Still in the Boat

Sometimes we don’t realize how heavy the load of caregiving becomes. And other times, we just don’t want to admit it. We love our caregivee – that’s why we do what we do. There are those days we shake off a poor night’s sleep, go into survival mode, roll up our sleeves, and get things done. We can’t not do them, right?

Yesterday, I was feeding my son lunch when a notification popped up on my phone. A group was sharing live worship on Facebook Live. I don’t usually pay too much attention to those things as there isn’t time, but since I was just feeding Chris, I clicked on it. I am so glad I did. The worship was wonderful. Based on the chat there were people from Korea, Uganda, Brazil, and I don’t recall how many other places from around the world. We were joining together to worship the King.

As I began to sing along, the burden I didn’t even know I was carrying was lifted. I didn’t realize I’d been carrying it until the pressure began to lift.

The group began to lead in a song I hadn’t heard before and the words began to wash over me as I heard them singing about how He didn’t forsake me in the storm. The storm came, but He was right there. It was a powerful time of worship and it had touched me so deeply it was still on my mind this morning. Don’t you love it when He meets you where you are? Only He can touch so deeply, so thoroughly, so peacefully.

There are two passages that come to mind. One is in John 6. Jesus’ disciples were in a boat trying to get across the sea when the winds picked up. Jesus came to them – walking on the water. He got in the boat and they were immediately on the other side. Now, when they saw Jesus, it says they were afraid. He met them right there in that fear and said, “It's just Me; don’t be afraid.”

The second passage is in Mark 4. This time, Jesus told His disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side.” Then he laid down in the boat and went to sleep. A storm arose and started tossing them everywhere – and again, they were afraid even though Jesus was right there in the boat with them. They woke Him up and He rebuked the storm with one phrase, “Peace be still.” Then He asked them how it was they were afraid.

Either way, Jesus did not abandon them in the storm. He walked out to them – and they didn’t even request it as far as we know. The storm and wind were raging, it’s doubtful that they called out to Him. He couldn’t hear them in the natural anyway. But He could hear their heart’s cry. Sometimes it’s the silent cry of our heart that rises to reach His heart and He comes to us. He brings us peace. He helps us get through another moment, another day, another situation.

And sometimes, we need to be reminded that even when a storm arises, He is still with us in the boat. He didn’t say it was too rough for Him. He didn’t abandon the disciples; He stayed in the boat and spoke peace. How many times as caregivers have we experienced His voice calming the storm in our hearts or minds? For me, He’s done it time and time again – but He never gets out of the boat.

Today, I will remind myself that He is still in the boat. I’ll turn my thoughts to His ever-abiding presence with me in the midst of the storm. Whether today is smooth sailing or rough going, I’ll trust He is still with me in life’s boat. The storm doesn’t scare Him – and He doesn’t want me to be scared either. My heart will rest today in His peace, I’ll trust Him for it. Will you join me?

Behind and Before

One of my friends just had a brand new beautiful baby girl. Celebrating new births always makes me think of Psalm 139. It’s definitely one of my most marked-up psalms! I also had Jeremiah 1:5 running through my head. Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. I read back through Psalm 139 again, it’s got so many encouraging spots in it if you haven’t read it in a while, it’s a great read for today!

This whole psalm is great, but a couple of things stuck out to me this morning in particular. In the first verse, David says O Lord, You have searched me and known me  - and I added a note in my margin – “And it’s okay!” It’s okay that He knows our thoughts, our words before we speak them, when we get up and when we get down. I’m quite alright with Him seeing and knowing every part about me and my days.

You see, He sees those parts no one else sees. As a personal example, I maintain a FB page for my son’s progress. I post to it every day or so as he does something notable like standing alone, moving something new, or making new sounds. What I don’t post are the in-betweens. You know, those days he doesn’t do something remarkable and I am sitting around wondering what I’m doing wrong, if I’m doing enough – totally second-guessing myself. I leave those days out – so no one sees the struggle side. All I share and all they see are those great moments.

But God sees past all that. I’m sure He monitors social media lol – so He is aware of the progress notes I keep updated on Chris. But He sees far past my posts – and sees when my heart is discouraged when I’m feeling defeated. That’s a place no person is allowed to go. I keep it hidden in general. But God sees it – He knows.

Maybe that’s why on down in verse five David says this: You have hedged me behind and before, and laid Your hand on me. He knows my thoughts – the good, the bad, and the ugly! He sees when I start spiraling down in my emotions and despair tries to set in like rigor mortis to the soul. It’s easy most of the time to keep those emotional parts of the caregiving journey to ourselves. But He knows. And He has already prepared to walk through it with us.

Early on I told my son I was committed to the journey. I whispered in his ear, Chris, I can’t walk this for you, but I will walk it with you. God cannot walk this journey of life for us – but He is certainly committed to walking it with us. Behind and before – He’s got us covered. Actually, He’s already walked it before us – and He just comes in behind us to undergird us and provide strength and encouragement to our souls.

Today, I will meditate on how God is behind and before – how He is committed to this journey I am on – this journey you are on. He willingly walks it with us. He’s already been through today – and made a way for us to continue trusting Him in spite of the storm. I’ll turn my thoughts to how He truly understands what makes me – me. He knows my thoughts when they only leak out as tears, and He doesn’t run away. He continues to walk with me and wait for me to come to Him. I’ll be thankful for His patience with me as I trust Him for one more day – will you join me?

Heart and Soul

Well, I started my to-do list for today and it’s official, I have a lot on my plate. I’m pretty sure most caregivers have a similar list. It can be a lot as it’s not easy taking care of more than one person. There’s so much to do and consider when you are caring for another and making decisions for them. It is often overwhelming. While our bodies can get tired from the daily caregiving tasks, our souls get weary too.

Our soul gets tired from the constant pressure. Emotions run high when caring for another person. We can get tired inside and out. Sometimes, we don’t even realize it because we can slip into autopilot so easily. That dulling is a preservation strategy for many caregivers. But we are still on overload, even if we have numbed out. (Maybe it’s just me!)

I started thinking about all of this during my private devotions this morning. I came across these verses in Psalm 62 and they stirred up my heart and mind.

My soul, wait silently for God alone,
For my expectation is from Him.
He only is my rock and my salvation;
I shall not be moved.
In God is my salvation and my glory;
The rock of my strength and my refuge is in God.
Trust in Him at all times, you people;
Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.

And in Psalm 42:4, David said he pours out his soul before the Lord. When we are in overload mode or feeling overwhelmed with the emotional side of caregiving, we have a place to empty our souls. I learned a long time ago that God can handle my mess. My crazy emotional swings don’t even scare Him away. I can pour out my heart and soul before Him and He is big enough to carry it. He shields me when I trust in Him. It’s when I decide to go it alone that I get myself in a mess.

Today, I will remind my soul that God is my refuge, my rock, my salvation. I will wait silently (that’s the hard part, right?) for Him today as I turn my thoughts to how He cares for all parts of me from whether encouraged or discouraged, weary or energized, happy or saddened, He is big enough to carry all of me. I’m going to empty my heart and soul before Him today and then – I will trust Him with my soul. Will you join me?

Every Day Warriors

I’m a bit behind (no surprise there!) but I am still trying to read the Bible through this year. I read most every morning as my quiet time with God is an essential part of my day. I have my coffee, my Bible, and a notebook or journal handy. It’s the only time of the day when the house is quiet. In this morning’s reading, the Children of Israel had just exited Egypt. They ran smack dab into the Red Sea and crossed it to find bitter water. Then they had no food. And then they had no water.

As all of these barriers came up and God provided a way, I thought how similar it is to caregiving. It seems like you work through one thing only to be met with another. And of course, this goes on day after day. Life can be like navigating a huge obstacle course. Lol.

If we think about it though, this was a series of big things Moses and the Children of Israel had to deal with. They were back to back obstacles. Plus, as their leader, Moses had to listen to all their whining and complaining. Why didn’t you just leave us in Egypt to die? At least we had water there. At least we had food there. Every time an obstacle presented itself – they looked back at what they had lost. Boy, did this make progress difficult. Maybe it wasn’t so much the actual looking back – as their attitude and perspective.

I’ve been a caregiver for over 11 years now. Many of you I know personally have been on this journey for much longer than I have! Looking back with the right eyes and an open heart is a great way to move forward. Think about it. We can look back and realize we have already come through every single thing up until today. It’s in the past – good decisions and bad, hard choices and easy. No matter what we have faced – we have made it to today.

Looking back isn’t always bad in itself – it’s how we decipher it with our hearts. When we look back and say, Look at all He has brought us through! It makes it easier to see the everyday victors that we are! Yeah, that’s right – we are everyday warriors! And as of this reading – we are still standing. We may be shaky. We may be scared. We may be fearful, frustrated, or fuming with anger. But so far we are still making it.

It’s about our choice and perspective is one of our choices. How we choose to see things affects how we move forward. When Jethro came out to meet Moses, it says Moses recounted all the hardships that they had faced up to then. But it also says he shared and how the Lord delivered them. What an amazing story – yes there were bumps along the way, huge obstacles to overcome, and plenty of struggles, trials, and difficulties. But the Lord delivered them. And He is still delivering and rescuing us today!

Our journey can be an emotional one. Caregiving is not easy. But we have conquered every single day so far and God will continue to deliver us as we continue to rely on Him. We rely on Him for our strength. We rely on Him to be our refuge, our rock, our safe haven. He is our shield, our comfort and the protector of our soul. So far – so good. We are still pursuing Him – still leaning on Him – still trusting Him. We are warriors battling the everyday. We are winning.

Today, I will think about how He has managed to bring me so far on this caregiving journey. Instead of bemoaning all those tough days (and who knows – today may be one too!), I’ll thank Him for preserving me in faith. Instead of complaining about the hardships I’ve endured – I’ll be thankful for what is behind me. I’ll pursue Him today with a grateful heart, thankful that He is still pursing me even in the midst of the mess. As a matter of fact, that will be my meditation today – He is still in pursuit of His people, caregivers or not. He still longs for relationship with me – with us. That’s cool. I’ll allow my thoughts to camp right there for today as I rest in Him and enjoy the pursuit! Will you join me?

Where Would We Go?

This morning during my quiet time, I found myself in John. I read through a few chapters and got lots to think about. I actually started by looking at chapter 7 verses 37-38. Jesus is speaking and says, If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in Me as the scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living waters. I thought about that awhile. If I am “thirsty” I can come to Him. And if I believe – there will be living waters flowing through my heart. There are no exclusionary statements, so I took it that it’s for caregivers too!

My eyes sort of followed all the red words on the two open pages and I ended up back in chapter 6 and Jesus is talking about believing again. Jesus said there were some among his followers who didn’t believe. In their defense, He had just shared some hard to understand teachings with them about eating His flesh. And as we humans tend to do – when something makes sense we leave.

Many left off from following Jesus that day. So, Jesus asks the 12, Do you also want to go away? Peter’s immediate answer indicates to me that he had given it at least a considerable amount of consideration himself. Peter replies, Lord, where would we go?

I must admit on this caregiving journey, on those long dark nights and lonely hot days, I’ve wanted to walk away too. I’ve wanted to abandon faith – when I was mad and at the proverbial end of my rope. But, I couldn’t. And that was frustrating too. For the believer, there really is nowhere to go but to Him, is there?

An old hymn comes to mind – Where could I go, Oh, where could I go – seeking a refuge for my soul, needing a friend to help me in the end – where could I go but to the Lord? There really is no better refuge than the Lord. Jesus even says that He’ll give us a peace the world cannot comprehend. (John 14:27) Paul called it a peace beyond our understanding. (Philippians 4:7)

And it does seem like when the road gets rockier and the nights get darker – He shows up on our behalf. When we bring it all to Him in transparency and honesty, He meets us there. When our soul is thirsty, He satisfies. He doesn’t make everything better instantly and our situation may not change one iota. But He still provides us comfort and peace. (Even if I acted ugly in the night.) He doesn’t exclude caregivers from His peace – I think He may move in a bit closer to us to comfort our souls and give us the unexplainable peace that only comes from Him.

Today, I will meditate on His peace and comfort. And, I will accept them, and embrace them because I believe in Him. And it's not just because there is nowhere else to go! I will run to Him today and ask Him to be the refuge for my storm-tossed soul. I’ll rest in Him and find peace in Him because I am a believer in Him and a follower of Him. I’ll thank Him for not excluding caregivers – but for including us in all of His promises. Will you join me?

Under the Influence of Grief

Over the last two days, tragic events in a nearby neighborhood have unfolded. A young man died in a wreck on Sunday. His father, I presume overcome with grief and still in shock, plowed through a group of high school athletes out for an afternoon run the day after. One track star was killed, and five others are in critical condition. There was head trauma involved. Hearing those words always takes me back to memories of my son’s wreck and following experiences.

There is still a lot of unanswered questions such as if he was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Those tests are pending, but I am relatively sure he was under the influence of grief. And now, these parents of seriously injured teens are on a road at least similar to the one I’ve traveled. I grieve for them as I know they most likely spent the night in an ICU waiting room.

Grief is a funny thing – it’s different for everyone. Many caregivers deal with living grief. For me, I grieve the loss of my son – even though he is technically still here. There was no funeral, no grave, and no closure. It’s ongoing.

As I was thinking about grief, I thought of the scripture that says He bore our griefs and carried our sorrows. I turned to Isaiah 53 and read over that whole chapter. How come we still grieve if He carried them all? Then, I thought of this. He also bore our sins to the cross and paid for them all. They are erased – yet we still sin. How could that be?

He carried our sins to the cross and paid the price for them for us – now we don’t have to. But sin still exists. We still sin. It’s just that they have already been taken care of. He also bore our grief and sorrow to the cross- yet they still exist. We still feel them. Like sin, we didn’t get an “exempt” card – sin still exists. Pain, sorrow, and grief still exist too. But He bore them to the cross for us. He carried them on His shoulders and took our sorrow – our grief to the cross for us along with our sins.

He thought enough of us and had compassion enough for us that He took the weight of all our sorrows and griefs with Him to the cross. And yet they still exist, they are real, and they can be debilitating. He understands. Verse 7 says He was oppressed, and He was afflicted. He really does understand the pressure of grief and sorrow as He already walked that road for us. So, He’s dealt with it before it gets to us – He’s been there before us. So, He already made the way for us to work through it. Our grief was so important to Him that He made sure it was in the heaviness He carried to the cross.

Somehow, I find it comforting to know He was concerned about the grief and sorrow we would face in this life. He made it a point to include it in the package deal. Just like sin, it didn’t go away – but He provided a solution. Paul wrote in his intro to the letter to the Corinthians, the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation…(2 Corinthians 1:3). He was in the midst of one of the most trying times of his life – and he’s reminding the church that God is the “God of all comfort.”

We are not alone. We are not abandoned in our pain or grief. He was mindful of us and planned for our comfort before we were hurt. Just like He planned for our escape from the power of sin, He also planned our escape from beneath a load of grief. I can take it to Him knowing He understands. Knowing He won’t think I’m being ridiculous, or unreasonable. And He will provide comfort for my soul.

Today, I will turn my thoughts to the comforter. I’ll meditate on how conscious He is of my pains, griefs, and sorrows. Then, I will rejoice that He planned to be my comforter. I will picture myself crawling up in His lap and leaning into Him and then trusting Him with all that ails my soul. And then, I’ll let Him be my comforter. I’ll let Him be my peace. Will you join me?

A Thousand Things

My head is swimming in thoughts this morning as I sit to write this devotion. I had a full weekend, and lots to process. Actually, I've had a full morning already with more things to process. That takes time. The overthinker that I am goes back through every experience, action, discussion and more - and breaks it down into thousands of thoughts. As I redigest it - I learn things to do and not do next time. So, I could easily say with no exaggeration that I have about 1000 things running through my mind this morning.

On top of all that - I have about 1000 things I need to get done today. I made good progress over the weekend, let a client go and got finished with another, but I am still behind. So, I've got lots to do today to keep the clients I have now happy. Then there's the writing I want to do for Dove's Fire Ministries - I wanted to get 31 Days in Psalm 31  done in January. So I'm behind on my stuff too.

I haven't even thought much about the 1000 caregiving things I need to do today! I've already got Chris dressed, up and fed. He's listening to his ebook as I type this upstairs. I've done dishes, fed everyone, and taken out the trash and there are still another 1000 things ready to demand my time... when I can find the time.

There are more than 1000 things grabbing at my attention, my mind, and my heart today. It can be a constant struggle to just stay focused on the basic caregiving tasks that must be done, much less try to juggle all the rest. I took a minute or two to look up the word, thousand in the Bible - as I could relate. lol Here are a few scriptures I found:

  • God shows lovingkindness to thousands (Exodus 20:6)
  • May God increase you a thousand fold (Deuteronomy 1:11)
  • God says we can chase a thousand and two of us can put 10-thousands to flight (Deuteronomy 32:30)
  • His word is commanded to a thousand generations (1 Chronicles 16:15)
  • He owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10)
  • A thousand shall fall at my right hand... (Psalm 91: 7)

The old hymn comes back to mind O for a thousand tongues to sing.... If I had a thousand hands to raise, it wouldn't be enough to praise Him for all He's done. So instead of letting my mind run through thousands upon thousands of things tugging at my time today - I will focus on being one of a thousand singing to Him, thanking Him for bringing me through this storm one day at a time.

Today, I'll think about praising Him 1000 times. I'll try to thank Him 1000 times. I'll let my heart make that perspective switch - and I'll meditate on His goodness instead of all I need to get done. I will direct my thoughts to the 1000 things He's done for me - grace, love, mercy, help, kept me - etc. I have a pretty long list - I'll let that consume me today! Will you join me?


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