Saturday, September 24, 2016

Unexpected Life Changes

Life can hand us some unexpected life changes.  Some of these can be joyful like marriage or the birth of children or grandchildren.  Some can be difficult and a cause for fear.  Click on the link below, and you will read about a woman who was a missionary with her husband for years.  Therefore she thought she could handle life's unexpected changes.  When her husband was diagnosed with alzheimer's, disease however, she felt challenged and afraid because of these huge changes in her life.  Notice how she clung to the Lord and to Scripture in the midst of it.  Once again click on the link below:


https://www.dayspring.com/articles/4-scriptures-to-help-with-big-life-changes?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20160814%204%20Scriptures%20to%20Help%20with%20Big%20Life%20Changes&utm_term=DaySpring%20Newsletter

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Prayer From My Heart

"Lord, help me today to count the blessings and not dwell on the difficult moments. Help me not give into fear about the future, but rather trust that you will guide step by step."  These were the words that I posted about six years ago on my Facebook status.  I recently discovered these words in my Facebook memories. 

These words were written only a few months before my husband's death, although I did not know that at the time.  I knew at the time that my husband was declining significantly, but my brain and heart were not ready to accept the possibility that the end was near.  Yet as I said, the declines in my husband's body were real and significant.  They were becoming increasingly difficult to manage.  In fact, in October of that year we began to have to use a mechanical lift with him. Hence, this prayer came from my heart that day six years ago.

God has answered that prayer for me.  I do sometimes even in my post care-giving days feel anxious and begin to feel fearful.  In those moments, however, I can turn to the One who holds my future.  He has guided me step by step both during my care-giving days and now as a widow.  He has allowed me to go through difficult moments, but He has helped me through those difficult moments.  He has also made me aware of the value of gratitude and has made me think about my blessings.  He has made me love the Lord more and has made my faith sweeter. 

Dear Caregiver, in the challenging and overwhelming moments turn to the Lord.  He loves you so much.  I love you too, dear caregiver.  My prayer from my heart for you today is that you will also be able to dwell on the blessings and not on the difficult moments.  I pray that you will be able to not give into fear, but rather trust the Lord to guide you step by step.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Life's Puzzle Pieces



I have never been good at putting puzzles together.  It is not my talent, and I have never enjoyed trying to fit the pieces together.  I have seen completed puzzles, however, and often they portray beautiful scenes.

Sometimes it is difficult to see the completed product of my life's puzzles pieces as well.  It has been challenging sometimes to understand His plan in the overwhelming moments of my life.  As I watched my husband's body deteriorate during those challenging years as his caregiver, it was difficult to see God's big picture in all this.  The same is and has been true in many situations I face/ have faced in my post care-giving days as a widow.   God is so much wiser than I am, however.

Yet I can know by faith that the Lord loves me and is meeting all my needs.  He has forgiven my sins,  and He is fitting what I perceive as the missing pieces of my life into a beautiful picture.  When I look back on my life I can already see how He has used difficult times for His glory and my good.  I can begin to see how the pieces are fitting together.

 I will, however, never fully see the completed and big picture of God's love and wisdom until I reach eternity.  Yet as the picture above illustrates, my life is molded by the heart of God and by His love.  I may still see my life as having missing pieces, but He sees the beautiful finished product.  Philippians 1:6 (NIV) says, "being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."  He is fitting the puzzle pieces of my life together into something beautiful.  Dear caregiver, trust that the Lord is also fitting the puzzle pieces of your life together into a beautiful mosaic of His love!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

"My Ducks in a Row"

I need to confess something.  As the expression goes, I am a person who likes "my ducks in a row."  You would think that having been a family caregiver with all its challenges, uncertainties, and chaos would have permanently cured me of that.  Although I learned so much of God's faithfulness and grew in my love for Him during that time, I still fight that tendency to like "my ducks in a row."

I seem to have to learn and relearn, however, that God is in control and not me.  I am in control of nothing.  I read the following in my devotions recently.  It is as if Jesus is speaking:  "Your natural preference is to plan out your day, knowing what will happen when.  My preference is for you to depend on Me continually, trusting Me to guide you and strengthen you as needed.  This is how you grow strong in your weakness." (from the book Jesus Calling by Sarah Young)

That same day I read this from another devotional book.  It is meant to be a prayer of praise to God:  "Thank You that I can give myself up to be led by You---that I can go forth praising and at rest, letting You manage me and my day---that I can joyfully depend on You throughout the day expecting You to guide, to enlighten, to reprove, to teach, to use, and to do in me and with me what You desire---that I can count upon Your working in me as a fact, totally apart from sight or feeling---that I can go forth praising and at rest, believing You and obeying You and ceasing from the burden of trying to manage myself without Your wisdom and power (adapted from Dr. John Hubbard).  Thank You that I can throw the whole weight of my anxieties on You, for I am Your personal concern." (from the book 31 Days of Praise by Ruth Meyers)

I often wonder why my natural first response to a new challenge is a moment of fear until I tell my soul to relax and trust the Lord.  I love Jesus' words in John 14:27, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."  This is a promise and a command.  Life can be challenging with unending problems especially as a family caregiver, but let's you and I resolve to rest things with the Lord.  He is in control anyhow, and trusting Him is the way to peace.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Care-giving

Last week on August 24th it was my birthday.  I am thankful for the many greetings and love I was shown that day.  Above all I am thankful for my Lord being with me and being faithful to me these 69 years in the valleys, mountaintop experiences, and in the in between times in my life.

Last week I was also reminded on my Facebook memories page of another thing which happened two 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 two years ago:  http://www.sheboyganpress.com/story/news/local/2014/08/26/caregiver/14628253/

I probably posted a link to that newspaper story two 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 subtitled 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    

Right now my book is the cheapest I have seen it on Amazon.  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 21, 2016

Life Storms Revisted

Last time we talked about how storms can occur in life.  We noted that often birds can be found perched on the branches of trees singing their hearts out in the midst of life's storms.  If birds can do this, we can do this as well.  As we talked about last time, we do not have to live in fear.  God will always be with us.

When I was a caregiver I remember facing life's storms.  They would sometimes come unexpectedly depending on the day.  Also as my husband would take another step downward in his mobility and ability to function, I would often feel a sense of fear.  As I repeatedly became adjusted to a "new normal," in my husband's downward spiral, I would see the clouds on the horizon and anticipate the next "storm" or downward decline.  Yet God tells us not to fear.  He will be with us in each new storm.

I still face storms in life even in my post care-giving days and in my life as a widow.  Doesn't it seem as if life's problems never end, like we move from one problem to the next?  Since the first of the year I have faced house maintenance issues, major computer issues, physical pain issues, and a major expensive repair issue with my car.  I have even watched my sister be diagnosed with breast cancer. 

I wish I could say that I never give into fear and anxiety during these times, but that would not be true.  God knows we are frail, however, and that is why he tenderly reminds us over and over that we need not give into fear.  You, dear caregiver, also perhaps have fears and dread the "storms" of life; as you care for your loved one.  Not only do you have the responsibilities and challenges of care-giving, but you also have to face the day to day challenges and storms of everyday life.  Yet God says to you and to everyone that we need not fear.

In Matthew 8:23-27 of the Bible the disciples were caught in an actual physical storm on the lake.  Verse  twenty-four says, "Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat.  But Jesus was sleeping."  Notice it says that Jesus was sleeping in the midst of the storm!  So often during the daylight hours we wring our hands in anxiety and try valiantly to control or change a situation in our own strength, or we toss and turn at night not able to sleep.  But Jesus slept peacefully throughout the storm. 

When the disciples cried out to Jesus for help He calmed the storm.  Sometimes He will do that for us also.  Other times He will calm our spirits in the midst of the storms as we look to Him.  Jesus also asks us the question He asked the disciples, "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?"  (Matthew 8:26)  We need not ever be afraid, because God is with us always and will never leave or forsake us.

We also need remember that God often speaks to us during those storms.  We do not seek out the storms of life.  If you are like me, your would prefer to avoid those storms.  Yet if we listen for the voice of God in the midst of the storms, we will be blessed and grow in our faith.  Listen for the still small voice of God; as you face life's storms, dear caregiver.

The storms of life also helps us to see the power of God and cause us to worship Him.  They make us stand in awe of His greatness, as time after time we see His faithfulness in the midst of storms.  The disciples in Matthew 8:27 recognized this in a way that perhaps they never had before because of this storm on the lake and the Lord's presence in the midst of the storm. 

Dear caregiver, don't fear the storms.  Fix your eyes on the Lord.  Listen for His still voice, as you read His Word daily.  Then worship Him and thank Him in the midst of the storms.






Sunday, August 14, 2016

Singing in the Storm

I have a small picture in a frame in my bedroom.  It is a picture of a bird resting on a branch singing with all his heart as a storm rages all around him.  There is thunder flashing and driving rain all around the bird.  There are ominous storm clouds in the sky above  The waves in the water below the bird are strong and surging in their power.  Yet this bird seems unruffled by the storm all around him. The bird in the picture is content and is doing what God had called him to do.  He is not wringing his hands or cringing in fear either.

If you are a child of God; you can have that same contentment and lack of fear as well, dear caregiver. God has instructed us to not fear many times in the Bible. He has promised to always be with us. He has promised to never leave or forsake us. God is always faithful and will always keep His promises to be with us.  He simply wants us to go about the tasks God has assigned us with a calmness that only He can give.  For you, dear caregiver, that task is to care for your loved one.

Yet God also knows we are frail human beings.  He knows we will give into fear and/discouragement at times.  I know I did at times as a caregiver.  Care-giving can be overwhelmingly challenging at times.  Some of the challenges I face in my post care-giving days can also feel very discouraging at times.  Yet when these moments come we can and must remind ourselves of God's promises to always be with us.

God says in Isaiah 41:10 in the Bible, "Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand."