Laudable Linkage

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Here’s my latest roundup of noteworthy reads online:

These Bombs Led Me to Christ,” testimony of the “Napalm girl” from the famous picture. HT to Challies.

God Understands Hard, Thankless Parenting, HT to True Woman. “For those of us who feel undone by the various losses of motherhood, we take comfort in a God who grieves with us and for us. Scripture gives us vivid pictures of how God understands the brokenhearted parent.”

When Mommy Grows Up, HT to Challies.

Mom, I’m Such a Sinner!” HT to Challies. “God’s grace brings moments into our children’s lives, as He does in ours, when they feel just how bad sin is. It’s never pretty. A wise parent works with the Holy Spirit’s conviction without minimizing the sting of its pain. As we guide our children’s spiritual development, we agree with truth while bringing balance to emotion.”

50 Good Mental Health Habits, HT to Challies.

Jesus and Joysticks: What the Church Should Stop Making Fun of Video Gamers. HT to Challies.

The Oldest, Most Ignored Social Media Command, HT to Challies.

Have a Heart on Social Media. HT to True Woman. “When you log onto social media and see your favorite tribe picking up pitchforks over the latest cause for offense… pause before you join in. Consider that, as rewarding as it feels to be part of a mob, your goal should be to build up  — not one up — your brothers and sisters in the Lord.”

The Perennial Gen, a blog for mid-lifers, is focused on caregiving and the “sandwich generation” this month. They’ve had some great posts so far that I can solidly identify with.

I’ve seen a lot of online friends talk about opening their windows this time of year. I’ve thought, either they don’t have allergies or they don’t have much pollen where they live. A friend here opened her windows one night and then had to wipe yellow pollen dust off every surface in her home the next day. Someone posted this on Twitter, and it makes me sneezy just to watch it.

Happy Saturday!

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Book Review: I’m Still Here

still-hereI first came across I’m Still Here: A New Philosophy of Alzheimer’s Care by John Zeisel at Lisa’s review here. One of the main points she discusses there, of not “testing” the person with Alzheimer’s (Do you know who I am? Who this is? Do you remember…) but rather giving them the information they need first hand (Hi Mom, it’s your daughter, Barbara, and this is your grandson, Jesse. We’ve come to visit you today) was so simple and practical and yet so good and helpful, I wanted to read the rest of the book. My own mother-in-law in our home does not have Alzheimer’s, but she has had bouts of dementia, and I thought some of the general information about aging might be helpful as well as the specifics about dementia.

One of the overriding themes of the book is to concentrate not so much on what the person has lost, but to deal with what they have now. “Those living with Alzheimer’s who use parts of their brains that still function well, feel enabled and competent, and are less apathetic, agitated, anxious, and aggressive” (p. 9). Those last four “A’s,” he says, are not so much symptoms of the disease itself but rather reactions or results that can be minimized.

Another theme would be to “discard old expectations and role relationships that limit our ability to see the person and relate to him or her in a new way” (p. 11).

Another would be that Alzheimer’s is more complex than just short term memory loss. For instance, a patient “doesn’t ‘forget’ how to get dressed or brush his teeth; it is just more difficult to put all the steps in the right order for multistage activities” (p. 70). Likewise, socially, it’s not so much that they “forget” how to act, but rather “losing control over naturally occurring feelings” (p. 71).

The author discusses the medical aspects of Alzheimer’s, which parts of the brain are affected and which still work well but may need help to be accessed, and gives multitudes of ways to help access that part of the brain and reduce some of the negative reactions. So many of these are so helpful and practical, such as the supplying of information rather than asking questions I mentioned earlier, or the birthday party he described for a person who angered easily. He suggested having it in a dining room, so the setting helps the person know what is expected (rather than a living room or community room where they don’t know what to expect), seating them next to a grandchild, which “evokes hardwired caring instincts,” and having everyone wear name tags (pp. 71-73).

One chapter dealt with arranging living spaces to facilitate patients’ movement and avoid problems. One good idea was “landmarks located at points where a decision must be made, such as a corner or a doorway.” Another was “camouflaged exits.” This was a big problem at one facility my mother-in-law was in. The main doorway was set off by a hall, making it so the workers couldn’t see it unless they walked that way. A lot of the residents accumulated at the doorway, making it hard for visitor to get in and out (in fact, I got scolded once for letting a resident out, but I didn’t know she was a resident. Visitors shouldn’t be expected to police the doorways). Another tip here would have helped this facility: have walkways that are safe and go somewhere, so the patient walks instead of wanders (p. 145). This particular place had no place for patients to “go” – they just had hallways to rooms and a big sitting area, and the aides tried to herd everyone in the sitting area to sit brain dead and silent in front of a TV to keep them under control and out of trouble (as you can surmise, I do not have good feelings or memories of this place). By contrast, the first facility she was in had walking paths that made a circle through the building (she was still using a walker then, and when my husband visited, they would “take a walk” around the circle). They also had a nice screened-in porch (without a door to the outdoors) so residents could enjoy the weather and view and fresh air and still be safe. “The hormone oxytocin is released in the brain when people feel safe. This in turn contributes to lower stress and to greater trust and sociability” (p. 138), so setting up an atmosphere as safe and wired for success as possible helps.

The author asserts that one area of the brain that still works well is creativity, and he spends a good portion of the book discussing the use of the various arts. My first thought was that that would not have been helpful with my husband’s mother, as she was never one for museums or art galleries or plays and such. But as he presented it, I saw ways they might have been useful earlier in her life, though I can imagine she would not have been excited about a trip to the museum at first. But many might find these tips helpful. I did appreciate some of the helpful, thoughtful tips scattered throughout this section, like not asking “What does this painting represent,” but rather asking a specific question about something in it, explaining why they were in the museum or gallery without being asked, not asking them what they saw a half-hour ago, not pursuing a line of conversation if they get anxious, and others (pp. 96-97). Some of these would translate well to other excursions.

One of the most valuable sections is on communicating with a person with Alzheimer’s. The author puts forth these rules and elaborates on them:

  • Hear and respond to the other person’s “reality.” Don’t try to talk them out of it.
  • Be honest.
  • Always address the person directly.
  • Don’t test (as discussed in the first paragraph).
  • Don’t say “don’t”; divert and redirect instead.

A few other important points:

It’s not right to think of Alzheimer patients as entering their “second childhood.” They have knowledge and life experience children don’t have (p. 10).

“Be sure to ask the person with Alzheimer’s for expressions of emotions rather than cognitive data. Ask how they feel about a topic, not who was there a little while ago, or someone’s name” (p. 190).

When moving someone with Alzheimer’s into a new living situation, don’t buy all new things for them or their room (p. 185). Make sure they are surrounded by familiar items, clothes, wall decorations, etc.

I admit near the end I got a little frustrated, because it seemed as if the author were saying that if we just did all of these things, everything would work out fine and Alzheimer’s would be a beautiful and rewarding experience, and I know from many friends experiencing this with loved ones that it is not that way, no matter what you do. But he does advocate, in a section on caring for yourself as a caregiver, having someone you can safely “vent” to, to “pour out your heart with all its anguish and fear” and share “the ‘terrible’ feelings you have” (p. 213). It helped to see this admission that there will still be those times. These tips won’t eliminate every difficulty with Alzheimer’s, but they will help in many ways.

There were a few places I disagreed with him. In one place discussing different types of health care and aid available, he mentions nursing homes as an option as if one can just choose and make arrangements to go there. I don’t know how it works in other states, but here, it’s pretty much impossible to get into one unless you’re coming from a hospitalization. One social worker said she could put us on a waiting list, but they almost never admit someone from a waiting list because they have so many admitted from the hospital (much of this due to Medicare regulations). A few pages later he mentions staff members in both assisted living facilities and nursing homes “who want to work there because they have a natural empathy with elders living with Alzheimer’s” (p. 206). As much as we would hope so and like to think so, that is just not the case (I could tell you stories….). Maybe they started out that way but got burned out, I don’t know. Finally, there is a New Age-y/Zen/Buddhist feel to parts of the book, culminating in a chapter on mindfulness meditation that I would personally be uncomfortable with and even find harmful.

But the strength of the book, and what I appreciated most about it, is the gracious and thoughtful approach to communicating with and dealing with those with Alzheimer’s that permeates every facet of the book.

Genre: Non-fiction
Potenti
al objectionable elements: Buddhist-type philosophies
My rating: For what I mentioned in the last paragraph, I’d give it a 10 out of 10, but due to some of the philosophical differences, overall I think I’d give it a 7 out of 10.

(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books and Carol‘s Books You Loved )

Books you loved 4

 

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Laudable Linkage

Here are some good reads discovered recently:

Women: Trade Self-Worth For Awe and Wonder. Yes!

Trouble, We’ve Been Expecting You. Excellent.

Stop Trying to Make the Bible Relevant to Teenagers, HT to Challies, by which he means, you don’t have to present it in a way to try to make it “cool” to them. Its truth relates to all of us: just show them how it speaks to their needs.

Back to the Early Church? Excellent. Sometimes people idealize the early church in Acts, but it had its problems, too.

On Bible study:

What Is Bible Study?

4 Reasons Why Every Bible Reader Should Do Word Studies.

On prayer:

The Busy Mom’s Guide to Prayer. Good tips not just for moms.

4 Ways to Keep a Fresh Prayer Life.

On caregiving and dealing with aging parents:

What I’ll Say to My Children If I’m Diagnosed With Alzheimer’s.

What Caregivers Know and You Can, Too.

Her New Happy.

On parenting:

As Seemed Best to Them. Yes! Parenting is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor.

Why We Don’t Punish Our Kids. Not advocating not dealing with sin, but explaining the difference between punishment and discipline.

And to end on a smile…I saw this on Pinterest and cracked up:

Lego

Happy Saturday!

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But That’s Not My Spiritual Gift!

IMG_1761Some years ago it was all the rage to do spiritual gift tests. Spiritual gifts are those particular abilities that the Holy Spirit gives people when they are saved by which He wants to work through them to edify the body of Christ. You can find lists of them in Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, 28-30; Ephesians 4:11; 1 Peter 4:9-11. They have been taught about in almost every church we have been a part of, and in two churches we actually did the test during a church service, with one of them having a subsequent series about them.

The idea was to help people identify their spiritual gifts so they’d know how they best fit into the ministry of the church and not waste their time frustrated and ineffective in an area where they’re not gifted. And that can be helpful. When I first started going to church regularly as a teenager and then was recruited for various ministries, it seemed like a young woman was just naturally gifted for working with children, right? I was usually asked to assist and then later to teach in the nursery, Sunday School, children’s church, Awanas, etc. I could do it, I learned from it, I hope God used me in it, but it wasn’t until I was asked to take on a more administrative role that I felt I had found my niche and just sank into it with a delight and joy I hadn’t previously found in ministry. As other opportunities have opened up over the years I’ve had a similar response in a few different areas.

I think that might actually be the better way to discern one’s spiritual giftings: trying different ministries to see which one “fits.” The tests can help to a degree, but sometimes they’re more like personality tests; sometimes their definitions can differ from one another and/or from my understanding of what a particular gift entails. Sometimes the particular ministry I am in hasn’t really fit in any category I’ve seen on a test.

Another fault with the tests and perhaps too much of a focus on what *my* gifts are is the “That’s not my job” syndrome. I don’t have the gift of evangelism, so I don’t have to do that, right? No, we’re all supposed to be a witness for Christ in some way within our sphere of influence, though there are some who are especially gifted in that way. It’s the same with giving, showing mercy, extending hospitality, helping others, and many of the other spiritual gifts.

And then sometimes God drops us into a situation that we don’t feel gifted for at all: in fact, we feel totally inadequate. Moses, Gideon, Jeremiah, Jonah, and others didn’t greet God’s call on their lives the the attitude, “Sounds great! That’s just the kind of opportunity I was looking for!”

That’s where I am with caregiving. Someone I knew said of their daughter, who was training to be a nurse, that she was a “natural caregiver.” Another friend who is a nurse spoke of loving to use the talents God had given her to minister to people in that way – another natural caregiver. That’s not me. I want people to be cared for, particularly my mother-in-law. But I have never been good with or felt inclined to the hands-on type of caregiving she is in need of now, except with my own children.

Yet here we are. Do I tell God, “There must be some mistake here. Not only am I not gifted for this, but it’s keeping me from what I feel I am gifted for.” Probably not a good idea.

I was convicted by this sentence as well as other truths in the True Woman blog post “Serving in Church: When Your Spiritual Gift Isn’t Changing Diapers“: “This doesn’t mean my gifts aren’t important. What it means is that “sometimes the need for a servant is greater than my need to use a specific gift.” And from another article on the same web site, What About Your Desire to Do Something Great For God?: “When the desire to do for God supersedes the desire to obey God, it reveals that God is no longer the source of joy. A heart delighted in God desires to obey Him. A heart delighted in self desires to see what self can accomplish. A person delighted in God doesn’t care so much how God uses her, but rather that she is useful to God, the object of her delight. A person delighted in self cares deeply about how God uses her, because seeing the self she loves underused causes grief.”

Though we need to rely on God’s help, grace, and strength even for those areas where we feel He has gifted us, there’s nothing like being totally out of our element to make us lean on Him and plea for His enabling like never before. And though the main point of caregiving isn’t about me, but rather about showing love and ministering to my mother-in-law, perhaps one reason He has allowed this opportunity is to teach me lessons about my own selfishness as well as serving and loving others in the way they most need it, not in the way I am “comfortable” showing it.

Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. Matthew 20:28

(Sharing with Inspire me Monday, Testimony Tuesday, Woman to Woman Word Filled Wednesday, Thought-provoking Thursday)

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Laudable Linkage

If you, like me, are avoiding the Black Friday crowds, perhaps you’ll be interested in a little after-Thanksgiving reading. 🙂 Here’s a round-up of interesting reading discovered in the last week or so:

Doctrine Matters: Eternal Life Depends On It.

Why Controversy Is Sometimes Necessary.  HT to Challies.”The only way to avoid all controversy would be to consider nothing we believe important enough to defend and no truth too costly to compromise.”

Seven Sentimental Lies You Might Believe.

Every Mormon’s Need For Rest.

Only You Can Determine If Caregiving Is a Burden or Blessing.

Forgiveness and Caregiving Create Amazing Changes.

Think Before Asking Why I Don’t Have Kids Yet.

Christan Fiction: No Wimps Allowed.

10 Things You Didn’t Know About “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” If you are interested in what Charles Schulz believed. some of it is detailed in A Charlie Brown Religion.

I saw this and loved it but don’t know the original source:

Insta Gram

Hope you have a great day, whatever your plans! We’re decorating for Christmas today!

National Family Caregivers Month

Anita at Blessed But Stressed is celebrating National Family Caregivers Month by inviting blog friends to guest post on the subject throughout November.  I am honored to be a guest there today on the subject of Battling Resentment in Caregiving. I hope you will check out the series: I have found a lot of encouragement in the other posts so far.

Laudable Linkage

It has been a few weeks since I have been able to share with you some interesting things found around the internet. Perhaps you’ll find something of interest in the following:

3 Things to Tell Yourself When Others Prosper While You Suffer.

Thank God for Your Normal, Boring Life.

Grieving Over the Holidays – What You Need to Know.

14 Reasons to Memorize an Entire Book of the Bible. Though some of this addressed to preachers, other parts of it are applicable to us all.

“Mama, What Does $*@#%! Mean?” Wise advice for how to handle those times when, no matter how protective you’ve been, your child overhears a bad word.

Why I Show Children Hospitality (Even Though I Am Not a Parent), HT to The Story Warren.

Please Don’t Be Intolerant. As Inigo Montoya says, I think many people use that word without knowing what it really means.

You keep using that word...

Why Readers Are Skipping Crucial Parts of Your Story.

The Most Instagrammed Location In Every State.

12 Ridiculously Warm Products For People Who Are Always Ridiculously Cold. I am usually warmer than everyone else, but I know people who are always cold and could use some of these.

There were so many more Write 31 Days series than I could possibly read, and I dipped in here and there with quite a few, but a few I kept up with almost daily were:

Tools to Memorize a Bible Chapter.

31 Days of Hope for Caregivers.

31 Glimpses Into the Unquiet Mind. A mother and daughter share the daughter’s journey with bipolar disorder and the long journey to diagnosis and treatment.

31 Uplifting Quote Graphics.

31 Ways to Snag a Literary Agent.

Happy Saturday!

Am I Doing Any Good?

Old Woman Dozing by Nicolaes Maes (1656), Royal Museums of Fine Arts, Brussels

As my mother-in-law has gotten older, she has been sleeping more. Usually when I went to see her when she was in assisted living facilities and then in a nursing home, she would be dozing in her wheelchair and I would have to wake her up to visit. She used to encourage me to wake her up because she could sleep any time, but she didn’t get many visitors and didn’t want to miss a visit because she was sleeping. Later she was more inclined to stay asleep. Once when I woke her up to visit, she actually told me, “Next time, don’t wake me up.” Usually, though, she did her best to be pleasant, but even then, after just a few minutes, she would start yawning and rubbing her eyes, her head would start drooping, and if she had a pillow propping her up in her wheelchair, she’d nuzzle against it to get comfy again.

When she was awake, though, many times our conversations would get stuck in a loop with the same questions and answers and comments over and over again.

Sometimes I was tempted to wonder if it was worth a 40 minute drive round trip to wake her up for 5-10 minutes of groggy conversation that she likely wouldn’t even remember, or to have the same conversational loops repeatedly.  I’d wonder what good it was really doing to visit her.

Other times, she’d be awake and we’d have a good talk, or I would be able to do some little service for her, like change her hearing aid battery, clean off her table, advocate for her with the staff over something, bring her mail, etc., and then I’d feel useful or feel like I had accomplished something with the time.

What I had to realize was that visiting her was not supposed to be about making me feel useful. It was supposed to be about letting her know she was loved and remembered and ministering to her in whatever way she needed.

A dear lady at church writes to my mother-in-law periodically and will occasionally check in with us to see if she seems to be getting anything out of her notes. I tell her that she may not remember who the lady is or that she wrote to her, and she wouldn’t know if she never wrote again, but for those few minutes that I read the note to her, she knows that someone was thinking about her.

I think perhaps this is why some elderly seem to be forgotten in facilities. We assume their needs are being taken care of, they won’t remember whether we’ve come or not, they might not even remember who we are, and our lives are filled with “important” things to do. But here are a few reasons why it is still good to visit or write them, even if it seems the visits or notes don’t seem to be accomplishing all that much:

Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.  (James 1:27)

For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. (Matthew 25:35-40)

Now we exhort you, brethren…comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all. (I Thessalonians 5:14)

Whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward (Matthew. 10:42)

To do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased (Hebrews. 13:16)

There were a few gems in the aides at many of those facilities, but, in our experience, many of them were just punching the time clock, going through the motions for the day. We’ve actually witnessed some talking to each other over her while they tended to her, never once speaking to her, hardly even looking her in the eyes. You can imagine, then, what it would mean in a situation like that to have someone come to see you personally, to look you in the eyes and just be with you rather than bustling about getting other things done.

A couple of years ago, we brought my mother-in-law to our home. She had gotten down to about 90 lbs. in the nursing home and seemed out of it most of the time, and we thought we were bringing her home to die. But as she got off the medications they had her on and under one-on-one care, she started eating again, gained weight, became more mentally alert, and thrived. Now, though, she sleeps about 20 hours a day and doesn’t speak much at all any more. My “wondering if I am doing any good” takes a different tack now. We know we’ve done her good in taking care of her needs. Our ministrations have kept her alive. But to what kind of life? To sleeping interrupted by meals that are not always wanted, to baths that are definitely not wanted,  and to occasional episodes of The Waltons are Matlock? Who would want to live like that? Well, I suppose if that was the life I had, I would still value it over losing it. It would be unthinkable not to meet her needs even in such a condition. Life and death are in God’s hands. So why does He leave one of His loved ones to linger here in such a condition when they long ago prepared for heaven by trusting Jesus as Savior and are eager to joined loved ones there? We don’t know all the answers to that, but I believe a large part of it is what my friend Esther shared after caring for her mother-in-law with Alzheimer’s for several years: He works in us through them, teaching us what it means to honor a parent, to minister, to love unconditionally, to confront our selfishness, to stop bustling around and just sit and connect with one other person. I think He also shows us a picture of how we must look before Him: helpless, completely dependent, messy and unable to do anything about it. Yet He loves us. He doesn’t resent cleansing and caring for us. He knows how thoroughly we need Him even more than we do. Seeing my own helplessness and basking in His love and care for me helps love for others to well up in my own heart.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.
(John 13:34)

So after [Jesus] had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you (John 13:12-15).

Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.  (Matthew 7:12)

Ministry to the elderly may not have the pizzazz or “results” that other ministries have, but it’s an essential ministry that we cannot forget, as individuals or as churches. Some elderly may have physical needs that we can help meet, particularly those still living alone. But for many, their main need is God’s love shown thrown human connection.

God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister (Hebrews. 6:10).

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(Revised from the archives)

(Sharing at Inspire Me Mondays, Testimony Tuesdays, Telling His Story, Thought-Provoking Thursday)

Adventures in Elder Care

Eldercare

Seven years ago my husband and I moved his mother 2,000 miles to be near us when she couldn’t live on her own any more. She lived in three separate assisted living facilities, a nursing home, and then came home to live with us about 2 years ago. In the posts below I detail some of that journey and pass along tips and truths that have helped us during this time. I hope you will find something to help you in your journey as well.

Helping Parents As They Age.

12 Things You Should Know About Caring for the Elderly.

Decisions.

Assisted Living and Nursing Homes.

The Introvert in Assisted Living (Ideas for one on one activities)

Caring For a Parent at Home.

Dealing With Caregiver Resentment.

A few more thoughts about caregiver resentment.

A Plea to Caregivers

Ministering To the Elderly and Their Caregivers.

It’s Not for Nothing.

Am I Doing Any Good?

But That’s Not My Spiritual Gift!

Bible Verses For Caregivers

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God’s Messengers

I’ve been going through some old posts lately and came across this, from when I used to host “The Week in Words.” It was originally posted August 9, 2010, and it convicted me again today:

From the Elisabeth Elliot e-mail devotionals, this taken from her book A Lamp For My Feet:

How can this person who so annoys or offends me be God’s messenger? Is God so unkind as to send that sort across my path? Insofar as his treatment of me requires more kindness than I can find in my own heart, demands love of a quality I do not possess, asks of me patience which only the Spirit of God can produce in me, he is God’s messenger. God sends him in order that he may send me running to God for help.

Sometimes the very circumstance in our lives that we’re chafing against is the one God is using to work something necessary into our hearts and characters that we would not learn or develop any other way.

That goes along with something I read at Washing the Feet of the Saints:

In a recent conversation with a delightful young friend, we considered what it means to die to self, particularly in the ordinary tasks of every day life, and to live sacrificially in our home and community to the glory of Christ.

The “dying” this young lady referenced was a simple household chore that had nothing to do with family/elderly caregiving, but it’s application was obvious. My friend lamented that it should be easier to put her desires and contentment aside for the benefit of other. “But then it wouldn’t be dying,” I countered.