The alarm goes off promptly at 6:00am. Lifting the covers to get out of bed, I feel more like a robot than a human. There are bandages to change, meals to make, things to clean, medications and remedies to prepare, calls to get done, a little mind to shape and that’s all before 9:00am. I have just enough time for a cup of coffee and to stare out the window for a flash back to simpler times. Bittersweet memories of him leaving for base as I would set about my day as I pleased. But Military life is now Veteran life, and we couldn’t be more different. Our life now consists of words like PTSD, TBI, surgery, therapy and a word I knew nothing about, caregiver.

The little one is up now and calling for me. “Daddy needs you!” It’s time to start the routine. He hates being a full-time patient and I don’t blame him. I’ve learned not to take it personal. I understand his frustrations and have many of the same ones. He gave 12 ½ years of his life, the best years even. He gave all he had to the Marines. 5 combat deployments and served as a Drill Instructor in addition to giving his trust and loyalty. He excelled at all he did, and they used every bit of him they could. And now he’s lying in bed without the use of his arm, when they promised this surgery would help. It didn’t. They butchered him and made everything for our family worse. Now they are trying to throw us away like it never happened. I understand his anger at it all. I’m angry too. He never expected to be this man after service and I never wanted to be a caregiver to him. He was my rock, my protector and provider. But here we are, and everything is just so broken. Now what? Our life will never be the same. Our marriage and family are forever affected by this. I’m so tired. I’m so sad and defeated. Why is this happening to us? Will it always be this way?

The short answer is no. No, it will not always be this way. The way out is through and God is on the other side with an outstretched arm waiting for us to grab it so He can pull us through. It won’t always be that way if we set our minds and hearts to God to heal and lead us through the major changes and storms in our lives. But we’ll get back to that shortly.

When most of us think of caregivers, we go to the textbook definition of nurses who assist in the identification, prevention or treatment of an illness or disability. Military and Veteran spouses are rarely thought of yet make up the second largest demographic of caregivers in the nation. They also suffer a higher percentage of caregiver burnout more than other caregivers because they never clock out. What is caregiver burnout? It occurs when the stress and burden of caring for a loved one becomes overwhelming. This can lead to a decline in mental and physical health. There is no longer a clear picture of who you are.

This is where we circle back to God because when we are rooted in our faith, we know we are always His. That we find our true identity and purpose in Him and who He made us to be. Dwelling on a life you didn’t expect or want won’t change it but learning how to get through each day with joy will. Will every day be good and happy? No. That’s not what learning to live with joy is. Learning to live with joy is to rejoice in your work for the Lord. It’s bringing the love and light of Jesus into all you do, knowing your work is for Him and important to His glory.

In addition to the textbook definition of a caregiver, so are mothers, fathers, family members or friends who take care of dependent loved ones. And one you may never have imagined. Jesus! God, in His love and mercy for us, provided the perfect example of a caregiver through His Son Jesus. Jesus came to serve and care for those he was with. He never expected anything in return. He never let the hard days and personal betrayal turn him from his service to God or us. He served those who didn’t deserve it and loved those who hadn’t earned it.

“Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.” - John 13:16

When I began to consider my role as a caregiver as a servant to God and Jesus, everything changed. None of us in the faith will skip the role of being a servant. When I measured my service to the service that Jesus gave to others it filled me with hope and helped me rejoice in my role as the caregiver in my home and family unit. It encouraged me that I also had been chosen to selflessly care and love others knowing this service brought me closer to him, if I decided for it to. It didn’t make all my days easier, but it made them meaningful in my walk with Him and helped to understand service through love. I still needed breaks, time to pray and the silence that calms my senses, but I began to find joy in my days knowing that I was apart of a sacred calling. A calling of being a caregiver to His souls, serving those that He also loved.

Finding my way by working to follow his mighty steps allowed me to strive to walk in the fruit of the Spirit as a measure of my heart towards those I was caring for. It is a solemn calling to care for others without expecting anything back. It is a declaration of love in action to give your time and energy to your family as a caregiver. It is a Set Apart path we follow as caregivers and servants.

I pray this knowledge will encourage you and give you hope as it did for me as you continue to love and serve your family so selflessly. We are warriors of a different class. Medics and chaplains to those in our family unit. And know that God is with you through out every high and low this wonderful and crushing life of service brings.

“You my brothers and sisters were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh, rather, serve one another humbly in love." - Galatians 5:13