Friday, August 7, 2020

Just Another Day?

 

Chris and I
As I was looking through some scriptures this morning for something significant to share, I thought, it's just another day. That can mean a lot of different things to all of us, can't it? For some, it may mean sitting at home and not working waiting out the pandemic. Others may be working from home and dealing with those new challenges.  Parents are trying to make the best decisions for their kids concerning school and having to choose online or in-person - plus having to juggle their own work schedule to accommodate. 

While much of the world is adjusting to staying at home more - the caregiver can easily sit back and try to keep from laughing. Welcome to our world. We have had to do that too! But our world has remained pretty much the same. We still have to make decisions for two (or more) people, take care of another whole person's needs, and adjust to daily inconsistencies. Our supplies may have been disrupted (that's nothing new), aides may not be showing up to help (again - not new), and loneliness still chips away at our mental health....nothing new here. It's just another day.

But here's where I found some relief and sanity. God does not change in response to anything that occurs here on earth. Pandemic or not - it's just another day to Him too. It's a day where His mercies were new (for our sake) again this morning. It's just another day for His goodness and unfailing love to pursue us. (Psalm 23:6 NLT) It's just another day for Him to pour out His love on us, be patient with us as we work through the intricacies of life, and try to keep our heads above the swelling waters. He hasn't changed one iota. His kingdom didn't change nor did His passionate pursuit of us. He didn't change when we became caregivers. He didn't change when a pandemic swept the world. He remains faithful.

But it's just another day for us too. Another day to pursue Him with our whole heart. It's another chance to learn to trust Him even more. Another day to crawl up in His lap and let His peace rule in our hearts. Just another day to trust Him to carry us through everything we face.

So just another day isn't quite just another day at all, is it?

Today, I will crawl up in His lap and commit to trusting Him with just a little more of my heart. I will purposefully let His peace reign in my heart- especially when my mind tries to run off in so many directions. I won't let this day disturb my peace. Will  you join me for just another day?

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Sudden Fear - Sudden Peace

chris and daddy
I love the Psalms. I think one of the reasons I enjoy spending time in them so much is the frank honesty of the writers. When I was younger, I thought they were just whiny. But as I matured I realized a lot of what they express comes with the trials life you walk through. It didn't take me long to figure out that I could be transparent with God about my emotions and thoughts. The psalms are raw, open, and honest and God didn't fry any of them down to their toenails. That was how I was raised. 

Indirectly, I was taught you didn't ask God questions. Who should you ask? You didn't express anger or any negative emotions in your prayer time. Where should they be expressed? One day I got so mad that I yelled at God. I waited for the lightning bolt to strike me dead. Then I realized God knew those thoughts before I spoke them. I hadn't surprised Him - I had actually let Him in. And He gladly walks right into our mess - just so He can be with us.

David said in Psalm 31:22 (NLT) In sudden fear I had cried out, "I have been cut off from the Lord!" Have you ever felt that way? I know I have. Life has a way of battering us around sometimes until we think it was big enough to drive a wedge between us and God - but that is not truth. God is near the brokenhearted so if anything - He moves in closer when we are in distress and emotional pain such as is common to caregiving. 

David goes on to say But you heard my cry for mercy.... and answered my call for help.

What joy and peace get painted into the picture of our lives as we realize He has NOT abandoned us. He still hears our faintest whisper for help. He walks right into the chaos in our lives and brings His peace with Him. Again, it's up to us to accept His peace. Let the peace of God rule in your heart - Paul said.

Today, I will rejoice that He continues to hear my crazy cries. I will be thankful that He doesn't abandon and has no intention of leaving us here in time. Instead, He chooses to walk through time with us - no matter how crazy, uncertain, chaotic, or uncomfortable our time here gets. He is still walking through time with us and He's not going anywhere. I will choose a grateful heart today as I thank Him for the gift of His presence and His peace offered in the midst of the mess. Will you join me in letting His peace reign today?

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Quietness of His Love

Chris and Kyrie
As I was reading this morning, I found myself in Zephaniah 3. This one little phrase in verse 17 stood out to me. He will quiet you with His love. I thought about that awhile. I know just a quiet moment in His presence can wipe away worry and defeat. I liken it to how a mother's touch can calm a baby's cries. Maybe some of it is that sense that something (Someone) bigger has us in their arms. Whatever the "reason" there is peace in Him. There is life in Him. There is healing in Him. And the more I learn to rest in His grip and in His arms, the more at peace I become. That kind of peace is invaluable to the caregiver.

Isaiah 30:15 says that in returning and rest we are saved; and in quietness and confidence, there is strength. Strength and confidence to face another day of caregiving come from resting in His embrace. It empowers us to face what we have to face day after day.

It can be difficult to quiet ourselves. But when we realize we can rest in His arms - and let Him carry us, it comes a bit easier. We understand we don't have the strength to carry on day after day without Him. At least I know I don't. I get bogged down in the emotions and grief. Or I get worn out by the day-to-days. It just comes with the territory. But His word always seems to pick me back up and keep me moving toward my goal of hiding in Him.

In His arms we will find what we need to make it today. Resting in His love will help us have the strength to live out today. The key? That's the let. We must let His love quiet us. 

Today, I will purposefully wait on Him. I will meditate on His love for me - and you meditate on His great love for you. Let's learn to rest there - will you join me there?

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Free to Live

chris and I
This weekend as I entered the wildlife refuge for a day of connecting with God and nature, I saw the massive buffalo and the longhorn cattle. I thought about how great it was to have a refuge for them - a place where they were safe from predators. I watched the buffalo saunter along with no fear of danger. They moved slowly and ate as they went with barely a glance in my direction. My next thought was that they are free to live.

I took a deep breath and thought about how squelched it can feel like life is as a caregiver. Sometimes it feels like the life has been sucked out of you and you're just existing. Maybe it's just me. So I looked at these animals that are free to live in this beautiful refuge. Then I thought about the word "refuge." It's a familiar one, isn't it?

One of my favorite scriptures in Psalm 46:1. God is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in times of trouble. I thought of course of Psalm 31 - and how David declared God was his rock and his refuge. God is the caregiver's refuge. His presence is the place we can go to live and to breathe again.

Buffalo in the Wildlife Refuge
Those buffalo have no desire to leave the refuge - it has everything they need to live. Why go anywhere else? Right?

God is our refuge and we don't have to look for another place for safety - not that we could find one anyway, right? When we become content to just live in Him - then we will live. In Him we live, move, and have our source of life or our being- we are free to live. We can rest in this truth - that in Him is our life. He is our source and when we find ourselves hidden in His refuge - we are free to live in a whole new way.

Today, I will think about living in Him. I will turn my meditations to how He is my refuge and how I am free to truly live in Him - no matter what turns life's road takes. I choose to remain in Him - I choose to be free to live today - will you join me?

Monday, August 3, 2020

Streams in the Desert

Yesterday, I paid for a sitter so I could go on a day hike. I chose to go to the Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge. It's a vast place with many areas I have not yet covered even though I've been there exploring many times. I always learn from nature, maybe that's why I am so drawn to keep going back. Several things stood out to me but one thing I kept noticing was beautiful little flowers growing along the rocky terrain. 

Over the miles, I kept seeing these colorful patches of flowers in such unlikely places. I wondered how they grew in such adverse conditions. But all it took was a little bit of soil and a few drops of rain here and there to make a desert, wilderness area pop with beauty. Of course, I drew the parallel to our lives as caregivers.

We live in what can be very rocky circumstances as caregivers. On one hand, each day is the same over and over. Yet there are so many unexpected things that become the norm too. I know you understand that! We never know when an aid won't show, we have to call urgent care or the doctor, or what any given day may bring. Many caregivers, myself included, deal with loneliness of unheard of depths because our friends are long gone and the few we have keep a "safe distance" like we have the plague. Even with the bright spots and joys of caregiving, it can be a very difficult, rocky place emotionally.

Yet in the midst of it all, God remains faithful and somehow in those little areas here and there where we think surely nothing could grow- He brings forth beauty. We don't always sense it or see it ourselves, though do we? Yet here and there are pockets of intricately designed beauty wrought by the hand of God. 

He is still intimately connected with us as caregivers. He still brings the rain to water the soil of the driest hearts - even though sometimes they are watered with our tears. God continues to bring beauty from ashes. Actually, He appoints beauty for ashes for those who mourn in Zion. (Isaiah 61:3) I remember reading this and thinking, wait  - there's mourning in Zion? Zion is the City of God - His dwelling place and yet there is mourning there. Wow. Yet He appoints beauty for ashes, and the oil of joy for our mourning - right there where we are.

In our moments of mourning, living grief, sadness, loneliness - God brings beautiful growth. Just like the beautiful flowers in the midst of dry rocky soil - somehow He is able to bring a thing of beauty out of our lives. Oftentimes, we don't see it ourselves, but it's there. His handiwork drawing intricately beautiful spots in the midst of our wilderness.

Today, I'm going to thank Him for continuing to work in me - even in the midst. I will trust that He is bringing beauty even when I don't see it or feel it myself. I pray that others see the beauty He brings  as they are on their own journey of faith. I will ask Him to show me the beauty He as appointed to me - in Zion. Will you join me?

Monday, July 13, 2020

I Can Do Today

As I was taking a card to my aunt out to the mailbox this morning, I thought of all that was on my plate for just today. Taking care of Chris is more stressful right now as he has some type of upper respiratory situation going on. Now an x-ray has been ordered for today adding one more thing to my plate. That's okay as my primary responsibility is to care for him. Of course, at the same time, work started coming in (which is a good thing - you know?) and the day got complicated quickly. 

All this and more was weighing on my heart and mind as I made the short trip to the mailbox and back. I don't think I've felt this alone in a long time. I'm weary. I'm tired. And yes, those are two different things. I'm stressed - On top of all that are the growing fears of aging. How long will I be able to continue caring for him? I let out a huge sigh, and thought, I am okay today. I can do today... And for today - that is enough.

The caregiver's journey is not an easy one and all of our pictures look different, yet similar. But we can do today. Jesus told us that today is the only day we are to be concerned about. We know better than anyone that a day can bring many different things - tragedy or joy. In Matthew 6, Jesus addressed this issue. He told His disciples in verse 34 that each day has enough trouble for itself - don't borrow worry from tomorrow. (My loose translation.) 

He also told His disciples the Kingdom of God is our primary concern. As believers, that's already secured, right? 

Today, I will just focus on today without worrying about tomorrow. I will focus on how the kingdom of God doesn't change based on today's circumstances. I will wait on Him and trust Him to carry me through just today. With Him - I can do today! Will you join me?

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

In the Storm

Last night was one of those long nights far too many caregivers are familiar with. I was up and down all night with Chris. These nights are the ones that wear on your body, soul, and spirit. As caregivers, we run wide open - and it doesn't take much to send us over the brink. For most of us, the day-to-day is stressful and we hold it together for everyone else while we're not sure we are going to make it.

Some of that stems from fear especially as we get older. My own thoughts war against me when I think about how much longer I'll be able to care for my son. How many long nights can this old body endure? lol. I laugh because it makes it easier and it's better than crying.  The fear is real, though and it makes the long nights wear on my mind longer than on my body. I'll hopefully catch a nap today and sleep tonight and my body will recover. But my mind keeps sparring with my soul. 

It's here - in the midst of the storm that it's easy to lose our focus. The waves keep washing over the sides of our proverbial ship trying to take us down. It's in this storm we can lose heart. We can feel overcome, lost at sea. It's an emotional battle that can rage day after long day. But we don't automatically learn to trust Him more - it's a choice to trust Him and not focus on the storm.

The question becomes for us if we can trust Him in the storm. But the real question becomes can He trust us - in the storm? Job endured, and God knew that he would. God knew Job wouldn't give in. God trusted Job. Can He trust us with the storm? Will we continue to hold on to Him? Will we continue to run to Him? Will we trust Him when it is all out of sync and nothing is running smoothly?

Today, my declaration is that I will continue to trust Him - He is my only help, the sustainer of my soul - my rearguard, my rock, my shelter... I will purposefully run to Him today and cast myself at His feet. And today, I may just lay there for a while and wait for His peace to wash over my soul once again. Will you join me? His peace will come...

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Quietly Determined

This morning I was reading the last few verses of Habakkuk where the prophet said this:  Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls- Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. As I read and reread this familiar passage, I thought about the determination behind what Habakkuk said. He was living in tumultuous times kind of like we are - yet he determined to praise God and trust His salvation.

As caregivers, I think we do that a lot. We quietly determine not to be swept away by the tide of caregiving. I know you understand those longest days where it takes all we have to keep our heads above the proverbial waters. Many people don't have a clue the types of decisions, choices, and tasks we face each and every day and the toll it can take on us mentally and emotionally.

On top of all that - there's the day-to-day physical tasks we must do for another. I think many times, we even miss the weight of the matter - we are involved so in ensuring the comfort and care of our loved ones, we don't even realize the toll it takes. We just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Habakkuk was facing difficult situations too. He possibly felt overwhelmed or like he was being sucked under the circumstances he was in. He quietly determined to bless God in the midst of the mess. Isaiah 30:15 says in quietness and confidence will be your strength. 

God is faithful. When we cry out to Him even in the most difficult circumstances, He fills us with His peace, wisdom, and strength. Sometimes, He carries us. But it's in those most intimate moments we learn to trust Him more. 

Today, I will turn my thoughts to how He cares for me - the caregiver. I'll be determined quietly to let Him carry me through this day. My meditations will be on how intimacy with Him is what lifts me up where I can sense His peace over the storms of life. And I will rest in Him for one more day as He carries me through. Will you join me?

Monday, July 6, 2020

Back to the Basics

I hear myself use the phrase as if caregiving wasn't enough often. Just because I became a caregiver, it doesn't stop the rest of life from happening, right? It really seems like there should be an exemption card though since our plate is already full. But I guess in fairness if we were exempt from bad stuff, we'd have to be exempt from good stuff too. 

The world was crazy enough and then went into hyper-cray0cray mode a few months back. I have to avoid the news most of the time to keep my own head in the caregiving game and prevent myself from crashing into the emotional abyss. But I do know there is still a pandemic (an added worry for the caregiver), riots everywhere, shootings, protests, and lots going on out there. As if all that wasn't enough - I saw this morning that China has a case of Bubonic Plaque - unheard of for years. It's enough to drive you to the brink of crazy or depressed. 

As I was thinking about all this, I was like, what else?  We must be living in the last days. I knew they were going to be bad - but this bad? And I do know, they are bound to get much worse. That can be a frightening thought, can't it? Especially when you are taking care of other people. As my silent sigh ascended, my mind went immediately to a familiar verse. 

Micah 6: 8 says this: he has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. That seemed to make the load a bit lighter. You know as a caregiver our plates are seriously full and so are our emotions - good and bad. This verse brought me a bit of peace this morning as it broke my requirements down into small, manageable pieces.

We just need to do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God. That means keeping our focus on Him and His kingdom instead of all the craziness around us, right? The kingdom of God did not change, move, weaken or fret when we became caregivers, and it's not doing any of that in response to this gone-crazy world either. That's something to hang your hope on. 

Today, I will turn my attention to the kingdom of God. It hasn't moved, been shaken, or changed due to my situation or any other situation. My thoughts will be on the unchangeableness of God  and how He remains faithful. I'll sit right here with Him today because I know He can handle anything and everything that might get thrown my way. Will you join me?

Friday, July 3, 2020

Be Still...Still Be

I meditate a lot on Psalm 46:10 which says to, Be still and know I am God. I even wrote a little song about it and lately, I've sung it quite a bit. Many of the blog posts on this devotional for caregivers are focused on just being still and knowing He is God. He is the one constant in the caregiver's life; the one thing (person) that doesn't change in what can be a very fluid life.

This morning I started thinking about this verse and my thoughts led me to how He is a shelter for me. He's the only place I can run to and find peace, hope, and unconditional love. My thoughts turned to running to Him and I thought, I don't have anywhere else to run to. Then, I thought, I am not looking for someplace else to run to. Lol. Even those times when faith is wearing thin and I cannot seem to find Him in my day-to-days, I still run back to Him. I do not have a safer place to run to.

Even in the thick caregiver's fog, I still keep running to Him. My "be still" and know turned into "I will still be...."

  • I will still be running to Him
  • I will still be trusting Him
  • I will still be seeking Him
  • I will still be looking to Him for strength.....
I will still be.... - you fill in the blank. No matter how dark the night gets, He will still be our light. No matter how treacherous life's road gets, He will still be our guide. No matter how stormy life's seas get, He will still be our peace. 

Today, I'm going to meditate on my still be... as well as His still be's. I will turn my thoughts to how He continues to provide, care for and take care of me and I'll be grateful. And I am thankful He didn't send me off on this difficult journey alone, He chose to walk it with me. Aren't you glad He doesn't abandon or forsake us when it gets ugly or hard? My thoughts today will be on how He will still be faithful...as I trust Him for one more day. will you join me.

Monday, June 8, 2020

I Will Not Be Afraid

Chris and Deano
Over the weekend, I started a new project. It's a branch of another one I started earlier. Right now I am just studying it, but it might end up being a devotional. I wanted to take a look at the declarations made by the psalmists. Many psalms start out with honest, raw emotions, go into a prayer, and end with a declaration. That's not always the case, but there are lots of declarations made throughout the psalms, and they are usually in the midst of a trial of some kind. 

The declaration in Psalm 3 stood out to me as I started on this journey through the Psalms. As usual, the psalm starts with the problem at hand. David is running from his son, Absalom who is trying to dethrone him. He cries out to the Lord about his situation. Lord, how they have increased who trouble me! Many are they who rise up against me. I think we can relate on some level here. As if caregiving wasn't enough in our lives we have now lived through a pandemic. And as if a health crisis wasn't enough, there has been financial ramifications. If money woes hasn't been enough there is political unrest and rioting in the streets of our land. There is so much strife, hatred, and discontent. 

It can feel like those things that chip away at our sanity and peace are increasing all around, because they are. But like David we can turn our thoughts into prayers. Lord, you are my shield. We can cry to God like David did. And then we can declare: 

I will lay down and sleep - and awake for the Lord sustains me.
I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people (situations, problems, rioters, etc) who set themselves against me all around.

I will not be afraid.....

We can declare freedom from fear - while shaking in our boots. We can declare our trust in God no matter what else this world throws in the mix. He is our glory. He is the lifter of our heads. His blessings are on us no matter what is going on around us.

Today, I will declare I will not give in to the fears trying to rise in my own heart. I will move in a little closer to His heart and let Him hold me close. I will trust Him with today. Just today. Will you join me?

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

When Life is Heavy

chris and me
There is so much going on in the world around us, since I am about being honest and transparent, I must say I am overwhelmed. As if caregiving wasn't enough to carry we had the national shut down in response to the Coronavirus plus the fears of loved ones contracting it. Now there is racial unrest, rightfully so. And to top it off there is rioting and threats being made to our safety daily. Sometimes I do wish we got an exempt card from the rest of life when we become caregivers. lol. But if we skipped the bad  - we'd also have to skip the good, right?

On top of all of this shared load, I've had a couple of situations at work that have made me feel devalued, less than. For someone who struggles with self-esteem and rejection it makes it tough to focus on the truth, you know?

Life is just heavy right now for all of us - or at least for anyone paying any amount of attention. It's so heavy I feel it weighing on me physically and I cannot seem to get out from underneath the load. This makes it harder for me personally to accept my situation with my son and it tries to suck me into that deep chasm of depression. I think about who he was, all we are missing, etc - I know you know the drill.

As my custom is - I go to the Word for encouragement. For relief. I only have one scripture that comes to mind. casting all your care on Him, for He cares for you. (I Peter 5:7) This sounds wonderful, doesn't it? But then my mind kicks in and I realize I have to let things go if I am to give them to Him. I cannot coddle my fears and nurse my hurts if I give them to Him. 

I like the second part of this verse that says, He cares for you.  I have to give it all to Him and then let Him do the caring for me. That's not easy for those of us who really like to be in control, is it? But we can do it! I must pour out my heavy heart before Him and then let Him bear the pain, suffering, sadness, and burden for me.

If we look on down to the last part of verse 10, we'll see the end goal of casting our cares on Him and remaining sober and vigilant. He will perfect (mature), establish, strengthen, and settle us. I think I like the last term best - settle. He can bring a calming settling peace that's not available anywhere else. We give Him our burdens, and they are many, and He brings peace in our hearts (individually and collectively), strengthens us, establishes us in Him, and settles it all.

Today in the midst of the turmoil, I will remind myself that I am still His kid. I have not been rejected, cast away, or ignored. He still loves. He still cares. His eye is still on us. My prayers will be for Him to mature us, establish His kingdom in us, strengthen us for the battle, and settle us in His love. I will rest in His love today - will you join me?

Friday, May 29, 2020

Song of Hope

I'm still pulling stuff out of Hosea 2, so bear with me because I'm getting a lot out of this little passage! I hope you are too. Yesterday we looked at how He brings comfort and provides in the midst of the wilderness. Today, let's look at the next little bit - it's powerful, I'm telling you!

Verse 17 says this: I will give her vineyards from there, and the Valley of Achor as a door of hope. What's interesting is that "Achor" means pain. Caregivers are familiar with pain and loss. It doesn't matter what type of caregiving you do, there are lots of responsibilities that go with taking care of another whole person. There will be losses, good days and bad days, sorrow and joy, self-sacrifice, and pain.

But right there in the Valley of Pain, God provides a door of hope. God always has hope for us on reserve - He never runs out. Even in the longest, darkest night - He provides hope. Sometimes it appears as a small glimmer of light - but it is there even in pain. He is the God of hope - the giver of hope- the sustainer of hope. And He shares it with us.

The next part of this verse stood out to me this morning. And she shall sing there. Wow. We can sing of His love, His care, His strength, and His hope right in the midst of our mess. No matter how hopeful or how dire the circumstances, a song of hope can rise. Why is that? God sees the pain our souls are so familiar with - why a song? Maybe the answer lies in the next couple of verses.

God says He would not be known as master anymore - but as husband. I don't know what that means to you - but to me it speaks of intimacy. He doesn't just want to be our lord - He desires intimacy with us. Exodus 34:14 in the New Living Translation says He is a God who is passionate about a relationship with His people. He just wants to live with us heart-to-heart. Caregiving doesn't change His desire for us. He still loves us and longs for relationship. I love that.

Today, I will rejoice that even in the pains of caregiving, God doesn't distance Himself. He draws closer instead, He still longs for us. My meditations will be on how He desires to be close and intimate with all our ways. I will be thankful that caregiving doesn't scare Him away. I'll take comfort in the fact that He draws closer when others pull away. Will you join me?

Thursday, May 28, 2020

From There...

As I was writing yesterday's post, the story of God showing Hagar the well in the wilderness, another passage familiar to me came to mind. It's found in Hosea. God is chasing Israel and having the prophet act it out in real life. (That's a loose translation of what's going on here.)

In verses 14 and 15 of chapter two, God says, Therefore, behold, I will allure her, will bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfort to her. I will give her her vineyards from there, and the Valley of Achor as a door of hope, she shall sing there....

I love this passage as God is wooing Israel and bringing her to Himself. Note that He brings her to the wilderness, the same place He found Hagar. First, He speaks comfort to her. We all need that, don't we? Especially in our uncertain days with the Coronavirus and all the craziness surrounding it, we need His comfort and peace. Here, He offers it. He does not withhold comfort - He speaks it into her. I trust He does the same thing for us.

The second thing about this passage is God's provision. He says He will give her her vineyards from the wilderness. It says, "from there" so I assume the "there" is the wilderness He brought her to. God was good about bringing and meeting people in the wilderness to talk with them. He brought the Children of Israel out of Egypt unto Himself - He took Ezekiel to the wilderness to talk with him, He met Moses on the backside of the wilderness to call him. Note to self: God did not take her out of the wilderness to provide for her - He gave her her vineyards from there. I love that - He can provide for us in the wilderness of life - period. He doesn't have to wait for the climate to change, He doesn't wait until the stock market recovers - or until we have all of our proverbial ducks in a row. He doesn't wait until we get out of the wilderness. He provides for us right smack dab in the midst of the mess.

Remember that Isaac went to Gerar and famine was in the land. But in the midst of the famine, it says that Isaac sowed in that land (the one suffering a famine) and received in the same year a hundredfold, and the Lord blessed him.... and we could add from there.

I don't know about you - but I find it very comforting that God can touch us right where we are and bless us from there. Don't you?

Today, I will thank Him from my "from there." I'll be grateful that He can see me where I am and doesn't exclude caregivers from any of His promises or provisions due to our situations. I'll take comfort knowing He sees us right where we are and reaches to us right where we are. My meditations will be on His power to see us - and His heart toward us even in the ugly. And I will trust Him for just one more day as I trust Him for provision from here. Will you join me?


Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Seen and Heard

I've talked a lot about Hagar, but I keep going back to her story. In Genesis 16 when she despised Sarah and ran away, god found her. He told her to go back. She called God the God who sees. How wonderful to know we are seen by God. It's comforting to know He does not distance Himself from our day-to-days, isn't it?

Then, in Genesis 22, Sarah and Abraham sent Hagar and her son Ishmael who was about 15 away. Hagar was distraught and thought her son was going to die before her eyes. But then in verse 17, it says God heard the voice of the lad. Then the angel of God called to her from heaven. This God who sees - still sees. He was still watching over her and her son. But He not only sees - He hears!

 Then verse 17 says that God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water in the midst of the wilderness. The God who sees - made her to see a way in the wilderness. What she had thought meant certain death, became a well of life.

How wonderful that God sees and hears. He sees where we are, knows what is going on in our lives up close and personal. But He also hears the cries in our hearts. He hears those cries that are so deep they cannot escape and the ones that escape as a silent cry or sigh. He's that close. Just like He followed Hagar and Ishmael into the wilderness, He has followed us into the caregiving wilderness.

And right here in our wilderness, He will reveal wells of water, wells of life. Somehow He continues to sustain us day after day. He sees -He hears - and He makes us see and hear as we lean in to Him.

Today, I will be thankful that He continues to watch over my heart and keep my soul. I will lean in to His heart today and my meditations will be on how He knows what we need and He always provides. I'll be looking for the water of life today in this wilderness, and I will trust Him to sustain my soul. Will you join me?

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Longing for Morning

I'm still on my journey through the psalms or Songs of Ascents. Today, I'm gleaning from Psalm 130. Honestly, I think I love all the psalms - they are open, raw, and honest. This one starts that way too. The psalmist says, Out of the depths I have cried to You, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice! That sounds a bit like yesterday when we were looking at the dark night of the soul and some of the long nights caregivers often endure.

One thing I like about many of the psalms is that after the prayer, after the complaint and all the crying out - there is a declaration. This psalm is no different. In verse 5,  the Psalmist says, I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I do hope. My loose interpretation is this: I may be calling out to Him for help in a time of desperation, but I still know His word is my hope and I will declare that I am waiting on Him alone.

In the next verse, he goes on to say - My soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning - I'm pretty sure, I've spent a lot of caregiving nights watching for the morning. It can be intense waiting for the light of day. Many of us have driven all night, or been up all night with a sick and leaned into that morning light. It can be a long, hard wait - but always worth it. Now, if I can bring that kind of intense waiting over to my soul and long for Him just as eagerly.

Today, I will declare that my soul waits for Him, and for Him alone. I will turn every ounce of my being toward Him and stretch out my faith to touch Him today. As I wait for Him, I will declare that He is my help, my sustenance, and my hope. And I will hope in Him today as I long for morning in my soul. Will you join me?

Monday, May 25, 2020

Scared of the Moon?

I've never been scared of the moon, have you? This question came to mind as I was reading Psalm 121. Verses 5 and say this The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand. the sun shall not strike you by day nor the moon by night. Of course my thoughts ran away with it and I had lots of scenarios run through my mind.

Seriously, I get that He is our shade from the sun. It can be scalding hot especially at full day. But the moon? Really? But as my thoughts wandered around, I thought about how long some nights have been. While midnight doesn't have the heat of the day - it can be the dark night of the soul. The darkness at night can chip away at our peace and our sanity. This is especially true when things are not going smoothly or we are going through an even more difficult time.

Just like God protects our souls from the heat of the noonday sun, He protects our hearts from the thick darkness of the night. It's usually between 2 and 4 when I start to cave. It's dark, I've been up most, if not all, of the night, usually, Chris is sick or uncomfortable. My faith starts to wane and questions multiply. Do You care, God? Do You see this? Can You hear me? Where are Your promises now?

Nor the moon by night. He is so patient as we vent during those times and He doesn't ever cast us aside. He waits. Then with morning light usually comes peace and answers so we can move on. He never even reminds us of all those things we say when the moon is out. He is patient and kind when we are frustrated and heartbroken.

Today, I will meditate on His patience, and I will thank Him. My thoughts will be how He continues to sustain and protect my soul even when I am a mess. I'll remind myself that He remains the same through the heat of the day and the dark of the night. I really can trust Him to keep my soul! I will rest in that thought today - will you join me?

Sunday, May 24, 2020

When Normal is Not Normal

 This morning I was reading through the psalms called the Song of Ascents. These psalms include Psalm 120 through Psalm 134. As I understand them, they were sung as the journey to Zion or Jerusalem was made. They most likely sang them happily as they were excited about returning to the temple and the gathering of the people.

Psalm 133 talks about dwelling together as brethren. David penned that it was pleasant and good to be together. I am sure for the church crowd the next couple of weeks will be like that. As the coronavirus winds down and things return to some sort of normal, people are excitedly returning to their church services.

For the last few months, churches scrambled to have Sunday School, Bible Study, small groups, and services online. I had a slight sense of disappointment when it all started. Why? Because I'd been shut off for so long and none of this was available. But once they needed it - it became the new norm. Now that they won't need it again - things look likely to return back to their normal - and the normal for many caregivers - isolated again.

That normal hasn't worked for many caregivers for a long time, and now it may be the new normal once again. I feel for caregivers who cannot get out. Maybe we should start a Caregiver's Church - all virtual of course. At least we would be isolated together!

Social isolation is a real concern and many caregivers, elderly individuals, and those who are very ill suffer from it every day. That's the norm for too many people. And lately, I've seen more people who are alone even though married, or living in the same house with others. It's sad that we are not more together. However, I can say this - we are not alone. You are not alone. Even though we do not have the luxury of gathering with the brethren in unity and enjoying the pleasantness that provides, God is with us.

As we adjust back to a normal that is still not normal, may we remember that we aren't alone - and we've never been alone. Jesus said He would not ever leave us. He is with us always. My prayer today is for the caregivers and those they care for who are forced into living an isolated life. May we all recall that God is everpresent. He sees. He knows. He cares. (I wonder if He would do a virtual meeting! lol - you know I'm kidding!)

Today, I will keep my focus on the One who never leaves us. My meditations will be on His ever-abiding presence. He won't walk away - He won't abandon us to go back to "normal." I'll be thankful that He is always as near as our breath. I'll take a deep breath now and then to remind myself. I thank Him for being near. Will you join me?

Thursday, May 21, 2020

The Anchor Holds

This morning as I was meditating on Isaiah 26:3, I thought of an old song. It's called The Anchor Holds. One line says, though the ship is battered. Sometimes it can feel like life is a battering ram that keeps coming back to crush us over and over. Thankfully, this is not an everyday thing for most of us, but for some caregivers, it can feel that way.

As caregivers, we can just get tired. You know what I mean? It takes a lot to do everything for a day for two adults.  Dressing, bathing, feeding, entertaining all take energy, especially when it comes to another whole person no matter what their age or size. It can be exhausting.

I was preparing for my live devotions this morning and found my thoughts going around and around Isaiah 26:3. You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You. Because He trusts in You. Underneath all the busy-ness of our minds and bodies there remains a peace we can count on. Even though our minds can chase a lot of thoughts in a day - we always reel it in and bring it back to Him. And that is where we find perfect peace. No matter how stormy it gets - we find our peace in Him. That's been an anchor that has held me securely all my life - and the last 12 years of caregiving too.

I was focusing on verse three, but when I looked it up to actually lay eyes on it, I grabbed the next verse too. Verse four says Trust in the Lord forever, for in Yah, the Lord, is everlasting strength. I'm so glad He is not selfish and shares His strength with us, aren't you?

Today, I will keep trusting Him - it's not the day to give up! My crazy, hurried thoughts I will turn into prayers to the God who sees, to God - who cares. I'll keep bringing my mind back to Him no matter how hectic the day becomes because I trust Him. And I will trust Him - for one more day. Will you join me?

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

The Simplest Things

Yesterday, while I was on my walk around the neighborhood, I saw a field of wildflowers. Their simple beauty caught my attention and I stopped to take a few pictures of them. It was a little spot of beauty in the midst of my troubled thoughts. I enjoyed them.

Sometimes, it's the simplest things that bring us joy, isn't it? Maybe we get to see a grandchild, hug a kid, or talk on the phone with a friend. And sometimes, it's just a little lonely but beautiful flower that says, all is well. It was a gentle flower swaying in the light breeze, but for a moment it lightened my heavy load and gave my eyes something beautiful to see. It directed my mind to something of beauty instead of the thoughts running through.

Think about the shortest, simplest verse in the Bible. Jesus wept. These two words are simple, but they stand out, don't they. In that moment we see that Jesus, the Son of God, was indeed human. He feels. He cries. Even though that is a simple statement, we know that He gets us. He understands our grief, our worries, our hurts. Psalm 78:39 says He remembered they are but flesh. He knows our frailty and how difficult it can be to trust Him in the storm. He gets us.

That's a lot to draw out of such a simple verse, isn't it? The caregiver's life is anything but simple - it's always complex. And just about the time you think things are settling down something will happen to remind you that it's not a passive lifestyle. God's love and care are simple - yet complex enough to meet us right where we are.

Today, I will think about the simple things - like the truth that God loves us right where we are and how we are. My meditation will be on how He understands my heart and knows all those things I do not have the words to express. I'll be thankful that He sees, He loves, and He reaches into our messes to bring us His peace and comfort; because He gets us. I'll thank Him for that - will you join me?

Monday, May 18, 2020

Attitude of Gratitude

In Oklahoma, things are starting to make a move back toward something that vaguely resembles normal. For caregivers, it may not look much different than our "norm" anyway. But it does seem to cause a sense of uneasiness. Things are normal - but they are not. People are getting back out - but it's not the same yet. Churches are opening their doors but some are not. It's an interesting time to be alive with equally interesting things to observe, isn't it?

While things seem to be getting some better in a few ways, it still feels disruptive. Who do we trust for information, if anyone? How do we know it's safe or not safe for ourselves or our loved ones. The continued uncertainty can lead to these and many more questions that don't have simple, easy answers.

As thoughts were racing through my head this morning, I struggled to get a grip on them and tried to slow them down. I read a few verses here and there and then settled in Psalm 100. Enter His gates with thanksgiving in your heart and His courts with praise...I thought about that for a while and then started to think about things I could be thankful for today.

I know I have shelter, food, and clothing for today. My kids and grandkids are here and in good health. I thanked Him for a beautiful morning for a walk and for the strength and breath to do it. From there, it began to blossom outwards as other things I could be thankful for ran through my mind. It really did help my outlook and my attitude even though I know I have a long day ahead.

Today, take a moment or two, or three to thank Him. Start with your breath and beating heart and work out from there. It helps shape your day and your attitude about everything. There is always something to be thankful for - always. Start with the truth that He didn't abandon us in time. He walks through time with us - we are never alone. My meditations today will focus on finding things to thank Him for. Will you join me?

Friday, May 15, 2020

The Calm in the Storm

I live in Oklahoma so storms are nothing new to me. Even today we have a high risk for severe storms. We just watch the weather a lot. lol. I know that if I'm going to get Chris out for his 20 minutes of vitamin D therapy I'll have to do it while the sun is shining and before the storms roll in.

As a child, I had a horrible fear of storms. I think it comes from when I was about 10 our neighbor's house was struck by lightning. I remember watching out the window from our couch in the living room while the firefighters worked to extinguish it. When I was a teen a house on our block had the same thing happen. I ran outside and watched as their house burned to the ground. In both instances, the people were fine. But I think it made me fear storms a bit.

As an adult, I've worked past all those fears. I am cautious, but not afraid during storms. Yesterday I was reading in Mark 4 where the disciples got in a boat to "go to the other side" with Jesus. In the middle of the water, a storm arose and they were frightened. They woke Jesus up and told Him they were all dying and asked if He even cared. Jesus said, "Peace, be still." And then asked them why they had such little faith. Jesus not only calmed the storm - He was the calm in the storm.

He had no fear even though it was raging all around their boat. Sometimes I wish the storms of life were that easy to tame, don't you? Every day of caregiving can be stormy weather no matter how well we've adjusted to our new norm. But just when we are sure we are going to die, Jesus speaks peace. Doesn't He?

Some days it's easier to find that peace - other days it seems to elude me. But He is always in the boat. He doesn't get out and go back to shore, He doesn't abandon when the waves start rocking our boats around. He is patient and gently commands peace. I appreciate that. You see, no matter how frazzled I am, no matter how antsy or anxious I become - He can calm the storms of my heart with a simple word. Sometimes, His presence is all it takes.

Today, I will meditate on the peace Jesus gives me. Even though my soul feels storm-tossed, I will focus on the underlying peace and the sense of security I have because I know He's in the boat with me. My prayer will be to experience His peace today - for me and for you.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Non Essential

This pandemic hasn't been easy on anyone no matter where you stand on the issue. It's difficult for those on the front lines, without a doubt. It's hard for those who are working, those out of work and those hanging in between in uncertainty. At first, I was a bit amused that so many were having to learn about the social isolation many of us as caregivers are accustomed to. the world responded and it was nice to have access for a brief time to so many Bible studies, teachings, and classes all online. We could finally be a part, right?

But then it seemed to me as if we got pushed further to the back if that was possible. I have to admit I was a little offended but got over it quickly. We've been isolated for years and many of the churches haven't offered an online presence until they needed it. I admit I felt slighted a bit. I translated that as we were not worth the effort. I'm sure no one meant it that way at all - but that's how I interpreted it. And then when we did meet the talk was all about how fast they could get back to their "normal" with no regard for those of us who won't be able to transition back. I felt discarded.

Then, I'm trying to buy common supplies. You know the stuff we need every single month and will continue to need forever once the pandemic has run its course. I needed adult wipes and gloves and they were nowhere to be found. Oh yeah, I'm non-essential. Now I am not minimizing the need of those on the front lines - I do understand that. But I literally cannot find gloves or order them online. This deepened the sense that I am disposable and unimportant in the scheme of things.

My emotions were collapsing and I was being sucked down into the vacuum of despair as if I no longer existed. I struggled with thoughts like I am not important and no one cares. Loneliness swept over my soul until I could not breathe or feel anymore. I honestly hope you don't understand.

Then I thought about David when he came back to Ziklag. He was in that sort of despair. He was battle-worn (can we relate?), he was tired (relate?), then he suffers the loss of his wives and children who have been taken captive, the town has been burned to the ground and to add to his despair - his fellow soldiers blame him for the whole thing. He had to suffer that deep lonely feeling we understand too well.

But David didn't wallow in it like I do. (insert smile) After the men wept until they could weep no more (NLT), it says he encouraged himself in the Lord. Then he prayed. I wonder how he encouraged himself. Did he sing a psalm he wrote? Did he think back to the ways God had blessed him in the past? I wish I had more details. But I know where I can start.

First, I will find something to be grateful for and I'll thank God for as many things tangible and intangible that I can think of. I'll start with grace, His love, and salvation and build out from there. While I already feel better, I will continue to build on that foundation. Then, I will praise God because my lowly circumstances do not change Him one iota. Not one thing shifted in His kingdom when the bottom fell out of my world. I'll put my focus on the things about God that do not change. That will be my praise and my meditation today. Will you join me?

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Not Okay

One thing I enjoy about reading the psalms is the open transparency of the writers. They just lay it all out there - no matter what it is they are thinking or feeling. They have lots of questions for God and they are not afraid to ask them.

I was raised in a time that forbid us to ask our questions. We were supposed to just muddle ahead no matter what we thought. Questions were taboo - especially if the preacher didn't have an answer to thinks that didn't make sense. Well you know what? Life just doesn't always make sense, does it?

I am sure it didn't make sense to Moses to bring the children of Israel out of Egypt and run smack dab into the Red Sea! I'm sure it didn't make sense to Joseph to have dreams given by God in his youth only to end up as a slave for all those years. Things do not always make sense to us because we cannot see past our present circumstances.

I was reading in Psalm 34 this morning about God's deliverance. The psalmist says many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers them out of them all.  My honest thought was, "He has not delivered me." You know? I kept thinking when Chris first had his wreck that God was going to come riding through on His white horse and whisk us away in a sea of healing and restoration. Well, obviously that isn't going to happen. I wonder if Joseph ever wondered about God's deliverance all those years. He couldn't have written a better script himself, huh?

So then, I had to turn to Psalm 77. Asaph is the psalmist this time and he's sharing his not okays with the reader. He goes so far to say, I'm so distressed even to pray! He is mourning his past and feels like God has rejected. In verse 7, Asaph says, Has the Lord rejected me forever? Will He never be kind to me? ...Have His promises permanently failed? The faith-ers don't like those questions. Because they have no answers to them. But they are real and they are heartfelt.

But down in verse 11 Asaph gives himself the answer. He says even if I'm not seeing God move now - even if I'm not seeing Him bring the deliverance I wanted - I will recall all you have done. So, even if we cannot see God working right here, right now. We can encourage ourselves with those things we have seen Him do in the past.

Today, I will make a list of the ways He has delivered me in the past. I'll thank Him for those known healings. For those times He has provided direction, wisdom, and guidance through the Holy Spirit. I'll meditate on the things I have seen Him do before today - before I became "not okay." These will be my meditation and I will remind myself of all His mighty works. Then, I'll rest in Him and trust Him with just today. Will you join me?


Friday, May 8, 2020

Square One

Life has a way of humbling us, doesn't it? Just about the time we start getting things together, it can all fall apart. For me, it's usually a long sleepiness night or two or three in a row that kicks me in the gut. It's in those midnight hours that I cry out to God and honestly wonder where He went and if He even hears. My thoughts go so far as to wonder if He hears does He care?

I consider myself a mature Christian, I write Bible study guides and devotionals for crying out loud. But when I am up all night with Chris struggling to breathe and I've used all the asthma medications and strategies I have - it wears on the soul. That's what it is that takes me back to square one. What is it for you?

Maybe it's those moments when your mom no longer remembers who you are. Or you finally get to FaceTime with her and she won't even wake up enough to say "hi." (That happened to me yesterday.) No one ever said caregiving would be easy. If they did, it's safe to call them a liar. lol. But it certainly strains every one of my faith muscles.

But it's always short-lived no matter how gut-wrenching the midnight hours become. I do a live devotion on Facebook each morning and I opened my Bible to prepare for it after listening to Chris cough most of the night last night. My Bible fell open to Psalm 62 and my eyes landed on verse 5. My soul wait silently for God alone, For my expectation is from Him. My soul nodded in agreement.

I continue to read on through verse eight where the psalmist says pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge or us. I'm reminded that it's okay to tell God exactly what you think and how you feel. It's not like it surprises Him anyway. And there He was once again - meeting me at square one.

When I feel totally faithless - He shows up. He doesn't wait for me to get my faith filled back up to a religiously-appropriate level. He meets me right where I am the weakest and reminds me that He is still my rock. He is still my hope. He is still my refuge. I can trust Him.

Today, I will be thankful that He patiently meets me at square one when I find myself there. He does not throw judgment my way- instead, He just reminds me that He is there too. He is so faith-full.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

That's Mine

This morning I was reading through Philippians. There were actually several things that stood out to me. I'll try not to unload them all here today. Lol. I read Paul's heartfelt prayers for the Philippian Christians and the way he encouraged them to stand in their faith.

As I read Pual's encouraging words I kept thinking this thought over and over. That's still for me! In the first chapter, Paul explains that God,  who had started a good work in them - would complete it. We can claim that. It's still ours and becoming a caregiver or a caregiver doesn't change it a bit! He's still working in us. Our situation doesn't dictate to God - He dictates to our situation.

Later in chapter one, the apostle encourages the new believers to continue striving for the gospel. That still applies. We see people online and off who still need to hear that God loves them and that He longs for a relationship with them. We are still carriers of the good news. Our circumstances are not strong enough to erase the message of love He has toward us and all mankind.

In chapter 2, Paul speaks to the Christian community in Philippi and says It is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. He's still working in us! He still takes pleasure in our growth as we learn to trust Him more. Our present standing in this world is not strong enough or bad enough to take away His works in our lives. He continues to work toward revealing His glory in and through us.

Today, I encourage you to read Philippians again - with new eyes and with a heart that continues to say That's mine - and that's mine too! God has not changed His mind about you! He has not changed His will about you. He didn't give up when life got ugly. He didn't say "never mind" when we got confused. His love is still toward us and He longs to fellowship with our hearts. I will make a moment today to be quiet before Him and acknowledge that He is still on the throne of my heart - and I'll be thankful He didn't move out when the road got rocky! Will you join me?

Monday, May 4, 2020

In the Wilderness




me and chris
In preparation for a session I'm doing tomorrow, I studied one of my favorite psalms this morning. You know what's so cool? The word of God is alive  - it never changes but always reached into whatever state we are and brings new life. I've read Psalm 29 thousands of times. I've taught from it. But here I am looking at it with new eyes. We change - the word doesn't. But it miraculously reaches into our situations time and time again to bring new insights for us. 

So in verse 8, David says the voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness. I am the first to say that it doesn't sound pleasant. It sounds a bit scary really. But there are two significant things that will help change our perspectives. The first thing I want to think about is the term wilderness. Before I started hiking I assumed a wilderness was a dry, barren desert region. This is absolutely not so. Living in Lousiana gave me access to the Kistachie Wilderness area. As I drove there the first time I wondered how it would all turn to desert. What I found was a mountainous region beaming with plants and animals of all kinds. It wasn't barren at all - just undeveloped and mostly untouched by man. 

As caregivers, we can feel like we are in a desert area - no life, no water. Or we may feel we are in a wilderness with life all around us but people are missing. It's a lonely place, the wilderness. But there is life there. There are water and food available. It's rugged and rough but we can keep moving through it. It's not a pleasant place - but we survive day after day.

Now let's look at the word "shake." It may seem like it has a negative connotation to it. But when you look it up in the original, it can mean to bring to birth. Wait. We're talking about the wilderness  - dry and deserted. A lonely place it is. We can't do much but survive - and survive we do! When God shakes our wilderness, it brings forth life. That's right - smack dab in the middle of the most difficult seasons of our lives - He brings birth. 

Today, I will wait for Him to birth life in the seemingly dead areas of my life. I'll wait for His breath to breathe life into my tired soul. Isn't that amazing? He is the author of life - and He'll share it with me to make sure I survive the wildernesses of life. I'm going to watch for His touch today and see how He brings life into my situations. I'll trust Him for breath today. Will you join me?



Thursday, April 30, 2020

Sleepless Nights

This morning, as I was studying the Bible and reading some familiar passages, I landed in Psalm 121. It's an all-time favorite and I made the first verse or two into a song during the three weeks I lived in the ICU waiting room hoping my son would wake up. This first verse speaks of God being our helper and how the psalmist was looking to Him alone for help. It's not the aides, though a good one can be helpful. It's not the doctors or nurses, although they are an integral part of a good care team. But it is the Lord who is our helper - help, especially for our souls, comes solely from Him.

That's something to hold onto to encourage our hearts on a day to day basis, for sure! But today, my thoughts settled on verse 4. He who keeps you will not slumber, behold He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. Now, as a caregiver, you can understand how important the commodity of sleep is. Personally, sometimes I get a decent 6 hours of sleep, but there are many sleepless nights. I get grumpy if I don't get enough sleep even though I don't need as much as others. :-)

God, the ultimate caregiver, doesn't even need to sleep. That means He can keep a constant watch over us day and night. He doesn't take breaks. He doesn't take vacations, and He simply doesn't sleep. His watchful eye is always on us. The KJV says in Psalm 127:2 that the Lord gives to His beloved even in their sleep. I like that.

I love that God doesn't have to rest from being with me. Like a watchful father, He seizes those precious moments like a parent watching a child sleep. Did you ever watch your kid sleep? They seem so precious and innocent. You want to just scoop them up - but don't dare risk waking them, of course! So, you just stand there and watch them breathe.

God watches over us whether we are sleeping or waking and He never takes a break. Sometimes I have fallen into a dead sleep out of sheer exhaustion. Caregivers do that a lot I found out. But God doesn't do that. He sees us in those most exhausted states and extends His grace to us over and over again.

Today, I will be thankful that God continues to watch over us and He never takes a break. My thoughts will be on how He enjoys just watching us breathe. I'll meditate on His nearness and declare with the psalmist that the nearness of God is my good. And I will trust Him for just one more day. Will you join me?

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Grandma's Poem

We've all had to make some adjustments during this pandemic. One thing I am grateful for is having my son home with me.  My aunt is in one nursing facility and my mom in another. Fortunately, both nursing homes have been proactive about connecting residents with their loved ones via technology. I can call and Facetime with my mom and I can send a message to skype with my aunt. I try to visit with each of them at least once a week. Monday, I talked with my aunt for a bit. Today, I got to visit with my mom. 

Mama doesn't talk much anymore. She will answer questions, mostly "yes" or "no" questions. She giggles a lot and cries when I call. The calls don't last too long as there isn't a whole lot to talk about with them. But today I decided to read mama one of my grandma's poems. (Her mother.) She seemed to really respond and acted like she enjoyed it. 

As I was reading it, I thought about how appropriate it is today. My grandmother wrote it years, decades, ago as a song. But I'll type it here as a poem - I hope you enjoy it!

Well my way was hedged and thorny
and I could not see outside.
I could not feel His presence
no matter how I tried.
So I raised my eyes to Jesus 
and though I could not see;
I held on to His promise
and claimed the victory.

Well He heard my feeble effort
tho He knew my faith was dim,
But He honored just that little
that He knew I had in Him.
And He lit my lamp in darkness,
and saved me from a fall 
We smashed a troup together
by faith, we leaped a wall.

Well I stumbled on a secret
and I think I learned it well
when you lift your voice in praises
you can shake the gates of hell.
It is the Lord's to battle, so when I found that out
I let Him do the fighting,
and I just cheer and shout.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Giving and Receiving

I've heard my self quoting the first part of John 14:27 a lot lately. So this morning I decided to look it up. Jesus tells His disciples Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you not as the world gives - do I give to you. But as I read it again this morning, I realized I've been leaving off the last part. It says Let not your heart be troubled - neither let it be afraid. (NASB)

That's important, of course, because Jesus said it, but so that we can keep the peace He gives to us. If you think about the act of giving - it requires the act of receiving. Have you ever given someone something and they give it back? To them, it was interpreted as worthless. It feels horrible when someone does that, doesn't it?

Jesus wants us to receive His peace - we gotta take it - and embrace it. As caregivers, our days can be anything but peaceful sometimes. We hit the floor running most days. Some nights we run all night too - when our loved one doesn't sleep well or is sick. But then we still have to do all the "normal" stuff that makes up our day. There's no exemption card for hard days! We cannot call in sick, either. We have to press through the best we can.

But we do not have to be troubled. We do not have to be afraid. We can choose to embrace His peace. I'll be the first to tell you that some days that's a LOT easier said than done. But it is a matter of choice and a lot of persistence too.

Today, I am going to receive His gift of peace. I don't have to understand it - I just need to embrace it and then LET it rule in my heart instead of uncertainty. My meditation will be on His peace and not life's disruptions. I'll rest in Him today - just today since that's all He told us to handle at a time. My thoughts will remain on the peace He gives me. Will you join me?

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Insert Peace

As the pandemic begins to wind down, questions abound. As caregivers we are charged with the care of the nation's most vulnerable population. Our household has stayed in for 5 or 6 or how ever many weeks now to protect my son and grandson.

Over the next couple of weeks, some businesses will slowly start to open. I'm not sure it looks much different for me. I'm anxious to get Chris out into nature again! But caution wins out ever time I consider it. I don't think it's fear - but who knows what any emotion is at this point? Some of us have numbed out, and some of us nearly stroked out. lol. One thing that brings me comfort is the history of the Spanish flu. It did come to an end. Sadly, it was after many losses.

Not knowing what the days ahead hold can leave us with feelings of uncertainty. Maybe there are some feelings of security and safety from staying in our homes. I'm anxious to see my mom and aunt again, though. I am thankful I have my son at home - I'd be a basket case if he was in a facility. I'd probably go apply to be an aid - for real!

There seem to be so many things to be anxious for as each day unfolds. In Psalm 139:23, David asks God to know my anxious thoughts. On one hand, I'm like, Lord, You might not want to do that - it's a bit scary in there. But on the other hand, I'm all in - asking God to dig through all the crazy places in my mind - and then insert peace.

Isn't it cool that David penned this psalm all those years ago and we have it now to hold on to during this pandemic - storm? David was in earnest prayer without realizing what he was writing would someday be printed (unimaginable) and read by generations to come. I'm thankful for his openness and honesty, aren't you?

Today, my prayer is for God to search all my anxious thoughts and replace them with peace. His peace is lasting. Jesus said His peace wasn't like what the world could give. (John 14:27) My thoughts will pursue His peace today and I'll turn my meditations to embracing it and letting it rule in my heart and mind. Will you join me on that?

Friday, April 24, 2020

No Filter

I stayed in Psalm 139 for my devotions this morning, mostly because I love that chapter. It is so rich. My focus was on verses 7-12. The psalmist is talking about being in God's presence no matter where he goes or might try to hide. No matter where - God could still be found. And God could still see him.

The first thing that stood out to me was in verse 8 where David says if I make my bed in hell - You are there. Of course, my first question is why would you want to do that?  Lol. But once I thought about it a bit longer, I realized if I make a bad choice - God doesn't throw me away. He doesn't have a big buzzer He pushes as He screams, "Wrong answer!" Even when I do dumb stuff - and I do it a lot - He doesn't abandon. He doesn't get exasperated with me or my choices. He continues to walk with me trying to guide me.

The second thing that stood out in my mind today was verse 12 where the psalmist says darkness and light are the same to You. After reading this and the previous verses, it came to me that God sees all the time, and darkness can't hide from Him. Darkness also doesn't have the ability to conceal other things from Him - He can see through it.

We can't really hide from God behind anything - not even caregiving. He sees past our situations and circumstances and peers right into our hearts. Sometimes, people can't see past the caregiving. They forget there's a whole person inside. But God doesn't see us under the shadow of caregiving. He sees us for who we really are. For all we really are.

He sees and understands when we are overwhelmed by grief or confused about what to do. He sees when we are exhausted but still lifting our tired hands and heart up to Him. He even understands why and how our emotions can max out and hit bottom and bounce back in a matter of a couple of minutes. Or seconds. Or milliseconds. He gets us and His view of our hearts is not shrouded by caregiving or life.

Today, I will rejoice that He can see my heart that He understands me and walks with me through the day-to-day stuff. My meditation will be on how He chooses to be close to us (to me). He doesn't shun me because He doesn't know what to do with me. Instead, He moves in a bit closer so He can watch over my heart and keep my soul.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Hide 'n Seek

This morning during my Bible study time, I found myself in Jeremiah. I love this OT prophet! Many look at the book as gloom and doom - but I see God's persistent heart throughout the prophet's writings. He is always reaching out to us whether we are reaching out to Him or not.

I landed in chapter 29 in a familiar passage to most of us. It's always good to revisit familiar passages like this because our vision can change based on our circumstances. Yes, the word of God doesn't change - but our ability to see it differently does. Experiences make so many passages sweeter, doesn't it? One of my favorite worship leaders, Dennis Jernigan, says the drier the desert, the sweeter the rain. Many times His word is like the soothing rain on my dry aching heart. That's the way it was this morning.

Jeremiah 29:11-13 says this:

For I know the thoughts I think toward you, says the Lord
thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.
Then you will call on Me and go and pray to Me
and I will listen to you.
And you will seek me and find Me 
when you search for Me with all your heart.

God isn't playing hide 'n seek. Instead, He says when we seek for Him - He'll let us find Him! He doesn't hide from the ugliness of caregiving - instead, He sees the beauty in the fact that we lay down our lives and desires for another. To Him, it's a sweet-smelling incense. He meets us in those places we cannot talk about. He sees us feeding, dressing, transferring, and tending to them. His love reaches us in those quiet discreet moments that are not discussed openly. He sees our hearts - not just our deeds. He won't hide from us like the world tends to do - He jumps out and says "I'm am here!" He listens, He cares, He loves.

Today, I will turn my thoughts to how He is right there as soon as I turn my heart to find Him. He is ever present to strengthen, comfort me, and fill me with His peace. I will embrace His peace and His presence in my heart today as I trust Him for one more day. Will you join me?