Keeper of His Home

by Chelsea McCafferty

Loving a Lymie

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It’s not easy loving a lymie, or anyone with chronic illness actually. It’s not that it’s hard to love the person. Many times you’ve known them and loved them long before they got sick. What’s hard is when God calls you to come alongside someone who is ill and is likely to remain ill for the rest of their life (aside from a miraculous healing…always a possibility). It’s tough and I’ll tell you why.

Whether it’s a friend, a family member or someone from your church, you probably know someone with some sort of chronic illness such as fibromyalgia, MS, lupus, Lyme Disease or even something that hasn’t been diagnosed yet. If you’re my friend, you know me! If you’re not already aware, I have chronic lyme disease and have been sick for going on six years now (though the past 18 months has been by far the worst).

It’s not an easy path when God calls you to support and love someone who is always sick for many reasons. Here are a few for you to ponder and perhaps pray about:

  1. The Long Haul

Chronic illness is, by definition, a lifelong problem. Unless God heals it miraculously, a person who is chronically ill is likely to be sick throughout their life on earth. Why does that make them hard to help? Because they ALWAYS need help. It’s not quite the same as bringing a meal to someone who has the flu or cleaning someone’s house after they just had a baby. When you’re called to serve someone with chronic lyme or another illness, there is no end in sight. We are “needy” for the long haul. It’s hard on our friends and family, and it’s so very hard on us. Believe me, we don’t want to feel like a burden. We don’t want to ask for help over and over.  We really don’t want to be so keenly aware that we will suffer like this for the rest of our lives. Still, Christ gives us assured hope that this pain and sickness, while it may last for the duration of earthly life, will be healed when we are with Him. So we press on.

  1. Chronic Illness is Boring

If you knew me before I was sick, you know that I was a very active person. I have a big personality, some would say. I love to laugh and have fun and go out. Being sick really interferes with your social life. I’m blessed that I can still make it out sometimes, but more often I’m too tired and sore to leave the house much. I don’t always make it to church (which is super hard for me). I can’t go to every birthday party or concert or ministry event. When you love a lymie, you have to realize that we just aren’t as “fun” as we used to be. We can’t do what we did before. It’s hard to be friends with someone who can’t go shopping with you or come to your kids’ birthday party. Still, you can have fun with us if you come and sit with us a while. We can laugh and catch up and have a nice visit if you don’t mind us lounging around in our PJs.

  1. You Give More Than You Get

If you’re called to walk alongside someone with chronic illness, understand that you’ll probably be giving more than you receive in some ways. We may not be able to “do” acts of service for you in the way you do them for us. We may not be able to cook you meals or help clean your home or bring you coffee as often. Again, I’m blessed that I’m still able to do those things on good days. I find it absolutely delightful to do meals for people or to run errands and help out. I love that I can still do that and I’ll keep doing it until I absolutely can’t anymore. Still, for many lymies their illness has meant they are bedridden and confined to their homes. Sometimes they are attached to IV’s, trying to recover. Ultimately loving someone who is very sick means you have to give without asking for much in return. What we can always give back is love, prayer and friendship. Sometimes that has to be enough.

  1. Another Post About Lyme?

Yes, I post a lot about lyme disease. Some people post a lot about fibromyalgia or MS. Why do we do that? There are several reasons. When it comes to lyme disease, people generally know so little about it…even in the medical community. We are always trying to raise awareness. We also share because we often feel lonely in our illness. We are aware that people don’t usually understand what we’re going through or how sick this disease makes us, and we have a strong desire for our friends and family to understand. Sometimes we post because we really need prayer or because we’re having a particularly bad day and need help but are too prideful or shy to just come out and ask for help. When you love a lymie, you may have to deal with reading posts or hearing us talk about our illness. It may seem boring to you or redundant, but it’s what is happening in our lives. If you ask how we are, our first response will usually be about being sick because it affects every area of our lives. Please be patient with us. Loving an ill person means you should take an interest in learning about our illness, reading our sometimes subtle pleas for help and offering us lots of grace.

  1. Love Bears All Things

Love bears all things and endures all things and believes all things. Love never fails. Loving the chronically ill is not an easy road. I can tell you that having chronic lyme has affected many of my friendships. I have often felt alone, misunderstood and that others don’t believe how sick I am because we don’t always look sick on the outside. Lyme Disease beats a person up physically, emotionally, financially and sometimes spiritually. We have a hard time finding a doctor to help. Treatment makes us sick and often leads to bankruptcy.  It’s so very hard, my friends.  I’ve been blessed to have one friend from church who checks in on me consistently and offers to bring meals and groceries (thanks Anna!!!) and also several good friends locally who have surprised us with meals, offered to help around the house and even brought me coffee ! I’ve also had some amazing people in my life help with the cost if treatment.  I appreciate you all more than words can say. Loving someone with lyme is not easy, but true love bears all things.

Loving someone with chronic illness is a burden, but it can also be a blessing. I believe truly that we, The Church, are called to love and serve one another in a real, daily life kind of way. I believed it before I was sick and I believe it now. Jesus sacrificed everything for us on the cross, but before that He also took on the position of the most humble servant in the house and washed feet. He ministered to crowds to the point of exhaustion. He wept over the death of Lazarus with great compassion, even though He knew He would raise him from the dead. Jesus served people fervently. He gave all of Himself and that’s what we are supposed to be doing. I will keep doing it until I have no more strength left. Now I need to work on being willing to receive from others that love and support in my illness, putting pride aside.

So there it is friends. It’s difficult to love someone who is always sick, who can’t give much back in return, who isn’t quite as fun anymore and who goes on and on about the new research coming out about their illness. I get it. I see that it’s hard, but if God calls you to love that person, then He will give you the strength, the wisdom and the courage to really love and serve them. Honestly, I think it’s something we are called to do. The Church needs to do this. This is how The Church is supposed to function. Yes, it means sacrifice. Yes, it’s often inconvenient. Yes, it’s also a blessing.

Sick as a dog via photopin (license)

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When You Have a Mystery Illness…

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Historias Visuales via photopin cc

So many people around the world suffer with “mystery” illnesses that have, for one reason or another, stumped the medical profession. There are so many difficulties in having to live with an illness that is either: impossible to diagnose, misunderstood by doctors, controversial in nature, or simply incredibly rare. Many of these illnesses have no cure – at least not yet. People are expected to just get on with it, soldier through and try to hold their lives together. Odds are you or someone you know suffers in this way, so please take a moment to read this so you can understand better what people like myself are going through.

When you have a mystery illness…you feel like no one takes it seriously. You have pain and other symptoms but, without a diagnosis, people don’t seem to think it’s a big deal. They can’t see the pain going on inside. If you say, “I have cancer”, loved ones are immediate to show deep concern, offer prayers and help you any way they can. With a mystery illness, they have no way to relate or gage the seriousness of what you’re going through.

When you have a mystery illness…you have no proof of your illness so people sometimes treat you like a hypochondriac. They may not flat out say it, but they make subtle jokes about how much you complain or how often you are sick, as if it’s a choice or just in your mind. They have no idea how much this hurts those who are suffering without proof of their condition.

When you have a mystery illness…you see doctor after doctor and each time feel a little less hopeful that anyone will be able to help. You see GPs, specialists and are even referred to mental health specialists when the doctors stop believing you too. Many times they run the basic labs and then tell you that’s all they can do. It’s extremely frustrating and disappointing. It’s difficult to continue seeking help.

When you have a mystery illness…your pain is often invisible so people expect you to do more than you can. Sometimes you can barely get out of bed. You struggle to get chores done. You attend events but it takes all of your strength to maintain pleasantries. They just don’t see how badly it hurts.

When you have a mystery illness…you feel cheated. You watch other people being able to do the things that you can’t, and it’s sometimes very difficult to be content. It takes prayer and submitting daily to the Father’s will just to keep from sinking into depression and bitterness. It can seem like you are unsuitable for every role you feel called to: wife, mother, ministry, etc. It can seem very unfair. Yet, you love the Lord and know that His ways are perfect. You know pain is the result of a fallen mankind, and that God does love us, even though He does allow us to suffer. You look forward to a day where there will be no more pain or suffering.

When you have a mystery illness…you feel like no one understands what you’re going through. You feel awfully lonely at times. You are afraid to talk about it for fear of sounding like a complainer. You worry that people are judging you or simply sick of hearing about your health problems. Pretty soon you just stop talking about it. You just struggle alone in silence.

When you have a mystery illness….you struggle with fear. It is so hard to deal with health concerns and various symptoms without any answers. While hearing that you have an illness is no fun, at least those of who have a diagnosis know what’s happening, what’s going to happen, and can make a plan for treatment. When you have no diagnosis, you have symptoms that can be scary. You never know what to expect. There is no cure. There is no real treatment plan other than to manage symptoms. You have no answer to give friends and family.

For those of us who suffer from mystery or misunderstood or mistreated illnesses, day to day life can be a challenge. Let me just assure you that the pain we are going through is both real and sometimes intense. The fact that we don’t have answers means that we feel no resolve. We can’t come to grips with it except to accept that we may never have explanations or the help we desire.

I honestly don’t know how people who don’t have Jesus Christ in their lives go through these types of chronic health problems. All I know is that the hope I have inside me lives on despite the pain of the physical body. While others may not understand or take my pain seriously, I know that my loving Father in Heaven knows of every tear that falls and every pain I go through. He cares. He knows. He sees it all. He allows it but has promised to turn what is evil to good. He has promised to make beauty from ashes. He loves me and will not leave me to suffer alone. Someday He will give me a new body without pain. Praise Jesus!

I pray for healing. I ask you to pray for me too, and to pray for the countless people who suffer even now with an illness that modern medicine can’t cure. As for me, I give glory to God whether He heals me or not. I know His ways are far above mine. I long to be healed. I long for a day when my body isn’t consumed with pain. I long to be free from these restraints. Until that day, I just need to look up. I need to remember the sufferings of my Savior. I need to remind myself daily that this suffering is but for a moment and that an eternity of glory awaits.

If you suffer, please know you’re not alone. Know that Jesus hasn’t abandoned you. Don’t lose hope. God has a plan and He will deliver you. If you don’t know Jesus or haven’t committed your life to Him, I pray you will do so right now. Until you know Jesus, the sufferings of the physical body are not your biggest concern. You need Jesus now and He wants you. He wants to bring you comfort and hope that cannot be shaken by illness and pain. Cry out to Him and He will not turn from you, dear one.

If you have someone in your life that suffers from a mystery or chronically misunderstood illness, please be there for them. Show them that you care and believe them. Pray for healing. Offer help. They need it. Try to understand. Don’t treat them like it’s all in their head. Offer grace. Offer mercy. Offer support. Know that it may be a lot worse than it looks….probably is. You will never know how much your love and concern means to someone who is suffering and feeling alone.

God bless!

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