Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Full Package Deal

ornery looking chris
Pardon my absence. I had the opportunity to go away for a ladies retreat this past weekend and you know how involved it can be just to get ready to be gone for a bit. I'm so thankful for respite! You don't get a break just to get ready, nor do you get a break when you walk back through the door. lol I know you guys understand - thank you.

My thoughts this morning are on the seeking. I love how God is there for whatever we need when we seek Him. 2 Peter 1:3 tells us His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness - through our knowledge of Him. Whatever we need we will find in Him. But we've got to seek Him - not just what we think we need.

I was reading in Jeremiah 29 where it says you will seek Me and find me when you seek Me with all your heart. What is it you need today? As caregivers, we can have a long, long list. (Or at least I have one!) I know I need His strength to make it each day. I need His wisdom to make choices that arise. I need His peace every moment of every day. And I'd like to have a bit of joy on the side. I still need His provision and all his promises to me. You can say it out loud - I need __________ today.  I understand how our needs are pressing and constantly changing. Even our slowest, easiest days (whatever that is!!!) we need His grace. (Maybe it's just me! :-)

But I took a second look at this promise in Jeremiah. His promise is that we will find HIM when we seek for HIM. May our seeking be solely for Him and not just for the "things" we need from Him. You see, when we seek Him - we'll get the full package deal. We won't fully have peace if we don't allow Him to reign in our hearts. If we don't seek Him - we won't be able to hear His wise instructions.

Today, I will seek Him because He is, not just so I can reap the automatic benefits. There's no sweeter peace than being in His presence. I'll be thankful today that He hears my "faintest cry" and He invites me to come to Him - and when I come (when you come) we get the full package deal. My thoughts today will be on pursuing Him with my whole heart and resting in His promises - every single one! I will seek Him, trust Him, and rely on Him for just this one more day. Will you join me?

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Power to Stand

Do you ever have one of those days where it seems like everything sends you off the emotional edge? Sometimes as caregivers it's nearly every day as we tend to live on the edge emotionally. It's called being on overload. We typically live in that state until it becomes the norm for us. There are times when it's worse than others. Little things become huge boulders standing in the way of peace.

Later, sometimes much later, it can seem comical. A shoe coming untied, dropping a fork while trying to eat, or forgetting to push "on" to start the coffee pot are all minor things. But for those of us on overload, it can send us on a downward spiral. For me, sometimes, it's a picture of Chris before his wreck or hearing some of the music he used to write. Maybe finding a handwritten note from him from years ago. What is it for you that cause tears to well up in my eyes and a lump to block your throat? It's not often much.

During those difficult times when emotions are trying to drag us down a path we don't want to go down but don't always have the strength to resist, we stand. But there are times we don't have the strength to fight (or maybe it's just me) and we can quickly feel overwhelmed and overtaken. Then there is frustration on top of all the other bombarding emotions. Here's the good thing - we don't have to muster it up ourselves. 

I was reading in Ephesians 6 today and was looking forward to the phrase I remember so well - when you've done all to stand, stand. That's where I felt like I was - doing all I could to just stand. But I found a phrase that lept out to me before I could get there. In verse 10, Paul says this: A final word: Be strong with the Lord's mighty power. (NLT) I was so relieved to not have to figure out where to get the strength to stand and then just stand - it's His power holding me up. It's His power giving me strength. I don't have to go look for a way to be strong - I can totally rely on Him. And that's good on the days I just don't have it.

Today, I will turn my thoughts to how His Spirit lives in me and empowers me to continue to stand. I may not be walking or running or jumping - I can just stand knowing He's got this and He's got me. My meditations will be on the truth that His Spirit is who is holding me up and helping me stand. And I don't have to do anything else but stand - by His power in me.  Will you join me in standing today?

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

This One Thing

This morning I read through Ecclesiastes. I'm not sure what I was looking for but it came to mind and I read it. While several things stood out to me, I guess I found what I was looking for in the last few verses of the book.

During his final thoughts, the king said this, Here is my final conclusion: fear God and obey His commands, for this is the duty of every person. (Ecclesiastes 12:13 NLT) I began to think about what that meant for me in my situation. As caregivers, it can feel like life played us a harsh hand. But, we are still in the game.

There's a lot on our plate from the time we wake up until the time we go to bed. Many times there's no sleep due to duties during the nighttime hours as well. I have felt bad because I couldn't be "as faithful" to the church as I was in days BC. (Before Caregiving) It's easy to feel pressured to measure up to what others think and often I feel like I don't do enough. Maybe that's why this scripture spoke to me this morning. My duty is simply to fear God and to serve Him no matter what type of hand life deals. Regardless of what's on my plate today - I need to do everything to His glory. Remember Colossians 3:17 tells us: no matter what you do or say, let it be as a representative of the Lord Jesus..(NLT)

Today, I can take the pressure off myself and I hope you can do the same. We don't have to measure up to any religious creed. We don't have to do anything but fear Him and serve Him no matter what our circumstances. I'll turn my thoughts today to simply pleasing Him. I can dedicate this day to Him and serve my loved one in a way that glorifies Him. I'll rest in the truth that it is enough and He is pleased. Will you join me?

Monday, April 15, 2019

One Big Question

Caregiving has a way of knocking you around a bit. Even when things are going good it can seem like the littlest things suck the wind out of you.I've spent my days wondering where God was, if He could help me. So, this morning while reading in Jeremiah, I found this question. It caught my attention because I've asked it and I've seen it in scriptures a couple of other places. The one big question is this: Where is God?

I've looked at this question in scriptures before. My first study involved Gideon in Judges 6 and the children of Israel in Exodus 17. I noticed they both asked the same question. When Gideon asked it during the encounter with the angel he got the response go in this your strength. It was like the question was right and approved of. But when the children of Israel asked where is God in Exodus 17 (also mentioned in Psalm 95), it was considered testing the Lord. Same question - totally different response from God.

So, this morning I was surprised to find this same big question in Jeremiah 2:6. It seems that God was upset with His children because they didn't ask where He was. I found this interesting. It seems that it's our attitude behind the question. If we are truly looking for Him when we ask it, He answers with His presence. If we are actually looking for another route, another way, another god when we ask it, then it's out of rebellion and stubbornness that God cannot tolerate.

I must admit I took a close look at my own heart as I read and reread these scriptures. I have to say when I've wondered where He was in my pain and struggles it's because I trust Him and need Him. The people in Jeremiah weren't looking for God - and that was their mistake. Gideon was truly looking for God and that was his blessing and his escape.

Today, I will remind myself that God has nowhere to go. He is everywhere and couldn't leave me if He did want to. I'll turn my thoughts to those places and times when I have seen Him act on my behalf. I'll think about the times He has blessed me with peace, provision, wisdom and even patience. My meditations will be on His omnipresence and the truth that He will never leave me even in difficult times. And I will remind myself that I only need to look for Him to find Him. Will you join me?

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Ups and Downs

I've discovered that caregiving is a long series of ups and downs. Some battles are won and others are lost. The real battle is dealing with the emotions during the downs. I also know these hills and valleys can come in waves right after one another often in just a day, or an afternoon. It's crazy. So, what are we to do when it starts looking like we've lost a few of them right in a row?

Firstly, as caregivers, we know there is no quit. No time for that for sure. So we just keep putting one foot in front of the other as we wipe our eyes. There isn't a good place to stop and life ain't gonna wait for us to get it together now is it?

It's just the way it is, and we must accept it. Or do we? I'm thinking there's a balance between dealing with the hand life deals us each day, hour, or moment and trying to keep our heads above water. For me, I have to deal realistically with whatever my son will do in a given day without drowning. It may just be me. There's got to be a place between hope and dealing with daily harsh realities. Doesn't there?

What do we do when our heart begins to sink? I turn to what's familiar to me - the Psalms. Immediately I think of Psalm 13 where David starts out with some raw emotions and ends with a declaration once again.

How long O Lord? Will You forget forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
How long shall I take counsel in my soul,
Having sorrow in my heart daily?
How long will my enemy be exalted over me?

Consider and hear me, O Lord my God;
Enlighten my eyes; lest I sleep the sleep of death;
Lest my enemies say, "I have prevailed against him!"
Lest those who trouble me rejoice when I am moved.

But I have trusted in Your mercy;
My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
Because He has dealt bountifully with me.

Just like David, I feel surrounded by an enemy poised to consume my soul. It feels like God doesn't see or hear even though I know the truth. As my thoughts become prayers, they must also be turned into declarations. Maybe I can't change today...But I do have a "but" - I have trusted and I will continue to trust in His mercy no matter what. 

I will sing to the Lord - because of how He has dealt with me. 

Today, my declaration is one of reaffirming trust in Him one more time - even if just for today, an hour, this second. I will declare what I have seen Him do - even if I am not seeing anything right now. I will declare He is still my God - and I'll give it all to Him one more time while I try to remember to breathe. Will you join me?

Monday, April 8, 2019

A Worthy Break

It's a little past 10 in the morning and already I feel like my day is wasting away out of my control. There are so many things on my to-do list it's overwhelming. It's so easy to feel like there's just no way to get ahead. Maybe it's just me...

We live in a very busy society but for caregivers, it can see our tasks are lined up in a never-ending line. Some days I am very excited to get to half the things I need to get done. Other days, I force myself to be happy with the 2 or 3 finished tasks. Caregiving itself provides us with ample tasks each day. For me, this means transfers, preparing food, feeding my son at meals,  doing range of motion exercises, standing him, bathing, and various other daily tasks. Of course, there's also all the daily chores like laundry, dishes, and cleaning. And then if you work from home... you see where I'm going? There really is a lot to do each day. Overwhelming doesn't even seem to cover the description, does it?

Today, as usual, I started out behind, but I made a different choice. I stopped and took a break, once I found a small time slot for it to fit in. I picked my guitar and just sang a few simple praise songs. At least for a few minutes, the weight of the world was lifted off my shoulders as I turned my thoughts to Him and away from myself.

Praise breaks are great times to remind ourselves that our standing in the Kingdom of God didn't change when we became a caregiver. God did not change when our circumstances overwhelmed. He didn't get up off His throne and say, I quit. Not one word of truth disappeared out of the Bible when my world came crashing down. That's why I can take a break and find ways to praise Him - plenty of things to thank Him for.

Today, I encourage you to take a praise break, even if it's only five minutes. I started by thanking Him that my salvation is not voided or changed because of circumstances. From there, I found numerous things to thank Him for and ways to bless His name. It was a worthy break and I felt better afterward. I will turn my thoughts to what He has done that will stand the test of time and eternity - and I'll meditate on that today - as I take a praise break. Will you join me?

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

All in a Day's Work

I so enjoyed Psalm 31 yesterday so I decided to swim around in it again today for my morning devotions today. Actually, I have an outline now for a devotional called 30 Days in Psalm 31.  Hopefully, it won't take me long to get it together. There's just so much in this one little psalm. It's got all the right elements trust, raw emotions, rejection, social isolation, fear, prayer, declarations, and faith. Does it seem like to you that we can vacillate so easily from faith to fear and back again? For caregivers, it's all in a day's work.

One minute we're on top of the world feeling like we've got it all together and the next, we are in the bottom, alone, grieving, and afraid. I think it may just be me until I read a psalm like this where the psalmist lays it all out too. One second he's declaring I will trust in the Lord and the next he's sobbing my eyes are wasting away with grief. How often do we face days like that? I know I trust God, there's no doubt - but life still hurts like you-know-what! The pain doesn't stop in weak moments or in strong. Grief doesn't take but very brief breaks occasionally. It can simply be overwhelming.

I thank God for psalms like this one that allows me to be human... a piece of dust who trusts in God in the midst of the crazy emotions, stressful situations and long hours of caregiving. It assures me that going from fear to faith and doubt to trust and grief to prayer is somewhat normal. God doesn't turn a deaf ear to our spinning hearts in a crazy world. He's right there to be our fortress. He doesn't resign as our rock - it's a job He takes gladly and He's consistent at it.

My job is just to remind myself of it over and over and to keep returning to that point of trust and seeking Him as my refuge when life overwhelms.

Today, I will declare my allegiance to God - my trust in Him. I'll rest in Him as the rock of refuge and the strong tower I can run to when I feel anything but strong. I'll remind myself that He preserves the faithful and that He will strengthen my heart - if for no other reason than that I can trust Him more. And trust I will - will you join me?

Monday, April 1, 2019

He's Got the Whole World in His Hands

Time intrigues me and I have studied it a lot. Quantum physics fascinates me although I must say I don't understand it. I'm a very casual student of it. Casual in that I don't dive too deep into it at all - but I still find it fascinating. I actually try to avoid the subject because I can get deep into it and lose hours of my day. lol. But during my private devotions this morning, there it was again.

In Daniel 2, the king requested an interpretation to a dream and God gave the dream and interpretation to Daniel. Since it was a life or death situation, Daniel and his friends were praising God for deliverance when Daniel said, And He changes the times and the seasons (v.21 NKJV). I was like times? When did it become plural? I was also reminded of a phrase I had seen in the psalms and found it in Psalm 31.

David says my times are in Your hands in Psalm 31:15. Personally, this is a statement of trust - saying to God that whatever comes while I am walking this journey through time, I am in Your hand. I camped out in this psalm for awhile as it spoke to me today right where I am...in time.

In verse 15, David is ultimately trusting the outcome of his situations to God when he says, my times are in Your hand. Just before this statement, the psalmist says, but as for me, I trust in You O Lord. When I have prayed and placed or acknowledged my times are in His hand it's been a statement of faith, one of complete surrender and trust. Then, David continues with a prayer deliver me from the hand of my enemies.

As caregivers, our enemies are not always physical. For me, it's fear, doubt, uncertainty, and discouragement for starters. These things war at our souls constantly and they can simply wear us down and wear us out. I believe God can help us face those things that war against our souls. God can deliver us from these enemies of our souls as we continue to trust Him.

Today, I will say one more time that my times are in His hand as I continue to trust Him for today. My meditation will be on His peace and the grace He gives to face this day, this spot in time. I'll trust Him to deliver me from fears, doubts, and all the other things that war against my soul, my mind, will and emotions. I'll take each fear, negative thought, and doubt to Him and express it to Him - give it to Him and trust that my times and my soul are in His hand. Will you join me?