Sunday, July 27, 2014

Anniversary Reflections

On July 30, 1971 I married my husband, Wayne, so it will be forty three years ago this week that I married the love of my life.  He was a wonderful husband, and we had a good marriage.  We raised three sons together and were able to see each of our sons marry Christian woman.  For two of these weddings we had to travel internationally to witness the weddings.  (God has a way of bringing surprises into our lives that we could never have envisioned.)  Wayne and I were also able to experience together the birth of seven of our eight grandchildren.  The last grandchild was born after Wayne's death. 

As I said before our marriage was a good marriage.  We faced some trials, but we faced them together with the Lord's help.  Wayne was the love of my life.  But the last few years of Wayne's life and of our marriage were very difficult.  As you know from my previous blog posts these years were the years of Wayne's neurological disease.  These were difficult years, as I saw Wayne deteriorate step by step until he was completely disabled.  They were emotionally and physically draining years, and they took all the spiritual reserves that I had.  (I wrote about those care-giving years several posts back in my post called "My Personal Care-giving Story" which was posted on May 4, 2014.)

As I think about the upcoming anniversary of my wedding to Wayne, I am thankful for who Wayne was to me in my life.  I am so thankful for the love that he showed me in so many ways.  I also am saddened by the years that his dignity was slowly taken from him by his disease which step by step made him increasingly disabled.  I am saddened by what I went through as his caregiver during those years.  Yet I am also joyful in the thought of Wayne being free from all that now and with the Lord.  I am joyful in the realization that I know the Lord was with me every step and will continue to be with me every step of the way the rest of my life.  Yet I miss my husband, so I ask that you will pray for me especially in this week on the anniversary of our marriage.

I have learned so much through my care-giving experience and my grief experience.  I have learned that dependence on the Lord is the only way to navigate this life.  I have learned that weakness in my self is a good place to be, for then the strength of the Lord can be shown.  Another words I am the strongest when I recognize my weakness, because then Christ's strength flows through me in amazing ways.  I have learned that I am in control of nothing, but I am never alone.  The Lord is with me step by step.  My relationship with the Lord has become so very sweet, and I know He loves me and delights in me.  I have learned that He is sufficient.  Others may fail me, but He will not.  I may not always understand His ways, but I can trust Him.

So, you too can depend on Him, dear caregiver.  He is your strength in your weakness.  He is in control and will walk with you each step of your care-giving journey and throughout your entire life.  He loves you and will be with you, dear caregiver.  Because of my experiences as a caregiver, it is my passion to encourage you in these things as a caregiver.  That is why I write this blog, and that is why I wrote my book.  I care about you, dear caregiver.  God bless you in all you do.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Running the Caregiver Race

Care-giving is physically and emotionally draining. It often involves pouring out all one's energies and resources for the well-being of another human being. This can be especially difficult, if one is caring for a loved one. It is difficult to remain objective when it is one's own loved one. It is also difficult when in spite of the caregiver's best efforts his or her loved one continues to deteriorate in health. Yet you are doing God's work, dear caregiver. Hence, He will give you the power to persevere and remain firm in the faith.

As the apostle Paul wrote I Timothy 4 he was nearing the end of his life. It was Paul's desire that Timothy would carry on the work of the Lord. Paul wanted Timothy to be ready to speak and apply God's Word in any and every situation. It was also Paul's prayer for Timothy that Timothy would remain firm in his faith. Paul told Timothy to keep his "head in all situations" and to be willing to "endure hardship" for the cause of Christ. (II Timothy 4:5a) This was Paul's desire for Timothy, but it was also God's desire and will for Timothy. It is also God's will for our lives today. It is His desire for you too, dear caregiver, as you face the challenges and sometimes hardships of family care-giving.

Paul knew that he had fought the good fight of faith and finished the race of life with his faith still strong. Paul had willingly "poured out" his life for the Lord. Jesus Christ was number one in Paul's life. Jesus Christ and his service to Him was Paul's consuming passion and purpose in his life. Can we say the same? Is Christ our consuming passion and purpose for our lives? Is our personal love relationship with the Lord and our obedience to Him our purpose and priority in our lives? Are we willing to be "poured out" for our Lord? Will we be able to say the same at the end of our lives? Have we truly run the race and kept the faith in a way that is pleasing to the Lord? Have we sought to keep our eyes focused on the Lord and to not be distracted by the world's distractions and life's trials?

Paul knew as he approached the end of his life that there was a "crown of righteousness" in store for him (II Timothy 4:8a).  Because we belong to the Lord, we experience His joy even in this life. Because sin is still present in the world and in our lives, however; we also face many trials and struggles in this life. Family caregivers especially understand this. We must struggle to run and finish the race of life in a way that is pleasing to the Lord in spite of the many obstacles and trials of life. We do this with the Holy Spirit's help and strength, but we must be the runners in the race of life. We as the children of God long "for His appearing." (II Timothy 4:8b) We long for Christ's second coming. Then we will receive His "crown of righteousness" given to us as His gift of grace! Then, at last we will be completely free from the presence of sin and its effects in our lives. Revelation 7:16-17 promises us, "Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; He will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes." Praise the Lord for those precious promises! Let us run the race of life faithfully and in manner that is pleasing to the Lord!

Dear Christian caregiver, the care-giving race is a difficult race. In spite of this keep persevering. This is the race the Lord has given you at least for now. It is not a glamorous race. It is a difficult race. Yet a crown of righteousness is waiting for you. You are doing God's work. Someday the tears of both you and your loved one will be wiped away!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Caregiver's Caregiver

As a caregiver for my husband before his death, it seemed as if my energies and concerns were mostly all directed towards his needs. In such a scenario, it was easy to long for some tender loving care directed at me and my needs.  In January of 2009, I posted the following comments on an online blog site:

 “I am feeling some better after my stomach flu--a little tired yet. When I go to the doctor for post cancer treatment check-ups, it would be nice to have my husband with me. When I broke my foot, it would have been nice not to have had to drive in to the doctor’s by myself. It would have been nice to have received a little TLC from my husband when I was in the midst of the worst of my flu symptoms. I praise You Lord, however, that You are my great Caregiver, Shepherd, and Savior. Thank You that I am beginning to feel better after the flu. Thank You for Your daily blessings. Please help me to remain dependent on You.”

My husband, because of his disability, could not provide me with the care-giving that I myself needed, but my great heavenly Caregiver and Shepherd could do exactly that. In Isaiah 40:11 God says that He is my Shepherd who gathers me -- His lamb -- into His arms and carries me close to His precious heart. That verse was a beautiful reminder of God’s loving care for me as a caregiver. God Himself is the Christian caregiver’s Caregiver! Isn’t that an awesome thought, dear caregiver?

(This post is one of the meditations in my book, Dear Caregiver subtitled Reflections for Family Caregivers. If you would like to order a book click on the Amazon or Xulon links to the order page for my book. These are below the picture of the book. If you would prefer to get a copy directly from me e-mail me at the e-mail address at the top of the page for details.)

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Leave the Outcomes to the Lord

When one is a family caregiver, it is difficult to relax.   Family caregivers often feel as if they are never doing enough to combat the disease or disability of the loved one for whom they are caring.  Family caregivers would like to know the future and to be able to be certain that their love ones will be okay.

God wants us to find rest and peace in Him alone, however.  He wants us to give up the fight of trying to figure things out for ourselves.  God wants us to leave outcomes with Him.  He wants us to simply follow His lead day by day and step by step and to stop worrying about how it will all turn out in the future.

This is so very difficult to do when one feels the life of one's loved one is in one's hands.  Yet it is the only way to peace.  Dear caregiver, you cannot change the course of your loved one's disease or disability by worrying or over planning.  You can simply be an instrument in the Lord's hand, dear caregiver.  So rest the future in His capable hands.

Instead of focusing on future possible outcomes or even on today's problems or your own weaknesses as a caregiver; focus on the Lord's presence!  His love and His strength is with you regardless of your feelings of inadequacy or your fears of the future.  Trust His unconditional love to help you through any care-giving situation or challenge.  The Lord is with you, dear caregiver!

( I will not write  a new blog post next week.  My next blog post will be July 13th or 14th.  I will be away from my computer July 3 through the 9th.  In the meantime take the time to reread some of the older blog posts or click on the links to my order pages for my book at either Amazon and Xulon.  God's blessings for what you do for your loved one, dear caregiver!)

Sunday, June 22, 2014

God in the Lonliness of Care-giving

As a caregiver I sometimes felt intense loneliness. Usually my husband, Wayne, for whom I was caring was right there with me in the room; and yet I felt a deep sense of loneliness. Of course these feelings of loneliness greatly deepened after my husband’s death, but they were also there while he was still alive.

I think these feelings of loneliness came from my grief over my husband’s steady decline downwards. Because of this decline I could not and did not relate with him in the same way, as I had in the past. I missed the way our relationship had been in the past. So there was a loneliness for that past relationship. There was a longing for the ability to communicate and talk things through, as we had in the past. There was a hunger for the fun times and for more of that spiritual and emotional connection we had experienced together in the past. There was a sadness in seeing him sleep away so much of his days and life being consumed with just meeting basic needs.

There was also a feeling of discouragement in knowing that others could not really understand and identify fully with all that Wayne and I were experiencing. It was a feeling of being all alone in this experience. 

I found that reaching out to fellow caregivers online was a great help. Writing down my own feelings in this way helped to crystallize those feelings. It also helped me to connect with other caregiver bloggers, and it made me realize that I was not alone in my care-giving experience.

Most importantly, however, was my reliance on God, prayer, and His Word. God’s promises to me in the Bible were a great comfort and help. He promised me and continues to promise me in Hebrews 13:5b to never leave me or forsake me. He also promised and continues to promise me that He will bring good in my character and life through the difficulties.

Dear caregiver, when you feel lonely trust that God is with you even when no one else seems to understand. His love and care for you is awesome and marvelous.

(This post appears in one of the meditations in my new book DEAR CAREGIVER subtitled Reflections for Family Caregivers. If you would like to order the book just click on the Amazon or Xulon link below the picture of the book.)

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Grow in Your Fellowship With Him

I was reminded in my devotions recently that the journey we are taking on this earth can be compared to a mountain trail which is often steep and narrow. Also I was reminded that the road or path in life I walked on in past years is permanently closed. It was first closed by my husband's diagnosis of his neurological disease in 2006 and in the difficult years of his decline. Even the family care-giving path in life was closed to me in early 2011, when I begin walking the path of widow.

Yet I was also reminded in my devotions that day recently that the Lord has promised to lead me with His counsel all the way and afterwards take me to Glory (Psalm 73:24). He will be a voice behind me telling me which way to go (Isaiah 30:21). Finally He is my Good Shepherd guiding me (Psalm 23). Also there are beauty and wonders all around me, if I just open my eyes to the wonders. Finally, someday I will arrive at my destination, my true eternal home.

In the meantime I can know Jesus and His power on a deeply personal level. I can have resurrection power within me, as it says in Philippians 3:10. Yet this verse also connects this power and intimate relationship with Jesus with “the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings,” a part of the verse which we would like to ignore (at least I would.) Yet we often experience the deepest fellowship with Jesus through our suffering and trials, and we look forward to Heaven with greater eagerness because of those sufferings.

My years as my husband's caregiver were often physically and emotionally draining. It was the heartbreak of my life seeing my husband deteriorate before my eyes step by step. Then to lose him after all those years of struggle was very difficult, but it has resulted in an even sweeter and more intimate relationship with my Lord. It has made me freer in my spirit and has opened new doors of service.

I know what you are experiencing as a caregiver is often overwhelming, dear caregiver. Rest in Him in the process. Grow in your fellowship with Him through the difficult moments.   

(Links from Xylon, my publisher, and Amazon to the order pages for my book are located on the right hand side of this page.)

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Seasons of Our Lives

It was an usually cold winter and spring was chilly and late in arriving  in my town this year. Yet when I returned home in late May after being gone a few days, I found that many of my flowers around my house had popped out. That was a wonderful sight. A few days later I was awed by the beauty of the fruit trees around my house. The blossoms were so pretty, as God displayed them on the trees.

As I think about this I am reminded that there is a time and a season for everything. It felt like our winter and our slow spring was never going to end, but the beauty and newness of spring has indeed arrived. Soon it will officially be summer. So it is in our own lives. We have difficult seasons, and we have seasons where there are new joys in our lives. Psalm 30:5 reminds us that “weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing (joy) come in the morning.”

As a caregiver I remember having many days when the emotional and physical struggles became very heavy. It felt like a season of weeping and winter. Yet just like we need the winter season in creation, we need winter seasons in our lives as well. In the winter or difficult seasons of our lives we grow and learn dependence on the Lord.

Dear caregiver, just as the fruit trees and flowers finally blossomed in my yard in God's perfect timing; so the winter and difficult moments of your care-giving days will blossom into something beautiful in God's perfect timing. Not only are you doing a noble work for the Lord now as a caregiver, but this experience is preparing you for beautiful things in God's kingdom in the future. Life will always have heartaches even in the “spring times” of our lives, but beauty comes from these difficult times and in the midst of them.

Also remember, dear caregiver, that there is beauty even in the winter season. There is also beauty in the winter or difficult care-giving season of your life. There is always things for which we can thank the Lord even in the difficult moments of care-giving. I have suggested this before, but I am going to suggest it again. Start a praise journal and write down at least three things each day for which you are thankful. If you do this, dear caregiver, it will lift your spirit and change your perspective immensely. Care-giving and life in general can be difficult at times, but God is good.

(My new book DEAR CAREGIVER subtitled Reflections For Family Caregivers is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Xulon, my publisher.  Links to the order pages for my book at Amazon and Xulon are found on the right side of this page below the picture of the book.  Also my E-mail address is also now available on the right side of the page, if you want to personally contact me for any reason.)