Sunday, May 1, 2016

Taking Care of Yourself

The February 2016 Guideposts magazine posted an article on the need for family caregivers to care for themselves in order to be able to care for their loved ones long term.  An article by Shelly Beach contained five important tips for how to prevent caregiver burnout.

An online version of that article is also available.  It is well worth your time to read it, dear caregiver. Simply click on the link below to access this valuable article:

https://www.guideposts.org/comfort-hope/a-willing-spirit-5-tips-for-avoiding-caregiver-burnout

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Presence of God

Recently I read some devotionals by Nancy Guthrie in her book The One Year Book of HOPE.  These particular devotionals were contemplating the presence of God in our lives.  The presence of God in our lives is a precious and wonderful gift to us.  So often, however, we go about our daily activities and face our daily struggles without really thinking about the presence of the Lord or taping into it's power.   We must make an effort to keep our focus riveted on the Lord God.  Then no matter what is going on around us or no matter what activity in which we are engaged, we will find peace and joy.

We can practice the presence of God by conversing with Him and being aware of His presence in even the ordinariness of life.  Being aware of His presence also helps us in the pain of life.  I remember the heartache in my life as a caregiver for my husband.  It was emotionally painful seeing my husband's body deteriorate step by step.  Sometimes I face trials even today as a widow.  In the measure that I can remember the presence of the Lord in the midst of life's painful moments there can be joy and peace.  Dear caregiver, God never promised us freedom from life's problems.  He has promised us His strength, comfort, and presence in the midst of the struggles, however.  Look to Him in the midst of all of it.  Practice His presence.

As we have already stated God's presence is an awesome gift to us.  Unwrap this gift and embrace it, dear caregiver.  It will provide intense joy and comfort to you in the struggles of caring for your loved one.  Your story, dear caregiver, is an awesome story of God's pursuit of you first to save you and forgive you and then to use your life in His kingdom.  He has promised to always be with you.  Look for evidences of His care and strength and working in your life.  The Lord is using your story as part of His bigger story, as you care for your loved one. 

Enjoy the Lord's presence with you even in the painful moments of care-giving, dear caregiver.  Walk with the Lord.  Ask Him for strength,  Love Him as your all-sufficient friend.  It is not about being a super-hero caregiver but about depending on the Lord step by step and being aware of His presence. Sometimes it is so easy to get so bogged down with care-giving and other life struggles that we fail to see the Lord right beside us.  Focus on the Lord and not the problems, dear caregiver.

Give the Lord all your burdens.  Admit and turn from your real sins and failures, but also give the Lord the false guilt you sometimes heap on yourself as a caregiver for things that are out of your control.  Know the character of the God who is with you.  He is a God who is good and faithful even in the painful moments.  Trust Him.  Rest in Him, dear caregiver.  

Sunday, April 17, 2016

April Memories

April marks the remembrance of significant events in my life.  Ten years ago in April my husband, Wayne, went into the doctor's office for a routine check-up; and we received the first indication that something was wrong.  In the weeks and months after that it became clear that Wayne had a serious neurological disease called Multiple Systems Atrophy, and the next four and a half years I watched Wayne's body deteriorate until his death on January 2, 2011.  About a year after Wayne's diagnosis I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Eight years ago in April marks the completion of my eight months of cancer treatments.  Praise God for my healing.  Then two years ago in April marks the publication of my book Dear Caregiver Reflections for Family Caregivers.

All I have experienced in life in general in these last years and especially as a caregiver has grown my faith and made my faith and my love for the Lord so much sweeter.  It has shown me the Lord's faithfulness.  

It has also given me a passion for encouraging family caregivers.  That is why I continue to write posts at this blog.  It is why I wrote my book to encourage family caregivers.  My book contains over 100 meditations or short chapters to encourage family caregivers.  My care-giving story is interweaved in these meditations.

In celebration of April being the second anniversary of my book's publication I will be offering two free books to the first two people who e-mail me with their mailing address and their care-giving story, be it your own story or that of someone you know who would be blessed by my book.  E-mail me at jesuschild54@hotmail.com for this. 





Sunday, April 10, 2016

Gifts

We often associate gifts with special occasions like birthdays and Christmas, but there are gifts that we are able to receive any time of year.  As with every gift, however, we have to open our hands to receive it; otherwise, the gift does not benefit us or give us any joy. The best gifts we can receive, however, are the gifts God desires for us!
     
The Lord offers us the gift of salvation.  He further offers us the accompanying gifts of joy, peace, and hope. They are ours for the taking; and yes, dear Christian caregiver, they can coexist with the pain and heartache which often are present in family care-giving. Further, the Lord promises us a happy ending. That happy ending is eternal life. Christian caregiver, the heartaches that sometimes accompany care-giving are but a comma in your life story. They are not the end. They are not the end of your loved one’s life story, either. 
     
Further, we are able to receive the gift of trust in God.  We receive this gift by resting in Him and by letting go of anything we are holding on to too tightly or trying to control. As a former caregiver, I know how much we want to stop the progress of our love one’s disease, but much of this is beyond our control. 
    
Forgiving others who have not been there for us is a great gift we can give ourselves, as well as them. We are further able to receive the gift of forgiveness for ourselves.  We must give the Lord any true wrongs and ask for His forgiveness.  We often carry around a lot of false guilt about things beyond our control, however. So whether false guilt or true guilt, we need to let it go and give it to the Lord. Dear caregiver, receive the gift of releasing it to the Lord. 
     
One great gift we can give ourselves is the gift of acceptance of our situation. We often waste so much energy wishing circumstances were different, but we can rest assured that we are right where we are supposed to be in our lives. Dear Christian caregiver, your responsibilities are emotionally overwhelming at times; but in the measure that you are able to accept where God has placed you now in your life, you will find joy. It is a great gift to give yourself.  Yet another wonderful gift we can give ourselves is the gift of being still in the presence of God (Psalm 46:10). Doing this helps us grow in peace, wisdom, and insights. Finally, we can give ourselves the gift of gratitude. When we are grateful in spite of our circumstances, our joy and blessings will multiply and resentments will flee.  
     
Christian caregiver, you have many challenges and sometimes you experience much emotional upheaval as a caregiver for your loved one. Would not these be wonderful gifts to have in your life?  



(The above post is a chapter in my book Dear Caregiver Reflections for Family Caregivers. This book contains over one hundred short chapters or meditations to encourage family caregivers. Interspersed in these meditations in my book is my own story. I share my thoughts and emotions that I experienced while caring for my husband. My book can be ordered online. A link to the order page for my book on Amazon is found on the right side of this page.  If you receive this by e-mail just click on the link at the bottom of the page.  That will get you to the home page from which you can click on the Amazon link.  If you prefer to receive a signed copy from me directly feel free to contact me as jesuschild54@hotmail.com for specifics.)


Saturday, April 2, 2016

Suffering and Trials

My daughter-in-law from London was visiting in my home recently.  My son met her doing mission work in London.  They are now married with two children and a third child on the way.  My daughter-in-law was originally born in Pakistan, however.  The story of how she came to know the Lord and is now living in London is an awesome story of God's grace.  She is being used by God in remarkable ways.  Yet she has a huge burden for her siblings and parents still living in Pakistan. I have taken on the burden on her heart for her family in a new way as well after her being in my home for several days.

So why does God allow suffering in the lives of Christians?  Why are we living in an increasingly dangerous world of persecution and suffering?  Why is there suffering of any kind in this world? Why is there abuse of all kinds and hardships in our world?  Why did your loved one become ill, dear caregiver?  If God is a God of miracles, why doesn't God just fix things?

There are no easy answers to these questions.  We do know that sin entered this world when Adam and Eve, the first people, disobeyed God.  Hence, we no longer live in a perfect world.  It is now a world affected by sorrow and sickness.  Also people make bad choices sometimes which unfortunately affects other people as well.

Jesus said we would face trials in this life.  He also said, however, that we can take heart, because He has overcome the world (John 16:33 in the New Testament of the Bible).  He has promised to always be with us and never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5b in the New Testament).  We also have the assurance that someday all will be made right and perfect when He returns.

Being my husband's caregiver and watching his body deteriorate and fighting breast cancer myself during part of that time was a very difficult experience for me.  There have been trials that have continued to follow me as a widow.  Why did/does God allow that in my life?  

There are no easy answers to these questions.  I do know God has used that experience in my life to teach me valuable lessons.  I have learned that I am not in control.  I have learned of the need to depend on the Lord, even though I still am prone to fret and try to solve things in my own strength.  I have learned of the need  to seek God for Himself and not for what He can give me.  I have seen His faithfulness.  Through trials I have grown in my love for the Lord and have come to know not just in my head but in my heart in a deeper way the truths of His promises.  I often still get easily discouraged, but I know that feelings are not a measure of God's truths.  Feelings do not negate God's promises to always be with me.

It was a little over a year ago that I shared my testimony in my church.  Forgive me for repeating myself by sharing my experiences once again with you.  You can find the link to the written transcript to what I said then here;
 http://christiancaregiving.blogspot.com/2015/03/my-personal-testimony.html   
I shared this same link with you a few weeks ago.

If you want to hear a sermon on the purpose of suffering go here: http://www.oostburgopc.org/sermons/hebrews.cfm   Then when you get there scroll down the list of sermons to the March 29, 2015 sermon called "Patient Endurance in Trials." based on James 5:7-11. Click on that.  This is one of my pastors preaching, and my testimony referred to above is near the end of the sermon about 32 minutes in or so.

We have just experienced Easter.  Christ suffered unimaginable suffering, so we could be saved. Easter also assures us of His presence in our lives through the trials we suffer.  It proves His love for us.  We need no other proof of Christ's love, when we really contemplate what He did for us.  Rest in that, dear caregiver.




  

Friday, March 18, 2016

Easter's Meaning for the Caregiver

(I am re-posting a post I wrote at Easter the last couple years. I am posting a couple days early this time, and I will not be posting next week, so the next post will be April 3 or 4.  Use the week off to browse some of my older posts and have a blessed Easter.)

We are celebrating Easter this month. 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.


Sunday, March 13, 2016

Care-giving Storms

Family care-giving can often feel like a storm.  In a storm there are often things going on in nature which are out of our control.  I remember feeling that way about family care-giving.  As a caregiver I remember my husband's disease continuing on a downward spiral sometimes at an alarming rate, and there was nothing I could do about it.  I often was beset with fears and doubts.  As we talked about in the last blog post, caregivers like to be control.  We really are in control of nothing, however.

Yet God is in control.  In the measure we focus on Him and not on the storms of our lives we can have peace.  I hope that you will forgive me as I link you once again to a blog post I wrote at my other blog, a devotional blog called "Moments With God."  This post was written in middle February. The post talks about Jesus calming the storm and about our need to focus on Him.  The link for that post is below:

http://scripturemoments.blogspot.com/2016/02/matthew-1422-33.html