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
For the past year I have watched the activity on my website to get a feel of what my visitors are looking for. The top interest category is devotions for the Christian caregiver. So I am making it easier to find devotions and adding additional blog sites for devotions under the page caring for the caregiver.
The second category is current article from my searching the web for articles that I think with provide vital information to help caregivers understand how to be a better caregiver in a variety of circumstances. Those articles are found on the page Topics and Tips.
The third category of interest is how to start a Christian Caregiver Support Group. While the site cannot help with the place, promotion or human relationship, we can help with some structure. We have found that a regular opening and closing is very helpful to center the group. Saying prayers together helps with a untied feel among the participants. Most topics come from deep feelings experienced by people in the groups and some guidance and understanding found in scripture. Most important, a group of fellow caregivers help us feel that we are not alone.
The resource page points to organizations with various helps for the caregiver.
Hope this redesign help you find something that ministers to you.
Dr. Tom Frommer
Outreach to Caregivers is a much needed ministry as the number and intensity of caregiving grows. What churches have to offer is a spiritual framework to give caregiving a Christian and Biblical perspective. This perspective brings hope, resilience, strength, and understanding to the challenges caregiving presents. I use the term ‘outreach’ because as caregiving intensifies the tendency of the caregiver is to withdraw and become isolated and that can be disastrous for both the caregiver and the loved one. I have witnessed the caregiver dying before the loved one because they were worn out.
Our caregiver support groups focus on both the spiritual journey God of caregiving and the practical helps that address particular situations. Sometimes preconceived views are changed because of the experience of another caregiver. In all cases we have found that scripture is loaded verses that address the feelings caregivers experience, whether fears, guilt, hurts, loneliness, concern about relationships, etc.
We have developed a ritual order for our meetings called the Caregiver Session for our opening and closing. We also use the song ‘Rest’ at our beginning because the words are wonderful to help us settle down into a sabbath moment together. We can then share with each other. Sometimes the sharing is all we do, especially if someone new comes to our group. We make sure new people can let the ‘air out’ about their stress and help us to know about their caregiving. Other times we focus on a spiritual truths like the spiritual topics listed on the home page of christiancaregiversupport.com. These are free for anyone to use. Other times we focus on practical concerns raised by members of our group. The page ‘topics and tips’ list many articles addressing practical needs or the experience of others. All are free, but we do have a creative commons copyright which will keep them free to use while allowing other to contribute to the site.
There is much more on our web site that I hope you will explore.
I pray these supports will encourage our churches to begin a Christian Caregiver Support Ministry. Let me know how you use these resources. Thanks!
Blessings on you and your ministry.
Dr. Tom Frommer
Watching our loved ones lose many abilities, choices and self control over the time we care for them is painful. The last period of life for many is an experience of losing more and more of independence and personal functions. The reality of death is a legitimate topic of discussion to talked about and even embraced. It is not realistic to believe that our loved one would not die. So to hope that our loved one would not die at some point would be a false hope. Life can be filled with many false hopes. And false hopes will disappoint. Yet the human spirit needs hope for a better day.
Peter in his letter to a suffering people in the early days of the church spoke about a living hope, one that will not disappoint or be false. It was a hope in Jesus. A hope for a better life for our loved one through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. This was a very personal hope for Peter. He was a first hand witness to Jesus’s resurrection. He was there, ran to the empty tomb, saw Jesus appear in the upper room, saw him ascend from the earth. He remembered all the teaching of Jesus pointing to the kingdom of God. The living hope was Jesus, himself. He knew Jesus lives. He knew because Jesus lives, those who look to Jesus and confess faith in him will live with Jesus forever. He remembered Jesus saying he went to prepare a place for us and will come back to take us to be where he is, his home.
Stephen Covey teaches successful people begin with the end in mind. You need to know where you want to go to plan and do the steps that will get you there. Keeping the end in mind helps to order our daily tasks and attitudes. Having our living hope in mind helps us plan our tasks and shape our attitude in our daily challenges.
Peter talks again about this hope in I Peter 1:13, “Set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.” Call it the big picture.
It is so easy to loose sight of the big picture when we are steeped in the worries of all the distractions in caregiving. The hurtful words, resentments and regrets along with the physical and emotional exhaustion involved in caring take its toll. We can easily loose focus and also hope.
Martin Luther wrote these words of encouragement to those carrying burdens. “Pray and let God worry.” That can be hard to do. Hopefully, as we gather together in our Christian Caregiver Support Group we find encouragement in the listening ear of other caregivers. Somehow, we feel understood and not alone. We might pickup up some helpful ideas. We might feel a sense of peace and relaxation in our restful sabbath time. We pray together and feel we are not alone in our worry. We leave with God’s blessing and strength for another day.
When Christians pray, share and look at God’s word, we experience the Body of Christ. In some way Jesus Christ is with us. Our hope is renewed. It is a Living Hope. The disciples talked about how their hearts were stirred when Jesus was with them That Living Hope stirs our hearts, also.
We may be uncomfortable talking about end of life with the one we love. Your loved one may want to let you know their wishes about dying and it may be your gift to listen. Be ready to give spiritual encouragement. Don’t neglect sharing the living hope that we have in Christ Jesus. Make your last conversations express love. Remember, we are spiritual people having a human experience. Strengthen the spiritual.
II Corinthians 4:7-9 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
I was thrust into caregiving for my mom following the death of my dad. My first step was getting through the “FOG” of many issues and assessments in hopes of gaining a foothold on the path forward in caring for my mom. My hope was to do everything “right”.
Soon I learned that I was a clay jar caregiver. Getting everything “right” was going to be very difficult-impossible. The variables, surprises, questions, communications, and relationships seemed all so complicated. And this was my first time dealing with many of these issues of complicated caregiving. Oh, I had seen others involved in these challenges in my ministry. Now it was my mom and my family. It felt so different.
My wife and I went to a conference on grief during this time. We heard a funeral director talk about the difference of helping others with issues of death and grieving and then having the experience himself. At another event, I heard a professional in the field of senior care who had helped many others with caregiving, express the frustration and feelings she was now having to experience within her own family.
Professional or not, all caregivers are clay jars.
But we, as Paul says, “We have this treasure in our clay jars. The treasure is the glorious presence of Jesus Christ. We are a vessel serving a special purpose and service, in HIS name, for our loved one. Some how and in some way God wants to use us; and through us, to share this treasure with our loved one. We want to share this treasure as we care for their physical, emotional, relational and spiritual needs. And this treasure is the all_surpassing power of God, and how deep and wide is His mercy, grace and love for all of us.
Families, and our other responsibilities, can press us from every side While hard pressed, we are not crushed. We may be very perplexed, to be at a loss on how to act or proceed, then we look to God for help and direction. We cannot give up. We are not alone. That is why a few chapters later Paul says in II Corinthians 12:10, “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weakness, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, I am strong.” It was Christ who strengthened Paul. And Christ will strengthen you, also. In our weakness, let us let Christ shine through.
So, clay jar caregivers, keep your self relying on these everlasting arms of Christ. Stay close to Jesus so the treasure that is within you might guide and strengthen you in your calling as a caregiver. You need to take care of yourself spiritually as well as physically and emotionally.
Phillips Brooks wrote a Christmas carol we are all familiar with called, “O Little Town of Bethlehem”. He also wrote these words to encourage Christ followers,
Feed on Christ
And then go and live your life,
And it is Christ in you that lives your life,
That helps the poor,
That tells the truth,
That fights the battle,
And that wins the crowns.
Caregiving is hard. Yet we find blessings in the journey.
It is said that in a time of great despondency among the first settlers in New England, it was proposed in one of their public assemblies to proclaim a fast. An old farmer arose. He spoke of their provoking heaven with their complaints. He reviewed their measures, showed that they had much to be thankful for, and moved that instead of appointing a day of fasting, they should appoint a day of thanksgiving. This was done, and the custom has been continued ever since.
Stenbock wrote, “Strength, rest, guidance, grace, help, sympathy, love -- all from God to us! What a blessing.” We find those blessings when we look for them.
Grace and Peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. 2 Peter 1:2
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
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.
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.
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.