Sunday, September 17, 2017

Storms of Life All Around

We have heard much in the news of late about devastating hurricanes, massive fires, an earthquake and even another terrorist attack in London.  I don't know about you, but hearing about these events and knowing the turmoil these things are bringing in people's lives makes me sad.

Personal storms in our lives can do the same.  They can make us feel very sad and discouraged. A few days ago I was feeling very troubled about something.  I was reminded that I needed to trust God in that situation.  I needed to be quiet in that situation.  I was reminded of Isaiah 30:15b which says, "In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength."  The feelings have not all gone away, but being reminded of this helps me immensely.   Then I ran across a song by Stephen Curtis Chapman which speaks about being quiet in the Lord.  The link to that song is below if you would like to hear it.   Just click on the link.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BgaHaioAjyg

I remember also the struggles of being my husband's caregiver a few years back.  I remember the discouragement of seeing my husband's body deteriorate step by step. I remember the sadness and the fear about not being able to provide for his needs in the days ahead.  You may have similar feelings, dear caregiver.  May the Scripture verse I quoted and song link about resting it with the Lord be a huge comfort to you, dear caregiver.  God will always be faithful to you.

Another Scripture passage which is a huge comfort to me is found in the early verses of Isaiah 43.  It speaks of God summoning us by name and being with us through all the rivers and fiery challenges of life.  I wrote about that recently at another blog site of mine called Moments With God.  The link for that is below.  I hope you find this a comfort as well, dear caregiver.  Thank you for all that you do for your loved one.

http://scripturemoments.blogspot.com/2017/09/isaiah-43_14.html

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Specific Scriptures on Care-giving?

Over a year ago I received this e-mail from someone, "You keep saying in your book that care-giving is a purpose filled calling.  Can you give me specific Scriptures on that?'  I replied that although there are no Scripture passages that use those exact words, Scripture does tell us that if we serve others and show love and compassion to others, we are doing it for the Lord Jesus Christ.  This is shown in the Scripture passage about the sheep and goats in Matthew 25:34-40.  I also gave her some Scripture passages which either commands or tells of the rewards of serving others.

Later someone showed me the link to an online post which addresses the question, "What does the Bible say about care-giving?".  Below it the link to that post.  I hope you find it a blessing.  Thank you, dear caregiver, for all that you do!

https://www.gotquestions.org/Bible-caregiving.html


Sunday, September 3, 2017

Words of Affirmation

(This post is a chapter from my book:  Dear Caregiver Reflections for Family Caregivers.)


Family care-giving demands huge sacrifices emotionally, spiritually, and physically from the caregiver. At the same time it is not often affirmed and recognized by society. Sometimes even the caregiver’s loved ones do not affirm or acknowledge the love sacrifices which are being made for them. They sometimes can not or do not do this, because they themselves are so overwhelmed with their disease. In the spring of 2009 in the midst of my husband’s neurological disease I wrote the following words:

“The other day I took one of those Facebook quizzes. I am never big on these quizzes, because they appear to be a bit of a hoax. The quiz I took this time, however, seemed to match my reality pretty closely. The name of the quiz was “What is Your Love Language?” It said my love language was words of affirmation.


Before my husband’s illness he would tell me I was beautiful, and he would often call me ‘his favorite wife.’ It became a standing source of teasing between us, because my reply would always be, ‘How many wives do you have?’ My husband was always good about giving loving cards on special occasions also. So much of that verbal affirmation is gone now. My husband’s speech is so poor that basic communication between us is difficult. I miss also the basic bouncing of ideas between us.

Yesterday at my husband’s suggestion we went out to eat. He so seldom wants to go anywhere let along suggest it, so I readily agreed. It was very windy, however, and so we took the wheelchair. By the time I had wrestled the wheelchair in and out of the trunk of the car, gone through the buffet line for my husband and then for myself, and then basically carried on a conversation with myself during lunch; I began to wonder if it was worth it. As I said, I miss the verbal exchange.


A day or so ago I read a devotional in my care-giving devotional book about the importance of God’s affirmation of His love for and delight in His children. Knowing this is a source of comfort to me more than knowing what I do in my care-giving role has a purpose and meaning. I need to feel affirmed as me not as my role as a caregiver."

Dear Christian caregiver, the world may not recognize what you do. Your loved one for whom you care may not always be able to recognize and acknowledge what you do. God, however, does see what you do for your loved one. You are doing noble work, dear caregiver. God also delights in you and loves you just as you are! (Check out Zephaniah 3:17 in the Old Testament of the Bible!)
 

Saturday, August 26, 2017

The Chapters of Our Lives

We have many moments and chapters in our lives.  Some of these chapters in our lives are joyful ones.  Some are them are difficult and challenging.  We tend to look at special dates on the calendar and reflect about the past moments of our lives.  I especially tend to do this.

Seven decades ago on August 24, 1947 a little baby girl was born.  Her parents named her Sharon Lynn.  She was her parents first child, and she was born two weeks earlier than expected.  As you may have guessed this little girl is the author of this blog post.

The chapters in my life included my birth in IA and my growing up years in MN and SD.  I was a quiet introvert type child.  Later came the early adult chapter of my life.  I moved to WI, taught first grade for three years at a Christian school, met and married my husband, and raised a family of three sons.  Later chapters in my life included the marriages of my sons and wonderful grandchildren. One of the difficult chapters of my life was the diagnosis of my husband's rare neurological disease (Multiple Systems Atrophy) in 2006, my breast cancer diagnosis in 2007, and my husband's death in early 2011.

Yet all these chapters in my life were ordained by God.  Psalm 139:16 says, "All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be."  God has ordained all the days and chapters of your life as well, dear caregiver.  If I had been able to chose, I would have not chosen the care-giving chapter of my life or perhaps even difficult moments which occurred before that chapter in my life.  I certainly would not have chosen the chapter of widow.

Yet God truly does bring beauty from the ashes of the difficult chapters of our lives.  God says in John 16:33b, "In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart I have overcome the world."  He has overcome the world, and He will use our heartaches to advance His kingdom and for our spiritual growth and even joy.

Dear caregiver, the Lord is using your care-giving experience to stretch and grow you in dependence on Him and in love for Him.  He is using it to bring new spiritual fruit in your life.  Finally, He is using it in His kingdom both now and in the days ahead.  Dear caregiver, I understand how difficult the care-giving chapter of your life can be.  I lived it.  Yet God wants you to walk with Him holding His hand during this chapter of your life.  He wants you to rest in Him trusting that He will lead you through this time in your life with purpose for now and the future.  If you belong to Him; He delights in you, dear caregiver!


Sunday, August 20, 2017

Faith-Based Caregiver Books

As most of you know my husband had a neurological disease.  His disease was called Multiple Systems Atrophy and mostly was physical.  His body became more and more disabled to the point of complete disability and later death.  As many of you also may know I now experience the joy of volunteering once a week for a social program for people with dementia-most with beginning to moderate Alzheimer's.  This disease although it can involve physical aspects mostly involves memory issues.  This disease also involves constant changes and declines as my husband's disease did, but in a different way.

Recently I had the privilege of reading a wonderful book called Twilight Meditations subtitled One Woman's Thoughts of God as Alzheimer's Advances.  In this book psychologist, Dr. Jeff Bjorck introduces us to his mother, Irene.  In spite of years of suffering the affects of Alzheimer's Irene has continued to show a cheerful, thankful attitude.

In addition to this she has continued to offer occasional spontaneous comments about her faith and love for her Lord.  After a brief introduction of several pages chronicling Irene's life the book goes on to showcase these comments with beautiful photography from Jeff and beautiful artwork from Irene. I found many of Irene's comments beautiful and profound in their simplicity.  One of these comments in July of 2014 showed Irene's trust in God through all her struggles when she said, "God makes no mistakes. He has never had to come to me and say, 'I'm sorry I did that!'"  Then in May of 2016 she said again, "It's true that, what He has done, He knew all along He was going to do."

This book would greatly encourage those who are caring for someone with Alzheimer's.  Yet I think it would encourage anyone no matter what their walk in life or whatever is going on in their lives.  Our bodies or our memories may fail, but as Irene said in one of her quotes, "He (God) never forgets."   Also the One who never forgets will preserve us in our faith no matter how much decline occurs in our bodies and minds. There is so much I could say about this book. I was very blessed by reading it.

Below is a link to the order page for this book on Amazon. To get the full effect of the artwork and photography in the book I would recommend you buy the paperback version and not the Kindle version:
https://www.amazon.com/Twilight-Meditations-Thoughts-Alzheimers-Advances/dp/1545122024/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1502746757&sr=1-1

I thought you would also enjoy viewing a sweet interaction between Jeff and Irene about a year ago on YouTube.  I do not know Jeff personally, but found this very sweet.  Click the link below to hear it.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H31XukYZLb8&feature=youtu.be

Recently I also read a book called Honoring the Elderly subtitled A Christian's Duty to Aging Parents by Rev. Brian De Jong.  This book discusses the Biblical/theological issues surrounding our need to honor and aid our elderly parents especially as they decline in their physical and mental well-being as they age. The author bases his premises on the fifth commandment which instructs us to honor our parents.

The author also discusses topics such as dealing with difficult parents, medical and ethical decision making, financial issues, and even honoring parents at death and afterward.  If you are interested in this book I have the link to his book below.  This book does not definitively answer every question or solve all the challenges of family care-giving, but it gives a good Biblical basis for how we should approach this topic.  I am thankful that someone has written  a book like this. Consider ordering his book at the link below:

https://www.amazon.com/Honoring-Elderly-Christians-Aging-Parents/dp/1548220353/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1501342660&sr=1-1

Finally, if you have not already done so, consider also ordering and reading my book. As most of you know the name of my book is Dear Caregiver subtitled Reflections for Family Caregivers.  I was my husband's caregiver for four and a half years.  He had a devastating neurological disease called Multiple Systems Atrophy.  I understand the emotional, physical, and spiritual challenges of being a family caregiver.  Hence, it is my passion to encourage family caregivers.  That is why I write this blog and that is why I wrote my book.

My book contains over 100 short chapters or meditations meant to encourage family caregivers in their noble but sometimes challenging and heartbreaking care of their loved one.  My story in intertwined in these meditations or short chapters.  Below is the link to my order page for my book on Amazon.  It is also available at Barnes and Noble and other places online.  If you prefer you can also e-mail me to receive a book from me directly.  My e-mail address is jesuschild54@hotmail.com  As I said before the Amazon link to my order page is below.

https://www.amazon.com/Dear-Caregiver-Sharon-Vander-Waal/dp/1629524263/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1482027543&sr=1-1&keywords=Dear+Caregiver

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Conflicting Emotions and Blessings

(This post is a chapter from my book: Dear Caregiver Reflections for Family Caregivers)


I scribed the following words in early June of 2010 about seven months before my husband’s death:

“My heart is filled with so many conflicting emotions tonight. I still feel burdened by the fact that I know we have taken another step backwards in my husband’s disease. Just the fact that I have to help him every time he goes to the bathroom so we don’t endanger him of falling and that I am now helping him into bed means we are taking another step backwards.

It also means I have to get up in the middle of the night, if he has to use the bathroom. It means more fatigue for me. It further means I can’t leave him for as long of time during the daytime. This is discouraging to me. I so tire of the adjustments to new changes and seeking new solutions. Sometimes I wonder how long it will be before I can no longer take care of him-Years? Months?

I also have so many blessings all around me, however. As I am writing this I can hear the twitter of birds outside my window. I am blessed each day by the perennials around our new home which have been coming out one at a time. Since I don’t know the names of a lot of the flowers, it has been a joy seeing new beautiful flowers popping out. It is like little gifts from God assuring me of His love. He also assures me in the Bible that He will always be with me.

I was blessed the other day with my sister-in-law taking my husband out for a drive and giving me some alone time at home. I was blessed today in church. I am blessed with the fact that we will be getting some in-home therapy for my husband scheduled to start tomorrow.

Lord, help me just to trust, just to rest, just to release. Help me not to worry so much about the ending of the story, for it ultimately will be good. Help me to enjoy and revel in the daily blessings even in the midst of hard times.”

Dear caregiver, the challenges of care-giving for a loved one can be so very emotionally, physically, and even spiritually challenging. The heartaches of the declines in their health over which you have no ultimate control is so discouraging. Remember, however, dear caregiver, that the Lord is with you each step of the way. Also in the midst of the heartaches look for the wonders and blessings. They are always there, and it will help you get through the pain of the tough times.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Life's Lessons Observed

I volunteer most Tuesdays at a church which facilitates a program that serves people with beginning to moderate dementia.  It is a wonderful social program for the participants and also serves as a much needed respite for their caregivers.  It is further a huge blessing for us as volunteers to be able to serve others this way.  We gain more than we receive.

Recently we took the participants on a little outing for the morning and early afternoon. It was beautiful day for this outing.  The weather could not be more perfect.  For most of the participants and volunteers it was a very enjoyable day.  One participant, however, seemed to have gotten caught up in a negative mental loop on this occasion. She also happened to be the one I was paired with that day.

There were a few things that day for which I had to exercise patience.  They included her repetition of the same story and questions over and over. They also included her insistence that since our outing had taken us so close to her daughter's place the bus should drop her off there instead of taking her back to the church to finish off the day. She simply would not let it go, and kept arguing the point. Obviously protocol, legality, and wisdom would not allow us to honor her request, but she could not understand the wisdom of it all.

I needed to remind myself that this woman even with her beginning dementia was and is made in the image of God.  I also was thinking the next morning how much we are sometimes like that with God. We often just do not understand God's ways with us, and we do not understand His plan.  We are not always willing to trust God's wisdom in allowing what He does in our lives.  We may question the wisdom of God's ways and decisions.

Personally I think about all the indignities my husband went through because of his disease.  I think of all the heartache I experienced as his caregiver.  I think of the grief of losing him and living my life as a widow.  It is tempting to think, "Why, God?"  I do see much good which has come in my character as a result of all this.  I see how my love for the Lord has grown, and I see ministry for others which has resulted.  I see partially God's reasons and plans in it all, but I will never see the whole picture at least not before Eternity.

I simply have to trust that God knows what He is doing.  I need to trust that He loves me with an everlasting love and that He is so much wiser than I am. As one book that I read recently put it, I need to give up trying to understand God and just praise Him and thank Him for His love.

Dear caregiver, the challenges of care-giving and life in general can be overwhelming at times.  Trust that the Lord is with you through it all.  Trust in His love and wisdom. He is infinitely wiser than you are.