Saturday, May 21, 2022

Requests for Fervent Prayer


Because of my years of being a caregiver for my first husband, Wayne, I have a desire to encourage family caregivers.  In a sense we are all caregivers to someone we know and perhaps love. Caregiving can be an intense day after day endeavor for months or years like it was for me.  It can also involve stepping up and being a caregiver for a shorter term illness.  

Caregiving can also come through words of encouragement and prayer for people you know and love.   I am asking that you will do that today.  I am asking that you will pray for my sister, Nancy, her husband, her adult children and spouses, and her grandchildren.  Nancy was diagnosed about two years ago with colon cancer.   This cancer is also in the lining around her organs.  Nancy needs prayer and so does her family members who care about and for her.  She has already been in an intense battle against this cancer through chemo and surgery to remove a tumor which was ready to burst in her colon.  

The chemo is no longer working as it should.  So in a few days on Wednesday, May 25 Nancy is scheduled for a very serious surgery in a hospital a few hours from her home. She will need to stay in the hospital for seven to fourteen days after surgery, and there will be recovery time at home after that.  This surgery is serious and scary to those of us who love her.  It also gives us a sense of hope and excitement at the possibilities.  Will you please pray for her and her family?  Please pray that this surgery will take place as scheduled, and that it will produce great results.   Thank you ahead of time for your prayers.


(Below is Nancy's story in her own words.  It is a link to her latest Caring Bridge post concerning this upcoming surgery.)  

https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/nancyvandyke/journal/view/id/62815cb01c4e7bd91fad37f1?fbclid=IwAR1xZrdpxKrkOLd9vnezu2Z9SICGr9h0f4tj8RpNA_BC0bo5bbAKCVvzfu


Saturday, May 14, 2022

Faith


Faith is a beautiful thing.  Faith must be in the Lord alone, however.  Faith in anything else in this world will always fail us.  Faith in the Lord is the only true source of stability, hope, purpose, and refuge when life's difficult moments occur.  Faith in the Lord helps us face the realities of life when they become overwhelming.  In fact, faith demands that we face reality with its challenges both difficult and exciting.  We need to in faith pray to the Lord to help us accomplish this.

How do we hold on to faith when we feel overwhelmed by the problems all over the world and by the problems we see in our own lives and in the lives of those we love?  I have a sister who has been fighting serious cancer for about two years now.  My husband's sister-in-law just passed away from cancer.  Other family members in both Bob and my families are going through struggles as well.  Bob himself was and is on antibiotics.  How does one hold on to faith in the struggles of life?  

The answer is that we trust the Lord.  We know that He is in control.  We trust that He provides joy and strength even in the most difficult of situations.  We trust that His love for us is unending and limitless.  We trust that He will never forsake us.  We also trust that He will guide us through this life step by step and in the end take us to be with Him.

Also when we slow down enough in our hurrying and scurrying through life to recognize our many blessings and to recognize the goodness of God through it all, we grow in our faith and love for Him.  We then see how many prayers God has answered in our lives.  We recognize His daily provision and protection for us.  Then gratitude and joy follows replacing all the negative emotions.  Yes, sad emotions and lamenting are still often there, but our perspective changes.  It become an eternal and faith-filled perspective.

It is difficult at times to maintain that faith in the face of obstacles and heartaches.  Only the Lord can give us the faith we so desperately need.  Yet prayer, reading God's Word, and worship paves the way to this kind of abundant faith-filled life.  It is the means the Lord uses to guide us and walk with us throughout life and into Eternity.  There is no better friend then Him.

Saturday, May 7, 2022

Eight Year Anniversary

 



Time has a way of continuing to march on.  A little over eight years ago in April of that year I published my book, Dear Caregiver Reflections for Family Caregivers.  Writing and promoting the book eight years ago stirred up emotions about my own difficult days of seeing my first husband, Wayne, decline in his body and then losing him to death.  

At the time of the publication of my book I also had some fears.  Satan would have liked me to feel like no one was going to read the book, but I also knew it was in God's hands.  I further felt a passion to help current caregivers.  That is the reason I started this blog, and that is the reason I wrote my book.

In spite of the emotions I was excited  about the new book.  This book and other events in those eight years since the publication of this book has helped other family caregivers including my current husband, Bob, who read the book while taking care of his late wife at that time.  For that I am very thankful to the Lord.

If you are a family caregiver or know someone who is a family caregiver consider reading this book.  It is available at the Amazon link below.  It is also available at Barnes and Nobles below and elsewhere online.  It is further available from me directly at jesuschild54@hotmail.com  Just contact me there for details.


Once again here is the Amazon link to the order page for my book:
rhttps://www.amazon.com/Dear-Caregiver-Sharon-Vander-Waal/dp/1629524263/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1482027543&sr=1-1&keywords=Dear+Caregiver

Here is the Barnes and Noble link:  https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/dear-caregiver-sharon-vander-waal/1119198854?ean=9781629524269

Saturday, April 30, 2022

Affirmations


We all have situations in our life that are difficult.  We talked about that in last week's post.  Some of those situations can feel like grief experiences.  Some of those situations can make us feel all alone in the experience.  Yet in some cases, the difficult experiences involves things which we cannot control, things we can't fix.  They may involve circumstances for which we can only pray.  

I have one such situation in my life, a situation for which I have been praying for the last few years especially.  A book I am reading talks about not getting emotionally bogged down in difficult situations that we can't control or change.  The book goes on to promote making decisions to move ahead with purpose and joy in spite of the situations in life which are out of our control.  

The book also talks about monitoring our thought life and replacing as much as possible our negative thoughts with positive thoughts.  This idea very much mirrors the Scripture passage in Philippians 4:8-9 which says, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right,  whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things."  

The book discussed above also suggests writing some affirmation sentences.  So I will share some of the affirmations I recently penned.  Be you a family caregiver or you are dealing with some other heartache in your life, may these  personal affirmations be helpful to you, and may they inspire you to write your own affirmations.  The edited version of my affirmations that I wrote are in the following paragraphs.

"I will chose  to be thankful today.  All things will fall in place in due time.  I am where I am supposed to be in my life now.  My life has purpose.  I don't need to fear for the future.  God has my entire life planned, and He is in control.  My life is good.  I have a comfortable home and a husband who loves me.  I don't need to have my whole life figured out.  I just need to rest in the Lord and be thankful for the blessings, to be joyful.  I can and need to accept things as they are in trust and joy.  

I am resilient and strong in the Lord.  I can be present and joyful instead of preoccupied and worried when I feel fatigued or face problems.  I need to be very aware of how stress affects my body and to try to not go down that road.  I need to accept what I cannot change and accept the good in others.  Instead of saying, 'I will never-----,' I need to say, 'I will with God's grace---.'

Even if everyone lets me down (And they won't.  There is always someone who is there.), God is still with me.   God won't let me go through anything in my life without His help and the situation growing me.  I will enjoy the present moment.

I will say each morning, 'This will be a good day.'  I will do an activity today that I enjoy.  I will substitute negative thoughts with positive thoughts today.  I will be aware of the blessings of creation today.  I will live today without the situation for which I have been praying a long time seemingly resolved.  I will do this no matter how long it takes for the situation to be resolved or no matter if it ever gets resolved the way I would desire it to be resolved.  No matter what I can still find and have joy in my life."

This blog post was not written to suggest that there is no place for lament or sorrow in our lives.  Many of the Psalms are laments. There are also some very sad situations right now besides the one to which I alluded above in both my husband's and my families which weigh heavily on our hearts.  Yet joy and praise in the midst of difficult times can do much to lift our spirits, and they are pleasing to the Lord.  The Psalms often command a "sacrifice" of thanks to our Lord.  So what affirmations could you pen concerning a troublesome situation you are facing, dear Reader?  Why not write down a few thoughts and trust God to see you through step by step and moment by moment?

 

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Why Is There Suffering In the World?


Why does God allow suffering and broken-heartedness in the lives of Christians? Why are we living in an increasingly dangerous world of persecution, suffering, and war?  Why is there abuse of all kinds and hardships in our world? If you are a family caregiver, why did your loved one become ill?  Why is there suffering of any kind in this world? If God is a God of miracles, why doesn't God just fix things?

There are no easy answers to these questions.  We do know that sin entered this world when Adam and Eve, the first people, disobeyed God.  Hence, we no longer live in a perfect world.  It is now a world affected by sorrow and sickness.  Also people make bad choices sometimes which unfortunately affects other people as well.

Jesus said we would face trials in this life.  He also said, however, that we can take heart, because He has overcome the world (John 16:33 in the New Testament of the Bible).  He has promised to always be with us and never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5b in the New Testament).  We also have the assurance that someday all will be made right and perfect when He returns.

Being my first husband's caregiver and watching his body deteriorate and fighting breast cancer myself during part of that time was a very difficult experience for me. There have been trials that have continued/continue to follow me in the years since that time in my life such as family members who are going through trials I never would have imagined.  This by default affects me and those who love me.  I have had my own bodily aches and pains as well.  Why did/does God allow that in my life?  

There are no easy answers to these questions.  I do know God has used the difficult experiences in my life to teach me valuable lessons.  I am learning that I am not in control.  I am learning of the need to depend on the Lord, even though I still am prone to fret and try to solve things in my own strength.  I am learning of the need to seek God for Himself and not for what He can give me.  

I have seen His faithfulness over and over.  Through trials I have grown and continue to grow in my love for the Lord. I have come to know not just in my head but in my heart in a deeper way the truths of His promises.  I often still get easily discouraged, but I know that feelings are not a measure of God's truths.  Feelings do not negate God's promises to always be with me.

We have just experienced another Good Friday and Easter in mid April.  Christ suffered unimaginable suffering, so we could be saved.  In his book, Gentle and Lowly, Dane Ortlund, says the following, "To you I say, the evidence of Christ's mercy toward you is not your life.  The evidence of His mercy toward you is His-mistreated, misunderstood, betrayed, abandoned.  Eternally.  In your place.  If God sent His own Son to walk through the valley of condemnation, rejection, and hell, you can trust Him as you walk your own valleys on your way to heaven."  

In yet another chapter in his book Dane Ortlund says this, "You have often left Him; has He ever left you?  You have had many trials and troubles; has He ever deserted you?  Has He ever turned away His heart, and shut up His bowels of compassion?  No, children of God, it is your solemn duty to say 'No,' and bear witness to His faithfulness."






  

Monday, April 11, 2022

Easter Joy

 



I love Easter best of all the holidays.  I love it for its deep spiritual significance.  Yet how does Easter relate to us always and especially in this time of crisis?

Easter means that the Lord Jesus came to this earth and lived a perfect life for you and me.  He later died on the cross to pay the price for our sins, and then He arose again on the third day to prove that He had won over sin and death and Satan. If you and I have accepted his gift of salvation by repentance and faith, we are His child now and for eternity.

Easter also means that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, identifies with our pain and the pain of our loved ones. As we struggle in our own needs or to help our loved ones, Jesus Christ identifies with us. Having suffered the worst possible pain for us on the cross He is able to sympathize with our heartaches and weaknesses. He is also an all-powerful Savior to whom we can freely go for grace in our moments of sadness and overwhelming and crushing needs.  (Check out Hebrews 4:15-16 in the New Testament.)

Because of Easter and Christ's sacrifice, we can freely approach God the Father Himself with both our needs and our loved one's needs. We can cry out to Him for help and call Him our “Abba Father,” because He considers us His special children (Romans 8:15). Easter also means that when our hearts are so weighed down with the heartaches and overwhelming circumstances of life that we do not even know how to pray, the Holy Spirit will intercede and pray for us! (Romans 8:26)

Easter means that although we will always face trials and troubles in this world, the Lord Jesus Christ has overcome the world.  He is also our source of peace even in the most challenging of times (John 16:33).  Even in overwhelming circumstances and even when we do not understand God's ways in allowing certain things in our lives, God is working for our ultimate good. We are victors in Him! (Romans 8:28 & 37)

No matter what happens in our life situations we will slowly heal emotionally and spiritually. God will always be with us, and joy will return one day. His love for us will never fail. He proved that love for us on the cross. That is the meaning of Easter for all of us.

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Jesus Is Still King




On what we call Palm Sunday, the crowds of old came out into the streets joyfully and loudly praising Jesus.  They said, "Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord." (Luke 19:38)  Later Jesus said, "---if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out."  (verse 40)  In fact, our church choir is going to sing a wonderful song based on that awesome verse in our Palm Sunday service.  I enclosed a link to this song which our choir loves,  It is not, however, our choir singing.  Here is the link:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r4HNb1Hm8-U

In these unusual times Jesus is still King over all life's trials including the war in Ukraine and the lingering coronavirus, family care-giving challenges, our own illnesses or bodily pains, wayward children, job issues, and whatever other trials we may be facing.  

A couple years ago I posted on Facebook a video clip of people from a nursing home in Sioux Center, IA sharing their favorite Bible verses which encourage them in difficult times.  I thought it was worth repeating here today. These elderly people have come to recognize Jesus as their King and as their source of comfort in life' s struggles.  Click on the link below and be blessed, as they share.   (As a footnote I was born in IA not too far from Sioux Center.)

Saturday, April 2, 2022

His Abounding Love


(This is a chapter from my book, Dear Caregiver Reflections for Family Caregivers.)


God is a God who is abounding in love.  Sometimes in the storms of care-giving challenges it may not feel that way.  Feelings do not change the truth of God's unfailing love for you, however, dear caregiver.

If you think of your life as a building; the Lord is your sure foundation, dear caregiver.  He is guiding you through the difficult challenges of care-giving.  He is guiding you with His wisdom and knowledge when you feel like you are hitting your head against brick walls.  Many times when I was a caregiver I felt so alone.  Yet I always knew God was with me, and now as I look back I see how He lead me each step of the way.

Every building also needs a door.  Prayer is the door or access to the very presence of God.  So is trust and thankfulness.  As we trust in Him with a thankful heart, He will pave the way.  Family care-giving is overwhelmingly difficult at times.  I know that, dear caregiver, because I lived it.  Yet God's presence is with you all the way.  You will sense that presence more, as you pray to Him and trust Him with a thankful heart.

Every building also needs a security system of some kind.  This is to prevent others from coming in and doing damage to property or people.  The caregiver's life needs a security system also.  That security system is the Word of God.  As caregivers listen and wait for God to speak to them through the promises of His Word, they are able to fight off the devil's attempts to discourage them.  They are able to rest in the abounding love of the Lord God.

Dear Caregiver, there is not even one area of your life that the love of God is not able to reach.  God's wide and loving arms are able to reach around any care-giving challenge in your life.  He will never leave you or forsake you.  His love is deep enough to meet your deepest discouragement, as you go about the business of caring for your loved one.

Not only is His love with you, dear caregiver, but so is His all-sufficient power.  He can calm your fears.  In your own strength it is not possible to face the challenges of family care-giving, but He has promised to give you His strength in you!  With His strength in you and with His abounding love surrounding you, dear caregiver, you can do whatever He asks of you.  Rest in Him!


(Perhaps you know someone who is a family caregiver, or perhaps you are caring for a loved one yourself.  This may be complicated by the current world crisis.  Consider ordering my book, Dear Caregiver Reflections for Family Caregivers.  It is available at Amazon here:  https://www.amazon.com/Dear-Caregiver-Sharon-Vander-Waal/dp/1629524263/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1482027543&sr=1-1&keywords=Dear+Caregiver  You can also find it elsewhere online like at Barnes and Noble.  I even saw it at Target online.  Finally, you can receive a copy directly from me by emailing me for specifics at jesuschild54@hotmail.com )

Saturday, March 26, 2022

God's Plan Versus Your Plan

We all have had hopes and dreams.  We all have had plans about how our lives should unfold.  Yet God's plan is often very different than our own.  We dream of a life that is a smooth path free of troubles and challenges until we reach the finish line.


Yet God says that we will face challenges and trials.  Our lives will not be a straight smooth line.  It will include many joyful moments, but will also include moments that are very difficult.  All the moments, but especially the difficult moments, God uses to stretch us and make us more like Him.  He builds Godly character in us, if we submit to Him even in the challenging moments.

In my own life I remember difficult moments even in childhood.  There certainly have been challenges in my adult life.  What have been the heartaches and trials of your life, dear reader?  Is it caring for a loved one who is slowly deteriorating in health?  Is it the loss of a job?  Has a loved one strayed off the path?  Are you worried about the current world-wide virus which seems to just linger on?  Are you troubled by the war issues in Europe?  Are you like me, just suffering through a temporary illness or infection which has slowed you down for a few days from normal activities?  Is there yet another heartache or trial?  Whatever the heartache, God is faithful and will be with you.  Consider it a joy, count it as joy, let it be an opportunity for joy when trials come.  God is with you.

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Encouragement for Our Lives

Has life been difficult for you lately, dear reader?   Do you feel constantly challenged by family caregiving issues, financial issues, or other trials?  Have you even perhaps been burdened with a certain heartache for years on end?   I found these two encouraging pictures posted on Facebook a couple years ago.  This is a short post, but a simple picture can convey much truth.  I hope you will be blessed and helped, as you view these pictures.


Saturday, March 12, 2022

Fighting Discouragement

 


(This is a chapter in my book, Dear Caregiver Reflections for Family Caregivers.


Satan loves to try to discourage us and rob us of our joy as believers. Satan can never snatch us out of the hand of our Lord God, for we are safe in the hands of the Lord forever. So Satan tries to do the next best thing in his eyes. Satan tries to rob us of our joy and effectiveness as Christians.

As a caregiver, it is so easy to become discouraged. The heartaches of seeing one’s loved one suffer and deteriorate in his or her body can be very overwhelming. Even the psalmists in the book of Psalms in the Old Testament often expressed feelings of discouragement. In some cases they were experiencing deep trials in spite of their present faithfulness to the Lord God. Hence, they sometimes felt abandoned, crushed, and devalued by God.

One strategy for fighting discouragement demonstrated in the Psalms is prayer. Prayer should be our first recourse for help, deliverance, and restoration in times of trouble and challenge. Prayer should also be our first recourse in fighting the discouragement which sometimes accompanies difficult times. Through the avenue of prayer we can gain peace, joy, and relief from discouragement in facing life’s challenges.

Another strategy for fighting Satan’s attempts to discourage us is a firm confidence in the Lord’s directing and unfailing love, kindness, and faithfulness. We must also pray with the psalmists of old for the Lord God’s guiding and directing light and truth on our paths throughout this life. If we saturate our lives with prayer and the truths of God’s Word, we will have the confidence of the Lord’s presence in our lives. We will also have His joy in full and a song in our hearts (Psalm 42:8).

Remembering and praising God for His past mercies among His people and in our own personal lives is another great way to fight Satan’s attempts to discourage us. A powerful deterrent to discouragement in present trials and in future challenges is remembering how the Lord God has helped us in the past (Psalm 77:11-12).

Yet another strategy for fighting discouragement is God-directed self-talk (Psalm 42:5 & 11 & Psalm 43:5). Saturating one’s mind with God’s Holy Word and then verbally reminding oneself of the awesome truths and promises of God’s Holy Word is one of the best prescriptions against Satan’s discouraging lies.

One final strategy in fighting discouragement is to vow to praise God during our trials and in excited anticipation of the Lord’s answers to our prayers and wonders in our lives (Psalm 43:4). May the Lord God’s song and joy (not Satan’s discouraging lies) reside in you, dear caregiver, and in all of us!


If this blog post was a blessing to you, you can order my book, Dear Caregiver Reflections for Family Caregivers.  It can be ordered on Amazon here:  https://www.amazon.com/Dear-Caregiver-Sharon-Vander-Waal/dp/1629524263/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1482027543&sr=1-1&keywords=Dear+Caregiver    You can also order it directly from me by contacting me at jesuschild54@hotmail.com  Consider ordering it for yourself or someone you love.

Friday, March 4, 2022

Eternity



This past Friday on March fourth it was five years ago since my Mom passed away.  This was a few days after having suffered a severe stroke.  I was with my Mom the last few minutes of her life.  It was a sad but wonderful experience.  That day it felt like I was given the honor of ushering my Mom into Heaven.

A few days after my Mom's death five years ago I wrote about my experiences the day of her death and the days following in my weekly blog post.  In that blog post I talked about Eternity and also care-giving for a loved one.  Bear with me, as I bring back today the words and sentiments of that blog post.  Below is what I wrote five years ago.  It is addressed to family caregivers for whom this blog was originally started.  Yet I hope it is a blessing to others as well: 


"My Mom passed into eternity a few days ago on Saturday, March 4.  One might think this has nothing to do with family caregivers.  Yet really all of life is about eternity.  This life is merely a preparation for eternity. All the struggles the loved one for whom you are caring is enduring and all the struggles you also endure will be nothing when you begin experiencing the glories of Eternity some day.  In that future day you will experience these glories which are beyond our ability to fully comprehend now, if you are the Lord's child. Therefore II Corinthians 4:18 reminds us to fix our eyes on the Lord and on what is yet unseen and not on the temporary and on what our eyes can see now.

Will you then indulge me, as I share a little of my experiences of these recent past days?  As of Thursday I am home again in WI back from my trip to MN.  I was physically and emotionally tired upon arriving home and still am in many ways.  Yet my experiences while away from home though sad were also rich and sweet. Saturday morning, March 4, I was the only one of my siblings with my Mom at the moment.  I had the privilege of talking to my Mom, singing songs to her, and reading Scripture to her.  There was no outward response, but I believe she heard me.  Very shortly after she passed into Glory.  I marvel at God's timing in this in so many ways.  I will always consider it a special gift.

Visitation night on the following Tuesday and the funeral day on Wednesday were also special moments.  There were moments of weeping, shared hugs, and shared memories.  We were also reminded not only of the fact that my Mom is with the Lord, but we were reminded of our shared precious faith and Godly heritage that we have in my family.

My Mom was a caregiver for my Dad for a few years in the same way as I was a caregiver for my husband, Wayne.  We both had to rely on the Lord during those years.  We both had to release our husbands to Eternity at a certain point.  I lived five hundred miles away from my Mom; so I was not able to be directly involved with her care-giving in the same "hands-on" way, as I had for my husband. Yet I am thankful that I may have been her caregiver in those last moments of her life. 


When I spoke to my Mom I reminded her of Eternity and the glories of eternity just ahead.  I encourage you to do that for yourself and for your loved one as well, dear caregiver.  Whether death is imminent for your loved one or not, life on this earth is so short.  Concentrate on Eternity, as you walk your life with purpose, dear caregiver!"

In conclusion I would like to share a quote that I came across five years ago about the time of my mother's death:  "We just think we are in the land of the living, and that we are going to die, but if we believe in God the opposite is true.  We're in the land of the dying, and because of Jesus we're going to the land of the living-the land where there is no more pain, no more tears, and where we'll be with Christ for eternity."



 This is my Mom with two of my great nieces and great nephew.


Saturday, February 26, 2022

Security in Christ Alone


Lord, how easily I get shaken. Criticism, challenges, changes and losses-all these things rattle me.  Help me to live in the "kingdom that cannot be shaken" (Hebrews 12:28).  Teach me how to build my life every day on Your Word and Your love, which will endure when all other things pass away.  

Lord, I confess that I make an idol out of people's approval.  Let me be so satisfied with Your love that I no longer respond to people out of fear of displeasing them but only in love, seeking what is best for them.  Remove my idols of approval-which can never give me the approval I need.

Father, Your Son Jesus Christ gives me the meaning, value, and security I look for in other things.  I ask that you help me to rejoice in Him more fully than I do.  Break my schemes of earthly joy so I may find my all in Thee.  Amen.

Saturday, February 12, 2022

Grace, Gratitude, and Faith

 


A couple of years ago I came across a Guideposts magazine that I had misplaced in a stack of books and magazines.  In it was an article called "Grace, Gratitude, and Faith."  The article told of Jeff Bjorck's walk of faith, as he cared for his mother with Alzheimer's disease.  In this article Jeff lists four tips for caring for a loved one with Alzheimers.  Below is the link to that article online.  The only difference is that it has a different title than the print edition.  I think you will find it to be a wonderful source of encouragement, if you are caring for a loved one.  Just click on the link below:


https://www.guideposts.org/friends-and-family/caregiving/aging-parents/4-tips-for-caring-for-a-loved-one-with-alzheimers

Jeff also authored a book called, Twilight Meditations.  It features some of his mother's thoughts about God, as she progressed through Alzheimer's.  I wrote about his book in a blog post that I authored in August of 2017.  In that same article I also reviewed a book by Brian De Jong called Honoring Our Elderly.  Finally, I reviewed my own book, Dear Caregiver Reflections for Family Caregivers.  You can find that post by clicking on the below link:

https://christiancaregiving.blogspot.com/2017/08/faith-based-caregiver-books.html

Jesus Our Divine Valentine

Valentine's Day is considered a day for lovers to express their love for each other with cards, and perhaps candy, flowers, or jewelry.  For some people, however, it can be a day of sadness because of past losses or current trials.

During those moments of sadness remember that the Lord loves you with an infinite love.  He in effect is your Divine Valentine.  He is sufficient.  He alone can give you all that you need.  People may fail you at times, but the Lord never will fail you.  

Below is a poem called Your Divine Valentine.  This poem became very special to me especially when I was a widow.  I still love this poem.  I especially love Jesus being referred as the Rose of Sharon in the Song of Solomon reference, because Sharon is my first name.  (Be sure to check out this verse and all the verses for that matter.)  Sharon is the name of a place and not the name of a person in the Bible, but I still love this verse.  I hope you find the poem and accompanying Bible references a blessing.    


Your Divine Valentine

A Valentine may play a love song for you, but God sings you the sweetest love song in the universe.  (Zephaniah 3:17)

A Valentine may give you flowers, but God sent you the most beautiful rose of all, Jesus.
(Song of Solomon 2:1)

A Valentine may bring you chocolate, but God provides you with something even sweeter, His Word.  (Psalm 119:103)

A Valentine may love you for a lifetime, but God loved you before you were born and will love you for all eternity,
(Jeremiah 31:3)

Saturday, February 5, 2022

Purpose

 


When we face difficult moments, it may be easy to question God's purpose for our lives.  Yet is there ever a time when God's purpose for our lives is not occurring?  The short answer to that question is no.   Ephesians 2:10 says, "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."  In the verse before verse ten God tells us that we are saved by grace and faith alone and not because of anything we do.  Once we are His child, however, He definitely has a purpose and plan for our lives even during the difficult and trying times.

When I look back on my life I can see that clearly, especially during certain periods in my life.  I may not have seen it at the time, but I see it more clearly now.  God had a purpose and plan for me as to when I was born and where I was born.  He had a purpose in the schools I attended, and the parents I had.  (Check out Acts 17:26 in the New Testament of the Bible.) 

God also had a purpose in my coming to the town in which I now live to teach first grade in 1969 and to marry my first husband, Wayne, in 1971.  He had a purpose in us raising three sons and then welcoming grandchildren.  He also had a purpose in me being my first husband's caregiver for over four and a half years.  Those were very difficult years, but it was God's purpose for me during those years.  In fact, as difficult as those years proved to be, I remember having a sense of loss of purpose after Wayne died.  Never doubt the value of what you do for your loved ones, dear caregiver!

Then came the eight plus years of widowhood in my life.  These years although sometimes difficult too had purpose and value.  They along with my care-giving years drew me closer into a sweet relationship with my Lord and helped me grow in so many ways.  These years were also used by the Lord to tell God's story through my book and to my amazement a couple interviews.  God used my previous care-giving experience further at the Gathering Place where I still volunteer.  One experience builds upon another, and nothing is wasted in our lives.  There always is a purpose.  There always is a purpose even in the difficult times.  So if you find yourself a widow especially after years of being a caregiver, know that your life still has vital purpose in God's economy.

Now I am remarried to Bob.  This is not something I had anticipated earlier in my life.  It is a relatively new phase in my life.  As in any phase of life there are joys and blessings.  There are also challenges.  Life is never perfect.  Yet in this phase of my life I also believe God is using me in ways for which I did not plan ahead of time.  He has given me a purpose and placed situations in my life that I did not anticipate, so that I can be used of Him and learn to trust and rely on Him more and more.  

Acts 17:27b-28 says, "He is not far from each one of us.  For in Him we live and move and have our being.---"  As children of God there is always purpose in our lives.  That purpose is to glorify the Lord God where He has presently placed us in life.  That purpose is to trust Him and glorify Him in the pleasant and difficult moments.  How that fleshes out depends on our particular situations and circumstances at the time, but the purpose remains the same.  Let's rest in God's will and purpose for us.

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Prayer

 


Like reading God's Word, prayer is so essential to managing life's difficulties.  Persistence in daily prayer is the secret to a satisfying and fulfilling life.  This is because prayer connects us to the very Source of life, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Prayer also reminds us of God's will, keeps us on His path for life, and helps us value our Lord.  Prayer teaches us to wait on the Lord for His timing and for His best for our lives.  Finally, prayer involves more than just asking for things.  It involves communing with our Lord and praising and worshipping Him.  

In fact, the Bible tells us to pray without ceasing.  What does that mean?  It is important to have special times of prayer every day, but praying without ceasing means living in a spirit of prayer all day long while engaging in our daily activities.  It means we are aware of the Lord's presence throughout the day, and it is an undercurrent which is influencing all our thoughts and actions.  Prayer is sensing and breathing the Holy Spirit's presence and breathing His life in all that we do.  

Below is a link to an article online about prayer.  I posted this same link about a year ago as well.  I thought is was appropriate to post this link again after the blog post last week about the Psalms and reading God's Word  The article dives into the subject of praying without ceasing.  Although a bit long the article is well worth reading.

Here is a quote from that article to wet your appetite for reading it:  "If prayer is merely an activity to do, then 'pray without ceasing' will sound oppressive.  But if prayer is communion with God-communion with this Father, Son, and Spirit-then we will hear the command differently; 'Enjoy God without ceasing.  Gain strength from God without ceasing.  And find that He is ever near, always faithful'"



https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/dont-ever-stop-praying?fbclid=IwAR0Iym_907EwgtcM5PfzAI381d2A3tgbRcDXnzgvhUI3-0GrGAai58-rqiU

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Beauty of the Psalms in the Bible

 


We are already nearing the end of January in the year 2022.  If you have not yet made reading the book of Psalms part of your devotions for year 2022, I would suggest you do that very thing.  I have read the book of Psalms several times the last years-usually following a schedule of taking a whole year to read through them.

The book of Psalms begins with a exhortation to meditate on and love God's Word.  It tells us that happy and blessed is the person who does this.  The last few Psalms and many of the Psalms in between are filled with praise for the Lord.  In between Psalm one and the last Psalm, Psalm 150, is every imaginable circumstance and situation we might experience in our walk through life.  These could include trials, difficult losses, sickness, betrayals, and confusion, but also hope, joys, purpose, peace, and God's precious promises.  The Psalms depict a whole spectrum of life experiences both difficult and joyful.  They also depict God's faithfulness through every step we take in this world.

The Psalms are meant to be prayed, recited, and even sung.  Although it is an Old Testament book of the Bible, no other book of the Bible can compare to it as a basis for daily prayer.  The New Testament explains and expands on the knowledge we have of our wonderful redemption in Jesus.  Yet the book of Psalms has a unique way of processing every possible situation we may face by the truth of God.  Having said this, some of the situations the Psalmists talk about, lament, or pray about have a historical setting.  Hence, it may be best to have a study Bible explaining the historical context, or use a good devotional on the Psalms alongside your personal reading of the Psalms.  

When we walk by faith, depend on God through difficult and joyful experiences, and use His Word as our guide; we end up praising Him.  Psalm 150:6 says, "Let everything that has breath praise the Lord."  This is because we see how God has blessed us in good times and has helped us grow in our character and in becoming the people He wants us to be in difficult times.  So in good times or difficult times, God deserves to be praised.  He knows what He is doing in allowing the things He allows,  and He is always faithful in what He does.

The Psalms and all of God's Word helps us to see this.  It reminds us of God's love, faithfulness, and wisdom.  Meditating on God's Word is our Anchor in time of need, and is the secret to a sweet relationship with Him.  It is like spiritual living water that nourishes and never dries up.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Fill My Cup Lord


I recently finished reading a book by Gary Smalley that is entitled Joy That Lasts.  The very first sentence of the books says, "EVERY CRISIS, no matter the magnitude, is a step toward an enriched life."  This is something that I have experienced as a family caregiver for my first husband and as a widow for over eight years.  I have also experienced that since that time as well in trials I have faced.  God can use our trials in amazing ways often to help other people and to grow our love for the Lord.   Yet it is sometimes a difficult concept to hang on to when facing yet another crisis in life.  The reality is, however, that we will all face trials in this life sometimes over and over.  

In the process of facing trials, we may feel cheated and discouraged.  These challenges can often be devastating and heartbreaking, but they according to Smalley can bring us "a step closer to the richest life possible."  The reason for that is because they draw us closer to the Lord when we run to Him for comfort and strength.  Smalley says, "Trials can be our greatest experience, for they can lead to the the source of greatest joy."  They lead us to the only One who can fill our lives with joy.

Having it all will not fill our longings.  Neither will people, places, possessions, or position.  They are all temporary at best in satisfying longings.  Though we may know this in our heads, I think our problems and disillusionment with people at times are partly because we are selfishly thinking that we can control their actions and/or that they will meet all our expectations and satisfy all our longings.  If they are insensitive at times or unfairly demand things from us; we may feel disillusioned, sad, and yes, angry and drained.  Yet, people, things, or perfect circumstances can not fill our expectations and longings.   

We need to fill our life's cup from "the well that never runs dry."  This is the Lord Jesus Himself.  We can't find joy and freedom from negative feelings in people, or in places, possessions, or position.  We can find it only in the Lord.  Only God will never fail us. 


Fill my cup, Lord.  I lift it up, Lord.  Come and fill this quench this thirsting of my soul.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IPyz7fR-e6A



Monday, January 3, 2022

Things You Should Never Say to a Caregiver

  


Sometimes people can say some rather insensitive things to family caregivers.  They may be trying to be helpful to the caregiver.  Because they have never experienced the heartache of caring for a loved one who is deteriorating in health, however, these comments may not only be not helpful but also hurtful to the caregiver.  

A couple years ago I ran across an article which talks about some things one should never say to a family caregiver.  This article also detailed ways that caregivers can respond to insensitive comments of others.  So this article is helpful to both current family caregivers and the other people who love them and are concerned about them.  Click on the link below to read the article.


https://www.agingcare.com/Articles/things-not-to-say-to-a-caregiver-152083.htm?fb_action_ids=216494425185728&fb_action_types=og.likes&fb_ref=.UknrvHTgXLM.like&fbclid=IwAR1-eqsJR9

Saturday, January 1, 2022

The New Year and Eternity


Another new year has dawned upon us.  In the new year we think of hope and new things, and it is good to think this way.  God has new blessings for us this year.  Yet in this new year we will also face at least a certain amount of trials and sadness.  That is a given living in this world here on earth.  Yet for the Christian there can be joy even then, because we know the Lord walks beside us.

Eleven years ago on January 2, 2011 it was a Sunday morning.  I had arisen early to take a shower, so I would be ready for church.  I had quietly gone about my activities that morning, because I did not want to awaken my husband whom I thought was asleep.  I also was aware that I needed to keep on task, because my son would soon come and help me get my disabled husband out of bed and ready for the day.  A few minutes later my son and I discovered that my husband had passed into Eternity during the night.  Wayne had been slowly becoming more and more disabled due to his neurological disease, and I had been his caregiver for four and a half years.  Before his disease and even during his disease he was a humble loving servant of God and a wonderful husband, dad, and grandpa.  

Then four years ago and a little later in January my present husband, Bob, experienced the death of his first sweet wife, Gloria.  She too had slipped into Eternity.  Bob also had been a caregiver for her for a few years.  

And yes, elements of grief from this kind of loss always remains, although it greatly softens over time.  This is true even in the midst of welcoming new relationships.  Even a week ago when I was talking with my husband, Bob, about some of the things that I experienced caring for Wayne and when I was talking about some of the things I remembered about the last night Wayne was on the earth, I became weepy.  It is an experience one never forgets.  The secret of doing the grief experience well is to grow through those experiences and not to let them make one bitter. 

Through it all in these heartaches and in the trials which have come since that time, I have grown in my love for my Lord.  I have experienced the Lord's faithfulness in huge measures, and I have seen Him do amazing things in my life.  I have discovered that He is "able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us."  (Ephesians 3:20)

Yet I have also discovered that life moves so quickly. We have seen two very tragic deaths of comparatively young people in our community in the recent past.  This reminds us that life on this earth is fleeting.  I also know someone from my church who just turned 103 years old!  Yet even for her life is fleeting compared to Eternity.  

Let's remember with sweet fondness those who have gone before us.  Let's find joy in the work and relationships God has given us here on earth.  Yet let us live our lives in light of Eternity!  Our life as Christians on earth takes on significance and purpose, because we are part of something much bigger than the present.  We are part of a glorious future in Eternity where we will experience total victory.  Let's begin to walk that life of joy now on earth, as we are already prince and princesses in God's kingdom!