Showing posts with label circumstances. Show all posts
Showing posts with label circumstances. Show all posts

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Aren't you glad we don't have a screen on our foreheads displaying our every thought? Sometimes it might be useful, but I know there are lots of things that run through my mind every day that I would not want anyone to know about.

Caregiver's thoughts are busy - they have to be because we have so many things to work out every single day. Many times I've condemned myself for my own thoughts not realizing it really is the way we work through stuff. But there are lots of thoughts that simply cannot be shared with others. For the caregiver there can be lots of things that we choose not to share.

When I first brought my son home from the nursing home and started working with him full time, I realized how difficult life was for him. He struggles to do anything. I had some thoughts many would find unacceptable. The only one I dare share is that my thoughts were that it would've been better for him to die in the wreck rather than live this way. Immediately I condemned myself for thinking that only to do some research and find that it was totally normal to have those thoughts and emotions; they go with the grieving process. They are normal to have - but not normal to share.

I started thinking about this because this weekend during my personal devotions I found myself in Luke 7, a passage I've read probably thousands of times. But this time, I saw something different. It reads like this:

Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him (Jesus) saw this,
he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet He would know
who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, 
that she is a sinner."
And Jesus answered him,

I stopped there because that's what grabbed me. The Pharisee was upset that Jesus was letting this "sinner" wash His feet and had these judgmental thoughts. They were just thoughts - but Jesus answered them. If He knows the thoughts of the Pharisee, don't you think He knows the heart and thoughts of those who love Him?

Psalm 139:3 says He is intimately acquainted with all my ways. He knows my thoughts, actions and even the intents of my heart. Verse 1 of this psalm says He understands my thoughts.  I will rest in that today - knowing that He knows my thoughts - the good, the bad and the ugly - and He understands them. He understands me, the caregiver.

Today I will rest in the fact that God understands me - He gets me; and He offers no condemnation. I will rejoice in the fact that He is intimately acquainted with all my ways and knows me inside out. I'm okay with that. My goal for today will be to relax and not try  futilely to  hide my thoughts. I'm going to let Him run around in my thoughts and heart all day unrestrained and yield to His presence in my life. Will you join me?

We Still Look the Same

So many things may have changed when we became caregivers. For me, I had gotten rid of everything and moved to Chicago from the deep south and was working three jobs in preparation for heading to the mission fields in South Africa. But like many, my plans came to a screeching halt with a single phone call informing me my son had been in an automobile accident and had been medi-flighted to a local hospital in Shreveport. From there the changes were astronomical.

I booked a flight to Shreveport and lived in the hospital for 4 months as I sat by his side. We then went through a series of nursing homes and rehab facilities until I could get my own apartment and have a place to "bring him home" to. It's an understatement to say that everything changed. I now work from home as a writer and have a decent little apartment near my family in Oklahoma.

Over time we all change, we evolve into different roles as life throws new things at us. We develop character as we embrace life changes. I think as caregivers we get used to rolling with the blows since we never know what a day is going to bring and who we may have to confront on behalf of our loved ones. For me - recent changes include stepping into  more of a caregiving role with my parents as they age as well. Even though this brings more changes I still look the same.

Of course I don't look the same physically as I did when I began this caregiving journey, I'm a little fluffier and more wrinkled for sure - I'm not nearly the same person I was. I don't put up with as much silliness and I basically have learned how to fight for others. We learn new skills like advocating on behalf of another and dealing with people who don't want to do their job like aides etc. Supplies -- there you go - just getting the supplies that we are due can be quite a journey. Perhaps we don't think about it - but all these struggles and situations mold us into a new person.

No matter what changes we endure - we still look the same to Him. God still sees us as the exact same person as He always has - and He always will. I think we could compare it to how we see our kids. They grow up and eventually leave home to raise their own family. And even though they go through many physical changes they remain "our little girl" or "our little boy." God sees us like that -- we are still His little girls and boys.

Psalm 139:13 states that He wove us in our mother's womb and that He formed our inward parts. I think that means the insides that make us who we are -- not just our intestines, heart, and liver. Job said it like this: You clothe me with skin and flesh, and knit me together with bones and sinews. (Job 10:11) To me this means God sees us from the inside out - He sees us like we really are - what makes us "us" and then He put skin on it. So even though our worlds turned upside down or topsy-turvy we still look the same to the one who loves us most.

Today I will meditate on how God sees the real me - and continues to love me. I will turn my meditations to how He chose for me to be on this planet and even though He put skin on the "real me" He sees way deeper than that. I will think about His closeness today and how He loves me with or without skin on! Even though people treat me different and aren't sure what to do with me - He still thinks I look the same....and He loves me. I'll think about His great love and compassion for me today - will you join me?

The Hidden King

Psalm 57 has been a passage that I have held on to for many years now. I was sick in 1987 with a mystery illness that none of the many doctors ever figured out. All we know is everyone thought I was going to die and then one day I started slowly getting better, obviously touched by His hand. During that time I discovered Psalm 57:1 - Be merciful unto me O Lord, be merciful unto me for my soul trusts in You, and in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge until these calamities are past. Well, eventually the calamity passed but in the process I did learn much about trusting Him and hiding in His shelter.

 The other verse in this Psalm that sticks out to me is verse 7. David (hiding in the cave from King Saul) starts out by talking about hiding in the Lord's shelter and in this verse it seems to me that he is making a declaration about his own heart. The hiding king states: my heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast...I will sing, yes, I will sing praises! To me he is declaring that no matter how bleak his outward circumstances are looking he will remain steadfast, trusting in the Lord and he's even gonna sing!

I think it might read more like this if I was penning the psalm I will sing? yes...I will sing. Singing does not seem to match the situation does it? Here is the future king - and he knows it! - hiding from a mad man yet determined to stay hidden in God and to keep his heart steadfast before Him...and even thinking about singing in the cave!

He then encourages himself and tells his soul to wake up! and give thanks. He did not thank God for the cave. He did not thank God for riches, peace or health. He thanked God for the things in his life that remain even while hiding in a cave. Think about it - he certainly did not feel rich, there was no peace in the natural, and he was not too concerned about getting out to the gym that morning or eating a well balanced diet. It was far less than perfect circumstances by our American standards.

 So he began to thank God for some of His constants....His lovingkindness and His truth. Two things that never change or fail in the face of life's circumstances. So maybe we feel hidden in a cave brought about by life's harsh circumstances; let us rejoice today in His truth and His mercy that never fail!

Just Like Everyone Else

The life of a caregiver is certainly not an easy one! Yet I am sure that there are far worse circumstances to have to deal with. But this can be a lonely and painful walk. Each day can present various situations that must be overcome; obstacles that seem insurmountable.But we are still breathing; and we are still caregiving - so we must still be learning to trust in Him to take us one more day! Challenging pretty much sums up our lives, doesn't it? lol!

 I have found that just because my life is lived in a cave of adversity, it does not exempt me from the requirements laid out in the Word. So far I have not found one time when there was a command given and special stipulations were given for caregivers; or any other sufferers for that matter. (but I am still looking! lol!) Jesus did not say give to those who ask and do not turn away from those who want to borrow - unless you are a caregiver in which case you don't have to worry about it! It does not read like that anywhere! We still have the same solid word, the same constant commands to follow as everyone else. But this is good - because it also means that we have His peace, comfort and joy accessible to us - just like everyone else!

 So when I read this scripture in Philipians this morning I knew that we do not get a "break" just because we are caregivers: In everything you do, stay away from complaining and arguing so that no one can speak a word of blame against you. You are to live clean, innocent lives as children of God in a dark world full of crooked and perverse people. (Philippians 2:14) We do not get an exception on this command even though we live in adversity!

 If we are not careful (maybe I should just say if I am not careful) it is easy to complain about many things. We have lost many things in life that brought us to the journey of caregiving. It is so very important to train our minds to find the things to be thankful for each day. So today instead of letting the situation get us down - let us turn our focus onto the way He has provided for us in the situation. Let us concentrate and meditate on His peace, His love and His care for us even in the midst of life's ongoing storm.

The Truth About Faith

There is a freedom that comes in being totally honest with yourself about your emotions and your situation. And quite frankly you simply cannot be honest with God until you are open and honest with yourself. How can you cast you cares on Him if you do not acknowledge that you have them?

 There is a barrier that is erected when we do not look at our situations and ourselves in truth. We cannot ask for His strength until we realize we have none; we will not look for faith until we see ours has been shaken; and we cannot ask Him to carry a load for us that we will not admit we have.

 Faith is not ignoring the obvious and trying to walk blindly through life as if hardship does not exist. True faith rises up in our hearts in the midst of the longest storm, the darkest night and our loneliest moments and grabs hold of Him. But we must admit our circumstances to be able to reach for Him. Remember Jesus said those who seek Him must seek Him in spirit and in truth.

 Faith is not a mask we wear that shields us from seeing what is going on around us. And confession isn't a tool to make it all go away. True faith sees and knows exactly what is happening around us and our confession isn't a denial of circumstance as much as a statement that no matter what the circumstance I will still trust Him.

 Today free yourself from the bondage of ignoring your life. It is there and it is real. The pain is real and so are the tears. And only in the moment that we can say this hurts can He bring healing to our soul. Only in pure and open honesty can we begin to cast our cares on Him...and let Him care for us.

The Dark is Light to Him

My alarm is set to go off to a local radio station. This morning while I was fumbling with the snooze button I heard them share a scripture. It's found in Psalm 139:12 and it says even the darkness is not dark to You and the night is a s bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You. My first thought was that He cannot see the darkness of my struggle. But as I meditated on it a little bit my perspective changed.

 As I get older, my dislike for driving at night grows. It seems like it is more difficult to see at night and the headlights on our vehicles are only made to help us see a few feet in front of us at a time. I do not like my vision being obscured by the darkness. Sometimes I feel like that as a caregiver. I can barely see a tiny bit in front of me (if any at all) and I simply can't see or even dream past that. Losing the ability to dream can be one of the biggest handicaps for the caregiver.

 So I pondered for a minute on why He could not see my darkness - since light and dark are the same to Him. Then I realized that it's not that He cannot see my darkness or my struggle, it's just that the darkness does not obscure His vision. He can see into the darkness of a womb (v.13) to see our every progress; but He can also see into the darkness of the tomb beyond death (literal or not) and see life. The darkness does not hamper His vision - nor does it change His plans. It really doesn't matter to Him if it's dark where we are or not - He does not change, His plans do not change and He can see in spite of the surrounding darkness whether we can or not!

 I'm not even sure why but it sure helped me face today to know that He can see into and through my dark circumstances...I believe I'll rest in that today.

The Lord of Peace

When Paul wrote his letter to the Thessalonians, he was writing to a group of people who had been under attack. Actually, he began this particular letter with some kudos for the congregations there. He recognized their enlarging faith and how they were growing in love toward one another. Then he goes on to notice their continued perseverance and faith in the midst of persecutions and afflictions. Is this not our goal as caregivers? To continue to hold on to faith and continue to persevere even in the midst of the things we face each day? I am sure you can admit with me that there are days when this task is easier than others!

 Paul began this letter with such warm words about them and perhaps what he shared with them near the closing is key. In verse 17 of chapter 3 Paul prays this for the believers Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all! He did not pray for the circumstances to change, or for the persecution and lies to stop. He prayed instead that even in the midst God would give them peace.

 That is my prayer today for every caregiver reading this devotional...May the Lord of peace Himself give you peace in the midst of your circumstance! We must say that He is with us! No matter what a day brings or how long a night endures - the Lord of peace is with us!

It's Just Part of Living

There is no escape from pain in this world. I hear of people every day who are in situations like ours - caregiving. But I also hear of all sorts of other painful situations that are being endured. It's all just part of living. There is no way to get away from the pain; the trick is finding out how to deal with it appropriately. No amount of crying, moaning, screaming or cussing brings any real relief does it?
 
Pain is not foreign to our Bible heroes either. Check out how the Psalmist described his painful situation in Psalm 102:4-8.

 My heart is sick, withered like grass...
and I have lost my appetite.
Because of my groaning I am reduced to skin and bones.
I am like an owl in the desert,
like a lonely owl in a far-off wilderness.
I lie awake lonely as a solitary bird on the roof.
My enemies taunt me day after day.
They mock and curse me. 

I think this is an accurate description of some days for me. I feel cut off, not "normal" and all alone. And in the midst of the pain sometimes there is this continual nagging: you don't have faith, you are not trusting God. Those thoughts are my enemies. Don't let the enemy use your situation to defeat you. You are not defeated! Our soul is preserved in Him no matter what the body does!

 After the psalmist pours out his woes to the Lord he turns in verse 12 and says, but You O Lord....
It's something that is just in us...as believers...to call out to Him no matter what level of pain we are living in or dealing with. Don't let anyone tell you that you lack faith because you are in a situation that you do not have the power to change! Walking through it - is faith. So today - hold your head up - every time our enemy comes at us today just whisper His name and say...but You O lord.... live forever, You O Lord reign forever, You O Lord are always the same....

Plain and Simple

In preparation for a teaching I will be doing later this week via Skype, I was reading Micah 6:8. This may sound kind of silly, but as a caregiver sometimes it seems like the way we have understood some scriptures through our traditional church teachings...from here they just don't fit the way we learned them. (that may just be me...)

 For example (and this is just one of many), forsake not the assembling of yourselves together...has been taught as though it is some grave sin to not go to church on Sunday morning. So what are you supposed to do when you are shut-in? (God forbid it be taught to go out and visit those who cannot come!!)

 But anyway - Micah 6:8 is one of those that is so simple it works anywhere for anyone. It's a scripture that there just is no way of reasoning around or making so religious that it no longer applies to real life! It's pure and simple and exempts no one.

 do what is right
love mercy
walk humbly with your God

These are required from us no matter what our circumstances are. God does not look down and say, oh, yeah, I forgot about that you don't have to worry about it then. It's plain and simple! And it is applicable no matter what the trial is. If you think about it there are those times you are in the furnace. It's hot as you know where but it's over in a short time. Then there are the times when the trials are like Joseph's, who sat in prison for years waiting on God to fulfill His promises. Either way...and any where in between... we must walk humbly with our God!

Separation Anxiety

Sometimes there is this huge mental struggle because religion is so works oriented. Maybe it's just me, but there are times I struggle with if He loves me enough...It sounds wrong I know. But we can read through the gospels and see all the miracles Jesus did for others..maybe I'm the only one who wonders why He doesn't come riding in on His white horse for me.

 Even the Old Testament is full of various displays of His miraculous powers. Yet my loved one still suffers. And I cannot help but wonder if He loved others more...But then (my busy mind) immediately jumps to what I would do if He miraculously healed my son. How would I explain to someone else that He loves them as much?

All this crazy thinking lead me straight to Romans 8. It's a long time favorite isn't it? We quickly quote that nothing can separate us from His love. But sometimes during tribulation it's easy to wonder...But a quick look at Paul's discussion is quite revealing. We can grab the concept in verses 38 and 39. It's easy to figure out that no substance, no creation, no power and no position can separate us from His love. Got it!

 But did we skip verse 35 in our analysis? Verses 38-39 are in answer to the question Paul asked back up in verse 35...Who can separate us from the love of Christ?  Then his list of things that may seem to be able to cause a chasm between us and God's love looks like this: tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril or sword...The caregiver certainly has a good understanding of tribulation and distress as it was some form of distress that launched us into the position of caring for a loved one.

 Now verse 37 makes more sense - in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. Notice it's in  the unpleasant circumstance - not over, around, under or any type of avoidance here...but right there in the circumstance His love is there with us to carry us and to keep our souls. Our souls cannot be harmed in any circumstance because that's the part of us that He protects...and loves. Let us take time today to rest in His love for us...for it is unwavering in the face of great trials and tribulations.

When I Fall

Ever have those times where it just all caves in on you all at once? Emotions run away from you while you get sucked into the huge black hole of the circumstance? (maybe it's just me!) Faith begins to wane and it seems like there isn't a big enough shovel to dig yourself out....ever been there?

 What's the worse part of it all is how quickly the enemy can come in and start throwing stones of condemnation at us while we are down. He tries to make us think that we are faithless because we haven't been able to change the circumstance. The next step he takes us on through the course of logic is hopelessness..like it's never going to be better or different...and we fall deeper and deeper into the emotional despair. Then he quickly picks up more labeled stones to try to get us convinced that we are not worth God's effort...he attacks our self esteem...until it seems there's not even enough strength to cry out!

 And then the most amazing thing happens - as quickly as it all hits - He washes it all away. Maybe He uses a phone call, a devotion, a song...But somehow surprisingly and instantly He lifts us out...

This is where Micah 7:8-10 kick in.  Do not gloat over me my enemies! For though I fall, I will rise again. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord Himself will be my light. It's not so much about where we are today - because battles will rage - it's more about the whole picture. God does not sit up in heaven with a big stick waiting for us to show some weak little sign of disbelief so that He can condemn us and say Yeah, I knew you couldn't do it... And He certainly doesn't jump on board with the enemy to beat us down in those moments of doubt...He patiently waits for just the right opportunity to lift us out...

 We cannot give completely in during those deep dark moments that we feel so far away from the real world..even though we cannot sense Him at all sometimes...He is there patiently waiting for us to gain strength and sometimes giving us the strength to care enough to search for strength! But He is there...waiting...He is here...He will take up our case!

Oh! Those Emotions!!

You know how easily the caregiver's emotions can jump around! (or is it just me?) It's like we live on the edge and any tiny little thing can tip us right on off. Frustrations can build and there can seem to be no quick way to reel it all back in. And for me - I get just plain mad...at the situation, at the church, at other people, and yes...at God. (not that this is very profitable - but at least it's honest!)

 I really think He understands though. He created us to have emotions and His love (which is an emotion and an action) is what drove Him to make sure that man had a way to get back to Him. He knows that we are just flesh...He created us! He realizes that we are only dust...but made in His image. And according to Psalm 139 He is very intimately acquainted with all of our ways to the point that He knows our words before they were thoughts.That's just amazing to me...that God is so vast - and yet took such care with the intricate details of our makeup.

 It's funny to me how when I can turn my thoughts to the greatness of God all the cares are washed away...and in my pursuit of Him I find all the other things that used to be so important to me have fallen away. Paul said that He wanted to be found in Him.(Philippians 3:9) Let us make that our pursuit on those days that are most overwhelming...days the emotions want to run away with us - let us be found in Him...and there is peace.

Faith is the Substance

Hebrews 11:1 has long been misunderstood, or at least our overall concept of faith has been at best misinterpreted. The faith-ers would like for us to believe that "faith" is this force field that surrounds us and keeps bad things from happening. But there are too many examples throughout scriptures of those who went through the fires of life with their faith in tact. Actually Peter said that the trial of our faith is more precious than purified gold.

While taking a serious look at the heroes of faith, even just the ones listed in Hebrews 11, we can see that it was their faith in God that carried them through. Without the struggles - we could have skipped this chapter altogether!

We've seen church faith to be two things. One that faith is the force field to keep bad things away; and two faith is the substance has been interpreted to bring substance. However, Hebrews 11:1 states that faith is the substance. It's the substance that keeps us running back to His heart no matter what (good or bad) is going on in our lives. Faith is more like a force inside of us that carries us back to Him every moment of every day. It's that part of us that refuses to give up in the face of adversity! We cannot accept the church's weakened version that basically says we use faith to bring us stuff. That will not sustain us through tough times..stuff is not the measure of whether or not we are operating in faith.

Faith says there is a God...and I will serve Him in the good times and the bad. Job said he would accept good and adversity from God. That's faith - circumstances do not dethrone God - faith means He has constant reign in our hearts...no matter what. Faith is substance.

Circumstance and Faith

Caregivers can come under fire from the church community and be accused of lacking faith. It's a sad truth,but it does happen. Hopefully, you've been spared from such accusations. It's not the church's fault - they really don't know what to do with us because our situations are very different. Some actually expect us to be able to function just like normal people. But we do not have the liberties that many others enjoy.Lots of caregivers are pretty much stuck at home without the freedom to come and go as we would like. It can be devastatingly lonely at times. And then the church ignores us pretty much...maybe they don't know how little it takes...

How can they say we have no faith since our loved one isn't healed? When Jesus went to the pool of Bethesda  there was a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame and withered. Yet He only healed one of them. Did the entire multitude fall into the ranks of the faithless? I think not. To me they had some measure of faith just to be there waiting for the troubled water...

I propose that those who are in extremely adverse situations have great faith. Come on, give yourself a break, you're still believing in Him and looking to Him as your source aren't you? Then you have faith- you still believe in Him!

As a caregiver no doubt there has been some sort of earth shattering tragedy on some level that has put you in your present circumstance. Isaiah 54:10 says this:

For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake,
But My lovingkindness will not be removed from you,
And My covenant of peace will not be shaken,
says the Lord who has compassion on you.

Even when our world is shaken, He is not moved. Even though we cannot live the normal life, He has not forsaken us, He has not moved away (like it seems others have), He doesn't look at how our world fell around us to see if He will stay or not - He cannot be moved! His lovingkindness cannot be moved away from us. And actually, I think that this is what sustains us! Let His lovingkindness under gird you today. Rest in Him, trust Him! He cannot be shaken and is never moved by our circumstances.

Circumstance and Worship

Sometimes in life as a whole we can all get lost in the shuffle from time to time. It's so important especially for the caregiver that we know who we are...it's too easily laid aside as we care for our loved one.

In the temptation of Christ the enemy was attacking who Jesus was. He kept saying if you are the son of God...and Jesus never addressed it - He as always went to the heart of the matter. It wasn't a question to Him, wasn't debatable and evidently not even doubted enough to speak to. He knew who He was period.

The other thing that stood out to me in this morning's reading was that Jesus wouldn't let Satan touch worship. That's when He drew the line and basically said, get outta here!

These are two key concepts for the caregiver. We must  know who we are and we cannot let worship be disturbed. Our situation does not affect who we are...and that's what we must hold on to. Ephesians and Philippians are great for helping us learn a lot about who we are in Him. It is too easy sometimes to try to measure our spirituality by the natural circumstances. But our circumstances do not dictate who we are in Him! We cannot measure spiritual blessings  by natural possessions. What we have or our social status has literally nothing to do with who we are in Christ. Our possessions are not a reflection of His spiritual blessings.

Today concentrate on who you are in Him, and worship Him. Don't let the circumstance have you - you are His.

God's Unchangeable Purpose

I am presently reading the Bible through alphabetically. (don't ask - I'm just weird like that!) Today I was reading through Hebrews and found this phrase: the unchangeableness of His purpose. Nowt he passage is talking about how He brought us hope in Christ and has never changed His mind. But I believe it gives us some insight into Who He is and what He is like.

He is not a God who sits in the heavens and changes His mind. That would be a huge thing to try to redirect! He is constant and sure - even if life is unstable and unpredictible. He is the same, yesterday, today and forever. He is our constant (and consistent) rock that we can stand on, hide in or run to when we are troubled.

I am so glad that the circumstances of my life do not dictate His stability! He is sure and He is with us today as we care for our loved ones.

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 ...