If all else fails, remember two things

How is Watching going for you? Are you in a season of relative peace or does it feel like troubles are knocking at your door and crowding out your view of Jesus?

Whichever it is, (and maybe it’s both!) I’ve been doing a bit of thinking lately about the most important reminders for our Watching journey. The theme of Called to Watch this year is Watching for the Long Haul, and so far we’ve reflected on:

Practicing Self-Compassion as Watchers

The Importance of Stopping to Heal

Learning to Lament

But if there were two things I could always have at the forefront of my mind as I Watch, two things which would make a real difference to the way I Watch and equip me for the long haul, it would be these:

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Learning to Lament

Sharing your life with someone whose every day is impacted by chronic illness can be rewarding – but it can also be extremely tough. It should come as no surprise that the most popular post on this site is ‘7 reasons why watching someone suffer is the worst’.

Watching is hard, and yet when it comes to surviving and thriving in long-term Watching, I think we often fall into 3 misconceptions.

3 misconceptions about Watching

1: Only people who are even-keeled, happy –go-lucky pragmatists can survive and thrive Watching over the long-term Watching. I’m not suited for this.

2: Watching is hard, and so I’m inevitably going to become cynical/bitter/depressed. It’s just a natural human response.

OR

3: When it gets hard, the Christian thing to do is ‘deal’ with it quickly, and move on. It’s not good to dwell on the difficulty.

Now there’s a certain modicum of truth in all of these. Some personalities might be ‘naturally’ better suited to watching; it’s understandable if you find yourself growing cynical or depressed; and it’s not particularly helpful to ruminate on your troubles.

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Top posts of 2021

What a year. For many of you (myself included!) 2021 was supposed to be the year where things got back on track. The year where the ‘new normal’ (which has been spoken about for so long!) finally appeared.

I don’t know about you, but for me that was not the case. Australia went into its strictest lock-down so far (just under 6 months). Study went back on-line; the exhausting debate surrounding the morality restrictions/vaccinations arose; most relationships were maintained by phone-calls or zoom.

The introverts and the extroverts suffered; the chronically ill and the healthy; the front-line workers and the home-schooling parents. And this was only Australia – which in many ways had a wonderful covid situation compared to the rest of the world.

In the midst of all of this, it was interesting to see which posts on this blog were most popular. So, without further ado, I will continue the tradition begun here.

Top 5 Posts of 2021

5: An open Letter to your Sick Sibling

Maybe readership on this one soared due to the publication of my memoir Two Sisters and a Brain Tumour. Or perhaps everyone else has found navigating a relationship in sickness and health as difficult as I have! If so, I hope this post helped and will continue to help us all.

4: How to Write a Get Well Soon Card

It felt like I wrote more letters and cards in lockdown than normally – I certainly posted more parcels (mostly copies of my two books!). I also noticed the impact of the pandemic on writing cards – everyone’s situation was so different, and our isolation far greater. Sometimes finding the words was just really hard – and it seems like you guys thought so too!

3: Sickness and the Bible

This is a perennial question – and one I’ve certainly struggled with over the years. What does the Bible say about chronic illness, does Jesus care, and where is God when everything is dark and awful? As I found out last year as I learnt the basics of Ancient Hebrew + Ancient Greek, God’s word is rich and varied and sometimes speaks in surprising ways, once we leave our assumptions at the door.

a letter to your sick sibling #chronicillness #suffering #loneliness #caregiver #pain #caregiving #spoonie #faith #God #Hope

2: I think I hate my chronically ill family member

This post has possibly been the most contentious one on the blog – but I stand by my commitment to chronicling ALL aspects of life as a Watcher, even the unsavoury or ‘unChristian’ ones. It seems that in doing so, I’ve written something which continues to resonate with us all – and also continues to offer comfort.

1: 7 Reasons watching someone you love suffer is the WORST

Ta da! This post has been the most viewed post for a while now, and it was no surprise to find it at the top of the list when I checked the stats. The reality is, watching someone suffer is incredibly hard, and sometimes it’s hard to pinpoint exactly how and why, because it seems so obvious. Yet the more words we are able to find, the more encouragement we are able to give others, and the better we are able to pray.

5 year blog anniversary

So… here’s to 2022! This year marks the 5 year anniversary of this blog, and in response I’ll be posting a series of posts about ‘Watchers: In it for the Long Haul’. Chronic illness is often long and sometimes tedious and always exhausting. How do we, as Watchers, persevere? How do we look after ourselves, approach daily difficulties, and look to the future?

Stay tuned (sign up for updates!) as I seek to uncover some answers.

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3 reasons to trust God in Chronic Illness

As we’ve explored the topic of trust this year, we’ve talked about why trusting someone is one of the greatest gifts you can give them, and also how difficult it can be. We’ve also introduced the idea that when we place our trust in others, we are giving ourselves a chance to practice trusting in God. But that raises the question, why should we trust in God? This is an important question, particularly in the context of chronic illness, when we can be so often hurt and angry, and feel like God is far away and our prayers aren’t being answered.

Now I could throw a bunch of Bible verses at you, which say that God is a trustworthy God, and they would be both helpful and true. You could also look them up yourself with a quick google!

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Are Trust and Chronic Illness really compatible?

‘I trust you.’ ‘I believe you.’ ‘Okay.’ Expressions of trust can seem simple, and can be a great gift to those who receive them. When we trust another person, we show respect, bolster confidence, and validate experience.

We are effectively saying, ‘I hear you, I believe you know what you’re talking about, and I am going to assume that you are capable and autonomous until proven otherwise.’ We are demonstrating a ‘firm belief in someone’s reliability, ability and truthfulness’ (thank you, Oxford Dictionary).

So far that sounds quite straightforward. 

Yet in the context of chronic illness, trust can often be accepting your chronically ill Loved One’s assessment of their capabilities, believing their description of the situation, and assuming they have valid ideas, dreams and motivations.

Still sound simple?

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Stepping into 2021 with trust

Welcome to 2021 my friends! 

What. A. Year. 2020. Was. 

I, like many of you, had made multiple plans… and they didn’t all come to fruition! I took a sabbatical from this blog, and also tried to take a sabbatical generally, but due to the wonders and the horrors which made up 2020, that didn’t quite happen. 

Due to Covid, I was more active on Called to Watch than the word ‘sabbatical’ might suggest! I was also published on several other online spaces, including Eternity News, Lupus Chick, Penetrating the Darkness and Chronic Joy (where you can now LISTEN to my posts!).  If you haven’t seen those articles, check them out!

What. A. Year. 2021. Will. Be.

It might be nice to dream of brushing 2020 under the carpet as we enter 2021 with hopeful hearts, determined to have a Better Year. I’m all for hope, but I suspect many of us will begin this year still processing what has happened and dealing with the changes in everyday and global life. That’s more than okay, and therefore this year on Called to Watch I want to focus on TRUST.

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COVID19 and Chronic Illness: life on the edge of uncertainty

“Life can change completely in an instant.”

Many of us are probably well acquainted with this idea. A tiny niggling pain, a doctor’s visit, a diagnosis – and suddenly, nothing will ever be the same again.

We constantly live on the edge of this uncertainty. All of us – every day, every minute.

Covid19 and chronic illness

For as long as I can remember I have known I will not have my mum forever, and yet that split second phone call during my lunch break at work when I heard she had a mass in her pancreas still changed everything.

For as long as I can remember I’ve devoured books where dramatic things happen. Kids die too young; people are wounded in battle; last minute inheritances save the day; all is lost and all is rescued over and pver again. Yet I still remember exactly where I was when I found out that my ten year old friend had died suddenly from an undiagnosed brain tumour.

Likewise, I suspect that while many of us may “know” the speed with which reality can be remade, these past few weeks of of COVID-19 have also come as a bit of shock. No one really expects a pandemic. Not many people imagine that soon their actions – perhaps already severely curtailed by disease or circumstance – will be hedged further by governments seeking to prevent disaster.

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Why you need to seek something more than peace

What’s your goal in troubled times? As much as we’re often told that it’s okay to simply survive, most of us, if we’re completely honest, want more than that. 

We want to turn something bad into something good. Something worthwhile. Maybe even something precious. There’s a reason so many cancer tragedies end in the formation of an organisation or charity. There’s a reason we prefer tales of people who have overcome illness, rather than the much more common stories of being overcome.

Christians talk a lot about peace. So much so that it’s easy to feel like you’re doing something wrong it you’re not an unflappable yogi during trials. 

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Why I feel uncomfortable when people offer to pray for healing (even though I’m a Christian)

“I’ll pray God will heal your friend.”

“I’ll pray God will heal you.”

Sometimes these promises make me feel uncomfortable. Have you ever been on the receiving end of an offer for prayer? I’ve used the word “offer” but it’s more of a statement really.

After you share the health struggles of yourself or someone close to you with a Christian friend, there’s often silence. And then –

“I’ll pray for healing.”

How does this make you feel? I’m embarrassed to admit it, but often it leaves me feeling uncomfortable. Here’s why:

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Why you shouldn’t be like Jesus (Watchers, we are not Saviours)

Do you ever get discouraged because you can’t seem to do anything right? You can’t cheer up your Loved One, you can’t heal them, you can’t even be a ‘good’ Watcher?

You read blog posts and Bible passages about loving selflessly and encouraging others and being joyful – and you try, you really do, but you never quite succeed.

Everyone around you seems to be able to hold their life together and love others as well – and you lose your temper daily, are often discouraged, and sometimes wonder why you’re even here at all.

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