Monday, March 25, 2013

Serving God Not Man

I've always rather piously thought I am pretty good at serving the Lord rather than human beings, as the Bible says we ought to do (Ephesians 6:6-8).

Turns out--not so much.  

I've realized lately how many of my caregiving decisions are impacted by what others might think. For example, today just after I'd had my first cup of coffee I felt that unmistakable, Holy Spirit nudge followed by a specific instruction.  "Bathe your mom this morning."

"But we aren't going anywhere," I whined.  And I went about my business. 

On a continuum with the category "fresh as a daisy" on one end and "health hazard" on the other, Mom's condition this morning would've fallen approximately in the middle.  Her hair needed washed and set, and without my supervision she would've donned the same outfit for the third day in a row; but I didn't think she would be uncomfortable. 

It was while I was taking my own daily shower that remorse struck.  A couple of Bible verses came to mind but in an edited form:  " considerate as you live with your care recipients, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner..."  "Caregivers ought to love their care recipients as their own bodies. The one who loves her care recipient loves herself!"  (adapted from 1 Peter 3:7 and Ephesians 5:8)

I wouldn't wear the same clothes three days in a row (well, not if anyone was going to see me anyhow), and I sure wouldn't risk insulting the olfactory systems of others by going for three days without a shower.  Yet I was willing to allow Mom that dubious privilege simply because she is not likely to have visitors today.

By 11:00 a.m. Mom had been bathed, lotioned, shampooed, and outfitted in a freshly laundered blouse and slacks.  Even if the only person she sees today is me, I think she'll be happier.  And I have the peace of mind that comes from knowing that this time around I followed the Lord's direction rather than letting my primary motivation be what other people might think. 

Friday, March 22, 2013


Today I attended the funeral of a friend.  She was just 52 years old, a bright, always smiling, sweet-spirited person. 

Since my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer's I've really had to struggle against fear of her death; and my friend's funeral brought these fears to the surface once again. 

After the funeral today it finally occurred to me to review the teaching the Lord provided me about death back when I was writing my caregiving book in 2009. I sometimes forget that the readings in that book began through my efforts to record God's guidance to me as I navigated difficult caregiving issues that continue to recur from time to time. Grappling with the reality of my mother's impending death was such a knotty problem for me that I devoted an entire chapter of readings to the subject.  Here are words of comfort that have helped me, and if you are taking care of someone with a terminal disease I pray you are helped too. 

It is sad that we humans so often view death with dread--the actuality is that it is a blessed doorway into God's continual presence.  (quote from my mother, June, 2007) p. 243
I was comforted to be reminded that the Lord is in control even of events that are devastating to us. Because I knew Him to be a loving God, there was great peace in this reminder that He was in control. We cannot comprehend the why of distressing events, but we may always find solace when we come to the Lord. It is a difficult truth that our only hope of deliverance from the pain of grief lies in the arms of Him who allowed us that grief.  p. 246

God does not willingly bring grief or suffering (See Lamentations 3:33;) His will flows over all that is grievous and changes darkness to light (See Psalm 18:28;) all things are incorporated into and transformed by His perfect will (See Romans 8:28;) where time and eternity touch, His will is done on earth as in Heaven (See Matthew 6:10;) we can’t yet perceive what we will one day see clearly because we walk by faith and not by sight. (See 1 Corinthians 13:12.)p. 247

Matthew Henry’s complete commentary on Hebrews 2:14-15 says that because of what Christ has done for us on the Cross, “Death is not only a conquered enemy, but a reconciled friend...not now in the hand of Satan, but in the hand of Christ—not Satan’s servant, but Christ’s servant—has not hell following it, but heaven to all who are in Christ.”p. 250

Our physical bodies are like the alabaster vase that held the nard Mary poured upon the feet of Jesus. The vase was broken to release the perfume. Each of us is headed toward an appointment with physical brokenness because no one escapes physical death. Sometimes the process of death is painful and for just a little while, we are preoccupied with the breaking of the container, but then the fragrance of Christ flows forth as the spirit is released. p. 255

Death is not lovely, but though we must walk through the valley of its shadow, there is no need to fear. In just a little while we will see Jesus and no one will take away our joy. Until that day we have the Holy Spirit in our hearts as a deposit; a guarantee of what is to come. We have a promise that will not be broken; grief will turn to joy. p. 256

There is no Promised Land here on Earth; it waits for us in Heaven. The Lord gives times of rest, like oases in the desert of this journey through life, but I must never mistake a short-term respite for a permanent dwelling. This temporary shelter is where I live for now, but Heaven is my home. p. 262

The timelines of our lives overlap, but they do not begin or end in tandem. There would be a terrible loneliness in this fact, but for the Lord and His promise that He will never leave or forsake us...p. 264 

The life of Christ is at work in those of us who love Him and believe in Him. As we walk with Him we become more like Him. At the end of our earthly lives, all that is not of Him will be swallowed by victory. This comes, not from any good in us, but from the wondrous gift of grace through the blood of Jesus Christ our Lord. These mortal bodies we inhabit are bent toward sin. Our hope and our salvation are in Christ and Christ alone. p. 268

Scripture: “When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory’” (1 Corinthians 15:54) .

Sunday, March 3, 2013

When the Caregiver Needs Care

The most difficult times I've had emotionally as a caregiver have come when I've been and unable to fulfill my usual role in our family.  I've often been hurt by my family's response to me when I'm sick, because although they manage to take care of my needs, I can't help but notice they feel I'm letting them down. Just when I'm feeling most vulnerable and needy and would love a consoling word, an empathetic prayer, and yes, someone to worry over me; I sense them drawing away.  This happens because I express love for my family through acts of service, and when I stop serving, they feel unloved. It's at times like these I miss my mother the most.  Oh for someone to worry about me even more than I worry for myself!  That's the role my mother played in my life for so long, and it is how I minister to my family now.

In My Mom Has Alzheimer's, I write about this problem as I describe my loved ones' response to me when I was suffering the flu.  I came to the realization that I had reacted to Mom very similarly when she was diagnosed with dementia:  

I certainly did not rain down flowers and chocolates on my mother’s head as she began to manifest the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. I had depended on her to be the one person in my world who could be trusted to drop everything and rush to my side in any crisis large or small. When she became disabled I felt that she’d let me down, and I was silently resentful. I felt that this new role reversal was a travesty, and although I did not demand that she get out of her chair and minister to my needs, in my heart I felt that such a request would have been justified. I slowly came to accept the changes in my mother’s level of functioning, but it took time. In my temporary infirmity I recognized the need to extend to my loved ones the same grace that had been given me.
 When a caregiver becomes the one in need of care there are battles to be fought against resentment and anger.  We must be aware of the dangers of treating our care recipients unfairly out of our homesickness for a time when they took care of us.

Today I'm curled on the couch suffering the after-effects of a migraine.  I'm praying grace for my family to be assured that even when I am unable to provide for them as I usually do, that the Lord won't forget them.  And, I'm doing my best to turn from self-pity as I revisit the lesson the Lord taught me when Mom stopped showing love for me by doing things for me..."The Lord is my caregiver, I shall not want!"

Prayer:  Lord, help us as love one another with Your love apart from acts of service we are able to perform for each other.  Help us to love one another as You have loved us.  In Jesus' Name we pray.