Sunday, August 30, 2015

Nevertheless

(Today's post is from a chapter in my book Dear Caregiver Reflections for Family Caregivers. Links to the order page for my book at Amazon and Xulon can be found on the right hand side of this page.)

I happen to enjoy reading novels with an Amish setting and Amish characters. I also enjoy reading Christian historical novels. I think I like these kind of novels because they portray a simpler way of life. In spite of this, however, the characters often have similar struggles and emotions; as we all do as human beings. 
    
Some time back I completed a novel trilogy in which the main character, Hannah, undergoes a number of very difficult trials and struggles. In spite of all these difficulties, she struggles through the bitterness and hurt, and she comes to the realization through her faith that there always is a “nevertheless” in every overwhelming and sad circumstance in her life. I thought that was such a wonderful concept that I made a picture with the word “nevertheless” on it. I then framed it and put it on my kitchen counter. 
     
As my husband’s caregiver, there were many emotional struggles as I saw my husband’s health deteriorate step by step before my eyes. Also, about a year after my husband was diagnosed with his disease, I went through eight months of treatment for breast cancer. 
Nevertheless, I grew in character during this time.   

Sometimes during those difficult  care-giving days and after my husband’s death on January 2, 2011, I have felt all alone. Nevertheless, the Lord has been with me through it all, and His presence in my life has become increasingly real to me in a new way. During the years I was a caregiver for my husband, the Lord supplied love and help to me through others and through His presence, and He continues to do so today after my husband's passing to Glory. 

 “Nevertheless” is such a powerful word. It is such a liberating word. Dear Christian caregiver, there is always a “nevertheless” phrase that can be added to every heartache and challenge you face as a caregiver, and in life in general. Based on your own care-giving experience, I challenge you to complete the following sentence for yourself, dear caregiver: Care-giving is often so discouraging and heartbreaking, nevertheless…."






Sunday, August 23, 2015

There Are No Accidents With God


As most of you readers know, I was my husband's caregiver for four and a half years.  I lost him to a devastating neurological disease in early 2011.  Recently I read a statement which has stuck in my mind.  The statement was this:  "Widowhood is not God's plan B for your life."  Care-giving with all it's challenges and heartaches also was not God's plan B for my life.   I was chosen by God for both care-giving and then later widowhood.  They were both God perfect will and plan for my life.  God's plan for my life is not what I would have chosen for myself, but it is God's first and best plan for my life.

God has chosen you as well for the noble task of care-giving, dear caregiver.  I know it can be overwhelmingly discouraging at times, but God has chosen you for this.  He has chosen you for this job to refine you and to grow you in your faith.  He chosen you for this task to make you fall more and more in love with the Lord.  Finally he has chosen you for this, so you can be a blessing to your loved one.

Recently I read a wonderful article online entitled "There are NO Accidents with God." This is difficult truth to accept at times, but it is a blessed and soft place to land when we do accept it.  Read that wonderful article by clicking the link below.



http://www.crosswalk.com/faith/bible-study/there-are-no-accidents-with-god.html?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=fbpage&utm_campaign=cwupdate

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Care-giving and Forgiveness

Forgiveness and struggling to forgive is always a part of any grief process or sense of loss in one’s life. Furthermore, there is a grief process that accompanies long term family care-giving. I know as I witnessed my husband’s health continue to decline step by step, I definitely went through a grief process.

Whom, then, might we need to forgive in the grief process that often accompanies care-giving? First of all, we need to accept God’s forgiveness of ourselves. As a caregiver, although devoted to my husband and my marriage vows, I was less than perfect. I often felt impatient. I know there were times that I said and did things which showed this impatience and which were not up to God’s standard of love.  

To reject God’s forgiveness for these things would be a slap in the face of God. God pardons and forgives our sins. In fact, He delights to show us His mercy; and He smashes our sins underfoot and throws those sins into the depths of the sea (Micah 7:18-19). I also tended to put false guilt on myself at times for things that were out of my control. These too needed to be turned over to the Lord. I suspect this is true of most every caregiver at one time or another. 
     
Secondly, we need to forgive others. Unless others are caregivers themselves, they cannot begin to  understand the heartaches and challenges of being a caregiver. Hence, they may say trite and hurtful things. Also, the people who one may think would be most likely to step up and help are often not there to assist.  Either they are not able to empathize because they have not gone through the same care-giving experiences, or they have issues and responsibilities of their own.  They also may not feel emotionally equipped to get into the process of helping. As a caregiver, however, one has to let go and forgive. We are commanded to forgive, and a lack of forgiveness will only add to the emotional struggles which sometimes accompany care-giving. 

Thirdly, it is also necessary at times for a caregiver to forgive the loved one for whom one is caring. No human being is perfect, and the caregiver’s loved one will not always show the love and gratitude to the caregiver that he or she might expect. As a caregiver, I remember thinking that it would be nice to be thanked occasionally for all that I did for my husband. I do know my husband loved me, however, and we have to forgive and overlook these things. We need to forgive these things because Christ has forgiven us. We also need to overlook them for our own emotional health.  
    

Finally, we need to be careful that we do not blame God for our loved one’s ill health and for the trials of care-giving. We will never understand all the “whys,” but our best course of action is to trust our Lord God and to run to our Lord for strength and comfort.  

Sunday, August 9, 2015

My Passion for Caregivers

This week Friday night I will be selling my book, Dear Caregiver Reflections for Family Caregivers, at Heritage Day.  Heritage day is a festival/celebration type event we hold every other year in my small town.  I like doing these book events, as it gives me a chance to hopefully get my book in the hands of current caregivers, past caregivers, or anyone who is going through a difficult time.

 Life is difficult, but God is good.  He is in control and is leading us through the difficult moments with His guiding hand.  We need to keep looking to Him.  This is especially true for the family caregiver.  This is the theme of my book.

As I talk about my book at these events I feel passionate.  This is because I feel passionate about family caregivers.  I feel passionate about helping them.  I also feel passionate about their loved ones for whom they are caring.

These events where I promote my book are emotionally draining as well, however.  It brings up in me the emotions of those days as a family caregiver.  I remember the stress and sadness of seeing my husband's body deteriorate during those four and a half years that I cared for him.  I remember the emotions of worrying about giving my husband everything I could and doing everything I could for him in the battle for his health which we knew from the beginning would be a losing battle.

Yet I also remember that the Lord was with me during those days, and He has been with me in my post care-giving days as well.  I want caregivers and anyone else's life I touch to know that the Lord will be with them as well. That is my passion and that is why I write this blog and why I wrote the book.

So I ask that you will pray for me on Friday night, August 14 between 4:00 and 9:00 P.M. Central time.  I wish you could all greet me at my table.  Since at least most of  you can not do that, consider ordering my book online.  It can be found at Xulon, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble online.  Links to my book on Xulon and Amazon can be found on the right hand side of this page.  My book contains over 100 meditations or short chapters to encourage family caregivers.

Please forgive this diversion from the usual type of thoughts that I post here.  Know, however, dear caregiver that I care about you.  What is more important to know is that the Lord loves you and cares for you.  He is with you, dear caregiver, on this difficult but noble undertaking in your life!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Shifting of Roles

(This post is another chapter from my book. Links to the order page for my book at Xulon and Amazon are found at the right side of this page.)

It’s becoming difficult to remember what it felt like when he wrapped me in his arms, and I felt secure and wanted instead of motherly and needed.” Such was a comment made by Jennifer, a woman on an online care-giving site. Those words so echo the feelings I experienced as a caregiver for my husband. My husband’s neurological disease robbed him of so much. It also robbed our relationship of so much. When a relationship becomes a caregiver to care receiver relationship, things change. 
    
For a period of time during the progression of his disease, my husband Wayne enjoyed listening to audio books. One day almost three years into the progression of his disease, Wayne was listening to an autobiography about a man who suffered through MS. My husband’s disease was a different and (I would say) a worse neurological disease, but there was much in the book with which my husband could identify.  
     
While my husband was listening to this audio book on this particular day, I overheard a few comments made by the author of the book. The man was speaking about how much the disease had robbed them of his and his wife’s relationship with one another. He said that their relationship had become more of a mother or caregiver to a child relationship than a wife to a husband relationship. I also felt the loneliness of that reality so often myself with my husband’s disease. That shifting of roles was so difficult sometimes. I loved my husband, but this was not how I had envisioned living our retirement years.  
     
I look back now with pleasure on the many good years my husband and I had together. I thank God for the blessing of a husband who loved me, protected me, and was my life’s companion. His disease and subsequent death changed that. Life has a way of changing things. So is there anything in life we can count on not to change? 
    
My Lord God never changes.  Although my husband could not be there for me as he had been in the past, God was there for me. When I longed -- and still long -- to be wrapped in my husband’s arms, my Lord wraps His arms around me. He is my source of security and joy.
    
Dear Christian caregiver, sometimes the pain of care-giving can be so intense that it is difficult to feel God’s presence, peace, and joy. His presence is with us at all times, however, in spite of our feelings. Trust Him. Rest in Him. In the measure you do this, you will begin to feel His presence above the noise of your pain. You will feel His arms wrapped around you in love. You will feel His strength.  




Sunday, July 26, 2015

God is Good All the Time

There are so many emotions going through my being, as I write this post.  As I wrote in my last post, this has been a month where there were moments when I felt very vulnerable.   Yet I have also seen God's hand in abundantly providing.

After I returned home from my trip to visit family in Iowa and Minnesota in early July, I was also able to enjoy some quality time with some grandchildren who live closer by but whom I also hadn't seen for a little while; because they also now live three hours away.

I also had an interview with Guideposts magazine.  They called me a few weeks back about doing an interview with me.  That phone interview took place a little over a week ago.  It was an hour and a half interview.  It was a very good interview.  Good questions were asked, but I was a bit emotionally drained afterwards.  Then on Tuesday of last week they sent a local photographer to the place where I volunteer for a photo shoot.

Guideposts is doing a whole series of articles this year on family caregivers.  My article is scheduled to be in the October issue and will center on the idea that once a caregiver always a caregiver.  This is because my volunteer work involves giving respite to family caregivers through a wonderful social program three times a week for their loved ones.  I personally volunteer one of those three days.  So look for my article in October, if you have access to the Guideposts magazine.  Also read the other articles on care-giving in their magazine this year.  It is so good to see a magazine giving acknowledgement to all that family caregivers do for their loved ones.!

In addition to these things there are other day to day issues which have come up in my life recently which needed tending.  Also this week on July 30 would have been my 44th wedding anniversary.  I ask for prayers for me on that day.

Please forgive me, dear caregiver, as I have diverted a bit in this post to talk about personal issues.  I guess one of my main reasons for sharing this with you here is to encourage you that God will use your care-giving experiences in the days ahead in ways you never imagined.  He is transforming you and growing you in your character and in your love for the Lord through this experience.  He also may use that experience in other people's lives.  Also I believe God uses these experiences to teach us to lean on the Lord and to see His protecting and guiding hand through it all.  I see and have seen that over and over.  I sometimes struggle with how the good things which have come from my experience can possibly ever make up for the pain of seeing my husband's body deteriorate during those four and half years of his illness and then my losing him.  Yet God is good all the time.  He knows what He is doing.  Rest in that, dear caregiver.        

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Life is Fragile

Life is fragile, and it can change in a moment.  I saw that as a caregiver.  One moment I thought I life was "normal," and the next moment I found out that my husband had something wrong with him and needed a MRI.  This in turn led to a series of doctor appointments and tests in the months ahead which confirmed that my husband did indeed have a serious and rare neurological disease called Multiple Systems Atrophy.  Perhaps the signs were there before diagnosis, but I had not picked up on them.  The next four and half years of my husband's life reinforced the fact that life is fragile, as I saw my husband's body deteriorate step by step.  It also reinforced in my mind, however, that God was faithful and that He was in control.

I saw that again recently when I was gone for a few days in early July.  My friend and I were traveling together on a 500 mile trip to IA and MN.  We both have family in the same general area there. While we were traveling to our destination we were sideswiped by a motor cyclist.  The motorcyclist never fell, and everyone is okay.  Yet I was reminded that life is fragile, and it can change in a moment. There is another factor in all this, however.  God is in control.  He was protecting us, and He was protecting that young man on his motorcycle.

While I was gone on my trip for a few days something else happened to show that life is fragile and to make me feel very vulnerable.  The engine light in  my car came on, and my car was acting very strangely at times.  It was determined that is was a sensor issue.  I was 500 miles from home, and it was likely but uncertain if I could make it home safely,  The nearest place to fix my car was an hour away, but my sister and her husband were able to take me to pick up the needed part; and a local neighbor in their area was able to put the new sensor on my car,  All this was accomplished at minimal cost for me.  Life is fragile, and I felt so vulnerable in this situation.  God's fingerprints of protection and provision were all over that situation, however.

Then just recently after safely returning home from my trip a nineteen year classmate of my niece in culinary school was killed in a car accident.  Once again I am reminded that life is fragile.  These kinds of things are so difficult to understand.  They make us stop in our tracks and perhaps make us feel very vulnerable.

I remember also having many vulnerable feelings as a caregiver.  I wondered if I would be able to continue to  handle caring for my husband in the days ahead. Later in his disease I wondered if I even would be able to handle the next transfer to the bathroom or bed.  Yet as I look back, I see that there was always a way. God was and is faithful.  I did not like the difficult circumstances which God had allowed, but God was with me.  He was teaching me that I was not in control.  He was teaching me that I needed to depend on Him.  He was bringing about greater intimacy between Himself and me.  The Lord continues to do that even now since my husband's death.  I want freedom from problems.  He wants me to grow in grace and love for Him.  He wants to show me that He is a God of power and awe even in "impossible situations."  He wants to wow me with His faithfulness.

Dear family caregiver, trust in the Lord.  Depend on Him.  He will be with you step by step even in the "impossible" challenges of family care-giving.  Look for His wonders.  We do not always understand His ways, but we can count on His promises and on His faithfulness.