Sep 02 2013

Am I Thankful for this Time of Illness?

I have a confession to make to all of you. Some where along the line over the past six weeks or so I forgot something extremely important.

And as I forgot…I allowed myself to get so mentally, emotionally, and physically run down that I ended up getting very ill. I have been battling pneumonia for a little over a week now.

What did I forget?

Somewhere along the line, I took my eyes off of God and started putting my confidence in my own abilities instead. Totally crazy. Insane in fact. With everything that God has brought my family and me through…all of the pain, heartache, trauma, challenges and victories that God has carried us through I am ashamed to say that it happened.

No, I do not believe that all illness is a result of sin. However, in this case, I stopped taking the time to really listen to the Lord and thought I could “handle things” on my steam. It didn’t work. Working in my strength instead of leaning on His leading started this train wreck.

I realized tonight that I have spent a large chunk of the past six weeks in a depression of sorts. I struggle with chronic depression and it is a daily battle that I face. Depression for me leads to even more anxiety.

I spent time over the past five weeks wondering what I was thinking when I decided that I could handle homeschooling both boys this year…they are both very intelligent and creative but both face their own sets of issues and challenges. And I face my own issues and challenges too. What was I thinking?

The questioning began the week before we started our homeschooling year. I was right to question myself.

On my own I CANNOT do it.

But I forgot the most important truth of all…it is not on my own that God is asking me to do it…it is through HIS strength, wisdom, courage and power that He and I are doing it, together!

This summer has been a rough one for me emotionally. July was a very tough month for me. I’ve come to realized that instead of slowing down and allowing God to comfort and minister and speak to my heart and mind…I was constantly on the move…I became a woman driven to do. My schedule and life began going full tilt just like a freight train speeding down the track toward its destination.

I’ve come to realize through this experience that I tend to push the pain and emotions down and instead of dealing with them, I cover them with activity. Lots and lots of activity.

I had promised myself that August would be different. It had to be. I was exhausted.

But before I knew what happened…we faced our first week of this homeschooling year and I hadn’t gotten the rest I needed and I panicked at the first sign of a challenge. I had so many plans that I wanted to do this month and things weren’t turning out just the way I wanted them to turn out. So instead of stopping, breathing, praying and talking it out, I added more activity.

In the past, my late husband, Will was at my side and he always knew when I was walking into the trap of becoming goal driven. There are so many things I want to be able to do. Some many wonderful things out there for us to do as a family and Will was always so great about reminding me to stop. Slow down. Breathe and pray. And then stop and breathe a pray again.

He always reminded me that it isn’t about how much we do but how much we love God and follow His plan for our lives.

He would remind me that the plan that God has for us is unique and different from other people we know because His plan for each of our lives is unique and very special. He would remind me that God has a good reason for having me take things slower than some of the homeschooling, blogging mamas around me. He was there for me to talk things out with when I would get frustrated with myself for not being able to do more and be more than I was…when I wasn’t accomplishing all that I thought I should be doing.

This past week, I was forced to stop.

I felt so many levels of frustration I cannot tell you! Wow!

I had so much that we needed to do this past week! So many places to go and experiences I wanted to give our boys!

I was on a steam engine headed for illness and exhaustion heading for a brick wall and I didn’t seem to be able to stop myself.

I should have known that things were headed that way when the time I usually spent in God’s Word kept getting shorter and shorter.

I should have known that things were headed for trouble when I caught myself thinking, what’s wrong with me, I should be able to do this!

I felt like a failure and I didn’t want to tell anyone and I especially didn’t want to tell God.

I was angry at myself and questioning why God would bring me to this point.

Well…God didn’t bring me to this point. I took the wheel and charged ahead of God determined that I knew the way we needed to go.

I am so grateful that God never left me…He did so much to get my attention and I realize now that I ignored the signs along the way.

I confess to you that I was very angry when I realized that I had pneumonia last week.

I haven’t had pneumonia for six years.

I was filled with fear and frustration because each day of the week I felt weaker and still had the boys to care for and to take care of myself.

I cried out in grief for missing my amazing late husband who was so awesome about taking care of me and our family when I was sick. I felt sorry for myself and struggled to feel grateful for that time.

I was humbled by my situation. I caught myself whining and complaining about how badly I felt. I do not like feeling weak. And ladies…last week and this week…I feel very weak. The smallest task leaves me short of breath and coughing as if I am coughing up a lung. It hurts. And I allowed myself to get to a state of feeling very sorry for myself.

The good news is that it was while feeling this week that God was able to get my attention and remind me that He wants us to thank Him and be content in all circumstances.

11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:11-13 NIV

I fought this one for a while. I had a little pity party. On Friday, my attitude began changing.

I remembered that it was six years ago that I last had pneumonia and my life is dramatically better and different from it was back then. Six years ago, I was in an abusive marriage, pregnant with Michael, living with my ex-husband and Josh in a homeless shelter…with pneumonia and morning/evening sickness never knowing what the next day would bring.

I have so, so much to be thankful for right now.

I started with the simple things…I thanked God for my family. I thanked Him for our home. I thanked Him for the fact that the boys and I are safe!

I thanked Him for my church family who has been incredible as they helped carry me through this very challenging week. I thanked Him for the amazing women who were bringing meals to us, grocery shopping for us, taking the boys for a few hours so that I could rest…and even facing the nasty mess of my kitchen and cleaning it for me while I sat on the couch and rested. Amazing gifts. Gina Marie stepped up and took on writing two articles last week and told me to spend the time resting and taking care of myself. Such an amazing gift.

When I needed God the most He was here with me and He showed up in my church family reaching out and offering help because they know how hard it is for me to reach out and ask. And God helped me to accept the help that was offered…instead of insisting I could do it on my own.

It was through receiving the prayers with hands and feet of Jesus that God was able to soften my heart and remind me how much He loves us.

It was through the experiences of last week that I was able to see that God doesn’t expect nor want me to do it all alone. He hasn’t created us to do this life alone. He is with me every step of the way ready to lead and carry me when necessary…reminding me that I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength!

For a time I fell into the pit of self-pity and I have gone before our heavenly Father and asked Him to forgive me. And He has. His peace is renewing and ministering to me even today as I sit here writing in between coughing fits.

I told God how thankful I was for all He was teaching me and for all of the amazing people He put in our lives who came to our aid through prayer, phone calls, messages, greeting cards in the mail, preparing meals for us, grocery shopping for us, helping me with the boys, cleaning for us, praying for us. I was so thankful.

And then today He asked me to take it a step farther.

 Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.  1 Thessalonians 5:18 NLT

He reminded me that I am called to thank Him for being ill just as much as I am called to thank Him for being healthy.

I was stopped in my tracks and struggling with that because I am still fighting to get well as I struggle with breathing, coughing, a bruised rib or two from the coughing, and figuring out how I will school the boys this week.

Again He asked me. Are you thankful for this time of illness? I have to be honest…I struggled with that answer.

God helped me through my son Josh tonight. He asked if we could watch “Facing the Giants”. One of my favorite movies and one I haven’t watched in a long time. One of the main messages in that movie that I was reminded of so clearly tonight is that we are to love God with our whole hearts when things are going well and we are are to love Him with our whole hearts when things are really hard.

We watched.

God spoke to my heart.

I can honestly say, I am so thankful that I got sick this past week. If I hadn’t who knows how long I would have continued attempting to stumble along thinking I could handle everything on my own?

I am thankful for this time to regroup. I am thankful for this time to learn to receive with grace instead of needing to always be the one giving.

I am thankful for the time I have had to be humbled and in being humbled before God and my sisters in Christ, I am renewed.

I am able to love God even when things aren’t going MY way.

I am able to step back and remember that it isn’t about MY way it is about growing closer to God every day so that HIS way becomes the ONLY way my heart desires!

I am thankful for the reminder that it is when I am weak that God is strong and all the Glory is to go to Him!

I am thankful for the time, love, grace and patience of God as He has walked me through this journey…and continues to walk with me.

I struggle with treating myself with grace in all of this. My first inclination is to kick myself and beat myself up for getting so off track.

I have so much to learn. It is humbling and that is GOOD! It is in humility that I am more teachable and reachable.

I pray that every single day I go to Him first…before I start running with my to-do list of goals…and ask Him to show me His goals instead of begging Him to bless my goals.

I know that God uses everything that happens to us for our good…for our growth when we love and follow Him. I am thankful for this time of illness and learning. I am thankful for being forced to stop and rest before Him. I am thankful for His grace. I am SO thankful for His Grace.

We stand at the beginning of a new month. Each day is a gift from God. I pray I will thankful for the gifts He gives and be more focused on the GIVER than the gift. And in everything…in every moment…I give thanks and praise to Him.

For His Glory,

Mary Joy

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About the author

Mary Joy

I am a broken daughter of God and a work in progress. I am passionate about encouraging women to embrace God's grace and faithfulness as I discover and share His faithfulness, grace and even joy in the messiness of my journey as a widowed (less than 2 yrs), homeschooling mom with a missionary's heart. I am in awe of how God fills me up and carries me through each day. My Heavenly Father leads me as I continue to parent and home school my two recovering and very active boys and encourage my beautiful teenage step-daughter (long distance) during her first year in of college. In every moment I see incredible evidence of God's healing love, grace and faithfulness. I am so blessed to be the creator, manager, and an author of Unwrapping His Grace as I lean on my Savior to lead us in this special web-ministry.

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