Caregivers; they’re on my heart.  What is a caregiver? Care is defined as serious attention or consideration applied to and a giver is a person who gives something.  Put it all together and you have a person who gives serious attention and consideration.

I’m not sure what happens when I do laundry but once again my heart was overwhelmed with gratitude.  Not for my washing machine and dryer – which I’m sure I should be thankful that I don’t have to pound our clothes against a rock or rub them vigorously against a washboard.  Was I thankful for the laundry detergent, the ability to have nice clothes or the children who call the clothes theirs?  That wasn’t the foremost thought in my mind.  Now, let me say as I write this, I am thankful for all of that; the kids, the clothes, the detergent and the washing machine and dryer.  What did cross my mind however was my mom, my wife and all caregivers.

First, for at least eighteen years my mom washed my clothes, folded them, hung them up and she may have even put them away.  I’m not clear oJWVCF, caregiver 1 (2)n that part.  Now she didn’t iron them once I started wanting 100% cotton clothing my 7th or 8th grade year but wash them she did.  Then, for the next few years I washed them on my own.  I don’t remember it clearly to be honest.  I just know that my mom was in Georgia and I was in the Midwest so it wasn’t practical for her to continue to fold my socks.  Then along came Jennifer.  Before we even married she started doing my laundry.  She would come over to my apartment on Fridays, pick up my laundry, take it to her mom and dad’s and wash it.  I proposed shortly after!  I jest, slightly.  However, there is no doubt that I absolutely loved her heart.  After we married I bet that I didn’t do a dozen loads of laundry.  Not because I was unwilling to help – but she just didn’t want me to do it.  Actually I think she thought I couldn’t do it right.  Now, for nearly the last four years I’ve been doing laundry for me and the kids.  It’s a Saturday routine.  Whatever has made its way to one of our three hampers ends up getting washed on Saturday.

As I turned the dials on the washer, dumped the detergent into the tub and began to load the darks into the sudsy water it hit me… an overwhelming desire to say THANK YOU!  Thank you, mom!  Thank you for the hours upon hours of laundry that you did for me, my dad and my brothers.  Thank you for the number of hours that you worked tirelessly on laundry and countless other projects that we just simply took for granted!  Thank you, Jennifer!  Thank you for serving me, Isaac and Lauren so effortlessly, so lovingly, so willingly.  Thank you for making sure we had clean clothes, a clean home and all the other things that we took for granted.

And as I reflected for a few moments on all that my mom and Jennifer had done for me over the years my heart turned to all the caregivers out there.  Now there are countless ways that folks are giving care to loved ones and I’m sure I can’t possibly relate to them all – but I can relate to those in situations similar to mine.

For years Jennifer was on chemotherapy every other week.  She would check in on a Tuesday, receive hours of treatment at the cancer center, come home with a chemo pump and then be so exhausted and nauseated we wouldn’t really see her again until Sunday or maybe even Monday.  During that time I cared for her and the kids.  Meals, medicine, buckets, cold rags, heating pads, rotation of sermons on CD, errands, chats, tears and lots of prayers.

On my heart are the caregivers.  For those of you who behind the closed doors of your home who are doing laundry, cooking meals, managing the medicine, running errands, encouraging and you’re just flat exhausted – I’m praying for you to have renewed strength, a rekindled spirit of hope.  I want to take a moment and tell you THANK YOU for the person you are caring for, who is so exhausted they don’t have the breath to thank you on their own. You are greatly appreciated!

As I wrap up I want to share one of my favorite stories.  It’s found in the sixth chapter of the book of John. It’s a fairly popular story that has been shared for year by ministers.  If you’ll give me just a moment I want to encourage you with this story.  Jesus and his disciples were hanging out with about five thousand men, not counting women and children.  Some historians think there could have been as many as fifteen thousand folks that were there to hear from this man who was taking the area by storm.  After Jesus had finished communicating with the crowd it was reported that they were hungry.  With no place for them to satisfy their hunger quickly, the disciples became a little concerned about what they were going to do to take care of this need.  As they told Jesus about the challenge Jesus answered their question with a question, yet the bible says that he knew the answer to the question.  His question? He asked his disciples “What are we going to do? How are we going to feed all these folks?” And while he asked the question he knew the answer.  Now I’m sure you might be wondering, so what was the answer? Hang on to your socks, this is awesome!  Are you ready?  John 6:9 says, “there is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish…  then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were sitting there; he then did the same with the fish, distributing as much as they wanted. When they had eaten enough he said to the disciples, ‘Pick up the pieces left over, so that nothing is wasted.’ So they picked them up and filled twelve large baskets with scraps left over from the meal of five barley loaves.”

Isn’t that awesome?!?!  Do you get it?  Do you see it?  The whole time, right in the middle of the challenge, Jesus knew that there was a lad there.  He knew right where that young man was and he knew what he had.  And He knew that if the young man was willing to give all that he had He could use it and feed the people.

So my encouragement to you, the caregiver is this.  Maybe you feel like the lad.  You’re “here,” living, surviving, going through the motions to do what you must, to provide for your family.  You run to the pharmacy, go to the appointments, sit next to your loved one as they receive treatment, nurture them as they feel nauseated and whisper to them that they are champions when they feel defeated.  But the truth is you feel like what you have to give just isn’t enough to take care of the need.  You, relatively, only have a little bread and a couple of fish and it just doesn’t seem like enough to cover the need.  Good news… God will take what you have, multiply it, and make it go the distance.  But to me the best news of all is that in the midst of all the hustle, the bustle, the chaos and countless other people that surround you and appear to “have it all together”… He knows right where YOU are.

So, caregivers, what is your struggle?  Exhaustion? Provision? Time? Concern? Worry?  The greatest news that I could give to you today as I load up the colors into my washing machine is – He knows where YOU are, He knows what YOU have and if you’re willing to give what you have to Him he’ll touch it and make it go so much farther than you can on your own!  How do I know?  Because nearly four years after Jennifer finished her race I’m so fortunate to be loading these clothes into a tub of sudsy water, full of love, hope, peace and the unwavering desire to encourage folks like you and help families, in the midst of their cancer, to create memories that will last a lifetime!