Sunday, May 31, 2015

Seeing Him Clearly

Last week I had new windows installed throughout my house.  The weather tight seals on my windows have been broken for some time, and then in late fall or early winter of last year one of the windows unexpectedly developed a serious crack.  So this was my signal to install new windows this spring.

The old windows often had a hazy dirty look, because the weather seals were broken.  I am amazed as I look out my new windows how much clearer and more beautiful everything now looks.  So also right now the trials of life can cloud our view of the blessings which are in our life and can also cloud our excited anticipation of what lies ahead of us in eternity.

Yet some day we shall see the Lord face to face.  Someday we will have a greater grasp of the big picture of why God allowed difficult experiences in our lives.  We will "know fully" as it says in I Corinthians 13:12.  Someday we will see things clearly, as looking through a clear window.

As a former caregiver I have sometimes wondered why my husband had to endure the indignities of his disease.  Yet I know at this point in eternity my husband is saying, "It was nothing compared to the glories of heaven.  It was worth it all.  God knew what He was doing."  As his caregiver I also do not fully understand why I had to go through the trials of watching his body deteriorate.  I do not fully understand why I had to lose him and why I have had to endure other trials.   Yet I too one day will fully understand.  It will be as clear as the view from my new windows.

Yet if we are looking for it, we can even now have glimpses of understanding as to what God is doing in our lives.  It is trials that make us more dependent on the Lord and make us more aware of the Lord's presence.  That in turn adds to our joy.  It is trials that make us more sensitive to other's needs, and in the end serves as a platform for helping others and telling others of God's grace in our lives. Trials help us see God's faithfulness, and it is an opportunity to watch God work His wonders in our lives. It is an opportunity for our spiritual muscles to grow stronger.

Dear caregiver, you may be feeling very overwhelmed and discouraged in your responsibilities and in the heartaches of caring for your loved one.  It may be difficult to clearly see the work of the Lord in the life of you and your loved one.  That does not change the fact, however, that the Lord knows what He is doing.  He will never leave you or forsake you.  Trust Him and lean on Him.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Look for the Blessings

(Dear caregiver, I hope you can handle one more post on gratitude. The following post can be found in my book DEAR CAREGIVER Reflections for Family Caregivers. Links to order pages for my book at Amazon and Xulon are found on the right hand side of this page. It can also be found at Barnes and Noble online, or if you want to get the book directly from me just e-mail me at for specifics.)

As a caregiver I often found myself overwhelmed and discouraged with the challenges of care-giving. It was so easy to focus on the negative aspects of care-giving and forget about the blessings which still overflowed in my life. The Lord wanted me to first of all focus on Himself and not on the challenges. He also wanted me to recognize the many blessings which He daily gave me.  On February 6, 2009 I wrote the following words: 

It is so easy to feel sorry for myself when I think about what both my husband and I have gone through in these past few years, but I have so many blessings yet. I have a home, food, clothing, and the love of family and church people. Most of all I have my Savior who loves me.  In the Biblical parable of the prodigal son, the older son became jealous and angry when the father lavished gifts on his returning formerly wayward son. The father said to this older son in effect, ‘Why are you jealous?’ He went on to say, ‘You are always with me, and everything I have is yours.’  I also always have my God with me even in the hard times, and every spiritual blessing God has He has given to me. Yes, life is very difficult sometimes; but this life is not all there is. Also my God provides joys and blessings even in this life. If I could only always keep focused on that beautiful truth.”
As a caregiver I needed to remember God’s past workings in my life, and I needed to look for and be thankful for His present blessings and workings in my life as well.  I definitely saw God’s working in my life during the care-giving years. During my care-giving days my husband’s mobility capabilities deteriorated to the point that by late 2010 I knew I could not continue to take care of him by myself. At that low point in time in my life my son was able to greatly step up and help. Soon after that I heard about a sit to stand device which we could also use with my husband. I believe with all my heart that God was leading me step by step. Again I learned, however, that I had to look for the workings and blessings of God in my life. I also learned that an attitude of gratitude is essential.  On Feb 7, 2009 I wrote the following words:
I wonder if difficult times in our lives sometimes makes us more appreciative of the little joys and blessings. Thank you, Lord, for daily blessings even the ones we do not always recognize.”
Dear caregiver, when you become overwhelmed with the difficulties of care-giving focus on the Lord. Also look for His workings and blessings in your life. It will keep you encouraged to persevere in the challenges of being a caregiver.

(Let me close with a quote not found in my chapter in my book. I do think this quote is very profound, however: “Gratitude consists in a watchful, minute attention to the particulars of our state, and to the multitude of God's gifts, taken one by one...And all our whole life is thereby...filled with a gladness, serenity, and peace which only thankful hearts can know.-H.E. Manning.)

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Choosing Gratitude

In our last post we alluded to the importance of gratitude.  I was my husband's caregiver for four and a half years.  His disease was a devastating neurological disease.  Seeing my husband's body deteriorate during those years was the most difficult experience I had ever encountered on an emotional, physical, and spiritual level.  It was difficult to be thankful in the chaos and drama of family care-giving.  Life became so very overwhelming at times.  Life as a widow has also involved moments of grief and challenge for me.

One of the things that began to help me in this area as a caregiver was to write down a few things each day for which I was thankful.  This simple practice did much to open my eyes to the little wonders and love gifts of God which were still in my life.  It is a practice I still carry on today.

I think gratitude has to go even further than writing down a few things for which I am thankful each day, however.  It has to be a heart attitude.  In the measure I can have this heart attitude in spite of difficult circumstances, there will be joy and peace.

I am presently reading a book by Nancy Leigh De Moss called Choosing Gratitude.  In  a chapter I recently read she lists eight reasons for a grateful heart in spite of circumstances.  One reason is that gratitude is a matter of obedience.  It is commanded by God throughout His Word especially in the Psalms and the New Testament Epistles,  Gratitude also draws us closer to God.  When we long for a greater sense of God's nearness or life's stresses pile up like they can with family care-giving, gratitude to the Lord is the gateway to the Lord's presence.

Gratitude is further the only sure path to peace.  Care-giving difficulties can pile up and become overwhelming.  Prayer is a good avenue of release, but it must be accompanied with gratitude (Philippians 4:6-7.)  When gratitude combines with prayer and we open our eyes to God's blessings and mercies even in the midst of heartaches, peace follows.  When we thank God even when we can't understand what He is doing in our lives, there is peace.

Gratitude is also a gauge to our heart.  It is often easy to be thankful for the obvious blessings.  It is less easy to be thankful for the more difficult and hard to understand blessings.  If one is thankful in all things, it shows a heart which believes that God is always faithful and good and can be trusted. Giving thanks in all things is not acquired in a moment.  It is the result of many choices to be thankful even in difficult moments.

Gratitude is the will of God.  Choosing it is more important than choices we make about any other of life's decisions.  All other life decisions pale in comparison to choosing gratitude.  Gratitude is proof of being filled with the Holy Spirit.  It is evidence that we are yielding to His control. Gratitude further reflects Jesus' heart.  Even the night before Jesus was put on the cross He showed gratitude to the Heavenly Father in His prayers at the Last Supper.  He gratefully and willingly submitted to the Father's will in spite of the horrors of the cross just before Him.

Finally, gratitude prepares us for heaven.  Think of all the saints in heaven praising God before His throne.  My husband is no longer suffering from his neurological disease, but he is praising God before His throne right now!  I too can join in that praise by thanking and praising the Lord now.  Life as a family caregiver is often difficult.  I know that, because I walked that path.  Yet in the measure we thank God in and even for the difficulties peace will follow.  Resolve with me to walk that path, dear caregiver.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Joy in the Longings

Today is Mother's Day in the United States.  It is also the time of year when spring is bursting forth. In the area where I live spring is always late in coming, but even here we are being blessed with evidences of spring.

Special holidays and changes of seasons can be a source of joy.  They can also be a source of longing for the better days of the past.  They can further become days of sadness.  These events we tend to look at as markers in our journey through life.  Perhaps you are feeling some of these emotions today, dear caregiver.  Perhaps your children will not be here for Mother's Day, because they have moved away. Perhaps you feel very alone in your care-giving duties this year.  Or perhaps you will have family present but because of your loved one's health, you wonder if there will be another Mother's day or another new season like this again.

Sadness and longing seems to be part of the care-giving journey at times.  In fact it is part of our journey on earth.  It is a realization that this earth will never fully satisfy.  Only heaven and the Lord's presence can fully satisfy.  Yet trials in this life like the challenges of family care-giving can also make us more in tune with beauty and the blessings of the Lord even now on this earth.  It can also make us more in tune with the presence of the Lord in our lives.  That is the sometimes disguised blessing which accompanies care-giving challenges and heartaches or any other difficulty we encounter in this life.

I have a hanging on one of my walls in my home.  It says, "Each day is God's gift to you.  Make it blossom and grow into a thing of beauty."  It is a good reminder to me each morning.  Life can be difficult, but God is always good.  So no matter what emotions the changes of seasons and holidays may evoke in you, dear caregiver, seek to rest it with the Lord.  Thank Him for the little blessings and love gifts you see God giving you every day.  The Lord has been laying on my heart the need to also thank Him even for the difficult things which make life so challenging.  Consider doing likewise, dear caregiver.  By doing that, you and I will be showing our trust in the Lord.  Also joy always follows gratitude.  Unlike happiness joy is not dependent on perfect circumstances.  There can be joy in the midst of the longing.  May the Lord bless you with His joy even in the struggles and longings, dear caregiver.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Lord Understands

Each of us has unique struggles, as we walk through this life. Few of us are free from difficult challenges. Taking care of my husband while he continued to decline due to his neurological disease was one of those very difficult and challenging experiences that I faced. For over four and a half years my husband continued to decline in his health, and he became increasingly dependent on me until his death on January 2, 2011.  

I wrote the following words while I was caring for my husband:  “Lord, give me grace and strength for this role.  Others do not really begin to understand what I am experiencing, but You do, Lord. Thank You for that, Lord.”
The challenges of care-giving can be intense. As a caregiver one can feel so alone. Only a fellow caregiver can begin to understand the intensity of the emotions that accompany caring for a loved one who has an incurable disease. As a caregiver sometimes people would say things to me like “You are so strong,” or “You are a good example of perseverance in your Christian life.” This would often make me feel somewhat guilty when they would express such thoughts. I was not strong at all. Were it not for God’s grace and strength I could not have continued to persevere. I did not choose or want that role in life, but it was the path God had assigned to me. I just wanted to be a “normal” couple.
When people would say such things it not only sometimes made me feel guilty, but it also made me feel more alone in my struggles. It almost gave me the feeling that I had to live up to a certain image of strength.  When people instead would say that they were praying for me I was truly blessed.  Those people who gave me physical help were also a gift from God to me.

The truth of the matter is that another human being is not able to possibly understand all our physical, emotional, and spiritual struggles. Only God can do that. On a later date I wrote the following words:
My Lord is always advocating for me, and He fully understands everything I am experiencing. Other people may not fully understand, but my Lord does. If I could only always keep that truth in the forefront of my mind.”
Dear Caregiver, others will not always understand and identify with the struggles you experience.  Know and rest assured, however, that the Lord identifies with your every need. He also cares about you deeply. He will supply you with the guidance, grace, and strength you need to meet the challenges of each new day. 

(This post is also found as a chapter in my book: DEAR CAREGIVER Reflections for Family Caregivers. You can purchase one my books by clicking on one of the links on the right hand side of this page.)