Want to enjoy the presence of Jesus in your life as a caregiver? Here’s 15 steps to help you get there.
- Try a daily prayer of surrender. “Today, this is Your day… Today, I am Yours… May Your Spirit lead, guide and prompt me throughout my day… May I be sensitive to Your prompting and respond accordingly… Today, I surrender my life to You…
- Read a short section of Scripture or a devotional book as often as you eat.
- Pray Bible verses. Even if it’s just a few verses, pray the Bible back to God. This is easier if you put up Bible verses around the house. That can be in framed calligraphy, a perpetual calendar of Biblical thoughts or simple Post-it notes.
- Be in the day with a plan and the willingness to disregard the plan to respond to what God allows.
- Keep focused on what you are doing. When you walk with Jesus, everything you do can be a prayer. This is where the practice of Christian mindfulness comes in.
- Listen to yourself and be compassionate. Overcoming restlessness and the need to focus on the trivial to avoid the pain of grief is a problem that I have, and I think many others who are caregivers of people with mental illness have as well. The Three Things exercise can help you to focus your attention, reduce restlessness and add calm: Stretch or drink some water. Note three things you see, three thinks you hear and three feelings you have.
- Refocus during transitions. Try to center yourself as you move from place to place, from event to event. You can say: I am calm, peaceful and aware of the presence of God as I enter this home/door/time/event.
- Carry on a conversation with God and try to make it continual.
- When you run out of words, say the Jesus prayer. Using a “Jesus” prayer when you need to calm down or you are in a situation in which you would just look at your phone helps. You can pray “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus” over and over. I use “Come Holy Spirit.” It’s also a nice way to go to sleep at night.
- Stop to praise God.
- Be a “yes” to all that is in God and to each circumstance and person who comes into our lives. Have faith that God is at work even in horrible circumstances. We should look at all circumstances, environments, and even all persons as coming through God’s hands so we can serve Him. This is the “good” that all things work for as mentioned in Romans 8:28: 28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Acceptance of this kind makes caregiving less depleting and exhausting.It’s so challenging, but you can accept the reality of the circumstance and not argue in your mind that it should be different. Second, you also need listen to yourself rather than taking a treat (food, a drink or a nap). Acceptance is not the same as being happy in sad circumstances. You cannot pretend everything is fine, because your mind knows it’s not. Accepting that everything is not fine, but it is impossible for you to change allows you to offer more empathy without draining excessive energy. We are not in heaven yet, and bad things happen in a fallen world. God is still present and wants to abide in you. The joy of the Lord is your strength. Follow an energy draining situation with an energy builder such as reading, meditation, pray, eating something healthy and tasty.
- In everything give thanks.
- Think on these things. Philippians 4:8:Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. I made up a phrase to help me remember this: The normal real person likes an excellent pizza. (true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, praiseworthy). This helps me to do a thought check when I seem to be on the wrong track.
- Give yourself a GIFT list.The GIFT list idea originated with Pam Young and Peggy Jones, and I adapted it to give myself something else to think about. I keep the daily list with my to-dos. GIFT stands for: Grace, Imagination, Focus and Thanksgiving. I ask for a Grace from the list of the fruits of the Holy Spirit (love, joy, peace, patients, kindness, goodness, righteousness, gentleness and self-control). For Imagination, I pick a virtue and image how I could incorporate that virtue into my day. Focus is the day’s predominate activities. (Attending meetings, writing, planning, cleaning, making things, running errands, enjoying the family, taking a Sabbath, etc.) And Thanksgiving is a gratitude list I fill out as the day goes on. When my mind goes on a tear, I deliberately turn it back to the Grace, Imagination or Focus of the day.
- Summon up your courage and pray the welcoming prayer. This is the scariest prayer I’ve ever prayed: Welcome, welcome, welcome. I welcome everything that comes to me today because I know it’s for my healing. I welcome all thoughts, feelings, emotions, persons, situations and conditions. I let go of my desire for power and control. I let go of my desire for affection, esteem, approval and pleasure. I let go of my desire for survival and security. I let go of my desire to change any situation, condition, person or myself. I open t the love and presence of God and God’s action within.
This practice of the presence of God, somewhat difficult in the beginning, when practiced faithfully, secretly brings about marvelous effects in the soul, draws down the abundance of God’s grace upon it, and leads it imperceptibly to this simple awareness, to this loving view of God present everywhere, which is the holiest, the surest, the easiest, and the most efficacious form of prayer. People who lean on Jesus know things that other people don’t know.