Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Sunshine and the Rain of Life

Care-giving like the weather always had its ups and downs for me. As a caregiver some days felt stormy, and on those days I felt that I couldn’t persevere in my care-giving responsibilities any longer. On other days life tended to take on a certain rhythm and pattern and was workable.  In 2009 in the midst of my care-giving days I wrote the following:
 “It is a rather cold dreary day outside, as I write my blog post. We have been having some rainy days of late also. I guess we all prefer the warm sunny days, but we need the rain also. What a picture of our lives also. The plants would shrivel up and die, if they received only sunshine and no rain. So we also would shrivel up into something undesirable, if we did not have the rain and the storms in our lives.
Care-giving with its responsibilities at times brings on a storm of emotions and/or dreariness of spirit in my life. Sometimes I long for the way things used to be before my husband was diagnosed with his neurological disease. Then, however, there would have been lessons in character building and faith building in my life that would have gone untaught.” 

Life always tends to be a mixture of joys and sorrows, but I think the experiences of care-giving tends to highlight these swings back and forth in one’s emotions. As a caregiver I was joyful in my faith and in my relationship with my Lord. I was thankful that I knew He was always with me. It was difficult living with the reality of my husband’s disease, however. I was happy that the struggles of life were making me stronger in my character, in my faith, and as a person.  I struggled with the fact, however, that care-giving often had to be so emotionally exhausting, and I wondered why life had to be so difficult.
I mourned the fact that my husband’s balance issues, mobility, speech, and a host of issues continued to decline. I mourned the flatness of his personality and the changes in his personality from what I had known for so many years previously. I, however, found joy in the times we spent with our grandchildren and in our pleasant times with family. I found joy in my faith and in the comfort and strength my Lord gave me. I found joy in the promises of God’s Word. I found joy in the beauties of creation all around me.  
The care-giving years were very difficult years in my life. I realized that I had to cling tightly to my faith in order to survive. I also learned that I had to look for the blessings in my life. Finally, I discovered that the joyful things in my life were definitely better because of the sorrows.
Dear caregiver, life is a mixture of joys and sorrows. There are a number of deep heartaches in caring for a loved one with a terminal illness. In spite of all this look for the joys and blessings in the midst of the storms in your life. It will help you persevere.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Panic or Trust

What do you do, dear Christian caregiver, when your care-giving responsibilities become increasingly overwhelming; and you do not know what to do next? A few months before my husband’s death it was becoming increasingly difficult for me to take care of my husband’s physical needs. As a caregiver maybe you can identify with some of the feelings that I experienced at that time. I hope my sharing those feelings will be helpful to you, dear caregiver.  On September 25, 2010 I wrote the following paragraphs:
“Things definitely are changing with my husband, Wayne. Transfers for my husband to the bathroom, back to the chair, etc. are getting more difficult; and I have been finding myself becoming increasingly stressed. I find myself dreading and consumed with thinking about the next transfer. I also keep wondering what my next step needs to be. Keep doing it myself? Try to hire more in-home help? Pursue nursing home options?
Last night my son came over. He was very stressed because of a serious job issue. He was basically in panic mode. It was and is a serious situation, as his job may be on the line. My first reaction was to think, 'I do not need this. I have enough stress of my own.'
Then, however, I found I could relate to him and thus calm him down. I told him about my heavy stress level and how we just need to trust. Nothing happens by chance, and we are being guided. I also told him that what will be will be, and we will be okay. I asked him if he had prayed about it, and he said 'Yes.' He then asked me to pray for him. I did that, and we both felt better. I do not think I could have helped him as much, if I had not been as stressed as he was. I could relate to him, and therefore what I said to him had validity. It helped both of us.
This whole incident reminded me that everything has a purpose even the difficulties of care-giving. Because of the stress I was experiencing with care-giving I could help my son. We also shared a prayer and a hug together. That was a special blessing in spite of the situation we both are in. What could be more beautiful than that?”

Dear Christian caregiver you do not need to live in a state of panic. The Lord will guide you step by step. Care-giving will never be easy, but God’s purpose will be fulfilled in you through your care-giving role.  What you do in care-giving is important, and it has eternal consequences.  The trials of care-giving are forming your character to become stronger. Do not focus on what you see but on what will be and on what is good in your life right now.  Focus on seeing the small miracles of each day, and know and trust that they will continue.  God’s love is always with you, dear caregiver. 

(This blog post is one of my chapters in my book Dear Caregiver Reflections for Family Caregivers. My book can be found at Xulon, my publisher, Amazon, or Barnes and Noble online. The Amazon link for my book is here: )

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Contentment and Joy

I have been camping out in the book of Philippians in the Bible the last few weeks. I have been doing this with the help of a book called To Live is Christ, To Die Is Gain by Matt Chandler. Philippians is such a beautiful book.  It shows us that we can have contentment and peace in even in the most difficult of circumstances.  It was written by Paul while he was in prison for his faith!

I especially like Philippians chapter four.  In chapter four Paul tells us to rejoice and to not be anxious about anything but to bring our concerns to the Lord with a thankful heart.  Paul says he has learned to be content in all circumstances, in both the pleasant and in the difficult circumstances and in times of plenty and in times of want.  Paul knew that joy and contentment comes only from the Lord,  If we have all our dreams fulfilled and are living in plenty, we will not necessarily be content.  This is because contentment can only come from the Giver and not from the gifts He gives.  Without the Lord being the center and focus of our lives, there is still restlessness and emptiness.  Likewise in difficult times we will give way to despair and discouragement, if we are not looking to the Lord.

Yet if we are seeking the Lord, He is sufficient no matter what our circumstances. God is powerful enough, perfect enough, and loving enough to meet ALL of our needs.  When I was a family caregiver it was so easy to begin to give into despair, as I saw my husband's body deteriorate step by step.  Yet as I look back on those days, I see that the Lord was faithful step by step.I have learned through experience how good and sufficient is my God.  

I sometimes still am tempted to give into fear and discouragement, as I face problems as a widow   It is sometimes difficult to be content in the extreme highs and lows and changes and challenges of life. Yet God has promised to meet all my needs "according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:19)

He promises the same for you, dear caregiver.  Family care-giving can be challenging and sometimes discouraging and even sad.  Yet it is often during these times that we learn that God is sufficient.  We tend to search for Him in those times; and in the Lord's presence we find peace, joy, and contentment in the midst of the difficult circumstances.  Joy and contentment is not found in perfect circumstances but in the presence of the Lord.  Keep turning to Him, dear caregiver, when the clouds of discouragement appear on the horizon of your life.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Guideposts Magazine Article

Guideposts Magazine has been publishing stories this past year about family caregivers.  I find this to be an exciting development.  Last summer I was contacted and then later interviewed by Guideposts Magazine concerning my care-giving experiences and my experiences since my husband's death.  It is my joy to announce that the story they did on me was published in the October issue of Guideposts Magazine.

Then recently the story was also put on their web page.  They don't include as many pictures on the web page, and the title is "Never Forsaken" in the magazine; but the article is the same.  The link to the article on the web is below.

Those days of caring for my husband were very difficult, but God has used that time in my life and in the lives of others in many ways.  I stand amazed at the Lord's workings.  Wayne, my husband, is free of the limitations of his body, and God is using our story in ways I could never have imagined.  God will do the same for you someday, dear caregiver.