Monday, August 29, 2011


I happen to enjoy reading novels with an Amish setting and Amish characters. I also enjoy reading Christian historical novels. I think I like these kind of novels, because they portray a simpler way of life. In spite of this, however, the characters often have similar struggles and emotions; as we all do as human beings.

Recently I just completed a novel trilogy in which the main character, Hannah, undergoes a number of very difficult trials and struggles. In spite of all these difficulties she struggles through the bitterness and hurt, and she comes to the realization through her faith that there always is a “nevertheless” in every overwhelming and sad circumstance in her life. I thought that was such a wonderful concept that I made a picture with the word “nevertheless” on it. I then framed it, and put it on my kitchen counter.

How can I apply that word to my life? As my husband’s caregiver for four and one half years there were many emotional struggles, as I saw my husband’s health deteriorate step by step before my eyes. Also about a year after my husband was diagnosed with his disease I went through eight months of treatment for breast cancer. NEVERTHELESS I grew in character during this time. Sometimes during those difficult caregiving days and after my husband’s death on January 2, 2011 I have felt all alone. NEVERTHELESS the Lord has been with me through it all, and His presence in my life has become increasingly real to me in a new way. During the years I was a caregiver for my husband the Lord supplied love and help to me through others and through His presence, and He continues to do so today after my husband’s passing to Glory.

Nevertheless is such a powerful word. It is such a liberating word. Dear Christian caregiver, there is always a NEVERTHELESS phrase that can be added to every heartache and challenge you face as a caregiver and in life in general. How  would you complete this sentence dear caregiver:
“Caregiving is often so discouraging and heartbreaking, NEVERTHELESS---" 

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Reality of God's Love for You

Seeing my husband gradually lose all his mobility and ability to care for himself due to his neurological disease was a very painful experience. During the course of my husband’s illness we did have a few opportunities for some memorable and enjoyable times, however. In spite of his lethargy at home my husband also seemed to enjoy these times.

In August of 2009 I wrote the following few paragraphs:
“Thursday through Sunday of last week my husband, Wayne, and I were at a motel in La Crosse, WI. My siblings and Mom from MN met us there. We were coming from the other end of WI, so it was a half-way meeting place for us. On Thursday afternoon and evening it was just Wayne and I, my Mom, and my two sisters. That was kind of nice as it provided some late night talk with my sisters and me.

Friday my bother and his wife and my two sisters’ husbands arrived. Among other things on Friday night after the others arrived we went out to eat, and then after supper they surprised me with a birthday cake and red roses for my birthday coming up on the following Monday. That was a wonderful surprise!

On Saturday we all went on a Mississippi River cruise. That was very nice, and it was wheelchair accessible. We even saw bald eagles on our cruise on the mighty Mississippi. The rest of our group went home around 5:30 on Sat. evening. Wayne and I went home the next morning. It was such a wonderful time being with my family. We did a lot of sharing and laughing. It was so good for both Wayne and me. It helps somewhat to forget about the problems for awhile and have some fun.

Wayne and I went to the local Pizza Ranch for my actual birthday on Monday. Also last night we went to my son’s family home for our usual Thursday night supper at their house. Two of my little granddaughters aged seven and five gave me a birthday present last night that they had picked out and bought with your own money from the dollar store. They were so excited to give them to me. They were pretty candles and book marks.

Our vacation and the birthdays surprises were a wonderful reprieve, but when one returns home reality sets in again with full force. There are so many issues with Wayne’s disease that make life a constant struggle. There are also blessings, however. Help me to concentrate on my blessings, Lord. Also grant me patience.”

Dear Caregiver, treasure the wonderful moments in the midst of the heartache and chaos of caregiving. Even after those treasured moments pass and you go back to the reality of the day to day of caregiving continue to look for the blessings. The realities of caregiving can be so harsh. There is another reality, however, dear Christian caregiver. That reality is the reality of God’s love for you.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Caregiving and Forgiveness?

One might ask oneself, “What connection is there between forgiveness and caregiving?" Forgiveness and struggling to forgive is always a part of any grief process or sense of loss in one’s life. Furthermore, there is a grief process that accompanies caregivng . This is especially true for those who are caregivers of someone with a long term and incurable illness. I know as I witnessed my husband’s health continue to decline step by step, I definitely went through a grief process.

Because Christ forgave us, we need to forgive others. Whom then might we need to forgive in the grief process that often accompanies caregiving? First of all, we need to accept God’s forgiveness of ourselves. As a caregiver although devoted to my husband and my marriage vows, I was less than perfect. I often felt impatient. I know there were times that I said and did things which showed this impatience and which was not up to God’s standard of love.

To not accept God’s forgiveness for these things would be a slap in the face of God, however. The obscure book of Micah in the Old Testament of the Bible tells us that God pardons and forgives our sins. In fact, He delights to show us His mercy; and He smashes our sins underfoot and throws those sins into the depths of the sea. (Micah 7:18-19) I also tended to put false guilt on myself at times for things that were out of my control. These too needed to be turned over to the Lord. I suspect this is true of most every caregiver at one time or another.

Secondly, we need to forgive others. Unless others are caregivers themselves they can not begin understand the heartaches and challenges of a caregiver. Hence, they may say trite and hurtful things. Also the people which one may think would be most likely to step up and help are often not there to assist.

It is okay and even necessary for a caregiver to ask people for help. How else are they going to know what one’s needs are? Some people will disappoint, however. Either they can not empathize, because they have not gone through the same caregiving experience, or they have issues and responsibilities of their own, or they do not feel emotionally equipped to get into the process of helping. As a caregiver, however, one has to let go and forgive. We are commanded to forgive, and a lack of forgiveness will only add to the emotional struggles which sometimes accompany caregiving.

Thirdly, it is also necessary at times for a caregiver to forgive one’s loved one for whom one is caring. No human being is perfect, and the caregiver’s loved one will not always show the love and gratitude to the caregiver that he or she might expect. As a caregiver I remember thinking that it would be nice to be thanked occasionally for all that I did for my husband. I do know my husband loved me, however, and we have to forgive and overlook these things. We need to forgive these things, because Christ has forgiven us. We also need to overlook these things for our own emotional health.

Finally, we need to be very careful that we do not blame God for our loved one’s ill health and for the trials of caregiving. We will never understand all the “whys,” but our best course of action is to trust our Lord God and to run to our Lord for strength and comfort.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Shifting of Roles

“It’s becoming difficult to remember what it felt like when he wrapped me in his arms, and I felt secure and wanted instead of motherly and needed.” Such was a recent comment made by Jennifer, a woman on an online caregiving site. Those words so echo the feelings I experienced as a caregiver for my husband. My husband’s neurological disease robbed him of so much. It also robbed our relationship of so much. When a relationship becomes a caregiver-care receiver relationship things change.

For awhile during the progression of his disease my husband, Wayne, enjoyed listening to audio books. One day almost three years into the progression of his disease Wayne was listening to an autobiography about a man who suffered through MS. My husband’s disease was a different and I would say a worse neurological disease, but there was much in the book with which my husband could identify.

While my husband was listening to this particular audio book on this particular day, I overheard a few comments made by the author of this book. The man was speaking about how much the disease had robed them of his and his wife’s relationship with one another. He said that their relationship had become more of a mother or caregiver to a child relationship than a wife to a husband relationship. I also felt the loneliness of that reality so often myself with my husband’s disease. That shifting of roles was so difficult sometimes. I loved my husband, but this was not how I had envisioned living our retirement years.

I look back now with pleasure to the many good years my husband and I had together. I thank God for the blessing of a husband who loved me, protected me, and was my life’s companion. His disease and subsequent death changed that. Life has a way of changing things. So is there anything in life we can count on not to change?

My Lord God never changes. Even though my husband could not be for me what he had been in the past, God was there for me. When I longed and still long to be wrapped in my husband’s arms my Lord wraps His arms around me. He is my source of security and joy.

Dear Christian Caregiver, sometimes the pain of caregiving can be so intense that it is difficult to feel God’s presence, peace, and joy. His presence is with us at all times, however, in spite of our feelings. Trust Him. Rest in Him. In the measure you do this you will begin to feel His presence above the noise of your pain. You will feel His arms wrapped around you in love. You will feel His strength.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

God's Great Love Story for You

If I were to write a book about the story of my life, I wonder what events in my life I would write about. Would I write about all the sad things that I have experienced in my life, or would I concentrate on the joys of my life? What about the caregiving chapter of my life? Would I concentrate on the discouragement and grief of seeing my husband continually decline in his health and eventually pass away, or would I concentrate on the blessings and joyful moments of my life even the midst of caregiving?

What about you dear Christian Caregiver? If you were to write an autobiography of your life what would the story of your life be like? My guess is that you would share many special and joyful moments, but I am equally convinced you would share moments of heartache and pain. No matter if you would be sharing joyful moments or sorrowful moments: however, as a child of God the chapters of your autobiography would reveal that your life’s story is a love story. Your life’s story is a story of God’s love for you. In fact, perhaps especially in the difficult moments of your life’s story God’s love for you would shine forth the brightest.

The pain and discouragements of some of life’s circumstances does not define who we are. God’s unfailing love for us in all circumstances shapes who we are now and who we are becoming by His grace. If no one else knows or loves us, God does. God’s love for us is everlasting. It never fails. (Jeremiah 3:13) God’s love for us is passionate and comforting. It is also a powerful and personal love. God actually says that He delights in us! (Zephaniah 3:17)

As we become more and more spiritually rooted in the knowledge and experience of God’s love, we begin to grasp the vastness and depth of His love. His love for us is so great we will never fully understand it completely, but in the measure that we do begin to understand the fullness of His love we will be filled with the fullness of God Himself in our lives. We will slowly begin to reflect Him more and more in our lives. Also we will begin to more and more see His workings, love, and guidance in our lives.

Your and my life’s stories with both their difficult moments and pleasant moments are beautiful stories of God’s love for us. We are also part of God’s story for the world around us. Even when we do not understand the tragedies of our lives God still loves us. We just have to trust and rest in His love for us. Dear Caregiver, as you face the heartaches, difficult decisions, and challenges of caregiving; never forget God’s love for you! You are part of God’s great love story for you!