“While I knew in my heart that we would each process our illness journey in different ways, it had taken longer to catch up with my heart.” Bettie Gilbert

Love is patient, love is kind. 1 Corinthians 13:4a

I TAKE YOU: A DREADED PHONE CALL

 

As I held the phone in my hands, I knew that it was time to make another hard call. It had been over a year since I had spoken with my family friend and counselor. She had helped me through some very tough times in the past, and even though I felt reluctant to share our latest news, I knew that the Lord was prompting me to share my need.

It’s not been easy to share the news of my husband’s terminal illness with anyone. How do you start a conversation like that?

“Hello, we’ve received word that my husband won’t be with us much longer.”

No, that’s too abrupt. Maybe this instead:

“Hello, we wanted to update you on our progress, as we are feeling the weight of our coming days.”

No, that’s a little too vague. I finally decided to just call and let the Lord lead the conversation. He knew what I needed to share, and what I needed to hear. It was a beautiful conversation, with my friend asking the questions that I needed to face.

She wanted to know if we had found ways to truthfully communicate our feelings about the diagnosis with each other. I knew that we had only scratched the surface, so she suggested a couple of books that might spur our conversations to a deeper level. I agreed to look into those resources.

After I hung up, I realized that I had a wonderful resource from Chronic Joy already waiting for me on my bookshelf. I had wanted to read Cindee Snider Re’s I Take You in Sickness and Health for several years, but the timing wasn’t right — until the day I called my counselor.

 

I TAKE YOU: SHOWING KINDNESS

 

So, on Sunday mornings during this summer of change, my husband and I sat with the book and brought our hearts together to the Lord — and he has met us in ways that I could not have envisioned.

The first chapter spoke on Kindness, a topic I had long been considering, especially since I kept coming across Chronic Joy’s Kindness → Pass It On emphasis.  However, I did not realize that in many little ways I had been showing unkindness to my husband throughout this exploration of our unique journeys with chronic and terminal illness.

While I knew in my heart that we each would process our illness journey in different ways, it had taken my head longer to catch up with my heart. As we took time to express our unique needs and desires for kindness, I saw ways that my attitude needed to shift. I had been expecting him to bear his illness in the same way that I had learned to bear my illness — but he is not me, and neither is his illness mine. My heart began to recognize small acts of kindness that I had missed along the way. He saw things too, and we both held each other in prayer that first morning of study.

 

I TAKE YOU: THE QUESTIONS DEEPEN

 

As the summer wore on, the questions grew deeper. The chapter headings of the book in themselves tell a story of looking more closely at the union between a husband and wife:

  1. Kindness
  2. Growth
  3. Willingness
  4. Forgiveness
  5. Time
  6. Intimacy
  7. Differences
  8. Presence
  9. Impact
  10. Wellspring

One week the assignment was to write your partner a letter expressing your thankfulness. During another week, we worked together on a bucket list of desires we had enjoyed together and hoped for more still to come.

 

IMPORTANCE OF BEING TOGETHER

 

The deepest revelation of all, for both of us, came on the week we realized that God has already been so faithful in our marriage over all of these years. While we long for more time to “do” things together, our biggest desire is not the doing part of that desire.  No, it is the together part of that desire.

None of us knows the number of our days here on this earth, but we all know that our time is limited. When that time seems to be burdened with the extra strain of chronic and/or terminal illness, shouldn’t we allow the Lord to help cover those days with love and care for the one with whom we are united most deeply?

 

I TAKE YOU: THE BEAUTIFUL GIFT OF MARRIAGE

 

I have been so blessed as my husband and I opened our hearts to study Cindee’s book together. The timing was perfect for us, and I know that so many others could be blessed to read her words as well. I would love to pray Cindee’s closing prayer in the final chapter as my own prayer with you today:

Father of all creation, we come to You this day seeking Your guidance and direction in our lives. Help us to see beyond our limited capacity to understand. Show us how we can serve with kindness and tenderness so the words we speak are an encouragement and a help to all who are in need, especially our spouse. Allow us to once again see love and the beautiful gift of marriage as you intended. Amen.

Bettie Gilbert

Bettie Gilbert

Chronic Joy Contributing Writer

You can find Bettie blogging from her home in the far north suburbs of Chicago at bettiegsraseasons.com. She is walking forward with Jesus, in the middle of her own pain and weakness from multiple chronic illnesses. The beauty of nature is a joy that calls to Bettie, as do her family and nine young grandchildren. She and her husband have been married for over 40 years and take great joy in their weekend coffee breaks together.

76 Questions to Connect You as a Couple

Use the questions slowly, one question and one conversation at a time over many month in any order you choose. This is an exploration and an opportunity to grow more deeply in love as you rediscover one another.

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