Things I’ve Learned from Chronic Illness (4)

In honor of Invisible Illness Week, I’m sharing some things I’ve learned along my journey with Wegener’s Granulomatosis. So far, here’s what I’ve shared:

1- Recognize the body/spirit connection
2- See opportunities, not limitations
3- Realize that good health is not everything

 

Lesson #4: cherish the time you have

Life is uncertain. We all know that. Scripture describes our life as a vapor that vanishes, and as a flower that withers, and as grass that fades away.

We cannot count on next month, next week, or even our next breath.

By the time I was diagnosed with Wegener’s, over half my blood had disintegrated. It was gone. And I’m not exaggerating when I say that I was very close to the end.

{Thank God for family who got me to the ER, and doctors who finally realized how bad I was. And for whomever donated that blood. It literally saved my life!}

That near-death experience changed me tremendously. I realized first hand how uncertain our time on earth is. I was blessed (yes, blessed…) to see the grief and agony on James’ face when he thought he was losing me (we were just engaged at that time). As lifeblood flowed back into me, and I grew stronger and more aware of things again, I found myself a changed person.

My priorities were different. People became more important than tasks. Goals for the future, what I wanted out of life, were completely transformed.

 

–> Let people know you care about them.

It’s not worth waiting to tell someone you love them. It doesn’t matter if it feels awkward, just tell them. You don’t know how long either one of you have. You don’t know whether you’ll have another opportunity to let someone know they’re important to you.

And it might mean the world to them! A good friend of mine got married a few years ago. I was still pretty sick, but I had the honor of standing by her during the ceremony (love you, Leann!). I couldn’t afford much for a wedding gift, so I was puzzling over it. And then I thought, why not write her a letter? A from-the-heart letter, telling her how much our friendship meant to me, and offering some personal thoughts on this big marriage journey she was about to start.

I poured my heart out, and handed it to her the night of the rehearsal. I didn’t know what she would think. I wasn’t in the habit of sharing my deepest emotions, even with my closest friends.

But she told me later (after the honeymoon, of course) that nobody had ever written her a letter like that, and that she cherished and treasured every word.

Why reserve “I love you” and heartfelt letters for our significant others? Why not tell your friends, your family, that you care about them? Why not share your hopes and deepest prayers for them, with them?

It doesn’t take much to tell someone you care about them. A little courage, sure. But a few words, spoken or written, cost us little – and yet mean so much to the one receiving those words. When in doubt, say something.

 

–> Prioritize what’s truly important to you.

Figure out what truly matters to you. Is it family? traveling? volunteering? writing a book? earning that doctorate?

And then work to protect those things. Yes, it takes work. It takes time and energy and sweat and tears. But find a way to reshape your life, little by little, so that everything you do will help you keep those priorities.

Learn to say no to things that are merely good, rather than best. Learn to say no when people ask you ever-so-sweetly to take on new responsibilities at church, work, or school. Learn to say no to those adventures that would be fun, but not in line with what you truly value.

  • For instance, being at church on Sunday matters to me. That means I have to protect my energy on Saturdays, so I can be “all present” on Sundays. That means saying no sometimes to outings with friends, coffee dates, ladies meetings, or high-energy activities with hubby (like hiking). That means doing extra work on Saturday night, so my morning is a little smoother on Sunday. That means turning down some opportunities to be involved at church, so I can focus on being there, worshiping and soaking up the Word, encouraging those around me, and maybe doing 1-2 things with the music ministry.
  • Another thing I highly value is time with my husband. He’s a crazy-busy guy. His free time is limited the way my energy is limited. So we work together to protect our quality time. I try to pace myself, so I don’t use up all my energy (the “best” of me) before he gets home. We schedule weekly date nights, even if it’s just doing something fun – and together – at home. We turn down other invitations, when we need that alone time together, to focus on our marriage.

You need to make sacrifices sometimes, to protect what matters most. {<– tweet this}

Cherish the time you have with people. Treasure the little, every day moments. The laughter and the tears. The victories and the struggles.

Acknowledge what people do for you. Say thank you. Let people know that they made a difference in your life.

Figure out what, or who, is important to you, and protect it. Let your daily life reflect what you truly value. 

Live a little. Go do that thing you’ve always wanted to do. Go pursue that dream of yours, baby step by tiny baby step. Stop waiting until all the pieces fall into place. It may be messy, but start working towards that goal.

This is your only time on this earth. You only get to live through it once. Don’t live with your eyes shut, always waiting for something big. Don’t ignore the multitude of blessings you have right now.

 

QUESTIONS for YOU: Who do you value enough to let them know you care? How can you tell them today? Do your daily activities show what you truly value? If not, what can you start to change? 

 

 

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3 thoughts on “Things I’ve Learned from Chronic Illness (4)

  1. These are standards I’m trying to live by now. I don’t want to get to any phase of my life and look back saying “I wish I had”. That’s why I’m at home with my little one. I don’t want to miss this time. Thanks for linking up with WIP!

  2. Talk about God working all things together for good to them that love Him! I’ve been so amazed at what a blessing particular times of intense sickness/pain have turned out to be in my life. When I was on the mission field, God used debilitating dysentery to clarify what was healthy/unhealthy in my emotional life, helping rid me of depression over a difficult relationship, giving me courage to cut that off once I was healthy again. And there are so many other examples I could fill your comments section with. I love your heart in all of this and can’t wait to support your book when you release it.

    1. Thank you so much for your encouragement, Darcy! You’re right – whatever the difficulty, God always uses it for good in the lives of His children! Even when we’ve caused the problem ourselves. Amazing, isn’t it?

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