Have you ever been in a place where it felt like it would take a miracle for you to get to God? 

There were several things that stood out in this story. I hope you take a minute to read it again today. I like that Jesus took time for solitude and prayer. What an example for us. If He needed it - we certainly do! 

I like that Jesus stepped out into the storm to get to his weary, frightened disciples who were still trying to row the boat. (That's us - huh?) They were frightened at first. But then they recognized Him. He told them to not be afraid. They knew His voice because He simply said, I am here. (NLT)

Then Peter who is known to be a bit impulsive calls out. He said, If it's really You - tell me to come to You by walking on the water. (NLT) Now I've read this story numerous times as many of us have. But this morning I stopped to think about Peter's inquiry. Why didn't he just jump out of the boat and take off? His question seems to indicate to me that he really wanted to. What held him back?

If it's really You - Peter said. Did he doubt? If he doubted why in the world would he have trusted this voice in the night? What if it wasn't Jesus? A deceiver or imposter could bid him to jump out of the boat to his doom. Right? 

Maybe Peter knew Jesus' voice but was just enough afraid to stay in the boat. Maybe Peter just needed permission to believe. And Jesus said, Alright, come. (NLT) 

As caregivers, our days and nights can get rocky. We can be tossed around on life's sea like a boat in a storm. But we keep rowing just like the disciples did. It doesn't say they were waiting for or expecting Jesus to come to them. But He came. He walked right into the middle of their dark night; right into the middle of their storm and gave them permission to believe Him. I like that.

Today, I will take a good look at my own faith. I'll ask myself some hard questions too. Do I believe? Would I jump out of the boat and run to Him? Will I accept Him in the middle of the dark night of the soul? Will I trust Him to calm the storm? Yes. Yes. Yes. and Yes. Will you join me today?

Friday, January 8, 2021

A Great Replacement

 


I don't have to tell you that caregivers have a lot on their plates. We are taking care of another whole person, right? Some of us are caregivers for more than one loved one too! Each day has the potential of totally stressing us out. There are so many I's that have to be dotted and t's to get crossed, and we cannot leave one of them undone. Perhaps you've spent the same amount of time as I have sitting, sipping coffee, and worrying about how it was all going to come together. (Maybe not?)

As I type this, a client just sent me a message asking where the article for this week is and if it's done. It's not. Work is secondary to caregiving, but boy is it important too! When Chris doesn't feel well, I almost always fall behind on work. It's quite the juggling act - I'm sure you are well acquainted with it.

So this morning as I was studying I found myself in Philippians 4 again. I really enjoy reading different versions of the Bible. I always choose a translation rather than a paraphrase and my favorites are the New American Standard (but they don't have large print), New King James, and the New Living Translation. In the NLT, verse six of Philippians 4 says this: Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. What I love about this is that Paul told the church to not worry - absolutely nothing is worth worrying about. But he didn't leave it there. I mean really, we become so accustomed to worrying that we don't know what to do with our minds if we can't fill them with worrisome thoughts.

Paul goes on to remind the believers to pray about everything. So, he didn't leave us hanging. Maybe Paul knew that someday we caregivers would be reading this and need more encouragement to turn our crazy thoughts into prayers. Personally, this sounds like a great replacement, right? Instead of letting my thoughts (and they are many) run away with me  - I can take the things that are nagging at me, the things that are heavy on my heart and mind, and turn them into prayers. 

Today, I will take all my crazy thoughts, concerns, and cares and turn them into prayers. I'll direct my thoughts to the One who can help me. He already knows how busy my mind is, and it doesn't scare Him away! When my thoughts begin to run away - I'll purposefully take each care and turn it into a prayer. I'll remind myself that it's not mine anymore. I'll let Him carry each of my concerns as I trust Him for one more day. Will you join me?