Here is a raw, perhaps poignant, personal peek into one of my prayer journals. Prayer journaling is often how I interact with God’s words and whispers to me when I set down to rest my weary or worried soul with Him. On this particular day, we were exploring 1 Kings 19 together. God’s side of the conversation is left justified. My own prayerful ponderings are justified toward the right-hand side.
NOTE: When I am praying this way, I do not edit myself for accuracies. In fact, I usually don’t even write in full sentences. (In this case, I did embellish my original entry to give some clarity for the reader.) I simply aim for freedom to explore my thoughts and feelings of the moment with the Lord. David often did this in the Psalms (e.g., Psalm 43). The more familiar I am with the whole of God’s story and words (the Bible), the more I can trust He will show me truth and bring me back around to any right thinking and feeling after I have worked it all through. As I shared this entry, it was tempting to “correct” my side of the narrative. I hope leaving it “real” will serve Kingdom purpose. There are a lot of different prayer journaling techniques. I would suggest that the “right” methods are any methods that draw us closer to Almighty God. Perhaps if there is anything “correct” about my process is that I am seeking intimacy with Jesus. That, my friends, is something He delights in. And I certainly do too.
Oh, how good it is to be able to enjoy intimate, personal relationship with Jesus!
My prayer is that sharing this will inspire another caregiving reader to find their own way to a fresh soul connection with their Savior too.
1 When Ahab got home, he told Jezebel everything Elijah had done, including the way he had killed all the prophets of Baal. 2 So Jezebel sent this message to Elijah: “May the gods strike me and even kill me if by this time tomorrow I have not killed you just as you killed them.” 3 Elijah was afraid and fled for his life.
There have been times when my daughter’s needs have become very scary or intense for me as her caregiver. I have felt like I’m survival mode. When she has suffered from seizures, I become fearful. When she hasn’t slept much for days or weeks, I have been overwhelmed and emotional in sleep deprivation. I have wanted to run away from my life. Sometimes I do, in a way. When there is support staff available in the morning, I have pushed the snooze so many times trying to push off a new day with its incessant battles. I tend to hide in my bedroom at any opportunity to escape the demands that will arise as soon as Carly sees me. I avoid the kitchen when I can’t face the need to puree one more meal. I run emotionally when I feel like I am suffocating in my life.
He went to Beersheba, a town in Judah, and he left his servant there. 4 Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.” 5 Then he lay down and slept under the broom tree.
I curl up here in my private space with my prayer journal and Bible, begging You to give me rest and peace. Sometimes I dose off because I’m just exhausted. Sometimes I doze off because I sense some rare calm around me. Sometimes I can’t stop writing. There are so many thoughts and emotions to process. Sometimes I groan inwardly because I can’t find words for the whirlwind of thoughts and emotions. A blanket around me is like a haven. I want it to be the arms of someone who sees me. Someone who has made time for me.
I want more of YOU, Jesus.
But as he was sleeping, an angel touched him and told him, “Get up and eat!” 6 He looked around and there beside his head was some bread baked on hot stones and a jar of water! So he ate and drank and lay down again.
You bring mercies. I am prone to taking them for granted. It often feels like the mercies are so slow in coming. I get impatient, even angry, with You when Your mercies aren’t my way or in time for my wits end cries. Still, God is never too late. Somehow You let me wait until I am so far past myself that all I can see is You. And it is in that moment when my confidence in You swells and my appreciation for Jesus’ presence and power overflows in praise. I realize how generous and creative You are. I notice more details. I become more in tune with how resilient You have made me. And I become humbled and peaceful in that confidence. My renewed faith and hope is refreshing. It is a kind of rest for my soul that comes like a surprise. I drink deeply of the gift and learn how utterly reliant I am on such Divine provision of fuel and rest.
7 Then the angel of the Lord came again and touched him and said, “Get up and eat some more, or the journey ahead will be too much for you.”
God’s provision and protection are generous and reliable.
Why do I ever doubt this?
I have recently been reminded of this again.
I am learning to be intentional about seeking Jesus and things that bring peace to my soul.
I am learning to differentiate selfishness from fueling my soul.
I am seeing a difference between self care from soul care.
I am learning that godly, healthy soul care makes me a giver of life rather than a taker.
Soul rest empowers me to quality caregiving and enables me to live as a servant.
This life I’ve been called to — being a full time caregiver — will continue to be too much for me.
But when I keep fueling my soul according to Jesus’ lifestyle model, I find wisdom and resilience.
When I let Jesus teach me how to rest, when I stay alert to Your mercies and allow myself to receive them, I am able to love others well.
8 So he got up and ate and drank, and the food gave him enough strength to travel forty days and forty nights to Mount Sinai, the mountain of God.9 There he came to a cave, where he spent the night.
I have been desperate for You, God.
I have needed provision, protection, strength, encouragement, and other mercies to sustain me for more than two, actually three, decades of caregiving. I can look back now and see how different caregiving roles have prepared me for each next one. My grandma with dementia, my in-laws, parenting our three children, and then Carly. Time and time again, Carly’s situation has stretched me beyond the limits of my own strength. Beyond all the preparation in the world. Yet, I seem to find those caves — those “rest stops” — You provide along the way. My marriage has been stormy but also an incredible haven. Nobody in my earthly life will ever understand as Larry does. New therapies, new treatments, new perspectives from professionals, new friendships, support from family, an encouraging word, or collaboration with a peer have emerged just in time to move me forward. These things have enabled me to get up and journey on. Whenever I have felt ready to cave in, You have revealed a “cave” of some sort where I could rest and regroup.
“Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And a voice said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
A gentle whisper. Wow. Oh, how often I have longed for anything of you, Jesus!
I have expected and needed You to show up in a wildly powerful way! I have waited and waited, watching Carly suffer. Feeling me or my marriage suffering through the gruel of caregiving. I have felt consumed. I’ve lost myself. Lost you. Watching Carly’s siblings wrestle with coming to terms with their own role as siblings too. And then suddenly, in the midst of those longings, You whisper. “Peace, be still.” It’s often the whispers that speak most loudly.
I need only slow down long enough to really hear You.
14 He replied again, “I have zealously served the Lord God Almighty. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed every one of your prophets. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.”
Caregiving has taken everything out of me. It has stripped me of some dreams, cost me physical health, stolen valued relationships, taken joy out of my career, and more. People so often let me down. Some have betrayed me altogether as they didn’t understand what caregiving requires of me. Such pervasive impact.
The Church has often disappointed me too.
I have self-righteously felt justified in my anger.
For all the ways disability has enriched my life — and there are too many ways to count — there has been frequent loneliness and isolation.
I have feared what would happen to Carly if I were the only one left.
15 Then the Lord told him, “Go back the same way you came, and travel to the wilderness of Damascus. When you arrive there, anoint Hazael to be king of Aram. 16 Then anoint Jehu grandson of Nimshi to be king of Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from the town of Abel-meholah to replace you as my prophet.
Delegation is essential. God’s provision of helpers is essential. Moses’ father-in-law taught him that. I must maintain hope and trust that God loves Carly even more than I do. He will make a way where there seems no solution, little/no hope for her future protection. I am praying You will show us where the Hazaels and Jehus and Elishas are. Make way for Carly to enjoy the hope and future You promise. Ensure that her sisters don’t bear an unwieldy burden. They, too, will need helpers.
God, bring relief.
Prepare troops for today and for such time as you call me Home.
Lisa Jamieson is a caregiver consultant, pastoral counsellor and author of popular books and Bible studies including Finding Glory in the Thorns and Jesus, Let’s Talk. She leads a weekly online discussion group welcoming caregivers in families living with disability. Lisa and her husband, Larry, are co-founders of Walk Right In Ministries, a non-profit organization building faith and community with special needs families. They live in Minnesota with the youngest of their three grown daughters, Carly, who has Angelman Syndrome.
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