Saturday, June 21, 2014

Intentional Gratitude

It’s easy to entertain thoughts of “why me?” when we feel as though life has slapped us around lately.  Our natural human tendency is to settle into a pity party. 

Sometimes we do more than just settle there; we go all out with decorating and sending out invitations!  Can you just imagine what your invitation would say? 

Please join me in my “whoa is me”, “my life is not what I dreamed it to be” party.

It looks totally silly written out in black and white, but we all have gone there at times.  I know I have.

I shared recently that I am choosing gratitude.  No really, I am CHOOSING gratitude. 
  • ·        When I am weary of being the only adult in this home, I choose to thank God for the blessing of my children.  (They are phenomenal human beings and I enjoy them immensely!)
  • ·        When I am feeling like there are not enough hours in the day to accomplish my work (both my “real job” that pays our bills and my volunteer ministry work), I choose to praise God that I have a flexible career where I can care for my children in our home and adequately provide for us; I praise Him for the widow ministry He has orchestrated my participation in.
  • ·        When I look around my house and see stuff scattered and in a bit of disarray (I’m an OCD girl by nature), I slow down and choose to thank God for each item that needs to be returned to its rightful place.  Honestly, I am learning that not everything has to be in its place at all times.  (This is HUGE, people.  I am a work-in-progress!)

I want to be intentional with my gratitude.  I have learned at far too young of an age that life can be shorter than we expect or dream.  I don’t want to waste my time on pity parties when I have real celebrations to experience.

Let’s all purpose this next week to slow down a bit, take our focus off of our own woes, and intentionally look for our blessings, because,

“we often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.”

I don’t want to take anything for granted in this short life. 
I want to live well and love fiercely. 
I want to be sold out for Jesus! 

I think this starts with a grateful heart.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Daily Preparedness

It was another hot summer mid-morning in Oklahoma.  I shouldn't have waited to start my run this late, but my muscles were screaming to be challenged, my feet needed to beat the pavement, and my head needed time to “just be”.  That is what running provides me; it is my escape.  I didn't want to skip it.  Already several hours into my day at my home office computer, I craved the experience.  So I hastily decided to go for it, throwing on my running shoes as I left to take kids to their events.  I would get a quick run in while they did their things and then we could return home.

In my haste, I left my running belt on my closet shelf.  It caught my eye as I was grabbing my watch and visor, but I thought to myself, “It’s just going to be a few miles today, I’ll be fine.”  At 10:00 AM it was already in the mid 80’s and the air was thick with humidity.  I chose an out and back route.  I knew the heat would be stifling and I knew that I don’t like the heat.  Give me a race with freezing temperatures and sleet and I’ll run a personal best half marathon time.  Place me on a circular route when it’s hot and I will quit the first time I circle past my car.  (Just keeping it real here.)

Halfway through my run, I realized that I was not properly prepared.  My throat was parched and I needed those water bottles on the running belt I had left on my closet shelf. 

It made me wonder how often we do this in our Spiritual life.  We skip our quiet time with the intention of digging into God’s Word later.  How many times do we get distracted in our mornings and when our Bible catches our eye, we think to ourselves, “Oh I've just got a few things to do first, I’ll be fine” and then things pile upon things and before we know it, we are knee deep in the circumstances of our day and are ill-prepared for any challenges we may face?  We find ourselves realizing that we are in desperate need for a taste of His living water to quench our souls thirst. 

Friends, if you are already into your day and you haven’t spent time with God, take time right now to meet with Him.  
  • Meditate on His Word.  
  • Thank Him for Who He is and for what He is doing in your life.  
  • Ask Him for His guidance today.  
He is waiting to fill you with cool, refreshing water from His limitless supply.  

Drink deeply, prepare for your day, and go run confidently!

Monday, June 16, 2014

I Choose Gratitude

There are plenty of emotions I can choose to focus on each day while navigating this life as a single parent.  I could be angry at God for not healing Tim on this earth.  I could be bitter, frustrated and flustered by the inconvenience of doing this life we had planned out together by myself now.  The world would certainly understand and might even encourage these attitudes; but as Christians, God calls us to something greater.

He calls us to be greater in our weaknesses by surrendering to His power.

Finally, be strong in the Lord 
and in the strength of his might.  Ephesians 6:10

Because the One who is in you 
is greater than the one who is in the world.  1 John 4:4

He calls us to experience greater things through new life in Him.

Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me 
will do the works I have been doing, 
and they will do even greater things than these, 
because I am going to the Father.  John 14:12

He calls us into the greatest love relationship; a personal bond with Him that can never be broken.

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  
Romans 8:37-39

When we are focused on surrendering to His power, experiencing life with His eternal perspective and being overwhelmed by His great love…there isn't much room left in us to be angry.  

Instead, what begins to bubble up 
from deep within our souls is gratitude!

I am not implying gratitude comes naturally during tragic times; but I am absolutely saying that when we place our priorities where they should be…gratitude happens.  No matter what situation we find ourselves in.  We can’t control all of the devastating things that bombard us in this life; but we can choose how we respond.

If this is hard for you to wrap your brain around at first, start by reviewing these steps.

Surrender yourself and your situation to Jesus.
Make a conscience decision to do something that honors God.
Spend time in prayer, meditating on His great love for you.

Next, choose something to be grateful for.
(Hint: An obvious start is being grateful 
that nothing can separate us from the love of God.)

I know first-hand; God will fulfill His promise to bring peace into your soul and joy into your heart when you choose gratitude!

A cheerful heart is good medicine.  Proverbs 17:22

A happy heart makes a face cheerful.  Proverbs 15:13

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Overlooked Role of Caregiver (part two): How God’s People Served

With God by my side, I knew I was an overcomer; and He knew I would need encouragement to continue on this road.

I would literally administer a feeding through Tim’s tube while he rested, climb the stairs to play video games with our kids, slip back downstairs to check his blood pressure or get him more pain medication or honestly sometimes only to make sure he was still breathing, then return to the laughter of the upstairs den.  I don’t understand how anyone can endure this hurricane without God’s grace and the hope we find in Him.  God alone was my sole source of strength.  


Because this was my husband’s personal health battle, we agreed to let him make the rules of how we would manage this season of our lives.  He chose to handle it without allowing many people around.  I sometimes felt isolated and suffocated by the stress and loneliness of my role. 

God sent special friendships to minister to me during this time.  Friends who respected Tim’s wishes, and left us to our privacy, but still managed to be creative in ways to bless and encourage me; they were my God-given lifeline to the outside world. 

We spent months in the hospital, me sleeping in the chair that made into a mini-cot (when I was lucky).  Most mornings I would find a text message to “please step out into the hallway” where my favorite specialty coffee and oatmeal would be waiting with a quick hug from a precious friend.  In the quiet stillness of the hospital room as Tim would spend periods unresponsive to outside stimuli, I would find emails or private Facebook messages with prayers specifically for me.   

On weeks where we were able to be at home, my mailbox would hold all sorts of treasures from anonymous friends…encouraging cards filled with Scripture or gift cards to ease the financial burden we were experiencing.  We even returned one day to find a beautiful fall wreath hung on our door.  On two occasions, our flower beds had gorgeous flowers planted by loving hands.  Our church friends filled our freezer with groceries.  

Our children’s school…

where do I even begin with the love they poured out to us?  

They came up with the best idea I have ever seen to provide meals for us.  Tim’s cancer took away his ability to swallow and eventually his sense of smell.  Until he lost his sense of smell, I was very hesitant to cook meals.  It seemed torturous to put him through that, and Tim had been clear that he did not want company in our home, so having meals delivered wasn't an option.  The school left an insulated food bag in the office and families took turns anonymously filling it. This eliminated my need to spend hours in the kitchen away from Tim, it minimized the aroma from cooking, it skirted the issue of having people visit, and it did not require me to send thank you cards.

I have found that no one knows the extent of the caregiver’s role unless they have walked the road for themselves, and even then, circumstances and degrees vary greatly.  If you have someone in your life that is a primary caregiver to a loved one, seek out ways to minister to them.  You may be the only one who shows the hands and feet of Christ to them on their journey.  Be creative and bring them little encouragements of love.  You may not be able to truly empathize with them, but maybe from this glimpse inside my journey, you can better sympathize with them.  

"Bear one another’s burdens, 
and thus fulfill the law of Christ.”
Galatians 6:2

I was beyond blessed in my role as caregiver.  Beyond BLESSED by a grateful and brave husband!  BEYOND blessed by Christians who helped bear my burden!  I fear this isn't the case for many others on this road.  

I have committed to keep my eyes and ears open for ways I can intentionally show Christ’s love to others who walk this path.  Will you join me?  If so, I’d love to hear how.  Let's be creative together as we bear one another's burdens!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Overlooked Role of Caregiver (part one): How God was Enough

I've learned that most people don’t really comprehend the stress associated with balancing life between the living and the dying.  It’s kind of this overlooked or ignored portion of the primary caregiver’s process. 

Only by the grace of God, did I stay afloat during those 17 months.  

only.  by.  HIS.  grace.

It’s not natural. 

It’s not feasible to exist in this wait pattern; having young, energetic, lively children who need to live and participate in life and not sit in a house or hospital room waiting on death to occur.  Loving them; leading them; helping them to develop into who God has designed them to be.  Allowing them to fully experience their childhood and mature through it into healthy teenagers.  All the while knowing their childhood will never again be as carefree as the majority of their peers.

Yet at the same time….

Caring for their father who is the ultimate, brave, fighter; who wants to be a part of every little thing they are doing.  Not desiring to miss a second of their childhood; yet trapped inside a body that won’t allow it.  This strong and yet even stronger-willed man who wouldn't accept his own physical limits and often refused to use his walker, only to become too weak part-way to his destination and pass out cold on the floor.  I will never be able to erase the sound of his body slapping the bathroom tile, time and time again as his strength failed him.  That sound.  It rings out in the hollowness of my mind when those particular memories flood their way back.   

I existed in this crazy ocean of exhaustive waves between the love of my life and our loves, trying to protect them all.  My reality was that I couldn't always be with Tim every second of every day when we were not in the hospital.  I had carpool to run and kids to shuttle to events, and groceries to buy; all the basic necessities for living.  My other reality was that I could never allow the kids to be alone with their father.  I was unable to run for a gallon of milk without taking both kids with me, for fear of them being alone with dad when he passed away.  There were so many gruesome scenarios that could have played out for Tim’s death because of the nasty head and neck cancer that had invaded his body.  I couldn't have a child be alone with him.  I just couldn't.

For 17 months, every single time I walked into the door of our home, (if we weren't in the hospital or Tim wasn't with me), I knew there was a very real possibility that Tim would be gone.  Without saying a word, I would try to position myself as the first one in the door or be right beside a child as they entered.  I am still recovering from the mental exhaustion of constantly being in “Protect Mode”.       

Hardest of all was bouncing between the two extremes.  Giving my all to be “in the moment” and truly living with our children; then instantly transitioning into giving my all to be “in the moment” and tending to the every need of my husband who was truly dying.  The waves of both realities crashing against my mind and body at all times; crushing me under their weight was just too much. 

Too much to handle alone; I am forever grateful for my hope in God which was the anchor to my soul.

Hebrews 6:19 “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”