Saturday, March 25, 2017

My Personal Testimony

( I am reposting something I posted about two years ago. I was asked to give a personal testimony after the sermon at an evening service in my church about that time. The sermon that evening was about patience endurance in trials and was based on part of James chapter five in the Bible. Following is what I said that night.)

Good evening everyone. Let me say first that I was a little blown away by the request extended to me to briefly speak with you this evening. I am certainly not a great example of “patience in trials.” Anyone thinking so, makes me very uncomfortable. Yet caring for Wayne and the years since his death certainly have been a spiritual experience and a lesson in leaning on the Lord.

Most of you know some of my story of being my husband, Wayne's caregiver. In 2006 Wayne was diagnosed with a rare neurological disease called Multiple System's Atrophy. In the midst of all this was my own diagnosis of breast cancer in July of 2007 about a year after Wayne's diagnosis, and my subsequent eight months of treatment following that.

Seeing my husband's body deteriorate during the next four and a half years after his diagnosis was definitely the most difficult experience that I had ever encountered on a physical, emotional, and spiritual level.

A difficult lesson I had to begin to try to learn during this time was to rest things with the Lord. I am not sure I did such a good job of that.  Perhaps, Wayne did a better job of that.  I never heard him ask, "Why?" during the whole course of his illness.  So many things about care-giving were out of my control.  The Lord is the only one who is really in control, however.   

During this time I knew in my head at least that God was in control, but I think I subconsciously thought, however, that everything I did or didn't do could possibly lengthen or shorten the progress of Wayne's disease.  It says in Psalm 139, however, that the number of our days are ordained for us by the Lord.  I had and have to learn that I am not in control. God is the only one in control.    I don't have to be so stressed out about everything, although I still fight that tendency.  The Lord is still on His throne, and I am still His child.    

I think I have learned that I can have a greater confidence, while at the same time I see my desperate need to depend on the Lord alone.  He has become my confidence.  Plus, now because of all I have experienced in these past years, I feel I have a story to tell, and I have passion to tell it.  I have learned of the Lord's faithfulness in very difficult circumstances and that joy can reside alongside grief and difficult times, because joy is not the same as happiness which is dependent on perfect circumstances.  Family care-giving  and my years as a widow have been a time when my character was and is being stretched in ways I would never have imagined.  It is a time when I have grown in my faith, and my faith has become so much sweeter.   

Another thing I had to learn was the value of gratitude. A piece of advice was given to me while I was a family caregiver. That advice was to write down a few things at the end of each day for which I was thankful.  It was difficult to be thankful in the chaos and drama of family care-giving, but this gratitude exercise did much to shape my attitude and to see the little wonders of God in my life.  It is a practice I still carry on today.   

My past care-giving experiences has also given me an insight and concern for other people's struggles, especially family caregivers.  It has given me a basis for being able to help them and for them knowing that I understand their struggles on many levels.  It has given me a platform to tell my story or rather the Lord's story.  

After Wayne's death I struggled with what was my new purpose in my post care-giving days.  Family care-giving becomes so consuming that it can almost become one's identity instead of just a role.  So I had to rediscover who I was as an individual and what my new roles were in life.  My roles were no longer wife and caregiver.  I think I have discovered that it is not a matter of a complete break with my past, but rather building on and using my past experiences and using them in new ways.  

There are so many beautiful Scripture passages which have become so meaningful to me through the experiences of these past years.  One of my favorites is Hebrews 13:5b which says, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."  This is a verse that I write in every one of my books that I sign.  It is a verse to which every Christian can cling.  

About a month after Wayne passed away I started a blog to encourage family caregivers.  They say once a caregiver always a caregiver, and I felt the Lord leading me to start this blog. It can be found at http://christiancaregiving.blogspot.com    Finally, I wrote my book called DEAR CAREGIVER Reflections for Family Caregivers.  It was published in April of 2014. 

And so Wayne has received his reward in eternity; and though I miss Wayne every day, God is with me.  

I would say in conclusion, depend on the Lord.  Trust His promises.  Take time to be in His Word everyday.  Don't give into fear. Also know that the Lord will use your difficult experiences in ways that you never imagined. We must tell our stories of God's grace in our lives   You may not write a book like I did, but God never wastes our experiences. We need to share them. 
  


Sunday, March 19, 2017

His Grace

I have heard people say, "I don't think I could handle that."  They then proceed to name the set of circumstances which they feel they would never be able to handle, if that set of circumstances would occur in their lives.  When I was younger I remember thinking that there were two things I just "knew" I would not be able to handle, if they happened to me.  These two things were the death of my husband and the loss of a breast.  God asked both of these things of me.  My husband died at the end of a long battle against his neurological disease in early 2011, and I lost a breast due to breast cancer in the same time frame that I was my husband's caregiver.

The truth is that God does not give us grace ahead of time.  He gives us His extra grace to handle a difficult and "impossible" situation at the time we need it and not before that time.  That does not mean that the difficult situation will be pleasant, and that one is free from negative emotions.  It just means that God will give sufficient grace and even a measure of joy and peace in the midst of the situation.

I remember being worn out by the years of care-giving for my husband and also my own health issues during part of that time.  Yet I also remember God's strength given to me.  At the end of the care-giving venture and throughout the care-giving venture my faith and love for the Lord not only remained intake, but it grew.

In the book of  ll Corinthians in the New Testament of the Bible the apostle, Paul, asked the Lord three times for release from "a thorn in the flesh." We do not know for sure what this affliction was that Paul was experiencing, but apparently it was serious enough that Paul cried out to the Lord for relief.  The Lord did not choose to take this affliction from him, however.

Instead the Lord said to Paul, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." (II Corinthians 12:9)  The Lord was going to give Paul the grace he needed moment by moment to endure and even prosper in the midst of this affliction.  Paul's response in ll Corinthians 12:9b-10 was to say, "Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.----For when I am weak, then I am strong."  Paul was content to feel weak and to suffer his affliction, because in the process the Lord's sufficient strength in Paul would be seen more clearly.

How about you dear caregiver?  Are you willing to trust that God's grace is sufficient to get you through any care-giving challenge you may face today or in the future?  I remember feeling afraid of what the future held while caring for my husband.  How was I going to handle each new decline in his physical functioning?  Yet God paved the way and gave me His strength step by step even during the moments when I felt very overwhelmed.  Do you believe, dear caregiver, that God's grace will be given to you moment by moment?  Do you believe it will be delivered at the right time and that the grace will be sufficient for every scenario? Do you believe His grace will be enough for you to stay firm in your faith and to continue to believe in God's goodness and love?

God's grace IS sufficient for all your needs, dear caregiver.  He will equip you for whatever lies ahead.  You will not only survive, but you will prosper spiritually through the process.  Even if your loved one moves on to eternity, God will give you the grace for that as well.  Through many painful moments He has done that for me.

I still often give into fear.  It is not easy to walk the walk of a widow.  In fact, I am anticipating something in my near future and am wondering how I am going to "get through it."  Yet I am reminded that God will give me the sufficient grace at the moment and moments I  need it.  God is doing and will do the same for you, dear caregiver!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Eternity

I hope you will forgive me, dear caregiver, as I write yet another post about my Mom.  My Mom passed into eternity a few days ago on Saturday, March 4.  One might think this has nothing to do with family caregivers.  Yet really all of life is about eternity.  This life is merely a preparation for eternity.  All the struggles the loved one for whom you are caring is enduring and all the struggles you also endure will be nothing when you begin experiencing the glories of Eternity some day.  In that future day you will experience these glories which are beyond our ability to fully comprehend now, if you are the Lord's child. Therefore II Corinthians 4:18 reminds us to fix our eyes on the Lord and on what is yet unseen and not on the temporary and on what our eyes can see now.

Will you then indulge me, as I share a little of my experiences of these recent past days?  As of Thursday I am home again in WI back from my trip to MN.  I was physically and emotionally tired upon arriving home and still am in many ways.  Yet my experiences while away from home though sad were also rich and sweet. Saturday morning, March 4, I was the only one of my siblings with my Mom at the moment.  I had the privilege of talking to my Mom, singing songs to her, and reading Scripture to her.  There was no outward response, but I believe she heard me.  Very shortly after she passed into Glory.  I marvel at God's timing in this in so many ways.  I will always consider it a special gift.

Visitation night on the following Tuesday and the funeral day on Wednesday were also special moments.  There were moments of weeping, shared hugs, and shared memories.  We were also reminded not only of the fact that my Mom is with the Lord, but we were reminded of our shared precious faith and Godly heritage that we have in my family.

My Mom was a caregiver for my Dad for a few years in the same way as I was a caregiver for my husband, Wayne.  We both had to rely on the Lord during those years.  We both had to release our husbands to Eternity at a certain point.  I lived five hundred miles away from my Mom; so I was not able to be directly involved with her care-giving in the same "hands-on" way, as I had for my husband.  Yet I am thankful that I may have been her caregiver in those last moments of her life. When I spoke to my Mom I reminded her of Eternity and the glories of eternity just ahead.  I encourage you to do that for yourself and for your loved one as well, dear caregiver.  Whether death is imminent for your loved one or not. life on this earth is so short.  Concentrate on Eternity, as you walk your life with purpose, dear caregiver!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

My Mom

This is not my regular post.  My 93 year old Mom had a stroke on Monday.  It is just a matter of time until she leaves this earth for her heavenly home.  My son and I are traveling to Minnesota (about 500 miles from where I live) after he gets off work tomorrow.  This will be my chance to say good-by to my Mom. I ask that you will pray that my Mom will  be able to be responsive to me.  I plan to stay until the end.  I envision this to only be days, but it could be longer.

So I will most likely not be posting here again until I get home again after my Mom's funeral.  We could be talking days or even a couple weeks.  Use this time to read some of the older posts.  God bless, dear caregiver.   




Sunday, February 26, 2017

Weather and Family Care-giving?

Recently we were blessed with unseasonably warm temperatures here in Wisconsin where I live.  We had a few days of record breaking or near record breaking temperatures in a row.  The weather was nice enough to walk outside without jackets and certainly without winter coats.  It was a nearly unheard of and very pleasant reprieve from winter in February.  The birds were singing again, and a friend of mine told me she had even seen her tulips starting to poke their heads out of the ground.

However, reality set in starting Thursday night of last week, and Friday morning I woke up to cold and wind and also snow, rain, and icy conditions.  Temperatures had dropped into the 30s degrees Fahrenheit and the 20s were predicted later in the day.  There was even a two hour delay in a couple school districts in my general area.  Obviously I prefer the warmer temperatures we were enjoying just a few days ago.  They were a special gift.  Yet as I looked out my window on Friday morning and the couple days following there was a special beauty to the winter scene as well.

We all prefer the pleasant spring-like times of life.  We often do not like the winter-like challenges and struggles of life in general and the ones which family care-giving can present.  If I had been given the opportunity to choose, I would not have chosen for my husband to be stricken with his neurological disease.  I would not have chosen the four and a half year struggle we endured dealing with his disease.  Nor would I have chosen his death in early 2011.  I would have loved to spend many happy years of retirement with him  Yet I grew so much in my love for the Lord and in my character during that time.  It also prepared me for ministry opportunities since that time which are a direct result of my care-giving years.

Neither would God's chosen people in the Bible have chosen some of the situations that they found themselves in. Yet God used these people for His glory and also developed their characters in the process.  Joseph in the Old Testament was sold into slavery by his brothers.  A host of other difficult circumstances followed Joseph after that. Yet in the end God used Joseph to save his family and people from famine.  John the Baptist was chosen to be the forerunner of Jesus. Yet in the end he was imprisoned and even ultimately beheaded. Yet Johns' faithfulness speaks to us even today.  Mary, the mother of Jesus, must have felt great emotional hurt seeing her son rejected and later crucified.  Yet God used that for our salvation.  The apostles all suffered persecution.  Yet God used all that for the spread of the Gospel and even their joy.

Dear caregiver, you may be feeling a bit overwhelmed in your current care-giving challenges with your loved one.  You perhaps dream of and would prefer a more pleasant spring-like status in your life's circumstances.  When you feel like this remember how God has helped you in the past.  (Check out Psalm 77 in the Bible especially verses 11 through 14.)  If God helped you in the past, He will help you now in His perfect timing.  Also realize that this is shaping your character. God may use this current experience of yours in awesome ways in the future,

Also know that God is using you right now not only in the life of your loved one for whom you are caring, but also in the lives of others.  Other people are watching you.  Ministry is doing God's will even when everything around you appears to be going wrong.  As you continue to persevere and continue to trust that God is in control, other people take notice and are blessed and encouraged.  Yes, even winter can be beautiful, and your example in this winter-like period of life is a beautiful thing. Thank you, for all that you do, dear care-giver!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Do You Ever Feel Fear?

Care-giving for a loved one can be very challenging.  Watching my husband's body deteriorate step by step during the years I was his caregiver was sometimes very discouraging.  Often the changes downward came so suddenly.  I would feel I was just getting accustomed to one level of functioning in my husband, when he would move down yet another level in his bodily functioning. This often caused me to fear what the future held.  Would I be able to continue to take care of him in the future?

It was during this time that I grew in my reliance on the Lord.  It was also a time when God's promises in the Bible became very meaningful to me.  Psalm 27:1 in the Old Testament of the Bible says, "The Lord is my light and my salvation-whom shall I fear?"  We can also say, "What shall I fear?"  The Lord is our stronghold in all of life's situations including the challenging situations of family care-giving.   We may be sad about some of the circumstances that are surrounding our loved ones' health and also about the challenges we face as we seek to provide for their needs, but in any and all of these situations we can trust that the Lord is guiding and providing.  We just need to wait on Him-to trust Him and rest in Him.

Below I have included a link to another post at another blog of mine.  I have linked to this blog in the past a time or two.  The name of this other blog is "Moments With God."  It is a devotional blog, and the title of the post to which I will be linking you is "Psalm 27."  Just click on the link below.  I hope you find the post a blessing, dear caregiver:

http://scripturemoments.blogspot.com/2017/01/psalm-27.html










Sunday, February 12, 2017

Your Divine Valentine

(This is a blog post which I have published the last few years.  I think it is a message worth repeating again, as Tuesday is Valentine's Day.)

Dear caregiver, do you ever feel the sorrow of things lost?  Do you ever miss the way things were in the past with your loved one for whom you are caring?  Does the approach of holidays such as Valentine's day make you feel melancholy and sad?

During those moments of sadness remember that the Lord loves you with an infinite love.  He in effect is your Divine Valentine.  He is sufficient.  He alone can give you all that you need.  Below is a poem called Your Divine Valentine:


Your Divine Valentine

A Valentine may play a love song for you, but God sings you the sweetest love song in the universe.  (Zephaniah 3:17)

A Valentine may give you flowers, but God sent you the most beautiful rose of all, Jesus.
(Song of Solomon 2:1)

A Valentine may bring you chocolate, but God provides you with something even sweeter, His Word.  (Psalm 119:103)

A Valentine may love you for a lifetime,but God loved you before you were born and will love you for all eternity,
(Jeremiah 31:3)