Previously entitled, Dear Caregiver, a blog site with the goal of encouraging fellow Christians
Sunday, March 25, 2018
Personal Testimony Revisted
(Three years ago I was asked to give a personal testimony after the sermon that evening in my church. The sermon that evening was about patience endurance in trials and was based on part of James chapter five in the Bible. I posted the words I said that night here at this blog. I am reposting it today. Following is what I said that night.)
Good evening everyone. Let me say first that I was a little blown away by the request extended to me to briefly speak with you this evening. I am certainly not a great example of “patience in trials.” Anyone thinking so, makes me very uncomfortable. Yet caring for Wayne and the years since his death certainly have been a spiritual experience and a lesson in leaning on the Lord.
Most of you know some of my story of being my husband, Wayne's caregiver. In 2006 Wayne was diagnosed with a rare neurological disease called Multiple System's Atrophy. In the midst of all this was my own diagnosis of breast cancer in July of 2007 about a year after Wayne's diagnosis, and my subsequent eight months of treatment following that. Seeing my husband's body deteriorate during the next four and a half years after his diagnosis was definitely the most difficult experience that I had ever encountered on a physical, emotional, and spiritual level.
A difficult lesson I had to begin to try to learn during this time was to rest things with the Lord. I am not sure I did such a good job of that. Perhaps, Wayne did a better job of that. I never heard him ask, "Why?" during the whole course of his illness. So many things about care-giving were out of my control. The Lord is the only one who is really in control, however.
During this time I knew in my head at least that God was in control, but I think I subconsciously thought, however, that everything I did or didn't do could possibly lengthen or shorten the progress of Wayne's disease. It says in Psalm 139, however, that the number of our days are ordained for us by the Lord. I had and have to learn that I am not in control. God is the only one in control. I don't have to be so stressed out about everything, although I still fight that tendency. The Lord is still on His throne, and I am still His child.
I think I have learned that I can have a greater confidence, while at the same time I see my desperate need to depend on the Lord alone. He has become my confidence. Plus, now because of all I have experienced in these past years, I feel I have a story to tell, and I have passion to tell it. I have learned of the Lord's faithfulness in very difficult circumstances and that joy can reside alongside grief and difficult times, because joy is not the same as happiness which is dependent on perfect circumstances. Family care-giving and my years as a widow have been a time when my character was and is being stretched in ways I would never have imagined. It is a time when I have grown in my faith, and my faith has become so much sweeter.
Another thing I had to learn was the value of gratitude. A piece of advice was given to me while I was a family caregiver. That advice was to write down a few things at the end of each day for which I was thankful. It was difficult to be thankful in the chaos and drama of family care-giving, but this gratitude exercise did much to shape my attitude and to see the little wonders of God in my life. It is a practice I still carry on today.
My past care-giving experiences has also given me an insight and concern for other people's struggles, especially family caregivers. It has given me a basis for being able to help them and for them knowing that I understand their struggles on many levels. It has given me a platform to tell my story or rather the Lord's story.
After Wayne's death I struggled with what was my new purpose in my post care-giving days. Family care-giving becomes so consuming that it can almost become one's identity instead of just a role. So I had to rediscover who I was as an individual and what my new roles were in life. My roles were no longer wife and caregiver. I think I have discovered that it is not a matter of a complete break with my past, but rather building on and using my past experiences and using them in new ways.
There are so many beautiful Scripture passages which have become so meaningful to me through the experiences of these past years. One of my favorites is Hebrews 13:5b which says, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." This is a verse that I write in every one of my books that I sign. It is a verse to which every Christian can cling.
About a month after Wayne passed away I started a blog to encourage family caregivers. They say once a caregiver always a caregiver, and I felt the Lord leading me to start this blog. It can be found at http://christiancaregiving.blogspot.com Finally, I wrote my book called DEAR CAREGIVER Reflections for Family Caregivers. It was published in April of 2014.
And so Wayne has received his reward in eternity; and though I miss Wayne every day, God is with me.
I would say in conclusion, depend on the Lord. Trust His promises. Take time to be in His Word everyday. Don't give into fear. Also know that the Lord will use your difficult experiences in ways that you never imagined. We must tell our stories of God's grace in our lives You may not write a book like I did, but God never wastes our experiences. We need to share them.