Tuesday, June 2, 2020

When Life is Heavy

chris and me
There is so much going on in the world around us, since I am about being honest and transparent, I must say I am overwhelmed. As if caregiving wasn't enough to carry we had the national shut down in response to the Coronavirus plus the fears of loved ones contracting it. Now there is racial unrest, rightfully so. And to top it off there is rioting and threats being made to our safety daily. Sometimes I do wish we got an exempt card from the rest of life when we become caregivers. lol. But if we skipped the bad  - we'd also have to skip the good, right?

On top of all of this shared load, I've had a couple of situations at work that have made me feel devalued, less than. For someone who struggles with self-esteem and rejection it makes it tough to focus on the truth, you know?

Life is just heavy right now for all of us - or at least for anyone paying any amount of attention. It's so heavy I feel it weighing on me physically and I cannot seem to get out from underneath the load. This makes it harder for me personally to accept my situation with my son and it tries to suck me into that deep chasm of depression. I think about who he was, all we are missing, etc - I know you know the drill.

As my custom is - I go to the Word for encouragement. For relief. I only have one scripture that comes to mind. casting all your care on Him, for He cares for you. (I Peter 5:7) This sounds wonderful, doesn't it? But then my mind kicks in and I realize I have to let things go if I am to give them to Him. I cannot coddle my fears and nurse my hurts if I give them to Him. 

I like the second part of this verse that says, He cares for you.  I have to give it all to Him and then let Him do the caring for me. That's not easy for those of us who really like to be in control, is it? But we can do it! I must pour out my heavy heart before Him and then let Him bear the pain, suffering, sadness, and burden for me.

If we look on down to the last part of verse 10, we'll see the end goal of casting our cares on Him and remaining sober and vigilant. He will perfect (mature), establish, strengthen, and settle us. I think I like the last term best - settle. He can bring a calming settling peace that's not available anywhere else. We give Him our burdens, and they are many, and He brings peace in our hearts (individually and collectively), strengthens us, establishes us in Him, and settles it all.

Today in the midst of the turmoil, I will remind myself that I am still His kid. I have not been rejected, cast away, or ignored. He still loves. He still cares. His eye is still on us. My prayers will be for Him to mature us, establish His kingdom in us, strengthen us for the battle, and settle us in His love. I will rest in His love today - will you join me?

Friday, May 29, 2020

Song of Hope

I'm still pulling stuff out of Hosea 2, so bear with me because I'm getting a lot out of this little passage! I hope you are too. Yesterday we looked at how He brings comfort and provides in the midst of the wilderness. Today, let's look at the next little bit - it's powerful, I'm telling you!

Verse 17 says this: I will give her vineyards from there, and the Valley of Achor as a door of hope. What's interesting is that "Achor" means pain. Caregivers are familiar with pain and loss. It doesn't matter what type of caregiving you do, there are lots of responsibilities that go with taking care of another whole person. There will be losses, good days and bad days, sorrow and joy, self-sacrifice, and pain.

But right there in the Valley of Pain, God provides a door of hope. God always has hope for us on reserve - He never runs out. Even in the longest, darkest night - He provides hope. Sometimes it appears as a small glimmer of light - but it is there even in pain. He is the God of hope - the giver of hope- the sustainer of hope. And He shares it with us.

The next part of this verse stood out to me this morning. And she shall sing there. Wow. We can sing of His love, His care, His strength, and His hope right in the midst of our mess. No matter how hopeful or how dire the circumstances, a song of hope can rise. Why is that? God sees the pain our souls are so familiar with - why a song? Maybe the answer lies in the next couple of verses.

God says He would not be known as master anymore - but as husband. I don't know what that means to you - but to me it speaks of intimacy. He doesn't just want to be our lord - He desires intimacy with us. Exodus 34:14 in the New Living Translation says He is a God who is passionate about a relationship with His people. He just wants to live with us heart-to-heart. Caregiving doesn't change His desire for us. He still loves us and longs for relationship. I love that.

Today, I will rejoice that even in the pains of caregiving, God doesn't distance Himself. He draws closer instead, He still longs for us. My meditations will be on how He desires to be close and intimate with all our ways. I will be thankful that caregiving doesn't scare Him away. I'll take comfort in the fact that He draws closer when others pull away. Will you join me?

Thursday, May 28, 2020

From There...

As I was writing yesterday's post, the story of God showing Hagar the well in the wilderness, another passage familiar to me came to mind. It's found in Hosea. God is chasing Israel and having the prophet act it out in real life. (That's a loose translation of what's going on here.)

In verses 14 and 15 of chapter two, God says, Therefore, behold, I will allure her, will bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfort to her. I will give her her vineyards from there, and the Valley of Achor as a door of hope, she shall sing there....

I love this passage as God is wooing Israel and bringing her to Himself. Note that He brings her to the wilderness, the same place He found Hagar. First, He speaks comfort to her. We all need that, don't we? Especially in our uncertain days with the Coronavirus and all the craziness surrounding it, we need His comfort and peace. Here, He offers it. He does not withhold comfort - He speaks it into her. I trust He does the same thing for us.

The second thing about this passage is God's provision. He says He will give her her vineyards from the wilderness. It says, "from there" so I assume the "there" is the wilderness He brought her to. God was good about bringing and meeting people in the wilderness to talk with them. He brought the Children of Israel out of Egypt unto Himself - He took Ezekiel to the wilderness to talk with him, He met Moses on the backside of the wilderness to call him. Note to self: God did not take her out of the wilderness to provide for her - He gave her her vineyards from there. I love that - He can provide for us in the wilderness of life - period. He doesn't have to wait for the climate to change, He doesn't wait until the stock market recovers - or until we have all of our proverbial ducks in a row. He doesn't wait until we get out of the wilderness. He provides for us right smack dab in the midst of the mess.

Remember that Isaac went to Gerar and famine was in the land. But in the midst of the famine, it says that Isaac sowed in that land (the one suffering a famine) and received in the same year a hundredfold, and the Lord blessed him.... and we could add from there.

I don't know about you - but I find it very comforting that God can touch us right where we are and bless us from there. Don't you?

Today, I will thank Him from my "from there." I'll be grateful that He can see me where I am and doesn't exclude caregivers from any of His promises or provisions due to our situations. I'll take comfort knowing He sees us right where we are and reaches to us right where we are. My meditations will be on His power to see us - and His heart toward us even in the ugly. And I will trust Him for just one more day as I trust Him for provision from here. Will you join me?


Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Seen and Heard

I've talked a lot about Hagar, but I keep going back to her story. In Genesis 16 when she despised Sarah and ran away, god found her. He told her to go back. She called God the God who sees. How wonderful to know we are seen by God. It's comforting to know He does not distance Himself from our day-to-days, isn't it?

Then, in Genesis 22, Sarah and Abraham sent Hagar and her son Ishmael who was about 15 away. Hagar was distraught and thought her son was going to die before her eyes. But then in verse 17, it says God heard the voice of the lad. Then the angel of God called to her from heaven. This God who sees - still sees. He was still watching over her and her son. But He not only sees - He hears!

 Then verse 17 says that God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water in the midst of the wilderness. The God who sees - made her to see a way in the wilderness. What she had thought meant certain death, became a well of life.

How wonderful that God sees and hears. He sees where we are, knows what is going on in our lives up close and personal. But He also hears the cries in our hearts. He hears those cries that are so deep they cannot escape and the ones that escape as a silent cry or sigh. He's that close. Just like He followed Hagar and Ishmael into the wilderness, He has followed us into the caregiving wilderness.

And right here in our wilderness, He will reveal wells of water, wells of life. Somehow He continues to sustain us day after day. He sees -He hears - and He makes us see and hear as we lean in to Him.

Today, I will be thankful that He continues to watch over my heart and keep my soul. I will lean in to His heart today and my meditations will be on how He knows what we need and He always provides. I'll be looking for the water of life today in this wilderness, and I will trust Him to sustain my soul. Will you join me?

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Longing for Morning

I'm still on my journey through the psalms or Songs of Ascents. Today, I'm gleaning from Psalm 130. Honestly, I think I love all the psalms - they are open, raw, and honest. This one starts that way too. The psalmist says, Out of the depths I have cried to You, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice! That sounds a bit like yesterday when we were looking at the dark night of the soul and some of the long nights caregivers often endure.

One thing I like about many of the psalms is that after the prayer, after the complaint and all the crying out - there is a declaration. This psalm is no different. In verse 5,  the Psalmist says, I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I do hope. My loose interpretation is this: I may be calling out to Him for help in a time of desperation, but I still know His word is my hope and I will declare that I am waiting on Him alone.

In the next verse, he goes on to say - My soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning - I'm pretty sure, I've spent a lot of caregiving nights watching for the morning. It can be intense waiting for the light of day. Many of us have driven all night, or been up all night with a sick and leaned into that morning light. It can be a long, hard wait - but always worth it. Now, if I can bring that kind of intense waiting over to my soul and long for Him just as eagerly.

Today, I will declare that my soul waits for Him, and for Him alone. I will turn every ounce of my being toward Him and stretch out my faith to touch Him today. As I wait for Him, I will declare that He is my help, my sustenance, and my hope. And I will hope in Him today as I long for morning in my soul. Will you join me?

Monday, May 25, 2020

Scared of the Moon?

I've never been scared of the moon, have you? This question came to mind as I was reading Psalm 121. Verses 5 and say this The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand. the sun shall not strike you by day nor the moon by night. Of course my thoughts ran away with it and I had lots of scenarios run through my mind.

Seriously, I get that He is our shade from the sun. It can be scalding hot especially at full day. But the moon? Really? But as my thoughts wandered around, I thought about how long some nights have been. While midnight doesn't have the heat of the day - it can be the dark night of the soul. The darkness at night can chip away at our peace and our sanity. This is especially true when things are not going smoothly or we are going through an even more difficult time.

Just like God protects our souls from the heat of the noonday sun, He protects our hearts from the thick darkness of the night. It's usually between 2 and 4 when I start to cave. It's dark, I've been up most, if not all, of the night, usually, Chris is sick or uncomfortable. My faith starts to wane and questions multiply. Do You care, God? Do You see this? Can You hear me? Where are Your promises now?

Nor the moon by night. He is so patient as we vent during those times and He doesn't ever cast us aside. He waits. Then with morning light usually comes peace and answers so we can move on. He never even reminds us of all those things we say when the moon is out. He is patient and kind when we are frustrated and heartbroken.

Today, I will meditate on His patience, and I will thank Him. My thoughts will be how He continues to sustain and protect my soul even when I am a mess. I'll remind myself that He remains the same through the heat of the day and the dark of the night. I really can trust Him to keep my soul! I will rest in that thought today - will you join me?

Sunday, May 24, 2020

When Normal is Not Normal

 This morning I was reading through the psalms called the Song of Ascents. These psalms include Psalm 120 through Psalm 134. As I understand them, they were sung as the journey to Zion or Jerusalem was made. They most likely sang them happily as they were excited about returning to the temple and the gathering of the people.

Psalm 133 talks about dwelling together as brethren. David penned that it was pleasant and good to be together. I am sure for the church crowd the next couple of weeks will be like that. As the coronavirus winds down and things return to some sort of normal, people are excitedly returning to their church services.

For the last few months, churches scrambled to have Sunday School, Bible Study, small groups, and services online. I had a slight sense of disappointment when it all started. Why? Because I'd been shut off for so long and none of this was available. But once they needed it - it became the new norm. Now that they won't need it again - things look likely to return back to their normal - and the normal for many caregivers - isolated again.

That normal hasn't worked for many caregivers for a long time, and now it may be the new normal once again. I feel for caregivers who cannot get out. Maybe we should start a Caregiver's Church - all virtual of course. At least we would be isolated together!

Social isolation is a real concern and many caregivers, elderly individuals, and those who are very ill suffer from it every day. That's the norm for too many people. And lately, I've seen more people who are alone even though married, or living in the same house with others. It's sad that we are not more together. However, I can say this - we are not alone. You are not alone. Even though we do not have the luxury of gathering with the brethren in unity and enjoying the pleasantness that provides, God is with us.

As we adjust back to a normal that is still not normal, may we remember that we aren't alone - and we've never been alone. Jesus said He would not ever leave us. He is with us always. My prayer today is for the caregivers and those they care for who are forced into living an isolated life. May we all recall that God is everpresent. He sees. He knows. He cares. (I wonder if He would do a virtual meeting! lol - you know I'm kidding!)

Today, I will keep my focus on the One who never leaves us. My meditations will be on His ever-abiding presence. He won't walk away - He won't abandon us to go back to "normal." I'll be thankful that He is always as near as our breath. I'll take a deep breath now and then to remind myself. I thank Him for being near. Will you join me?