Fear? God’s Got This

Photo Credit: Storyblocks

The first half of the year 2020 has brought new fears and worries to most of us. New U.S. Census Bureau and National Center for Health statistics published last week by Statista.com show that compared with the same period last year, those suffering from anxiety and depression have seen their symptoms more than triple: From eight percent in 2019 to 28 percent (anxiety), from six percent to 24.4 percent (depression), and from 11 percent to almost 34 percent for both. 

Fear isn’t new to me. I’ll admit that, like many of us, I like to be in control. But if we’re honest, we have to admit that we don’t really control anything.

  • I couldn’t do a thing about the water creeping from the creek toward my house during torrential rains a few days ago.
    • I couldn’t control my daughter Jessica’s health or the aftershocks when she was on Nias Island right after the Indonesian tsunami.
    • On days when my health is bad, I can’t control the symptoms of my chronic disease.
    • I can’t control politicians.
    • I can’t even control my breathing because God has created miraculous processes that make my breathing and body systems work. He didn’t create us and then make us responsible for orchestrating the millions of processes that must operate together. (Thank You, God!)

Many worriers like me have a hard time falling asleep at night. Our minds race making lists, planning our next day, ruminating over our bitterness, and worrying about things we can’t control. Here’s a simple truth that will change your life.

God says, “I’ve got this.” We are not responsible for figuring everything out. In fact, living life ‘in charge’ is actually sin. Proverbs 3:5 says it simply: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”
God says, “I’ve Got This. Close your eyes and go to sleep. Give your cares to me. Rest your head in peace.”
Click the link for I’ve Got This above. Then click on the Preview arrow to hear the song, performed by Steve Siler, Founder and Director of MusicfortheSoul.org. Perhaps you know someone who may need this song today.

Is Your Loved One’s Care Facility Safe?

Photo Credit: Pixabay

The Problem

Across America, a growing number of elderly people residing in nursing homes have died from COVID-19 exposure since the shutdown was ordered. In New York alone, 5,433 elderly long-term care facility residents were reported dead. This news came after Governor Cuomo oreded such facilities to admit COVID-19 patients. This bears the question for any of us who have loved ones in care facilities: “Are My Elderly Loved Ones Safe?” 

Many elder care facilities with track records of poor care across the nation are now operating with much less oversight because of COVID-19. The pandemic has added to pre-existing problems: financial need, understaffing (employees quitting or becoming ill), and poorly paid employees. 

  • More than 40% of California’s COVID-19-related deaths are estimated to come from nursing homes. 
  • 43% of US COVID deaths occur in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. 
  • While just 11 percent of the country’s cases have occurred in long-term care facilities, deaths related to Covid-19 in these facilities account for more than a third of the country’s pandemic fatalities.
  • In 14 states, the number of residents and workers who have died account for more than half of all deaths from the virus. Nursing homes aren’t getting commensurate funds, resources, or federal support to compensate for COVID’s devastation. “Nursing-home residents aren’t getting half of our resources or half of our attention, yet they account for roughly half the deaths,” stated David Grabowski. This, he said, reveals—or maybe reinforces—a devastating truism about American society: “We don’t value their lives [the elderly’s] as much as other people’s.

Complicating Factors

  • On March 23, the federal government ordered state inspectors to halt in-depth annual inspections to minimize the spread of the virus and focus on hot spots and infection control. 
  • Long-term care ombudsmen, who normally field complaints and advocate for nursing home residents’ needs, were told to stop entering all facilities beginning March 16.
  • With limited exceptions, family members who provide emotional and physical support as well as careful oversight, haven’t been inside facilities for even longer.  

This leaves care facility residents who are already extremely vulnerable to abuse and neglect — as well as to the ravages of the coronavirus — effectively cut off from the people tasked with protecting them, advocates say.

SO HOW CAN YOU KEEP YOUR LOVED ONE SAFE?

  1. Gather Personal Recommendations.
    Ask friends, pastors, doctors, nurses, therapists, frequent visitors, etc., for recommendations. 
  2. Conduct research. 

    Check for complaints and violations by going to the Nursing Home Compare website provided by Medicare. 

    Contact the Long-Term Care Ombudsman’s office in your area. The mission of this agency, which operates under the Older Americans Act, is to protect the rights and well-being of people who reside in long-term care facilities, including skilled nursing facilities. The Ombudsman’s office also records information related to quality of care, inspections, violations of standards and regulations, as well as citations, fines, and follow-up resolution of areas of concern. 

    ProPublica also offers an online tool to investigate the inspection/violation records of long term care facilities. This tool lists skilled nursing facilities in each state, allowing healthcare consumers to compare the records of facilities in their area quickly and easily.
  3. Visit as often as you can.

    Ask questions. How often is your loved one bathed? Do they have complaints of being ignored? What is the staff to resident ratio? Is staff provided with protective gear? Are residents being tested for COVID-19, and are state protocols being followed? Ask to see records for verification. Ask about the facility’s means of communication with family regarding COVID updates and general health information. Talk to county Health Department officials who track COVID numbers at your loved one’s facilities.

    Observe. Is the facility clean? Are the residents clean? Are caretakers clean? Can you smell odors? Do residents look happy. How is food handled? Are employees wearing masks and gloves and protecting residents from exposure? What is your loved one’s general mental and physical health? Are they involved with social activities?

    If you can’t be physically present, ask someone to be your eyes and ears for you.

Arming ourselves with information and taking proactive steps is the best way to protect loved ones who are incapable of advocating for themselves. Our vigilance on their behalf can be one of our greatest gifts of love.

Shelly

Mother’s Day Secret Tears

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

This Mother’s Day I want to acknowledge the countless women across our nation who dread this day for many reasons: abandonment, abuse, adoption, abortion, and other often-hidden secrets. My thoughts today are especially with women who’ve undergone the heartbreak of abortion. A survey sponsored by CareNet in 2015 verified that more than 4 out of 10 women who’ve had abortions were churchgoers when they had their procedures.

This statistic should cause Christians to ask serious questions about where the church is missing the mark in meeting the needs of women and teens during crisis pregnancies. It’s important for us to understand that we may simultaneously be pro-life and compassionately listen to, support, and grieve with women who have experienced abortion.

I’m staunchly pro-life, but the term includes pouring life into suffering people. A large percentage of women (and men who’ve fathered aborted children) attend churches and Bible studies with us and silently bear the burden of past abortions. For them, Mother’s Day can resurrect pain too excruciating to talk about and shame they think is impossible to escape.

I know many committed Christian women who are burdened with regret and shame about past abortions. Some were forced to abort their child by parents or other people in positions of power over them. Others sought abortions in desperation in their early lives. But all silently suffer ongoing grief, even decades later.

We are also surrounded by men and women who are not believers who carry shame and grief from this painful decision in their past. Loving others as God loves us includes opening arms of compassion to them.

In my 50+ years as a Jesus follower, I do not remember hearing comfort offered in church on Mother’s Day to mothers or fathers who had experienced the loss of a child to abortion. Since this has been my experience,I’d like to offer a few words today.  

  • Jesus sees your hidden hurt and weeps with you. He offers comfort, hope and healing.
  • Through Him, what we think is ruined can be redeemed and used.
  • Satan’s goal is to keep you chained to the past through regret. Jesus’s love and forgiveness sets you free.
  • God’s mercy is great enough to forgive you and heal your scars.
  • The weight of your fear-driven choices can be lifted. God forgives you. Your child is safe in His arms.
  • God knows your past, present, and future. You are not unqualified, less than, a failure, or shameful. If you have a personal relationship with him, your sin is in the past and under the blood of Jesus. He wants you to walk joyfully in His plan and purpose for you.
  • If you are in a ‘shaming’ church body, find a nurturing, Bible-teaching church that loves as Jesus loved.

If you or someone you know who would be blessed by a resource for men and women touched by abortion, I recommend two resources from Musicforthesoul.org. The first is Mercy Great Enough, an entire project for those who are experiencing abortion grief. The second is a song called Heaven’s Playground, that offers hope about our pre-born children in heaven.

For more encouragement, check here:

The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association

Lifeway

Planned from the Start (devotional book)

Please let me know if this blog ministers to you or someone you know. I’d love to hear from you.

With love,

Shelly

Precious Lord, Take My Hand

by Shelly Beach

Photo Credit: Unsplash

In the past weeks our nation has faced extraordinary challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic forced us to tackle roles and realities we never imagined. We’ve become barbers, beauticians, manicurists, cooks, activity directors, caregivers, foragers, and chemists. Parents now work at home as teachers while fighting to remain employed and negotiate their relationship with their spouse 24/7.

Realities

Millions of Americans are now unemployed. Many who are still working are trying to carry the loads of staff that has been let go. And tragic numbers of business owners are watching their businesses slowly die.

We’re confined to our homes, hoping and praying we can protect ourselves and our loved ones from the plague that has decimated our “normal.” We’ve planned vacations, weddings, respite breaks, anniversary celebrations, graduations, “firsts” and “lasts.” But instead, spring finds us outside with shrouded faces clutching antiseptic potions.

Tomorrow I’ll venture out for the third time in seven days to try to find a package of toilet paper that costs less than my first car. Of course, I exaggerate, but what does it mean to find pride of ownership in toilet paper? How our priorities have shifted.

The perfect storm

Clinical psychological scientists at the University of Washington’s Center for the Science of Social Connection state that Covid-19 presents a “perfect storm of depression risks… Depression lays waste to our capacity to problem-solve, set and achieve goals and function effectively.” The Covid-19 crisis has created a unique set of circumstances that contribute to depression: stress and loss, interpersonal isolation, financial difficulties, and challenges to recovery.

Many of us feel overwhelmed. Where do we turn? What do we do? Will we ever re-capture the “normal” we once had? Where do we find strength to move forward in the middle of chaos?

Photo Credit” Pexels

Human limitation

The most important truth for us to recognize in any crisis has nothing to do with how much information we can gain or control we think we can muster. We will always be ambushed by human limitations and flawed hearts. Left to ourselves, we head off on our own path without God.

Covid-19 illustrates our limited human intellect, self-driven motives, and the resulting complex problems of our fallen world.

Unfortunately, the next pandemic or global crisis is not a matter of if but a matter of when.

We cannot rely on national or even church leadership for security. Our only hope lies in our all-powerful, all-knowing God who promises to carry us through any circumstance. He was with us when we drew our first breath. He is the mystery behind our beating heart. He walks beside us, ready to take our hand. But we must acknowledge his loving presence and power. Without God, we have no hope.

God’s strength is our strength in this and every crisis.

Precious, Lord, Take My Hand.

Click on the link above to hear the song Precious Lord, Take My Hand, written by Steve Siler, founder and Executive Director of Music for the Soul. Scroll down the page to Precious Lord, Take My Hand and click on the arrow following the word Preview >.

When has God walked beside you in a time of crisis? I’d love to hear from you.

Describe your experience in a short paragraph or two. Or tell us how he is walking beside you through the Covid-19 crisis.

Blessings,

Shelly

You are Not Alone

by Shelly Beach

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.
Zephaniah 3:17 ESV

I recently spoke at a camp in California when the coronavirus pandemic was beginning to escalate. My anxiety soared whenever I thought about fulfilling four weeks of commitments and appointments in California. I wasn’t even sure if airports would still be open in 30 days.

I was far from home and fought feelings of isolation. My husband and son’s family were in Iowa. My daughter’s family lives just north of Seattle. My brother’s family resides north of Detroit. It was easy to tell myself I could be trapped in California. Should I make a plan? Cancel my plans and make a run for it? What would that even look like?

I stood on the balcony of my room the final night of the retreat, drinking in the beauty of the trees and wondering what to do. I leaned on the railing, and my eyes traced the angles and offshoots of the myriad branches on a tree. As I noted the complexity of that single tree, the truth hit me.

God knows every crook in every branch of that tree. He designed each branch and bough before he created the universe. He knows every limb and twig and crook and knot in every tree on the planet.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

That one tiny truth about God’s greatness stunned me for a moment. But it also comforted me.

God is not sitting in the heavens far away. He’s not waiting for us to make a plan and get things “right.” We will never get things right in our own power. Heartache and abandonment and loss and disappointment will tap us on the shoulder every day. That’s why God became a man, stepped into a human body, and chose to suffer—so we would never be alone. There is no darkness too deep that he would not go for us.

You are not alone. Jesus never leaves your side. When you can’t believe in hope, he is your hope.

Be blessed by the song “You Are Not Alone.” Click on the link or the title below. Then click the word Preview on the song page.

You Are Not Alone

Words and music by Steve Siler

Blessings,

Shelly

Caregiving Tips During COVID

Photo image: Shutterstock

I was in San Francisco, thousands of miles from home, when Covid-19 first escalated. My thoughts immediately turned to those who relied on me for care. Then to the reality that I was in the “higher risk” category for people who might contract the virus.

What was I supposed to do? What kinds of plans should I set into motion “in case”? How could I best protect my loved ones and myself? I began to scramble to find answers.

The following information has been adapted from the Centers from Disease Control and Prevention. Most information applies generally to in-home family caregivers. Those caring for loved ones with dementia must remember that although dementia most likely does not increase the likelihood of infection, those with dementia are less able to protect themselves from the coronavirus; for instance, to wash their hands and comply with social distancing and other recommendations. For this reason, caregivers are responsible for extra diligence on behalf or loved ones with dementia.

General Tips

  • Reinforce regular hand-washing and hygiene.
  • Make arrangements for long-term drug refills.
  • Isolate your loved one. Don’t allow them to go out of the house, and don’t allow visitors in. Keep track of any and all people who come into their presence in a notebook (date, name, time, duration of stay).
  • Think ahead. Make alternative care plans for the person with dementia. Include adult care, therapies, respite, etc. that might be modified or cancelled in response to COVID-19.
  • Make arrangements for an alternate caregiver in case the primary caregiver becomes sick.
  • Ask if your loved one’s health care provider/s offer telehealth appointments.
  • Stay updated daily about COVID-related information.
  • Prepare a list of contact numbers: healthcare providers, family, friends, neighbors, drivers, teachers, employers, health department, and community resources.
  • Watch for symptoms.
Photo: Unsplash, Glenn Carstens-Peters

Household Checklist

  • Stay updated daily about COVID-related information.
  • Ask neighbors and friends about their plans and availability to help if needed.
  • Prepare a list of local and online support organizations that can provide resources and information.
  • Take preventative steps:
    • Hand washing
    • Social distancing
    • Disinfecting surfaces
    • Avoiding touching eyes, nose, and mouth
    • Staying at home
    • Limiting contact with others

Preparation to be sick

  • Acquire a thermometer, fever meds, gloves, masks, gowns or robes, fluids that contain electrolytes
  • Consider the unique care needs or your loved one. Do they require oxygen? Assistance to eat? Therapies and treatments? How would you accommodate them during an illness or quarantine?
  • Prepare an isolation room in case someone becomes sick.
  • Consult the CDC HOUSE CHECKLIST for a detailed list for preparing your home.

The healing power of music

Music has the power to lift spirits, stir recall, and stimulate interaction. According to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, music can “shift mood, manage stress-induced agitation, stimulate positive interactions, facilitate cognitive function and coordinate motor movements.” Play your loved one’s favorites: hymns, show tunes, big band, country-western—whatever they love. Music can be a positive influence in healing.

What about you?

How can we encourage others as we pull together during this soul-stretching challenge? Personally, I lean into the power of prayer and my faith in a personal, loving God. I also prepare in practical ways, while making time for people.

What about you? How are you preparing? And what are you doing to remaining positive along the way? I’d love to hear from you.

Blessings and prayers,

Shelly

Caregiving and the Coronavirus

By Shelly Beach

Photo Credit:  Pixabay

I flew to California several weeks ago in the first days of the coronavirus alert. Over the following days, I watched media reports with growing concern. Dear family members live in the area where the first death to the coronavirus occurred, and the illness was quickly spreading in the area where I was traveling.

My thoughts quickly turned to people back home who relied on me for caregiving. It was important to protect my health in order to protect them. And I quickly realized how important it was for me to think about a contingency plan for their care in the event that I would become ill. With or without the coronavirus outbreak, a contingency plan for care is always important.

How can caregivers make wise decisions regarding the current health crisis?

Be prepared. I believe that not planning for a potential crisis for yourself or your loved one is unwise. It’s better to be prepared than to risk their health or yours assuming that the coronavirus will not or cannot reach your community. I’m a caregiver classified in the “high risk” category, so it’s especially important for people like me to think through potential risk factors.

Be thoughtful. Don’t panic. Look to the CDC and other reputable medical resources for information, rather than the media. Gather information from reliable resources.

Begin with simple, vital steps.

  • As a caregiver, wash your heads regularly, lathering for at least 20 seconds. This is as long as it takes to sing Happy Birthday to yourself. Carry hand sanitizer with you and use it frequently.
  • Do not touch your face, mouth, nose, or eyes.
  • Do not touch surfaces that receive frequent touch: railings, door handles, tabletops, counters, pens, menus, etc. Wash hands immediately after being in a public environment or frequently if you are there for more than a short time.
  • Do not shake hands or hug. Stay at least 6’ away from other people. Remove yourself from people who are coughing or show signs of a fever.
  • Evaluate the need to be in large gatherings where the risk of contagion is higher.
  • Make sure your loved one’s hands are washed frequently as well.
  • Avoid sharing: dishes and glasses, food, towels, bedding, etc.
  • Limit guests coming into your home.
  • Keep your loved one away from pets because they can carry the virus.
  • Evaluate the need for medical workers and aides who come into your home. People who work in the health industry and those who work in multiple homes are at greater risk for contracting the coronavirus.

Prepare a contingency care plan.

Consider the following factors:

  • Who will care for my loved one if I become ill?
    • Do they require training or special information?
    • How will they access needed medications?
  • Evaluate the benefits and risks of bringing health workers into your loved one’s home.
  • Outside of getting medical care, have your loved one remain at home and self-isolate. Self-isolation is an option for those who have been exposed or who have mild symptoms.
    • Separate them from others who live in their home, as well as pets.
    • If possible, have them use a separate bathroom.
    • Have them wear a facemask whenever they’re around other people or animals. If your loved one cannot wear a face mask, those around them must wear one whenever they are in a room with your loved one.
  • Create a health log.
    • Record their temperature daily.
    • Record the foods they eat.
    • Record visitors’ names and dates.
    • If your loved one’s temperature elevates to 101 degrees or above, experiences shortness of breath, or begins coughing, call their physician.

Above all, stay current on national and local alerts regarding public safety.

Be sure to communicate specific needs and expectations with your designated backup caregivers. Provide written instructions and important contact numbers.

I’d love to hear from you. What plans have you put into place in response to the coronavirus  crisis? What advice have you found most helpful?

Learning from Criticism, Part 1

All of us have faced criticism.

Maybe you wilted under the negative words of a childhood teacher. Perhaps your father was harsh and judgmental. Or maybe you suffered from cutting peer comments as a teenager. Criticism can wither our spirits and kill our confidence. But if viewed with an open, inquisitive heart, criticism can also positively teach us a great deal about others and ourselves. If we respond wisely, correction can be a conduit to personal insight and growth.

The School of Hard Knocks taught me that my first reaction to criticism is often to put up a wall of defense. I prefer not to listen to hard things about me—who does? But this tactic prevents me from listening and honestly evaluating what’s being said.

Over the years I’ve learned the following lessons about responding to criticism.

Listen with an open mind.

When we’re corrected, criticized, evaluated, or confronted, our spirit (emotions) reacts protectively.

  • We refute.
  • We argue.
  • We explain.
  • We blame.
  • We justify.
  • We take a defensive stance.

Why? Because we feel attacked. Criticism, correction, and anger stir our emotions. These emotions in themselves aren’t wrong; the difficulty comes with how we handle how we feel. What motives do we allow to control our thoughts?

Pride?

I’ll show them.

No way, not me!

Fear and suspicion?

They’re probably getting ready to fire me.

Marybeth is probably behind this.

Self-doubt?

They’ve always had it in for me.

I knew I’d mess this up.

Revenge?

They can’t do this to me. I’m not letting them get away with this.

Oh yeah, they don’t know who they’re messing with.

Listen actively. If a group is speaking to you, observe their demeanor and attitude, as well as their words. Do they appear angry? Betrayed? Disrespected? Do they feel you have let them down in some way? What reasons are they stating for their position? What actions on your part may have contributed to these feelings?

Ask questions to promote clarity and insight.
Respond positively to those speaking to you.
Provide feedback but do not argue.
Promote emotional safety with your tone, body language, and word choice.
Put away all distractions like cell phones, tablets, laptops.
Ask clarifying questions.

When someone comes to you with criticism, correction, or even anger, don’t react emotionally. Work through your emotions later. Prayerfully determine to listen with an open mind.

  • Don’t refute.
  • Don’t argue.
  • Don’t blame.
  • Don’t justify.
  • Don’t defend.

Listen for the core issues. Communicate sincerity with your body language and eye contact. Write down their concerns.

Accept correction with a humble heart.

Our first reaction is typically to recoil and defend ourselves. But no one is perfect, and we’re usually blind to our biggest flaws. Ask God for a humble spirit and to give you insight into your words, actions, and motives. We often have multiple motives, and while we may do something for a good reason, a selfish motive may also be present.

Be honest with yourself and God and keep your heart focused on repentance, reconciliation, and renewed thinking.

Pray about the offense/s.

Take time to read through the feedback and pray about it. Examine your words, actions, and motives. Be brutally honest with yourself. What about your words and actions led this person or these individuals to see you in this way? What are you responsible for? How could you have acted more appropriately in this circumstance? Are you willing to acknowledge responsibility for thoughtless or hurtful behavior? What has the Holy Spirit revealed to you about you and the steps you should take?

Be eager to grow and change.

Pastor Emeritus Louie Konopka of Blythefield Hills Baptist Church in Rockford, Michigan often says, “The greatest day in your life is the day you face yourself and see yourself as God sees you. This is the day God can begin to change you.”

I’ve had three such days in my life. Each began with painful rebuke. And each was the threshold of a period of transformational growth. When the 3rd occasion came, I’d learned to embrace the confrontation as another opportunity for spiritual growth.

Don’t cower before correction and criticism. Respond to them as instruments of self-reflection, self-discovery, and spiritual growth.

“As for you [Satan], you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good . . .”
(Gen. 50:20).

How have you handled criticism and used it for personal growth? I’d love to hear from you.
Shelly

Stay tuned for the next blog on criticism: When Criticism Turns Toxic

 

 

 

20 Ways to Care for a Caregiver

 

By Shelly Beach

Most of my childhood, I hung out with people who were caregivers.

My mom took care of her mother with dementia, her mother-in-law who came to live with us, Mom’s best friend who died of cancer, and her sister who was bedridden with arthritis. In addition to these loved ones, Mom and Dad cared for widows and elderly people in our community, driving them to appointments and church, tending to their home maintenance and yard chores, and “calling on them” regularly with special treats.

When missionaries came home from caring for people in foreign lands, my mom often took the wives shopping and indulged them with gifts of beautiful lingerie. When I asked her why, she told me that people who served others needed to be treated with gifts they would hesitate to buy for themselves.

What did this teach me?

It’s our privilege and responsibility to care for others.
Scripture tells us to “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Eph 6:2). Bearing burdens means we must first know and care about one another enough to recognize each others’ burdens and to know how best to “bear” them with those we love.

Caring for others is one way of showing our love for God.
“God…will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them” (Heb 6:10). I’m not loving God if I’m not loving His people in word, attitude, and action.

Caregiving should be our natural, heartfelt response to others.

All people deserve dignity and respect.

love as we desire to be loved.

Caregivers often spend money on themselves last.

They frequently defer their desires for the sake of their loved ones. If you know a caregiver—and you do—take a minute to think about how you could make their life a bit easier and brighten their day.

  1. Pay someone to help with yard work
  2. Make sure their car receives regular maintenance
  3. Bless them with gift cards for groceries and gas
  4. Offer respite care to and spend time with their loved one
  5. Offer your hot tub, pool, cabin, or basement apartment as respite space
  6. Read with their loved one once a week so they can get a break
  7. Spoil them with a manicure, pedicure, or spa day
  8. Take them out for lunch
  9. Call them regularly and let them talk
  10. Make sure they are included in social activities and make sure their loved one is taken care of
  11. Offer to pay for grocery delivery
  12. Ask them what support looks like to them and how you can help
  13. Learn about their loved one’s illness and how to interact meaningfully with them
  14. Remember their birthday, anniversary, and holiday—especially if their loved one cannot
  15. Learn how to advocate for your caregiver friend and their loved one
  16. Listen with compassion and empathy and without the need to provide easy answers
  17. Bring groceries or pre-made meals
  18. Help create a circle of support
  19. Pray for your friend and their loved one
  20. Be faithful in love and persistent in kindness

Most importantly, be a faithful friend who advocates for YOUR friend’s health and welfare. Encourage them to take care of themselves and make healthy choices. This will mean taking time for much-needed respite. It will also mean encouraging them through moments of false guilt and sitting with them as they grieve seemingly endless losses.

Don’t forget that the most important thing you have to offer is you.

 

Laying It Down for Love

 

A single friend once asked me why parents take their children on vacation. Why not go alone, without the hassles: whining and disputes, added cost, giving up your adult agenda to eat at McDonald’s, go to water parks, zoos, or marine land? Shouldn’t vacation be about getting away from the stress of life?

Most parents I know can relate to the idea that parenting can be stressful. But despite the unpredictability, parents take joy in granting their children’s dreams and watching them delight in simple things like swimming, hiking, collecting shells, or identifying the stars. Laying down our desires in the best interests of our children is a part of parenthood that comes easily to most of us.

My husband and I had the opportunity to visit Disney World and many other theme parks when we served as sponsors for high school trips where Dan taught. But the first time I visited Disney World with our children, I cried tears of joy. We were giving our son and daughter an imagination-filled, memorable trip I thought would be impossible.

Love motivates us to lay down our preferences for those we love. 

Last night I slept on a well-used couch and couldn’t care less. Why? I’m visiting my beloved daughter’s family and grandchildren who I seldom get to see. Love keeps the main thing the main thing. My husband Dan and I are with them and our family is together. Who cares about sleeping on a couch? Not me.

1 Peter 4:13 says, “Rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings…”

Our deep love for Jesus should stir us to willingly partake in His sufferings.

But what does it mean to partake in Jesus’s sufferings? His suffering was unlike you and me can experience because He suffered according to the will of God, according to 1 Peter 4:19. Because Jesus understood God’s will, He knew what He was to do in every situation. Our job is to “partake” or choose to imitate Jesus in these acts of obedience out of our deep love for Him.

Lay down our agendas and preferences to serve others. Jesus’s purpose was to carry out the Father’s will. Jesus was compelled by love for God the Father and submitted every thought and action to Him. Do we willingly lay down our plans and ambitions so God can conform our heart and our desires to His own?

  • Love does not insist on its own way (1 Cor. 13:5).
  • Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit (Phil. 2:3).
  • In humility count others more significant than yourselves (Phil. 2:3).
  • Look…to the interests of others (Phil. 2:4).
  • Have the same mindset as Jesus in your relationships with others (Phil. 2:5).Cloth
  • Lay aside sin and weight that causes conflict, discouragement, anger, resentment, and bitterness (Heb. 12:1).

Learn to see through other people’s eyes. To teach us this, God often takes us through experiences that force us to think differently and confront our prejudices and blind spots. He may ask us to serve people who are difficult for us to be around because He needs to teach us important lessons in humility, compassion, empathy, listening, patience, gentleness, and give us insight into our motives and goals.

  • Clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience (Col 3:12).
  • Comfort others with the comfort God gives us (2 Cor. 1:3-4).
  • Be united in Christ (Phil. 2:1-3).
  • Practice honest self-examination (Matthew 7:3-5).
  • Incline your heart to understanding others (Prov. 2:2).
  • Be quick to listen and slow to speak (James 1:19).

In recent years, God gifted me with challenging relationships that taught me to see the world from other people’s perspectives. Without these relationships, I would not have learned lessons of compassion, grace, mercy, and evaluated blind spots in my spiritual life. The greatest lesson I learned was that spiritual growth and following Christ are not about comfort but about joy and fulfillment.

In laying down what I falsely believe to be my rights, I find my greatest freedom and joy.

What about you? Have you been challenged to lay down your rights, your goals, your plans, your dreams for God’s greater vision? How did you respond? What was the result? I would love to hear from you.