Sunday, December 30, 2018

In the Hands of the Lord

(Much joy has returned to my life including the inroduction of a new person to love in the past few months.  It has been wonderful.  Yet I do soemtimes think back to those days when I was a caregiver for my husband.  I remember my eventual losing him to death. On January 1rst it would have been his birthday and on January 2nd it it the eighth anniversary of his homegoing to Heaven.   We prefer not to speak of the possible eventual death of a loved one when discussing family care-giving.  It is a real and possible outcome, however.  I discuss the day of my husband's death in the below post. This is also chapter from my book, Dear Caregiver Reflections for Family Caregivers.)

On Saturday, Jan 1, 2011 my husband, Wayne, turned 65. Even though my husband’s health had declined significantly, I had no clue that on Sunday morning, January 2, 2011-one day after his birthday-I would find that my husband had passed away during the night. The process of the disease was supposed to take six to ten years after diagnosis. Wayne lived only four and a half years after diagnosis. I knew that he would pass away some day, however; and I anticipated that the his eventual death would be somewhat easier because of the grieving I had already done. I had been slowly losing him for a long time. I found out that certainly was not true, however. Death is so final on this earth. He was the love of my life for so many years.
My body reacted to the shock with chills, nausea, by feeling tired and wired at the same time, and by feelings of operating on auto pilot. I also found, however, that now I was beginning to release some tears which I could not release during all those years of having to remain strong in my role as caregiver.

I was so happy for my husband. He was released from a body which trapped him, and he was now in Heaven. I was sad for myself and my family, as we would miss him. I also wondered what next? As difficult as care-giving truly had been, it also had been my purpose for being on this earth for so long. I would have to rediscover a new purpose in the days ahead.

Dear caregiver, you may find this post more discouraging than helpful. If so, I apologize. Death, however, may come some day for your loved one. Know, however, that your loved one (as well as you, dear Christian caregiver), are in the hands of the Lord. God says all the days that we and our loved ones are meant to live on this earth are ordained by the Lord God (Psalm 139:16). 

Hence, I plead with you to not engage in false guilt during your care-giving days or in the possible eventual death of your loved one. It is the devil’s trick to discourage you. Also care-giving for a family member can be all consuming. Hence, when it ends a caregiver can have a sense of loss of purpose. I know I did. Be assured that God will use even that to refine you and mature you. Eventually the Lord will slowly reveal His new purpose for your life, begin to heal you, and begin to add new joy to your life. What will the future bring for you, dear Christian caregiver? No matter what it brings trust that the Lord will be with you each step of the way. You and your future are in the hands of the Lord, dear Christian caregiver.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Christmas Hope

(The following post is from a blog post that I published the last few years.  Once again, I pray that the Lord is blessing your Christmas with His love and comfort, dear caregiver. There will be no post next week. Use this time as an opportunity to read some of my older posts The next post will be on or around December 30 )

December is the month that we think of Christmas and hope.  Dear caregiver, is your life weighed down with care and worry this Christmas season; or is it filled with hope? I remember my care-giving years during which I saw my husband continue to decline in his health step by step.  It was tempting at such times to give up hope.  Hope is something all of us can possess no matter how difficult our circumstances, however.

During the holiday season we are reminded of the birth of Jesus Christ.  Over two thousand years ago before Jesus was born most of the people were living without very much hope.  Then in Luke chapter two of the Bible we read that an angel appeared to Mary and told her that she was being blessed by God's grace in becoming the mother of Jesus.  Jesus Christ was coming as the Savior of His people!

Mary's response to this was openhearted acceptance (Luke 1:38).  Mary would suffer many immediate problems being the mother of Jesus.  She would experience many heartaches in her future. Because Mary now had hope, however, she was willing to accept God's will for her life with joy.  A life secure in the Lord's hope can move with confidence through life in spite of difficulties and challenges.

Life as a caregiver can be very heartbreaking and challenging.  There are times when the circumstances of care-giving can be overwhelming.  But like Mary in the Bible we too can have hope no matter what our circumstances.  Dear caregiver, rest your care-giving heartaches with the Lord. Know that He is the source of strength and hope.  His hope is not a wishful thinking type of hope, but it is a hope based on His certain promises in the Bible.  His hope is secure and will never leave you.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Wonderful Gifts

(I am bringing back today a post that I published in previous Decembers.  I hope you are experiencing a blessed Christmas season, dear caregiver.)

What kind of Christmas do you anticipate this year, dear Christian caregiver? Perhaps your Christmas will involve a lot of extra work for you in addition to the challenges and responsibilities of care-giving, or perhaps you are feeling isolated and ignored and all alone this Christmas in your care-giving responsibilities. Instead, however perhaps you will experience Christmas this year as a reminder of your blessings and as a blessed respite from the drama of care-giving.

Whatever we experience this Christmas and with every gift we receive at Christmas or at any time of year we have to open our hands to receive the gift; or the gift does not benefit us or give us any joy. The gifts we receive which are eternally precious, however, are the gifts which God wants to give us.

The Lord first offers us the gift of salvation which is what Christmas and walking with the Lord is all about. He further offers us the accompanying gifts of joy, peace, and hope. They are ours for the taking; and yes, dear Christian caregiver, they can coexist with the pain and heartache which often are present in care-giving. Further, the Lord promises us a happy ending. That happy ending is eternal life. Christian caregiver, the heartaches that sometimes accompany care-giving are but a comma in your life story. They are not the end of your life’s story. They are not the end of your loved one’s life story for whom you are caring either.

We also can all receive other gifts. We can receive the gift of trust in God and letting Him control our lives. We receive this gift by resting in Him and by letting go of anything which we are holding onto too tightly or trying to control. As a former caregiver I know how much we want to stop the progress of our love one’s disease, but much of this is beyond our control.

We also all have to let go of feelings of unforgiveness for people who have not been there for us. We further have to receive the gift of forgiveness for ourselves We have to bring to the Lord any true wrongs, and ask for His forgiveness. Further, we often carry around a lot of false guilt about things beyond our control. So whether false guilt or true guilt we need to let it go. We need to give it to the Lord. Trust and letting go are great gifts to have in our lives. Caregivers often carry around a lot of guilt. Dear caregiver, receive the gift of releasing it to the Lord.

One great gift we can give ourselves is the gift of acceptance of our situation. We often waste so much energy wishing circumstances were different, but we can rest assured that we are right where we are supposed to be in our lives. Dear Christian caregiver, your responsibilities are emotionally overwhelming at times. I know that because I experienced it, but in the measure that you can accept where God has placed you now in your life you will find joy. It is a great gift you can give yourself.

Yet another wonderful gift we can give ourselves is the gift of being still in the presence of God. (Psalm 46:10) Doing this helps us grow in peace, wisdom, and insights. Finally, we can give ourselves the gift of gratitude. When we are grateful in spite of our circumstances our joy and blessings will multiply and resentments will flee.

Christian caregiver, you have many challenges and sometimes you experience much emotional upheaval as a caregiver of your loved one. Would not these be wonderful gifts to have in your life? These are wonderful gifts not just for Christmas but all year long!

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Fighting Discouragement

(This is yet another chapter in my book, Dear Caregiver Reflections for Family Caregivers.

Satan loves to try to discourage us and rob us of our joy as believers. Satan can never snatch us out of the hand of our Lord God, for we are safe in the hands of the Lord forever. So Satan tries to do the next best thing in his eyes. Satan tries to rob us of our joy and effectiveness as Christians.

As a caregiver, it is so easy to become discouraged. The heartaches of seeing one’s loved one suffer and deteriorate in his or her body can be very overwhelming. Even the psalmists in the book of Psalms in the Old Testament often expressed feelings of discouragement. In some cases they were experiencing deep trials in spite of their present faithfulness to the Lord God. Hence, they sometimes felt abandoned, crushed, and devalued by God.

One strategy for fighting discouragement demonstrated in the Psalms is prayer. Prayer should be our first recourse for help, deliverance, and restoration in times of trouble and challenge. Prayer should also be our first recourse in fighting the discouragement which sometimes accompanies difficult times. Through the avenue of prayer we can gain peace, joy, and relief from discouragement in facing life’s challenges.

Another strategy for fighting Satan’s attempts to discourage us is a firm confidence in the Lord’s directing and unfailing love, kindness, and faithfulness. We must also pray with the psalmists of old for the Lord God’s guiding and directing light and truth on our paths throughout this life. If we saturate our lives with prayer and the truths of God’s Word, we will have the confidence of the Lord’s presence in our lives. We will also have His joy in full and a song in our hearts (Psalm 42:8).

Remembering and praising God for His past mercies among His people and in our own personal lives is another great way to fight Satan’s attempts to discourage us. A powerful deterrent to discouragement in present trials and in future challenges is remembering how the Lord God has helped us in the past (Psalm 77:11-12).

Yet another strategy for fighting discouragement is God-directed self-talk (Psalm 42:5 & 11 & Psalm 43:5). Saturating one’s mind with God’s Holy Word and then verbally reminding oneself of the awesome truths and promises of God’s Holy Word is one of the best prescriptions against Satan’s discouraging lies.

One final strategy in fighting discouragement is to vow to praise God during our trials and in excited anticipation of the Lord’s answers to our prayers and wonders in our lives (Psalm 43:4).   May the Lord God’s song and joy (not Satan’s discouraging lies) reside in you, dear caregiver, and in all of us!

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Thankfulness

(The below blog post is a repeat of a post I previously published at this blog at this time of year.  I hope it will prove to be a blessing to you again.  I will not be posting here next week. The next new post will be on or around December 2.  Use this time to read some of my older posts here at Christian Care-giving.  You can also check out my other blog, a devotional blog here:
http://scripturemoments.blogspot.com/ )


Family care-giving can be very discouraging especially when one's love one continues to deteriorate in his or her health.  It is difficult to find things for which to be thankful in such a scenario.  It seems impossible to have a thankful heart under such circumstances.

Yet a thankful heart opens up blessings from heaven and foretastes of heaven that cannot be attained in any other way.  A thankful heart further revives hope and allows us to communicate on a more intimate level with the Lord.  A thankful heart does not deny the reality of life's challenges, and care-giving certainly presents a host of problems and heartaches.  A thankful heart does, however, recognize the Lord's presence and joy in the midst of those problems.

So perhaps the best place to start, dear caregiver, is to thank the Lord each day for His presence and peace.  Also as you go through the day look for even the Lord's tiny treasures which He has placed on your path.  Look with spiritual eyes for His wonders in your life.  I have mentioned this before but I remember as a caregiver being challenged to write down each day at least three things for which I was thankful that day.  That helped me immensely in persevering in the care-giving role.

It is said that a thankful heart takes the sting out of trials and adversity.  Family care-giving often facilitates many challenges and trials.  Yet we are commanded in the Bible to give thanks in everything.  We may not always FEEL like giving thanks, but when we offer a SACRIFICE of thanks in spite of our feelings or circumstances, God gives us joy in spite of our circumstances.

That does not mean we always feel happy.  Happiness and joy are not the same thing, but joy in the Lord and grief can coexist.  It may seem nonsensical to thank God in and for difficult circumstances. Yet in the measure that we do so we will be blessed, even though the adversities may remain.  Dear caregiver, thank the Lord today for His blessings!

In the United States we are celebrating Thanksgiving Day this week.  It is a day when we especially try to remember to thank and praise God for the blessings of the past year.  Care-giving is often challenging and difficult.  Yet there are many blessings in our lives even in the most difficult of moments.  Dear caregiver, thank the Lord for your blessings daily and not just on special occasions. It will lift your burdens and add joy to your life.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

The Lord is Our Refuge

Be it care-giving heartaches or some other challenging circumstance in our lives, it is important to remember that the Lord is our refuge, our loving protection, and fortress.  Psalm 91:4 tells us that He lovingly covers us with with His feathers.

Today I am going to link you to another blog of mine-a devotional blog.  This post is based on Psalm 91.  Click on the link below.  I hope you will find it to be a blessing.

https://scripturemoments.blogspot.com/2018/11/psalm-91.html

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Ruth, the Caregiver

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

The name of Ruth in the Old Testament immediately came to mind as a Biblical example of a caregiver.  We often associate Ruth along with her mother-in-law, Naomi, as widows.  We remember God's provision for them through His servant, Boaz.  There is much comfort in the book of Ruth in the Old Testament for widows.  There is much in the book of Ruth to which Christian caregivers can relate as well, however.

Ruth's husband died while she was probably a relatively young woman.  We do not know if this death of her husband happened suddenly, or if Ruth's husband was sick for a long time before he died.  We do not know, if Ruth needed to fulfill the role of caregiver for her husband.  We do know for certain, however, that Ruth showed a sweet care-giving spirit with her mother-in-law.

A number of years before her mother-in-law, Naomi, and her husband, Elimelech, had moved to Moab because of a famine in their land of Israel.  After some time in Moab Elimelech died.  Later, both Naomi's sons died (one of these sons had been married to Ruth). When Naomi decided to return to Israel Ruth insisted on going with Naomi in spite of Naomi's urgings to not go with her but to return to the comfort of her familiar homeland.

In a beautiful passage in Ruth 1:16-17 Ruth begged Naomi not to ask her to leave her.  She promised Naomi that Naomi's people and God would be her people and God.  This, I believe, was a beautiful commitment to God, but it was also a beautiful commitment to Naomi on the part of Ruth.  Ruth was willing to sacrifice everything secure in her life to be Naomi's caregiver and provider.  Even though Naomi was not ill at the time she needed the loving care and support that Ruth would give her.  We read in the Old Testament book of Ruth how Ruth did all she could to provide for Naomi, in spite of Naomi's initial lack of gratitude and warmth.

You too, dear caregiver, have sacrificed much to be a loving caregiver to your loved one.  You have done this even at times when little appreciation was shown in return for your actions.  You have most likely not been a perfect caregiver, yet you have persevered in what you felt God was calling you to do.  You have been willing to forgo your own comfort and security for the love and commitment you have for your loved one.

Dear Christian caregiver, God, our Redeemer, (of whom Boaz was a picture) will bless you and protect you; as He did Ruth.  Your work is so very important, even though it appears overwhelming and hopeless at times.  Trust that God will bless you for your efforts through His presence and care on this earth.  Most importantly, He is laying up treasures for you in heaven!

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Caregivers of Strength

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

As a caregiver, it is very important that you eat right, exercise when you can, and in general do all you can to maintain your good health.  Dear caregiver, you can not be of comfort and help to your loved one for whom you are caring; if you do not do all in your power to stay healthy yourself.  Taking care of yourself physically is so important for you to become a caregiver of strength,

Even more important than your physical health is your emotional and spiritual health.  Family care-giving can be emotionally and spiritually draining.  That is why it is so important that you maintain your spiritual health through daily prayer and reading the Word of God.  If this means you have to get up in the morning before your loved one, that is what you need to do.  It is essential to your well-being and your being a caregiver of strength.  Also throughout the day constantly be aware of and tune into the presence of God right beside you.

The Bible tells us not to be afraid.  Yet is so easy for caregivers to let worries attack them.  As a caregiver for my husband I remember being so afraid of what the future held for my husband and me.  The prognosis for his neurological disease was eventual total disability.  That was exactly what happened.  Satan wants us to despair during these times, and yet the Lord understands our weaknesses in this area.  In the midst of the fearsome circumstances caregivers of strength can show courage because of the Lord's strength in them.

Caregivers of strength know that they are fallible human beings.  They know they become impatient at times.  They often feel like they are walking in the dark.  They often feel as if their whole world could fall apart at any moment.  They also know, however, that the Lord will catch them and their loved ones when they fall.  Caregivers have no confidence in their own strength, but they avail themselves of the Lord's grace and strength.

Caregivers of strength do not continually look for their own advantage.  They often sacrifice their own best interests for the best interests of the loved one for whom they are caring.  They also know that they do not have enough strength in themselves for the care-giving journey they are on.  They further know with certainty, however, that through the care-giving journey they will become strong by God's grace.

Dear Christian caregiver, this is most likely the most difficult journey you have ever been on.  Trust in the Lord's strength.  Rest in Him, and you will be a caregiver of strength!


(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.)

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Lessons Learned Two Years Ago

A little over two years ago I was in London visiting my son's family there.  While I was there God laid on my heart once again the need to trust the Lord's leading and the need to thank Him for His guidance and overwhelming love. I had to begin to learn that lesson when I was my husband's caregiver; and I need to continue to learn that lesson, as I seek to walk the walk of faith today.

So today I am bringing back a post I wrote about two years ago right after my return home from London.  Just click on the link below to read it.  May the Lord bless you in all that you do, dear caregiver!



https://christiancaregiving.blogspot.com/2016/10/the-leading-of-lord.html

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Gladness Even in the Difficult Days

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

The Bible tells us that we should find joy and be glad for every day given to us by the Lord God. (Psalm 118:24) If you are a family caregiver and know the challenges and heartaches that accompany that calling, you may ask yourself how that is possible. How is it possible to find joy in each new day when one sees one’s loved ones deteriorating in his or her health month by month and sometimes day by day?

I think one way caregivers can do this is by remembering that the Lord God created each day. He is with you and present in your day whether you sense His presence or not. Rejoice in the fact that He understands your needs as a family caregiver, and He know exactly the emotional and physical toll it is taking on you. He also understands the needs of your loved one for whom you are caring. 

Commune with the Lord throughout the day. Tell Him your needs and concerns. He will soothe your pain. Know that you are not in control. Depend on Him. This will lighten your emotional load and your spirit considerably. Doing this does not mean that all the heartaches of care-giving will suddenly disappear, but awareness of the Lord’s presence in your life can infuse joy into your most difficult of care-giving days.

Also the best response to the challenges of a difficult care-giving day is praise and thanks. I remember as a caregiver being challenged to write down each day at least three things for which I was thankful. That little exercise in itself did a lot to change my perspective during those overwhelming days of care-giving for my husband with a serious neurological disease.   

Finally, trust that the Lord has the future-of you as a caregiver and of your loved one-in His hands. God may choose to heal your loved one on this earth. God may, on the other hand, choose to heal your loved one completely by taking him or her to eternity as He did my husband. Don’t spend your energy wondering and worrying about the road ahead. God is in control. Instead stay in close communion with the Lord. He will guide and pave the way.


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, October 7, 2018

Immeasurably More

There is a verse in the Bible which tells us that God is "able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine."  He does this through His remarkable power in us. (Ephesians 3:20)  We are so weak in ourselves, but with His power in us God can use us in ways we never imagined.  He can also bring about blessings that we would never have envisioned.

Perhaps  you are going through a difficult time navigating the illness of a loved one for whom you are caring.  Or perhaps you are a former caregiver who has seen your loved one pass away and are trudging down the paths of grief.  Yet again you may be someone who is enduring some other heavy trial.  Even in times like these God is using you in ways you can only imagine.  You may feel you are only just surviving.  Yet people are watching you, and God may be using you in the lives of others in ways you do not even now know.  He is perhaps using your difficult moments to bring glory to Him and to help grow you or someone else spiritually in ways you never imagined.  Trials in our lives tend to do that.

God can also do "immeasurably more than all we ask of imagine" by showering us with His love gifts.  So often we concentrate on life's problems and challenges and fail to see these wonderful gifts from His hand.  These gifts could be something as simple as the beauty of a sunrise or a beautiful flower.  These gifts could be remarkable ways God uses past trials in our lives to help us inspire others through our testimonies.  They could be the awesome way God brings a new friend into our lives in a way that we would never have envisioned.  God often showers gifts in our lives through others.  Most of all He offers us salvation through the gift of His Son.  If we would receive no other gift from His hand that gift alone should "wow" us with the wonders of His grace and love.

This verse about God doing "immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine" has become an important and encouraging verse in my life.  Often life's paths have been challenging.  Yet I have also seen God use current and past trials in awesome ways, in ways I would never have imagined.  I have further seen Him heap awesome recent new blessings in my life which I could never have foreseen.  His love is overwhelming. His love for you is also overwhelming!



 

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Joy Even in the Midst of Heartache

When our hearts are aching and circumstances around us are very difficult, is it possible to have joy?  For me personally, this past year or so has included some physical pain problems and also some heartbreaking situations involving loved ones of mine.   If we properly understand the concept of joy, however, it truly is possible to have joy no matter what is transpiring in our lives. We can experience joy in the midst of heartbreak and right along side emotional and physical pain.

I have been reading about joy in my devotions again this week.  That has been a huge blessing to me.  We need to remind ourselves that joy is not the same as happiness.  Happiness is based on perfect circumstances.  Joy is based on something much more profound.

Joy is only grounded in the Lord and not on our shifting and fickle emotions.  It is a gift of the Holy Spirit.  Yet we also need to be always pursuing it, because Satan's lies and our own emotions can so easily drag us down.  Personal heartaches and trials, loved one's illnesses and sorrows, and the conditions of the world around us can so easily discourage us.  We should feel sorrow and heartbreak over many things around us.  Yet our joy is found not in circumstances but in a Person, the Lord. Our joy is found in the character of the Lord.  He is always faithful and always loves His people with an eternal love.  He is also powerful to help us in our trials.

I remember in my younger years thinking that if I could just get through the next situation then everything would be good.  Yet there is always a new trial or challenge to face around the bend.  I remember the heartaches I felt while as his caregiver I watched my husband slowly lose his battle against his neurological disease.  I remember the grief I felt when finally losing him in death.  Yet my God was always faithful, and He was always present.  The Lord is the definition of joy.  I need to remind myself that He is also the definition of joy in current struggles.

Also it is important to remember that the more we grieve over our sins, the more joy we find as we turn to the Lord and realize all He has done for us.  Further, it is important to remember that as we experience heartaches and trials our capacity for joy increases.  These heartaches help us appreciate our remaining blessings.  These blessings for me can include something as simple as a beautiful flower or sunrise.  It can include helping others or laughter shared.  It further can include a lovely evening shared with a new friend.  Heartaches themselves can be a blessing, because they help us see God sovereignly working in the midst of our trials and as a result of our trials.  This too adds joy to our lives.  It is a supernatural spiritual thing that only comes from the Holy Spirit.

I don't know about you, but sometimes I become so weary of the constant challenges and trials.  Yet without them I would not have to lean on the Lord so heavily.  Without them there would not be true joy.  Joy is a possession found only in the Lord.  Lord, help me always to remember that when I become discouraged.


Sunday, September 23, 2018

Peace In the Needs

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

"In a previous meditation we discussed the “Why?” questions that sometimes enters our minds in light of the difficulties that life presents us. We also discussed this in relationship to the heartaches and challenges which often accompany family care-giving. We came to the conclusion that we do not always understand why God allows certain things in our lives, but we know that He is much wiser than we are. We need to trust Him in these things and trust that He is transforming us into something beautiful for His kingdom through all these things.

Dear Christian caregiver, God has taken you along the path of family care-giving. The challenges of care-giving has heightened your awareness of your need for the Lord. Family care-giving may have placed you in circumstances which has made your perceived strengths useless and irrelevant. It may have also made you aware that your weaknesses are glaringly evident.

This is a good thing which has come from the difficulties of your care-giving experience, dear Christian caregiver. During these overwhelming, desert like experiences in your life you are realizing your need for dependence on the Lord. This in turn, has drawn you closer and closer to Him.

From that dependence on the Lord and closer relationship with Him, perhaps you have discovered a new peace blossoming in your heart. This peace has come right in the midst of all the heartaches. You perhaps have discovered that needing the Lord and depending on Him is the key to knowing Him in a much more intimate way. This is the greatest gift you can receive, dear caregiver!

So can you make a sacrifice of praise and thanks for even these difficult times in your life, dear caregiver? Know that through these overwhelming challenges, God is accomplishing His best work both in your life and in the life of your loved one. Will you trust Him with your needs in the days ahead? Will you grow in your intimacy with Him? Will you even thank Him for His work in your life? Will you find His peace this year?"


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, September 16, 2018

Rest in Him

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

In the book of Job in the Old Testament we read about a godly man who lost everything he owned and all his children in a serious of disasters.  As if that was not sufficient suffering, he was afflicted with a horrible disease.

Do you ever wonder, dear Christian caregiver, why God has allowed the illness of your loved one for whom you are caring? Have you ever wondered why you have to go through all the heartaches and challenges of caring for your ill or disabled loved one? Have you ever wondered why you, a child of God, has to endure these trials?

In the book of Job in the Old Testament, Job, began to ask these questions. God responded to Job in chapter 42. In effect God says, “Who are you to question My ways and My plans? Why should you question Me without knowledge,without understanding My wisdom? You have no right to question Me. Your knowledge is too limited to understand My ways. You do not have My power and wisdom.” Later Job said to God that he had spoken of things that were far beyond his understanding. These were things only God could understand, and Job repented of questioning God’s ways.

I do not understand why my husband was afflicted with his devastating neurological disease. I do not know why he had to go through the disabilities and indignities of his disease. I do not know why I had to go through all the heartaches of being his caregiver and eventually losing him to death.  However, I must trust God that He knew what He was doing, no matter how difficult life became during those years 

The Bible reminds us that we can trust in the Lord, for He has and never will forsake us. His ways are perfect even when we do not understand His ways. He is our shield, and we can take refuge in Him. I can trust in Him and not be afraid of what the future holds. Even in difficult times He is my strength and song.

I do know that I have been strengthened in my faith, and my relationship with the Lord is more precious than ever because of all that has happened to me. God has been my help and support through it all. I needed and still need to trust in Him alone. I don’t understand all God’s ways; but I do know He is a wise, faithful, and loving God. I do know that He is worthy of my trust.

Christian caregiver, you do not know what the future holds for you and your loved one, but you do know that the Lord God holds your future. You may not understand His ways, but He asks you to trust Him. His ways are not always your ways, but He knows what He is doing in what He allows in your life. Rest in Him.



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, September 9, 2018

Treasure the Moments

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

"In December of 2010 my son, Brian, his wife, and my little granddaughter flew in from London. That year I had mixed emotions about their upcoming arrival. I was glad to see my son and his wife, and I was excited about getting to interact with my little granddaughter. Their anticipated stay of two weeks was a long time, however. I was very busy taking care of my husband, Wayne, at the time and having people around so much (even family) would be emotionally tiring even when it was a good time.

It turned out that there were joyful moments, blessed moments, and chaotic moments that year. My son from London, his wife, and their two-year-old little girl were here from December 13 to December 27. My son, from IA, his wife, and their two daughters were also here from the Wed. night before Christmas to Sunday the 26th. Our local son, his wife, and their four children were here part of that time especially on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

It was wonderful having them all here for Christmas at one time. It had been a long time since that happened. My husband, Wayne, experienced an exceptionally good day on that Christmas Day. I consider that one of our blessed moments. That truly was a gift from above.

It was a joyful moment when I saw all of my grandchildren sitting around the table eating a snack or playing together downstairs. It was a blessed and joyful moment when all the grandkids would come in and crawl on bed and give their grandpa a kiss and hug after he was tucked in bed for the night. The blessed moments also came when everyone was considerate of Wayne’s schedule and the way things needed to be with him and even helped me with caring for him.

The overwhelming and chaotic moments came when they were all cooking in the kitchen at the same time and asking me where things were. The overwhelming moments came when the clutter starting piling up with having so many people around so much. The overwhelming moments came when I felt as if I needed and wanted to be there for everyone especially my grandkids, and I still needed to meet my husband’s needs. The overwhelming moments also came when it felt as if I was crowded out of my own space, so to speak.

Those moments were the last Christmas my husband spent with us, however. They are moments we can look back at and treasure as a family.  My husband passed away a little over a week later on January 2, 2011. Treasure all the moments with your loved ones, dear Christian caregiver."



The picture below is of a few of the grandchildren "putting Wayne (Grandpa) to bed" and giving him a good night kiss :






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, September 2, 2018

Unexpected Storms

Recently our area was struck with an unexpected storm.  Television reports and the blowing of the sirens alerted us to it's imminent arrival.  Yet the intensity of the winds and the torrential downpour of rain left me in awe.  I should have been in the basement, as the weather reporters advised.  Yet then I would have missed seeing the power of this storm.

As it turns out this storm uprooted some big old trees and broke off many, many big branches in our village. (I posted one picture of an uprooted tree by the village park below.)   It caused many people to lose electrical power-some for thirty-six hours or more.  I never lost power, but I lost internet and phone service for awhile.  Evidence of the storm are still evident on my village streets, although some towns and counties around us fared worse because of the storm.

Life is filled with other kinds of storms as well.  I remember the storm of caring for my husband and watching as his body became more and more disabled over a period of about four and a half years.  The care-giving storm is a difficult storm.  I remember the storm of grief after losing my husband and becoming a widow.  I remember the storm of all the secondary losses as well, and of having to build an entirely new life.

I also  remember other storms since those days.  Sometimes the storms have been very intense and painful emotionally and physically.  Sometimes they have been minor storms which can collectively wear on an individual.  Storms of one degree of intensity or another continue to seem to come.

Recently I read some devotions by Nancy Guthrie from her book, The One Year Book of HOPE. This is what she said in one of her devotions, "Perhaps you find yourself watching the storm clouds gather in the distance, or maybe you are swirling in the center of a storm.  Or perhaps the storm has come and gone and you are picking up the pieces of your life.  God often speaks to us through the storms of our lives.---if we listen, in the midst of the most violent storm we can detect the still, small voice of God, calling us to greater faith in Him."

Often it takes a storm for us to see our need for the Lord and to cry out to Him.  It is often in the storms that our complacency is replaced with a sense of His presence. We then hear His still small voice.  We recognize that He is with us in the storm.  Having the Lord with us in the storm makes all the difference, no matter how tumultuous the storm.

When I was watching the recent storm in our village from my living room window I felt remarkably calm in the moment.  I was relatively safe in the "ark" of my home.  Imagine how Noah in the Old Testament of the Bible felt when he was in that ark in the great flood, however.  Imagine how fearful the disciples in the New Testament felt when they were in their boat in very stormy weather.  Yet the Lord Jesus is our ark of safety in all the kinds of storms that God allows in our lives.  We may not like the storms, but He is always our place of safety.

Sometimes it is easy to tire of the storms that keep coming and to dread the next one which perhaps can not yet be seen on the horizon.  It is easy to also imagine storms that never will occur.  That only uses up emotional energy unnecessarily.  Instead of looking at the waves in current storms, reliving regrets about past storms, or imagining future storms; the Lord wants us to look to Him.  He wants us to focus on Him and embrace Him, and when storms do come he wants us to step out faith.  He wants us to trust His sustaining power and love.

The only way we can prepare for unexpected storms in our lives is by living close to the Lord and by immersing God's Word into our lives.  We need to obediently build our lives on the foundation of obedience to God's Word and on His precious promises to always be with us.  Yes, we will falter and become afraid at times, but the Lord and the promises of His Word will see us through.









Sunday, August 26, 2018

August and the Lord's Story

A couple days ago on August 24th it was my birthday.  I am thankful for my Lord being with me and being faithful to me these 71 years in the valleys, mountaintop experiences, and in the in between times in my life.

I am reminded of another thing which happened four years ago in August.  On that day my local newspaper published a story about my years as a caregiver for my husband.  That article talked about the struggles I experienced as a caregiver, but it also talked about how my faith helped me through that time in my life.  Finally, the newspaper article talked about my book to encourage family caregivers.  Here is the link to that newspaper article that was published four years ago:  http://www.sheboyganpress.com/story/news/local/2014/08/26/caregiver/14628253/

I probably posted a link to that newspaper story four years ago when it was just published, but I thought it was worth giving you the link to it again.  It gives a good rendering of my story (or rather the Lord's story) and portrays my passion to encourage family caregivers.

If you have not ordered my book, Dear Caregiver Reflections for Family Caregivers, yet, you might want to consider ordering it for yourself or for someone you love.  It contains over 100 short chapters or meditations to encourage family caregivers.  My story is intertwined in the chapters as well.  Here is the link to the Amazon order page for my book:  https://www.amazon.com/Dear-Caregiver-Sharon-Vander-Waal/dp/1629524263/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1470784479&sr=1-1

It is also available elsewhere online as well.  Finally, you can get it directly from me by e-mailing me at jesuschild54@hotmail.com for specifics.

I know the challenges of family care-giving, dear caregiver, and I care about you.  Thank you for all that you do for your loved one!

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Walk Conscious of His Presence

Dear Christian caregiver, it is vitally important that you stay conscious of the Lord’s presence step by step throughout your day. The Lord’s presence with you is both a protection and a promise. He will always be with you, and He will never leave you. Go gently through each day keeping your eyes on the Lord. He will open up the path He has planned for you step by step. Just trust Him along the way.

Life as a family caregiver is overwhelming at times. The challenges and difficulties are numerous. The promise of the Lord’s constant presence is a protection against the pitfalls of despair and self-pity. It is also a protection against worry about the future. When you think about your future and the future of your loved one envision the Lord in that future, because the Lord has promised to always be with you. Keep your eyes focused on the Lord.

Look to the Lord continually for help in the challenges of family care-giving. You are the God appointed comforter and help for your loved one. Often you need comfort yourself, however. When you need comfort, the Lord wants to enfold you in His arms. As you receive His comfort you will be a better channel of comfort to your loved one for whom you are caring and also perhaps for other people.


This link to an old hymn I discovered may be a blessing to you today: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WznKVSgQWpU

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Waves

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

I journeled the following words in late November of 2010 while caring for my husband. Perhaps you can relate, dear caregiver.
 
“Yesterday I was awestruck by the beautiful sunrise. First, there were the beautiful pinks coming forth all across the sky and then the gradual yellows; as the early morning sun rose into view. Waves of joy and gratitude for God’s faithfulness surfaced in my heart.

Other kinds of waves hit me at times also, however. These are waves of sadness. I really believe my care-giving life has meaning, and I believe there is a purpose and a definite plan for my life through the struggles of care-giving. There are also definite blessings that have come as a direct result of the whole care-giving experience. This does not erase the fact, however, that I am slowly losing the life I once had with my husband. I am slowly losing my best friend. Also there are so many physical challenges and other emotional challenges with the whole care-giving experience.

Hence, I sometimes have these waves of sadness that hit me. Sometimes it is right in the middle of joyful or pleasant moments and experiences. Recently it hit me when I was ready to enter a church service. I think that may be because I miss the fact that we used to be able to attend church together. Today, my son volunteered to give me some time away while he took care of my husband’s needs. I enjoyed that very much, but there was a moment or so even then that I felt this wave of sadness come over me. Sometimes I feel it when I first wake up in the morning.  I am really struggling for acceptance and gratitude. I believe I have grown some in this area. It is a strange thing, however, this coexistence of waves of joy with waves of sadness.”

Know dear Christian caregiver, that the Lord is with you in the waves of joy and in the waves of sadness. He has promised to never leave you or forsake you. Rest in that dear caregiver.

beach, blue, horizon
 
 
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, August 5, 2018

Never Been This Way Before

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

Dear caregiver, do you weary of the constant changes in your loved one’s health? If one’s loved ones faces a disease from which there is a possible cure, one continues to hope for their recovery. It is difficult going through those days, but there is hope for better days ahead. When one’s loved one’s disease is incurable and the declines are persistent, one enters an even more difficult sphere. As a caregiver, I so remember dreading and sometimes fearing the next decline in my husband‘s health. Would I be able to handle his next decline physically and emotionally?

In the book of Joshua in the Old Testament, God's Old Testament people (the Israelites) were about to enter the land that God had promised them many years before. To be able to enter this new land, however, a huge body or people needed to cross the Jordan River. It would take a miracle for God's people to safely cross the Jordan River, but our Lord God specializes in the impossible.

The officers of God's people told them that when they saw the ark of the covenant of the Lord their God and the Levites who were carrying the ark, they were to move out from their positions and follow the ark. Then they would know which way to go, since they had never been this way before (Joshua 3:b-4a).  The ark was a symbol of the Lord's presence among them. Only if God's people did this would they know which way to go and what to do next, for this was new and foreign territory to them.

As a caregiver, I too had never been that way before. I had never encountered a similar situation or been in the same place in my life. It was a scary place to be. So I also had to keep my eyes focused on the Lord, and I had to follow His leading. Each new day is a new day given to us by the hand of the Lord. When we awaken in the morning, we do not know what new experiences or circumstances we may face that day. This is especially true for family caregivers. 

Every day and moment of our lives is known and planned by the Lord, however. He knows and understands the joys and heartaches caregivers face today and in all the tomorrows which may lie ahead. Caregivers must trust that the Lord will safely lead them each and every day, as they keep their eyes focused on Him and follow Him. Before they crossed the Jordan River their leader, Joshua, told God’s Old Testament people to consecrate themselves; for the next day the Lord was going to do amazing things among them (Joshua 3:5). The Lord will do amazing things in our lives also, if we trust and follow Him.

In Joshua 3 the waters did not divide while God's people were still in camp or even as they were marching towards the Jordan River. Only when the leaders and people stepped out into the water in faith were God's people able to safely cross the Jordan River! (Joshua 3:15b-16a)  Dear Caregiver, you may sometimes feel hopeless and even desperate in your care-giving experience. At times like these, commit your needs and desperate situations to the Lord. Like God’s Old Testament people, step out in faith. Trust that the Lord will see you through the seemingly impossible Jordan Rivers of your life. The Lord has our lives in His control, and we can trust and follow His leading!
 
 

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Wedding Anniversary Reflections

Forty-seven years ago tomorrow 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.

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 seven and a half years, so I ask that you will pray for me especially tomorrow on the anniversary of our marriage.

I have learned so much through my care-giving experience, my early grief experience, and in life's struggles that have followed.  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 22, 2018

The Lord is Your Keeper

Last Sunday evening a guest pastor in our church preached on beautiful Psalm 121 found in the Old Testament of the Bible.  It is a wonderful Psalm filled with promises of God's watchful care and keeping of us in all life's circumstances.  This Psalm is for anyone who loves the Lord and finds themselves on this pilgrimage of life on this earth.  This Psalm is for you, dear caregiver, if you are facing difficult challenges in your role as a caregiver.  It is for you, dear former caregiver, if your care-giving days are over due to the death of a loved one; and you are grieving that lost.  It is for you, dear child of God, no matter what your circumstances right now.

I would suggest reading Psalm 121 in a couple different translations.  Let it soak into your spirit.  Let it calm and assure you, as you pilgrim through this life. Then allow me to take great liberty in paraphrasing this wonderful Psalm below:


I  lift up my eyes to the hills-where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth, the one true God, the King of all creation.  He will not let your foot slip off His chosen path, no matter how difficult the circumstances you are now facing may be.   He guards your footsteps, and has the power and desire to help you. 

He who watches over you and keeps His people will neither slumber nor sleep.  The Lord watches over you and keeps you-the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day nor the moon by night.  He protects day and night.  There is total keeping of you at all times, in all places and in all things even when you sometimes do not always understand His ways.

The Lord will keep you from all harm.  You are always secure.  He will watch over and keep your life, and He preserves your soul.  The Lord will watch over you and keep you in His care in your coming and going both now and forevermore.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

The Lord Will Provide


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

One of the most discouraging aspects of care-giving for family members with a terminal illness is witnessing the continual deterioration of their bodies. When my husband was first diagnosed with his neurological disease (Multiple Systems Atrophy type C) in 2006, he was still able to work for over a year. After he quit working, he gradually moved from a cane to a walker to a wheelchair, and then finally I had to use a lift with him the last months of his life.

The last months and perhaps weeks of my husband’s life, the progression in his disease seemed to take more rapid dives downward. One good thing at that time was that I was able to rent a sit-to- stand lift. Someone from the office of aging and disability told me about this possibility, and so I pursued it. So in late October of 2010, my son and I went to take a look at this sit-to-stand lift at the Home Care Resources store in a local town. A few days later, the lift was delivered.

It took me a couple weeks and a couple of demonstrations to begin to feel comfortable using this product. After I had all my questions answered about the proper use of the product and  had practiced using it, I felt fairly comfortable using it. With the lift, I could get my husband transported from one of his chairs to the toilet, to bed, etc. right on target. It was awkward using this lift, and it involved some heavy pushing. It was doable, however.

Those days were difficult, but when I look back I am amazed at God’s provision step by step. I am amazed that God provided this lift so that I could keep Wayne out of the nursing home. I am amazed that I learned to use this device by God’s grace. I am amazed that God provided my CNA lady, who helped some evenings, and my son to help me during those last months. My house at that time began to look like a nursing home with all the disability equipment standing around, but the Lord provided.

God never promises us a life free from trials. He does promise to be with us each step of the way, however. I have a picture in my kitchen which says, “The Lord Provides.” He surely does provide. Whatever heartaches and challenges you are undergoing, dear Christian caregiver, know that the Lord is indeed with you step by step. He will provide.



(Below is a rather shadowy snapshot of that picture that stills hangs in my home.  The only difference is that now it hangs in my living room.  The words although difficult to read on this picture say, "The Lord Provides.")


 

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Keeping Your Eyes on the Lord

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

As we discussed previously, life is like a race. It is often a difficult race filled with obstacles and challenges. It is a race of faith. It is important that we keep our eyes on the Lord Jesus. This is especially true of the care-giving race.

Dear Christian caregiver, keep you eyes on Jesus and not on others as you run with faith the care-giving race. If you look around at others it will discourage and distract you. If you concentrate on another’s race, it may seem to you that their life is much easier than your life. First of all, you do not know the struggles they may be facing. Secondly, it may cause envy in your heart. God has assigned you the race that is meant for you, and that is the care-giving race. Or perhaps if you concentrate on others you may see others who seem to be “holding it together” better than you are. Again, you do not know their struggles. Concentrating on others will only distract and discourage. It will hinder you. Concentrate on the Lord instead.

Also dear caregiver, do not look inward. If you focus on your limited resources and strength and your own issues, you will become very discouraged. You may even want to give up. The truth is that we are very weak in ourselves. We are totally dependent on the Lord. I remember those days during my care-giving years when I felt as if I could not go on one more day. That was a good place to be, because it made me realize that I was totally dependent on the Lord. Do not look inward, dear caregiver. Look to the Lord.

Finally, dear caregiver, do not look back.  It is tempting during care-giving days to to look back with longing to the way things used to be. As I saw my husband deteriorate before my eyes, step by step, I grieved each step backwards. I also sometimes longed for days past. That really serves no useful purpose, however, except to discourage and impede.

Dear caregiver, God has assigned you the difficult but vitally significant job of family care-giving. Trust Him to give you the strength to run your care-giving race, and run that race with your eyes focused on the Lord. Don’t look back. Focus on Him.


Below is the link to the order page for my book at Amazon:

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

You can also contact me personally at jesuschild54@hotmail.com for information in getting a signed copy directly from me.


 

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Grief After Care-giving Ends

Most of my posts are directed to current family caregivers.  Having experienced first hand the challenges of caring for my husband and watching his body deteriorate step by step, it is now my passion to encourage current family caregivers.  Having said that, however, I also know that eventually losing a loved one to a disease and the resulting grief is also sometimes part of family care-giving.  This was part of my care-giving experience.  So this post is directed to past caregivers; because in a sense, once a caregiver one is always a caregiver.

I recently found something in my Facebook memories that I wrote on June 27, 2011 about six months after my husband's death.  This is what I wrote:

"July second it will be six months since Wayne’s (Dad’s) death. In some way it seems like a lot longer than that, and in other ways it seems just like yesterday. These last six months have been far more difficult than I could have imagined. I am told I need to be patient. Grief processing takes months and sometimes years, but the pain will get better. Grief is always with me. There are many joyful moments, but grief is still there just below the surface. There are also really sad moments where it is hard to pull out the sadness. Emotions during grief are unpredictable and intense. Grief emotions can ambush at unexpected moments. It is a very difficult and tiring process to go through. Yet I know what I am experiencing is normal grief emotions.I would so appreciate your continued prayers. Please know too that I do not need fixing. Only God can do that in His timetable. You do not need to say the right thing or even say anything. Your presence, hugs, phone calls, short notes, and listening ears is all I need. Sometimes I will want to talk about my feelings. Sometimes I would rather talk about other things. Sometimes I need a mixture of both. I always like to talk about Wayne (Dad). 

I still cry nearly daily. Sometimes the tears ambush unexpectedly. Don’t be uncomfortable, if that happens in your presence. I do not apologize for the tears. They are not a sign of weakness or lack of faith. They are God’s gift to me of release, and they are actually a sign I am slowly recovering.

Please pray that God will use this time of grieving to grow me and equip me to minister to others with greater compassion than ever before. I will not just survive, but full joy will return. (Psalm 30:5b) That is God’s promise to me, and I claim it. If you have suffered a similar type loss, please feel free to share it with me. It will help me rather than make me feel worse.

Thank you for caring about me. Thank you to those who listen and pray. It is a gift to me for which I will always be thankful."


Seven and a half years later I can now say, "God is good."  The emotional ache has not gone away completely, but I have learned to rebuild my life around the ache.  My life still has struggles, and it would be nice to have my husband with me in those struggles.   Yet the Lord has helped me use painful past and current struggles for His glory and to help others.  My faith has become so much sweeter in the process.  God's joy is present.

Dear former caregiver, rest in the Lord and go deep in His Word.  Trust Him to guide and protect. Then the joy will return.

Manage



Sunday, June 24, 2018

The Caregiver's Race

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

Living life on this earth, in many ways, is like running a race. In fact, the Bible refers to our lives as a race which must be run with perseverance. I think this is especially true for caregivers. Care-giving for a family member with a terminal or long term illness involves a determination and perseverance not found in many other of life’s experiences.

Running the care-giving race requires energy. It is demanding and emotionally and physically exhausting.  It is a race which is never ending. To run this race successfully, caregivers needs to rely on God Himself to supply them with the energy and strength to carry on day after day. Caregivers often feel low in energy, but God has promised to supply the strength to continue. It is also so important for caregivers to feed on God’s Word, so that they will have the spiritual nutrients to continue the exhausting care-giving race in which they are participating.

As I mentioned before, running the care-giving race also requires perseverance. It requires a consistent determination to keep going even when tired or when uncertain where the road ahead will lead. This race can also feel very lonely to caregivers. As a caregiver for my husband with a long term terminal illness, I so remember those feelings of fatigue. I also remember those feelings of fear and uncertainty about the future and the loneliness.

However, the Lord has promised to always be with us in all of life’s challenges. As He was with me, He will be with you also, dear Christian caregiver. He will never forsake you. He will help you run your care-giving race with perseverance! Dear Christian caregiver, run the care-giving race keeping your eyes upon the Lord. Do this, for He alone is your source of strength. He also will keep you from quitting the race.

Everybody has a race to run in this life. The caregiver’s race is different than other people’s races.  However, it is the race you have been assigned, dear caregiver. Run it in confidence trusting that you will be given the strength and energy to persevere.


Below is the link to the order page for my book at Amazon:

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

You can also contact me personally at jesuschild54@hotmail.com for information in getting a signed copy directly from me.




Sunday, June 17, 2018

Seeing Messes or the Miracles?

It so easy to get bogged down with the messes of life that we no longer clearly see God's presence and His miracles.  Sometimes the struggles of life can wear us down physically, emotionally, and even spiritually.  I felt that during my care-giving days when my husband's body became more and more disabled.   I continue to feel that at times as I face other situations in my life alone, humanly speaking, as a widow.  This past year in particular has been difficult with some physical pain issues and also some big issues that loves ones are facing.

In times like these we need to stay focused on the blessings, the daily miracles that are in our lives. We need to remember all the times the Lord has been with us in the past, and we need to trust that He will be with us in the days ahead.  We need to fix our eyes on the Lord and trust His promises to always be with us.

Recently in my devotions I was struck by some comments by Lysa TerKeurst in her book entitled, Embraced 100 Devotions to Know God is Holding You Close.  She wrote, "I get so focused on the mess, I miss the miracles."  Later in that same devotional she prays this prayer to the Lord, "Please don't let the messes of life harden my heart and blind me to Your presence.  Instead of being so terrified in the midst of the mess, might I keep the picture of You, watching me, always watching me.  And might I find courage in the assurance that You will come to me with Your miraculous presence."

So may we also focus on the miraculous presence of the Lord in our lives; as we face life's trials, troubles, and messes.  May we exchange our negative emotions for "a crown of beauty," with "the oil of gladness," and a "garment of praise" (Isaiah 61:2-3).  Life is sometimes difficult, but focusing on the blessings and the wonderful presence of the Lord is the key to peace in the midst of it. 

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Joy and Peace

As I think back on those days when I was caring for my husband, I remember the steady decline of his body.  I remember how his neurological disease step by step robbed him of his ability to function.  I also remember the anxiety and grief I felt as this was occurring in our lives.  I remember other difficult times when I have also felt that same kind of anxiety and discouragement as well.

Yet the Lord tells us that we can have joy, peace, and contentment in all situations.  This comes through right praying, right thinking, and right acting.  The apostle, Paul, wrote one of the most beautiful chapters of the Bible in Philippians chapter four.  Paul speaks of these things in that chapter of the Bible.

Below is the link to a post from another blog I write, a devotional blog.  In this post I discuss Philippians chapter four and the beautiful truths about being able to have joy and peace in the midst of the difficult moments of this life.  Just click on the link before to get to this post:

http://scripturemoments.blogspot.com/2018/05/philippians-4.html






Sunday, June 3, 2018

Life's Unexpected Twists and Turns

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

By early October of 2010 a few months before my husband’s death, my stress level was often extremely high. Things seemed to be getting more and more difficult in caring for Wayne.  I knew God was guiding me, I had seen that over and over, but it was still difficult.

In early October of 2010 I wrote, “Frankly, there are days when I am not sure how much longer I can do this.  However, it seems like every time I am at the end of my rope, some other help falls into place. I will have to keep trusting. I realistically need to also at least look into all the options, including possible nursing home in the future. I hope to avoid nursing home if at all possible, but I may not have a choice.”

Then by middle October 2010, life took some fairly rapidly developing twists and turns in just one week's time. My husband’s motor and processing skills became increasing more limited and my husband’s transfers become increasingly difficult.  I was becoming increasingly concerned, and I was  feeling that I could not handle my husband's needs any longer. In the mix of all this, my son had lost his job. So in a way, we had two families in crisis.

After somebody talked with me at church on a particular Sunday morning around that time showing concern for my well-being in all this, I decided to have a talk with my son and his wife. I told them that I was getting to the end of my strength in physically handling my husband and that I needed to at least check out nursing homes as a undesired but possible option. My son had already started helping me on nights when my CNA lady did not come. I felt that even that was not enough, however, as I still was handling the days alone at that time.

The upshot of all this was that my son decided (since he was not working) he would come four times a day most days to help me with transfers to the bathroom etc. of my husband. We now had a scheduled plan for this. The idea was that this would buy me time to at least check out other options.

This was definitely God’s timing. A few months after Wayne’s passing on to heaven, my son found a new job (another story of God’s mercy and grace). In the meantime, God provided me with the help I needed as Wayne’s caregiver. It was such a spirit lifter. My son and I were able to care for my husband’s needs until the day of his death, and my heart’s desire of avoiding putting Wayne in a nursing home was fulfilled.

I would not want to relive those difficult care-giving days, especially the last few months. In fact, even remembering those days is difficult. God was with me through it all, however. He always provided. He will provide for you also, dear caregiver.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Lessons Learned in Spring

Spring is a time of transition.  It is a time when we tend to switch back and forth between warm and sometimes hot sunny days and rainy, cold days. In 2010 we were apparently blessed with a particularly beautiful spring, however. In late May of 2010 while still a caregiver for my husband I wrote the following words:

I always thought that I liked autumn the best of all the four seasons. This year, however, I am really enjoying spring. Our neighbors to the right of us have three fruit trees in their yard that have beautiful pink blossoms on them. We have a smaller fruit tree on our yard. People across the street also have a fruit tree with beautiful white blossoms on it. There is beauty all around me this spring. I am amazed at the beauty in God's creation.

Spring is also a time for dandelions, however. They are that pesky 'flower' that likes to take over people's lawns. They are especially unattractive when they go to seed. The dandelions coupled with shaggy grass made our lawn look shaggy and unattractive for a few days. Why is it that it is so much easier to concentrate on the dandelions and the grass which is too long instead of the awesomely beautiful fruit trees?

I think this is a picture of all of our lives. It is easy to concentrate on the sorrows, difficulties, and frustrations of care-giving and of life itself. We sometimes forget to concentrate on the blessings and beauties all around us. Most evenings before I go to bed I try to write down three blessings that I received that day. That helps, but it is still easy to slip into the negative emotions, as one works one's way through the day.

Lord, comfort me in my times of sorrow and frustration. Give me the perseverance of the dandelion which continues to flourish in spite of being mowed down and hated. Finally open my eyes to Your blessings, Lord; and make me truly thankful.”

Care-giving can be extremely challenging and discouraging. In spite of this, dear caregiver, try to look for the blessings in the midst of the chaos of care-giving.  God often gives us the blessings of character building, growth in the faith, and the gift of His presence in a special way through the avenue of the challenges and trials of life. 

When my grandchildren were younger they would sometimes come to my house with fresh bouquets of dandelions. They did this because of their love for me. The dandelions which often are considered a weed and a nuisance by many, then became a blessing to me. In a similar way the Lord can use the discouraging aspects of care-giving to show His love to you, dear caregiver. Trust Him to use the difficult things in your life for ultimate good even though that is most likely very difficult for you to see now.