Hurricanes, Hospitals and Nurses

Children's Hospital Shout-out Time!

Hospitals and other heroes who go above and beyond…

Ever since spending an inordinate amount of time in three different children’s hospitals during my son’s fight with leukemia, I’ve had a soft-spot for nurses, social workers and other personnel who dedicate their lives to not only saving children, but improving their quality of life in the process.

They routinely go above-and-beyond, and you can read some of these stories here:

We’ve all been watching new of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma and their very unhappy trail across the ocean onto land.  I’ve seen posts and pictures and news of ugly havoc and beautiful brotherhood on the news.  This morning, I came across this news of Hurricane Irma and a tear-inducing story.

www.cnn.com has this wonderful picture of 3-year-old Willow in a Children’s Hospitals.

Irma threatens birthday for 3-year old with leukemia, until nurses step in

 

Go ahead, take the time to click on this story and share the tears and the joy produced by nurses who sheltered a family stuck from the hurricane, trying to celebrate a birthday all while reeling from a brand-new-and-therefore-terrifying diagnosis of Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia.

Willow turned three with only her mom present, because Hurricane Irma trapped the family elsewhere.  However, the staff at the hospital banded together to ensure a joyful birthday party that won’t soon be forgotten.  They made sure Willow and mom feel loved and valued and, for just a moment, “normal.”

Often, over the past couple of weeks, I’ve heard the media present stories expressing surprise at the beauty of people pulling together and the loveliness of strangers reaching out to care.  Truthfully, I’m sad that we, as a nation, are so shocked.

After battling Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia with my son, I’m not surprised.  We experienced love and care from strangers and family both and consider ourselves incredibly blessed by people from all three hospitals in which we found ourselves.

Mondays at Blessed But Stressed are for inspiration, and for me there is not much more inspiring than nurses working tirelessly to save lives or doctors who take the time to pin toys to their stethoscopes or social workers who bring in dolls to explain medical procedures.

It shouldn’t take a hurricane for us to recognize true bravery and heroism.

Hospitals should be on the news daily for their amazing work with children!

Here’s one mom who wants to just take a moment to say thanks!

Who would you like to thank, today?

It shouldn't take a hurricane to recognize true bravery and heroism #blessedbutstressed #ALL… Click To Tweet

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

Don’t forget to visit the other #InspireMeMonday host site: www.anitaojeda.com

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Is Anyone in Your Pool Drowning in Plain Sight?

drowning

Is Anyone Drowning in YOUR Pool?

Drowning victims and caregivers have more in common than one might think. In this five-part series we explore the phenomena of “Drowning in Plain Sight.” As you read, think about the people in your ‘pool’—is anyone drowning?

‘Drowning people’s mouths alternately sink below and reappear above the surface of the water. The mouths of drowning people are not above the surface of the water long enough for them to exhale, inhale, and call out for help. When the drowning people’s mouths are above the surface, they exhale and inhale quickly as their mouths start to sink below the surface of the water.’ Characteristics of the Instinctive Drowning Response—’On Scene’, The Journal of U.S. Coast Guard Search and Rescue

Diagnosis and Deliverance

downingSomewhere, between diagnosis and deliverance, I forgot how to breathe. I find myself, at odd moments, holding my breath—not in anticipation or fright, but simply because I have forgotten the rhythm of breathing.
I didn’t know about my loss until I started experiencing horrible, unexplainable pain in the middle of my chest that felt like a heart problem.

“You’re as healthy as a person half your age,” the cardiologist told me.

Really? Than why does it hurt to breathe or have my heart beat strong and deep?  Why does my left side swell up?  When my malady strikes, it hurts to lie down or stand up.  Why does it happen over and over again?

“You have superior lung capacity with normal breathing function,” the internist told me.

Than why did it hurt to breathe?  Why couldn’t I take a deep breath without agony?  Walking up the stairs presented a cruel form of torture.

“Have you ever considered acupuncture?” my family practitioner asked me.

Really?  Alternative therapy?  I couldn’t believe a physician suggested alternative therapy.

“Well, I do go to a chiropractor and a massage therapist,” I admitted.

“Does it help?” she asked.

“I’m not sure.”  I shrugged. “Sometimes it helps the pain go away if I go in early, sometimes it doesn’t. My massage therapist claims that I have incredibly tight muscles on my left side. It takes her an hour to work through the knots.”

Have you forgotten how to breathe? It might be killing you. Click To Tweet

The Million Dollar Question

“Do you know how to breathe?” my neighbor and friend asked me. She’s a life coach, and helps people with chronic pain—she also suffers from chronic pain. “I can teach you how to breathe.”  I reluctantly agreed to go over to her house after work one evening.

“It’s called diaphragmatic breathing,” she told me. “Put your hand right below your rib cage and try to push your hand out when you breathe.”  I felt silly, but I tried it. “When you breathe shallowly, you decrease your body’s ability handle pain.”

“Really?”

“Yes.”  She launched into the technical reasons why shallow breathing keeps a person from processing pain and releasing endorphins that help the body take care of pain. I thanked her and wandered out of her house, hand on stomach, practicing my breathing while thinking of breathing in general.

Over the next few weeks, while I waited for my pain to go away, I caught myself not breathing. The computer didn’t load fast enough, family members failed to put their own dishes in the dishwasher, or I got cut off on the highway. Each time I found myself breathing shallowly through clenched teeth.

Somewhere, between diagnosis and deliverance, I had started holding my breath—in fright, in anticipation of the next piece of bad news, in mental pain and agony, in emotional stress. No one ever warned me that a side effect of all that stress would be a loss of breathing.

In fact, no one warned me about any of the side effects of a cancer diagnosis. Slowly, ever so slowly, I put a name on the side effects and started dealing with them. For now,

Many thanks to my incredible next-door-neighbor, Becky Curtis.  If you suffer from chronic pain, find hope on her website Take Courage Coaching.

Share Your Stories!

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

Don’t forget to visit the other #InspireMeMonday host site: www.anitaojeda.com


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Work: When Teaching is a Gift

An FMF Prompt

Work can be grueling and it can be a gift

Today’s prompt is: WORK

 

I received a gift at work today.

My award-winning day did not start when I forgot to grab my school keys off my dresser as I headed out on my 45 minute drive to teach 7th and 8th graders.

It wasn’t the  middle-schoolers’ insatiable desire to learn that was wrapped in a bow.

Nor was it the several visits from my principal to deal with…well…you know (did I mention I teach 7th and 8th grade?).

No surprising tray of culinary delights awaited my lunch-duty supervision while 7th grade boys waited impatiently for a turn at basketball.

The decision of some boys to bring two weeks of smoldering resentment to a full-roiling boil today was definitely no reward (yeah…that 7th and 8th grade thing again).

The gift did not involve the surprising and first-time-ever visit of the Educational Superintendent in the midst of a catch-up period (all those 7th and 8th graders behind on work take a few moments to try to catch up while others gleefully punch at the keyboard on websites that practice memorizing states or spelling words).

There was no present of free-time – instead my long day involved the extra bonus of sponsoring year-book after school for a couple of hours.

While commiserating with my co-workers was nice, it did not feel like enough of a bonus to offset the sweltering heat of the gym, nor the smoke-filled skies.

Some moments are painful and grueling, others are beautiful and wrapped with a bow!

My gift came as a complete surprise, wrapped up in the maturity of the high-school class I teach.

It came because I had to step out to deal with a…you know…7th and 8th grade issue…right then.

I stood outside the doorway,  just seconds after the bell rang, taking a few deep breaths, preparing to give these ancient and wise 9th and 10th graders a list of directions they could follow while the school secretary supervised them.

Hearing noises, I pasted on a smile and pulled open the door.  I stopped and beheld the best gift a middle/high school teacher can receive.  My whole class was gathered together – one student at the board taking lead, while others threw out ideas and brainstormed.  This is our fourth week of school and every Thursday we do the same thing.

My gift.

They not only knew what to do, but they DID it.  They not only were completing the task, they were smiling, and happy, and in control and focused.

I stood there watching for a moment, while tears gathered in my eyes.   See, this group, not so long ago, were middle-school kids – crazy and wild and out-of-control.  They were fun, noisy, creative and gossipy.  Childish and adultish by turns, along with kind and rude: singing songs and making farting noises (or the real thing) at will.

This class used to be that way.  But today, they knew what to do.  They took control.  Cooperatively they set out to do what they knew was expected – and what was expected is for them to plan and set up the chapel/assembly/worship  program for tomorrow.  Today, children became leaders.

This was my gift today – and THIS is why I teach.

When #teaching becomes a gift #fmfparty #five-minute-friday #education Click To Tweet

 

In the Midst of Catastrophe and Crisis

You do what you need to do

When catastrophe hits and crises arise, it’s perfectly okay to Just Do You!

When catastrophe strikes and crises arise, caregivers and survivors often struggle with guilt and surreal feelings of isolation and wonder that life moves on around us.

Sometimes we are caught so deeply in our own battle that we forget others face different fights. But even harder –  we’re bewildered that some people obliviously go on as if nothing is wrong. That one is hard to take!

Hurricane Harvey blew into the world’s riveted attention in a catastrophic way.

We all watch and wonder at the overwhelming flooding – both literally with water, and figuratively with loss.  Many people are praying and thousands of people are helping.  Meanwhile the people in south Texas  are doing what survivor’s do: working together in amazing ways to get through this.

Friday, Kirsten Oliphant, a fellow blogger and a hurricane Harvey survivor from Katy, TX, posted this:

“It’s not that I don’t care what’s going on in the world. It’s not that I’m not happy for other people or sad for other sad events. It’s not that I don’t hope for some version of “normal” in my life.

BUT. If there were a Hide Everything But Posts about Helping People Affected by Harvey option, I’d turn it on.

I’m just not ready for the outside world yet. Not that people shouldn’t be living it. They should! I just kinda can’t handle it right now.”

This hit me right between the eyes and sank deep into my soul!

I remember those days – facing the same four hospital walls day after day while my four-year-old lay fought Leukemia for his life. My mind jumps to a visit from family that meant the world to me.  They dropped everything and came to visit. Andrew had received blood the night before and so was happy and communicative as the family sat around discussing their plans.  They’d driven down from a small town to the big city where the Children’s Hospital housed us.  They were chatting and I zoned out, clicking back into the conversation to hear them mentioning hitting stores for back-to-school shopping.

It startled me – this mundane thing that people out in the real world were doing.  Shopping, especially Back-to-school shopping.  How could that be?  We had life and death stuff going on right here and frankly, I couldn’t think of anything else.  I nodded while the talk flowed around me.  It made sense.  Of course people needed to get their kids back into school.  Why not combine a a hospital visit for a nephew with a shopping spree in the city.  My mind came to grips with this shopping expedition and tuned back into the conversation.

“…and then we’re going to go to the river with Jim and Sarah and go jet-skiing this afternoon!  It should be fun!”

Wait.  What did they say?

They’re going JET-SKIING?  Is this even a thing?  Suddenly I couldn’t breathe.  While I could come to grips with necessary shopping,  or playing with friends, doing things that weren’t just fun, but extra fun was to bizarre for my mind to even process.  I nodded and smiled (I hope) while my mind struggled with alternate reality.

I wasn’t ready to let the outside world in because this world – this moment, this fight – were all I could handle.

That felt weird.  And selfish.  And uncaring.  I didn’t want to hear about fun my family was having.  When my mom told me about someone else fighting cancer, I sympathized, but cringed.  It was SO HARD to handle.

Awful.  I felt like an awful person that underwent an overnight transformation from someone who always cared about others to someone who just focused on this moment, this medical procedure and this fight.

Kiki said it so well, it’s “not that people shouldn’t be living it.  They should!  I just can’t handle it.”

Well, here’s what my three-and-a-half year leukemia battle for my son’s life taught me.  It’s all right everyone.  Handle what you can handle and just let the rest go until God tells you to take it up again.  Don’t feel guilty because if you try to take on more, you might just fall apart.

In catastrophe and crisis, it's ok to handle what you can deal with and shut the rest out!… Click To Tweet

God made our amazing bodies and brains to shut down what’s not necessary in the fight-or-flight process and when we SHOULD handle more, we will.

Until that moment just relax and let God handle things for you.  No guilt – no shame – no apologies.

You just do you.

Just Do You #hurricaneharvey #caregiving Click To Tweet

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

Don’t forget to visit the other #InspireMeMonday host site: www.anitaojeda.com

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Easy Sweet Potato Quesadillas Smothered in Tomatillo Sauce

Vegan and Gluten-free (if you wish)

quesadillas

Healthy Food Choices Inspire Me

Healthy (er) food choices always inspire me. Take, for instance, lowly quesadillas. I’d never even heard of them until I started college, and after we married, we often ate them because they only took a few minutes to prepare. Somewhere along the way, we started adding beans to them, because all that cheese might taste good, but we knew it probably didn’t help our overall state of health.

I’ve been playing with quesadilla recipies for twenty years now, and this one wins every time.

Vegan Quesadillas?

I know, ‘vegan quesadillas’ sounds like an oxymoron. But in our family, anything that comes to the table in a folded-in-half-crispy-tortilla is a ‘quesadilla’. If you’re not vegan, add some cheese if you can’t stand eating a ‘quesadilla’ without the queso! Or, try it without—it’s quite tasty and a family favorite.

quesadillas
Print

Sweet Potato Quesadillas with Tomatillo Sauce

If you'd like to try the gluten-free version, simply use corn tortillas instead of whole-wheat tortillas.

Course Main Course
Cuisine Mexican
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 4
Author Anita Ojeda

Ingredients

  • 3 Sweet Potatoes Peeled and grated. We use the lighter-skinned ones.
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 1 jalapeño chopped (remove the seeds and pith is want a more mild flavor)
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 1 tsp. salt add more if desired
  • 1/2 cup cilantro chopped

Instructions

  1. Heat a very large non-stick frying pan or a cast iron skillet on medium-high heat. Once it’s hot, add the oil and then cumin seeds. When the cumin seeds turn brown, lower the heat a little and add the onions, jalapeño and garlic. Stir occasionally until the onions are almost caramel colored.

    quesadilla
  2. Add the sweet potatoes and the 1/3 cup of water and stir everything together before covering the skillet. Every 3-5 minutes, remove the lid and stir the mixture. Cooking time will depend on which type of sweet potato you used (the lighter ones will take a little longer). When the sweet potatoes are almost cooked (they will be tender), add the salt and chopped cilantro and stir well.

  3. While the sweet potatoes cook, start the tomatillo sauce.

Print

tomatillos

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 6-7 to matillos
  • 1 shallot or ¼ cup chopped onion
  • ½ jalapeño
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • ¼ cup blanched slivered almonds
  • 3 Tbs. cilantro
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 tsps. chicken-flavored seasoning I like Bill’s Chickenish Flavoring.

Instructions

  1. Peel the papery layer from the tomatillos and rinse the tomatillos. Cut them into large wedges or circles. Cut the shallot, jalapeños and garlic into large chunks (everything will be blended, so you don’t have to chop anything into fine pieces). Heat a medium, non-stick or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and then all of the chopped veggies. Stir and then lower the heat to medium. Stir occasionally. 

    quesadillas
  2. When the veggies start to look ‘roasted’, add the almonds and cook for another two minutes. 

  3. Put the water, salt and chicken-flavored seasoning into a high powered blender (I have a BlendTec) and then add the ‘roasted’ veggies. Blend everything until it’s semi-smooth. Taste and add more salt, if needed.

  4. To assemble the ‘quesadillas’: Heat a lightly greased skillet or griddle to medium and lay your favorite brand of whole-wheat tortillas on the griddle and place about ¾ a cup of the sweet potato filling on one side of the tortilla (pretend it’s cheese 😉 ). Fold the tortilla in half and repeat with the other tortillas. Cook for about 2 minutes on each side, and then top with two tablespoons of the tomatillo sauce and serve hot.

Recipe Notes

We prefer whole-wheat tortillas.

Try this #meatlessmonday #sweetpotato #quesadilla! Tasty and you could even try it #vegan! Click To Tweet

If you’d like to know why we eat the way we do, check out the Healthy (er) Choices Manifesto.

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

Don’t forget to visit the other #InspireMeMonday host site: www.anitaojeda.com

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What If and If Only

Caregiver burdens we must stop carrying

what if

What if we let God handle our doubts and fears

As I stood under the spray of my shower yesterday morning, the what if moments of our cancer journey replayed through my mind.

The remonstrating hospital staff telling me that I shouldn’t do that repeated in my head as well.  But my son bleeding in his tears haunts me and I’ve always wondered how I let him get that sick.  The bruises spreading like wildfire as I drove the hour to the hospital have sent their own bruises into my mind, leaving black holes of self-doubt.  The wondering voices of nurses who came back to see us our third and fourth week in the hospital, speaking in awe that Andrew was “still with us” as they hadn’t “thought he would survive the first few days” have sounded like a gong of “bad mother” through my head.

No matter how many times the doctors said not to, I always wondered, “What if…”

Andrew on his way to chemo

What if I had brought Andrew into the doctor earlier.  If only I had known the bruises wouldn’t make doctors think of abuse, but of cancer.  If only we hadn’t all caught that flu bug.  What if I had taken Andrew to the doctor when he first began throwing up?

Gianmarco

This week is a sad, confusing and rejoicing week for our family.  It was thirteen years ago this week that my four-year-old Andrew was diagnosed with leukemia – a terrible day, an awful week, a horrible month and a terrifying time.  Also, a friend (found through this website) had her oldest son (Gianmarco) diagnosed with leukemia this week two years ago.  Sadly, he didn’t survive the fight.  Another little girl (Julianna)  I’ve been praying for many times a day (click here to read a post), passed away on Friday, the valiant victim of DIPG.

Julianna

The difference for this caregiving mom is that my son is a survivor.  He didn’t survive because of anything I did or didn’t do, nor did those others pass away because of anything done or not done.  It’s the ugliness of cancer. Our battle wasn’t easy, and at times it still isn’t – but we’re out the other side of that cancer fight.  For the two moms mentioned above?  My heart aches for theirs as they mourn the loss of their beautiful children.

I couldn’t help myself this weekend, I’ve been thinking about the what if and if only thoughts that have plagued me.

I wondered about Gianmarco’s mom and Julianna’s mom and I know that these thoughts hound them too and I prayed for peace.

After thirteen years of beating on myself (logic says not to, but emotion often doesn’t agree), I heard something different yesterday.

Several doctors told me (all through the three and a half years of treatment) that if I had brought Andrew in earlier, they would have said the same thing I did.  “Oh, your family has had the flu?  Get this boy some juice and let’s deal with the anemia brought on by all the throwing up.  He’s a healthy kid, he’ll be fine.”

Suddenly I actually HEARD that.  As that memory popped into my head, so did the distinct realization that had I taken Andrew into the doctor earlier, that doctor would have told me the above lines.  After which, I would have gone home and proceeded to treat my boy as I was: juice, water, rest, anti-nausea medication and lots of cuddles.  I would not have gone in again very soon – not wanting to over-react to throwing up, paleness, and listlessness.

What if I had gone in earlier to a doctor, like I’ve been kicking myself for not doing?

I would be, right now, so ANGRY at that doctor for not catching the leukemia.  They all assured me it was acute and extremely fast and hard to predict until it was almost too late.

Immediately my what if and if only mantra that I’ve clung to for years changed tune.  First, catching leukemia early doesn’t mean you don’t have leukemia.  Second, What if my waiting saved his life because he was diagnosed and received help just barely in time.  Literally one day later and he might not have made it.

Oh.my.word.

If I had gone in earlier, I might have gone in the second time too late.

The Bible tells us that to EVERYTHING there is a season.  Not my timetable – His.  God says that He’s got the whole world in His hands.  Not mine – His.  Jesus said that He holds the keys to the grave.  Not my keys – His.

I know that.  Logically.  But I too often forget and try to place things on my own shoulders that are designed for Jesus to carry for me.

Caregivers, moms and dads, loved ones – let go of those what if and if only moments.  We can’t go back and change them anyway, and maybe things worked the way they were supposed to in spite of our limited understanding.  Our lives don’t always feel good (please keep Gianmarco and Julianna’s families in your prayers) but God ALWAYS has our best interest in His plans.

What if we let Him keep control?

Click To Tweet

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

Don’t forget to visit the other #InspireMeMonday host site: www.anitaojeda.com

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The Cost of Caregiving: Losing Your Place

placeCaregivers Lose Their Place

When Pedro received a non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma diagnosis in the Spring of 2002, I had no idea that I’d joined a community that had no place to call home. Hundreds of thousands of family caregivers—from teenagers to octogenarians—belong to the community, but we often feel as if we don’t fit in.place

In the hospital, we don’t speak the vocabulary that the medical professionals sling around as if we understand. At church, we become “So-and-so’s unfortunate mother/father/wife/husband/sister/brother/child.” People stop asking us how our loved one fairs, because, well, who wants to hear bad news all the time?

Some caregivers give up their place and their jobs to move home to take care of aging parents. Others relocate their family or add extra travel to their already busy lives.

Worst of all, we focus all of our energy on the one we care for—forgetting that we must take care of ourselves first, or we will have nothing left to give.

A Place for Caregivers

Whether you currently care for someone, or consider yourself a ‘recovering caregiver,’ this place is for you! We’d like to invite you to poke around the blog and see if any of the stories resonate with you. Even though caregiving feels lonely, you are NOT alone.

If you prefer a more interactive community, join us on Facebook at our secret Blessed (but Stressed) caregiver’s group. The community is small right now, but we’d like to create a space for current and recovering caregivers to support each other.

If you know a #caregiver that could use some #community, send them our way! Click To Tweet

If you’re not a caregiver, you might know one who would enjoy the community—send them our way! Together, we can share our stories and learn how to take care of ourselves so that we can better serve the ones we love.

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

Don’t forget to visit the other #InspireMeMonday host site: www.anitaojeda.com

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The Tricky Part of Psalm 91

How Caregivers Can Apply the Promises

trickyGetting to the Tricky Part of Psalm 91

In the final part of this series on Psalm 91 and the caregiver, we arrive at the tricky part of the psalm. Why do I call it tricky? Well, a simple perusal might cause someone to say, “Hey, I believe in God but bad stuff happens to me. How can I really believe in God?” It’s all about the context. The author of this psalm wrote it for a specific reason and to a specific audience (some scholars believe King David was the intended audience). Nevertheless, we can take the principles of the psalm and apply them to our own lives.

First, the Condition

Verse nine starts with a condition.

9 If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
and you make the Most High your dwelling,

In other words, we have to do two things. We must claim God as our refuge and we must make the Most High our dwelling. But what exactly does that mean?

The first condition means that we have to acknowledge a higher power (and we won’t find it in ourselves or another person). We have to choose to let God do what he wants to provide refuge, or recourse for our difficulties, for us.
And once we make that choice, we have to continue to make the choice to let God handle things. If we don’t commit over and over again, then we fail to ‘make the Most High our dwelling.’

Next, the Promises

10 no harm will overtake you,
no disaster will come near your tent.

Verse ten sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? Harm will not overtake us—that’s another way of saying ‘overwhelm.’ So, harm might accost us, but when we take refuge in God and dwell in him, it won’t drown us.

I have a different take on disaster than some people might. The dictionary defines ‘disaster’ as “complete or terrible failure.” So even though bad things have happened to me and to the ones I love, I can say with assurance that God has kept disaster at bay.

11 For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

I love this part of the promise—God will surround us with the kind of protection that he knows we need the most. Back in David’s day, he had to worry about things like lions, cobras, and stubbing his sandaled feet on sharp rocks. Or maybe those three things represent petty annoyances, powerful people, and the devil.

At different times in our lives, any one of the three could overwhelm us—and God has instructed his angels to protect us from whatever will weaken our faith.

God has instructed his angels to protect us from whatever will weaken our #faith. Click To Tweet

More Conditions and Promises

trickyThe psalm ends with two more conditions—we must love the Lord, and we must acknowledge his name. If we do that, God will answer us when we call on him, he will walk with us through trouble, and he’ll deliver us in an honorable way. In addition, he’ll satisfy us with a long life—because salvation means no matter how soon we leave our mortal bodies, we’ll still have heaven.

14 “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”

I guess there’s nothing really tricky about the Bible. But we do need to study it, the context in which it was written, and ask the Holy Spirit to help us apply the principles to our lives today.

Takeaways for Caregivers:

1. We have to do four things: claim God as our refuge, dwell in him, love God, and acknowledge his name.
2. God desires for us to trust him and let him work out our problems (what a relief!).
3. Worry and stress can take years off your life. Let God handle the seemingly insurmountable problems.

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

Don’t forget to visit the other #InspireMeMonday host site: www.anitaojeda.com

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Take Care of Yourself: Six Ways to Avoid Caregiver Burnout

While still caring for your patient

In the middle of taking care of our loved one, we often don’t take care of ourselves.

Cancer Caregiving 101: Take Care of Yourself and Prevent Caregiver Burnout

When others offer to entertain your loved one, take time to go for a walk or relax by yourself–DON’T do housework!

“Now you must realize,” the doctor straightened the papers into the already thick folder as he finished summarizing the diagnosis, treatment protocol and prognosis, “with a best-case scenario, we’re in for a long haul. You two must take care of yourselves, too. This is not easy on parents, either, and you can’t let yourselves get run down.”

The nurse bustled into the room, loaded with scary looking objects which she unloaded in the room’s small bathroom. “So, you cannot touch this hat in the toilet, we can’t have his samples contaminated. Also, be sure you don’t let any urine touch you when you help your little guy go – because it will burn a hole in your skin.” There followed some more directions of what not to touch in the room and what not to do and what I needed to help Andrew with and what I needed to remember. As she breezed back out the door, having set these little traps all over the room, she paused in the doorway, “Mrs. Bovee, you need to remember to take care of yourself through this…this will be a long, tough road.”

After a two-week stint in the hospital with a feverish and neutropenic boy, I was home, frantically trying to

recuperate the family from separation, restore the house from chaos and prevent the laundry piles from taking over the world. As I sorted and started a load, a neighbor followed me from washing machine to dryer, not helping, but faithfully entreating me that I needed to “take care of yourself! Carol, you are just working too hard! You need to let go!”

I stumbled along beside the gurney as we returned from the spinal tap, wiping my tired eyes and unsuccessfully hiding a yawn behind my hand. The nurse, pushing a dopey Andrew, smiled sympathetically at me. “Carol, I hope you’re taking care of yourself. We see so many parents pushing so hard. You’ve got to take time out. Don’t forget you’ll need to recharge your batteries too.”

We received that advice throughout Andrew’s treatment. “You parents need to take care of yourselves too.” “Remember that you can help your boy best if you’re taking care of yourself too.” “Take some time for you!”

Great advice.
Perfect!
Ideal.
Laudable recommendations from caring souls.

“Don’t lift that boy – he’s too heavy for your back!” – OK, but he’s four, sick to his stomach, neutropenic, tired…I’m supposed to tell him he’s on his own?

“Don’t worry about the housework, take care of yourself.” – OK, but I cannot have a sick boy around dirt…is someone going to clean it for me?

“Make sure you eat regular and healthy meals!” – Ok. But the procedures are always during breakfast time, recuperation through lunch, driving through supper and falling into bed. When was I supposed to eat? And what in the world is a ‘regular time’?

The job needs to be kept, the house needs to be clean, the kids need to be loved, the meals need to be fixed, the sick one needs to be cared for – when, exactly, was I supposed to “take care of me”?

Truly, all I could concentrate on, throughout my son’s illness, was him! It wasn’t until it was too late, and I was in trouble, that I realized what I had done to myself. So the question I hear, from so many caregivers, is this:

HOW do I take care of myself, when my primary job is to take care of him/her? (tweet this)
I’m probably the last person to take advice from, as I did not necessarily do it right. On the other hand, maybe I’m a good person to listen to—I can honestly look back over my journey and say that there are things I would do no differently even if I could have known exactly what I know now. I would still give 150% to my child and my family.

However, there are some things that I wish I could go back and change, or do better:

1. Delegate the little things as much as you can: you cannot delegate the worry, no one else can carry your pain and your patient might not want you to delegate personal care. So delegate the windows being washed, the lawn getting mown, handing someone your money and your shopping list, etc. Delegate as much as you can. Sometimes that means swallowing your pride, but it might help you avoid swallowing medication later! ☺

2. Make lists. If someone offers to help – have a list ready of things they might be able to help with. If you have nothing you can think of right that moment (I remember someone offering to help while we were waiting for Andrew to come out of a procedure – nice, but not where my brain was right that moment), then write their offer down and get contact information and ask if you could call on them sometimes.

3. Ask. Don’t be afraid to call your pastor or a neighbor or a co-worker and let him/her know of a need. A lot of people think we caregivers have it all under control and don’t think to even ask if there’s a need. But many would help if they knew of a need. One person said to me, “It’s OK to allow someone else to have the blessing of helping you.” I had never thought about it that way before, and that was releasing to me.

4. Be willing to let go: sometimes, we caregivers think we need to be superman and wonder woman all rolled into one. We can’t. Or maybe, like in my case, I could for a while, but sustaining that after a while becomes impossible. Take the help that’s offered. And also let go of how that help is done. It might not measure up to your standards – but it will probably work!

5. Search out quiet moments. The days of caregiving are often busy and hectic, and when they are quiet, they can be scary. Grab moments of quiet to journal or to process some of what’s been going on. Take those moments to evaluate how you’re doing and how you’re feeling. Is it time to get some help? Do you need to find someone to talk to?

6. Expect less of yourself. This one has nothing to do with others’ helping, and everything to do with you deciding that it might be OK if you don’t get things done. Maybe you need to say no to some things you used to do. A caregiver has to re-examine priorities; and in that re-examination, one of those priorities has to be you. Your sanity, your health, your ability to keep on going.

It IS possible to take care of yourself, even while taking care of your loved one!… Click To Tweet

What ways have you found to take care of yourself?

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

Don’t forget to visit the other #InspireMeMonday host site: www.anitaojeda.com

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Can Caregivers Find Comfort in Psalm 91?

comfortIt’s been a few weeks since I last wrote about Psalm 91 and the caregiver. In the intervening time, I’ve run a marathon, taken a marathon car trip (from Holbrook, to San Diego, to Holbrook, and then Tulsa, and finally to Palmer, Alaska). I have also taken on a different kind of caregiver role—this time as granny to my sweet grandson and helper to my daughter and son-in-law.

In the first two installments, I shared what I’ve learned about God’s protection from the evil one’s lies and attempts to draw us into the pit of despair. I’ve come to understand that Psalm 91 doesn’t promise to keep us from bad things—it promises to protect us from our human reaction to bad things.

Psalm 91 promises to protect us from our human, knee-jerk reaction to bad things. Click To Tweet

What About Those Thousands?

A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.

You will only observe with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked.

The ‘it’ in the third line refers to the plague in verse 6. God has me covered in mind-protection—even if I get sick, or the ones I love go through disasters. All around me, those who reject God will stumble and fall (and I will join them if I keep my eyes focused on myself and not on God).

The world has plenty of examples of what happens when an individual rejects God’s sovereignty—people suffer from the consequences of their sinful actions all the time. But because I chose to accept God’s protection and right to rule my life, I’d like to think that I make better choices in the here and now and therefore don’t have to suffer so many consequences.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t stand above anyone gloating and puffing myself up (God never asks us to do that). Practicing God’s sovereignty in my life takes a constant turning of my self over to God and a humble spirit (I tend to think I know it all).

But Do We Get to Skip the Bad Stuff?

God doesn't promise us a charmed life, he promises us comfort FOR life. http://wp.me/p2UZoK-1GdI have seen Christians go through difficult times and react one of two ways. They might believe that God wants to punish them for something that they did. When Pedro received his cancer diagnosis, a local pastor insinuated that if Pedro just confessed, the cancer would go away. God doesn’t work that way (and the pastor’s words brought no comfort).

The other reaction involves anger at God for not keeping his word because in Psalm 91 it appears that God promises a ‘Get out of Trials Free Card.’ I don’t think that God promises that we get to skip the trials of life.

After all, Jesus said in John 16:33

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

I Still Get Comfort from Psalm 91

I believe that when we study the Bible, we should not just read the words, but that we should look for the context and the application as well. In the Amplified version, a footnote for Psalm 91 refers the reader to Exodus 15:26, and states that the “wonderful promises of this chapter are dependent upon one’s meeting the conditions stated in these first two verses.”

Exodus and Psalm 91, both written by Old Testament authors, were written for specific people during specific circumstances. The words of Exodus record God’s instructions for the Children of Israel (and it’s no coincidence that they are called ‘children’). The NIV translation implies in a footnote that the ‘he’ refers to the king. Therefore, we have some idea as to the specific audience.

The application comes when we realize two things as well. First, we need to dwell with God and give control to him. Second, we serve a powerful God who has proved faithful in the past and will continue to provide for us in the future. Once again, we don’t get to choose what that looks like.

I find comfort in the fact that my powerful and mighty God can prevent me from harm—if the situation calls for that. If harm befalls me, well, I know that God loves me and will help me through.

Applications for Caregivers

  1. Find comfort in reading about the power of God.
  2. Don’t blame God when disaster befalls you—we live in a sinful world.
  3. God doesn’t make people sick in order to punish them (punishment comes at the final judgment—things that happen now just happen because of sin).

Are there any promises in the Bible that make YOU mad?

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your favorite posts from last week!

2. Visit TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

Don’t forget to visit the other #InspireMeMonday host site: www.anitaojeda.com

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