Chronic illness and children in the house — it’s a unique challenge.
In our case, we have just one. A gift from God, she is, indeed. She challenges us and brightens our days.
But having a chronically ill parent is not always a day-brightener for her. Along the way, I’ve come to recognize when we’ve hit a rougher-than-normal patch by how she acts out. Angry. Huffy. Attitude from the sewer. Where’s my sweet girl? She’s still there, I know.
At those moments I’ve been reminded to slow down somehow. Take time. Reach out to her. Find extra ways to connect. Her attitude, outlook on life, and future success depend on me, with God’s help. So help me, God — I can’t fail at this!
She can’t look to the parent sick in bed for much comfort or encouragement, though it does happen at times. Pain and suffering are often the view she sees, and she doesn’t like it. I can’t blame her.
I’m posting early this week, because I was reminded of how very much we have to “REJOICE in the LORD ALWAYS.” It’s a command! A choice, not a feeling.
Joy doesn’t happen by accident in our lives. It takes choosing to smile through a heart full of tears. It takes prayer. It takes a power not my own. Blessed Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, You alone can give me this joy!
So, today was a snippet of that. I had a 200 page book I wanted to study for my writing business. But a friend texted and asked if it was okay for her girls to come over. YES and YES! I made hot tea (chilly and rainy here today). We had tea and snacks, and a fashion show, and giggles. A big chunk of my day is gone. It was so, so worth it. My daughter’s words, “Tea was amazing, Mom.” Really, what was amazing was sharing a happiness moment with friends!
If rejoicing in the LORD is a choice, than how about planning for joy?
1.) Make a “happiness plan” for your child.
It might involve consignment shopping with Mom and spending a little money! Or, it might mean a hike through the woods in a local park. Sometimes a spontaneous change of plans is what it takes to say “yes” to a happiness moment.
Sometimes, a happiness plan requires an inconvenient day off work. When my sister invited my daughter and I to spend the day with her in NYC, it took a barrelful of planning and extra money we really didn’t have (but were gifted). I worked extra hard to make it happen.
The happiness moments, no matter how small, mean a lifetime of memories. A reminder that love was present in the hardest of times. Our children will face their own dark days. Life is hard. God is good. Not being stingy with happiness reminds our children of God’s goodness.
2.) Connect over good books. Read out loud to your child. Most of all, read HIS Book!
Sarah MacKenzie and the Read Aloud Revival is a good place to start for inspiration. My own Mom started me on this wonderful path. As a young child, even after I learned to read, she still read aloud to us.
Our family has a hard, hard time having a consistent “family worship” time. So, I’ve adopted bedtime as a devotional time. We always read something from Scripture and pray.
However, I’ve read a ton of books over the years that were sheer pleasure out loud to my daughter. We’re currently reading one before our devotional almost every night.
I cannot tell you how much my daughter craves this time. I crave it, too. If I’ve been crazy busy all day long, as often am, or gone at work, this time is golden. It sparks all kinds of talk-time.
During this last year of grieving over her aunt’s passing, we needed this more than ever. I could’ve lost her to bitterness and anger. We’re not out of the woods yet. I see her angry because Papa is sick. We talk. I take the heat.
God is infinitely patient with us. He can handle our worst feelings. Reading is His idea. Otherwise, He wouldn’t have given us His Book. And HIs book tells us that He knows our words and thoughts before they even leave our mouths. Psalm 139
3.) Plan for Christian community.
One of my great griefs with this chronic illness lifestyle is that my daughter has never attended prayer meetings. We can’t make it to mid-week services. However, she is regularly in church every Lord’s Day. It’s making a difference in her life. The folks she is closest to are fellow believers. She is beginning to see they will love and support her in the trials of life. To me, that is HUGE!
She sees the good, the bad, and the ugly. She knows church is made up of sinners just like us. Sigh. It’s hard to explain things sometimes, but you can’t ignore the truth.
But being there regularly is showing her that in spite of our failures, we were created to love one another because Christ loves us. He loves His body. He laid down His life for the sheep.
We are also part of a weekly homeschool community. I wouldn’t have it any other way. As we share our time and talents with each other, we also inspire and challenge each other to do better. It’s just sogood to have another Momma step up to your child and say, You can do better than that! Or, great job, girl!
Community is messy. We have to learn to refrain from gossip about each other. We have to learn I Corinthians 13 love. It takes oodles of that.
Sometimes it’s really hard to be the weird family where Mom works and Dad has to oversee some of the schooling. The connections to others are worth it.
So keep up the connecting, mommas. We need bucketfuls of extra grace and joy to share with our child on this stormy path.
What do you do to keep connections alive with your child?