Sunday, July 26, 2015

God is Good All the Time

There are so many emotions going through my being, as I write this post.  As I wrote in my last post, this has been a month where there were moments when I felt very vulnerable.   Yet I have also seen God's hand in abundantly providing.

After I returned home from my trip to visit family in Iowa and Minnesota in early July, I was also able to enjoy some quality time with some grandchildren who live closer by but whom I also hadn't seen for a little while; because they also now live three hours away.

I also had an interview with Guideposts magazine.  They called me a few weeks back about doing an interview with me.  That phone interview took place a little over a week ago.  It was an hour and a half interview.  It was a very good interview.  Good questions were asked, but I was a bit emotionally drained afterwards.  Then on Tuesday of last week they sent a local photographer to the place where I volunteer for a photo shoot.

Guideposts is doing a whole series of articles this year on family caregivers.  My article is scheduled to be in the October issue and will center on the idea that once a caregiver always a caregiver.  This is because my volunteer work involves giving respite to family caregivers through a wonderful social program three times a week for their loved ones.  I personally volunteer one of those three days.  So look for my article in October, if you have access to the Guideposts magazine.  Also read the other articles on care-giving in their magazine this year.  It is so good to see a magazine giving acknowledgement to all that family caregivers do for their loved ones.!

In addition to these things there are other day to day issues which have come up in my life recently which needed tending.  Also this week on July 30 would have been my 44th wedding anniversary.  I ask for prayers for me on that day.

Please forgive me, dear caregiver, as I have diverted a bit in this post to talk about personal issues.  I guess one of my main reasons for sharing this with you here is to encourage you that God will use your care-giving experiences in the days ahead in ways you never imagined.  He is transforming you and growing you in your character and in your love for the Lord through this experience.  He also may use that experience in other people's lives.  Also I believe God uses these experiences to teach us to lean on the Lord and to see His protecting and guiding hand through it all.  I see and have seen that over and over.  I sometimes struggle with how the good things which have come from my experience can possibly ever make up for the pain of seeing my husband's body deteriorate during those four and half years of his illness and then my losing him.  Yet God is good all the time.  He knows what He is doing.  Rest in that, dear caregiver.        

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Life is Fragile

Life is fragile, and it can change in a moment.  I saw that as a caregiver.  One moment I thought I life was "normal," and the next moment I found out that my husband had something wrong with him and needed a MRI.  This in turn led to a series of doctor appointments and tests in the months ahead which confirmed that my husband did indeed have a serious and rare neurological disease called Multiple Systems Atrophy.  Perhaps the signs were there before diagnosis, but I had not picked up on them.  The next four and half years of my husband's life reinforced the fact that life is fragile, as I saw my husband's body deteriorate step by step.  It also reinforced in my mind, however, that God was faithful and that He was in control.

I saw that again recently when I was gone for a few days in early July.  My friend and I were traveling together on a 500 mile trip to IA and MN.  We both have family in the same general area there. While we were traveling to our destination we were sideswiped by a motor cyclist.  The motorcyclist never fell, and everyone is okay.  Yet I was reminded that life is fragile, and it can change in a moment. There is another factor in all this, however.  God is in control.  He was protecting us, and He was protecting that young man on his motorcycle.

While I was gone on my trip for a few days something else happened to show that life is fragile and to make me feel very vulnerable.  The engine light in  my car came on, and my car was acting very strangely at times.  It was determined that is was a sensor issue.  I was 500 miles from home, and it was likely but uncertain if I could make it home safely,  The nearest place to fix my car was an hour away, but my sister and her husband were able to take me to pick up the needed part; and a local neighbor in their area was able to put the new sensor on my car,  All this was accomplished at minimal cost for me.  Life is fragile, and I felt so vulnerable in this situation.  God's fingerprints of protection and provision were all over that situation, however.

Then just recently after safely returning home from my trip a nineteen year classmate of my niece in culinary school was killed in a car accident.  Once again I am reminded that life is fragile.  These kinds of things are so difficult to understand.  They make us stop in our tracks and perhaps make us feel very vulnerable.

I remember also having many vulnerable feelings as a caregiver.  I wondered if I would be able to continue to  handle caring for my husband in the days ahead. Later in his disease I wondered if I even would be able to handle the next transfer to the bathroom or bed.  Yet as I look back, I see that there was always a way. God was and is faithful.  I did not like the difficult circumstances which God had allowed, but God was with me.  He was teaching me that I was not in control.  He was teaching me that I needed to depend on Him.  He was bringing about greater intimacy between Himself and me.  The Lord continues to do that even now since my husband's death.  I want freedom from problems.  He wants me to grow in grace and love for Him.  He wants to show me that He is a God of power and awe even in "impossible situations."  He wants to wow me with His faithfulness.

Dear family caregiver, trust in the Lord.  Depend on Him.  He will be with you step by step even in the "impossible" challenges of family care-giving.  Look for His wonders.  We do not always understand His ways, but we can count on His promises and on His faithfulness.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

God's Great Love Story for You

 (The below post is a chapter in my book Dear Caregiver subtitled Reflections for Family Caregivers. My book is available online at Xulon, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble. Links to Amazon and Xulon are on the side of this page.)

If I were to write a book about the story of my life, I wonder what events in my life I would include in my writing. Would I write about all the sad things that I have experienced in my life, or would I concentrate on the joys of my life? What about the care-giving chapter of my life? Would I concentrate on the discouragement and grief of seeing my husband continually decline in his health and eventually pass away, or would I concentrate on the blessings and joyful moments of my life even in the midst of care-giving? 
What about you, dear Christian caregiver? If you were to write an autobiography of your life, what would the story of your life be like? My guess is that you would share many special and joyful moments, but I am equally convinced you would share moments of heartache and pain. No matter whether you would be sharing joyful moments or sorrowful moments, however, as a child of God the chapters of your autobiography would reveal that your life’s story is a love story. Your life’s story is a story of God’s love for you. In fact, perhaps especially in the difficult moments of your life’s story, God’s love for you would shine forth the brightest. 
The pain and discouragements of some of life’s circumstances do not define who we are. God’s unfailing love for us in all circumstances shapes who we are now and who we are becoming by His grace. If no one else knows or loves us, God does. God’s love for us is everlasting. It never fails (Jeremiah 31:3). God’s love for us is passionate and comforting. It is also a powerful and personal love. God actually says that He delights in us! (Zephaniah 3:17.) 
As we become more and more spiritually rooted in the knowledge and experience of God’s love, we begin to grasp the vastness and depth of His love. His love for us is so great we will never fully understand it completely, but in the measure that we do begin to understand the fullness of His love, we will be filled with the fullness of God Himself in our lives. We will slowly begin to reflect Him more and more in our lives. Also, we will begin to see in deeper ways His workings, love, and guidance in our lives. 
Your and my life’s stories with both their difficult moments and pleasant moments are beautiful stories of God’s love for us. We are also part of God’s story for the world around us. Even when we do not understand the tragedies of our lives, God still loves us. We just have to trust and rest in His love for us. Dear caregiver, as you face the heartaches, difficult decisions, and challenges of care-giving; never forget God’s love for you!  Your experiences are part of God’s great love story for you!