Thursday, September 6, 2012

Note to "Normals"

These thoughts came about from interacting with the Chronically ill for many years. I thought I’d share them here in preparation for Invisible Illness Awareness week. I’ve entitled this post affectionately "Note to Normals". However, they are really ten thoughts to keep in mind when relating to the chronically ill, though sincerely acknowledging every ill person has different wishes. With God present in all our lives, there is much hope!  Here goes:

1. The best gift you can give someone is to listen to him or her. It tells them you value them. Try to keep quick fixes and advice to yourself unless it is asked for. Ten to one, they’ve tried it or have been told it several times.

2. Try hard to remember that what one could do yesterday may not be able to do today. Levels of ability within illness and energy vary widely.

3. Chronically ill people may spend a lot of time at home and some are even housebound. Consider that this does not mean the CI person is available at any time.  It may be a day of rest in order to attend an appointment, a day of necessary recovery or an unforeseen flare. Consider many lead rich, productive lives at home, involving their own plans too.

4. CI love their children as much as “normals”. They are super creative people who strive to meet all their children’s needs, including social needs. Some times just joining in with them and being flexible, especially during holiday or vacation times rather than removing the children from the home, helps everyone make special memories while they still can.

5. Even if your CI relative or friend loves the scriptures, be cautious about pasting on a scripture verse as an answer to their troubles. An ill-timed verse out of context may cause more harm than good. Rest assured God will continue to be their Living Word. On the other hand, some CI would just love an invitation to read a book or scripture concurrently and chat over the phone, during a short visit or by e-mail. Listen carefully and find out. Know the answer has much to do with their energy or pain level.

6. CI people are constantly adjusting to physical limitations. When they face a hard truth and need to let go of an activity, social engagement, or job they love, try not to assume they are giving up. They may be gracefully surrendering the old to make room for the new that God is doing in their lives and even be at peace about it.

7. Many CI people believe and take great comfort in the power of prayer. Please remember, though, to communicate about their wishes before placing the details of their situations on any prayer chain or to any religious group. Some like their circle large and some smaller.  God hears our prayers!

8. Try creating new traditions that include the CI person in a realistic manner. Holding tight may exclude them from your life. This may cause you pain and to wonder why. Example: A lupus patient should not be in the sun. Try to accept this. They did. Don’t give up your life, but consider a change in routine once in a while if you still want them in your life. CI people are not bad people. They desire their family and friends to be very happy still.

9. Remember God is a big God. He does not wish us to suffer. He may use suffering and pain for a purpose or one not fully known yet. He never leaves us to walk alone and because we are not healed surely does not mean he does not love us. Healing comes in many forms.

10. And CI people: try to have patience. Remember above all to go gently on “normals”. They have no experience with what you are facing. Every single person’s reality is different. Consider “normals” are working from a place of love for you!

Monday, September 3, 2012

An Update

“I will not die but live, and tell of the works of the Lord.” ~Psalm 118:17

I have many favorite scripture verses, but I just love this verse! It is an affirmation I have said to myself upon waking every morning for a long time. I truly believe that it is not our time to leave this earth until what we are meant to do and say here are completed. Each precious person has purpose and meaning to offer and I’ve spent the past year connecting and being taught by some of the kindest Sisters, teachers, speakers, mentors and directors I could ever imagine. I thank God for that, knowing he placed my sensitive soul in the hands of such love to learn more along this never-ending spiritual journey. God has also given me the huge help of my family along the way. I would have never dreamed this possible upon my last diagnosis, but I believe God had other plans.

Though there were unexpected bends along my path since my absense here, there were just as many joys. The biggest perhaps was graduating my Spiritual Formation Program and being given the designation of a professional Spiritual Director back in May. It is a humbling privilege to hold that and it was not quite real to me until I had the certificate in my hand. This was definitely a work of the Lord. It involved many hours per week pushing through my worsening dry eyes in class and that made writing long hours on the screen difficult. I was always given strength in the moment and even enough for me to not to miss one day of my internship.  My peers have teased me on this one, but I still like the name of spiritual friend or mentor, rather than spiritual director. After all, isn’t the Holy Spirit is the true director of us all?

Since I wrote last, the Spirit has been teaching our family more about adjusting. Isn’t much of life like that? Smaller hands help much more in the kitchen, bigger ones push the vacuum and a faithful husband tends to oversee much more at home as well as our doctor’s appointments. Between my one daughter and I, we keep the calendar quite full of them. God is good to place us in families and to teach us how to jump these hurdles that some times get rearranged or come a bit faster in life.

Other than that, we are entering into our twelfth year of home educating here which is another God story of it’s own. Oh, and to add more laughter to life and keep us close to creation, we have added three new friends to our petting zoo: Nigerian goats! They are entertaining and I sure don’t lack for a dull moment…

So, I decided a while back, God was not done with me yet.  I’m curious upon waking, what each new day will hold and how God will make his presence known in it. While I don’t know how much writing I’ll be doing here, I want it to be about real life, the ups and downs. No perfect blog here, friends! However, I hope to continue to tell more of the works of the Lord.