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!
 


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.