Mommy is sick?

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Recently, because I wrote about having Hashimotos on my blog… a woman reached out to me on social media.  She was newly diagnosed and looking for guidance on resources and information.  The family and I were out and about, and I was texting her from the passenger seat.  My husband was curious as to who I was texting, and I explained the situation:  “It is a woman recently diagnosed with Hashimotos, and she is asking me questions.”

My youngest piped up from the backseat:  “What is Hashimotos?”

I responded casually, as if she knew:  “It is the disease mommy has, it’s what I take my medicine for everyday.”

And then, in the tiniest voice:  “Mommy is sick?”

In that moment, I realized I had never explained to my kids that I was sick.  They knew I took medication every day, understanding that it helped me.  But, that was it.  I thought they knew, but apparently not.

I was also in a unique position because of the timing, my Father in Law had just passed away a couple of weeks earlier.  I knew that I had to tread cautiously, because I didn’t want her to panic and think I was dying.  At the same time, I didn’t want to just brush it under the carpet… since apparently as vocal as I am about it publicly, I’m not so much at home.

“Hashimotos is a disease that mommy has.  It is what makes mommy really tired, and have days where I don’t feel really well.  It is why mommy will forget things sometimes.  I take medicine every day to help me feel better and have as good of a day as possible. “

I felt like this was a good enough answer for a nine year old, and she seemed appeased by it.  As I reflect on that conversation, I realize how important it is that we are talking to our family about what is happening with our health.  Not in a way that scares our small children, but helps them become aware of what we struggle with each day.  We don’t want them to worry, or because we are managing our illness… we don’t think it’s worth mentioning.

But, one day… it might.  When our children are filling out new patient forms at the doctor, this information may be important or a clue into what is wrong with their health.  Family health history is SO important, and we can’t take for granted that we will be there to answer those questions for them when they are 20, 30, 40, 50+ years old.

There are some instances where it may be best to not tell our children, I recognize that we all know our own children best.   What I would recommend is keeping a document with your health info (diagnosis, medications, reactions to medications, procedures, etc… and be sure to include your age at the time of diagnosis/treatment).  If your parents, in-laws, grandparents, etc are still alive… ask them too.  If you have adopted, and the adoption is open, ask the biological parents for as much info as possible.  This could be invaluable as your children walk their own journey of health.

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Just Show Up!

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My grandmother had a huge influence on me, and my personality.  She was a registered nurse, who began her nursing career in the Army.  She had a very no nonsense way about her, when it came to things like being ill or hurt.  I could express it in a single sentence:  Suck it up, you do what you have to do.  There was no wallowing or lamenting with my grandmother.  Stitches needed, stitches given.  Broken bones get casts and physical therapy.  If you need surgery, no need to be scared, just get it done and over with. 

Because of her influence, I must admit that I don’t handle these things like I should.  When someone tells me they are sick or seriously injured, I lack compassion.  It isn’t that I have never been hurt or faced crisis myself, but I was trained to face it headstrong.  You do, what you have to do.  Period.  No sense in crying or getting depressed.  My shoulders have not held many faces, nor caught many tears.  I haven’t grasped hands, silently praying, or even giving reassuring words.

This response is not even toward others, but to myself.  In 2003 I was pregnant with our second when precancerous cells were found in my cervix and my uterus.  It brought with it a lot of concerns for my pregnancy.  I remember keeping so very much of it to myself, because I didn’t want to worry people.  I didn’t want people fawning over me with concern.  It was something that needed to be dealt with, simple as that.  I recall staring out our window one day, teary eyed, when my husband tried to reassure me that the baby would be fine.  I took a sigh, and responded that her conception may have been a gift to save my life… and that may have been her only purpose.  It wasn’t cold and callous, I loved her so much already.  It was just part of how I was raised to view things. 

There was a difference between this and other health scenarios, in that I was a believer now.  My prayers to God were that any treatments I would need could be held off until she was born.  I didn’t want my illness to affect her chances.  In the many years since, I am often haunted by concerns that those precancerous cells come back.  I rarely find myself struck with terror until the tests come back clear. But I do pray to God that if I must deal with this again, that it can wait until my children are adults.   I know that sounds strange, but in truth I personally don’t fear death.  I only have concern for those whom I would leave behind.

So, once again, this doesn’t exactly make me the best person to lean on when you find yourself in facing crisis head on.  It isn’t that I don’t care, or that I am ok with bad things happening to amazing people.  Far from.  I just don’t know how to process it like I should, I don’t know how to be the friend you need in that moment.  I have gotten the news that a friend’s child has been diagnosed with a terminal illness.  I have received the funeral information for a person who unexpectedly dies leaving a family in mourning.  My phone has rang in the wee hours because someone is in the hospital, or missing.

I’ve realized that in these moments, I thought I was not the right person for compassion.  And, that is probably still right.  However, I have also begun to learn that I am the right person for action.  I will get in my car and drive the streets looking for your child.  I will do the talking when you can’t, I will pick out the dress and the shoes, I will fill out forms, I can make decisions.  I will call the family members for you, or contact the church to make arrangements. Perhaps there is a blessing to being a person who doesn’t lean into emotion and instead steps up to the tasks ahead.

I believe, however, that there is a time when both of those attributes can come together and work beautifully.  When a friend was facing cancer, she was worried and anxious.  She also had moved and I couldn’t be there for her to help.  My only way to “act” was to have compassion and empathy for her situation.  This was something really hard for me to do, but I knew her battle was going to be harder.  I resolved that I was going to send her a card every single day until we got through the testing and results process.  I honestly have no idea how many cards I sent her… but I did it.  Every single day.  I went to the scripture, found verses regarding health and healing, used my artistic talents to create individual cards, and inscribed them with the selected verses.

To this day, she still has at least some of the cards.  Occasionally I get a text or note from her where she mentions them.  When I realized how that little step on my part meant so much to her, I began to see how I could take action and bring it to compassion.  In the years since, I have done similar things for others when they need encouragement, compassion, empathy, or even just a thinking of you.  I’m learning more and more that being present is enough.

This winter, I had the opportunity to read the book “Just Show Up” which was co-authored by friends Kara Tippetts and Jill  Lynn Buteyn.  This was a unique opportunity with Family Christian to do a review, because the opportunity wasn’t limited to a select number of bloggers.  And, I couldn’t be happier that so many people were given the opportunity to read this book and share it.  This book is simply put, super important.

You may be the person who has a lot of compassion, no one cries alone with you.  You may be the person who doesn’t know what to do in those situations.  Or, you may be the person who is going through a crisis and you hear the offers of help and support… but you don’t know what to do with it all.   In other words, if you are a person who cares about others in your life… READ THIS BOOK!

Just Show Up, brings us into the reality of walking through life with your friends when they are in the midst of suffering.  Author Kara Tippetts was actively battling cancer and Co-Author Jill Lynn Buteyn was the friend walking alongside her.  In this book you get to see both sides of the coin, from the perspective of the person who is in crisis and the friends who are trying to be there, supporting and encouraging.  This dual perspective helps us all see what this journey looks like for those involved, they share their struggles, they share what they learned in the process. 

We learn that there is a time to be a silent presence, how to give and receive, and how to be that friend who just shows up … even when she doesn’t know what to do, or say.  In fact this book, in my opinion, is one that goes beyond enduring suffering as friends.  It opens our eyes to what real,  godly, loving, and committed friendship looks like.  In the good, and the bad.  When life is going great, when life is changing, and when life takes an unexpected turn.

One of the blessings I received from the book is the “Comfort In, Dump Out” circle, where it tangibly helps us identify who we can speak to during the times of crisis in a helpful way.  For example, it is not my place to dump on my friend’s spouse how her illness is affecting me.   I need to be a comfort to him, and he can dump out on me.  BUT, I can speak to my personal friends.  They are the people whom I can dump out on, and will comfort me.

This is a book that is going to create radical, fierce friendships… the kinds we long for and God wants for us.  Let’s do life together, even when it is hard.  When you don’t know how, go to those who are willing to share.  Put this book on your 2016 must read list, keep it in mind for gifts.  When you friend confides her crisis, this is a great book.  When another friend is expressing her sadness because someone in her life is going through something difficult & she doesn’t know what to do… gift or at least recommend this book.

Just Show Up is a book that is insightful to what really happens in relationships during times of tragedy, difficulty, crisis, and suffering.  I would also recommend this book to Women’s Ministry Leaders who may be counseling women through tough seasons or tragic circumstances.

 

Official Family Christian Blogger

#Write31Days Challenge – Post 27 – God on My Mind

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Some days are just tough, mentally we are at our max capacity.  Our stress levels are high, our emotions are running wild, and our energy is running empty. 

Then there are the days that are just, busy.  It’s not that you are overwhelmed emotionally or even physically, but it just seems like every second of your day has been claimed by some thing or some one.

On days likes these it can be hard to put in some serious Bible Study, we either don’t have the time or the energy to put the mental energy into study.  Our prayers may be short and sweet lists, or even the sigh we exhale as we say “God help me!” as we drop our sobbing eyes into our hands.

Speaking for myself,  I know that when it comes to spiritual practices …. I have good days & bad.  There are days I can accomplish in depth study, first thing in the morning, that will carry me throughout the day.  I also have days where I am on the go, all day long, and it isn’t until those final moments I am putting my head to the pillow that I can stop and pray.

Over the years, I have learned a few tips to help keep God on my mind throughout the day.  I may not getting in 30 minutes of Bible Study or even 5 minutes of dedicated prayer time. 

  • Play worship music on the radio while in the car picking up the kids, or while bustling around the house cleaning.  Often Christian radio stations will read verses throughout the day, replay Pastor’s sermons, or interview of Bible teachers that are worth listening to as well.  Audiobooks and Podcasts are other great options.
  • Pray as you clean, over what you are cleaning.  Be thankful for indoor plumbing as you clean your toilet.  Pray over your children as you fold their laundry.  Pray for your husband’s safety while working, as you prepare to make that doctor’s appointment for him.  Volunteering at the church?  Pray on your drive for the church, the Pastor, or the ministry you are serving on.  In the Parent Pick Up line at your child’s school, pray for the school.  At the gym?  Pray for your health.  At the grocery, pray for those who are going hungry.  As you pay your mortgage online, give thanks for your home and pray for the homeless. 
  • Pray throughout your day.  Instead of sitting down in the morning going through a lengthy prayer session, instead pray throughout the day as thinks pop into your head.
  • Display scripture on walls of your house, either in picture frames or using wall decals. These can be life verses or family mission verses.  Even if you don’t have time to study your Bible that morning, you can focus your eyes on those as you move about your home.  Then can also be fun verses like the ones I have for certain rooms of the house.  In my kitchen the verse on the wall is Psalm 107:9, and in the bathroom is verse Psalm 24:4.  
  • Now this one may make you giggle a bit, however in our old house … I got really creative.   We placed a white board right across from the toilet in our guest bathroom.  Every week I would write a new piece of scripture.  We kept no magazines or newspapers in there, so the only reading material our guests had was from the Word.  We referred to it as “Coming the Throne” (I am convinced God has a sense of humor).
  • Use uninterrupted times to really speak to God.  I find that I am most vulnerable when I am totally alone, away from the noise of the house.  Some of my greatest conversations with God have taken place in the shower, or by turning off the car radio and just speaking with the Lord. 
  • Bring your Bible or Bible Study with you to waiting rooms at doctor’s offices, or even when you are lunching with a friend – particularly if you are generally a person who arrives early.
  • Turn your lunch dates with friends into something more than gossip sessions, and make that your Bible Study time.

All of that said, I would also suggest doing what you can to reduce some of the hectic activity from your life.  Lysa TerKeurst has a great book “The Best Yes” that really helps you take a hold of your life, so that you can carve out time for God, not be overwhelmed by your schedule, and learn to give your best to the things that are most important.

And finally, should you find yourself in a space where you are struggling emotionally or physically with life… please, PLEASE…. see your doctor.  There are many disorders that steal our minds, energy, drive, and make us feel like we simply CAN’T.  Have your primary care doctor rule out physical ailments, and if you need to see a Christian Counselor who can help with the mental aspects.  There is nothing wrong with seeking help or using medication to get you through, and a good Christian counselor can help you do so while leaning on the truth of God’s love.

#Write31Days – Post 14 – The Daily Grind

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Ten years ago or more, I couldn’t understand “invisible illnesses”.  They were those things that I heard people complain about, but thought to myself: But they look totally fine.  Invisible illnesses are the ones that steal things from you, but the rest of the world can’t see.  And, there are a lot of them.

Most invisible illnesses are not even fully understood, we know very little about them.  They hide in plain site, and often go undiagnosed as we attribute our symptoms as aging.  Or, they are misdiagnosed by doctors … and in many cases they are just simply dismissed.   People with “invisible illnesses” are often considered hypochondriacs, making things up or making excuses for things they just don’t want to do.  Some are given psychiatric care and medications for anxiety and depression.

This lack of treatment or mistreatment leaves the person no better than they started, and sometimes worse because the medications add to the problem instead of solving it.  I didn’t understand invisible illness myself, and definitely could have been put into the camp of people who made cheeky comments about those who claimed to have one.

Then, I was diagnosed.

When you look at me, what you see is a person who looks totally normal.  I’m not a svelt super model, long since have been the days where I could shop in the juniors section.  What you don’t see is the war that goes on in my body every single day.

At first I dismissed my symptoms, thinking the toll of three children and getting older was to blame for how I felt.  I thought it would be as simple as changing my diet, hitting the gym, taking a multi-vitamin and I would start feeling better.  I just got worse.

My memory was shot.  I used to be the type of person who could exist without a calendar, recalling details with ease.  Now I was having to write down everything. As a trained actress, I learned to memorize & recall information quickly.  Now I live with a phone full of alarms  to even remember to do the things that are apart of my DAILY life.  If I don’t write it down, count on the fact I won’t remember it.

My brain is in a constant state of fog.  Some days it is as if someone just pulled the plug on my brain and all the information drained out.  I can be listening to a speaker or reading a book, and find it absolutely impossible to comprehend what they are saying.  This is why I am a fastidious note taker.  I need to be able to read through it later to comprehend it, when I am in a clearer state of mind.

My energy is a small percentage of what it once was, some days it is a battle to just exist.  I can see the things that need to get done, but I just can’t.  There are days where my skin literally hurts to be touched.  There are days where my body is swollen to the point it aches.  Add in night sweats, body tremors, fatigue and exhaustion and it doesn’t get much better.

For my particular disease there are over 300 possible symptoms.  I have a prescription medication that I will take for the rest of my life.  I have 14 supplements that I take due to deficiencies in my body.  I see several doctors to address the various ways my disease impacts my body.  I’m giving vials of blood every three months to see what is working, what isn’t, and what has changed.  Dosages increased.  Supplements added or removed.  Try this.  Try that.  Knowing that no matter what I will never get back to where I was, I will never be cured, or 100% better.  Instead I’m just trying to make the best of what I have been dealt.

Some days, it takes me really … really low.   But, then there will be spikes when I have energy, and my outlook on life is a lot more positive.  I try not to burden others with my illness, and I do believe in part it is because I know they simply will never totally get it.

It’s a daily battle.  It’s my daily grind.

Will today be a good day?  A bad day?  Will I give into those feelings and symptoms, or will I push through them?  Is today a day I just need to stop and relax?

I have prayed for answers, and for healing.  I believe with all sincerity in miraculous healing.  Yet, I have never been angry with God that I am still sick.  It doesn’t diminish my faith or increase my doubts about God.  In fact, it strengthens them.  My faith is stronger, because I am not relying on myself.

My Pastor’s wife once called me “high capacity”.  If you talk to others who know me, they will agree with that.  I am a person who gets things done, quickly, and efficiently.  I can multitask with the best of them.  As much as I am a creative person, I also have a gift for administration.  I’m usually the person you want on your team, I thrive on deadlines, and I always give my best.

If this is how they see me now, since being diagnosed, can you only imagine what I was like before I was sick?   It would make your head spin.

The difference between now, and then, is that today I do not work in my own strength.  Everything that I do… is in HIS strength.  He gives me the energy, drive, and motivation.  He gives me the physical strength and mental capacity.  When I look at what is accomplished I can ONLY give HIM the glory.  My flesh is weak, tired, and broken.  His power is perfected in my weakness.   My joy comes from the Lord.  My peace is from Christ.  My strength is from the Holy Spirit.

My thorn keeps me meek, humbles me… so that I do not exalt myself and what I am capable of.  Instead I keep my eyes on the Lord, where my strength comes from.  I know that He goes before me, and comes up behind.  I know that He shields me and protects me.  He will give me charge to battle, or call me to lie and rest.  He is the one who provides the words, lays out my path, and guides my journey.  I simply say:  Here I am Lord, use me.

2 Corinthians 12:7-9

7Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me– to keep me from exalting myself! 8Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. 9And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.…

Ministering to Women, A Changing Face.

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I’ve been doing a lot of research lately about the roles of Women in Ministry.  Just these past few days I was really trying to look at women as a whole, who is it that we are ministering to?  As I google searched, and google searched some more… and went through the most recent women’s ministry books and resources…. we have a lot of work ahead of us.

  • Working women, working moms.
  • Stay at home moms, and housewives.
  • Grandmothers who are raising their grandchildren.
  • Mothers with adult children who have returned home.
  • Single moms, single working moms.
  • Mothers of children with disabilities.
  • Women who are widowed, or are married to a man with a terminal illness.
  • Women who are divorced.
  • Women who are stepmothers in blended families.
  • Women who adopted children.
  • Women who are lifelong single.
  • Women who have children.
  • Women who are infertile or have had miscarriages.
  • Women who have lost children or have a child with a terminal illness.
  • Women who have been abused:  physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually and sexually.
  • Women who are disabled.
  • Women who struggle with addiction:  pornography, substances, and more.
  • Women who come from broken homes, women who were abandoned.
  • Women who are homeless.
  • Women who are struggling with their sexuality and gender identification.
  • Women who are struggling in their marriages.
  • Women who are married to non-believers.
  • Women who are struggling financially.
  • Women who are struggling spiritually.
  • Women who are suffering from depression and debilitating anxiety, who consider suicide.
  • Women who suffer from PTSD, from experiences in their life or serving for their country.
  • Women who are retired.
  • Women who are empty-nesters.
  • Women who are in, or previously were in prison.
  • Women who had abortions.
  • Women with serious or even terminal illness.
  • Women who suffer from eating disorders and body dysmorphia.
  • Women who are struggling, burdened, worn out by life.
  • Women who have faced racism, ageism, sexism in their lives.
  • Women who feel that they have no value, no importance, and are invisible.
  • Women who have been exploited in the sex trade industry, by decision or force.
  • Women who are young, trying to navigate the waters of adulthood and their future.
  • Women who are older, trying to move beyond the failures of their past.
  • Women who are mothers of prodigal children.
  • Women in the mission field.
  • Women on the battlefield.

If you, or your church, is wondering if a Women’s Ministry is needed…. I hope that list answers the question for you.

It’s a resounding YES.

We also need something new, because our needs changed…. our ministries haven’t.  We need women who are not just willing to lead fellowship events and bible studies, we need something new.  We need women who are equipped to Minister To Women.

The face of women in our church is changing, it’s time Women’s Ministry catches up.