Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Lord is Leading

The Lord is leading you, dear caregiver.  He is leading you step by step.  Do you truly believe that, dear caregiver?  Do you believe it deep down in your heart?  I did believe that in my head and yes, I believed that in my heart when I was my husband's caregiver for over four and a half years.  Yet I so often let fear and the desire to control heap unnecessary emotional burden on myself.  As I said in my last blog post, I think I subconsciously thought that everything I did or did not do could lengthen or shorten the progress of my husband's disease.

It is so easy to worry and to fret.  It is so easy to fear.  That is why the Bible tells us over and over not to fear and not to worry.  The Lord knows our weakness and predisposition to do so.  So He keeps reminding us not to fear.  I have grown through those care-giving days and in the days since as a widow.  God has shown His faithfulness to me over and over.  Yet it must be a daily choice to leave things in the Lord's hands.  It is the only way to peace.

The truth is that the Lord IS in control.  He is leading us and guiding us.  A favorite verse of mine is Psalm 32:8.  God says to us there, "I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you."  Hold on to His precious hand in trusting dependence, dear caregiver.  You do not know what is going to happen in the future, but He does.  You do not know what is going to happen with your loved one for whom you are caring or to yourself even in the next moment.  But God is in control.  You are merely an instrument in His hand.  Rest in Him.

If your loved one's illness is incurable or terminal a grief process may be going on in your heart right now.  It is heart wrenching to see one's loved one deteriorate before one's eyes.  I know that to be true, because I lived that reality as my husband's caregiver.  Yet we can rest in and trust the truth that our loved ones are in the hands of the Lord.  Psalm 139:16 says, "All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be."

Hence, dear caregiver, do not add emotional guilt or trying to control situations which are uncontrollable to the already heavy burden of your grief about your loved one's illness.  Instead leave it with the Lord.  Trust Him to guide your path step by step.  In the process just enjoy the Lord's presence, and love your love one as he or she is at the moment.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

God As Our Confidence

As I have mentioned before I have been leading a woman's Sunday school class the last few weeks. Today was the last week of a seven week series.  Some of my thoughts in the post below are once again borrowed from this series.

Family care-giving is often emotionally and physically draining.  It also can be the cause of feelings of panic and feelings that God has abandoned us.  In Psalm 31 verse 22 the psalmist, David, says of God, "I am cut off from your sight!"  David was convinced in that verse that God had abandoned him and that he was all alone, and so he became alarmed.  But David was wrong.

Feelings are powerful.  We are so programmed to look at our circumstances and listen to our unreliable feelings, but we must not trust our feelings.  Instead we must trust God's Word.  Our feelings may tell us that God has deserted us, but God has promised that He will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5b).  Our feelings may tell us that God has more important things to do than worry about us, but God's Word contradicts that (Luke 12:24 and I Peter 5:7).  

We can't help our feelings, but we should not let our feelings immobilize us.  We need to instead focus on the truth and promises of God's Word.  Our life is like a train.  Faith and God's Word needs to be the engine.  Feelings are the caboose.  Faith and not feelings must drive our life.  We need to trust in God's presence and act accordingly even when feelings do not immediately follow.  We need to cling to what we know is true and keep singing praises to God in spite of our feelings.  If we do this even when we do not FEEL God's presence our faith will grow by leaps and bounds, and even our feelings will follow in due time.  

When we feel abandoned or afraid, we need to trust God's promises and run straight into the arms of God.  God is our only true hope and source of joy.  This means we ask God for help (Psalm 31:2), give everything we have to God (Psalm 31:5), and let God lead us (Psalm 31:3).

We need to find our confidence in the Lord alone.  Confidence come from having an eternal perspective.  When we have an eternal perspective we see that our future and our loved ones' futures do not depend on every decision we make.  As a caregiver for my husband for four and a half years I think I subconsciously thought that every decision I made or thing I did would either slow of hasten the progress of his disease.  This put unnecessary emotional burden on my shoulders.  The truth is that no matter what happens today or tomorrow or whatever happened in the past God is still on His throne, and you and I are still His children!  Paul's attitude in Philippians 1:21-22 was that he could not lose.  Whether he lived or died he was a winner.  The same is true for you and the love one for whom you are caring, dear caregiver!  

Confidence comes from having an eternal perspective, from seeing God's big picture.  Confidence also comes from trusting God to meet our needs (Psalm 123:1-2 and Philippians 4:19) and from making everything in our lives a matter of prayer (Psalm 34:6).  God doesn't just listen to our prayers, He does something about them in His perfect timetable and in His perfect wisdom.  God had led you to the task of family care-giving.  If you are seeking His will, He is providing and will continue to provide each step of the way.  As you see God providing for you step by step your confidence will grow and continue to grow as you face each new day and new situations in the future.

Don't listen to your feelings or Satan's lies, dear caregiver.  Satan wants you to believe God has abandoned you.  In reality He will always be with you (Hebrews 13:5b).  Satan wants you to believe that God doesn't care how difficult life is for you and your loved one right now.  Yet God says He cares for you (I Peter 5:7).  Satan wants you to believe that God must not be in control, because life has become so chaotic.  The truth is that God is very much in control (Psalm 31:15a and Acts 17:26). Satan wants you to believe that God does not have a purpose or plan for your future and that of your loved one.  God says just the opposite (Jeremiah 29:11)  Rest in the Lord, dear caregiver!      

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Identity

Our identities are so often wrapped up with our various roles in life. Our identities, however, really should be a reflection of who we are inside. Our identities should reflect our values, passions, likes and dislikes, and our tastes. 

My husband, Wayne, and I were married for over 39 years. During that time I was his wife, lover, and best friend. I was also the mother to our three sons and later a mother-in-law and a grandma.  

During the last years of my husband’s life, I also took on the role of my husband’s caregiver. As my husband’s caregiver I was often bombarded with questions like, “How is Wayne?” I never knew how to answer that question. Outside of a miracle, my husband was NOT going to get better; only worse. He was not going to get over his disease like the common cold. There was no treatment for his disease, and his symptoms were predicted to continue to deteriorate. So how was I to answer a question like, “How is Wayne?” People knew this, and I still was asked that question. I also felt that I was more than my husband’s caregiver, and I didn't constantly want to be identified only as Wayne’s caregiver.  

As my husband’s wife and caregiver, I grieved each step backwards that he took in his disease. It was painful seeing the love of my love deteriorate before my eyes. The role of being his caregiver did become almost all consuming. Because of this, it also almost became my identity. After my husband’s death on January 2, 2011, my new status became “widow.” I now had/have to work my way through the grief process and struggle to find a new purpose and role in life.  

As we said before, however, our identities are not equal to our roles in life. Our identities should reflect our inner beings and passions. The roles we play in life should merely be a vehicle for fleshing out our identities. Also, as Christians, our true identities are really only found in our relationship with our Lord. That relationship will get us through the most difficult of challenges and trials. 

Dear caregiver, the care-giving role can be so consuming that you forget who you are as a person. In the midst of the overwhelming decisions and challenges of care-giving, it is important that you do not lose sight of who you are as a unique individual. Most importantly, do not lose sight, Christian caregiver, of your significant identity in Christ.  


(This post is taken from my book DEAR CAREGIVER Reflections for Family Caregivers available online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Xulon, my publisher. You can also get it directly from me by emailing me at jesuschild54@hotmail for specifics.)



Sunday, February 8, 2015

Your Divine Valentine

(This is a blog post that I wrote a year ago. I think it's message is worth repeating again, as we approach another Valentine's day.)

Dear Caregiver, do you ever feel the sorrow of things lost? Do you ever miss the way things were in the past with your loved one for whom you are caring? Does the approach of holidays such as Valentine’s day make you feel melancholy and sad?

During those moments of sadness remember that the Lord loves you with an infinite love. He in effect is your Divine Valentine. He is sufficient. He alone can give you all that you need. Below is a poem called Your Divine Valentine:


Your Divine Valentine

A Valentine may play a love song for you, but God sings you the sweetest love song in the universe. (Zephaniah 3:17)

A Valentine may give you flowers, but God sent you the most beautiful rose of all, Jesus. (Song of Solomon 2:1)

A Valentine may bring you chocolate, but God provides you with something even sweeter, His Word. (Psalm 119:103)

A Valentine may love you for a lifetime, but God loved you before you were born and will love you for all eternity. (Jeremiah 31:3)


I am praying, dear Christian caregiver, that you are blessed by the wonderful love of God this Valentine's Day and always! Be sure to check out the Bible references so you can unwrap evidences of God’s wonderful love for you.



Sunday, February 1, 2015

Peace When Your Heart is Troubled

In a recent post I said that I was teaching a seven week woman's Sunday school class entitled Psalms: Assurance of God's Goodness.  This morning we had our fourth lesson in the series.  Some of the thoughts of this post are applications of the last two weeks' lessons.

Life is often difficult, but God is always good.  Life is often difficult for the family caregiver who sees his or her loved one deteriorate in his or her health.  It is difficult physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  Yet there are good things that come from all of this.  There are good reasons for all the suffering and challenging situations in our lives.  For one thing difficult times molds us to become more like Christ.  Hence, they are working for our ultimate good and God's glory.  Hardships (including care-giving challenges) forces us to make difficult choices about God, it molds our characters, and makes heaven come alive.  They also influence our thought lives and makes us more sensitive to others.  They further cause us to contemplate our purpose and what is really important.

Yet good reasons don't always meet our needs.  Sometimes the pain seems to outweigh all the reasons for our heartaches even though they are good and Biblical reasons.  That is why we need to be there for each other with our prayers, our presence, and our kindness and not with a list of reasons for our heartaches,  Most of all we need to remember that the Lord does not always give us answers to our "why?" questions, but rather He gives us HIMSELF.  He is the answer.  Dear caregiver, even if others fail you the Lord is always there to comfort and guide you through the maze of your care-giving responsibilities.  He will be there to give you Himself and comfort you when you heart is weighed down with weariness, grief, and perhaps fear of it all.

Do you ever lie awake at night with anxious thoughts about your future and the future of your loved one, dear caregiver?  That is the time to pour out your heart to the Lord.  God does not need fancy prayers to impress Him.  He desires honest prayers from the heart.  In the book of Psalms there are more psalms of lament than there are psalms of praise.  God already knows our thoughts anyhow. Why not be honest with our prayers?  Honesty leads to intimacy with God.  Pouring out our hearts to God accompanied by the sacrifice of praise and of ourselves is the key to refuge and security in Him. Pour out you heart's burdens and feelings to the Lord, dear caregiver.

Besides pouring out our hearts to God when they are troubled, we need to examine our hearts. We must search our hearts for God's answers to our troubling situations.  Dear caregiver, when you feel anxiety, fear, or anger be it nighttime when you are trying to sleep or during the day time; remember God's promises in God's Word to always be with you.  Examine yourself as to why you are not resting this with the Lord.  Use this opportunity to examine what is really important and of eternal value.

Caring for my husband for over four and a half years and seeing him deteriorate before my eyes was one of my life's most difficult experiences.  Yet it was an opportunity to begin to grow in many of these areas we have just discussed.  Psalm 4:4b says, "when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent."  When we examine our hearts in silence and listen to the Lord's voice by drowning out our own voice in our heads good things begin to happen.

Finally, we need to offer our hearts to God.  God will even take our broken, troubled, and weary hearts. Sometimes the caregiver's heart can feel so weighed down and troubled.  Yet the Lord takes that heart as well, dear caregiver, if it is given to Him freely and without pride.  Offering our hearts to God is offering ourselves to Him.  It means putting our hope, trust, and very lives in His hands even when life and life's circumstances seem so very overwhelming.  It means trusting Him, dear caregiver, even when your care-giving situations become seemingly hopeless.

Then joy and peace will begin to sprout in your life, dear caregiver.  (Check out verses six through eight of Psalm 4 in the Bible.)  This may be a process and involve some struggle, but joy and peace is the ultimate product of a life surrendered to the Lord.  This surrender must be a moment by moment surrender, because new things come up all the time.

Make Psalm 4:8 your verse, dear caregiver.  Psalm 4:8 says, "I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety."  I also love Psalm 116:7 which says, "Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you."  Rest in Him, dear caregiver!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

You Need to Take Care of Yourself

You need to take care of yourself.” How many times have caregivers heard this? As a caregiver, one may be tempted to think, “I am so busy attending to the needs of my loved one. How can I possibly find time for myself?”  However, as a caregiver for my husband with an ever deteriorating neurological disease, I found that it was essential to at least seek to take care of myself. This was not selfish. It was important for me to take care of myself so that I would not fold under the pressure and become ill myself.  It was also necessary for my husband’s well-being. I could be the best I could be in meeting my husband’s needs only if I was also taking care of myself.  

A caregiver needs to attend to his or her emotional needs. If there is a face to face caregiver support group in one’s community, that might be helpful. If a caregiver knows someone else who is a caregiver, that also might be beneficial. By forming a relationship with that person, a caregiver may have found someone in whom he or she can confide. As a family caregiver, I personally found a lot of emotional support through an internet online support group and through blogging. Through reading other caregiver’s blogs, I was greatly helped and reassured that my feelings were normal and often very similar to other caregivers. Through blogging my own thoughts, I was also able to crystallize my feelings.   This helped me so much.  Also, a caregiver needs to get out and do enjoyable things alone or with friends from time to time. If this means asking someone to come in and tend to the caregiver’s loved one’s needs, then that is what has to happen. Total isolation is never good for anyone’s emotional needs.  

A caregiver also needs to attend to his or her physical needs. A caregiver has to protect his or her own needs in order to be able to attend to the needs of the loved one who requires their constant care. One way one can do that is through a healthy diet and exercise, whenever possible. Exercise is a great stress reliever, and it can help to prevent a lot of diseases.  

Further, a caregiver needs to attend to his or her spiritual needs. It is so important to develop an intimate spiritual relationship with the Lord. It is also important to stay deep in His Word, the Bible, and to constantly pray for the Lord’s guidance and strength. Without my relationship with the Lord and the wonderful promises in His Word, I think I would not have been able to hold up under the stresses of care-giving. 

Finally, a caregiver must be willing to ask for help. A caregiver must ask for help from God, but also sometimes from others. As a caregiver, I did not want to ask for help. Also, sometimes I did not know what kind of help others could give me. In the end, however, I realized that I absolutely could not do it alone. I had a C.N.A. lady come in two to three nights a week at bedtime, and at the very end my son was able to greatly step up and help also. In this way, I was able to keep my husband out of the nursing home. In other cases, a nursing home may be the only and best option.  A caregiver must have the courage and humility to accept and even pursue help as needed.  Take care of yourself in every way you can, dear caregiver!  

(This post is taken from my book DEAR CAREGIVER Reflections for Family Caregivers. The book is available at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Dear-Caregiver-Sharon-Vander-Waal/dp/1629524263/ref=sr_1_1_twi_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1421452148&sr=1-1&keywords=Dear+Caregiver  It is further available at Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/dear-caregiver-sharon-vander-waal/1119198854?ean=9781629524269   Both Amazon and Barnes and Noble have paperback and e-versions of my book. Finally it is also available at Xulon, my publisher: http://www.xulonpress.com/bookstore/bookdetail.php?PB_ISBN=9781629524269&HC_ISBN )


Sunday, January 18, 2015

God is Good

For seven weeks I am scheduled to teach a woman's Sunday school class in my church on the goodness of God.  Today was our second session.  It is easy to believe in the goodness of God when life runs smoothly, yet is God good on the days when life is difficult as well?  Is God good as you perhaps see your loved one deteriorate in his or her health?  Is God good when you are overwhelmed with the stresses of care-giving or other life stresses?  It may not always feel that way; but yes, God is good all the time, dear caregiver.

One way He shows His goodness is by His Father heart.  Read Psalm 103 and find out all his benefits and blessings to you.  Find out about His total forgiveness for all your sins.  He removes them as far as the east is from the west!  He blots them out from His memory.  Bask in that grace, dear caregiver. If God removes all your sins, will He not also give you everything else you need as a caregiver?  We can rest in His goodness even when we do not always understand His ways.  Knowing He is a God of goodness and love enables us to walk in obedience and trust.  Even the trials are sent to mold us to be more like Jesus.  They too show us God's goodness and love in the same way as a good parent shows their love for their children by directing and disciplining them.  Your Abba Father, your heavenly Daddy, loves you with an infinite love and goodness (Romans 8:15-17.)

Another way God shows His love for you and His goodness is by being a place of refuge for you.  In fact the Lord is your only true refuge, dear caregiver.  You can run to Him to regroup and to be restored when care-giving responsibilities and concerns are wearing you down.  You can hide under the shelter of His wings.  Check out Psalm 91 in regards to God's refuge available to you, dear caregiver.  In practical terms you can seek His refuge through prayer, Bible reading,
Biblical music, and perhaps counsel and help from others.  He is always there to comfort and shelter you, dear caregiver.

The password or entrance to His comfort and refuge is honesty about your feelings, dear caregiver.  It is pouring out your heart to Him.  It is also gratitude in the midst of the heartaches.  Life is hard, but God is good.  Family care-giving can be very difficult and stressful, but God is always good, dear caregiver.