Sunday, May 13, 2018

Unexpected Love Gifts From the Lord

I love it when the Lord blesses me with an unexpected love gift.  The Lord has already given me more than enough.  He has shown His love for me by laying down His life for me.  He has saved me from my sins and made me His child.  He also daily cares for me and provides for my needs.  Yet He also from time to time "wows" me with an unexpected love gift.  He does that for you as well, if you are a child of God.  Do you and I recognize and appreciate the unexpected love gifts the Lord gives us?

I think He especially loves to give us these love gifts during or around a time of difficulty or trial in our lives.  For me personally, I like to think of these gifts as love gifts from my Heavenly Bridegroom, Jesus.  I no longer have an earthly husband, but Jesus has proven Himself a wonderful Heavenly Husband by His faithful love to me.

Let me give you a few examples of times when I have experienced the Lord's special love gifts to me.   I experienced one of them a few months before my husband's death.  On this occasion it was my birthday in August of 2010.  Family were in my home.  My son called me outside to look at the rainbow in the sky.  It was the most beautiful rainbow I had ever seen.  It was to me a love gift that day reminding me of my Lord's love for me and of His faithfulness.  As my husband's caregiver, the next few months were very difficult, as my husband's body continued to decline.  My husband passed away in early January of 2011.  Yet God was faithful through all those care-giving days, and He has been faithful since in my life as a widow. That day in August He gave me that rainbow as a symbol of His love for me and His promise to always be faithful.

I remember another time when I looked out the window and saw a perfect cross in the beautiful sunrise.  It only lasted a brief period of time.  Yet I saw it, and it felt like a love gift from my Lord.  Another time a granddaughter found an old postcard from my Dad behind a register in the house where they were presently living and in which I had lived in the past.  The postcard had been written many years before and lost to me for many years until my granddaughter found it.  It was presented to me on or around what would have been my Dad's birthday and at a time when I really could use encouragement.  It had been written many years before when my Dad was in the hospital, and I was especially blessed by one of the last sentences.  That sentence said, "There are days I feel a little blue, but there is one Almighty above who loves and cares."  Was that postcard from my Dad a special love gift from the Lord when I needed it?  I think so. 

This past several months I have experienced the love gifts of ministering hands due to the back pain flare-up I experienced starting in November.  Since then I have experienced pain/tightness to one degree or another in my neck, shoulder, leg , and back.  Yet God has provided people to slowly help relieve and heal these issues.

Let me share one other example which just happened to me within the last few days.  A friend and I were planning to make a 500 mile trip leaving next week-end, so I could attend my granddaughter's high school graduation..  Because of an issue which came up in her life, my friend canceled on me a few nights ago.  I did not feel I could make the trip alone especially with my back issues.  So that night I lay in bed unable to sleep going over all possible scenarios to be able to get to my granddaughter's graduation.  The next day God provided a ride for me from a gracious and loving couple.  Not only that, but this woman hugged me and prayed over me.  She said any other week-end it would not have worked for them to take me because of the busyness of their business, but this particular week-end they were travelling to that area anyhow.  Once again the Lord provided a wonderful love gift to me.

The Lord is always providing love gifts.  Yet we need to have our eyes open to see them.  We need to not just talk about God, but we must sense His presence and see His working in our lives.  What love gifts is the Lord placing in your path?  It could be a lovely flower, a beautiful sunrise, or an unexpected kindness from someone.  It is so easy to get caught up in the hardships of life, but let's not forget to look for His special love gifts to us.


(PS I plan to be away from my computer next week-end; so the next post will be on or around May 27th, Lord willing.  Use this as a time to reread some of my earlier posts.)

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Finding an Oasis

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

Because caregiving for a family member can be so intense, it is important to take little breaks or an occasional oasis from care-giving. Both in October of 2009 and 2010 my husband and I went away for a few days to the WI Dells with my son’s family. My son’s family went to get lengths, including taking out the back seat of their van to accommodate my husband’s mobility equipment or a special chair.

We also always enjoyed our Thursday nights suppers at my son’s family’s home. As long as I was able with my husband’s deteriorating health, I also took occasional substitute teaching days and I helped my daughter-in-law with home schooling our local granddaughters on Wednesday mornings. I further sang in church choir and attended woman’s Sunday school.

In addition to this I attended some concerts with a group of ladies. About a half a year before my husband died I hired a CNA to help me a few nights a week, so I could attend these occasional concerts. I found when I had these little breaks from care-giving, I was better able to keep things in perspective and keep my spirits up.

Dear caregiver, care-giving for a loved one is so intense and stressful that it is important that you find an occasional oasis from your care-giving. If you can not leave your loved one alone even for brief periods of time, bring in someone else to stay with your loved one from time to time. Also, plan and make a little oasis or spot in your home where you can retreat and regroup. Finally, I found I needed to rise earlier than my husband every morning to spend time with the Lord in prayer and Scripture reading. Finding these moments of oasis are essential to your emotional and spiritual well being, dear caregiver.


(As a PS someone recently sent me a money love gift so that in her words, "others may also receive your book." So I am offering a complimentary free copy of my book, Dear Caregiver Reflections for Family Caregivers, to the first two people who e-mail me telling me a bit of your story and your mailing address.  My e-mail address to contact me is jesuschild54@hotmail.com )

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Caregiver Burnout

Caregiver burnout is a very real problem.  It is occurring increasingly as the baby boomer generation ages. I experienced it when I was a caregiver for my husband.  My husband's declines due to his neurological disease were basically physical. Some caregivers experience the declines of their loved ones in other ways.  Those declines involves memory loss and dementia which takes a huge toll on both the person affected by the disease and also on his or her caregiver.  

The program, 60 Minutes, recently did a show which was a result of a ten year plus study on a married couple affected by Alzheimer's disease.  The wife was the person who was suffering with the disease, and the husband was her caregiver.  The program shows the emotional and physical toll caring for a loved one can have on the caregiver  By clicking the first link below you can view that program segment.  It is sad, but it is worth watching.  

Remember, dear caregiver, do everything you can to lighten your load.  Take time for yourself.  Seek outside help.  Watch your own health.  Rest things with the Lord.  If you are not currently a caregiver what can you do to help someone who is a family caregiver?

As a PS to this post consider getting my book, Dear Caregiver Reflections for Family Caregivers, as a resource to encourage you; if you are a family caregiver.  This is the most recent review at Amazon from a reader of my book.  This reader first cared for his mother and is now caring for his mother-in-law:

"I found this book to be a real comfort as I grieved the loss of my mother and also care for my mother-in-law. The author's homespun wisdom is down to earth but also points the reader up to God as the ultimate source of comfort and strength. She does this with great warmth and care, and she transparently shares throughout the book regarding her own struggles, losses, joys, and lessons learned along her own journey caring for her husband. Highly recommended for Christian readers seeking comfort and practical advice along the difficult road of caregiving."

The link to the order page for my book at Amazon is the second link below:

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Lessons Learned From Cinderella?

I have a confession to make.  I enjoy Cinderella type stories.  Yet is the Cinderella story we all know a true picture of what love really entails?  In the story the prince falls in love with a beautiful magically transformed Cinderella.  Yet the real Cinderella was also a young lady who was being abused by her family.  She most likely wore ragged clothes and was covered in ash soot.  She may have had major self-esteem issues because of how she had been treated by her family.

It appears as if the prince accepted her, because when he found her in her lowly estate he married her and took her to the palace to live with him.  In order for initial love to survive the prince had to have committed love as well, however.  He had to love her more than he loved himself.  He had to love her in spite of her weaknesses and hang-ups.  He had to love her in sickness and in health.  He had to have a "until death due us part" love for her.

Many of my readers are showing that kind of committed love to the family member for whom they are caring be it spouse, parent, or other family member or even a friend.  This kind of love requires sacrifice and is not always Cinderella like glamorous.  It takes commitment no matter how difficult it gets.  Thank you, dear caregiver, for the love that you show in that way to your loved one.

Remember too, dear caregiver, the Lord, your true Prince, accepts you and loves you with all your weaknesses.  He loves you with a true committed love which we humans can only begin to mimic.  He also clothes you with His righteousness, if you are His child!

Sunday, April 15, 2018

April's Anniversaries

April brings to mind significant milestones in my life.  Ten years ago in April after an eight month period I completed all my cancer treatents. Then April is the month in 2006 when we had our first indication that my husband, Wayne, had a serious neuroloical disease.

April of this year also marks the fourth anniversary of the publication of my book, Dear Caregiver Reflections for Family Caregivers.  As  many of you may know my passion to encourage caregivers was ignited as a result of my own experience of being my husband's caregiver for four and a half years.  I experienced the emotions and struggles of a spouse and family caregiver who step by step saw her husband deteriorate and become more and more disabled.   As a result I first started this caregiver blog a few months after Wayne's death in early 2011, and then at the encouragment of one of my readers I wrote my book Dear Caregiver Reflections for Family Caregivers which was published in April of 2014.

Below is the synopsis written on the back cover of the book.  Part of it is a repeat of what I already said.  I apologize for that:

"Family care-giving for a loved one with a serious illness is a very noble and important role. It is also often a challenging and emotionally and physically draining endeavor. DEAR CAREGIVER is a book written to encourage caregivers in this all consuming but vital ministry for which many caregivers feel ill equipped. This book points to the Lord as the caregiver's source of strength. The book further seeks to provide practical and spiritual encouragement to family caregivers who have lovingly taken on a role which they did not anticipate or perhaps desire. 

The author is a mother and grandmother, and she was married to her husband, Wayne, for over thirty-nine years. In 2006 Wayne was diagnosed with a serious neurological disease. The author was Wayne's caregiver for four and a half years until his death in early 2011. She knows the heartache and physical and emotional stress of being a caregiver for a loved one. Hence, her passion is to encourage family caregivers in their struggles. 

The book starts with a brief synopsis of the author's personal care-giving story followed by over one hundred brief meditations written to encourage current caregivers. The author seeks to stay connected to her readers by relevant examples from her own care-giving experiences in order to drive home messages in the text and to enable the readers to persevere in the challenges of family care-giving. It is the author's desire to facilitate this goal through her willingness to be vulnerable and honest about the feelings and emotions she experienced as a caregiver for her husband. She explores both the blessings and challenges of care-giving and the blessing of drawing closer to the Lord through the experience."

You can order the book at Amazon which is the first link below.  Your can also order elsewhere online and at Barnes and Noble which is the link below the Amazon link.  Amazon has a Kindle version and Barnes and Noble has a Nook version as well as a paperback version.  Finally you can order directly from me by contacting me for details at jesuschild54@hotmail.com  If you order directly from me it will be a signed copy:


https://www.amazon.com/Dear-Caregiver-Sharon-Vander-Waal/dp/1629524263/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1482027543&sr=1-1&keywords=Dear+Caregiver

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/dear-caregiver-sharon-vander-waal/1119198854?ean=9781629524269






Sunday, April 8, 2018

Why is There Suffering in This World?

Why does God allow suffering in the lives of Christians?  Why are we living in an increasingly dangerous world of persecution and suffering?  Why is there suffering of any kind in this world? Why is there abuse of all kinds and hardships in our world? Why did your loved one become ill, dear caregiver?  If God is a God of miracles, why doesn't God just fix things?

There are no easy answers to these questions.  We do know that sin entered this world when Adam and Eve, the first people, disobeyed God.  Hence, we no longer live in a perfect world.  It is now a world affected by sorrow and sickness.  Also people make bad choices sometimes which unfortunately affects other people as well.

Jesus said we would face trials in this life.  He also said, however, that we can take heart, because He has overcome the world (John 16:33 in the New Testament of the Bible).  He has promised to always be with us and never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5b in the New Testament).  We also have the assurance that someday all will be made right and perfect when He returns.

Being my husband's caregiver and watching his body deteriorate and fighting breast cancer myself during part of that time was a very difficult experience for me.  There have been trials that have continued/continue to follow me in the seven plus years that I have lived as a widow.  Why did/does God allow that in my life?  

There are no easy answers to these questions.  I do know God has used the difficult experiences in my life to teach me valuable lessons.  I am learning that I am not in control.  I am learning of the need to depend on the Lord, even though I still am prone to fret and try to solve things in my own strength.  I am learning of the need to seek God for Himself and not for what He can give me.  I have seen His faithfulness over and over.  Through trials I have grown and continue to grow in my love for the Lord. I have come to know not just in my head but in my heart in a deeper way the truths of His promises.  I often still get easily discouraged, but I know that feelings are not a measure of God's truths.  Feelings do not negate God's promises to always be with me.

We have just experienced Easter.  Christ suffered unimaginable suffering, so we could be saved. Easter also assures us of His presence in our lives through the trials we suffer.  It proves His love for us.  We need no other proof of Christ's love, when we really contemplate what He did for us.  Rest in that, dear caregiver.




  

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Easter's Meaning for the Caregiver

(I am re-posting a post I wrote before at Easter.)

What does Easter mean to you, dear Christian caregiver? How does it relate to family care-giving? 

Easter means that the Lord Jesus came to this earth and lived a perfect life for you and me. He later died on the cross to pay the price for our sins, and then He arose again on the third day to prove that He had won over sin and death and Satan. If you and I have accepted his gift of salvation by repentance and faith, we are His child now and for eternity.

Easter also means that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, identifies with your pain and the pain of your loved one, dear caregiver. As you struggle to help your loved one who is perhaps fighting against an incurable disease, He identifies with you. Having suffered the worst possible pain for us on the cross He is able to sympathize with our heartaches and weaknesses. He is also an all powerful Savior to whom we can freely go for grace in our moments of sadness and overwhelming and crushing needs.  Check out Hebrews 4:15-16 in the New Testament.

Because of Easter and Christ's sacrifice you can freely approach God the Father Himself with your and your loved one's needs, dear Christian caregiver. You can cry out to Him for help and call Him your “Abba Father,” because He considers you His special child. (Romans 8:15) Easter also means that when your heart is so weighed down with the heartaches and overwhelming circumstances of family care-giving that you do not even know how to pray, the Holy Spirit will intercede and pray for you! (Romans 8:26)

Easter for the caregiver means that although you will always face trials and troubles in this world, the Lord Jesus Christ has overcome the world.  He is also your source of peace even in the most challenging of times. (John 16:33)  Even in the overwhelming circumstances of family care-giving, even when we do not understand God's ways in allowing certain things in our lives, and even in the most unthinkable circumstances God is working for our ultimate good. We are victors in Him! (Romans 8:28)

Dear Christian caregiver, my hope for you would be that your loved one is healed on this earth. Whether he or she is healed on this earth or not, however, a child of God is whole and perfect upon entering heaven. No matter what happens in your care-giving situation you too, dear caregiver, will slowly heal emotionally and spiritually. God will always be with you, and joy will return one day. His love for you will never fail. He proved that love for you on the cross. That is the meaning of Easter for the caregiver and for all of us.