Designed as a course for caregivers, divided into ten sessions, I read this book in two sittings. Author Mary Tutterow writes from experience as a caregiver who has undergone a phenomenal transformation and shares how others can too. But I have to say first of all that this material has applications beyond just caregivers. I struggle with a chronic illness. So that in itself gave me plenty to fill in answers where she asks questions. Simply living this human life gives plenty of reasons to need this course in going, as the subtitle reads, “From Overwhelmed to Overjoyed” –no small feat!
She writes in a straight-forward style that makes this mountainous transformation very real and attainable in ten chapters. Without down-playing any issue. She outlines a process to apply to the situation:
Assess. Acknowledge. Align. Affirm. Act.
She references statistics that are mind-boggling but true: 44 million people in the US are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, dementia, stroke and MS. (National Organization on Disability); 5.9 million children in the US are diagnosed with severe disabilities (National Center for Biotechnology Information). These numbers make it clear that this issue of care-giving, and issues related to disability are not rare or distant, but common and close!
Mary boldly analyzes how futile it is to give care (or, I would say, cope with a condition yourself, or deal with life in general) out of our own capacities. She discusses how we need to trust and gather our strength from God, but there are obstacles to our doing that: Doubt. Control. Disease or disability (of our own). Fear. Knowing God (intimacy vs. religion). No experience of God’s love. In these central chapters she walks the reader through many scriptures and questions which face our true needs and conditions.
She states there are 4 reasons we don’t let God’s love fill us:
- We don’t believe perfect love exists.
- We don’t believe we’re worthy of Perfect Love
- We’re afraid of God
- We’re too busy
When I read through those I kept thinking, “This is real and spot-on and something every person has to realize about his or her own existence”. Not leaving readers hanging, she leads through to the truth that the resources available are worth getting past all that: His Word. His Spirit. Prayer (I would call it “His ear”). Community (I would call it “His body”). Gifts and Talents. Wisdom and Insight. Power and Strength. And in the Scriptures she includes throughout the course, those truths are allowed to sink in while reading and considering these concepts.
She goes further in depth in the theology of caregiving to reveal what she calls the “transformative benefits” of knowing you are loved by God -Hope, Peace, Value, Respect– and leaves room for the reader to add other elements as they are discovered. She challenges the reader to love the person cared for TO Christ by fellowship, faith in Christ, fortitude and fearlessness; to reveal God’s love by acceptance and approval, patience, listening, honor –and again, leaves room for the reader to continue the list of ways. This analysis of evangelism through loving someone who is hard to love, I found the live-action and well-researched process of “preaching the gospel; when necessary using words” (as John Wimber is known to have said). Mary takes the study even further, saying “the person we are caring for is Christ in our midst” (p.91), as part of the whole (body of believers), by participation in suffering, by His revealing power in weakness, by being rejected, and as a teacher of lessons that would otherwise be skipped by the averagely-abled person. And that definitely brings new perspective on the person for whom we are presumably caring!
I found her study to be engaging and meaningful. She walks through Scriptures and includes prayers that encourage, produce repentance and peace and truly do bring about a transformation of thinking, whether or not the reader is a caregiver. She includes a one-page sheet at the end for use in working through the five steps of transformation she first outlined. This course would be a truly life-giving event in a small group setting. I think I will show it to some of my friends (especially the person who started my Care Team!)!
http://theheartofthecaregiver.com/ has further information, resources and availability to get “from overwhelmed to overjoyed” right away. Thank you, Mary, for composing this course!