Friday, December 29, 2017

Quick to Condemn

Rest is not a word we hear much as caregivers. Well, let me rephrase that. If you are anything like me, you hear that you should rest more. Of course, these statements are made by people who first of all haven't got a clue about how impossible that is. Secondly, they make no offer to help so it could be possible. I just let their words go like water off a duck's back. Poor souls really have no clue. (smile!)

I will say though, that out of desperation, I've learned a few ways to sneak in a rest or two now and then. It took quite a bit of ingenuity and creativity, along with pure exhaustion to figure it out. But eventually, I got it. It's not that I didn't appreciate their concern - they just had no idea what they were talking about.

Let's look at some differences here. First, there is a difference in being able to rest and knowing you need to rest. Many times, we know we need to, there's just no one to take up that slack so we can. Secondly, there's a difference between soul rest and body rest. The actual physical resting of our bodies can be nearly impossible sometimes. But soul rest - is always possible, even if it's difficult to get there.

In Isaiah 30:15, God said this through the prophet: In returning and rest you will be saved, in quietness and trust is your strength. Then the prophet adds - but you were not willing. I have always thought this was such a sad verse. God tells us to return to Him, rest in Him, quiet our souls before Him and trust Him. That's our strength. And while resting physically is good for us and helps our body - it's even more important to rest our souls in Him. That's our strength.

I was quick to condemn Isaiah's audience by saying, really? God gives you a simple thing to do - come to Him and rest, and you can't do that? Then I realized I fail too. But oh, when I can come to the place where I bring it all to Him, lay it all at His feet and crawl up in His lap and be still and quiet...He never fails to fill me with His strength for the journey and the battle.

Today I will purpose to quiet my noisy soul before Him. I'll work to rest in Him and let Him carry me. My efforts will be in returning to His lap and being still and quiet - just acknowledging that He is my God. And I'll wait for His strength to fill me, to carry me. Will you join me?

Thursday, December 28, 2017

In all Honesty

This morning I was reading along in 1 Corinthians 2 studying a particular topic and got to verse 3. I'm not sure quite why it shocked me as I'm sure I've read it numerous times before. But this morning, I just stopped and stared.

Right there in the Bible - in the New Testament - on this side of the cross, were Paul's words. He said I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. I just looked at it for quite some time and read it over again and again. This is Paul, right? THE Paul who wrote a large portion of the New Testament. THE Apostle Paul who had a divine encounter with God. And he wrote it on this side of the cross.

What kind of apostle is this who admits fear, trembling and weakness openly? The kind God can move through. I'm coming to understand how important it is to be totally honest with God. It's not like He doesn't already know anyway, right? He knows my weakness. He knows my fears. He knows my trembling and my crazy, all-over-the-place thoughts. But He loves me anyway.

I'm not sure God can totally fill us up until we find ourselves empty enough of ourselves to seek Him. I can hide behind my fears. I can hide because of my fears. But when I say to Him - God, I'm scared. I'm fearful. I need You. Then and only then can He take those fears and turn them around while transforming me into a warrior of faith.

We have been taught to not admit our feelings, that they inhibit faith. I no longer think that is accurate. I think it's quite the opposite. When we admit where we are and how we feel, then God can sweep in with His comfort, joy and healing.

As caregivers, days can be filled with such a wide range of emotions. What am I saying? Each moment can be filled with emotional lows and highs. We live in an emotional minefield. It comes with the territory. But until we can admit our frailty and fears - we cannot bring them to God. And until we can bring them to Him - we cannot be healed or helped. I cannot ask for help with something I won't admit I have.

Paul learned the value in this evidently. In 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 he says this: He has said to me, 'My power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weakness, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak - then I am strong.

When we realize how frail we are, how weak we are - we can rely on His strength. Paul said he will boast about his weakness.(Boy, you don't hear that one preached much do ya?) I cannot give God my weakness, pain, or fears until I first acknowledge I have them.

Today, I will gladly tell God when I am afraid, when I am angry, when I am fearful. For that is when He steps in. I'll acknowledge my own weakness today so His strength can be perfected in me. I will trust Him with my emotions today and I'll let Him carry me. Will you join me?

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Forever is a Long Time

I've been lost in thought the last few weeks, and of course busy with the holidays. Now that Christmas is past, I've turned my thoughts toward a new year. This morning I woke up thinking about some of the rough times that occurred this year. I immediately thought - but the word of God stands forever. It doesn't change due to our circumstances.

I looked up the scripture reference and found it in 1 Peter. But he was simply quoting the verse from Isaiah 40. Verse 8 says this: the grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.

Since I like to look at things in context, I backed up a bit and started reading the first verse of the chapter. It's about comfort and how He is bringing an end to our warfare. Quite honestly, I got nothing on that. Caregiving is still going on. It's still complicated. It's still hurtful. It's still discouraging. However, in verse 3 I found something I could meditate on.

Verse 3 of Isaiah 40 says this: A voice is calling, "Clear the way for the Lord in the wilderness; make smooth in the desert a highway for our God."  And that's when it hit me. If I am to clear the way for the Lord in the wilderness - He must be planning on visiting me in that wilderness. And if I am to make a smooth highway for God in the desert - He must be planning on visiting me in that desert.

He comes right into our wilderness and desert and brings His word - which never fades. Never fails. Never goes out of date. Never misses. But stands forever. Through time. Through deserts and wildernesses. His word endures forever. He is able to bring refreshing in the midst of the desert. He speaks in the wilderness.

Throughout the word we see Him taking the prophet in particular, to the wilderness. It was always for the purpose of speaking to them. When I used to go hiking (BC), I hiked through some wilderness areas. They aren't called a wilderness because nothing grows there - it's because of the absence of the human touch. When we are in the wilderness of life - it's just God and us on a personal level.

He doesn't wait until we are out of the wilderness or desert to speak. He speaks during that season. He brings comfort, refreshing our souls. He doesn't abandon us to the wilderness or desert. We just need to prepare our hearts for the entrance of His word. His word endures forever. The heat of the desert doesn't render it ineffective in our lives. The loneliness of the wilderness doesn't weaken its power in our lives. His word endures.

Today I am going to go back to the basics of the word of God. I'm going to rejoice that His word is not changed by my circumstances. My thoughts will be on how He sends His word - and it accomplishes what He says. Period. I'll meditate on the word today and let it minister to me in the wilderness. And I will trust Him for one more day.Will you join me?

Monday, December 18, 2017

Just Because He Wants To

This morning, I was reading in the first chapter of Ephesians. There are so many things God gave us, just because He wants to. This was just what I needed to hear this morning. As caregivers, many of us deal with a great sense of loss. We do not have a normal life. We can feel separated and alone. Personally, I deal with the living grief of losing my son - but still caring for his body. But as I was reading through these verses, I was reminded of the things I do have in Him - things that are not removable. There's no way to lose the things we have through Christ.

In verse three, it says we have every spiritual blessing in Christ. Not some of them. Not a few of them... but every spiritual blessing. That sounds so good, but what does it really mean? What are those blessings? They seem to unfold over the next few verses.

In verse four, we were chosen in Him before the foundation of the world. Before He said, Let there be light we were chosen. Why? Just because He wanted to. He chose - that's the key word - chose us. Then it says that we would be holy and blameless before Him. I think that is just wow. He chose us - and then made sure we would be holy and blameless. Now I've been called lots of names in my lifetime, but He calls me "holy" and he calls me "blameless." Just because he wants to!

How do I know? Verse four says that He predestined us to adoption as sons, according to the kind intention of His will - His will? Yes. His "want to." He was so intent on making sure we could get back to Him that He predestined, pre-planned a way for us to get back to Him before He said, Let there be light! That is exciting to me - the fact that He planned to make me (you) holy before Adam even sinned. Before I was born, He decided he would make me holy. Why? Just because He wants to.

Today I will meditate on His "want to." He wants to call me His child  - so He does. He wants to call me holy - so He does. He wants to call me blameless - so He does. I'm going to train my thoughts today to stay on His want to - on the things he purposefully said about me - before the world began.  I figure since He could make plans for me before time began - I will rest in today. Will you join me?

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Peek-a-Boo

One of my all-time favorite scriptures is in Genesis16. Hagar calls out to the Lord over her son. It doesn't matter if she was right or wrong to me. She was in distress over the treatment of her son. I personally think she got the short end of the stick. No matter what led her there, she found herself sitting by the spring in the wilderness. That's where the angel of the Lord "found her." No matter how difficult or complicated the situation was with Hagar, she wasn't hidden from the Lord's sight.

After she and the angel of the Lord had a little discourse, she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, "You are a God who sees." sometimes it's enough to just know that He sees us where we are. Honestly, other times it is not. (Speaking personally.)

With the truth that He sees wherever we are in mind, take a look at Psalm 109. That is where I was reading during my devotions this morning. Verse 31 captured my thoughts and meditations. It says:

For He stands at the right hand of the needy,
to save him from those who judge his soul.

I'm not really too worried about what others think, or however they want to judge my soul. I have yet to have one person take me up on the offer to walk a day with me. And that's okay. Many do not understand the crazy emotions caregivers can deal with. It's too easy for them to tell us to get over it. They can't comprehend the engulfing loneliness, the enormous sense of loss, feelings of entrapment, or the living grief we endure from day to day. There's no getting over it. There's just laying it aside and learning how to deal with it in order to make the day and stay sane and saved.

I like this verse in Psalm 109 because it reminds me that like Hagar, He sees me. He stands at my right hand. The right hand is symbolic of our power - so to me, it means He empowers me to walk it out. He is not worried about those who judge emotions so easily. Instead, He protects me from it. Because He sees. He knows.

Today I am going to think about how He empowers me to walk this walk. My thoughts will be on how He does see every minute detail, and He protects my soul. (mind, will and emotions) My meditations will be on How He sees, and it doesn't scare Him away. Instead, He runs to my aid. He is my soul's protector. And today, I'll be happy that He sees. He understands. He protects. With that, I will trust Him for one more day. Will you join me?

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Who's Chasing Who?

The last few weeks I have felt the Lord speaking to me about getting up-close-and-personal with Him. I love the internet, it's been my lifeline. But I really want to know Him more, uninterrupted by the flow of the many voices that come across social media outlets. They are wonderful, don't get me wrong. But I want to step back for a minute or two and hear just from Him.

This morning during my quiet time I had a verse come up in my heart. I thought it said, my heart follows hard after thee. Yeah, I was raised on the old King James Version and so sometimes they still come up that way. lol When I looked it up, it actually says, My soul follows hard after thee. It's Psalm 63:8. I decided to look it up in a couple of other versions too.

The NASB translated this verse as my soul clings to You. But then the NLT says it like I follow close behind You. And my favorite is the Amplified which says My whole being follows hard after You and clings closely to You.

My pursuit of God is one thing that caregiving hasn't been able to change. I still want to know Him more than I want anything. I must say, I have had my moments of being totally frustrated with God. I've been angry with Him and expressed that to Him raw and open. But I still long for Him. My heart is still chasing Him. I want my whole being to be all-in when it comes to God, even in this difficult situation. But you know what? He's still chasing me too!

In Exodus 34:14, the New Living Translation says He is a God who is passionate about His relationship with His people. And His passion for us doesn't change when our situation changes. He is still chasing us - even in our caregiver's cave. He walks right into the caregiver's fog and reaches for the heart. Isn't that amazing? He still longs for us as messed up as our lives can seem. He still wants us even when it seems society throws us to the wayside. He still wants to be with us when there's no one else still around.

So I have to say, Who's chasing who? I want my pursuit of Him to be just as passionate as His of me. I want to continue to chase Him with all my heart, mind, soul and strength. And He still wants to be caught by me. And I want to be captured by Him. It's the perfect game, isn't it? We all win!

Today I am going to think about what it means to pursue Him with all my being. My thoughts will be on how He wants to be with me. I'll meditate on His passionate love for His people. And I will determine to be caught by God, and I'll make no attempt at escaping! Will you join me?



Monday, December 11, 2017

The Anyways Factor

Don't you hate sayings like time heals all wounds? Or my new (sarcastic) favorite, nothing lasts forever. Yeah right. This too shall pass - maybe, maybe not. I'm learning a lot of these cliches just don't cut it and they don't offer the consolation or comfort they are intended to provide.

I must admit, the life of a caregiver can be less than ideal. It's not perfect. No one sets the goal of being a caregiver when they grow up. It's not on the list of careers to choose from. We inherit it. And we carry it well. And while I would not have chosen this life, I'm here now and I must say there are some distinct rewards that come from caring for a loved one. There are also some things about myself, and others, that I might not have discovered without caregiving. So I can honestly say I have no regrets.

I will not say the transition was easy. Nor will I make like there isn't pain involved. I admit there is daily grief. But I will say that I think I have a deeper faith, more intense trust and have grown in my knowledge of Him over this journey. Each day presents its own set of difficulties - and blessings.

A few weeks back I was thinking about my journey as a caregiver and I came to some conclusions. Yes, it is hard. Yes, it is painful. Yes, no one understands us. Yes, there seems to be no end in sight. Yes, I battle fears. But.... there is the "anyways' factor.

You see, I determined that no matter what my situation is - I will praise Him anyways....

The anyways factor has changed my perspective. It takes the focus off my self and my situation and puts the life-emphasis back on Him.

I'm going to praise Him anyways...
I'm going to sing about His glory anyways...
I'm going to remember His deeds anyways...
I will meditate on His word anyways...
I will rejoice in Him anyways...
I will worship and bow down anyways...

I could continue, but I think we get the idea of the anyways factor. I've said so many times that our situations good or bad, do not change Him, do not affect His love for us, and do not change His intense, passionate longing to be with us. He still loves. He still cares. He still is God anyways....

Today, I will set my mind on things above. My thoughts will be on His mercy that is toward us always and anyways.... I'll meditate on His unfailing love that doesn't change due to my circumstances. My focus is going to be reset on His unchange-ableness in a constantly changing world of caregiving. I'll set my thoughts on His peace, grace and love that is toward us anyways... and I will rest in Him and trust Him for one more day. Will you join me as I praise Him anyways.....








Monday, December 4, 2017

Right Smack Dab in the Middle

Last Saturday I ran a 10K. I hadn't done that distance in a while, so I was excited to get out there and do it. I also hadn't had any kind of a break since Chris was in the hospital last month. I knew the course was going to be my friend. When you're  out in the open like that, there's a lot of soul-searching and praying that can go on. That was actually my goal for this race, to pour out my heart and leave it all on the course so to speak. And that's what I did.

As soon as the race started I began emptying my heart before Him. After a little while, I told Siri to start some Natalie Grant. My prayers turned to praise and then to worship. The phrase in one song stood out above the rest as she sang You're restoring me piece by piece. The realization hit me that over the last few months, He's been doing that. My thoughts shifted to some of the things God has been doing for and in me personally this year. I realized the restoration process wasn't dead.

As tears rolled gently down my cheeks I found myself overcome with emotions. I realized that He has been restoring me in the midst of the storm. His promises do not wait for the storm clouds to pass. He works in and through us right smack dab in the middle of the toughest parts of our lives. Aren't you glad?

As a child, many of us learned Psalm 23. Think about this one part - He restores my soul. Isn't it interesting that the psalmist said God restores our soul? Not our body. Not our spirit, but our soul. Our soul as we understand it is comprised of our mind, will and emotions. He reaches into the very depth of who we are to bring His restoration. He doesn't wait until we have it all together to restore us. He comes right smack dab in the midst of whatever is going on and touches our souls.

Today I am going to meditate on His restoring power. My thoughts will be on how God is able to strengthen my whole being. He takes care of my body, soul and spirit. He doesn't leave any part of me undone. I'll thank Him for walking through this storm of life with me, willingly. I'll trust Him with my soul today. Will you join me?