Saturday, June 17, 2017

Father's Day and Our Heavenly Father

Sunday is Father's Day in the United States.  It is a wonderful day to honor fathers.  Yet sometimes this day and other holidays can be bittersweet.  On this Father's day weekend I remember my own Dad and also remember Wayne, my husband and the father of my children.  They have both passed onto their Heavenly home.  Yet during their lives on earth they both provided strong spiritual guidance and were an example for their families. They both demonstrated a strong work ethic and loved their families.  They were both men of great patience, calmness, and humility.  Finally, they both maintained their steadfast faith even during the last difficult years of their lives.  I also remember my father-in-law with fond memories.  Finally, I am thankful to my three sons who are all Godly men and are raising their families in the ways of the Lord.

Perhaps, you are a former caregiver who took care of either a father, father-in-law, or a husband. Perhaps, you are a current family caregiver who is caring for one of these and are feeling the sorrow of your loved one's decline.  On this day and every day try to remember the sweet memories.  Try to remember how your loved one has impacted your life in good and sweet ways in the past.  If your past does not contain sweet and loving memories with your loved one, concentrate on the love of your Heavenly Father who has never left you or forsook you.  He is the Heavenly Father to which all of us can cling for love, protection and grace.

Sometimes when we have lost someone or are seeing significant declines in our loved ones, we feel sadness in the loss of that person or in the loss of the way things used to be.  Let's use this day and every day in our lives to remember the sweet memories and also to be thankful for the daily blessings our Heavenly Father showers on us.  Let us rejoice in our Heavenly Father.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Care-giving for Aging Parents

Recently I read an excellent article on family care-giving in the New Horizons magazine.  The New Horizons magazine happens to be the magazine for the church denomination to which this writer belongs.  There are many kinds of family care-giving, but this particular article speaks about caring for aging parents.  Click on the link below to read this thoughtful and well-written article.

https://www.opc.org/nh.html?article_id=922

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Care-giving, "Pleasant Places"?

During my family care-giving days the book of Psalms in the Old Testament of the Bible became especially meaningful to me.  It continues to be so in my days as a widow.  Recently in my devotions I was again reading Psalm 16.  It is beautiful Psalm filled with rich truths and promises.  This Psalm speaks to my heart in many ways.

Psalm 16 talks about the fact that there is no good thing outside of the Lord.  So often we run after things and possessions to try to fill up the empty places in our hearts.  Things and even relationships can be good in themselves, but without the Lord in our lives they are meaningless.  Without the Lord they lead to frustration and dead-ends.

Yet with the Lord in our lives even the trials can turn into blessings.  As my devotional for Psalm 16 pointed out, God allows all our unique circumstances for a reason.  These circumstances shape who we are as people.  They also affect how we uniquely serve God and minister to others.  I know everything that happened to me since I was a child and now as an adult affects both my personality and my relationship with God and others.

Psalm 16: 5-6 says, "Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure.  The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance."  But wait a minute, has God always given me "pleasant places?"  When I think about those care-giving years where I watched my husband's body deteriorate step by step, I still to this day have sad feelings.  There were many moments which were challenging and many moments which one would not consider "pleasant places."  There have been challenging moments for me also as a widow that do not seem like "pleasant places."

Yet even those moments which seem challenging and less than pleasant are for my good and for God's glory.  They gave me purpose during those days that I was a caregiver and continue to influence who I am and what I do to this day.  They have opened up doors of ministry in my post care-giving days that could have come in no other way.  Sometimes ministry to others can only come because of our past pain or in the midst of present pain.  You may not be able to make sense of your present care-giving situation, dear caregiver, but trust that God is using you now and will in the days ahead because of that present situation in you life.

Trust too, dear care-giver, that the Lord will counsel and instruct you step by step in the whole care-giving experience and in the years beyond.  So you need "not be shaken (Psalm 16:7-8)."  There are many times when I have felt shaken and felt panic about life's situations.  Yet I know that there is a no need for it.  When I remind myself of God's promises to always be with me, much calmness can return. Also in the loneliness of those care-giving days of my past, the Lord was there to comfort me. He is also there for me in my days as a widow.  On top of that He promises me joy in this life and in eternity (Psalm 16:11).

So yes, dear caregiver, if you are a child of God, you have God's promise of "pleasant places" and a "delightful inheritance."  (Another translation of the Bible says "beautiful inheritance.")  Trust Him in the challenging and painful moments. Trust that He knows what He is doing. Trust that He is using you now in powerful ways and will also do so in the future. He has assigned you your "portion and cup (Psalm 16:5), and He will use it in service to Him and others and for your spiritual and emotional good.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

No Regular Post This Week

There will be no regular post this week.  Use this week to reread older posts.  Since Monday is Memorial Day in the United States, I want to wish you all a blessed week-end.  For some of you this may be a difficult day, as you remember loved ones who have passed.  I remember my Dad who served in the Navy.  I also remember my, husband, Wayne, who was in the Army Reserves.  I further remember my brother who served in the Army but is still with us.  For those who have lost precious loved ones whether they were in the military or not (like me who lost my Mom just a few months ago) make it a day of thinking about the happy memories you have of your loved ones.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Lessons From my Vacuum Cleaner

Some time back I noticed that my vacuum cleaner was no longer picking up well.  I knew that my bag in my vacuum cleaner was probably full, and I knew that was the reason my vacuum cleaner was no longer working well.  For a few different reasons (none of them very good reasons) I put off changing the bag.  One of those reasons was that I had no replacement bags on hand, and I needed to go to the store to purchase some new bags.

When I finally replaced the bag in my vacuum cleaner it was indeed very full. There was dirt and lint even up into the hose part of my vacuum cleaner, which I had to clean out.  Before I bought and installed the new bag, I in essence was choosing to ignore the fact that a problem existed.  This, however, did not erase the fact that dirt was accumulating.  Hence, my vacuum cleaner was not fully functional.

The same can be true of life.  Is anything clogging your life, dear caregiver?  Are you allowing bitterness, impatience, or depression to clutter and clog up your life? The best way to prevent that from happening is by continual spiritual maintenance. You need to take the negative feelings which can sometimes crop up to the Lord in prayer.  You also need to spend time daily in God's Word searching for His promises.  You further need to find things each day for which you are thankful. Finally, trust and rest in the Lord.  Thankfulness and trust are the key to joy and peace.

On a purely emotional and physical level there are also some other things you should and can do.  Try very hard to get enough sleep each night.  Also take at least a part of each day for reprieve and to energize yourself.  Do something each day that you enjoy even if it only for a few minutes.  Finally, do not engage in second guessing yourself or false guilt in regards to your care of your loved one. You are an imperfect human being, but you are doing the best that you can,  Don't let your care-giving and other life circumstances clog you up emotionally, spiritually, or physically.  You are too precious in God's sight to do that to yourself, dear caregiver!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Pruning

In recognition of Mother’s day I have from time to time (including this year) received flowers. When we receive cut flowers we are told to cut an inch or so off the bottom of the stems and then put them in water with some plant food added. It is also a good idea to take off the outer petals.

This process of cutting the stems off the ends of cut flowers has never logically made sense to me. Neither has it ever made sense to me to cut vines and other plants way back. Pruning of vines is an even more drastic cutting back process than just cutting off the ends of the stems of cut flowers. In fact, when completed the vine branch can appear to be dead. This pruning is a necessary and a good thing to do, however. In fact, because the branch is attached to the vine; it can grow to be productive, new, and beautiful once again.

This is true also about the cutting or hurtful aspects and experiences of life. Care-giving can often become very challenging and overwhelming. It can be discouraging and hurt us emotionally at times, as we see our loved ones deteriorate in their health. Just as we may wonder why it is necessary for a plant to be cut way back, it often is puzzling to understand why we have to undergo the painfully cutting experiences of life.

Yet during my very difficult care-giving years and during my grief since my husband’s death over 6 years ago I know the Lord has been shaping my character and drawing me closer to him. He is also cutting away attitudes and fears that are not appropriate and making me more dependent on Him. Like cut flowers and like a branch on a vine which has been cut back, I can grow into something beautiful and productive because of this pruning in my life.  Just as cut flowers need plant food, I also have to feed on God's Word, however, for this to take place in my life.

The branch on a vine also cannot grow into something beautiful again, however, unless it is attached to the vine. So also I cannot grow into something beautiful unless I am attached to the Vine, the Lord Jesus. This is spoken of in John 15 in the Bible.

Dear Christian caregiver, the pruning that takes place in the difficult moments of care-giving and in life in general hurts. It is okay to acknowledge that it hurts. You are not alone, however, if you are attached to the Living Vine, Jesus Christ. You will be okay. Not only will you be okay, but you will flourish. Remind yourself of this when the dark moments sometimes come.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Different Kinds of Care-giving

Until Tuesday of last week I had my sister-in-law, my daughter-in-law, and my 6 month and now 7 month old grandson in my home for a few weeks.  It was joy to get to know and interact with my little grandson whom I previously had not seen since shortly after his birth. It was fun to see the new things he learned in just the few weeks he had been in my home. During that time he learned to roll over, to sit on his own and to move backwards. It is amazing how far a baby can move with just a combination of rolling and moving backwards.  He also learned a few new words.

Babies are so much fun, but the truth of the matter is that they also involve a lot of work and care-giving. They need constant care and attention   Also if they do not receive what they want on their timetable, they let you know it in no uncertain terms.  My little grandson will still sometimes waken his Mom in the middle of night demanding playtime or comfort. Babies are wonderful when they turn on their charm and flash you a special smile like my sweet little grandson does.  Yet they also require much attention and care.  Yet parents (and grandparents) willingly give them this attention because of their love for them.

So what is the difference between the sometimes demanding care we give babies and children and the care family caregivers give their loved ones who are experiencing some disease or disability?  There are many differences.  With a normally developing baby we see them learning new skills and vocabulary.  We are excited about these new developments in them.  When we care for a loved one with a disease, we may see steady declines in ability to function in this world. This can be a source of heart ache for those who are caring for them.  I know it was for me, as I watched my husband, Wayne, deteriorate step by step during those years that I was his caregiver.

There seems to be real purpose and joy in helping and watching babies and children reach their full potential and maturity.  It is perhaps more difficult to find purpose and joy in caring for a loved one who is declining in his or her health.  Yet family care-giving is the most important and significant job you may ever undertake, dear caregiver.  You are adding joy, comfort, and dignity to the last days of your loved one's life.  Who else can do that in the same way that you are doing it, dear caregiver? You are also showing to the world a picture of Christ-like sacrificial love.  Yes, you are doing that even on the days when you feel you are failing and running out of patience, dear caregiver.

If you are a child of God another thing you are doing is preparing your loved one for Eternity.  As I told you in a past post. I was able to spend the last few minutes of my Mom's life by her bedside.  I sang hymns to her, talked to her, and read Scripture to her.  Even though she did not noticeably respond, I believe I was helping prepare her for Eternity.  I guess when I was taking care of my husband as his caregiver, however, I never really thought of that care as preparing him for Eternity. Yet upon reflection that is exactly what I was doing.  It is exactly what you are doing as well, dear Christian caregiver.  Christian caregivers with their sacrificial love are preparing their loved ones to be handed over to the caring and loving hands of their Savior in God's perfect timing.  What could be more significant and important than that?  Thank you for all that you do, dear caregiver!

P.S.
Will you indulge me by letting me post a picture of my youngest grandson to which I referred in this post and also one of my husband and I in my husband's last months of his life?  How my husband would have loved to have met this little one.