Showing posts with label afflictions. Show all posts
Showing posts with label afflictions. Show all posts

Behind and Before


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Own Personal Bubble

As a caregiver do you ever feel like you live in a bubble? I sure do. For the most part, if I'm home I don't realize how un-normal my life is. Probably because it's become my new norm. It's a norm filled with lots of visits from case managers, nurses, doctors, and deliveries with a few surprise runs to the ER like yesterday. although each of our stories and days has differences, our norms include changes, dressing an adult, pureeing foods, tube feedings, spoon feedings, transfers, standing frames and range of motion exercises. Most of the time, we probably don't even think about those things - we just do.

But when we get outside our comfortable norms, it can seem like we are in a bubble. Many times in public we are ignored. People cut in front of Chris' chair without a second thought. Others let doors go just as I am getting there - which is fine - I CAN do it myself - but it's just rude. Some of it, I'm sure, is my own awkwardness - conversations are not the same if they happen. If they do happen, they revolve around caregiving. Of course, that's obvious - it sticks out, right! lol But there's more to me than caregiving - I write, I play music, I read - but no one seems to be able to see past the chair I'm pushing - into my bubble.

I used to be such an extrovert - and in many ways, I still am. But I have begun to feel so awkward in social settings. It can be much easier to stay home than to get out in my own personal bubble. But you know what? When God looks at us - He doesn't see someone in a bubble. He sees us - as believers as part of the kingdom of God. He is not afraid to come into our bubble and meet us on a heart-to-heart level. He's not scared of our emotions as cra-cra as they can be! He won't shun us or ignore us because we look different than everyone else. He sees us exactly the same - a person who is pursuing Him - someone who is covered by the blood of Christ and standing in His righteousness - just like everyone else who believes. He loves us right where we are with all our caregiving baggage It doesn't put Him off - it makes Him want to come closer.

David said it this way in Psalm 34:18-22
The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart,
And saves such as have a contrite spirit.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous
But the Lord delivers him out of them all.
He guards all his bones - not one of them is broken.
Evil shall slay the wicked,
and those who hate the righteous shall be condemned.
The Lord redeems the soul of His servants,
And none of those who trust in Him shall be condemned.

God delivers our soul - our bubble-wrapped soul! That's our mind, will, and emotions. He can come in like no one else and redeems what is troubling us. He gives us strength for this journey - strength to equal the amount we lean on Him - He's got our hearts and that's what matters most. 

Today, I will rejoice that He is not afraid to come in my bubble with me. I'll meditate on His great care and love for us as caregivers. I will be thankful for His presence in the midst of the trouble - and I will trust Him just for today - will you join me?


The Power of Determination

Over the weekend, I spent most of my study time reading in Daniel. For this week, he's my favorite Bible character, and I continue to learn from reading about his faith in the midst of his life's trial. Like caregivers, his trial didn't miraculously go away one day; it was a lifelong journey. Actually, the 12 chapters this book contains cover a lifetime of over 70 years. Sometimes we tend to read through it in a matter of a few minutes without realizing the time element.

70 years he was in captivity. He lost his family, his country and his life to become the servant of a king. While there is the good side of things - we can't minimize the losses he went through. He was young when he was carried away to Babylon but we see him develop into a man of God in the midst of extreme circumstances.

I literally lived in the ICU waiting room for 3 weeks before my son was moved to the floor of the hospital and during that time I prayed that whatever the outcome would be - I wouldn't become bitter. There had been many instances where I'd seen individuals go through tough times to come out bitter and angry in the end. And about 18 months later when I was able to re-establish a home and bring my son home finally - I prayed again that I would not become bitter but that I would be like many saints who let harsh circumstances develop and deepen their faith.

I don't know if I've accomplished that goal - but I see it in Daniel. In chapter one, it says he was determined not to eat the king's food. He did not want to violate his convictions - and he knew he could die. The king could kill him for his request; or he could starve to death! He could have been kicked out of the palace and placed with those who were not "chosen" by the king to serve. He risked a lot by making his unusual request.

And then years later we see a matured Daniel being told he could not pray to anyone but the king. And in chapter 6 verse 10 tells us this: when Daniel learned the law had been signed (that there was to be no prayer to anyone or any god but the king) he went home and knelt down as usual....and prayed! I love that!

I want to have the determination we see in Daniel. It was like nothing on the outside mattered, he was determined to serve God no matter what. The scriptures make no mention of him being bitter or angry at God for all that befell him. And in our "new world" thinking - he had every right to be. As caregivers the world gives us that right too. And I will admit - I've been angry at God, He and I have discussed it many times - and we don't have any details on what Daniel was thinking - perhaps he and God had discussed it too.

My prayer today is that over the years of this caregiving journey I end up like Daniel - with my face in His. I love the way Daniel took the king's decree in stride and once again followed his heart and conviction rather than just blindly doing whatever the king said. He wasn't obstinate, rebellious, or hateful. He just turned and went to his prayer spot just like before - as if the decree had never been made.

Today I will be thinking about Daniel and how determined he was to serve God in spite of his circumstances. My meditations will be on how I can work on relationship with God instead of being angry that He let bad things happen in my life. I will think about how He walks through it with me and never leaves me on my own. And for me, I'll even think about how patient He has been, and continues to be as I work through my issues. Today, I will embrace His grace and His presence and focus on Him instead of my circumstance. Will you join me?

Outside the Cave

It seemed as though Philippians 2 was written just for me this morning even though Paul penned it years ago to Christians in very different circumstances. I found a few nuggets to think about today, and a couple of them stung just a bit.

I ended up thinking about verse 1 a lot more than the others because these can be very real questions for the caregiver. The NLT reads Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? any fellowship together in the Spirit?  And Paul goes on to talk to the believers at Philippi asking them why they are not getting along.

While my focus isn't on getting along with other believers, I did think about these questions as a caregiver. Obviously, believing in Him hasn't kept difficult times from visiting. Knowing Him didn't "protect" us from being caregivers, and it didn't keep us from having to face some very difficult situations in life. Just think about Job - his faith didn't protect him from terrible things happening; but it did carry him through it.

So, we may still be asking if there is comfort and encouragement in Him. I have to say, "Yes!" He may even pour out a little bit more on us caregivers from time to time, knowing that it takes a bit more for us to make it through - and that is His ultimate goal. We don't get to escape caregiving, losses, or the grief that might be accompanying it for many - but He will walk us through it.

Paul goes on in this verse to ask the Philippians if they have fellowship. And if they are tenderhearted and sympathetic with each other. I can say I've found most caregivers to be very sympathetic. Why wouldn't we be? We get it. We understand each other's struggles most of the time and are familiar with the heart wrenching duties as well as the intense blessings that come with taking care of a loved one.

But what Paul says later on in verses 3 and 4 stuck out to me today. The NLT says Don't be selfish; don't live to make a good impression on others. Be humble; thinking of others better than yourself. Don't think only about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and what they are doing. Is he serious? I have enough going on - enough of my own concerns; like making it through the day with my sanity in tact!

It can be so "easy" to withdraw into our caregiver's cave and forget about the rest of the world. We really do have enough on our plate to take care of - but let's not get absorbed into our own world and forget there are other hurting people out there, other caregivers out there. There's lots of other people out there who are hurting. Can you think of one? Pray for them today.

Today I'm going to be aware that I am not alone in my pain. I will make a list of those I know of who are hurting and pray for them specifically today. I'll think about how He comforts me in my pain, how He encourages me to keep the faith; and I'll pray that they experience his comfort, encouragement and peace today too. Will you join me in this venture out of the cave?

Say What You Mean - Mean What you Say

If there is one thing I have learned since I became a caregiver it is to be open and honest with my feelings. I learned that God is big enough to handle my "real" feelings - there's no need to "protect" Him. People I had more difficulty with because you're never sure how someone is going to take what you say and how it's going to affect them. Over and over I've had people tell me that they appreciate the openness and transparency with which I write. But it didn't come easy for me. Maybe I just figured I didn't have anything to lose; or perhaps I just got too tired to filter everything any more. Who knows?

I've been open and honest with God for a lot longer since I figured He already knows what I really think, so why would I try to hide my emotions or thoughts from Him? But being open with people has been another story. I have trust issues for sure - and I'm not denying that. Actually, this openness that I am just discovering is something I've admired about David and the other psalmist. In too many instances, the "church" has directly or indirectly taught us that our emotions are a sin. I've been told, Don't say that  or even you shouldn't feel that way. What other way can I feel, but how I feel? (smile)

David doesn't seem at all worried about what people think about his feelings and emotions. He just lays it all out there before God and man. And David was a king - he was in the public eye which means that a whole lot more people actually cared what he thought. I think sometimes he seems ambiguous, or divided in his thoughts. For instance, in Psalm 25:15 He makes a bold statement of faith:

My eyes are continually toward the Lord,
For He will pluck my feet out of the net.

He makes a plea for grace followed immediately by some strong emotions. 

I am lonely and afflicted
the troubles of my heart are enlarged
bring me out of my distresses

In some of the circles I've been affiliated with we were not even allowed to say we were lonely, afflicted or distressed. Using these "negative" terms was considered to be showing a lack of faith. But I think that we cannot honestly ask God for help with something we cannot acknowledge. And how can we honestly accept His help if we refuse to declare our needs? 

God is big enough to hear our earnest plea for help. His hearing is good enough to hear our silent cries in the night. As caregivers we are used to carrying the whole load; and we typically feel like we have to act like super heroes and do it all on our own - or we are failing. (Maybe that's just me!) But today is a good day to just be honest with God about our emotions, feelings, struggles and victories. Another psalmist said God is a very present help in time of trouble. I like that He is very present. 

Today I am going to roll all of my cares over onto God's big shoulders. I'm going to be honest with Him about the troubles of my heart, and I am going to trust Him for one more day. Will you join me?

Emotionally Stranded

  I was up late last night - and it wasn't to study my Bible. Lol. I was watching a dumb show. But each episode ended with things up in ...