Thursday, March 30, 2017

Rough Hands - Soft Heart

It's been another crazy week around here, sometimes I wonder what happened to my cave. I used to go days without talking to a soul and now it seems my apartment has a revolving door and my phone doesn't stop. Sometimes I think I need a bit of a break, but most times I actually like it because it's more like my true "norm." My house has always been a hub of activity and my friends know I have an open door policy. Basically, anyone's welcome anytime. It's just who I am. But it can keep me on my toes when it comes to balancing out caregiving, jobs and the rest of life.

Last night was a late night as many have been lately. I had a project due for a client and lots of work on my plate. I did change my alarm this morning to a bit later so I could get a little sleep. I know it's necessary but it can seem like such a waste. (slightly joking) Do you know what I could get done in that 4-6 hours? I get frustrated because I'm human and my body demands it. lol

This morning as I grabbed my first cup of coffee and was reading with just one eye open.... I found some interesting thoughts in Psalm 143. One of my projects in the works right now is on David and how he was so fully a worshiper and a warrior. As I was reading this psalm this morning I thought about the contrast of his calloused hands playing an instrument as graceful and beautifully soothing as a harp. But doesn't that contrast explain David well? Doesn't it also give a picture of caregiving? The calloused hands from the hard work, yet in the crushing the sweet fragrance of His grace can be sensed.

I'm reading and re-reading this psalm and seeing some of the contrasts. First, I like that he spent very little time focused on the enemy but just mentions that it was a difficult fight. You know how I can get caught up in the details of the enemy! (Don't get me started on the aide that didn't show up again yesterday!) I also like how David was transparent with his feelings. But mostly, I like what he said about God.

I think David is one of our beloved Bible characters because of his open honesty about how he felt. Although I don't like saying it that way because it seems to take away from the realness of who he was. In psalm 143 he says several things about himself that maybe the caregiver can relate to at one time or another. He said he was:

  • losing all hope
  • paralyzed with fear
  • deepening depression
  • I think I'm going to die
Have we ever felt this way? Overwhelmed, hopeless and depressed. I've been there. Thankfully, I am not there right now  - but it can be a constant battle to keep our heads up and stay positive when we are swimming in caregiving. We can be open and honest about how we feel. God already knows anyway.

David also makes some very cool statements about God in this psalm. I love the words he uses to describe Him. He uses words like these to describe God:

  • faithful
  • righteous
  • unfailing love
  • gracious
In the process of this written prayer, possibly even sung by David, he asks God for a few things too. I think these are great things for caregivers to ask of God as well. He asks God to:

  • Show me where to walk
  • Save me from my enemies
  • Teach me to do Your will
  • Lead me on firm footing
  • Bring me out of this distress
  • Cut off my enemies
David didn't try to act like the enemy didn't exist and was actually very clear that his struggle was with the fact that he did.  He also said a few things about the enemy. He said:

  • he's chasing me
  • he knocked me to the ground
  • forced me to live in the darkness
That can happen on any given day, can't it. Because we live with our emotional cup all the way to to the brim all the time, what seems to be the littlest thing can topple us over. Talk about living on the edge.I think caregivers own that edge. (smile)

Now what I noticed is that David mentioned 3 things about the enemy, 4 things about himself and the rest was about God or asking Him for help. This tells me where his focus was. Faithful, righteous, gracious and loving. That's our God. No matter what we have to face or walk through today - His attributes do not change, not even a bit. He never stops being faithful. He never says I can't handle this. And He handles someone like me who is quite rough on the edges with so much grace. I need that today. 

Today I'm going to think about how faithful and gracious He is. My thoughts will be on how He doesn't lose patience with me - when I lose patience with life. I'll meditate on this life, calloused by the journey can still pour out the sweet fragrance of worship. And He likes that. I'm going to trust this faithful, gracious, loving, and righteous God with one more day. Will you join me?

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Even a Sigh Catches His Ear

You really never know what a day is going to bring. Many of us became caregivers because of a tragic event like I did with my son. Others may care for parents or loved ones who are in a slow decline like my Mom. Either way, we do the best we can with what we have to work with each day.

No one knows this path unless they walk it. There are many difficulties, as well as many blessings along the way. For me, one of the most difficult parts of this journey has been hooking back into scriptures. It took some time as I was so angry with God for allowing this to happen. Then it took more time for Him to reshape my faith and help me understand Him more fully. He's not a magical potion that keeps trouble away - but instead a powerful force that carries me through.

Sometimes when I read familiar passages I can still feel the struggle between what I thought faith was and how it actually plays out in our day to day lives. This morning was one of those times as I was reading in Isaiah. I was cruising through chapter 35 about how the eyes of the blind will be opened, the deaf will hear and the lame will leap, etc. I've always been taught that this portion of scripture is promised to us on the other side and I'm okay with that. During the Charismatic move in the 70's we used to sing the last verse, King James style of course.

Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return
and come with singing unto Zion
and everlasting joy shall be upon their heads.
They shall obtain gladness and joy
and sorrow and sighing will flee away.

Somehow we understood it to be out there and about heaven - in the sweet by and by. But as I read the last part this morning I thought about how often I hear a sigh escape. You know those times when there just aren't words; and sometimes there's no emotions left either. Or maybe we just aren't sure what to say, do or think and we hear ourselves sigh.

As I read it this morning, I thought He knows when I sigh. And for a second it was like I could feel Him close. Who is close enough to us to hear, or feel us sigh? Most people aren't there in the midnight hour when the day has closed in around us. Or maybe we sigh when we get that unexpected bill, a notice of cancelled services - things like insurance that we were counting on. Another friend walks away. Maybe we stumble under the weight of it all - or perhaps we even sigh as we realize we are making it each day. Whatever makes you sigh......He is close enough to feel it.

This makes me think of Psalm 139:3 that says He is intimately acquainted with all my ways. He is close enough to hear and feel each and every sigh. Those points in life where there just aren't any words left - He can feel it too. He sees. He understands and He does not condemn. He continues to love, to carry and to strengthen for the journey.

Today, I am going to think about how close someone has to be to feel and hear my soul's sigh. My meditation will be on how up in my business God really is - and how I like it like that. I will rejoice that He wants to be that close to me - when others do not. I'll turn my thoughts to His ever abiding - within reach - presence. And I will be thankful that we are His choice of habitation. With that I will rest in Him and trust Him for one more day - will you join me?

Monday, March 27, 2017

That's Impossible!

Do you ever read the Bible and get frustrated? I do. And immediately afterwards I feel guilty. But feelings are feelings now, aren't they? This morning after making coffee, changing and bolusing my son, I sat down with my Bible and a fresh cup of coffee to read a bit. My pen was in Zechariah so I just started reading there in chapter 8 which starts talking about God's passionate love for Mount Zion and Jerusalem.

It continues talking about how He is going to rescue His people and restore them. Zechariah says God will bring all His people back home and basically restore their fortunes, reestablish them and give them peace. In verse 12, God says He is going to plant seeds of peace and prosperity among them. I wonder what that looks like when it plays out in real time.

For a long time, I thought God was going to ride in on a white horse and rescue me and my son too. Of course that didn't happen. Then I struggled with anger, bitterness and frustration. Caregivers have to work through a lot of that sometimes. I learned that restoration didn't look quite like I thought - but He can restore. I learned that whether my son got up and walked again or not - my faith is still in God. He didn't restore my son, but He did restore my faith.

Maybe He didn't restore my BC (before caregiving) life, but He did restore my passion for Him. Perhaps I was looking for lands, houses and wealth - while He was doing a supernatural work restoring my heart and my passion for Him. Oh yeah, remember David says He restores my soul. Isn't that the part that matters most anyway?

As I went back and re-read the passage in Zechariah 8, my eyes fall on verse 6 which says, all of this may seem impossible to you now, a small and discouraged remnant of God's people. But do you think it is impossible for me, the Lord Almighty? He did not scream, yell, rant or rave when He pointed out their discouragement. It wasn't derogatory for Him to remind them they were but a small people. The thing is, He could see them through and through and He sought to restore them anyway.

Here's the cool part to me. He said I will bring them home to live safely in Jerusalem.They will be My people, and I will be faithful and just toward them as their God. That's the part He can restore - and that part - changes everything.

He will not stop being my God when I am small and discouraged. Compassion moves Him toward us - not away from us. It's not impossible for Him to restore our brokenness. This body isn't the important part, it's that part of us that isn't going to die that needs His touch. The secret areas of our heart where no man can see is what needs to be made whole. And He can do that.

Today, I will yield my soul to the work of His hands. I won't look for restoration in the natural realm - but I will wait for Him to do His work in my soul: in my mind, will and emotions. And rather than hold it back because I'm still a little bit mad at Him, I'll move out of my comfortable cave - and let Him see me, let Him touch me. I'll let Him touch and restore the deep recesses of my heart that I don't show to anyone. That place where discouragement lives. I will turn my thoughts to His compassion for us and His deep desire to see us whole before Him. And I will let. Yup - I'm gonna let Him work in me today as I trust Him for one more day. Will you join me?

Friday, March 24, 2017

Peeking Out of the Cave

Do you feel like you are in a constant state of change? Sometimes I am afraid to put my feet down so to speak, as everything is bound to be different before I get them settled. Today will be different too, as each day is unique and yet redundant at the same time.

We do the same caregiving tasks over and over, day after day. Today, though I have the promise of an aide. And now that I have settled in to an aide-less routine, that means changing it all up again. It sounds silly and like it wouldn't matter, but it really does change a lot.

For instance, I want to make sure our laundry is sorted out because when aides are not coming regularly I do some of it together. I also have to get Chris fed, bathed or up (depending on his sleeping schedule) before the aide comes - or figure out when it fits in. I pretty much have to change the way I do my mornings since I have word he's really going to come. (His boss told him if he didn't show up today, she'd restaff him. Why she didn't say that to the one who is supposed to come 3 days a week I have no idea.) I'm trying not to get too excited about maybe getting to run outside or go grab a few groceries because you never really know.

I'm thinking it would be really nice if people just did their jobs. But today I'm wondering if that's just a bit much to ask. I really feel like aides, and maybe even others, don't really know their value. Maybe they think it's just a "job." They don't understand the break they can give us or how much it helps for them to tackle some of our daily chores. They just want to get their paycheck. But that is not in any way a demonstration of their true value.

When it comes to relieving the caregiver, a good aide is invaluable. They don't seem to get that. Even doing a couple loads of laundry, vacuuming or sitting with my son for a few minutes so I can run is worth more than anyone can pay. Especially if I get to run out and be free for a few minutes! They are not here long and I have to balance it all with work so I often have to choose between getting some errands done or going for a run. I also have to do everything with one eye on the watch because I have to be time conscious. But it can make or break my day. They don't understand the value in that.

As I am thinking about aides and how they can really make a difference for caregivers if they put just a little heart into it, I wonder if we underestimate our value to God, and to others for that matter. We can feel cut off and separate from society like we live in a cave with no real value to give. Ah, yes the caregiver's cave. It can be a humble, but safe place to be.  It can also be lonely and dark sometimes. And when we do dare to peek out - it looks so different out there.

Our days, our jobs, our lives can look so different, in fact that it's much easier to stay tucked inside rather than venture out to see what our lives appear to be lacking. I have to guard my attitude sometimes because I hear people outside my cave whining about what I consider a simple matter - an outside the cave matter. Looking at life out there can make me feel more alone - more separated, and of less value. But this is simply not true.

We are the apple of His eye - of great value. God didn't take anything back from us as His children because we became caregivers. Every single promise still holds true. We are still in the beloved, His son still died for us, we are still the righteousness of God in Christ. He still calls us His own. And the list could go on and on. We are still part of His greatest treasure.

Today, I am going to think about how valuable I am to God, even if I don't feel like it. Life may discard us - but He does not. I'll turn my thoughts to His great love for us - even caregivers - and aides. I'll meditate on the value He must place on us. I'll think about what it means to be His prized possession or to be precious in His sight. And that should fill my mind up today - as I trust Him for one more day. Will you join me?

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

How do You Smell?

I was reading Isaiah 55 this morning and several things jumped out at me. One of them was verse 10 which says He was pleased to crush Him. That made me think of how they make essential oils (which I use daily) and how perfume is made as well. In either of these processes, it's the crushing that brings out the sweet fragrance.

Now, I have to admit that sometimes in the crushing - the fragrance that has been released was not pleasant. Remember crushing stink bugs as a kid - that was not nice, nor did it smell good. Crush a garlic and you'll smell garlic. But you will get whatever is inside of what's being crushed.

Caregiving can be a crusher that lets us know what's truly inside. As a matter of fact, it's more like a constant crushing, I refer to it as living in the furnace. It never stops. This can reveal our character - what we are really made of - what we really smell like.

I've seen both as it pertains to myself. There are times when the crushing comes and out pops the sweetest poem, song, thought or action toward another. And then of course, there are the times when the crushing brings out cussing, screaming and the I just can't take it anymores. It can depend on the day, or the moment really.

But as I'm looking through this chapter, I see that He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.  He was despised, afflicted and crushed for our iniquities. It also says He was despised and forsaken of men. Wow. Some of the feelings we can deal with as caregivers - Jesus felt them too. He understands rejection and never quite fitting in. He understands taking the blows for someone else. He understands when others look away because we look too hideous. And He did it all for others - not for Himself. The ultimate caregiver.

He was crushed so we could experience salvation, He was bruised so we could be healed. He was beaten so we could be justified. He laid His life down so we could all live. When He was crushed the beautiful fragrance of redemption poured forth.

Day after day we lay our lives out there for our loved ones - and it smells good to Him. The fragrance of our crushing brings out a sweet smell that is identifiable as love. The same love that held Him on the cross for us - is the love that holds us by our loved one's side. That smells good to Him.

For me, it's easy to see how He loves others with that kind of love, but I can't always grasp it for myself. I think as caregivers we get so outwardly focused, partly because we have to be, that we can't see it for ourselves. But He loves us. He calls us His. He redeemed us - He didn't die for everyone except caregivers.

Today I will turn my thoughts to His great love for us....for me. I'll meditate on how it can be possible for Him to feel the same measure of love for me as I feel for my son, and even more. I will roll it around in my head and try to comprehend His love for me, and my work will be to accept it and to trust Him for one more day. Will you join me?

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Who Am I Really?

It's so easy to get lost in the shuffle. We don't have to go through the list of all the things we have to do in a day, or the numerous people who come through weekly to check on our loved one, or the paperwork we have to keep up with - all to provide proper care. But most of these activities are based around the one we are caring for - not around us.

My "love language" is time. If you spend time with me I feel loved. You can lavish gifts on me  (not that anyone has tried that recently! lol) and I won't necessarily be able to translate that as love. But spend time with me and I will feel like you care.

The social isolation of caregiving and the always feeling like you're out of step with normal can start to wear on you. Lately, I'm so much more comfortable with caregiving - and not struggling as much about going into public places. I guess that happens when you don't have an aide for an extended period of time and you just have to adjust. I also nearly ran out of coffee - that'll get you out of the house. ;-)

But over the weekend, I had to do some thinking and dealing with the feelings of rejection. It can be easy to feel like life itself has rejected us - like we don't really belong anywhere. It's not true - but it can feel that way. To be honest, even small things like aides not showing up can wear away at one's self-worth. The one aide needs to get fingerprints. This is his second week to not work and for me it sends the message we are not worth his time to go get that done. And of course the company doesn't offer a fill-in. This and many other things can wear away at one's self-worth.

Last week I was dealing with this issue, actually caused by another event and I felt myself slipping into the abyss. Feelings of worthlessness, rejection, and aloneness tried to weigh me down. I started rehearsing some of the scriptures that reminded me of how much He loves me - no matter what life looks like or if I have to do it alone.

I compiled the list and labeled the file Come Away my Beloved. Because the truth is that we are His beloved - no matter what our lives look like to us or to others. Whether we are a sole caregiver or actually have some help, whether we can attend church or can't get out much at all. It doesn't matter we are still His beloved. That's who we really are and it doesn't change, period.

Today I am going to focus on the truth that I am His beloved child. My thoughts will be on His acceptance of me - I will turn my meditations to how much He loves me and cares for me in this life I am living for Him. I'll rest in His love for today. Will you join me?

Monday, March 20, 2017

Not True!

One of the things I do to "deal" with caregiving is run. I started while my son was initially in the hospital because I was looking for a way to be active. We spent almost 4 months in the hospital after his wreck. I stayed with him and never left except for very short outings to do laundry and such. I read a lot, but finally started a running plan just to get some activity in as the sitting wore me out.

It took me three weeks to work up to the beginning program, but eventually I trained for that first 5K. I found running to be a great stabilizer for me. When I run, my body releases tension, my head seems to clear and I just feel better in general.

Yesterday I finished my 22nd half marathon. I hadn't trained properly for it so it was a tough one. That and the fact that I'm coming off an injury I sustained in an 8 mile trail race  back in January made for a rather painful race. On a tough race like that all the "good thoughts" disappear about 7 miles in. I get frustrated with myself and my mind starts turning toward negative thoughts.

Yesterday I started thinking about how overweight I am and my lack of self control as it pertains to eating and training. The half-marathon mind cannot be held accountable as it gets crazy in there - but at some point for whatever reason, I thought about how "ugly" I must look. Then I thought about my life and literally had the thought, my whole life is ugly.

The second I heard that thought go through my head - I heard this resounding Not True! It was sort of like God pulled out a huge "not true" stamp and landed it on my head. It was funny to me - and the thoughts it initiated kept me going for a good mile or two more. Even though many parts of caregiving can be "ugly" or difficult, or not the normal picture of life, there's still much beauty in it.

I thought about how beautiful it is to lay down one's life for another. That's what we do isn't it? Jesus said there's no greater love than this. That's beautiful. The way we care so much for another whole person and strive to meet every need - no matter what that need is at the moment - He thinks is beautiful. 

Sure, it's tough. Sure it's not the normal picture of how life is supposed to be. Sure, we lose a lot of freedom by choosing caregiving - but He thinks it's beautiful. Now when I think something that's not true - I'm going to envision a huge "not true" stamp coming down on the top of my head! lol

As I opened my Bible this morning for devotions, I just happened on the passage in Luke 7, and I felt it applied. Jesus was dining with one of the Pharisees and a woman who had a shady past, an ugly life, began to wash Jesus' feet. The Pharisee thought if this man were a prophet, He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner.  The truth is - He did know. And He found beauty in it. Jesus used this imaginary "Not true!" stamp to negate the Pharisee's thoughts as He explained that this woman performed acts of kindness, of caregiving if you will, when the Pharisee did not. He found it beautiful - not ugly.

May we all experience the "Not true!" stamp when we think what we do is less than beautiful. I've said it before but it bears repeating that as we demonstrate our love through caregiving - we look a lot like Him. And I feel that He is pleased.

Today I am going to purposefully let Him show me the beauty in my situation. My thoughts will be on how He takes good care of my soul with the same type of love that I provide care for my son. I'm going to think about how this woman washed Jesus' feet out of pure love and how He saw the act. I believe that's how He sees us as caregivers too. He is just as passionate for us as we are for our loved ones, just as protective, compassionate, and loving - maybe more. I will turn my thoughts to these truths today. I'm going to trust Him and rest in Him for one more day - will you join me?

Friday, March 17, 2017

But Can I Forgive the Aides?

When I became a caregiver, everything changed. It was both instant and gradual. Instantly I was thrust into learning all about brain injuries and how to provide personal care for another adult. As time went on, as it tends to do, I learned more until now I'm literally helping write a course on it.

A caregiver pretty much lives in a state of adaptability. We never know what a day may bring and we have to be ready to change on the fly in order to handle whatever might come up. But we are still sons, daughters, moms, sisters, dads, brothers, etc. Many friends walk away, the church doesn't know what to do with us and usually our jobs either adapt to our new responsibilities as caregivers, we no longer have them or we adjust in some other way like working online.

I think our Christian walk is similar in this way. The second we accept Christ - we are changed. Bam! We are a new creation. But over time a we learn more about Him and become more like Him we see continued changes. This is true for everyone. The more time we spend with Him the more we'll look like Him as He tends to rub off on His kids.

This morning I was reading in Colossians 3 and in verse 10 Paul says we have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him - And then the next verse says there's no distinction - all believers are renewed; the Greek and the Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free - and I'd like to add caregivers or caregivees - Christ is all, and in all.

I stopped there in my reading and thought about that for awhile. Our roles as caregivers take absolutely nothing away from who we are in Christ. For that matter we still have the responsibility of pressing in to Him - no matter what life throws our way. No one ever gets it so bad they get an exempt card. 

On one hand, this is good. I am still eligible for His love, grace, mercy, peace, and many abundant blessings. But then I realize that since nothing changes in the spirit realm when we become a caregiver I still have to put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. I still have to live out verse 13 - bearing with one another, forgiving each other and put on love.
I'm glad to not be exempt on the good stuff - but can I catch a break on the rough stuff? Do I still have to deal with caregiving and the struggles and still be patient? Even with aids (two of them now) that don't show up for over a week? I still have to forgive? Everyone?


And that might just be the difficult part. But I can't move on to the last three verses of this chapter until I've done these. Only after I embrace his love, forgiveness, gentleness and mercy - can I let His peace rule in my heart and let his word dwell in me richly.

Caregivers are not exempt on either end, and that's a good thing. I also think He works those things in and through us as we learn to lean on Him more for each day's needs. Today I just need grace. At least I already know the aid isn't showing up as he texted last night - so I can adjust my schedule and chores accordingly. But can I forgive the aids for leaving me in a lurch? Can I work through the depression that seems to close in when I don't get those little breaks? Can I forgive them? They really do not have a clue how beneficial their services are - can I just be thankful?

Today I will shift my focus from frustration and fury to forgiveness. My thoughts will be on how patient He is with me - and I pray I can be the same with others. I'll rejoice in the fact that I still have everything Christ has to offer - my status being His - didn't change when caregiving started. And I'll do some inner reflection and let Him shine the light on the things I still need to change. I will yield to Him as He continues to change me into His image one (tiny) step at a time. I'll rest in Him as He brings about change - and I'll trust Him for one more day. Will you join me?

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Broke, Broke, or Broke?

You know how caregiving days go. Even though there's nothing easy about it, some days are good, some are better and a few are downright rough. There can be a number of reasons for a rough day. It might be physically rough, mentally rough, emotionally rough or a combination of any of those plus any number of other reasons. Yesterday, I just felt broke. I'm learning to take it all to Him. He's not afraid of my broken state.

Yesterday, I was thinking about how broken I was and in the process I realized there are three basic types of "broke." I can be financially broke - which thank God for His provision - I am not. I can be broke - like not working and needing to be fixed broke. Or I can be broke - like broken before God, humble and broken.

 I'm in the middle of a challenge called the psalmist challenge. I designed it myself as part of a project I'm working on. For 30 days I have to take a few minutes to play, sing and pray. So far, every day I have written a short poem or song at least. It's interesting what we can hear when we tune our ears in. So I decided to take my "broke" self to Him. But did He want it? Would He turn me away because my life felt ugly like people do?

I thought of the scripture in Psalm 34:18 that says The Lord is near the brokenhearted and I wondered if it had any defining qualifications on it. Is He near me if I feel like I'm broken and cannot mend? Is He near me if I am broken emotionally and feel like I can't move on or take one more step? Or is He near me just when I am humbly bowing before Him overcome with His presence? Is He near me when I feel spent, exhausted and done?  I'm thinking it's "D" all of the above.

God is not afraid of my broken state. He doesn't shun me when I am riddled with fears. He won't cast me aside when I am overcome by the daily rigors of caregiving. When people avoid me because they don't know what to say - He draws close. Broke, broke or broken - none of them scares Him, and He draws near.

I am not entirely sure which the psalmist is talking about in this verse. He goes on in verse 19 to say there are many afflictions for the righteous. I'm avoiding the next part of that verse as it says the Lord delivers them out of them all. You and I both know He's not riding in on a white horse today to carry us away. So what does that mean? Contextually, I believe it means He rides through it with us - carrying us all along the way. Those steps we don't have the strength to make - He makes for us. He doesn't remove everything and make life all hunky-dory, but He does endure it with us and carry us through it.

So, no matter if we feel broke, broke or broke, He draws near and He beckons for us to draw near to Him. He's not afraid of our broken state. He won't turn and look away because of the pain like people tend to do. He walks right up to us in the midst of the fiery trial and says, Come near. He will pull us right up to Himself just like a father gently holding a hurting child. He brings comfort. He will not abandon.

Today I will meditate on His nearness. I'll turn my thoughts to how He longs to hold me near to His heart when I am hurting the most. My thoughts will be on how He picks me up, brushes me off, holds me, and is walking through this with me; even carrying me when need be. I will rest in the fact that He is present - ever present. And I'll trust Him for one more day - will you join me?

Here is the video of the short song I wrote yesterday about how He draws us near whether we are broke, broke or broke. Come Near.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Shifting Sands

This morning, I am tired. I know the day has not even started but I've already sighed three times. Just knowing all that will need to be done today makes me weary. It's really not an unusual day, just another day.

Caregiving has to be one of the craziest things I've ever done, and I've done some crazy things - and had some extreme jobs. One just really has no idea what to expect on any given day. Like yesterday with no warning the company showed up with my son's new bed. I had no idea he was coming (what happened to common courtesy?), but here he stood acting shocked that the old bed was still standing in the place the new bed belonged. I just looked at him in the same shock. How was I supposed to know he was coming if he didn't call? (smh)

He said, "We can set up the new bed but we aren't allowed to move the old one. It's company policy." I said, "Well, had I known you were coming, I'd have had this one moved out of the way. So why don't you just stand right there while I get this old one out of the way?" I began grabbing pieces and trying to figure out how to disassemble the old bed. I guess he either had a bit of compassion for an old lady - or figured it was going to take me all day because he helped take it apart and move it out to make room for the new bed.

Not only was the new bed a surprise delivery, but of course the aid hasn't been showing up. Something about needing fingerprints and he can't work until he gets them. But instead of sending someone in his place, I just get to guess everyday whether he's coming or not. Either I start all his tasks in the morning and leave him with nothing to do but sit here for 4 hours in the afternoon, or I let stuff sit until time for him to get here and then do them when he doesn't show up.... can't seem to win so I give up.

I also went ahead and ordered supplies that I've gone without for months. A box of syringes for tube feeding, about $10. For some reason they can't seem to get an approval. Now I'm told NOT to order stuff that it's coming - but where are these people when I run out of supplies? So I had to stop everything yesterday and order a few things. I'm tired of waiting.

And this is just some of the simple struggles of one day. Who knows what today will bring? Meals to be delivered, old bed to be picked up and taken to someone who needed it - probably be another crazy, unpredictable day around here. It would be so easy to slide into "victim" mode. I could whine and cry and worry about poor me. But I'd have to wipe my tears and figure it all out anyway, right? I think I'll skip that part.

We are put into such an emotional situation. We know we are told we aren't supposed to let this all make us hard, stubborn or recluse, right? But it can all pile up until we are emotionally spent - and it's all over these little things, not even the big stuff. It seems like it can chip away until there's just nothing left. What's a caregiver to do?

What we've always done. Run to Him. Leave it there and roll up our sleeves and get back in the game. Exhausting though it may be - it's our only choice. That or giving up. (Not today!) So I remind myself of a few scriptures to help me focus. First, I think of how it says David encouraged himself in the Lord. Now I know why he did that - who else was going to do it, right? (lol) I'll let you listen in on my pep talk.

I will bring all my cares to the Lord - for He cares for me. (1 Peter 5:7)
I will let my requests be known to Him - for His peace will guard my heart. (Philippians 4:6,7)
I will draw near to Him - for that's when He draws near to me. (James4:8)

Today, I'm going to try my best to focus on Him instead of the situation. That's difficult when the "situation" is looming and right in your face, isn't it? But I refuse to cave in. I refuse to shift my focus off of Him and to the struggle. My hands may be weary - but today I will lift them to Him. I will remind myself that He is still my God. He is still with me. He is still my provider. And He still cares for me. And with those thoughts I am ready to take on one more day resting and trusting in Him. Will you join me?

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Maybe He Knew Too

I know the scripture says His mercies are new every morning, but maybe it should have explained that there would be mornings we'd have to look a little harder to find them. Maybe it's just me, but my mind is racing with the day's responsibilities almost before I get both eyes opened. And then of course, any tiny thing out of step or above and beyond the caregiver's "norm" can catapult us into another state.

Personally, I battle depression and anxiety. That'll wear you out right there. I can be floating along doing real good and something unexpected happens and my emotions flat-line. But that's okay because once my head kicks back in, it goes 900 miles an hour with possible scenarios of things that are not likely to ever even happen. I can be emotionally spent over the tiniest adjustment to my day.

It's probably because as caregivers we run on the edge all.the.time. There's no break. We live in a state of caring constantly for another person. We make decisions for and about them, take care of very personal needs as well as basic needs and oftentimes let our own needs go because there are just 24 hours in a day. Our emotions can be taut like a rubber band stretched to its max and one itsy bitsy change can send us flying off the edge. (Maybe it's just me.)

I had a wide range of emotions yesterday as my son turned 33. It wasn't his age - it was the lack of birthday wishes really. There were a few and I'm thankful - but as is the "norm" he seems forgotten as time goes on. I am sure it is to be expected in situations like this - but even what is expected can hurt your feelings a little bit. (Or a lot.)

This morning this was going over in my mind and I thought of the verse that says Even if my father and mother abandon me, the Lord will hold me close. Psalm 27:10 NLT I had to pull out my Bible and look it up and I'm glad I did because I noticed the scriptures right before it. David says in verse 9: Do not hide yourself from me. Do not reject your servant in anger. You have always been my helper. Don't leave me now; don't abandon me, O God of my salvation! 

I was like - did David really say that?  Did he really feel that? This "man after God's own heart" fought feelings of abandonment? He was just talking about God concealing him in His sanctuary earlier and out pops this - what if God leaves too? Of course he then answers his own questions (I do that too!) with the statement that God will hold him close. I like that.

Today, I'm going to lay aside the sadness from yesterday, the feelings of aloneness and the heaviness of abandonment. And I'm going to focus on that little phrase - the Lord will hold me close. I'm thinking that from that intimate, secret place - the rest really won't matter as much. I'm going to meditate on the truth that He doesn't abandon - ever, no matter how life feels. I'll turn my thoughts to His nearness, to His touch, to His tenderness and mercy - which is new every morning whether I find it or not! I will thank Him for walking this journey with me - a task humans can't always do. I'll find the strength to trust Him for one more day - will you join me?

Monday, March 13, 2017

Not Today

I want to apologize. I'm truly sorry but I just didn't want to get up and write a devotion this morning. Not that I don't love you guys, but I'm just tired, and it's my own fault really. I was up late last night finishing up an overdue project for a client and this morning I really wanted to sleep in.

But as you fellow caregivers know, that's not always an option. Things just have to be done. They can't be put off, can't wait for another day - each day is laden with tons of things that simply have to get done when you are providing total care for another whole person.

My early morning routine looks something like this:

  • Hit the snooze (repeat 5-6 times)
  • Hit the button on the baby monitor to see if Chris is awake yet
  • Stumble to the kitchen to put on coffee
  • Get Chris' bolus together
  • Push the button on the coffee pot
  • Open the other eye
  • Change and bolus Chris
  • Stumble back to the kitchen to pour my coffee
  • Drag myself, my laptop and my Bible and my coffee back to bed
  • Sip coffee, open my Bible and sigh
That's pretty much every morning. Today I have lots of thoughts running through my head as it's Chris' 33 birthday. Never dreamed this is where we'd be. He's supposed to be married, working as a successful musician, living his dreams and making babies. His friends are.

Instead he's lying in a bed waiting on me for his every need.

So I was looking for something solid to stand on today. Quite honestly, I'll probably try to just get lost in my work today so I don't have to think about it too much. I might need to be carried a bit today but I'll try to stay focused. I opened the Word and started reading a passage or two I've been wanting to look back at and then I thought of a verse the verse that is going to be my anchor for today.

Psalm 119:50 came to mind - I hadn't thought of it in a long time, and it just welled up inside me. David said this: It is my comfort in my affliction that Your word has revived me! The old KJV says Your word has quickened me. I must say it is a comfort to know his word still works. Even when I'm not sure what to read - what verse to cling to for the day - once I find a truth that puts something  sometimes anything inside me - I won't let go. It comforts me to know that His word still works in the midst of the furnace. The fires can burn away the chaff - but they can't burn away His truth which continues to carry my heart.

So today I say Not Today! Today is NOT the day I will give up though my heart is heavy. Today is NOT the day I quit though I am tired. Today is NOT the day His word fails to comfort me. Today is NOT the day He stops carrying me. Today is NOT the day I throw in the towel. Today is NOT the day He will leave me all alone. It's NOT the day He shrugs His shoulders unsure of what to do. Today is NOT the day He quits comforting me. Today is NOT the day I stop trusting Him. Not today.

Today will be the day I continue to put my confidence in Him knowing He is here with me - He has not abandoned me yet and He's not going to walk out today! I will turn my thoughts away from the weight of the day and toward His ever abiding presence. My meditations will be on the truth that of all the things He created - He chose to live in us. It is His choice to be with us - He's not forced to walk alongside us - He is here of His own free will. We are here of His own free will. And today I will let His word comfort me. I'll stand and say - Not today to giving up on His mercies, Not today to giving up trusting Him, Not today to waiting for Him and resting in Him. Will you join me in saying "Not today" as we continue to rest in Him and trust Him for just one more day?

Thursday, March 9, 2017

But He's Mine

Sorry I missed a day and I'm running late. To say my plate is full would be an understatement - but I know my fellow-caregivers understand that. Just today I've dealt with a home health nurse and a case manager. It was all routine but all before noon, really?

I finally got to sit down and enjoy a cup of coffee (okay so it's my third pot - hey I was up late!), grabbed my Bible and just started reading. I was actually preparing for a lesson I'm going to teach tonight but something caught my heart.

In 2 Timothy 2, Paul told Timothy this, God's truth stands firm like a foundation stone with this inscription: "The Lord knows those who are His." I just stopped when I read that. My thoughts went to my new normal life. Most of you are all too familiar with the daily grind. But the other day I was talking to a friend about the not-so-daily part meaning the emotions  that can be a struggle. We discussed the depression, anger and frustration that can lie just below the surface. Most days it is well-managed, but we have our days. I know you know.

With this week being a bit more hectic than "normal" for us around here I just needed to get my feet back on the ground and this scripture did that for me today. I sat here and thought about the fact that I am His. And He is okay with that!

The caregiver's life is less than perfect. It's not the "norm" although we find our new norms. It can be ugly sometimes....can't it? I've said many times that even though people leave when life gets ugly - He never abandons us. He still looks at me... He looks at you... and proudly says, that one is mine.

In all the mess, in all the craziness, in all the pain - we are still His.

I was thinking about this and letting it settle in as I pulled up the blog to get started writing. As I was looking for a photo, I saw this one of my son and me the first time I ever took him to a race with me. I thought it was fitting because he's still mine. He doesn't speak.  He doesn't do anything for himself, he is broken. But he's still mine and I'm okay with that.

God looks at us with that same compassion, gentleness and emotion. We are His no matter how broken we may feel or how un-normal our lives seem. He still looks at us with love and fondly says - with a twinkle in His eye - this one is mine.

Today I am going to think about how I am His and He doesn't want out of the deal. Just like I accept my kids no matter what, unconditionally, He accepts me. My meditation will be on His unconditional love, compassion and watchfulness over my soul. I'm going to think about how I'm His and how He will never, never, never let go - He's content that I am His and so I am. I'll embrace the comfort that comes with those thoughts and I'll rest in Him for one more day. Will you join me?

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

He Never Gives Up

I've always been open and honest about my feelings and how I have dealt with caregiving. I usually at least try to clean it up a bit before I spill it out on the page for the world to see though. Maybe a "thank you" is in order! (Just kidding - lighten up!)

It seems I've found a way to deal with caregiving at least a little more gracefully than when I started the journey. There are daily struggles, as you all know, and numerous battles along the way. Caregiving isn't for the faint in heart. We give up our dreams, our goals, our jobs, other relationships, and our lives to serve the one we love. On one hand, it's the obvious choice and it seems easy; and on the other hand it's the most difficult job in the world.

One of my biggest struggles personally was giving up ministry. I had goals and dreams and passions that seemed to fall by the wayside as I stepped into the role of caregiving. Over time, I've seen God stir some of those up and even though they look nothing like I thought - He's still doing just what He said. (Imagine that!)

As I was praying about some of these things the other day, I started getting the words to a poem. I figured out that all along - He hadn't given up on me. Not even for a second. I just want to share the poem with you here. It's a bit long (yes, I am long-winded once I get going! lol) but I hope you'll get a little something out of it. And together we can trust Him for one more day. Will you join me?

He Never Gave Up 

He never gave up on me.
He could see what I couldn’t see
When my way became dark and dreary
My body and soul became so weary…
He didn’t give up on me
He could still see
Everything He had put in me.

The difficult path didn’t blind Him
He knew that one day
I’d be at my wit’s end
And still find my way….

I stumbled, fought, and cussed -
He never walked away in disgust
He patiently waited ‘til I figured it out
He knew the cave would get cozy
And that I’d eventually come back out and about

He knew….

I’d be driven to Him in passionate pursuit
But when I turned around I’d found-
I’d never been beyond His reach
In fact, love had kept us bound
Tho I’d tripped, fallen and stumbled around
I found myself bleeding, lying on the ground
Then even my blood cried out to Him
And here I am now – thought all was lost – but I’ve been found.
He never gave up
He never let up
Waiting for me
I was still called
I was still chosen
I was still beloved and free
Because his grace never gave up on me.

© J Olinger March 5, 2017

Monday, March 6, 2017

Lion Hearts

Sorry to be MIA of late - I had my plate full last week as my mom was staying with me for a few days. She has some sort of dementia and requires lots of TLC right now so it was my pleasure to have her stay with me. However, it meant that my plate, which was already full, was piled just a little fuller. So I did what I could to keep my head above I went missing.

Over the last few weeks, my mind and heart have been busy processing stuff. Life, really. And as usual, there are tons of things going through my head and heart all at the same time. When I wake up in the morning it seems like my head is already going a hundred miles an hour, and maybe more! I have no idea what the series of thoughts were that brought me to the passage in Daniel, but I'm sure it was a logical sequence.

I opened my Bible to Daniel 3, verse 17. This is where Daniel's three friends were facing the fiery furnace. It's their statement - their dedication to the fire that piqued my interest this morning. They said  our God is able to deliver us from the blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, be it known to you O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image you have set up.

My thoughts were mostly wrapping around their tenacity and dedication to the fire. They were not looking for a way out - but were tenaciously saying they would gladly walk through the fire rather than give up to other gods.

I kind of see caregivers that way. There's this dedication to the journey, you know? We are going to continue to walk in the fire not expecting God to deliver us out. If He does - great. But if not - we will not bow or give in to the pressure. We will still serve Him. Isn't that partly why you are here right now reading this blog?

Many days we are strong and our faith seems to carry us through. Other days we are looking for a thread of hope and wondering if we have the strength to hold on. But when we feel life push us to give in - something stands up inside of us and boldly proclaims: I'm not bowing to the pressure. I'll walk through this fire - but not give up on God.

Same tenacity. Same dedication. Same boldness and power that we have admired in Daniel's friends, isn't it? I know we don't like seeing ourselves that way. For the most part, we are like - hey, I do what I gotta do to make it. And that is true - but inside there's this lion that is seeking God's heart. And we are not giving up - even in our fiery circumstance - until we find Him.

And where exactly do we find Him? Right there in the furnace with us. Yup - He's walking through the fiery trials alongside each of us. Isaiah 43:1-2 says this:

But now, thus says the Lord Your creator, O Jacob,
and He who formed you O Israel,
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are Mine!
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they will not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched,
nor will the flame burn you. 
For I am the Lord your God 
The Holy One of Israel....

Sometimes I'm sad because He didn't promise us a ticket out. He said we'd pass through waters, rivers and fire. We are not exempt. However, He also said He'd be with us in them. And that's what I am holding on to today.

Today I'm going to rejoice that He didn't leave me to face the fire alone. I choose to be thankful He is in the floods with me. My mind will be on the truth that He's a furnace walker too - because He's in there with us. My meditations will be on His choice to never leave us - and to carry us when necessary. Just like I choose to walk with Him - He chooses to walk with me. I like that and it will be my meditation today as I trust Him for one more day. Will you join me?