Tag Archive | Chronic illness

Exploring Rest: Physical Rest and Chronic Illness

“In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat— for he grants sleep to those he loves.” Psalm‬ ‭127:2‬ ‭NIV‬‬

As I began studying REST as my Word of the Year for 2018, my main focus was on RESTING in the Lord. This is definitely important, but as I’ve prayed and listened to God’s voice I’ve recognized the need for some study on the physical aspects of rest as well. The God who formed our bodies in the wombs of our mothers is concerned about physical rest. It is a God-given gift to “refresh tired bodies” and “restore tired souls” (Jeremiah 21:25 MSG).

I’ve had a bedtime routine for several years of getting in bed around 10pm, then spending thirty to sixty minutes relaxing and reading before turning off the lights and actually going to sleep. My alarm is set to go off at 7:30am, so this schedule allows for the recommended hours of sleep. Occasionally, our special-needs son will have problems during the night, setting off the alarm on his monitor and waking me up, but overall this schedule was working.

However during the last few months, I’ve noticed most nights I either have trouble getting to sleep in a timely manner or I’m waking up much earlier than I used to, around 4am most mornings. Suddenly, I was seldom getting the amount of sleep recommended by the National Sleep Foundation for those in my age group. Because of a combination of living with a long list of chronic illnesses and some other age-related problems, I now seldom get the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep. And as one of the leaders of a large group of Christian women with chronic illness, I’ve seen that I am definitely not the only one who faces this problem.

Sleeplessness and Chronic Illness

Insomnia, the inability to fall asleep or remain asleep for the recommended amount of time, is a common problem for those with chronic illnesses. In some cases, a medical condition itself causes insomnia, while in other cases symptoms of the condition cause discomfort that can make it difficult for us to sleep. Also, insomnia is sometimes a side effect of some of the medications used for chronic illnesses. Common medical problems related to insomnia include gastrointestinal problems, endocrine problems, neurological conditions, allergies, asthma and chronic pain. Unfortunately, treatments may help relieve the severity of these problems but they seldom totally remove them.

While those who suffer with these and many other chronic illnesses may never be totally free from the issue of insomnia, there are some positive steps we can take to keep from living with constant exhaustion. Here are a few ideas.

  • Talk with your primary physician about the problems you are having with insomnia. While I personally do not take any type of prescription sleeping pills, that may be an option for some. Personally, when my PCP has tried this the side effects were worse than the insomnia itself. But your doctor may have some other recommendations that would be helpful in this area. For example, some medications or combinations of medications can actually cause difficulty sleeping or aggravate a problem you are already having in this area, and there may be a different medication that would help with the symptoms without keeping you awake at night.
  • Watch your diet. Caffeine and chocolate are stimulants, and used in the late afternoon or evening can make it difficult to get to sleep. Foods containing sugar can cause a spike in blood glucose levels and make you restless instead of sleepy. Spicy foods and foods high in protein and fat, especially when eaten in large amounts and late in the evening, can keep you awake when you need to go to sleep. If possible, eat early so your food will have time to begin digesting before bed time. And limit fluid intake for at least three hours before going to bed so you don’t have to get up frequently during the night to urinate and have difficulty getting back to sleep.
  • Get some sunshine daily, whenever possible. Regular exposure to sunlight helps keep vitamin D levels within the normal range and prevents daytime drowsiness and nighttime restlessness that are symptoms of vitamin D deficiency.
  • Add some exercise to your daily routine.If you are too sedentary – which is another problem often associated with chronic illness – this often adds to problems with impaired sleep. Find a way to add regular aerobic exercise to your daily routine at least five days a week, working up to 150 minutes of exercise per week. If you’re not sure what exercise is appropriate with your medical condition(s), ask your physician for a recommendation or if possible for an assessment by a certified physical and/or occupational therapist to help you set up a safe exercise program. I did this after a major surgery on my cervical spine about a year and a half ago, and since I was homebound at the time I had both a PT and an OT come to our home to get me started on a safe exercise program. But don’t wait until after supper to exercise, as this can actually make it more difficult to fall asleep.
  • If you feel extremely tired during the day, a short nap may improve your alertness and ability to concentrate. But nap in a comfortable environment, preferably with limited light and noise, and do so early in the afternoon and for no more than forty-five minutes. Sometimes a simple time of resting without napping will also help. But avoid longer naps or those later in the afternoon which can disrupt your nighttime sleep.
  • Limit or eliminate back light devices and bright artificial light before bedtime. Watching television late at night, working on your computer, even reading an e-book on your iPad or other tablet to relax at bedtime can all contribute to sleeplessness. Even over-exposure to artificial light can cause difficulty getting to sleep. Whenever possible, use low-wattage bulbs and turn off your television and computer or tablet at least one hour before going to bed. And if you want to read to relax at bedtime, make sure you use a regular book or an eReader that requires an additional light source.
  • Maintain a consistent bedtime routine. Make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet, and that the temperature is neither too warm nor too cold. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, even on weekends. And don’t allow sleep problems to become a cause of anxiety. If you do all you can to get a full night’s sleep, and you still wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep, realize that any rest is better than none. If you feel restless, take some time to listen to some relaxing music or meditate on some encouraging verses of Scripture, but then turn off the light, close your eyes and rest until it’s time to get up and start another day.
  • Finally, remember God is in control, ruling in love and wisdom over our world whether we are awake or asleep. When you lay down to go to bed for the night, lay down your anxious thoughts as well. As you powered down your computer at least an hour below heading to bed, it’s now time to power down your mind and turn everything over to the One who never sleeps or slumbers (Psalm 121:4). Relinquish control to Him, relax and go to sleep. Almighty God is still on His throne, and He can handle anything that might happen before it’s time for you to begin a new day. Close your eyes and go to sleep, confident He will make you dwell in safety through the night.

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Exploring Our Theme, Part 2: Still Anchored in Hope

As I sat in the hospital in September caring for our extremely sick special needs son David, I wrote what I fully expected to be part one of a two part series exploring the theme of my blog. You can read that post here:  https://readywriterbr.wordpress.com/2017/09/24/exploring-our-theme-part-1-anchored-in-hope/

Then life happened. David survived his life-threatening illness, but he returned home with a whole new list of medical problems. In October and November, my time was occupied with managing his care and with my leadership team responsibilities with God-Living Girls with Chronic Illness Facebook group. Other than a couple quick Five Minute Friday posts my blog was quiet. December has been filled with daily Advent posts on the names of Jesus.

As 2017 comes to an end, a year in which I chose Hope as my Word of the Year, I feel it’s time to reflect back on what God as taught me this year about Hope. 

What is Hope?

  • First, biblical hope is not wishful thinking. True hope – even when you look up the definition in a reputable dictionary such as Merriam-Webster – is closely tied with confident expectation of fulfillment.
  • There are two Hebrew words usually translated hope in the Old Testament. The first, yachal, is a verb and includes the idea of waiting (usually on God) with an attitude of hopeful expectancy. The second, tiqvah, is a noun and is used in reference to the ground of our hope or the things hoped for.
  • In the New Testament, the main Greek words translated hope are elpis (noun) and elpo (verb). Elpis is probably best translated expectation and can refer to expectation either of good (resulting in hope) or of evil (resulting in fear). When translated hope, the noun is used to refer to the object of our hope (the Author of hope, the One who is its foundation) or the result of our hope (especially the joyful and confident expectation of eternal salvation). The verb form, elpo, means to anticipate, usually with pleasure.

What has God taught me about hope this year?

  • The most practical lesson I’ve learned is that hope is especially needed during seasons of waiting on the Lord. This year has been filled with lessons on waiting, and having hope during those times has made the difference between walking in victory and falling in defeat. When Isaiah 40 speaks of waiting on the Lord, the Hebrew word used is yachal, which is often translated hope. The two concepts cannot be separated.

Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah‬ ‭40:30-31‬ ‭ESV‬‬

  • Another concept which God has taught me this year is that biblical hope is one of the most important factors in not being shaken by difficult circumstances. When storms come against us, we need an anchor to hold us firm. According to Hebrews 6:19, Hope is that anchor.

We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain,Hebrews‬ ‭6:19‬ ‭ESV‬

  • A quote by the late RC Sproul of Ligonier Ministries explains this better than I can.

“Hope is called the anchor of the soul (Hebrews 6:19), because it gives stability to the Christian life. But hope is not simply a ‘wish’ (I wish that such-and-such would take place); rather, it is that which latches on to the certainty of the promises of the future that God has made.”  RC Sproul

Many times this year, circumstances have felt overwhelming. I found myself in need of something stable to hold onto. I found that in reading and believing the promises of God’s Word and in trusting what Scripture reveals about the nature and character of God. By God’s grace, I would latch on to one of these and be strengthened to keep going. The storms didn’t go away, but by anchoring myself in God’s character and promises, the “boat” of my life did not capsize.

As 2017 comes to an end and I pray about a new Word of the Year for 2018, I still have much to learn about biblical hope. I’m sure God will continue revealing new truths to me in this area. My hope has grown this year, but I definitely still have room to continue growing and several still unresolved issues where increased hope is needed.

During this year of focusing on hope, there have been many songs which have encouraged me to hold on to hope. I’ll close by sharing my favorite, one that has repeatedly strengthened me during this difficult year.

Fixing Our Eyes on Jesus During the Holiday Season



Keeping our eyes on Jesus is a discipline many of us fail in daily. Yet Scripture teaches this is an important, even essential part of running with perseverance the  race God has marked out for us.

If  you live with the daily challenges of chronic illness, loss, physical or emotional pain, financial struggles or a variety of other issues that are a part of daily life on this earth corrupted by sin, keeping a godward focus becomes even more difficult during the holiday season with its added pressures.

Even though I’ve been doing daily posts this month on the meaning of twenty-five of the names of Jesus, I’ve had some days that it was very difficult just to keep going. Earlier this week, I had a day where brain fog made it really difficult for me to write. By the end of the day my post for the next morning was done, but little else. I was exhausted and on the verge of depression. I knew I needed to do something to stop this downward spiral before it got worse.

The first thing I tried was to relax by playing a couple games on my iPad. In my current frame of mind, that just made me feel worse. So I decided to go in my bedroom, get ready for bed, and read for a few minutes before going to sleep (something I do most nights). This also didn’t help.

Then I remembered what usually helps when I’m feeling discouraged or anxious about something, using worship music to turn on focus off the problems I’m dealing with and onto the One who loves me and is working in my circumstances for my good and for His glory. So I turned on my iPad and listened to some Christmas worship music. This helped me relax and prepare mentally for sleep. And when I woke up the next morning, it was with a completely different frame of mind, one that enabled me to have a much more positive day.

The holiday season with all its extra activities and pressures is naturally stressful. For those who are living with the daily limitations of chronic illness and the often associated financial pressure and emotional pain, it can feel overwhelming. Here is a YouTube link to some Christmas worship music that I’ve found helpful this Christmas season in turning my eyes off the problems of life and back on the One who is our refuge in the hard places of life.

Have you found something that helps you cope with the added pressures of the season and keep your focus on the One whose birthday we are celebrating? If so,  please share what has helped you in the comments below.

Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of Faith

Hebrews 12:1-3 is one of my favorite Scripture passages, one I turn to repeatedly when I’m growing weary from walking through the difficult circumstances of life with chronic illness, with having a medically fragile and mentally handicapped son, and just when facing the day-to-day trials that are a regular part of life on this earth marred by sin.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” Hebrews‬ ‭12:1-3‬ ‭ESV‬‬

These words remind me to turn my eyes off of what I’m walking through and turn them on the One who is in control. The One who is using even the hard things that life throws my way for my good and His glory. They empower me to continue running the race He has set before me.

But these verses also contain a very important name of Jesus. He is “the author and perfecter of our faith” (wording from NIV 1984 version).

  • As the Author of faith, Jesus is the beginning point of faith. The Greek word used here, archegos, has also been translated Prince, Captain and Founder. According to Vines Expository Dictionary, it primarily signifies “one who takes a lead in, or provides the first occasion of anything.” The same Greek word is used earlier in the book of Hebrews of Jesus as the founder of salvation.

“For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. Hebrews‬ ‭2:10‬ ‭ESV‬

  • As the Perfecter of faith, Jesus is its Completer, Finisher and Perfecter. The Greek word used here is teleiōtēs, which comes from a root word meaning “to carry through completely, to accomplish, finish, bring to an end.” Though the actual Greek word used for Perfecter in this verse is not used anywhere else in the Bible, the root word is used in many verses. Most applicable to our current study, it is used to describe Jesus, who though already without sin, learned obedience through suffering (Hebrews 5:8).

“And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him,”‭‭ Hebrews‬ ‭5:9‬ ‭ESV

  • Modern translations specify the faith that is described in this verse as our faith. In the original Greek, the article used in this verse is properly translated “the.” The faith Jesus originates and perfects is a strong conviction that Jesus is the Messiah (in Greek, the Christ) and that He is our source of eternal salvation.

As the Author and Perfecter of faith, Jesus Christ is the perfect example of a life walked in faith. During His days as Immanuel, God with us in human flesh, He unswervingly walked the path of faith, modeling for us the life of faith.

I’m very grateful for this example, laid out so clearly in the gospel accounts of His life, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. When I don’t know the right, God-pleasing way to walk through the trials of life, the gospels provide a clear guidebook to direct my path.

 

Tuesday at Ten: A Journey of Faith

Joni Erickson Tada knows what it is to have a broken body. As a teenager she loved riding horses and swimming. A diving accident in 1967 changed all that. Diving into a shallow lake left Joni Eareckson Tada a quadriplegic in a wheelchair.

For the next two years, Joni made a determined but largely unsuccessful attempt at rehabilitation. And her battle was not just physical. Joni also struggled with suicidal despair. During this time, her faith was shipwrecked. She was unable to accept God’s design in her paralysis. Why didn’t God stop her accident from happening?

With the help of a friend, Joni gradually began to understand that God did not cause the diving accident, but He allowed it and had a purpose in it. God sees no indwelling goodness in a spinal cord injury – or in cerebral palsy, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, or any other disease that leaves someone with a broken body. Instead, He uses situations like this for our good and His glory.

As it says in Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:28‬ ‭ESV).‬‬ These things in themselves are not good, but for His children they fit together into a pattern for our good. If we are His children, His purpose is to conform us into the image of His Son, Christ Jesus.

Looking back almost forty-nine years later, Joni says she can see many ways this accident has resulted in good. God used this injury to develop patience, endurance, tolerance, self-control, sensitivity, love and joy in her life.

Today, Joni is the leader of Joni and Friends International Disability Center, a ministry is dedicated to extending the love and message of Jesus Christ to people who are affected by disability around the world. She is also an internationally known mouth artist, a talented vocalist, a radio host, an author of 30 books for adults and 5 for children. She also writes on her blog Joni’s Corner, and is an advocate for disabled persons worldwide.

When I read Joni’s story, I see what a true journey of faith is like. And that’s how I want to live. Like Joni, I know what it is to have a broken body. Like Joni, I was in an accident, but my was in an automobile. My attempts at rehabilitation were more successful than Joni’s. But we also suffered the grief of losing our firstborn daughter in the accident.

We also have an adult son who has cerebral palsy and a long list of other diseases, that have left him completely bed bound and dependent upon others for all his needs. When I look at the Joni and Friends website, I see hundreds of children

So Joni’s story deeply touches my heart. From the place of total devastation, she has become an example for disabled people around the world. Through her writing, art, singing, and other ministries, numerous lives have been touched and changed. If you struggle with a disability or chronic illness that limits what you can do, learn from Joni’s story.

Reflecting on the life on Joni Eareckson Tada definitely makes me realize that I have no excuse for not fulfilling God’s purpose for my life. My prayer is that you will be encouraged by this story and will find joy in your journey of serving our Lord.


Tuesday at Ten logo

Tuesday at Ten logo


Coping with Chronic Illness

In Coping with Chronic Illness, by H. Norman Wright and Lynn Ellis, chronic illness is compared to having a career. “You can do poorly or well at it. Doing well doesn’t mean being cured; instead, it refers to your ability to cope and make needed adjustments.”

Until about ten months ago, I considered myself somewhat of an expert at coping with chronic illness. I had accepted my limitations, found ways to fulfill most of my goals, and was basically content with my life. And I’d walked this way for nearly forty years.

Then suddenly, things changed. My pain management doctor did an epidural steroid injection in my cervical spine, which was supposed to reduce my neck and shoulder pain.  But instead of the pain improving, it became worse. And for some reason that none of my doctors have identified, my overall condition was also much worse. I was left dealing with constant pain and a whole new set of limitations.

This is my personal story, but I suspect many of you have similar stories.  Chronic illnesses are seldom static. Once we learn to live with one level of debilitation, things often change and there are new problems to deal with. Knowing how to cope with today’s problems is essential.


What exactly is chronic illness?

According to the definition of the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, a chronic disease is one the lasts for 3 months or more, that generally cannot be prevented by vaccines or cured by medication. Having a chronic illness often means living with “invisible” symptoms that no one but you sees, feels, or is aware of.

How can I cope with my chronic illness or illnesses?

It is possible to be realistic about the losses in our lives, and still live in joy, peace, hope, and awareness of the many ways the Lord is blessing us. We are His creation, made with a purpose we are called and empowered to fulfill. I believe this understanding is the key to coping with whatever chronic illness or illnesses God has allowed in your life.

Specific ideas for coping with chronic illness:

  1. Don’t try to bear the weight of chronic illness on your own. Find someone you can confide in. Participating in a support group such as God-Living Girls is a great way to do this.
  2. Seek medical help, and be willing to listen to your doctors. If you question a diagnosis, get a second opinion. Learn enough about your diagnoses to ask questions.
  3. Spend time daily talking with God in prayer and reading and meditating on His Word.
  4. Work to develop a positive attitude and a grateful heart, in spite of how you’re feeling.  Open your eyes to all the blessings in your life, and thank God daily for them.
  5. Hold onto the truth that God has not abandoned you. He is at your side, ready to strengthen you to successfully face anything that happens today.  Allow His perfect love to drive out your fear.
  6. Set realistic goals, taking your current physical and mental limitations in mind. Don’t expect to do everything you did prior to becoming ill. Don’t expect perfection. Be alert to times when you need to rest.
  7. Be willing to ask for help, when it’s truly needed.
  8. Look for new creative outlets that give you pleasure, such as writing, art, crafts, and music.
  9. Develop an eternal perspective. Remember, your years on the current earth are few when compared with eternity, so focus on living to please God.
  10. Finally, remember that YOU ARE MORE THAN YOUR DISEASE OR DIAGNOSIS. You are God’s beloved daughter, created to fulfill His purpose for your life.


Chronic illness has changed our lives. We cannot do many of the things we used to be able to do. But this doesn’t have to keep us from walking in joy, being at rest in our current circumstances, or reaching out in love to others who are in need. We each are still a whole person, a person of value, unique and greatly loved by God. Our daily symptoms and physical limitations do not change this.  The above items aren’t rules to follow, in order to gain God’s approval. You already have that. And these aren’t the only things that will help you cope with chronic illness.  Perhaps you have your own word of advice on how to cope with chronic illness that has really helped you. If so, we’d love for you to share it with us in the comments.

Memorable Mondays: Blessing Others When You’re Hurting 

Today’s Memorable Monday book review and memorable quotes are from the book Soaring Above the Circumstances, by Dean Kilmer.

“More than 117 million people in our country are living with chronic illnesses. Taking into account their family members who provide them with care, almost everyone in our country is dealing with some form of serious illness.”

In spite of the fact that this book is primarily about chronic illness, it is an easy to read book, packed full of encouraging Bible verses and examples of several people in the Bible who “soared like an eagle” above their difficult circumstances by becoming a blessing to someone else.

The author, pastor of a church in Waxahachie, Texas, says he decided to write this book because “everywhere I look I see evidence of faith’s life-changing power.” This includes many from his own congregation “who are weary from years of fighting serious illnesses and yet are living victoriously.” Many of the true-life stories are filled with both faith and humor, and I throughly enjoyed reading it.

Pastor Kilmer gives four common characteristics of these men and women, young and old, whom he calls his heroes of faith:

  1. They all inspire others with their faith and actions.
  2. They all have great faith in God.
  3. They are all involved in serving other people in spite of their problems.
  4. They all know that God has a purpose for their lives.

I hope others can see all of these characteristics in my life, but honestly this book challenged me to look for more ways to bless others. Because of my physical problems, I can’t go and clean someone’s house. I can’t take someone to a doctor’s appointment. But I can send someone a card to encourage them. When someone is hurting or in the hospital, I can pray with them and send them a card to help them turn their focus upon the Lord. I don’t know where you are physically, but there are very few people who are too sick to be a blessing to someone else.

A COUPLE MEMORABLE QUOTES FROM THIS BOOK:

“The eagle does not fight the storm; it uses the wind to climb to safety. We need to learn not to be distressed by our illnesses; instead, we can use our struggles to fly closer to our God.”