Monday, December 31, 2018

What was that?

Last night I couldn't sleep, so I picked up my Bible and thought I'd read a bit. I naturally gravitate toward the Psalms, so I just started reading some of the verses I had underlined. I was in Psalm 9 reading where David is talking about God being a shelter for the oppressed. Sometimes it can feel like life itself is oppressing for caregivers with pressure on every side. I read on down through verse 10 where David says the Lord has never abandoned anyone who searches for Him. I thought about that a little bit before I continued to read on.

Soon, I found myself in Psalm 10 which starts out with O Lord, why do You stand so far away? Why do You hide when I need You the most?  I was thinking, "Is this the same guy? Is this the king or the shepherd? I thought back on what he'd said so confidently in Psalm 9. Then I remembered a favorite from Psalm 46. This same David said God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. (NLT)

It sure seems like he could go from one extreme to another. One minute he's crying out where'd You go, God? And the next he's thanking God for being ever present. The waves of life can tip us either way can't they? One minute we are boasting in how God carries us, tends to us, and is always with us; and the next we are crying out wondering where He went and feeling like He abandoned us, but knowing He didn't. He really has no place else to go - He's already everywhere.

Somehow it's comforting to me to know how brutally honest David was when pouring out his feelings. It encourages me to be more transparent with God no matter what the day brings or doesn't bring. Sometimes my heart knows He doesn't abandon, but my head is not too sure. My heart knows He provides when my thoughts get anxious about things. My heart knows He is a constant help in time of trouble - even when my mind is troubled about many things as a caregiver. And it's okay - because He knows.

Today, I'm going to listen to my heart more than my head. I'll trust He's got this - and He's got me. I'll meditate on the verse out of Psalm 9 that reminds me He never abandoned anyone who searches for Him. I'll continue my search for Him today as I trust Him for one more day - will you join me?

Thursday, December 27, 2018

The Other Side of the Battle

Chris seems to have picked up a virus that's been going around. It's so difficult when he's sick because it can lead to so many other issues. For instance, if he aspirates, it can mean a lengthy hospital stay. I can do nothing to prevent it - all I can do is take the night watch so to speak. Needless to say, times like these, fear abounds.

The church world can be quick to condemn this statement even though I think David was pretty clear about many of his fears. Paul also said they had conflicts without and fears within. (2 Corinthians 7:5) Much better, in my opinion, to acknowledge and address than to ignore and suppress.

David had to be afraid for his life at some points. Saul was in hot pursuit with his armies. They were trying to track David down and take away the threat to Saul's kingdom. I think that's what the enemy of our soul's intent is too. Our enemy would like to quiet us, sit us down, and watch us hide in a cave if he could keep us quiet. Maybe that's why it seems David is always commanding his soul to bless God. Bless the Lord, O my soul. 

David often reminded himself to praise the Lord. He would make personal declarations. in Psalm 56:3, David says, when I am afraid, I will put my trust in You.  It was like he acknowledged the fear - but declared he was going to trust God in spite of it. In Psalm 62:5 David said, My soul, wait in silence for God only. for my hope is from Him.  He reminded himself of where he had placed his hope. He sang about trusting God even though he faced fear.

David had plenty of trouble in his lifetime and multiple opportunities to be paralyzed by fear. He faced Goliath, ran from Saul, engaged in the heat of battle, and lost his son, Absolom, to civil war. We read about the good things David did and we get to read about it from the other side of the battle. It's easy to skip over the moment he stood eyeball to kneecap with a giant and didn't waver in his faith. We read quickly how David hid in caves and spent years running for his life. From the other side of the battle, it looks easy to praise God. But David commanded himself to praise God in the middle of his battles too.

Caregivers live in the battle - sometimes it feels like there isn't an other side. But we still have the choice to tell our souls to trust God and remind ourselves that He is where our hope is anchored.

Today I will remind myself that God still has me, my heart and my hope even though life's battle continues to roar around me. I'll meditate on the truth that He is the keeper of my soul. I'll trust Him just for today. Will you join me in encouraging yourself to praise Him on this side of the battle?

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The Quiet Days

I dislike Hallmark movies. They paint a picture of romance and freedom that are very foreign to me and my life. The unreal depiction of life and false hopes of everything working out alright is what I really cannot handle. Everything doesn't always work out alright. Every storm is not temporary, especially for caregivers. Long days turn into long weeks and longer months that eventually bring us back around to the holidays. But it's certainly not picture-perfect.

Take, for instance, this picture of my mom and aunt. It's so cute!! My mom is 78 and her sister is 86. I snagged this photo when they were greeting each other. What you don't see behind the cute picture is that my aunt could barely stand - I actually had one hand on her and one on the phone. She was so stooped they had a difficult time even hugging one another. However, they were so excited to see each other as they are living in two facilities in two different towns. We honestly do not know if they will get to be together again on this side of eternity. So, even though it was a light moment and we enjoyed seeing their joyful reunion, it was shaded with the sad thoughts in my heart about the future.

It was good to be with all my siblings and there was much laughter, joking, and kidding among us as well as some catching up. But the ride home is always a solemn one for me and leads to quiet days for the most part as the real-life part of full-time caregiving for my son and long-distance caregiving for my aunt kick in.

This leads me to try and gather myself for a few days. I'm trying to re-establish the habit of reading and journaling as I tend to let it go with the full days. It really does help -most of the time! :-) This morning I found myself reading in Nehemiah. That's appropriate since I'm in a rebuilding phase in my own spiritual walk. I landed in verse 46 of chapter 12.

The custom of having choir directors to lead in choirs and hymns of praise and thanks to God began long ago in the days of David and Asaph. For some reason, that verse grabbed my attention and I began to think about David and Asaph - two worshipers who didn't have "picture-perfect" lives either. My thoughts ran to David who at one point had to encourage himself in the Lord. He often reminded himself to return to that point of worship - in the quiet days - the cave days - the days of hiding from Saul's pursuit.

Today, I will encourage myself in the Lord. I'll remind myself of the things I have seen Him do - and I'll be thankful for that whether or not I see Him working in my today. I'll turn my thoughts to His peace, His care, and His love - all of which never change. And I'll thank Him for this quiet day - and trust Him to get me through it to one more tomorrow. Will you join me?

Monday, December 24, 2018

You Are Valued

As caregivers, there can be a lot of things we struggle with, things that are often difficult to talk about. It can be hard to know where to put our emotions. We oftentimes feel like we cannot share what's really going on in our heads because our thoughts are so well, all over the place. (Maybe that's just me!)

Lately, I've settled a few issues with my own heart and begun to sing again. That's huge. You know how I love the caregiver's cave. We can all get comfortable there, can't we? There are two things that pulled me out of the musicless part of the cave. One, I found my grandmother's handwritten music scores from the '40s in some of my aunt's things. Secondly, we had to move her piano to our house. It's in the living room... in my face all day long begging to be played. When everyone is gone but Chris and me - I play my heart out and lift up my voice to Him once again. It's been refreshing. I like it now because it's personal, just between me and Him - no one needs to hear. Freeing, really. I can sing any song I want without a list and I can sing every song as long as I want. No one to complain. You sang that last Sunday.  No one to say, don't sing so many new songs.  Or the flip side of that - why don't you sing songs you wrote. lol

Over the weekend though, my thoughts went exploring. You see, I got value from being on a praise team and for being a lead worshipper. I had value in the church for teaching Sunday School classes, doing children's ministry and being a youth pastor. I was a busy ant BC. (Before Caregiving.) And when all that was lost, I started to feel like I didn't have value in the body. Nothing could be further from the truth.

As caregivers, we often feel un-valued. No one seems to care about us and we are left alone to struggle through the day-to-days. For many of us, our time, efforts, energy, and life are consumed with taking care of someone who cannot care for themselves. Love keeps us by their side just like it kept Jesus on the cross.  Yet we (maybe I should just say "I") can feel like we are not playing a role in the "church" of today. How can we have value in His sight by doing what we do? I'm so glad you asked - because He values the caregiver. How do I know? Well, I did a little studying early this morning and came up with a couple of verses.

In Matthew 23:11, Jesus says But the greatest among you shall be your servant. Too often, this is interpreted as working in the "church." But since the church as we know it hadn't even been born yet, that couldn't be all He meant.

I also returned to the story of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25. It's a great chapter and I read it often. Jesus is explaining what He expects of "sheep." Verse 40 says to the extent you did it to the least of these brothers of Mine, even to the least of them, you did it to Me. That's pretty insightful because we take care of the "least among us." The ones who are ignored when they go in public because people are not sure how to interact with them. The ones who fall through the cracks in the medical system because they aren't "worth saving." The ones who can't walk, talk, or play a direct role in society although they shape it indirectly, don't they?

He gives us value. We are still worth dying for. He still loves the caregiver. So, today, I'm going to turn my thoughts to how He loves us just like we love those we care for. I'll meditate on how He laid down His life for me - and how I lay mine down to be a caregiver. My thoughts will be on His great love for us. We are not excluded - we are included and precious in the Kingdom of God - we look a lot like Him, if you ask me! And with those thoughts, I'll rest in Him. I'll trust Him for one more day. Will you join me?

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Holistic Healing: The Benefits of Yoga and Meditation for Seniors and Caregivers


Medical science has embraced yoga and meditation for the benefits they confer on seniors and their caregivers. Doctors in increasing numbers are recommending yoga to their patients over 50 to help reduce blood pressure, relieve pain, and improve balance. Seniors who are initially skeptical often find the benefits of yoga and meditation can help them in ways they never imagined. Older adults frequently find yoga improves muscle and joint flexibility, enhances their mood, and alleviates stress and anxiety. And while elderly bodies aren’t always up to the physical discipline of yoga, its tremendous mental and emotional value can still be derived from classes adapted to the physical restrictions that often limit a senior’s movements.
Consult your physician
Always use common sense if you’re a senior getting started with yoga. Consult your physician if you’re a cardiac patient, have undergone surgery, or are taking medications. If you have osteoporosis, be aware there are certain yoga movements you shouldn’t attempt in order to avoid fracture.
Broad appeal
Older adults are sometimes put off by images of young, lithe people bending their bodies into pretzel-like shapes. But yoga is gaining broad appeal as more elderly people find that it isn’t just for the young and flexible. Yoga, even a few minutes a day, not only improves physical flexibility, it enhances cognitive functioning, bolsters cardiovascular health, and can even slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Seniors with a limited range of movement have been known to make remarkable improvements and gain an amazing degree of flexibility.
Find a yoga that suits you
There’s no one uniform version of yoga, but different kinds from “hot” to “gentle.” If your doctor has prescribed yoga, it’s important to begin by speaking with an instructor to determine what level of intensity is suitable based on your overall condition and physical fitness. Bear in mind that “chair” yoga and other low-impact versions are very popular with seniors and offer the same benefits as “traditional” forms.
Meditation
The benefits of meditation mirror those of yoga, which is, to a large extent, a mental discipline as well as a series of physical poses. It’s especially valuable for caregivers because meditation offers invaluable mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual benefits that can alleviate the stress under which caregivers labor. Find a space that relaxes you and offers solitude—a haven where you can focus your thoughts, free of distractions. It should be a meditation room where light can be kept to a minimum and where you’re able to fully relax. Light scented candles and play soothing music to maximize the effect. 
More than a workout
Yoga is much more than a physical activity: It’s a holistic form of mind-body medicine that improves mood and overall health—a combination of poses, meditation, and deep breathing that combine to integrate the mind, body, and spirit. And that’s the essence of yoga. Its ability to fuse one’s being lies at the heart of its ability to heal and enhance your sense of well-being. Yoga isn’t a workout activity like weightlifting or a cardio exercise where you push yourself past discomfort to achieve more and more. Yoga should never hurt; if it does, tell your instructor.
Yoga and meditation are tremendously effective healing disciplines that offer seniors and caregivers a great many physical and mental benefits. Medical science has increasingly turned to these disciplines to help older adults and their caregivers achieve a level of health they couldn’t attain otherwise and for good reason.

Courtesy of Pixabay




Friday, December 21, 2018

Broken but Accepted

Sorry for the long absence. I'm really still in the process of getting myself back together. Honestly, I've been on overload and as the end of the year draws close, there are some things I want to accomplish. I also want to set some goals for next year and that partially includes being more faithful to keep up this blog. In the back of my mind, I know you understand. You're caregivers - I know you "get it."

I know you understand the tired that is beyond exhaustion that transcends body and soul. You understand ongoing grief the rest of the world often condemns us for - telling us to just get over it. You know what I really mean by having a too full plate because you are probably juggling just like me. Maybe even more than me!

Emotionally I've been spent. I don't do well with changes and in the last few months we moved (which was a good thing) and that changed literally everything in my life and routines. Please forgive me for going MIA during the adjustment time. I think I'm back.

How did I get "back"? It's been a journey with much of it coming back together in the last week or so. I sat at the piano a couple weeks back and decided to sing. I didn't feel like singing. I felt abandoned. Alone. Worthless. Life-less. Broken. Maybe broken is the best word for it, but everything felt broken.

I pulled out my music books and dusted them off and started playing through some of the older stuff I used to play BC. In the middle of "I Need You More" I found a phrase. More than the song I sing.....I sang that phrase and let it hang there for a minute. At this point in my life, it was truer than any other time I'd ever sung it. Then I realized it had never been the song He was after. He really did want more than the song itself. He wanted me. Even in my most broken state - He didn't change His mind.

Before I knew it, I'd written a new chorus. I'll spare you the agony of hearing me sing it - but here are the lyrics.

It wasn't the song You were after
It was the pieces of my heart
Whether in tears or in laughter
You still want every single part...of me..
The broken...
The whole...
The parts I can't let go...
You still want me.

As I realized He still wanted me in my broken state - it brought a new kind of brokenness before Him. He accepts us just like we are - no matter how many pieces life has shattered us into. No matter how good of a Christian we think we are or are not - He still desires us and accepts us.

Today, I will meditate on how He hasn't cast me aside even though it feels like it sometimes. I'll turn my thoughts to His acceptance of me just like I am; broken. I'll try to keep my anxious thoughts at bay as I stay close to His heart and let Him carry me through one more day. Will you join me?