Tuesday, 29 January 2019

The Hidden Blessing of a Long-Term Illness

hope with chronic pain

Call me a medical anomaly if you will, but for the past few years I have been seeing a vast array of doctors, specialists, naturopaths, and basically anything ending in “ologist”. I’ve tried medications, natural remedies, exercise, and diet changes. Even still, I’ve yet to receive an official diagnosis, though I’ve heard several speculations. While I wait in the line up to see one more “ologist” I have come to realize the hidden blessing of my long-term illness.

What I do know for certain is that whatever is brewing below the surface, there are plenty of days where my body simply won't cooperate. Last week, driving home caused my wrists to become so inflamed I was unable to hold a knife to make supper by the time I walked in the door. A few days later it had moved on to a new joint once again causing my daily activities to be severely altered. 

If it sounds frustrating, it’s because it is. But, as frustrating at it is, God is faithful in walking beside me, but also in refining me to reshape me into something beautiful (even if outwardly I appear frail). 

I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Phil 4:13 emphasis mine)


Have you ever wondered what ALL THINGS includes? The better question, as I’m learning, is, “what doesn’t it include?” 

The answer is: absolutely nothing. 

God has given me a gift in this season, the gift of neediness. I am abundantly needy for his strength, and am reminded of that frequently. I continually find myself in circumstances where I once would’ve thrived in my own strength, but now my body will not cooperate, so I lean on him for strength. Something as simple as opening the stuck lid of a jar required me to pray on the spot, “not my strength but yours. Help!” It opened without effort after I prayed! I really should have started with prayer, but I insisted on grappling the slippery lid, banging the jar on the counter, and doing a weird dance with the jar held between my knees while pulling with my hands on the other end before surrendering and acknowledging my neediness once again. 

God is good like that. Just when we think we have a handle on a situation he humbles us and reminds us it’s not by our strength but by His that we stand. There is NOTHING too small to call on the strength of the Lord for. Our go to at the first moment of a furrowed brow should be to call on God to strengthen us in whatever way we need it. 

Maybe you’re like me and it’s physical strength you need, but perhaps for you it’s mental, emotional, or spiritual strength you call on for help. Whatever it is, I’ve learned the gift of neediness is truly a gift worth praising God for. It is in this gift that I am reminded of His goodness, His strength, His mercy, and His compassion. I needn’t worry about my own limitations when I’m walking with such a mighty God. 

The gift of my illness has carved out daily moments in my life where frustration has the possibility to take over, but instead I see the God who holds me and strengthens me. I see my desperate need for Him in a life where I would've otherwise missed it. Those moments where the forward motion of my life hits "pause" are a place to sing songs of joy to Him as I lean hard on His everlasting strength.


photo credit: John Towner @ Unsplash.com

Monday, 7 January 2019

When Our Desire to Please God Outruns His Plans

Staying put when the direction isn't clear

We had just turned the lights off in our bedroom to go to sleep when I remembered that I forgotten something downstairs. Thinking my eyes had adjusted to the light, but seriously misjudging just how much they had adjusted, I began inching towards the door. Thinking it was wide open and I had made it to the threshold I confidently picked up the pace to grab what I needed and get back to bed. However, what I did not know and could not see was that the door to our bedroom was only partially open. In one over-confident leap to escape our bedroom I walked square into the edge of the half-opened door. My forehead notified my brain of the collision milliseconds too late as the rest of my body was already following suit into the edge of the door before bouncing back into the abyss of the bedroom. While fumbling for the bedroom light as the twittering birds encircled my head (because chirping cartoon birdies appear when you whack your head!) I could already hear the quiet snickers of my husband from the bed. He didn’t even have the courtesy to pretend he was asleep and save me the humiliation. 

As I switched on the light to survey the damage to my forehead, my husband managed to squeak out an “are you ok?” between his laughter, which had gone from the quiet snicker to a full on howl as he caught sight of me rubbing my head back to health. To this day he still razzes me that only I could manage to run into an open door. I, on the other hand, maintain that it was only open halfway! I just managed to use my head to figure out how to open it fully.

Sometimes trying to hear God’s plan for your life is like that. We can think we know the direction God wants us to go, only to forge ahead in excitement and hit the wall (or door). Part of growing in faith means wisdom enough to know when to stop and wait patiently for clearer direction. Obviously something I struggle with.

When our desire to please God outruns our desire to be near God we can move too quickly in the wrong direction. Pleasing God comes from the outworking of the fruits that grow in our nearness to him, not in our own decisions to advance our opinion of what should come next. God’s wisdom working in us should teach us that no matter how anxious we feel about needing instant answers and directions we must stop and be willing to wait. God’s timing is perfect, there is no need to rush.

Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.
Psalm 127:1

In the meantime, save yourself the headache and instead choose to be still and draw near to God. He is well pleased with us even when we aren’t busy “doing” for him. It is simply our relationship with him that takes priority over everything else. 

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her. 
(Luke 10:38-42 emphasis my own)


Photo credit: Pixabay @ Unsplash.com

Thursday, 13 December 2018

Free Downloadable Christmas Prints

Because giving is better than receiving I have created these downloadable Christmas prints for my lovely readers! Thank you for all your support this last year! 

These are all right click friendly, so right click and save for printing! Can't right click? Click here to directly download them from Google Drive. Happy early Christmas to all of you!

PS- The fine print: These are for personal use for printing, not for resale or altering as they are property of The Backyard Missionary. 

Printable Christmas Card Isaiah 9

The Backyard Missionary free giveaway

The Backyard Missionary- free Christmas cards

The Backyard Missionary- free Immanuel card

Monday, 10 December 2018

Your First Christmas After the Death of a Loved One

Blue Christmas

It was early November that Mom took her last breath. All to quickly the holiday season crept through the front door that year. Though still feeling the numbness of her absence we began to pick up speed through all our usual festivities. School concerts, church gatherings, family, and more family began to add weight to our already heavy hearts. Christmas night was my breaking point. Walking through the front door my legs gave way below my body and I collapsed on the couch with a weariness that penetrated the depths of my soul. My stomach still queasy from the rich feast I had stuffed down (more food than I had eaten in months), my chest heavy with agonizing grief. It was just.too.much. 

The first Christmas without our loved one is perhaps the most agonizing time of the year. A season usually filled with laughter, nearness of family, and joy loses its sparkle under the weight of grief. If I could go back in time I would give myself four pieces of advice, but since time travel is impossible I will share them with you instead in hopes of slightly easing the burden of the grief in your holiday season.

1. Allow yourself time to be sad.

Christmas is truly a season of joy as we remember the birth of our Redeemer, it is certainly a time to pause and celebrate! This year, let your gift to yourself be a gift of grace when the joy doesn't come as easily. Be patient, allowing yourself to be sad. Joy will return in small moments though maybe not through this holiday season, but one day. This also goes for the coming years. Grief is a rather odd emotion sneaking up when you least expect it. Be purposeful in taking moments to yourself or with someone you love to be sad and remember the person who has passed. One day you will smile a genuine smile again. One day you will laugh again. One day you will make it through Christmas and enjoy it once more, but until then be gracious with your heart.

2. Expect fatigue

My body was beyond exhausted by the time we made it to Christmas. We had gone from death to funeral to Christmas and both my physical and mental health were deplete. Christmas day I found a quiet space at my grandparent's home, where we were visiting, and excused myself to rest for 30 minutes. Go easy on yourself this year. Slow down the pace and don’t be afraid to say “no” to events and invites. You will be tired as you work to process your emotions and down time will be essential. Give yourself scheduled breaks to be able to rest even if you don’t sleep.

3. Find a way to remember your loved one

On the top of our tree we place an angel that my mom had given to me just before she got sick. Every year our angel finds her place atop our tree and everyone in our home knows the angel is our precious reminder of Mom/ Grammy. You could put out a photo or ornament, light a candle, recite their favourite Bible passage, play their favourite song, or leave an extra place setting at your table. Whatever it is, do something to remember them and remind you of the cherished memories you still carry even though they are gone. It is in those sweet memories that you will find the healing balm for your wounded heart.

4. Know that how you feel won’t last forever

Christmas is no longer what it once was. Every now and then I still find myself grieving over what use to be, but we have found a new normal. This is true whenever there are monumental changes in our lives be it a death, a move, divorce, a new baby, or anything that brings about newness good or bad. Our traditions have changed a little to adapt. Our new traditions are growing sweeter again as the holidays no longer sting like they once did. It is hard my sweet reader but the crushing pangs of grief will lift, don’t take my word for it, here’s what God has to say to you:

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18)

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. (Matthew 5:4)

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance… (Ecclesiastes  3:1,4)

 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)

Take heart. Know that God is near you, comforting you, and strengthening you as you rest.  


photo credits: Annie Spratt @ Unsplash