Sunday, October 19, 2014

Suffering and Glory

Recently during my devotions I was struck with the connection between suffering and glory (Romans 8:17).  We are "heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ," but suffering and glory are intertwined in God's plan.  It was for Jesus, and it is for us. Suffering is making us look more like Jesus day by day.  Is that not what we want-to become more like Jesus?

As a caregiver you may be saying, "Really?  I could use a little less heartaches and trials.  You do not know how difficult it is to see my loved one deteriorate in his or her health.  You do not know how difficult it is to meet his or her needs." Yes, I do understand the difficulty of that experience having lived it myself.  Yet if God promised to bring ultimate good and His glory out of the most difficult and impossible situations, can we not trust Him in everything that He allows in our lives?

Recently I also watched the movie "God is Not Dead in DVD format.  I do not remember seeing such a powerful movie before.  So many minor plots were running along side the main plot; all were pointing to the same theme that God's thoughts are higher than our thoughts, and He is not dead.  I especially liked the scene where the son was visiting his mother with dementia.  The son said in effect, "If God is alive why has a sweet person like you ended up with dementia, while I have everything going for me?"  This man's mom who did not recognize him any longer said, "The devil sometimes lets people stay in the jail cell of a carefree life, so they do not see their need of the Lord and turn to Him."  Something to think about, isn't it, when we wonder "why?" in the trials of life.

As I look back at my life I see the heartaches of seeing my husband deteriorate in his health and the helpless feelings and sadness this brought.  When I look back I see the grief of loosing him to death. Yet I also see God's care and provision for me through it all.  I see in my mind's eye my husband, Wayne, free from disease and praising the Lord in glory.  I see even blessings that have come to me from this.  As I look at my present life sometimes I see problems and have fears about my future, but I also see a God who has promised to never leave me or forsake me (Hebrews 13:5b).  I see a God who is redeeming all things for my ultimate good and His glory.

I know that some of the things you are going through, dear caregiver, may not feel good.  You may feel, as if so many things are out of your control.  Although you love your loved one with all your heart, you may feel weighed down with responsibility and heartache.  Remember that the Holy Spirit is praying for you right at this moment (Romans 8:26-27).  Also remember that as you travel this path of family care-giving, the Lord is with you each step of the way.  He has your loved one in His hands, and He has you in His hands.  Your suffering or difficulties is somehow in God's economy bringing about His glory and your ultimate glory.  It is doing the same for your loved one for whom you are caring.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Absolutely Vital


Reading, studying, and meditating on God’s Holy Word is basic to our Christian walk especially for the family caregiver. We would not think of neglecting food for our bodies, and yet it is sometimes so easy to neglect our Bible reading and prayer life. It is so necessary to read God’s Word, however, so that we are able to live our lives for the Lord as we ought.

Meditating on and obedience to God's word is also necessary for our emotional and spiritual well-being (Psalm 119:1&2). The world will not give lasting joy. Material possessions will not give us lasting joy. Only our love relationship with the Lord will give us lasting joy. As we grow in our love for the Lord, our joy also increases.

This is a joy that one can have even in the midst of problems, disappointments, challenges, and sorrow. This is a joy that the family caregiver can have even in the challenges and sometimes heartaches of caring for a loved one. Only in fellowship with the Lord and in our love relationship with the Lord can we have that joy.

We can not grow in our love relationship with the Lord, however, without studying and reading His Word. We need to hide God’s Word in our hearts.  God's Word keeps us on God’s path. The Lord’s path is not always the easiest, but it is always the best and the most joyful path for us. God is infinitely wiser than we are.

Furthermore, by hiding God’s Word in our hearts we begin to understand the vastness of His love for us. We begin to understand the number of promises that He has made to us. We begin to see that He is a faithful God, and we begin to see that His will and timing in our lives is always best. Psalm 119:14-16 says "I rejoice in following Your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. I meditate on Your precepts and consider Your ways. I delight in Your decrees; I will not neglect Your Word."

There are so many beautiful promises and truths in God’s Word that are so directly applicable to our lives! Some parts of Scripture are harder to understand than others, but I have found some wonderful promises in places of the Bible where one would least expect them. There is always something new and fresh to be found in the Bible, as we read and seek to apply its truths to our lives each day. The Lord is so good!

I have also found it helpful at times to pray Scripture in my prayers to the Lord. What better way to approach the Lord? Hiding God’s Word in our hearts adds joy and peace to our lives. God's Word also helps to direct our steps. We can absolutely count on the truth of every word in Scripture. Luke in Luke 1:4 said that he wrote the book of Luke and Acts "so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught."  Dear Caregiver, take your quiet time with the Lord seriously. Dig into God's Word and apply its truths to your life. Grow in your love of the Lord through your study of His Holy Word! It is absolutely vital to your life, dear caregiver!

 




Sunday, October 5, 2014

Peace in Focusing on Him

I was at a local craft and vendor fair yesterday taking advantage of another possible avenue for allowing people to purchase my book.  This involved sharing my caregiver story at least briefly several times yesterday.  I am amazed that after over three and a half years since my care-giving days ended, this still stirred up emotions in me.  It made me feel sad and weepy again last night.

Sometimes I think I have come come so far.  Sometimes I wonder.  I am so thankful for all the things the Lord has taught me in the last few years.  I like how my character has grown and has been stretched.  My relationship with the Lord has grown so sweet.  I believe the Lord is using me in His kingdom through my book and in other ways because of my care-giving experiences and my grief since my husband's death.  I love seeing that, but yet it hurts.  It still hurts.

I am telling you this, dear caregiver, to let you know that I still feel your heartache; as you care for your loved one.  I know it hurts, I feel your pain, as you perhaps see your loved one's health deteriorate before your eyes.  I feel your pain, as you mourn the lost of the lifestyle free from disease that you once enjoyed with your loved one.

Yet remember that the Lord has promised to never leave you or forsake you, dear caregiver (Hebrews 13:5b).  He will be with you each step of the way leading and guiding (Psalm 32:8).  The work you are doing God considers extremely important in His kingdom.  Most of all He delights in you, dear caregiver (Zephaniah 3:17).  His love for you and your loved one is faithful and will never end. Cling to that, dear caregiver.

This morning in my woman's Sunday school class I was reminded of the peace God wants to give us.  It is a peace that is there for the taking.  God does not want us to have our hearts troubled or stirred up into a frenzy by the storms of life (John 14:27).  He wants us to focus on Him as the only solid foundation for peace, because He alone is the author and source of peace.  He can calm our outward circumstances, but perhaps more importantly He can calm our hearts in the midst of the difficult circumstances and storms of life.  Only a heart of prayer mixed with a thankful heart can cultivate that kind of peace no matter what is going on in our lives (Philippians 4:4-6).  I know the heartache and uncertainty that family care-giving can arouse in your life, dear care-giver.  Focus on the Lord and His peace, dear caregiver.






Sunday, September 28, 2014

Hope

I wrote the following words in April of 2011, a few months after my husband’s death:

The last couple days have been beautiful in my town. It has finally begun to feel like spring. Even though it has been a cold spring this year and spring has been long in coming, spring reminds me of new life and hope. The appearance of robins several weeks back was an indication that spring was on its way. The promise of spring reminds me that, just as winter is finally fleeing, so the heartaches of life are not forever.”

Care-giving for a loved one with a prolonged disease can be very discouraging. Witnessing the gradual but ever increasing deterioration of a loved one’s health is extremely disheartening. It can feel like the winter of life with no end in sight and no sign of hope for the future.
As a caregiver for my husband with a serious neurological disease, I often felt discouraged. As his mobility and a host of other issues continued to decline, I sometimes felt overwhelmed and stressed. This became especially true when transfers became more and more difficult. As a Christian caregiver and child of God, however, I knew that there was always hope. I knew that my hope was an eternal hope. As I was going through the care-giving journey, hope and my relationship with my Lord were what kept me going and persevering.

So what is hope? While I was a caregiver I wrote the following words about hope:

Hope reminds me that I do not really have to be in a state of panic. Things will work out in the end, and I will be guided step by step. Hope tells me that care-giving will never be easy, but there is an eternal purpose to this all. God’s purpose will be fulfilled in me, and His love is with me. Hope tells me that what I do in care-giving is important, and it has eternal consequences. Hope tells me that the trials of care-giving are forming my character to become stronger. It reminds me to not focus on what I see, but on what will be and on what is good in my life right now. Hope focuses on seeing the small miracles of each day and knowing and trusting they will continue.”

Hope is a great ally to have in facing care-giving challenges and in facing the challenges of life in general. Hope helps to promote wellness and joy and peace in the midst of the challenges. Dear caregiver, do not give up hope. Embrace hope in the same way as you embrace the hope and newness of spring.

(The above meditation is found in my book DEAR CAREGIVER subtitled Reflections for Family Care-givers. You can order my book online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Xulon, my publisher. Links to my order pages at Amazon and Xulon are found on the right hand of the screen. You can also get a book directly from me. To use that option email me at jesuschild54@hotmail.com for details.

Recently a woman who ordered my book wrote me the following words via e-mail: “I read it every morning before I get out to bed and it helps to prepare my outlook on the day in front of me! It is like having a friend come alongside you, who has been on the path ahead.... saying....'walk this way, be careful about this, and rest here for a bit on your journey.' Your book is truly a gift that helps point our eyes to Christ as we are serving others.”)

Monday, September 22, 2014

Congestion or Gentle Whisper?

I apologize for the lateness of this post this week.  My computer is in for repair, and I am writing this post from a library computer at this very moment.  Recently my personal computer began to work very slowly, and it would spin and spin while trying to connect to a new page on the internet.  I was first told it was mostly due to a congestion problem in my town.  My provider is working on putting in new equipment, but at the moment they are unable to always keep up with demands for internet service especially at peak time.  I also discovered, however, that there were issues on my own personal computer which was interferring with good and speedy connections to the internet.

These events in my life made me wonder what kind of outside congestion we are allowing in our personal lives which prevents us from hearing the still small voice of the Lord.  This reminds me of an Old Testament Bible passage in I Kings that I have learned to love. 

In I Kings 18 the prophet, Elijah, had just won a wonderful victory in the power of the Lord and for the glory of the Lord.  The wicked queen, Jezebel, however, was unhappy abut this; and she was intent on killing Elijah.  Elijah was afraid and was running for his life.  At that point Elijah said to God, "I have had enough, Lord.  Take my life."  (I Kings 19:4) 

Have you ever said something like that, dear caregiver?  Have you ever said, "I can't do this any longer.  I have had enough."?  Yet God provided strength for Elijah through food and His encouragement, and Elijah went on with his journey (I Kings 19:5-9).  In the struggles and heartaches of family care-giving; you too must take time for physical and emotional refreshment, dear caregiver.  You must soak yourself in the spiritual encouragement of His Word and not be influenced by the congestion of the world's voices and your own negative feelings and thoughts.

Next Elijah found himself hiding in a cave.  It was and is symbolic of the cave of discouragement and despair.  Have you ever found yourself there, dear caregiver, as you seek to navigate the difficult paths of family care-giving?  I found myself there sometimes as a caregiver for my husband.  It was difficult seeing my husband deteriorate and become more and more disabled in his body.  It was difficult struggling to meet his needs.

Yet God's Word came to Elijah in his cave of despair and said to him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" (I Kings 19:9b)  Elijah's reply was that he felt very alone in his trials (I Kings 19:10)  Do you ever feel all alone in your care-giving duties, dear caregiver?  I know I did.  Sometimes I still feel alone as a widow.

Yet we know God is with us each step of the way.  We are NEVER alone!  God said to Elijah, "Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by."  (I Kings 19:11)  But the exciting part of this story is that the Lord's voice was not in the wind that the Lord allowed.  It was also not in the earthquake and fire that followed.  It was in the Lord's "gentle whisper."  (I Kings 19:11-12)  Elijah was instructed to get up, walk without fear and self-pity and obey God (I Kings 19:15-18)  God also encouraged Elijah in the process.

Dear Caregiver, listen for the "gentle whisper" or still small voice of the Lord.  Do not let the congestion of the voices of the world around you or your own negative feelings and thoughts discourage you or block the Lord's gentle whisper telling you that He is with you.  You are never alone, dear caregiver (Hebrews 13:5b). 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Purpose in the Heartaches

Have you ever asked the question "why?" when you think about your loved one's illness or disability, dear caregiver?  Have you ever wondered why your loved one has to experience the difficulties of his or her illness or why you have to face the challenges and sometimes heartaches of being your loved one's caregiver?

I don't think we will ever find an answer to the "why?" question that will satisfy us.  That has to be left in God's hands.  We can trust, however, that God had a purpose in all that He allows and ordains in our lives.  Suffering is not just random and without meaning.  God always uses even the sad and evil things in our lives for good purposes in both our lives and in the lives of others.  This is something difficult to see in our lives, but it does not negate the truth of it.

Just like physical pain is a blessing in the sense that it alerts us to something that is wrong in our bodies, so emotional pain can help us turn to God in a deeper and sweeter way.  We can choose to become bitter in such times, or we can choose to go deeper into God's Word and prayer during such times.  Suffering can cause us to think more deeply about the things of God and give us the gift of a more intimacy with the Lord.  It can give us a greater passion and love for the Lord.

Suffering and challenging circumstances also gives us a chance to prove that our faith is genuine.  It is easy to say that one trusts in the Lord when things are going according to our desires and plans.  Difficult situations like a loved one's illness or disability gives us the joy of knowing that faith works even in very difficult times.  It gives us the chance to see our faith exercised in unimaginable circumstances and in situations we would never have chosen for ourselves.

Suffering and challenging circumstances further give us the opportunity to mature in the Lord.  We prefer things to always go according to our plans and to not have to experience any physical and emotional pain in this life.  We have bought into the dream of "happily ever after" during this life time.  Yet we do not grow spiritually during the easy times in our lives, but we grow spiritually through suffering and difficult times.  This only happens, however, when we choose to respond in joy and trust in the Lord during those difficult circumstances.  This is not the same as happiness in circumstances.  It is a joy in knowing that the Lord is in control and trusting Him.  It is knowing that when we respond in joy and trust our faith is building our perseverance which in turn develops character and spiritual maturity.  There are times during the overwhelming circumstances of my care-giving days and later in my widow days that I have thought to myself, "I could use a little less character building for awhile, Lord!"  Yet God knows what He is doing.  Rest in Him, dear caregiver! 

Suffering and challenging experiences can also be an opportunity for God's glory to be displayed in your life and in the life of the loved one for whom you are caring by your willingness to rest in Him and not question His purpose.  Make it your purpose, dear caregiver, to bring glory to God in this way.  Finally, God also uses suffering and challenging experiences to open our eyes to the needs and heartaches of others.  God will use your pain and the comfort God gives you to better help others now and in the days ahead, dear caregiver.  (II Corinthians 1:6-7)

The heartache of seeing my husband deteriorate step by step at an alarming rate while I was his caregiver for four and a half years was very difficult.  The knowledge that there was not a thing I could do about it was disheartening.  The overwhelming challenges of taking care of a man who was about 200 pounds and in the end completely disabled, while I am only five foot two inches tall was overwhelming.  The grief of finally losing him to death was intense.  Yet the Lord has been faithful.  Care-giving gave me the opportunity to learn that truth in a new way.  Your care-giving experiences have purpose, dear caregiver.  Trust in Him and grow in Him through these times.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Caregiver's Grief


Care-giving for someone you love can be demanding and exhausting. If the person for whom you are caring has an illness without a cure and continues to decline before your very eyes, care-giving can become very discouraging. It can then feel like a grief process that is inescapable. The trouble with this kind of grief process is that one never comes to complete resolution, because when one has accepted one step backwards in one’s loved one’s life, another step backwards appears on the horizon.

As a caregiver for my husband for four and one half years, I experienced many of these emotions. I was a part of a wonderful online support group. This was very helpful, and I would recommend it to anyone who is a family caregiver. There were also many people who were praying for my husband and me, and much kindness was shown to us. It is amazing at times like this to find out who really shows care and concern, and who does not. Sometimes the care and concern is shown from those from whom we least expect it, and it is not given by those whom we would expect to show love and concern.

In spite of all this, I often felt alone in this process. It was I, after all, who basically dealt with the vast majority of the grief and challenges of helping my husband meet his daily needs as he declined step by step. I did have the Lord God with me, however. I know He was with me step by step, guiding me even when I was at my lowest points emotionally.

I also know He identified with me. The shortest verse of the Bible says, “Jesus wept,” (John 11:35).  Jesus further felt crushed with grief when His friends were sleeping and not praying with Him and for Him in His greatest hour of trial just before He was put on the cross (Matthew 26). As well as being my Savior, He understood and identified with my every weakness, sorrow, and need as a caregiver to my husband (Hebrews 4:15-16). Other people are not fully able to understand and identify with the caregiver’s heartache. The Lord God can identify, however. Dear caregiver, trust that the Lord God truly understands your grief, discouragement, and worries. He truly identifies with you, and He truly can help and comfort.


(This is one of the meditations in my book DEAR CAREGIVER Reflections for Family Caregivers. Click on the Amazon or Xulon link on the right hand side of page to get to my order page for the book. It is also available at Barnes and Noble. Amazon usually is the least expensive.  On another note, Georgene is the winner of the free book I offered in my blog post last week.  This is compliments of a sweet online friend of mine.  Congratulations, Georgene! I will be sending out my book in the mail to you very soon!)