Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and He will establish your plans. In all your ways acknowledge HIM and He will make your paths straight.
— Proverbs 5:3
— Proverbs 5:3
A lady at Catholic Charities spoke with me yesterday as I handed her a flyer about our upcoming “Caring for the Caregivers” event on May 13th. She said she is half way into the journey as caregiver. At the May 13th event we will look at the four stages of caregiving, a progressing need for increased care and what half way might mean.
As caregivers we may be focused on the increasing needs of our parent or spouse, but God may be focused on blessings to give us in this journey as well as His care for our loved one. We can be transformed by seeing God’s blessings and provisions in the midst of suffering and pain. What are those blessings and provisions?
The first blessing is a growing understanding that this responsibility might be more difficult than we thought it might be. God provides for us a special need for Him. He asks, “Will you put your trust in me?” He always wants us to trust Him, now it will be at a deeper level. Few of us are experts. We do not understand all these complicated pieces relating to physical, emotional and spiritual challenges. We need the wisdom that God gives when we ask Him. James 1:5
The second blessing calls us to re-examine the meaning and values of life. The losses and suffering our loved one experiences are losses we see, feel and share. We are given the opportunity to re-examine the things that will remain. Faith, hope and love are three that Paul describes in I Cor. 13.
The third blessing is prayer. I mean the prayer for the one we love. While their bodies and minds may be wasting away, we pray for them and lift them up with our prayers. Those prayers help by keeping our attitude in a right relationship with God and the one we love. As one concerned caregiver shared the other day, we hear our loved one say they just want to die. We pray that death can be seen as being in the light of the presence of God and not just absent from the suffering of the body. Paul talks about his body wasting away while his spirit is being renewed day by day. We pray that this will happen for the one we love. II Cor 4:16.
The fourth blessing can be an enriched reading of scripture. Scripture gives us the words of truth and life. Truth in scripture describes the sinfulness of humans and the holiness of God. The truth is God calling people to trust in Him and look to Him. Life in scripture is also a guide for us to know how we should live. Many of the feelings we experience as caregivers are described in the Psalms. The Psalms tell us what to do with those feelings. Trusting in God is a decision. Psalm 119:105
The fifth blessing is a transformation of our selves. Jesus spoke about the kingdom of God. It is a place of living that is beyond our earthly kingdoms of strife, injustice, suffering, false Gods, and financial distress. It is a kingdom that we see through spiritual eyes. Our bodies will die and decay, but our spirit will live on. By nature we look at life in a very limited, selfish way. Our minds have the capacity to change our thinking and scripture presents to us to a way of seeing life through God’s eyes. Scripture calls us to change both our hearts and minds. It is with our heart and minds that Jesus calls us to follow Him. Whether we have been a Christian all our life or are new to the faith, placing our trust in Jesus and fixing our eyes on Him in our caregiving journey can be a life changing time of enriching our faith. The one we care about might benefit from our renewed faith and love. Rom 12:1-2.
May the love of Jesus, God’s peace that passes all understanding and the comfort of the Holy Spirit renew your heard and mind.
This past weekend I attended the Caregiver event at Blue Ridge Boulevard Christian Church. About 20 people learned about the services of Hospice Care provided by Omega Health Care in a presentation by Alan Murray. Charles Hughes, the director of Social Services at Liberty Hospital review the importance and wording of Advance Directive for Health Care and the Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care Decisions. Kelly Jones with Heart of American Alzheimers Assc. provided an excellent description of Dimential and Alzheimers diseases. She delivered a very informative and comforting word of support.
Two days later, The Shepherd Center sponsored an informational meeting featuring Rev. Dr. Earl Shelp with the Interfaith CarePartners of Houston, Texas. By recruiting and training teams of at least 12 people, congregations can help families by providing supports to keep loved ones in the home. The Shepherd Center is promoting having a ministry like this in the Kansas City area. Congregations that want more information should contact the Sheperd Center.
A management principle stresses separating the urgent from the important. When we a trapped by doing only the urgent and neglect the important, we are caught in a vicious circle of always reacting and seldom acting. We wish things would change but cannot do the different that will help things change.
One of the challenges for caregivers is becoming more isolated and carrying our responsibilities all by ourselves. This is especially true when we do not have family near or other have family members that cannot understand all the time we spend worrying and needs we feel we must address. We feel our situation is unique. We find ourselves doing the same thing over and over but wishing something would change. We wish others could understand.
Sometimes, finding a group of people who feel like we do, have a similar responsibility and face the frustration and exhaustion we face is more helpful than family. People who understand the stress we face. People who struggle like we do. Where can we find people like that?
Support groups are made up of people who share similar experiences and questions. They find understanding and strength in sharing their stories and learning together.
Even better is a support group that shares the encouragement of scripture and can pray for one another. Having a leader that can open up the scripture for caregiver eyes, to bring out grace filled words that encourage and point us to God. People that help us learn all that God can teach us during our caregiving time.
I know it is hard for a caregiver to add one more thing to a difficult schedule and to change a pattern of behavior. Getting together in a Christian Caregiver Support Group is one of those things under the category of important. Hebrews 10:23-25 encourages us to, "Hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another."
If we do not make room for the important, then everything is always urgent. It is important to fight the isolation and the depression. We are not meant to live and love that way. It take courage to reach out for new understanding friends and risk a new experience.
My vision and prayer is for an explosion of Christian Caregiver Support Group in every community to help address the important, to find the peace that passes all understanding found in Jesus. When you address the important renewing that a faith centered support group brings to caregiving, you will find that you are a more effective caregiver. That is good for you and for the loved one you care for.
While caring for my mom and after much encouragement we moved her into independent living. My dad had told her before he died not to let us move her into an "institution". The first two weeks went well. Then she got pneumonia, fell and had a suspected hairline fracture of he anckle. She went into the hospital. That night and everything changed. She became very disoriented, had hallucinations and became very agitated. I will never forget looked into my eyes and blamed me and said, "Tom, how could you let something like this happen to me?" It cut straight to my heart. I was trying so hard caring for her and do the "right thing". I was hurt because my mom felt I let her down. My heart was vulnerable because I really cared and I was held accountable for something I could not control.
Proverbs 4:23 reminds us, "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix our gaze directly before you." Some counselors would say not to take my moms comments personally. She isn't thinking clearly with her dementia. It is hard to let a comment like that pass. A defense of my actions and an explanation of circumstances was irrelevant at the time. I just had to put away a responsive defense. My hurt wan't the issue. Getting care for my mom was the issue. I had to fix my attention to the concerns at hand. I had not sinned against my mom, but she felt that I did. I told her I was sorry this happened.
Psalm 51 says, "Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me." I see that verse as asking God to not only heal a sinful heart, but to heal a broken heart as well. For the next month my mom would wear an ankle brace and deal with issues in rehab. We were not going to come back and and focus on my hurt. She could not mentally think about my hurt. I had to take it to God. Phil. 4:6 says, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." And so I did. It wasn't so much a dwelling on my hurt as it was a trusting in God and in new ways God could help me care for my mom.
The journey from Phil 4:6 to verse 7 "And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." took three months to find a new peace.
There is the refining of the soul that can happen in the caregiver's journey with God. Our thoughts and motives are be challenged. Our confidence can erode quickly. We can feel trapped. Yet, God can work in us a new person and spirit. Matt. 5:8 says, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God." We can see God in a new way?
As Linda Randall sings fro her song the God of the Mountain: The God of the good times is also the God of the bad times." Finding God in the bad times is a very renewing, strengthening and healing or at least it has been for me. My heart has not only been guarded, but healed and renewed; it has be touched by God's love.
There are lies intended to pierce our hearts that can come from many places, even the one we care for. We do not have to believe those lies. We will make mistakes, wrong decisions, say uncontrolled words and react rather than respond. Those are wrong actions, but not a definition of who we are and who we can become. God has an image of who He wants us to be. Being a caregiver can be a part of God's teaching method. We are not a finished person until God is finished with us. In the meantime we will grow and change as God leads us. Rom. 12:2, "Do not be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind."
Welcome to the 10 caring people who came to the first Christian Caregiver Support Group at Overland Park Christian Church in Overland Park, KS.
We introduced ourselves and described the situations and needs. We then learned about what Christian caregiving means and how scripture can be helpful and inspirational to us in this journey. Each session will begin with a welcome, a reminder of our purpose and a time of experiencing some "rest" as we separate ourselves for a time to share in a small sabboath moment. We conclude with the caregiver's prayer and the Lord's Prayer.
If you are in the Kansas City area and looking for a Christian Caregiver Support Group, you are welcme to come the Monday group meeting at 1:00 at Overland Park Christian Church. If weekdays do not fit your schedule, come to our Sunday Chrsitian Caregiver Support Group meeing at 4:00 at Christ Lutheran Church. See the Events tab for address.
In Dr. Stephen Ilardi’s book The Depression Cure he writes of the benefit of anti-depressing behaviors. In depression we struggle with the absence of peace and hope, with our feelings of loneliness and isolation. We search our minds to understand, try to figure out how to control, think we can prepare for every situation, or any other rabbit trail with no end.
The premise of Dr. Stephen Ilardi’s book is that help can be found in anti-depressing behaviors resulting in lifestyle changes he outlines. If we can change our behavior in six areas of our life, we can be helped in finding our way out of depression. Light therapy is one of the six areas that affect our mood. Sunlight is best but during winter can be supplemented by a light box. People from our group (at Church of the Resurrection following Dr. Ilardi’s videos and lessons) who used the light box this past winter reported that there was a comfort and relaxation effect. They would turn on the light box for 1/2 hour while they read their email in the morning. The scientific effect hoped for is an increase of serotonin in the brain to enhance our mood and feeling of well being. It is like the feeling we have after several cloudy gloomy days followed by a bright sunny warm day. We want to get outside and enjoy the day.
Scripture also speaks of light.
The blessing from the book of Numbers 6:24-26 is often repeated today as a benediction closing our worship.
“The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
The Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace.”
This blessing reminds us we are not alone, God does see us and care for us. God is gracious and loves us.
Paul writes us in the book of Philippians 4:7, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” This is another very common benediction often repeated today as a benediction.
Benedictions and blessings are very important. They are a light for our soul. Words of encouragement can brighten our day. Scripture is an enduring book because the words of encouragement and love reveal what is true.
As Christians, when we read “Lord” in the Old Testament, we see Jesus. Jesus is the “Lord” David referred to in Psalm 110:1. So in reading, “The Lord make His face to shine upon you.” Christians see the face of Jesus shining on us. “Jesus is the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12.
As a caregiver I pray the light of Jesus will sustain you and give you peace and hope.
One of my wife's favorite authors, George MacDonald, wrote:, "How often we look upon God as our last and feeblest resource! We go to Him because we have nowhere else to go. And then we learn that the storms of life have driven us, not upon the rocks, but into the desired haven."
I journeyed throught the storm of the beginning of my caregiving, lost in what I called the FOG, hoping to see a lighthouse to guide my way. In the dank grey of FOG, without diagnosis and with confusion, I just expressed my trust in God to help me. It took time. I gained knowledge from those who gave their professional opinion. I tried my best to honor my mom and to give her good care. It was the journey with other Christians who understood what I was experiencing that I missed most. Today I find myself in what I believe to be the desired haven. God wanted to teach me about this caregiving journey of honoring, loving, depending and seeking. There is so much God can teach us in this journey. I don't want to miss any of the wisdom about life and death, God's care and presence, the encouragement Christian community can provide.
Being a caregiver is stressful, complicated and few of us are experts at it. Yet there are simple truths of faith that are so profound and so helpful. My prayer is that you will recognize God's desired haven in your caregiving.
Sue Brettmann RN has been devoted to Caregiving both in her career as an RN, Parish Nurse and caring for her aging parents through the last 40 plus years. She has experience in trauma, home care and hospice. Her strong faith walk and relationship with Christ has always been a part of her care and she is committed to helping others see the gift of Christ in their personal journey's.