Can We Relate?

chris and i at the park

This morning, after reading several passages about peace to prepare for my live devotions, I landed in a familiar place. There I sat, sipping my coffee and reading Philippians 4:13 over and over again. Most of us memorized it as a kid. It's one of those that we pull out when our lives get out of hand, right? I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. That, along with Romans 8:28, are believers' go-to scriptures for all things we don't understand. 

I backed up and read the few verses before verse 13 to remind myself that Paul was talking about his life. He was explaining that he'd seen times of plenty and times of lack; he'd had great needs and abundance. I thought about how that might relate to caregiving. We have times when we are flying high, and things seem to be going well. Then we have times that we can feel like we are at the bottom of life, trying to resurface for a breath. The funny thing for caregivers is that these emotional highs and lows can happen within minutes of one another. Or maybe that's just me.

Here's to hoping that we get used to life's sucker punches, but I'm not sure I ever will. I do rebound a little more quickly these days, it seems, though. Paul is saying that whether we have it all together, have everything we need, or we feel lack - we still have His strength backing us up. As he described the ebbs and flows of his life, I felt like I could relate. Even though I've never been in a shipwreck, my emotions certainly have! And every single time, God has picked me back up, dusted me off, and given me the strength to take one more step. When I have felt like I even lacked the strength to trust Him - He has always come through. I am so glad that I do not rely on myself to make it. And I am thankful that He continues to pick me up and dust me off as needed - daily. :-)

Today, I will remind myself that His strength empowers me to be like Him. My thoughts will be on how He continues to watch out for and watch over my soul - no matter how damaged it feels. My meditations will be on His faithfulness to this weary time traveler. I'll continue to put my hope and trust in Him because He gets me - and loves me anyway! Will you join me?




Check Out These Threads!

 


This morning, I skipped through a bunch of the Old Testament Minor Prophets. A lot of people avoid reading them. Usually, it's because they are difficult to understand. Some of them were speaking of their current events, and to a people we don't really understand. Others consider the OT harsh and have a hard time grasping some of it. Of course, prophetic utterances like we see in the OT can be quite puzzling too. But I love them! 

Throughout Isaiah and Jeremiah, there are some pretty harsh sayings. Jeremiah cries out for God's people to repent and warns them of impending judgments. Isaiah prophesies in riddles, but we can see he talks about the coming Messiah, etc. Ezekial hardly makes any sense at all for most of us. Then there are the minor prophets Nahum, Micah, etc. They are short, sweet, and somewhat confusing. But there are some real treasures in there for those who have the gumption to dig!

So why do I love reading them? I think it's because throughout all of the Old Testament there are threads of mercy and grace. In the midst of all the stories that tell the history of our faith, we'll see hints of God's mercy if we look hard enough. Even in the craziest stories, we can find His mercy and grace. 

I think back to Rahab the harlot - she eventually married, so we assume she was no longer a harlot, right? She's the first of four women mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus. Here she was, harboring God's spies. Why? Because she believed that God was going to win, and she wanted to be on His team. God saved her and her family because of her faith, no matter what her lifestyle had been. The spies could have easily said they didn't want to stay at her house. After all, what would people think? But mercy and grace stepped in because of her faith.

I could go on with numerous other stories that demonstrate God's threads of mercy and grace. Instead, I encourage you to take a moment to look at your own life and situation. Try to identify those threads right where you are. His grace and mercy are always extended; He never withdraws them from us. They've always been there - even under the old law. Some days, I have to look harder than others to see them - but threads of grace and mercy run through our every day lives.

Today, I will choose to look for and focus on His threads of grace and mercy. I'll take a few minutes to look back at how they have been there on life's journey. My meditations will be on how His grace carries me gently through life and life's storms. I will trust Him to do that again today. Will you join me?



When Affirmations are Few


I hope you are surrounded by people who tell you how wonderful you are. I pray that you have family and friends who lift your hands for you when you are tired. I hope you have someone close to you who can tell you how beautiful you are and how much you look like Him. Hopefully, you have someone to encourage you when you need it. Someone who will tell you that you are doing a great job when you doubt yourself. That's what I hope. But the reality is that many caregivers find themselves in a caregiver's cave. They feel alone on the journey. Friends and family distance themselves (or so it seems) because they don't know what to do to help, or they simply don't want to, sadly. 

Job's friends got off course, eventually. But when they first came to Job after hearing about his situation, they sat and said nothing for 7 days. How affirming that must have been for them to just be there. Some may have plenty of people who encourage, uplift, and affirm them. But for those who do not -, I want to offer some affirmations. Let me remind you of a few things.

  • You are greatly loved.
  • You are valuable.
  • You are cherished.
  • You are accepted.
  • You are cared for by God.
  • You are not alone.
  • You are welcome in God's house! 
Whether people "move on" because they get tired or bored of our situations or not - God remains faithful. Some days, I need that thread to hang onto. Maybe you don't need to be reminded how deeply He loves you, but I do. lol. Maybe you don't feel all alone. Perhaps you've got it all together today. How I love those days! But it never hurts to be reminded about how much you mean to Him, the One who sees, who hears. He who walks with us through the bright days and dark nights of our souls. May He whisper to you today, I am here.


After?


 Do you ever just read along in your Bible and have a phrase just jump off the page at you? That happened to me this morning. I was reading in Ephesians 6 about the armor of God. Paul said to put it on. In verse 13, Paul tells the believers to Use every piece of God's armor to resist the enemy in the time of evil so that after the battle, you will still be standing firm. (NLT) I've probably read this passage 100 times or more. I've taught from it, studied it, and meditated on it. But those three words leaped off the page as I read through it once again. 

After. I sometimes wish this verse read that if we put on all of God's armor, we can avoid the battle. lol. You know that passage where Jesus tells Peter that the enemy desired to sift him like wheat? (Luke 22). What did Jesus go on to tell Peter? But I have prayed for you. Jesus goes on to say He prayed for Peter that his faith wouldn't fail  - and that after he repents and is restored, he would go on to strengthen the brethren. Notice that Jesus didn't pray that Peter wouldn't go through the test - but He prayed concerning him after the test. He prayed that Peter's faith would not fail, not that he could escape the battle.

This word after is looking huge right now! Sometimes our days are filled with fights. That makes for a lot of afters. Our emotions war at us. Some of us fight feelings of abandonment and loneliness. Many caregivers deal with living grief. No one will argue the point that caregiving is tough. There are no easy days. lol. Even though we are not promised that there will be battles, we do know that there are many afters. 

After He's carried us through another dark valley. After our loved one is released from the hospital. I'm sure you've got a long list of afters since caregiving is so personal and unique for each individual. But we are all still standing. We are still seeking Him. Before, during, and after each battle. There's no doubt that He carries us through the battles common to caregiving. I'm so glad He does!

Today, I'll remind myself that there are lots of afters to look back on. That means there are plenty of battles won. So, today I'll shift my focus from the present battles and take a look back at some that He's already brought me through. I'll thank Him for the emotional wins, the financial wins, the relationship wins, the mental wins, spiritual wins, and any other win I can encourage my heart with today! I'll remind myself that we always triumph in Him, even if we are not exempt from the battle! Well, with no battle - there's no win. :-) I'll thank Him for the battle because I know there's an after. Will you join me?


                                                                                                                                    


CLOSING DOWN THE DFM BOOKSTORE.
After much thought and prayer - It looks like I will be closing down my bookstore. My criteria for keeping it open have been that it pays for itself. I will likely keep it open for a few more weeks and then will shut it down. I'll continue to make books available through Amazon. But  Dove's Fire Ministries Bookstore is likely to close soon - grab anything you're interested in before then, especially the smaller books and study guides. They will not be available on Amazon.

Not Gonna Do It!

 

Eli walking alongside chris' chair

I've shared my own personal struggles with rejection and abandonment. As I've aged and started closing in on those senior years, it's become much less of an issue. Most of it has been due to God's faithfulness to heal and protect the soul. Some of the progress is due to having a fuller picture of life from this side of the "hill." But as a caregiver, it can be easy to feel like life itself has abandoned you and left you on the backside of the desert. Of course, not every moment feels that way, but there are those days...

This morning, during my personal devotions, I found myself in Psalm 94. I gleaned a lot from this Psalm this morning and shared a different verse in my FaceBook Live devotions. (See the video at the bottom.)But personally, I got stuck in a good way in verse 14. The New Living Translation says, The Lord will not reject His people; He will not abandon His own special possession. There are three key points in this little verse tucked away in Psalm 94.

God Will Not Reject Us!

He will never say we are not His! We don't have to worry about being disconnected from His grace, mercy, peace, or love because He accepts us. And the cool thing is that He takes us just like we are - no matter how messy, confused, or distraught we may sometimes feel as caregivers. He never tosses us away.

God Will Not Abandon Us!

He will never walk away and leave us to figure out how to deal with life on our own. He is here for the journey. He is with us by choice. Besides, He doesn't even have the capacity to leave us since He's everywhere - lol - He literally has nowhere to go. :-)

We are His Special Possession

We are His focus. God so loved...He sent. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. We are the object of His affection. Why? I have no idea! lol - But He loves us, cares for us, and calls us His own. We are so valuable to Him - we cannot even fathom it. That just blows my mind in a good kind of way.

Today, I will meditate on these three things - He accepts me. He will not leave me. He values me. That's a lot, isn't it? I will thank Him for these three truths today as I move about my day. I'll turn my thoughts to His presence, His peace, and His pursuit of me. And I will trust Him to walk with me through one more day - will you join me?


This morning's live devotions.



Rain is Coming!

 

Chris turning to look at the camera

This morning, I was just outside my apartment and noticed that the grass is brown and crunchy. This is not uncommon during hot, dry summers like the one we are having here in Oklahoma. I found myself wanting to encourage the grass because I've seen the forecast and rain - lots of it is due later this week. I was like - just hang on, you'll be green again soon.

Even though the grass is terribly brown - like the middle of the winter brown, it will brighten up and be green with just a little bit of rain. It won't be long until it's vibrant again. I thought about how wonderful that will be. Then, since I'm the question queen, I started wondering about how in the world it can appear so dry and dead and then revive again. It hit me that it's the roots. I cannot see the roots because seeing through things isn't one of my superpowers. Lol. But basic science has taught me that an intricate root system mirrors most of what we see on top of the soil. It's working to keep the grass alive during the dry season, even though it doesn't change the grass's appearance. Well, that will preach.

Everyone, caregivers or not, goes through dry seasons. We can feel so dry and maybe even a little bit crunchy now and then. (smile) But when we are rooted and grounded in Him - our "root system" will sustain us through those dry times. Just a little bit of rain from His word, and we are all perky again. (And far less crunchy!)

The New Living Translation reads this way in Ephesians 3:17. And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts as you trust in him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God's marvelous love. I think knowing that His love for me didn't change when I became a caregiver has been one of the solid truths that have kept me grounded over these almost 14 years. To know that His word, His love, His plan, and His purpose didn't change in response to circumstances helps me stay grounded in Him. And, of course, it takes us staying rooted and grounded in His word to sustain us through those dry times. 

There are days when He seems so close. I can feel His comforting care. Other days I think He packed up and moved away and left me holding the bags. It's those roots in His word that remind us He will never leave or forsake us. His mercies are new every morning. His kingdom is not shaken or moved by my circumstances. I can stand secure in Him, knowing the rain will come to my parched soul once again.


                                                                                                                                           


If you enjoy these devotionals, I have others! I've expanded my bookstore on Amazon. My devotionals are available in Kindle or print format. The new Bible study guides are now available on Kindle and in print! Check out my growing bookstore: 

I also recently opened my own bookstore. I'm presently filling it up with my books - check out the ones I have available in eBook format. You can download them and read them on your phone! Dove's Fire Ministries Bookstore.


No Shortages

chris standing beside me

Have you noticed all the shortages lately? There have been short supplies on some of the most interesting items, I think. I understand our supply chain has been disrupted, but when has there been a run on low-sodium potato chips? Lol. It's just been some of the oddest things.

I keep a club membership at Sam's for mostly one reason. They carry a decent brand of adult wipes for a decent price. My son's dad keeps us supplied with wipes, and that's a true blessing! This week, I opened one of the new boxes he brought last weekend. There was a note card inside on top. It said there was a noticeable difference in the way the packs would open. They no longer pop open. The note said that it was due to the shortage of some little parts, and instead of not producing the wipes, they wanted us to have the product. However, the note stated that we'd notice a difference in the way the tops open to access the wipes. Sure enough - there's no pop-top. I thought, what an odd shortage, right?

This morning, that scene replayed in my mind. Then, I thought - I'm so thankful there's no shortages with God. Seriously! We'll never find an addendum in the Bible that peace ran out! Nowhere will we find that His grace has run out. We looked at His mercies (plural) a couple of devotions back as we discovered they are new for us every morning. And they don't lapse at night! That's a good thing for caregivers because we often have some very long nights.

We won't get a notice that part(s) of His Kingdom are deactivated because a part is missing. There's no delay in His broadcast because a fuse is blown or any other crazy reason we hear about today. His account is not hacked! He is always online. And He cannot get booted off "faith-book"! lol. He owns it. 

I'm just so thankful that He has whatever I need for today. Nothing in His kingdom ever runs out, runs short, or stops working as He designed it. Just like our hearts - they are designed to seek Him!

Today, I will meditate on all the things in the Kingdom that there's never a shortage of - like faith, mercy, grace, patience, peace, and love. I'll turn my thoughts to the way He carries me on days I run short of things like patience, peace, and self-control. I will remind myself that He's got me covered - still today - all day. My heart will rest in His today, knowing that I can face today with His ample supply. Will you join me?


                                                                                                                                    


If you enjoy these devotionals, I have others! I've expanded my bookstore on Amazon. My devotionals are available in Kindle or print format. The new Bible study guides are now available on Kindle and in print! Check out my growing bookstore! 

I also recently opened my own bookstore. I'm presently filling it up with my books - check out the ones I have available in eBook format. You can download them and read them on your phone! Dove's Fire Ministries Bookstore.

Each New Day

 


I'm so thankful for each new day. Scripture promises us that His mercies are new every morning. (Lamentations 3:23) God doesn't have mornings since He dwells in constant light - because He is the light! So, that leads me to believe that He's created new mercies for each of our new mornings. That makes sense. Have you ever had a situation you were not sure how to handle? You went to sleep and voila! When you woke up, you knew exactly how to handle it. How that happens while we sleep - I will never know. But it happens a lot. There's something about having a new day to take on old problems. It's refreshing and often revealing.

But this morning, as I was reading, I realized Jesus made us a promise for our new days. I didn't necessarily like it, though. In Matthew 6, during the sermon on the mount - He's talking about not worrying about stuff. God is our Father, and He knows. He knows that we need all the basic stuff like food and clothes. Jesus promises us that as we seek the Kingdom - God will take care of all these things.

But then in verse 34, He says Don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. I thought, what an interesting "promise." I like the one about mercies every morning better, personally. lol.

Jesus also promised us that we'll have tribulation in this world, even though He's overcome the world. At first, I thought about why He has promised us that each new day will bring its own set of problems for us to navigate through (with His help, of course!). He never promised that nothing bad would ever happen again once we got saved. He kind of promises the opposite, doesn't He? 

That's one of the things I love about the Bible. It doesn't whitewash reality. There's nothing swept under the rug. We see real people with real flaws dealing with real situations and trials. Isn't that what encourages us? The thought of having to be perfect every day is overwhelming - on top of overwhelming circumstances. But we see Moses, Jonah, Peter, and more of our favorite Bible characters messing up. God didn't throw anyone away. Instead - His mercies were new for them each morning. He promised to walk with them and not abandon them - even in their mess-ups. Man, am I thankful for that!

Today, I don't need to remind myself that I am imperfect. But I do need to remind myself that the perfect God walks with me through the trials and tribulations each day brings. My meditations will be on His new mercies - for today - for this day - the one I'm in right now. I'll remind myself that He's got me right here - right now. And my declaration will be: I will trust You, Lord - with my heart, with my soul, with my life, with my loved one - today. Will you join me?




One Little City


 Never underestimate the small stuff. As caregivers, sometimes it's the smallest gestures that mean the most. A couple of years ago, I had gone up to see my mom for Mother's Day. On the way home, I stopped at a local lake just to see if it was accessible. I was pushing my son out to see the water, and a young man passed. He suddenly stopped, turned around, and said, "Happy Mother's Day." I felt his genuine compassion, and with tears sneaking up in my eyes, I quietly said, "thank you." No one else had thought to tell me HMD. And, of course, my son can't. Even though it was from a total stranger - it meant so much.

The smallest things often weigh the most. I thought about some of these things as I was reading in Micah this morning. In chapter 5, he's talking about the small city of Bethlehem. He says you are only a small village in Judah.  But then, the prophet goes on to prophesy about the birth of Christ, and he says, Yet a ruler of Israel will come from you. Wow - It's like - Hey, you tiny little city - nothing noteworthy about you at all. But the Prince of Peace is going to choose you to make His entry into time! 

Later on, Micah goes on to say that He will be the source of our peace. I love that. God chooses the simplest ways to bless us, doesn't He? It's possible we would have never heard of Bethlehem if Jesus hadn't come through there. But because it's a part of the "Christmas Story," we have all heard about this tiny little town, which has since grown to be a large one. 

Sometimes, in our days, it's the smallest things that can set us off (maybe that's just me!), and it's the smallest things that touch our hearts. I card from a friend. I phone call. Just someone choosing to be nice instead of acting out. A young man who opens the door for you as you're trying to get in the store. There are lots of these small acts that weigh so much. Sometimes, His peace just overwhelms me. It's not often, but I don't take it for granted. It is usually when I need it most. Maybe I just sense His grace to handle a situation with a client or suddenly know how to adjust my schedule so the day goes smoother and Chris and I can both have our needs met. It's certain that He shows up in the most unusual ways sometimes. I mean, come on - Bethlehem? lol.

Today, I will remind myself to look for those little signs that He is right here with me. I will purposefully wait for Him before making decisions or making a move of any kind. I'll acknowledge His presence as I go about my usual caregiving chores. And I will wait for His peace. Will you join me?



Don't Look Away

 As a caregiver, it's never a pleasant experience when people distance themselves. But I'm sorry to say, it happens a lot. At least it has for me. I've had a few people over the years who ran like the house was on fire once they found out I chose to care for my son at home rather than putting him in a facility.


There's nothing wrong with a facility when it's needed. But I felt like my son would be at an advantage in a home environment. I can think of two people who literally walked away when they found out this was what they felt was a "choice." 

Then yesterday, I was FaceTiming with a distant cousin. It was time to tube feed Chris. My cousin asked me to set the phone where he couldn't see that. That doesn't really bother me - because some people are squeamish. I was at first, too, but I soon got over it! lol. While it didn't bother me, it made me think about some stuff. Like how people look away because they don't want to see the painful parts of caregiving. 

Sometimes, people want to see us overcome circumstances - but they don't want to witness the struggle it takes. So- they look away. Which, on this end - feels like rejection.

My thoughts soon led me back to the story of Hagar. In Genesis 16, she said, He's the God who sees me. One way it could have been translated is God the Seer. The One who sees - maybe He sees and keeps on looking. When God sees our heartbreaks and triumphs - He keeps on seeing; He never looks away. He never says our life's picture is too complicated, we give Him a headache, or we stress Him out. He sees and keeps on seeing. I'm so glad God doesn't look away.

Psalm 34:15 says The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry.

Today, I'll meditate on how He sees and keeps on seeing me and my son. I'll remind myself that He is so aware of us and so intently tuned in to our every cry, song, shout, and silent tear. Nothing gets by Him. No hurt is too deep for Him to see - or for Him to heal. My thoughts will be on how intent He is on being with us - walking with us - talking with us - seeing and hearing us. I will relax and rest in His ever-abiding presence today as I trust Him for one more day. Will you join me?



Where Did He Go?

 


Don't you love those times when God feels so close? There is no doubt that He's right here - right now and He's walking through the day or midnight with you. I do. But then there are those times that even though I know He's here - I can't seem to find Him or hear Him. Those are not fun times, for sure.

This morning I read in Jeremiah 23:23-24 where God said through the prophet: An I a God near at hand and not a God afar off? Can anyone hide in secret places, so I cannot see him? do I not fill heaven and earth? There were several things in these two verses that spoke to my heart personally this morning.

I love that God asks in an explanative way  - how can I be close and not be far? Because I don't know where you are, but I'm happy to say that God is right here in Oklahoma with me and my son! :-) He is also there with you wherever you and your loved ones are. So, He's near to me here - yet far away from me with you. AND He's near to you there - but far away with us too. If I go somewhere else and find a new "here," He'll be there too! I can't outrun Him, hide from Him, or get away from His presence. (Not that I'm trying!) He is everywhere.

In the next verse, God mentions how impossible it is for us to try hiding from Him. I don't know that I try to hide from Him, but this reminds me that even if I tried to - He could still see me. Nothing obstructs His view of my heart.No difficulty. No trial. No empty bank account. No rejection. No problem. No sin. His all-seeing eye can see through anything as He looks into the depths of my being. I love that literally nothing can get in the way of Him seeing me. (I am going to meditate on that for a few!) He never says - I'll call back in a few - I can't hear you - bad connection. And there's no - bad connection where He says He can't see us - the picture is too fuzzy - or out of focus - nope. He can see us through anything. And that has a dual meaning.

The last part of verse 24 says Do I not fill heaven and earth? Again - every space is open to His sight and He is in every place. He fills it - completely. That includes my heart.

Today, I will meditate on how He sees through caregiving to make out the pure picture of my heart. My thoughts will be on how He sees me through anything that might try to cloud His view. And - I'll turn my thoughts to how He will carry me through anything back to His heart. I'll remind myself that He is right here - right now, and He's going nowhere soon. Because He's already there too. lol. My thoughts and heart will be on His all-seeing eye that never turns away from the view of my heart. And so, I know I can trust Him for one more day. Will you join me?

In the Asking

 


You ever just have one of "those days"? I'm in one now - but it started yesterday when I was verbally attacked by a client. It sent me off on this emotional train wreck as it felt like everything was caving in around me. It wasn't, but it sure felt like it until I got a grip on His grace again!

It's taken me a long time to get all that out of my head and to remind myself that I am valuable to Him - and nothing else - no one else's opinion really matters. This morning, I spent time praying about it all and writing it out in my journal. That is a tool I highly recommend as it is a safe place - with no one else's opinions and no one else's thoughts. I like it because I can put it all there - walk away and never look back. It really is a great way to plan my personal changes. It's also a great place to leave all the emotions there and walk away.

As I finished writing out my thoughts and prayers, I found myself in Psalm 13. It says How long, O Lord will you look on? How long, O Lord, will you look the other way - while I have anguish in my soul. (I don't know what versions that rolled out of - that's the words that I remember in no particular order. lol) But as I was stuck in deep feelings of aloneness, I realized something. Just in praying that Psalm - as our hearts cry out to Him - it acknowledges His presence. Crying out to Him - praying to Him - seeking Him - is our heart's way of still believing that He's there. And in that pain-filled moment, I had comfort.

Even though my heart was asking if He was still looking the other way - it was seeking Him. Isn't that faith in the fire? Isn't that our heart's way of saying what the 3 Hebrew children told the king - who represents this world today? My God is able..... He is able to deliver - but if not - I'm still not going to bow!

Whether we are seeking Him from an emotional shipwreck or asking for direction, seeking Him without words or with tears, our heart is telling us that we still know He's there. We haven't denied Him. We haven't walked away. No matter how alone we may feel. No matter how lost we may feel. No matter how far back into the cave we feel we moved - He's only a breath away.

Today, as I crawl out of this fog, I will remind myself that my questions mean I am still seeking. I will think about my intense desire to be with Him, and I will turn my heart and my thoughts to His great love for me. I'll remind myself that His grace is sufficient for this day - no matter what it does or does not bring. I'll meditate on His grace, His mercy, His love - and I will thank Him for being here in the fog even as I trust Him for one more day - will you join me?


It's the Journey

 This week it seems like it's been just one thing after another. From asthma attacks to clogged feeding tubes. As if it's not enough to just handle the "normal" day-to-day tasks of caregiving, it seems like sometimes these extras just need to pop up. Lol. It really is about the whole journey, isn't it? We're taking care of another whole person, after all!

But I've started noticing something about the journey - I think it's just an itsy bitsy bit easier to find His peace in the middle of it all. I've accepted that I'm an overthinker - it's just how I process stuff. But even in that process, I'm finding His peace a little quicker these days. Too bad He didn't equip us with a "peace" button we could push when we need it. I need a "grace" button too. lol. 

Sometimes, the journey to finding His peace is long and hard. But I have to say it's worth it. However, that doesn't mean that I have it all together yet. Maybe I haven't quite mastered letting His peace reign in my heart. But the relationship with Him that I've been building in the process - is so worth it. Isn't that what it's really all about, ultimately? 

To learn and accept that He is with me all the time - good days, bad days, days I don't want to go on - He's right there. The journey is worth it. To know that He loves me even when I am so mad in life's situations that I'm ready to spit and cuss. The journey is worth it. To know in those long, dark, midnight hours - there is someone to call on. The journey is worth it.

Today, my meditations will be on how I continue to learn about Him and trust Him more through this journey called caregiving. I'll focus my affections on my relationship with Him - that's one thing we don't have to miss out on as caregivers, right? We may miss weddings, funerals, and all sorts of family gatherings and outings - but we don't have to miss out on our relationship with Him. So, today I will rejoice in His presence right here, right now, with me - and I'll trust Him for one more day. Will you join me?




Who "Gets" Us?

 


Even though the number of caregivers around the world is climbing, many people just don't get us. Baby Boomers are starting to care for their aging parents, which is why the numbers are rising. There are also a lot of people like me sandwiched between caring for aging loved ones and kids with disabilities. But there are still so many people who don't understand.

Maybe they just can't understand what we face day after day. Or maybe they don't want to. Until someone has been in a caregiving position, they may not ever understand how emotionally, spiritually, and physically draining it can be. Of course, it's not like that every day all the time. But over time, it can be draining, to say the least. Each day we reinvent ourselves to do it again! why? Because of love.

Sometimes, others' inability to empathize with our caregiving lifestyle feels isolating. It can drive us deeper into the aloneness that eats away. It's easy to feel like no one understands, no one really sees, no one "gets" us. But the good news is that there is One Who will always "get" us. 

God understands. As a matter of fact, He understands us so well that He "gets" the things we don't have words for. That oughta blow your mind! He gets the words, thoughts, and emotions behind every tear that falls. Then He catches it as a momento of our trust in Him. 

He gets all the ins, outs, ups, and downs that come with the caregiving package. And in the midst of whatever all of that looks like for you today - He still says - Here's my peace, grace, and mercy to help you today. When Jesus said, My peace I leave with you -  the disciples were all right there, including Judas, who would betray Him with a kiss, and Peter, who was going to deny he ever knew Him. Jesus didn't even disqualify them! He won't disqualify us either - He gets us.

Today, I'll remind myself that God understands. I'll think about how He sees more of my situation than I do - and still chooses to hang around! That makes me smile. My thoughts will run down memory lane recalling the times He's helped me before - whether I "deserved" it or not. I'll think about His grace and mercy and peace - and how there are no "disqualifiers." I will meditate on His constant presence as He chooses to walk through time with me rather than just waiting for me at the end. Because He gets me. I'll thank Him for understanding me - for understanding you. Will you join me in trusting Him for one more day?



                                                                                                                                           


If you enjoy these devotionals, I have others! I've expanded my bookstore on Amazon. My devotionals are available in Kindle or print format. The new Bible study guides are now available on Kindle and in print! Check out my growing bookstore: 

I also recently opened my own bookstore. I'm presently filling it up with my books - check out the ones I have available in eBook format. You can download them and read them on your phone! Dove's Fire Ministries Bookstore.


Beauty for Ashes?


 There is a phrase I use in these devotions quite frequently. I say something about when life gets ugly. My point is that it doesn't match the picture of normal, or what is expected by the norm. Yesterday, I almost typed it out when I stopped. I understand the concept - life as a caregiver isn't always what everyone else thinks is beautiful. But who cares?

Just as I was about to type life gets ugly I realized it's not ugly at all. Is it difficult? Yes! Is it abnormal to most? Yes! Does navigating the day-to-day get complicated? Absolutely! Do I get tired? Yup! But for just a moment God let me see the beauty in caregiving. Isn't it really about one person laying down their life for another? A life of self-sacrifice that many cannot and will not ever understand? Isn't that what Jesus did for us? That's beautiful.

The way my son looks me in the eyes speaks volumes although no words are used - that's beautiful. 

The way my aunt relied on me to care for her - she let me help her in her final years. That's beautiful.

me and aunt polly

The overwhelming love I feel for my son each time I dress him, pick him up, move him from one place to another - that's beautiful. 

Now, I don't know if anyone else can see it or not, because quite frankly I'm on this journey alone. But I'll never call this life ugly again - because love is beautiful and the beauty is even more pronounced when it comes through sacrifice and pain. Sometimes you don't know how much you love a person until it costs you something.

Hebrews 12:2 says that Jesus endured the cross, despising the shame - for the joy set before Him. We are that joy! What a beautiful picture of love. God so loved the world... not the church, not the saint, not the Pharisee, not the sinner - the world - the whole world and everyone in it - that He sent His son. He didn't send Jesus to paint a pretty picture. He sent Him to suffer on behalf of others - us! That's the beauty of love, laying one's life down for another.


Today, as I go through my tasks, I'll focus on the beauty behind the pain. I refuse to see it as "ugly" anymore - because loving someone enough to lay your life down for them - is the most beautiful thing about life. I'll remind myself that you are there - my precious readers - and you are laying your life down one day at a time too. God sees our beauty - whether we can or not! I'll lean into Him on this journey today and thank Him for loving me so beautifully - will you join me?


But Who's Counting?


 Early on my caregiving journey, I found myself in a predicament. I obtained a few credit cards and found that I just kept filling them up. If I saw something on Amazon or other sites that I wanted I purchased it, whether or not I could really afford it. This went on for some time until I found myself swamped with credit card debt - some of which I am still crawling out from under. But one day - it hit me as to why I was doing it. Knowing the why - caused me to stop immediately.

One day, sitting at the computer, I saw something I liked. Immediately I started the process of making the purchase, but this time I stopped. I asked myself why am I doing this? It was like God answered my question as I realized I was trying to compensate for the sense of loss that had taken over my life and emotions. 

As caregivers, we can suffer a lot of losses, some of which we don't even recognize at first. There are so many changes that emotionally feel like losses such as losing our career or job to care for our loved one. We may lose the way of life we were accustomed to. Friends grow distant. We lose the ability to socialize, at least like we used to. Losses come in many forms including money, friends, careers, jobs, lifestyle, and fill-in-the-blank. When I realized I was trying to cover my sense of loss with all these random purchases, I was able to stop. Plus, I ran out of credit. lol.

I did similar things with emotional eating. Life hurts, food tastes good - eat up! I'm still trying to lose that added weight too! Yesterday, in my flower garden, I started reflecting on all this as I gently pulled the wilted flowers away. Each little bloom opens in a day and then fades away in a couple of days. As I was pulling the dead flowers away the brilliant new flowers seemed to just pop out at me. I thought what's perceived as a loss, makes room for the new. Doesn't God work like that in our lives? 

When we can let go of our losses, which may be far too many to count, He can make things new. I can turn my thoughts from the losses to the things that might not have happened if I hadn't started caregiving. I have a bookstore full of eBooks I might not have written. So, even though parts of me died, some parts of me have bloomed more brightly. God has a unique way of turning things around, doesn't He? I believe Paul said it best in Romans 8:28 - God will work all things to work together for good - for those of us who love Him. I love sitting back and looking at what He's done - I am always so surprised!

Today, I will shift my focus from my pain and sense of loss to all He's provided on this caregiving journey. I'll thank Him for staying the course with me and for never leaving even when it got rough. My meditations will be on how He continues to work out all things for good and how He continues to work in me - no matter how broken, scattered, or lost I feel - He just keeps looking out for me and working in me. And this is a good time to just keep trusting Him. Will you join me?

Reaching for the Sun


 I have several pots with succulents, flowers, and edibles all out on my patio. Then I have a row of flowers I planted in the ground outside the brick patio half-wall. I tell myself that was the best $12 I ever spent. Each time I go out, I see their brilliant colors and they make me smile from the inside out. I never dreamed a little row of simple flowers would brighten my day so much! 

This morning, I went out to tend my plants before the heat ramped up. I do this every morning. I water my plants and talk to them. Lol. I tell the flowers how pretty they look and my other plants how well they are growing and what a great job they are doing reaching for the sun. It resembles the things I like to hear - those things that encourage me to continue growing and reaching for Him.

Maybe that's what life is about, reaching for the Son.

Maybe we could all use a little encouragement today to keep reaching for Him.

In yesterday's devotion, I talked about how He is our one Rock. He is also our one Light. Our only strength. The only Shepherd of our souls. The One who comforts us, gives us peace and stands guard over our souls day and night. No day is too hot for Him and no night too dark. He walks through it all with us whether our soul seems to be scorching or silent. He's right there when it seems too dark to find our way. And we just keep reaching for the Son. That's our main job. It's essential to what we do as caregivers. We love the way He loves, care the way He cares, and watch over our loved ones like He watches over us.

Today, I want to encourage you to reach for the Son one more time, and I will do the same. My meditations will be on how my soul needs Him, and how He is so very present whether it feels like life's hot sun is beating down on my head, or my arms are not long enough to reach Him. I'll remind myself that He surrounds me like the sunlight surrounds my little plants - they cannot escape it! And I will rest in Him - trusting Him for one more day. Will you join me?


                                                                                                                                           


If you enjoy these devotionals, I have others! I've expanded my bookstore on Amazon. My devotionals are available in Kindle or print format. The new Bible study guides are now available on Kindle and in print! Check out my growing bookstore: 

I also recently opened my own bookstore. I'm presently filling it up with my books - check out the ones I have available in eBook format. You can download them and read them on your phone! Dove's Fire Ministries Bookstore.


Gentle Reminders


 I mentioned you today in my FaceBook Live devotional, "Peace Out!" I was reading one of my all-time favorite scriptures, Psalm 61. As I read over the words, when my heart is overwhelmed, I thought of how many times we live in a state of overwhelm. Sometimes it's emotional as we watch our elderly loved ones slowly fade. Or perhaps some are caring for younger loved ones and all those "what could have beens" tear at our souls.

There are times when mental overwhelm is just unreal. There can be so much planning and thinking and strategizing when caring for another whole person. I've just figured out how to manage boluses so that I save huge chunks of time out of my day. It only took me 14 years. lol. Planning work, caregiving, and even breaks can be mentally and emotionally exhausting at times.

Maybe there are times when we are just physically overwhelmed too. Since I've had a bit of a heart issue, I get tired so much easier. Some days I feel like I'm dragging. But things still have to be done. Actually, there's nothing I can skip, even on those days. I know some of you understand. 

David's prayer when he felt overwhelmed was lead me to the Rock - you know that one that is higher, taller, stronger, than me. We read over this prayerful phrase without giving it much thought, but it carries a lot of weight. Think of a few mentions of God as our rock in scripture:

...the Mighty One of Jacob...the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel (Gen. 49:24)

He is the Rock, His deeds are perfect. Everything He does is just and fair. He is a faithful God and upright. (Duet. 32:4)

The rock of our enemies is not like our Rock, as even they recognize. (Duet. 32:31)

there is no Rock like our God! (I Sam.2:2)

Trust in the Lord always, for the Lord God is the eternal Rock. (Is.26:4)

And those are just the beginning. Wow, right? I think I'm going to write all these down and study them today because as I read over these few scriptures, I was encouraged and reminded that He really is my rock. He is a safe place to run no matter what overwhelms us. 

Today, I will thank God for being the immovable, steadfast, strong, and eternal Rock. I'll remind myself that I have a safe place to hide my body, soul, emotions, mind, and spirit. My meditations will be on hiding in Him, while my prayers today will be that Holy Spirit continues to lead me to that rock. Maybe I'll move there and just live in that Rock! Will you join me at the Rock?


(This morning's live devotion where I mentioned YOU! lol




                                                                                                                                                                

Is Anybody Out There?


It's not unusual for caregivers to feel overwhelmed. There is a lot on our plates, and each day seems to bring more. Decisions, tasks, and plans, just seem to wear on and on. They are just part of our journey so we tend to adjust and proceed. But every once in a while, at least for me, it seems I get sucked into the I'm all alone syndrome. The odd thing is that the feelings of being alone can be strongest when others are all around.

When I go for a hike, an evening walk, or anywhere else occasionally, I seem to be the only person there all alone. Everyone else at least appears to be enjoying the company of friends, companions, or others. It tends to gnaw at one's soul. I hope you don't understand.

Last night, after the zoom Bible study I host, which was very enjoyable, I just got sucked into the I'm all alone vacuum. There was no warning. No sign of anything. I just felt so all alone. 

What are we supposed to do with these feelings?  Of course, we take them to God. Maybe He feels all alone too - several scriptures say, I am God alone. (lol - you know I'm just kidding. We gotta laugh sometimes!) I know I can take everything to Him and He fully understands those feelings of abandonment and aloneness. Sometimes, just spreading my heart out before Him is all that it takes for my emotions to shift. I encourage you - if you feel alone right where you are - spread it all out to Him. 

One thing I've found encouraging is knowing He is in my now. He's in the right now - present here - whatever here looks like today. He hasn't (and won't) abandon because life got ugly or difficult. He is committed to the journey - and I am committed to Him.

Today, I will remind myself that I am not alone. That someone is with me and that someone created everything by starting with a simple phrase, let there be light. That same God can shine the light of His glory in my heart so that the aloneness is no longer the focus. Today, I will remind myself of His eternal commitment to be with me. I will look for His interactions throughout my day. I'll be thankful that I am not alone because I am hidden in Him. Will you join me?

                                                                                                                                    


If you enjoy these devotionals, I have others! I've expanded my bookstore on Amazon. My devotionals are available in Kindle or print format. The new Bible study guides are now available on Kindle and in print! Check out my growing bookstore! 

I also recently opened my own bookstore. I'm presently filling it up with my books - check out the ones I have available in eBook format. You can download them and read them on your phone! Dove's Fire Ministries Bookstore.

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

 


A caregiver's day is filled with decisions. The most difficult part is making them for someone else. Some caregivers take care of loved ones who can speak and make choices. My son cannot speak. If he does make a choice, it's often hard to communicate it effectively. I'm always second-guessing what he meant and worry that I missed his slight cues. 

Our decisions are like everyone else's in that they affect more people than we imagine sometimes. Some people haven't always understood my choice to take care of my son at home. They think I should just put him in a facility. While I know I have a choice - I just can't take that route. They won't push him like he needs to be pushed to improve among other things. But the decision to care for our loved ones usually affects other aspects of our lives as well. Actually, it affects every aspect of our lives.

Even though some people don't understand making the decision to care for a loved one (long-distance or in-home), it's often the right choice. That decision is then followed by tons of new decisions that have to be made. Where do we live? Will I have supplies? Will I have enough money? Will I have help? I'm sure you can add to this list!

As I was thinking about all the decisions I've made over my caregiving years, I must say I regret some and celebrate others. lol. Those who don't understand think I could make it a lot easier on myself by doing it another way. But I just can't. I wondered this morning if they thought the same thing about Jesus. The cross was a decision. He toiled over it in the garden that last night. He even asked Father if there was another way. But then He decided to drink the cup He was given. Hebrews 12:2 says He endured the cross for the joy that was set before Him. We are that joy! I'm so glad He chose to go to the cross, even though I'm sorry He had to endure it.

Do you ever wonder what it would have been like if He'd made another choice? What if He decided to take the easier route and avoid the cross? We would have been affected forever. His single decision to obey the Father and complete the task set before Him gave us more than we could have ever imagined.

Today, I will be thankful that He chose to be my spiritual caregiver. I will specifically thank Him for choosing to dispel the darkness in my heart with His glorious light. I hope to mirror His heart by making hard choices of my own. I will rejoice in the salvation He purchased for us with His own blood, sweat, and tears. I'll remind myself that He ever lives to continue to intercede for us. His blood still speaks. I'm overcome with gratefulness for His decision for me! I'll spend some extra time today just thanking Him for this journey. Will you join me?



Me Too!

 When I was so sick back in 1986-7, I found a scripture in Psalm 119. Verse 50, David says, This is my comfort in my affliction, for Your word has given me life. (NKJV) The old King James says, for your word has quickened me. As I struggled physically, with no strength, nothing making much sense and doctors who couldn't find answers (or didn't even want to try), I thought I was going to die. 

On top of all of that, my MIL at the time began to berate me with comments about how God was punishing me for this or that. She listed out all the things she thought I was doing wrong. Honestly, I had no strength to defend myself. I would repeatedly tell her, I trust God. My mom planned my funeral.

Chris watching fireworks on the Fourth of July

As a nurse, she thought I was in the dying process. God miraculously healed me - I have no doubt. Slowly, I regained strength and over the next few months, I just got better and stronger. My appetite returned and I began to gain back all the weight I'd lost.

But during the storm - I found so much comfort in the fact that the Word continued to undergird me and give me hope and life. It was one reason I knew I hadn't committed some grave sin as some suggested. Instead, His word still touched my heart, even though I was in one of the lowest points of my life. 

Lately, I've struggled with stuff common to caregivers like loneliness and social isolation. On top of that, my natural solutions are to get out more - but because of the ongoing COVID stuff, I feel stuck. But what comfort comes when I read His word! I read stories about real people who faced real stuff too and just continued to trust God.

Take Job. He lost everything - and that's no overstatement. But he said, even though God slays (kills) me, I will trust Him. I'm like - ME TOO! Take Daniel. He grew up in a hostile environment - he was a slave. Yet when they told him to not pray - Daniel said (in my loose translation) - let me go pray about that! I'm like - yeah, ME TOO! What about the 3 Hebrew children? They were going to be thrown into a fire - a hot, raging real - fire! They said, Our God is able to deliver us. But if He doesn't - we still won't bow. And I say ME TOO!

God is worth trusting. It doesn't matter how hot the fire gets - He is with us firewalkers! No matter what we lose or retain - He is still trustworthy. No matter how alone we may feel, He is with us like He was with all our Bible heroes. I remind myself (and you can listen in) that our Bible heroes are just that because they faced stuff - not because they avoided bad things happening in their lives. Since they didn't live their lives in a bubble, stuff happened to them. Me too! (lol)

Today, I restate my vow to trust God in the no-matter-whats. I reaffirm my heart is set on trusting Him through it all - in the midst of the turmoil, the trials, the tribulation, and the tough times life throws my way. He will always still be my God. I will continue to trust Him - will you join me?


                                                                                                                                           


If you enjoy these devotionals, I have others! I've expanded my bookstore on Amazon. My devotionals are available in Kindle or print format. The new Bible study guides are now available on Kindle and in print! Check out my growing bookstore: 

I also recently opened my own bookstore. I'm presently filling it up with my books - check out the ones I have available in eBook format. You can download them and read them on your phone! Dove's Fire Ministries Bookstore.

3 Ways Caregivers Can Avoid Burnout and Lead a Healthy Lifestyle

 

man caring for a woman in a wheelchair

Caregiving can be a rewarding experience for those who choose to dedicate their time and effort to ensure their loved ones continue to enjoy a good standard of living. But in time, the stress and pressure of caregiving can also lead to burnout. Additionally, other responsibilities such as a job, relationships, and your own health can find themselves on the backburner. For caregivers struggling to find a balance between their personal and caregiving needs.

 Manage Your Stressors

 If stress has become a mainstay in your life, you may have lost track of actual stressors that make you feel this way. While you may be quick to conclude that the pressure of caregiving is the sole cause, there may be other factors exacerbating the situation, such as problems at work, lack of personal goals, financial difficulties, etc.

 Once you realize the various factors which lead you to feel stressed, make a plan of how to address them. This can include:

      Applying for a new job or considering freelancing which can allow you greater control over your time and manage caregiving needs better.

      Creating a budget to reduce expenses to pay off debts or generate more funds for healthcare needs.

 Additionally, communicate with your loved ones regarding your health and problems. Caregivers often refrain from sharing their concerns as they feel it may make their loved ones feel guilty. However, whether it’s a spouse, parent, or child, they’ll want the best for you as well and could even provide solutions and help improve the situation.

 Start Exercising

 Exercise is one of the best ways to keep stress at bay and help avoid caregiver burnout. Exercise results in the release of various hormones such as dopamine, oxytocin, adrenaline, etc. These are commonly known as feel-good hormones as they naturally reduce stress levels and promote happier moods.

 A simple 20-minute workout a day will significantly reduce stress. This includes going for a jog, practicing body-weight exercises, cycling, etc. Additionally, consider including yoga or meditation as part of your daily routine, as reported by Insider, these activities promote mindfulness and gain clarity of thought. At times when you feel overwhelmed, practicing breathing exercises will help calm your nerves and prevent the situation from escalating into a panic attack.

 Learn to Accept Help

 While caregivers are first to offer assistance, they’re often reluctant to ask for help. Needing help doesn’t mean you aren’t capable of handling the situation alone or that you’ll burden others with your problems. In reality, by accepting help, you can learn better ways to manage responsibilities, handle stress, and develop a healthier lifestyle. For instance, during stressful situations, rather than sitting alone, pick up the phone and have a conversation with someone you trust, such as a friend, parent, or colleague.

 Additionally, not all help needs to be reactive. If you need to travel for work in the near future, ask a family member to be with your loved one during the time you’re away. You can give them a rundown of the routine and the numbers they should call in case of emergencies. Moreover, on days when you’re short on time, request a friend to complete some errands for you, such as buying groceries, collecting documents, etc.

However, if you still feel your mental health deteriorating, don’t hesitate to seek professional health. There are numerous licensed therapists available online who you can meet at a time of your choosing from the comfort of your home. Compared to traditional in-person counseling, online therapy costs less and provides you with a wider variety of professionals to choose from.

 As a caregiver, it is common to overlook your needs to dedicate all the time and effort towards helping loved ones. However, to provide them with the level of care needed, it’s important for you to be at your best, physically and mentally. To achieve this, you need to make time for yourself, learn to accept help, and not put the burden of caregiving solely on your shoulders.

Right Back to Him

 God is so patient with us. I run to Him so often, I often wonder if He silently shakes His head as I approach for the millionth time. In a ...