Sunday, September 16, 2018

Rest in Him

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

In the book of Job in the Old Testament we read about a godly man who lost everything he owned and all his children in a serious of disasters.  As if that was not sufficient suffering, he was afflicted with a horrible disease.

Do you ever wonder, dear Christian caregiver, why God has allowed the illness of your loved one for whom you are caring? Have you ever wondered why you have to go through all the heartaches and challenges of caring for your ill or disabled loved one? Have you ever wondered why you, a child of God, has to endure these trials?

In the book of Job in the Old Testament, Job, began to ask these questions. God responded to Job in chapter 42. In effect God says, “Who are you to question My ways and My plans? Why should you question Me without knowledge,without understanding My wisdom? You have no right to question Me. Your knowledge is too limited to understand My ways. You do not have My power and wisdom.” Later Job said to God that he had spoken of things that were far beyond his understanding. These were things only God could understand, and Job repented of questioning God’s ways.

I do not understand why my husband was afflicted with his devastating neurological disease. I do not know why he had to go through the disabilities and indignities of his disease. I do not know why I had to go through all the heartaches of being his caregiver and eventually losing him to death.  However, I must trust God that He knew what He was doing, no matter how difficult life became during those years 

The Bible reminds us that we can trust in the Lord, for He has and never will forsake us. His ways are perfect even when we do not understand His ways. He is our shield, and we can take refuge in Him. I can trust in Him and not be afraid of what the future holds. Even in difficult times He is my strength and song.

I do know that I have been strengthened in my faith, and my relationship with the Lord is more precious than ever because of all that has happened to me. God has been my help and support through it all. I needed and still need to trust in Him alone. I don’t understand all God’s ways; but I do know He is a wise, faithful, and loving God. I do know that He is worthy of my trust.

Christian caregiver, you do not know what the future holds for you and your loved one, but you do know that the Lord God holds your future. You may not understand His ways, but He asks you to trust Him. His ways are not always your ways, but He knows what He is doing in what He allows in your life. Rest in Him.



If you wish to order my book to encourage family caregivers here is the Amazon link to my order page:  https://www.amazon.com/Dear-Caregiver-Sharon-Vander-Waal/dp/1629524263?ie=UTF8&keywords=Dear%20Caregiver&qid=1464624581&ref_=sr_1_1&s=books
My book is also found at Barnes and Noble and elsewhere online.  My book is available in Kindle and Nook versions as well as paperback.  Finally, you can get a copy directly from me as well.  Just e-mail me at jesuschild54@hotmail.com for specifics, if you wish to go that route.

















Sunday, September 9, 2018

Treasure the Moments

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

"In December of 2010 my son, Brian, his wife, and my little granddaughter flew in from London. That year I had mixed emotions about their upcoming arrival. I was glad to see my son and his wife, and I was excited about getting to interact with my little granddaughter. Their anticipated stay of two weeks was a long time, however. I was very busy taking care of my husband, Wayne, at the time and having people around so much (even family) would be emotionally tiring even when it was a good time.

It turned out that there were joyful moments, blessed moments, and chaotic moments that year. My son from London, his wife, and their two-year-old little girl were here from December 13 to December 27. My son, from IA, his wife, and their two daughters were also here from the Wed. night before Christmas to Sunday the 26th. Our local son, his wife, and their four children were here part of that time especially on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

It was wonderful having them all here for Christmas at one time. It had been a long time since that happened. My husband, Wayne, experienced an exceptionally good day on that Christmas Day. I consider that one of our blessed moments. That truly was a gift from above.

It was a joyful moment when I saw all of my grandchildren sitting around the table eating a snack or playing together downstairs. It was a blessed and joyful moment when all the grandkids would come in and crawl on bed and give their grandpa a kiss and hug after he was tucked in bed for the night. The blessed moments also came when everyone was considerate of Wayne’s schedule and the way things needed to be with him and even helped me with caring for him.

The overwhelming and chaotic moments came when they were all cooking in the kitchen at the same time and asking me where things were. The overwhelming moments came when the clutter starting piling up with having so many people around so much. The overwhelming moments came when I felt as if I needed and wanted to be there for everyone especially my grandkids, and I still needed to meet my husband’s needs. The overwhelming moments also came when it felt as if I was crowded out of my own space, so to speak.

Those moments were the last Christmas my husband spent with us, however. They are moments we can look back at and treasure as a family.  My husband passed away a little over a week later on January 2, 2011. Treasure all the moments with your loved ones, dear Christian caregiver."



The picture below is of a few of the grandchildren "putting Wayne (Grandpa) to bed" and giving him a good night kiss :






Also if you wish to order my book to encourage family caregivers here is the Amazon link to my order page:  https://www.amazon.com/Dear-Caregiver-Sharon-Vander-Waal/dp/1629524263?ie=UTF8&keywords=Dear%20Caregiver&qid=1464624581&ref_=sr_1_1&s=books
My book is also found at Barnes and Noble and elsewhere online.  My book is available in Kindle and Nook versions as well as paperback.  Finally, you can get a copy directly from me as well.  Just e-mail me at jesuschild54@hotmail.com for specifics, if you wish to go that route.




Sunday, September 2, 2018

Unexpected Storms

Recently our area was struck with an unexpected storm.  Television reports and the blowing of the sirens alerted us to it's imminent arrival.  Yet the intensity of the winds and the torrential downpour of rain left me in awe.  I should have been in the basement, as the weather reporters advised.  Yet then I would have missed seeing the power of this storm.

As it turns out this storm uprooted some big old trees and broke off many, many big branches in our village. (I posted one picture of an uprooted tree by the village park below.)   It caused many people to lose electrical power-some for thirty-six hours or more.  I never lost power, but I lost internet and phone service for awhile.  Evidence of the storm are still evident on my village streets, although some towns and counties around us fared worse because of the storm.

Life is filled with other kinds of storms as well.  I remember the storm of caring for my husband and watching as his body became more and more disabled over a period of about four and a half years.  The care-giving storm is a difficult storm.  I remember the storm of grief after losing my husband and becoming a widow.  I remember the storm of all the secondary losses as well, and of having to build an entirely new life.

I also  remember other storms since those days.  Sometimes the storms have been very intense and painful emotionally and physically.  Sometimes they have been minor storms which can collectively wear on an individual.  Storms of one degree of intensity or another continue to seem to come.

Recently I read some devotions by Nancy Guthrie from her book, The One Year Book of HOPE. This is what she said in one of her devotions, "Perhaps you find yourself watching the storm clouds gather in the distance, or maybe you are swirling in the center of a storm.  Or perhaps the storm has come and gone and you are picking up the pieces of your life.  God often speaks to us through the storms of our lives.---if we listen, in the midst of the most violent storm we can detect the still, small voice of God, calling us to greater faith in Him."

Often it takes a storm for us to see our need for the Lord and to cry out to Him.  It is often in the storms that our complacency is replaced with a sense of His presence. We then hear His still small voice.  We recognize that He is with us in the storm.  Having the Lord with us in the storm makes all the difference, no matter how tumultuous the storm.

When I was watching the recent storm in our village from my living room window I felt remarkably calm in the moment.  I was relatively safe in the "ark" of my home.  Imagine how Noah in the Old Testament of the Bible felt when he was in that ark in the great flood, however.  Imagine how fearful the disciples in the New Testament felt when they were in their boat in very stormy weather.  Yet the Lord Jesus is our ark of safety in all the kinds of storms that God allows in our lives.  We may not like the storms, but He is always our place of safety.

Sometimes it is easy to tire of the storms that keep coming and to dread the next one which perhaps can not yet be seen on the horizon.  It is easy to also imagine storms that never will occur.  That only uses up emotional energy unnecessarily.  Instead of looking at the waves in current storms, reliving regrets about past storms, or imagining future storms; the Lord wants us to look to Him.  He wants us to focus on Him and embrace Him, and when storms do come he wants us to step out faith.  He wants us to trust His sustaining power and love.

The only way we can prepare for unexpected storms in our lives is by living close to the Lord and by immersing God's Word into our lives.  We need to obediently build our lives on the foundation of obedience to God's Word and on His precious promises to always be with us.  Yes, we will falter and become afraid at times, but the Lord and the promises of His Word will see us through.









Sunday, August 26, 2018

August and the Lord's Story

A couple days ago on August 24th it was my birthday.  I am thankful for my Lord being with me and being faithful to me these 71 years in the valleys, mountaintop experiences, and in the in between times in my life.

I am reminded of another thing which happened four years ago in August.  On that day my local newspaper published a story about my years as a caregiver for my husband.  That article talked about the struggles I experienced as a caregiver, but it also talked about how my faith helped me through that time in my life.  Finally, the newspaper article talked about my book to encourage family caregivers.  Here is the link to that newspaper article that was published four years ago:  http://www.sheboyganpress.com/story/news/local/2014/08/26/caregiver/14628253/

I probably posted a link to that newspaper story four years ago when it was just published, but I thought it was worth giving you the link to it again.  It gives a good rendering of my story (or rather the Lord's story) and portrays my passion to encourage family caregivers.

If you have not ordered my book, Dear Caregiver Reflections for Family Caregivers, yet, you might want to consider ordering it for yourself or for someone you love.  It contains over 100 short chapters or meditations to encourage family caregivers.  My story is intertwined in the chapters as well.  Here is the link to the Amazon order page for my book:  https://www.amazon.com/Dear-Caregiver-Sharon-Vander-Waal/dp/1629524263/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1470784479&sr=1-1

It is also available elsewhere online as well.  Finally, you can get it directly from me by e-mailing me at jesuschild54@hotmail.com for specifics.

I know the challenges of family care-giving, dear caregiver, and I care about you.  Thank you for all that you do for your loved one!

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Walk Conscious of His Presence

Dear Christian caregiver, it is vitally important that you stay conscious of the Lord’s presence step by step throughout your day. The Lord’s presence with you is both a protection and a promise. He will always be with you, and He will never leave you. Go gently through each day keeping your eyes on the Lord. He will open up the path He has planned for you step by step. Just trust Him along the way.

Life as a family caregiver is overwhelming at times. The challenges and difficulties are numerous. The promise of the Lord’s constant presence is a protection against the pitfalls of despair and self-pity. It is also a protection against worry about the future. When you think about your future and the future of your loved one envision the Lord in that future, because the Lord has promised to always be with you. Keep your eyes focused on the Lord.

Look to the Lord continually for help in the challenges of family care-giving. You are the God appointed comforter and help for your loved one. Often you need comfort yourself, however. When you need comfort, the Lord wants to enfold you in His arms. As you receive His comfort you will be a better channel of comfort to your loved one for whom you are caring and also perhaps for other people.


This link to an old hymn I discovered may be a blessing to you today: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WznKVSgQWpU

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Waves

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

I journeled the following words in late November of 2010 while caring for my husband. Perhaps you can relate, dear caregiver.
 
“Yesterday I was awestruck by the beautiful sunrise. First, there were the beautiful pinks coming forth all across the sky and then the gradual yellows; as the early morning sun rose into view. Waves of joy and gratitude for God’s faithfulness surfaced in my heart.

Other kinds of waves hit me at times also, however. These are waves of sadness. I really believe my care-giving life has meaning, and I believe there is a purpose and a definite plan for my life through the struggles of care-giving. There are also definite blessings that have come as a direct result of the whole care-giving experience. This does not erase the fact, however, that I am slowly losing the life I once had with my husband. I am slowly losing my best friend. Also there are so many physical challenges and other emotional challenges with the whole care-giving experience.

Hence, I sometimes have these waves of sadness that hit me. Sometimes it is right in the middle of joyful or pleasant moments and experiences. Recently it hit me when I was ready to enter a church service. I think that may be because I miss the fact that we used to be able to attend church together. Today, my son volunteered to give me some time away while he took care of my husband’s needs. I enjoyed that very much, but there was a moment or so even then that I felt this wave of sadness come over me. Sometimes I feel it when I first wake up in the morning.  I am really struggling for acceptance and gratitude. I believe I have grown some in this area. It is a strange thing, however, this coexistence of waves of joy with waves of sadness.”

Know dear Christian caregiver, that the Lord is with you in the waves of joy and in the waves of sadness. He has promised to never leave you or forsake you. Rest in that dear caregiver.

beach, blue, horizon
 
 
Also if you wish to order my book to encourage family caregivers here is the Amazon link to my order page:  https://www.amazon.com/Dear-Caregiver-Sharon-Vander-Waal/dp/1629524263?ie=UTF8&keywords=Dear%20Caregiver&qid=1464624581&ref_=sr_1_1&s=books
My book is also found at Barnes and Noble and elsewhere online.  My book is available in Kindle and Nook versions as well as paperback.  Finally, you can get a copy directly from me as well.  Just e-mail me at jesuschild54@hotmail.com for specifics, if you wish to go that route.



Sunday, August 5, 2018

Never Been This Way Before

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

Dear caregiver, do you weary of the constant changes in your loved one’s health? If one’s loved ones faces a disease from which there is a possible cure, one continues to hope for their recovery. It is difficult going through those days, but there is hope for better days ahead. When one’s loved one’s disease is incurable and the declines are persistent, one enters an even more difficult sphere. As a caregiver, I so remember dreading and sometimes fearing the next decline in my husband‘s health. Would I be able to handle his next decline physically and emotionally?

In the book of Joshua in the Old Testament, God's Old Testament people (the Israelites) were about to enter the land that God had promised them many years before. To be able to enter this new land, however, a huge body or people needed to cross the Jordan River. It would take a miracle for God's people to safely cross the Jordan River, but our Lord God specializes in the impossible.

The officers of God's people told them that when they saw the ark of the covenant of the Lord their God and the Levites who were carrying the ark, they were to move out from their positions and follow the ark. Then they would know which way to go, since they had never been this way before (Joshua 3:b-4a).  The ark was a symbol of the Lord's presence among them. Only if God's people did this would they know which way to go and what to do next, for this was new and foreign territory to them.

As a caregiver, I too had never been that way before. I had never encountered a similar situation or been in the same place in my life. It was a scary place to be. So I also had to keep my eyes focused on the Lord, and I had to follow His leading. Each new day is a new day given to us by the hand of the Lord. When we awaken in the morning, we do not know what new experiences or circumstances we may face that day. This is especially true for family caregivers. 

Every day and moment of our lives is known and planned by the Lord, however. He knows and understands the joys and heartaches caregivers face today and in all the tomorrows which may lie ahead. Caregivers must trust that the Lord will safely lead them each and every day, as they keep their eyes focused on Him and follow Him. Before they crossed the Jordan River their leader, Joshua, told God’s Old Testament people to consecrate themselves; for the next day the Lord was going to do amazing things among them (Joshua 3:5). The Lord will do amazing things in our lives also, if we trust and follow Him.

In Joshua 3 the waters did not divide while God's people were still in camp or even as they were marching towards the Jordan River. Only when the leaders and people stepped out into the water in faith were God's people able to safely cross the Jordan River! (Joshua 3:15b-16a)  Dear Caregiver, you may sometimes feel hopeless and even desperate in your care-giving experience. At times like these, commit your needs and desperate situations to the Lord. Like God’s Old Testament people, step out in faith. Trust that the Lord will see you through the seemingly impossible Jordan Rivers of your life. The Lord has our lives in His control, and we can trust and follow His leading!