The Truth About Chronic Illness

3May2017 Filed under: blah-blah-blog
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A friend announced on social media this week that she has cancer.

She prefaced her post by saying “I’m not sharing this for pity or sympathy, but to ask for prayer.”

It bothered me that she even had to include that disclaimer. Have we become so insensitive to the sufferings of others that we’d assume a person is sharing a cancer diagnosis just to receive pity?

Sadly, I think we make wrong assumptions about one another far too often these days. As someone suffering for over 10 years with one of the “invisible” diseases –lupus (and its sidekick, subglottic stenosis)– I can attest: most people aren’t very concerned about what you’re going through. And even sadder? This is true both inside and outside the church. And in my opinion, it just shouldn’t be this way.

I have another friend who recently underwent a major surgery. I’ll spare the details to protect her privacy, but she also posted recently on social media about people judging her for everything she is/is not doing during this season of recovery.

Stuff like that just makes me so mad!

The beauty of being almost 50 is that your love for honesty begins to trump your concerns over what people think about you. So, I’m just going to throw this out there, and you can take it or leave it or unfollow me or whatever:

People who are hurting and scared and sick all the time want to complain 1000x more than they actually do.

So when they DO say something…when they do ask for prayer…just send a little encouragement back. Pray for them. Let them know you’re praying. Ask how you can help and then if you’re able, show up.

Don’t judge what you do or do not see them doing.

I get this all the time, having lupus. All. The. Time! I have to back out of a commitment on a Tuesday and I get judged because they see me posting a picture of something I did a day or two later. They’re all, “Well, apparently she isn’t that bad off because she was able to do X-Y-Z on Thursday…Hmpf!”

The truth is that Thursday’s commitment happened because I got lucky on Thursday and woke up feeling like I could handle it. And maybe I woke up feeling stronger on Thursday only because I honored my body’s need for rest on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Think about how difficult it would be to balance all the demands of motherhood, a career, and a social life when nearly every day feels like the first day you’re coming down with the flu. That’s often what lupus feels like. Does that help you understand why some activities just cannot be accomplished?

If you knew what this deep-bone, never-ending pain is like, or how it is exacerbated by simple things like going grocery shopping…if you knew how utterly exhausting even the most simple things can be…maybe you’d understand that my erring in saying “yes” to too much, too often, is just me trying to regain some sense of life as it used to be, when I actually could do all the things I wanted to?

Maybe you didn’t know me when all this began, when my husband was deployed for a year and I worked full-time and raised two little boys by myself? Maybe you didn’t know me when I was the one who always showed up, who served on every committee, who led bible studies, who volunteered to clean and set up and break down, who would always babysit and cook for those who couldn’t. Maybe you weren’t around me when my house was (mostly) clean and uncluttered and I still had the energy to go for long walks after work.

I still am that person inside. But now I’m stuck in a body that too often says, “Sit your fat butt down…we’re not doing any of that…or anything at all.”

So, now, scheduling things is always a gamble. I might feel great when that day rolls around on the calendar. Or I might be like I am today, aching all over and regretting the anti-inflammatory painkiller I took even though I knew it would set my stomach aflame…because in the moment, dulling the other pain felt worth the trade-off.

I can have one bad day and then, not another one for months. Or I can muddle my way through months in a row of feeling like poo. And I never know what it’s going to be. But I can’t stop scheduling stuff, or trying to say “yes” to things because if I stop, that means I’m letting lupus win, and I absolutely refuse to let it.

The same is true, I’m sure, for my friend with cancer and the one recovering from surgery. They don’t have health-related crystal balls, either. But they’re also mentally determined to keep life as vibrant and active as ever.

So if you care about them –particularly if you call yourself a Christian– they should not feel like they have to apologize for being vulnerable, asking for prayer, or asking for help. Because I can promise you –there are dozens of other fears, worries, pains and concerns that they are keeping to themselves. And the more people respond negatively to them, the less they will open up.

And the less they share, the heavier the burden they carry alone.

Please don’t be the one who makes them do that. God never meant for us to do that to one another.

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ”-Galatians 6:2 (NKJV)

21 Ways to Live Out Your Faith in 2017

2Jan2017 Filed under: blah-blah-blog
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I’m really not a fan of New Year resolutions. I’m kind of more of a U2 kinda girl: nothing really changes on New Year’s Day.

Still…the world sees January as a clean slate, so why not make it a time to embrace new things? I just know, that for me, unless I seek God’s help, I can’t keep a promise to myself for anything.

So. This morning, one of our church elders gave the word during the service, and he basically read us several passages about what it means to be a real Christian. These verses from Romans 12 really stuck out to me as good things to work toward in 2017.

Note that it’s all from Romans 12: 9-21, in case you want to read it in a different translation. I’m sharing from The Message, because I sometimes prefer the way it sounds. I also separated some verses into two bullet points because I think they each deserve their own emphasis.

So with that disclaimer, here’s a list of 21 ways to be a genuine Christian this year:

  1. Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it.
  2. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good.
  3. Be good friends who love deeply.
  4. Practice playing second fiddle.
  5. Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame.
  6. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant.
  7. Don’t quit in hard times. Pray all the harder.
  8. Help needy Christians.
  9. Be inventive in hospitality.
  10. Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath.
  11. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down.
  12. Get along with each other.
  13. Don’t be stuck-up.
  14. Make friends with nobodies.
  15. Don’t be the “great somebody.”
  16. Don’t hit back.
  17. Discover beauty in everyone.
  18. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody.
  19. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.”
  20. If you see your enemy hungry, buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness.
  21. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.

Love from Eli, Carrie Fisher

27Dec2016 Filed under: blah-blah-blog

As the Mom of a houseful of Star Wars fans, I was sad to hear that Carrie Fisher died today.

I know the Internet will be saturated with tributes to her, but I wanted to share our story, too. It meant a lot to me that she and her brother took the time to make a little boy smile.

When Eli was six, he had a major crush on Princess Leia. She was definitely his first love. He wanted to tell her how much he loved her, so I suggested writing her a letter.

He couldn’t write much at six, so we wrote it together. He drew a picture, and I went online to find an address to send it all to.

Trouble was, I couldn’t find an address that I could verify as an official place to send fan mail. I did, however, manage to find an email address for her brother, Todd. So I figured, what the heck? Contact him and see what happens.

I just spent an hour digging through my computer to see if I’d saved those emails between me and Todd or if I took a picture of Eli’s letter. Sadly, I couldn’t find either.

I remember that I started off by apologizing for bothering him, but my little guy just really, really wanted Carrie to know how much he loved her and I was wondering if he could tell me the proper address to mail his letter. Todd Fisher wrote me back the nicest email ever and said to mail it directly to him, and he’d make sure she got it.

So, I did. And a few weeks later, this is what we got back:

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“Love to Eli, Carrie Fisher.”

I *love* that they printed a pic of the Lego Princess Leia! (I’d been trying to figure out how to explain to him that she was older than me, and no longer looked like the young girl he adored. And Lego ranked about one hairs’ width below Carrie on the list of things Eli loved.)

He was so, SO happy. (And good heavens, was he cute at six or what???)

I can’t even imagine the amount of fan mail someone like her received, although it did seem that there was a lull in her career around that time. I can’t be the only annoying fan who bypassed channels to get a message to her. But the fact that they responded, so kindly, showed what a class act she was. Especially when you read about her struggles with bipolar disorder and other mental health issues. I, and the majority of people I’m related to, have battled various mental health problems, so the fact that she managed to do so much is impressive to me.

I love what she said about her mental illness a dozen or so years ago, because I also can’t imagine making it through anything hard without a keeping a good sense of humor:

“I find it unappealing, but there is a part of this illness that is funny. I don’t understand the stigma. I understand funny. It is what I do. Because I have the sense of humor I have, things don’t prey on me long. And that’s why I have it. If I didn’t, I would be…in pain. If my life weren’t funny, it would just be true, and that would be unacceptable.”

Rest in peace, Carrie Fisher. Thank you so much for all the ways you made my family smile.

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Why My Teens Can’t Get a Job

17Dec2016 Filed under: blah-blah-blog

I’m venting tonight because I can, and because I know that I am not the only parent who has dealt with this particular set of problems.

You know what makes my blood boil?

Teenagers who beg you to let them get a job somewhere, but then only halfway do their work around the house. (Don’t even get me started on slacker attitudes toward school work…)

Not only do they half-do the work, but they won’t take the initiative to notice that it needs doing. (Even though they know what tasks they’re assigned to each week.)

Spaghetti sauce splatters on the stovetop? Why, yes–cleaning them up is actually part of cleaning the kitchen! So don’t tell me you’re done when you clearly aren’t.

Boxes, bottles, and bags stacked beside the trashcan, ALL DAY LONG, and you just walked right by it a dozen times?

Fine. Then don’t get huffy with me when I make you go out in the dark at 10:00pm to carry out what you should’ve done on your own at noon.

Then, when you remind them that the act of working responsibly is simply a “Life 101″ lesson, (because a boss isn’t going to let them ignore or half-do their jobs) they have the audacity to reply:

“Well, they’ll be paying me, and I’m not getting paid to do this.”

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Did you eat today? How many times? How much of that food did you pay for?

Were you warm? Where did that heat and those clothes come from?

Where are you sleeping tonight? Oh, yeah– in that bed that belongs to me.

Who paid the for the electricity powering that Xbox you’re so eager to get back to?

How much did you contribute to the Internet bill that connects you with your friends?

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You get paid.

You get “paid” more than a student your age will be able to earn at some little part-time job.

You want to work somewhere outside the home? Fine. Bring your grades and your chore performance up to my (very realistic) standards, and we’ll talk seriously about it.

Until then, remember: you keep approaching work like a little kid, you’re going to be treated like one.

And little kids aren’t allowed to work retail.

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89 Cents of Kindness

14Dec2016 Filed under: blah-blah-blog

It was just 89 cents, that loaf of bread I plunked down on the counter at Kroger this morning.

I looked a hot mess, because like most at-home moms, I don’t get ready before driving Jonah to school. My morning routine consists of pants, ponytail, hoodie, keys–LET’S GO!

Some days, I even gamble and leave the house in my pajamas. If you could hear the engine in my ancient minivan, you’d know why that’s incredibly risky behavior. The poor ol’ thing sounds like a thousand Ritalin-addicted birds are trying to flap out from under the hood, and the radiator is leaking, and every time I sit behind the wheel, I wonder if I’ll make it back home that day in the van or in a tow truck.

But today, at least I was dressed. I didn’t have on a lick of makeup and “sloppy” is a far too generous word to describe the mop on top of my head, but I was up and at ‘em.

Anyway…

I dropped off Jonah, then drove across town to the store that has the best price on IAMS, but forgot to get bread. So I swung by Kroger on the way home.

(You’re thinking, “Wow–your life, Kari! It’s so fascinating. And I say, YES, every single day is like this! Aren’t you jealous?)

So I’m standing in the express lane, with my store-brand loaf of bread, fishing through my purse to try to find my blasted Kroger card, when the lady in front of me says, “Ma’am?”

And I look up into the sweetest round smiling face. She was a petite, older angel dressed in white scrubs.

“May I buy your bread for you?”

I didn’t know what to say.

What I stammered out sounded a lot like Charlie Brown on the phone when Peppermint Patty tells him she’s coming over for Thanksgiving dinner.

“Well, I, um, I mean…that’s very sweet of you, but that’s OK…I’ve got it.”

“No, really, I want to. Please let me buy that for you.”

So, what do you do then, except smile back and say, “Sure. OK. Thanks so much–that’s very kind of you.”

The cashier gave me the weirdest look, and for a moment I wondered if both of them thought I was destitute? I mean, I did look…shall we say…rather unrefined…and I had been digging vigorously through my purse, like someone looking for loose change.

The cashier handed me the loaf and the sweet lady who bought it stepped aside for me to pass. I lightly touched her shoulder, told her thanks again, and said that I hoped God returned her kindness back to her. She smiled and said, “I’ll receive that!”

When I climbed back into my old clunker, I had tears in my eyes. Because I’m kind of sappy and that was just a really sweet thing for a stranger to do.

I’ve heard of people paying for the person in line behind them at the drive-thru, but it’s never happened to me before. And honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever done that for anyone, either.

But I really kinda want to now.

It was just a gift of 89 cents. But through that simple act of selflessness, God reminded me again that He sees me.

In this world where it seems that discord rules, it’s good to be reminded that even the smallest acts of grace carry a lot of power. We tend to think that if we can’t do something big, we shouldn’t do anything at all. Nonsense! I can tell you for a fact: a mere 89 cents can buy someone a surprisingly long-lasting smile…and the inspiration to pay it forward.