Tuesday, November 30, 2021

All the Elements

Kyrie and Chris

 This morning in my devotions I found myself in Psalm 57. It's a passage very familiar to me and dear to my heart. When I was sick with a mystery illness back in 1986-7, I read this psalm over and over as I literally held onto it for dear life. It's got all the elements: prayer, praise, despair, faith, and declarations.

This particular psalm is written by David, the same David who ran toward Goliath and declared that God would deliver the giant into his hands that very day. But now, he's running from a mad man, Saul. David is hiding in a cave. That's a far cry from chasing down a giant, right?

He's open and honest about his distress. In verses four and six he says, 

  • I am surrounded!
  • My enemies have set a trap for me!
  • I am weary.
Man, can I relate to that! Many times I feel surrounded by enemies like fear and doubt. It takes a lot of courage and strength to just keep putting one foot in front of the other. The cool thing about David though, is that he always brings in faith. In verses two, three, and seven he says:

  • God will send help.
  • My God will send His unfailing love and faithfulness.
  • He will fulfill His purpose for me.
  • My heart is confident in You!
It's kind of like his own little pep talk. Have you ever had one of those? :-) Mixed in these few verses, as was his custom - he takes time for praise. In two verses, five and 11, David praises God by saying, Be exalted O God above the heavens, May Your glory shine over all the earth. David was also a man of action and he said in the first couple of verses: I look to You for protection! And I cry out to God Most High.

I'm telling you, this psalm has it all! Since I've been meditating on declarations over the last few weeks, you know I have to pull those out of this psalm too. David makes four powerful declarations. Even though he is in distress, he is surrounded by his enemies, he's hiding in a cave for fear of his life. He still declares in the midst of his struggles:
  • I will hide in the shadow of Your wings...
  • I will awaken the dawn with my song...
  • I will thank You O Lord...
  • I will sing...
And that's where I'll leave you today. What are your declarations today? Can you look your "enemies" (doubt, fear, etc) in the face and declare - Today I will hide in Your shadow O Lord...all day long. Today, Lord I will sing to you, I will thank You, Lord. 

Saturday, November 27, 2021

How Long?

Chris looking a bit ornery

Do you ever feel like you've reached the end of what you can do? It may stem from pure exhaustion, but it feels like it's a "that's it" moment. It feels like God doesn't hear. It feels like He has moved away. There are just those times of overwhelm. Or maybe it's just me. I do think that the psalmist was feeling these types of emotions when he penned Psalm 13.

It's not clear what type(s) of circumstances David was facing, but his emotions are clear. His soul is crying out for God to intervene. In the New Living Translation, Psalm 13 reads this way:

O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever?

How long will you look the other way?

How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul,

with sorrow in my heart every day?

How long will my enemy have the upper hand?

Turn and answer me, O Lord my God!

Restore the light to my eyes, or I will die.

Don't let my enemies gloat, saying, "We have defeated him!"

Don't let them rejoice at my downfall.

But I will trust in your unfailing love,

I will rejoice because you have rescued me.

I will sing to the Lord because He has been good to me. 

I love the way that David emptied out his soul before God with transparency and his honest, raw, and real emotions. But he didn't leave it at that. He usually makes his declarations. He laid it all out there- and then said what he was going to do. In this psalm, he said he would trust, rejoice, and sing even though he was feeling down, forsaken, and on the brink of defeat. 

As I was thinking about this psalm and my own feelings were running crazy in my head, I started with David's declarations and then penned this poem.

But I will trust in Your unfailing love,

I will rejoice because You have rescued me.

I will sing of Your goodness...

Those are my declarations

I will sing from my cave

The pit will hear my heart cry out

to the God who hears.


I will rejoice in His goodness

and when the enemy surrounds,

I'll sing from behind the fears.


I will trust God in the pain

and when my heart is overwhelmed

I'll cling to Him through the tears.


For He is still my God

in the good and the bad

I know at my cry He comes near.

Today, I'll make these declarations once again. I will trust, I will rejoice, I will sing. I'm finding declarations to provide a powerful shift in my attitude. (And I need help with that!) Just saying them out loud helps me refocus on Him and His mercy and grace. Will you join me today in declaring our trust in Him once again?

Friday, November 26, 2021

We Are His!

 

Chris with me - in the standing frame

Social isolation is real, for caregivers. Actually, most of us dealt with it LONG before the COVID pandemic. It was almost amusing, if it hadn't been so serious, to see people whining and crying about having to stay home and "miss" all the social interaction. I wrote a post welcoming them to our world. Many of us have lived a life of social isolation for years. Our "norm" just become more complicated during the pandemic. 

I guess the aloneness is what made this scripture stand out in my private devotions this morning. It's a familiar passage, and yes, I was reading it because yesterday was Thanksgiving, and giving thanks was on my mind. 

Psalm 100 is just five short verses and I really enjoy the New Living Translation, but any translation or paraphrase is good! Verse three is the one that stood out to me today. It says Acknowledge that He is God! He made us, and we are His. We are His people, the sheep of His pasture. I noticed, of course, that the caregiver is not excluded. It doesn't say "everyone but the caregiver is His." And it doesn't state, "Everyone is His people except caregivers." It also doesn't say, "He made everyone except caregivers." 

When I read passages like this, I often still wonder if I am really His. Does He see my day-to-day? Does He hear my whines, pleas, and whining? And still, He claims me? That almost moves me to tears - to know that He sees... He hears...He knows... and still says I am His!

I think, wow, I"m such a mess and I feel like I've literally got nothing together - yet He still claims me. Doesn't He see how ugly life can be? Doesn't He see my intense struggle over my own faith? Doesn't He know how often I waiver? The answer to all of these is yes. A yes that resounds with the truth that we are still His. As dysfunctional as we may feel - we are still His.

Part of me wants to argue. How could He still claim me? But then,  I look at my own son, my caregivee. He can do nothing on his own. He has no voice. His hands are contractured. And even recently professionals refuse to work with him because they think he's too far gone. But He is still mine. I love him - he is and will forever be my son.

Today, even though the ugly of life is staring me in the face, I will rejoice that He still calls me His own! I will thank Him that He can look past the circumstances to the real me inside and He still says, This one is mine. Even though I feel emotionally crippled. Although I am wrung out and falter in my faith every day, He doesn't throw me away. He calls me His own. That's a powerful thought right there... I'll meditate on it all day - will you join me in rejoicing that we are still His?

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Dessert in the Desert

Chris standing at the park

 I'm still in Isaiah 41 today! But today, I'm looking at verses 17 to 20. It's a rich passage for us caregivers. It talks about the poor and needy, and how they fail for thirst. But God promises to hear them and not forsake them. I feel poor sometimes. And as much as I hate it, I feel needy sometimes. But God is here. He hears the pain in our tears and feels the dispair in our fears.

He doesn't stop with helping us and hearing us though. Here are some of the things He says He will do for us:

  • open rivers in desolate areas
  • cause fountains to spring up in valleys
  • make pools of water in the wilderness
  • place springs in the dry land
As He carries out these magnificent feats, these barren places begin to sprout and bring forth vegetation. In my mind, I picture a desert becoming an oasis. It's like a feast for the eyes and soul in the middle of a barren, dry place. A dessert in the desert if you will.

It always amazes me how God can take those broken areas of our lives and bring forth fruit. Just about the time we feel like we are spent for sure, and have nothing left He brings forth a living spring. A pool of fresh water just arises in our deepest, driest times. When everything has dried up and gone away - even our tears - He provides a cool refreshing drink.

Sometimes I wonder if He can bring something beautiful out of something like caregiving. The answer is always, yes. It's His specialty, whether anyone else knows it or not - He's always in the business of bringing growth and life from something others may deem worthless and dead.

Today, I will focus on what I see Him doing in me. I'll look for that sweet spot - that dessert in the midst of my desert. He never fails. He never leaves. He will not abandon. Today, I will count on Him to be here - with me right where I am emotionally, physically, and in every other way. Will you join me?

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Times 3

 


This morning in my personal devotion time, I found myself in Isaiah 41. The whole chapter spoke to me today. But I want to focus on something that God said three times. First off, the prophet Isaiah, speaking God's words to His people refers to the children of Abraham. To clarify - that's now us! (Galatians 3:29)

Between verses 10 and 14 three times, God said, I will help you. This stuck out to me today in particular because, well, I need help! As caregivers, we face a lot of emotions, situations, circumstances, and trials. We need help sometimes and it's not always there. But God took the time to tell His kids that He would help them!

He even added fear not in the mix each of the three times He told them (us) that He would help us. Life doesn't get put on hold when we become caregivers. There are still life events like weddings and funerals. Nothing else skips a beat just so our emotions can catch up, right?

As rewarding as caregiving can be for most of us - it's also tough. It can be heavy. Caring for another whole person can be emotionally draining and physically exhausting. It's easy to wake up one morning to find out that we are spent from the inside out. But.we.keep.going.

That's where I am today. I'm tucking myself away in my safe place (in Him). I'm going to let the world pass me by today as I tend to the day-to-days of caregiving and try to find a place to let the peace He gave reign in my heart.

But I was encouraged that God took the time to tell His kids He would help them. I didn't say, I'm here if you need me. Don't you hate when people tell you that? To me, it translates to - I'm keeping my distance but you can call.....How different would it be if someone walked up into your living room and said - Either give me something to do or I'll start somewhere.? Man, what a dream come true that would be! 

That's kind of what God is communicating here in chapter 41 of Isaiah. He's telling us - I'm here and I'm ready to help. I envision Him rolling up His sleeves... 

Today, I will rejoice in the truth that He never leaves. He never tells me I'm too complicated or life is too complex for Him. He never says He'll be back when things calm down a bit. He is here. And He is here to help. That's something I can grasp ahold of today. Will you join me?


Saturday, November 20, 2021

All the Same

 


Does it sometimes feel like our days, lives, and emotions are like a perpetual roller coaster ride? And I'm not talking about the kiddie roller coaster either. I'm comparing it to the biggest, scariest (and a little bit fun) way up and down roller coaster that only the brave will ride! (lol) Maybe (hopefully) it's not that way all the time, but most days sure do have a lot of ups and downs for caregivers.

With our emotions staying on the edge most of the time, it doesn't take a whole lot to tip us over. (Maybe it's just me!) Sometimes, we seem to hum along quite nicely figuring days out as we go. Then other times, it feels like one blow after the other with no relief in between. Maybe our loved one becomes ill. That's a game-changer. Supplies don't come, so you order them out of your own pocket. Then the order gets delayed. (LOL - yes it really happens this way, doesn't it?)

It can be quite overwhelming, even though there are good days and bad days; smooth days and rough days. Things can change on a dime - then change right back before you know it. But no matter what - it's going to come down to this one thing - trusting Him.

Trusting God remains the same no matter what we face in a given day or moment. It's kind of one of those broad choices we can make before, after, or during everything feeling like it's out of control, right? We will trust Him with good news and bad news. We will trust Him in illness or health. He is trustworthy when aides show up, or if they don't. He can still be trusted when people do their jobs, and when they don't.

Today, my mind is inundated with what-ifs and why-nots. But no matter what - it's all the same. I am going to trust Him. I'll trust Him with the things I can see and those things I cannot see. I'll trust Him if I feel alone, or if I feel surrounded. He's got this. He's got me. I'll rest in Him and trust Him for today - will you join me?

Friday, November 19, 2021

Losing Wait


 Navigating through caregiving is never easy no matter what the circumstances. I always thought that long-distance caregiving was "easier" than full-time in the home caregiving. But over the last three years, as I cared for my son at home and my aunt in a facility until she passed, I found out it's just a hard job no matter what. There is always nothing simple about taking care of another person and making decisions on their behalf. 

As we work through the process, we learn that there is a lot of waiting. Waiting on doctor's orders to get supplies. Waiting on authorizations for medical procedures. Waiting on paperwork to get aids in to help. And that is just the beginning of a long, long, list. It can feel like we are always waiting on someone to do their job or to work on our behalf.

Waiting can be perplexing and it can feel like we can't do anything to help. In some instances, we can call or email the right person to help things move along faster. Other times, there is just nothing to do but wait. That's hard on most of us as we are used to being in charge. For those of us with Type A personalities, it's pure torture! We like to get things done. 

When we fall into overwhelm mode and it seems there is no one listening to us or working on our behalf, there is a wait that is good. Many times, I've prayed and reminded God that He is my husband. (Isaiah 54:5) Then, I wait on HIM to act on my behalf. And even though whatever natural things I am waiting on may not be taken care of right away, I am never disappointed when I wait on Him.

Today, I will take all those situations where I am waiting on a person for something - and I'll roll them all into one and hand them to Him. Then, I will wait on Him to act on my behalf. I'll spend my "waiting energy" looking to Him for He is my help. People offer some help - but they can't keep or sustain my soul. I may just write all the things I'm waiting on in a journal and leave them there. I will trust Him to provide, to sustain me, to keep me today. Will you join me as we wait on Him? 

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

A Little Help

 


Have you ever felt like you could use a little help? Who am I talking to, right? As caregivers a little help is great. One of the things we deal with is such a long laundry list of things that need to get done in a day. I'm sure our lists are all long, but they can vary based on the health and needs of our loved ones. My son is total care. That means I have to feed, change, dress, bathe, and transfer him over the course of the day. Although he is awake, he is not yet capable of doing much of anything. He can stand! That makes transfers easier, for sure.

Sometimes, an aid is provided. What they don't understand is that everything they do helps. Even the smallest things like sweeping the floors, dusting, or taking out the trash. Those are all things that I won't have to do if they do them. Recently, I've looked at pricing for hiring someone to come in and help clean my apartment. Then I thought, I'm hiring someone to do things the aid is PAID to do but doesn't want to do. 

I think to myself, I just need a little help.

While I was thinking about all this, a couple of scriptures came to mind. As believers, we trust in God for our help. I'll be the first to stand up and say that He has certainly carried me through many days I didn't think I could make it. He undergirds me with strength. He fills me with His peace and hope! He is indeed my help.

But how many times do we miss the little things He may do throughout our days? Situations that all of a sudden work out, may just be His handiwork. Psalm 28:7 says The Lord is my strength, my shield from every danger; I trust Him with all my heart. He helps me, my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving. (NLT) 

Then of course my favorite is Psalm 121:2 My help comes from the Lord, who made the heavens and the earth! (NLT)


Today, I will remind myself that the Lord is my help. He carries me. He soothes my soul. He calms my emotions. He is with me. Even though I feel like I could use a little help with household chores - I know that God is the one who helps my soul. I will give Him thanks for being here to strengthen my heart so I can make another day - will you join me?

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

He Came


 This morning during my devotions I found myself in Romans 8:28. This is a familiar scripture to most. Usually, we quote it when we don't understand what's going on. It's that go-to for every situation that baffles us. But I saw something in it this morning that grabbed me. That's one of the things I LOVE about the Word, it meets me where I am and speaks new things to my heart.

Romans 8:28 in the New Living Translation says this: And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to HIs purpose for them. Today, what stood out to me was "His purpose." Here's where my thoughts went.

He didn't put Adam and Eve in the garden and walk away. He came to them and walked with them, talked with them. When they sinned, He still came looking for them, longing for relationship. God created everything else with His breath, with words. A simple command brought forth plants that bear seeds for more plants, animals that continue to populate the earth, light, and dark. But humans? He purposefully formed with His hands from the dirt He had created with His breath. 

He came to commune with them in the garden. He came to Hagar twice when she was in dire circumstances. He came to the disciples in the boat out on the rocky sees in the middle of the storm. He didn't wait for everything to settle down. He came. 

Today, this gives me hope that He will come to me right where I am, right in the middle of the mess, and He'll bring all He is to my table. He brings His peace, His love, His patience, His goodness, His provision.... there's a really long list! My goal for today is to trust the He will be present in the middle of my circumstances. 

I'm so thankful for that. I'm glad He doesn't wait until I "get it all together" because that really may never happen. lol. I'm glad He doesn't have a checklist of duties I have to complete before He comes into my mess, because as a caregiver, I can't put one more thing on my list! How about you? 

Today, I will look for Hin in the middle of my mess, through the cloudy storm. I'll watch for His entrance and wait expectantly for Him to just be right here with me. And when I "find" Him, and I will, I will lean into Him and trust Him for today. Will you join me?

Monday, November 15, 2021

Voice Behind the Tears

 

chris at therapy

I consider myself quite the wordsmith. Besides blogs, devotionals, poetry, and journaling, I write for a living as a freelance writer. But sometimes, even I run out of words. There are just those times when my heart hurts and circumstances overwhelm me. Occasionally, those pent-up emotions leak out in the form of tears, but not often. However, there is a calm assurance in knowing that He hears the voice behind the tears.

That's one of the things that amazes me about God. He really does understand our emotions. He even understands when we don't have words to express our deepest feelings. David said in Psalm 139:3 You are intimately acquainted with all my ways. (Amp) There are just those days that seem to swallow me whole. You know? My emotions get away from me. Fears of the future run through my thoughts. Mistakes from the past try to snatch peace. It's easy for us to get down with the mechanics of caregiving. 

When I get to that point - my words don't even make sense to me! (lol) He still gets me. He still understands. 

When tears form - He hears all the pain, frustration, confusion, and anything else that formed them. 

Somehow, knowing He gets all the things I don't have words for - comforts me and brings peace. From that place of unsolicited peace - arises thanksgiving. How does that even happen? I don't know - but I like it.

I become thankful for things that cannot change. Because as caregivers we know how things can change in an instant! But there are some things that are not dictated by circumstances. They remain. His love. His mercy. His presence. His peace. His patience. (I'm particularly fond of this one! lol)

Today, I will focus on these attributes of God that don't change for anything. They don't fluctuate based on whether I'm having a good day or a bad one. His love, peace, truth, mercy, presence, and all that He is remains. I'll spend today meditating on this truth and thanking Him for just being here. Will you join me?

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Inside the Fish

 

chris in the standing frame

As caregivers, we have good days and bad days  - just like everyone else! Actually, the number of caregivers is on the rise as Baby Boomers begin to age and need more personal care. A friend of mine just informed me the other day that his wife has early signs of Alzheimer's. Finding a caregiver-friend isn't as hard as it used to be as there are lots more of us. 

Yet in the midst of all the caregivers, it can be a lonely walk. Maybe we need to meet via zoom too! The latest technological advancements have made it easier to connect. However, in the day-to-day grind of caregiving, it's still easy to feel alone. As I sit here writing this morning's devotion, sipping my coffee, I feel the aloneness. It can be easy to get my focus on that and get lost in it for the rest of the day. 

But before I take that dive, I can help myself avoid it by going back to a scripture I read this morning in my private devotions. I found myself in Psalm 9. Verse 10 in the New Living Translation says, Those who know Your name trust in You, for You O Lord, have never abandoned anyone who searches for You. I stopped and thought about that for some time after I read it this morning.

I'm pretty sure the searching and leaning into God is the important part of this verse. When we do that - He can't help Himself as He leans back toward us. That's one thing I love about Him, that He wants to be with us and reacts to our faintest cry for Him. 

My mind ran through several of my favorite passages as I thought of people in scriptures who were searching for Him. He met Hagar twice when she was searching for Him. He even met Saul on the road to Tarsus, because even though he was committing heinous crimes against the church, his heart was searching for God. Then, I thought of Jonah. 

There he sat in the belly of the whale. He has purposefully and intentionally disobeyed God's command. Yet it says in chapter 2 that Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from inside the fish. And you know what? God answered. Not out of obligation or pity - but because He saw a heart searching for Him.

As caregivers, it can feel like we are in the belly of the whale. We can feel cut off from others - and the pandemic certainly hasn't helped that! But if God can hear the prayers of Jonah in the belly of the whale - the person who deliberately disobeyed God to end up there- then, I propose - He can hear us too!

Today, I will meditate on the truth that God will not abandon us. Instead, He will meet us right where we are. I'll be thankful that even my bad attitudes are not enough to keep Him away. I'll remind myself that He wants to be with me. He likes walking alongside me through time. And I'll rejoice that He is right here - right now. Will you join me?

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

The Failure

 


Do you ever feel overwhelmed? I ask this question partly in jest because as caregivers it's a definite "all the time" answer, right? Many nights, I feel like a failure. Actually, most nights as I am preparing to collapse into the bed, all the things I didn't get done dance through my head. I think of all those things left on today's to-do list that will remain on tomorrow's new list. 

As caregivers, there are so many demands made on us every day. Recently, my son has been ill so this increased doctor visits, nurse visits, etc. I know you know the drill. Scheduling these necessary things on already crowded days can totally overwhelm a person who is already overwhelmed, adding to the negative thoughts of being a failure.

Recently, I've learned to identify these negative thoughts as soon as they begin. I start telling myself, "I may not have got this and that done today. But I did get this, this, that, and something else done today." I remind myself that I didn't do "nothing" today. Caregivers have no days where they do nothing, right? It's a busy life no matter what our situations or circumstances. 

As these thoughts were running through my mind this morning, I found myself in scripture. I'm reading in the New Living Translation, and in Psalm 73:22 I find this scripture. Asaph, the psalmist says, I was so foolish and ignorant, I must have seemed like a senseless animal to You." In context, he is comparing his life with others. That's another trap caregivers fall into. It can seem like everyone else gets to "play" but we are trapped in a caregiver's cave. 

But here's what I want to focus on. The next verse says this, Yet I still belong to You, You are holding my right hand. You will keep on guiding me with Your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny. Asaph goes on to say, My health may fail and my spirit may grow weak (was he a caregiver too?) but God remains the strength of my heart, He is mine forever. 

What a comfort to know that He continues to walk this journey called life with us. When we feel like we have failed, are feeling overwhelmed, feeling like we are missing out, or any of the other wide range of emotions - He is still holding our hands, and He won't let go. 

Today, instead of focusing on feeling like I never do enough - I'm going to look to the one Who does it all! I'll meditate on how He holds my right hand as I journey through caregiving,  My heart will be set on the truth that He is still leading me and how He has good planned for me and my loved one. While my flesh is weak today - I'll trust in His strength that constantly holds me up. I will trust Him for today - will you join me?