Trinity Baptist Church Pastor Joe LaGuardia and Daphne Reiley, a member of the pastoral care team at Sandy Springs Christian Church, co-authored a book, “A Tapestry of Love: The Spirituality of Caregiving.” (Staff Photo: Karen Rohr)
More than just a handbook for caregivers, “A Tapestry of Love” is a work of inspiration, hope and spiritual guidance for those who find themselves taking care of aging parents, spouses, special needs loved ones and friends.
Written by Joseph LaGuardia, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Conyers and Citizen religion columnist, and Daphne Reiley, a member of the pastoral care team at Sandy Springs Christian Church, “A Tapestry of Love: The Spirituality of Caregiving” was three years in the making as the authors sought to create a resource book for those they say often feel “isolated and prone to exhaustion, loneliness, depression, anger and resentment.”
LaGuardia, who has pastored Trinity for a decade, said the book has been well received and he hopes it will become an important tool for individuals and churches. He said he encourages pastors to form small groups at their churches to help caregivers.
“We’ve heard a lot of positive things about how the book is connecting with caregivers and helping them not feel so isolated,” LaGuardia said. “Caregivers have found in it a voice for themselves. They’ve been able to articulate the struggles and to find a way forward.”
Using the Scripture found in Luke 10:38-42, which is the story of Martha and Mary and Jesus’ visit to their home, the writers offer a framework of spiritual guidance for caregivers starting with the book’s first chapter, “Journey to Wholeness.”
The biblical story tells how Martha is doing all the work taking care of everything and everybody while Mary sits at the feet of Jesus. LaGuardia and Reiley state “there is a little bit of Martha and Mary in all of us.”
“The Martha in us is the task-oriented caregiver,” the authors write. “It is the Martha in us that drones on about obligations and productivity resulting from the many tasks that lay before us, without which we would not feel very useful. The Martha in us feels that taking time to care for ourselves will lead to failure. Many caregivers already feel that they are not doing enough for their loved ones as it is…
“Mary exists in each one of us as well. God has placed the spirit of Mary in us to remind us that our true value comes from an identity grounded in a relationship with Jesus. Mary reminds us that we were created to be in communion with our creator…She lets us know that we are missing the intimacy needed to refresh our spirits. The Mary in us longs to sit at Jesus’ feet and find a home in God’s loving embrace.”
The book further expands on Mary and Martha’s lives, touching on their relationships, personalities, responsibilities and their honesty about themselves.
At the end of each chapter is a set of questions for the reader to ponder. They ask the reader to reflect on aspects of the caregiving situation they are in and how the biblical truths offered might apply to them.
LaGuardia started a ministry with caregivers soon after he became associate pastor at Trinity Baptist Church in 2004. He said that same year the staff had identified more than a dozen caregivers in the small Rockdale County congregation. LaGuardia established fellowship groups for that segment of the church.
In 2006, the pastor entered a doctoral degree program and focused on caregivers as his thesis project. From that project, grew the Center for Caregiver Spirituality, a ministry of Trinity Baptist that offers support groups and online help for caregivers in the community.
When her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2000, Reiley was her mother’s caregiver and conservator. As her mother neared the end of her life in 2006, Reiley said the Holy Spirit led her to bring her mother the communion meal of bread and wine.
In doing this, she was introduced to the Disciples of Christ denomination, which celebrates the Lord’s Supper each week. Having come from a Presbyterian and Lutheran background, Reiley said she was at first “disconcerted” about observing communion each week, but said she came to understand that the presence of Christ in doing that with a “communion of saints, was the source of the healing for (my) grief and separation from God.”
In 2009, the Disciples of Christ congregation known as First Christian Church of Decatur established the Caregiver Spiritual Support Ministry and named Reiley as its director. Since that time, she has recruited and trained prayer partners for caregivers.
The need for such a book to help caregivers was particularly obvious to LaGuardia, who said he could stand on his front porch and look down the street to see four homes where caregiving was taking place. Two residents remodeled their homes to care for aging parents. In another home, a wife is taking care of a terminally ill husband and the fourth is where an elderly resident lives in a house next to her daughter, who is her primary caregiver.
The writers say LaGuardia’s neighborhood is not unique. Citing statistics, the book shows how the population of caregivers is climbing each year and estimates that 29 percent of the U.S. population are caregivers.
While there are books and other materials that connect caregivers with ways to cope with the burdens they face, the authors say there are few resources that connect caregivers with the “ebb and flow of the Holy Spirit’s movement in their lives.”
“In fact, not many people realize just how much the act of caregiving can shape a caregiver’s spirituality and vice versa,” LaGuardia and Reiley write. “‘In A Tapestry of Love,’ we hope to connect caregivers with spiritual practices that have bolstered an ancient, still vibrant Christian faith.”
LaGuardia and Reiley are now working on a second book as a follow-up to “A Tapestry of Love.”
“We’re working on a book for care receivers,” LaGuardia said. “It’s for mostly aging adults who are transitioning to the latter part of their lives and have to receive care.”
“A Tapestry of Love” is available at www.amazon.com for $10.49. The book is also on sale at Sugar Bakers in Conyers and Trinity Baptist Church, 301 Honey Creek Road in Conyers.
Beth Slaughter Sexton is a freelance writer based in Gwinnett County. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.