There are times it seems every Hallmark commercial to our local newspaper editor is telling us to take a little time to count our blessings. If you live with a chronic illness you may find that blessings are a bit more hidden in your life than they were previously.
In the past you may have easily sat around the table of relatives before the feast and play the "I'm Thankful For. . ." game. When it was your turn, without hesitation, you chose one of the many things you were grateful for to share: "I'm thankful for my job, my family, my financial security." And--and, ah yes, there was that thing called "health."
Now though, the ease of being able to list health on your thankful list has disappeared. And perhaps you are even struggling with some other things you've lost, in part, due to your loss of health. Maybe the lack of finances keeps you awake at night in addition to the physical pain. Or maybe it's the empty side of the bed where your spouse once slept.
Can we still be thankful? Yes! In his book "You Can Be Happy No Matter What: Five Principles for Keeping Life in Perspective," Richard Carlson (who was well known for his "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff" book series before passing in 2006), writes, "Most of us experience fleeting moments of happiness but then let them pass us by without due notice. . . We do this because we are always looking to find happiness somewhere else."
So, what are some things that we can thank God for, despite our illness? Friends who care, a roof over our heads, and that we have hope and faith. All of these are important. But what are some of the unusual things that someone with a chronic illness may really be thankful for that a healthy person may not give a second thought?
A drive-thru of any kind: for prescriptions, coffee, food and banks
Parking spots, especially close ones that don't require us to pull out our placard
Sugar-free desserts and the people who bring them on special occasions, remembering we can't eat sugar
Being able to watch an amazing sunset without walking five feet from the car
Unexpected clear freeways when we were expecting rush hour traffic
The grocery clerk that says, "Can I help you to you car with that?" even though you are only twenty-seven and look perfectly healthy
Shopping carts that have four working wheels that all go the direction they ought
The ability to sleep well on a hotel bed instead of sitting in the bathroom reading all night so as not to wake our roommates
People that smile at us for no apparent reason
UPS delivery men who don't give it a second thought that we are still in our pajamas at two-thirty in the afternoon
The smile of our child when we've done everything in our power to make sure she has a good time--and she actually does
Being able to get both shampoo and conditioner out of the bottles and hold your arms up long enough to use them
Bottles and jars that open easily and don't require us to try three different jar openers
Products that have the word, "automatic" or "self-cleaning"
Car keys that turn easily so the ignition starts
The ability to request a wheelchair at the airport
Doctors who actually give you a light hug on your way out of the office say, "I wish I could do more."
In her book, "Have a Little Faith!" author Sherri Connell reminds those who have their health to be grateful for their abilities. "When was the last time you took the time to thank God for being able to sleep six hours straight or for giving you the strength to wash your hair? Have you ever praised Him for being able to scrub your toilet or being able to refill your soap dispensers? . . . Have you ever been elated to be able to dust a few pieces of furniture or for making a simple meal? People who have disabilities count blessings others never even stop to think about!"
If counting your own blessings feels a little dry, then have some fun with it like I did above and put a spin on what you're thankful for. Start a" Funny-Gratitudes-that-Affect-My-Attitude journal and see how quickly you will be able to--not only have the longest list at the family gathering--but create some giggles as well as personal reflection among those you love.
If you lead a support group or are considering it, don't miss Lisa Copen's new book, http://StartAnIllnessSupportGroup.com for your ministry needs. Over 300 pages with step-by-step instructions on how to write a vision statement, promotion and attendance and much more!
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