Thursday, December 31, 2020

Another Day

 


Well, the end of 2020 is upon us. What a crazy year. On one hand, it was a little bit funny to watch the rest of the world trying to adjust to the social isolation we've been living in all along. I did feel a little sorry for them. There were so many twists and turns though, it seemed like the world went crazy this year. One thing is for sure - the world has changed.

I know at midnight tonight, when the new year begins, nothing will change in that instant. The pandemic will not just go away. The things we've lost this year will not return and the political scene won't suddenly calm down. However, we will continue providing care for our loved ones. We will simply continue trusting Him for one more day. One day at a time.

Even though the world around us has changed a lot this year in good ways and bad ways - God will not change. He will continue to be merciful, forgiving, and compassionate. His love for us is just as strong today as it was the day Jesus died for us. It will remain. 1 Corinthians 13:13 says three things will remain: faith, hope, love.

There's no way of knowing what changes 2021 may bring. Even if someone had told us in January 2020 how crazy of a year it was going to be we couldn't have comprehended it. lol. This year is going to bring changes too both good and bad I am sure. But we can continue trusting in the things about God that will never change.

Today, as I reflect on this last year and all it has brought and look forward to a new year, I will be thankful for God's continued faithfulness. I will rejoice that He was with each of us every step of 2020 - and this year will be no different. My meditations will be on His love that cannot be changed or diluted by time. He is passionate about us and He'll still be passionate in 2021! On this last day of the year, I will be thankful for another day to trust Him. And I will trust Him for one more day. Will you join me?

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

A Plan for the Unplanned

Chris at his first 5K

 If anyone knows about how things don't go as planned, it's caregivers. All it takes is a sneeze, a cough, a huge "accident' (and you know what I mean!) to mess up the best-laid plans. Many mornings we get up and start about the day and may even be productive. But all of a sudden it turns topsy-turvey and ends up with calls to doctors, home health, case managers, or suppliers. I know you know that drill!

But what are we supposed to do when things don't go as planned? Is there a plan for when plans fail? I know you understand what it's like to make plans for an outing, a family get together, or even a trip to the store and have to cancel at the last minute. It's easy to get to a place where you don't even want to make plans. 

I'm sure Daniel didn't plan on living his life as a slave. Joseph didn't either. All through scriptures we find stories of real people who had their real lives uprooted or disrupted by various events. Hebrews 11 has a long list we often call the "Hall of Faith." These people didn't have perfect lives either. Yet they continued to trust and believe God. 

This morning as I was preparing for the devotion I do on Facebook Live, I found myself in Psalm 13. David didn't have a perfect life either. We talked a bit in yesterday's devotion about how he took in Mephibosheth, the disabled son of Jonathan. That demonstrates the heart of God. 

In Psalm 13, David is asking where God went. He asks God how long He is going to look the other way. Yes, this is the same David who said in Psalm 139 that God was intimately acquainted with our ways and knows our thoughts before we think them and our words before we say them. But here he is in despair. He's feeling lost and forsaken. I know I don't have to tell you about that -it's part of the caregiver's journey. David felt it all - the loneliness, being forsaken, forgotten, overlooked - you fill in your blanks because I've got a lot of those emotions myself. We all do from time to time. 

But one thing I love about David is that he ends most of his psalms with a declaration. This one he declares:

  • I will trust Your unfailing love
  • I will rejoice
  • I will sing to the Lord because He is good to me
Today, even though I feel a bit discombobulated, I declare that I will trust God for one more day. I'll trust that He still loves me and He has good plans for me. I will rejoice in the victories He's brought so far even if I don't feel victorious today. And I will sing to Him - not because I'm good - but because He is good. His goodness remains steady and unwavered by the things we face each day. He is still good - and He is still God. I'll trust Him for today - will you join me?

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Sought Out - Not Forsaken

 

Nice Little Smile from Chris

Sometimes for caregivers, the nights are long and the days are longer. Last night was a long night here as Chris was coughing so much. I kept an eye on his fever and oxygen levels then gave more meds around 5. I know you know the drill! when we have a long, nagging night, it seems like our brains kick into high gear. At least that's how it is for me. My thoughts go crazy with all the things that could possibly be wrong and go wrong. I'm constantly reeling my thoughts back in.

At least I know we are in good company when it comes to having anxious thoughts. David said in Psalm 94:19 In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul. (NKJV) The NLT says it this way When doubts filled my mind, Your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.  May we at least find a little comfort in knowing that David understood anxieties at least a little bit? 

Actually, David was a caregiver. Jonathon's son Mephibosheth was injured when his aid was carrying him and tripped. Both of his feet were crippled it says in 2 Samuel 9. David took him in and gave him a place at his table plus restored all the land to him that had belonged to his father and grandfather. David, the king went looking for someone of Saul's household and found a crippled man. It didn't put him off one bit. David had a heart after God, like God and he took Mephibosheth in even in his broken state.

Picture it. God comes looking for us even during those long, hard nights. He is looking for someone to show kindness to like David desired to do for Saul and Jonathan's sake. It was because of the covenant he had with Jonathon and the honor David he gave to Saul. God looks for us - seeks us out and comes right into our mess. Then He brings us to His table and cares for us.

Imagine Mephibosheth's fears of being summoned by the king. He may have wondered what David wanted from him. But like us before God - he found mercy, acceptance, provision, and restoration. I like that.

Today, I will rejoice in the mercies of God. I will allow His comfort to bring renewed hope and cheer to my heart. I will be thankful that even in the midst of a tough spot, He still reaches out to me with His comfort. It is amazing to me that His comfort, His peace, His joy, and His heart can penetrate the darkest night and touch my heart with His light. In the midst of my anxious thoughts, He comes seeking - looking for me when others avoid me. He sits with me all.night.long. And He keeps my soul. I will thank Him for that today - and rest in Him as I trust Him for one more day - will you join me?


PS - My devotional "21 Days" to help develop the habit of daily Bible reading is available on Amazon in Kindle format or hard copy!

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

I Tell Myself!

Chris and Kyrie

 This morning, I revisited Psalm 104. It's one of my favorite passages and one I call one of the "creation" chapters. The psalmist describes many aspects of creation and of course, as find it amazing and encouraging. My favorite verse out of this chapter is verse 19 where the psalmist says, the sun knows where to set. It never rises and then isn't sure which way west is. God set things in motion and they remain.

But what caught my eye this morning was the first verse. It says, Praise the Lord, I tell myself. Then he goes on to talk about God's overwhelming greatness and glory. I think for me, thinking about creation is one way I celebrate the greatness and enormity of God. But sometimes, I have to tell myself to praise God. You know?

Creation reminds me that God is still in control. It helps me remember that He is consistent even when my world looks and feels topsy turvy. He created with intention. And part of that plan was that I, as a human, could easily see His works and His attributes. Then, I can tell myself how great God is once again. I remind myself of His majesty, His creative power, His care, and concern over creation. And there I find myself in His peace once again as I yield my soul to His greatness.

Today, no matter what seems troubling - we can remind ourselves that God is still on the throne. He did not give up when we became caregivers or when the world went crazy this year! Today, I'll think about how the things He put into motion - are still in motion. I'll remind myself that all of His grace, mercy, gifts, patience, and attributes are still intact and there for me to bask in. And I will do that today as I remind myself that He's got me - He's got you. will you join me?


If you enjoy these daily devotionals check out my Dove's Fire Ministries Bookstore. I have more devotionals and resources and will be adding more soon too!

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

The Continuum

 

Chris standing by me

This morning I read through Psalm 34. I love this psalm. Okay, so I love all of them! But this morning, this one is my favorite. Of course, that is subject to change based on the next one I read! I got stuck in the first verse. David says I will bless the Lord at all times, His praise shall continually be in my mouth. (NKJ) What stood out to me was that David uses two phrases that mean almost the same thing. He says he will bless the Lord at all times. Then he said that His praise shall continually be in my mouth.

I am a huge fan of David - I mean what's not to love about his genuine heart toward God? And what's not to love about the fact that he was human and messed up - more than once! But he's also the dude who took out Goliath while the army men stood there shaking in their boots. He's also the man who could play the harp beautifully and worship God wholeheartedly - then pick up a sword and wipe out a small army single-handedly. 

He was a worshiper and a warrior. These two were not mutually exclusive. He worshiped and he warred with all his heart. I kind of like to think of us caregivers like this. We have a lot on our plates and days don't usually come easy for us. That's the warrior part - because we put on our armor and face each day knowing the battle that lies ahead of us. 

But when we continue to praise God, bless His name, and look to Him for our strength - that's the worshipper part. You know? We put on His armor each morning and wipe mouths and other extremities because we love the one we provide care for. We do mounds of laundry due to accidents, prepare pureed foods - or other types of non-traditional food for feedings - because we love them. During a pandemic, we stay at home and protect them as much as possible. But that's not too new to most of us - we've lived in social isolation for years so we could care for our loved ones. You guys - that takes a warrior's heart. 

Now at the same time, we look to God for our strength, our joy, our sustenance, our comfort, and our peace every morning from the time we get up until we lay our weary bodies down at night. We understand that we do nothing truly alone - but only through the strength He provides. We praise Him for the small things - like a smile, a meal well eaten, no fevers in the night, and supplies that are delivered on time. We pull the essence of Who He is into every aspect of our day and let our hands care for one of the "least of these" (according to the world) to demonstrate His unending love, grace, and mercy toward us. Guys - that takes a worshipper's heart.

So today, I want to stay on the continuum - the sequence of praise. I will lift my voice to praise Him from the dawn to the sunset. My lips will bless His name from daylight to dark and I hope my soul sings in my sleep! I will be thankful that it is this huge, magnificent, very worthy of worship God who carries me through each day. As I roll up my sleeves to tackle the chores of the day - may every breath I breathe remain on the continuum of praise. Will you join me?

Monday, December 21, 2020

God's Got Us Covered

 

Chris at the Bluff Creek Trail

Do you ever feel inadequate? I'm starting to wonder if this is a daily feeling for caregivers. It can easily feel like I can never do enough, give enough, or get enough done in a day. Honestly, I go to bed every night feeling a bit defeated because of the things I did not get done that day. Nevermind the fact that I've provided complete care for another whole adult who can do absolutely nothing for himself. But there always seems like something that got left hanging. You know? That one project for a client that needed to be done yesterday. It might not be something that big that eats away at me either. It may be something like forgetting to cook up a butternut squash and pureeing it so it can be ready to add to my son's meals. 

Whether it's huge or little leaving things we feel we need to finish can nag away at us. So, this morning when my eyes came across 2 Peter 1:3, I let out a sigh and let all those things go. This verse says that God has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Christ...

Everything. Nothing left undone on God's part, right? We talk about exclusionary statements on this blog a lot, and once again there is none! Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, did not say - God has given everyone but caregivers all they need for life and godliness. We are included in His words no matter what our standing in life. He did not leave us out! 

Life AND Godliness. The second part of this verse offered me much hope this morning. He has given us what we need for life - the natural side of things. And He gives us what we need for godliness - the spiritual side of things. It seems to me that He provides us the full-package to deal with everything life throws at us including all our caregiving responsibilities, fears of the future, feelings of loss, and you fill in the blank with what you deal with - and He's giving us the strength, hope, love, peace, and grace to make it through.

But He also didn't leave out the spiritual side. Do you ever get frustrated when people only see you as a caregiver and can't see you as the spiritual person you are? We are caregivers - but we are still children of God - called by the Most High - filled with His Spirit - and able to teach, discern, comfort, etc. God sees us as His child first. He still loves us, gives us grace for the journey, and equips us to live a life fully guided by Holy Spirit. Isn't that wonderful?

Today, I will be thankful that God cares for me as a caregiver. But I will also be thankful that He looks past that and sees me as His little girl that He wants to care for. My meditation will be on how He gives me strength for this journey and how He holds my spirit and my hands up as I walk the lonely path of caregiving. I'll rejoice that He didn't leave us out - but He gives us ALL we need for both life and godliness through Christ. And with that, I will choose to rest in Him and trust Him to carry me through one more day. Will you join me? 

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Whatcha Looking At?

window visit with aunt polly

 As caregivers, there are tons of things that demand our attention throughout the day. It can be different for each of us, but in general, we have to clothe, dress, feed, transfer, and make decisions for another whole person. It's an understatement to say our plates are full. For caregivers, that's plates - plural. They are all full and they all seem to demand our attention all at the same time. 

As I was reading through some passages in Paul's epistles this morning I realized his plate was full too. He wasn't a caregiver as such, but he did nourish and care for the baby church that had just been birthed spiritually. He had a lot on his plate too. He got discouraged, was afraid at times, and had his moments too. Paul was human.

But in 2 Corinthians 4:7-9, he reminded the new believers at Corinth that the treasure of Christ dwells in this clay pot. We hold the treasure of heaven in an earthen vessel. Then he says this:

  • we are hard-pressed on every side - yet not crushed
  • we are perplexed - but not in despair
  • we are persecuted - but not forsaken
  • we are struck down - but not destroyed
He goes on to talk about how we die so that Christ lives through us. Even though our flesh is suffering Christ is working in us. Then he goes on to say that we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things that are not seen. The things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

Sure, we can get bogged down in the cares of the day. We all know we have a lot to do, right! And while we have responsibilities to fulfill - they are not where our focus should be. The things we cannot see - grace, truth, God's love, His mercy - are eternal. They are not disrupted by the things we are living through down here. Our focus is still to be set on the Kingdom of God - and all of Who He is. Considering these eternal, unchangeable, undisruptable things about God is what can carry us through each day. So, whatcha looking at? 

Today, I will shift my focus to the things about God that do not change. I'll meditate on His great love for me (and you), how He mercifully carries me through each day and long, dark night. My thoughts will be on His unshakable kingdom - that He put inside me. And with that I will trust Him for just one more day. Will you join me? 

If you enjoy these devotionals - check out my devotionals and Bible studies in my online  bookstore: Dove's Fire Ministries Education.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Roads and Rivers


 The social isolation of caregiving is one of the hardest parts for many of us. It's interesting now that during the pandemic so much attention is being given to being isolated and how it wears on mental health. Yet for many caregivers, it's been the norm for a long time. Yet when the rest of the world has to face the world we've lived in for decades, they fall apart. If it wasn't so serious, it would be humorous. 

One of the things that continue to bring me consolation is realizing that God is in this mess with me. I'm not facing it alone, even when I feel like I am. So, this morning during my devotions, I found myself reading in Isaiah 43. In verse 19, God says through Isaiah, I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. Sometimes, caregiving can feel dry and bare like the desert. Other times, like the wilderness there is plenty of growth, but no people to enjoy it with.

A road in the wilderness would make way for many more people to traverse the region. A river in the desert would bring soothing refreshment for the soul. Having water in the desert can also mean the difference between life or death. I used to hike a wilderness area when I lived in Lousiana. Once you got off the road, there was nothing but you and nature for miles. A road meant having access to help and home. Maybe that's the road in the wilderness God is speaking of. When He makes a road in our wilderness it opens up the pathway to get back to Him. 

No matter how alone we may be, God is there with us. In the most alone time, He still lays out the road back to His heart. In the dryest times, He makes sure there is a river to refresh and preserve our souls. I'm reminded of the verse in Psalm 46 that says there is a river whose streams make glad the city of God.

Whether we are alone, thirsty, dry, or feel barren or abandoned, God is still reaching for us. He makes the way plain and simple so we can get back to Him - or He can get to us! 

Today, I will remind myself that I am not in this wilderness alone. My thoughts will be on how diligently He seeks His own as I remind myself I am one of His own too! I will purposefully look for the road that leads to His heart today. And I will look for the rivers God has provided to quench my thirsty soul. Will you join me in this search?

Thursday, December 17, 2020

A Consistent Resolve

me pushing chris in a race

 Unless I am talking to other caregivers, I don't often share the things I am going through. Unless it's a road they have walked, they won't be able to understand where I'm coming from. Often, we are met with empty stares when others hear about our "normal" days. Without really understanding, I've even had comments about why I choose to take care of my son. Even though those types of things are hurtful, I know they come from those who have no idea of how love can compel us to do the hard things. And that's okay.

With that being said - we know how hard it is to provide care and make decisions for another person. We can feel alone especially when there is no one to help us make those decisions. Oftentimes, I feel like people look the other way so they don't have to process how difficult life can be for caregivers. And sometimes, it feels like God looks the other way too. 

Does He really know the day-to-day struggle? While I am sure that He does - and that he "gets" it better than anyone, the struggle is real. These are some of my thoughts from my morning devotions. I was reminded of Psalm 57:1 and the last part of the verse that says In the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge until these calamities have passed by. I thought of the psalmist's resolve. 

Soon though, David turned his prayers around to declarations. He declared four I wills in verse 7-9. I will sing. I will awaken the dawn. I will praise You, Lord. I will sing... 

But you see, I had just read Psalm 13, also written by David. He starts out this psalm by asking how long God is going to forget him. But guess how he ended it? The same way! In verse 6, he says, I will sing to the Lord. While I was enamored by his resolve in both of the psalms, I also realized they represent two different times in his life when he felt overwhelmed, defeated, out of control, etc. 

Both times he poured his heart out in transparent honesty before God. He was open and real with how he felt. And both times he ended with declarations. I will sing. David had a consistent resolve that no matter how difficult life or what new circumstances were presented, or how difficult the obstacles became He would trust God. I like that.

Today, I will turn my meditations away from my situation and difficulties and I resolve to praise God in this storm My heart will trust in His shadows until calamity has passed. My thoughts will be on His faithfulness and how He carries me so much of the journey. So, I will trust Him with one more day. will you join me?

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

In Good Company

 

Mama and Aunt Polly
It's easy to feel all alone as caregivers. This is even more often the case during the pandemic. We can feel like we are carrying the load of caregiving all by ourselves. And a lot of times, we are. It makes sense that we feel we are alone - when we are alone. Many caregivers have spouses, friends, relatives, aides, and others who help along the way. I think the worst loneliness is felt when we feel alone - even though we are with others.

For me personally, if I am in a social gathering (mostly online of late!), I still feel like I stick out like a sore thumb. There is often casual conversation about things people are doing, where they are going, and even daily routines that are far different for caregivers. Sometimes we feel alone just because our lifestyle can be so different. Other times we feel alone because we are alone.

Even in our aloneness - we are in good company. As I was reading this morning, I found myself in John 16. In the last few verses, Jesus tells His disciples that there is trouble on the way and they will all be scattered each to his own. (v.32) Then He says, you will leave Me alone. Then it seems to me as if the next phrase is Jesus responding to that alone feeling. As if to remind Himself He says, And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. If Jesus needed to remind Himself that He was not alone in that deep dark night of the soul - we are indeed in good company.

As I read on through Jesus' prayer in chapter 17 and realized it preceded Gethsemane, I did some thinking about prayer. Prayer didn't keep Jesus from going to the cross - it sustained Him. Through prayer, He gained the strength to face it. None of our Bible heroes escaped peril by praying - but they did rely on the One who was going to see them through it. As caregivers, prayer isn't a magic potion to make all the hurt and difficulties go away. It is communion with the One who will carry us through it though. Again, I say - we are in good company.

Think of Joseph in prison for crimes he didn't commit. Daniel faced the lion's den for praying. Prayer wasn't an escape hatch - it was communion and intimacy with the source of strength.

Today, I will purposefully take time to spend in prayer. And during that time, I will make sure to thank God for carrying me this far. I'll be thankful that He didn't send me into the lion's den of caregiving alone but chose to walk it with me instead.  My meditations will be on how He walks with me - oftentimes carrying me through each day and He gives me strength. So, I will rest in Him and trust Him for today. Will you join me?