Monday, January 30, 2012

A Thankful Heart

A thankful heart is something God expects of us. Thankfulness can also add joy to our lives in spite of adverse circumstances in our lives. Being a caregiver of a terminally ill loved one is one of life’s greatest challenges and heartaches. Finding joy in the midst of it can seem like an impossibility. As a caregiver for my husband for four and a half years, however, I knew I needed to find things for which to be thankful in order to emotionally endure and survive.

It is best to start thanking God for His presence and peace. Then try to write down at least three things each day for which you are thankful. I did this while I was a caregiver, and I found it very helpful. No matter how difficult your caregiving situation, there is something for which you can thank and praise the Lord each day.

A thankful heart opens up the very windows of heaven. Thankfulness gives one a foretaste of heaven itself. In the process these experiences provide even more reasons for gratitude because of the joy which enters your life through the avenue of a thankful heart.

Thankfulness comes from focusing one’s heart on the Lord throughout the day. It also come from looking for His wonders and treasures throughout the day. Remember, however, that sometimes these treasures come through pleasant experiences; and sometimes these treasures come through the difficult moments. (See Isaiah 45:3 in the Bible.) Valuable lessons are often learned in the dark and difficult experiences. Sometimes these experiences are the only way to learn dependence on God and trust in Him. This was and is certainly my experience as a caregiver for my husband and then during the grief time after his death.

Sometimes it seems so contrived to express thanks to God when we are feeling really down in the pits. It is best to express thanks anyhow, however. This is because thankfulness is the road to the presence of God and His peace. It is amazing, but in the measure we give thanks regardless of our feelings, God gives joy in spite of our circumstances.

Caregiving is an often overwhelming challenge. The difficulties and heartaches will not go away by simply pursuing a thankful heart. Those who are thankful, however, will be blessed even though their caregiving heartaches remain. Joy and pain can coexist. So dear Christian caregiver, what are you going to thank God for today?

Monday, January 23, 2012

NO Pit So Deep

As a caregiver you may sometimes feel as if you are in a deep pit from which you cannot escape. The emotions of being responsible for the well being of your loved one who continues to decline before your very eyes can be overwhelming. Below are some words that I journaled on January 23, 2010. If you are a family caregiver, perhaps you can relate:

"Last night we watched the DVD “The Hiding Place.” It is about a Christian family in Holland who hid Jews in their home during Nazi occupation in World War II. They were eventually found out and captured. The father died about 10 days after capture, but the two sisters, Betsy and Corrie Ten Boom, were sent to a concentration camp.

In the horrors of concentration camp Betsy and Corrie came to the conclusion that there was no pit so deep that God does not go deeper. That movie was a real encouragement to me. Sometimes caregiving can seem like a real pit, but the Lord is with me each step of the way. My life is a piece of cake compared to what those ladies endured.

Having said that, however, there is no getting around it that sometimes caregiving is very difficult. I really have to struggle with patience and wisdom. Besides the difficult physical and mobility symptoms in my husband I am seeing some slowing down in his thinking. It is not that I can’t still rationally discuss some things with him, but as I said there is a slowing down in thinking.

He sometimes does have trouble controlling his emotions also in public. This usually manifests itself in laughing. Then there is the always the difficult task of communicating. He speaks with a mumble and does not speak clearly. Sometimes I ask him a yes or no question to try to make it easy for him, but then he talks around the question. That can be really frustrating. Then I suspect some depression is going on also. This whole process of decline physically and otherwise that I see in my husband seems like a slow death sometimes.

Adding to this stress we are planning on moving in about 4 weeks. We are scheduled to close on Feb. first on our new condo. We are moving from an apartment to a condo. Then we are scheduled to have a wheelchair ramp built starting on Feb. 2 for our condo. The plan is to move in Feb 20. My prayer is that the ramp will indeed be built the week after closing and that it will be easily usable with my husband, Wayne.

We have people from our church who have offered to move us and provide the trucks on moving day. I have seen one detail after another that I have been concerned about with this move fall into place, so why am I still stressing? I know our condo will be a sunny, more roomy place to live once we are moved in; but all the details to be taken care of before hand can be a little overwhelming. Sometimes my stress level feels like about 12 on a scale of 10.”

Dear Christian caregiver, the stress of caregiving can often be overwhelming. It can feel as if you are in an emotional pit that is so deep that you can not possibly crawl out of it. In those times remember the conclusions of Corrie and Betsy Ten Boon that there is no pit so deep that God does not go deeper.

Monday, January 16, 2012

You Can’t Do It Alone

The challenges of being a caregiver are overwhelming and discouraging at times. Might I also go on to say, dear caregiver, that the challenges you face are too great for you to handle alone. The Lord wants to help you through each day and each moment of each day.

Caregivers need to be proactive for their loved ones. Sometimes they have to deal with medical people who are less than helpful. Sometimes there is a ton of paper work and red tape to wade through in order to get the best possible help for one’s loved one. Sometimes even the caregiver’s loved one wants to give up, and the caregiver needs to be his or her cheerleader to keep fighting.

Because of the need for caregivers to be proactive they sometimes forget that they can not do it alone. Often it is necessary to search for and ask for help from family members or professionals. Also it is necessary to walk with the Lord in dependence on Him. Being dependent on the Lord is a good place to be, for when you are dependent on Him, you are the strongest.

Monday, January 9, 2012

God is Sufficient

Caregiving for a loved one is often challenging at best. Caregiving can also be heartbreaking and overwhelming, if one cares for a loved one who continues to take steps backwards in his or her health. As a caregiver for my husband with a devastating and fast moving neurological disease, I certainly found that to be true.

In January, 2010 I journaled the following words about my husband:
“How far we have come from him being our family’s primary breadwinner, my best friend, my lover, and my husband. He is still my husband, but how different our roles are now. How could our lives have gone from ‘normal’ to wheelchairs, incontinence products, and immobility in just a few years?

I resolved at the beginning of this year to look for the blessings and to also look for the faithfulness of my God in my life. I resolved not to stress so much. I am making a conscious effort to do this. I do see the blessings and faithfulness of my God. In spite of it not being a great day, I recognize blessings in my day even today. I really do, but these sad feelings still are there for what is no longer there.”

Dear Christian Caregiver, I am certain you experience many emotions of sadness and heartbreak also especially if you are caring for someone with a long term illness. So where can one run for help with these negative emotions?

The only source of strength and guidance in the challenges of life is the Lord God. We must spend time in His Word, the Bible; and we must spend time in prayer. This will begin to instill in us an understanding of the depth of God’s love for us. This is turn will provide us a peace that only the awareness of the Presence of God in our lives can provide.

As we begin to look for the wonders of God and the Presence of God which are all around us, we begin to realize that we are not abandoned or left alone in this world. Dear Christian Caregiver, your feelings may tell you that you are all alone. Daily remind yourself of God’s truth, however. Seek His companionship and counsel. He alone can guide you perfectly, as you navigate the often stormy waters of caregiving. God alone can comfort you completely, as you struggle with the negative emotions which offer accompany your caregiving days. The Lord God is sufficient, however. He is also greatly honored, dear Christian Caregiver, when you set your affection on Him in the midst of the heartbreak of caregiving.

Monday, January 2, 2012


At times the heartaches of caregiving can cause caregivers to temporarily forget the memories of the good times that they have had with their loved ones before their loved ones became ill. Caregivers can become so consumed with the challenges of fighting the declines in health evident in their loved ones that the good relationships and past good memories of their interactions with their loved ones gets pushed to the back of their minds.

At one point during my husband’s illness I retrieved from their storage space our old love letters that we had sent to each other while dating. I spent an enjoyable period of time that day rereading those letters. It was so refreshing and a real spirit lifter. It helped to give me some perspective on things that day.

Since my husband’s death I have begun to write down some special memories of our lives together. I have written about some special trips we took. I have written about how I enjoyed hiking trails with him from time to time. I have written about our excitement over the birth of our children and grandchildren. I have also written about what I loved and admired about him. Perhaps, these memories will also help me, as I mourn the first anniversary of his death today.

Dear Christian caregiver, perhaps you loved one’s illness prevents you from doing some of the things you used to love doing together. Perhaps the illness even in many ways has seemed to change your loved one’s personality and quality of interactions with you. Perhaps, however, remembering those good times and thinking about what you always loved and admired about your loved one would help you to get through the very challenging days of caregiving.