Many years ago, my three kids and I volunteered to prepare and serve dinner every Tuesday night at our church. Each week our team served hundreds of meals in a little over an hour. Though there were many people in line, I learned that when I focused on the one person in front of me instead of the long line, people were served more quickly.
Being fully present was my first lesson in give what you’ve got.
As I reflected on why I served, Eric Liddell‘s quote helped me frame this first lesson. “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast! And when I run I feel his pleasure.” I sensed God’s pleasure and delight when I gave what I had.
The next important lesson was willingness. When I was asked to share my testimony at church, I mentioned that willingness is all I have to give, but I hadn’t yet realized that willingness is all God asks from us. He equips and provides so we may give what we’ve got. Eventually, I understood that willingness is an act of obedience that speaks love to the Father.
Over the years, I’ve met many missionaries who serve and live in exotic and faraway places. I thought this was a prerequisite for the title missionary. Yet Jill Briscoe has also said, “Your mission field is the ground beneath your own two feet.” I began to understand that we are all missionaries. Being called to stay or go, and to give what you’ve got has been transformative as chronic illness has grown to be my constant companion.
Today, I can no longer give in the ways I’ve given in the past. Yet I’ve discovered that there are new ways to give what I’ve got, and they are no less important or valuable. They’re just different. I’m now a missionary who goes where I’m sent. Some of my doctors’ appointments qualify as travel to distant and foreign lands. How I interact with others in the waiting room, with the receptionist, nurses, and even the doctors, is an opportunity for my faith to shine.
REPRESENTING GOD IN EVERYTHING I DO
When I call the insurance company from home (which is where I spend most of my time – staying where I am put.) to resolve a problem, I have the opportunity to invite the Holy Spirit to shine. Not long ago, I received a thank-you note from an insurance representative. She appreciated the kindness I showed as we worked to resolve a significant issue. Her handwritten note said that she rarely receives kindness from those who call. Ouch! I wondered if that might have been me in the past. Today, I am a missionary representing God in everything I do, offering intentional kindness along the way.
As I offer my willingness, God opens my eyes to things that have always been there, but that I’ve never noticed. Recently, I noticed that there is no easy way to return grocery carts from the handicapped parking spaces. Some days those extra steps back into the store are almost too much for me. Now when I spot a cart left in the parking lot, I take it in to the store with me whenever possible. It’s a small thing, but it’s a way I can give what I’ve got. God often invites us, but without willingness, we miss the blessing.
This past Saturday, I needed help completing a ministry event project. It was more than I could do on my own, so I invited my daughter and her husband to help me. As the three of us and my husband sat at the table, I remembered how we used to serve as a family all those years ago. That evening, many hands made light work, and it reminded me of Matthew 18:20: For where two or three gather in my name, there I am with them. The moment was both powerful and beautiful.
Yet none of it would have happened without God’s invitation to link arms and serve together wherever and however we can.
Together has been an important word as I’ve invested my time in the ministry of Chronic Joy throughout the years. Each day is filled with much learning (lots of leaning on and pressing into the Father) for both my ministry partner, Cindee, and me. He is building this ministry brick-by-brick, and we sense His pleasure as we give whatever we’ve got.
Each day is an opportunity to link arms and impact the world together in simple ways that make a big difference. Today, I have the privilege of inviting you into the mission of Chronic Joy where together, with God, we’re igniting change one precious life at a time.
It’s overwhelming for me to grasp how much needs to be done and how much God has asked of two women with significant chronic illness — but I have learned that He is the one who leads this ministry and who faithfully cares for every detail.
WHY DO I SERVE FULL-TIME WITHOUT A PAYCHECK?
I have been invited into work that matters to God. The work we do changes lives, offering hope to those who feel isolated and alone – like me. Though I devote hours to serving and loving those affected by chronic illness, I have the blessing of doing it all from home, staying where I’m put.
In my office is a recliner loveseat. On days when I feel very unwell, I curl up on that couch under an electric throw. It becomes a refuge to rest and pray for those we serve, for those we hope to serve. Chronic Joy’s logo (the one my husband lovingly made for me) hanging on the wall reminds me that I was invited to wholeheartedly serve – with my time, space, mistakes, learning, gifts, talents (and my husband’s hard-earned money). I really do sense God’s pleasure and delight as I give what I’ve got by loving God and loving others.
MY HUSBAND IS THE REAL HERO
My husband is the real hero of this giving story. He heeds God’s call where it’s hardest – financially. With my constant medical bills and providing for our daily needs, he also cheerfully gives each month to Chronic Joy, both financially and through service. He makes sure I take care of myself — something I’m not always very good at.
My husband quietly works behind the scenes, dropping packages off at the post office, emptying the dishwasher, and doing a thousand other things — and he does all this after a long day of work. He drives me to most of my doctor’s appointments and cringes each time a new medication is added. Often, he feels helpless to “fix” my many illnesses, but that is truly where he shines. He quietly listens while I struggle with whatever is challenging me — and he generously provides me time and space to do the work God has called me to do.
SURRENDER, GENEROSITY, AND JOY
Learning to be generous with what I have is an ongoing lesson in surrender and trust. Surrender was my word for 2017 when I learned that surrender wasn’t waving a white flag and giving up. Living the surrendered life is actually learning to be more of who God called me to be. It’s living as a whole person, inhaling the great exhale of God, and turning around to love God and others with my whole broken and unwell self.
This year my word is joy. I wondered how surrender could be followed by joy, but it absolutely can. It does. As I’ve learned to press into and trust God, He has invited me to serve with Him. Most of my prayers have included, “Lord, You’re invited into my day. Lead me, guide me, and help me to show You that I love You through my obedience.” He has been faithful and that’s where joy is found – in serving with Him and giving whatever I have.
Serving with Chronic Joy means focusing on one precious life at a time, and that includes me. God has sown the precious life-giving seeds of hope, purpose, worth, and joy in me, so I can extend the invitation to you.
Will you join me in giving what you’ve got?
One of my great joys this year was receiving an email “requesting a partnership” from Salome in Kenya, who is loving on those suffering in her country and who needed gifts we could give.
“You might wonder why I am requesting books [Discovering Hope]. It is because surely I want to help my people who are suffering for information in Kenya. … I thank God because I have received the books and I promise that I am going to use them and help my people.” (Salome N., Kenya)
I am so grateful God invited me to co-found this ministry. Before Chronic Joy, we could find very few resources or Bible studies, little encouragement or hope, and no community for those of us living with chronic illness. Today, we extend hope and encouragement every day. We offer a warm welcome to each precious life affected by chronic illness, and we’ve developed resources to make the journey a little easier.
EVERY GIFT MAKES A HUGE DIFFERENCE
Would you consider how you might give what you’ve got?
Every gift makes a HUGE difference! All funds raised go directly to the mission and ministry of Chronic Joy – to sowing seeds of hope, purpose, worth, and joy in the lives of those affected by chronic illness, mental illness, chronic pain, and disability.
By donating to Chronic Joy, you’ll ensure that people around the world have accessible, easy-to-use, faith-based, educational tools and resources right at their fingertips. It means daily encouragement and inspiration as well as hope-filled Bible studies for them. Finally, your gift helps them know that there is a place to find radical hope and compassionate change as they discover the wealth of tools and resources at Chronic Joy.
Chronic Joy is each of us being a missionary – going where we’re sent, staying where we’re put, and giving what we’ve got. I’m excited to see what God will do as together we link arms on this amazing journey!
Executive Director and Co-Founder of Chronic Joy®
Pamela, a leader and a visionary following God's call to inspire those affected by chronic illness, mental illness, and chronic pain, believes that every precious life affected by illness is both vital and purposed.
Pamela is the mom of three married children, a grandma of five, and a wife of more than 30 years. She is diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos, chronic migraines, and a host of other chronic conditions. She enjoys hot tea, reading, and walking her teddy bear dog, Cocoa.