Ups and Downs

 

Chris looking at his medal after our 5K

Maybe it's just "that time of year" for me, but I've struggled a lot the last few weeks. I still affectionately call it the caregiver's fog. Lol. Okay, maybe it's not-so-affectionately. I know I can share my true feelings with you guys because you get it. You understand the day-to-day grind of caregiving. The military has a saying about there being no easy day. I think we live in that reality. It's just not easy caring for another whole person, is it?

Caregiving presents many difficulties. We can find ourselves alone, so very alone on this journey. It doesn't just go away. We don't just work through it. It seems to go on and on. There are lots of ups and downs - and that can be about every 90 seconds some days. Right? (smile!) As I've been working through this emotional maze the last few days, I turned my thoughts to Daniel. Let's take a realistic look at his circumstances because as we read his story in the Bible, we tend to glamorize it.

Daniel was a youth when the life he knew was stolen from him. He was taken captive - forced into slavery. He had to learn a whole new language and culture from the viewpoint of a slave. He was rendered unable to have children. He had no hope of a legacy. The normal dreams of a young man to marry the love of his life and have children were violently removed. He could have given up. But he didn't.

We see Daniel as a young man in the first part of the book, purposing in his heart to choose God. And we see him in the middle of the book determining to run to God in prayer - even if it meant his life. Finally, we see Daniel in the latter chapters seeking God. He was reading Jeremiah's writings even after 70 years as a slave in a foreign land. He continued to seek God through all the ups and downs of his life. 

We can do that too. Giving up isn't an option anymore. We are way too far into the journey for that! :-) I think we can learn something from Daniel. He purposed - he was determined - he was consistent - and he continued reading God's word. It all starts with being purposed to pursue God no matter what dream-suckers come our way in life. Daniel had the "right" to give up - but he chose to pursue God all the way through his life's bumpy journey.

Today, I will take a stand in my heart again. I'll declare that I will trust God through the ups and downs of each moment and each day. I'll move in a little closer to His heart so I can hear Him better. And I'll trust Him with one more day in the journey. Will you join me?


                                                                                                                                                                

True Coordinates

 

chris and I at our first 5K

Do you ever just feel like you got lost in life's shuffle? Everything, even non-caregiving stuff, can seem overwhelming at times. But we can't lay aside our caregiver responsibilities just to take care of other life needs. There's no "off" button for caregiving. Even if we get a break for a couple of hours or a day or two, we are so connected to our phones we can't relax. (Maybe it's just me.)

On a daily basis, there are just so many things to take care of, and it seems like there are more of them all the time. I'm pretty sure that's just my imagination, but I'm not totally convinced! Lol. Life just goes on, whether we agree to it or not. And our proverbial plates just seem to get piled higher and higher. It's easy to wonder if God lost sight of us. In our hearts, we know by faith that He sees all and knows all, right? But emotionally, it can sure feel like He doesn't see. Occasionally, I emerge out of the caregiver's fog and remind myself that He sees every small detail. But there's always that question, does He really?

I read a scripture this morning that helped convince me that God sees more than we give Him credit for. I've been thinking about Jonah. He prayed an awesome prayer from the belly of that whale! But it was his own bad choices that caused him to end up there. He purposefully disobeyed God's command. God said, "Go to Ninevah." So, Jonah got in a boat going in the totally opposite direction. On purpose. Determined disobedience. But the last verse of chapter 1 says that God prepared a fish. That fish swallowed Jonah.

While I find that quite amazing, there was something new I thought about as I was reading it again this morning. Somehow, God had the fish at just the right spot to catch Jonah as the fishermen were throwing him out of their boat. That's some great coordination. If you think about the whole earth, all the waters, and all the infinite places that fish and Jonah could have been, it's quite a God-like feat. The fish was right where it needed to be at the specific time it needed to be there to catch the bait, I mean Jonah. God had both the fish and Jonah's true coordinates. We miss these "tiny" miracles sometimes, don't we?

If God knew where Jonah was, even though he had rebelled and sinned, doesn't He surely know where we are? Especially if we are seeking Him and not running from Him like Jonah? As I thought about how miraculous the coordination of this event was, it brought me comfort and reminded me of God's intent gaze toward me - toward you. He knows right where we are.

Today, I'll remind myself that God can see me through the layers of caregiving. He looks past my hurts, my fears, my concerns, and even my needs - and sees me. I'll be thankful He's not preparing a fish for me - but He did prepare the cross for us. My meditations will be on His mercy, His grace, and His love for me today. I'll be thankful there are no "off" buttons or "pause" buttons on His attributes. He's always on - and He's looking at me. I will trust Him for today - will you join me?



                                                                                                                                                                

Tidying Up the Cave

 

chris standing and looking at wiley post park

Do you ever just feel alone? Social isolation is real for caregivers. Now that we are mostly post-pandemic and things are going back to something like normal, it reminds us that our lives are anything but normal. I've started taking Chris out more - mostly for stimulation. He acts differently when we are out - I think he's bored with our little 2-bedroom apartment. Lol. And while getting out is so good for both of us, pushing his chair around social settings and outings just serves to remind me how different we are.

Most people have no idea what caregivers deal with on a daily basis. But what's worse is they don't want to get close enough to know. And having no one close is what seems to eat away at us many times. Now, I hope you have plenty of friends and family who are close and keep in touch with you. But sadly, too many caregivers feel stuck alone in their caves. That's where I have been this week. It's okay - I just have to adjust a little, so I don't get swept away in that emotional tide. So, I'm tidying up my cave.

Self-reflection and evaluation are good for us generally. So, I'm taking a look around my own cave to see what I want to keep and what doesn't belong. In the alone times, when we feel like we are tucked away in a cave from the norms of life, we'll find that He is there too. I love that God meets us where we are. 

Think about that a bit. He met Adam and Eve in the garden, even after they sinned. He met Abraham at his tent. God "found" Hagar not once but twice. He came to Moses on the back side of the wilderness and spoke to him from a burning bush. And get this - Moses had been out there for 40 years! Alone. But God came. So, while I am tidying up my cave and adjusting once again, I can trust that He will find me too. 

Whether I feel like my life is being lived by a beautiful stream of living water, or I feel like I'm just trying to survive on the back side of the wilderness, He knows. And He'll come anyway. No wilderness is too barren. No cave is too dark or deep. He can find us - and better yet - He can reach us.

Today, I'll remind myself that God is even present with me in my caregiver's cave. He has time to listen when human ears don't. He understands. He gets us. And He still whispers, My grace is enough. So, I'll trust His grace to carry me through 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.


The Unnamed


It's easy to get lost in the maze of caregiving, isn't it? Sometimes, we can feel so unseen and non-existent in today's rushed world. Occasionally, we get a nod from a medical professional or someone who at least breathes a tiny bit of life back into us. But for the most part, we are pretty invisible to a world that doesn't know what to do with us. (And that includes the church world.)

This morning, I was thinking about the widow and Elijah again. In I Kings 17, we have the story of how the prophet Elijah was pulled off his miracle existence, so God could do a miracle for the widow. She's only called "the widow" and "the woman." We never get her name. Yet she was "given a charge" or appointed by God for a miracle, even though she didn't have a clue. She spent the remainder of the famine with jars full of oil and flour. How did God do that?

We have a similar scenario in John 4. Jesus was at the height of His ministry when He decided He "needed" to go through Samaria. And He did it just so He could talk to a woman at a well. His disciples didn't marvel that He went through Samaria; they were astounded that He talked to a woman. (John 4:27) And once again - we don't have a name to work with. Yet, He talked with her about living water, worship, and even disclosed to her that He was the Messiah. 

Maybe, just maybe - He sees us too. Maybe we are not nameless, per se, but we can feel overlooked, abandoned, and forgotten. But here we have two instances where God halted all He was doing to reach out to nameless women. I don't know about you - but that encourages me and helps me remember that He's still reaching out to us nameless, faceless few. 

Today, I'll remind myself that He'll walk right into any Samaria or famine I may be facing. He'll sit and talk with me - I just need to listen. He won't withhold who He really is from me because of my situation. I'll remind myself that I'm not excluded from relationship because of my caregiving responsibilities. He still bids us to come. To sit. To drink of Him and be filled. So, today, I'll bring this big ole empty cup called my soul to Him, and I will hold it up to Him and wait for Him to fill it with His peace, comfort, and joy. 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.


Silent Touch

chris and his fitness guru Amy

 Have you ever just had one of those days? You know, I'm pretty sure.  Everything just crashes in on you, and the emotions are thinned out and raw. That's where I found myself yesterday. I was driving Chris to therapy and stopped to literally put gas in the van. It was literally my last $3! I was okay - I knew I had a client who would pay me this morning. So I wasn't worried, but it still hit me hard. As usual, I turned my multitude of thoughts into prayers, and I just let it all hang out. I even shed a few tears, and I don't cry often.

I explained to God (like He doesn't know) how tired I am. I was worried about paying for therapy because it was coming out of my pocket. I'm so far behind in work; it's not even funny. I was explaining to God in my prayers how I just don't know what to do, how I'll make it, etc. Can anyone relate?

All of a sudden, I was just literally out of words. I had nothing. My emotions and tears were dry, and I just shrugged my shoulders and shook my head. That was it. I just drove home in silence, not knowing what to say, how to pray.

Then, I thought of the woman who touched the hem of Jesus' garment. She didn't bring words either. She pressed through the crowd silently. Had she spoken, she could have been stoned per the law - because she was unclean. Sometimes, it feels like we are labeled as unclean, different, unacceptable, weird, and a misfit. Our lives are vastly different than the majority, and it's easier to overlook us rather than to see our pain.

I thought about how powerful it was for her to reach out and touch Jesus - and she didn't even bring words. She didn't pray a "model" prayer, quote a hundred verses in the right order, or follow any pre-cut method for reaching Him. She just brought her broken soul. And He felt it.  He said - who touched me? His disciples laughed and said - you know you're standing in a crowd of people, right? (my loose translation) 

It was probably a bit hectic, loud, and rowdy. The crowds were pressing in to see Him and hear Him. But her silent touch moved Him. 

Today, I need my silent touch to move Him. Even if there are no words left to express my emotions or feelings, my soul is reaching for Him today. My meditations will be on how He sees me - right where I am. He gets me. And He understands all those things that are beyond the ability of words to express. But in sheer determination, I'm reaching for Him from my soul. Will you join me? 





No Dependency

Chris outside looking at me taking his picture

 Do you ever have times in your life when it feels like God's not doing anything at all? You still pray, but it feels like each prayer only goes as far as your breath can carry it. During those seasons, and thank God they are only seasons, it's difficult to find a reason to praise. It seems like God has moved far away, isn't paying attention, or doesn't even care. While we know none of those are true, it's still hard to navigate. That's where faith comes in.

Maybe it helps to know you are not alone. The Complete Jewish Bible says in Psalms 77:6-9, will Adonai reject forever? Will he never show his favor again? Has his grace permanently disappeared? Is his word to all generations done away? Has God forgotten to be compassionate? Has he, in anger withheld his mercy? Y'all - that's in the Bible! That means these types of feelings have been around for a very long time; they are not unique to us. 

While it provides me with a little bit of comfort to know others have experienced these types of feelings and survived, it's what Asaph does next that matters. In verses 10-11 he says, Then I add, "that's my weakness, supposing that the Most High's right hand could change." So, I will remind myself of Yah's doings; yes, I will meditate on your work and think about what you have done. Asaph says, "I don't see you working, but I know you are working, God. So, I'm just going to remind myself of what I know you've done in the past." And then, what comes next is so powerful. Asaph praises God anyway. The next few verses are spent just talking about God's marvelous works. 

You see, praising God doesn't depend on our circumstances. Whether we are in a good spot or a rough spot has no bearing on His goodness, His power, His grace, His mercy.... things we can praise Him for even in our "what ifs."

Today, I'm encouraging myself to go back and remember all the things God's done in the past. My meditations will be on the prayers He has answered, the times I knew that I knew that I knew He moved mountains. I'll praise Him for His power, His grace, mercy, and unfailing love no matter what I see or what it feels like "in here." We are in good shape, no matter what - since His attributes and power are not dependent on our circumstances. So, I'm going to praise Him anyway - will you join me?



                                                                                                                                                                

New Opportunities

 

Eli walking beside Chris' chair on the trail

Perspectives are important. Maybe when you were in college or high school, you had to write various papers from different people's points of view. A story can look very different from another person's eyes. Think about the story of the three pigs. Someone wrote the story from the wolf's point of view. It was a funny take on an old tale. But the story looked much different. Our perspective on circumstances often dictates our steps, thoughts, and actions.

We talked recently about seeing our giants from God's perspective, where they look much smaller and more manageable than from our own perspectives. If we could just figure out how to see our challenges from His point of view, we'd have more room to praise Him, I think. But no matter what we face and what degree of a challenge we assign it, each one is a new opportunity to trust God.

As caregivers, every day can be a challenge, and we never know what's going to come up next. We are trying to manage our own lives, finances, and care while doing the same for another whole person (or two). We often juggle work, social lives (if we have one at all), and personal needs with caring for a loved one. There's no way it's an easy task. Sometimes, our emotions run high. For me, I find my eyes sweat a little more frequently than I am used to. (smile) Sometimes, I feel more frustration than I think I can handle. I have days I just want to sit, drink coffee, and stare at the wall. Not like I have a chance to actually do it - but that's how I feel. 

We can get so busy caring for someone else that we get lost in the process. What are we supposed to do with all these emotions, feelings, thoughts, and needs? During my private devotions this morning, I figured out that each new one and old, nagging ones too - are just opportunities to trust Him. I found myself in Psalm 31 again this morning. I spend so much time there - I wrote a whole devotional out of it! lol. David says three times that he will trust in the Lord. He said it three different ways. 

  • In You, O Lord, I put my trust. (v1)
  • But I trust in the Lord. (v.6)
  • As for me, I trust in You, O Lord. (v.15)
I want to seize every opportunity to trust God. Today is a great place to start. So, today, I declare I will put my trust in the Lord. I'll trust Him with every feeling, thought, and raw emotion that circumstances dig up. I commit to not wallowing around in those emotions, thoughts, or feelings. Instead, I'll turn them all into prayers - then praise to the God Who holds me, sustains me, and lifts me up. I'll take today as an opportunity to trust Him one more time. Will you join me?

What's God Up To?

 

chris with a little smile at Bluff Creek Trails

Do you ever feel like you don't have a place to belong? Maybe it's just me - but I often feel like my life sticks out like a sore thumb. It's obvious that my life is different, but most don't get close enough to find out the true details. Now that the pandemic is mostly over, we're trying to get back out some. I'm still avoiding huge indoor crowds, but we are doing a few things, including weekly therapy sessions now. I just feel awkward. And just in case I forget, I've got my beautiful son in his chair to navigate through furnishings, store aisles, and small doorways that say they are "accessible." 

I'm pretty sure I'm not alone - but I sure feel like it most days. Can anyone relate? I kinda hope not. But here we are, trying to navigate life. It's complex. It's complicated. It's consuming (body, soul, and spirit). And yet, caregiving is beautiful in its own way. What a wonderful demonstration of God's love toward us. No matter how broken, how difficult, or how unknown our circumstances are, He's right there with us. Just like we are right here with our loved ones. 

Sometimes, we just don't know what God is up to. I was studying this morning in 1 Kings 17. It's the story of Elijah and the widow woman. Elijah's brook had dried up - his miracle ended. But the end of his miracle was the beginning of the widow's. In verse 9, God told Elijah, "I have commanded a widow there to provide for you." But as we read the entire story, we'll discover that she had no clue. She was preparing to die. She had just enough oil and flour to make a cake for her and her son. Then, she honestly thought that was it - that was the end. But God had another plan. Thank God for other plans.

Instead of closure, God opened up a new beginning. She made the prophet a cake first. Then, God blessed her flour and oil. (v. 16) For the duration of the famine, they never ran out. We don't know if she had faith. We don't know if she prayed for a miracle or not. We don't know anything about her, except she was caring for her son and she was alone. But God was up to something!

We can be sure that God is up to something in our lives too. None of us are too far removed that He doesn't know where we are or what's in our hearts. Elijah didn't know that widow woman. But God knew right where she was and what she needed. 

Today, I will remind myself that God can see me no matter how small I feel. My meditations will be on how He knows right where we are and He knows our needs. Every single one, from broken hearts to empty jars! I'll turn my thoughts to how He is our provider in every way conceivable. He won't leave. He won't quit. He won't forget. So, I will commit to trusting Him for one more day. Will you join me?


                                                                                                                                                                

Turning the Tides

 


I know I have shared in recent devotions about how I've been trying to be more thankful. Throughout the days and long nights, too, I purposefully find something to be thankful for. I've been trying to shift my whole mentality over to thankfulness instead of complaining. Honestly, my situation hasn't changed since I started focusing on gratitude instead of attitude, but I have noticed a couple of other things.

This morning, during my personal devotions, I found myself in Psalm 34. David, who was in a tough situation with King Abimelech, said, I will bless the Lord at all times, His praise shall continually be in my mouth. As I read that verse over two or three times, I wondered, honestly, if it was even possible. Can I really praise God all the time? Can His praises really be in my mouth continually? I was meditating on this phenomenon (tongue-in-cheek there) when I thought of a familiar verse out of Philippians. In the second chapter, verse 14, Paul urges the believers to do all things without complaining and disputing. I wondered again - Is that even possible?

As I thought about these two scriptures, I had an interesting thought. Last week, we discusses how powerful thanksgiving can be. While I was thinking about praising God continually and not complaining, I had this thought. As I focused on thanking Him even for the smallest things, thanksgiving had pushed out complaining and bitterness. I wasn't thinking about stopping the complaining, but it didn't have room to live here when I focused on finding things to be thankful for. It was quite the revelation since I wasn't really working on NOT complaining, but thanksgiving pushed it all out.

I wonder if the Children of Israel would have had a shorter journey had they learned to be thankful instead of grumbling and complaining across the wilderness. It would have at least made the journey more pleasant, even though it wouldn't have changed the wilderness. Our circumstances may not change with thanksgiving - but a heart set on gratitude toward God can change us.

Today, I will continue to look for things I can thank God for. My meditations will be on the positives, like how He stays with me, comforts me, and carries me as needed. I'll shift my focus to the ways He doesn't change in a world where everything seems to change on a dime. I'll remind myself of His faithfulness that remains, his foundation that stands, and His love that endures. I'll give thanks to Him today as I trust Him to get me through just one more day. Will you join me?



Book cover of the 1 John Study Guide


I have two bookstores of devotionals, Bible study guides, poetry, and more! You can get my downloadable eBooks (some are free!) from Dove's Fire Ministries Bookstore. A few of them are also available in print or for Kindle on Amazon!

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