How to love a chronically ill extrovert

We’re all different and unique. Some of us are introverts, and others of us are extroverts. In the normal scheme of things, we can navigate our differences. But what happens when chronic illness is thrown into the mix?

Introverts are well known for being ‘quiet, bookish types’ and extroverts for being ‘raging party animals’. Of course, it’s not that simple. Still, an easy definition (and the one I’ll use for this series) is:

Extroverts obtain energy from being around people.

Introverts re-charge from being alone.

Yet if chronic illness limits an extrovert’s socialising opportunities, how are they supposed to ‘re-charge’? How can we care for and love a sick extroverted friend?

Keep reading for FOUR thoughts and FOUR practical tips…

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When NOT to fight someone else’s battle (even if you want to)

Have you ever sailed into an argument or situation with all cannons blazing… only to realise later that you should have just let the matter drop?
Have you ever fought long and hard for someone else – and then wondered whether you’re actually doing the right thing?

I have to admit, I have a tendency to get caught up “in the moment”. With the adrenaline rushing through my veins, I find it only too easy to believe that my right is the only right and it needs to be defended at any cost.

Of course, this just gets more complicated when it’s not my own battle that I’m fighting.

As Watchers we are often called to fight on someone else’s behalf. But what if sometimes fighting is not the best course of action? What if sometimes the right thing is to step back and put down our arms?

How are we to know?

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Why you should fight someone else’s battle (when you’d rather not)

If you’re like me, there are times when you are ‘rearing to go’ when a disagreement comes up.

Someone needs you to stand up for them? Done. Need to make a complaint? Done.

Need to convince the well-meaning shop assistant to check out the back for more stock? Done.

And yet…

… Some days the last thing you want to do is rub against the grain. Instead you want to take the back seat, keep your head down and maintain the peace. You’d rather deal with the consequences later rather than speak up in the moment. 

There’s nothing wrong with this – except in the context of chronic illness sometimes the consequences aren’t ours to absorb.

As Watchers, caregivers and loving friends, sometimes we are called to fight our Loved One’s battles, not our own. When we give up, they are the ones who suffer for it.

So what do we do?

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O woe is me! (Watchers, we are not Victims)

“Oh look at all those other people with their lollipops and rainbows, skipping hand in hand in a luscious field of poppies. If only that was me. Instead here I am in my dark corner with my pet spider and my burden of responsibility.”

Which character would you be in a novel?

The hero?

The villain?

The love interest?

Some days it’s easy to feel like the victim. The character that gets smacked over the head with a tonne of Tragedy just so the hero can realise that yes, the world does need saving. I’d better find my cape…

You might not struggle with your health on the same level as your friend or family member with a chronic illness, but it can still feel like you’ve got the raw end of the deal.

After all, your life has been disrupted too! You have added responsibility, added financial strain, added demands on your time and energy. On top of all that you spend a lot of time in close quarters with someone who is unwell (and the truth is, unwell people aren’t always as much fun as ‘well’ ones – I personally turn into a monster when I have the flu).

When you feel overlooked and depleted it’s easy to imagine that your identity is not in being a Watcher, but rather a Victim (yes, with a capital V).

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What to do when you are unable to serve your local community due to sickness

There are seasons for all of us where we are not able to do all we want. When chronic illness enters the picture, these seasons can be long indeed. It can be especially difficult when we are unable to serve or help our local community.

For those of us who are part of a church, a neighbourhood, a sports club or a community group we know what it is to volunteer our time and energy. It is a worthwhile and often enjoyable experience.

It can be challenging and even draining, but there’s something about working as part of a team toiling towards a common goal that can be very uplifting.

If you are a Christian, it is also part of fulfilling Jesus’ command to “love your neighbour”.

Yet illness can get in the way of even our most passionate desires to serve. Being available for a Loved One struggling with their health can mean we are unable to give of our time or energy.

So what do we do?

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Why must we express our anger to God? (Book Review: A Sacred Sorrow)

“Lament” is an old fashioned word. I can often be more of a ‘let’s just move on’ sort of person myself. Yet the Bible teaches that there’s something sacred about our sorrow.

I’ve recently finished A Sacred Sorrow: reaching out to God in the lost language of Lament. This book by Michael Card was given to me by a friend after my mum was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

I must admit I thought I knew quite a bit about turning to God in the midst of sorrow, but this book helped clarify and stretch my understanding.

Most of all, it helped me understand why it’s important to cry out to God – even when I’d prefer just to ‘move on’.

If you want to an overview of the book, read on. If you want to skip to my assessment, scroll down!

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Twenty-eighteen – your favourite posts

My hope is that so far 2019 has been full of Hope, anticipation and quiet assurance for you all! Since we’re still in the early days of the new year, what better time to do a little reflection?

For those of you who have so far found the New Year disappointing, may you find something to celebrate in saying goodbye to 2018.

It’s time for some stats! I thought I’d continue the tradition

Last year the introductory posts: But what is Watching? and the About Me tab were very popular. This year they have slid down the list… nice to know we’re all on the same page now 😉

This year also saw the first interviews of other Watchers, which were very exciting – thank you to Helen and Mary for being willing to share your stories!

Another exciting feature of this year was my partnership with Chronic Joy who do a wonderful job of exploring the intersection of Jesus and Chronic illness.

Anyway, without further ado –

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Celebrate Endings not Beginnings this New Year

Happy New Year!

It’s that time again.
The time when we celebrate new beginnings and new life.
Fresh starts and bright futures.

The New Year is a wonderfully invigorating time. It’s so empowering to be able to ‘reset’ your life, to hope anew, to re-make plans.

Yet as lovely as it is, sometimes we don’t have the emotional (or physical) energy to look forward. There are seasons where life has worn us down and we don’t dare envision a better year ahead.

In chronic illness, there is often no healing to look forward to. Only the hard reality that this is just going to get worse. Even in diseases which aren’t degenerative, times goes on, bodies get older, and circumstances get more difficult.

Perhaps this year you are in this camp. The ‘I find it hard to have hope’ camp. The ‘there are not going to be any brighter futures for me’ camp.

If this is the case, I’m not going to try and convince you that you’re wrong. That you should hardheadedly believe that ‘things WILL get better’.

Instead, I’m going to recommend that instead of celebrating Beginnings this New Year, you celebrate Endings.

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How to serve your local community when your family member is sick

What does it look like for us to love and serve other people besides our family member with a chronic illness? Is it possible? Is it necessary?

I’ve written previously about serving with a chronic illness, and serving overseas when someone you love has a chronic illness. But what about serving in your local church or community?

Should you serve your local community if your family member is sick?

If you are part of a local church or community, there are probably numerous opportunities to serve. Often during a Sunday morning worship service alone, you could potentially:

Play a musical instrument

Sing

Do a reading or announcement

Usher people in

Open up/lock up the building

Help in baby sit

Teach in Sunday school

Make coffee/tea

Clean up the kitchen/building

… and that’s all within the space of about two hours! Throughout the week there are often many other situations in which you can fulfil the Biblical commandment to serve and love one another.

Yet it’s not that easy, is it? Those of us who have a family member with a chronic illness can find all the opportunities to serve somewhat daunting. There is so much need… and yet perhaps we find ourselves ill-suited to fill it.

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Loving a sick person is too hard! (Watchers, we are not impartial observers)

I’ve been absent lately.

I’ve discovered that it’s quite difficult to type with a broken wrist!

I’m also settling in to what it looks like to be at home, loving someone going through chemotherapy.

It’s not easy. Patience and domestic duties have never been my strong points. Far from it actually. Some days I want to give it all up and become an “impartial observer”. It hurts much less when you fail and takes far less effort!

Nevertheless, God has called me to be a Watcher right now, so I pray and know He will equip me in all the ways necessary (and probably in a lot I’d like to pretend aren’t necessarily, like the ability to  ‘see’ what needs  to be done around the house or remember to pick up my own clothes from the floor).

ALSO an exciting piece of news: This is the 100th post on Called to Watch! Is there someone you know who might find this blog helpful? Take a moment to send them the link, or sign up for email updates!

Being a Watcher is hard, and instead of ‘really’ caring, it’s tempting to disengage emotionally. When this happens, we become “impartial observers”.

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