Saturday, July 23, 2016

Good Things Which Come From Stress

There are two mistakes family caregivers and really everyone makes in challenging times.  One mistake is to think one can do it all alone.  It is believing one has to always be in control of everything.  Often we wait until we are desperate to seek help from others and from God.  The truth is that we are in control of nothing.  God is the only one who is in control.  He is directing and leading our lives.

The other mistake we sometimes make is to think that a situation is impossible.  I remember many seemingly impossible situations as a caregiver.  The challenges and changes sometimes came often and suddenly.  Sometimes I also face seemingly impossible situations as a widow as well.  Yet in life's "impossible" situations, God is there.  He we must remember is in control.

The stresses can be overwhelming and unpleasant.  Even the people in the Bible like the psalmists and Paul, the apostle felt them.  Yet stress in our lives serves two great purposes.  They make us see that we are not in control, and they teach us dependence on the Lord.  They make us see that worrying will not change our situation.  We do not have to carry our burdens alone.  Being yoked to the Lord is a much better route to follow.  When we are weary and burdened He will give us His peace and rest (Matthew 11:28-30).

Stress and problem also makes us see God's working in our lives.  If we with spiritual eyes look with expectation for God's blessings and help in our lives, we begin to see God working out the details and heartaches of our lives.  They may not always be on our timetable or in the direction we wanted our lives to go, but God is so much wiser than we are.  

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Depression and Hope in the Lord

Life can be overwhelming at times.  This can lead to depression and despair.  This is certainly true for family caregivers who often carry a very heavy load of responsibility and concern for their loved ones for whom they are caring. That is why it is so important that family caregivers try to nurture themselves physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  It is also important for them to seek help from others wherever possible.

We often have this idea in our Christian circles that Christians should never be discouraged and that they should always have a smile on their face.  It is true that we can have joy even in moments of grief and despair, but it certainly is not true that Christians do not become overwhelmed and even depressed at times.  The apostle Paul readily admitted during moments in his ministry to feeling overwhelmed at times.  In II Corinthians 1:8-9 Paul said, "We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life-----But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God who raises the dead."

The Psalmists in the book of Psalms also honestly admited to moments of despair and discouragement. In these moments of discouragement, however, the psalmists would turn to the Lord. In Psalm 42 the psalmist reminded himself to not be "downcast," but to put his hope in the Lord.

Despair and discouragement can cause us to seek options that are not God's best of us.  Sometimes we so desperately want to "fix" the situation.  Worst yet we may convince yourselves that the Lord has forgotten about us.  This is never true. God has promised to never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5b).  God will help and provide the best answers, but it is always in His timing.  We often want answers and solutions right away, but that is not always God's best plan.  We need to wait on the Lord.  If we do this we will see the goodness of the Lord (Psalm 27:13-14).

What can we do as we are wait for and on the Lord?  How can we protect ourselves from despair? We need to spend time in God's Word and meditate on and treasure His promises to us.  We need to look for and expect God's goodness to be shown in our lives no matter how long it takes and no matter how difficult life becomes.  We also need to spend time in prayer and communion with our Lord.

Dear caregiver, your burdens and responsibilities can be heavy at times.  When you begin to be discouraged and are tempted to despair, wait on the Lord.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Blessings in the Struggles

I have felt recently that history was repeating itself.  My sister was diagnosed with breast cancer.  As you may know, if you are a long-time reader of my blog; I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007 in the midst of my care-giving days for my husband.  I write about this in my post back in April of 2012 which you can find here:

When I recently visited my sister just prior to her surgery I saw a sense of peace in my sister that I too felt during those days.  That is not to say that that she and I did not and do not have negative feelings and feelings of fear when trials come into our lives, but we as believers have the Lord Jesus to whom to run in those trials.  Christians are not free from heartache-far from it.   Yet having the Lord as our friend and having the promises of His Word makes all the difference in the world.

Watching my husband's body deteriorate during the four and a half years since his diagnosis in 2006, being diagnosed with breast cancer myself in 2007, and then losing my husband to death in early 2011 have been huge trials in my life. Yet God has been faithful to me in all of it.  My love for Him and faith has grown sweeter through the process.  It has also been a means by which I have been able to help others who are struggling.

Jesus understands our grief and worries and agitated spirits.  Yet He says to us in John 14:1, "Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God.  Trust also in Me." Dear Caregiver, I know that care-giving can be very challenging and even discouraging at times.  Know that the Lord will be faithful and will be with you each step of the way.  He is drawing you and your loved one for whom you are caring closer to Himself through the difficulties.  He is shaping your character through this experience to be more like Jesus.  He is also preparing you to be better equipped for future service in His kingdom. Rest in Him.   Dare I say to embrace the trials for all the good things God will bring from them?

As a footnote I will say that my sister is recovering from her surgery that she had a couple days ago. It appears as if she will not have to have further treatment.  Pray for her as she heals in the days ahead.  Also pray for me as I seek to minister and show love to her as her sister and a "caregiver" who lives 500 miles away from her.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

A Thankful Heart

A thankful heart is something God expects of us. Thankfulness can also add joy to our lives in spite of adverse circumstances. Being a caregiver of a terminally ill loved one is one of life’s greatest challenges and heartaches. Finding joy in the midst of it can seem like an impossibility. As a caregiver for my husband for four and a half years, however, I knew I needed to find things for which to be thankful in order to endure and survive emotionally. 
It is best to start thanking God for His presence and peace. Then try to write down at least three things each day for which you are thankful. I did this while I was a caregiver, and I found it very helpful. No matter how difficult your care-giving situation, there is something for which you can thank and praise the Lord each day.  
A thankful heart opens up the very windows of heaven. Thankfulness gives one a foretaste of heaven itself. In the process, these experiences provide even more reasons for gratitude because of the joy which enters one’s life through the avenue of a thankful heart.  
Thankfulness comes from focusing one’s heart on the Lord throughout the day. It also comes from looking for His wonders and treasures. Remember, however, that sometimes these treasures come through pleasant experiences; and sometimes these treasures come through the difficult moments (see Isaiah 45:3). Valuable lessons are often learned in the dark and difficult experiences.  Often, these experiences are the only way to learn dependence on God and trust in Him. This was and is certainly my experience as a caregiver for my husband and then during the grieving after his death. 
At times it may feel so contrived to express thanks to God when we are feeling really down in the pits.  Even then, it is best to express thanks, however. This is because thankfulness is the road to the presence of God and His peace. It is amazing, but in the measure we give thanks regardless of our feelings, God gives joy in spite of our circumstances. 
Care-giving is often an overwhelming challenge. The difficulties and heartaches will not go away by simply pursuing a thankful heart. Those who are thankful, however, will be blessed even though their care-giving heartaches remain. Joy and pain can coexist. So, dear Christian caregiver, for which blessing will you thank God today?  

( I will be away from my computer for a few days, so there will be no new post next week.  The next post will be on or around July 10.  Use this time to read some of the older posts.)

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Joy in the Caregiver Walk

Being a caregiver for a loved one with every declining health can be a huge burden.  I know because I lived that reality as my husband's caregiver for over four and a half years.  I loved my husband and was dedicated to him, but the worries and burdens were heavy at times.

Yet God wants caregivers and all who are carrying heavy burdens to realize that the joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10b).  We sometimes think our burdens in life are heavier than other people's burdens.  Yet every person is carrying a burden whether they are a caregiver or are not. Having said that I know that your burden is very heavy at times, dear caregiver.  Know, however, that the Lord, your Caregiver, loves you and understands the burden you are carrying.  There is no burden we carry that He does not understand, because He suffered the ultimate burden of the cross to pay for our sins.

Scripture says that because of the joy set before Him, Jesus endured the cross (Hebrews 12:2).  He knew the horrors of the cross would win His people's salvation and His return to Heaven and the Father.  So this too gives us the ability through Him to endure and not grow weary.

It also gives us the ability to experience joy even in the midst of heartache and challenges. This is because joy is not the same thing as happiness which is dependent on perfect circumstances. Circumstances can change and temporarily ruffle us.  Yet true joy is permanent and internal, because it is based on the cross and our trust in the Lord.  It is based on the fact that we know that this life is very temporary, and a perfect eternity lies ahead of us.  It is further based on God's Holy Spirit living in us.

In spite of this we all become discouraged at times.  That is why we need to spend time in God's Word every day.  Psalm 19 says that God's Word revives our soul, makes us wise, gives us joy, and gives us light or perspective. God's Word is perfect, trustworthy, always right, and pure.  The Word of God is the most precious thing imaginable.

In order to experience these blessings we must spend time in His Word, however, Family care-giving can be immensely challenging and overwhelming.  So can all of life.  It is easy to be like Martha in Luke 10:41 in the Bible who was "worried and upset about many things."  Jesus reminds her, however, in the following verse that only one thing is needed.  That one thing is to spend time in God's Word.  I know, dear caregiver, that you are very busy.  Yet spending time in God's Word is vital. It is vital to your joy even in the overwhelming moments.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

No Pit So Deep

As a caregiver, you may sometimes feel as if you are in a deep pit from which you cannot escape. The emotions of being responsible for the well-being of your loved one who continues to decline before your very eyes can be overwhelming. Below are some words that I scribed on January 23, 2010.  Perhaps you can relate:  
     Last night we watched the DVD The Hiding Place. It is about a Christian family in Holland who hid Jews in their home during the Nazi occupation in World War II. They were eventually found out and captured. The father died about 10 days after their capture, but the two sisters, Betsy and Corrie Ten Boom, were sent to a concentration camp.
     In the horrors of concentration camp, Betsy and Corrie came to the conclusion that there was no pit so deep that God does not go deeper. That movie was a real encouragement to me. Sometimes care-giving can seem like a real pit, but the Lord is with me each step of the way. My life is a piece of cake compared to what those ladies endured.
     Having said that, however, the fact remains that care-giving is often very difficult. I really have to struggle with patience and wisdom. Besides the difficult physical and mobility symptoms in my husband, I am seeing some slowing down in his thinking. It is not that I can’t still rationally discuss some things with him but, as I said, there is a slowing down in thinking.  He sometimes does have trouble controlling his emotions in public. This usually manifests itself in laughing. Then there is the always difficult task of communicating. He speaks with a mumble and does not speak clearly.  Finally, I suspect some depression is going on also. This whole process of decline -- physically and otherwise -- that I see in my husband sometimes seems like a slow death.
     Adding to this stress, we are planning on moving in about 4 weeks. We are scheduled to close on February first on our new condo.  Then we are scheduled to have a wheelchair ramp built starting on February second. The plan is to move into our new condo on February 20. My prayer is that the ramp will indeed be built the week after closing and that it will be easily usable with my husband, Wayne.  Sometimes my stress level feels like about twelve on a scale of ten. 
Dear Christian caregiver, the stress of care-giving can often be overwhelming. It can feel as if one is in an emotional pit so deep that one is not able to crawl out of it. In those times, remember the conclusions of Corrie and Betsy Ten Boom: that there is no pit so deep that God does not go deeper.

(This post is a chapter found in my book: Dear Caregiver Reflections for Family Caregivers.  My book can be ordered several places online.  A link to the order page for my book on Amazon is on the side of this page.  If you are getting this by e-mail just click to the christiancaregiving link to get to my home page.)

Sunday, June 5, 2016

His Faithfulness in All Things

Recently I experienced some stressful moments.  I have Windows 7 on my computer,  I had decided that I was not going to download Windows 10 on my computer. Well, in spite of that it tried to download it automatically. I noticed it on a Sunday morning before church. To make matters worse Windows 10 did not even download successfully. I ended up with an unusable computer and a blank screen. 

On Monday of that same week I took my computer to Best Buy where they reverted it back to Windows 7 for me. Best Buy said they are getting a lot of this happening.  The following Friday they called to tell me that my computer was ready for pick-up.

I picked up my "fixed" computer from Best Buy that Friday. Later, however, I noticed that my extra word processing system they had installed was not working correctly, so I made an appointment that same evening to go back to Best Buy. Then when I got home my internet was no longer working. (It had been before.) I called Frontier, my provider. They could not not get me connected via phone. So they ordered an in-house tech to come out. Because of the holiday week-end they said no one would be able to come out until Tuesday, however. 

It is frustrating and overwhelming to face many of these life's situations without my mate. I realize too, however, that I faced many of life's distracting and frustrating situations without my mate's input even before my husband's death.  In his last months and years of his life most of the decisions rested on my shoulders. My husband, Wayne, was incapable of doing this any longer. Perhaps you too are experiencing some of this, dear caregiver.  Yet as I look back at those care-giving years and at the five plus years since, I see God's faithfulness over and over again.  I love to think of the Lord Jesus as my heavenly bridegroom who is always there for me.

So how does my computer story end?  The Lord once again showed His faithfulness! I have internet.  I was told that the in-house tech would not come until Tuesday, since it was a holiday on Monday, Memorial Day. Instead he called me Memorial Day morning and had my internet up and running in about 5 minutes. The timing of his call came right after I had gone to the grocery store and was just back home again.  

The only trouble was that as soon as my computer went to sleep the internet no longer worked wireless.  So the tech was back twice on Tuesday.  A couple issues had to be resolved with my computer itself and not the modem.  (This too is another story, but God had this too.) Why do I fret when God has all things in His hands? 

Dear Caregiver, I know how easy it is to fret.  You are responsible for so many things in regards to your loved one's care.  You are possibly also responsible for a host of other life issues in your family. Remind yourself that the Lord is faithful, and try to leave your burdens with Him.  Also remember that the Lord cares about not only the life and death issues.  He also cares about the "little things."  He loves you that much, dear caregiver!