TWISTING INTO FOCUS
Chronic illness entered my life slowly. Each new illness – one more geometric shape twisted into the kaleidoscope lens of my life – was hardly noticed. It all seemed almost “normal” somehow.
As a child, three colored shapes represented fear, anxiety, and strange bouts of “flu”. After I married, “female issues” twisted into view, including the 1 in 500 chances of happening – complications after the delivery of my middle child, followed by very preterm labor and delivery of my youngest. Migraines suddenly burst into color as I embarked on my life as “super-mom.” As children added pops of color to our collective kaleidoscope, unusual diagnoses began demanding more immediate attention. Over time, our outstanding pediatrician noticed a pattern that could not be ignored. Chronic illness had spun into view.
Just before the pediatrician referred us to a specialist, I grew gravely ill during routine treatment for a sinus infection. Following this violent explosion of color, the kaleidoscope again twisted and slowly focused revealing an underlying rare genetic illness.
Looking back, I understand that what once felt almost familiar and “normal” was anything but. As one of my specialists recently and very gently reminded me, “Pamela, there is no cure.”
While sometimes hard to hear as we continue to band aid my most problematic symptoms, truth is the necessary foundation for hope. I love what Dr. Michelle Bengston says, “God will use even the difficult situations in life, those that don’t go how we expect or hope, for our good.”
ONE PRECIOUS LIFE AT A TIME
While I wouldn’t have chosen to walk through illness and suffering, I’m grateful for the gifts. For illness has softened me, grown my compassion, gentleness and kindness, and it’s led me where I never dreamed I’d go – into full-time ministry.
Three and a half years ago, Cindee Snider Re, my best friend and now ministry partner, and I founded Chronic Joy, a 501(c) 3 non-profit, global resource ministry, whose faith-based mission is to bring radical hope and compassionate change to all those affected by chronic physical and mental illness.
When the dynamic patterns in the kaleidoscope lens are looked at in reverse, our attention is drawn back to each individual pop of color in the design. In the lens of ministry, the dynamic and ever-changing patterns represent the diverse and immense world-wide impact of chronic illness, but when we look at the patterns in reverse, as the pattern shifts, we see each individual shape twisting into place – each a single, precious life affected by chronic illness.
Sowing seeds of hope, purpose, worth and joy is a foundational principle of Chronic Joy, because we understand firsthand how lonely and isolating it is live with chronic illness. We understand the devastation of continued and sustained loss, of what we now call “chronic sorrow.”
We weren’t designed to live life in isolation, but thriving together in community. That’s why our heart is to equip those affected by chronic physical and mental illness through community and education rooted in Jesus Christ.
Often the first step is to share the stories of our illness, “For story is where hope begins. They connect us, tearing down walls and shattering isolation.” writes Cindee Snider Re
Our FREE printable, Writing the Story of Your Illness, asks helpful questions and guides you in collecting your ideas to tell others about or to begin to write about your journey. There is also a quick and confidential survey, which can be completed in three minutes or less.
Why a survey?
Because surveys offer the unique opportunity to express the impact chronic illness has had on your relationship with the Body of Christ, specifically the local church. Whether you are the one with illness or you are the spouse, parent, sibling, adult child, or caregiver of someone with illness, you are affected, and you have a story.
Over the next twelve months, we’re inviting everyone affected by chronic physical and/or mental illness to share their story by responding to the survey. We invite (and encourage!) you to share this survey with your friends, family, neighbors, and even co-workers.
While the survey results will provide vital insights, the survey was also designed to give you a voice, to validate your experience with chronic illness, to reclaim your dignity which is sometimes trampled in the midst of illness, and to provide another means of sharing this important piece of your story. The prevalence of chronic illness is far greater than many people realize, and we hope this survey will facilitate valuable conversations.
AN INVITATION TO PARTICIPATE AND BE PART OF OUR COMMUNITY
We invite you to visit our website today. Discover resources. Share awareness tools. Request a FREE BOOK through our Gift of Hope program. Discovering Hope: Beginning the Journey Toward Hope in Chronic Illness, the first book in our Thrive Study Series, is a practical and tangible way to broaden our vision of community. And take the survey. Prayerfully consider inviting others to take it too, because every voice makes a difference.
Perhaps you are a bit weary. Come. Sit. Rest by our Prayer Pond and toss in your prayer requests and praises. While visiting #PrayItForward by lifting other requests.
Our hope, prayer, and focus is on community through small group formation. Matthew 18:20 says “For where two or three come together in my name, there I am with them.” Invite a friend, just one other person to meet either in person or virtually and share the beginnings of community as together you journey through the pages of Discovering Hope.
There is hope, Friends. There is always hope, and it begins one precious life at a time.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)
Does your church effectively serve and include those affected by chronic physical and/or mental illness? Do you have 3 minutes? We’d love your help! Include your voice. Take our short SURVEY FOR CHURCHES.
President and Co-Founder at Chronic Joy Ministry, Inc.
Pamela is a leader and a visionary following God's call to inspire those affected by chronic illness to discover hope, find purpose, embrace worth and encounter joy. She believes that every precious life affected by chronic illness is both vital and purposed.
Pamela is the mom of three married children, grandma of two sweet granddaughters and a wife of more than 30 years. She is diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos, chronic migraines and a host of other chronic conditions.
Pamela enjoys hot tea, reading -- almost always more than one book at a time -- and walking her teddy bear dog, Cocoa.
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