Monday, August 23, 2010

"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.
It turns what we have into enough, and more.
It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order,
confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast,
a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.
Gratitude makes sense of our past,
brings peace for today,
and creates a vision for tomorrow.”

- Melody Beattie

Counting your blessings.....

"Oh no. Please don't tell me this is going to be one of those happy blog posts about "counting your blessings". Seriously? Don't you understand my life???"

Believe me, I do understand your life. But you know what I have discovered about humankind? I have discovered that we all have different blessings.

Yes, we do. As caregivers, our blessings, when listed, would look completely different from what I'll call "normals". Those of us who are caring for our loved ones have many blessings that we overlook each day.

I've talked about finding contentment before, but just maybe contentment is also found along the road of counting our blessings.

So this week, I'm going to try to focus on counting my blessings, as difficult as that may be at times.

I am blessed.....

  • because I get to be at home with my husband and my last remaining minor child. We can enjoy one anothers company.

  • in that I have very reliable air conditioning in this oppressive heat wave. Our city has had temps in the 100's for several weeks now, and we've been under heat advisories. No one can handle temps this high, and certainly not my Dear Hubby with his MS. It would kill him, literally.

  • to have people in my life who care deeply for me. We have friends from our past visiting us, and friends who have made a deep connection with us. I know of 6 women that I could call right now and I know that they would pray with me and for me. I know these women would run an errand for me or just come here to sit with me and hold my hand. I am loved.

  • that my husband while almost completely bedridden, is able to communicate, visit and share with me. Many caregivers don't have that, and I know that I may not always have that either.

  • with medical equipment, which makes caring for my husband less physically demanding that it once was. A hospital type bed, a Hoyer lift, medical supplies and consults with nurses, aides and doctors when we hit a rough spot.
  • to be able to share my heart with others, to be heard.

  • to finally understand in a small way how my Father in heaven sees me. This is a recent development as we've begun to understand the grace of God. Understanding who I am in Christ has removed a lot of condemnation that I've felt the past ten years when I've failed at being a "good wife" or a "sacrificial caregiver". I am growing in grace and in the knowledge of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

  • because I am mentally healthy. No longer do I struggle with depression or thoughts of suicide. My life is demanding and challenging, for sure, but my mind is strong and healthy. God has done a remarkable work in my life.

  • to have little moments of quiet in my life, where I can reflect and remember.

  • in having memories. I can remember the good times our family has had together. I can remember the painful and burdensome times and can recall the ways God has moved on our behalf. I can cry over the loss of children through miscarriage and rejoice in knowing I will see them again.
  • in having met some wonderful people through the internet.

Those of you who have contacted me through this blog have had a profound influence in my life. As you share your story with me, I remember all the things I have been through. I see myself in your story. And, through you, I am feeling a calling on my life. I anticipate that God is going to use me in a way I NEVER would have dreamed. My life may only affect one person, but I am willing to be used. I have nothing to give. All I can do is point to the One who has done a work and to share this: If God can change my heart, if He can heal my mind, if He can provide for me, He can do the same for you.

I am proof positive that God is still working miracles, large and small......

I am a blessed woman.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Finding your calling......

I've been thinking about passion and calling lately. I think that possibly the Lord is showing me some things. It's exciting, at times, discouraging, painful, and yet brings with it a sense of peace. I have no idea what the future holds, but I am opening my heart and hands to what He wants to do with my life.

Right now, of course, my focus is on my husband and caring for him. Being the best wife I can be to him. And, we still have one minor child at home, so I'm still in the mothering role too. And, yes, my adult children still need a mother. And, I am a grandmother, who loves spending time with her precious grandson.

But this I know, I am beginning to see things that I know the Lord is placing on my heart. I am beginning to see areas that are lacking and I'm wanting to fill the gaps. I can't fill them all, but I can start small and do what I can.

My heart today is for the caregiver. For the person who is giving of themselves until it hurts. My heart breaks to think of how many are doing this alone, day after day, week after week, month after month. No relief in sight. What keeps them going?? Love. Compassion. Duty. Whatever the reason, they need our support.

If you are a caregiver, let me say how much I respect you. Let me be the mirror to your heart. Stand here and see the truth. You are amazing. No, you are not perfect. You get frustrated, you're tired and lonely....but you are doing a good thing. You are doing a hard thing. If your loved one cannot or does not voice their appreciation, let me be that voice you need to hear. I appreciate you. I respect you. I know what you are doing and how difficult it is. I know that you are laboring, hurting, and going through such hardship that some days it is hard to breathe.

I love this passage of scripture, and I think this is what a caregiver does each and every day...

Matthew 25:31-40

31When the Son of man shall come in his glory,

and all the holy angels with him,

then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:

32And before him shall be gathered all nations:

and he shall separate them one from another,

as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:

33And he shall set the sheep on his right hand,

but the goats on the left.

34Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand,

Come, ye blessed of my Father,

inherit the kingdom prepared for you

from the foundation of the world:

35For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat:

I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink:

I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

36Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick,

and ye visited me:

I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

37Then shall the righteous answer him, saying,

Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee?

or thirsty, and gave thee drink?

38When saw we thee a stranger,

and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?

39Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

40And the King shall answer and say unto them,

Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye

have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren,

ye have done it unto me.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Love in action.....

I'm going to admit something here. I'm going to show you that I have a bad side. I try not to show just how "bad" I really am on my blog, but today I will.

I keep in touch with people from my past. I won't say much more about that, because I don't want to identify anyone and hurt feelings. Most of the people in my life, past and present are Christians, and most are women.

Now, as women do, they are sharing links with me. I get e-mails from them with links to articles and videos. I see on Facebook all sorts of messages written to Christian women. They talk about being a good wife. They share insight into how to live out your faith in your home.

And, here is where the admission comes in. I'll admit it, those links, those videos on how to "love your husband" and "respect" him frustrate me so terribly. I can feel my blood pressure rising. I know my veins are constricting and my heart rate increases. Isn't that horrid???

I'm trying to figure out why. Part of it is that I allow myself to read the articles and watch the videos. I usually don't get very far into it before I have to stop myself or I might have a coronary!

I'm thinking the thing that bothers me so much is this. It's shallow. It's ridiculous. It's ..... I can't even think of a word.

Why do we need to hear women who have children ages 10 and 7, women who have been married for 12 years, explaining what it means to "love your husband", to "be a help meet"? I remember what life was like 12 years into marriage. I was head over heels in love with my husband, life was fun, I enjoyed caring for my little kiddos, we traveled and we went on dates. It's easy to love your husband at that stage of life.

Here is where the rubber meets the road. Have you invested in your relationship? Have you prepared yourself for the future? Are you strong enough to stand through life WITHOUT your husband? Sure, we should learn to love and depend on our husbands, but more importantly, are you a COMPLETE ADULT? Can you make decisions and do you know what you believe? Are you training your children to be adults? Or are you training them to be perpetual children?

We never know what the future holds. 12 years into our marriage, I had no idea what was around the corner. I had no idea that just a few short years later, I would be called upon to do things I thought was still decades away for us. We entered the twilight years 20-30 years ahead of schedule.

Here is my advice to young married women. Enjoy your husband! Invest in your relationship with him. Listen to him, and give advice to him. Be a help to him. Not nagging certainly, but don't be afraid to say what you think and feel. He has a wife for a reason. If you have an idea, share it. Let him be who he is, let him go with the men and let him do man things. You take time for you, be a woman, try new things, have opinions, think deep thoughts.

And, start now----- raise your children to be adults. Give them room to grow and be who God created them to be. Encourage their interests until they find their passion. Invest in their passion and teach them what they need to know in order to serve GOD. Give them responsibility and teach them to learn from their failures. Let them fail, and love them through it.

Love really is action. It's doing when you just don't think you can another day. It's respecting his health care decisions because he has a right to choose. It's standing up for yourself and saying no to bad behavior. It's taking time to care for yourself, so that you can care for others. It's listening, sharing, being there when no one else is. It's lonely days and terrifying nights. It's facing the future knowing that it may be bleak, but Jesus is THERE, just as He is HERE. It's understanding that you may find yourself stretched to the very end of yourself. It's walking away when you need to and running back again to throw your entire self into another life. It's deep breaths when you want to cry or scream. It's clinging to Jesus when there is nothing left. It's doing the right thing no matter who it goes against. And, it's giving of yourself til it hurts in ways you never dreamed it could.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Taking advantage....

Sounds terrible, but I'm finally doing it!! We once had a Personal Care Aide that we paid to come in a bathe my sweet husband for me. She was here long enough each time to do that one job. But then, something terrible happened. She had a heart attack. Mild, really, but none the less, a warning sign for her to take it easy. She called, feeling terrible about leaving us high and dry, but I assured her that it was ok.

Thus began the search for someone else. It's always cheaper to hire someone, agree on a price, hours, etc. but you can run the risk of getting someone who will take advantage of you and your loved one. I've heard so many horror stories of loved ones abused, items missing, medication running short because someone needed a fix.

So this time, I called a Home Health Care Service. They came out, did an evaluation, we worked on a care plan, and decided on days and times. We decided on having an aide out once a week. The agency has a four hour minimum, and the rate is $20 an hour. They do background checks, have references and every three months, they send someone out to evaluate and question us on how the aide is doing. I can call them anytime, and they can send someone out. It probably won't be the same aide, but at least we know we have that as an option in an emergency.

We went through two aides before we met Jennifer! Now, we explained to Jennifer that her first and most important task when she is here is to bathe and care for my husband. She is to take care of him and if there is any time leftover, she can do some "light housekeeping".

The amazing thing is this: she is a WHIZ!! She does my husband's personal care, and does it thoroughly! Then she runs errands around the house for him. Getting his hairbrush, finding things, moving things around and making coffee. And, the really amazing thing??? She has time leftover to do "light housekeeping"!!! Yay for ME!!

Jennifer changes Dear Hubby's sheets, washes, dries and folds them. She dusts our room, cleans the bathroom counters, sweeps, mops, vacuums, dusts our living room, puts away any unfolded laundry that might happen to be in the dryer (oops). She unloads the dishwasher, cleans the kitchen counters, dusts the window sills, etc. She is a hard worker and gets so much done in such a short time.

I take the opportunity when she is here to leave the house, run errands, go to the movies, do some FUN shopping, or grocery shopping and I've been known to take naps! What can be better than getting into bed and knowing you don't have to get up for FOUR HOURS??? Sometimes I sleep for a while and then read in bed. Sometimes I get an iced tea and get on the computer before my nap. And sometimes, (don't tell anyone) I sleep almost the entire time!! It's really wonderful.

Once we had company coming over at 5:30. Jennifer would be leaving at 5:00. So, do you want to know what I did? I was supposed to make the veggies for sandwiches, while the other ladies were bringing soups, deli meat, cheese and dessert. Jennifer came in, I took a nap and right before she left, I hopped in the shower and got ready for company. She had Dear Hubby ready, the house was sparkling. She had even cut up tomatoes and washed lettuce for the pot faith meal. I took a three hour nap, was able to get dressed for the get together without interruption. Dear Hubby was dressed, the house was clean and my portion of the meal was done. It was unbelievable!!

Oh yeah, I'm taking advantage of having Jennifer around. We pay for her help, but I think we're getting a pretty good deal. Not only does Dear Hubby get bathed and taken care of, but I get time out, and my house gets a good once over. Nice, very, very nice!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Staying connected....

It's not an easy thing to do when you are a caregiver. Fortunately, the Lord has blessed my husband and me with some wonderful friends and family.

For years we went to a particular church and made lots of dear friends. There were always a few in particular that we were closer to than others. About 8 months ago, one of the couples we've known for 16 years contacted us and asked if they could organize a get together with some other couples at our home. They would bring the meal and dessert if I would provide iced tea. That started a monthly get together with 5 couples that we love dearly.

It has been such a blessing for us to see the people we once saw on a weekly basis back when we all went to church together. Our lives took different turns but through it all, our friendships remained close. (They have all left our former church too.)

The other thing I've started doing is asking friends over to come spend a few hours with us, drinking coffee and getting caught up. We are connecting, through Facebook, with friends from our past and it's been wonderful having people in our home again. Of course, it is a bit of work, and there is always the chance that I will have to call the get together off because my dear hubby is not feeling well, but it's been worth every little bit of work.

We left our church of 16 years about a year ago. We joined a new church, and even though my sweet husband and I are not able to attend, we have been so blessed to have our Pastor visit with us almost monthly, sometimes more often than that. We have been amazed that a Pastor with such a large congregation would take his time to visit with us. There is no way we are going to be able to contribute to the church in traditional ways. We cannot attend, Dear Husband is in bed for days on end and usually out of bed only for a few hours when he does get up. We cannot contribute by participating in activities sponsored by the church. We do not have much to give financially either. And yet, this minister meets with us, answers questions we have about our reading of the Bible and encourages us. He loves us and accepts us and constantly asks us if there is anything we need. Our answer has always been the same, we need fellowship and we are finally getting it.

I understand that these situations were not organized by me. I think I was afraid of being turned down, and honestly, there was a time when I thought I had nothing to offer. I felt so alone and, I'll admit, no longer of use to my friends. It seems to me that the Lord has done this work on our behalf and I am feeling more connected to the world around me. I think that I will always, as a caregiver, feel a bit out of sync with the world and all it's busyness, but at least I can feel connected to people who we love.

Finding people who will stick with you through the difficult days of caregiving is NOT an easy task. I can't go out with friends as much as I'd like. I can't participate in a lot activities because finding someone to sit with my husband is not an easy task. I cannot invest much of my time or energy into relationships, mainly because so much of my time and energy is committed to my husband.....the one who comes first in my life.

If you are feeling trapped by caregiving, reach out. Call up those friends, contact them and let them know that you'd love to see them again. It might just develop into a very special connection that both of you were needing.