If you’ve been around for a while, you know my husband and I are church planters who have moved halfway across the country to plant a church, while also having our two toddlers in tow. And, I’ve just experienced so much as a minister, business owner, mom, and wife with chronic illness and I have some confessions to share.
Okay, so some of these are more just discoveries, but there will definitely also be confessions. Life with chronic illness just isn’t what any of us wants, nor is it anything imaginable until we’re living it out. So, as a pastor’s wife, as a mom running a business, as a woman with a strong desire to be independent, valuable, and responsible, and all of this while navigating multiple chronic illnesses – both new and lifelong – I wanted to take the time to share some confessions with you. Somethings that maybe you’re feeling/going through too, and you can know you aren’t completely alone in this.
1) Sometimes, my faith is tested more than I’d imagined it could be – and I teeter on the edge of giving up. It’s true. I know that is probably hard or shocking to hear from a woman in ministry, someone married to a pastor who was willing to move half way across the country to follow God’s call. It’s true, though. I have many moments where I feel more like Job’s wife or friends in response to my hardships and overwhelming health issues rather than how Job responds.
If you feel the same, as if you aren’t able to keep the faith 24/7, you aren’t alone. Faith isn’t a fruit of the spirit – however, self control and patience are, so we are meant to continue on in the race even when we feel low on faith. Because, God is faithful to the fullest, even when we lack faith. So, hold on, allow your faith to be tested, and then press on further.
2) I struggle with expectations. It’s true. This has been a problem most of my life. I have HIGH expectations for myself, and also for my relationship. Since having migraines most of my life, I learned to manage expectations around that health issue. However, as new health issues came up, and after marriage and two babies, I have really struggled to manage my expectations – which continue to stay high for myself and my abilities.
Something we absolutely have to adjust when chronic illness develops or progresses is adjust our expectations, not only for ourselves and our abilities, but also for those around us. Chronic illness affects ourselves and those around us. Yet, many of us (myself included) simply struggle with our expectations.
3) The church (as a whole) has failed the chronic illness and disability community. This seems harsh, but it’s true. As someone who has experienced it first hand, it’s heartbreaking. I’ve been blessed to have spent most of my church time in churches that embrace and accommodate those in the disability and chronic illness community. What I didn’t learn until I was older was how rare it is.
The theology that sin and illness/disability are linked is a broken and incorrect theology that the church at large still promotes. Just as it’s theologies of marriage and divorce are not always set up to protect those abused, neither is their theology of illness set up to protect the disabled. I hate that, and have determined to make this change in the church community my husband and I are forming.
Even Jesus refutes the idea that illness/disability is linked only to sin. Though he often healed the two together, and though we all sin, he is very clear in John 9 that sin is not the root of it all, but a concurrence.
If you’ve been hurt by church theology regarding your illness or disability, I’m so sorry. That is not the heart of the Jesus I serve, and the God of the Universe values you deeply, as His precious treasure, just as you have been created or hurt/injured.
4) I struggle with ideas around food and feeding my family (and myself). There is so much mom guilt around how we feed our families, and I just have to constantly remind myself that convenience foods are just as valuable as other foods. This includes easy meals, frozen foods, packaged food, and pre-prepped fresh foods. Still, I do struggle sometimes, when I feed my kids frozen pizza and fruit cups and bell pepper strips and call it a meal. But, my kids are fed, healthy, and happy, and eat fruit and veggies with 98% of their meals, so I’m trying to accept that as a win.
5) The idea of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs makes so much more sense now. I learned about this in college, in grad school, and I’ve taught it in my therapy groups and classes. Yet, experiencing it in my life makes it so much more alive for me, so much more vivid. And, health is part of our basic minimal needs to be met before we move toward self-actualization. Yet, when I have days like yesterday, when I was meant to originally write/post this article and do other work, but I have a pain level of 8+, I can barely even keep my mind aware enough to do anything outside of keeping my babies alive and happy. Meeting their basic needs.
I’ve also learned that although we joke about mom’s needs not being met, if we are going to care for our families, and their needs, we have to take care of ourselves. Eating regularly, going to the bathroom when we need to. Getting sleep. Shelter. Clothes. Medical. Hobbies. Self-care. We have to do those things for ourselves as well as our kids – no more going all day without eating or going to the bathroom. These habits will only exacerbate our health issues.
6) Church just looks different now. As I shared earlier, the church isn’t always the kindest to those of us with chronic health issues – mental or physical health wise. Therefore, church looks a little different now. Some weeks, I’m too ill to attend in person. Sometimes, I don’t know who I can trust with my health issues. Sometimes, I just don’t even want to talk to anyone. And, a new development since the pandemic started lifting – sometimes, I have panic attacks now. How embarrassing for me, right? I know.
So, like I said, church just looks a little different now, as does my idea and interaction with the church as a whole. God has really been reminding me that WE are the church, the building is just a place we gather and fellowship. He’s been reminding me that His Kingdom is a welcome place for all, including the ill/disabled, and in eternity we will find healing. Healing isn’t a requirement to join, attend, or for salvation.
And, this is where grace comes in. Grace for the weeks I physically can’t make it. Grace for the weeks I embarrass myself with a panic attack. And, Grace for the weeks when I go, worship, and leave with as little interaction as possible. This grace makes it possible for me to be fully present and interactive on the weeks when I’m my usual, outgoing and fellowship loving self.
7) Rhythm is more important to me than balance – and I honestly believe it should be that way for everyone. Rhythm is about the ebb and flow of life. Paired with harmony in our lives, it creates our life’s Cadence (hello, business name). So, back to rhythm, what is that exactly. It’s all about what patterns in the day work for us and our families. What our wake up times mean, when we go to bed. Do we work during nap time or after bed time? Is there a day or days we take the kids to daycare because we need to, even if we don’t work, just to get things done or take care of our health. (Side note, we don’t use any daycare, but some families need/desire the respite care. Let’s normalize this for them & their family’s rhythm).
It’s not about work life balance, because that’s just a myth. It’s about the rhythm your family needs and wants for living their life.
8) Desires make a difference. Dreams don’t end just because we get sick or injured. If I’m going to push through certain situations, or if I’m going to find a way to live a fulfilled life even while sick, I have to desire that reality, and I have to keep having dreams/making goals. Desires make a difference.
9) I don’t always set myself up for success – even though I really need to. The same goes for you. If we are going to live fulfilled lives, if we’re going to pursue our dreams, we have to set ourselves up for success. Sometimes, I just don’t do this. Or, I don’t do it well.
What does that look like for me? Making sure the living room is set up in such a way the kids can play safely while I watch from the couch/floor. Easy to read and play together environment that doesn’t put strain on me. For cooking, making sure we have easy options and plan a/plan b scenarios (this often involves my husband doing prep-work/chopping ahead of time for me so we have plenty of fruits and veggies).
What setting yourself up for success looks like for you will be up to you, your family’s needs, and your household. We set it up in a way that works for us, you set yourself up in a way that works for you. And then, don’t be to hard on yourself when you forget to set yourself up for success so a task gets missed or overlooked. That’s what tomorrows are for.
10) And finally, this is a big one – sometimes I just need to be alone. I’m an introvert. Have been my whole life. I’ve always valued alone time. Now that my health isn’t amazing – I mean, more than before – I just need more alone time than ever. Sometimes, I don’t want to go out in public. Sometimes, I don’t want to sit in a counseling session. Sometimes I want to just be alone.
As a mom, as a wife, as a coach, as someone in ministry – it feels wrong to want to be alone so much. I’m expected to give so much of myself out, that I feel like wanting to be alone is somehow harmful to those I’m meant to care for and serve.
This isn’t accurate thinking, I realize, but it’s how I feel. So, if you need a lot of alone time, you aren’t – uh – alone. And it’s not wrong to want/need this time, especially on flare days.
Well, there you have it. 10 confessions of a minister wife and mom with chronic illness.
If you’re reading this, and you’re a wife/mom with chronic illness looking for a community to join of others who have been there, are there, I want to open an invitation. Join the Soul Cadence Village, a monthly membership for moms with chronic illness wanting to live fulfilled lives. Find me on Instagram or join the facebook group for more information.
Next Monday (July 19), I’m starting a 3 day web class all about Rhythm and desires for a fulfilled life with chronic illness. You won’t want to miss it. Head over to the Soul Cadence facebook group where the class will be taking place. You deserve to be fulfilled in your life as a mom with chronic illness. Can’t wait to see you there!
What are some of your confessions as a mom with chronic illness? Share below.