Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Forgotten Ones

Chris standing outside
 It's a horrible feeling to feel like you have been forgotten. In some ways, I can justify it to myself. I think about how young Chris was when his accident happened, and how young his friends were. It's difficult to visit with someone who doesn't visit back, I get that. I try to get it out of my mind that he has needed familiar voices to help remember things...but those voices don't come. Instead, there is silence. I've learned to dismiss it as everyone being so young and not having the life experience to deal.

Then I have my own feelings of being forgotten to deal with. Friends I thought I had have disappeared with no way to make new ones. I've actually resolved myself to online relationships. I'm okay with that. It makes it much easier to stay comfortable in my caregiver's cave. That one we are drawn to so often because of the social isolation. I mean, really, if there's no one there when I think I need someone, it's much easier to go to the back of the cave than deal with the rejection.

But then there is another level of those feelings of being forgotten. It feels like God has forgotten us. I know the drill. It starts with the word says..... but knowing that doesn't really ease the pain. I guess what eats at me is seeing others "get better" and I'm very happy for them. Honestly. But it's so easy to attribute the good things that happen in life to God (ie when we get what we wanted), and the bad things that happen to the devil (translated - the things we don't like or want).

I guess my question is this. When someone else says God healed or is healing their son's brain injury - then "God is so good" where does that leave me? God has not chosen to heal my son. Does that mean God isn't good? Or maybe it's just that He loves them better than me. For whatever reason, God let the wreck happen. For whatever reasons, sickness happens. For whatever reasons illnesses and death happen.

I feel forgotten. Looked over. Like God doesn't really interfere with life. But you know what, I am not alone.  Turns out I'm in some pretty good company. Job 19:14 says my family is gone and my close friends have forgotten me. Been there, done that. Right now family is more present, but there were some days in between when I was all alone.

In Psalm 42:9, David cries out, O God my rock, why have You forgotten me? Must I wander around in grief, oppressed by my enemies? In Psalm 77:9 the psalmist asks, Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has He slammed the door on His compassion? It's not just David though, in Isaiah 49:19, the prophet says, Yet Jerusalem says, the Lord has deserted us, the Lord has forgotten us.

At first, I was like - see, I'm not the only one God has forgotten, or at least not the only one who ever felt that way. My feelings of loneliness, abandonment and of being looked over by God were justified. But then I'm just hanging there, with nothing to grab on to. So, I went back to see what was said next in each of these passages.

In Job 19, he describes how alone he was and how loathed he was by friends and family. (We are not always loathed - people just don't know what to do with us!) But then Job says I know my Redeemer lives. In spite of his feelings. In spite of the aloneness, he knew that he knew that he knew his Redeemer lives. He said even after my skin is destroyed - I will see Him.

In Psalm 42, David pours out how he felt forgotten by God, overcome with grief and oppressed. Sounds like what we deal with from time to time. Day to day. Minute to minute. But then, he goes on to say why are you in despair, my soul? He states he will trust in God - no matter how it feels. He will still praise God. No matter how he feels. He will still look to God for help - no matter how he feels.

Psalm 77 has been one I've gone to frequently when I don't see God doing anything. In verse 9, Asaph says God has forgotten to be gracious. But he follows it up with - (not KJV) fine then. If I don't see Him doing anything right now, I'll just remind myself of what he has done before.

I find comfort in these scriptures today. First, in that I am not the first, nor will I be the last to feel forgotten by people and God. There's no condemnation. It's just how I feel. Secondly, in the fact that in each of these instances they had a big "but." They were open and honest about how they felt - but they didn't leave it there. I feel forgotten - but my Redeemer lives! I feel alone - but I will trust. I feel like God is not doing anything - but I will remember what He's already done.

Today, I will recall all the times He has walked with me through the storm. I'll meditate on the times He walked through the fire with me, and think about the times He's had to carry me when I didn't have the strength to go on. I will declare - My Redeemer lives! No matter what I feel, what I see with my eyes or hear with my ears - He lives. And I will trust Him for one more day - will you join me?

Monday, March 26, 2018

Choosing Contentment

Life can change on a dime. I have no idea where that expression comes from, but I know it's true. This weekend I was made aware of some major changes coming my way. It's just life, right? I found out a long time ago as I'm sure you did too, life doesn't stop for caregivers. We just have to keep on caregiving and take on anything else life throws our way. Seems like there oughta be a "hold" button somewhere. I don't need it for long typically, but just a give me a second to catch my breath button would be nice.

So my heart and mind were full as I got up and started getting around. I usually get Chris' bolus together, start my coffee and then while it is making I take care of him. My mind was going through all the things I need to handle today, my work schedule and many other things. As usual, my thoughts became my prayers as I mentally walked through my responsibilities. I sighed. Then I made a choice.

I decided to be content with life right where I am, with what I have, with Him. The sense of peace that overcame me was amazing - I have no words to describe it really.

So, I grabbed my coffee and sat down with my Bible and turned to 1 Timothy 6:6. It's a familiar scripture and I remembered it as saying godliness with contentment is great gain. I read it a couple of times and thought about contentment. We seem to live in a world with lots of dis-contentment. We are not happy with anything, can't settle down, can't rest - restlessness abounds.

I turned my thoughts to my own situation and wondered if I could really just be content. Then I thought about what Paul had said in Philippians 4:11 - I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. And we know he wasn't always in the most pleasant circumstances.

As I continued exploring this choice of being content I realized I was sensing the peace beyond understanding that Paul mentioned earlier in Philippians 4:7. I read that scripture, then backed up to verse 6. Be anxious for nothing,  but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Those are some big superlatives right there - nothing and everything. And once again, there are no exclusionary statements. Maybe that is the key to contentment - giving it all to Him. Taking our hands off and waiting on Him. Doing what we must - and letting Him do the most. When we choose to be content, stop wrestling, stop arguing with life, stop whining (I do that a lot!), and choose to be content - He fills us up with this amazing peace. He really is wonderful - and I really am slow! lol

Today, I will make it my focus to be content in Him and with Him alone. My thoughts will be on how He amazingly fills me with peace when I bring it all to His feet and leave it there. I'll meditate on being able to do all things through Him who strengthens me. I will rest in Him, wait for Him and trust Him for one more day - will you join me?

Friday, March 23, 2018

A Humble Walk

We have a humbling job in caregiving. We don't often talk about some of the baser things we have to deal with. It's obviously not acceptable on a social level, and seriously, how would those sorts of things work into a conversation? lol When most people see us, we're all cleaned up, dressed up and presentable. There are very few people who see us up walking the floor at night, carrying out the odorous trash bags, ordering incontinence supplies and all the little nitty-gritty things that go into just one of our days. I've yet to have anyone take me up on walking through a day with me from start to finish. Finish? What's that?

 We truly want to protect the dignity of our loved ones, so there are some things, they may never know. It can be very humbling to take care of a whole person. It's also an honor, but when I am taking care of some of the more personal stuff, my thoughts can go crazy. Here I am doing this, and I thought I was called to the mission field. Smh. I think about how I used to lead worship. Is this where God wants me?  I taught Bible classes (still do online). I think I was way off about what God called me to do. These are just a few of the thoughts running through my mind while doing some caregiving tasks.

Don't get me wrong - I don't want to be anywhere else. I don't want to leave my son. He is my priority mission and ministry right now. And I am okay with that. I just didn't see this coming. The future looked a lot different in my head 11 years ago. I was going to reach retirement age and travel around the world. Actually, I was scheduled to go to Africa in January '09 when the wreck occurred in November '08. It took me awhile to be "okay" with that. Again, it was humbling.

Sometimes life BC (before caregiving) or during caregiving, just doesn't make sense. We may never know the "why" behind things that happen in life. And maybe someday it will all make sense. whether or not it ever makes sense, we have lots of choices to make. I find myself making them over and over every single day it seems. Some days are it's-all-in-your-face days and I find myself choosing between anger and peace, between frustration and joy, between ranting and praying.

Lately, I've been studying about walking humbly with God. (Micah 6:8) And this morning I fell into Psalm 25:9. He leads the humble in what is right, teaching them His way. (NLT,1996) The journey really is much easier if we walk humbly before Him. While our circumstances bring about a humility, the one we choose gets us closer to Him. I can choose to rant and rave - and you guys know I do that from time to time - but it doesn't move Him near like coming before Him in humility and acknowledging, Lord, I am still Your child. I'm still Your servant. I am still a worshipper. That's when He begins to move heaven on our behalf.

Circumstances and situations may or may not change, but walking in humility before Him means we are still pliable, moldable in His hands. I still want to learn His ways, whether or not I ever understand life's struggles. I want to know more about Him period. Choosing humility will keep us teachable, and boy do I have a lot to learn!

Today, I will continue thinking about what it means to humble myself before Him, what it means to be pliable in His hand and remain teachable. I'm also going to think about ways and areas where I haven't exhibited humility - I want to address those areas because I want to be solely His. I'll concentrate on humbling myself before Him in prayer, in worship, in study, in attitude (it might be a long day.. lol). And I will humble myself to trust Him for today. Will you join me?

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Leave it There

Chris and I made the trip up to Guthrie this week to see my mom again. One of my sisters was there and so was daddy for a little bit. My mom is losing it a little more all the time, but she seems pleasant. She also still remembers all of us. My sister showed her a picture one of our longtime family friends posted on Facebook this week. It is of many of the old-timers who were the prayer warriors at the church we grew up in. Mama named everyone one of them! It's funny what she remembers and what she doesn't. It's like her head is running around in all her old memories and randomly pulling them out one by one. I'm thankful she has good memories for her head to get lost in.

I don't think this trip was as emotional for me, so maybe I'm adjusting. It does help to see her happy. Who'd have thought she would love bingo though?

As I was driving home, I was thinking about these ladies who led the way for us. They taught my mama how to pray and she taught me. Maybe I learned more from watching her take everything to Him in prayer... and leave it there. I remember those old school prayer meetings - these women could pray the house down for sure. I was so curious as a small child and I remember specifically being at Virgie's house and all of them in there praying. I would stand at the old screen door and cup my hands so I could see in better. I'd stand and watch for what seemed like hours. I didn't know it was training. lol

BC (before caregiving) I learned how to pray. But during caregiving, I've learned more of the leave it there part. There are times we pray but don't feel a thing and don't see any change. But we know through faith we can take our burdens to Him. He'll take them so we don't have to carry them. That can actually be difficult for caregivers. Our situations often push us to do things outside our comfort zones, things unfamiliar and difficult. But we press through. We are forced to be independent - ain't no one else gonna do it, right? We roll up our sleeves and tackle many uncomfortable and hard situations. But leaving it there - letting God have our cares, our worries, our struggles, our insecurities, is really the hard part sometimes.

1 Peter 5:7 comes to mind. Casting all your care on Him for He cares for you. That is very difficult for most caregivers. You don't often find us asking for help. We are so used to being in I'll do it myself mode - because we have to be if things are going to get done - giving Him anything at all feels like losing control. Maybe that act of taking our cares and concerns to Him and leaving them there - with Him - is what we need. It puts Him back in control - let Him care for us. I've said that before - He is the caregiver's caregiver. Let's let Him carry us. Let's let Him carry our heavy burdens and deepest concerns. His shoulders are big enough - and He doesn't get tired! Ever.

Today I will be thinking about how to cast my "anxious thoughts" over to Him. My efforts will be in letting go of them and letting Him handle them for me. I'll be taking my thoughts, worries, concerns, anxieties to Him and casting them in His lap and leaving them there. I'll meditate on how He is my caregiver - He cares for me. I will trust Him - with me. Will you join me?

Monday, March 19, 2018

Foggy, Foggy, Foggy

Kyrie's Drawing of our family outing
Once again I am sorry for my absence. I pretty much crashed and burned and ended up in that caregiver's fog. Once you're in it, it's so difficult to find your way back out again. This time it was triggered by several things. The funny thing to me is that often it's not the tasks or responsibilities of caregiving that gets me down. Instead, I find it's the more normal things that get to me. This time, it was my son's birthday.

He was 24 when he had the wreck and this year he turned 34. I think all the losses piled up on me, the thoughts of the things he missed. I see his friends marrying, having children, playing music and it wears on me. Plus, he got a couple of phone calls from family and one card. I do get it that he is nonverbal - it's difficult. But his life still matters. He is still here for a reason.

Anyway, it sent me off into a bout with depression and I spent some time trying to crawl out. This last week it broke off of me. I was thinking about some of the power chapters in the Bible. You can probably think of a few. They are just jam-packed with powerfully good stuff. Romans 8 is one of them. It's got verse after verse that you can live on. John 17 is another one. Hebrews 11 too.

I was going through those different chapters one after another and it helped me shift my thinking from my situation and back into line with His thinking. I can so easily get dragged down that road of regret or down the path of discouragement. As caregivers, we don't get tired, we are tired. Oftentimes, there's no one there to pick us up, no one to share that word of encouragement. We have to become like David who encouraged himself in the Lord. But to be totally honest, some days I just don't have it in me to do that. I need someone to pick me up. But I look around and there's no one there. So, it's back to one-foot-in-front-of-the-other just to get through the day.

So, as I was fighting like crazy to get out of the caregiver's fog once again, there was a shift. I was out running and thinking of all those power chapters and walking through them in my head when I was all of a sudden just okay. I can't even explain it. My thought was to only say what He says about me. That is my task for this week.

Today's thought is out of Isaiah 43. Verse 1 says this ...O Israel, the one who formed you says, "Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. I am His. You are His. He has not abandoned us to caregiving - He is with it. Even though it seems like no one has room for Chris in their lives anymore - God says Chris is mine. I can take that.

Today, my thoughts will run along the truth that I am His. My son is His. We are His. He has not abandoned us to fend for ourselves but walks through the fire and swims through the flood with us. I will encourage myself today with thoughts that He remains. God is with us when it's foggy and when it's not! (Talking about the caregiver's fog here... ) My meditations will be on His ever-abiding presence. And I'll rest in Him at least for today while the fog has cleared, and I'll trust Him for one more day. Will you join me?










Friday, March 9, 2018

The Chosen

I was reading in Colossians three this morning for my devotions. This is a power-packed chapter Paul wrote to the early church. Not only is it still relevant, but it is full of encouragement for the believer of today.

Although the entire chapter or book, is an awesome read, I focused on the last verses of chapter three this morning. I got stuck in verse 12 though.Paul says this: So, as those chosen of God, holy and beloved.... and that's where I stopped. I know there's tons of good stuff after that, but this was an excellent stop-and-meditate place.

We are chosen by Him. We are not an afterthought, we didn't get an okay, I guess you can come too - He chose us actually before He said, "Let there be light!" And once again in this passage we find absolutely no exclusionary statement about caregivers. He didn't say, "everyone except caregivers is chosen in the beloved." We are included!

Paul goes on to say we are also holy and beloved. Not just adequate. Not temporarily holy. He made us holy through the sacrifice of Christ. He did a thorough work - a complete work and all we have to do is choose to walk in it. He doesn't see our flub-ups, our mistakes, our doubtings, or even our ranting, raving or cussing. He sees us through the veil of Christ's righteousness, holy and complete in Him.

And lastly, but certainly not the least important - He calls us beloved. That's a lot more than just an I'm-going-go-put-up-with-you-because-I-have-to attitude. He dearly loves us. Caregivers too!

Then Paul goes on to say that since we are chosen, holy and beloved we are to put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Now, there wasn't an exclusionary statement on being loved, holy or chosen - but there's also not one on the requirements put forth here. Just because we are caregivers doesn't mean we are exempt from God's requirements.

For caregivers, every day brings choices that can lead us to be hard-hearted or tender-hearted. One of my early concerns was that I didn't want to become cynical, critical and hard. That's the easy road really. Sometimes our load is so heavy it's difficult to have compassion for others. But when we let Him carry our load - it's easier to have compassion on others and help them ease their load. That may be a prayer, a card, a kind word, an offer to help in some way.

These are choices - since we are to put them on. Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience are all for the putting on. It can be a different perspective for us as caregivers. Yet we have an understanding of what others are going through and see things from an emotional aspect others might not ever get.

Today, I'm going to meditate on being chosen, holy and beloved. I'll be thankful since I know I had absolutely nothing to do with any of those choices - He made them for me. My thoughts will be on how He loves and loves and loves, and on how He cares for me like I care for my son. I'm going to choose Him today, along with compassion and humility. I'm going to lean in to Him just a little bit closer today and thank Him for choosing me. Will you join me?

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Power of Thankfulness

I loaded Chris up in the van yesterday and drove about an hour north to Guthrie, Oklahoma to see my mama. She's been in a nursing facility for a few weeks now and is adjusting very well. Daddy's feelings are still hurt that he had to put her there, but I keep trying to assure him that this is the best thing for her at this point. They provide the 24/7 she needs and he gets some rest so he's not so tired or sick all the time.

She's doing well. I wish I could have gotten a picture of us though. Daddy had to run some errands so Chris and I were there with her for close to two hours. She decided to go for a walk. So she gets her walker and I get behind Chris' chair and as we are heading out the door, her snoozing roommate decides she's coming with. I helped her get up out of her chair and equipped her with her walker and off we went! A motley crew indeed! lol

Mama still knows us, for which I am very thankful. She introduced us to everyone as her "oldest daughter" and her grandson, Chris. Her conversation was all over the place. It was about "that song you wrote about God" and little pieces of memories coming out all along. But she's happy.

It hurts my heart to see her like this - as all those who've gone through this before know all too well. But I think what bothered me the most was that I was trying to remember who she was and it was difficult with who she is right now glaring in my face. That greatly disturbed me and was very emotional.

My mom was a nurse for years, a minister, a pastor - a lover of people. She still is that for sure, she went in almost everyone's room and just chatted. lol. For now, she loves her teddy bears. She talks to them as if they were small children and sings to them. It's sweet - but it's not.

After a couple of hours, I loaded Chris back up and headed home. My heart and my mind were so full and busy. I had no words. I had no emotions. I couldn't cry. (I don't usually anyway.) I was just numb.

I sat last night with coffee in hand, just thinking about life. Then Dennis Jernigan went live on Facebook. He sang so many of the older songs I remember from back when he was just getting started. I couldn't sing. But I listened and worship was like the ointment my heart needed. It brought healing.

After a while, I began to think about what I was most thankful for. It was amazing how my emotions shifted. I am thankful that all the memories running around in mama's head she's living in right now - are pleasant. I'm thankful she's happy and well cared for. I'm thankful she still knows us and enjoys seeing us. Once I shifted to gratefulness, my mind wasn't as foggy. It was a true mood changer.

Today, I'm going to continue with an attitude of thanksgiving. When my mind gets bogged down or my emotions run over, I'll start listing things I am thankful for. I'll begin with being thankful for His presence and healing touch. Then, I'll continue with how He walks with us through these times - never abandons. Maybe from there, I'll continue to be thankful that He is my shelter - a present help in times of trouble, for that I am truely thankful. Gratefulness abounds here today - will you join me? It's a game changer!

Monday, March 5, 2018

And Then it Happens....

I'm not even going to apologize for my absence. I hope you understand when I don't have it together, I just can't post. The last week or two have been extremely trying. It's really just the emotional part. Maybe you have those times when it seems like God is answering everyone else's prayers but not yours. Those times when it looks like everyone is getting a miracle... but you. Sometimes I look around and think it seems as if all the people I know are getting new cars, nice houses, large chunks of cash, getting to go to the mission field like I'd always dreamed. For me, my emotional crash usually comes when other brain injury victims make lots of progress and Chris does not.

Don't get me wrong, I am very happy for them. I'm glad they got all the things we were denied like therapy, castings, and intense, specialized care. But it can start to feel like God has forsaken. I ask questions like why my son? Why did God take his voice, his song? And I don't understand. Honestly, I don't ever want anyone else to go through these things - but I start to take it personally, and it just goes downhill from there. Emotionally that is.

And then it happens....


I'm minding my own business, wallowing in my own emotions and trying to find a way to come up for air. Or, I'm just letting go and wondering if I'll ever swim again, if anyone will come in after me. And He steps in....

Sometimes just the right phrase will get my attention, or the perfect song comes on the radio. Or like yesterday, out of nowhere, this scripture pops into my head. I was minding my own business and from nowhere it seemed, I just hear an old chorus we used to sing in church - taken from Proverbs 18:10.

The name of the Lord is a strong tower
The righteous run to it and are safe.

And that was all it took. My emotions leveled back out to the chaotic normals of caregiving. lol. I hummed and sang it all around the house. Shortly, I was thanking Him for being there in the midst of the storm instead of cursing Him for it. I was okay. For then. It was like we'd had a lover's spat and He was wooing me back to Him. I'm in constant awe at the massive effort He puts into chasing me, calming me and comforting me. 

Today, I will meditate on how He is that strong tower of refuge from the storm, from the battle. I will turn my thoughts to His faithfulness even through my foolishness. I'll purposefully find things to be grateful for today in the midst of life's storm. And I will make sure I stay in His embrace trusting Him just for today. Will you join me?