It’s easy as a church member to become judgmental when someone begins missing church too often. But many times there is good reason for their absence.
I’d love for you to read Shona Smith’s letter below. I met Shona through a mutual blogger who featured her a few weeks ago. Read Out of Sight, Out of Mind
Dear friend from church and /or confused family member,
Do you know what I would love to be doing right now?
- I would love to be dancing in God’s presence and singing at the top of my voice as I lead others into His presence.
- Or be racing out the door with the kid’s work and playing energetic games with them. And then having a deep satisfying discussion about the things of God and praying with them.
- I would love to have gotten up early this morning. Spent hours in preparation for some delicious food in order to invite some random church people back for fellowship and an afternoon chatting and relaxing in the garden.
- Oh, to be offering to have a friend’s children for her, even overnight, to give her and her husband some quality downtime.
- What would it be like to have a pristine house where food could drop on the floor and not have to be immediately thrown away?
- I’d love to be baking cakes to invite you round to share with me…and for us to while away a couple of hours chatting about nothing in particular but feeling encouraged and refreshed afterward.
- I would love to spontaneously drop in on our grandchildren and whisk them away for dinner with us.
BUT THIS IS NOT MY REALITY AND IT WON’T BE UNLESS I RECEIVE A MIRACLE!What I'd Like to be Doing ... But this is not my reality and it Won't be unless I Receive a Miracle. #thisisfibro #chronicpain Click To Tweet
I’ve spent the last few years trying to find a new reality in the midst of
an illness that means some days I cannot find the energy to get dressed, let alone shower. My condition means that the thought of holding a short but deep conversation with one other person in the quiet of my home can fill me with horror because I know it might cost me all of that day’s energy. Every decision I take, every action I make has huge implications for the rest of my day or even my week. (See Mandy’s link on the subject)
On my very bad days, I cannot manage to stay upright, talking or reading or even watching TV and rely on others to bring me a drink and food in bed without talking to me.
On my best of days, I have to make careful decisions all day long about everything which will use my energy: showering, cooking, Facetime with my mum, reading, shopping, housework, conversation with my husband and family: everything costs and if I “overpay” the “interest rates” in payback can leave me bed-bound again for days or sometimes weeks.
When I make it to church it has been a really good week. There has been resting for at least one day before it and there will be resting for the remainder of Sunday and most of Monday. I often cannot manage to socialize or stay for a whole service as sitting upright, singing, loud noise, lots of people, chatting are all activities which use a lot of energy. If I have made it to church to join in, I often don’t have the energy to stay and socialize so I have to choose how long I will be there.
This is not the challenging bit…
Sometimes I am feeling quite strong and well so I stay out for a bit longer, chat away with people. I pray out loud in the service. Stand and chat over drinks after.
And all the while I feel fine BUT the next day or two days later I am unable to get out of bed or shower or talk and that may last for up to a week. It’s called PEM – Post Exertional Malaise – and it just comes on after any increase in my limited activity. I can stand for longer than usual, be squat down at some task for a few minutes, spend longer than usual cooking or stirring something and then two days later.
It’s like I’ve been pushing it too hard at the gym …it’s the equivalent lactic acid build up… my body prefers anaerobic production of energy to the muscles… and pain causes a “short circuit” so my batteries won’t recharge at all when I am in a lot of pain. It would take too long to explain it all but you can read some more about the challenges of attending church in my leaflet, “Christians with Chronic Illness“.
How’s my Faith?
So, what’s happened to my faith, the “doing, loving, running things, lots of ideas and activities, dancing, exuberant praising faith”?
My faith is still here. It’s kept me alive; it’s allowed me to hope that one day there will be more to my life again, it’s battled through dark lonely days of pain and crushing fatigue and feeling worthless. My faith has allowed me to find purpose in praying for and encouraging others. My faith has become something I am much more than something I do. (Mandy’s faith with Fibro)What's Happened to my Faith? It's Still Here. It's keeping me Alive. Click To Tweet
When I Can’t Do What I Want
When I am frustrated by wanting to do something to love others but simply not having the energy to do it, my pastor recently encouraged me to tell them what was on my heart, even when it isn’t possible, because it encouraged him to know I had thought of the act of love or kindness. I was so encouraged by that word…someone seeing my heart and being encouraged by my desires even when I couldn’t carry through!
My faith has allowed me to celebrate the small things. The days when I can stand up long enough to make a meal or join in with a song at church; the days when I can drive to do our grocery shopping; the moments when I can have conversations at church and make friends; the moment when I was able to join in with a game with my grandsons. Despite the fatigue, sleep doesn’t come easily, so I often pray in the night over family and friends and whatever is on my mind… precious still moments with God when I hear His heartbeat and know I am partnering with him in the stillness.
Not all Roses!
My faith has also been battered. Why does God put so many ideas and thoughts in my heart when I don’t have the capacity to do any of them? Why did He give me gifts in teaching and leading and planning when my brain is now so often in a fog and I can be sat watching TV for hours and not even take anything in? I have no idea BUT I am learning to trust Him that He continues to have “good works which He has prepared in advance for (me) to do.” (Ephesians 2:10) (See Mandy’s letter, If God is my Healer, Why am I still Sick)
What has happened to my faith?
I’ve been on a wilderness journey and been through all the emotions of grief for my old life, the shouting angry hopeless flailing that just “gets it all out there” and I am finally finding a stillness and a glimmer of hope that God knows exactly what He is doing and He has a plan… and I just want to do His will!
Wishing to be with you,
Download Shona’s helpful flyer for more ideas on How the Church Can Help The Chronically Ill.
Tune in for Shona’s interview on Premier Radio Woman to Woman on 22 May, at 11am GMT (http://www.premierchristianradio.com/radioplayer
More information about How to Help the Chronically Ill
Fibro Awareness Jewelry
Click here and scroll down to “Soft Hugs” to purchase. https://kristinafarmer.magnabilities.com/catalog/custom-inserts/
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Shona was born in the ‘60s to James and Jessie Herron in County Down, Northern Ireland in the middle of The Troubles and grew up in the Kingdom of Mourne with three older sisters and a younger brother. In a partisan community her parents crossed the divide between Catholics and Protestants in business and in friendships and raised the family to love their neighbours. Their home was a place of safety and support for many. Shona left for University in Manchester, England and never came home! She has lived there for 30 years with her husband Dave and they have a big modern family of children, stepchildren and grandchildren… her favourite thing is to be called “granny Sho”. Shona is a Teacher of the Deaf, a passionate advocate for the best for every pupil she taught and now a passionate advocate for the chronic illness communities, since developing M.E./CFS four years ago.
“My life was on pause. Now I am just trying to make sense of this life-stealing, life-changing, hope-draining condition and am constantly reminded to look up to my Saviour…because when I do that and glance down again my feet are back on the Rock!”