Sunday, September 22, 2019

The Caregiver's Rest and Peace

(This is yet another chapter from my book, Dear Caregiver Reflections for Family Caregivers.)

Family caregivers often face huge obstacles.  Although care-giving for a loved one is an extremely important mission in life, it is also often physically and emotionally exhausting.  Caregivers must find their rest, confidence, help, and peace in the Lord alone.  Psalm 62 in the Old Testament of the Bible says that God alone must be our rock or firm foundation and our fortress or source of protection.

Family caregivers-and all of us for that matter-can and must find our confidence and help in the Lord alone. If we put our confidence in anything or anyone but the Lord, we will often be disappointed. However, we can go to the Lord at any moment and any place and He will be our help and strength.

Hence, the Lord alone is the caregiver’s source of peace and repose in the heartaches and discouraging events of care-giving.   As a caregiver, watching my husband’s body deteriorate, often made me feel very discouraged.  Psalm 62 reminds the caregiver-and all of us-that no matter what we are facing we need never be shaken, because the Lord is our rock or foundation. He is our sure foundation, even when it seems as if our world is crumbling and falling down around us. The Lord is also our salvation. He is our Savior from our sins. He further saves us from many unseen perils and pitfalls each and every day. The Lord is our fortress or protection. Hence, no matter what is going on in our lives; we need never give up and be anxious in our spirits.

Family care-giving can present many difficult challenges.  In spite of all life’s troubles, however, we all must learn the secret of waiting and resting in the Lord. So often when we face a crisis in our lives we try to work out the adverse situation or circumstances by our own devices.  Often we go to the Lord only as a last resort. We need to go to the Lord first.  Rest and peace for our souls can be found in the Lord God alone. Then nothing can ultimately shake us.  No matter what the situation we can trust the Lord and rest in Him in quiet submission. Our well-being for time and for eternity depends on the Lord God alone. He is our sure foundation and refuge.

We have the absolute assurance of the Lord's protecting presence in our lives at all times. Thus Psalm 62 reminds us to trust in God in all situations and at all times.  We must pour out our hearts to Him for help in facing the difficult situations, for God is our help and refuge.   The Lord will never fail us. The Lord understands us and our needs perfectly. The Lord understands our needs and sympathizes with us better than anyone else is able to do. Resorting to our own devices to get us through a crisis will prove to be of no avail, but our God is our refuge and help. We serve a faithful God. We also serve a loving and powerful God! If we trust in the Lord, He will direct our paths!  He will direct your path also, dear Christian caregiver!  You can count on it!


Sunday, September 15, 2019

Never Separated From Christ's Love

(This post is a chapter from my book, Dear Caregiver Reflections for Family Caregivers.)

Sometimes the future can seem so uncertain and fearful to a caregiver of a loved one with a terminal illness. As a caregiver I remember having such fears. As children of God, however, we have victory in Christ Jesus, our Lord! We need to fear nothing, for the Lord is on our side! Nothing can separate us from the love of God! What an awesome thought, and what an awesome promise! In light of all this there can be overflowing joy in our hearts!

We are secure in Christ for time and for eternity. Sometimes we may feel as if everything is against us, but the Word of God teaches us that the great God of the universe is always for us and is always with us! Romans 8:31-32) God proved His love for us by sending His only Son to die for our sins. Surely we can trust Him to provide us with everything we need for time and eternity. In the uncertainties of life Christian caregivers can rest in the Lord. They have the Lord God on their side, and they are victors in Him!

Nothing will happen to us that is not in God's plan for our lives, so we need not fear. Finally, Christ is always interceding for His children before God the Father! He is interceding for you dear Christian caregiver! He knows your heartaches, your challenges, and your fears; and He is praying for you! What a blessed promise!

In light of all this, what set of circumstances can ever separate you from the love of Christ, dear, Christian caregiver? (Romans 8:35a) The answer is that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ! No matter what hardship, trials or heartaches you may be experiencing in your life at the moment, dear caregiver, you are never separated from the love of Christ.

In fact, trials in our lives are part of God's plan and purpose for our lives to mold us to become more like Jesus in our character and attitudes. You are not separated from God’s love by the heartaches of care-giving. Rather the Lord is with you in a special way guiding and comforting you.

What is more Romans 8:37 teaches you that you are more than a conqueror! You become a conqueror through the trials of care-giving by patiently enduring these trials and by being submissive to the Lord's will. You become more than a conqueror by using these experiences to grow in your love and service for the Lord.

God always see us through difficult times and brings us to ultimate victory. He will do the same for you, dear Christian caregiver. Victory is always assured for the Christian-if not in this life, then in eternity. Your loved one may be healed on this earth, or he or she may be healed in eternity. There will be victory for your loved one either way. There will be victory for you too, dear caregiver. If your loved one goes to live with the Lord, you may feel as if your life has been shattered in a million pieces, but God will bring ultimate victory and peace for you also.

Absolutely nothing will ever separate us from the love of God and the victory we have in the Lord Jesus Christ! (Romans 8:38-39) Praise the name of the Lord for our victory in Him!



Sunday, September 8, 2019

Changes

Changes, even good changes, are challenging.  I remember the change of marrying my first husband, Wayne, in 1971.  It was a good change, but it involved working together instead of just thinking of our own selfish needs and wants.  I remember the changes of children coming into our lives and later them starting kindergarten and still later going off to college.  I further remember grandchildren entering our lives.  Many of these changes were wonderful.  Some required a little adapting on our part.

There were the challenges of unemployment at a few different times in our lives.  Those were difficult changes and challenges, but through it all we found the Lord to be faithful.  Later there was the devastating challenge of Wayne's diagnosis.  Each change and step downward in his physical functioning was difficult.  Finally losing Wayne to death and then becoming a widow was also a life-changing event.  Yet through those difficult years Jesus Christ became very precious to me.  My relationship with Him and my reliance on the promises of His Word became more and more wonderful to me.  That was a good change.  So even in the difficult changes of life, God can bring wonderful changes in us as well.

After eight and a half years of widowhood I once again married.  My new husband's name is Bob.  We are now married eight weeks.  This is a wonderful change in my life, but it too involves adaptations.  It involves laying down my life for my husband and not just thinking about myself.  It involves finding a new normal in a new house.  It involves putting my former house on the market and a busier life style.  Also as wonderful as my new life has become with my new husband, there are still challenges-like concerns and heartaches for family members.

Yet through all the changes good and "bad," God has been good.  God has grown me spiritually through them all.  What are the changes and challenges in your life, dear reader?  Through the difficult changes and through the exciting and wonderful changes, God will be with you step by step.  Lean on Him.  He will use all the changes for His glory and your ultimate good.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

The Tapestry of Our Lives

(This week's post is a chapter from my book, Dear Caregiver Reflections for Family Caregivers.)

Romans 8:28 in the Bible promises us that in both the pleasant circumstances and in the tragic circumstances of life, God is working for our good.  It is a blessed promise.  We can rest in that promise and trust in it when the world around us seems to be falling apart, but it is also a promise with which we may at times struggle.

I remembers first struggling with the promise of Romans 8:28 when my dad was suffering the excruciating pain of cancer and radiation. I wondered how "all things" could possibly be working for good in this case?  It is also something I pondered when my husband was diagnosed with a devastating neurological disease. It was something I thought about when I was struggling with the challenges of care-giving, and I saw the effects my husband’s disease was having on his body. It was something I was confused about when my husband passed away four and a half years later.

The key to understanding this verse is to realize that not all things are good in themselves. Sin has wracked havoc with our world, and there are many experiences in this world that are not good or pleasant in themselves. God, however, works both the "good" and the "bad" events of our lives together for our ultimate good.

It has been said that life is like a tapestry. When you look at the backside of a tapestry it does not look beautiful. There are knotted-off ends and threads that seem to have no meaning or beauty. When one turns the tapestry over, however, one sees a beautiful picture or design.

Dear caregiver, when you see the difficulties and heartaches of care-giving, you are seeing only the backside of the tapestry of life. God, however, is bringing all the threads or events of our lives together-both the good and bad, into a beautiful tapestry. The Lord already sees the top part of our tapestry of life. The Lord already sees the beautiful end result of what He is accomplishing in our lives. When we do not understand the reason for the difficult circumstances in our lives and in the lives of our loved ones, we must simply trust that the Lord is working out all things in our lives for His glory and to accomplish His plan. He is also working out all things for our ultimate spiritual good.

The ultimate spiritual good that the Lord God is seeking to accomplish in our lives is that we might become more like Jesus in our thoughts, attitudes, and actions (Romans 8:29). In order for this to happen, there must be a conforming process taking place in our lives. This conforming process often can only occur during times of trial and difficulty in our lives. Gelatin is only able to be conformed or shaped to the mold into which it is placed after it has been dissolved in hot water. So we often have to go through the heat of trials and difficulties to become more conformed to the likeness of Jesus. 

God has the pattern for our lives all figured out. He knows and understands the beautiful tapestry that He is weaving for our lives. He knows the beginning from the end. We must trust the Lord to do His beautiful work in our lives, even in times when life's events and circumstances seem very difficult and overwhelming!


Sunday, August 25, 2019

The Chapters of Our Lives

We have many moments and chapters in our lives.  Some of these chapters in our lives are joyful ones.  Some are them are difficult and challenging.  We tend to look at special dates on the calendar and reflect about the past moments of our lives.  I especially tend to do this.

Seventy-two years ago yesterday on August 24, 1947 a little baby girl was born.  Her parents named her Sharon Lynn.  She was her parents first child, and she was born two weeks earlier than expected. As you may have guessed this little girl is the author of this blog post.

The chapters in my life included my birth in IA and my growing up years in MN and SD.  I was a quiet introvert type child.  Later came the early adult chapter of my life.  I moved to WI, taught first grade for three years at a Christian school, met and married my husband, Wayne, and raised a family of three sons.

Later chapters in my life included the marriages of my sons and wonderful grandchildren. One of the difficult chapters of my life was the diagnosis of my husband's rare neurological disease (Multiple Systems Atrophy) in 2006, my breast cancer diagnosis in 2007, and my husband's death in early 2011.

One of the joyful chapters of my life is my recent remarriage to my new husband, Bob.  Finding unexpected new love in my life has been a blessing.  It was also a blessing to celebrate my first birthday with him in my life yesterday.  Yet even in this exciting chapter in my life I have had new adjustments, concerns about getting my former home up for sale, and deep concerns about family members.

Yer all these chapters in my life were ordained by God.  Psalm 139:16 says, "All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be."  God has ordained all the days and chapters of your life as well, dear caregiver.  If I had been able to chose, I would have not chosen the care-giving chapter of my life or perhaps even difficult moments which occurred before that chapter in my life.  I certainly would not have chosen the chapter of widow.

Yet God truly does bring beauty from the ashes of the difficult chapters of our lives.  God says in John 16:33b, "In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart I have overcome the world."  He has overcome the world, and He will use our heartaches to advance His kingdom and for our spiritual growth and even joy.

Dear caregiver, the Lord is using your care-giving experience to stretch and grow you in dependence on Him and in love for Him.  He is using it to bring new spiritual fruit in your life.  Finally, He is using it in His kingdom both now and in the days ahead.  Dear caregiver, I understand how difficult the care-giving chapter of your life can be.  I lived it.  Yet God wants you to walk with Him holding His hand during this chapter of your life.  He wants you to rest in Him trusting that He will lead you through this time in your life with purpose for now and the future.  If you belong to Him; He delights in you, dear caregiver!


Sunday, August 18, 2019

Him Bearing Your Burdens

(This post is a chapter from my book, Dear Caregiver Reflections for Family Caregivers.)

The path of being a caregiver for a family member is sometimes so steep and so exhausting.  If caregivers carry a load of fear and sometimes false guilt on their backs, the way is going to be even more difficult.  If a loved one is terminally ill and deteriorating month by month before a caregiver's eyes, it is so easy to feel a sense of false guilt when a caregiver witnesses these things in his or her loved one's life.  As a caregiver, I remember having these feelings.  The truth of the matter is that it is totally irrational to fear or feel guilty about the uncontrollable.

It is important at such times to remember that God is the one who is in control of our lives and not us.  The Lord God also wants us to remove the heavy emotional loads we put on ourselves.  In Matthew 11:28-30 in the Bible the Lord invites us to come to Him when we feel weary and emotionally weighed down, and He promises to give us His rest.  He invites us to yoke or tie our lives to Him, and He promises to lighten our load.  He will then be carrying our load.  This is the way to true freedom.

It is His unconditional love and presence that can free you, dear caregiver, from the fears and other negative emotions.  Spend time in His presence each day through prayer and Bible reading.  Bask in the light of His promises and presence in this way.  Your care-giving heartaches and problems will not magically go away, but the Lord will be beside you each step of the way.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Caregiver Worries

(This post is yet another chapter from my book, Dear Caregiver Reflections for Family Caregivers.)

There are many stresses and challenges which accompany being a family caregiver. This is especially true for the caregiver who is caring for a loved one who has a long standing terminal illness. It is easy for the caregiver to fall into the pit of fear and discouragement. There can be fears and worries about just getting through the day and also for the future. I remember experiencing these stresses and fears as a caregiver of my husband.

The Lord God wants us to release those worries to Him. This is so very difficult to do when the challenges are so overwhelming. In the measure we release those worries to the Lord and seek Him the more we will experience His peace, however. 

The Lord God loves you with an everlasting love, dear Christian caregiver. Our minds can not fully comprehend His unfailing love. Our emotions often fluctuate and falter in the face of difficult circumstances. I know this was true of me as a caregiver and is also true of me since my care-giving days. God’s love and faithfulness always remains constant, however. Cling to that, dear Christian caregiver. 

Remember too, dear caregiver, that God is sovereign over your life and the life of your loved one for whom you are caring. He is in control. Caregivers have to manage so many things for their loved ones. They not only have to care for their love one’s needs, but they also often have to be their loved one’s advocate. As a caregiver I sometimes felt as if I was the only one who cared about my husband’s well-being. Perhaps you feel the same way, dear caregiver. This can be a lonely feeling. 

Know, however, dear caregiver, that God is in control. Trust Him for your and your loved one’s future. Also thank Him each day for blessings that are still in your life. Trust and thankfulness are the keys to peace. Is not that a better alternative to worry and wringing of one’s hands which does absolutely no good? 

Trust the Lord, dear caregiver. Give Him your worries and concerns for your loved one. He is in control, and He will be faithful to you all the way.