Maybe it started slowly. You visited your parents and started to worry about them living alone. You found yourself taking over more of the responsibilities for your spouse. You are assuming more and more of the responsibility for caring for your grandchildren because your son or daughter is not able to care for them.
Maybe it happened all of a sudden. Mom slipped and broke her hip. The neighbors called to say that dad was wandering around looking lost. Your loved one became seriously ill. However it began, you are now a caregiver.
And you are not alone! Every day, more than sixty-five million Americans wake up and care for loved ones. Nearly one-third of the U.S. adult population are caregivers, providing an average of 20 hours of care per week – with some providing care around the clock.
In Rosalynn Carter’s book, Helping Yourself Help Others: A Book for Caregivers, the former First Lady quotes a colleague as saying there are only four kinds of people in the world:
Watch the stories of people discovering a calling as a caregiver.
When Ken was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, his wife Mary Margaret struggled to pray—until a doctor helped her trust God again.
“I really didn’t consciously make a decision to be a Caregiver, I think it’s just a calling . . . ."
Caregiving has made me a better person. I'm the sandwich generation, caring for both a small child and an aging parent. This role has made me step back and appreciate every single little moment of joy. And oftentimes I have to work hard to create these moments, but they are worth it. My daughter and I created the Give Back project where we document a monthly service project to help others in similar situations. This month, we are writing thank you letters. I'm thanking my hospice team, my daughter is thanking her grandmother. Next month, we will collect Baby Dolls and Blankets and deliver them to dementia patients to give them comfort.
A calling involves responsibility and duty, but also love and care. The question of whether or not you understand your caregiver as a calling is a complex struggle, one that deserves careful reflection over time.
You may have the assumption that God calls you once, for just one purpose. In reality, it is safe to say that God calls us many times throughout the situations and seasons of our lives, and each call challenges us to stretch further than we might have anticipated or imagined.
This is almost certainly the case for those who find themselves in the role of caregiver. As you reflect on this challenge (and invitation!), it’s quite logical to seek deeper meaning from it.
You likely have a bit of anxiety, and a whole lot of wonderment for how this is going to go. One thing is certain. As you embrace this role, and consider how caregiving is a call, you will discover an aspect of God that you have not seen or experienced before.
How can you see caregiving as a calling?
Caregiving can at times take over every part of your life. Phyllis shares her experience caregiving for the five members in her family's older generation. Phyllis Peters is an author and educator who has variously embodied the spirit of musician, waitress, filmmaker, rape crisis advocate, wanderer, and ingrate. Her latest novel, "Untethered: A Caregiver’s Tale" is a fictionalized, comedic take on her family’s experience with caregiving in the 'sandwich generation'.
How does Phyllis’s story resonate with your own as caregiver?
How can you embrace the joy of ‘now’ amidst the challenges and demands of caregiving?
How might you discover your calling through the experience of caregiving?
Watch the video, Discerning God's Call, by Jennifer Haworth and then use the reflection questions below to help you discern God's call during this time of life transition.
Consider these three insights as you begin discerning how God is calling you today.
1. Pay attention to your daily experience and what it stirs within you.
In the stuff of everyday experience - your hopes, your fears, your dreams, your routines - God is at work, inviting you to notice what brings you joy, what you're good at, and what others need you to do. Pay attention to where God is active in our life.
2. Reflect on what you notice, sorting and sifting in order to understand what is leading you to an abundant life and what is not.
Understanding develops through reflection, taking the time to see the patterns in your experience, and grasp their significance. While you can begin to notice and interpret God's action in our lives individually, if you want to hear deeply, see clearly, and choose wisely, trusted companions on the journey are essential.
3. Take loving action on what you have learned.
Discernment does not end with becoming aware of how your experiences are drawing you closer to or further away from God. You must eventually decide what you want to do with this knowledge. How will you act on what you've learned?
We grow into our distinctive callings if we are willing to become aware of God's movement in our lives, to reflect on this movement prayerfully alone and with others, and to take loving action on what we have learned.
One of the great Biblical stories of caregiving is the story of Ruth and Naomi. After Naomi’s sons and husband die in Moab, she releases her daughters-in-law back to the families. But Ruth “clings” to Naomi and refuses to leave her. Her decision to go with Naomi was a great sacrifice. Rather than remarry among her own people, Ruth leaves her homeland and goes to Israel as a widow, the very lowest member of that society. Still, Ruth dutifully goes out to the fields and provides for herself and her mother-in-law. It is an act of great courage on her part, as well as a loving sacrifice—to care for the needs of Naomi, while her own future was anything but secure.
Do not press me to leave you
or to turn back from following you!
Where you go, I will go;
where you lodge, I will lodge;
your people shall be my people,
and your God my God.
Where you die, I will die--
there will I be buried.
May the Lord do thus and so to me,
and more as well,
if even death parts me from you!
(Ruth's words to Naomi in Ruth Chapter 1:16-17, NRSV)
Do not fear, for I am with you,
do not be afraid, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my victorious right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble with its tumult. (Psalm 46:1-3)
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. (John 14:27)
Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)
Blessed are those who care and who are not afraid to show it --
they will let people know they are loved.
Blessed are those who are gentle and patient --
they will help people to grow as the sun helps the buds
to open and blossom.
Blessed are those who have the ability to listen --
they will lighten many a burden.
Blessed are those who know how and when to let go --
they will have the joy of seeing people find themselves.
Blessed are those who, when nothing can be done or said,
do not walk away,
but remain to provide a comforting and supportive presence --
they will help the sufferer to bear the unbearable.
Blessed are those who recognize their own need to receive,
and who receive with graciousness --
they will be able to give all the better.
Blessed are those who give without hope of return --
they will give people an experience of God.
A Blessing for Caregivers
May you see with tender eyes
The wounds of those before you.
May you hear with well-tuned ears
The unspoken needs of those whose voices are muted.
May you hold with gentle hands
The bodies and the spirits of those you care for.
May the beauty of soul,
The strength of spirit,
The wholeness of being
Lead you, inspire you
And let you know your own
Beauty of soul,
Strength of spirit,
Wholeness of being.
May you know that,
As you care for others,
God cares for you, sees you,
Holds you tenderly.
(This blessing comes from the book,Voices from the Journey, authored by Sr. Juliana Casey, IHM. www.chausa.org/voices)
The C3 Project is a service of Vibrant Faith funded through a $1.5 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. through its Called to Lives of Purpose Initiative with the purpose of assisting congregations in developing and testing new ministry models for helping Christians discover and claim their callings.
Vibrant Faith: https://vibrantfaith.org