The Joys and Challenges of Caring for a Child with Disabilities

Jackie shares that while she and her husband, Rob, were raising their son, Ryan, they realized that something was different when he was only eight months old. They had three older children and could see that Ryan wasn’t meeting the normal milestones. Although he was very active, Ryan did not walk until he was two years old. He received a broad diagnosis of Developmental Disability, and his speech was his primary delay.  It was a mystery as to what Ryan would be able to do and how he would navigate life. But fortunately, he was blessed with a happy and content nature.

Jackie says she often felt lonely and isolated. She says, “I had the ‘behind the bleachers feeling’.” While other parents were sitting in the bleachers watching their children play games, I was behind the bleachers watching Ryan run back and forth nonstop.  I admit I felt cheated.”

However, there were joys too, especially watching her three other children develop empathy and appreciation for others with disabilities. They continually protected and helped Ryan. The children learned that Ryan required their total attention, so they understood that they were completely responsible while he was in their care. Despite all of this, they never expressed resentment of Ryan. Instead, each of them chose careers where they could help serve people with disabilities.

Jackie admits that she often felt overwhelmed, and her greatest fear was that their family wouldn’t hold together due to all the stress. She is so appreciative for her husband’s calming influence. She says situations like this require the strong faith of both parents, and the father is just as important as the mother. The entire family pulled together to make everything work.

Jackie realized that she needed support, so she started a disability support group at her church and facilitated the group for ten years. Jackie says that the church made significant improvements in welcoming and including people with special needs during that time.  It was in that group she learned about the struggles of others, which helped tremendously. She calls those members “her Holland folks,” referring to the lovely poem, “Welcome to Holland,” by Emily Perl Kingsley, (1987), which talks about raising a child with a disability. Click here to read this beautiful poem.

When Ryan was around 3 years old, the school system required a home visit so that he could receive services.  “It hurt my pride,” Jackie says.  But it prepared her for all the meetings that were to come in Ryan’s future. When he was 18 years old, his parents knew that Ryan would need their guardianship, which requires home visits from the court system.  So, Jackie knows that the state is doing its job to protect Ryan and his interests.   

Ryan became an active participant in the Special Olympics, but his favorite activity is still therapeutic drama, which he loves. He’s been in some 30 plays and continues to act. Jackie is so grateful to have connected with this supportive community.

Today, Ryan, who is now 34 years old, is in a day program with other adults with disabilities and is doing well. Work has always been a good distraction for Jackie, and she continues to enjoy her job. Her story is a testimony to a family of faith working together to make a difficult situation work.

What Helped:

  • Her faith.
  • The unending support of her family.
  • Her disabilities support group at church.
  • When Ryan was older, working part-time provided a good distraction for her.

Scripture Verse

Mathew 25:40 And the King will answer them, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.”

Prayer

Dear Father, what a beautiful example of the faithfulness of this special family. They put their trust in You, and You never failed them. So many times, when we think we have problems, we find that if we just look, so many others are facing difficulties too. So, help us to always be aware of the needs of others, and teach us to care for each other with Your love.

 

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Lessons Learned from Sharing Our Stories

For over two years I’ve learned so very much from you, dear readers. As I reflect, I wanted to share some of those pertinent lessons again. All of the stories have held common threads of faith and hope despite the many challenges. So many of you have shown such endurance and patience on your long journeys and are truly an inspiration to many.  

My dad was my inspiration for beginning this blog as he was my mom’s caregiver for five years. Her constant gratitude for everything he did for her each day was just amazing. I am eternally grateful for their examples. My precious mom truly was an angel on earth; however, she feared death thinking that she wasn’t worthy of heaven. We talked frequently about God’s forgiveness. I found that many of you have dealt with that same issue.

Many of you shared ways of coping with Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia. Margie gave this advice from her experience: First, believe you can do this. Second, ask God every day to make you stronger than the previous day. Third, find something that takes you away from the daily routine even simple things like working in the garden.

Denny and Judy emphasized the importance of maintaining a sense of humor as they cared for three elder family members with Alzheimer’s and mental illness for 15 years. They treasured and recorded endearing comments and loved to read humorous stories.

Elaine poignantly continues to grieve each loss from her husband’s Alzheimer’s Disease during their long goodbye. Bob talked about the importance of Alzheimer’s education. He learned to change his reactions to his wife’s outbursts as his reactions were part of the problem. Support groups were very important in his situation, so he started his own.

Molly, known as “the poetry lady,” helps Alzheimer’s patients access memories. She treats them with dignity, saying they are not gone. She advocates treating them as a person first and patient second. Cathy found that even simple activities like an activity basket and listening to gospel music helped with her mother-in-law’s Alzheimer’s Disease.

Carol is an amazing woman who cared for both her mother and husband for many years. Kathleen cared for a parent with dementia and continues to care for a spouse with Parkinson’s Disease. She lives in the moment accepting life just as it is at each stage to help with anticipatory grief. She describes the differences between caring for a spouse and a parent. She enjoys a girl’s night out group as a perfect relief from the daily challenges.

Bob learned the hard way to take care of his own health as he had a massive heart attack while caring for three elders. He says caring for others teaches you the following: to not expect anything in return; that God will always provide; that you must keep the faith; and look for blessings as they are always there.

While Anne cared for her dad with cancer, she relied on the Serenity prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.  

Theresa learned to deal with her mother’s negativity issues by being “mentally fluid.” This is a technique that allows people and situations to exist as they are without judging them or trying to change them. It teaches that the best remedy for a troubled person is to become untroubled yourself.

Many young families testified that their faith helped them to persevere through the challenges of caring for children with Down’s Syndrome, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, and autism.  Two families described the joys and stresses of caring for triplets plus another child. Helen shared her childhood story of her community caring for their family of 11 children when their father died suddenly.

So many of you have shared your struggles with depression and anxiety, and you inspired me to tell my own struggles with it. Jane shared her touching story about dealing with post-partum depression as a young mother. Several young adults discussed the importance of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and medication in their treatment of depression and anxiety.

We talked about cancer too. Susi emphasizes being proactive about your health as she discovered that she had breast cancer like several other women in her family. Stacy was a vibrant young mother who touched so many people during her short life as terminal cancer took her far too early.

So many other stories have touched my heart, and I pray that they have touched yours too.

Scripture Verse

Mathew 19:26 But Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.”

Prayer

Dear Father, thank you for putting these incredible people with such inspirational stories in our lives. We can learn so much from each other and know that we are never alone. I am so appreciative of the people who have courageously shared their personal messages on this blog. We are truly blessed to have each other.

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What Has Helped Me

Since I am speaking about caregiving now, I thought I would share some ideas from my presentations that have helped me care for myself – mind, body, and soul.

One concept that has helped me is self-compassion. We often find it much easier to feel and express compassion for others, but we can be so very hard on ourselves. My counselor recommended listening to Kristin Neff’s YouTube videos. They have helped tremendously. I’ve always been very self-critical, so I am trying to practice being as kind to myself as I am to others. I’ve also learned how important it is to forgive yourself for normal feelings of anger and frustration when caregiving.

I’m also practicing mindfulness – being in the here and now. As caregivers, we spend a lot of time regretting our past decisions or anticipating future issues. I now make a habit of going outside in the morning where I play progressive relaxation and mindfulness tapes. Also, my son made a wonderful tape that helps me slow down my breathing to calm myself quickly when I’m feeling stressed. Plus, I’ve often gone back to my psychiatrist’s story on caring for your mind when I am struggling with depression and anxiety (May 9, 2016 on blog).

Spiritually, right now I’m rereading One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp. This beautiful book about gratitude is speaking to my soul. Scripture and devotionals are also an important part of my morning routine. I’ve found that spiritual music is very comforting too.

Physically, now that the weather is so lovely, I am walking my precious Shelby dog. Since she has inoperable cancer and our time together is limited, we enjoy these walks together. My trips to the gym help too. Even just working in my back yard is physically calming to me. Really any form of exercise helps, so do what you enjoy the most.

As caregivers, we need to take care of ourselves and learn to ask for help. Trying to do everything by yourself will leave you exhausted. When others offer to help, tell them exactly what they can do to help and have a regular check-in. It’s also important to know what adult day care programs, in-home assistance, visiting nurses, and meal delivery are available.

Counseling using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has helped me tremendously to modify my thoughts when I am having negative thoughts. CBT examines how our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are connected, and teaches how to changes patterns of distorted thinking and unhelpful behaviors to improve mood. Briefly, the six major types of unhelpful thought patterns are: over-generalizing, discounting the positive, jumping to conclusions by mindreading or fortune-telling, using “should” statements, labeling, and personalizing.

So often, I go back and reread my reader’s stories on my blog for hope and encouragement. I have learned so much from you, dear readers. While this has been a challenging year for me, I’ve learned many life lessons and am grateful for that.

I hope these ideas are helpful to you. I am available for speaking engagements to churches, schools, and caregiver support groups.

Scripture Verse

Psalm 23: 1-3 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.

Prayer I wanted to share this beautiful prayer by Matt Havilland with you.

Father,
I come before You today broken, yet humbled. Thank You my Lord for another opportunity to serve You; and although my circumstances may be far from ideal right now, they could not be in more perfect hands than Yours. Jesus, You call for all of us who are weary and heavy laden to come before You and that You will give us rest. God, my body and my soul both need rest right now. There are days I feel like nothing is going right; other days I am irritated and stressed beyond what it seems like I can handle; and there are times I wonder how I am ever going to make it on the path You have laid out before me. But then I reflect upon Your promises for my life. You have promised to never leave me nor forsake me; and that every good gift is from above. I believe Jesus has been tried and tempted in every way I have and that I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. And for that today, Lord, I am grateful. 

Books and Resources About Caregiving

The 36 Hour Day:  A Family Guide to Caring for People Who Have Alzheimer Disease, Related Dementias, and Memory Loss, by Nancy L. Mace and Peter V. Rabins

One Thousand Joys and One Thousand Sorrows, by Olivia Ames Hoblitzelle

Pressure Points – Alzheimer’s and Anger, from Duke Family Support Program

Baby Boomers Guide to Aging Parents, by Carolyn Rosenblatt

Always on Call: When Illness Turns Families into Caregivers, by Carol Levine

An Uncertain Inheritance: Writers on Caring for the Family, edited by Neil Casey

Jane Brody’s Guide to the Great Beyond, by Jane Brody

Caregiving: The Spiritual Journey of Love, Loss and Renewal, by Beth Witrogen McLeod

The End of Life Handbook, by David Feldman and Stephen Andrew Lasher Jr.

Final Journeys: A Practical Guide for Bringing Care and Comfort at the End of Life, by Maggie Callanan

Helping Yourself Help Others: A Book for Caregivers, by Rosalynn Carter and Susan Golant

When Life Becomes Precious: The Essential Guide for Patients, Loved Ones, and Friends of Those Facing Serious Illness, by Elise Babcock

Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, by David Burns

Passages in Caregiving, by Gail Sheehy

Controlling Your Frustration: A Class for Caregivers, Palo Alto, CA: Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

Stress: What is it? What can be done about it? Stress Reduction Instruction Manual, written for John Muir Mount Diablo Medical Center, Concord, CA. Parrish, Monique, L.C.S.W., Dr. PH.

Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving www.rosalynncarter.org

Self-Compassion YouTube videos by Kristin Neff

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A Lesson in Patience and Endurance

Maria shares her powerful story of caring for three family members over a period of 14 years. She cared for her mother with Alzheimer’s Disease for the entire time. Back then it was not a well-known or well-researched disease. Her mother had always been a kind and sweet woman, but she became another person – one who yelled and hit others. Her father didn’t understand the disease at first as he thought she was just being stubborn and unkind. But eventually he did accept the fact that she had a disease.

Maria is from Portugal where it is common practice to care for your elders, and Maria didn’t think twice about it. She also cared for her father, who had prostate cancer for five years, as well as an aunt with multiple health issues. She brought her family members into her home while also caring for her own family.

Maria says, “It was difficult spiritually, physically, and psychologically, but it was a learning experience, and I discovered my own strength.” However, she admits that she often felt overwhelmed and frustrated. She developed terrible eczema affecting her hands, which kept her from the very things that helped her relax like knitting and crocheting.

Also, her mother fell and broke a shoulder as well as a hip and was bedridden for eight years. Bedsores were always an issue, so Maria helped lift and turn her mother. She developed problems with her spine due to the heavy lifting she was doing.

Maria had also faced her own health issues. She had a tumor on her pituitary gland that she developed when she was 26 years old.  Her family has always practiced the Catholic faith. Before her mother became sick, she made the pilgrimage to Fatima to ask Our Lady to help her daughter, and her prayers were answered as Maria never needed surgery.  

The caregiving experience took a great toll on her marriage, and her husband divorced her after almost 30 years of marriage. It also alienated her daughter for a while. She faced terrible feelings of abandonment and sadness, but with God’s help, she persevered.

Fortunately, Maria is a “little energizer bunny” with a wonderful sense of humor. Also, she is slow to anger. All of these traits helped her to endure all of the difficulties in her life. She is an amazing example of faith to all who know her.

What Helped:

  • Her tremendous faith.
  • Her work as a church librarian.
  • Staying busy and active.
  • Reading Scripture.
  • Reading books about Alzheimer’s disease.

Scripture Verse

James 1:2-4 My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.

Prayer

God, You put beautiful examples of faith in our lives for a purpose. Maria has been a beacon of light to everyone she touches. You helped her to persevere through so many trials, and she never gave up. Help each of us to endure our own trials with patience and joy.

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A Pet’s Purpose in Caregiving

In His Care. Three simple words that I am struggling with right now. It has been a very difficult week after finding out that our precious Shelby, a seven-year-old golden retriever, has a fast-growing, inoperable cancer with a bad prognosis. It has made me think about the role our pet’s play in caregiving. My father was always a dog lover, and he had a special fondness for Shelby. Often, I would bring her along when I visited Mom and Dad, and they lit up around her. She brings pure joy to everyone she meets.

It’s no wonder that therapy dogs are so important in hospitals and nursing homes. Quite simply, they are good for the soul. They are similar to babies in that they bring happiness and smiles to people, along with relieving stress and pain. They have the ability to distract people from their problems. And that is what Shelby does for me.

Our sweet Shelby is a playful, spirited dog, but she always calms down around older people and children. After my parents died, Shelby was the one who could always cheer me up. Our pets are the perfect example of unconditional love, and I believe God has a special love for the beautiful animals that He created.

The first thing we learned about our rescue dog, Shelby, is that she is a “leaner,” meaning she leans into people petting her. We’ve had three goldens, but she is the first “leaner.” She just can’t contain her love.  Her amazing spirit got us kicked out of dog training school as she just couldn’t control her excitement about being around other people and animals.

She is a big dog who desperately wants to be a lap dog, and she climbs on the sofa trying to squeeze her way onto laps. It used to embarrass me how excited she got over anyone coming to our door, but now I see just how much she truly loves people. Each time we got to the vet, she makes new friends. Even the receptionist at our vet’s office started to cry when she saw Shelby’s pathology report.

And our pets can make us laugh. On our first outing to the dog park, she laid in the only mud puddle in the park, and she was so happy about it. I have come to love and appreciate her sense of fun.

She is so loved by our entire family. This story would not be complete without mentioning her best friend, Maisie, my daughter’s dog. When we go to Nashville to visit our two children, we take Shelby with us, and she and Maisie literally “go crazy” playing like little puppies. They are both happy and energetic playmates.

I am praying hard knowing that Shelby and I are in His care, but worries keep interrupting that thought. I am struggling with anticipatory grief, wondering how I will go on without her.  She is special, and I know I will never be able to replace her. I look at her amazing spirit and wonder if I could try to live each day as joyfully as she does. What an example she is.

When I was struggling with depression and anxiety several years ago, I could always wrap my arms around her and feel better immediately.  She is the best caregiver ever as she calms me down, even during panic attacks. Quite simply, I have received much more care from her than I have given to Shelby. I am forever in her debt.

Scripture Verses:

Genesis 1:21 So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good.

Genesis 6:19 And of every living thing, of all flesh, you shall bring two of every kind into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female.

Prayer

Dear Father, we believe that we are always in Your care. Thank You for the gift and example of our pets. They provide comfort, love, and joy. Although they don’t have long lives, help us to enjoy and appreciate the time we have with them. We simply can’t repay the love they give us during their short period on earth.

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Amazing Testimony of Blind Woman

Jean is simply an extraordinary individual, who has cared for herself throughout her life.  Blind since childhood, Jean decided she would never let blindness get in the way of what she wanted to do in life. She has been totally self-sufficient and has enjoyed a full career and social life.

Jean grew up in an alcoholic family environment, and although her mother loved her deeply, she struggled with raising two other sighted children as well as an over-bearing, alcoholic, and abusive husband. So, it was decided early on that Jean would do better in a state school for the blind, and indeed, she thrived. 

Jean graduated with high grades and along with her guide dog, she soon found herself in a corporate environment with a large international corporation. She had the help of state of the art (at that time) tools for the visually impaired along with her amazing self-determination. On her own, she travelled to and from work by bus, making bus changes with her dog. When she did end up in the wrong place, she would make a joke about it. She truly inspired her colleagues.

Her friend, Rosemary, who met her at work, said, “Jean is spunky. She never has let her blindness get her down. Plus, she has always had a great sense of humor and often posts her jokes on Facebook. She truly is a remarkable person.”

As technology evolved, so did Jean’s technical level as well as her income. Always a fan of County and Western music, Jean became an avid follower of Randy Travis and joined his fan club. This led to over 200 trips across the county alone to attend his concerts in the 1980’s and for the next twenty years. She eventually met him in person. He brought her up on stage at one of his concerts, and he gave her roses and a bone for her guide dog. Jean was thrilled to say the least. Many sighted people wouldn’t be so courageous to travel so far alone.

Rosemary says that Jean also plays the keyboard by ear and loves to entertain residents of nursing homes with this special gift. She is always giving back.

Currently, Jean, who is just 66 years old, is under hospice care with a diagnosis of “failure-to-thrive.” She got an infection in June, and became severely dehydrated. Now, her body seems to be shutting down, and she is thought to have suffered a stroke. Rosemary and another friend have been helping to care for her for the past two months.

Jean truly loves the Lord and has lived her exemplary life through her great faith. An inspiration to so many, she needs our prayers now as she declines.

What Helped:

  • Reading and quoting Scripture.
  • Listening to country music, especially Randy Travis.
  • Playing music by ear.
  • Her guide dogs have been precious to her.
  • Her “never give up” attitude and corporate career.
  • Her strong friendships.
  • Playing computer games with her blind friends.

Scripture Verse

Jean’s favorite saying is: “This too shall pass.”

Mathew 25:21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.

Prayer

What an inspiration Jean is. Dear Lord, she has such a very special relationship with You. It is through her great faith that she could be self-sufficient throughout her life. She will find her reward in Your everlasting arms.

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Caring for a Caregiver with Type 2 Diabetes

Robert was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes when he was 70 years-old, and it totally changed his life. In the beginning, he was very depressed about the diagnosis as he had other chronic health problems, too. However, this would be a game changer for him and his children who helped care for him. In his memory, his children wanted to tell his story to give hope to others in similar situations.

His daughter, Helen, says, “Diabetes is a terrible disease. Dad often had extremely high glucose levels even on medication. He had total neuropathy in his feet. Then to make everything worse, he had a foot wound and had to have weekly skin grafts for three months. Fortunately, it did finally heal. But during that time, is was so difficult for him to be off his feet.  We all pitched in, but Dad simply wouldn’t let go of his duties.”

Throughout these personal trials, he still cared for his wife, Jean, who was terminally ill.  His strong will helped get him through all of this. He truly neglected his own health to care for her. He even endured painful pancreatitis episodes with numerous hospital stays while caregiving.

Helen says, “It was so difficult to watch Dad suffer and never ask for much help. He took such amazing care of Mom, but we knew he was usually in pain himself. We tried to cook healthy meals for both of them, but he still found ways to sneak unhealthy food. Even his gerontologist, who saw him regularly, couldn’t get Robert to take better care of himself.”

Helen and her two siblings made sure that one of them was there daily to check on both parents as they still lived in their apartment. The siblings helped with cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, and doctor appointments. But the constant care Robert gave Jean never stopped, even though it was exhausting him.

When Jean died, he lost his will and reason to live, and he passed away nine months later. The siblings were glad that he was no longer suffering and was with the Lord. Caregivers like Robert desperately need our prayers and support. They are true examples of selflessness and faithfulness.

What Helped:

  • The family had a very strong faith.
  • The siblings worked together.
  • Robert’s strong will and persistence.
  • His gerontologist and other doctors.
  • The American Diabetes Association has a wealth of information about the disease.

Scripture Verses

1 Thessalonians 1:2-3  We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Psalm 25:10 All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.

Prayer

Heavenly Father, we pray for the selfless caregivers who endure their own illnesses while caring for others.  You do give us Your constant strength when we are faced with such difficulties. We know that You rejoice in our faithfulness.

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The Power of Friendship While Caregiving

Ever since my parent’s burial in Ohio where I reconnected with my best friend from childhood, I’ve been thinking about the role friends play during the stresses of caregiving. I am so incredibly thankful to the many friends who helped me through my difficult journey. It would have been much harder without them. It seems to me that God put those friends on my path to help me scale the mountains ahead.

So many friends were there for me – taking me to lunch and just letting me talk, sending cards and emails, and calling to check on me. It was my Bible Study friends who encouraged me to write this blog in the first place. I was so blessed that so many friends attended my parents’ funerals and comforted me.

The memory of my Mom with the very genuine friends she had reminds me to cling to those genuine friends I know. Mom was never influenced by money or status; rather, her friends were “the salt of the earth.” When you became a friend of hers, you were a friend for life. She reminds me of what type of friend I want to be. Mom was always loving and prayerful and she never gossiped, so she is my beautiful role model. I think of her daily and strive to become more like her.

Friends help us physically and emotionally. I have two great friends with whom I have lunch often. We call that time “our spiritual therapy.” I always leave feeling good when I’ve been with them. Even little things like a phone call or an email meant so much during difficult days with my folks. My friendships grew so much deeper then, and now I try to remember to tell those friends how much I love them. I’ve also learned how to become a better friend to others.

What Helped:

  • I love the phrase, “Friends are the family you choose.”
  • Knowing that friends were praying for me made such a difference.
  • The ability to share my deepest worries with my special girlfriends.
  • Friends who made me laugh.

Click here for seven ways to support others during difficult times.

Scripture Verses

John 15:12-15 This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.

Colossians 3:12-14 As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

1 Peter 4:8-10 Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.

Several Beautiful Quotes About Friendship:

“The steady discipline of intimate friendship with Jesus results in men becoming like Him.” By Harry Emerson Fosdick

“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” By Albert Schweitzer

“A rule I have had for years is to treat the Lord Jesus Christ as a personal friend. His is not a creed, a mere doctrine, but it is He Himself we have.” By  D.L. Moody

Prayer

Dear Father, we thank You for the many friends You put on our path to help guide us through difficult times. They are a beacon of Your light to lead us on our journey. You are our ultimate friend, and through You, we learn how to treat our friends with Your love.

Please click here for this song that is a beautiful reminder of the friend we have in Jesus. 

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Caring for Everyone Throughout Her Life

Tamika is the utter definition of an amazing caregiver.  She is the oldest granddaughter in her family and was raised by her grandmother because her mother was a drug addict. At a young age, she started caregiving for her younger cousins and later in life, her grandmother and mother.  It was a pattern that would continue throughout her life.  But she had no idea how that road would twist and turn.

Her 30’s were a very difficult time. She and her husband tried for eight years to get pregnant, even going to a fertility physician.  Tamika became pregnant, but the joy was short-lived as she lost the baby 35 weeks into the pregnancy.  The umbilical cord was wrapped around the baby’s neck.  She says, “Words cannot explain the hurt I felt when I lost my child.  I did not know what God was trying to tell me.”  

She started to see another fertility physician with no success.  During this time, Tamika said her faith was tested, and she became angry with God.  Finally, they decided to stop and think about adoption.  Almost 2 1/2 years later, at age 36, she got pregnant again with a baby girl.  Then she had a big surprise later that same year, as Tamika got pregnant again with triplets, two boys and a girl.  She had four babies in one year, one in January and the triplets in November.  However, the joy was tinged with pain as going from no children to four in one year caused a lot of stress.  It was overwhelming, and she and her husband began to have marital problems.  Her husband became so overwhelmed that he left when the triplets were still infants.

While he was gone, Tamika said she was sleepwalking through life. She explains, “I needed help, but I wasn’t good at asking for it.  I knew I had to be strong just like my grandmother taught me. I was taught to never let anyone see you cry.”  She soldiered through and went back to work in order to care for her family.  

Her husband returned after almost a year, and they went to counseling and learned life lessons.  Tamika says, “We learned that when two imperfect people come together, we cannot expect perfection.  Marriage is like a plate.  Through the years, you keep adding to the plate and when things happen, it breaks.  Things in life fall everywhere.  It becomes a mess.  Then it’s up to us to glue the plate back together making it even stronger, so it can hold the same things as before plus more.”  

Today they are much happier.  They have four beautiful, healthy children, ages 5 and 4.  They have learned to be thankful for even the smallest things.  God has helped them overcome so many struggles.  Tamika says, “We have learned to love each other as God loves us.”

Tamika says that God put others, especially an aunt, neighbor, and coach, in her life at an early age to reveal God’s love for her and show her a different way of life. She says, “They helped me see that God loves me. He is a healer. I learned that life will be better if I just keep God first.”

Tamika is still working full-time, but she is fully conscious of her life now and feels wonderful.  She feels that God has prepared her to minister to others who may be going through similar situations.  Just as others helped her envision a different life, so will she inspire others.

What Helped:

  • Her true and constant faith.
  • Her church and work communities.
  • The book, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff by Richard Carlson.

Scripture Verses:

Psalm 27:14 Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; yea, wait for the Lord!

Philippians 4:13 I can do all things in Him who strengthens me.

Prayer

God, you do give us the strength to soldier on when our lives feel impossible. You are a never-ending source of help. When we pass through these difficulties, we become stronger and more able to empathize with others who are struggling. Use us to minister to others in similar situations and show others Your peace and strength.

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When a Young Mother Suffers from Depression

Jane struggled with depression and anxiety throughout her teens and now at the age of 28, this terrible disease has really taken her down once again. She just had her first child and currently suffers from post-partum depression. While she truly loves her newborn, she is overwhelmed with the responsibilities of caring for her. She has watched her friends with newborns experience so much joy, and she feels guilty that she isn’t feeling the same response.

Her doctor and psychiatrist are working together to help her, and she is in counseling.  Jane knows that she is fortunate to have so much support. Her husband has been a godsend, and her mother, Julie, has been there daily to help care for the baby.

Julie has helped in every way she knows throughout the years. “It is so very difficult to watch your child struggle with this devastating disease,” she says. “And now with a new baby here, it is even sadder since this should be a happy time.” Jane is fortunate to have a very supportive family.

Jane has had several nervous breakdowns. The first of which happened at the age of 19 when she was in college. Jane was in a verbally abusive relationship for a year, which caused her to have horrible insomnia that made the depression worse. At this young age, she really didn’t know what was happening to her. Finally, she did see a psychiatrist, who prescribed an antidepressant and medication to help her sleep. At last, her despair lifted, and she was able to make a clear decision to end the relationship. She worked with a psychologist to understand both the disease and the reasons why she chose abusive men. It was a long and arduous road. Also, she discovered that depression has a strong genetic component – depression was prevalent in her father’s family. She has two siblings who have also experienced mild depression.

“After watching my father’s relatives suffer from this disease when I was young, I prayed that I would never struggle with it,” said Jane. “Looking back I realized that I was an anxious child. I was just really good at hiding my feelings. At first I kept it a secret even from most of my friends. Actually, group therapy really helped as I finally found some people my age who were struggling too.”

Jane is working hard to overcome her current depression and become the mother she wants to be. She feels confident that with help from God and her family, she will get through this. She likes this quote from Jesus Calling by Sarah Young: “What I require of you is to stay connected to Me living in trusting dependence on My limitless resources. When you face unexpected demands, there is no need to panic. Remember that I am with you. Talk with Me, and listen while I talk you through each challenging situation. I am not a careless God. When I allow difficulties to come into your life, I equip you fully to handle them. Relax in My Presence, trusting in My Strength.” 1

What Has Helped:

  • The support and love of her parents and siblings.
  • Understanding the disease.
  • The work she did and is doing with her counselor.
  • Medication has helped.

Scripture Verse:

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Prayer

Dear Father, sometimes our struggles seem insurmountable, but even in our darkest moments You are always there. See us through these dark periods as we put all our trust in You. You will set us on Your perfect path.

 1 Young, Sarah (2004). Jesus Calling. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

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