Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Lord Understands

Each of us has unique struggles as we walk through this life. Few of us are free from the challenges. Taking care of my husband while he continued to decline due to his neurological disease was one of those very difficult and challenging experiences that I faced. For over four and a half years my husband continued to decline due to this disease, and he became increasingly dependent on me until his death on January 2, 2011.
I journaled the following words while I was caring for my husband:
“Lord, give me grace and strength for this role. Lord, others do not really begin to understand what I am going through, but You do, Lord. Thank You for that, Lord. I guess I don’t fully understand what others are going through either. Be with them also in their unique struggles. I am sure I do not fully understand what even my husband is going through.”

The challenges of caregiving can be intense. As a caregiver one can feel so alone. Only a fellow caregiver can begin to understand the intensity of the emotions that accompany caring for a loved one who has an incurable disease. As a caregiver sometimes people would say things to me like “you are so strong, or you are a good example of perseverance in your Christian life.” This would often make me feel somewhat guilty when they would say that. I was not strong at all. Were it not for God’s grace and strength I could not have continued to persevere. I did not chose or want this role in life at all, but it is the path God that had been assigned to me. I just wanted to be a “normal” couple.

When people would say such things it not only sometimes made me feel guilty, but it also made me feel more alone. It almost gave me the feeling that I had to live up to a certain image of strength. It helped me more when people would say that they were praying for me, or if they gave me physical help.

The truth of the matter is that another human being can not possibly understand all our physical, emotional, and spiritual struggles. Only God can do that. On a later date I journaled the following:
“My Lord is always advocating for me, and He fully understands everything I am going through. Other people may not fully understand, but my Lord does. If I could only always keep that truth in the forefront of my mind, as I face the challenges of each new day.”

Dear Caregiver, others will not and can not always understand and identify with the struggles you go through daily; as you seek to care for your loved one who is ill. Know and rest assured, however, that the Lord identifies with your every need. He also cares about you deeply. He will supply you with the guidance, grace, and strength you need to meet the challenges of each new day.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Wise Caregiver

Caregivng is one of the most challenging endeavors an individual may have to face in life. This is especially true, if one’s loved one for whom one is caring is either terminal or enduring a long-term illness. In such cases a grief process already begins to take place the day of diagnosis. I know it did for me. As a caregiver if I had not had a solid faith foundation, I would have folded under the emotional and physical pressure of caregiving.

That reminds me of the parable of the wise and foolish man in the Bible (Matthew 7:24-29). The wise man built his house on the rock. When the rains and winds came and the streams rose the wise man’s house stood, because it was built on a solid foundation. The foolish man built his house in sand. When the rains and winds came and the streams rose the foolish man’s house fell down flat.

This parable is so applicable to caregivng with all its heartaches, storms, and challenges. Wise caregivers will dig deeply into God’s Word. They will hear, read, and obey God’s Word. They will rest in God’s promise that He will always be with them and never forsake them. They will believe the Lord their God when He tells them of His love for them. They will look for and trust God’s guidance and strength in facing the discouragement and sometimes agonizing decisions of caregiving.

Wise caregivers will often experience difficult emotions and even spiritual storms, as they go through their caregiving experience. They sometimes feel as if they can not hold up under the pressure of the whole caregiving experience for even one more day, but when that happens they once again look to God for strength to face each moment of every day. The wise caregiver has learned that they can not seek to be self-reliant, but must rely entirely on the Lord God Their lives are based on the sure promises of the Bible and on the Lord God Himself, however. Hence, their lives are based on a sure foundation.

Dear caregiver, make sure you are not trying to persevere in the storms of caregiving alone. Perseverance is a good virtue, but sometimes we have to reach out to other people for help. We are not meant to live this life in the power of our own perceived resources. Most importantly, we have to make sure we are relying on the sure foundation of God’s Word, the Bible, and on a saving faith in the Lord God. The storms of caregiving are often so intense. Hence, it is essential that we are standing on God’s sure foundation instead of the unstable sands of our own feeble efforts.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Reality can seem like a harsh word. It often reflects the gap between what we would like life to be like and the actual circumstances of life. In March of 2009 I wrote about what reality had come to mean in my husband’s life and in my life as his caregiver.

I wrote the following: “The reality I daily face is seeing my husband continue to have to use his walker for basically almost every step he takes. Reality is my husband sleeping 9-10 hours a night and still dozing in his chair during the day. Reality is that my husband’s speech is so poor that communication between us is very difficult. Reality is very seldom seeing a smile on my husband’s face. Reality is that there will most likely come a day in the future when I will not be able to take care of him by myself. Reality is that life is not like it was for many many years of our married life. Reality is seeing this disease slowly taking more and more from my husband’s ability to function in this world. Reality is discouraging sometimes.”

As I mentioned before my above comments were journaled in March of 2009. Reality in actuality became even harsher. Before my husband’s death in early 2011 his mobility and a host of other issues declined even more. By that time my husband had graduated to a wheelchair, and we needed a lift to transfer him from place to place.

Even in March of 2009 I knew that there was another reality in place also, however. In that same journal post I wrote the following: “Reality, however, also is knowing that I am not in this alone. My Lord and God is with me every step of the way. He will give me the strength and courage to press on. My Lord God will continue to add many blessings in my life also. Reality further is knowing that there are many people who care about us and are praying for us. They can not begin to fully understand, but they do care.”

Caregiving was the task that God had given me to do. It was not the task or life for which I had aspired. The life of my dreams and which I had envisioned was much different than reality. I am sure the same is true for you also, dear Caregiver. The gap between what we envision and reality as we live it forces us to run to God. Our Lord God is our great Reality. He is unchanging. He also loves us and promises to never leave us alone.

It is also God who places us where we are in life. Even in the challenges and grief of care giving caregivers are right where they belong. They are doing what God has called them to do. In the measure they accept and receive this set of circumstances humbly, quietly, and thankfully they will be blessed; for they are indeed doing God’s work!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Spring's Lessons

Spring came much later in my town this year compared to last year, but it has finally arrived. Perhaps in reality it is summer which has arrived. It seems as if there has been a quick transition from winter to summer. Last year, however, I thought spring was a particularly early and beautiful spring. Last spring and summer I was also still a caregiver for my husband. I wrote the following words on May 20, 2010:

“I always thought that I liked autumn the best of all the four seasons. This year, however, I am really enjoying spring. Our neighbor to the right of us have three fruit trees in their yard that have beautiful pink blossoms on them. We also 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 imperfect 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 so easy to concentrate on the sorrows, difficulties, and frustrations of caregiving and of life itself. We sometimes forget to concentrate on the blessings and beauties all around us. Most evenings before going 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 another 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.”

Dear Christian Caregiver, the challenges and heartaches of caregiving can sometimes tempt us to lose sight of the blessings still present in our lives. I challenge you today to look for the blessings. Look for God’s workings and wonders in your life. It will lift you up emotionally and spiritually dear caregiver.