Monday, April 29, 2013

Personal Reflections

I hope you will forgive me, dear caregiver, as I share a little of my story and feelings today. Seven years ago about this time in late April my husband, Wayne, went in to the doctor for a check-up. This began the process of us knowing something was wrong with my husband. In May of that year Wayne saw a local neurologist, and in August and October of that year we went to Mayo Clinic. He was diagnosed with Multiple Systems Atrophy type c, a rare neurological disease which resembles Parkinson's but moves much more quickly. The next four and a half years were difficult years, as I witnessed Wayne's decline step by step and found that he had passed away during the night on the morning of January 2, 2011.

About a year after Wayne's diagnosis, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had 8 months of treatment including chemotherapy, a mastectomy, and radiation. I had an oncologist appointment this past Friday. This was my first appointment in a year. All looked good, and I will be a 6 year breast cancer survivor in July, the Lord willing!

So these past seven years since Wayne's diagnosis have involved difficult care-giving days, breast cancer treatment, and now nearly 28 months of living my life as a widow. I think difficult times has produced in me a greater desire for a sense of the presence of the Lord in my heart. It has also made me more aware of His presence. My longing for God is deeper and also is my sense that this earth is not my final home even though God still has work for me to do here.

While I was a caregiver for my husband, Wayne, and saw him deteriorate; the words of Psalm 84 became very meaningful to me especially verses 5-7. Check out those verses for yourself, dear caregiver. The valley of Baca referred to in these verses means the Valley of Weeping. So this passage in effect told me that I would be blessed, if I found my strength in the Lord and set my mind on Him even in the difficulties of care-giving. It also told me that as His child I would go from “strength to strength” and victory to victory, as I treaded the difficult path of caring for my husband. The passage reminded me that God would somehow make the trials of my care-giving days into “a place of springs” and blessings. Dear Christian caregiver, these promises are for you as well!

I am thankful to the Lord for His physical and emotional healing in my life. I wonder sometimes though why I am here and why Wayne was taken. It feels like my life should be doing great things for the Lord, because of all He has done for me. Yet it is not about that, and it is not about me. It is about seeking intimacy with the Lord. He will use me as He sees fit. God is infinitely wiser than I am. It is the same for you also, dear caregiver.

Yet I feel so many emotions. I am feeling a thankfulness/joy/awe for my healing and for the good things that God has brought to me as a result of the past years-changes in my character for the good, greater intimacy with the Lord, and even ministry. I am in awe of His grace. Yet I also feel a sadness that somehow Wayne could not still be a part of all this.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Prayer Helper for the Caregiver

As we have said numerous times caregiving for a loved one with a serious disease is one of life’s greatest challenges. Only those who have been or currently are family caregivers truly understand the emotional and physical difficulties associated with caregiving.

In caregiving responsibilities it is important to focus on the Lord and turn to Him in prayer. Sometimes in the overwhelming moments we do not know how to pray about our situations, however. At such times the Holy Spirit helps us in our prayer life.

Romans 8:26 promises us the following, "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express."

Have you ever tried to pray about your caregiving situation and felt so overwhelmed with some heartache that you did not know how to pray? Have you ever felt that you could not find the words to express in prayer the depths of your feelings and needs in your heart? God understands our weaknesses and has provided us a helper in our prayer lives. That helper is the Holy Spirit Himself!

The Holy Spirit prays in and through us. He also prays for us especially during those times when we are too overwhelmed with heartache to find the right words to express our pain to the Lord in prayer. The Holy Spirit understands our sorrows and is our prayer helper, and He "intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express." The Holy Spirit Himself pleads and intercedes for us before the Heavenly Father! The Holy Spirit is our perfect intercessor before the Heavenly Father, "because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will." (Romans 8:27b)

Praise the Lord for His infinite blessings! He is our salvation. He is our source of strength, promise, and hope. He provides for every need in our lives for time and eternity. The Lord provides us the Holy Spirit to help us to live for the Lord and to help us in our weaknesses. Finally, the Lord even provides the Holy Spirit as our prayer helper and advocate! What a glorious God we serve! Praise His name!

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Sun is Still Shining

Some days can be cloudy, dreary, and rainy. That is the way it was last week in the town where I live.  More rain and clouds are predicted in this coming week in my town as well. I think we all prefer days which are sunshiny and bright. I know I felt better when the sun just peeked out a little after days of not seeing the sun. It is so much easier to feel joyful in one’s spirit when one can see the sun shining in all its brilliance. Even on days when we can not see the sun, however, it is still shining. It is just hiding behind the clouds.

Family care-giving is like that also. I remember when I was a caregiver having difficulty seeing the blessings that were all around me because of the difficulties and discouraging moments of my days. There were blessings in both the extra difficult days of care-giving and in the days that went more smoothly. Some days the blessings were just hidden behind the clouds of my discouragement about my husband’s disease.

I think we have to make a conscious effort to look for God's blessings, however; because they are there even on the days when we have a difficult time seeing them. Those blessings are there just as surely as the sun is there even on days when it is hiding behind the clouds.

Look for the blessings, dear caregiver, even if they are sometimes hidden behind the clouds of discouragement and difficulty. Try to write down each day at least three things for which you are thankful that day. As you look for and discover the blessings your spirit will be lifted! The sun is still shining behind the clouds of care-giving difficulties and discouragements!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Simply Trusting

The Lord God is the caregiver's refuge, source of guidance, and assurance in the difficult challenges of family care-giving.  Care-giving is one of the most important avenues of service in the kingdom of God.  It also can be a time of despair, discouragement, and bewilderment as to the next wisest step in dealing with the health of one's loved one for whom one is caring.

Every caregiver needs  to ask the Lord to help and guide him or her through the difficult twists and turns of care-givng.  This involves also TRUSTING that God will guide step by step through this process.  God will not usually let the caregiver see far into the future, but the Lord has promised to lead step by step.  He will always walk alongside the caregiver with His sustaining strength.  He will be the caregiver's refuge each step of the way.

The caregiver needs to choose to rest in the Lord.  A caregiver cannot control the circumstances of their loved one's disease, but they can control their response to the circumstances.  That response has to be one of trust in the Lord.  When one sees one's loved one deteriorating in health it is so easy to become discouraged and to become fearful, but the Lord is the source of hope.  He has everything under His control.  He is worthy of our trust.

There are times when the care-giving situation become increasingly desperate and hopeless.  This can cause the caregiver to feel brokenhearted and want to give up.  Remember, dear caregiver, the Lord is very near to you when you feel this way.   God sees your overwhelming situation, and He hears your cry for help.  He can and will bring you through this storm in your life.  He will hear your every cry and meet your every need.  You may not always understand God's ways with you and with your loved one; but He will never leave you or forsake you, dear caregiver.

The Lord may not heal your loved one on this earth, but the Lord will heal them.  If they are a child of God even if they do not conquer their disease on this earth, they will be completely healed.  No matter what happens the Lord will heal you too, dear Christian caregiver.  He will heal you emotionally and spiritually and teach you valuable lessons about His love and faithfulness in the process.  Trust in Him.  Rest in Him.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Easter and the Caregiver

We have just celebrated Easter. What does Easter mean to you, dear Christian caregiver? How does it relate to family care-giving? 

Easter means that the Lord Jesus came to this earth and lived a perfect life for you and me. He later died on the cross to pay the price for our sins, and then He arose again on the third day to prove that He had won over sin and death and Satan. If you and I have accepted his gift of salvation by repentance and faith, we are His child now and for eternity.

Easter also means that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, identifies with your pain and the pain of your loved one, dear caregiver. As you struggle to help your loved one who is perhaps fighting against an incurable disease, He identifies with you. Having suffered the worst possible pain for us on the cross He is able to sympathize with our heartaches and weaknesses. He is also an all powerful Savior to whom we can freely go for grace in our moments of sadness and overwhelming and crushing needs.  Check out Hebrews 4:15-16 in the New Testament.

Because of Easter and Christ's sacrifice you can freely approach God the Father Himself with your and your loved one's needs, dear Christian caregiver. You can cry out to Him for help and call Him your “Abba Father,” because He considers you His special child. (Romans 8:15) Easter also means that when your heart is so weighed down with the heartaches and overwhelming circumstances of family care-giving that you do not even know how to pray, the Holy Spirit will intercede and pray for you! (Romans 8:26)

Easter for the caregiver means that although you will always face trials and troubles in this world, the Lord Jesus Christ has overcome the world.  He is also your source of peace even in the most challenging of times. (John 16:33)  Even in the overwhelming circumstances of family care-giving, even when we do not understand God's ways in allowing certain things in our lives, and even in the most unthinkable circumstances God is working for our ultimate good. We are victors in Him! (Romans 8:28)

Dear Christian caregiver, my hope for you would be that your loved one is healed on this earth. Whether he or she is healed on this earth or not, however, a child of God is whole and perfect upon entering heaven. No matter what happens in your care-giving situation you too, dear caregiver, will slowly heal emotionally and spiritually. God will always be with you, and joy will return one day. His love for you will never fail. He proved that love for you on the cross. That is the meaning of Easter for the caregiver and for all of us.