Saturday, May 27, 2017

No Regular Post This Week

There will be no regular post this week.  Use this week to reread older posts.  Since Monday is Memorial Day in the United States, I want to wish you all a blessed week-end.  For some of you this may be a difficult day, as you remember loved ones who have passed.  I remember my Dad who served in the Navy.  I also remember my, husband, Wayne, who was in the Army Reserves.  I further remember my brother who served in the Army but is still with us.  For those who have lost precious loved ones whether they were in the military or not (like me who lost my Mom just a few months ago) make it a day of thinking about the happy memories you have of your loved ones.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Lessons From my Vacuum Cleaner

Some time back I noticed that my vacuum cleaner was no longer picking up well.  I knew that my bag in my vacuum cleaner was probably full, and I knew that was the reason my vacuum cleaner was no longer working well.  For a few different reasons (none of them very good reasons) I put off changing the bag.  One of those reasons was that I had no replacement bags on hand, and I needed to go to the store to purchase some new bags.

When I finally replaced the bag in my vacuum cleaner it was indeed very full. There was dirt and lint even up into the hose part of my vacuum cleaner, which I had to clean out.  Before I bought and installed the new bag, I in essence was choosing to ignore the fact that a problem existed.  This, however, did not erase the fact that dirt was accumulating.  Hence, my vacuum cleaner was not fully functional.

The same can be true of life.  Is anything clogging your life, dear caregiver?  Are you allowing bitterness, impatience, or depression to clutter and clog up your life? The best way to prevent that from happening is by continual spiritual maintenance. You need to take the negative feelings which can sometimes crop up to the Lord in prayer.  You also need to spend time daily in God's Word searching for His promises.  You further need to find things each day for which you are thankful. Finally, trust and rest in the Lord.  Thankfulness and trust are the key to joy and peace.

On a purely emotional and physical level there are also some other things you should and can do.  Try very hard to get enough sleep each night.  Also take at least a part of each day for reprieve and to energize yourself.  Do something each day that you enjoy even if it only for a few minutes.  Finally, do not engage in second guessing yourself or false guilt in regards to your care of your loved one. You are an imperfect human being, but you are doing the best that you can,  Don't let your care-giving and other life circumstances clog you up emotionally, spiritually, or physically.  You are too precious in God's sight to do that to yourself, dear caregiver!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Pruning

In recognition of Mother’s day I have from time to time (including this year) received flowers. When we receive cut flowers we are told to cut an inch or so off the bottom of the stems and then put them in water with some plant food added. It is also a good idea to take off the outer petals.

This process of cutting the stems off the ends of cut flowers has never logically made sense to me. Neither has it ever made sense to me to cut vines and other plants way back. Pruning of vines is an even more drastic cutting back process than just cutting off the ends of the stems of cut flowers. In fact, when completed the vine branch can appear to be dead. This pruning is a necessary and a good thing to do, however. In fact, because the branch is attached to the vine; it can grow to be productive, new, and beautiful once again.

This is true also about the cutting or hurtful aspects and experiences of life. Care-giving can often become very challenging and overwhelming. It can be discouraging and hurt us emotionally at times, as we see our loved ones deteriorate in their health. Just as we may wonder why it is necessary for a plant to be cut way back, it often is puzzling to understand why we have to undergo the painfully cutting experiences of life.

Yet during my very difficult care-giving years and during my grief since my husband’s death over 6 years ago I know the Lord has been shaping my character and drawing me closer to him. He is also cutting away attitudes and fears that are not appropriate and making me more dependent on Him. Like cut flowers and like a branch on a vine which has been cut back, I can grow into something beautiful and productive because of this pruning in my life.  Just as cut flowers need plant food, I also have to feed on God's Word, however, for this to take place in my life.

The branch on a vine also cannot grow into something beautiful again, however, unless it is attached to the vine. So also I cannot grow into something beautiful unless I am attached to the Vine, the Lord Jesus. This is spoken of in John 15 in the Bible.

Dear Christian caregiver, the pruning that takes place in the difficult moments of care-giving and in life in general hurts. It is okay to acknowledge that it hurts. You are not alone, however, if you are attached to the Living Vine, Jesus Christ. You will be okay. Not only will you be okay, but you will flourish. Remind yourself of this when the dark moments sometimes come.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Different Kinds of Care-giving

Until Tuesday of last week I had my sister-in-law, my daughter-in-law, and my 6 month and now 7 month old grandson in my home for a few weeks.  It was joy to get to know and interact with my little grandson whom I previously had not seen since shortly after his birth. It was fun to see the new things he learned in just the few weeks he had been in my home. During that time he learned to roll over, to sit on his own and to move backwards. It is amazing how far a baby can move with just a combination of rolling and moving backwards.  He also learned a few new words.

Babies are so much fun, but the truth of the matter is that they also involve a lot of work and care-giving. They need constant care and attention   Also if they do not receive what they want on their timetable, they let you know it in no uncertain terms.  My little grandson will still sometimes waken his Mom in the middle of night demanding playtime or comfort. Babies are wonderful when they turn on their charm and flash you a special smile like my sweet little grandson does.  Yet they also require much attention and care.  Yet parents (and grandparents) willingly give them this attention because of their love for them.

So what is the difference between the sometimes demanding care we give babies and children and the care family caregivers give their loved ones who are experiencing some disease or disability?  There are many differences.  With a normally developing baby we see them learning new skills and vocabulary.  We are excited about these new developments in them.  When we care for a loved one with a disease, we may see steady declines in ability to function in this world. This can be a source of heart ache for those who are caring for them.  I know it was for me, as I watched my husband, Wayne, deteriorate step by step during those years that I was his caregiver.

There seems to be real purpose and joy in helping and watching babies and children reach their full potential and maturity.  It is perhaps more difficult to find purpose and joy in caring for a loved one who is declining in his or her health.  Yet family care-giving is the most important and significant job you may ever undertake, dear caregiver.  You are adding joy, comfort, and dignity to the last days of your loved one's life.  Who else can do that in the same way that you are doing it, dear caregiver? You are also showing to the world a picture of Christ-like sacrificial love.  Yes, you are doing that even on the days when you feel you are failing and running out of patience, dear caregiver.

If you are a child of God another thing you are doing is preparing your loved one for Eternity.  As I told you in a past post. I was able to spend the last few minutes of my Mom's life by her bedside.  I sang hymns to her, talked to her, and read Scripture to her.  Even though she did not noticeably respond, I believe I was helping prepare her for Eternity.  I guess when I was taking care of my husband as his caregiver, however, I never really thought of that care as preparing him for Eternity. Yet upon reflection that is exactly what I was doing.  It is exactly what you are doing as well, dear Christian caregiver.  Christian caregivers with their sacrificial love are preparing their loved ones to be handed over to the caring and loving hands of their Savior in God's perfect timing.  What could be more significant and important than that?  Thank you for all that you do, dear caregiver!

P.S.
Will you indulge me by letting me post a picture of my youngest grandson to which I referred in this post and also one of my husband and I in my husband's last months of his life?  How my husband would have loved to have met this little one.



Saturday, April 29, 2017

Waiting

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

Recently a caregiver on a care-giving site online wrote about her frustrations with always feeling that she had to wait. She talked about waiting for a doctor’s office to call her back and waiting for lab results concerning her loved one. She talked about waiting for the next step. She talked about waiting for her loved one to get sicker and her eventual death. She also talked about waiting for a cure for her loved one’s illness and wanting to wait for something good to happen but seeming to only think of the reality of her loved one’s illness and not the miraculous. She further talked about waiting for appreciation for all the things she does in her care-giving role and waiting for life to be normal again when she knows it never will be.

She said she feels like she is always waiting for something but doesn’t know what. She also talked about her life consisting of waiting potentially life and death decisions, and the pressure of knowing that she holds somebody’s life in her hands by the decisions that she makes. Finally, she talked about waiting on God to show her how to fulfill her purpose.

Looking back on my care-giving days I can so identify with many of her emotions.
We all would like to get better at waiting, because we do not feel that we do a very good job of waiting.

Recently I read a devotional on waiting which I thought was so applicable. The devotional pointed out that productive waiting involves waiting on God and directing our attention to Him in anticipation of what He will do. It involves trusting Him with every fiber of our being. It involves staying conscious of Him, as we go about our daily activities. It involves total dependence on Him realizing we cannot do it on our own.

I too so remember those stressful care-giving days when I was caring for my husband. I so remember the heartache of all the declines and the dread of how I was going to handle the future declines. The truth is that God was with me every step of the way. I see that in an even more focused way, as I look back on those days.

I think all the struggles (and waiting is part of those struggles) makes us stronger people. It helps to shape our characters. But this kind of character building is so painful, isn’t it? In the struggles of my personal life the last few years I have often thought, “I can do with a little less character building now, Lord.” You may have thought the same thing, dear caregiver, but there is a purpose in all this. It will also shape your future life.

Dear Christian caregiver, as my recent devotional went on to say God does give blessings to those who wait on Him in the measure that they wait on Him. He gives renewed strength, hope, and an awareness of His continual presence. I fell so far short of resting in Him during my care-giving years. I often let stress and anxiety come to the surface. Knowing He was in control, however, helped me through those days. Rest in Him, dear caregiver. Wait on Him.

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.