Saturday, October 16, 2021

Storms

 


A little over three years ago 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 above.)   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.  

Life is filled with other kinds of storms as well.  I remember the storm of caring for my first 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.

This is what Nancy Guthrie says in one of her devotions in her book, The One Year Book of  Hope:  "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 that storm of three years ago 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.  He will always carry us on our shoulders and remain faithful to us.  (If you missed my post of a couple weeks ago concerning that click on the following link to read that:  https://christiancaregiving.blogspot.com/2021/10/carried-on-his-shoulders.html  It ties in with what we are discussing this week.

Saturday, October 9, 2021

The Lord Delights in You

 

Recently I picked some roses from our rose garden in front of our house.  They are beautiful and still flourishing even at this late date this year.  I like to think of these flowers and other things in creation as God's love gifts to me.   God shows His love to me and His delight in me in many ways every day.  Zephaniah 3:17 says, "The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save.  He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing."

The Lord has shown His love for me and His delight in me in many ways through the years.  I love the reference in the Bible of Jesus being the Rose of Sharon.  Sharon is the name of a place in the Bible.  Yet because my name is Sharon, I love to think of Jesus as being my Rose-my source of beauty, comfort, and love.  Sometimes the path the Lord has taken me on has been extremely difficult and sometimes it has been pleasant.  Yet through it all God's assurance of His love and delight in me has been the assurance I needed.  No matter what may be transpiring in your life right now, remember that Jesus is your Rose.  He loves you and delights in you as His child.


Saturday, October 2, 2021

Carried On His Shoulders

 


Recently I read Psalm 90 as part of my devotions.  I was reminded of the uncertainty and mortality of life.  We like to know exactly how things are going to turn out in the next step of our lives.  We know we are going to face trials, because God has said that will happen in our lives.  Yet we think we will somehow feel better, if we know exactly how God will lead us through that trial.  We hate the uncertainty of a difficult diagnosis or that of a loved one who is struggling.  

Our own weaknesses and mortality reminds us that our lives are very brief (Psalm 90:5-6 and 9-10).  Yet we have an eternal home in the Lord (Psalm 90:1).  So we need to number our days, make wise decisions, and make what we do for the Lord count  (Psalm 90:12 & 17).  Our ultimate hope is in our everlasting God (Psalm 90:2).

God is guiding the course of our life.  We don't need to know all the details of our lives ahead of time, and we need not fear.  He will provide in His providential love and care.  He will not forget us.  He has also placed us in a certain place for a certain time period and for a purpose.  That place could be as a caregiver for a loved one, as a person going through a uncertain disease, or someone who is going through another difficult struggle.  We have to trust Him as we go through the uncertain time.  We need to let Him carry us on our shoulders.

The weekend of September 17th my husband and I, my siblings and spouses, and a niece and daughter were together for a wonderful weekend.  We met at a halfway point for all of us.  The laughter and joking of that weekend were so special, the tears over burdens expressed were so cathartic, and the sharing of prayer and wonderful moments in God's creation were so calming and awe inspiring at the same time.  I think the richness of our fellowship together was made more precious by our awareness of the truths spoken about above, as we each face our own struggles.  We ended our wonderful weekend with a circle of song and prayer.  The song we sang was "Great is Thy Faithfulness."  We do have a faithful God. 

I would like to leave you with a link to a song that I posted about a year ago.  It was sung by my sister and her husband.  My sister has been fighting serious cancer for over a year now.   Just click on the link below to hear the song. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O-nJ9XEs6HU&t=12s


Wednesday, September 22, 2021

The Potter

 


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

The Bible teaches us that the Lord God is the Potter in our lives, and we are the clay in His hands. He is in sovereign control of our lives, and He controls all the events of our lives. All the events of our lives are used to make us more like Jesus. God especially uses problems, difficulties, and trials in our lives to mold us into the kind of people who truly reflect the Lord Jesus. The Lord wants to bring us ever closer to the center of His will. This is also true about the difficult challenges and trials of family care-giving. Difficulties teach us to not rely on our own self-effort and devices. Difficult times in our lives teach us to rely and trust only on the Lord. This became abundantly clear to me when I was a caregiver for my husband. His disease was incurable. It was out of my control. The only recourse was to seek to rely and trust in the Lord.

Difficulties in our lives also help to remove the impurities of sin from our lives, and they help us to grow in our love relationship with the Lord. When spiritual impurities come into our lives the Lord God recreates and molds our lives to be more in tune with His will. Our prayer to God should be that He will make us into beautiful vessels of purpose for Him. When we fail and allow spiritual impurities into our lives, we need to pray that the Lord will take us back to His Potter’s wheel. We need to pray that the Lord will then reshape us and form us into something more beautiful for Him. From the broken fragments of our lives, the Lord can make us into beautiful vessels for Him!

From experience, I know the pressure of family care-giving can feel overwhelming and unbearable at times. We must not fight against or question the Lord’s molding of our lives, however. We need to pray that each touch of the Lord’s hand on our lives will help us to become whom He wants us to become. The Lord knows just the right amount of pressure to put on our lives. We must also remain thankful for how He has made us and thankful for how He is working and leading in our lives! We must persevere in our willingness to submit to the Lord's will. We must be submissive to the Lord even in trials and difficult times in our lives. The Lord has promised to be with us all the way.

Finally, we must also ask the Lord for the filling of the Holy Spirit’s power and the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We must yearn for the Lord to control our lives completely every hour and every day!  Dear caregiver, trust you life and your care-giving journey to the hand of the great Potter. He know what He is doing even when the path becomes very difficult.


Here is a link to song about God being the Potter and we being the clay in His hands:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bgXL3y9RIbI

Friday, September 17, 2021

Story Behind My Wall Photo

 


In late July I purchased this wall photo at a craft show.  It is now hanging in my home.  When I first entered the booth of the man selling his wall photos, I thought they were paintings.  His pictures which are scenes from nature all have that paintbrush sort of abstract look.  I soon found out they are photos beautifully mounted on a metal surface with a lovely hanger on the back. 

The story behind this photo and all this man's photos are amazing, however.  When young this man was exposed to a chemical which resulted in involuntary tremors.  For many years this was a source of frustration and even bitterness in various areas of his life.

The man was especially frustrated that he could not take a clear picture with his camera because of his tremors.  He asked his Lord many times, "Why?"  Finally the Lord told his spirit that he had been given a gift.  He consulted other artists, photographers, and designers.  They all thought his pictures were beautiful just as they are.  God uses what is outwardly a terrible disability to make something beautiful and wonderful.

In the same way God uses our weaknesses and make something wonderful and beautiful from them.  When the apostle Paul repeatedly asked God to remove some "thorn" in his life God said, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness."  Paul response was "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.  (II Corinthians 12 9-10 in the New Testament of the Bible.)  Beautiful things come from our weaknesses submitted to God, so He can fill us with His strength and beauty.

(P.S  The photographer is Ken Voigt, and his business is called Freedom INK of WI LLC, if you want to research his work some more.  He has not asked me to promote his work.  I just had to share this wonderful story.  


Saturday, September 11, 2021

Caregiver PTSD?

 


Recently my new husband of two years, Bob, had what started out to be a viral head cold type illness and which developed into a bacterial infection resulting in an ER visit and being put on antibiotics.  Although that week or two of illness was not fun, it was nothing compared to my years of caring for my first husband, Wayne.

Yet those few days of caring for Bob brought back memories of those difficult years of care-giving for Wayne, my first husband.  I am glad I had the opportunity to care for Wayne, but those years definitely taxed my endurance.  I am happy for the way my faith and love for my Lord grew during those times.  Yet they were difficult days watching my husband deteriorate step by step before my eyes.  I am thrilled by how good things came from that care-giving experience like my book, my blog, and my testimony to others.  Yet those years of watching my husband deteriorate step by step and then pass away, I would prefer to not relive.  (The picture above shows one of Wayne's last weeks on earth when all his children and grandchildren happened to be together at our house for a holiday, and tucked him in bed for the night.  Yet many times I felt very alone in this care-giving job.)

So when Bob was sick for a few days some of those old emotions of anxiety, fear, sadness, loneliness, and hypervigilance resurfaced again.  Were these feelings a type of caregiver PTSD perhaps?  I think that is a distinct possibility.  When the negative emotions surface it is important that we take care of ourselves with enough exercise, sleep, and good food.  Because our disordered emotions come from sin's curse on the world and sometimes from within ourselves, however, we need something much more fundamental.  Even children of God vitally need the Holy Spirit's comfort, and we need to feed on the promises of God's Word.  Then we need to live our lives in trust and obedience to His Word even when our unreliable emotions tell us to do otherwise.      

So I spend each morning in a time with my Lord in reading Scripture, with devotion books, and prayer.  In this way I am continually reminded that God will never leave me or forsake me.  Verses like these verses in Psalm 94 assure me each morning:  "When I said, “My foot is slipping, Your love, O Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, Your consolation brought joy to my soul---But the Lord has become my fortress and my God the rock in whom I take refuge."

I thank caregivers everywhere for what you do for your loved ones.  I understand your emotions.  So does the Lord.  Turn to Him for strength for each new day.  You also might find the following short three to four minute message from John Piper on fear that I ran across recently very helpful.  Just click on the following link to hear it:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HdLQZRYNhb0




Saturday, August 28, 2021

August


A few days ago on August 24th it was my birthday.  The days surrounding  my birthday were not what my husband and I had planned, but it was still a good day. We had planned on the days surrounding my birthday to be involved in a trip to see the replica of the ark in Kentucky.  We also had planned to see the Creation Museum and go on a river cruise one evening. This did not happen, because Bob contracted some kind of virus head cold which developed into a more bacterial infection.  But antibiotics are finally slowly taking care of that, and he is doing at least some better again.  

Yet, as I said, in spite of not being able to leave on our planned trip; my birthday was a quiet but good  day.  I received many wonderful greetings on my birthday through Facebook messages and cards.  I also received some beautiful roses from my stepdaughters a couple days before my birthday.  (A picture of them is at the bottom of this post.)  I further received calls from all three of my sons and a birthday card from my husband the next day.  I am thankful for my Lord being with me and being faithful to me these 74 years in the valleys, mountaintop experiences, and in the in between times in my life.

I am reminded of another thing which happened seven years ago in August.  On that day my local newspaper published a story about my years as a caregiver for my first husband, Wayne.  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 seven years ago:  http://www.sheboyganpress.com/story/news/local/2014/08/26/caregiver/14628253/

I probably posted a link to that newspaper story seven 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 as a caregiver for my first husband, Wayne, 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!

(PS:  There will not be a new blog post once again next week.  I am sorry about that.  The next blog post should be on or around 11th or 12th of September.  Use this time to once again read some of my old posts by clicking on this link:  https://christiancaregiving.blogspot.com/   Finally, enjoy the picture of the roses my stepdaughters gave me for my birthday.)