Sunday, October 26, 2014

Affirmations of Love

Being a caregiver for my husband for over four and a half years was a significant calling that the Lord God placed on my life.  Its purposes in both my life and in my husband's life were far reaching, and the experience taught valuable spiritual lessons.

Those days were also laden with challenges, however.  My husband's continual decline downward in his health robbed us of so much.  It robbed us of the relationship we had experienced together in the past.  Later in my husband's disease, I missed the easy verbal exchanges we had had in the past.  Also in the past my husband had always been so free with expressions of his love.  I would often long for those days.  I wrote the following comments on May 17, 2009:

"Before my husband's illness, he would tell me I was beautiful, and he would often call me 'his favorite wife.'  It became a standard source of teasing between us, because my reply would always be 'How many wives do you have?'  My husband was always good about giving loving cards on specials occasions also.  So much of that verbal affirmation is gone now.  My husband's speech is so poor that basic communication between us is difficult.  I miss also the basic bouncing of ideas between us."

I knew that my husband still loved me, in spite of him not expressing it in the same way as he had in the past.  More importantly, I knew God loved me with an eternal love.  I knew that God also affirmed that love over and over again in the Bible.  One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Zephaniah 3:17.  In that verse, God told me and continues to tell me that He loves me and even delights in me!  He actually rejoices over me, and He quiets me with His love.  Furthermore He, the mighty God, will always be with me.

Knowing that God loved me and even delighted in me was a source of comfort to me during my care-giving days.  God's affirming love for me comforted me even more than knowing that my care-giving role had purpose and meaning.

Dear caregiver, if you are God's child, trust that the Lord loves you with an awesome and eternal love.  When the discouragement and negative feelings surface, may you rest in God's love and find your treasure in Him!

(This post is one of the meditations from my book DEAR CAREGIVER Reflections for Family Caregivers. You can order it at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Xulon, my publisher. Links for Amazon and Xulon are on the right hand side of the page. If you have already read my book, consider reviewing my book at the Amazon link. It is my heart's passion to help and bless as many family caregivers as possible.)

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Suffering and Glory

Recently during my devotions I was struck with the connection between suffering and glory (Romans 8:17).  We are "heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ," but suffering and glory are intertwined in God's plan.  It was for Jesus, and it is for us. Suffering is making us look more like Jesus day by day.  Is that not what we want-to become more like Jesus?

As a caregiver you may be saying, "Really?  I could use a little less heartaches and trials.  You do not know how difficult it is to see my loved one deteriorate in his or her health.  You do not know how difficult it is to meet his or her needs." Yes, I do understand the difficulty of that experience having lived it myself.  Yet if God promised to bring ultimate good and His glory out of the most difficult and impossible situations, can we not trust Him in everything that He allows in our lives?

Recently I also watched the movie "God is Not Dead in DVD format.  I do not remember seeing such a powerful movie before.  So many minor plots were running along side the main plot; all were pointing to the same theme that God's thoughts are higher than our thoughts, and He is not dead.  I especially liked the scene where the son was visiting his mother with dementia.  The son said in effect, "If God is alive why has a sweet person like you ended up with dementia, while I have everything going for me?"  This man's mom who did not recognize him any longer said, "The devil sometimes lets people stay in the jail cell of a carefree life, so they do not see their need of the Lord and turn to Him."  Something to think about, isn't it, when we wonder "why?" in the trials of life.

As I look back at my life I see the heartaches of seeing my husband deteriorate in his health and the helpless feelings and sadness this brought.  When I look back I see the grief of loosing him to death. Yet I also see God's care and provision for me through it all.  I see in my mind's eye my husband, Wayne, free from disease and praising the Lord in glory.  I see even blessings that have come to me from this.  As I look at my present life sometimes I see problems and have fears about my future, but I also see a God who has promised to never leave me or forsake me (Hebrews 13:5b).  I see a God who is redeeming all things for my ultimate good and His glory.

I know that some of the things you are going through, dear caregiver, may not feel good.  You may feel, as if so many things are out of your control.  Although you love your loved one with all your heart, you may feel weighed down with responsibility and heartache.  Remember that the Holy Spirit is praying for you right at this moment (Romans 8:26-27).  Also remember that as you travel this path of family care-giving, the Lord is with you each step of the way.  He has your loved one in His hands, and He has you in His hands.  Your suffering or difficulties is somehow in God's economy bringing about His glory and your ultimate glory.  It is doing the same for your loved one for whom you are caring.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Absolutely Vital

Reading, studying, and meditating on God’s Holy Word is basic to our Christian walk especially for the family caregiver. We would not think of neglecting food for our bodies, and yet it is sometimes so easy to neglect our Bible reading and prayer life. It is so necessary to read God’s Word, however, so that we are able to live our lives for the Lord as we ought.

Meditating on and obedience to God's word is also necessary for our emotional and spiritual well-being (Psalm 119:1&2). The world will not give lasting joy. Material possessions will not give us lasting joy. Only our love relationship with the Lord will give us lasting joy. As we grow in our love for the Lord, our joy also increases.

This is a joy that one can have even in the midst of problems, disappointments, challenges, and sorrow. This is a joy that the family caregiver can have even in the challenges and sometimes heartaches of caring for a loved one. Only in fellowship with the Lord and in our love relationship with the Lord can we have that joy.

We can not grow in our love relationship with the Lord, however, without studying and reading His Word. We need to hide God’s Word in our hearts.  God's Word keeps us on God’s path. The Lord’s path is not always the easiest, but it is always the best and the most joyful path for us. God is infinitely wiser than we are.

Furthermore, by hiding God’s Word in our hearts we begin to understand the vastness of His love for us. We begin to understand the number of promises that He has made to us. We begin to see that He is a faithful God, and we begin to see that His will and timing in our lives is always best. Psalm 119:14-16 says "I rejoice in following Your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. I meditate on Your precepts and consider Your ways. I delight in Your decrees; I will not neglect Your Word."

There are so many beautiful promises and truths in God’s Word that are so directly applicable to our lives! Some parts of Scripture are harder to understand than others, but I have found some wonderful promises in places of the Bible where one would least expect them. There is always something new and fresh to be found in the Bible, as we read and seek to apply its truths to our lives each day. The Lord is so good!

I have also found it helpful at times to pray Scripture in my prayers to the Lord. What better way to approach the Lord? Hiding God’s Word in our hearts adds joy and peace to our lives. God's Word also helps to direct our steps. We can absolutely count on the truth of every word in Scripture. Luke in Luke 1:4 said that he wrote the book of Luke and Acts "so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught."  Dear Caregiver, take your quiet time with the Lord seriously. Dig into God's Word and apply its truths to your life. Grow in your love of the Lord through your study of His Holy Word! It is absolutely vital to your life, dear caregiver!


Sunday, October 5, 2014

Peace in Focusing on Him

I was at a local craft and vendor fair yesterday taking advantage of another possible avenue for allowing people to purchase my book.  This involved sharing my caregiver story at least briefly several times yesterday.  I am amazed that after over three and a half years since my care-giving days ended, this still stirred up emotions in me.  It made me feel sad and weepy again last night.

Sometimes I think I have come come so far.  Sometimes I wonder.  I am so thankful for all the things the Lord has taught me in the last few years.  I like how my character has grown and has been stretched.  My relationship with the Lord has grown so sweet.  I believe the Lord is using me in His kingdom through my book and in other ways because of my care-giving experiences and my grief since my husband's death.  I love seeing that, but yet it hurts.  It still hurts.

I am telling you this, dear caregiver, to let you know that I still feel your heartache; as you care for your loved one.  I know it hurts, I feel your pain, as you perhaps see your loved one's health deteriorate before your eyes.  I feel your pain, as you mourn the lost of the lifestyle free from disease that you once enjoyed with your loved one.

Yet remember that the Lord has promised to never leave you or forsake you, dear caregiver (Hebrews 13:5b).  He will be with you each step of the way leading and guiding (Psalm 32:8).  The work you are doing God considers extremely important in His kingdom.  Most of all He delights in you, dear caregiver (Zephaniah 3:17).  His love for you and your loved one is faithful and will never end. Cling to that, dear caregiver.

This morning in my woman's Sunday school class I was reminded of the peace God wants to give us.  It is a peace that is there for the taking.  God does not want us to have our hearts troubled or stirred up into a frenzy by the storms of life (John 14:27).  He wants us to focus on Him as the only solid foundation for peace, because He alone is the author and source of peace.  He can calm our outward circumstances, but perhaps more importantly He can calm our hearts in the midst of the difficult circumstances and storms of life.  Only a heart of prayer mixed with a thankful heart can cultivate that kind of peace no matter what is going on in our lives (Philippians 4:4-6).  I know the heartache and uncertainty that family care-giving can arouse in your life, dear care-giver.  Focus on the Lord and His peace, dear caregiver.