Thursday, January 31, 2019

For His Glory

Did you ever stop to think about what brings God glory? It's been the theme of my thoughts this morning. I've been working on setting goals and making progress in different areas of my life and I came to the conclusion that bringing Him glory is what it's all about.

I look at my caregiver's life. I think about my random, sometimes angry or frustrated thoughts. But it really comes down to bringing Him glory. Am I living life (as abnormal as it may be) in a way that glorifies Him? This my ultimate goal.

As I was pondering these things this morning, I thought of a familiar, maybe a little too used scripture about Jabez. Books have been written from the one mention he gets in scripture. But that verse was on my mind during my prayers this morning. It says ....his mother named him Jabez saying, Because I bore him with pain. Now Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, Oh that You would bless me indeed and enlarge my border, and that Your right hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from harm that it may not pain me. And God granted him what he requested. (1 Chronicles 4:9)

His name means, he makes sorrowful. What a name, huh? How would you like it if everyone thought of sadness, sorrow, and pain each time your name was called? No one wants to carry that. Yet sometimes I feel like my story is a sad one. That's one reason for the social isolation so many caregivers experience. Our stories make people sad and they don't know what to do with those emotions so they avoid. That leaves us stranded relationship-wise as well as emotionally. And that's where I am, and why I'm thinking along these lines.

These thoughts turned me to pray that my life, broken though it may be, would somehow bring glory to Him. The psalmist said in Psalm 89:17 You are their glorious strength. It pleases You to make us strong. May it please Him to make us strong today! In Psalm 104:31, the psalmist says, May the glory of the Lord continue forever! The Lord takes pleasure in all He has made!  Again, my prayer is that He will take pleasure in His creation - in me.

I'm thinking that one thing that brings Him glory, that He takes pleasure in - is consistent trust in who He is. I think when He looks at us in a life that feels like we are constantly rowing against the tide, He is pleased that we are still rowing toward His heart. I think that brings Him glory - no matter how strong the storms we fight against.

Today, I'm just going to do what I've been doing, trust Him. No matter how easy - or how difficult today is I can still trust that I haven't fallen out of His hand or His heart. It may be that He pulls us a little closer to His heart as we trust in adverse conditions. I like to think that anyway. My thoughts will be on what pleases Him - and I'll keep my trust and confidence in His strength not my own. I'll trust Him for one more day - will you join me?

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

A Tight Grip

This morning I just feel creative - or maybe it's more of a need to just create. I'm not really sure what it is, but I felt like breathing some life into an old blog I used to keep. I started From the Furnace just as a place to put my emotions. It let me put them there and walk away. As time went on I stopped for one reason or another. But today I was talking about the grip of grief and just needed to get some things out.

Sometimes, caregiving comes with a living grief. It doesn't go away and it is very real. I've been carrying it for a few days now. I grieve because I haven't heard my son's voice in 10 years. I grieve because I see his friends marrying and having families. I grieve over the loss day after day. Grief seems to have a tight grip on my heart - so tight sometimes I am not sure I can breathe.

I've never been quite sure about what to do with the living grief. Some condemn it as a lack of faith. But I think it's quite the opposite. Especially as I press past the grieving to the grace. It takes a lot of faith to honestly tell God how you feel at any given moment. It speaks of a high level of trust to pull raw emotions out and become vulnerable before Him, knowing He's not going to take the grief away - but give me the grace to stand in the midst of it. This faith is not too different than the three Hebrew children standing before the king saying - We know God can deliver us - but if He doesn't - we still aren't going to bow. That's the kind of grip grace has on us. Our situations may or may not change - but our trust in Him remains the same no matter what. That's true faith, y'all. That demonstrates a grip of grace that will carry us through.

That's when I  realize that even though grief has a tight grip on me - His grace has a tighter grip. God told Paul, My grace is sufficient for you. God also promised to never leave us or forsake us. If I can put these two thoughts together, I have a grace that holds me tighter than the grief. It outlasts the grief since the grief can come and go on wave after emotional wave. But His grace - His all-sufficient grace steadfastly carries me over those waves. When I realize that and acknowledge that - peace seems to take over the turmoil.

Today, right in the midst of suffocating grief - I will trust His grace to carry me. Like the 3 facing the fiery furnace, I'll say -I'm not bowing to life's situations. I refuse to give in. I will bow to the grace of God though. My thoughts will be on letting His grace carry me and living in total surrender to His will, His grace, and His love. I'll focus my meditations on the truth that He doesn't leave me in the grip of grief or sadness, but He does extend His grace and His hand to lift me up. I'll stand in that grace and trust Him for just one more day - will you join me?

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Sound Like a Warrior?

I'm presently working on a project about David - the worshipper and the warrior. I am learning so much!. He's one of my favorite Bible characters, and I've always enjoyed the psalms. As I was reading through so many of the psalms this morning, I found several verses that made me stop and scratch my head and wonder.

First, remember that David has slain giants. He walked right up to Goliath and prophesied he was going to take off his head. Then he did it. He ran from Saul, raised up armies, and fought and won many battles.

But here is this verse in Psalm 6:7 (NLT) where he says, I am worn out from sobbing. Every night I drench my bed; my pillow is wet from weeping. My vision is blurred by grief; my eyes are worn out because of my enemies. That doesn't sound like "warrior talk" to me. Yet, we know David was a mighty warrior.

The caregiver carries a huge load day in and day out, with very little relief. Our vision - and view of life can so easily become blurred by grief. We've talked about living grief a few times. We're are grieving over the what-could-have-beens. Maybe our loved one is still "with us" technically, but not who we used to know. This can bring on unsurmountable daily grief. Even though I don't technically cry very often, I can relate a bit to David's feeling of being overwhelmed and overtaken.

Caregivers may not face physical enemies that are trying to take away our goods. But we do face physical weakness, fatigue, and illness that sidelines us or makes it that much harder to take care of our loved one. We face financial worries, fears, and doubts that war at our mind and soul wearing us down day after day. There's probably not too many caregivers who, if we are honest, will not say we haven't found ourselves at some point, with our faces buried in our pillows crying out for God to intervene and have mercy on us because it feels like life has sabotaged us.

But then just like David, the warrior, we get up, pick up our swords, and head right back into the daily battle (and joy) of caregiving. It's not all bad, right? We do what we do because we love our caregivee. It's what drives us to continue when we feel weak or discouraged. That same love that drove Jesus to the cross on our behalf - is the same love we have when we "lay our lives down" on behalf of those we care for.

David didn't stop at this psalm. He wasn't quitting. He was venting - and venting can be good! Being totally honest and vulnerable with God can let off enough steam to get us through the next course. You see, earlier in this same psalm, David says, Have compassion on me for I am weak and I am sick at heart. Even though he admitted how he really felt to God in prayer - it didn't take him out of the battle. Being close enough to God to tell Him the truth is what gives us the strength to get back up and go at it again.

Today, I will focus on being open, honest, and vulnerable with God. I'll remember it's my safe place and I can say anything. He won't condemn, judge, or cast me away. He listens, then gives His strength to the weary. My meditation will be on how He remains with me - and doesn't leave when my life looks ugly or gets hard. I'll rejoice in that truth as I trust Him and rest in Him for one more day. Will you join me?

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Surrounded

There were times when David felt as if he was surrounded by his enemies. In the third psalm, he says I have so many enemies. In Psalm 17, he mentions his deadly enemies that surround. One thing I appreciate about David is that he acknowledges his enemies. He doesn't try to act like they don't exist. He doesn't try to imagine they are gone. And, he doesn't try to "faith" his way out of his circumstances. What he does do, though, is declare the truth in the midst of his surroundings.

David had real, physical enemies with flesh and blood and oftentimes in his writings he mentions the words his enemy uses against him. He always refutes it with what God says about him. I like that. David may share how he is being overcome by the deep waters of tribulation, but he always counters it with a declaration about God and a but I'm still swimming statement.

As much as David felt like his enemies surrounded him, he also notes God surrounds him. He wasn't confused. He knew God was nearer when the enemy pressed in. He made references to the enemy surrounding him:


  • my deadly enemies surround me (Psalm 17:9)
  • the cords of Sheol surrounded me (Psalm 18:5)
  • many bulls have surrounded me - strong bulls! (Psalm 22:12)
  • dogs have surrounded me - a band of evildoers encompassed me (Psalm 22:16)
  • evils beyond number have surrounded me (Psalm 40:12)
Even though he often felt surrounded by enemies of varying types, he declared in the face of his enemy that he was surrounded by God. His references are amazing:

  • O Lord You surround him (the righteous man) with favor (Psalm 5:12)
  • You surround me with songs of deliverance (Psalm 32:7)
  • he who trusts in the Lord, loving kindness will surround him. (Psalm 32:10)
  • the Lord surrounds His people (Psalm 125:1)
As caregivers we may not have physical giants and enemies that stand before us. However, we have giants that war at our hearts - through our head. So many things can try to surround us and overtake us. Fears of the future. Financial concerns. Physical ailments or the possibility of not being able to care for our loved ones. Doubts try to crowd in our mind and erode our faith and trust in Him. For many of us, it's a constant struggle even if we remain on top of it. It wears away at our hearts. But like David, we are still swimming in life's flood waters.

What's your declaration today? David usually turned his fears, doubts, and concerns into a declaration he could hold on to. They usually started with an I will

  • I will lie down in peace and sleep for you alone, O Lord, will keep me safe (Psalm 4:8)
  • I will sing praises to the name of the Lord Most High... (Psalm 7:17)
  • I will declare the wonder of Your name... I will praise You among the people (Psalm 22:22)
  • I will trust in Your unfailing love (Psalm 13:5)
Even if you feel surrounded today by doubts, fears, what-ifs, what-not-ifs, or are just submerged in your own thoughts, there is a way out. 

Today, I will gladly make my declaration that I will trust Him for one more day. I will bless His name today. My heart will praise Him in the midst of the storm - and I will keep swimming! I figure if my enemies are going to surround me - they are going to have to listen to me praise my God who keeps my soul safe in the midst of trouble. How about you? Will you join me?






Monday, January 21, 2019

Change of Focus

Caregiving is no easy road by itself and it gets overly complicated when life happens. Recently I've dealt with sickness, deaths of those I loved and life decisions on top of caregiving. As if caregiving itself isn't hard enough, right? (smile)

It's pretty easy for us to get overloaded and overwhelmed as we pretty much live in that state. The "right answer" is of course to find a spot in your day to be still and know I am God. (Psalm 46:10) We know that - but it can be difficult in the midst of all we need to do. Sometimes, we must find that spot within our heart, even if we cannot physically find a place to be still and quiet. That's where I seem to be right now.

This morning though I thought of Psalm 103. David seems to be talking to himself when he says, Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name. One version says all that I am praise the Lord, everything in me praise His holy name. I'm not quite sure if he's making a declaration that he's going to bless God, or if he's commanding his mind, will, and emotions to bless God. Either way he's making a conscious decision about his day. He's saying, no matter what I face today - no matter what comes my way - it's a day I will bless God with all my heart.

I think that's one of the things about caregiving that so easily throws us off. We never know what might come our way. But we can always make the choice to bless Him while we walk it out no matter how difficult it becomes.

Today, I will remind my soul to bless God. My intent will be to bless Him, praise Him with every breath, thought, and word. I'll tell my soul (mind, will and emotions) that this is a day He has given me - a day to bless Him in all I do for my son and for those around me. I pray that all we do today will bring Him glory. Today I will purposefully turn my focus to Him and off myself and my situation- I will bless Him. Will you join me?

Monday, January 14, 2019

Stll Standing

During my private devotions this morning, I read the "Sermon on the Mount." Jesus spent a lot of time teaching the disciples and these three chapters in Matthew cover a lot of territory. There were several selah moments where I paused and thought. But it was the final few verses that captured my attention.

Jesus tells the story of the two houses. One is built on the rock and one is built on sand. In the end, it was the one built on the rock that stood. But that wasn't the focus of my thoughts. Matthew 7:25 describes what the house went through on its way to standing. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwater rise, and the winds beat against that house, it won't collapse because it's built on the rock. Of course, the other house didn't stand because it was constructed on a shaky foundation.

My focus this morning wasn't so much on the foundation. We understand the words to that old song, On Christ the solid rock I stand.. all other ground is sinking sand....He is our firm foundation - but look at  what the poor little house had to go through. The rains tried to wash it away. Floodwaters rose to carry it away. Winds beat on it to knock it down. But ultimately, it did not collapse.

Some days I feel like collapsing. But you know what - we are still standing. No matter how high the waters of life get. No matter how strong the wind blows - we continue to stand. For me, it meant redefining my faith. Faith isn't a way to avoid the storms - it's that solid rock that carries us on through them. We may be beat. We may get wet! But we still stand because of Him.

This makes me think of Isaiah 43::1-2 which says:

The Lord, who created you says:
Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. 
I have called you by name.
When you go through deep waters and great trouble, 
I will be with you.

When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown!
When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up;
The flames will not consume you. 
For I am the Lord your God.

He is with us - even in "great trouble." I noted, this didn't just say "trouble" but it says "great trouble." More than normal trouble! All this can beat against our little houses - but we are not destroyed. After years of caregiving (and many of you have been there for LOTS more years than me!) - We are still standing. Because of Him. We are not destroyed. We are not cast down. We stand.

Today, I'm going to think about how He continues to be with me. My meditation will not be on the storms, winds, or floods. Instead I will meditate on His ability to carry me through the deep waters, through the great trouble. My thoughts will be on the truth that He remains God - circumstances do not change that truth. I'll reaffirm my faith in Him one more day. Will  you join me?





Thursday, January 10, 2019

He Knows....

Each caregiving journey is different. The emotions of caring for your child are very different than those of caring for an aging loved one. I can't say either one is "easier" than the other - just very different although tasks may be similar. But when caring for the elderly we begin to see life in a different light. Is it that we suddenly feel our own human frailty? Maybe we question our upcoming final days. Thoughts can send emotions reeling.

As I was visiting with my son's nurse this morning we looked at some pictures of my mom and aunt. These were taken at our family Christmas get together and it's likely the last time they will see each other on this side of eternity. I smile when I think of how they will reunite in their new bodies on the other side. But then I sadden to think we must lose them both here first.

My thoughts were along these lines and my own humanness and frailty this morning as well as all I am dealing with as a multi-generational caregiver. Then, I thought of a verse in Psalm 103. Verse 14 says, For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust. Somehow I drew a bit of comfort from thinking about how He knows we are just a frail human frame made of dust. Life is passing us all by and we never know what a day may bring. No one knows that better than a caregiver.

But in verse 17, the psalmist passes by the fleeting wind of humanness and says these encouraging words: But the lovingkindness of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him...I thought for a few minutes on that. We are flesh - all we know passes away. But no matter what we have, don't have, face, or don't face in a day - His lovingkindness remains steadfast. He is our sure tower - we can run to Him with every emotion, fear, victory, question, and caregiving situation. And He already knows.

Today, I will rejoice in the truth that He knows (and understands) the frailty of my flesh. He understands my tiredness but the persistence caregivers have to keep pushing forward one step at a time. I'll meditate on how He understands when this flesh gets too weak to cry out to Him and He meets us there. Today, I will wait for Him not knowing what to pray or say. And I'll be content in knowing - that He knows. Will you join me?    




Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Tired of Being Weary? or Weary of Being Tired?

Days like today help me be more reflective. It's a crazy day - crazier than normal in our multi-generational home setting. Between sick people and sleepless nights, it can be difficult to focus and be productive at morning's light. It makes me wish there was a "pause" button so I could take a breath and gather myself and my thoughts. But, we all know that's not going to happen.

On these kinds of days, caregiving seems merciless as tasks demand to be done whether we are in the mood, have any energy or not. When I feel fatigued (mentally, physically, emotionally) I always think of the familiar scripture in Isaiah 40. Verse 28 reminds us: Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired.  I'm guessing weary and tired are two different things here. I appreciate that distinction because I think for me, tired is the state of the body and weary is the state of the soul.

Body tired is easily fixed. You can rest, sleep, eat right and take some time off if you're not a full-time caregiver and rejuvenate. But soul tired is a different story. How do we rest our soul? Maybe that's why the next verse says, He gives strength to the weary. (No reference to the tired.) and to him who lacks might He increases power. 

Verse 31 is a great reminder for me today too. Yet those who wait on the Lord will gain new strength. They will mount up with wings like eagles. They will run and not get tired. They will walk and not become weary.

So today, we just keep walking, trusting, and believing in the midst of the tiredness and weariness. It's a conditional promise that if we wait on Him THEN He will give us new strength to run this race without tiring out and walk on in faith without being overcome by weariness. Psalm 121:7b says He will keep your soul. 

So, today, I intend on putting my soul back in His care. My meditation and prayers will be focused on waiting on Him to rejuvenate my soul rather than trying to find strength within myself. I'll turn my thoughts to letting Him carry me for this part of the journey. I'll try to get rid of the I can do it all mentality and trust Him instead. And I'll rest right in the thought of waiting on Him rather than making my own way through as I trust Him for one more day. Will you join me?

Monday, January 7, 2019

Never Let Go

This was a trying week, which basically means there was nothing unusual about it. As caregivers, our emotions can be all over the place. This week brought sickness, depression, fatigue, and tons of other difficulties to deal with. Not only does being sick mess up our day-to-day routines, but it also wreaks havoc on our bodies and emotions. For many of us, our emotions stay on edge as it is, and even small things topple us into the "emotional abyss." It can take days to climb out of if we can get out at all.

Oftentimes, we don't even realize our emotions are stretched to the max. Hindsight is 20/20 and I have learned over my caregiving years that it's okay to stop. It's okay to cry. (I don't think it does any good - but it does let you know your emotional cup is full and running over.) It's okay to say - that's all I can do today. And it is absolutely okay to tell others, no. It is also absolutely okay to ask for help. That is often the most difficult part of all for caregivers. (Where'd you leave that cape?)

This week I didn't realize how stretched my emotions were until I finally got out of the house to go see my aunt. She is physically doing okay but mentally seems to be fading. I visited with her for quite a little bit, took her some goodies from the store that I knew she would enjoy and came home. I had not made contact with my emotions at all when I found the house empty of everyone but me and Chris and headed to the piano. My heart was ready to just spend some time singing "thanks" to Him. For keeping me, for not abandoning me, for just being God.

As I approached the piano, I remembered that it is my aunt's and it was like all of why we have it here to begin with hit me. She no longer plays it. I sat down and played through tears that I didn't try to hold back. As I was giving it all to Him - releasing it all through singing, I ever so gently felt Him say, I'll never let go of you. It was more of a sense than a voice, maybe an impression filled with the peace of knowing He won't let go no matter what I walk through.

While I was singing and rejoicing in His keeping power, I realized I felt the same way about Chris and Ronella. They both face different struggles, of course. But I will never let go of either of them. I'll walk through each fire, swim through each flood, and ride the waves with them no matter what they face. And God is just that determined to be with us. I began to sing it to Chris - "I will never let go of you, my child. I will never let go of you!" Then I saw his reflection in the piano. He seemed to be listening. Maybe he really heard me this time.And maybe God hopes I really heard Him this time too.

Today, my thoughts will be on His intent to never let go of me. I'll think about how it never gets too hot, too difficult, too tiring, too anything. He won't quit and walk away. He will never let go of me. My meditations will be on His ever-abiding presence and I'll try to picture myself curled up in His arms letting Him hold me today. I'll rest right there - will you join me?