Sunday, October 15, 2017

Replace

(The post below is also a chapter from my book Dear Caregiver Reflections for Family Caregivers.  Consider ordering a copy for yourself or someone you love.  Also check out Matthew 11:28-30 in the Bible.)

The emotional burdens that accompany caring for loved one can be heavy at times. This is especially true, if the loved one has a terminal illness. Turning to the Lord is really the only resource for these kind of emotional burdens. On July 12, 2010 in the midst of my days caring for my husband I wrote the following:

“I am seeking this month to replace carrying around my emotional burdens with consciously seeking to release them to God in prayer. Every time a negative emotion comes up and they have continued to come up, I have resolved to take a deep breath and release it or give it to God. Like one releases a balloon I want to continually release these feelings to God.

I am serious enough about this that I have even made a visual of this with my computer print program. My picture is of a kite floating in the air and also of a hot air balloon. I also have the names of emotionally negative feelings I want released from my life. So how well am I doing? I think it is helpful to have this resolve and word picture in my mind. I am consciously trying to release the negative emotions as they come up. I also realize, however that this will be a continual battle, because the negative emotions come up so easily and without warning.

When I think too frequently about how far down my husband has declined in the last four years it is still easy to become sad. When I think about his latest transition downward, so that he requires my help every time he needs to use the bathroom and all the ramifications of that, it is easy to feel discouraged. When my husband’s spends many hours some days sleeping it is easy to feel lonely, trapped, and frustrated. When I wonder how long I can take care of him before he needs to go to a nursing home, I feel frightened and a host of other emotions. Care-giving is demanding enough, however, without carrying around the extra negative emotions. Moreover my God wants me to release them to Him. He wants me to trust Him

As I think about my picture I wonder if the kite or the hot air balloon is a better picture. It would seem the hot air balloon is a better word picture. With the kite I am still hanging on to the string trying to maintain control. Perhaps both are good word pictures. There are things I can and must do as an instrument in God’s hands in regards to my husband’s health care. Negative emotions and things beyond my control have to be completely released, however.

There are still many negative emotions and sad moments, but I am fighting the fight. I am seeking to release. I call that victory moment by moment. I call that falling down and then getting up again. I call that being a weak human with supernatural help from above, if I just avail myself of it."

Dear Christian Caregiver, What emotional burden can you release today? With what can you replace that emotion? Give it to the Lord, dear caregiver.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Comfort in Life's Changes

As human beings we tend to not like change.  Changes, adjustments, and challenges tend to fatigue us and also make us a bit fearful of what the future holds.  I remember feeling that way when I was my husband's caregiver.  I was afraid when we received his original diagnosis.  It made me anxious, as I saw his body continually become more and more disabled step by step.

I still do not like changes in other areas of my life.  One thing of which we can be certain, however, is that the Lord promises to be with us and draw us closer to Himself in all the changes. He was with me during those difficult care-giving days, and He will be with you as well, dear caregiver.  He will also be with you and I in other major life changes in our lives be they pleasant or challenging.

Sometime back I ran across an online article about facing unexpected changes in our lives. The author of this article wrote that she had thought she was prepared for any change that life might present, because her husband and her had served overseas as missionaries.  That missionary life had caused them to encounter many challenges and unknowns.  Yet when her husband was later diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease she found she was not as prepared, as she thought she would be. She had to turn again to the Lord and to Scripture to get her through those challenging days.

Below is a link to that article and the Scripture passages she found comforting during that time.  May they prove a blessing to you as well, dear caregiver.  May they also draw you closer to the Lord.  Just 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+4+Scriptures+to+Help+

You also may find some Scripture verses from Isaiah 46 to be a comfort and strength to you in the uncertainties of care-giving, dear caregiver.  Forgive me for once again linking you to a post at another blog of mine.  I hope this too proves to be a blessing to you.  Just click on the link below.
http://scripturemoments.blogspot.com/2017/09/isaiah-46.html

Once again, thank you for all that you do for your loved one dear caregiver.  You are doing noble work in God's kingdom!

(There will be no new blog post next week, as I plan to be away from my computer.  Next post should be on or around October 15.)

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Fiery Arrows

(Today's post is another chapter from my book, Dear Caregiver Reflections For Family Caregivers.)

As a caregiver do you ever feel as if you are being bombarded by the “fiery arrows” of negative emotions? (Ephesians 6:16) Negative emotions can so easily spring up in the midst of care-giving chaos and heartache.

On June 9, 2009 while caring for my husband, Wayne, I wrote the following words:
“It is so easy to allow myself to get bogged down with discouragement, impatience, and sometimes anger. I realize I need to fight those “fiery arrows.” There is still so much for which to be thankful. I need to concentrate on that.”

Then on June 23, 2009 I journaled the following words:
"The future is unknown and feels scary for Wayne and I, but I do know the Lord who holds the future. I need to focus on that and on the fact that I know my Lord will always be with me.”

One way caregivers can fight the “fiery arrows” of negative emotions is by remembering the good things that still are present in their lives. Care-giving can be physically, emotionally, and spiritually draining. There always are blessings in one’s life, however. We need to look for them and be grateful for them. We also need to look for the wonders of God’s working and guidance in our lives. If we look for these things we will find them. If we look for these things it will also help to soothe the negative emotions.

Caring for someone with a terminal or serious disease can be frightening at times. This is because the future is so uncertain. Hence, fear and other negative emotions can quickly surface. It is wise to take it one day at a time and one step at a time. It is also wise to leave the future in the hands of the Lord. Caregivers tend to be great advocates for their loved ones. In the end, however, caregivers need to remember that they are not in control. God alone holds their futures and the futures of their loved ones. In the measure caregivers can rest in the Lord’s care the negative emotions will be soothed.

As a caregiver for my husband I found that fighting the “fiery arrows” of negative emotions was a constant struggle. If it were not for my faith, I would have not been able to persevere. My faith and knowing that God was in control made all the difference. The promises of God’s Word that He would always be with me soothed my fears and other negative emotions. Finally the weapon of prayer and looking for God’s working in my life was a big help in fighting those “fiery arrows.“

Dear Christian Caregiver, remember that emotions negative or otherwise are just feelings. Feelings are not necessarily based on truth. Only God’s Word and resting on your faith in God is the source of truth. Look for the blessings in your life, and rest in His truth.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Storms of Life All Around

We have heard much in the news of late about devastating hurricanes, massive fires, an earthquake and even another terrorist attack in London.  I don't know about you, but hearing about these events and knowing the turmoil these things are bringing in people's lives makes me sad.

Personal storms in our lives can do the same.  They can make us feel very sad and discouraged. A few days ago I was feeling very troubled about something.  I was reminded that I needed to trust God in that situation.  I needed to be quiet in that situation.  I was reminded of Isaiah 30:15b which says, "In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength."  The feelings have not all gone away, but being reminded of this helps me immensely.   Then I ran across a song by Stephen Curtis Chapman which speaks about being quiet in the Lord.  The link to that song is below if you would like to hear it.   Just click on the link.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BgaHaioAjyg

I remember also the struggles of being my husband's caregiver a few years back.  I remember the discouragement of seeing my husband's body deteriorate step by step. I remember the sadness and the fear about not being able to provide for his needs in the days ahead.  You may have similar feelings, dear caregiver.  May the Scripture verse I quoted and song link about resting it with the Lord be a huge comfort to you, dear caregiver.  God will always be faithful to you.

Another Scripture passage which is a huge comfort to me is found in the early verses of Isaiah 43.  It speaks of God summoning us by name and being with us through all the rivers and fiery challenges of life.  I wrote about that recently at another blog site of mine called Moments With God.  The link for that is below.  I hope you find this a comfort as well, dear caregiver.  Thank you for all that you do for your loved one.

http://scripturemoments.blogspot.com/2017/09/isaiah-43_14.html

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Specific Scriptures on Care-giving?

Over a year ago I received this e-mail from someone, "You keep saying in your book that care-giving is a purpose filled calling.  Can you give me specific Scriptures on that?'  I replied that although there are no Scripture passages that use those exact words, Scripture does tell us that if we serve others and show love and compassion to others, we are doing it for the Lord Jesus Christ.  This is shown in the Scripture passage about the sheep and goats in Matthew 25:34-40.  I also gave her some Scripture passages which either commands or tells of the rewards of serving others.

Later someone showed me the link to an online post which addresses the question, "What does the Bible say about care-giving?".  Below it the link to that post.  I hope you find it a blessing.  Thank you, dear caregiver, for all that you do!

https://www.gotquestions.org/Bible-caregiving.html


Sunday, September 3, 2017

Words of Affirmation

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


Family care-giving demands huge sacrifices emotionally, spiritually, and physically from the caregiver. At the same time it is not often affirmed and recognized by society. Sometimes even the caregiver’s loved ones do not affirm or acknowledge the love sacrifices which are being made for them. They sometimes can not or do not do this, because they themselves are so overwhelmed with their disease. In the spring of 2009 in the midst of my husband’s neurological disease I wrote the following words:

“The other day I took one of those Facebook quizzes. I am never big on these quizzes, because they appear to be a bit of a hoax. The quiz I took this time, however, seemed to match my reality pretty closely. The name of the quiz was “What is Your Love Language?” It said my love language was words of affirmation.


Before my husband’s illness he would tell me I was beautiful, and he would often call me ‘his favorite wife.’ It became a standing source of teasing between us, because my reply would always be, ‘How many wives do you have?’ My husband was always good about giving loving cards on special occasions also. So much of that verbal affirmation is gone now. My husband’s speech is so poor that basic communication between us is difficult. I miss also the basic bouncing of ideas between us.

Yesterday at my husband’s suggestion we went out to eat. He so seldom wants to go anywhere let along suggest it, so I readily agreed. It was very windy, however, and so we took the wheelchair. By the time I had wrestled the wheelchair in and out of the trunk of the car, gone through the buffet line for my husband and then for myself, and then basically carried on a conversation with myself during lunch; I began to wonder if it was worth it. As I said, I miss the verbal exchange.


A day or so ago I read a devotional in my care-giving devotional book about the importance of God’s affirmation of His love for and delight in His children. Knowing this is a source of comfort to me more than knowing what I do in my care-giving role has a purpose and meaning. I need to feel affirmed as me not as my role as a caregiver."

Dear Christian caregiver, the world may not recognize what you do. Your loved one for whom you care may not always be able to recognize and acknowledge what you do. God, however, does see what you do for your loved one. You are doing noble work, dear caregiver. God also delights in you and loves you just as you are! (Check out Zephaniah 3:17 in the Old Testament of the Bible!)
 

Saturday, August 26, 2017

The Chapters of Our Lives

We have many moments and chapters in our lives.  Some of these chapters in our lives are joyful ones.  Some are them are difficult and challenging.  We tend to look at special dates on the calendar and reflect about the past moments of our lives.  I especially tend to do this.

Seven decades ago on August 24, 1947 a little baby girl was born.  Her parents named her Sharon Lynn.  She was her parents first child, and she was born two weeks earlier than expected.  As you may have guessed this little girl is the author of this blog post.

The chapters in my life included my birth in IA and my growing up years in MN and SD.  I was a quiet introvert type child.  Later came the early adult chapter of my life.  I moved to WI, taught first grade for three years at a Christian school, met and married my husband, and raised a family of three sons.  Later chapters in my life included the marriages of my sons and wonderful grandchildren. One of the difficult chapters of my life was the diagnosis of my husband's rare neurological disease (Multiple Systems Atrophy) in 2006, my breast cancer diagnosis in 2007, and my husband's death in early 2011.

Yet all these chapters in my life were ordained by God.  Psalm 139:16 says, "All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be."  God has ordained all the days and chapters of your life as well, dear caregiver.  If I had been able to chose, I would have not chosen the care-giving chapter of my life or perhaps even difficult moments which occurred before that chapter in my life.  I certainly would not have chosen the chapter of widow.

Yet God truly does bring beauty from the ashes of the difficult chapters of our lives.  God says in John 16:33b, "In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart I have overcome the world."  He has overcome the world, and He will use our heartaches to advance His kingdom and for our spiritual growth and even joy.

Dear caregiver, the Lord is using your care-giving experience to stretch and grow you in dependence on Him and in love for Him.  He is using it to bring new spiritual fruit in your life.  Finally, He is using it in His kingdom both now and in the days ahead.  Dear caregiver, I understand how difficult the care-giving chapter of your life can be.  I lived it.  Yet God wants you to walk with Him holding His hand during this chapter of your life.  He wants you to rest in Him trusting that He will lead you through this time in your life with purpose for now and the future.  If you belong to Him; He delights in you, dear caregiver!


Sunday, August 20, 2017

Faith-Based Caregiver Books

As most of you know my husband had a neurological disease.  His disease was called Multiple Systems Atrophy and mostly was physical.  His body became more and more disabled to the point of complete disability and later death.  As many of you also may know I now experience the joy of volunteering once a week for a social program for people with dementia-most with beginning to moderate Alzheimer's.  This disease although it can involve physical aspects mostly involves memory issues.  This disease also involves constant changes and declines as my husband's disease did, but in a different way.

Recently I had the privilege of reading a wonderful book called Twilight Meditations subtitled One Woman's Thoughts of God as Alzheimer's Advances.  In this book psychologist, Dr. Jeff Bjorck introduces us to his mother, Irene.  In spite of years of suffering the affects of Alzheimer's Irene has continued to show a cheerful, thankful attitude.

In addition to this she has continued to offer occasional spontaneous comments about her faith and love for her Lord.  After a brief introduction of several pages chronicling Irene's life the book goes on to showcase these comments with beautiful photography from Jeff and beautiful artwork from Irene. I found many of Irene's comments beautiful and profound in their simplicity.  One of these comments in July of 2014 showed Irene's trust in God through all her struggles when she said, "God makes no mistakes. He has never had to come to me and say, 'I'm sorry I did that!'"  Then in May of 2016 she said again, "It's true that, what He has done, He knew all along He was going to do."

This book would greatly encourage those who are caring for someone with Alzheimer's.  Yet I think it would encourage anyone no matter what their walk in life or whatever is going on in their lives.  Our bodies or our memories may fail, but as Irene said in one of her quotes, "He (God) never forgets."   Also the One who never forgets will preserve us in our faith no matter how much decline occurs in our bodies and minds. There is so much I could say about this book. I was very blessed by reading it.

Below is a link to the order page for this book on Amazon. To get the full effect of the artwork and photography in the book I would recommend you buy the paperback version and not the Kindle version:
https://www.amazon.com/Twilight-Meditations-Thoughts-Alzheimers-Advances/dp/1545122024/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1502746757&sr=1-1

I thought you would also enjoy viewing a sweet interaction between Jeff and Irene about a year ago on YouTube.  I do not know Jeff personally, but found this very sweet.  Click the link below to hear it.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H31XukYZLb8&feature=youtu.be

Recently I also read a book called Honoring the Elderly subtitled A Christian's Duty to Aging Parents by Rev. Brian De Jong.  This book discusses the Biblical/theological issues surrounding our need to honor and aid our elderly parents especially as they decline in their physical and mental well-being as they age. The author bases his premises on the fifth commandment which instructs us to honor our parents.

The author also discusses topics such as dealing with difficult parents, medical and ethical decision making, financial issues, and even honoring parents at death and afterward.  If you are interested in this book I have the link to his book below.  This book does not definitively answer every question or solve all the challenges of family care-giving, but it gives a good Biblical basis for how we should approach this topic.  I am thankful that someone has written  a book like this. Consider ordering his book at the link below:

https://www.amazon.com/Honoring-Elderly-Christians-Aging-Parents/dp/1548220353/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1501342660&sr=1-1

Finally, if you have not already done so, consider also ordering and reading my book. As most of you know the name of my book is Dear Caregiver subtitled Reflections for Family Caregivers.  I was my husband's caregiver for four and a half years.  He had a devastating neurological disease called Multiple Systems Atrophy.  I understand the emotional, physical, and spiritual challenges of being a family caregiver.  Hence, it is my passion to encourage family caregivers.  That is why I write this blog and that is why I wrote my book.

My book contains over 100 short chapters or meditations meant to encourage family caregivers in their noble but sometimes challenging and heartbreaking care of their loved one.  My story in intertwined in these meditations or short chapters.  Below is the link to my order page for my book on Amazon.  It is also available at Barnes and Noble and other places online.  If you prefer you can also e-mail me to receive a book from me directly.  My e-mail address is jesuschild54@hotmail.com  As I said before the Amazon link to my order page is below.

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

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Conflicting Emotions and Blessings

(This post is a chapter from my book: Dear Caregiver Reflections for Family Caregivers)


I scribed the following words in early June of 2010 about seven months before my husband’s death:

“My heart is filled with so many conflicting emotions tonight. I still feel burdened by the fact that I know we have taken another step backwards in my husband’s disease. Just the fact that I have to help him every time he goes to the bathroom so we don’t endanger him of falling and that I am now helping him into bed means we are taking another step backwards.

It also means I have to get up in the middle of the night, if he has to use the bathroom. It means more fatigue for me. It further means I can’t leave him for as long of time during the daytime. This is discouraging to me. I so tire of the adjustments to new changes and seeking new solutions. Sometimes I wonder how long it will be before I can no longer take care of him-Years? Months?

I also have so many blessings all around me, however. As I am writing this I can hear the twitter of birds outside my window. I am blessed each day by the perennials around our new home which have been coming out one at a time. Since I don’t know the names of a lot of the flowers, it has been a joy seeing new beautiful flowers popping out. It is like little gifts from God assuring me of His love. He also assures me in the Bible that He will always be with me.

I was blessed the other day with my sister-in-law taking my husband out for a drive and giving me some alone time at home. I was blessed today in church. I am blessed with the fact that we will be getting some in-home therapy for my husband scheduled to start tomorrow.

Lord, help me just to trust, just to rest, just to release. Help me not to worry so much about the ending of the story, for it ultimately will be good. Help me to enjoy and revel in the daily blessings even in the midst of hard times.”

Dear caregiver, the challenges of care-giving for a loved one can be so very emotionally, physically, and even spiritually challenging. The heartaches of the declines in their health over which you have no ultimate control is so discouraging. Remember, however, dear caregiver, that the Lord is with you each step of the way. Also in the midst of the heartaches look for the wonders and blessings. They are always there, and it will help you get through the pain of the tough times.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Life's Lessons Observed

I volunteer most Tuesdays at a church which facilitates a program that serves people with beginning to moderate dementia.  It is a wonderful social program for the participants and also serves as a much needed respite for their caregivers.  It is further a huge blessing for us as volunteers to be able to serve others this way.  We gain more than we receive.

Recently we took the participants on a little outing for the morning and early afternoon. It was beautiful day for this outing.  The weather could not be more perfect.  For most of the participants and volunteers it was a very enjoyable day.  One participant, however, seemed to have gotten caught up in a negative mental loop on this occasion. She also happened to be the one I was paired with that day.

There were a few things that day for which I had to exercise patience.  They included her repetition of the same story and questions over and over. They also included her insistence that since our outing had taken us so close to her daughter's place the bus should drop her off there instead of taking her back to the church to finish off the day. She simply would not let it go, and kept arguing the point. Obviously protocol, legality, and wisdom would not allow us to honor her request, but she could not understand the wisdom of it all.

I needed to remind myself that this woman even with her beginning dementia was and is made in the image of God.  I also was thinking the next morning how much we are sometimes like that with God. We often just do not understand God's ways with us, and we do not understand His plan.  We are not always willing to trust God's wisdom in allowing what He does in our lives.  We may question the wisdom of God's ways and decisions.

Personally I think about all the indignities my husband went through because of his disease.  I think of all the heartache I experienced as his caregiver.  I think of the grief of losing him and living my life as a widow.  It is tempting to think, "Why, God?"  I do see much good which has come in my character as a result of all this.  I see how my love for the Lord has grown, and I see ministry for others which has resulted.  I see partially God's reasons and plans in it all, but I will never see the whole picture at least not before Eternity.

I simply have to trust that God knows what He is doing.  I need to trust that He loves me with an everlasting love and that He is so much wiser than I am. As one book that I read recently put it, I need to give up trying to understand God and just praise Him and thank Him for His love.

Dear caregiver, the challenges of care-giving and life in general can be overwhelming at times.  Trust that the Lord is with you through it all.  Trust in His love and wisdom. He is infinitely wiser than you are.





Sunday, July 30, 2017

Wedding Anniversary Reflections

Forty-six years ago today on July 30, 1971 I married my husband, Wayne, 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 nine grandchildren.  The last two grandchildren were born after Wayne's death, the last one in October.

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.

As I think about this 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 even after six and a half years, so I ask that you will pray for me especially today 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.

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.


Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Folly of Trying to Control

(This blog post is from a chapter of my book:  Dear Caregiver Reflections for Family Caregivers by Sharon Vander Waal.  In many ways this post reflects the same sentiments expressed in my post called "Vulnerability" of a couple weeks ago.)

As a caregiver I remember sometimes thinking about the future and worrying about the progression of my husband’s terminal disease. I remember worrying about how I would take care of my husband after he became completely disabled. As it turned out the last months of my husband’s life especially did become very difficult, but the Lord also provided for those circumstances.

During the course of my husband’s disease in addition to worrying I felt very much that what I did or did not do would influence the speed with which the disease would progress. I think I subconsciously felt as if I had some control in my husband’s disease.

God, however wants us to trust Him enough to let life’s events unfold without striving to control or predict them. He wants us to relax in His unfailing love. When we try to predict or control the future in any way we are trying to be self-sufficient. God wants us to rely on Him alone.

Caregivers are loving and strong advocates for their loved ones. They often have to be. They also need to be responsible in providing any medical help possible for their loved ones. One thing caregivers must remember, however, is that in the end they cannot control the progression of their loved one’s disease. Only God can control this. Caregivers anxiously wringing their hands trying to control the uncontrollable can result in a losing out on the time they do have with their loved ones.

The better alternative to worrying about the future and trying to control the future is to live in the present moment depending fully on the Lord God. When I think back on my care-giving days I remember this was so difficult to do. Worrying and trying to control, however, leaves us fearing our own inadequacy. I remember those feelings also, dear caregiver. Instead in all of life’s struggles we need to rejoice in God’s abundant supply of strength which He gives us for each difficult situation as it arises.

Dear Christian caregiver, do not divide your life into things you think you can handle by yourself and things for which you need God’s help. The truth is you need help for it all. Rely on Him for every caregiving situation. Doing so will help you face each care-giving day with confidence.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Preparation for the Valley

(Following is a chapter from my book:  Dear Caregiver Reflections for Family Caregivers.)

Seeking to provide for my husband’s needs during my care-giving days could get emotionally heavy at times, but I feel my past experiences helped to prepare me somewhat for the care-giving challenges. One of these experiences actually coincided with the beginning stages of my care-giving days. That experience was my fight against breast cancer.

In July of 2007, about a year after my husband was diagnosed with his disease, I noticed a swelling in my right breast and under my arm. I was able to book an appointment with my physician’s assistant. She sent me for a mammogram and MRI the next day. A couple days later I received the devastating news that I did indeed have breast cancer and that the cancer had invaded my lymph nodes. The tumor in my breast was very large, and my doctor told me later that my lymph nodes were all gummed together.

A few days later I found myself at my oncologist’s office, and after a full body scan at the hospital I began chemo. I began chemo by the end of July of 2007. All together I had 8 chemo treatments in 3 week cycles, mastectomy surgery with all my lymph nodes under my arm removed, and 6 1/2 weeks of radiation daily. Side effects of chemo were fatigue, mild nausea sometimes, food tasting like cardboard, loss of all of my hair etc. Radiation caused some burning, but it was manageable. All treatment was completed in April of 2008!

During the time of my cancer treatments I had a host of people praying for me-even people across the ocean! We also had people from our church bringing in meals twice a week for a long time. I further had church people bringing me to all my chemo treatments and most of my radiation treatments. The medical people at my cancer care center were wonderful.

Cancer treatments would not be a time that I would want to go through again, but at the same time it was a time of blessing as well as hardship. It is hard to explain, but I became more free in my spirit and less concerned about other’s opinions as a result to this cancer experience. I experienced the love of other people, and most of all I experienced the love of my Lord and Savior in a new and fresh way. I learned dependence on the Lord God during those many months, and I grew in my faith. The Lord’s strength and His love to me demonstrated through others helped me through those months.

I still am miles away from having it altogether. Just perhaps, however, I will be able to face today and the days ahead with more of God’s strength, because of my cancer experience and my experiences with the heartaches of care-giving. The memory of those days will never go away. It has changed whom I am forever mostly for the good.

I know that there will always be problems in this life, but I am further certain that my Lord and Savior will be with me all through my life. I know He will give me the strength to handle anything I need to face in the future. Even in hard times God has promised to be with me and bless me and someday take me to live with Him eternally. Dear Christian caregiver rest in Him.



(Look on the side of this home page for a link to the order page for my book on Amazon. The book is also available at Barnes and Noble and elsewhere online.  If you prefer a signed copy from me directly, just e-mail me at jesuschild54@hotmail.com for specifics.)

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Vulnerability

Recently over the July 4th week-end I returned from a few days trip to visit family in IA and MN.  I went with a widow friend of mine.  It is about a 500 mile trip one way. Whenever my friend and I do this trip I always am more aware of my vulnerability.  We are two widows, I pushing seventy years old and she seventy-one years old.

Yet as a recent devotion I read pointed out, there is very little in this earthly life that is secure.  Even if I sit in my "secure" home all the time, something unplanned and even devastating can happen.  The only true place of security is in the Lord and in my trust in His faithfulness.

I remember back to those days when I was a caregiver for my husband, Wayne.  As I watched him deteriorate step by step and become more and more disabled, I felt very vulnerable and often fearful. Yet knowing I had a faithful God who was in control is what kept me going during those difficult days.  He can also be your source of comfort and security, dear caregiver.

Feeling vulnerable is really a good place to be.  This is because it makes us aware of our own weakness and limitations.  This in turn can make us more willing to recognize that the Lord is the only one who is in control.  It then draws us to His strength and power.  We further begin to learn to rest things with Him and to trust Him to lead and guide us.

Our vulnerability also teaches us that the Lord is the only source of our joy.  The things of this earth are insecure and will never provide lasting satisfaction.  Only a relationship with the Lord can do that. That does not mean we will always feel "happy" in the way the world defines that word.  There are many things in this world which make us sad, and joy is very different than happiness.  Joy in the Lord is possible, however, in spite of circumstances.  Joy is possible for you, dear caregiver, in spite of how difficult your care-giving experience with your loved one may become.  This is because the Lord and not the empty things of this world is the source of joy.

Psalm 28:7 in the Old Testament of the Bible says this, "The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped.  My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to Him in song."  Psalm 63:7-8 says, "Because You are my help, I sing in the shadow of Your wings.  My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me." (Both verses are from the NIV 1984 translation.) Realizing your own vulnerability is a good thing, dear caregiver.  Rest in Him and in His strength.  Find joy in Him.


Sunday, June 25, 2017

He Will Equip You

(This blog post is from a chapter in my book: Dear Caregiver Reflections for Family Caregivers.  Next week I will be away from my computer, so there will not be a new post.  The next post will be on or around July 9, Lord willing.)

Dear caregiver, have you ever said to yourself, “I can not do this any longer! Why has God laid on me the task of care-giving? Who am I to be asked to do this job? I am not equipped to do this job.” As a former caregiver for my husband with a terminal disease I remember thinking these things from time to time during my care-giving days.

In an Old Testament book in the Bible God assigned a man named Moses an important task. It was an important task, but it was also an overwhelmingly daunting task and would be a huge undertaking for Moses. Hence, Moses was understandably afraid. (Read about it in Exodus chapter three in the Bible.)

Moses begin to make excuses for not being able to do the job which God had given him to do. The first question that Moses asked God when God gave him his new assignment was "Who am I, that I should do this job?”

But Moses was asking the Lord the wrong question. Moses should not have asked, "Who am I?" The real question should have been "Who is God?" Moses should not have been focusing on his own inadequacies, but he should have been focusing on the power of the Lord to help him. Moses should have been focusing on the faithfulness of the great God who had been faithful to His people in the past and who had promised to be with them in the future. Even though Moses continued to make excuses for awhile ultimately Moses obeyed God, and God used him in mighty ways

Care-giving has to be one of life’s most challenging tasks. Dear caregiver, know, however, that God is a faithful and dependable God. Completely trust in Him to always be with you and strengthen you. God is not just a God of glory and power. He is a faithful God who completely gives Himself to you. As God was with Moses in the past in the frightening and overwhelming task He assigned him, He will continue to be with you also in the sometimes overwhelming challenges of care-giving.

God has assigned you the task of care-giving, dear Christian caregiver. Because He has assigned you this task, He will also equip you. He will give you His strength as long as you need it. Our strength has nothing to do with ourselves. Our strength is wholly dependent on the Lord and His faithfulness. We must learn the secret of bringing our burdens to the Lord and leaving them there. God says that He will be with us wherever He asks us to go and in whatever He asks us to do. Trust Him and lean heavily on Him, dear caregiver!
 


Saturday, June 17, 2017

Father's Day and Our Heavenly Father

Sunday is Father's Day in the United States.  It is a wonderful day to honor fathers.  Yet sometimes this day and other holidays can be bittersweet.  On this Father's day weekend I remember my own Dad and also remember Wayne, my husband and the father of my children.  They have both passed onto their Heavenly home.  Yet during their lives on earth they both provided strong spiritual guidance and were an example for their families. They both demonstrated a strong work ethic and loved their families.  They were both men of great patience, calmness, and humility.  Finally, they both maintained their steadfast faith even during the last difficult years of their lives.  I also remember my father-in-law with fond memories.  Finally, I am thankful to my three sons who are all Godly men and are raising their families in the ways of the Lord.

Perhaps, you are a former caregiver who took care of either a father, father-in-law, or a husband. Perhaps, you are a current family caregiver who is caring for one of these and are feeling the sorrow of your loved one's decline.  On this day and every day try to remember the sweet memories.  Try to remember how your loved one has impacted your life in good and sweet ways in the past.  If your past does not contain sweet and loving memories with your loved one, concentrate on the love of your Heavenly Father who has never left you or forsook you.  He is the Heavenly Father to which all of us can cling for love, protection and grace.

Sometimes when we have lost someone or are seeing significant declines in our loved ones, we feel sadness in the loss of that person or in the loss of the way things used to be.  Let's use this day and every day in our lives to remember the sweet memories and also to be thankful for the daily blessings our Heavenly Father showers on us.  Let us rejoice in our Heavenly Father.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Care-giving for Aging Parents

Recently I read an excellent article on family care-giving in the New Horizons magazine.  The New Horizons magazine happens to be the magazine for the church denomination to which this writer belongs.  There are many kinds of family care-giving, but this particular article speaks about caring for aging parents.  Click on the link below to read this thoughtful and well-written article.

https://www.opc.org/nh.html?article_id=922

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Care-giving, "Pleasant Places"?

During my family care-giving days the book of Psalms in the Old Testament of the Bible became especially meaningful to me.  It continues to be so in my days as a widow.  Recently in my devotions I was again reading Psalm 16.  It is beautiful Psalm filled with rich truths and promises.  This Psalm speaks to my heart in many ways.

Psalm 16 talks about the fact that there is no good thing outside of the Lord.  So often we run after things and possessions to try to fill up the empty places in our hearts.  Things and even relationships can be good in themselves, but without the Lord in our lives they are meaningless.  Without the Lord they lead to frustration and dead-ends.

Yet with the Lord in our lives even the trials can turn into blessings.  As my devotional for Psalm 16 pointed out, God allows all our unique circumstances for a reason.  These circumstances shape who we are as people.  They also affect how we uniquely serve God and minister to others.  I know everything that happened to me since I was a child and now as an adult affects both my personality and my relationship with God and others.

Psalm 16: 5-6 says, "Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure.  The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance."  But wait a minute, has God always given me "pleasant places?"  When I think about those care-giving years where I watched my husband's body deteriorate step by step, I still to this day have sad feelings.  There were many moments which were challenging and many moments which one would not consider "pleasant places."  There have been challenging moments for me also as a widow that do not seem like "pleasant places."

Yet even those moments which seem challenging and less than pleasant are for my good and for God's glory.  They gave me purpose during those days that I was a caregiver and continue to influence who I am and what I do to this day.  They have opened up doors of ministry in my post care-giving days that could have come in no other way.  Sometimes ministry to others can only come because of our past pain or in the midst of present pain.  You may not be able to make sense of your present care-giving situation, dear caregiver, but trust that God is using you now and will in the days ahead because of that present situation in you life.

Trust too, dear care-giver, that the Lord will counsel and instruct you step by step in the whole care-giving experience and in the years beyond.  So you need "not be shaken (Psalm 16:7-8)."  There are many times when I have felt shaken and felt panic about life's situations.  Yet I know that there is a no need for it.  When I remind myself of God's promises to always be with me, much calmness can return. Also in the loneliness of those care-giving days of my past, the Lord was there to comfort me. He is also there for me in my days as a widow.  On top of that He promises me joy in this life and in eternity (Psalm 16:11).

So yes, dear caregiver, if you are a child of God, you have God's promise of "pleasant places" and a "delightful inheritance."  (Another translation of the Bible says "beautiful inheritance.")  Trust Him in the challenging and painful moments. Trust that He knows what He is doing. Trust that He is using you now in powerful ways and will also do so in the future. He has assigned you your "portion and cup (Psalm 16:5), and He will use it in service to Him and others and for your spiritual and emotional good.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

No Regular Post This Week

There will be no regular post this week.  Use this week to reread older posts.  Since Monday is Memorial Day in the United States, I want to wish you all a blessed week-end.  For some of you this may be a difficult day, as you remember loved ones who have passed.  I remember my Dad who served in the Navy.  I also remember my, husband, Wayne, who was in the Army Reserves.  I further remember my brother who served in the Army but is still with us.  For those who have lost precious loved ones whether they were in the military or not (like me who lost my Mom just a few months ago) make it a day of thinking about the happy memories you have of your loved ones.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Lessons From my Vacuum Cleaner

Some time back I noticed that my vacuum cleaner was no longer picking up well.  I knew that my bag in my vacuum cleaner was probably full, and I knew that was the reason my vacuum cleaner was no longer working well.  For a few different reasons (none of them very good reasons) I put off changing the bag.  One of those reasons was that I had no replacement bags on hand, and I needed to go to the store to purchase some new bags.

When I finally replaced the bag in my vacuum cleaner it was indeed very full. There was dirt and lint even up into the hose part of my vacuum cleaner, which I had to clean out.  Before I bought and installed the new bag, I in essence was choosing to ignore the fact that a problem existed.  This, however, did not erase the fact that dirt was accumulating.  Hence, my vacuum cleaner was not fully functional.

The same can be true of life.  Is anything clogging your life, dear caregiver?  Are you allowing bitterness, impatience, or depression to clutter and clog up your life? The best way to prevent that from happening is by continual spiritual maintenance. You need to take the negative feelings which can sometimes crop up to the Lord in prayer.  You also need to spend time daily in God's Word searching for His promises.  You further need to find things each day for which you are thankful. Finally, trust and rest in the Lord.  Thankfulness and trust are the key to joy and peace.

On a purely emotional and physical level there are also some other things you should and can do.  Try very hard to get enough sleep each night.  Also take at least a part of each day for reprieve and to energize yourself.  Do something each day that you enjoy even if it only for a few minutes.  Finally, do not engage in second guessing yourself or false guilt in regards to your care of your loved one. You are an imperfect human being, but you are doing the best that you can,  Don't let your care-giving and other life circumstances clog you up emotionally, spiritually, or physically.  You are too precious in God's sight to do that to yourself, dear caregiver!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Pruning

In recognition of Mother’s day I have from time to time (including this year) received flowers. When we receive cut flowers we are told to cut an inch or so off the bottom of the stems and then put them in water with some plant food added. It is also a good idea to take off the outer petals.

This process of cutting the stems off the ends of cut flowers has never logically made sense to me. Neither has it ever made sense to me to cut vines and other plants way back. Pruning of vines is an even more drastic cutting back process than just cutting off the ends of the stems of cut flowers. In fact, when completed the vine branch can appear to be dead. This pruning is a necessary and a good thing to do, however. In fact, because the branch is attached to the vine; it can grow to be productive, new, and beautiful once again.

This is true also about the cutting or hurtful aspects and experiences of life. Care-giving can often become very challenging and overwhelming. It can be discouraging and hurt us emotionally at times, as we see our loved ones deteriorate in their health. Just as we may wonder why it is necessary for a plant to be cut way back, it often is puzzling to understand why we have to undergo the painfully cutting experiences of life.

Yet during my very difficult care-giving years and during my grief since my husband’s death over 6 years ago I know the Lord has been shaping my character and drawing me closer to him. He is also cutting away attitudes and fears that are not appropriate and making me more dependent on Him. Like cut flowers and like a branch on a vine which has been cut back, I can grow into something beautiful and productive because of this pruning in my life.  Just as cut flowers need plant food, I also have to feed on God's Word, however, for this to take place in my life.

The branch on a vine also cannot grow into something beautiful again, however, unless it is attached to the vine. So also I cannot grow into something beautiful unless I am attached to the Vine, the Lord Jesus. This is spoken of in John 15 in the Bible.

Dear Christian caregiver, the pruning that takes place in the difficult moments of care-giving and in life in general hurts. It is okay to acknowledge that it hurts. You are not alone, however, if you are attached to the Living Vine, Jesus Christ. You will be okay. Not only will you be okay, but you will flourish. Remind yourself of this when the dark moments sometimes come.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Different Kinds of Care-giving

Until Tuesday of last week I had my sister-in-law, my daughter-in-law, and my 6 month and now 7 month old grandson in my home for a few weeks.  It was joy to get to know and interact with my little grandson whom I previously had not seen since shortly after his birth. It was fun to see the new things he learned in just the few weeks he had been in my home. During that time he learned to roll over, to sit on his own and to move backwards. It is amazing how far a baby can move with just a combination of rolling and moving backwards.  He also learned a few new words.

Babies are so much fun, but the truth of the matter is that they also involve a lot of work and care-giving. They need constant care and attention   Also if they do not receive what they want on their timetable, they let you know it in no uncertain terms.  My little grandson will still sometimes waken his Mom in the middle of night demanding playtime or comfort. Babies are wonderful when they turn on their charm and flash you a special smile like my sweet little grandson does.  Yet they also require much attention and care.  Yet parents (and grandparents) willingly give them this attention because of their love for them.

So what is the difference between the sometimes demanding care we give babies and children and the care family caregivers give their loved ones who are experiencing some disease or disability?  There are many differences.  With a normally developing baby we see them learning new skills and vocabulary.  We are excited about these new developments in them.  When we care for a loved one with a disease, we may see steady declines in ability to function in this world. This can be a source of heart ache for those who are caring for them.  I know it was for me, as I watched my husband, Wayne, deteriorate step by step during those years that I was his caregiver.

There seems to be real purpose and joy in helping and watching babies and children reach their full potential and maturity.  It is perhaps more difficult to find purpose and joy in caring for a loved one who is declining in his or her health.  Yet family care-giving is the most important and significant job you may ever undertake, dear caregiver.  You are adding joy, comfort, and dignity to the last days of your loved one's life.  Who else can do that in the same way that you are doing it, dear caregiver? You are also showing to the world a picture of Christ-like sacrificial love.  Yes, you are doing that even on the days when you feel you are failing and running out of patience, dear caregiver.

If you are a child of God another thing you are doing is preparing your loved one for Eternity.  As I told you in a past post. I was able to spend the last few minutes of my Mom's life by her bedside.  I sang hymns to her, talked to her, and read Scripture to her.  Even though she did not noticeably respond, I believe I was helping prepare her for Eternity.  I guess when I was taking care of my husband as his caregiver, however, I never really thought of that care as preparing him for Eternity. Yet upon reflection that is exactly what I was doing.  It is exactly what you are doing as well, dear Christian caregiver.  Christian caregivers with their sacrificial love are preparing their loved ones to be handed over to the caring and loving hands of their Savior in God's perfect timing.  What could be more significant and important than that?  Thank you for all that you do, dear caregiver!

P.S.
Will you indulge me by letting me post a picture of my youngest grandson to which I referred in this post and also one of my husband and I in my husband's last months of his life?  How my husband would have loved to have met this little one.



Saturday, April 29, 2017

Waiting

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

Recently a caregiver on a care-giving site online wrote about her frustrations with always feeling that she had to wait. She talked about waiting for a doctor’s office to call her back and waiting for lab results concerning her loved one. She talked about waiting for the next step. She talked about waiting for her loved one to get sicker and her eventual death. She also talked about waiting for a cure for her loved one’s illness and wanting to wait for something good to happen but seeming to only think of the reality of her loved one’s illness and not the miraculous. She further talked about waiting for appreciation for all the things she does in her care-giving role and waiting for life to be normal again when she knows it never will be.

She said she feels like she is always waiting for something but doesn’t know what. She also talked about her life consisting of waiting potentially life and death decisions, and the pressure of knowing that she holds somebody’s life in her hands by the decisions that she makes. Finally, she talked about waiting on God to show her how to fulfill her purpose.

Looking back on my care-giving days I can so identify with many of her emotions.
We all would like to get better at waiting, because we do not feel that we do a very good job of waiting.

Recently I read a devotional on waiting which I thought was so applicable. The devotional pointed out that productive waiting involves waiting on God and directing our attention to Him in anticipation of what He will do. It involves trusting Him with every fiber of our being. It involves staying conscious of Him, as we go about our daily activities. It involves total dependence on Him realizing we cannot do it on our own.

I too so remember those stressful care-giving days when I was caring for my husband. I so remember the heartache of all the declines and the dread of how I was going to handle the future declines. The truth is that God was with me every step of the way. I see that in an even more focused way, as I look back on those days.

I think all the struggles (and waiting is part of those struggles) makes us stronger people. It helps to shape our characters. But this kind of character building is so painful, isn’t it? In the struggles of my personal life the last few years I have often thought, “I can do with a little less character building now, Lord.” You may have thought the same thing, dear caregiver, but there is a purpose in all this. It will also shape your future life.

Dear Christian caregiver, as my recent devotional went on to say God does give blessings to those who wait on Him in the measure that they wait on Him. He gives renewed strength, hope, and an awareness of His continual presence. I fell so far short of resting in Him during my care-giving years. I often let stress and anxiety come to the surface. Knowing He was in control, however, helped me through those days. Rest in Him, dear caregiver. Wait on Him.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The "Should Haves"

Family care-givers are notorious for engaging in false guilt and finding a way to blame themselves for every decline of their loved one.  The truth is that we are not God.  We can't control all the declines of our loved ones.  The only thing we can do is to seek to be a tool in the Lord's hands providing the best possible care we know how to give to our loved ones.  We are weak human beings, however, and in the end, only God is in control.

I recently read a post online about the second guessing caregivers do regarding the care that they give or gave to their loved ones.  They tend to engage in the "should haves" and "if onlys" of situations that are out of their control.  The post I mentioned earlier in this paragraph talks about some of these very things and suggests that the caregiver write a letter to themselves reminding themselves of the truths of their care-giving situation.  The link to this post is below.  Just click on the link below to read it.  It is a good article for anyone who is a caregiver now or who was one in the past.

 http://www.griefincommon.com/blog/caring-loved-one-letter-every-caregiver-write/

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter's Meaning for the Caregiver

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

We are celebrating Easter today. 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.




Saturday, April 8, 2017

The Caregiver and God's Presence


(This post is a chapter from my book: Dear Caregiver Reflections for Family Caregivers.  Information and links for ordering my book are at the bottom of this post as well as on the side of the blog page.)

When I was in the midst of care-giving for my husband I found great comfort in getting up early in the morning before my husband awakened and spending time in reading the Bible, reading caregiver devotionals, and spending time in prayer.

This time in the morning helped to remind me that my Lord was with me and present with me in my life each step of the way. Even now I find my morning devotional time so important to my emotional and spiritual well-being.

As I encountered the challenges of caring for my husband sometimes it was easy to get bogged down emotionally, however. This was especially true near the end of his disease when my husband could no longer help with transfers. It was easy in such moments to forget that God had promised in His Word to always be with me. It was easy to forget about His presence right beside me.

There is a story in the Bible in Luke 24 about two men who were walking along the road. Jesus had just risen from the grave, but these men did not believe that the happy resurrection event had occurred. As they were walking Jesus came along beside them and started talking with them. Later they sat down to a meal and began to eat with this “stranger” that they had met on the road. The Lord was right with them, but they did not recognize Him or His presence. Only later did their spiritual eyes open, and they recognized Jesus.

The same is true for us. The Lord God is right there with us, and so often we do not recognize His presence. As a caregiver the Lord was with me each step of the way. I can look back and see that with absolute certainty. Yet in the moment of caregiving there were times when it was difficult to see that.

Sometimes we are disappointed and feel overwhelmed when life does not go the way we hoped it would. I very much would have liked to have spent many years in happy retirement with my husband.  Instead my husband was diagnosed with a terrible disease, and I was thrust into the difficult role as his caregiver. It is easy at times like these to forget the Lord God’s presence is right with us all the time. Sometimes we are so sad that we do not feel His presence or see His presence with our spiritual eyes.

That does not negate the truth that the Lord is always with us. I believe the Lord is especially with the caregiver who turns to Him and relies on Him. Dear caregiver, don’t miss the Lord’s presence right beside you. Pray that God will open your spiritual eyes so you can see and feel His presence.


(You can purchase my book online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and elsewhere online.  The amazon link to the order page for my book is here:  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  If you would prefer to get a signed copy from me directly e-mail me at jesuschild54@hotmail,com for specifics.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Promises for Caregivers

I have found the Psalms in the Old Testament of the Bible to be a special blessing in my life.  I especially find them comforting when I am going through difficult moments in my life.  They can be a blessing to you as well, dear caregiver, as you go through the struggles and challenges of care-giving for your loved ones.

One of my favorite Psalms is Psalm 34. Psalm thirty-four is a beautiful Psalm. Psalm thirty-four is filled with beautiful promises from the Lord to His people.  A man named David wrote Psalm thirty-four when he was homeless and  hiding from King Saul who was trying to take David's life.  David could have concluded that he had nothing for which to be thankful.  Instead David said in Psalm 34:1, "I will extol the Lord at all times; His praise will always be on my lips."

Notice David said his praises for the lord would be on his lips at ALL times.  Do we praise the Lord at all times?  Do you praise God even in the challenges of care-giving, dear caregiver? I remember that being a difficult thing to do, as I watched my husband's body decline step by step.  Yet praising God in the difficult moments is the pathway to peace and  joy even in those moments.

We must remember that God works all things together for our good.  This does not mean that all of life's events are good in themselves.  It does mean, however, that the Lord uses even what we consider the bad circumstances in our lives for our ultimate spiritual good.  Through difficult times in our lives the Lord teaches us patience, perseverance, and dependence on Him rather than in ourselves. We grow spiritually during those times.  Praising God in all circumstances is the secret to a life filled with joy.  Praise on our lips and praise in our hearts for the Lord lifts us above our difficulties.

When David was in the midst of a difficult circumstance in his life he sought out the Lord, and the Lord delivered him from all his fears (Psalm 34:4).  God did not deliver David from some of his fears but from ALL his fears.  We also must bring all our fears and worries to the Lord, and we must leave them with the Lord.  We must trust that the Lord will take care of our difficult circumstances in His perfect way.  Psalm 34:5 tells us, "those who look to Him are radiant" with joy.  Family care-giving issues and other life worries can seem so impossibly challenging.  Yet when we keep our eyes focused on the Lord and on His promises, our fears and worries will slip away, and our joy and trust in the Lord will increase.

Psalm 34:6 goes on to tell us that David called to the Lord in his troubles.  David knew that he had no resources in himself.  David knew that he was totally dependent on the Lord.  The Lord heard David's prayers, and He saved him from all his troubles.  The Lord will also save and help us in times of trouble. In fact, Psalm 34:7 promises us that "the angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and He delivers them."  The Lord's protective guidance and help is all around us each and every moment of our lives.  The Lord tells us to to taste and experience His goodness and faithfulness. Blessed and joyful is the person who finds his or her refuge and strength in the Lord alone!  God is with you each step of the way, dear caregiver!

When you are feeling overwhelmed with care-giving issues or one of life's other difficulties you need to trust the Lord, dear caregiver, and you need to stand in awe of Him.  A child of God can trust the Lord completely, because Psalm 34:10b reminds us that "those who seek the Lord lack no good thing." Wow!  What a promise!

When your heart is breaking the Lord hears your prayers, dear caregiver!  Psalm 34:17-19 says, "The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; He delivers them from all their troubles.  The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit."  A child of God may have many troubles in this life, but the Lord ultimately delivers in all circumstances and situations.  Things may not turn out in the way we envisioned or hoped they would, but God is wise.  We can trust Him. Even when the Lord took my husband to heaven six years ago in early January, God knew what He was doing and was fulfilling His promises.

Notice once again the world ALL is used.  The Lord delivers us from ALL our troubles when we approach Him in faith.  He does this in His perfect time and in His perfect way.  Things will not be perfect until we reach our eternal home.  In fact, the Lord promises us that we will have difficulties in this life.  We can trust the Lord, however, to be with us all the way!  He has His perfect plan for our lives, and no ultimate spiritual harm can ever come to a child of God!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

My Personal Testimony

( I am reposting something I posted about two years ago. I was asked to give a personal testimony after the sermon at an evening service in my church about that time. The sermon that evening was about patience endurance in trials and was based on part of James chapter five in the Bible. Following is what I said that night.)

Good evening everyone. Let me say first that I was a little blown away by the request extended to me to briefly speak with you this evening. I am certainly not a great example of “patience in trials.” Anyone thinking so, makes me very uncomfortable. Yet caring for Wayne and the years since his death certainly have been a spiritual experience and a lesson in leaning on the Lord.

Most of you know some of my story of being my husband, Wayne's caregiver. In 2006 Wayne was diagnosed with a rare neurological disease called Multiple System's Atrophy. In the midst of all this was my own diagnosis of breast cancer in July of 2007 about a year after Wayne's diagnosis, and my subsequent eight months of treatment following that.

Seeing my husband's body deteriorate during the next four and a half years after his diagnosis was definitely the most difficult experience that I had ever encountered on a physical, emotional, and spiritual level.

A difficult lesson I had to begin to try to learn during this time was to rest things with the Lord. I am not sure I did such a good job of that.  Perhaps, Wayne did a better job of that.  I never heard him ask, "Why?" during the whole course of his illness.  So many things about care-giving were out of my control.  The Lord is the only one who is really in control, however.   

During this time I knew in my head at least that God was in control, but I think I subconsciously thought, however, that everything I did or didn't do could possibly lengthen or shorten the progress of Wayne's disease.  It says in Psalm 139, however, that the number of our days are ordained for us by the Lord.  I had and have to learn that I am not in control. God is the only one in control.    I don't have to be so stressed out about everything, although I still fight that tendency.  The Lord is still on His throne, and I am still His child.    

I think I have learned that I can have a greater confidence, while at the same time I see my desperate need to depend on the Lord alone.  He has become my confidence.  Plus, now because of all I have experienced in these past years, I feel I have a story to tell, and I have passion to tell it.  I have learned of the Lord's faithfulness in very difficult circumstances and that joy can reside alongside grief and difficult times, because joy is not the same as happiness which is dependent on perfect circumstances.  Family care-giving  and my years as a widow have been a time when my character was and is being stretched in ways I would never have imagined.  It is a time when I have grown in my faith, and my faith has become so much sweeter.   

Another thing I had to learn was the value of gratitude. A piece of advice was given to me while I was a family caregiver. That advice was to write down a few things at the end of each day for which I was thankful.  It was difficult to be thankful in the chaos and drama of family care-giving, but this gratitude exercise did much to shape my attitude and to see the little wonders of God in my life.  It is a practice I still carry on today.   

My past care-giving experiences has also given me an insight and concern for other people's struggles, especially family caregivers.  It has given me a basis for being able to help them and for them knowing that I understand their struggles on many levels.  It has given me a platform to tell my story or rather the Lord's story.  

After Wayne's death I struggled with what was my new purpose in my post care-giving days.  Family care-giving becomes so consuming that it can almost become one's identity instead of just a role.  So I had to rediscover who I was as an individual and what my new roles were in life.  My roles were no longer wife and caregiver.  I think I have discovered that it is not a matter of a complete break with my past, but rather building on and using my past experiences and using them in new ways.  

There are so many beautiful Scripture passages which have become so meaningful to me through the experiences of these past years.  One of my favorites is Hebrews 13:5b which says, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."  This is a verse that I write in every one of my books that I sign.  It is a verse to which every Christian can cling.  

About a month after Wayne passed away I started a blog to encourage family caregivers.  They say once a caregiver always a caregiver, and I felt the Lord leading me to start this blog. It can be found at http://christiancaregiving.blogspot.com    Finally, I wrote my book called DEAR CAREGIVER Reflections for Family Caregivers.  It was published in April of 2014. 

And so Wayne has received his reward in eternity; and though I miss Wayne every day, God is with me.  

I would say in conclusion, depend on the Lord.  Trust His promises.  Take time to be in His Word everyday.  Don't give into fear. Also know that the Lord will use your difficult experiences in ways that you never imagined. We must tell our stories of God's grace in our lives   You may not write a book like I did, but God never wastes our experiences. We need to share them. 
  


Sunday, March 19, 2017

His Grace

I have heard people say, "I don't think I could handle that."  They then proceed to name the set of circumstances which they feel they would never be able to handle, if that set of circumstances would occur in their lives.  When I was younger I remember thinking that there were two things I just "knew" I would not be able to handle, if they happened to me.  These two things were the death of my husband and the loss of a breast.  God asked both of these things of me.  My husband died at the end of a long battle against his neurological disease in early 2011, and I lost a breast due to breast cancer in the same time frame that I was my husband's caregiver.

The truth is that God does not give us grace ahead of time.  He gives us His extra grace to handle a difficult and "impossible" situation at the time we need it and not before that time.  That does not mean that the difficult situation will be pleasant, and that one is free from negative emotions.  It just means that God will give sufficient grace and even a measure of joy and peace in the midst of the situation.

I remember being worn out by the years of care-giving for my husband and also my own health issues during part of that time.  Yet I also remember God's strength given to me.  At the end of the care-giving venture and throughout the care-giving venture my faith and love for the Lord not only remained intake, but it grew.

In the book of  ll Corinthians in the New Testament of the Bible the apostle, Paul, asked the Lord three times for release from "a thorn in the flesh." We do not know for sure what this affliction was that Paul was experiencing, but apparently it was serious enough that Paul cried out to the Lord for relief.  The Lord did not choose to take this affliction from him, however.

Instead the Lord said to Paul, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." (II Corinthians 12:9)  The Lord was going to give Paul the grace he needed moment by moment to endure and even prosper in the midst of this affliction.  Paul's response in ll Corinthians 12:9b-10 was to say, "Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.----For when I am weak, then I am strong."  Paul was content to feel weak and to suffer his affliction, because in the process the Lord's sufficient strength in Paul would be seen more clearly.

How about you dear caregiver?  Are you willing to trust that God's grace is sufficient to get you through any care-giving challenge you may face today or in the future?  I remember feeling afraid of what the future held while caring for my husband.  How was I going to handle each new decline in his physical functioning?  Yet God paved the way and gave me His strength step by step even during the moments when I felt very overwhelmed.  Do you believe, dear caregiver, that God's grace will be given to you moment by moment?  Do you believe it will be delivered at the right time and that the grace will be sufficient for every scenario? Do you believe His grace will be enough for you to stay firm in your faith and to continue to believe in God's goodness and love?

God's grace IS sufficient for all your needs, dear caregiver.  He will equip you for whatever lies ahead.  You will not only survive, but you will prosper spiritually through the process.  Even if your loved one moves on to eternity, God will give you the grace for that as well.  Through many painful moments He has done that for me.

I still often give into fear.  It is not easy to walk the walk of a widow.  In fact, I am anticipating something in my near future and am wondering how I am going to "get through it."  Yet I am reminded that God will give me the sufficient grace at the moment and moments I  need it.  God is doing and will do the same for you, dear caregiver!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Eternity

I hope you will forgive me, dear caregiver, as I write yet another post about my Mom.  My Mom passed into eternity a few days ago on Saturday, March 4.  One might think this has nothing to do with family caregivers.  Yet really all of life is about eternity.  This life is merely a preparation for eternity.  All the struggles the loved one for whom you are caring is enduring and all the struggles you also endure will be nothing when you begin experiencing the glories of Eternity some day.  In that future day you will experience these glories which are beyond our ability to fully comprehend now, if you are the Lord's child. Therefore II Corinthians 4:18 reminds us to fix our eyes on the Lord and on what is yet unseen and not on the temporary and on what our eyes can see now.

Will you then indulge me, as I share a little of my experiences of these recent past days?  As of Thursday I am home again in WI back from my trip to MN.  I was physically and emotionally tired upon arriving home and still am in many ways.  Yet my experiences while away from home though sad were also rich and sweet. Saturday morning, March 4, I was the only one of my siblings with my Mom at the moment.  I had the privilege of talking to my Mom, singing songs to her, and reading Scripture to her.  There was no outward response, but I believe she heard me.  Very shortly after she passed into Glory.  I marvel at God's timing in this in so many ways.  I will always consider it a special gift.

Visitation night on the following Tuesday and the funeral day on Wednesday were also special moments.  There were moments of weeping, shared hugs, and shared memories.  We were also reminded not only of the fact that my Mom is with the Lord, but we were reminded of our shared precious faith and Godly heritage that we have in my family.

My Mom was a caregiver for my Dad for a few years in the same way as I was a caregiver for my husband, Wayne.  We both had to rely on the Lord during those years.  We both had to release our husbands to Eternity at a certain point.  I lived five hundred miles away from my Mom; so I was not able to be directly involved with her care-giving in the same "hands-on" way, as I had for my husband.  Yet I am thankful that I may have been her caregiver in those last moments of her life. When I spoke to my Mom I reminded her of Eternity and the glories of eternity just ahead.  I encourage you to do that for yourself and for your loved one as well, dear caregiver.  Whether death is imminent for your loved one or not. life on this earth is so short.  Concentrate on Eternity, as you walk your life with purpose, dear caregiver!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

My Mom

This is not my regular post.  My 93 year old Mom had a stroke on Monday.  It is just a matter of time until she leaves this earth for her heavenly home.  My son and I are traveling to Minnesota (about 500 miles from where I live) after he gets off work tomorrow.  This will be my chance to say good-by to my Mom. I ask that you will pray that my Mom will  be able to be responsive to me.  I plan to stay until the end.  I envision this to only be days, but it could be longer.

So I will most likely not be posting here again until I get home again after my Mom's funeral.  We could be talking days or even a couple weeks.  Use this time to read some of the older posts.  God bless, dear caregiver.   




Sunday, February 26, 2017

Weather and Family Care-giving?

Recently we were blessed with unseasonably warm temperatures here in Wisconsin where I live.  We had a few days of record breaking or near record breaking temperatures in a row.  The weather was nice enough to walk outside without jackets and certainly without winter coats.  It was a nearly unheard of and very pleasant reprieve from winter in February.  The birds were singing again, and a friend of mine told me she had even seen her tulips starting to poke their heads out of the ground.

However, reality set in starting Thursday night of last week, and Friday morning I woke up to cold and wind and also snow, rain, and icy conditions.  Temperatures had dropped into the 30s degrees Fahrenheit and the 20s were predicted later in the day.  There was even a two hour delay in a couple school districts in my general area.  Obviously I prefer the warmer temperatures we were enjoying just a few days ago.  They were a special gift.  Yet as I looked out my window on Friday morning and the couple days following there was a special beauty to the winter scene as well.

We all prefer the pleasant spring-like times of life.  We often do not like the winter-like challenges and struggles of life in general and the ones which family care-giving can present.  If I had been given the opportunity to choose, I would not have chosen for my husband to be stricken with his neurological disease.  I would not have chosen the four and a half year struggle we endured dealing with his disease.  Nor would I have chosen his death in early 2011.  I would have loved to spend many happy years of retirement with him  Yet I grew so much in my love for the Lord and in my character during that time.  It also prepared me for ministry opportunities since that time which are a direct result of my care-giving years.

Neither would God's chosen people in the Bible have chosen some of the situations that they found themselves in. Yet God used these people for His glory and also developed their characters in the process.  Joseph in the Old Testament was sold into slavery by his brothers.  A host of other difficult circumstances followed Joseph after that. Yet in the end God used Joseph to save his family and people from famine.  John the Baptist was chosen to be the forerunner of Jesus. Yet in the end he was imprisoned and even ultimately beheaded. Yet Johns' faithfulness speaks to us even today.  Mary, the mother of Jesus, must have felt great emotional hurt seeing her son rejected and later crucified.  Yet God used that for our salvation.  The apostles all suffered persecution.  Yet God used all that for the spread of the Gospel and even their joy.

Dear caregiver, you may be feeling a bit overwhelmed in your current care-giving challenges with your loved one.  You perhaps dream of and would prefer a more pleasant spring-like status in your life's circumstances.  When you feel like this remember how God has helped you in the past.  (Check out Psalm 77 in the Bible especially verses 11 through 14.)  If God helped you in the past, He will help you now in His perfect timing.  Also realize that this is shaping your character. God may use this current experience of yours in awesome ways in the future,

Also know that God is using you right now not only in the life of your loved one for whom you are caring, but also in the lives of others.  Other people are watching you.  Ministry is doing God's will even when everything around you appears to be going wrong.  As you continue to persevere and continue to trust that God is in control, other people take notice and are blessed and encouraged.  Yes, even winter can be beautiful, and your example in this winter-like period of life is a beautiful thing. Thank you, for all that you do, dear care-giver!