Wednesday, September 30, 2015

What? No White Horse?

I know I've shared before that when my son was first injured I honestly thought that at any moment God was going to come riding on a white horse right into the ICU waiting area and swoop us all away. After 3 plus weeks in ICU and over 4 months total at the hospital I kinda started to figure out that was not going to happen. Yeah, I'm a slow learner! lol

I still believe that God does not cause these things to happen, but I also believe he does allow life to bring them. However, I also believe that He does not waste them. What I mean by that is that while we are in any of life's situations - He's going to use it.

1 Peter 5:10 says this: After you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. Honestly, I'm not rejoicing over that when I first read it. I'd rather it said that God is going to look down and see us suffering and come riding in and pull us out of the fire, rescue us, save us and take away our pain. It didn't say that though.

While I don't think God rejoices when we go through struggles or trials, I do think He uses what life brings to form us. Our natural man may be going through the toughest days of our lives, but He is working on our spiritual man. There's nothing like caregiving to reveal our own character to us. Sometimes (many times) I don't like what I see...occasionally, I do.

Caregiving is one of those life events that pulls the best and the worst out of us. For me, it's helped pull out being able to stand up and say what I think. Unfortunately, sometimes this also means that a few unacceptable terms are used to express what I'm really feeling. (I'm working on that.) Just being honest here. Instead of God swooping us away, stopping the pain and grief and returning us to a "normal" life (whatever that is), He uses the situation we are in to temper us.

He perfects or matures us; and confirms, strengthens and establishes us.  The New Living Translation says He will restore, support, strengthen and place you on a firm foundation. So even though sometimes it feels like caregiving is chipping away out our heart and life - God is in the background girding us up and working to strengthen our spirit man. Even though He isn't working to save our physical man - He's got us covered spiritually. In fact He's working overtime to see to it that we remain established and growing in Him.

Today I will meditate on the work He's doing in my heart, even though I don't see what He's doing all the time. My thoughts will be once again on how He put His Spirit in me - and that's what gives me strength to go on. (Eph 3:10) I will fight off the thoughts of abandonment with thoughts of how much attention He is giving to developing my character; and how He is still perfecting His image in me. Will you join me?

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Lulled into Complacency

Caregiving has a way of lulling us into complacency. There's so many things that are the same as yesterday, things that don't change or go away.  Just my morning routine consists of getting Chris up, stripping his bed, starting his laundry, taking out his trash, pureeing his breakfast and feeding him. It's the same every single morning and then other routines take over after that. All of these mini-routines build up into one huge day of doing the same things over and over. For me, even runs to the urgent care or ER are routine any more. I know just what needs to be in the bag and I can throw it all together and be out of the door in a matter of minutes!

Even though the caregiver's schedule is hectic even at its most peaceful times, it has a way of lulling us into complacency. We know what to expect and when to expect it and basically nothing surprises us anymore. There's not a lot of spontaneity in the caregiver's life because there's a whole series of events that must occur to just go somewhere. It can take massive amounts of planning to just wiggle something like a movie into the schedule. Sometimes it's easier to just stay home instead of undertaking all the work necessary just to go get necessities. Complacent.

1 Peter 1:13 gives believers a stern warning  regarding becoming complacent in our faith. Peter tells them to prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on His grace. This verse is full of action that the believer must perform in order to keep from being complacent in our faith. As caregivers, our body gets tired and emotions can run thin and we can easily chill out and "turn off life." We can stop fighting for our faith mostly because we are just too tired body, soul and spirit. But it's important for us to remain diligent about keeping our minds sober and our hope fixed on His grace. We can't be distracted from Him by our crazy lives as caregivers.

Sometimes I think I'm too tired to be diligent; or I just want to rest from it all. I would love an emotional break - forget an actual physical vacation (what is that? lol) I'd just love for my emotions to be settled down and my mind to slow down and let my spirit man catch his breath! But while the caregiver may be thinking all of that, there is a good reason for us to keep ourselves in tip-top shape spiritually.

1 Peter 5:8 gives us the reason we have to be diligent even though we are tired. Our adversary, the devil, is seeking to destroy us. He doesn't want to destroy us physically - he wants our faith. When we allow caregiving to lull us into a complacent state spiritually - we become easy prey. So as difficult as it can be to stay focused on spiritual things through the distractions of caregiving - it is necessary for our spiritual being that we maintain our spirit man.

Today I am going to focus on how the Spirit of God lives in me to give me life. I'm going to purposefully feed my spirit His word instead of feeding my mind. My meditations will be on how I can remain diligent about pursuing Him and letting His peace reign in my heart and mind. Will you join me?

Monday, September 28, 2015

Holding on to What Does Not Fade

My latest personal devotions have been spent in 1 Peter. The epistles are among my favorite scriptures because they are just so rich! This morning I got stuck on 1 Peter 1:4. This passage is wonderful, but a few words in this scripture demanded my attention this morning.

Verse 4 says we obtain an inheritance which is imperishable, and undefiled, and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you. The words which I bolded are the ones which grabbed my attention. Our inheritance in the Lord cannot fade away, be defiled or perish.

That might not seem like too big of a deal to a lot of people, but for me as a caregiver sometimes I start to feel like a second class citizen all the way around. I feel the loss of a "normal" life, and feel like I can't get out and do things like so many get to enjoy. When my son was first injured, my life stopped and in many aspects it's never begun again. It's changed; but it's anything but "normal."

Many days I grieve the loss of my son, even though he is still here. I grieve the loss of my life too. It is so good to know that what we have in Christ, and who we are in Him cannot perish, cannot be stolen from us and will not ever fade away. Our life is hidden with Christ in God our Father and being a caregiver doesn't cause our standing in Him to change or waver one bit. Nothing in our spirit man changed when we became a caregiver.

This really touched me this morning during my devotions because when everything else in our lives changes, God's hold on us remains constant. Today I am going to grab hold on this truth and rest in Him. My meditation will be on His constancy - and His perseverance to hold on to me through life's struggles. I will turn my thoughts to His unchanging love for me. And I will rejoice in the fact that what He has put in me will not and cannot be damaged by life's roaring tides! Will you join me?

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Still Can't See!

I've been thinking about Joseph a lot over the last few weeks. He was another Bible hero who spent some time not being able to see just what God was doing in his life. It had to be so hurtful and difficult to deal with not only the rejection by his brothers, but being sold into slavery.

If all that weren't bad enough he ends up going to prison for something he didn't do. Honestly, I'm sure somewhere along the way I might have quit. While Joseph's intense struggle isn't described in scripture, we can imagine that he endured heart wrenching agony. And it went on for years.

We read the story of Joseph in a matter of a few minutes sometimes without realizing the impact of the number of years that  passed. He sat in prison. And sat. Then sat. And then sat some more. And the prison he was in was not anything like our prisons today. As harsh of an environment as today's prison are they would be plush and luxurious by comparison.

I have to wonder what he thought about. Did he go over the dreams he'd been given as a young man and wonder if they were going to happen? You know he had to miss his family, but that was nothing new. Did he wonder what his brothers told his dad? Maybe he had dreams that Jakob, his dad was going to find him and come swoop him up and take him back home. I wonder all of this because it sounds like what I would do.

When my son was first injured in the automobile accident and we were sitting for three long weeks in ICU, I kept thinking God was going to swoop in on His white horse and whisk us away. But of course, it didn't happen like that. Instead, like in Joseph's situation, it just kept dragging out year after painful year.

Do you ever wonder how Joseph kept it together over the years? I mean he was in a tough spot that just got tougher but still managed to keep his faith. And it's important to note that he didn't have a Bible to resort to. He couldn't pick up the Bible like we can and go read Psalms for comfort or Proverbs for wisdom. He had far less than we do.  He had nothing. 

We know he kept the faith even when he couldn't see by something he told his brothers as it all began to unfold. He said to his brothers that what they meant for evil, God meant for good. (Gen. 50:20) He recognized that even though life came at him, God had  sent him before to prepare the way for his family to be preserved. God's cool like that. He can turn sticky situations into something good. And many times He does it right under our unsuspecting noses.

Joseph kept the faith through some very dark circumstances. God continued to use him to interpret dreams and to share wisdom. As a caregiver it can be easy to feel like we don't have anything to contribute. And quite honestly, people feel sorry for us and don't require a lot out of us. But that's no excuse.God never says never mind. He doesn't take back dreams, calls or visions. Whatever He says about us doesn't change because we become a caregiver. Even though the journey was difficult, God fulfilled what He desired in Joseph's life.

No matter how good or how bad it might look right now - God is still in control. He hasn't forgotten about us. He hasn't changed His mind about us. He is still our God. He is still a loving, caring King who is concerned about everything that concerns us. He remains faithful - even in the midst of the dark stormy night. We can't do a thing to change that about Him! I sure am glad.

Today I will meditate on how God never changes. I'll turn my thoughts to how He continues to watch over us no matter what a day brings - or doesn't bring. I will keep my thoughts focused on how unchanging He is when life around us is in a whirlwind. Nothing scares God. Nothing can make Him give up on us. I will not give up on Him. Will you join me in trusting Him for one more day?

Monday, September 21, 2015

When You Can't See

I had the opportunity to take Chris and go speak at a lady's group over the weekend. My talk started and ended with Hebrews 11. So yesterday I sat down to reread the chapter and verse 7 caught my attention. It basically says that Noah did all the things God told him to by faith. And he did those things without understanding or seeing the details.

Prior to the flood, there had been no rain but a mist came up from the earth to water the ground. (Genesis 2:6) So Noah didn't even know what rain looked  or felt like. He also had never seen anything like an ark. But he went forward in faith even though he hadn't seen what God was talking about.

As a caregiver I've found that at times it's just difficult to see. Prior to this I had very little knowledge of what caregiving was and certainly had no idea how it played out in a life. But caregiving itself also made it difficult for me to see what God was doing in and with my life. Many times we just move forward without seeing the path before us. For me, I have to assume that the rest of my life looks like this.

Noah continued to follow God and obey His commands even though he had no idea of how it was going to play out in real life. That's all we can do too. Noah also had no idea of what to expect during or after the flood. He just kept following. Even though the flood ended and they eventually crawled out of the ark, they came out to a new world and they still had to rebuild everything. Noah didn't step out of the ark to a brand new city that was already built just waiting for his family to inhabit. They survived the flood - but there was still lots of work to do. They literally had to start rebuilding everything all over again.

So I have this mental picture of Noah standing outside the ark, looking from side to side at another new world. He may have felt unsure of where and how to start over. He might have wondered what in the world they were going to do. So where did he start? He built an altar and declared that God was still his God!

When I first began caregiving to say it was a new world would be an understatement! We do adjust to new normals but I'm not sure that it ever actually gets easy. Sometimes it feels like the old movie Groundhog Day where one day just repeats itself over and over and over.... It can also feel like exiting the ark into a new world is an everyday occurrence. It's okay - we can build an altar in our heart - every day if we need to; and declare that He is still our God. No matter what the world looks like, how empty or bare it appears, or how often we feel we have to start over, we can start each day with the truth that He will always be God. Our situation does not influence His standing as the remaining King.

Today I am building an altar in my heart and declaring that through the storm - He is still my God. I'll embrace this day acknowledging that whatever I face can't and won't dethrone the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. My thoughts will be on His eternal kingdom and reign as I hand Him my heart one more time. Will you join me in celebrating His Kingship today?

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

More Than What Meets the Eye

Yesterday I talked about the flowers along the trail and it made me want to get back out there and get a few pictures. So when the aide got here I went out just to enjoy running the trail and stopping to get pictures. I found this solitary flower along the way.

I think it grabbed my attention because just a while back there were rows and rows of flowers and this one was standing there all alone. My mind went off on its own rabbit trail when I saw it.

My first thought was how it was alone with no other flowers around it to add or detract from its beauty. But then I thought about all that it takes for this single plant to survive. Maybe that small cluster of flowers thinks its all alone in this small, but harsh wilderness; but there is a more than what meets the eye.

Many elements come together for this little flower. The leaves use the process of photosynthesis to keep the flower alive and the stem helps it stand tall so the sun and leaves can do their work. And there is an entire root system underground supporting this little guy and supplying it nutrients just so it can bloom, just so I can enjoy its beauty while I am out on a run! And besides all that there is the process of pollination going on to make sure this and other flowers have what is needed to survive. Nature has multiple systems going on that help keep this flower alive and beautiful.

Sometimes the caregiver can feel all alone and deserted. All the other flowers are enjoying each other's company in a different location but this one just stands here. Social isolation is one of the most crucial areas the caregiver has to deal with and it's real. We find our lives redefined by our social activities or the lack thereof and it can be a very lonely place.

When we look at this plant, we don't see the harsh, cold spring it endured. We don't see the dry spells it lived through during the hot summer. And we don't see how it lays over in the strong Oklahoma winds or how it endured the last tornado. And we can't see the entire system God has in place just to make it shine.

When God looks at us though - He knows. He knows about those long sleepless nights, the loneliness we endure, our fears, and all the other things that we fight day in and day out as we care for our loved ones. And He sees the beauty of the flower the troubles have produced. I couldn't see anything this flower endured - I only saw its beauty today. That's how He sees us. The flower has no idea how beautiful it is or that it made me stop and smile today - but it did.

My meditation today will be on how He gives us beauty for ashes. I'll turn my thoughts to how He loves us and how He sees beauty in us even when we feel like we are dry and living in the midst of a wilderness. I'll think about how His heart smiles when He looks at us...because he sees us blooming, beautiful and standing tall in faith. Will you join me?

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Picture Perfect

Since I have finally got an aide I trust I can get out a little more when she is here. Often I run errands which go a lot faster than when I get to take Chris along with me. Last week I got to stop by a little trail and grab a quick run. As I neared the back of the loop, the path was lined on both sides with beautiful flowers. They were draping everywhere and caused me to stop and enjoy the beauty for a moment. Nature's just cool like that!

As I stood there I noticed that some of the flowers had stickery edges on the leaves and on closer observation some of the plants were nearly dangerous for my bare legs. I started thinking about how things are not always as they appear and they are not always as lovely as it seems on the surface.

Even though I was enjoying the beauty of the flowers there were stickers, thorns, briers and probably even snakes lurking nearby. Sometimes as a caregiver I can look around at other people's lives and think about how easy they have it or how beautiful and nice their lives seem to be. But even though it can look gorgeous to an outsider, there's always something lurking in the background that perhaps we just don't know about.

I stopped to pause and think about my favorite Bible stories. We like them because things usually turned out okay in the end. But if we stop and think not one of our Bible heroes had an easy life. We can read the story in a matter of a few minutes without realizing the impact of time. A chapter takes a few seconds to read but the individual lived years in turmoil.

Our Bible heroes were not perfect, but they didn't have wonderful lives either. Actually, not one of them had a perfect life. But they have our admiration because they endured struggles, fights and difficulties. We love reading their stories:

because they endured
because they held to their faith
because they made it through the battle or died trying

Life is never all good. But it's not ever all bad either. It's made up of a little bit of both. Early on in my caregiving journey I had great difficulty enjoying the good parts of life. My daughter became pregnant with my first grandchild just a few months after my son's wreck. I was literally living in the nursing home with him. Life was not  good. I had to learn how to embrace the joys even though in deep, grieving pain. Over time, I've gotten better at it! Now I tend to embrace those beautiful moments. I have to let  myself enjoy my grandchildren, enjoy trips with my daughter, enjoy coffee with a friend. 

Even though life didn't turn out picture perfect, there is still lots of good around. I'm learning to enjoy the flowers without letting the thorns disturb me. I didn't look away from the flowers on the trail the other day because of thorns or stickers; I enjoyed the beauty they provided. We can look at our Bible heroes and see there was good and bad, but the bad is only the focus as we celebrate what they've overcome. As believers, our stories have happy endings too, even if it doesn't look like it from here. 

Today I am going to purposefully look for spots of joy. And then I'm going to embrace them! I will meditate on Romans 8:28 that tells me that He can turn everything into good. Even though I can't see it or feel it - I know the ending He writes will be good. My meditation and thoughts will be on finding the good in life today because it's there. And when I spot it - I will offer a prayer of thanksgiving. Will you join me?

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Just One Giant?

Lately I've been thinking a lot about David and how he ran out to kill the giant, Goliath. I also thought about Benaiah, who ran into a pit on a snowy day to kill a lion. (1 Chronicles 11: 22) As I was thinking about these valiant warriors and how they faced their greatest fears head on I thought of the caregiver who has to face things on a daily basis. It's more like all of life is a giant; or at least feels that way sometimes.

David only faced Goliath one time, Daniel was thrown into the lion's den only once, the three Hebrew children faced only one fiery furnace and Jesus only went to the cross one time. But lately it feels like everyday has its own series of giants to be taken out.

I'm not making light of these Bible heroes as we understand they all had situations that were difficult to bear, but sometimes we major on just one victory without realizing that they had other obstacles in their life and dealt with situations every day too. Daniel was a captive, a slave in a very oppressive culture. But he managed to keep his faith in tact day after day even when he faced the lions.

Joseph was sold by his brothers into slavery and yet for years held to God's promise. David spent years running from Saul who was pursuing him to kill him. Every single day had to be a struggle for these guys. Life didn't really let up for them even when they weren't facing giants.It can be easy to feel that way sometimes for the caregiver since some things just don't go away. We may find ourselves running on overload on a daily basis. That's pretty much where I was when I was thinking about David and thought he only faced one giant?  My life seems full of daily giants and insurmountable circumstances.

It can be enough to wear you out physically, spiritually, and emotionally. So how are we supposed to cope with a situation that we don't face just once, but daily?My first thought is Psalm 56:3 what time I am afraid I will trust in You.  But then sometimes - I'm afraid all the time! And I still just have to trust Him. Period.

For the caregiver, everyday can feel like a giant, or a series of giants. What do we do? Run to Him. One of my favorite scriptures is Psalm 61. The psalmist is crying out to God and uses the phrase when my heart is overwhelmed...lead me to the rock.... 

It goes on to say that God has been  a shelter in the past. I think the psalmist was just reminding himself that God has provided shelter from life's storms (and giants) and He will continue to be the shelter for what every day brings, no matter how overwhelming it might be. And that is where we are - trusting the Rock to be our Shelter and our giant facer!

Today I am going to try and rest in His shelter. I will let Him provide the protection my heart needs today. I'll take all my anxious thoughts to Him and relinquish them to His care. My thoughts will be on His protection of my body, soul and spirit. And I will once again rest in Him. Will  you join me?

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Can You Hear Me Now?

We can make a lot of jokes about Job's friends but they did do a couple of things right. One thing that I noted in particular is that when they first heard of Job's trial they came and sat with him. They literally didn't know what to say and so for 7 days they just sat and mourned with their friend. It can mean so much just to know someone is there with you at times.

But as we know all too well, once they opened their mouths it was a different story. They didn't offer the best advice and really didn't provide much comfort for their friend. They've been the butt of many jokes over the years. But this morning as I was reading in Job I noticed something that I've read hundreds of times but it never quite registered until today.

In chapter 42 as things are starting to wind down, God spoke to one of Job's friends, Eliphaz. And as messed up as we usually think of him -- he heard God. I thought about that for a few minutes and then started thinking of others who were what we would consider not quite with it. I thought of Balaam who heard God then pushed for his own way - but then heard God once again. And I thought of Adam. Even after he and Eve had sinned it says he heard God in the garden. And of course a full discourse followed.

One of the things that's been difficult for me on this caregiving journey has been being cut off from everyone else. It's not so bad now but early on when my life was jerked out from under me I really felt alone and disoriented. Even now that there is a new normal and I'm not quite as cut off as I was I can feel really out of it and alone. Sometimes I wonder if my whole thinking process is just really screwed up! 

And that's why I found comfort in this odd little verse this morning. If Eliphaz can hear God I can too! I talk a lot on here about God hearing us - but we can hear Him too. That really is a comforting thought. When life feels so messed up, not normal and I feel out of sync with the rest of the world, God can reach through that funk and speak; and I can hear Him.

Today I am going to concentrate on getting still so I can hear Him. My meditation will be on how He still speaks and I can still listen. I will wait for His voice today. Will you join me?