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3 ways to connect with your child despite chronic illness

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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!

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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?

 

Questions for God

 

My daughter has always asked a thousand questions.

She is at that age now where she hones in on adult conversations and, like a tween detective, wants to know more details. Typical of a parent-child relationship, right?

So it stands to reason that we ask questions of God about life. About our life. After all we are His children by adoption, His creation.

He has written about His plan, His love, His will, and His ways for us to know many of the answers to many of our questions in His book, the Bible.

There are still many mysteries of infinity that our finite minds won’t grasp.

But there are always some answers you and I get that we don’t like. Like my daughter, I can hear the answer and go off in an angry huff. Foot stomp added for emphasis!

Like the question I asked this week echoed by a Christian friend in her very difficult challenges — WHY? Why does one person, one family get such a heap of chronic suffering? When does it just end?

Do you hear the familiar theme through the ages? Why? Why suffering?

Christ himself speaks to this issue, “In the world you will have tribulations; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33. Notice the lack of a “why” explanation.

Jesus Christ does not ignore the suffering. He confronted it purposefully. In fact, he led a life of compassion, healing, caring for the sick and needy.

There are basic reasons that suffering exists and that our world is in a huge mess. Satan is to blame. The sin of man brought unfathomable ruin.

The sin-curse exists in every corner of the globe. There is no culture untouched. No life is untainted. Romans 3 leaves no question about that fact.

Christ came to relieve our ultimate suffering, the soul suffering due to our ugly sins. The hate, selfishness, envy, pride, bitterness, slander, theft, and the list goes on…

I have thought about His wounds a lot lately. Why would He would so love the world and leave His place of perfection to suffer?

Why would He be willing to feel pain, sickness, sorrow? Why would He talk with the “scum” and touch the untouchables?

NO other god in the history of the world would do such a thing.

By His stripes we are healed. Isaiah 53. That is the ultimate healing. He freely offers it at the price of His own life laid down for guilty sinners.

We crave earthly healing. Earthly relief. I know I do, at least.

And we are instructed to pray for it. “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Prayed with a heart that kneels before an almighty God, this is one of the most powerful statements of faith and longing.

We also groan, like creation, waiting for the ultimate redemption from our suffering.

Does this mean those that suffer the most have sinned the most?

One of those pressing questions, again. The Book of Job informs us otherwise. In fact, those that insisted Job’s suffering was due to his sin were soundly rebuked by God himself.

But we never get a full answer to WHY the suffering. Instead, God reminds Job (and through him, all of us) of His mighty power and wisdom. His infinity. Our finiteness.

We are reminded that as all have sinned, those who believe receive grace — free, undeserved favor from God.

Why don’t we question this, too? Why me? Why have I been so blessed to know and believe Your love and grace to me?

This was the whisper in my ear this week when I was thinking, Enough already! God sent a friend who also was overwhelmed by suffering. Sometimes that human voice that says, I know how you feel, is really the voice of God to our ears. 

Tag-team homeschooling

“But you’re gone all day. How do you homeschool?” While these questions have a detailed, specific answer, the truth is, I don’t do this on my own. My daughter has the blessing of two living parents, committed to the Lord, each other, and to her.  That being said, homeschooling with a chronically ill spouse does have its unique challenges.  Or better put, the ordinary challenges  of time-management, priorities, and focus can become magnified when the delicate balance of home life and work has added stress points.  I’m in the early years of homeschooling, and cannot pretend to have everything right. I ask for help and advice from other homeschooling moms on a regular basis. Some of their tips have been life-savers for me. Other ideas have just not worked for my family.  No one I know personally is in my shoes: bread-winner & homeschooling mom.   Maybe you can glean even just one helpful crumb to encourage you on your journey from this post.

1.) Read James 1 and ASK for wisdom from above. Read Proverbs and remember what wisdom looks like.  Parenting on any given day is a challenge that needs to be faced on our knees.  Homeschooling is an extension of committed parenting.

2.) Talk to your spouse about the schooling goals.  I’m the nitty-gritty details person in the house, but the goals need to be set in unity.  Basically we have a “divide and conquer” approach with our active, hands-on, creative little Tigger of a daughter.  Spreading out our schooling sessions into little chunks throughout the day has actually worked to her advantage and her learning style. It also works well for my husband who needs a nap nearly every afternoon to cope with life and pain levels.

3.) Allow yourself flexible goals!  While I lay out an overview for the week, I write down what is actually accomplished AFTER the fact.  We often have to tweak our plans.  I may end up doing two math lessons on Saturday, and my daughter may have watched an educational DVD series in place of Math during the regularly scheduled math time for few days that week.  My husband had a bad migraine that lasted 2 days.  Math at night after Mom is finished giving piano lessons just doesn’t work as well. So, we regularly visit the library every Friday so that we have an abundance of resources to choose from!

4.) Prioritize what is most important first!  Bible, reading, writing, and math are our top goals to finish each day.  Science and history so naturally get fit in as we take educational trips to the Aboretum,  the historical sites in travels along the way, reading historical fiction, and our mini-co-op group.

5.) If at all possible, join a homeschool co-op or group.  Especially in an only child situation,  this pooling of resources has been a shot in the arm for my family.  Maybe you can even meet one evening a month to work on a sewing class, or science project together.

6.)  Record progress and give thanks for it!  I taught kindergarten and worked with littles enough to realize my daughter was struggling way beyond normal with her reading.  I was sorely tempted to throw in the homeschooling towel, and find a way to send her somehow, on one income, to private school (laughably beyond our means). Lots of advice, prayer, and research went into this struggle.  Now she is reading at her early third grade level. I am grateful beyond words for this victory.  Without the help of my husband, family, and friends, we could not have been this successful thus far.