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."


Sunday, August 7, 2016

A Subject We Like to Avoid

Dear Christian caregiver, there is a discussion we like to avoid.  It is a topic, however, that would be wise to discuss with the loved one for whom you are caring. It would be especially wise to discuss this topic with your loved one if she or he is terminally ill. That topic is death. 
     
My husband was diagnosed with a rare neurological disease called Multiple Systems Atrophy Type C in 2006. At the time of his diagnosis, a time frame of 6-10 years until death was thrown out. Any internet site I visited suggested the same time frame. In actuality, my husband only lived four and a half years after diagnosis. 
     
A few times during his illness, my husband would say that he did not think he had long to live. At the time I thought that those statements were merely depression speaking. This was logical in my mind, because depression can accompany neurological disease. I felt as if I did not want to feed into that depression. I would often say, “You don’t know that. You could outlive me.” 
     
Now I believe that was a wrong approach on my part. I believe I should have openly discussed with my husband his feelings about death. It most likely would have been helpful to him on an emotional level to have talked about this with me. It also could have been the source of some deep spiritual discussions, as my husband was a believer and a child of God. Further, it would have helped me to better know his wishes for the funeral and other matters.  I think my husband may have been more in tune with reality at that time than I. Perhaps I was in denial about how close to death he must be in view of his constant physical declines.  
     
Dear Christian Caregiver, death is not a pleasant subject to discuss; but its reality is not going to go away by not discussing it. Consider discussing these matters with your loved one, especially if he or she brings up the subject. Your loved one’s eventual death is not going to be hastened by your discussion of death with him or her. The date of that death is in God’s hands.  
     
Unless dementia prevents it, I would strongly suggest having an honest and open discussion with the loved one for whom you are caring.  Openly talk about his or her eventual death. Remind your loved one that the process of dying is not something anyone would choose, but we will all experience it unless Jesus returns first. Also remind him or her, however, that death for the Christian is merely a gateway to heaven and being with the Lord.  












Sunday, July 31, 2016

Anniversary Reflections Revisted

Forty-five years ago yesterday I married the love of my life.  Wayne and I had a good marriage.  Yet the last few years of our marriage were difficult because of my husband's neurological disease. Through it all, however, I learned of the Lord's faithfulness and love.  That is why I have a passion for helping family caregivers today.  This passion for family caregivers is expressed through my blog, my book, and anyway else I can.

Two years ago a few days before my wedding anniversary I wrote at this blog site about my feelings concerning my upcoming anniversary.  Just click on the link below to reread that blog post.  It is called "Anniversary Reflections."    Here it the link:  http://christiancaregiving.blogspot.com/2014/07/anniversary-reflections.html

If you would like to see some sweet memories of Wayne and I, one picture of our wedding day and also some pictures of our children when they were very little; go to the link below.  Here is a link to my Pinterest folder concerning that:  https://www.pinterest.com/jesuschild54/sweet-memories/


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.

God bless you for all that you do, dear caregiver!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Good Things Which Come From Stress

There are two mistakes family caregivers and really everyone makes in challenging times.  One mistake is to think one can do it all alone.  It is believing one has to always be in control of everything.  Often we wait until we are desperate to seek help from others and from God.  The truth is that we are in control of nothing.  God is the only one who is in control.  He is directing and leading our lives.

The other mistake we sometimes make is to think that a situation is impossible.  I remember many seemingly impossible situations as a caregiver.  The challenges and changes sometimes came often and suddenly.  Sometimes I also face seemingly impossible situations as a widow as well.  Yet in life's "impossible" situations, God is there.  He we must remember is in control.

The stresses can be overwhelming and unpleasant.  Even the people in the Bible like the psalmists and Paul, the apostle felt them.  Yet stress in our lives serves two great purposes.  They make us see that we are not in control, and they teach us dependence on the Lord.  They make us see that worrying will not change our situation.  We do not have to carry our burdens alone.  Being yoked to the Lord is a much better route to follow.  When we are weary and burdened He will give us His peace and rest (Matthew 11:28-30).

Stress and problem also makes us see God's working in our lives.  If we with spiritual eyes look with expectation for God's blessings and help in our lives, we begin to see God working out the details and heartaches of our lives.  They may not always be on our timetable or in the direction we wanted our lives to go, but God is so much wiser than we are.  

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Depression and Hope in the Lord

Life can be overwhelming at times.  This can lead to depression and despair.  This is certainly true for family caregivers who often carry a very heavy load of responsibility and concern for their loved ones for whom they are caring. That is why it is so important that family caregivers try to nurture themselves physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  It is also important for them to seek help from others wherever possible.

We often have this idea in our Christian circles that Christians should never be discouraged and that they should always have a smile on their face.  It is true that we can have joy even in moments of grief and despair, but it certainly is not true that Christians do not become overwhelmed and even depressed at times.  The apostle Paul readily admitted during moments in his ministry to feeling overwhelmed at times.  In II Corinthians 1:8-9 Paul said, "We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life-----But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God who raises the dead."

The Psalmists in the book of Psalms also honestly admited to moments of despair and discouragement. In these moments of discouragement, however, the psalmists would turn to the Lord. In Psalm 42 the psalmist reminded himself to not be "downcast," but to put his hope in the Lord.

Despair and discouragement can cause us to seek options that are not God's best of us.  Sometimes we so desperately want to "fix" the situation.  Worst yet we may convince yourselves that the Lord has forgotten about us.  This is never true. God has promised to never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5b).  God will help and provide the best answers, but it is always in His timing.  We often want answers and solutions right away, but that is not always God's best plan.  We need to wait on the Lord.  If we do this we will see the goodness of the Lord (Psalm 27:13-14).

What can we do as we are wait for and on the Lord?  How can we protect ourselves from despair? We need to spend time in God's Word and meditate on and treasure His promises to us.  We need to look for and expect God's goodness to be shown in our lives no matter how long it takes and no matter how difficult life becomes.  We also need to spend time in prayer and communion with our Lord.

Dear caregiver, your burdens and responsibilities can be heavy at times.  When you begin to be discouraged and are tempted to despair, wait on the Lord.