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
Guilt and Grace
Caregivers may from time to time be visited by an uncomfortable visitor -- GUILT. The visitor can come from any direction. It may be a relative that thinks we are not doing things right. Or general social culture that feels we should do this or that; like there is only one accepted way to provide care. It may be the one we are caring for is never satisfied with how often we visit or how we do their meals or laundry. Guilt may come from our own heart. You second guess whether you are doing things right or doing the right things. The big one is feeling guilty before God. Did you do something wrong to cause this to happen? It this in any way a punishment?
What does scripture say we should do with our feelings of guilt? Even with the most horrible SIN, scripture gives us a clear and forthright instruction. We are to confess our feelings of guilt. That does not mean that what we are feeling is a true moral guilt. It means that we need to get our thoughts and feelings surrounding guilt out into the open in some way. We might be experiencing a mixed bag of strained relationships, confused roles, feelings of inadequacy, etc. woven in with our feelings of guilt. I John 1:8-10 says, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.”
If we are dealing with feelings of guilt, it is important to confess it. There is another option. We can become resentful, bitter, self-defensive or angry. That options just breeds more guilt or self-centeredness. So I suggest confession. Confession is central to restoring right relationships, even with ourselves. parent or spouse if I could go back and start all over. But that is not the case. We are where we are in life. We need a safe place to let our feelings out.
As a general rule, caregivers do the best they can do with the information they have at the time. I would be a better caregiver for my mom if I had to do it all over. Then again I might have been a better
If God offers grace, after you express your feelings of guilt (or another associated feeling), give yourself grace too.
You wake up from a restless sleep. Your mind goes to the loved one you are caring for. You don’t focus on any particular issue. You just think about their suffering and difficulties. Feelings of love surge for your loved one. Then your feelings zero in on the hurt you feel for them. You begin weeping quietly. You remember the better times the two of you experienced. And now you are sad for them and yourself for the times that are left behind. This is not the way you wanted their life to be. Your weeping lingers as you move on to others in your family and your hopes and dreams for them. Sadness is growing as the tears quietly stream down your face. It is going to be one of those nights to let our feelings come out in a slow cry.
Jeremiah is known as the weeping prophet. God gave him a vision of Judah’s future. It wasn’t good. Within the huge collection of prophetic oracles that make up the fifty-two chapters of Jeremiah's witness, one finds more than tears, more than frank admissions of pain, and more than convictions about the evils of Judah. One also finds startling promises of hope, hope found not merely in the possibility of human repentance, but grounded squarely in the amazing grace of God. Such a passage is 31:31-34. In this world we have troubles. Even as Jeremiah was weeping for Israel and Judah, his tears turned to hope that God would make all things new.
Jesus is known as our Savior, but Jesus also shows his empathy and compassion through His tears. In John 11 Mary and Martha send for Jesus because Lazarus is very sick. Lazarus dies before Jesus arrives and Mary and Martha are in mourning, surrounded by their Jewish friends. It was when Jesus saw Mary weeping, and all the Jews who had come along side her also weeping, that Jesus shed his tears. He saw the pain being felt by the group. It affected Jesus deeply and he wept. (Jn 11:35)
It is okay to weep for someone you love. It is not the loss, but the losing that hurts. The losing of good times, dreams, conversations and autonomy. So we let the feelings flow through us as we slowly and quietly weep our tears so as not to disturb others. Finally, we fall back to sleep as the good thoughts and memories of past times start to enter our mind. Tomorrow will be another day. We need our rest. The bitter/sweet taste of tears has given us some release. The tears slowly dry. Somehow, we are tired again and ready for sleep. And the night passes.
Did God just give our feelings a cleansing? Did we experience hurt and love at the same time? Was God trying to share a word with us?
“Sing to the Lord, you saints of his; praise his holy name. For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor last a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” Ps. 30:4-5
One Day at a Time
If we were to list all the verses that talk about the importance of a single day and our daily activities, that list alone would fill many more pages than I have room.
God’s mercies are new every single day (Lamentations 3:23) God’s strength is provided for us each day to meet the challenges of that particular day (Deut. 3:25) We are advised to put each of our days in proper order (Ps 90:12) Jesus calls us to follow Him daily (Luke 9:23).
If there ever is a time we need God with us, it is during the journey of caregiving. To neglect God is to cut ourselves off from our greatest help. That is why we give our members Jesus Calling to encourage you to start the day with God. As we trust God to give us wisdom for today’s decisions, He will lead us a step at a time into what He wants us to be doing in the future. We do not control the future. We barely control our own feelings and words for today. So we come to God. “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, My God , in whom I trust.’” (Ps 91:1-2)
“Living in the present means squarely accepting and responding to it as God’s moment for you now, while it is called today rather than wishing it were yesterday or tomorrow.” Evelyn Underhill.
Each day for a caregiver can bring its own surprises and new challenges. We may make our plans and then find ourselves making quick changes. We do not know what each day will bring. It is hard to live with daily obstacles. It is also hard to live with the status quo. The most important, helpful, and supporting thing to keep in mind is to not live it alone. May God be bigger for you than your challenges. May you look to God first and then your challenges.
Start the day with God. Remember this is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it. Share the day with God by bringing all your needs, concerns and troubles to Him. He promises to receive our burdens. Jesus says, “ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and it shall be open to you.” Look for His blessings. God may not give all you want, but He will give you what you need. Giving thanks is a great boost to our spirit. As God responds to your prayers, remember to thank Him. It is the trial of our faith that is precious. If we go through the trial, there is so much wealth laid up in our heavenly bank account to draw upon when the next test comes. Oswald Chambers
Establish a call partner who can listen and understand your caregiving journey. Loneliness and isolation are the greatest threats to caregivers. Whether family, friend or another person in our group, contact them for an ear and prayer partner. Sometimes they give you a different vantage point to see God. If you want to hear God’s voice clearly and you are uncertain, then remain in His presence until He changes that uncertainty. Often, much can happen during this waiting for the Lord. Sometimes, He changes pride into humility, doubt into faith and peace. Corrie Ten Boom. Do you have a friend who will wait on the Lord with you?
Don’t neglect the Body of Christ. Attending worship is probably the largest gathering of the Body of Christ. There is healing just by being fully present to God with the Body of Christ. It is a gathering of wounded people, trusting in God and offering praise and thanks together. We are not made to go through life alone. But the Body of Christ is also where two or three are gathered together in “My Name”. God may come to you through someone else and may work through you to encourage another.
With God’s help you can make it through today. Remember, it is only for a season.
Encouragement in Suffering
In our encouraging one another, we do not want to imply that the goal or norm of human life is to get past all suffering. Jesus tells his disciples before his death, “In the world you have trouble. But be encouraged! I have conquered the world.” (John 16:33)
Julian of Norwich, fourteenth-century mystic, reflects on this truth: “He did not say; You will not be troubled, you will not be belabored, you will not be disquieted; but he said: You will not be overcome.” Life on earth involves us in suffering -- our own and that of others. This is only natural in a finite world where life and death weave a constant dance. The simple truth is that we do not grow -- physically, emotionally, or spiritually -- without encountering, coping with, and learning from suffering. Certainly we learn far more from experiences that push us out of our comfort zones than from a life of smooth sailing. And as most of us discover, we cannot become truly empathetic or compassionate toward others if we have not known loss and hardship ourselves. St John of Kronstadt (nineteenth century) wisely counseled; “Do not fear the conflict, and do not flee from it; where there is no struggle, there is no virtue. Our faith, trust, and love are proved and revealed in adversities, that is, in difficult and grievous outward and inward circumstances, during sickness, sorrow and privations.”
In the spiritual life, without suffering there can be no maturing into the fullness of our humanity. The way of the cross entails dying to our small, ego-centered life so that we may rise into our true selfhood -- the identity that finds its center and ground in God. This true human identity is represented and fully embodied in Christ, “the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15). We too, are created in the divine image, and as believers we are promised the destiny of being conformed to Christ (Rom 8:29) in whom we recover the beauty and clarity of that image.
I do not believe God actively creates suffering for us, surely God allows us to undergo adversities with a continual hope that we will open up to the very real transformations they can work in us if we are willing. The questions we ask of one another and of ourselves in times of trial are important. What are you learning from this experience? How does it enlarge your view of life, of others, of yourself? Is there an invitation from God within this experience that is new of surprising to you? These are questions aimed at evoking our deeper wisdom and guidance from the Spirit dwelling within.
Nothing of our life’s experience is lost or wasted when we are open to grace -- even if we have made terrible choices, affecting our lives and the lives of others for years; even if we bear and inflict permanent scars; even if we have lost years of productive work to chronic illness or depression; even if our life seems that most boring, meaningless existence possible. God has promised to use our life experiences in ways that build toward a new configuration of goodness: “We know that God works all things together for good for the ones who love God.” (Rom. 8:28) God continues the long, patient process of reweaving our broken threads into a new tapestry. Our faith proclaims that ultimately God will prevail, unconditional love will reveal its fullness, the New Creation will manifest in glory, and --as Julian of Norwich saw in one of her revelations and put so memorable to words -- “Sin is necessary, but all will be well, and all will be well, and every kind of thing will be well.” This is our deep faith, our realistic hope, and the source, sustenance, and destiny of our love. What greater encouragement could we hope for?
‘God had one son on earth without sin, but never one without suffering.”
It is hard to witness the decline of our aging spouse or parent. Loss of hearing makes communication difficult. Loss of sight limits enjoyable stimulation. Loss of memory swells safety concerns for the caregiver and agitation for our loved one. Chronic pain brings dependence on pills. Dr. Nancy Copeland-Payton in her book, The Losses of Our Lives says, “Maturing is losing things we have outgrown. We now lose things we haven’t outgrown -- things we need to sustain our lives”.
Our culture values independence and fights against aging. We spend billions of dollars to fight aging. For many, old age brings frailty and dependency. We don’t want to be a burden on our children or our spouse.
Losses in Aging means a changing agenda in our lives. Instead of feeling worthless because we cannot do what we used to do, there is a new agenda to be discovered. We may not be able to cook a meal or care for the yard like we used to. Those who age gracefully come to terms with self and accept loss as part of aging. We name, morn and let go of the things and abilities we lose.
The new agenda brings wisdom that should come with age. Our old wounds and painful memories can finally heal as we see the past anew. As our fears, displeasures and disgust for those aspects or our selves heal, we loose the poison we spew out at others. When we stop trying to control the uncontrollable, when we release our endless complaining, and we accept what life brings to us, we learn to see life by a different light that isn’t earthbound. In our pain and suffering we are still called as Christians to live more from our “created in the image of God” center. As we approach our true home we also allow our selves to focus on our soul as much as our body.
Phil. 3:12-14, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Paul wrote this while in prison)
Phil 1:21, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
I Cor. 13:12-13, “Now we see but a poor reflection; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
We must never lose sight of the eternal goal. Our bodies waste away, it is our spirit and soul that remain forever. Caring for the soul is more important than caring for the body. Caring for the soul calls us to focus on our hope.
Taming the Tongue
In the frustration of your caregiving have you lost control of your tongue? Have you said things you wish you could take back? Do you feel like you are nagging? Have you called someone a “something” that attacks their dignity? How can we be more mindful with our tongue? What are your tongue issues?
Readings for today Matthew 5:22-23, “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” Ephesians 4:29, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” James 3:8-9, “But no man can tame the tongue. It is restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue, we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.” We do and say many things from habit. The first step in changing a habit is mindfulness of our own actions and setting some ‘trigger’ to catch ourselves so we might respond differently. Okay, scripture says, “No man can tame the tongue!” Maybe we can bridle it a little. What ‘trigger’ might you set to bridle your tongue? Can you find a different way to express yourself that might be more like a blessing to your loved one? I know caring for those who desire independence but need our love and care can bring conflict. Try not to get drawn in to a battle. Pray that God might show you a better way to communicate. Your heart really wants to bless.
Lord, help me with my tongue. May the words of my mouth be a good reflection of the blessings I want for the one I love, especially in the difficult times.
Seeking Wise Counsel
Yesterday at the Christian Caregiver Support Group at Christ Lutheran Church we were discussing how difficult conversations about transitions can be among family members. Having a third party without the strong emotional ties of family can be very helpful. One of those difficult times can be the need to move to a place that provides more assistance and safety. I know with my mom, it was a very hard decision and I had the help of the pastor from her church who told her she needed to move. He had been a hospice chaplain and was sensitive from his experience to both the changing needs and the difficulty of making that kind of decision.
I met Todd at the Senior Expo held at Grace Fellowship Church on May 18th. He provides a valuable service during the difficult time when a loved one can no longer live independently.
Todd M Seidl is the Owner of Senior Living Placement, Referral, and Advisory Services (913) 735-7780. This free service that aids families in the personal assessment of social, financial, physical, emotional and geographic preference needs for senior care. Following the assessment recommended options that match the needs are suggested along with scheduling and accompanying families on a visit to selected senior living communities. A transition plan is made collaboratively with the family and additional resources such as moving assistance are included. He serves the South Kansas City area.
My move with my mother was from the Texas Valley to San Antonio. Fortunately, Karen and I had been visiting facilities for several years before her move and we were familiar with the options because we could see the day coming. If you have not done that research and need to do something soon, Todd could be a great help.
Moving is very hard on most seniors. Be sensitive and know that they will probably grieve their loss of home and some independence. Lift the whole matter up in prayer, hold on to the love of Christ, and seek wise counsel.
Since 2011 Sharon has written weekly devotions for caregivers. She ws a caregiver for her husband for 4 1/2 years. This journey (with the Lord) in caring for her husband has given her an appreciation for the gifts and blessings God gives, even in the midst of suffering. What a wise woman to look deeper than the obvious and see he hand of God. Her compassion for caregivers is evident in her blog. She writes in an inviting style to help caregivers see the hand of God. Our caregiving journey does have an end. Sharon help us come to a good place in our journey's end. I encourage my readers to visit her site for her weekly devotions. Visit her at http://christiancaregiving.blogspot.com/.
In your anger do not sin
Eph. 4:26 “In your anger do not sin.”
Each week I post news that I think might be helpful for caregivers to read. Some of the articles are inspirational, some educational and some are resources that might be helpful. I don’t post about 20% of the articles I find. They are news about caregiver abuse; financial, physical or emotional that involve law enforcement.
Recently, there was local news of a murder/suicide involving an elderly couple that could not deal with their struggles anymore. There are caregivers that misuse parents money. Some are emotionally cruel. It is a sad state of affairs when caregivers loose it and abuse their loved one. It is a warning to all caregivers to be careful and diligent in their responsibilities.
Caregivers are vulnerable and can come to the end of their rope without proper self care. Some in our Christian Caregiver Support Groups appreciate the confidentiality and support we provide. They have a place to just dump their feelings and not be condemned. We acknowledge that caregiving can be very hard and stressful. Most of the problems in the press involve caregivers who do not have a support group. Some wallow in self pity and become unloving and selfish. Some isolate themselves and their care receiver. They just get lost dealing with their feelings and responsibilities.
Jesus came to seek and to save those who are lost. It is our mission as Christian Caregiver Ministry to seek those who can benefit from our support. We offer understanding, care and encouragement to support each other. We read in scripture feelings similar to what we are experiencing and receive a word to handle our feelings in a Christian manner. We pray for one another and share hope to manage the load.
It is amazing that almost 20% of news articles about caregivers involve law enforcement. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if this ministry in churches could make a significant dent in that percentage? If your church wants to begin an outreach to caregivers, I would be glad to help in any way I can. Contact me and we can explore your options. Dr. Tom Frommer - 913-732-0703.
Here is an interesting thought from myths about the brain recently released in an article in USA Today.
I quote: Myth #2: We see the world as it is
"We absolutely don't see the world as it is. It may be more accurate to say, as wise men have always told us: 'We don't see the world as it is; we see the world as WE are.' The brain receives incomplete information from the world and tries to complete that information. One example is that we actually only receive low-resolution flat 2D images through our eyes and our brain turns that into the high-def 3D world we take for granted. We really do live in the matrix. We see what we want to see, and we find what we expect to find."
“We see what we want to see and find what we expect.” It may not be what is real. But if this research is correct, we can’t trust ourselves to see the world as it is.
I remember the FOG of stage one caregiving. It was the assessment time of trying to understand the situation and plan what needed to be done. The most helpful and lasting learning for me came from the spiritual side of caregiving. Reading and hearing the words of Scripture helped me see more of God’s perspective of life. When Jesus says, “I tell you the truth” over and over again especially in the Gospel of John, Jesus is claiming He see things as God sees them; as they really are. He tells it like it really is.
Is there a Christian way of perceiving caregiving? I believe there is. While I received help from Caregiver SOS in San Antonio and am very grateful that they were there for me, it was my own leaning and trusting on God that made my caregiver experience a deep and personal walk closer to God. I think my spiritual walk made me a better caregiver for my mother. My spiritual walk helped me take better care of myself.
While understanding the progression of a disease is important, I believe there is a common spiritual walk that helps caregivers deal with many different disease situations. Those who fix their eyes on Jesus and ask for God’s participation will receive it. Scripture encourages us to draw near to God and God gives us the promise He will draw near to us. Our minds can get in the way and take us to that place of loneliness and hopelessness. I guess that is why Paul in Romans 12 encourages us to be transformed by the renewing of our mind. God is the one who sees things as they really are. We can trust what God tries to show us. When our minds are connected with God’s point of view, then, as Paul says, we will be able to test and approve of what God’s will is.
With humility and dependency it is good to get together with other Christians going through the journey of caregiving. We just might learn from each other and see life and our situation more clearly; as it really is.
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.