Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Making the "But" Shift

Chris in the mirror
I know it's no surprise that I woke up this morning with my head going 900 miles an hour. Since I took the weekend off and that's when I do a bulk of my work and play catch-up, I am way behind. As soon as my alarm went off my head thought it was the start of a race and took off running with all the things I need to get done today.

Today is sure to be "one of those days" as the aide comes, the nurse informed me yesterday that she's coming by, and the doctor's office called yesterday to let me know they changed my son's doctor (again!) so the new one will be coming by today. I'm like really? All in one day and I'm so behind in work! ugh! You know as caregivers, days are hectic enough without any extras. lol

So as my mind took off running with all the anticipated activities for today, I sighed. I think I'm already tired. But then I thought I'd just stop. Take a breath. Take a moment to think about Him and praise Him - for no specific reason other than the fact that He is still God and He doesn't change.

When I did, this shift happened. I relaxed, even though I still have tons of stuff to do, and everything settled down around me. The shift was very apparent. I immediately thought of Psalm 3. David was worried about all the enemies he saw gathering around him - and while we don't have physical enemies most of the time, we do have emotional ones that nag and tug at us all day long. Our thoughts, emotions, grief, pain etc - can try to drag us down and under all day long, if we let them. Our souls can be surrounded by enemies.

David acknowledged his enemies - but then he made the shift. It happened with a little three-letter word. But. He said, but You O Lord are a shield about me, my glory and the One who lifts my head. He does the same thing in Psalm 5. He is praying for protection from his enemies and he shifts in verse 11 with a but. But, let all who take refuge in You be glad, let them ever sing for joy; and may You shelter them, that those who love your name may exult in You, for it is You who blesses the righteous man O Lord, You surround him with favor as with a shield.

There are several other psalms where David does this. Once we, like David, shift our focus from our circumstances and back to God - with that little "but," we change. Maybe our circumstances are not directly changed and not one thing in the natural rearranges to accommodate us, but we are looking at it from a different perspective.

Today, I'm going to make that shift. Every time my workload starts to get to me, I am going to start praising God for who He is. I'll thank Him for His patience, His wisdom, His protection, His provision... and so on. I'm making the "but" shift today as I trust Him for one more day - will you join me?

Monday, February 26, 2018

A Race Well Run

This weekend was my annual trip to Ft. Worth with my daughter. We take the train down and run a couple of races and just hang out together. It's always so refreshing and fun. We ran the 5K together on Saturday morning, and then yesterday I ran the half marathon. We got medals for the races and I got a third medal for running two races in two days. This morning, I was looking at the medals and thinking. Don't get me wrong - I love my medals. I earned them! But I think the true reward was in getting up this morning and having the satisfaction of a race well run.

Immediately I thought of Hebrews 11:6. Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. (NASB) I thought about that for a little while. I know when time is done, we'll get a reward. We will get a crown of life, plus we get to live with Him for eternity. I wonder sometimes if us caregivers get extra! lol

It's going to be wonderful, of course. Gold streets. Beautiful colors. Angels singing. Being with Jesus!!!! But the reward may be just the fact that He says, well done. I think just knowing we did it - will be rewarding. Knowing we kept the faith even during some of the most difficult situations life can throw at us. Knowing we did it. You know?

But I also think we can feel that right here and right now. Looking around and realizing we live in situations by choice that are "not fair" or not what many people would choose. I think feeling that He is pleased with me and my choice to provide care for my son is a reward in itself. As caregivers, we're sort of a different breed, and I think we look like Him - and we please Him. That's reward enough for me to make it through this day.

Today is one of those crazy days you have after a break - that sometimes keeps you from taking the break to begin with. lol (Some of you know what I mean!) But in each task that gets done, in each step through each day, we can rest assured that He is our reward. David said in Psalm 73:26 - My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. To me - that is reward enough. Whether I get a "medal" in heaven at the end of this race called life or not - I am satisfied that He is my portion. His satisfaction with me is my reward. I can wake up each morning in time knowing I'll hear well done and I'll be satisfied.

Today I will turn my thoughts to pleasing Him. I'll think about this race of life and running it with faith in Him knowing He is my portion, not just in time, but forever. My meditations will be on having faith that pleases Him, and actions that follow that faith. I'll rest in Him as I trust Him to carry me through one more day. Will you join me?

Monday, February 19, 2018

An Old Favorite

Yesterday a friend asked for prayer as they were facing some physical challenges. One of the groups I'm a member of starting praying in chat. Somewhere in the discussion following, this old favorite scripture came up. I'm sure you remember this one God is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in time of trouble. Psalm 46:1.

Someone in the group made a statement that I thought was odd. They said, "That's a good scripture, but I thought it was only for funerals."I guess it is a good one for funerals, but I've held on to it during many other troubling times in my life.

Over the years, I've found Him to be a reliable help in time of trouble. And he doesn't rank trouble. There's not a scale of 1 to 10 and He's only going to be there for anything ranked above a 5. Right? It doesn't quantify or qualify - just a pure, simple - He's there.

I'm so thankful that my situation, your situation, no situation here on earth changes one iota in heaven. The rest of that Psalm talks about the earth moving, mountains falling into the sea and scary stuff like that - and none of it moves Him.

There is not one thing on this earth powerful enough to knock Him off His throne. No situation can be presented before Him that changes heaven. It can be earth-shattering to us - and He remains faithful. Stable. Constant. Present.

Today, I'm going to remind myself of His constant presence in my life. I'll think about the fact that I haven't scared Him off yet, and I'm not likely to do so anytime soon either. I'll make it a point today to be thankful for His presence. I'll turn my thoughts to how He wants to be with me, and I'll be thankful as I trust Him for one more day. Will you join me?

Monday, February 12, 2018

Full Package Deal

I decided to take another look at the Sermon on the Mount. It's the focus of my live devotions I do for a group on FaceBook. This morning, I was looking at the Beatitudes and it sparked some thoughts.

First of all, I am so thankful not one word of it has changed, not one promise has diminished just because I became a caregiver. I know I harp on that a lot - but it is super important to know that absolutely nothing about God or His kingdom changed or was moved because my situation on earth changed.

Secondly, His word never loses strength. The power of His blood never fades. He is still merciful, peaceful, and beautiful.

As I'm looking through the beatitudes, I noticed something. Jesus said, blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. He didn't promise there wouldn't be any mourning. He just told the disciples that when there is mourning - there is comfort.

Becoming a Christian doesn't exempt us from any of life. We still have ups and downs, we still have gains and losses, friends and enemies - bad stuff still happens. We still hurt, love, cry and die. The difference is that He walks with us through life's struggles. We are not exempt from any of life because we are a caregiver either. But we are also not exempt from any of the blessings of the kingdom of God!

Jesus said in verse three blessed are the poor in spirit for they shall see the kingdom of God. Once again, there is no exclusionary statement saying unless you are a caregiver. Actually, there's nothing like caregiving that helps get us to that point where we realize we are poor in spirit, we are in a state of desperate need for Him. But, when we realize the desperate need of Him to walk through this life, He will meet us there with the entire Kingdom of God!

Today, I'm going to think about how desperately I need Him. My thoughts will be on how this flesh, this caregiving flesh, houses the Spirit of the living God. His kingdom has come near and He's not moving out anytime soon. I'll turn my meditations to how His promises still stand and I get the whole package deal - His kingdom - because I just need Him. And I'll trust Him for one more day - will you join me?

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Grace Reigns

While it is a joy and an honor to take care of our loved ones, there is a very painful side to caregiving. Our hearts hurt on many levels. Personally, I grieve the loss of my son and all he could have become. I also grieve the loss of my mom - who she was before dementia. And now, as life has brought more change, I grieve for my daddy who is struggling with this part of life too. He has spent over 50 years with mama - she has been his life. Much like my son, she is still here but gone.

Last night I called my mom's sister to explain the new arrangements with mom. She didn't take it too well. She is grieving her loss of mobility as she is barely getting around with a walker at 87 and is needing more constant care. Can I say, my heart hurts?

People are mostly gracious and compassionate to caregivers. But there are times when you are looked down on as if you don't have faith - or you wouldn't be in this situation. I have felt this from church-like folks many times. They want to condemn your choices and can send some pretty negative signals. Social isolation hurts too.

A few weeks ago, I was in a down, painful spot. I felt the condemnation of those who wanted to look down on me. What I found was His grace. I sat and penned these words - hoping to put some music to it possibly later. His grace is so amazing - gently carrying me through the storm.


His Grace Reigns

Fighting the same thing over and over
I never seem to win
Like a horrid monster returning
Again, and again
When will the nightmare end?

The more the pain
The more grace reigns
Down on me
Time and again
In the midst of my sorrow
And in the deepest pain
His grace reigns

My heart is so broken
Don’t know what to say or do
The “proud and the mighty” say
“just look at you”
A sight to behold
I ask – does my walk offend you?

The more the pain
The more grace reigns
Down on me
Time and again
In the midst of my sorrow
And in the deepest pain
His grace reigns

Throw my pain back in my face
Tell me to look the other way
Because I have “no faith”?
Shame on you don’t you recall
Job prayed for his friends
Then they were healed one and all

The more the pain
The more grace reigns
Down on me
Time and again
In the midst of my sorrow
And in the deepest pain
His grace reigns

Today, I will just think about the grace He has extended to those of us hurting inside. My meditations will be on His great grace - his work of heart. As I sort through my various emotions - I'll keep turning my heart to the peace He pours out, the strength He gives when I rest in Him and the hope of His eternal love and grace. I'll crawl up in His heart today and let His grace reign. Will you join me?

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Perspective

No one needs to tell you caregiving is hard. For many of us, it's one of the most difficult things we've ever faced, at least it makes the top 5 list! It's not easy physically. It is not easy emotionally. It can be draining and tiring. However, it can also be the most rewarding experience in your life. It can bring joy. For many, it drives us into a deeper, more intimate place in God. Maybe it sort of balances out in the end.

Protecting that intimate place with God is probably the most important key to keeping our sanity intact. Yet, there are moments when that seems so difficult. Those down moments. I'm sure I'm alone on this one.. right?

In many ways, I think it's our perspective that can protect us. But it can also be what sabotages us. This holds true for anyone in any situation. What we choose to hold in our gaze will consume us. We have to deal with caregiving face on, of course. But if we focus on it, it can drag us into depression, guilt, frustration and many other deep, dark places.

I understand we must be attentive to the needs of our loved one, but for me personally, nothing trips me up more than taking my eyes off Him. When I start focusing on life, and all that is going on around me - I become overwhelmed by it. The opposite is also true - when I turn my gaze to Him - I am overcome by His faithfulness, His grace, His compassion, and the truth that He chose to walk this out with me.

What we set our eyes on - will control us. It's what we give ourselves to. No wonder the author of Hebrews said fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author, and finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him, who endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

I had almost lost heart. I did grow weary. But just in time, I turned my gaze to Him, and He lifted me up out of despair. It's up to us what we focus on. It's up to us what changes us. When we focus on Him, we can let Him carry us again. Our perspective protects us when we choose to look at Him from our situations - no matter how good or how difficult.

Today, I will fix my eyes on Him. I'm going to shift my gaze from what's going on in this horizontal plane to what's going on vertically. I'll turn my eyes to the One who authored and finishes my faith - the One who has been carrying me - and will continue to walk through time with me. The weight of life seems lighter when I'm looking at Him. It's not as confusing or overwhelming when I fix my eyes on Him. I'll turn my thoughts away from all those things that are digging at me, and I'll meditate on His grace, on His love, on His ever-abiding presence and the peace He gives that surpasses understanding. Will you join me?

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

He Listened

Bible, notebook and coffee
I would say that today is a rough day, but with caregiving, that pretty much describes every day so it's nothing unusual. Today my sweet mama moves into a nursing facility where she can be watched and cared for closely. My heart grieves over my mom who is getting on in the later stages of dementia. And my heart hurts for my daddy who is grieving too. They spent their last night together last night - and this morning is the move. It's heart-wrenching. He's been her caregiver for several years already and told me he can't take care of her anymore. I assured him that this is taking care of her.

As a full-time caregiver our emotions can run on raw, and dealing with the day-to-day stuff is difficult enough. It's like that last straw that breaks the camel's back, or the last apple that upsets the applecart. Emotions can run stretched and tight. Yesterday, I let God know exactly how I felt about it all. I was frustrated, angry, disappointed and hurting. And I dumped it all out before Him. And He listened.

So, this morning as I was preparing for live devotions, two verses stood out to me. We are working our way through Psalm 119. Verse 145 says I cried to You with all my heart and then again in the next verse David says, I cried to You!  Been there - done that. I am pretty sure there's not a caregiver out there who hasn't done that! But maybe it's just me. lol.

I can pour my heart out at the foot of His throne - and He doesn't get mad at me or fry me down to my toenails. He could, you know. He listens. He waits. He lets me rant and rave. He knows I'm frustrated - He understands.

The next verse that lept off the page at me was verse 151. You are near O Lord, Your commandments are truth. And that is where I camped. How many times on this caregiving journey have I gotten to the point where I can't think, I am numb from feeling too much. It seems I know absolutely nothing. But I can break it down to two truths to hold on to.


  1. I know God is there.
  2. I know His word is true.
Sometimes, I just have to go back to the bare basics and whisper, God, I know you exist. That may be all I know - and I visit that thought frequently. I know He is there. No matter how rough it gets - even in my mind - I know His word is true.Sometimes that is what makes it rough - I wish I had it in me to give up, pack it all away and quit. But I just don't. His word is forever established - it was established before He said, "Let there be light!" And it will still be established throughout eternity. His word was established before the Bible was in print. (Now that's a thought.) It just leaked out of the pens of men who got close enough to Him to hear His eternal words. They got close enough to the Kingdom of Heaven they heard some little blips and wrote 'em down. :-)

Today, I am going to meditate on these two truths: God is near. His word is true. When I feel myself slipping into that emotional abyss - I'll remind myself He is near. His word is true. I'll turn my thoughts to the eternal - foreverness of His word. I'll cling to Him and trust Him for one more day - will you join me?

Monday, February 5, 2018

Finding Joy

I spent yesterday afternoon with my parents and siblings. We hadn't all been together in around two years. My siblings and I had a few words with each other - but it was because we love each other and needed to iron some things out. It was actually kind of fun to have a spirited discussion. I think we upset Daddy a bit because he doesn't like to see us argue - but we had to work it out. And we did. So it was good.

Life has handed all of us some pretty big blows. Now on top of all the different things we are each dealing with, Mom is going to a nursing home. She is a handful. The bruises are from the last fall she took when she passed out - but it's not as bad as it looks - she's on blood thinners. Anyway, it's time to get her more help. Tuesday she'll be moving into a very nice facility. It's an emotional time for all of us, but we do know it's best for her and for Daddy.

As I embraced my sobbing Daddy yesterday, I thought where's the joy in this? It's so difficult to see mama being taken over by dementia and then to see Daddy's grief. Mama hasn't been herself for at least 5 years now. For me, it's a grief similar to the one I have with my son. He's still here, mama is still physically here - but we grieve over the version of them we miss. This living grief can eat away at you, can't it? It's difficult because you still see the person - but the person they were no longer exists.

This morning as I was doing my devotions, I stopped on Psalm 119:143. The NLT translates it this way: As pressure and stress bear down on me, I find joy in Your commands. I began to think about that verse for a while. David understood pressure and stress whether he wrote this particular passage while he was king - or while he was still running from Saul. He understood. But he also understood that no matter how the pressure and stress mounted, he could find joy in the word of God. And we can too.

No matter what we are facing, the word of God can speak into the situation. Even if the situation itself doesn't change - we can change in the situation.What do you need today? Peace? Joy? Wisdom? Hope? D - all of the above? I promise you can find what you need in the word of God. In Psalm 42 and 43, David said Why am I so discouraged? Why so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise Him again - my savior and my God!

Lots of things attack our minds and souls - discouragement, hopelessness, despair, sadness, depression, oppression.... need I go on? Oh - I could! There's a huge list of emotional stuff that chips away at our spirit, our heart, our soul. But we can always find joy in His word. We can always find a word in due season. There's one for D-all of the above!

It's amazing how we can be distraught, discouraged and in despair (I speak for myself here!) and one verse, a simple meditation can be the spiritual medication for the moment. Just one word from Him can lighten the load and get us through. If we will let it - His word brings healing, strength, hope, etc. Whatever we need - He's got it. No matter how deep we have to dig down to make it through one more day - He's got it - and He's got us.

Today, I'm going to shift my focus from the stress and pressure - and to His word.  I will put a sticky note up on my computer with my verses for the day - and when I feel overwhelmed - I'll read them, absorb them. My meditation will be on His word today - His faithfulness. His peace. I will chase His word down today and let it carry me, still me, speak to me and bring comfort and peace. And I will trust Him for one more day. Will you join me?