Sunday, February 7, 2016

In the "Impossible" Situations

Care-giving for a loved one can be very difficult and challenging at times.  There are times when the situation can seem impossible. I remember feeling that way as a caregiver.  Yet God always provided a way for me until God took my husband, Wayne, home to Heaven with Him.  God always promises to guide and pave the way even in the seemingly impossible and difficult situations.

This reminds me of a post that I published just a few days ago at my other blog site, a devotional blog called "Moments With God."  This particular post is based on Joshua chapter three in the Old Testament of the Bible.  It shows how God did the impossible for His Old Testament people and can do the same for us, no matter how impossible our situations.  Click on the link to that blog post below.  I hope you are blessed, dear caregiver.


http://scripturemoments.blogspot.com/2016/02/joshua-3.html 

Sunday, January 31, 2016

When Life Doesn't Make Sense

As a community in the town where I live we are reeling over the three tragic events that happened in our community recently-all within the same week.  An elderly man with beginning dementia from my small town of two thousand people went the wrong way on the interstate killing himself and another person.  Then there was a young woman from our town who had just graduated from high school in 2015 who was killed in a separate car accident.  Finally a local automotive business had a major fire.

It was a blessing last week Sunday morning to find Psalm 9:9 printed in my church bulletin. It read, "The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.  And those who know Your name put their trust in You, for You, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You."  Then to have one of our pastors change his planned sermon and preach on Psalm 46 was a huge blessing.

Yet another shocking event happened last week a few days later.  A family in a nearby neighboring town had their house burn down, and three of their four children lost their lives because of that fire. How does one explain such things? Sometimes life does not make sense to us.  There are many tragedies in this life, and our hearts can break over and over.

Perhaps you feel that life doesn't make sense either, dear caregiver, as you watch your loved one decline in his or her health.  I think back to some things my pastor said in his sermon on Psalm 46, however.  Psalm 46:1 reminds us that God is "our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble."  Psalm 46 goes on to remind us us that we need not fear even if what we think is impossible or unthinkable happens.  God will help us and be with us.  He tells us in Psalm 46:10, "Be still and know that I am God."  We do not have a perfect answer for all the tragic "whys" of life, but we can be certain that the Lord will be with us each step of the way.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Rejoice

I wrote the following words about a month before my husband’s death in 2011: 

At first glance, it would seem ridiculous to associate rejoicing with care-giving. The last years have been very difficult years for my husband and me, and yet when I look back there is so much for which to be thankful. There is so much for which I can rejoice.
    
 In April of 2006, Wayne was diagnosed with his neurological disease. It is called Multiple Systems Atrophy type C. It is affecting his cerebellum.  Between the summer of 2006 when Wayne was diagnosed with his disease until now (December of 2010), Wayne has gone from still working, to walking with a cane, to a walker, and now to a wheelchair. Wayne’s disease affects everything. It affects his mobility, his balance, his speech, his eating habits, and even his personality.
     
The emotional feelings that surface with care-giving can be intense at times.  Every change downward is emotionally draining and scary. Also, the physical demands of care-giving are heavy. Finally, more of the decisions fall on me now.  So, what is there to rejoice about in this situation? For one thing, I know that I am becoming a much stronger person through all this. I am having to do things I never did before. This is good, as it has strengthened by character and confidence.
     
More importantly, it has strengthened my faith and my love for my God. Over and over, I have seen things fall into place when I felt I could no longer hold up. Most recently, my husband could no longer help me with transfers, as he lost his ability to stand up on his own. I thought I would have to put him in a nursing home. Right when I was at my lowest point of despair, my prayers were answered by the ability of my son to step up and help. Also, I was able to procure a sit-to-stand lift. Even though the lift is a clumsy, heavy piece of equipment to use, it is an answer to prayer. I have seen over and over again this kind of answer to prayer. So, I am sad about my husband’s illness; it is the heartbreak of my life. But I rejoice in the provisions from above.
    
 I also rejoice in my three sons and their wives. I rejoice in my wonderful grandchildren. I rejoice in their beautiful and sweet spirits and in their love for their grandpa and me. I rejoice that I am a breast cancer survivor. I also rejoice in the sun, which is shining today after many cloudy days. I rejoice in the daily blessings. Lord, help me to remember these blessings when I become sad or overwhelmed with the challenges of care-giving. 

Dear Christian caregiver, the challenges and heartaches of care-giving are always present, but the blessings are there also. How can you rejoice in this day?


(This post is a chapter in my book Dear Caregiver Reflections for Family Caregivers.  A link to the order page for my book can be found on the right hand side of this page.) 



Sunday, January 17, 2016

What Word Will Direct You This Year?

Perhaps like me you have seen a link on Facebook recently which asks the question, "What is your word for 2016?" What word or phrase is going to be your word or your goal this year, dear caregiver? Perhaps another way this question could be stated is to ask, "What word is going to characterize your actions and attitudes this year?  What are the desires of your heart in this area, dear caregiver?"

In the past as a caregiver I was sometimes challenged to answer this question. One of the answers I gave in the past was "letting go" or release.  By that I meant letting go of the worries and anxieties that I sometimes clung to as a caregiver for my husband with an ever declining health. We in fact talked about that very concept of "letting go" in my blog post last week. Another answer I gave in the past to that question was the word "hope" or resting things with the Lord.

These are all good words or goals to drive us along our sometimes difficult paths. This year I would like to make my word for the year to be intimacy.  By that I mean practicing the presence of the Lord. I already love the intimacy I have with the Lord especially during my devotional time each morning. My personal love for the Lord has grown immensely during these past few years, and I have seen evidences of  His love for me in my life in numerous ways.  Yet I want to see that grow even more.

It is so easy for me to have an intimate time with the Lord during my devotion time. After I get up from my devotional time, however, sometimes it is also easy to respond with panic or despair when situations arise which are unplanned or out of my control.  It is easy in those cases to try to "fix" things in my own strength.  This year I want to be continually reminding myself of the presence of the Lord and that He is in control.  I want to experience His intimate presence moment by moment.

If I do that I will be able to "let go" of the worries and anxieties.  I will be able to rest things with the Lord.  If I have this kind of intimacy with the Lord on a moment by moment basis, I will also have a thankful attitude.  I will be thankful for all the material and spiritual blessings.  I will further be thankful for the difficult moments because these difficult moments are working to make me more like the Lord Jesus.  Then too my joy will increase no matter what is going on in my life at the moment.

So I am going to seek to make "intimacy" my word for the year-an ever increasing awareness of the Lord right beside me.  What word will direct you this year, dear caregiver?  Feel free to share your word or phrase below in the comment section.


(You also may be interested in clicking on the link below.  It is a devotional blog post on Psalm 16.  It is a post from my other blog called Moments with God.  It ties in nicely with what we are talking about in the post above.)

http://scripturemoments.blogspot.com/2016/01/psalm-16.html


Sunday, January 10, 2016

Letting Go

Often caring for a terminally ill loved one can become so overwhelming that it can stir up all kinds of negative emotions. I think this is also true of any difficult or heartbreaking life challenge.
     
I was a caregiver for my husband for about four and a half years. By the fall of 2010 my husband’s disease had progressed to the point that he was pretty much dependent on me for everything. At that time I found myself becoming increasingly stressed. By God’s grace, through the extra help of my son, and the use of a lift we were able to navigate through that period of time. Little did I know at that time that just a few months later on January 2, 2011 my husband would pass into eternal life. 
     
In November of 2010 I was challenged to write about my thoughts on the idea of letting go. Below are the words that I scribed at that time:  

I want to let go of fear for the future. My husband’s health is declining, and there have been significant changes lately. It is easy to fear the future, but I want to let go of fear, and I want to just trust. I want to let go of fear and replace it with trust, faith, and peace. I also want to let go of the daily stress or any form of self-pity that I feel, and just take a more peaceful attitude about the events of the day. I want to approach them calmly step by step.
     
I want to let go of “what ifs” from my thinking. I want to let go of how I wish things were in my life, and I want to truly accept things as they are. I want to let go of both the expectations I have in my life of myself and the perceived expectations I think others have of me. I also want to let go of the expectations I have of others. I want to let go and watch God work.”
     
Dear Christian caregiver, what negative emotions do you need to work on releasing? Releasing them will add to your peace and even joy.  





The above post is taken from a chapter from my book Dear Caregiver Reflections for Family Caregivers. It is available from Xulon, my publisher, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble. Amazon and Barnes and Noble have Kindle and Nook versions respectively. Here is the link to the order page for my book on Amazon:


I recently discovered a Christian book site called DeeperShopping.com which is also carrying my book: The link for the order page for my book for that site can be found below. 

http://www.deepershopping.com/item/sharon-vander-waal/dear-caregiver/6160139.html   


Finally, if you want a book directly from me, you can e-mail me at jesuschild54@hotmail.com for specifics.        








Sunday, January 3, 2016

Joy in the New Year

How will you enter this new year, dear caregiver?  Will you be able to face the new year with an attitude of gratitude and joy in spite of the challenges in your life and in the life of your loved one?

Yesterday was the fifth anniversary of my husband's death.  For four and a half years before that I was my husband's caregiver.  Seeing my husband's body deteriorate during those four and a half years was the most difficult experience I had ever endured.  It was a challenging and overwhelmingly difficult time.  Losing him eventually was also the heartbreak of my life.  I still miss him, and it still causes flashes of sadness in my heart when I think about those days of caring for him and when I think about his disease.  The anniversary of his death brings on a greater stirring up of those feelings

Yet these past years has also been a time when I have grown in my joy in the Lord.  Joy and difficult times can exist together.  This is because joy is not the same as happiness which is dependent on perfect circumstances.  In fact, I believe joy is often increased during difficult times in our lives.

A few weeks ago one of our pastors in our church preached a sermon on joy based on I Peter 1:3-9 in the Bible.  Read the passage for yourself, dear caregiver, and be blessed by the words there.  This passage points out that those who love the Lord have been given a great hope, a guaranteed future, an eternal inheritance.  Even now we are guarded and guided by our Lord and our faith until we will be with the Lord forever.  You do not need to walk the care-giving walk alone, dear caregiver.  The Lord wants to walk with you each step of the way. You can have communion with Him now, This is what can fill you with an "inexpressible and glorious joy," as you walk the difficult path of family care-giving, dear caregiver.

This is a  kind of joy that can't be psyched up in ourselves.  It is also not a joy which can be faked by putting on an appearance.  It is not a joy which can be found in superficial things or in everything going our way.  It can only be found in the Lord and in fixing our eyes on Him.

Sometimes the path to joy in us is surprising.  The path to that kind of joy often comes through suffering and difficult times.  I would not want to relive those difficult times of seeing my husband's body deteriorate before my eyes.  I also find widowhood to be very challenging at times.  But all these things have developed in me a deeper and sweeter faith.  It has grown my love for the Lord and increased my joy in Him.  These kinds of things also proves our faith to be genuine and makes us cling more to the Lord who is the object of our faith, hope, and joy.  He is the only lasting source of joy.  Everything else is temporary and of no ultimate value.

Dear caregiver, I am not trying to downplay your heartaches and challenges today.  I understand the discouragement of the overwhelming challenges and heartaches that often accompany family care-giving.  I lived them.  There are often times when you will not "feel" joyful.  We need to be honest with the Lord about our negative feelings in those moments.  In those moments, however, also look to the true source of joy, the Lord.  

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The God of Healing

As a caregiver have you ever wondered why God does not heal your loved one’s devastating disease? Why did your loved one get his or her awful disease in the first place? Jesus Christ performed many miracles during His lifetime. Why doesn’t He perform a miracle in your loved one’s life? As a caregiver have you ever asked yourself these questions?
   
Jesus’ miracles in the Bible prove that He is a God of compassion and a God of healing. It proves that He cares about people with great needs. These miracles also prove that He is the Son of God. They further prove that He is a promise keeping God.
   
So why does God heal some people and not others? About a year after my husband was diagnosed with His serious neurological disease I was diagnosed with breast cancer. After eight months of treatment including chemo, a mastectomy, and radiation l am still doing well several years later. After four and one half years of suffering the declines and indignities of his disease, however, my husband died on January 2, 2011. So why was I healed, and my husband was not?
   
God IS a God of healing, and He DOES care about us, but He sees the big picture when we do not. He says to us as His children, “I am the One who was promised to you long ago. I am the One who saved you from your sins and made you My child. That in itself proves I am a God of miracles, and I have done a miracle in your life. I am the ultimate answer to all of your needs.”
   
Some people believe that Jesus Christ’s miracles prove that He will heal all of our bodily diseases. God at times has a reason for not healing all of our bodily diseases, however. Sometimes He has a greater purpose for those people who are not healed from their diseases. Often people can bring greater glory to God through their steadfastness in the midst of their disease.
   
For those who believe God will heal every bodily disease God says, “You have missed the point of my healing! You just don’t get it! You are so focused on what you hope to receive from Me that You have missed ME. I am the great God of the universe who loves you with an infinite love, and I want to give you much more than physical healing. I want to give you MYSELF!”
   
Dear Christian caregiver, embrace the God of ultimate healing and the God who will meet all your ultimate needs. Ask Him to give you a willing heart to embrace His plan and purpose for your life even in the heartaches of care-giving and often seeing your loved one decline in his or her health.  Embrace Him.



(This post is a chapter in my book Dear Care-giver Reflections for Family Caregivers. It can be purchased from Xulon, my publisher, and also from Amazon and Barnes and Noble online. The Amazon link to the order page for my book is here: http://www.amazon.com/Dear-Caregiver-Sharon-Vander-Waal/dp/1629524263/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1447101820&sr=1-1




Also consider visiting my other blog, a devotional blog. The link for that is posted at the top of my November 22 blog post here.