Episode 77: Job 13:15-16

Summary

Praying Job 13:15-16

Transcription

Today’s verse is Job 13:15-16

Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him;
    I will surely defend my ways to His face.
Indeed, this will turn out for my deliverance,
    for no godless person would dare come before Him!

Let’s pray together.

God, I’m confessing once again that I don’t often think of You as being the one in control. Not really. My mind says, ‘of course, I believe that.’ But my heart says it wants to be in control. It wants to make sure that I will be taken care of. That I will be protected. That I will not be hurt. That I have everything I want and need. And that doesn’t often leave room for You. It pushes You away. It says that I don’t trust You.

When I read these words I feel such conviction. Because, yes, I feel hopeless, I feel despairing, I feel lost, I feel confused, I feel sad, I feel hurt, I feel angry, I feel mistreated, I feel rejected. Job felt all these things and, I have to believe, felt them a million times more acutely. Yet there was a faith in him that I know I don’t have or feel. What a horrible, awful, terrible, agonizing situation he found himself in and he didn’t know why. That can be so hard, to feel like everything is crumbling and to have no idea why. To believe that God is supposed to take care of me, and yet, where are You? Why is this happening? What did I do to deserve this?

I am not always innocent the way that Job knew himself to be, but I do know that so often, the walls of my life crowd around me and I don’t understand why. It seems like there was no way of predicting these things would happen and no way of preventing them. I didn’t cause them; they just are. And it hurts and it’s lonely and it’s terrifying. And it feels like it will never end. Oh, God, that’s when I need You most.

But that’s when You disappear. That’s when the answers don’t come. That’s when I cry out and wonder where You’ve gone and why You’ve deserted me. The simple answer is, You haven’t. But it feels like You have. And instead of sinking into the fog of despair, Jesus, I pray You lift me into Your truth. I want to speak like Job and announce to the world that my hope is so strong in You, I would die, I would be killed by You, before I denied that hope.

Even when there are hard things, when life seems like it will never be joyful or hopeful again, I want to feel it engrained in my bones, that Jesus loves me and watches over me. I want to know that You take care of me and that You know the path set out before me. You are always looking out for my good. Even when it seems impossible, there is a way forward. And it’s always the way to You. Even when You are allowing things for my own good and I can’t see it. May this still be my path and my inner strength.

God, this pain I am feeling—this sense of torment, this idea of despair stretching out before me into eternity, this fear and anxiety that I will never be happy again, please turn it for my deliverance. Please show me what I can learn, show me how to trust in You, show me Your peace that passes understanding, and the deep, abiding comfort of a Savior’s gift of everything. I know something Job did not know. I know that my Redeemer lives and I know His name. I know what He went through on my behalf and it makes both Job’s and my experiences pale into nothing.

And it doesn’t always help, this knowledge, but remind me of it anyway. Remind me that I don’t have to defend myself before You, because You know it all, and You dared to let me come before You anyway. We have a path toward You despite our pain and our sin and our ignorance and our anger. We can be with You, day and night. And I want to claim that right. May that be what I yearn for, rather than always looking inward, pitying and prideful, desperate to make myself well. I can’t do it, only You can.

LORD, whatever path You lay before me, may I walk it in cheerful obedience. May my trust for You be so complete that I do not mind whatever comes my way. You will be with me in the dark valleys and comfort me. You will protect me no matter what. You will provide for me no matter what. And no valley lasts forever. Our dark nights of the soul are just nights. As Oscar Romero says, ‘beyond the night, the dawn already glows.’ May that be my anthem today, an anthem of praise and trust and hope in You.

I pray this in Your powerful, Your all-caring, and Your sufficient name, Jesus. Amen.

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Episode 76: Psalm 73:28

Summary

Praying Psalm 73:28

Transcription

Welcome back to Season Five of Peace Prayers. I’m thrilled to begin a brand new chapter with y’all. Nothing has changed about the format, so sit back and relax into the familiar peace God has for us.

Today’s verse is Psalm 73 28

But I’m in the very presence of God—
    oh, how refreshing it is!
I’ve made Lord God my home.
    God, I’m telling the world what you do!

Let’s pray together.

God, the world is a weary and lonely place. It’s full of broken people who disappoint us and plans that never go our way. We search and we wander and we live with tumble-down souls and mournful sighing because we have no hope. We have nowhere to go and no one to turn to. This is what our enemy would have us believe. This is what our sin has reduced us to. But it is not true.

The truth is You welcome us into Your presence. You long for us to come and dwell with You and spend all our time basking in the wonder of who You are. And so help us to come. Help us to heed the invitation. When we are confused or sad or angry or alone, help us to hear You, beautiful Holy Spirit, and let the call be irresistible.

Teach us what it is to dwell in Your presence. Help us to know how we can live refreshed and renewed. Don’t let us stray from Your halls or go out from the shelter of Your wings. Bind us to Your heart and help us to keep hold of Your hand so we don’t fall and slip and fade. Help us to know the goodness and righteousness of Your character. May we yearn to know You and spend time with You. Rejuvenate us, body, soul, and spirit, and may we be brought into alignment with You. Dip us into the spring of Your eternal presence. No, fling us in!

And let us be at home. Let us be so at home that we never want to leave. Make us comfortable and familiar and help us to feel wanted and needed and blessed. Be to us mother and father and family and all that we need. Provide for us the food and water and clothes and shelter and our very breath. We know You do these things, but we ask that we be aware of it, and that we never take it for granted. Let the four walls of our existence be built of all that makes You You. Your eternal attributes, co-existing in perfect harmony are what will give us peace. I pray we make You our home, never to find it unsafe, never to desire to leave, but only to bring the rest of your flock back home.

Help us to be so happy and so in love and so joyful because of You that it is all we talk about and all we sing about and all we work toward. May it be evident to everyone around us that You are our dwelling place through all generations. We want the light of You to shine through us, clear and blinding and welcoming to all who encounter us. Please, be the guide and the light to our paths. And may it always lead back to You.

I am my beloved’s and He is mine. Raise Your banner of love over me. Jesus, my one true love, the security and comfort and peace I crave, may I never leave Your side. May I never betray or abandon or hurt or dishonor You. I want to stay at home with You forevermore. Thank You that You will never leave me nor forsake me. So I pray that I am as constant and faithful because of Your great love.

Oh, my gracious Father, my redeeming Savior, my comforting Friend, draw me close and never let me go. You are my home. You are where I belong. And it is everything I could ever want or need. Never send me from Your presence, but let me rest here with you, evermore and everlasting and ever-fulfilled.

Thank You so much. I love You so much. I pray this in the cleansing and welcoming blood of Jesus. Amen.

Caregiving 101: Part Seven: What Comes After

My mom and I put the stamp on my dad’s 2018 tax return in March of 2019. That was it, I thought, the last thing I have to do for him. All the papers had been filed, the stuff sorted, the bills paid, the money disbursed, and the responsibility done. I was finally free.

True, my physical responsibilities were done, but my time of healing had only just begun. To be honest, it’s still happening. I don’t know if there will come a point when I can point to myself and say that I’m completely done processing what I went through with my father. My desire is for progress, and the bulk of that is done through acknowledging the trauma is there at all. The path to peace and being a true peacemaker does not come through denial.

If you can, once all the practical stuff is taken care of, make sure you take the time—through vacation, therapy, journaling, nature walks, time with family and friends—to heal. You’ve been under such an immense stress for so long that it has actually built up in your body. It needs to be healed and released or that stress will remain there, causing physical pain and mental torment.

The truth is, caregiving wasn’t the only stress in your life. Life itself is stressful. Not only were you caregiving, but you were working, raising a family, balancing expectations of what you want vs what you can afford, paying your bills, taking care of your house, traveling, handling relationships, and serving. In short, living your life. You have other ways to build up stress, so don’t let the excess you incurred during caregiving keep weighing you down.

I took 2019 as a year of recovery for myself. I still had to work and take care of my responsibilities, but I didn’t take on new ones. I didn’t serve anywhere at church and I didn’t do anything that didn’t sound relaxing if I didn’t have to. I focused on therapy and taking an online course that would help me work though things and make new friends. I built up my identity and life since I was free to do so. You might need to focus so much on you and your own self-care that some people call you selfish. So long as you’re not actually being selfish, don’t pay attention to that. Just like when they tell you on the plane to focus on putting your own oxygen mask on before helping others, you have to heal and recover before you can take on more. Don’t overdo because you’re finally free.

Have grace that it will take as long as it takes. Your period of recovery may be longer than mine and your grief may strike you more keenly. That’s okay. So long as you are not wallowing in it and renewing it on purpose so that you don’t have to face the world again, it’s okay to take as long as you need. Recovery is not about ignoring the needs around you, but understanding what your capacity is for giving at the moment. You need time for God to renew you and build you back up. It won’t last forever.

There will come a time when you’ll need to re-enter the larger world and start giving again. What came after caregiving for me was taking my experience and what I’d learned and turning it into being a peacemaker instead. The word ‘making’ implies intent, a deliberate creation of something, a process of doing. It is not passive even if it may be instinctive. If I want to make peace, I have to choose to do so. I have to follow the example of the greatest Peacemaker there is. Jesus walked with peace. The only moment He didn’t exude peace was on the cross, when God had abandoned Him. So, it follows that the true element of peace is connection with God.

I’m not here to tell you how to have a relationship with God, or what your times of devotions or quiet time or worship need to look like. I don’t think that’s helpful. The point is to pursue that relationship. We prioritize the things we want in life without even trying. Try prioritizing God and see what He pours out on your life. I bet it will be a deeper understanding of peace. This is not something I am perfect at, but I’ve found that when I make it a priority, just like with exercise or eating healthily, I feel better. I am better. I am stronger, I have more energy, and I have more of an inner confidence that spreads through me and to the people around me.

Growing up, my goal was to fix every person in my family and every issue they had with each other. I think this is something most caregivers inadvertently fall into and it lasts well after the caregiving time is over. Well, I’ve learned that I can’t be responsible for that. They have to do their own work and prioritize that for themselves. Can I still help them and support them? You bet I can. Can I still help translate them to each other when there’s conflict? Yes, I can, provided I don’t try to do it with my own strength and provided I don’t base my self-worth on how well I do.

In prioritizing my relationship with God, I’m finally coming to what I’ve been struggling with my whole life—surrender to Him and His will for me. It’s my rock bottom, which is less a moment or event as it is a period of time. In the Bible, I both love and hate the story of Jacob. He reminds me too much of myself and I don’t like what I see. Caregivers, like Jacob, often feel the need to control everything and that doesn’t go away once they’re no longer caregiving. It robs them of their peace and destroys their ability to trust.

Jacob didn’t trust God. He literally wrestled with God and was limping the rest of his life because of it. But after that, you began to see a change in Jacob because he now mostly trusted and knew God. He finally surrendered to Him even if he wasn’t flawless at it. The payoff of surrender is worth the pain. But the pain of surrender is a process; it’s a working out. And it doesn’t mean perfection, it means trust. Peace is also a process and it’s something you give and receive, give and receive, like being in recovery.

“Move at the pace of peace” is a phrase I heard once. The pace is going to be unique to you; it’s not going to be something you can create a formula for. My healing and movement toward peace before, during, and after taking care of my father, is full of my own twists and turns, and so will yours be. Peace is what keeps you on the right path for you. God declares peace over His people and helps keep them from foolish ways. Once we surrender, we will far better be able to hear His voice, and trust Him enough to follow His will.

I read a letter once that reminded me when you’re going through something so difficult as caregiving, you have to enjoy the happy moments. You don’t protect people by withholding information from them. Don’t believe this hard time was sent by God, but simply allowed by God. Don’t get so wrapped up in your own pain and turmoil you forget you are not alone. Others are suffering too. This principle applies for after caregiving as well.

Peace is meant to be shared. Document and monument the peace God gives you. Don’t keep it hidden away, quiet to yourself. It makes movements, it causes revolutions, which may seem counterintuitive, but not when the result is peace. Not when it comes direct from God’s heart. My conclusion after my year of healing, which has only been confirmed by the time since, was that my experience could help others. If you learn even one thing from my words and what I went through, it was all worth it. This is my way of giving back, but you’ll find yours as well. I firmly believe that part of the reason God allows suffering in this life is so that we who have reached the other side can turn around and extend a hand to the person suffering something similar behind us. Don’t be afraid to share once you’ve healed. And just know that your story and what you have to give, is one of the most powerful things you possess.

God loves those who are caregivers and He never forgets them. Not before, not during, not after. You will always have His help whenever you need it. You will always have His peace available to you. So take advantage of it. Trust Him. Rest, recover, and then give again. It’s the way of making peace.

Caregiving 101: Part Six: Grief and Loss

October 13, 2018 was a long day. My brother picked up my car to work on it, while my mom and I replaced my bed and took a trip to the dump. We then went to my brother’s to pick up my car. I got home late and had barely settled down for the night when I got the call my father had passed away.

Maybe I shouldn’t have been shocked, but I was. We had only set him up for hospice on Thursday and it was Saturday. During the meeting they had prepared us for a long wait and a new phase to begin. God had other ideas.

The last time I saw my father was that Thursday. He was in a hospital bed, convulsively shaking, thin as a rail, unable to talk or eat by himself, with no idea who any of us were. It was not a pleasant sight and I can still remember the look on my brother’s face when he saw him. It was no way for anyone to live and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.

Honestly, I didn’t really expect to grieve a lot when my dad died. Because of how hard it was taking care of him and how hard it was on him, I expected to feel relief. And I did, but I also felt very sad. I wasn’t sure what to do with that.

My brother wanted to go and see him before the funeral parlor came and took his body away and I went as well. It was not my first time being around a dead body, but it was still startling and unsettling. I can’t say that he looked peaceful, but he no longer looked ravaged by pain and misery. He was so skinny, and to my slightly hysterical brain, he looked like the picture of Death as depicted in a favorite television show.

It felt weird being there, after dark, with my brother and sister-in-law. We cried and hugged each other, and I held my dad’s not-yet cold hands. The staff were wonderful and let us know we could have all the time we needed. I honestly couldn’t tell you how long we were there, but it felt like an eternity. And when I got home, I was still very sad.

The next day, my need to avoid my feelings kicked in. My whole family spent the day at my mom’s house. They urged me not to worry about trying to take care of things, but I felt a huge responsibility to let everyone know and to make sure everything was done. My family was splendid in helping me. My mom and I split the duty of letting other family members know. My sister researched what to do about his will and estate. My mom helped clear out his stuff from the facility. We started figuring out funeral dates.

But all day long, neither my brain nor my feelings shut off, both pouring out an endless list of demands on me, and I was completely overwhelmed. The next few weeks were like that, going about my day, but in a constant state of intense emotion and responsibility. I predict you will go through a similar experience. If I could gently urge one thing, it would be to let yourself have time to simply feel rather than numb the pain with your duty as a caregiver. Let other people help you and don’t try to dull the feelings of loss with distraction or escapism. It helps for only the briefest of moments and it denies you the opportunity to truly process. If you’re waiting for the funeral, I guarantee you won’t have as much time as you think.

Funerals should be a place to grieve and to celebrate someone’s life. Maybe that’s true when you’re not throwing them. For me, the whole thing was bound up in too many details, working with the people around me to make things go smoothly, and making sure everyone was okay. I can’t entirely discount the experience because I was truly happy with my dad’s funeral. For someone so hard to like, the amount of support I received for him was amazing. It was also wonderful to have everyone in the same place, for the same reason, and just be together.

The service itself was lovely, but the true value came afterward, when a smaller group was at my mom’s house, eating food and playing cards and just being together. We figured out some logistics while we were there, but mostly we celebrated being a family. It felt like the family I remembered as a child, which I desperately missed as an adult. I can’t emphasize enough how important that is, to be together. Even when you’d rather mourn separately or feel like there’s too much separating you to ever truly be unified. Togetherness for the sake of togetherness brings healing without you even realizing it. And it can make you understand what you truly want out of a family.

That doesn’t mean that you force everyone to grieve the same way. Grief is entirely unique. It hits every single person differently. The phrase everyone handles grief in their own way is true, but, in my opinion, grief feels sentient and it handles you more than the other way around. Dad’s death was not my first time dealing with grief, but it was the first time in which I felt like the main player. Everything needed my stamp of approval on it, which gave me less time to process my feelings.

Grief also comes in waves. It hits you at different times. You never know what’s going to happen with it or what random thought will trigger it. You’re supposed to come to a point of acceptance, at least that’s what everyone says. But I don’t know if it’s a point so much as a slow descent, one that certainly isn’t finished a few weeks later when you’ve eaten all the casseroles and the flowers have all died and you definitely can’t take any more time off of work. But that’s when everyone else stops treating you differently and acts like you really should be getting back to normal life. Maybe they’re just tired of getting the same answer when they ask you about it. Either way, to me it felt like life was moving on, pulling me along with it, but I was stagnant, frozen, stuck in a past that no longer existed. That’s what grief did to me.

The funny thing about being frozen is, you’re not actually processing. I let the needs of life dull the pain until I thought I wasn’t feeling it anymore because it was gone. But it was only lurking underneath the surface, resurging again at the oddest times and places, when so much time had gone past that it felt somewhat embarrassing to still be feeling grief when I clearly should have moved on.

If you are at that place of grief and loss, I am deeply sorry you are going through that. You will feel whatever cocktail of emotions is unique to you and you will have a grieving process that looks different than anyone else’s. I want to tell you that’s okay. You can ride those waves whenever they hit you and you don’t have to apologize or feel bad for how you’re feeling. Even when you do feel bad, give yourself grace and a place to mourn. If you process better verbally, have a therapist or trusted friend give you that listening ear that you need. Maybe it would help to journal. Maybe you need to be alone, though I don’t recommend that for long periods of time. We are made for community and too much time alone is going to prolong our feelings rather than help us process them.

Your feelings of grief might be mingled with guilt as a caregiver. Mine certainly were. What if I’d done this or that differently? Would it have made a difference? Did anything I do matter at all? Of course, then there was that relief. The feeling that finally . . . this was over. The millstone around my neck, the burden on my shoulders, the constant feeling of stress and responsibility, were just gone. The hardest period of my life was suddenly over, without warning, and I didn’t know who I was without it. And I felt such guilt over that. I should be more sorry than glad that my dad was gone. I should not be so happy I didn’t have to deal with this anymore. Should is such a shame-filled word. I think we need to ban the word ‘should’ from feelings of grief.

When I’m talking with people who don’t believe in God, I sometimes explain feeling relieved because my father was suffering and no one should have to live like that. This is completely true. But the deeper answer is that, as a Christian, neither he nor I have to fear death. Death can be a very scary thing to people, but not to those who know it’s only a bridge. We were always going to live forever, every single one of us. Death is just the way we get there. I’m not saying it’s not hard and we shouldn’t grieve. I’m saying we shouldn’t fear it. I didn’t fear it for my father and I don’t fear it for myself.

The best part? My father is finally redeemed. He is finally the father and the man I always wanted him to be. Not in a way that makes him feel bad and finally know the pain he caused as a punishment. No, in a way that makes him be the man I look forward to a reunion with. The man who will love me as he always should have loved me. A man I can trust. A man who would take care of me instead of me taking care of him. The man who wants his story to be known to help others reconcile with their children before it’s too late in this life. I can finally say that I have a father I can be proud of and I can love him without any reservation or fear.

This doesn’t mean that I’ve completely come to terms with everything that happened in this life, but as far as the future goes, I believe it’s going to be wonderful. If you’re in the midst of it, just know there is hope on the other side. You will get through it, as hard and as tender and as deep as those wounds you bear are. God is right there, the best comforter and counselor and healer there is. He will never leave you, even when everyone else does. So put your trust in Him, and in His ability to bring you through each wave as it comes. He won’t fail you. And be tender and gentle with yourself, just as He is. Don’t ever give up hope you will get through it. Because even if you feel some measure of grief for the rest of your life, it will abate and you will grow stronger. Let yourself feel, but don’t let yourself wallow. Receive strength from your loved ones. Don’t try to do it all yourself. And don’t worry about what it’s supposed to be. There is no such thing. God is in control and He’s got you.

Episode 75: Isaiah 40:27-28

Summary

Praying Isaiah 40:27-28

Transcription

Well, my friends, we’ve come to the end of Season Four of Peace Prayers. I know it felt like we just got started, but I decided to make this a mini season because I am going to be doing some traveling and working on my next book project! Thank you so much for sticking with me and being a part of these prayers. I hope you come back to them and pray them over again, whenever you need encouragement.

I am looking at March 2023 to launch Season Five, so if you have any thoughts or feedback, I want to hear it. Please connect with me on Instagram at j.a.sellers.

Also remember you can follow me on my website at www.ja-sellers.com. My site hosts a transcription of each prayer, so that’s a great way to pray them on your own and see what else I am writing about.

I have one final favor to ask of you, and that’s for you to rate and review the podcast. The ratings and reviews are what help this podcast thrive and get shared so more people can join us on this pathway to peace. I’d love it if you would leave one if you haven’t already and share Peace Prayers with the people in your life who could use it. I would be so grateful.

I pray you have a peaceful rest of your day, and I will talk to you soon.

Today’s verse is Isaiah 40:27-28

Why do you complain, Jacob?
    Why do you say, Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord;
    my cause is disregarded by my God”?
Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and His understanding no one can fathom.

Let’s pray together.

LORD, today I confess that I am complaining. I am ungrateful. I am of little understanding. I believe my life is unfair. I want what I should not have. I try to get what is not good for me. I want to be selfish. I want to have my own way. I believe I know what is best. I want to be in control. Forgive me.

I feel misunderstood today and I feel like I am being taken advantage of. I want my rights to be restored. I don’t see why I should be denied anything. It feels like You don’t understand. I don’t know why You won’t just let me go where I want to and do what I want to. And because I am suffering, it looks like You don’t care.

But You do see it all. You do know it all. You have ordained it all. Whatever path I walk, is one that You set out for me. Whatever is being withheld is because it will hurt me. Whatever time I wait, is because it’s not right yet. Wherever I cannot go is dangerous for me. Whatever I cannot do is for my benefit. Help me to see that, Jesus. Help me to know that Your way is the best way.

Father, be the caretaker and provider I need. Even when I go kicking and screaming into the shadow of Your wings, I know it is the best place for me. I need You to help me and tell me what is best, because my faulty and broken human sensibilities would run headlong into fire because the flames shine so bright. You are the God of comfort, of peace, of safety, and of rest.

Jesus, You say Your yoke is easy and Your burden is light, but I don’t feel that way today. It feels too hard to bear. So please help me to understand, to rest in that knowledge, to allow You in to share my pain and walk my road before me. Help me to trust You fully, not withholding anything. Only You are able to show me the perfect way.

And humble me before You. Help me to realize that You are everlasting. You are not bound by time. You exist in the happy and the sad, the broken and the whole, the fear and the peace, and in all those moments You are with me and know what is good and true and right. And You will always bring me there so help me to follow You. Help me to believe that in my head and my heart. Bear it out in my actions.

Help me to be obedient, Father. To submit to Your will and follow Your precepts. Help me to love them even when I don’t understand them and be guided by them even when I would rather do something else. I pray that the vows I took to be Your child and Your servant are sacred to me. Help me not to take the easy path.

Be my God, my Savior, my truth. Be the strength I need to walk the narrow path. Help me to be righteous, a shining example to others and a help along the way. Let my mistakes be signposts in their paths and may I be a witness of the righteousness You call Your people toward.

But I am weary and I don’t understand. So let Your endless perseverance and Your boundless wisdom be my guide. Correct my course when I veer off the path You’ve given me. Carry me when I cannot walk by myself. Instill trust in me when I fear that You don’t know what is best. And change my rebellious heart that wants its own way. Let the stone become flesh and let Your name be carved there, an endless reminder that I have chosen to follow You.

Be my Good Shepherd today. The Way, the Truth, The Life. The Only Right Path. And help me, help me, help me. Because I need You.

In Your holy and faithful name, Jesus, I pray. Amen.

Episode 74: Psalm 4:8

Summary

Praying Psalm 4:8

Transcription

Today’s verse is Psalm 4:8

In peace I will lie down and sleep,
    for You alone, Lord,
    make me dwell in safety.

Let’s pray together.

Father, I am afraid of the future. Worry fills my heart and mind. The possibilities mock me with their seemingly endless ways to torment me. It can all go so wrong so fast. There are too many barriers, too many questions, too may foes, too many complications. Everything is lined up against me. The people I love can’t be counted on. The people I don’t know block my way. The hopes I had are dead and dying dreams. The faith I needed has abandoned me. Where are You in the midst of the storm?

Help me.

Father, I need the safety of Your Presence. I need the assurance of Your love. I need the comfort of Your plan. I need the surety of You. Be with me, beside me, in me. I don’t ever want to be parted from You. Help me not to stray or run ahead or fall behind or fight You. Help me submit to Your will and hide in the shelter of Your wings.

Help me to hear You when You speak. Because You can do it in so many different ways and it seems like I’m always listening the wrong way. I need Your truth. Help me to be disciplined to seek it in Your word, hiding it in my heart, using it as a light for my feet. It is forever and will never pass away. It keeps the promise it holds, bringing fruit, not a void. Let Your word be the constant meditation of my heart and mind, what I hold before me at all times. Let me delight in it, in your word eternal. I know it is spoken to me. I know it is real. I know that no matter when or how it was originally written, there is something just for me inside of it. Always, no matter how often I have read it before. It is new and true and the same and shifting, and always what I need.

So because of this, Jesus, help me to lie down in sleep, peacefully resting in slumber. Because I know that You are with me. Nothing else can be my surety. No person, thing, skill, wisdom, achievement, possession, talent, or relationship can ever give me actual safety and security. And I crave this, You know I do. So help me trust, so deeply, so truly, so strongly, that You are my safety. That I am safe in You. That no matter what happens to me or where I am, You have not failed. I am held in Your hands, those nail-scarred, beautiful hands. And I am safe. And I am known. And I am loved. And I am home.

I pray this in Your confident and omnipotent name, Jesus. Amen.

Episode 72: Isaiah 55:1-3

Summary

Praying Isaiah 55:1-3

Transcription

Before we get into our prayer today, I wanted to let you know some exciting news. My book, Yes, Father: A Daughter’s Journey to Forgiveness will be on sale on Amazon through December so that you get the best option while Christmas shopping. I pray you will consider what caregivers or friends you can gift this book to. Please don’t hesitate to go to my website www.ja-sellers.com while doing your online shopping and let me know if you decide to buy and who you bought it for. I would love to pray for them. That’s a great way to find out more about the book and who it’s for.

https://books2read.com/yesfather

And don’t forget while you’re getting the book for someone else, to leave a review. That way more people can find the story that I hope was a blessing to you. Now, on to our prayer.

Today’s verse is Isaiah 55:1-3

Come, all you who are thirsty,
    come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
    come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
    without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
    and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
    and you will delight in the richest of fare.
Give ear and come to me;
    listen, that you may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
    my faithful love promised to David.

Let’s pray together.

LORD, I think about the physical needs of the world. They are many. We have material bodies that crave and need and expire without sustenance and protection. They are fallible to injury and disease. We are so fragile and easily broken. And even though we need it, what we take in does not fully satisfy us. We need something more because the need is real.

But what is evident to me today is that I so often run to what is not good for me. I spend my time and money and efforts on fake goods. I act like the imitation is the real thing when I know that You want to give what is best. You are the true nutritionist for the body, soul, and spirit. You invite me to spend what I have on the best things, the things You provide. Instead, I search for what is not real.

Come, all, I hear You say. You tell me that I can be satisfied and live truly. I do not need to pour myself out because You already did that. Instead, I need to pour myself into You. I remember the empty and run to You, the full. I am invited and welcome. I must listen. Oh, teach me to listen. Open my ears, cleansing them from anything blocking the way to Your truth. Remove obstacles and barriers and all the noise that clutters my life. Help me to be still instead of spending my labor on the unsatisfying, depressing, momentary pleasures of this world.

I know You want our relationship to be everlasting. I am given a tender restoration plan, long stored up for me and planned lovingly before I was born. It was faithfully kept and will endure forever. It is the evidence of Your faithful love. Throw me into your thirst-quenching waters. I long to be refreshed. I am weary and I am hungry. And You will delight me.

Father, whatever burdens I carry, whatever troubles I face, whatever heartbreak cracks me through and through, help me to lay it all down at the foot of the Cross. I know Jesus waits there for me. He calls to me, longing to wake me from my sleep. I have been unconscious of the good for too long. I don’t want to miss anymore of our time together. I don’t want to show up, sheepish, because I was away and abandoned You with no explanation. I have no excuse for not being present with You.

Your covenants are strong and true. They are forever. I pray that I trust in that and remember it at all times. I pray that no matter what, I am faithful as You are faithful. I pray that I partake in Your table, participating in Your bounty. I pray that I am satisfied with You. I know that there is no other satisfaction, so help me not hunt for it, weary and bone-tired, dragging my feet from one disappointing venture to the next. Instead, carry me to You, feed me Your truth, and bind me to You. Never let me go. I want to faithfully love You as You do me.

Jesus, in your patient and abundant name, I pray these things. Amen.

Caregiving 101: Part Five: Living Situations

When I took over as primary caregiver for my dad, my immediate concern was moving him. He lived alone in an apartment, almost an hour away from me, and he wasn’t safe where he was. At the time, I knew nothing about what help or places were available to people in his situation. My first step was taking him to a neurology appointment and, after listening to my concerns, the doctor agreed that he shouldn’t be living by himself. Other than that, she had no help to give. But it was enough to convince my dad, kicking and screaming, that a move needed to happen.

I reached out to his social worker for help and was quickly overwhelmed with the information I was sent and how useless it all seemed. There was both too much to look through and understand and too little help on how to do so. How would my dad function in an assisted living facility as opposed to an adult family home? How would the finances work? What was going to be done with the lifetime’s worth of stuff he’d accumulated? What about his current lease and bills? It was all the hassle of moving with many other unknowns thrown into the mix.

I want to talk about this specific topic because I think it’s one of the biggest universal decisions that you will make as a caregiver and involves a colossal amount of stress. Ultimately, it does come down to what’s best for you and for your family and your charge, but that never makes it easier.

There was never a question of me living with my dad and taking care of him myself. I was renting a tiny room and his apartment was small and far away. I wouldn’t have known what to do anyway. I felt woefully ill-equipped and ill-informed for any caregiving, let alone twenty-four-hour care. A lot of guilt came from that. If you’re close to your charge, you might feel like sending them to a facility of any kind might communicate that you’re abandoning them or that you don’t care. This is just not true, so don’t allow yourself to believe it for even a moment. You’ve got to make the decision about what is going to be best for everyone and it will look different for you than it did for me.

It can vary even within the same family. My grandmother was ninety-five when my grandfather passed away. She didn’t want to leave her home, so for two years, my mother, siblings, and I took turns staying the night at her house, and she spent the weekends at my mother’s house. That wasn’t sustainable forever. After two years, my mom moved in with my grandma to take care of her. Without a doubt it was the right choice, but it didn’t remain that way. It got too hard on both of them, especially with my mother working full-time.

A few years later, she hired in-house help during the day, to cook and clean while she was gone. But soon, even that wasn’t enough. The toil and strain on my mom was too much. In January of 2015 (the same month my dad was diagnosed) we moved my grandma into her adult family home where she lived until her death in 2021. She didn’t want to move, but eventually she adjusted. The home suited her needs with more one-on-one care, built in friends, and a cozier feel.

The decision you make isn’t set in stone. You can change things as needed and as you can bear it. Some of you might have the perfect living situation and/or skills and personality and energy required to be able to take care of someone at home until they pass away. But that’s not true for everyone and there’s no shame in that. You’re always making the best decision at a particular time, and, if it’s not working out, you can change it.

I eventually came to the decision that an assisted living facility was the best place for my dad. He needed someplace that would do all the cooking for him and make sure he took his medication. I also didn’t want him driving anymore considering how much he got lost. At the time, he was still capable of taking care of his own hygiene and getting around. My other hope was that in living with a community he might be able to be more social and make friends. These are the types of things I urge you to consider when making your decision. What are your highest priorities and what place will best suit those needs? It will never be a perfect fit, but you’re looking for the best possible option.

Getting him there was a bit of a nightmare. He didn’t want to go. He thought I was sticking him in jail and he didn’t want to get rid of any of his things. It was a really hard, emotional decision for him. While I appreciated that, I was stuck in the position of being the ‘bad parent’ to my own father, and making the decision that was best for him. Because of that, I know you will struggle with actually making the change. It’s very hard to put into action a plan you agonize over. I think it was almost fortunate that due to finances and breaking his current lease, I had very limited time in which to make the decision. It all happened within the space of a few months. It was good for both of us because it forced us to make decisions and transition sooner than we would have thought we were ready for.

Despite the help I had, I wouldn’t wish the four days it took to move him and get all his stuff taken care of on anyone. If you can afford it, I highly suggest hiring movers. And, if you can, get your charge settled in their new place first, and then go back and finish taking care of the old place. Once my dad got to his new apartment, I think he settled in fairly quickly. Part of the reason was that, as his memory failed, he lived in the present. Remembering never happened correctly and his brain pieced together fragments to help him deal with his reality. Soon, for him, he’d always lived there, and it was his normal.

Of course, that didn’t mean he wanted change. We moved him in October of 2015 and in August of 2017 we needed to move him again. At this point in his disease, he was still physically very mobile, but doing his own laundry, or remembering to shower or shave, was almost impossible. I got a call from the facility telling me they were worried because he loved to go outside and wave to the cars on the street and he’d almost been hit several times. He was now a danger to himself and others.

Our answer was to move him into the full memory-care portion of the facility, which meant he would not be able to leave unless he was with someone. The doors were locked and there was a code to get in and out. It was much smaller and there were dedicated nurses and caregivers who not only provided meals and medication, but helped with showers and toileting as necessary. This move was for his safety and less difficult logistically, but still involved the same level of anxiety regarding the decision, how it would affect him, the finances, and so many other things.

This move also cemented that he was getting worse in every way. There was so much less stimulation available in the memory-care unit, and I considered whether it would be best to try an adult family home option so he would have more personalized care. Ultimately, I decided against it because he was still too physically mobile and would be considered a flight risk. Also, this way he could stay in the same building and I hoped it would be familiar to him.

He was there less than a year before his behavior became so erratic that they wanted me to send him to a psychiatric hospital so they could do med changes on site, trying to find the right dose to help him feel safe and calm. That was another decision I truly wrestled with, especially because the idea of medicating him has always felt controversial. I’m not against medication, but I didn’t want to drug him into submission. I wanted him to be able to feel like himself as long as possible. After many conversations with the facility and others, I agreed to do it. And it was another headache and complicated logistical situation, but we moved him. He was there less than two months before they told me that he was so far gone they wanted to move him back to his home and start hospice. That decision was actually less painful for me because I could see myself that it was the right call. He was in hospice from Thursday afternoon and died on Saturday night.

There will be multiple stages, not just in your charge’s progression, but in what’s right for them and what’s needed for you during them. The main thing I want to impart to you is that though you will feel guilt for those decisions, especially when it’s to have them live somewhere else, please don’t let that guilt define you. I’ve said it before, but even those trained at facilities don’t know what they’re getting into. The amount of staff turnover I’ve seen for both my dad and my grandma is staggering. Caregiving is one of the hardest professions in the world, so even though we’d like to think that our relationship and love is enough, it isn’t. People need professional care for serious illnesses/injuries. If you can provide that in your home, I’m glad for you. But there was no way that I could do that. There were a lot of things my dad and others said to me, especially during that first move, that made me feel awful. But it came down to me needing to discern what was best for us, even if I didn’t know what the outcome would be.

Sometimes I think about the decision to move him to the psychiatric hospital and I wonder if moving him there was what killed him. I could very well wallow in that question of what if, but I choose not to. We’re not talking about death or grief at the moment, but I felt true peace knowing that his dying sooner was actually better for him. Even though that would never have been my intention, in a backwards way, I actually hope I did ease his suffering by my decision.

I don’t know what will be right for you and your charge, but I pray you won’t be too overwhelmed by the options and by the decisions that rest on your shoulders. Don’t let your expectations of what should happen—what society or culture or even well-meaning family members think—dictate the truth you know for the two of you and any other involved family. There is no guilt in your decision, there is only the present information you have, just like in every decision you’ll ever make. None of us knows the future. We can only do our best in the present, and be flexible to change if necessary. 

Lastly, and most importantly, pray. God is the ultimate decider of our futures and the only one who knows what is going to happen and can best provide a path toward it. You can seek the advice of others, especially those who have been through it before, but make sure you set aside time to pray and ask for guidance. Let God direct you and He will provide the peace regarding your decisions and their outcomes. If you’ve surrendered your life to Him, this is the only way to make any kind of choice. He is bigger than our mistakes and our misjudgments and the best way to avoid those is to develop the ability to hear His Spirit. Let Him be the peacemaker for you in this stressful situation.

Episode 71: Galatians 5:22-23

Summary

Praying Galatians 5:22-23

Transcription

Before we get into our prayer today, I wanted to let you know some exciting news. My book, Yes, Father: A Daughter’s Journey to Forgiveness will be on sale on Amazon through December so that you get the best option while Christmas shopping. I pray you will consider what caregivers or friends you can gift this book to. Please don’t hesitate to go to my website www.ja-sellers.com while doing your online shopping and let me know if you decide to buy and who you bought it for. I would love to pray for them. That’s a great way to find out more about the book and who it’s for.

https://books2read.com/yesfather

And don’t forget while you’re getting the book for someone else, to leave a review. That way more people can find the story that I hope was a blessing to you. Now, on to our prayer.

Today’s verse is Galatians 5:22-23.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Let’s pray together.

Holy Spirit, today help me to thoughtfully and prayerfully consider how to live under Your law and how You can produce fruit within me to share with the world.

LORD, what is it that keeps me from loving others? I have such a love for myself and it is a blockade. It’s mixed with such squirming feelings of doubt and insecurity and fear, but it all points back to self-protection, the need for myself to thrive. But I want my love for others to be consistent and I want it to play out in practical ways in my life. So help me to understand love and how You view it and how viewing You keeps You in the central place of my life. And then, only then, will I love others, because I love You first. Guide me on this path.

Father, how can I have joy in my life? How can I share that with others? Perhaps the reason is that I do not practice gratitude, I am not thankful for what I already have. I focus again on myself, on what I think I need. It’s so hard to be joyful when I want to complain. But, God, You are sovereign and full of grace. You know what I need so much better than I do. Help me remember that and be full of thanksgiving. And with that thanksgiving, grant me joy. And help me grant that joy to others.

Jesus, Prince of Peace, how do I emulate that in my life? Why is there so much conflict, resonating within and without me? I would rather strike out than risk others hurting me. Everyone is in my way, wanting things for themselves, pushing their own agenda. That’s what I think on a daily basis. But I pray that I live for You and not for me. I pray that I stop making everything so personal and focusing on assumptions. Help me overlook the slights that offend so deeply, offering that clemency to all around me.

Holy Spirit, where is my patience? Where is the slow, careful waiting that would serve me well? I live in an immediate culture, a think-fast society, a quick-service mentality. But perhaps it’s because I want to be in charge that I lack patience. I want what I want now. It offends me to think I have to wait for someone else’s schedule. But, God, what is Your agenda? What have I been putting aside that I need to focus on? If I can shift my eyes to You, perhaps I will be willing to wait because I will understand what is most important. And then be gracious to those around me.

God, why am I not kind and good? Where is the ability to offer You to the world? To live a pattern that showcases these elements? Why am I so invested in what I think I want? Perhaps I think that if I am kind and good, I will get pushed over and stepped on. I think others will take advantage of me. Or maybe I think of these things as step-stools to get what I want. Oh, God, take such thoughts from me. Remind me that who I am is a witness for You. I am sanctified daily, all of my rough edges being removed by You. That is my purpose, not to get what I think I want. And when I am surrendered to Your will, I don’t worry so much about how others will react. Help me to show them a better way.

Oh, Spirit, why am I not faithful to You? Why do I wake up each morning, full of Your new mercies, and squander them on going my own way? Why do I insist that I must be faithful to myself? It’s because I lack understanding of how faithful You are. I do not see how consistent You are. I am trying to get where I want to go by the fastest route. And in so doing, I miss the discipline, the routine, the steadfastness You exemplify. You are never swayed by the newest and greatest and most convenient thing. You know what is good and You stick with it. Teach this to me. Teach me how to be faithful to You.

Jesus, I can be so rough. I can snap and bite and claw my way through the world. Because I am fearful. I believe I will be last. I believe I will be hurt. I believe no one will really love me. So I hide behind a bristling wall of isolation and I refuse to be vulnerable. But that is not who You are. You are gentle and lowly in heart. You never shrink from the truth, but You speak it in love. You give and You listen and You offer sweetness and mercy. Oh, may it be so for me. May I think before I speak. And may You take away my fear so that I am humble before You and before others. May I always be a safe place because You are my safe place.

LORD, I cannot control myself. I live in the moment, focusing on pleasure, focusing on desire, focusing on need. I want that cake. I want that parking space. I want to sleep in. I want, I want, I want. It’s so much more than that. It’s a desire for control, for independence, for ease and comfort, for gratification. But I need to walk the long, slow path, the one where I learn all the other things I am praying for. I learn Your truths and I am willing to accept the good gifts, not because I took them or earned them, but because You gave them to me. Help me not to abuse them. This world is Your pleasurable paradise, but it is not my home. Help me to focus on You and where You want me to be, and not on this moment, lusting for only my wants to be fulfilled.

Holy Spirit, may I be a tree planted in good soil, by deep waters. May I rejoice and revel in the fact that all of these things are freely available to me. No one would say that I shouldn’t yearn for them. No one can say that I can’t strive for them. Yet may it always be clear to me that You are the giver, working through me. It is always You. Produce in me, the fruit of Your word.

I pray this in Jesus’ powerful and creative name. Amen.

Episode 70: 1 John 2:8

Summary

Praying 1 John 2:8

Transcription

Before we get into our prayer today, I wanted to let you know some exciting news. My book, Yes, Father: A Daughter’s Journey to Forgiveness will be on sale on Amazon through December so that you get the best option while Christmas shopping. I pray you will consider what caregivers or friends you can gift this book to. Please don’t hesitate to go to my website www.ja-sellers.com while doing your online shopping and let me know if you decide to buy and who you bought it for. I would love to pray for them. That’s a great way to find out more about the book and who it’s for.

https://books2read.com/yesfather

And don’t forget while you’re getting the book for someone else, to leave a review. That way more people can find the story that I hope was a blessing to you. Now, on to our prayer.

Today’s verse is 1 John 2:8

Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.

Let’s pray together.

Jesus, we walk in the darkness. We are passing into the deep gloom of winter. We have cold burrowing into our bones. The outward teeth of ice and isolation surround us. We are floundering and full of grinding grief. Sickness prevails and haunts us. Disaster and division penetrate our faltering shields. What help is there in a broken world so desperately intent on drowning itself in untruth and hatred? Our enemy is strong.

What we need is truth. We need a solid foundation to stand on, to plant our feet and dig our trench to fight. Please reveal to us that truth. Help us to know which way is forward. We cannot see without You. We need the dizziness of a post-modern, humanistic, self-protective world to be healed. Do not let us freeze this winter. Thaw us with the truth and let it warm our hearts.

Fill us with hope. In the bitterest cold and the blackest night, hope shines as our beacon, kindling warmth and strength within us. Let it obliterate the fear inherent in our natures. Hope combats fear. Hope isn’t afraid. It’s what allows us to keep going even when we are bombarded on every side. Even when we are divided. Even when we are persecuted. Even when we are weary. Hope takes a stand and says that despair shall.not.win. And we only get that from You.

We want our flame of hope to be a beacon . . . Your hope available to all. We want to fight against selfishness and timidity, against being afraid of what others might think. We want to think less of ourselves and more of You, Jesus. It does not matter if other people approve of us. Only Your opinion counts. With that, we cannot fail.

But we live in the midst of the dark. We are only but halfway through. There may be a light shining, the truest light, but we do not have it fully yet. Our patience is stretched to the full boundaries of despair and fear. Waiting is hard. Waiting tempts us to give up, to run away, to give in to despair. Since we spend our whole lives waiting, we need something tangible to hold on to. We need some kind of direction through the mire of life. Hope is that direction. It is what we can grasp as tightly as we need.

Jesus, light of the world, we pray for Your coming. We know You already came. We are grateful. We know that Your presence among us is the greatest gift we have ever known. We know Your sacrifice even if we cannot grasp it fully. But we pray for You to come again. We pray that in this season of waiting and anticipation, of straining our eyes against the dark and fearing attack from the shadows, we are protected by the light of hope You send, by the surety that we are Yours. We will be healed fully and completely and totally of everything that ails us. It is only a matter of time. Help us not to be obsessed with the days and the times, but with You and what Your will is. Give us endurance, powerful and unbreakable, able to withstand any forceful blow or any timid despair.

Let us speak the truth, this unshakeable truth, evidenced by Your glory and essence. Let us believe it, because it is etched inside of our spirits, written in Your blood. Declare it with me, friends. The dark is passing away. The true light is already shining. So we proclaim it and live it and exult in it and trust in it. Despite it all, we wait in hope.

Jesus, gentle and kind Savior, we pray this in Your name. Amen.