Monday, August 31, 2015

Never Disturbed

According to Proverbs and James all we have to do to receive wisdom from God is ask. Sounds simple; it is simple. We can ask God about anything and ask for wisdom to deal with any situation and He simply gives it. How do we know we have it? Sometimes it's obvious as we will suddenly have answers to questions we were asking or discover the perfect way to diffuse a touchy situation. Those are answers. But James 3 talks a little bit about the fruit of wisdom. Or maybe we could say how we know we have it operating in our lives.

James 3:17 explains: The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering without hypocrisy.

God's wisdom is of course pure because He is holy and pure. For us this purity means to be free of selfish motives, jealousy and arrogance. We can't ask for God's wisdom to beat someone else or to get ahead of someone in a competitive nature. His wisdom comes into situations to bring peace - not stir up strife.

Okay, so I get the concept of purity, But peaceable and gentle sort of trip me up. As caregivers we advocate for others and sometimes - like when someone takes the only handicap spot in the parking lot  and they don't have a placard - it's anything but  peaceful! lol And from experience I can say that dude who took that spot would not say I was gentle with him! I speak from real life experience here.

And how are we supposed to seek peace (James 3:18) when there are so many people and situations that don't seem to respond if you deal with them peacefully. (I'm still waiting on supplies for my son!) It seems like if we are nice then people tend to not do their jobs. We have to file complaints, make heated phone calls and generally go over the edge to get things done. It doesn't seem peaceful being a caregiver sometimes.But you know what? It's okay.

Over the years I have found this underlying peace that carries me through even the roughest days - and the days I make rough for others. (sorry.) At times the caregiver's life can look like it's anything but peaceful. A good analogy might be the waves of the ocean. They are never still - neither is the caregiver's day or life. Sometimes a storm is brewing and the waves grow larger and more forceful and more difficult to navigate. But down deep underneath all the surface activity - it's total peace. None of the residents on the deep ocean floor are aware of the storm on the surface. There is no turbulence down deep.

I think the peace that God gives is like this. On the surface, caregiving is rarely at peace - we are fighting for our loved one all the time. We do that without knowing it sometimes. We advocate on their behalf, we call medical professionals with questions, work to make sure they have necessary supplies - and even do daily things like range of motion to ensure they are comfortable. It's never still on the surface. But deep down - God and His wisdom provide a sustaining peace that is never disturbed.

Today I am going to look deeper at the gentle peace He gives me. I will meditate on His peace - the peace the world cannot offer; and I will embrace it. Will you join me?

Friday, August 28, 2015

Get Behind It

My habit for years has been to arise early in the morning to have personal devotions long before the day gets started. For a brief time the habit was interrupted as I adjusted to the new normals of caregiving. Over the last year or so I've been able to reestablish this routine.

Recently, I've been reading through Proverbs and this morning I finished it. I took my time to read it slowly and hopefully absorb some of the vast wisdom that is shared. As I was reading chapter 30 this morning out of nowhere came this psalm-like verse.

Proverbs 30:5 says He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. I'm not sure exactly why it grabbed my attention so forcefully but I took a few minutes to meditate on it. I know there are several times throughout the Psalms where God is mentioned as being a shield; but what stood out to me this morning was the other part of the verse: to those who take refuge in Him.

He provides the protection but it does us no good if we don't take action on our part. In my mind I could see this huge Goliath-like shield standing out in the open field. If I don't get behind it - I'm open and vulnerable. That seems like a silly image but I think that is the truth conveyed in this verse. God is a shield period. I have to make the move to get behind Him to take advantage of His protection. He's not going to chase us down to shield us. We have to purposefully get behind His provided protection.

This can be very difficult for us Type-A's. It can also be difficult for the caregiver in general. We learn up front to be more aggressive in our advocacy (if we want to see anything get done), we learn too quickly that if anything is going to get done - we have to do it. We become self-sufficient out of necessity. Sitting and waiting on others will get us sitting and waiting. We have to take action to get action; it's part of the package deal.

But at some point we must take action to get behind Him. We have to allow Him to protect us - allow Him to be our shield. It's like God is a huge fort - built for protection. But we gain nothing and are absolutely out there on our own if we don't get inside the fort and take advantage of its protection.

Today I am going to purposefully stop protecting myself, get behind Him and take refuge in Him. I'm going to let some things go and allow Him to shield me, to protect me. I must become vulnerable to Him, honest with Him, and stop protecting myself so that He can be my shield. My meditation today will be on seeking refuge in Him, and letting my own self-made shielding system go. Will you join me?

Monday, August 24, 2015

It is a Good Thing!

I've been spending some time trying to get myself back together. As if the caregiver doesn't already have enough on their plate - life goes on and sometimes it can feel like it's throwing repeated blows. Enough to knock many people out - but not the fearless caregiver! *smile*

One thing I've found many caregivers deal with is depression. Hey, caregiving is not an easy life and it can get you down. We can't say anything about it - can't always admit it - and don't always have to deal with it; but it can be a struggle for some. For many it is a constant struggle - that includes me.

When you are fighting depression, everything is heavier and it can be very difficult to get a positive perspective on anything. But this morning as I was finishing up my devotions I had something happen and I just started thanking God for the good stuff. At times, it can even be difficult to figure out where the good stuff went. But if you look long and hard - and if you have to longer and harder - there is always something to give Him thanks for. My thanks for today started with bank accounts that have positive balances. (Don't laugh - it's real!) I checked the balances and just said, "thank you" to the Lord. And once I said that, I was able to think of something else to be thankful for...and then something else.

Psalm 92:1 says: It is a good thing to give thanks to the Lord! Even though many of the things that cause stress have not been removed from my prayer list, and are not answered yet...there are many things to thank Him for. I can thank Him for breath, life, food in my kitchen, my grandchildren who warm my heart, and of course my coffee! *smile* No matter how small it can seem - start thanking Him for something. Thanksgiving grows in the heart when we purposefully pursue it. No matter how small of a thing we start with - giving Him thanks for it will help us find something else to thank Him for and it will create a chain reaction of praise to Him. Try it.

Being thankful even in life's most difficult seasons can help create a positive attitude and it's a lot easier to go through the day with a positive attitude than carrying the burden of a negative one. And you know what? It really does always come back to one thing ultimately - trusting Him.

Today I will purposefully look for things to thank Him for and I will continue with an attitude of gratitude. My thoughts will be on what He has done in my life and not on what I feel is lacking. I will conscientiously trust in Him for one more day. Will you join me?

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Has it Come to This?

I don't know what David was going through when he penned Psalm 55, but this morning I can relate to many of the sentiments he shared. He uses words like pressure, trouble, anguish, terror, fear, trembling and horror to describe what he was going through. I certainly would not say that caregiving is all that! Actually, caregiving isn't always the worst part of what we deal with - it's the rest of life.

There have been many times I have had thoughts like David's Oh that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away ant be at rest. Behold, I would wander far away, I would lodge in the wilderness.

We must admit that caregiving can take a lot out of you. It's not a burden as such, but dealing with all the issues that are involved can really wear you down. Then add life to the equation. For instance, my mom is in early stages of dementia and we are dealing with that. For me that means lots of talks with my daddy and siblings. And just about the time you feel you've got it under control - something else happens. My daddy was just diagnosed with cancer - it's early on and there are tests to do but as you can imagine (and may have experienced) just hearing the "c" word can be devastating.

With all these life things on my plate, I would really like to fly away and be at rest! David goes on through this psalm to discuss his situation and share his feelings of despair. I'm sure many can relate. But in verse 16 he says this: As for me, I shall call upon God. Then he ends the psalm with this phrase: I will trust in You.

Isn't that always what we come back to? No matter what life throws at us, whether we are dealing with caregiving itself or all the extraneous stuff that goes with it - It all comes down to trusting Him. Period. While we were finding our new normals in caregiving, we trusted Him. Through the many disruptions of life - we trusted Him. Through divorces, abandonment, illness, betrayal, haven't we seen it all?  We still trusted Him.

And that's what we will do with today: trust Him. That's really what it all comes down to isn't it? We've made it this far - trusting Him; and we will continue to make it trusting Him. That's what it's been, will be today and will continue tomorrow. No matter what life throws our way - we will trust Him. We've trusted Him thus far - and He has not washed His hands of us yet. And the good news is that He is still patiently waiting for us to come to trust Him.

Today I will meditate on simply trusting Him for each breath. My thoughts will be on His faithfulness instead of my faithlessness. I will just continue to trust Him. Will you join me?

Monday, August 17, 2015

No Easy Day

One thing I enjoy is a good book. I miss having the time for reading that I had prior to being thrust into my present situation. But I feel like our lives are enriched by reading so I've tried to make more time for it over the last few months. No Easy Day has been on my reading list for a long time and I finally broke the book open and began reading it not long ago. It's written by a Seal Team Six member and talks a lot about training and missions. One of their mantras is "the only easy day was yesterday."

For many caregivers there are no days off or anything too much to make one day easier than another. There are multiple tasks that have to be done everyday when caring for another person. I had this brief day dream that for my birthday someone would come and tell me to take the day off and go do whatever I wanted to do and they would care for Chris. But it remained a dream - mostly because caregiving really is difficult and there are no easy days.

We are not alone. Many of our Bible characters faced trials and tribulations and had a few very rough days too. Just think about some of our most popular Bible stories. Here's the short list:

  • Noah faced a flood in the midst of a wicked generation
  • Abraham faced a childless future
  • Daniel lived in captivity (no easy day) and faced the lion's den
  • 3 Hebrew children lived in captivity and faced being thrown in the fire
  • Joshua led a wayward people and still faced Jericho
This is just a few of the top billings! For the most part, they were already in a tough situation and then something worse happened. However, they all were looking for the promise of God; even in the midst of great trials. Then- their faith took action. When these and many others are listed in our Hall of Faith (Hebrews 11) there is an action after their name.

  • Noah built an ark
  • Abraham looked for a city
  • Daniel shut the mouth of lions (v34)
  • 3 Hebrew Children quenched the power of fire (v34)
  • Joshua marched around Jericho
None of these gave up when the tough going got tougher. They continued on in their faith even when they were told they would face dire consequences for doing so. I love the statement made by the 3 who were thrown into the fire. In Daniel 3:17 - they said our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire....but even if He does not - let it be known to you O king, that we are not going to serve your gods.... (NASB)

I love that tenacity. They were already in captivity and that was not a pretty picture nor a life anyone would desire. Now they are being told to bow to the gods of their captors or face the fire. They chose the fire rather than idolatry.

As caregivers every day is rough and then there are rougher days. But there is no place to give up on our faith. Even if life gets tougher - or the day gets rougher - we have to say that we will not bow.

Today my meditations will be on how I can preserve my faith. I will think about ways I can protect my heart and strengthen my spirit man so I won't bow in the face of further adversity. I will turn my thoughts toward faith and meditate on this phrase even if not..... I won't give up on faith. Will you join me?

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Thankfulness in the Furnace

Colossians 4:2 says to devote yourself to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart. (NLT) It can be far too easy to allow the responsibilities and daily grind of caregiving to lull us into a spiritual sleep. Taking care of another person takes a lot out of us emotionally, physically and even spiritually. Over time we can tend to relax spiritually if we do not guard our hearts.

Personally, I am a very structured person. I set my schedule and just keep it. Well, that's how it was BC (before caregiving) anyway. I got up early enough when I was teaching school to have my coffee, Bible study and prayer time long before the day got out of hand. When I first brought my son home, I tried to do that again. Honestly, I was worn out all the time and soon it went out the window. Recently, I've been able to come back to some type of schedule but of course remain flexible for caregiving's sake.

It's so important to keep our spiritual guard up. We have to maintain our spiritual tenacity. This can be such a difficult thing and if we are not careful we  can fall into the trap of self-condemnation when we don't. First of all, remember (like it's easy to forget) that we are operating under huge amounts of stress and there are some days it takes all of our effort to simply breathe. It took me a long time to be "okay" with that and to give myself a break. When we don't have time - we just don't have time. And we certainly don't have time to condemn ourselves for not having time!  Secondly, remember that He alone is our source - and He understands us. God is walking through the furnace with us. He is the good Shepherd, we just have to follow Him and allow Him to feed us.

We can still devote ourselves to prayer, and we can do it with a mind that is alert as well as a heart that is thankful. It took me a long time to recover a thankful attitude. I was just too mad at God for letting this happen to my son. But as time went on I found I could not live my life without Him (God). Soon I found that thankfulness once again. We cannot base our thankfulness on our lives - but on His goodness and His character. I'll be the first one to tell you I am not thankful this happened. But I'm also quick to tell you that even in the situation and as it continues to unfold, I can find things to be thankful for.

I'm thankful for many of the life lessons I've learned on this CG journey. I'm thankful for the closeness I've found with God. I can be thankful that I've learned the true value of friendship - and learned who were my real friends. Thankfulness abounds as I've learned to trust Him even more. There is always something to be thankful for; we just have to search harder to find it when the going gets tough!

Today I will purposefully look for things to be thankful for; and I will remember to tell God thank you. I will consciously keep my mind on Him today and focus on staying alert spiritually. I will not allow caregiving to lull me to sleep spiritually. Are you with me?

Monday, August 3, 2015

Process Process Process!

Do you ever feel cheated out of life? For me caregiving interrupted some really good plans that I had laid out. I was heading to Africa as fast as I could get there- one of my life-long dreams. But when my son had his wreck that and my future were jerked right out from under me. I have to admit that I've dealt with some anger over that. Caregiving makes it hard to dream.

I'm aging along with the rest of you, and these are supposed to be the years I've looked forward to. It's time for me to start planning retirement. Of course, I wanted to relax, travel, spend the golden years fulfilling all the dreams I still had. Instead I'm trying to figure out how to put back and prepare for taking care of my son once I am gone. No retirement in sight - ever.

Anger is just one of the things Paul instructed Christians to put off in Colossians 3. Actually, he gave a whole list of things to put away from us.In verse 8 he lists things like anger,rage, malicious behavior, slander and unholy language. These are all to be gotten rid of - and this takes action on our part. They are not evidently just going to fall off as we travel along the roads of life. Actually, it can be a constant struggle to beat their influence in our lives. Caregiving can be frustrating. Not really so much the taking care of our loved one - but dealing with all the other particulars and organizations that are supposed to be in place to provide help for us.

While we are taking off all these ungodly actions we are supposed to be putting on other things. In verse 12 Paul tells us to put on or to clothe ourselves (once again an action on our part) with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Evidently Paul never had to deal with DHS or a home health agency. lol

In reality, it can be difficult to get rid of anger and embrace humility and grace. Actually, because of our lives this can be a constant struggle for us. And it simply doesn't happen over night. It takes effort and time to develop. Actually in verse 10, Paul says that our new self is being renewed as we learn about Him and become like Him. This verb is not past tense as if it's all a done deal. Instead it is present continuous. This means it is not only happening right now - it is continuing to happen in the future. It's not a one time deal. There's no "easy button" to push either. We'll have to walk it out right in the face of adversity.

We choose to allow His work in our hearts. We allow His peace to displace the anger or turmoil. (or whatever it is you deal with specifically.) It's certainly not going to go away on its own. It's a process - and we have to yield to that process.

Today I will consciously yield to the process He is doing in my heart. I will make every effort to put off anger instead of embracing it. My meditation will be on His peace and I will choose to embrace His work in my heart. I'll purposefully choose to lay aside anger and choose to follow peace. Will you join me?