Showing posts with label praise. Show all posts
Showing posts with label praise. Show all posts

The Continuum

 

Chris standing by me

This morning I read through Psalm 34. I love this psalm. Okay, so I love all of them! But this morning, this one is my favorite. Of course, that is subject to change based on the next one I read! I got stuck in the first verse. David says I will bless the Lord at all times, His praise shall continually be in my mouth. (NKJ) What stood out to me was that David uses two phrases that mean almost the same thing. He says he will bless the Lord at all times. Then he said that His praise shall continually be in my mouth.

I am a huge fan of David - I mean what's not to love about his genuine heart toward God? And what's not to love about the fact that he was human and messed up - more than once! But he's also the dude who took out Goliath while the army men stood there shaking in their boots. He's also the man who could play the harp beautifully and worship God wholeheartedly - then pick up a sword and wipe out a small army single-handedly. 

He was a worshiper and a warrior. These two were not mutually exclusive. He worshiped and he warred with all his heart. I kind of like to think of us caregivers like this. We have a lot on our plates and days don't usually come easy for us. That's the warrior part - because we put on our armor and face each day knowing the battle that lies ahead of us. 

But when we continue to praise God, bless His name, and look to Him for our strength - that's the worshipper part. You know? We put on His armor each morning and wipe mouths and other extremities because we love the one we provide care for. We do mounds of laundry due to accidents, prepare pureed foods - or other types of non-traditional food for feedings - because we love them. During a pandemic, we stay at home and protect them as much as possible. But that's not too new to most of us - we've lived in social isolation for years so we could care for our loved ones. You guys - that takes a warrior's heart. 

Now at the same time, we look to God for our strength, our joy, our sustenance, our comfort, and our peace every morning from the time we get up until we lay our weary bodies down at night. We understand that we do nothing truly alone - but only through the strength He provides. We praise Him for the small things - like a smile, a meal well eaten, no fevers in the night, and supplies that are delivered on time. We pull the essence of Who He is into every aspect of our day and let our hands care for one of the "least of these" (according to the world) to demonstrate His unending love, grace, and mercy toward us. Guys - that takes a worshipper's heart.

So today, I want to stay on the continuum - the sequence of praise. I will lift my voice to praise Him from the dawn to the sunset. My lips will bless His name from daylight to dark and I hope my soul sings in my sleep! I will be thankful that it is this huge, magnificent, very worthy of worship God who carries me through each day. As I roll up my sleeves to tackle the chores of the day - may every breath I breathe remain on the continuum of praise. Will you join me?

A Consistent Resolve

me pushing chris in a race

 Unless I am talking to other caregivers, I don't often share the things I am going through. Unless it's a road they have walked, they won't be able to understand where I'm coming from. Often, we are met with empty stares when others hear about our "normal" days. Without really understanding, I've even had comments about why I choose to take care of my son. Even though those types of things are hurtful, I know they come from those who have no idea of how love can compel us to do the hard things. And that's okay.

With that being said - we know how hard it is to provide care and make decisions for another person. We can feel alone especially when there is no one to help us make those decisions. Oftentimes, I feel like people look the other way so they don't have to process how difficult life can be for caregivers. And sometimes, it feels like God looks the other way too. 

Does He really know the day-to-day struggle? While I am sure that He does - and that he "gets" it better than anyone, the struggle is real. These are some of my thoughts from my morning devotions. I was reminded of Psalm 57:1 and the last part of the verse that says In the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge until these calamities have passed by. I thought of the psalmist's resolve. 

Soon though, David turned his prayers around to declarations. He declared four I wills in verse 7-9. I will sing. I will awaken the dawn. I will praise You, Lord. I will sing... 

But you see, I had just read Psalm 13, also written by David. He starts out this psalm by asking how long God is going to forget him. But guess how he ended it? The same way! In verse 6, he says, I will sing to the Lord. While I was enamored by his resolve in both of the psalms, I also realized they represent two different times in his life when he felt overwhelmed, defeated, out of control, etc. 

Both times he poured his heart out in transparent honesty before God. He was open and real with how he felt. And both times he ended with declarations. I will sing. David had a consistent resolve that no matter how difficult life or what new circumstances were presented, or how difficult the obstacles became He would trust God. I like that.

Today, I will turn my meditations away from my situation and difficulties and I resolve to praise God in this storm My heart will trust in His shadows until calamity has passed. My thoughts will be on His faithfulness and how He carries me so much of the journey. So, I will trust Him with one more day. will you join me?

A Worthy Break

It's a little past 10 in the morning and already I feel like my day is wasting away out of my control. There are so many things on my to-do list it's overwhelming. It's so easy to feel like there's just no way to get ahead. Maybe it's just me...

We live in a very busy society but for caregivers, it can see our tasks are lined up in a never-ending line. Some days I am very excited to get to half the things I need to get done. Other days, I force myself to be happy with the 2 or 3 finished tasks. Caregiving itself provides us with ample tasks each day. For me, this means transfers, preparing food, feeding my son at meals,  doing range of motion exercises, standing him, bathing, and various other daily tasks. Of course, there's also all the daily chores like laundry, dishes, and cleaning. And then if you work from home... you see where I'm going? There really is a lot to do each day. Overwhelming doesn't even seem to cover the description, does it?

Today, as usual, I started out behind, but I made a different choice. I stopped and took a break, once I found a small time slot for it to fit in. I picked my guitar and just sang a few simple praise songs. At least for a few minutes, the weight of the world was lifted off my shoulders as I turned my thoughts to Him and away from myself.

Praise breaks are great times to remind ourselves that our standing in the Kingdom of God didn't change when we became a caregiver. God did not change when our circumstances overwhelmed. He didn't get up off His throne and say, I quit. Not one word of truth disappeared out of the Bible when my world came crashing down. That's why I can take a break and find ways to praise Him - plenty of things to thank Him for.

Today, I encourage you to take a praise break, even if it's only five minutes. I started by thanking Him that my salvation is not voided or changed because of circumstances. From there, I found numerous things to thank Him for and ways to bless His name. It was a worthy break and I felt better afterward. I will turn my thoughts to what He has done that will stand the test of time and eternity - and I'll meditate on that today - as I take a praise break. Will you join me?

Surrounded

There were times when David felt as if he was surrounded by his enemies. In the third psalm, he says I have so many enemies. In Psalm 17, he mentions his deadly enemies that surround. One thing I appreciate about David is that he acknowledges his enemies. He doesn't try to act like they don't exist. He doesn't try to imagine they are gone. And, he doesn't try to "faith" his way out of his circumstances. What he does do, though, is declare the truth in the midst of his surroundings.

David had real, physical enemies with flesh and blood and oftentimes in his writings he mentions the words his enemy uses against him. He always refutes it with what God says about him. I like that. David may share how he is being overcome by the deep waters of tribulation, but he always counters it with a declaration about God and a but I'm still swimming statement.

As much as David felt like his enemies surrounded him, he also notes God surrounds him. He wasn't confused. He knew God was nearer when the enemy pressed in. He made references to the enemy surrounding him:


  • my deadly enemies surround me (Psalm 17:9)
  • the cords of Sheol surrounded me (Psalm 18:5)
  • many bulls have surrounded me - strong bulls! (Psalm 22:12)
  • dogs have surrounded me - a band of evildoers encompassed me (Psalm 22:16)
  • evils beyond number have surrounded me (Psalm 40:12)
Even though he often felt surrounded by enemies of varying types, he declared in the face of his enemy that he was surrounded by God. His references are amazing:

  • O Lord You surround him (the righteous man) with favor (Psalm 5:12)
  • You surround me with songs of deliverance (Psalm 32:7)
  • he who trusts in the Lord, loving kindness will surround him. (Psalm 32:10)
  • the Lord surrounds His people (Psalm 125:1)
As caregivers we may not have physical giants and enemies that stand before us. However, we have giants that war at our hearts - through our head. So many things can try to surround us and overtake us. Fears of the future. Financial concerns. Physical ailments or the possibility of not being able to care for our loved ones. Doubts try to crowd in our mind and erode our faith and trust in Him. For many of us, it's a constant struggle even if we remain on top of it. It wears away at our hearts. But like David, we are still swimming in life's flood waters.

What's your declaration today? David usually turned his fears, doubts, and concerns into a declaration he could hold on to. They usually started with an I will

  • I will lie down in peace and sleep for you alone, O Lord, will keep me safe (Psalm 4:8)
  • I will sing praises to the name of the Lord Most High... (Psalm 7:17)
  • I will declare the wonder of Your name... I will praise You among the people (Psalm 22:22)
  • I will trust in Your unfailing love (Psalm 13:5)
Even if you feel surrounded today by doubts, fears, what-ifs, what-not-ifs, or are just submerged in your own thoughts, there is a way out. 

Today, I will gladly make my declaration that I will trust Him for one more day. I will bless His name today. My heart will praise Him in the midst of the storm - and I will keep swimming! I figure if my enemies are going to surround me - they are going to have to listen to me praise my God who keeps my soul safe in the midst of trouble. How about you? Will you join me?






Making the "But" Shift

Chris in the mirror
I know it's no surprise that I woke up this morning with my head going 900 miles an hour. Since I took the weekend off and that's when I do a bulk of my work and play catch-up, I am way behind. As soon as my alarm went off my head thought it was the start of a race and took off running with all the things I need to get done today.

Today is sure to be "one of those days" as the aide comes, the nurse informed me yesterday that she's coming by, and the doctor's office called yesterday to let me know they changed my son's doctor (again!) so the new one will be coming by today. I'm like really? All in one day and I'm so behind in work! ugh! You know as caregivers, days are hectic enough without any extras. lol

So as my mind took off running with all the anticipated activities for today, I sighed. I think I'm already tired. But then I thought I'd just stop. Take a breath. Take a moment to think about Him and praise Him - for no specific reason other than the fact that He is still God and He doesn't change.

When I did, this shift happened. I relaxed, even though I still have tons of stuff to do, and everything settled down around me. The shift was very apparent. I immediately thought of Psalm 3. David was worried about all the enemies he saw gathering around him - and while we don't have physical enemies most of the time, we do have emotional ones that nag and tug at us all day long. Our thoughts, emotions, grief, pain etc - can try to drag us down and under all day long, if we let them. Our souls can be surrounded by enemies.

David acknowledged his enemies - but then he made the shift. It happened with a little three-letter word. But. He said, but You O Lord are a shield about me, my glory and the One who lifts my head. He does the same thing in Psalm 5. He is praying for protection from his enemies and he shifts in verse 11 with a but. But, let all who take refuge in You be glad, let them ever sing for joy; and may You shelter them, that those who love your name may exult in You, for it is You who blesses the righteous man O Lord, You surround him with favor as with a shield.

There are several other psalms where David does this. Once we, like David, shift our focus from our circumstances and back to God - with that little "but," we change. Maybe our circumstances are not directly changed and not one thing in the natural rearranges to accommodate us, but we are looking at it from a different perspective.

Today, I'm going to make that shift. Every time my workload starts to get to me, I am going to start praising God for who He is. I'll thank Him for His patience, His wisdom, His protection, His provision... and so on. I'm making the "but" shift today as I trust Him for one more day - will you join me?

A Huge Soul Sigh

You know how everyone talks about how they dread Mondays? I guess it's because they go "back" to work and have to change up from a more relaxed, weekend schedule. I'm finding though that for the caregiver, Mondays are not much different than other days. We don't get weekends off. When Saturday and Sunday roll around, we still have the exact same things to do that have to be done other days of the week. Bathing, transferring, feeding, laundry - none of those stop on Saturday to wait until we are "ready" to go back to work come Monday.

But yesterday did become a little more complicated for me. The aide who hadn't been here in 2 weeks quit. Now that will mess up your Monday especially if you had errands planned. This last minute change-up and lots of work to do for my jobs along with just all the general chores piled high on my plate early in the morning and tried to pull me in under a deluge of anxiety and crazy thoughts. I literally had so many different things to do all at one time that I honestly was confused as to where to start.

So you know what I did? None of them. I decided if I was so distracted it was time to stop. And  I did just that, I stopped, picked up my guitar and began to worship. After I had done a few songs, I went to the keyboard and sang some more. I even wrote a simple chorus - hadn't done that in quite a while.

My point is that there is never too much on our plate to stop and give Him praise. Our plates are always going to be overflowing, our schedules are full and there's not many times there is any relief. But it can all be put on hold for just a couple of minutes to take some time to praise Him for who He is.

Singing a simple chorus, reading through a few verses or saying a prayer is not going to take one thing off our plates. But it brings just a bit of relief. You know what it's like to let out a huge sigh? All your muscles relax and it just feels good? Stopping for just a few minutes to acknowledge His goodness, His faithfulness and His continued provision and offering Him a sacrifice of praise is like a huge soul sigh. When we focus our thoughts on Him for a few minutes and get it off all the things we have to do - our thoughts will tend to gather themselves. Even though it sounds counterproductive, I've found if I give Him some time first - I have a much more productive day.

Today, I'm going to do it again. I will purposefully take a few moments to find something to praise Him for. If I can't see a thing He seems to be doing now - then I will start with thanking Him for creating us all, for giving us breath, for just being there to hear our heart's cry.... My meditation will be on His greatness and not my sense of urgency to get things done. I will let my soul sigh, and I'll turn my heart toward His for one more day. Will you join me?

One More Time

I have to admit this morning that my emotions are all over the place. I'll spare you the details and just say there's a lot going on. We've discussed before that we are not exempt from the rest of life just because we are caregivers. So suffice it to say - I'm on overload....as usual.

Yesterday as I started realizing how much was going on around me, my head started spinning with thoughts. I've admitted before I'm an over-thinker. Someone makes one statement and I've worked through 900 scenarios in my head that could possibly happen. Sometimes it's annoying. :-)

So with lots and lots of different things making my head swirl, I heard my heart cry out to Him last night. In my mind I'm standing before Him with hands outstretched just waiting for some sort of answer. There's not really one answer that will make everything better and I think I just needed to be reminded that He hears my heart. I just needed to know it one more time.

As caregivers, we can live in overload mode (or maybe that's just me!). We need the comfort of His voice, His gentle nudge letting us know He is still with us, He still cares, and He still hears our heart's cry.

I crawled out of bed this morning and drug my emotional self in to search the scriptures for a glimmer of hope; and of course - He met me there. He has this way of showing up when He's invited. I started with Psalm 18 where David so eloquently describes what we hope God does when we call out to Him. He says he called out to God and he prayed for help and my cry reached His ears. (v.6 NLT) And God showed up.

Then the earth quaked and trembled;
the foundations of the mountains shook;
they quaked because of his anger.
Smoke poured from His nostrils,
fierce flames leaped from His mouth
glowing coals flamed forth from Him.
He opened the heavens and came down.....

So I waited this morning for the earth to begin to shake as my heart cried out in anguish. Nothing. I got nothing. So I searched a little further to find that David also had moments like these. In Psalm 22 he describes it pretty well by saying:

My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me?
Why do you remain distant?
Why do you ignore my cries for help?
Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer. 
Every night you hear my voice, but I find no relief.

I love it when God comes riding in on His white horse to rescue us. But what about the times when He doesn't? In both of these Psalms - David went on to praise the Lord. Immediately following his distressed cries in Psalm 22, David says, Yet you are holy.  I cried God - and you didn't listen! I called out and You walked away! I did not get the answer I wanted.....but I know You are holy.

And by the end of Psalm 22 he is singing God's praise:

I will declare the wonders of Your name to my brothers and sisters.
I will praise you among all Your people.
Praise the Lord, all you who fear Him!

Why? David knew, like we know deep down - God has not abandoned. In Psalm 22:24 David goes on to say: He has not ignored the suffering of the needy. He has not turned and walked away. He has listened to their cries for help.

Today I will follow this righteous example. Whether God comes riding in on thunderous clouds, or remains silent in my distress, I will praise Him. My thoughts and meditations will be on His goodness. I will keep myself hidden in Him today and I will trust Him for one more day. Will you join me?

When Nothing Changes

This morning my devotions led me to Psalm 104. It's been a long time favorite of mine so I read through it slowly and tried to let some of it just sink in. I'm a huge nature buff - or at least was BC (before caregiving) so I love the description of nature and creation. My mind really gets going when I go through all the different ways He provides for animals - and for us.

One of my favorite verses is 19, the New Living says this: You made the moon to mark the seasons and the sun knows when to set. The sun never reaches high noon and then forgets which way to go! The things He set in order - are still working perfectly today.

As a caregiver, sometimes remembering these seemingly little things helps, and sometimes it doesn't. Change is a big part of the world, of nature, of caregiving. But it's not always those things that change that bothers us - it's the things that don't. For the most part our day-to-days don't change a lot; it's always chaotic. We get up and it's not really a new day - it's more like another day. These are the things I was thinking about while reading Psalms this morning.

When I got to the last three verses, I took time to really think about them. Verses 34 and 35 say this:

I will sing to the Lord as long as I live
I will praise my God to my last breath!
May He be pleased by all these thoughts about Him,
for I rejoice in the Lord. (NLT)

When my son was first injured, it's an understatement to say my world got turned upside down. But even during the 3+ weeks I spent living in the ICU waiting room - I knew God had not changed. Even though my heart was in turmoil and I was going to face a re-defining of my faith over the next few years - I knew my circumstances didn't dictate a thing to God. No trauma, problem, battle or life circumstance has any control over Him and nothing knocks Him off His throne. He remains sovereign when life doesn't make sense - and when absolutely nothing changes when we pray.

I want to be able to say I sang to the Lord from the back of the cave! I want to be able to say I praised Him until I drew my last breath - no matter what happens in between drawing the first and the last breaths. And I hope He is pleased with my thoughts. To be realistic - I am sure He is not. I've doubted, pouted, cried, cussed, ranted and raved. And He's been big enough to handle it. He didn't get His feelings hurt and walk away. He didn't throw His hands up in total exasperation. He just sits on His throne - unmoved.

Today I am going to think about how He remains calm, stable, and steady in the midst of my storm. My meditations will be on how nothing can budge Him. Whether life changes in an instant - with one phone call - or if it doesn't change at all no matter how hard we pray- He doesn't change - He is still on the throne. That's what I'll be thinking about today - I hope it pleases Him. And I hope you'll join me.

Are There Two of Me?

One of the things I've found caregivers must learn to deal with is the wide range of emotions. I'm not even talking about the "big stuff" like depression and the like. I'm talking about the day to day fluctuations of sadness to joy, contentment to unrest. Maybe I'm the only one who thinks they are emotionally schizo. One minute (or second depending on the day) I'm so happy and things are going well, and the next I've bottomed out and feel like a failure as a caregiver. On any given day emotions can vary greatly. My son does something new and I'm full of joy but then the next second I think that I should be celebrating his marriage or his first child instead of the fact he finally touched his nose. Is this just me? 

This morning in my daily reading of scriptures I found something of interest to me in Psalm 108.The first 5 verses or so David talks about how glorious God is. He seems to be full of praise and waiting for God's answer to his prayers. Then his tone changes; and the last three verses are quite different. Now the last verse was a popular song in the 70's church, We sang and sang about how valiant God is and how He was going to tread down our enemies. It was a fun, uplifting song. But this morning I noticed that just two verses back - David wasn't feeling it.

In verse 11, David feels as though God has rejected him. So in just a couple of verses, he goes from Where did you go, God?  to God is a valiant warrior who is treading down my enemy. And just for today - I could relate. One second I feel totally abandoned by God - left alone in this world to deal with a trying situation; and the next I know that it is God who is giving me strength to fight this battle and I can sing His praise. Sometimes I feel like there are two of me - two extremes - extreme despair all the way to extreme thankfulness... and you know what? It's okay. God gets me. And He is beside me as a valiant warrior to defeat my enemies (fear, doubt, confusion....)

So today I will meditate on the first 5 verses of this chapter. I will like David, determine to sing to the Lord and offer up praise - even if it is a sacrifice. I will sing of His loving kindness, mercy and truth. Those things don't change based on our circumstances.  I will exalt Him in my heart and let Him reign over my crazy feelings. Will you join me?

Can You Find One?

I noticed something different starting with Psalm 144. David changes the tone and starts these last few pieces with praise. Before that, he started several of them with feelings of despair and cries for help. I will be the first to say that when trouble pops up I'm going to go straight to Him first, there's no other refuge or shelter to run to for me. For several psalms David has been asking for the Lord's help and for the last few he shifts his focus to praise.

As caregivers we have good and bad days inside our cave. Our emotions can run very high and swing from one end of the spectrum to the other in a matter of a few minutes. Some situations, like mine, we deal with a living grief. My son is gone, but he's still here. For many, it's not going to get any better and there is no relief in sight. This can make for a rocky emotional situation. If you are like me some days you can handle it fine; other days - we just won't talk about! Suffice it to say that our emotions can be all over the place!

If we, like David, can turn our focus to praising God even in our very difficult situations we can help ourselves out. I will be the first to admit that some days I just don't feel like it. Period. But if I can talk myself in to picking up the guitar and strumming a few chords and maybe singing something like Psalm 61 I can find myself resting in His arms and filled with praise. Psalm 61 is a prayer for help that goes like this:

Hear my cry, O God
Attend unto my prayer
From the ends of the earth will I cry unto You.
When my heart is overwhelmed
Please lead me to the rock
That is higher than I.
For You have been 
A shelter from the storm
A high tower from the enemy.

And just those few phrases can give us a place to start. Sometimes we have to purposefully look for something to praise Him for. Honestly, I've had days where I've been angry with God for not taking me out of the situation. But if I take the time to look hard enough and long enough - there's always  something to praise Him for. When I start my day off with praise it's going to go a lot smoother. 

Sometimes we can get bogged down and have to find a "praise spot" during the middle of the day too. On one hand it can seem difficult to find something in our situations to praise Him for. But I can always start with Psalm 61 and thank Him for always being present, for being a safe refuge to run to when I'm on overload and for sheltering me during the storm.

Today I will purposefully praise Him for just being God. I will turn my thoughts to His ever-abiding presence in my life and for always being there to run to. My meditation will be on how He is that rock that is bigger than me and my situation and I will praise Him. Will you join me?

Quick Change of Clothes

I don't know about you but lately my days seem overly busy and downright crazy at times. It can be so easy to get carried away in the details of caring for another. And try making one simple change to something as basic as a meal plan, changing a supply order or going with a new company for an aide and a snowball effect of crazy events can begin. There's a reason we can feel like we have too many irons in the fire. We do. But they are all necessary in order to take care of ourselves and our loved ones.

Caregivers have days where we are just tired. It does not change the long list of chores we have to accomplish for the day, but we can be tired before we even begin.

It can be easy to get caught up in the world of caregiving and forget about ourselves. We sort of wear this caregiver's mantle because we need to. We can be that take-charge-kind-of-person it takes to get things done. Who else is going to do it, right?

This morning when I arose I thought about how tired I was before the day even got started. In my daily devotions, I found myself in Isaiah 61. There were several phrases that caught my eye today.

comfort all who mourn
giving a garland instead of ashes
oil of gladness instead of mourning
mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting

I paused and thought about just these phrases in the first three verses. Honestly, I wondered if I could have some insteads. Garlands, gladness and praise sounds good to me! My thoughts sort of landed on that last one, a mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. 

We are the same person we were before we became a caregiver; but it's important to remember that before we are a caregiver, we are a child of God. Today, I decided to take off my caregiver mantle for a little bit and put on a mantle of praise.

It's as easy as it is difficult to praise God. If you don't know where or how to begin, just think about the things He's done and tell Him "good job!" Even in our crazy lives there is something to be thankful for - I like to start there. Just take a moment or two to express your thanks to Him. It will change your perspective and lighten your heart.

Today I will meditate on Him and His great works in my life and in the lives of others. I will intentionally find ways to praise and thank God. My thoughts will be on His greatness rather than my weakness. I will imagine I have on a mantle of praise today. Will you join me?

The Easy Stuff

It can be quite the battle to keep from being cynical or hard for lots of people these days, but especially for those who are in a constant daily struggle. We can wonder where God is and if He is still watching us why some things happen. And add to that being abandoned by people we loved and trusted and you have the makings of an emotional mess. Then on top of all that - we have to deal with the crazy health system; some people who are just doing a job with no heart and some who are not even doing the job part! It can be so easy to just feel like we are mad at everyone and if we are not careful we can turn our "expectors" off...it's easier that way.

In the midst of all the struggles we must endure each day there are times when we can feel like we suffer great loss. The lives we used to know and enjoy have passed away and many are prisoners in their own home...or that's the way it feels sometimes. Some days we count these losses; others we adjust and smile and just trudge on through.

Hosea 10:12 talks about breaking up the "fallow" ground. (that's old KJV!) I always thought that fallow just meant hard. But a little more study and I found out that it means ground that's already been plowed and then has sat and become hard again. If we do not guard our hearts carefully our hearts can be fallow.

The end of verse 11 says that Judah  must break up the hard ground and then the Lord will rain righteousness. Judah means praise...When we praise Him even in the hard times, it will keep our hearts from being hardened. But that's not always easy - even though it's doable. Sometimes there doesn't seem to be a place to start.

Two things are mentioned in verse 12 that are unchangeable: righteousness and love. In these crazy worlds caregivers live in where things can change dramatically from one second to the next, these two things will never change. They are the easy stuff. We do not have to work at all - they will not leave us! He is our righteousness no matter what life throws our way; and His love for us cannot be changed!

Today let us  praise Him for His steadfast love. Let us praise Him that He is our righteousness and we do not have to work to please Him. He is happy with us and we are hidden in Him.

Are You"Two" Tired?

 Take a second and think about all the things you did yesterday... Now think about all the things you have to complete yet today... Does it make you tired just thinking about it? Caregiving can be physically draining; and we can easily just be physically tired. But the trouble is that it is also emotionally draining.Then we are "two" tired. Our body feels like we are dragging ourselves around to complete all the necessary tasks that must be accomplished in a day...and then we have to handle the entire situation emotionally as well. There may be better days where things go smoothly, aides show up and supplies arrive on time...but there are always those times where decisions have to be made for someone else and it can wear us down...and we become two tired- body and soul.

And then the real trouble begins when we get three tired: body, soul and spirit. Not only do we have to take care of a whole other person while trying to maintain our own health and well being we can wonder where God is in all this. (or at least I do...) And if He is here with us - why isn't He doing anything? Does it ever feel that way?

It may be time to exchange strength with Him.We know according to Isaiah that God never gets tired. And we know by our own experiences that we do!  Psalm 29 is one of my long time favorite passages because it starts in verse one with us giving God our strength. And it ends in verse eleven with Him giving us His strength. I think it works better after we complete verse one first. We must give Him our strength- as small as it may feel - and as difficult as it may be to find right now - when we gather up or muster up what little we can find and pour it out before Him in praise and thanksgiving - we will get His strength in return.

Now take a minute and find something to be thankful for - no matter how small it may seem. Once you find the first thing to be thankful for another will follow...and another...

It's all about perspective. No, we do not live in an ideal situation. It's tiring, emotional and draining and we can be two tired or we can even be three tired. (body, soul and spirit) Even though we may feel we have no control over our circumstances we can still control our hearts and minds.Today let us take time to turn our thoughts to His greatness (Isaiah 40 is a great place to start; or Genesis 1); and put our effort into purposefully finding things to thank Him for...(breath, food, children, our minds) and as we pour this out before His throne we will find that He will make a great exchange by giving us His strength instead of ours to walk through today.

What Did You Say?

Do the days all start to feel the same sometimes? Each day has the same list of tasks that the caregiver has to perform. I see people glad it's Friday, or can't wait until the weekend. But most of the time one day is just like another for the caregiver and the chores really do not change much from day to day. Weekends or holidays are pretty much the same except maybe there will be no aide to help. If we are not careful we can slip into this boring existence and can live on the edge (or in the middle of) burnout. That's when we must be extra careful about what we say.

I remember when I was younger I would go visit my grandmother in the nursing home and all she would do is gripe about how we didn't come to see her often enough. Although I knew that was true it always made for a very unpleasant experience and I dreaded going to see her and sadly even avoided it when I could. Personally, I do not want to become that person. If we are not careful we can get so caught up in our cave-dwelling existence that we do not make others visits or phone calls pleasant ones.We must guard our mouths and choose to speak about pleasant things even when our hearts are hurting or lonely.

Proverbs 21:23 says this: he who guards his mouth and his tongue guards his soul from troubles. For the caregiver who may not even get to visit with others too frequently this means that whether we do actually have a visitor or not we have to watch our mouths to protect our hearts. What we allow ourselves to say can determine if our heart becomes bitter or remains tender toward God and man.

Today I will find pleasant things to speak. I'll talk about His goodness rather than my pain. I'll speak thankful words for all He has done and is doing in our lives. My heart will guard my heart today as I determine to speak peaceful words of praise. While speaking "all the right words" may not help the painful situation to go away - it can mean my journey through life's turmoil is a much more pleasant one.Today let us speak words of peace. Find someone else to encourage today - it will change your own heart.

Praise in Adversity

Most of the time when we live in such a stressful state we do not think about praising God. We ask Him to help us get out, but praise is not always on our lips. The prophet Jonah found himself in a very deep, dark place - the belly of a whale. The difference, of course is that Jonah had disobeyed God and this was his punishment.

Personally, I wrestled with whether I was going through this deep trial as punishment for some sin I had committed; or something I had omitted. We have all probably had those moments where we questioned why adversity had to happen in the first place, most of us at least thought we had our religious t's crossed and i's dotted. Unlike Jonah, our circumstances are not punishment for something we did wrong. We are not off course - and we must learn to rest in His peace and embrace His love for us once again.

But Jonah had run the opposite direction to avoid what God had told him to do. He found himself in the deepest, darkest parts of the earth...the belly of the whale. Now no matter how he got there - it was dark, smelly and scarey. Yet from this place - a place that had to appear hopeless; a place Jonah though would be his end - Jonah cried out to God.

Jonah 2:9 is the last part of Jonah's prayer of repentance. He makes a strong declaration as he says: but I will sacrifice to you with the voice of thanksgiving... He was determined even in the hopeless darkness to have a heart of thanksgiving. As dark as our lives may be, whether we understand why these things happened or not; no matter how hopeless we think our situation is - we must determine to have a thankful heart...a heart of praise. Today take a moment to praise God for who He is, for our circumstances do not change God. Our thoughts and ideas about God may be thoroughly challenged in our adversity - but He is still God!  Let us lift our voice to Him today and honor Him because He is still our God. 

How Big is Your Shovel?

I was reading Psalm 88 this morning. This particular psalm is how I sound some days - hopeless! It is strange how it is comforting to find out that someone else has the same questions, the same lost feelings, and the same hopelessness that I have experienced! They seem to be digging around in my hole! lol! He is speaking of things like being full of trouble, living in the pit, and how afflicting life can be. I have those days too! Those are the days where I don't feel like my shovel is big enough - or that I cannot find enough fill dirt to fill the hole in!

 Isn't it odd that this Psalm is even in the Bible? It's not uplifting at all except to know that someone else did experience the deep questions about pains and life without receiving any answers either! lol! Why was it included? It is not an encouraging Psalm at all. And as I was reading it this morning I kept looking for the but.. but I will sing, but I will praise or something like that. And it's just not there! I had a good eye roll planned for it too - I'm sure you never have any days you feel that one!

So I began to realize once again that I must dig myself out of the caregiver's fog...so I started looking for my "shovel." And ever so slowly I had to write the rest of this psalm myself...I will sing...don't feel like it...I will praise...cannot argue with His worthiness...I will rejoice...in what?

I cannot tell you how many times I have to go back to the basics to get out of the pit. I start here: God is. Some days that is enough, others it is not. But to stop and embrace the fact - the truth - that He just is - is a great place to start. God is love, God is faithful, God is supreme, God is smarter than me!!! And there I  can relax...peace in the knowing - even when absolutely nothing makes sense - He is. I can live on that today!!

Singing in the Shadow

Psalm 57 has long been a favorite psalm for me. I found the first verse back in 1987 when I was ill. I was taken from doctor to doctor and no one could find anything specific, we were all left wondering why I had no appetite and had shriveled up to nothing. I did not have the energy to walk across the room. I would crawl across the floor, then lay and rest for a moment before being able to continue...lots of questions without any answers.

 That's where I was when I discovered the first verse of this psalm. I didn't have the strength to hold my Bible up but I could usually read one verse before having to lay it back down. I would hold my Bible up and read this verse before strength ran out again. Eventually, I memorized it. It says this:
Be gracious to me. O God
be gracious to me,
for my soul takes refuge in You;
and in the shadow of Your wings I take refuge
until destruction passes by...

The old KJV says until calamities have passed. I have held on to this scripture throughout the years as it became a part of me back then. But the rest of this psalm is so important too. David cries out in verse one asking for God's protection on his soul. Then in verses 2-6 he describes his dismal situation. But then in verse 7 he makes his own personal declaration. He says that His heart is steadfast. (old KJV says fixed) and he says he will sing! 

 Today my declaration is that no matter what I walk through my heart is fixed and I will sing while hiding in the shadow of His wings! Yes it is bad - but He has not removed Himself as our shelter..so we can hide and sing! We can decide to continue to trust Him for another day..singing in His shelter!

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 ...