Monday, March 26, 2012

Looking for the Wonders

My husband was diagnosed with his disease in mid 2006. It was difficult to see the constant decline downwards. It was difficult seeing the changes in him physically, but it was also difficult to see the changes in the person I had once known. In late 2008 I began journaling my feelings at a blog site online. In order to survive I also realized I needed to begin to look for the wonders and blessings which were still around me.

On March 24, 2009 I journaled the following words:
“What will be my attitude today concerning my circumstances? It is raining and dreary out today. I enjoy the sunshine more. We, however, need the rain for the plants and grass to grow. So rain is good, and it is a blessing.

I also have grown spiritually and emotionally through the “rain” and “storms” of my fight against breast cancer last year and through my present caregiving experience with my husband. So that is good, and it is a blessing.

The last couple of days have been spent filling out paperwork and also spent on the phone asking questions about this paperwork. I hate filling out paperwork. Filling out paperwork for my husband’s disability and making necessary phone calls has helped us financially in the past, however. So that is good, and it is a blessing. One of the things I needed to do to fill out this paperwork was to get some additional information from our three sons. That has resulted in good and productive conversations. That is good, and that is a blessing. One of these calls to one of our sons resulted in my husband and I being able to hear our little 8 month old granddaughter who lives with her parents in London giggling in the background. What a joy! That is good, and that is a blessing.

We just received a phone call and invite to have supper with family. That is pure joy. I see no negatives there.

Lord, help me not to get bogged down with the negatives of caregiving. Help me to consider it a privilege, and help me to look for the blessings. Help me to look for Your wonders in my life.”

Dear Christian Caregiver, caregiving is probably one of the most difficult experiences you will ever undertake. Often that is the case with a calling as significant as caregiving. In the midst of the challenges, negative emotions, and disappointments, however, also look for the wonders, dear caregiver. There are wonders and blessings in even the most difficult of days. Looking for the wonders will allow the joy to remain in your life even in the struggles and heartaches of caregiving.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Reliance on God

Perhaps you have heard the popular saying, “God never gives us more than we can handle.” When I was a family caregiver, however, I discovered that I often felt overwhelmed and felt that God had given me much more than I could handle. I felt this more strongly with each new decline in my husband’s disease, and I especially felt this way the last months of my husband’s life when I could no longer physically take care of him on my own.

The truth is God never promised to NOT give us more trials and difficulties than we can handle on our OWN. In fact God often gives us much more struggles than we can handle. God does this, so that our eyes will be open to how desperate we are for Him and for His help and provision.

Rather than striving to be more self-reliant we need to seek to become more God-reliant. As a caregiver I learned that I just did not have the resources in myself to handle the challenges and heartaches of caregiving on my own, so I absolutely had no choice but to rely on the Lord.

As a caregiver I also learned that I had to have help from others. I learned that God sometimes used others to help me. They became His instruments in helping me and in His kingdom. I needed to begin to root out my desire to be in control. The truth was I never was in control of anything. God was in control, and I needed to learn to rely and trust in Him.

Dear Christian Caregiver, what change would it make in your outlook towards your caregiving challenges and struggles, if you saw them as valued lessons in learning dependence on God? When you are at the absolute end of you own spiritual, physical, and emotional resources you can then begin to more fully depend on God’s resources. (Check out II Corinthians 1:8-9!) Total reliance on God is a good place to be!

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Goodness of God

As I have written in the pass my husband was diagnosed with his neurological disease in 2006. The years that followed were the most difficult and challenging years I have ever experienced in my life. The heartbreak of witnessing his continual declines were extremely difficult. Those years were also extremely stressful years. Being responsible for the well being of the man I had loved for many years, not knowing how long I would be able to care for him by myself, and feeling so alone in all this were very challenging.

It has been over 14 months since my husband’s death. As I still grieve his loss, I also still find myself thinking about those caregiving days at times. It is part of my grief processing. If it were not for the fact that I knew the Lord was with me during those caregiving days and in the days since his death, I would not have survived. Knowing this has also given me and continues to give me joy in the midst of the pain.

Recently I did a Bible study lesson on the goodness of God. The lesson talked about the good reasons why we suffer and how God is more interested in our inward character and conforming us to the image of Christ than in our comfort. Conforming us to the image of Christ is one of the reasons for trials in our lives.

The lesson went on to say that sometimes the pain seems to outweigh the best of benefits, however. We may understand reasons and answers in our heads, but those reasons do not always reach where it hurts in the heart. The challenges of caregiving or other of life’s trials can be so painful that it is difficult to see how the growth in our characters compensates for the pain we are experiencing.

There perhaps are no answers to the “whys?“ in our lives that will fully satisfy us. Completely understanding God’s answer to our “whys?” also would not necessarily make them easier. God doesn’t always give us reasons or answers, at least not ones that will satisfy. The answer therefore must be Someone. God does better than giving us answers. He gives us Himself. Also He explained Himself on the cross. His goodness displayed in His sacrifice of Himself on the cross is really the only proof we need of His love and goodness. Believing in the goodness of God does not mean that the heartaches will completely disappear. It does, however, help us move forward and persevere in life.

I find those thoughts comforting. If I did not believe in the goodness and presence of God, I am not sure where I would be today. Thank You, Lord, for that blessed reality! Thank you that You are there in the moments of heartache.

Dear Christian caregiver, please turn to the Lord for strength and help during your caregiving days. Please do not turn away from Him, because you do not always understand His ways. Trust in His goodness.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Thankful for Difficult “Gifts”

My husband was diagnosed with his neurological disease in 2006. That summer our son and his family purchased our home in the country, and my husband and I moved to an apartment. We did this, because we knew my husband’s disease would get progressively worse. Therefore we knew it would not be possible for us to stay living in our country home of 27 years. We lived in the apartment for three and a half years, but in late February of 2010 we moved to a condo. On March 6, 2010 I journaled the following words:

“It is two weeks ago today that we moved into our new home. I really do love it. I love seeing the sun streaming into the living room windows in the early morning. I love the fact that my husband’s wheelchair is not blocking traffic areas nearly as badly as it did when we lived in our apartment. I am glad that my husband seems to like our new home also.

Even in our new home, however, caregiving issues continue to press heavy on my spirit at times. So much of caregiving is just plain gross, thankless, and just not a lot of fun. I must remind myself that this is my calling right now. I must remind myself that this is developing my character and stretching my faith. I must remind myself that even the difficult “gifts” of life (the troubles and trials) are good, if I don’t become bitter in the process and if I try to see God’s hand in even these things. Thank you, Lord, for Your presence in my life, for my family, for my friends, for my new home, for beautiful sunshiny weather, and for a host of other blessings. Make me also thankful for and in the difficulties of caregiving.”

Dear Christian caregiver, can you find the blessings in your life in spite of the difficulties and challenges of caregiving? It is so much easier to dwell on the negatives in our lives than to remember the positives in our lives. Furthermore, dear caregiver, can you see the blessings in even the very difficult tasks and heartaches of caregiving? Are you able to see God’s hand in the difficult “gifts” of life, the troubles and trials? May God bless you and help you as you fulfill this difficult but crucial calling in your life!