Sunday, April 23, 2017

The "Should Haves"

Family care-givers are notorious for engaging in false guilt and finding a way to blame themselves for every decline of their loved one.  The truth is that we are not God.  We can't control all the declines of our loved ones.  The only thing we can do is to seek to be a tool in the Lord's hands providing the best possible care we know how to give to our loved ones.  We are weak human beings, however, and in the end, only God is in control.

I recently read a post online about the second guessing caregivers do regarding the care that they give or gave to their loved ones.  They tend to engage in the "should haves" and "if onlys" of situations that are out of their control.  The post I mentioned earlier in this paragraph talks about some of these very things and suggests that the caregiver write a letter to themselves reminding themselves of the truths of their care-giving situation.  The link to this post is below.  Just click on the link below to read it.  It is a good article for anyone who is a caregiver now or who was one in the past.

 http://www.griefincommon.com/blog/caring-loved-one-letter-every-caregiver-write/

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter's Meaning for the Caregiver

(I am re-posting a post I wrote before at Easter.)

We are celebrating Easter today. What does Easter mean to you, dear Christian caregiver? How does it relate to family care-giving? 

Easter means that the Lord Jesus came to this earth and lived a perfect life for you and me. He later died on the cross to pay the price for our sins, and then He arose again on the third day to prove that He had won over sin and death and Satan. If you and I have accepted his gift of salvation by repentance and faith, we are His child now and for eternity.

Easter also means that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, identifies with your pain and the pain of your loved one, dear caregiver. As you struggle to help your loved one who is perhaps fighting against an incurable disease, He identifies with you. Having suffered the worst possible pain for us on the cross He is able to sympathize with our heartaches and weaknesses. He is also an all powerful Savior to whom we can freely go for grace in our moments of sadness and overwhelming and crushing needs.  Check out Hebrews 4:15-16 in the New Testament.

Because of Easter and Christ's sacrifice you can freely approach God the Father Himself with your and your loved one's needs, dear Christian caregiver. You can cry out to Him for help and call Him your “Abba Father,” because He considers you His special child. (Romans 8:15) Easter also means that when your heart is so weighed down with the heartaches and overwhelming circumstances of family care-giving that you do not even know how to pray, the Holy Spirit will intercede and pray for you! (Romans 8:26)

Easter for the caregiver means that although you will always face trials and troubles in this world, the Lord Jesus Christ has overcome the world.  He is also your source of peace even in the most challenging of times. (John 16:33)  Even in the overwhelming circumstances of family care-giving, even when we do not understand God's ways in allowing certain things in our lives, and even in the most unthinkable circumstances God is working for our ultimate good. We are victors in Him! (Romans 8:28)

Dear Christian caregiver, my hope for you would be that your loved one is healed on this earth. Whether he or she is healed on this earth or not, however, a child of God is whole and perfect upon entering heaven. No matter what happens in your care-giving situation you too, dear caregiver, will slowly heal emotionally and spiritually. God will always be with you, and joy will return one day. His love for you will never fail. He proved that love for you on the cross. That is the meaning of Easter for the caregiver and for all of us.




Saturday, April 8, 2017

The Caregiver and God's Presence


(This post is a chapter from my book: Dear Caregiver Reflections for Family Caregivers.  Information and links for ordering my book are at the bottom of this post as well as on the side of the blog page.)

When I was in the midst of care-giving for my husband I found great comfort in getting up early in the morning before my husband awakened and spending time in reading the Bible, reading caregiver devotionals, and spending time in prayer.

This time in the morning helped to remind me that my Lord was with me and present with me in my life each step of the way. Even now I find my morning devotional time so important to my emotional and spiritual well-being.

As I encountered the challenges of caring for my husband sometimes it was easy to get bogged down emotionally, however. This was especially true near the end of his disease when my husband could no longer help with transfers. It was easy in such moments to forget that God had promised in His Word to always be with me. It was easy to forget about His presence right beside me.

There is a story in the Bible in Luke 24 about two men who were walking along the road. Jesus had just risen from the grave, but these men did not believe that the happy resurrection event had occurred. As they were walking Jesus came along beside them and started talking with them. Later they sat down to a meal and began to eat with this “stranger” that they had met on the road. The Lord was right with them, but they did not recognize Him or His presence. Only later did their spiritual eyes open, and they recognized Jesus.

The same is true for us. The Lord God is right there with us, and so often we do not recognize His presence. As a caregiver the Lord was with me each step of the way. I can look back and see that with absolute certainty. Yet in the moment of caregiving there were times when it was difficult to see that.

Sometimes we are disappointed and feel overwhelmed when life does not go the way we hoped it would. I very much would have liked to have spent many years in happy retirement with my husband.  Instead my husband was diagnosed with a terrible disease, and I was thrust into the difficult role as his caregiver. It is easy at times like these to forget the Lord God’s presence is right with us all the time. Sometimes we are so sad that we do not feel His presence or see His presence with our spiritual eyes.

That does not negate the truth that the Lord is always with us. I believe the Lord is especially with the caregiver who turns to Him and relies on Him. Dear caregiver, don’t miss the Lord’s presence right beside you. Pray that God will open your spiritual eyes so you can see and feel His presence.


(You can purchase my book online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and elsewhere online.  The amazon link to the order page for my book is here:  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  If you would prefer to get a signed copy from me directly e-mail me at jesuschild54@hotmail,com for specifics.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Promises for Caregivers

I have found the Psalms in the Old Testament of the Bible to be a special blessing in my life.  I especially find them comforting when I am going through difficult moments in my life.  They can be a blessing to you as well, dear caregiver, as you go through the struggles and challenges of care-giving for your loved ones.

One of my favorite Psalms is Psalm 34. Psalm thirty-four is a beautiful Psalm. Psalm thirty-four is filled with beautiful promises from the Lord to His people.  A man named David wrote Psalm thirty-four when he was homeless and  hiding from King Saul who was trying to take David's life.  David could have concluded that he had nothing for which to be thankful.  Instead David said in Psalm 34:1, "I will extol the Lord at all times; His praise will always be on my lips."

Notice David said his praises for the lord would be on his lips at ALL times.  Do we praise the Lord at all times?  Do you praise God even in the challenges of care-giving, dear caregiver? I remember that being a difficult thing to do, as I watched my husband's body decline step by step.  Yet praising God in the difficult moments is the pathway to peace and  joy even in those moments.

We must remember that God works all things together for our good.  This does not mean that all of life's events are good in themselves.  It does mean, however, that the Lord uses even what we consider the bad circumstances in our lives for our ultimate spiritual good.  Through difficult times in our lives the Lord teaches us patience, perseverance, and dependence on Him rather than in ourselves. We grow spiritually during those times.  Praising God in all circumstances is the secret to a life filled with joy.  Praise on our lips and praise in our hearts for the Lord lifts us above our difficulties.

When David was in the midst of a difficult circumstance in his life he sought out the Lord, and the Lord delivered him from all his fears (Psalm 34:4).  God did not deliver David from some of his fears but from ALL his fears.  We also must bring all our fears and worries to the Lord, and we must leave them with the Lord.  We must trust that the Lord will take care of our difficult circumstances in His perfect way.  Psalm 34:5 tells us, "those who look to Him are radiant" with joy.  Family care-giving issues and other life worries can seem so impossibly challenging.  Yet when we keep our eyes focused on the Lord and on His promises, our fears and worries will slip away, and our joy and trust in the Lord will increase.

Psalm 34:6 goes on to tell us that David called to the Lord in his troubles.  David knew that he had no resources in himself.  David knew that he was totally dependent on the Lord.  The Lord heard David's prayers, and He saved him from all his troubles.  The Lord will also save and help us in times of trouble. In fact, Psalm 34:7 promises us that "the angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and He delivers them."  The Lord's protective guidance and help is all around us each and every moment of our lives.  The Lord tells us to to taste and experience His goodness and faithfulness. Blessed and joyful is the person who finds his or her refuge and strength in the Lord alone!  God is with you each step of the way, dear caregiver!

When you are feeling overwhelmed with care-giving issues or one of life's other difficulties you need to trust the Lord, dear caregiver, and you need to stand in awe of Him.  A child of God can trust the Lord completely, because Psalm 34:10b reminds us that "those who seek the Lord lack no good thing." Wow!  What a promise!

When your heart is breaking the Lord hears your prayers, dear caregiver!  Psalm 34:17-19 says, "The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; He delivers them from all their troubles.  The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit."  A child of God may have many troubles in this life, but the Lord ultimately delivers in all circumstances and situations.  Things may not turn out in the way we envisioned or hoped they would, but God is wise.  We can trust Him. Even when the Lord took my husband to heaven six years ago in early January, God knew what He was doing and was fulfilling His promises.

Notice once again the world ALL is used.  The Lord delivers us from ALL our troubles when we approach Him in faith.  He does this in His perfect time and in His perfect way.  Things will not be perfect until we reach our eternal home.  In fact, the Lord promises us that we will have difficulties in this life.  We can trust the Lord, however, to be with us all the way!  He has His perfect plan for our lives, and no ultimate spiritual harm can ever come to a child of God!

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!