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
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.
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.
I remember some training I received as a pastor in dealing with the hurts and pains shared with me during pastoral counseling. I was to have empathy and listen intently but not make the pain and hurts my own. The picture I placed in my mind was to accept the story the other person unloaded and after they left, let the story move from me to the trash can especially if it was related to a sin. It was not a disrespect of their story. It was a way to protect myself from keeping the paid and hurt in myself. After all, I was there to offer hope and encouragement through the Christian teaching of the scripture.
Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life.”
When I became caregiver for my mom after my dad died I found it harder to not take everything personally and move things to the trash. There was just so much to deal with and I didn’t understand it all. I didn’t understand that as dementia increased, my mom’s ability to think about what she was saying would decrease. She would say embarrassing things in public. She would become unhappy and irritated as her eyesight and hearing diminished. She would experience sundowners syndrome and do bizarre things. She would hold me responsible when she felt uncomfortable and was unhappy. She said things that hurt. These were things I tried to take responsibility for. I found it hard to separate what I could control and what I could not control. For example she wanted to get out of her assisted living facility but when I would take her for an outing she would complain that she couldn’t see or hear. She got sick and went to the hospital. In the hospital she looked me in the eye and said, “Tom, how could you let this happen to me.” That hurt. I couldn’t keep this from happening to her. The comment pierced my heart. I couldn’t move it to the trash. I was responsible, but I felt inadequate.
I tried to place myself in her shoes to understand where she was coming from. Her husband of almost 70 years had recently died. I had moved her from her home. I had to take control of her medicines. She was losing her independence. She was having difficulty experiencing the activities in her facility. She was being attended to by a variety of new and strange people. She was losing the ability to talk on the phone. Most of the family and friends had already passed on. She wanted me to replace my dad and leave my wife because she was lonely.
It took a while to gain enough understanding to formulate a prayer. In the meantime all I could do was trust in God. The more I thought about what she was going through the easier it became to understand all that was going on inside her.
It is hard to let things go. I am a pastor and I should be able to handle all this. She wasn’t leaving my office with some counsel. It was too personal. I am connected to and responsible for my mom.
Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present you requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
It was not easy for me not to be anxious. Jesus teaches in Matt. 6:25 not to worry. Both of these feelings are a part of caregiving. My mom was trusting me for her care. I did not want to let her down. God heard my prayers as I learned better how to pray. It is not the words of a prayer that made a difference. As I prayed God taught me more. God changed my hurt to peace and acceptance. I thanked God for any blessing that brought peace, especially to my mom. Now that my mom has gone to be with Jesus, I can see things more clearly. My heart has survived and expanded into a concern for other caregivers. My experience hasn’t given me an understanding of every caregiver need. It has, however, given me a peace to share. I try to find and share any information that I think might help someone. My heart now goes out to caregivers and their care receivers.
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.
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.
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.
I will present some reflections of the areas Dr. Stephen Ilardi lifts up in his book called Depression Cure Sunday, April 7, to the Christian Caregiver Support Group at Christ Lutheran Church. This research culminating in his book focuses on brain food, rumination, exercise, light therapy, sleep and social engagement. Scripture talks about those subjects in some ways. While Dr. Ilardi sugests behaviors to change destructive habits in our daily lives, scripture addresses more than habits. It is more than a mood, feeling and depression change that scripture offers. Scripture is concerned with who we are and who we are called to be.
Jesus talks about being the bread of life and the water that totally satisfies our thirst. It is Jesus body and blood given for us as a redemptive gift of forgiveness, a demonstration of God's love and the uniting act that binds us all together, so we are not alone. Jesus is the light of the world that dispells the darkness, provides the warmth of His presence, gathers us to His rest and shows the light that is the glory of God.
Depression Cure calls for us to change our habits, scripture calls us to renew our minds, be drawn to see life through the mind of Christ and grow into an attitude of dependence and thankfulness as we fix our eyes on Jesus. Prayer is a great Christian resource to share our worries and concerns with Jesus and therein find our rest. Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Jesus.
The social support Chritians have is found in the Body of Christ. Jesus was a great healer and his disciples even healed people after Jesus ascension. Jesus says he is with us even when 2 or 3 are gathered together. The Body of Christ is Jesus arms, eyes, ears and mouth. The best picture I know of for the Church is a hospital for those who are sick and looking to more whole. It is those who are sick of soul and body that Jesus came. Matt. 9:12. Together, through Jesus, we journey on the path of growing towards being more like Jesus as He is the author and perfector of our faith. Giving thanks, counting blessings, sharing burdens and coming together to praise a God that calls us to "COME" provides it own depression cure as we add those scriptural insights to the suggestions of Dr. Ilardi.
Today I want to share from one of the devotional books Karen and I read daily. It is the devotion for March 26th from the book, A Daybook of Grace published by Fall River Press 2010.
“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” Col 3:2
The act of hope is so much more enjoyable than the act of worrying. And yet it’s often so much easier to mull over our worries than to think about the hope God offers us.
An anonymous quote declares: “Blessed is the person who is too busy to worry in the daytime, and too sleepy to worry at night.”
Maybe if we busy our minds with meditating on the goodness of God and how we can serve Him (caregivers serve Him by serving their loved one), we’ll have less mental energy to worry.
Reading the Psalms, making a list of God’s works in our own lives, singing along to a favorite worship song, serving others as a volunteer -- there are all kinds of ways to spend our time that cultivate faith in God’s promises and keep us from brooding over what may or may not happen.
God, thank you for your faithfulness. Help me set my mind on You today. Amen.
Alexander MacLaren wrote, “It is of no use to say to men, Let not your heart be troubled, unless your finish the verse and say, Believe in God, believe in Christ.”
It seemed to happen suddenly for me. Boom! I was a caregiver but I was not ready and certainly had a lot of questions about what was really happening. My mom was sharp mentally, but then there were the growing moments where her mind seemed so forgetfull or confused. Maybe it was just her grief from losing my dad after almost 70 years of marriage. I wondered if she could still live alone like she insisted. We lived hundreds of miles away and had a very uncomfortable feeling for her. She had great neighbors and a supportive church. I was uneasy. Little did I know what would happen over the next six months. I was heading into what I call the dark fog.
Looking back some two years later I see the hand of God making provisions, the presence of God carrying us through dark times, the promises of God coming true and the light of God shining brighter than ever.
There were times of depression, darkness, hopelessness, pain and deep frustration. Those times passed. I kept looking and praying to God with eyes of faith even in the darkest times. Maybe those were the times I prayed "the hardest".
I come out of those times of darkness thinking about the light. God created light. I have read some books about near death or death experiences and pay close attention to what is said about the light. I read in Revelation 22:16b, "I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star." In John 8:12 Jesus said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."
It was on the road to Emmaus in the darkest of times for two of Jesus disciples that Jesus quietly joined them. Jesus talked to them about scripture and their eyes were open to see scripture in a new way. Then when Jesus left them they said in Luke 24:32, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the scripture to us?" I see that 'burning within' to be like God's light within. The burning is a warmth and a comfort. It is also the opening of their hearts that Jesus was pouring so many wonderful understandings.
I went to seminary. Preaching and teaching others about God was what I was called to do. But it was in my own personal darkness that I really saw the light. I thank God for the darkness. Scripture now is a warm bright light for my heart. I understand the darkness, but I understand the love of God even more. I saw God speaking to my mother's heart even when in her dementia it was hard for me to have conversations with her. Now like Paul I own what Paul wrote in Romans 8:38, "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us form the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
If you are in darkness right now, know that it is only for a time. Maybe you can't do too much, only struggle to control what small pieces of life you can muster the energy to handle. At my bottom I could only say, "God I trust You." I believe that just calling to God and saying "Jesus help me" is enough. It is in the darkness that the light of Jesus will shine. My prayer for you, "Jesus, show your light to those in darkness." My suggestion for you is to fix your eyes on Jesus and trust Him.
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.