Showing posts with label social isolation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label social isolation. Show all posts

Caregiver Burnout is Real

 


Do you ever just get too tired? Do you ever want to quit? Do you ever sit down for a whole 30 seconds and think about not getting back up? Ever? Who am I kidding? Sometimes I forget who I'm talking to. Lol. As caregivers, burnout is real. But the problem for most of us, is we don't get a break even in the midst of burnout, right? Let's face it. If we had a bit more help we might avoid burnout - but once we feel that we are in a season of burnout and stressed out - there's still no help. It's easy to feel stuck.

I try to do a few things to avoid burnout and to cope. Someone told me one time that I had learned how to live even in the midst of the situation. I think she was right. I have learned to slow down and enjoy an afternoon cup of tea (or coffee!!!). I try to get outside as much as possible because sunshine and fresh air are essential to a healthy life. Some days that means sitting on the patio so I can see Chris in the recliner through the window. But I'm still "outside." I enjoy watching the birds in the small tree outside my patio too. those seemingly "little" things add up. I've learned to take an evening "off" from work-work, even if not from caregiving. I'll watch a movie or read a book. All these mental health tricks are so key to keeping myself healthy inside and out. 

But how do I keep my spirit-man healthy? There are times when I am just bummed out - anyone else identify? Times when I don't see God doing anything specifically. Times when I feel so all alone - because I am. What about those times? 

I think I found my answer in Psalm 77 this morning. Asaph pens these words in verses 4-10:

I am too troubled to speak (have we ever been there!?!?)

I think about the days of old, the years of long ago.

I remember my song, I commune with myself and my spirit asks:

Will Adonai reject forever?

Will he never show 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?

We sometimes ask these questions silently because we don't dare let them pass through our lips. But silently they arise from the depths of our beings as the caregiving days become long. But I love where Asaph goes with this psalm. Next, he says, this is my weakness - supposing that God's hand could change. Man, I love that. Our weakness is thinking that God's grace, mercy, and compassion ran out last week sometime. 

But then, Asaph realizes he's taken an interesting turn in his thinking. He is basically saying,  I don't see God doing anything right here, right now - so I'll remind myself of all He's done in the past. (Complete Jewish Bible translation)

When we cannot see or feel Him in our right-here-right-now, we can encourage ourselves with what we know He has done before. We can remind ourselves of the times we have seen Him intervene, provide peace in the storm, just be present when we needed Him - and that list goes on and on.

Today, I will remind myself that God's hand hasn't changed. He has not looked the other way, instead, He continues to look in my direction. I will remind myself of the times He's healed, calmed the storms in my heart and mind, brought comfort and peace. And I will be thankful. Will you join me?

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31 Days in Psalm 31 devotional book cover


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The Best Meeting

 


I know I've written quite a few times about Hagar, but her story intrigues me. I think I can relate to the rejection and loneliness she must have felt. In numerous devotions, I've talked about how God met her right where she was. She did have God "find" her twice. But there are other people in the scriptures that God met too.

The list is a bit longer when we start thinking about how many times God met someone along the way. Twice He came and ministered to Hagar, He met Saul on the road to Damascus (Acts 9), He met Balaam and stopped him before he sinned against God (Numbers 22). Jesus went through Samaria on purpose to speak with the woman at the well. He crossed two taboos in their time - going through Samaria and speaking to a woman! (John 4) He walked out to the disciples in a storm in Matthew 8. And the Angel of God came to Gideon when he was hiding from the Midianites in Judges 6.

It's easy for today's religious thinkers to label these Bible characters with negative terms and ideas. Gideon is often said to have no faith - but he is listed in Hebrews 11 among the faith giants. The disciples in the storm are obviously frightened. the woman in Samaria was a woman and unmarried - not worth anything to the religious leaders of the day. Hagar was rejected and we often hear Ishmael mentioned as a curse instead of a blessing. Saul was busy killing Christians. But God chose to meet each of these.

In Isaiah 64:4b-5 it says: ...nor has the eye seen any God besides You, Who acts for the one who waits for Him. You meet him who rejoices and does righteousness, who remembers You in Your ways.

God goes out of His way to meet us. He didn't have to meet any of the above-mentioned people. He chose to. He went to those who were rejected and condemned by religion. He sought out those who thought they were beyond hope, beyond reach. Sometimes as a caregiver, the isolation tries to suffocate. It is easy to feel alone- because often - we are. It's easy to feel neglected or rejected by society because too many times- we are. But God will meet us - right where we are in our caregiving messes! lol

We can still wait for Him and He still acts on our behalf. He chooses to meet us in our pain, confusion, and even in our doubts and fears. He calms us, soothes us, comforts us, and often carries us. (Maybe it's just me!) It's the best meeting ever!

Today, I will look for Him to meet me right where I am. I will purposefully wait for Him today and look for Him in my day-to-day. My thoughts will be on how He chooses to walk this journey with me - He won't abandon. He won't reject. He remains faithful even in caregiving. I'll watch Him move in my life today - will you join me in waiting on Him today?


                                                                                                                                          


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Roads and Rivers


 The social isolation of caregiving is one of the hardest parts for many of us. It's interesting now that during the pandemic so much attention is being given to being isolated and how it wears on mental health. Yet for many caregivers, it's been the norm for a long time. Yet when the rest of the world has to face the world we've lived in for decades, they fall apart. If it wasn't so serious, it would be humorous. 

One of the things that continue to bring me consolation is realizing that God is in this mess with me. I'm not facing it alone, even when I feel like I am. So, this morning during my devotions, I found myself reading in Isaiah 43. In verse 19, God says through Isaiah, I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. Sometimes, caregiving can feel dry and bare like the desert. Other times, like the wilderness there is plenty of growth, but no people to enjoy it with.

A road in the wilderness would make way for many more people to traverse the region. A river in the desert would bring soothing refreshment for the soul. Having water in the desert can also mean the difference between life or death. I used to hike a wilderness area when I lived in Lousiana. Once you got off the road, there was nothing but you and nature for miles. A road meant having access to help and home. Maybe that's the road in the wilderness God is speaking of. When He makes a road in our wilderness it opens up the pathway to get back to Him. 

No matter how alone we may be, God is there with us. In the most alone time, He still lays out the road back to His heart. In the dryest times, He makes sure there is a river to refresh and preserve our souls. I'm reminded of the verse in Psalm 46 that says there is a river whose streams make glad the city of God.

Whether we are alone, thirsty, dry, or feel barren or abandoned, God is still reaching for us. He makes the way plain and simple so we can get back to Him - or He can get to us! 

Today, I will remind myself that I am not in this wilderness alone. My thoughts will be on how diligently He seeks His own as I remind myself I am one of His own too! I will purposefully look for the road that leads to His heart today. And I will look for the rivers God has provided to quench my thirsty soul. Will you join me in this search?

When Normal is Not Normal

 This morning I was reading through the psalms called the Song of Ascents. These psalms include Psalm 120 through Psalm 134. As I understand them, they were sung as the journey to Zion or Jerusalem was made. They most likely sang them happily as they were excited about returning to the temple and the gathering of the people.

Psalm 133 talks about dwelling together as brethren. David penned that it was pleasant and good to be together. I am sure for the church crowd the next couple of weeks will be like that. As the coronavirus winds down and things return to some sort of normal, people are excitedly returning to their church services.

For the last few months, churches scrambled to have Sunday School, Bible Study, small groups, and services online. I had a slight sense of disappointment when it all started. Why? Because I'd been shut off for so long and none of this was available. But once they needed it - it became the new norm. Now that they won't need it again - things look likely to return back to their normal - and the normal for many caregivers - isolated again.

That normal hasn't worked for many caregivers for a long time, and now it may be the new normal once again. I feel for caregivers who cannot get out. Maybe we should start a Caregiver's Church - all virtual of course. At least we would be isolated together!

Social isolation is a real concern and many caregivers, elderly individuals, and those who are very ill suffer from it every day. That's the norm for too many people. And lately, I've seen more people who are alone even though married, or living in the same house with others. It's sad that we are not more together. However, I can say this - we are not alone. You are not alone. Even though we do not have the luxury of gathering with the brethren in unity and enjoying the pleasantness that provides, God is with us.

As we adjust back to a normal that is still not normal, may we remember that we aren't alone - and we've never been alone. Jesus said He would not ever leave us. He is with us always. My prayer today is for the caregivers and those they care for who are forced into living an isolated life. May we all recall that God is everpresent. He sees. He knows. He cares. (I wonder if He would do a virtual meeting! lol - you know I'm kidding!)

Today, I will keep my focus on the One who never leaves us. My meditations will be on His ever-abiding presence. He won't walk away - He won't abandon us to go back to "normal." I'll be thankful that He is always as near as our breath. I'll take a deep breath now and then to remind myself. I thank Him for being near. Will you join me?

It's Okay to Ask

Sometimes, I am not sure what to do with such a wide range of emotions that are associated with caregiving. There is daily grief over what was, the shaded future, and what could have been. There's a sense of loss that is different for each caregiver. For me, it's the loss of my son although his body is still here. I also feel the loss of relationship with him and the future we were supposed to share as he matured, married and began a career and family. With my mom, it's a different loss due to her dementia. There is the loss of the relationship, as well as the loss of her memories of all the things we shared over the years. The grief, losses, and social isolation can chip away at my heart and soul as I fade into quietness.

As believers, how do we deal with these things? Where is that line of faith? We know all too well that there are no "Christmas Miracles" in real life. Not for us anyway. But that's a lot to carry, isn't it? It can be so difficult to navigate through a wide range of emotions on any given day.

I have to take my heart back to hope. Is there any? Sometimes, it really doesn't look like it - but there is always hope as long as we are breathing in and breathing out.to be honest, I'm not sure I always know what that hope looks or feels like. But since I've made it a practice to hide His word in my heart, my mind wanders over to Psalm 42.

The sons of Korah start the psalm out describing their deep desire for God. They call it a thirst - like the deer longs to be refreshed by the brooks. This first little bit has been used in worship choruses for years, but if you did a bit deeper into the psalm you find that they were trying to find God in dire circumstances, just like we do as caregivers sometimes.

The writers were seeking God in a hard circumstance, not worshipping Him in Sunday morning church. They share feelings of despair, feeling forgotten by God, and oppression of the enemy. For us, the enemy may look like brain injury, dementia, or something else. But our soul becomes disturbed (v.11) like the Sons of Korah.

But then they end the psalm in the most unusual way - with a declaration of trusting Him. They turn to ask themselves - why are you discouraged oh my soul? So, it must be okay to ask, right? I can't tell you how many times (every day) I've asked. And it's okay. Especially when it's followed with - I shall yet praise Him - the help of my countenance and my God. Still declaring in the midst of things so hard to understand - that He is still my God and I will continue to trust whether I can or cannot see.

Today, in the midst of pain, disappointment, and struggle I will declare - You O Lord are the help of my countenance - You lift me up! You are still my help and I will still trust You and praise You. Will you join me?

The Invisible Woman

Me and Chris standing at Sutton Wilderness
Several things have occurred lately that remind me of the social isolation so many caregivers experience. Even in a crowd, many times we are alone. Even when people do talk to us on outings (if we can even get out!) they can't connect with us beyond the obvious. They only see us as a person behind the chair. I've done a few other blogs about being more than a caregiver and life behind the chair. But as we've been able to get out more frequently, it's come to light again - that invisible feeling. I'm starting to wonder if I'm just the invisible woman. lol

It's not easy to do normal things others take for granted. Things we really want to do - but just are not feasible. Take going to church for example. Often, there's no fellowship - no one knows how to reach out because we stand out as so different. It's not their fault - they really don't know that they can still ask you out for coffee or lunch. Personally, I find myself in situations wondering why in the world I'm even trying. What's the point? Seriously. It's not worth the "social interaction" if you are just ignored. I'm pretty sure that doesn't count for "interaction."

These are the types of thoughts I've had this week as I am rolling a lot around in my mind. My son has been ill most of the week with health care professionals in and out - that's after the ER visit we had between services last Sunday. It's just a serious reaction to the antibiotic - but he's finally kicked it or so it seems. But these things make me think more deeply.

I want to get him out more - but I need to focus on what is good for him as well as good for me. In nature - I'm not invisible. Somehow I connect and marvel at the vast goodness, creativity, and immaculate care of God. I look at the precise detail He gave to little things like a pansy - Carefully drawing lines and accenting various parts with complimentary colors. Does He not care this much for us - even when we feel invisible?

I'm sorry if you feel invisible today. I hope you don't - it's not fun. But if you do - take a look at Psalm 139 (I spend a lot of time in this psalm!). I love the last part of verse 3 - He is acquainted with all my ways not just my deeds. He knows more than what I do - caregiving - and sees inside to the whole person who is pursuing Him. He has no box for me to fit in. He longs for fellowship and communion with us. That didn't change one little bit when caregiving happened. We are not invisible to Him - He sees. He knows. He cares.

Today, I will rejoice because He sees me right where I am - in all this emotional mess. I'll be thankful He didn't run away and He doesn't ignore me. He still bids me to "come" to Him and find rest. I suppose that indicates I still have to work to enter His rest! But I'm thankful that the invitation to the invisible woman still stands!

When You Find Yourself Alone

As caregivers, we can often be surrounded by a sea of people and still feel all alone. Our day to days are so different, we can't engage in some conversations. Long vacations, weeks off to do nothing, or retirement are out of our league. Others can't understand caregiving talk either - if they haven't walked it. It can be difficult to know where to put the emotions associated with such social isolation and alone-ness.

Late last week I was working through these kinds of feelings and emotions when I thought about the scripture that says, David encouraged himself in the Lord. I found it in 1 Samuel 30:6. As I was meditating on it a thought occurred to me.  David was alone. Perhaps he was in the most alone spot in his life.  The Philistines had rejected his offer to join their efforts. He returned "home" to Ziklag to find it ransacked and all his goods, women, children and other stuff - gone! It says he was greatly distressed since all the people were talking of stoning him - they blamed him.

Although I have reminded myself of this scripture oftentimes, I never realized it was written about a time David felt so alone. David encouraged himself, strengthened himself in the Lord - in one of the darkest moments of his life. What does that even mean? So I did a bit of research and found that it's probable that David penned Psalm 16 during this time. I loved it. It's so applicable and perfect.

It seems to have more significance when David pens:


  • O my soul - you have said to the Lord, "You are my Lord..."
  • O Lord, YOU are the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You maintain my lot...
  • My flesh will rest in hope - 
  • In Your presence is fullness of joy...
I encourage you to read Psalm 16 with new eyes, from the point of view of a man who has literally lost everything. Think about the raw emotions he was feeling when he said things like "You are my Lord" - and "My flesh will rest in hope" - or the proclamation "Because the Lord is at my right hand - I will not be moved!"

Today, I will meditate on this psalm and read it a few more times. It will be my meditation today. My proclamation will be "my flesh will rest in hope..." I will rejoice that the Lord is still my portion, he "maintains my lot." I will trust that "I have set the Lord always before me - and because He is at my right hand, I will not be moved." And my flesh will rest right there today as I trust Him for one more day - will you join me?



What's That in Your Eye?

There are many aspects about caregiving that are just flat out difficult. It's not for the fainthearted or weak, that's for sure! :-)
Each day can have its own challenges that only caregivers understand. But one thing that I feel is a prevalent battle is the social isolation. My social life is virtually non-existent. And for those who can get out some - it's an understatement to say it's way different from BC (before caregiving).

I can only share how I feel, and maybe it's just me, but I can feel like an insignificant bump on the face of the earth. Not only do I not have a social life, but I feel like I am more of a burden on society than a contributor. There are times I have to stay completely off social media because it can trigger a battle with depression.

BC I was a goer. I loved to travel, I loved to go. I was always hiking, exploring, driving new roads and finding new adventures wherever I was. For me, when I see people posting pictures of their latest vacation, or weekend getaway to the beach, I can start to feel even more isolated and deprived. The caregiver doesn't always have the freedom to go and do like we'd like to.

Yesterday, I found out some decisions about my parents had been made without my input. It wasn't really a bad decision, it just hurt that I wasn't a part of it. Does that make sense? Not only was this decision made without my participation - it basically cut me out of the decision--making process for the future as well. Not really that big of a deal. However, it drove me into a deeper aloneness that seemed to swallow me whole.

It felt as though I was being told one more time - just be your son's caregiver - you are not important. I felt rejected, not needed. Insignificant.

As I awakened this morning, these feelings of insignificance were still swirling around in my head. I struggled to make some sense of it, to find a way to wash it away. So I asked God what He thought. I asked, Am I also insignificant to You? My immediate thought  - I'm sure He whispered it to me - was that I am the apple of His eye.

Now I am familiar with the phrase from scripture but I had to look it up. David prayed in Psalm 17:8 for the Lord to keep him as the apple of His eye. I noticed one translation said the daughter of the eye. Since I'm a girl - I liked that! Then in Zechariah 2:8, God told the prophet that He would protect Jerusalem and that whoever touches her was touching the apple of His eye. I smiled. It felt like God was trying to tenderly tell me He's got me.

I may feel isolated. I may feel socially unacceptable. I am different - and I'm okay with that. Caregivers are still human, you know! (Even though we've been known to pull off some pretty-near super human feats! - where's my cape? lol) We still feel. We can still contribute. It's just different. And even though family, friends and society may feel differently about caregivers - God doesn't.

Well, maybe He does. Maybe, just maybe He pulls us in a little closer, protects us a little more closely, and speaks tenderly to us a little more often. Because caregiving doesn't remove us from being an object of His love.

Today I'm going to look at God knowing I am what is in His eye. My meditations will be on His unchanging love and tenderness toward me. I'll turn my thoughts to how He holds me, He loves me even in my craziness. In my loneliness he hasn't abandoned me. I'll think about how He's walking this out with me day after day. He doesn't quit when it gets ugly. My pain is not repulsive to Him. I am not repulsive to Him. He cares. And with that, I will trust Him for one more day. Will you join me?

Are you Engaged Yet?

As a caregiver it can be easy to feel sort of "cut off" from the rest of the world. Our lives usually look much different than the status quo. And even though I can get out and about more now, there was a time I referred to my life in the cave.

The social isolation can be one of the most difficult side roads of caregiving. It doesn't seem to happen overnight, but slowly. One day you look up and realize not only has your world changed, but your people groups have too. Sadly, in many cases there are few people, if any, who can stand to walk alongside the caregiver.

We may not get invited to social events. If we do get invites, it can be difficult or even impossible to attend. Sometimes, for me, just the thought of trying to manage my schedule so it coordinates with Chris' needs, get him dressed, fed at the right time, and loaded in the van is too overwhelming to even attempt going out. This drives the stake further in and separates me from things I used to enjoy doing. Other times, I load him up and head down the road. Social life can be virtually non-existent, slowly dwindling or barely hanging on - if there is any hope of it at all.

One thing I really wish for my son is for him to have a friend. He had tons of friends before his wreck and they were all so young when it happened, they really didn't know what to do with it....or with him. What do I expect? He cannot communicate - can't hold a conversation. He can't go out with them. He can't even relate to them anymore and of course they cannot relate to him. So he is left inside himself - to battle alone. That breaks my heart and is one of the pains of caregiving.

On the other side of that proverbial coin though, is us. We are here and many times fail to communicate with God. Having discussions and conversations with Him requires faith. How many times have we (or I) failed to talk to God because we don't hear back from Him, don't think He can hear us, or we think we (or He) cannot relate to us anymore? How that must hurt His heart sort of like mine hurts for my son's lack of interaction.

God can be so easy to ignore as we go about our busy days. I have a "google mind" as one of my friends put it. It goes 900 miles an hour and each term, picture, thought or question generates pages of results over and over again. It can be tricky to get it slowed down enough to engage with God and hear Him. Just like it's difficult for my son's friends to stop long enough to communicate with Chris - whether he can engage or not. How many times do you think God tries to engage us and we sit there silently or going so fast we "don't have time" to hear Him? I'm determined to slow myself and my mind down enough to engage with Him - for He is the source of life.

Today, I will learn to "be still." I'm going to purposefully stop and listen for His input. I will step out of the way and let my heart engage with Him. I'll consider myself "engaged" to Him and anticipate his eager response. My thoughts will be on giving Him the highest seat in my heart. I will rest in Him, I will listen for His slightest move and I will rest in Him as I trust Him for one more day. Will you join me?

Exiting Crisis Mode

There can be many aspects of caregiving that are weighty. Even though each situation is unique and has it's own set of circumstances, it's never "over" and you're never "done." Tomorrow always awaits with mostly the same tasks today demanded. And even though the initial trauma or gravity that may have occurred at the onset of the caregiving experience are over - the situation usually means we may live in a sort of crisis mode. (Maybe it's just me.)

Two things have been on my mind over the weekend. One is the social isolation that is customary in a caregiving situation. The other is how people tend to act like you had a crisis in the past but they seem to think it's over now. I think this can contribute to the isolation many caregivers experience.

For instance, when we lived in the hospital for the first 4 months of our journey, we had visitors frequently. Not as much toward the end, but people still came to visit from time to time. We could usually expect someone at least on the weekends. When we came home - it felt almost like we were put on a shelf as if the crisis ended. But in reality - it was just a different level of crisis as we brought the hospital home with us.

Caregivers are resilient though. We bounce back. We adapt. We adjust to a new normal and just keep putting one foot in front of the other. We do what we do and just keep doing it. With or without help. With or without interaction that seems to slowly subside over time.

Obviously, all is not lost. Our relationship with our heavenly Father deepens as we press more into Him. We adjust to our circumstances, partly because we just have to; and partly because we are too busy to really stop and think about it a lot. But for me, there are those times when I feel engulfed in loneliness and it makes it difficult to navigate spiritually.

The last couple of days have been that way for me. It leaves me feeling pain on every side. It is deep and intense and I feel like it is inflicted to make me lose focus and be counted out in the fight. It's okay to realize how deep the pain is - and how deeply our caregiving experience is affecting us. Living in crisis mode can affect us on every level.

So what are we to do? How do we get clarity in the middle of the fight? These were my questions over the weekend. I turned my heart to two different psalms. One I caught myself singing. It's Psalm 61. The heartfelt prayer of the psalmist cries out:

Hear my cry O Lord
Listen to my prayer
From the ends of the earth have I cried out to You.
For you have been my shelter from the storm
A high tower from the enemy.
When my heart is overwhelmed
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

I find myself singing/praying that during the times caregiving seems overwhelming. The other one is Psalm 13 where the psalmist talks cries out to the Lord and asks Him some very good questions. 

How long will You forget me...
How long will You look away...
How long do I have to struggle...
How Long will my enemy be winning...

But the last verse of Psalm 13 is key. In it the psalmist says this: 

But I will trust in Your unfailing love
I will rejoice because You rescued me
I will sing to the Lord
...because He has been so good to me.

And this is where I am again today. I see the turmoil around me. I feel the grip of living the caregiving lifestyle... and yet I see He has been so good to me in the midst of it all!

Today I will purposefully acknowledge His presence. I will trust Him, rejoice in all He's done and I will sing from my heart about His unfailing love and care. My meditations will be on what He has done and how He continues to work on my behalf rather than on what I see surrounding me. I will turn my heart to trust in Him... for one more day. And I will rest in Him - will you join me?

More Than What Meets the Eye

Yesterday I talked about the flowers along the trail and it made me want to get back out there and get a few pictures. So when the aide got here I went out just to enjoy running the trail and stopping to get pictures. I found this solitary flower along the way.

I think it grabbed my attention because just a while back there were rows and rows of flowers and this one was standing there all alone. My mind went off on its own rabbit trail when I saw it.

My first thought was how it was alone with no other flowers around it to add or detract from its beauty. But then I thought about all that it takes for this single plant to survive. Maybe that small cluster of flowers thinks its all alone in this small, but harsh wilderness; but there is a more than what meets the eye.

Many elements come together for this little flower. The leaves use the process of photosynthesis to keep the flower alive and the stem helps it stand tall so the sun and leaves can do their work. And there is an entire root system underground supporting this little guy and supplying it nutrients just so it can bloom, just so I can enjoy its beauty while I am out on a run! And besides all that there is the process of pollination going on to make sure this and other flowers have what is needed to survive. Nature has multiple systems going on that help keep this flower alive and beautiful.

Sometimes the caregiver can feel all alone and deserted. All the other flowers are enjoying each other's company in a different location but this one just stands here. Social isolation is one of the most crucial areas the caregiver has to deal with and it's real. We find our lives redefined by our social activities or the lack thereof and it can be a very lonely place.

When we look at this plant, we don't see the harsh, cold spring it endured. We don't see the dry spells it lived through during the hot summer. And we don't see how it lays over in the strong Oklahoma winds or how it endured the last tornado. And we can't see the entire system God has in place just to make it shine.

When God looks at us though - He knows. He knows about those long sleepless nights, the loneliness we endure, our fears, and all the other things that we fight day in and day out as we care for our loved ones. And He sees the beauty of the flower the troubles have produced. I couldn't see anything this flower endured - I only saw its beauty today. That's how He sees us. The flower has no idea how beautiful it is or that it made me stop and smile today - but it did.

My meditation today will be on how He gives us beauty for ashes. I'll turn my thoughts to how He loves us and how He sees beauty in us even when we feel like we are dry and living in the midst of a wilderness. I'll think about how His heart smiles when He looks at us...because he sees us blooming, beautiful and standing tall in faith. Will you join me?

On Our Own?

Life can bring with it many afflictions - sometimes life just hurts. And it doesn't need any help from unexpected tragedies or sickness - it's just painful. It is really up to us how we choose to respond to pain life deals out. And don't you hate it when someone tells you it's a character building  experience? What experience is not a character builder? In each circumstance we face we are staring down a choice - how are we going to handle this?

Are we going to fall apart? Run crying to a friend? Give up and quit? Shut down our emotions? You may list anything else here that is your MO (Mode of Operation)! I'm not saying that these are right - or wrong - just typical responses when we don't know how to deal with situations. But no matter what - eventually we have to work through it and live. Caregivers are no different. We don't get a separate instruction manual than the rest of the world! Our choices are the same as everyone else's and our decisions just as individual as the next guy.

In Psalm 119:50 the psalmist states: This is my comfort in my affliction: for Your word has given me life.  I clung to this scripture years back as the very fact that His word still "quickens" me, still speaks to me, still brings healing, hope and peace even in my affliction - is a very comforting thing. Wouldn't it be awful if when we faced trials His word shut down and waited for us to come around? Thankfully it's not that way! His word is alive, the writer of Hebrews said.

Verse 52 says basically that the psalmist comforted himself by remembering God's word. Ever been there before? Caregiving can be a lonely place and we can live in social isolation. There may not be anyone nearby to help lift your hands and your heart during those dark nights of the soul that are unavoidable. But when we are on our own - we still have His word and we can comfort ourselves.

As a matter of fact, verse 55 gives us another clue to how rough it was for the psalmist. He states I remember Your name in the night. It's those dark, lonely times that can get us isn't it? That's when we feel  the most alone - but when we are "on our own" is when we have to dig down and let His word comfort us. That's right - we actually have to be willing and yielded to His word to receive His comfort.

Today I will meditate on being yielded to His word. I will turn my thoughts to Him and put my heart in His hands. I will let His word bring me comfort, peace direction and correction today. (Correction? who said anything about that?!)  Will you join me?

Not What it Looks Like

Sometimes the life of a caregiver can seem very barren. We can suffer from loneliness and social isolation even in this technologically "connected" world. Personally, I can go an entire day without holding a conversation with a real person even though I have plenty of interactions online. Online is certainly better than nothing but it does not replace actually hearing someone's voice, seeing their facial expressions or sharing laughter. It can seem very barren sometimes like we don't exist even in the world in which we live.

Isaiah 54 says Sing O barren, you who have not borne! Break froth into singing and cry aloud, you who have not labored with child! For more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married woman, says the Lord. God is able to take what looks and feels empty and make it full. He has sort of specialized in the field.

Think about two women: Sarah and Mary. Sarah was considered too old to be fruitful and Mary was in a way too young to be fruitful. God took these two extreme "barren" situations and made them fruitful. And He did it way beyond both of their imaginations. What looked fruitless to man God touched and made fruitful.

Even though our lives may look unfruitful and we can feel barren, God is behind the scenes doing something. We may not know what He is up to - but He's always doing something. Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 4 to keep our eyes on the things we cannot see - instead of the "lack" we can see.  Paul also reminds us in Ephesians 3:20 that God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all we can imagine. (I have a pretty good imagination too!)

Today instead of concentrating on the lack, or the barrenness that can accompany a caregiver, I will meditate on what I can't see.  I will look harder and find what God is doing behind the scenes. I will think about what He is doing in me instead of around me. Are you up for the challenge?

Feeling Left Out

Because our lives are so different from the main stream, it is easy for us to feel left out. Watching others go on vacation, make a coffee run or just meet up with friends can make us feel like we're sitting on the couch while the rest of the world is enjoying itself. Social isolation is real for the caregiver as people in general just don't know quite what to do with us. "Church" presents its own set of problems in this arena.

Many of us can't attend church services or have so many obstacles to get there it's not feasible. The good thing is that we are part of the universal body of Christ. Just because we are separated from a physical church building on the corner, does not separate us from the body. We are no less a part of the true body of Christ than others. We may just need to broaden our ideas about what and who the body really is.

The body of Christ reaches beyond the church downtown, it's time inclusive. That means that we are part of the body with Paul as well as the 12 disciples. We could even say that spiritually speaking the body covers much more than just the New Testament believers. Think for a minute of the "Hall of Faith" from Hebrews 11. We have some pretty impressive family members including Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, David and Isaiah. We are not excluded from the true body of believers - we are a part.

Perhaps you say that you are just the little toe - but that little toe is important to the whole. If your little toe was removed you'd have to learn to walk again as it balances the whole body. There are small parts but no one plays a small role in the body.

Sometimes I think that caregivers and their loved ones are a test for today's church. There have been times that I felt totally ignored and like I could no longer relate to the church world today. We do not fit in the church's box so they really aren't sure what to do with us. Some churches thankfully, think outside the box and reach out with love and compassion.

The Lord looks at us in the spirit. We are a huge part - he sees us inside-out and is far more concerned about the parts of us that cannot be easily seen. He watches over our soul and sees our true heart rather than our position in the world today. He sees us as we really are. When the "world" is stripped off - what do we look like?

Today I will meditate on the fact that I am a part of the body of Christ and without me it's not complete. I'll think of God's inclusive love, compassion and acceptance just like I am - undone - but whole. I choose to rest in His acceptance today. Will you join me?

Feeling Disconnected

Being a caregiver can often mean long hours shut in at home; this can leave you feeling disconnected from mainstream life. There's no doubt that we cannot enjoy some of the "normal" social activities of life but there are days when this can wear on you more than others. With very little social interaction there can come this "social isolation" that just leaves us feeling alone.

When I battle with this type of disconnection from life's normalities, I let my mind wander through some of my favorite Bible heroes who likely felt the same thing at times. I often think and speak of Joseph whose own brothers sold him into slavery to get rid of him - to try and crush his dreams. And then after he maintained his own integrity and held on to God through that type of struggle, he was unjustly imprisoned. Talk about the epitome of being socially isolated! Yet Joseph never gave up on God. He sat for long periods of time in prisons that are a far cry from the discomfort of prison today - and just held on. He refused to become disconnected from his source - God.

Today I am encouraging myself to hold on to Him even in this place free from social interactions. Like Joseph (most likely did..) I have questioned the dreams that I thought He had given me. And you know what? He's big enough to handle my questions. And even though I cannot see the future and I question if I even received dreams from God or not, I do not question His existence. I know Him too well to let Him go...and that keeps me connected to Him.

No matter if we are feeling lonely, disconnected or isolated like Joseph - there is a foundation of God that stands sure - He knows those that are His. (2 Tim. 2:19) Time is no problem for God and He knows we are His. Today I will meditate on this truth - that He knows me. And I will be content with that. Will you join me?

Will He Come for Me?

For many caregivers social isolation is a real challenge. It can take major effort to either find sitters for our loved one or make travel arrangements. Scheduling any kind of outing can be overwhelming enough that it is easier to sit at home - and that becomes the norm. It's not as simple as just jumping in a vehicle and running to town, out to eat or to catch a movie.

In many instances caregivers are walking alone. People have good intentions most of the time but when the journey becomes too long they move on with their lives and leave the caregiver isolated and alone. Many churches simply don't know what to do with us since we do not fit into their little boxes. They don't have the perfect mold to put us in so we remain largely ignored in far too many cases.

A couple of weeks ago I was thinking about the effects of being socially isolated. It seems to me that people want us to come to them rather than taking the time to come to us. (What ever happened to old fashioned visitation?) I was wondering about Jesus. How did He handle people? Does He expect me to come to Him as well? I immediately thought of several scriptures like come to me you who are weary and I will give you rest. But what if I'm too tired to come? Will He come to me?

Shortly after this I opened my Bible and re-discovered this scripture in John 14:18: No I will not abandon you as orphans, I will come to you. I was elated to say the least! He will come for me!

How comforting it is to know that He will indeed come to us - He will bring us comfort and peace! Today I will meditate on the truth that He is coming to me to strengthen me and give me what I need for today's journey back to Him. Will you join me?

Quietly Discarded

There are times that I joke about living in a cave; and even though things are said in jest it really can seem that way at times. Many times the caregiver lives a very isolated life where activities outside the home are very limited. For awhile this used to wear on me but it has finally settled in and my cave is a very safe place, a peaceful place and I am actually finding that I do not do as well outside the cave as I used to.

Others really do not understand the caregiver's cave. There's just no way for others to understand the lack of freedom that can be experienced. You cannot just jump up and go grab a few things from the store, have coffee with a friend or go to an afternoon matinee. The things that are commonplace for the majority are rare for the caregiver, if they exist at all. We cannot expect others to understand our situations - they are not living the experience with us. We do not fit society's mold and sometimes we can feel quietly discarded.

No one will actually say anything - not that it would help. Have you ever just felt politely ignored? When people do not know what to do with you they are not impolite - they just ignore! Even the church can be this way. They do not know what to do with those of us who are homebound and cannot fit their church-going mold. So we do not exist to them. I won't bore you with the details of all the churches or church people who have politely ignored us. lol. But I will tell you that one pastor asked me what I needed and I replied with one word: fellowship. He eagerly said they could do that. (I think he was relieved that I didn't ask for money lol!) But most of those who live in situations with continual pain whether it's physical or emotional have probably already guessed what happened. I never saw him or any people from that church again. I'm not mad - they just don't know what to do with us so they politely ignore us. We become quietly discarded because we can't function in their world. No blame -- just the way it is.


The term that came to my mind earlier this week was cast away. There are times when the caregiver can feel like society or even life in general has just cast us away. We are here - we are breathing - but we don't really exist. When I started meditating about being cast away and realizing that our existence is not in this world but in Him, my mind went straight to 2 Corinthians 4. The apostle to the early church Paul says this we are afflicted in every way...but not crushed. Now for those faithers out there -- they would call this admission a negative or faithless confession. It is not. Paul is stating the obvious. Until we can view where we are in honesty - we'll never be able to view Him in truth. Paul did not stop at this he went on to describe the utter despair he was feeling:  perplexed but not despairing; persecuted but not forsaken; struck down but not destroyed. That about sums it up.

I would like to add quietly discarded - but not rejected. Even though much of the world ignores our situation - God is still fully aware. He has not rejected us - He has not left us. Life may have struck us down but we are not destroyed!! Even though it feels like life has cast us away - to live in the caregiver's cave - God caught us and holds us even now.

Today I will meditate on how He is my present help - He holds me - cherishes me and loves me. I will picture Him holding me...and then I'll rest in Him. Will you join me?











Social Isolation

One of the things I hear a lot about is social isolation. Most caregivers become such under varying circumstances for me it started with an automobile accident followed by a hospital stay. At first the SICU waiting room was filled with concerned people. As the usual "custom" visitors began to dwindle when it turned into a 4 month hospital stay; and dwindled even more as we moved to the first nursing home. By the time we moved to our first apartment visitors were pretty much nonexistent. This is typically how it goes and it's not that people do not care, it's just that they went on with their lives and somehow had the illusion that since you are "home" yours sort of went on too. That's just the way it is.. no blame.

 Caregiving can end up being a lonely place - but you eventually adjust to this social isolation and it finally becomes the norm.  As a general rule, caregivers do not have the freedom that many others have. They cannot decide on the spur of the moment to go see a movie, go to lunch with friends or grab a cup of coffee with someone. Many cannot even take care of personal errands except when an aide is present. Even if our loved one is mobile it is not so easy to just jump and run to buy necessities. It all has to be carefully planned out and it greatly involved depending on the mobility level of our loved one. All of this can lead to a feeling of abandonment. 

When we feel like the world has kept turning and left us sitting still we can consider this scripture in Psalm 27:9-10. The psalmist prays: Do not hide yourself from me. Do not reject your servant in anger. You have always been my helper. Don't leave me now; don't abandon me, the Lord will hold me close. Even if my father and mother abandon me, the Lord will hold me close.

I am guessing that David had moments he felt isolated from the rest of the world. He was basically running and hiding from Saul who wanted to kill him. I'm sure there were some lonely moments in some dark caves while he was hidden away that he felt abandoned. But he encouraged himself in the Lord more than once! In this psalm he goes on to talk about seeing the Lord's goodness in the land of the living. And then he makes this statement seemingly to himself in verse 14: wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord. (NLT)

Today I will turn my focus to the Lord who will never abandon - never leave me alone. I will meditate on these two phrases from this psalm: you have always been my helper and  the Lord will hold me close. This will by my meditation for the day - will you join me?

Faith for the Furnace

Yesterday I was looking through some old files I had stored on a previous hard drive and came across a recording by Nicole C. Mullen: My Redeemer Lives! I listened to it and thought of how that song is such a wonderful reminder that our God does indeed live. My mind then went to the scripture where the phrase is found  - Job 19:25. Such a wonderful song - why did it have to be Job that said it first? None of us read Job - it's rarely taught in a Sunday School lesson and I cannot recall a single sermon that used Job as the primary character.

We are afraid of Job's story because we do not understand it. Much like the church seems to be afraid of those of us who are suffering in our own furnaces because they do not know what to do with us. I suppose we can be thankful that they do not come and park on our doorstep offering such accusations as Job's "friends." (*smile*) Does it seem to you that sometimes well meaning church people want us to feel as though we don't have faith or we would have been able to escape this furnace? Isn't it more likely that we have faith for the furnace - that faith is what helps us navigate through these fiery trials of life rather than avoid them? I think so...but that's just my opinion.

When Job made the statement I know my redeemer lives, he was talking to his friends who were trying to convince him that his "house was evil" or all of this would not have come upon him. I found in the first part of the chapter that he describes the anguish of social isolation well. As many times we are cut off (not really on purpose - but once again because people do not know what to do with us) from the ones we love. And if the trial lasts for years - people no longer call or drop cards in the mail as they used to. This type of social neglect and isolation can wear on a soul and Job really describes it well in chapter 19. He even goes so far as to say that his "complaint is with God." That's raw honesty right there - might do us all some good!

But then in verse 25 it's like the faith inside of him took hold and all that he just said didn't matter as much as this: but as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and that He will stand upon the earth at last. And after my body has decayed, yet in my body I will see God. Yes, I will see Him with my own eyes. I am overwhelmed at the thought! Today I will say with Job - I know my redeemer lives! And I will  see Him... because I will seek for Him with all my heart - even in the furnace. 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 ...