Saturday, March 11, 2023

Do Not Live in Fear


(The post below was oringinally posted at this blog site a few years ago.  It was written a few years after my first husband's death and before my Mom's graduation to Eternity and my sister's recent going to be with the Lord.  Before that it was the final chapter from my book published in 2014, Dear Caregiver Reflections for Family Caregivers.)


Care-giving and watching my husband decline in his health and then his death in January of 2011 has been one of my life’s most difficult tests. Knowing I could trust that God loved me and was in control in the midst of the confusion and grief of it all made and continues to make all the difference in the world.

God is sovereign and in control. Nothing happens to a Christian caregiver or his or her loved one that is not filtered through His love. This is true even in the heartbreaking events which often accompany care-giving and sometimes their death. This is a difficult truth to accept. When this truth is accepted, however, it a soft place to land when one is overwhelmed with life’s difficulties.

God is good. Circumstances may be bad, but God is good. God is the very definition and essence of goodness. He proved that by sending His son on the cross. He can help caregivers who are struggling to keep emotional and spiritual equilibrium in the midst of the heartaches of seeing their loved ones decline in their health. He can also slowly emotionally heal caregivers, when and if their loved ones are not healed on this earth.

Joy can coexist in the midst of the heartaches and grief that often accompany care-giving and possibly losing our loved ones. This is because joy is not based on circumstances which are favorable or perfect. Rather it is based on a relationship with the Lord. If the Lord takes your loved one to Himself sooner than you would like, dear caregiver, He will be with you each step of the way then also. There is deep hurt and grief in the loss of a love one.  It involves a process that takes much time and deep crying out to the Lord and depending on Him.  There is a scar that never goes completely away. Yet, the Lord's faithfulness will be with you all the way, and the joy of the Lord will return. Do not live in fear of the future, dear Christian caregiver. Never forget that the Lord loves you, and He is good. He is in control.

(This post as stated above is a chapter from my book.  It is in fact the last chapter of my book.  In this blog I have often written new posts.  I also sometimes have included chapters from my book, as I did today.  If you are a family caregiver consider ordering my book.  If you know a family caregiver consider ordering my book for them.  Below is the link to ordering my book from Amazon. My book is also available through Barnes and Noble and elsewhere on the internet.  The Amazon site says there is only one in stock.  That is rather meaningless.  It just might take a day or so longer to come, if you order.  You can further get a book directly from me by contacting me at jesuschild54@hotmail.com and asking me for specifics.)




Encouragement For Our Lives

When life becomes difficult,God's precious promises in His Word are so precious.   I found two encouraging pictures posted on Facebook a couple years ago.  This will be a short post, but a simple picture can convey much truth.  I hope you will be blessed and helped, as you view these pictures.



Friday, March 3, 2023

Lament and Hope


Recently our church had a service of lament and petition.  I was not able to be at that service, but found it a blessing when I watched it later.  I found this especially true, since I had just returned a couple days before from my sister's funeral.  

Lament is defined as "a passionate expression of grief or sorrow."  In the Psalms of the Old Testament lament is often expressed by the psalmists.  Laments like "How long, O Lord?" (Psalm 13:1), and pleas like "Come quickly to help me, O LORD my Savior" (Psalm 38:22) are often heard.  God welcomes our honest laments and prayers for help.  There is much to lament in this sin tinged world, be it the sickness or death of a loved one or the turmoil and immorality in our country and the world at large.

Yet as believers there is hope.  The biblical word for hope does not conote a wishful thinking type of hope with no basis in certainty.  Biblical hope conotes a certainty of promises made by the Lord which perhaps still has not been fulfilled,  It involves an attitude of waiting on the Lord.  Psalm 33:20-22 says, "We wait in hope for the LORD; He is our help and our shield, for we trust in His holy name.  May Your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD, even as we put our hope in You"

Hope is also a certainty of eternal life which comes to those who are his children.  The veil between this life and the next is so fragile, and that life is so very close.  In spite of lamenting the sorrows in this life, there are many joys in the Lord even in this life.  What is more important Eternity for a child of God will be free of all sorrow and tears.  Most importantly, we will be in the Lord's wonderful presence forever.  We shall behold Him face to face. 

Here are the lyrics to the beautiful song, "We Shall Behold Him."  (A recording of that song sung by my sister, Nancy, singing that in her own words at her funeral was a wonderful.)  Here are the words  for that song for your blessing as well, dear reader:  

The sky shall unfoldPreparing His entranceThe stars shall applaud HimWith thunders of praise
The sweet light in His eyes, shall enhance those awaitingAnd we shall behold Him, then face to face
O we shall behold Him, we shall behold HimFace to face in all of His gloryO we shall behold Him, yes we shall behold HimFace to face, our Savior and Lord
The angel will sound, the shout of His comingAnd the sleeping shall rise, from there slumbering placeAnd those remaining, shall be changed in a momentAnd we shall behold him, then face to face
We shall behold Him, o yes we shall behold HimFace to face in all of His gloryWe shall behold Him, face to faceOur Savior and LordWe shall behold Him, our Savior and LordSavior and Lord!

 



Saturday, February 11, 2023

Carried On His Shoulders

  


I pray that you will bear with me, as I  share some of thoughts concerning my sister's homegoing to Heaven on February 13th.  I tend to process grief and my faith thoughts through writing.  In my family, as most of you know, I had a sister who valiently fought her cancer for over three years 

Nancy not only valiently fought the cancer, but she was a wonderful testimony the entire time to her love for the Lord and her belief in His goodness.  She kept the faith even when she was enduring intense pain,  She was a wonderful example of patience and trust in the Lord to her children, grandchildren, and siblings.  So was and is Milo, her husband, who was a faithful husband and caregiver to Nancy those years that she was fighting cancer.  Her entire marriage to her husband, Milo, was a walk of faithfulness to the Lord.  Milo and Nancy also loved their music ministry behind prison walls.  Many prison inmates further learned to love them, their music, and their Lord.

Above is a song that my sister, Nancy, and her husband, Milo, sang about their walk of faith that we just talked about.  I first posted this song more than two years ago.  Recently I ran across this song that they sang again.  It can be found on Youtube. The name of the song is "Shoulders."   Listen to the song above, and be blessed and encouraged.  It talks about their trust in the Lord to carry them on His shoulders through the struggles.  

The struggles were indeed difficult for them at the time that they sang the song.  Those trials became even more intense as the days and years progressed throughout Nancy's disease.  Yet God did carry them both on His shoulders the whole time,  And now I picture Nancy cuddled in the Lord's arms and singing her heart out with the saints in heaven.

Nancy and I had some wonderful faith talks in the last years.  In the last days I have thought that it would be so wonderful, if Nancy and I could talk one more time.  I would say to her, "Tell me, what is Heaven like?"  I imagine she would say that is is much more wonderful than she can share with me, and that I need to just walk by faith until my day arrives to go home to Heaven to be with Jesus and all the saints.

There are many of you readers who may be going through some deep trials.  Some of you are going through cancer or other serious illnesses. Others of you may be caregivers for a love one who is sick.  This too is a difficult path to tread.  Some of you may be suffering financial issues or family break-up.    Perhaps there is another trial you are enduring.

If you are a child of God, however, you know that the Lord is with you and even carrying you through it all.  He carries us through weakness, sickness, and brokenness.  He carries us on His shoulders like a Daddy might carry a young child who is weak and weary.  Your help comes from the Lord.

Sometimes when the trials are overwhelming and many, it is difficult to see that the Lord is with us and helping us.  At those moments we must learn to not listen to our emotions which don't always tell us the truth.  We need to listen instead to the truth of God's Word which promises that the Lord is always our help and will never forsake us.  We don't always have to see it immediately to believe it, because it is true that God is with us.  Our help comes from Him in His perfect timing!

 If you have not already done so, listen to the song above, and be blessed and encouraged.

Your Divine Valentine

 (Forgive me for once again republishing a post from the past in a slightly edited version.  I think it is a message worth repeating again, as Tuesday will be Valentine's Day.)


Dear caregiver, do you ever feel the sorrow of things lost?  Do you ever miss the way things were in the past with your loved one for whom you are caring?  Does the approach of holidays such as Valentine's day make you feel melancholy and sad? Or perhaps did your loved one pass on to Eternity?  Even though new love has entered my life, I remember those feelings.

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.  Below is a poem called Your Divine Valentine:


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, January 28, 2023

After Caregiving Ends

 


If you are caring for a loved one or friend, some day that will end.  It may end with your loved one being cured,  It may also end in the death of your loved one.  In that eventuality, you will then have to begin the process of picking up the pieces of your life and finding new purpose in your life.  This is something we do not wish to talk about, but it is often a part of the care-giving process.  Hence, we need to discuss it.


Today I am posting a link to an article that was published in Guideposts magazine over seven years ago about my experiences the first months after my husband's death.  I had cared for him for over four and a half years, and that time period was a huge transition for me.  This article documents my journey to finding purpose in my life again.  It is written in first person, but was actually written by a Guideposts author (even though I am a published author myself) after an extensive hour and a half interview with me.  I also suggested changes and had input in the final copy.  Although I would have changed the wording a few places, it certainly reflects my emotions and feelings at the time.  Click on the link below to read it.


What is Our Vision of God?

 


A few years ago I read a book called  NOT God Enough  by JD Greer.  The premise of the book is that our understanding of God affects everything in our life.  The author also contends that in our minds we often do not see God in all of His greatness.  We often do not see how big is God.  We do not remember that His thoughts and ways are not like our thoughts and ways.

Following is an excerpt from that book, "What we think about God determines everything else in our lives; what we value, what we pursue, and how we pursue it.  Our vision of God also determines whether our beliefs will make it through the inevitable storms of doubt, temptation, and suffering that life brings.  The real God is not a god who simply completes us and makes us feel sentimental during worship; He is a God who humbles us and transforms us from the inside out."

It is so easy to question God or become weary when difficult times come in our lives.  I remember times like these when caring for my first husband and after his death.  I remember times like this when I have had to tread life's path and face day to day problems alone as a widow.  I remember times like that since those days as well.  Yet if we remember what a great God we serve, we can trust God in these times.  He is using these times in our lives to transform us and humble us.  This in turn makes us more useful servants for Him and also eventually adds more joy to our lives.  I think this also adds gratitude to our lives for even the little blessings.  I know it has for me.

Even in what we consider "good" things in our lives, our vision of God determines how we use these gifts and in how we enjoy these gifts.  It is also a walk of faith, as we sometimes walk in new and good life-changing directions in our lives.  Walking life with joy even in "good" times requires trusting our great God especially when we can't see for sure what is around the next corner.  It is trusting our great and loving God to lead step by step.  It involves trusting that our great and awesome God knows what He is doing.  What is your and my vision of God?

(If you missed last week's blog post, "God Lives and is Good,"  you can find it here:  https://christiancaregiving.blogspot.com/2023/01/god-lives-and-is-good.html

Friday, January 20, 2023

God Lives and is Good


If we truly look at God's world and the things He does in our world, we know that God lives and is good.  Such were the sentiments expressed by a pastor who preached in our church a couple weeks ago.  Sometimes we get so bogged down with trials and challenges that we lose sight of the infinite goodnesss of God. We sometimes miss or take for granted His wonders and gifts all around us. 

Do we ever stop to contemplate the wonders of His creation: the sun and moon and stars?  Do we thank Him for the beauty of a sunrise and sunset and for the provision of rain and the pure white snow to water the earth?  Do we thank Him for the flowers in thier season?  Do we think about our ability to breathe and the functioning of our bodily organs?  Do we stand in awe of all God's daily provinces to us?  

I think of a child who so often becomes so animated and excited, as he or she discovers new things in God's creation.  Psalm 8:1-3a says, "Oh Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!  You have set Your glory above the heavens.  From the lips of children and infants You have ordained praise."   We also as adults need to delight in these gifts that God gives us.  More importantly we need to delight in Him who gives us these gifts to enjoy.  We also need to throw away or at least not make so important the worthless and unimportant things in our lives.  God must be supreme in our lives, and He must be our chief delight.   

God is good when He shows His wonders and care for us in creation and in His daily blessings for us. Psalm 8:4 says, "what is man that You care for him, that you are mindful of him?"  As humans we are but specks in the vastness of God's universe.  Yet God delights in us and cares for us.  In fact, He created us to show His glorious purpose of showing His unlimited and awesome care for us.

If God is so good what will He not do for us?  He not only gives us daily blessings, but He gave His Son, Jesus, as a sacrifice for sin.  If we are a child of God, we now live by grace and faith alone and not by our polluted works.  Will He also not then ultimately deliver us from this world of woe and trouble?  He promises us that He will do that very thing!  He promises us that He is preparing a place for us right now in His Heavenly kingdom!

All these blessings should never be taken for granted.  God refuses to be worshipped abstractly.  He wants to be worshipped personally and with love.  God never wants Himself or His blessings to be taken for granted.  Thinking about God and all His blessings should cause us to be patient in adversity, thankful in the blessings, and confident about the future.  It should also make us repentent of relying on anything but the Lord for our security and guidence.      


Saturday, January 14, 2023

God, My Portion Forever


One of my favorite passages in the Bible is Psalm 73:21-26.  After lamenting earlier in the Psalm about difficult situations all around him, the psalmist in this passage finally comes into the presence of God (verses 16-17)  When coming into the presence of the Lord, he gains a new perspective.  He begins to see things from God's perspective.


The psalmist begins to see that God never gets away from us.  He is our security (verses 23-26).  He is all we need or want both on earth and in heaven.  He is our portion forever (verses 25-26).  We need to  begin to seek intimacy with Him now here on earth (verse 28).  What is even better, Eternity is ahead of us when all our wounds will be healed and our questions will be answered.  He alone is our ultimate source of peace and joy.  Let's rejoice in that glorious truth.

Here are the beautiful words of Psalm 73:21-26.  Revel in the wonder of the words when you are feeling overwhelmed by life circumstances:

21 When my heart was grieved
    and my spirit embittered,
22 I was senseless and ignorant;
    I was a brute beast before you.
23 Yet I am always with you;
    you hold me by my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
    and afterward you will take me into glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
    And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
    but God is the strength of my heart
    and my portion forever.

Saturday, January 7, 2023

Spiritual Muscles


Spiritual muscles like physical muscles can only grow through pain.  Physical muscles grow when pushed beyond their capacity and actually break down.  They then rebuild stronger and bigger.  The same is true of spiritual muscles.  If we want to grow spiritually we must at times go through trials and circumstances that are painful or at least challenging.

As I have mentioned before in previous posts, I went through the challenges of caring for my first husband and losing him to death, now a little over twelve years ago.  I have gone through other deep challenges and trials as well since that day.  Yet I have grown through those experiences.  My love for the Lord and trust in Him has expanded greatly through these experiences.  New experiences as well, be they pleasant or difficut, mean leaving the old behind and moving forward to the new.  They involve a certain element of trust.  They involve stretching one's spiritual muscles.

In The One Year Book of Hope by Nancy Guthrie says this:  "I don't want my greatest spiritual adventures to be all behind me!  I want to keep going, keep growing.  I want to know Him better and love Him better and love Him more next year than I do today.  I want to be like Him and do more for Him.  So I got to keep building my spiritual muscles."

Whether you are caring for a loved one who is ill or have recently lost such a loved one, whether a family member is going through very difficult times, whether there is a host of other difficult circumstances in your life, or whether you are just starting an exciting new adventure in your life; trust God to see your through it all. Trust that God will stretch your spiritual muscles, and be willing to let Him do so in your life.  It will not only increase your strength in this life, but  it will also reap benefits in Eternity!



Sunday, January 1, 2023

New Year


Today begins a new year on our calandars.  2022 has exited, and 2023 has begin.  Do you wonder what 2023 will bring?  I suspect it will be a combination of joys and sorrows just like any other year.  The difference is that the children of God know the Lord is with them in both the trials and the joys.  

Why is it then that even we, as children of God, often find ourselves fretting and worrying from time to time?  I think part of it may be that we are making other things outside of the Lord too important to us.  Sometimes perhaps these other things over which we are fretting have become functional idols.  Also, we are imperfect, needy people who need the assurance of God's protecting and loving heart.  Yet, God has promised us over and over in His Word, the Bible,that He will never leave us or forsake us and that He will be with us to the end.  He has also proven Himself over and over in our lives.  

Matthew 6 in the New Testament of the Bible instucts us not to worry about our lives.  If God cares for the birds and the flowers, He will certainly care for us.  We often fret and worry about our needs and wants, but Jesus said in Matthew 6:32 that "your heavenly Father knows that you need them."  Instead of worrying Jesus commands us to "seek first His kingdom and His righteousness."   He says if we do that, "all these things will be given to you as well." (Matthew 6:33)

I don't know about you, but I often fret and worry.  In fact, the other morning I had just read the beautiful Matthew 6 chapter and was reassured from the passage.  Yet later in the day I found myself fretting about some little thing again.  Yet the more we are in God's Word, the Bible, we find out that worrying is not necessary.  We can just rest in the Lord even in the difficult moments. 

Philip Yancey says, "A God wise enough to create me and the world I live in is wise enough to watch out for me."  Paula Rinehart says, "If God has you in the palm of His hand and your real life is secure in Him, then you can venture forth-into the places and relationships, the challenges, the very heart of the storm-and you will be safe there."  Timothy Keller has said, "Worry is not believing God will get it right."  

No matter what we face, whatever God allows in our path; He will be with us and will be with our very lives.  Even in life's trials we are in His hands.  Maybe you are challenged by a family care-giving situation. Maybe you or someone you love is very ill.  Maybe you have financial or job issues.  Maybe you have relationship issues.  

In the last couple weeks of 2022 alone for me there were experiences of sharing Christmas joy with some of my grandchildren and my new husband of three and a half years.  I have, however, also experienced difficult moments due to the continual struggles of my sister with her cancer and the funeral a few days ago of my husband's only remaining sibling, his brother.  

This time of year is always also somewhat difficult for me, as I think about how twelve years ago my son and I found on the morning of January 2nd that my my first husband had passed away during the night, a day after his 65th birthhday.  This had been after a few long years' struggle with a neurological disease.   Yet no matter what we face, the Lord is still our great Shepherd and will care for us.  God has been with me through many difficult experiences, and will be with me in the current and future ones.  I need not fret or worry.  He will for be with you as well, dear reader.    

Let's enter 2023 with a new confidence and trust in the Lord.  Let's rest in Him.  Let's trust Him with our todays and tomorrows.  He is worthy of our trust.  He is Immanual, God with us.  (If you did not see last week's Christmas post about Him being Immanuel click this link:  https://christiancaregiving.blogspot.com/2022/12/immanual.html )