Have you heard of the books titled All I Ever Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten? Or learned from my dog, or from the Wizard of Oz, or from Star Trek (that’s my personal favorite). They list all the positive and negative things the author learned about life from those experiences. But I have a new take.
This past year, I’ve taken stock of a lot of things in my life, and I can honestly say I’m more whole now in this broken body than I was before I got much more seriously sick. Illness affected my life from birth. Little did my family or doctors know, but my body had a genetic break that kept me from making antibodies to colds or infections that, over time, got worse and worse.
This is me in the hospital, age 3. Raggedy Ann is peeking over my shoulder (I still have her) and that bear seems to be doing an excellent job of standing guard!
Here’s what no one tells you. Chronic illness doesn’t just change a few things in your life, it changes everything. Part of those changes extend to the very definition of what quality of life, happiness and joy mean–and their effects on every aspect of our lives. And although I’m riding on a hard road I wouldn’t wish on anyone at all, I’m thankful for it. I never thought I’d say that.
For the next several weeks, I’m going to be sharing about how everything I needed to know to live well, I learned from being chronically ill. I’ll make a helpful tab on my blog to chronicle them all in case you miss any. Here are some of the highlights I’ll be covering (the order may change as I go along):
- What marriage means
- What parenting means
- What suffering means
- What friendship means
- What loss of friendship means
- What living in the moment means
- What submission means
- What support groups mean
- What life goals mean
- What work means
- What helping others means
- What plans mean
- What hope means
- What dreams mean
- What acceptance means
- What boundaries mean
- What grief means
- What being tired means
- What giving up means
- What hanging on means
- What honesty means
- What commitment means
- What sacrifice means
- What trusting God means
I’ve learned a lot in the past 45 years from chronic illness. Especially in the past five years. Lots of hard things. Lots of good things. But those hard things, when I let them, helped shape me into a different form—into a person I like a whole lot more, and into a faith deeper and more intimate with Jesus than I could have ever imagined. I venture to say that any challenging experience you have can do that, if you let it.
So I hope you’ll join me as I blog, and take part in conversations along the way, sharing your heart with me, too.
Until next time,
While growing up I thought once I was in my forties (or old, as I considered it) that I’d have life all figured out. Okay, quit chuckling at me, that’s not nice. Anyway… as I was saying…life all figured out. Easy sailing on smooth seas. (Seriously?…Stop laughing!)
God’s word doesn’t promise smooth sailing, through. It does promise He will never leave us nor forsake us. I’ve begun to wonder if that verse has a double meaning. In His not leaving us, He’s also not leaving us to our own devices, or leaving us unchanged. Rather, once we accept Jesus as our savior, we are being made over.
We’re like trees standing in a grove, growing, waiting, watching the seasons pass, one to the next. The summer, the fall, the winter… But rather suddenly and often without warning, trials come. We are cut down. Our limbs trimmed with each challenge, each hardship, each prayer for mercy until our bark is stripped and we are laid bare and tossed away seemingly forgotten in a stack. It’s tempting to despair in that wood pile. There seems no point. If we are walking alone in our faith, it can be devastating. But never fear, the Father is busy not leaving us to our own. He’s making us over, chipping away at us, for our own good and His ultimate Glory, making us into something useful. We have to be careful though, because the temptation to focus on the shavings pooling around our feet instead of the Master Carpenter is great.
Some of us (me included) will race to the store for wood glue and desperately try to stick those useless shavings back on, or put them in a box to save for later. In our memories, those shavings can become so important we forget that the Lord isn’t interested in them, but He’s got a better plan in mind. It’s not until we brush the shavings off and step away, looking at ourselves through His eyes we are able to see a new, useful creation. The old has been chipped away.
Are you stuck in winter? Are you being chipped away at? Do not fear, nor despair–spring is coming. It’s nearly here.
2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
On Monday January 5th, Maxine Marsolini and Jeannie St. John Taylor interviewed me for their radio program, The River. If you missed the live broadcast you can listen to it below. We chatted about MACY, healing fiction, marriage, forgiveness, challenges and hope. I had a wonderful time. Thanks to Maxine and Jeannie for being such wonderful hosts!
Last week a tiny sparrow smacked into the sliding glass door of our house. The evidence of a loud thud and tiny, downy feathers stuck to the glass led my family to race to the door and see. The bird sat stunned near our dryer vent for a long time, very still. No one was sure if it was alive or not. I’m a pretty hands-on type of girl when it comes to animals, so I crept out and gathered it in my hands. The bird’s delicate body was covered in a feathery coat, speckled brown and white, camouflaged perfectly for winter. Nothing appeared to be broken.
I was struck by the near weightlessness of this helpless creature cradled in my palms. How wonderfully made it was to ride the wind, to hide in bushes and trees—but a bit clueless to avoid reflective house windows. Soon after I made contact, the stunned state wore off and it attempted to jump. So I put it in a box with a towel (for warmth and protection from the occasional passing neighbor cat) and went back inside to keep it from being too frightened. It didn’t stay long, and soon jumped out and hid in the bush near our back porch. Eventually, it flew off and I’m sure had an amazing tale for its friends—and a major headache.
I feel like that bird sometimes. I’m going along with my daily tasks, minding my own business, thinking that the path I’m on will get me where I want to go. I’m flitting here and there, checking things off my list when suddenly WHAM, I’m sitting stunned on the back porch in the freezing cold, wondering what I’m doing there. Wasn’t I doing everything right? Why have I been derailed by illness, stress, an unexpected event?
I don’t really have an answer for those questions. Life holds pitfalls and trials just as much as it holds happiness-although the trials seem to last longer and are burned into our minds so much easier than the joys.
I do know that I’m promised, if I belong to the Lord, He is with me. He will lift me in His mighty hands, cradle me and comfort me until I feel able to begin again. But, unlike my leaving the bird to fend for itself, He will never leave me nor forsake me.
If you find yourself slamming against a window of your own, don’t despair. He is with you.
Deuteronomy 31:6 Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. (full text here)
I haven’t blogged for several weeks now. We’ve been going through some insurance changes that put me off my medication schedule and I started to feel pretty lousy—I don’t know about you, but I have serious problems writing when I feel lousy! Thankfully, my supplies showed up two weeks ago. Even so, it put me and my immunobuddies off schedule and invited bronchitis to stay a while. Don’t worry though–this blog post is germ free!
I was pretty amazed at the fast turn around this time in getting my medication approved so quickly. Maybe for two reasons. Usually, these things can take quite a while. The other had to do with prayer–but maybe not the one you’d expect me to make. I prayed that if this medication wasn’t necessary (read I can get by without my immunobuddies) that the Lord wouldn’t let me get approved at all. This has to do in part with the huge burden they put on us financially. And…truly…it’s still not an enjoyable treatment.
Well, I got approved in 2 days this time. Unheard of. I think I knew all along I needed them (see paragraph one)–but I wasn’t sure how God would provide for us to pay for them this year. And He surprised us with an answer to that, too. I can’t share details, but I was amazed.
Do you ever feel like you really need one prayer answered? Not just for the answered prayer–but because you need a faith boost? I know that the Lord hears my prayers–His word says He does and I believe it. But, sometimes they take a long time to be answered, or are answered in such a way I don’t see them. Well, that’s where I was. I needed a boost to my faith. He sent one just in time.
If you’d like, I’d love to hear about ways God has intervened on your behalf during trials—and left you completely amazed. Leave me a comment?
Jeremiah 32:17 Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you. (full text here)