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!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Do You Ever Feel Fear?

Care-giving for a loved one can be very challenging.  Watching my husband's body deteriorate step by step during the years I was his caregiver was sometimes very discouraging.  Often the changes downward came so suddenly.  I would feel I was just getting accustomed to one level of functioning in my husband, when he would move down yet another level in his bodily functioning. This often caused me to fear what the future held.  Would I be able to continue to take care of him in the future?

It was during this time that I grew in my reliance on the Lord.  It was also a time when God's promises in the Bible became very meaningful to me.  Psalm 27:1 in the Old Testament of the Bible says, "The Lord is my light and my salvation-whom shall I fear?"  We can also say, "What shall I fear?"  The Lord is our stronghold in all of life's situations including the challenging situations of family care-giving.   We may be sad about some of the circumstances that are surrounding our loved ones' health and also about the challenges we face as we seek to provide for their needs, but in any and all of these situations we can trust that the Lord is guiding and providing.  We just need to wait on Him-to trust Him and rest in Him.

Below I have included a link to another post at another blog of mine.  I have linked to this blog in the past a time or two.  The name of this other blog is "Moments With God."  It is a devotional blog, and the title of the post to which I will be linking you is "Psalm 27."  Just click on the link below.  I hope you find the post a blessing, dear caregiver:

http://scripturemoments.blogspot.com/2017/01/psalm-27.html










Sunday, February 12, 2017

Your Divine Valentine

(This is a blog post which I have published the last few years.  I think it is a message worth repeating again, as Tuesday is Valentine's Day.)

Dear caregiver, do you ever feel the sorrow of things lost?  Do you ever miss the way things were in the past with your loved one for whom you are caring?  Does the approach of holidays such as Valentine's day make you feel melancholy and sad?

During those moments of sadness remember that the Lord loves you with an infinite love.  He in effect is your Divine Valentine.  He is sufficient.  He alone can give you all that you need.  Below is a poem called Your Divine Valentine:


Your Divine Valentine

A Valentine may play a love song for you, but God sings you the sweetest love song in the universe.  (Zephaniah 3:17)

A Valentine may give you flowers, but God sent you the most beautiful rose of all, Jesus.
(Song of Solomon 2:1)

A Valentine may bring you chocolate, but God provides you with something even sweeter, His Word.  (Psalm 119:103)

A Valentine may love you for a lifetime,but God loved you before you were born and will love you for all eternity,
(Jeremiah 31:3)

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Looking For the Wonders

(This blog post is yet one more chapter from my book Dear Caregiver subtitled Reflections for Family Caregivers.)

As a caregiver, it was difficult to see the constant decline in my husband's health. It was difficult seeing the changes in him physically, but it was also difficult to see the changes in the person I had once known. In late 2008 I began journaling my feelings at a blog site online. In order to survive, I also realized I needed to begin to look for the wonders and blessings which were still around me.

On March 24, 2009 I wrote the following words:

“What will be my attitude today concerning my circumstances? It is raining and dreary out today. I enjoy the sunshine more. We, however, need the rain for the plants and grass to grow. So rain is good, and it is a blessing.

I also have grown spiritually and emotionally through the “rain” and “storms” of my fight against breast cancer last year and through my present care-giving experience with my husband. So that is good, and it is a blessing.

The last couple of days have been spent filling out paperwork and also spent on the phone asking questions about this paperwork. I hate filling out paperwork. Filling out paperwork for my husband’s disability and making necessary phone calls has helped us financially in the past, however. So that is good, and it is a blessing. One of the things I needed to do to fill out this paperwork was to get some additional information from our three sons. That has resulted in good and productive conversations. That is good, and that is a blessing. One of these calls to one of our sons resulted in my husband and I being able to hear our little 8 month old granddaughter who lives with her parents in London giggling in the background. What a joy! That is good, and that is a blessing.  We just received a phone call and invite to have supper with family. That is pure joy. I see no negatives there.

Lord, help me not to get bogged down with the negatives of care-giving. Help me to consider it a privilege, and help me to look for the blessings. Help me to look for Your wonders in my life.”

Dear Christian caregiver, care-giving is probably one of the most difficult experiences you will ever undertake. Often that is the case with a calling as significant as care-giving. In the midst of the challenges, negative emotions, and disappointments, however, also look for the wonders, dear caregiver. There are wonders and blessings in even the most difficult of days. Looking for the wonders will allow the joy to remain in your life even in the struggles and heartaches of care-giving.


Saturday, January 28, 2017

Promises of God

I love the promises of God found in the Bible.  They were a huge source of strength to me when I was a caregiver for my husband.  They continue to be so, as I live my life as a widow.  Romans chapter eight in the New Testament of the Bible is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible.  I think this is true for many Christians.  I especially like verses twenty-six through thirty-nine.

When I was caring for my husband I often felt very overwhelmed by my husband's continual declines in his body.  At times like this it is often difficult to know even how to pray.  Romans chapter eight verse twenty-six reminds us that at times like this the Holy Spirit prays for us, if we are a child of God.  God understands our weaknesses, and He has provided us a helper in the form of the Holy Spirit,  The Holy Spirit prays in and through us.  He prays for us especially during those times when we are too overwhelmed with heartache to find the right words to express our pain to God in prayer, The Holy Spirit understands our sorrows and is our prayer helper before the Heavenly Father.

The Lord has also promises in Romans chapter eight that in all things He works for our good, if we love Him.  This does not mean that we like everything He allows in our lives.  It does not mean that everything in our lives goes according to our preconceived agenda.  Yet somehow God works all things-the good and bad-for our ultimate good.

It was difficult for me to see that when I was caring for my husband and witnessing his continual declines.  Sometimes it is difficult to see that in the days since his death.  Yet resting in that truth has been a huge source of strength and comfort to me especially these past years.  I wrote about this some time ago at another blog site of mine, a devotional blog called "Moments With God."  Below is a link to a post about this subject at this blog site.  Click on the link below to read it:
http://scripturemoments.blogspot.com/2016/12/romans-828-29.html

Yet another blessed truth found in Romans chapter eight is in the last verses of that chapter.  In those verses we are told that nothing, absolutely nothing can separate us from the love of God, if we are His child.  As a family caregiver I often felt afraid of what the future held.  My husband's disease was doing such a number on his body.  Yet God's promise that nothing would or will separate us from His love as His child was and is a huge source of comfort and peace to me.  It can be to you as well, dear caregiver.  Below is a link to yet another post about that subject at my devotional blog.  You can also read that post by clicking on the link below.  Thank you, dear caregiver, for all that you do for your loved one:
http://scripturemoments.blogspot.com/2016/12/romans-830-39.html


Saturday, January 21, 2017

Happily Ever After?

I have a secret I am going to disclose.  I love Cinderella "happily ever after" type movies.  The truth is, however, that our "happily ever after" will not come until our Lord returns.  He is our only true Prince-Prince of Peace.

There are many moments of joy and happiness in this world.  There are also many trials and challenges.  God doesn't always let everything go our way or facilitate our version of "happily ever after" at least not during our existence on earth.  God is more interested in bringing us into a deeper relationship with Him and to a place of submission to His will.  He wants us to come to a place of trusting that His will is always best even in the struggles of life.  He wants us to rest in Him, to trust in Him.

Even in the struggles we can know that He loves us and cares about us, though our unreliable feelings may try to tell us differently.  He loves us even when He doesn't "fix" our difficult situations in the way we would like Him to remedy them. We must rely on the truths of Scripture which promise us over and over that He will never leave us.  God often uses the difficult chapters of our lives in ways that He doesn't use the smooth-sailing moments of our lives.  In the difficult moments it is also His chance to show His faithfulness over and over again,  Rest in His faithfulness, dear caregiver.

Below is a link to an interview with Laura Story.  Her husband and she, as his wife, have been dealing with the consequences of her husband's brain tumor for over a decade.  Her vision of "happily ever after" would have been for God to fix the situation.  That is not what happened.  Yet God has used this situation in her life for her good, to bring blessings.  God has also used the situation for His glory in wonderful ways-one being to encourage us. Click on the first link below to hear her story and insights.  You also may also want to check out her song "Blessings" by clicking on the second link below:

http://www.crosswalk.com/video/when-god-doesn-t-fix-your-life-an-interview-with-laura-story.html?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=fbpage&utm_campaign=cwupdate


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XQan9L3yXjc



Saturday, January 14, 2017

Storms Revisted

We tend to have some really cold weather and sometimes snow storms in WI at least some time throughout the winter.  Although we have had some really cold times during this particular winter, there have also been some unseasonably warm days as well.

Life is also like that.  There are moments when we experience overwhelming joy, and life tends to be going the way we feel it should go.  There are also moments when life becomes overwhelming due to unexpected storms or trials in our lives.

It was brought to my attention through my Facebook memories that we experienced extremely cold weather three years ago about this time of year.  I wrote a blog post at that time about how that symbolizes our lives and the storms we face.  I related it to the storms family caregivers face.  I decided to bring that blog post back today.  Click on the link below to read that post that I wrote in early January of 2014.  I hope you will find it a blessing today as well, dear caregiver.


http://christiancaregiving.blogspot.com/2014/01/storms.html

Sunday, January 8, 2017

A Guest Post

Today I am going to veer a little from my normal pattern of operation on this blog site.  I usually discuss the emotional and physical aspects most all family caregivers experience.  I also try to steer the caregiver towards the comfort and help we can find in the Lord.

Generally I do not like to discuss any one disease, because the caregivers who read this blog face many different kinds of sometimes devastating diseases with their loved ones.  The disease discussed below is not the disease my husband suffered either.  Because of the request of an online group, however, I am going to allow a more informational post today.  I am going to allow a guest blog post. The post is about Mesothelioma and what this online organization is doing to promote information and help.  Perhaps your loved one is experiencing this disease, or you know someone else who is faced with this disease. The guest post below will speak for itself.  Also this is their YouTube account link:  www.youtube.com/treatmesothelioma/videos 






Can We Cure Mesothelioma… Please?
As of right now, mesothelioma cancer has no absolute cure, yet. However, significant progress has been made in the efforts that are aimed at improving prognosis for mesothelioma patients. Today, there are many mesothelioma treatment options that enable patients to enjoy healthier, longer lives. These treatments provide hope to mesothelioma patients. In fact, mesothelioma is no longer a death sentence as it was some years back. It is now possible for mesothelioma patients to achieve long-term survival after diagnosis.
Curative treatments for mesothelioma
For years, there have been constant mesothelioma diagnoses every year. In the U.S for instance, about 3,000 individuals are diagnosed with mesothelioma every year. However, survivor rates have also been increasing every year. All types of mesothelioma remain aggressive and in most cases, prognosis is stated in months. Nevertheless, there are patients who live more than 10 years after diagnosis and finding a five-year survivor is not something unusual. While surgeries provide a more precise treatment, therapies are more exact. Radiation and chemotherapy are more effective treatments for mesothelioma if the entire tumor cannot be resected.
Why there is no cure for mesothelioma
Mesothelioma refers to the cancer of the mesothelium. Mesothelium is the lining that cushions or surrounds the major human organs like the lung, abdominal cavity and the heart. Asbestos exposure is the main cause of mesothelioma, particularly the brown or amosite and the blue or crocidolite asbestos. Once breathed in, asbestos particles or fibers act like sharp, tiny needles that find their way into the mesothelium via the lung tissue or esophagus.
Currently, medical researchers do not know how this happens. However, presence of asbestos fibers in the mesothelium leads to uncontrolled cells mutation and eventual formation of cancerous tumors. The presence of asbestos fibers or particles causes many changes in the immune system. However, the latency period for mesothelioma is very long, extremely long in some cases. Thus mesothelioma symptoms take time before they become apparent. As such, mesothelioma is diagnosed in its later stages in most cases making it difficult to treat. Mesothelioma chemotherapy, radiation treatments and surgery are usually used to relieve pain. However, recovery levels remain low.
Here is a great video that talks about all the symptoms of mesothelioma: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KYEMwv95BmU&t=15s

Efforts towards mesothelioma cure
A blood test for detecting mesothelioma early has been developed by Japanese researchers. The test is known as Mesomark and it looks for possible protein markers that are generally associated with cancers. Mesomark might make preventing the disease from spreading with surgical procedures when detected early possible. It provides possibilities for improved success rate.
In Netherlands, Erasmus Medical Center’s researchers developed an early-stage mesothelioma vaccine. This vaccine has so far shown fairly promising outcomes. It uses immunotherapy for dendritic cell, where the immune system learns to destroy mesothelioma cells. Ideally, dendritic immune cells from a patient are introduced to the mesothelioma tumor proteins. Upon reintroduction, the cells lead to the establishment of a defense mechanism and subsequent attack on the tumor cells.
Generally, there are numerous mesothelioma treatments that are currently experimental. These might provide effective cure for mesothelioma in the future. Preliminary results indicate that experimental mesothelioma treatments might provide mesothelioma cure and increase the overall number of individuals that survive longer after mesothelioma diagnosis. The best thing we all can do it is help spread awareness on the dangers of asbestos. It’s widely talked about but not everyone one understands that every single one of us is susceptible on developing this rare and terminal disease. Asbestos is nicknamed the “Silent Killer”… I say it’s time to make some noise!


Sources



Sunday, January 1, 2017

Sweet Memories Revisted



Caring for a loved one during a serious illness is a significant and sometimes overwhelming endeavor.  Sometimes that loved one is healed and made whole again after a long and difficult struggle.  Sometimes that loved one is healed by being taken to heaven.  Thank you, dear current caregivers, for being willing to care for your loved one in spite of obstacles and sometimes heartaches.  Thank you to family caregivers who fought the battle but have lost loved ones.

Today on January first it would have been my husband's 71rst birthday.  Yes, he was a New Year's Day baby. On January 2, 2011 six years ago my husband graduated to Heaven, his eternal home.  I still miss him even after six years.  Even though the Lord has once again given purpose and a measure of joy to my life, I still struggle more this time of year.  One does not just forget about over 39 years of marriage.

Our marriage was a good marriage, and he was the love of my life.  Yet those care-giving years were very difficult years, as I saw my husband's body become more and more disabled.  They were years that were difficult emotionally, physically, and spiritually.  Yet they were also years where I grew in my dependence on the Lord and in my love for the Lord.  The Lord is with you each step of the way as well, dear caregiver, and He is molding you more and more into His image through all you are experiencing as a family caregiver.  He is doing the same for you, if you are a former caregiver who has lost a loved one.

I look back now on the sweet memories of the days before my husband was diagnosed with his neurological disease.  I hope you will indulge me today in this anniversary week of  his graduation to heaven by allowing me to post a couple pictures of my husband.  The first picture is of my husband, Wayne, quite a few years back when he was still healthy.  It is one of my favorite pictures that I have of him.  The second picture is only a couple months or so before his death.  It was a good day among many difficult days.  I hope you too have and are building sweet memories, dear caregiver.