Sunday, December 21, 2014

Christmas Hope Not Worries

(The following post is from a blog post that I published in 2013. May the Lord bless your Christmas, dear caregiver.)

December is the month that we think of Christmas and hope. Dear Christian caregiver, is your life weighed down with care and worry this Christmas season; or is it filled with hope? I remember my care-giving years during which I saw my husband continue to decline in his health step by step. It was tempting at such times to give up hope. Hope is something all of us can possess no matter how difficult our circumstances, however.

During this holiday season we are also reminded of the birth of Jesus Christ. Over 2,000 years ago before Jesus was born most of the people were living without very much hope. Then in Luke chapter one of the Bible an angel appeared to Mary and told her that she was being blessed by God’s grace in becoming the mother of Jesus. Jesus Christ was coming as the Savior for His people.

Mary’s response to this was openhearted acceptance. (See Luke 1:38 in the Bible.) Mary would suffer many immediate problems being the mother of Jesus. She would also experience many heartaches in her future. Because Mary now had hope, however, she was willing to accept God’s will for her life with joy. A life secure in the Lord’s hope can move with confidence through life in spite of difficulties and challenges

Life as a caregiver can be very heartbreaking and challenging. There are times when the circumstances of care-giving can feel overwhelming. But like Mary in the Bible we too can have hope no matter what our circumstances. Dear Christian caregiver, rest your care-giving heartaches with the Lord. Know that He is the source of strength and hope. His hope is not a wishful thinking type hope, but it is a hope based on His certain promises in the Bible. His hope is
secure and will never leave you.

( I will be taking the next week off, because I will have family visiting in my home.  I will be back with a new blog post on January 4 or 5.  Use this time to read some of my old blog posts, and have a blessed Christmas, dear caregiver.)

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Christmas Stress or Joy?

My husband passed away about a week after Christmas four years ago.  I remember that Christmas. All my sons' families were able to be home that year.  It had been a number of years since we were all together at the same time because of distances between where we live from each other.  Perhaps we subconsciously knew there would not be another Christmas with my husband being present with us. Yet I do not think any of us anticipated that in a little over a week, my husband, Wayne, would be with the Lord.  That Christmas there were chaotic moments and good moments with so many people under one roof, but it is a memory which no one can take from us.

What memories are you creating, dear caregiver?  Sometimes care-giving can be overwhelming with its responsibilities.  In that scenario who feels like the extra hassle of Christmas decorating and giving?  If your loved one is very ill, somehow it may even seem out of place.  

Yet perhaps we are putting the emphasis the wrong place.  Is not Christmas about the birth of the Lord Jesus, of His coming to this fallen world to save us?  So if your loved one is a believer, even if he or she is not with you next Christmas; you both have something to celebrate.  This life is not the end of all things.  We have an eternity ahead of us!  

So we do not have to win contests about the best decorated house in the city or the most expensive gifts.  I live alone now since my husband's passing.  My Christmas decorating took perhaps only an hour this year.  Dear caregiver, let your Christmas be about celebrating the Lord this year and the eternity which is ahead.  Let it also be about your relationship with your family and friends and especially about your loved one for whom you are caring.  Make a memory.  Minimize the stress and accent the joy.

(On another note give yourself or another caregiver a gift of love this Christmas-My book:  DEAR CAREGIVER Reflections for Family Caregivers.  I wrote this book out of a love and understanding for caregivers.  I wrote it from my own experience as a family caregiver.  Click on the Amazon or Xulon links on the right hand side of the screen  to purchase the book.  If you prefer you can also get it directly from me by e-mailing me for specifics,  My e-mail address is on the top right hand of the page.)


Sunday, December 7, 2014

A Story to Tell

I had a book signing for my book at a Christian book store yesterday. It went well and was a blessing. Two other authors were there as well. It was nice sharing with the other authors and a few of the people who came to the table as well. One lady bought a book for a relative who is only 18 and a caregiver for her uncle. I was pretty impressed with that. It was and is a blessing to share my story and hope that someone's life is blessed and helped. This also mixes with a stirring up of sad emotions in me of those difficult care-giving days and the loss of my husband, Wayne. Yet what a platform for also discussing God's goodness and redemption of difficult times. It was a joy to interact yesterday with people who understand this.

Sometimes when we are in the midst of difficult trials such as family care-giving can produce, it is difficult to see that God is not only blessing us in the midst of the heartaches; but He will also redeem those situations to be used to help others and to advance His kingdom later on in our future lives.

Dear Christian caregiver, know that what you are doing now is so vital in the kingdom of God.  It is such noble work for the cause of the Lord.  It will also be used in the days ahead, as you tell your own story of God's grace. You may not write a book, but you will and do have a story to tell.  Also your care-giving story is producing in you an empathy and love and compassion for others that will be a huge blessing and inspiration to them in the days ahead.  There will be awesome beauty from the ashes.    

Monday, December 1, 2014

Encouraging E-mail

Recently I met a widow online whose husband had the same rare disease as my husband, Wayne. This disease is Multiple System's Atrophy and resembles Parkinson's Disease but moves much faster. She sent me the wonderful e-mail below which showed her appreciation for my new book, DEAR CAREGIVER Reflections for Family Caregivers, but the e-mail also listed some important spiritual lessons that we have both learned through our experiences as caregivers. I pray that as I share her e-mail, you too will be lifted up and encouraged in your walk as a family caregiver.  In a recent past blog post I also featured an essay that she wrote about care-giving.  This essay was written about a year before her husband's death and spoke of the rewards of family care-giving. May you further be blessed by her e-mail below as I was, dear caregiver:

I loved reading your book "Dear Caregiver" and gleaning insight and inspiration from your journey. Like I mentioned before, our husbands' neurological conditions were so rare, that I felt immediately connected to you as a fellow widow and also to you as a fellow Christian woman. I took my time reading your book so I could learn from your experiences and, also, so I could reflect on my season as a caregiver. In both instances, God lead us by the hand, He called us to serve, and He did not leave us or forsake us. I, too, remember the pain of watching my husband go from cane, to walker, to wheelchair, and standing machine. I was intimidated, at first, by the new durable equipment that we integrated into our home but soon realized that they were God's provision to help my husband with his activities of daily living. Because of the new additions, I, like you, accepted that our home began to resemble a nursing care facility; a drastic decor change! Your book helped reinforce many Christian truths: a) joy and sorrow can co-exist, b) look to God for our strength rather than to man, c) He will equip us after he calls us, d) God understands our pain and sorrow, and e) He loves us and wants a relationship with us. Our husbands endured great pain, showed grace in their suffering, and were delivered by God's Holy Hands,--- Our love story illustrates surrender, refinement, and transformation; I will never be the same!”

(You can order my book DEAR CAREGIVER Reflections for Family Caregivers online by clicking the Amazon link or Xulon link on the right hand side of this page. It is also available at Barnes and Noble online. Finally, you can also get the book directly from me. If you want to do it this way, just e-mail me for details at my e-mail address on the top right hand corner of this page. This would make a wonderful Christmas gift of love for someone you care about or for yourself.)

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Thanksgiving and Family Care-giving

Family care-giving can be very discouraging especially when one’s loved one continues to deteriorate in his or her health.  It is difficult to find things for which to be thankful in such a scenario.  It seems impossible to have a thankful heart under such circumstances.

Yet a thankful heart opens up blessings from heaven and foretastes of heaven that cannot be attained in any other way.  A thankful heart further revives hope and allows us to communicate on a much more intimate level with the Lord.  A thankful heart does not deny the reality of life’s challenges, and care-giving certainly presents a host of problems and heartaches.  A thankful heart does, however, recognize the Lord’s presence and joy in the midst of those problems. 

So perhaps the best place to start, dear caregiver, is to thank the Lord each day for His presence and peace.  Also as you go through the day look for the Lord’s tiny treasures which He has placed on your path.  Look with spiritual eyes for His wonders in your life.  I remember as a caregiver being challenged to write down each day at least three things for which I was thankful that day.  That helped me immensely in persevering in the care-giving role. 

It is said that a thankful heart takes the sting out of trials and adversity.  Family care-giving often facilitates many challenges and trials.  Yet we are commanded in the Bible to give thanks in everything.  We may not always FEEL like giving thanks, but when we offer a SACRIFICE of thanks in spite of our feelings or circumstances God gives us joy in spite of our circumstances.  That does not mean we always feel happy.  Happiness and joy are not the same thing, but joy in the Lord and grief can coexist.  It may seem nonsensical to thank God in and for difficult circumstances, but in the measure that we do we will be blessed even as the adversities may remain.  Dear caregiver, thank the Lord today for His blessings!

In the United States we are celebrating Thanksgiving Day this week. It is a day when we especially try to remember to thank and praise God for the blessings of the past year. Care-giving is often challenging and difficult. Yet there are many blessings in our lives even in the difficult moments. Dear caregiver, thank the Lord for your blessings daily and not just on special occasions. It will lift your burdens and add joy to your life.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Rewards of Family Care-giving

The following article was written by a former caregiver and online friend of mine.  It was written about a year before her husband's death.  Her husband was initially diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease, but later that diagnosis was changed to Multiple Systems Atrophy, the same neurological disease my husband, Wayne, experienced.  I think you will find her story inspiring.  May you be blessed and encouraged by her words, dear caregiver:

What Makes Care Giving Rewarding?
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”
Hebrews 11:1 (NIV)
Since the onset of my husband’s medical condition, God has led us on a spiritual journey into unchartered territory. We did not know where we were going, how we would get there, and whom we would meet along the way. By radical faith, we continue to walk on this path one sunrise at a time knowing that, at each sunset, our destiny is in His hands, in His care, and in His time. As we embrace our daily offerings, we have been transformed into new people and view life and the world through a different lens than before. During the last three years as a full time care partner, while serving my dear husband, I have been, in turn, blessed to learn the value of acceptance, adjustment, appreciation, and action.

My husband and I were very fortunate to meet each other later in life; we have even been told that our love is like a “fairy tale”! As many couples do, we traveled to Mexico, attended sporting events, dined at fine restaurants, and had date nights at the movies. Our families, including five adult children, were united at our wedding on January 1, 2000, opening the new millennium and a bright future ahead.

After only two years of marriage, on April 2002, our world changed suddenly and unexpectedly! My husband, in his early fifties, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, a progressive movement disorder. He initially experienced a loss of balance, a softening of his voice-quality, and a change in his gait and facial expressions. With medication and close monitoring by his neurologist, we were able, with modifications, to continue our daily lives, our careers, and our new life together.

As the years passed, my husband gradually required extra assistance with walking, grooming, eating, and general communication skills. It became increasingly difficult for my husband to participate in social/family functions, to drive, and to continue employment as a dealership manager. One summer day while we were sitting on our patio, he said, “The man you knew…he is gone.” Could it be that my husband was accepting his limitations before I was ready to face them?

By 2009, my husband’s diagnosis was refined to Multiple Systems Atrophy, MSA, a rare, debilitating neurological disorder. That heart-breaking day, that moment in time in the doctor’s office, I remember holding my head in my hands and crying with my husband, praying for comfort, and asking God, once again, for strength to carry on. Because my husband eventually lost his mobility and needed help with the activities of daily living, I retired from my teaching career to offer support, assistance, and my spousal devotion. Unbeknownst to me, I immediately began a new chapter in my life as a “nurse”, an untrained one.
The Spirit of the Lord will come upon you in power…and you will be a changed into a different person.” 1 Samuel 10:6 (NIV)

When God called upon me to carry out the task of being an informal care provider, I soon realized that I might not have the independence, the comfort, and the control that I had experienced in life before. For instance, I went from public service as a teacher, a familiar career, to nursing-care and private service in our home, a foreign vocation. With grooming duties in the morning and a regular routine in the evening, our leisure time during the waking hours decreased.

For the past three years to the present time, I discovered that the following survival techniques are crucial for me to approach each day: simplify life, maintain focus on my Divine assignment, filter out the busyness that surrounds us, laugh, multitask, be innovative, and protect my physical and emotional energy. Some days are intense, overwhelming, and dark, but you see, I treasure our precious God-given moments together and wouldn’t want to miss this dance, our dance!
If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”
Matthew 21:22 (NIV)

I call them our angels! Sometimes I even ask them, “Where did you come from?” According to God’s perfect timing and His Providence, our community-based reinforcements seem to show up at our door at just the right moment. Some resources that have helped support us and lessen our daily loads are: food delivery, Home Health agencies, transportation services, spiritual counselors, and personal care services. I now realize the importance of working interdependently with the designated professionals and volunteers; we were not meant to struggle in isolation. Our band of angels surely guards, shelters, and protects us!
“…let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16 (NIV)

We are following God’s dream for us. Our walk with Him gives us nourishment, discernment, and refinement. May our story and our lessons learned serve as a beacon of hope and as a shining star in the dark. We praise our Godhead for grace, mercy, and miracles. Because of Christ’s ultimate suffering and sacrifice, I must continue on as a care provider in humility and obedience.    

One day my husband cried, “I don’t want to leave you!” I assured him that we would always be together. Why, our love is a fairy tale, it is eternal, he is my prince and I am his princess. As all good fairy tales end, we will one day live happily ever after in the Great Kingdom!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Purpose Now and for the Future

Care-giving is a purpose-filled calling. It may not be recognized as such by the world at large, however. Caregivers will not usually earn medals or receive honors for what they do day in and day out. Care-giving work does not facilitate the earning of great amounts of money, either. In fact, just the opposite is most often true. Care-giving for a family member can be discouraging and involves sacrificial giving of oneself to the person who needs one’s help. It is, however, one of the most significant and purpose-filled callings God can give us.

Care-giving often involves a lot of heartache and grief, as we see our loved ones continue to move backwards in their health. In spite of this, the caregiver is engaging in God’s work. Not only is care-giving filled with purpose while the caregiver is in the midst of the responsibilities of care-giving, but this phase of the caregiver’s life is also a preparation for what God has planned for his or her post care-giving days. It has been said that God cannot use someone in a significant way until that person has suffered some deep loss, hurt, or pain. The losses and grief caregivers experience as they see their loved one’s health deteriorate will help them to be more compassionate servants of God in future days.

Dear Christian caregiver, the challenges of care-giving are shaping your character to become a more beautiful reflection of Jesus. Think of the Bible characters like Job, Paul, and others. Through their losses and grief they became more dependent on the Lord and more useable in His kingdom. Because of your sacrifices in care-giving and because of the pain you feel while caring for a loved one who cannot recover, you are being prepared to also be used in significant ways when your care-giving days end.

(This is a meditation from my book DEAR CAREGIVER subtitled Reflections for Family Caregivers. If you are interested in purchasing this book click on the Amazon link or the Xulon link, my publisher, on the right hand side of this page. The book is also available at Barnes and Noble online. If you would prefer a signed copy directly from me, e-mail me at the e-mail address on the upper right hand side of this page for details. This book could be a Christmas gift of love to someone on your Christmas list as well as for yourself.)