Four years in the making: “A Tapestry of Love: The Spirituality of Caregiving”

Joe LaGuardia and Daphne Reiley have authored a new book to help caregivers along the way in their spiritual journey.

Tapestry bookA Tapestry of Love: The Spirituality of Caregivers is a resource for caregivers who often feel isolated and prone to exhaustion, loneliness, depression, anger, and resentment.

Using Jesus’ interaction with Mary and Martha as recorded in Scripture, A Tapestry of Love provides a framework for spiritual formation that nurtures the crucial work of caregivers, bolsters their relationship with care-receivers, and promotes intimacy with God. This narrative loom weaves a tapestry of practices that garners a strong and supportive, creative and vibrant, time-tested and relevant spiritual path for the caregiving journey.

Chapters cover such topics as prayer, grief work, caregiving as a vocation, worship and Sabbath.  Purchase your copy online through Amazon Createspace today!  A Kindle version will be released within the next week.

A website devoted to the book will be online soon!

“Graveyard Shift”: A Sermon in Three Acts

Act 1: The Tale of Judas.

You know ole’ Judas, right?  He was Jesus’ treasurer; and like the other disciples, he believed that Jesus was going to overthrow those Romans once and for all.

Then Jesus started talking about all of that suffering and dying.  That was not the war cry of the long-expected Messiah.  Judas read the writing on the wall and betrayed Jesus.  He gave up Jesus for thirty dollars, a lot of money back then.

When the religious authorities had more in store for Jesus than just arrest, Judas felt remorse and wanted out.  He went back to the priests and asked for forgiveness, but they turned him away.

So Judas killed himself.  The priests used Judas’ money to purchase a cemetery for outsiders. Akeldama, they called it, the “Field of Blood.”

Akeldama is a place of broken dreams.  It is a place of anxiety despite the fact that graveyards were places of rest in the Jewish way of seeing things.  It represented all that Judas went through: dashed expectations, lost hope, failure to find grace and forgiveness.

Akeldama is a reminder that all of us spend time in the graveyard shift a time or two.  You know the place.  It’s where forgiveness–or at least the permission to be forgiven–is hard to come by.

Act 2: The Tale of Alice.

Alice was a caregiver in despair.  Several years ago, Alice cared for her mother while her mother slowly died of cancer.

But Alice’s mother left her with more than grief.  She left Alice with a grandfather for which to care.  You see, Grandpa lived with Mom, and Mom cared for him.  He had Alzheimer’s and he certainly couldn’t live on his own.  Now Grandpa was Alice’s responsibility.

Alice, a young gal with dreams and aspirations fit for a girl her age, was thrust into a situation for which she was unprepared.  When Alice came to me for a chat, the caregiver role had consumed her.  Every time she looked at her grandfather, she saw her mother’s eyes staring back at her.

She was grieving the loss of her mother and all those dreams.  It was a living nightmare.

She felt like a failure for having all of those negative feelings.  In other words, she didn’t give herself permission to let those feelings go.  Instead, she lived in Akeldama and was stuck working the graveyard shift.

Act 3: The Tale of the Gerasene Demoniac.

There was a crazy man who lived in the cemetery up the road.  Some say he was possessed; others that he was a monster of some sort. Every night he howled over the village.  The children learned long ago to ignore him, but the youngest among them still awoke at his incessant cackling.

It was strange to find a man so crazy in a graveyard, a place of rest and peace.  But that’s where he chose to live.  Last Autumn, some local dock workers tried to put chains on him hoping to shut him up, but he always broke free.

Then, one day, a Divine Healer came over from the other side of the lake and confronted the man.  That’s when we learned that the crazy man had all these demons living inside of him.

“I am Legion,” the crazy man said, “And we are many.”

The Divine Healer cast those demons out, and we hardly recognized the crazy man after that.  There he was: a man at peace, fully clothed.

There was something that caught my attention in all of this.  When this Divine Healer freed the man from all of those demons, the Healer simply sent the man home.  But the man, as crazy as he was, could have gone home any time he wanted.

Those chains didn’t hold him, but he chose to stay in the cemetery anyway.  He got so used to working the graveyard shift, I guess he was just too comfortable to live elsewhere.

All it took to be free was that Divine Healer to give the man permission to go home, to enjoy the results of forgiveness, to find absolution and restoration.  To receive what God had offered him all along: peace and grace.

You know, all this storytelling brings up an important question: What will it take for you to get out of the graveyard shift?  If it is simply permission to move on, to “let go, and let God,” then it’s granted.  Be blessed and live in God’s peace.

Caregivers: Burdened and blessed, and how to move on (part 3)

Beth McLeod, caregiver and author of “Caregiving: A Journey of Love, Loss, and Renewal,” once noted, “In a culture defined by short attentions spans and sound bites, family caregiving demands investment for the long term, often an abrogation of dreams and a wholesale reconstruction of the future, one slow brick at a time.”

In other words, caregiving is a journey that is arduous, timely, and consuming.   So consuming, in fact, that being a caregiver can very well be another spiritual discipline in and of itself.   But, like many journeys, this pilgrimage is best accomplished with a community of like-minded people, one friend at a time.

Support groups help connect caregivers

Caregivers are good at caring for others, but many wonder, “Who cares for me?”  Community provides the compassionate embrace that reminds caregivers that they are not alone and that others care.  Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “Let us consider how we may inspire one another toward love and good deeds.  Let us not give up meeting together…but let us encourage one another.”

This is difficult for caregivers who do not have the time to journey with others outside of the caregiving role.  Some spend all of their time with loved ones, while others can only socialize when help is available.  Yet others do not connect with a community because they are too tired, or they use free time to simply “get away.”

These reasons are important ones in the lives of caregivers; however, these reasons are usually what lead to loneliness, exhaustion, and depression.   It is important to connect with others, even if only once a month or a few minutes each week.

God is very much concerned about the relationships we keep.  Community is a priority in Christian spiritual formation, and “koinonia” fellowships (or divine communities) are what sustain fellow believers over the long haul.   In community, we grow as individuals because we spend time with others who encourage us, built us up, empower us, and care for us.

Aside from Sunday morning worship or Sunday school, one of the ways to seek koinonia is to join a small group or weekly Bible study.  A variety of churches offer such groups, including book clubs and hobby-focused groups.

Another effective way to grow in koinonia is to join an online community.  There are many forums that emphasize discipleship and spiritual growth.  A Google search for “online Christian community” garners over 28.9 million hits.  Though an online community is not ideal for building intimate relationships, it can provide some respite while you’re home or have a laptop handy.

A third way to connect with others is to join a support group or prayer group specifically for caregivers.  Such groups provide safe, friendly environments that allow caregivers to share feelings with others.

These groups are wonderful avenues for growth because they also provide caregivers the opportunity to meet others who are going through similar situations.  Though caregivers serve different individuals, they all share common feelings and stresses.

There are groups that currently meet in Decatur, Lilburn, and Stone Mountain.  Trinity Baptist is starting a support group on Thursday nights, beginning September 30th, at 7 PM  (a second group is starting Thursday afternoons early October).

As caregiving becomes more necessary for our aging population, I want to invite you to  actively pursue God’s presence in your life, pray honestly about the struggles you face, and connect with people who will walk with you on your journey.  Churches throughout our county stand ready to help; its just a matter of reaching out and letting your pastor or friends know how they can respond to your needs accordingly.

Trinity Baptist Church is hosting the open house of the Center for Caregiver Spirituality on September 30th, 7 PM.   Click on the link for more details.