Sunday, August 13, 2017

Conflicting Emotions and Blessings

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


I scribed the following words in early June of 2010 about seven months before my husband’s death:

“My heart is filled with so many conflicting emotions tonight. I still feel burdened by the fact that I know we have taken another step backwards in my husband’s disease. Just the fact that I have to help him every time he goes to the bathroom so we don’t endanger him of falling and that I am now helping him into bed means we are taking another step backwards.

It also means I have to get up in the middle of the night, if he has to use the bathroom. It means more fatigue for me. It further means I can’t leave him for as long of time during the daytime. This is discouraging to me. I so tire of the adjustments to new changes and seeking new solutions. Sometimes I wonder how long it will be before I can no longer take care of him-Years? Months?

I also have so many blessings all around me, however. As I am writing this I can hear the twitter of birds outside my window. I am blessed each day by the perennials around our new home which have been coming out one at a time. Since I don’t know the names of a lot of the flowers, it has been a joy seeing new beautiful flowers popping out. It is like little gifts from God assuring me of His love. He also assures me in the Bible that He will always be with me.

I was blessed the other day with my sister-in-law taking my husband out for a drive and giving me some alone time at home. I was blessed today in church. I am blessed with the fact that we will be getting some in-home therapy for my husband scheduled to start tomorrow.

Lord, help me just to trust, just to rest, just to release. Help me not to worry so much about the ending of the story, for it ultimately will be good. Help me to enjoy and revel in the daily blessings even in the midst of hard times.”

Dear caregiver, the challenges of care-giving for a loved one can be so very emotionally, physically, and even spiritually challenging. The heartaches of the declines in their health over which you have no ultimate control is so discouraging. Remember, however, dear caregiver, that the Lord is with you each step of the way. Also in the midst of the heartaches look for the wonders and blessings. They are always there, and it will help you get through the pain of the tough times.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Life's Lessons Observed

I volunteer most Tuesdays at a church which facilitates a program that serves people with beginning to moderate dementia.  It is a wonderful social program for the participants and also serves as a much needed respite for their caregivers.  It is further a huge blessing for us as volunteers to be able to serve others this way.  We gain more than we receive.

Recently we took the participants on a little outing for the morning and early afternoon. It was beautiful day for this outing.  The weather could not be more perfect.  For most of the participants and volunteers it was a very enjoyable day.  One participant, however, seemed to have gotten caught up in a negative mental loop on this occasion. She also happened to be the one I was paired with that day.

There were a few things that day for which I had to exercise patience.  They included her repetition of the same story and questions over and over. They also included her insistence that since our outing had taken us so close to her daughter's place the bus should drop her off there instead of taking her back to the church to finish off the day. She simply would not let it go, and kept arguing the point. Obviously protocol, legality, and wisdom would not allow us to honor her request, but she could not understand the wisdom of it all.

I needed to remind myself that this woman even with her beginning dementia was and is made in the image of God.  I also was thinking the next morning how much we are sometimes like that with God. We often just do not understand God's ways with us, and we do not understand His plan.  We are not always willing to trust God's wisdom in allowing what He does in our lives.  We may question the wisdom of God's ways and decisions.

Personally I think about all the indignities my husband went through because of his disease.  I think of all the heartache I experienced as his caregiver.  I think of the grief of losing him and living my life as a widow.  It is tempting to think, "Why, God?"  I do see much good which has come in my character as a result of all this.  I see how my love for the Lord has grown, and I see ministry for others which has resulted.  I see partially God's reasons and plans in it all, but I will never see the whole picture at least not before Eternity.

I simply have to trust that God knows what He is doing.  I need to trust that He loves me with an everlasting love and that He is so much wiser than I am. As one book that I read recently put it, I need to give up trying to understand God and just praise Him and thank Him for His love.

Dear caregiver, the challenges of care-giving and life in general can be overwhelming at times.  Trust that the Lord is with you through it all.  Trust in His love and wisdom. He is infinitely wiser than you are.





Sunday, July 30, 2017

Wedding Anniversary Reflections

Forty-six years ago today on July 30, 1971 I married my husband, Wayne, the love of my life.  He was a wonderful husband, and we had a good marriage.  We raised three sons together and were able to see each of our sons marry Christian woman.  For two of these weddings we had to travel internationally to witness the weddings.  (God has a way of bringing surprises into our lives that we could never have envisioned.)  Wayne and I were also able to experience together the birth of seven of our nine grandchildren.  The last two grandchildren were born after Wayne's death, the last one in October.

As I said before our marriage was a good marriage.  We faced some trials, but we faced them together with the Lord's help.  Wayne was the love of my life.  But the last few years of Wayne's life and of our marriage were very difficult.  As you know from my previous blog posts these years were the years of Wayne's neurological disease.  These were difficult years, as I saw Wayne deteriorate step by step until he was completely disabled.  They were emotionally and physically draining years, and they took all the spiritual reserves that I had.

As I think about this anniversary of my wedding to Wayne, I am thankful for who Wayne was to me in my life.  I am so thankful for the love that he showed me in so many ways.  I also am saddened by the years that his dignity was slowly taken from him by his disease which step by step made him increasingly disabled.  I am saddened by what I went through as his caregiver during those years.

Yet I am also joyful in the thought of Wayne being free from all that now and with the Lord.  I am joyful in the realization that I know the Lord was with me every step and will continue to be with me every step of the way the rest of my life.  Yet I miss my husband even after six and a half years, so I ask that you will pray for me especially today on the anniversary of our marriage.

I have learned so much through my care-giving experience and my grief experience.  I have learned that dependence on the Lord is the only way to navigate this life.  I have learned that weakness in my self is a good place to be, for then the strength of the Lord can be shown.  Another words I am the strongest when I recognize my weakness, because then Christ's strength flows through me in amazing ways.  I have learned that I am in control of nothing, but I am never alone.  The Lord is with me step by step.  My relationship with the Lord has become so very sweet, and I know He loves me and delights in me.  I have learned that He is sufficient.  Others may fail me, but He will not.  I may not always understand His ways, but I can trust Him.

So, you too can depend on Him, dear caregiver.  He is your strength in your weakness.  He is in control and will walk with you each step of your care-giving journey and throughout your entire life.  He loves you and will be with you, dear caregiver.  Because of my experiences as a caregiver, it is my passion to encourage you in these things as a caregiver.  That is why I write this blog, and that is why I wrote my book.  I care about you, dear caregiver.  God bless you in all you do.

If you would like to see some sweet memories of Wayne and I, one picture of our wedding day and also some pictures of our children when they were very little; go to the link below.  Here is a link to my Pinterest folder concerning that:  https://www.pinterest.com/jesuschild54/sweet-memories/


Also if you wish to order my book to encourage family caregivers here is the Amazon link to my order page:  https://www.amazon.com/Dear-Caregiver-Sharon-Vander-Waal/dp/1629524263?ie=UTF8&keywords=Dear%20Caregiver&qid=1464624581&ref_=sr_1_1&s=books
My book is also found at Barnes and Noble and elsewhere online.  My book is available in Kindle and Nook versions as well as paperback.  Finally, you can get a copy directly from me as well.  Just e-mail me at jesuschild54@hotmail.com for specifics, if you wish to go that route.


Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Folly of Trying to Control

(This blog post is from a chapter of my book:  Dear Caregiver Reflections for Family Caregivers by Sharon Vander Waal.  In many ways this post reflects the same sentiments expressed in my post called "Vulnerability" of a couple weeks ago.)

As a caregiver I remember sometimes thinking about the future and worrying about the progression of my husband’s terminal disease. I remember worrying about how I would take care of my husband after he became completely disabled. As it turned out the last months of my husband’s life especially did become very difficult, but the Lord also provided for those circumstances.

During the course of my husband’s disease in addition to worrying I felt very much that what I did or did not do would influence the speed with which the disease would progress. I think I subconsciously felt as if I had some control in my husband’s disease.

God, however wants us to trust Him enough to let life’s events unfold without striving to control or predict them. He wants us to relax in His unfailing love. When we try to predict or control the future in any way we are trying to be self-sufficient. God wants us to rely on Him alone.

Caregivers are loving and strong advocates for their loved ones. They often have to be. They also need to be responsible in providing any medical help possible for their loved ones. One thing caregivers must remember, however, is that in the end they cannot control the progression of their loved one’s disease. Only God can control this. Caregivers anxiously wringing their hands trying to control the uncontrollable can result in a losing out on the time they do have with their loved ones.

The better alternative to worrying about the future and trying to control the future is to live in the present moment depending fully on the Lord God. When I think back on my care-giving days I remember this was so difficult to do. Worrying and trying to control, however, leaves us fearing our own inadequacy. I remember those feelings also, dear caregiver. Instead in all of life’s struggles we need to rejoice in God’s abundant supply of strength which He gives us for each difficult situation as it arises.

Dear Christian caregiver, do not divide your life into things you think you can handle by yourself and things for which you need God’s help. The truth is you need help for it all. Rely on Him for every caregiving situation. Doing so will help you face each care-giving day with confidence.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Preparation for the Valley

(Following is a chapter from my book:  Dear Caregiver Reflections for Family Caregivers.)

Seeking to provide for my husband’s needs during my care-giving days could get emotionally heavy at times, but I feel my past experiences helped to prepare me somewhat for the care-giving challenges. One of these experiences actually coincided with the beginning stages of my care-giving days. That experience was my fight against breast cancer.

In July of 2007, about a year after my husband was diagnosed with his disease, I noticed a swelling in my right breast and under my arm. I was able to book an appointment with my physician’s assistant. She sent me for a mammogram and MRI the next day. A couple days later I received the devastating news that I did indeed have breast cancer and that the cancer had invaded my lymph nodes. The tumor in my breast was very large, and my doctor told me later that my lymph nodes were all gummed together.

A few days later I found myself at my oncologist’s office, and after a full body scan at the hospital I began chemo. I began chemo by the end of July of 2007. All together I had 8 chemo treatments in 3 week cycles, mastectomy surgery with all my lymph nodes under my arm removed, and 6 1/2 weeks of radiation daily. Side effects of chemo were fatigue, mild nausea sometimes, food tasting like cardboard, loss of all of my hair etc. Radiation caused some burning, but it was manageable. All treatment was completed in April of 2008!

During the time of my cancer treatments I had a host of people praying for me-even people across the ocean! We also had people from our church bringing in meals twice a week for a long time. I further had church people bringing me to all my chemo treatments and most of my radiation treatments. The medical people at my cancer care center were wonderful.

Cancer treatments would not be a time that I would want to go through again, but at the same time it was a time of blessing as well as hardship. It is hard to explain, but I became more free in my spirit and less concerned about other’s opinions as a result to this cancer experience. I experienced the love of other people, and most of all I experienced the love of my Lord and Savior in a new and fresh way. I learned dependence on the Lord God during those many months, and I grew in my faith. The Lord’s strength and His love to me demonstrated through others helped me through those months.

I still am miles away from having it altogether. Just perhaps, however, I will be able to face today and the days ahead with more of God’s strength, because of my cancer experience and my experiences with the heartaches of care-giving. The memory of those days will never go away. It has changed whom I am forever mostly for the good.

I know that there will always be problems in this life, but I am further certain that my Lord and Savior will be with me all through my life. I know He will give me the strength to handle anything I need to face in the future. Even in hard times God has promised to be with me and bless me and someday take me to live with Him eternally. Dear Christian caregiver rest in Him.



(Look on the side of this home page for a link to the order page for my book on Amazon. The book is also available at Barnes and Noble and elsewhere online.  If you prefer a signed copy from me directly, just e-mail me at jesuschild54@hotmail.com for specifics.)

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Vulnerability

Recently over the July 4th week-end I returned from a few days trip to visit family in IA and MN.  I went with a widow friend of mine.  It is about a 500 mile trip one way. Whenever my friend and I do this trip I always am more aware of my vulnerability.  We are two widows, I pushing seventy years old and she seventy-one years old.

Yet as a recent devotion I read pointed out, there is very little in this earthly life that is secure.  Even if I sit in my "secure" home all the time, something unplanned and even devastating can happen.  The only true place of security is in the Lord and in my trust in His faithfulness.

I remember back to those days when I was a caregiver for my husband, Wayne.  As I watched him deteriorate step by step and become more and more disabled, I felt very vulnerable and often fearful. Yet knowing I had a faithful God who was in control is what kept me going during those difficult days.  He can also be your source of comfort and security, dear caregiver.

Feeling vulnerable is really a good place to be.  This is because it makes us aware of our own weakness and limitations.  This in turn can make us more willing to recognize that the Lord is the only one who is in control.  It then draws us to His strength and power.  We further begin to learn to rest things with Him and to trust Him to lead and guide us.

Our vulnerability also teaches us that the Lord is the only source of our joy.  The things of this earth are insecure and will never provide lasting satisfaction.  Only a relationship with the Lord can do that. That does not mean we will always feel "happy" in the way the world defines that word.  There are many things in this world which make us sad, and joy is very different than happiness.  Joy in the Lord is possible, however, in spite of circumstances.  Joy is possible for you, dear caregiver, in spite of how difficult your care-giving experience with your loved one may become.  This is because the Lord and not the empty things of this world is the source of joy.

Psalm 28:7 in the Old Testament of the Bible says this, "The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped.  My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to Him in song."  Psalm 63:7-8 says, "Because You are my help, I sing in the shadow of Your wings.  My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me." (Both verses are from the NIV 1984 translation.) Realizing your own vulnerability is a good thing, dear caregiver.  Rest in Him and in His strength.  Find joy in Him.


Sunday, June 25, 2017

He Will Equip You

(This blog post is from a chapter in my book: Dear Caregiver Reflections for Family Caregivers.  Next week I will be away from my computer, so there will not be a new post.  The next post will be on or around July 9, Lord willing.)

Dear caregiver, have you ever said to yourself, “I can not do this any longer! Why has God laid on me the task of care-giving? Who am I to be asked to do this job? I am not equipped to do this job.” As a former caregiver for my husband with a terminal disease I remember thinking these things from time to time during my care-giving days.

In an Old Testament book in the Bible God assigned a man named Moses an important task. It was an important task, but it was also an overwhelmingly daunting task and would be a huge undertaking for Moses. Hence, Moses was understandably afraid. (Read about it in Exodus chapter three in the Bible.)

Moses begin to make excuses for not being able to do the job which God had given him to do. The first question that Moses asked God when God gave him his new assignment was "Who am I, that I should do this job?”

But Moses was asking the Lord the wrong question. Moses should not have asked, "Who am I?" The real question should have been "Who is God?" Moses should not have been focusing on his own inadequacies, but he should have been focusing on the power of the Lord to help him. Moses should have been focusing on the faithfulness of the great God who had been faithful to His people in the past and who had promised to be with them in the future. Even though Moses continued to make excuses for awhile ultimately Moses obeyed God, and God used him in mighty ways

Care-giving has to be one of life’s most challenging tasks. Dear caregiver, know, however, that God is a faithful and dependable God. Completely trust in Him to always be with you and strengthen you. God is not just a God of glory and power. He is a faithful God who completely gives Himself to you. As God was with Moses in the past in the frightening and overwhelming task He assigned him, He will continue to be with you also in the sometimes overwhelming challenges of care-giving.

God has assigned you the task of care-giving, dear Christian caregiver. Because He has assigned you this task, He will also equip you. He will give you His strength as long as you need it. Our strength has nothing to do with ourselves. Our strength is wholly dependent on the Lord and His faithfulness. We must learn the secret of bringing our burdens to the Lord and leaving them there. God says that He will be with us wherever He asks us to go and in whatever He asks us to do. Trust Him and lean heavily on Him, dear caregiver!