Tag Archive | friend of a chronically ill person

Chronic invisible illness — but you look SO good.

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My hubby had a splitting migraine for most of the week. 

He got out of the house a couple of times but for only a short jaunt. Yesterday he took all of the pain meds he could so that he could walk a few doors down the block to hear some live music.

Twice in a thirty minute time he was told how good he looked by two friends that have some small awareness of his health issues.

I really think they meant it kindly. I do. But some don’t.

They say it in a tone of disbelief. You can almost hear the thoughts tumbling around in their heads. Sometimes small remarks tumble out of their mouths, too.

Oh, you must be pulling my leg about your health issues. You’re not so bad off. Why aren’t you working, again?

 My sis in love got some similar remarks and responses. (No one really expects a stage four cancer victim to hold down a job. That’s a relief!) She was such a fighter and an upbeat person. She made a huge effort to leave the house looking good.

In fact, for most of the four years she fought stage four cancer, you would have to be around her for awhile to catch on. The joy of the LORD truly was her strength.

Being on her care team gave me an inside glance of the true nature of living with cancer in your bones. At home you tend to let your hair down, so to speak.

I saw her sit and groan softly many times through unbearable pain. Gratefully accepting a cup of tea she could barely stomach, though she wanted it so badly. Many barely touched plates of food…

For many years I have regularly seen my hubby struggle to make it out of bed for a few hours at a time. He consistently naps every day after laying in bed until late in the morning. His bones hurt every day, too.

He can look good and still struggle with a boatload of pain.

Looks can be deceiving in so many ways. Tell folks how you feel, and you’re a whiner. Put on your game face, and you’re not as ill as you’re  reported to be.

It’s an odd conundrum that many chronically ill people face and their spouses, too.

Understandably, you feel on the defensive at some of the pointed or careless remarks that get shot your way. I know I do.

I sat and listened as my sis almost cried about several folks asking her when she was due. And, are you excited about the baby?

In fact, she had already lost her ovaries to cancer. Her liver was so swollen she looked like she was starting her second trimester. But she loved her two babies like there was no tomorrow.

How do you deal with these unwitting arrows that people shoot at you?

“HE is my defense. I shall not be moved.”

I have listened to Marty Goetz’ CD, “HE Is My Defense” dozens of times in the past few months. The Scripture set to music heals the wounds. Jesus is the “horn of my salvation”. That horn can either call for help or push its point in my defense.

I need a Defender! I need a Refuge. I need the solid Rock to stand on.

Truth. I, too, have inflicted needless wounds with my tongue. If we live long enough, we all fall short in this area. Greatest. News. Ever. His wounds have paid my ransom.

Forgiveness. I need to extend grace and forgiveness to those who act like we have leprosy because of the chronic illness in our family. Or those who carelessly speak. Why? His Word is ultra clear. If I don’t forgive, it is clear I have not been forgiven. Those who forgive the most love the most like Jesus.

Understand that some folks will never “get” chronic illness. Forgive. Rest in His defending love. What are some ways you respond? How does invisible illness challenge your family?

 

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3 Ways to rehydrate your soul…

Sometimes the well just runs dry. Like me missing my last posting goal, which is every Lord’s Day.

I have not yet learned how to automate this encouragement mission. You and I are down in the trenches together. We have a set of unique challenges as caregiving wives.

I really want to be there for you. I want us to bear our burdens together.

So, I was refilling my own well last weekend.

When you are constantly pouring out, you realize you need to be refilled or else. Emotions take charge. You grow frazzled with those you love. Worse, you either run on auto-pilot, living life without meaning, or you get zonked. Too. Weary. To. Take. One. More. Step.

No! I did not have time or money for some super wonderful Bible conference.

I did not get away to some wonderful, restful ladies retreat. I did not get a spa treatment. But, I did take spend time with special people.

1.) Talk with a dear friend in person if at all possible.

Seriously! You need to cry on someone else’s shoulder sometimes. Our husbands can be extremely needy or distant, depending on their current health and mental struggles. We need community and friendship!

A VERY wise elderly Christian friend of mine told me you only get a few true-blue trusted friends in a lifetime. As sisters in Christ, we ought to have more than a few.

But even Christians gossip.

Don’t give us the benefit of the doubt.

And they surely don’t “get” our husband situation.

I don’t say this to be mean or bitter. Truth hurts, though. It is seriously hard to find a true Christian friend you can trust with your secrets and not feel judged, in the wrong sense of that word.

Maybe it is because you have to find a friend mature enough to handle suffering. A lady who is wise and discreet is a treasure.

Add warm and caring to that…Someone who will not hold you at arm’s length because all is not perfect in your life. I hope I can be that kind of friend. We all need that friend! Do you have one or a few?

2.) Soak your soul in the WORD. I listened to sermons and Scripture music. His Word is a lamp that lights up the dark.

This should have been number one on the list. We need God’s Word like plants need water. Although I visited another church, I still spent His day in His house.

It was so worth it! The dark places come to light under the light of the Word. There healing begins. God’s truth tells us what’s wrong, what’s right, and how to make what is wrong right.  To stay healthy, gotta keep growing!

3.) Count your blessings. It sounds trite. It is so true. You get joy from drawing water out of the well of salvation.

I could be living in darkness without Jesus.

How does anyone handle chronic illness, loss of a loved one, severe financial strain, and caregiving joyfully without the hope of new life in Christ?

His redeeming love is my greatest blessing! “If anyone be in Christ, he (or she) is a new creation.”

My soul sings when I take time to meditate on His love, power, and goodness.

If you are in a dry and dark place, reach for His Word, His love, and the love of His people.

 

 

 

When time stands still…

Now, more than ever, I am looking forward to the Day when time is no longer. One day is with the LORD as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

My sis-in-love battled stage 4 breast cancer for over four years with faith, hope, and love. Her presence in this life was a joy to all who knew her. People streamed into Hopkins at an exhausting pace to see her one more time during her last five days of life. At 33 she leaves behind her husband and two children aged 7 and under.

I’ ve been a double caregiver for these years. It is truly more blessed to give than to receive. I will share more later, but I wanted to let you know, dear sisters, that you are not forgotten. More enCOURAGEment to come. Please pray for our hearts to learn wisdom from our sorrow. To be more like Jesus — that is what Jess would want for those she left behind.

Attitude Adjustment: Week 15

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Ever feel like you are down in a deep mud pit and cannot seem to climb out? 

When I spoke to my friend, faithful spouse of a chronically ill husband until his death, about guest posting for me, she said, “Oh, but I didn’t always have the right attitude!” I assured her that every single wife of a chronically ill husband I have ever talked to has had the same struggle. Husbands and wives, sons of Adam and daughters of Eve, all experience this battle. Married, celibate, rich, or poor — loving one another well goes against the grain.

When you walk in the door, tired from work, and your husband greets you once again with the true tale of his sufferings for the day…

How many of your husbands are mostly positive and upbeat about their illness? How many are very intentional about doing the best they can to function to the best of their ability however limited it may be?  Or do you find stretches of days or weeks where the shadows outnumber the light?

Well, I can tell you, as the months turn into years and the body continues to break down, the emotional, mental, and physical battle with daily chronic pain is wearing both for the sufferer and the caregiver. Rejoicing in the Lord always is like running the middle stretch of a marathon.  If you haven’t faced this type of battle before, don’t judge!  Even if you have, don’t judge! Your situation is/was different in some key way.  Christ does not crush the bruised reeds.

When you have to remember and keep up with all the important dates, bills, and responsibilities…

My lovely neighbor told me about how her husband of thirty years had a massive heart attack and was told by his doctor if he did work of any kind it would kill him. Suddenly she had all the responsibilities of  her husband as well as her own normal duties. Months, maybe years went by before he did pass away.

“Some days I just longed to have someone take care of me again. It was so hard.” Now she is married to a kind man who cares for her in so many ways. It is beautiful to see.

When your husband puts on his game face for friends, but you see the crash and burn coming…

Like today! My husband made it to church, was chipper, and stayed late to enjoy the fellowship. He looked and acted pretty normal. But, he slept most of the way to church and most of the way home while I drove. He crawled into bed as soon as he got home. I paused a few moments ago to massage his badly cramping leg and find a med for him. “I guess I stood around for too long talking.”

Or the weekend recently when he attempted a car repair with a big burly friend. Having a friend help made the talk and laughter flow. Hours went by. I’m sure the friend thought my husband was just fine. But he did not see my husband load up on pain meds before, or the days he spent in bed afterwards.

Reminding yourself that God will not leave you or your spouse alone in your suffering will adjust your attitude.

I told a friend recently that I wished there was a daily saint pill I could swallow. Ha! Not so…

Somedays my heartfelt prayer is just this: God, you know all about this. I can’t fix it. It is more than I can handle on my own. Then I turn to the lives of the saints in the Bible.   Almost every single one failed to respond in faith and gratitude at some point in their life. But God was faithful. God is faithful. God always will be faithful. So, I am reaching out a weary hand to my sisters who are down in the mud pit with me. Climb out! Reach for the light, joy, and strength found in Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith.

“But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31

 

Week 9: Five Ways To Keep Up Your Courage, Dear Heart!

Here we are, ready to face another week and new challenges. In morning worship today Matthew 6:34 caught my eye…”sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Yep, a new day, and I’m in trouble again! 😅

I have a friend I am hoping will guest post for me. She spent many years caregiving for her husband. He passed away a little over a year ago. She is a lovely, joyful Christian lady. Her prayers have and do mean the world to me. So, stay tuned for some pearls of wisdom and encouragement from a caregiver who has finished her course in caregiving. I hope!  Meanwhile, here are a few ways, simple, but tested and true, that I rely on to encourage my heart when things are tough. In my case, that seems to be frequently!

  1. Write down one of God’s promises or attributes and repeat it to yourself at least five times during the day. Sounds kooky, eh? Well, in Psalm 136, “His mercy endures forever, ” is repeated 26 times in 26 verses. Our Father, the best and most perfect of parents, is driving home an important truth to our busy, burdened, distracted hearts. Repetition has power! Instead of believing any lie that is told often enough and loudly enough, pack some truth in those dark moments.
  2. Go out for some fresh air and sunshine when available. Vitamin D helps fight depression, and if you can find a beautiful spot outside for a walk, go for it! Or, look for your city’s botanical gardens or find a spot with lots of plants and greenery to enjoy. My daughter and I have even used the “free zoo”, i.e., PetSmart to help beat the winter blues. Little critters can be so entertaining.
  3. Find a simple way to bless someone else.  I really do mean simple. When you bake, share a few pieces with a neighbor or friend. Put a card in the snail mail to encourage someone. Take a few minutes to e-mail a friend. Little things can mean a lot. It is more blessed to give than to receive. I feel so needy so often, but giving is an important reminder not to have tunnel vision and be focused only on my own problems.
  4. Listen to beautiful uplifting music.  Remember how young David soothed the troubled King Saul of Israel by playing beautiful music for him? I highly recommend the Psalms set to music. You can find many beautiful settings published by Crown and Covenant. However, the array of beautiful music at our very fingertips through iTunes, etc., is astonishing.
  5. Talk to a trusted, godly friend and ask for prayer. Always talk to our Father in heaven first. He uses His children to wrap His loving comfort around our hearts, so you and I should open up to a select circle of trusted friends. Trust takes time to build. Maybe you don’t have a trusted friend at the moment. The very overwhelming load you carry means time is a limited resource. Pray about this, too. In the past year I have spent some very sweet moments praying for a few minutes at a time with some lovely ladies. We send short notes. “Praying about…x, y, and z.” Initiate! Ask. Can we pray together for a few minutes this week?

Believe it or not, this is my short list. I could go on. Tell me how I can be a better encouragement to you. What is your biggest fear or discouragement? If you have posted here, you are in my thoughts and prayers.

 

 

 

You have put away my acquaintance far from me…

8 You have put away my acquaintance far from me; you have made me an abomination to them: I am shut up, and I cannot come forth. Ps. 88:8

C. H. Spurgeon wrote eloquently on the subject of chronic illness and suffering. He was no stranger to the experience.  Here a few words taken from his study on the 88th Psalm:

“If ever we need friends it is in the dreary hour of despondency and the weary time of bodily sickness; therefore does the sufferer complain because divine providence had removed his friends. Perhaps his disease was infectious or defiling, so that he was legally separated from his fellow men, perhaps their fears kept them away from his plague stricken house, or else his good name and become so injured that they naturally avoided him. Most friends require but small excuse for turning their backs on the afflicted. The swallows offer no apology for leaving us to winter by ourselves. Yet is is a piercing pain which arises from the desertion of dear associates; is is a wound which festers and refuses to be healed.

“You have made me an abomination unto them…” They turned from him as though he had become loathsome and contaminating and this because of something which the Lord had done to him; therefore, he brings his complaint to the prime mover in his trouble. He who is still flattered by the companions of his pleasure can little guess the wretchedness which will be his portion should he become poor, or slanderously accused, for then one by one the parasites of his prosperity will go their way and leave him to his fate, not without cutting remarks on their part to increase his misery. Men have not so much power to bless by friendship as to curse by treachery. Earth’s poisons are more deadly than her medicines are healing. The mass of men who gather around a man and flatter him are like tame leopards; when they lick his hand it is well for him to remember that with equal gusto they would drink his blood. “Cursed is he that trusteth in man.”

“I am shut up and cannot come forth…”  He was a prisoner in his room, and felt like a leper in the lazarretto, or a condemned criminal in his cell. His mind, too, was bound as with fetters of iron; he felt no liberty of hope, he could take no flights of joy. When God shuts friends out, and shuts us in to pine away alone, it is no wonder if we water our couch with tears.”

Psalm 88 is primarily a desparate cry for help from a suffering soul.  I cannot leave this post without a note of hope. By the amazing divine grace of God,  you and I can be Christlike in our friendships. We can be friends who love at all times. We can be faithful to pray and encourage one another, for our old man has been put to death in Christ’s death. BUT, it will take recognition of our natural tendency to be fickle and unfaithful, and true repentance, and putting off of the old man. We must “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in us to will and to do of His good pleasure.”   Another year, another breath, and another opportunity to grow is presented to us!

How you can help your chronically ill friend, part 1

 Being a good friend to a chronically ill person is simply equivalent to being a loving Christian.  Unfortunately, chronic illness is often an invisible illness until it progresses to the state of absolutely life-threatening.  A dear friend of mine has undergone lung transplants twice. However, her autoimmune illness was virtually ignored by her own primary doctor and she experienced being accused of “faking” her illness or that it was “all in her head.”  She transferred to a much more proactive doctor in sheer desperation. Shockingly, she was given six months to live unless they could do a lung transplant. At this point, there were some Christians who truly owed her an apology.  Please don’t put yourself in that position with your chronically ill friend.  A few ways to be a true friend include:

  • Assume your friend is telling the truth about his/her symptoms.

  • Don’t imagine that you can cure your friend unless perhaps you are a specialist in the particular area of illness that he is experiencing.

  • Be very careful about what and how you disseminate information about your friend’s condition.

Matthew Henry on the sin of gossip:

“It is required of us that we be tender of the good name of our brethren; where we cannot speak well, we had better say nothing than speak evil; we must not take pleasure in making known the faults of others, divulging things that are secret, merely to expose them, nor in making more of their known faults than really they deserve, and, least of all, in making false stories, and spreading things concerning them of which they are altogether innocent. What is this but to raise the hatred and encourage the persecutions of the world, against those who are engaged in the same interests with ourselves, and therefore with whom we ourselves must stand or fall? Consider you are brethren.”