Before I became seriously ill and had to move home to my parents home for help I had always viewed myself as a very blessed lady. The Lord had blessed me with an incredible family with loving and supportive parents who love the Lord and new and old friends who I had met and grown closer to over the years. I have shared the unfortunate (and realistic) lesson that I had to learn the very hard way with illness: that many people walk away (including people you never would have suspected) but there is also an incredible unexpected blessing of illness.
Serious illness (as in my case) leaves you incredibly vulnerable to the relationships that you have in your life because you have nothing to offer. You aren't well enough to do things that you might have done "normally" before (like attend special events or birthday parties). You aren't well enough to often remember the days of the week let alone remember important days in others lives (like birthdays, anniversary dates, etc.). You often don't have the strength for regular phone conversations (or meeting for coffee). And you often are trying to use every single spare energy you have to get better that "real life" disappears into a "fog" of "what was".
You realize with startling reality that the many of the relationships that you have were built on what you have to offer another person instead of love. And the sad reality is that many, many, many people walk away when you have nothing to offer. A sweet friend of mine who is fighting Ovarian Cancer recently asked me if I thought illness caused division and was the cause of people leaving. I have thought about it for a while, and the truth is that I don't think it is. Yes, illness is messy and hard and filled with tons of pain and yuckiness. BUT. I truly believe that illness just shines a spotlight on the issues, the reality, and the character of who we are and those that we are friends with. I truly believe that if it wasn't the situation of illness that caused the "fracture" in relationships, it would have been something else eventually.
BUT in the midst of all of that, there is an unexpected blessing of illness if you look for it. In the midst of the difficult, the messy, and painful, there emerges a group of people that become "your family" or "your team". These are the people that instead of walking away when times get tough they continue to love on you even though there is absolutely no benefit and no gain for themselves. They quietly and sacrificially love you, walk with you, and model Christ's love beautifully. They are the unexpected blessing of illness and I have realized that even more than before I am a very blessed woman.
If I tried to list everyone who has played a part... who has been my heroes in this journey, the list would be to long. BUT I do want to share some incredible people with you today and try to (inadequately) share how much y'all have touched my life.
My parents have been beyond amazing. They have not only taken me, carried me down the hallways when I couldn't walk, and bring joy to each and everyday by helping me laugh, but they have cried countless tears with me, prayed thousands of hours with me and for me, and quietly and courageously behind the scenes lived and modeled Jesus' love. They have sacrificed beyond measure and never once made me (or Scamper *smiles*) feel like a burden as they help me with the most mundane tasks. They are amazing. I love you mommy and daddy.
My beautiful sister has courageously, selflessly, and joyfully adapted to having a sick sibling as many things have changed over the years in the need to accommodate my health. From parking her brand new car outside in awful weather just so the garage door wouldn't wake me up for months on end, to beautifully adapting to making "sister travel weekends" to a fun place like we had done in the past to being curled up on the couch watching Amazing Race (my favorite TV shows) she has never once complained, but adapted so seamlessly that the many times that I have broke down crying over "one more change" and I am "so sorry Emily" she has looked at me and said, "for what?". Your love is a gift Hoopster.
My amazing grandmother, Ba, has been absolutely amazing from listening to me and crying with me, to sacrificially offering thousands and thousands of prayers. I love you Ba!
Jen, you have been a treasure to me since we first connected so many years ago. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. My life is so incredibly blessed by you and your friendship, love, and all of the prayers that you and Ryan have prayed on my behalf. I am so grateful for you and thank the Lord every day for your friendship.
Katie (and Ethan), time and time and time again you have listened, prayed for me, and walked this journey with me encouraging me each step of the way. No one would guess the hundreds of hours that we have messaged one another or the grace that you have shown me and the encouragement that you are to me. THANK YOU sweet friend for everything. You are such a blessing to my life!
Kaara, you have been a gift since my days back at WCA with laughter, joy, and encouragement. Your love and faithfulness in calling me throughout these years, being a true and faithful friend, and your love during this difficult season has been such an incredible blessing. Thank you for all of your prayers, all of your support, and all of our love. I am so so so grateful for you.
Virginia and John, although I didn't know you hardly at all during my time at FCS, you have become some of my dearest heroes in this journey. Your love, your financial support (which has often been the ONLY reason that I can continue treatment) has humbled me, and even as I write this has brought me to tears. How do you say "thank you" to people that you can offer nothing accept gratitude in return for? For the rest of my life I will continue to thank the Lord every single day for you. I am so incredibly humbled and grateful.
Sunshine, is there any better gift that you can give than the gift of sacrifice and understanding? I think not. I still well up with tears at your incredible understanding when it was impossible to come to your wedding this past summer. You once again reminded me of what is most important in life- people. I love you Sunshine, I miss you so very much, and I pray that the Lord brings us together on this earth very very soon.
Beautiful- thank you for all of your precious text messages, your sweet facebook messages, and for a wonderful weekend of hosting me during this journey. You and your family are such a gift to me and I am so grateful for each of you. I love you so much!
Mandy, your kindness and compassion has touched my heart on so many levels. Thank you so much for your precious gift of caring.
The Visy Family- THANK YOU so much for all of your messages, all of your financial support, and your incredible gift of paying for so many things to make it possible for me to come to Kristen's wedding. From the day that I started teaching at WCA you were supportive of this very young teacher. I don't remember ever a cross word on my many "goofs" only incredible support. That has only continued as the years have passed. I am so incredibly grateful for you.
Zoey, words can't express my gratitude for you. YOU have been such a blessing to my life and it is a joy to call you a friend. Thank you so much for all of the ways that you have reached out, encouraged me, loved on me, and walked this journey with me. I love you sweet friend!
To my precious cousins, Ron and Jeanne Weiskotten and your family- thank you thank you thank you for your kindness and compassion in this journey. You have been such a blessing!
To so many sweet blogger friends who have kindly sent me such loving messages of support, I am so incredibly grateful for you.
To the WCA family ... I remember once being told, "once you are apart of this community you are linked forever"... how true this has been. As the years have passed the sweet fellowship and support has been an outpouring of love from former students who have lovingly stepped into this journey (Hilary you are such a BLESSING!!) to those that have written letters, cards, financial support, and most of all offered up countless prayers on my behalf. So many of you have said, "you are not alone" and you have graciously and lovingly blessed my life beyond measure. I think of you fondly sweet friends and hold you in my heart. (Philippians 1:7)
Liz, from the day that I met you you welcomed me into FCS with love and support and you have been such a blessing with all of your prayers and sweet messages. You have modeled to me in a thousand different ways Christ's love. What a blessing you are!
Cindy, thank you so much for all of your sweet prayers and support! You have been a blessing!
Caroline, thank you for your sweet support, your kindness in your messages, and your sweet thoughtfulness in hosting a fundraiser for me this past summer. You have blessed my life immeasurably and I am so grateful for your friendship!
The Wissmann Family, you have blessed my life in so many ways, including your music that I have played and re-played through many difficult nights of pain (and through treatment). Each of you are a blessing and I am so blessed by y'all. I can't wait to see y'all again in just a few short months!
Adrienne- THANK YOU so much for your precious message that touched my heart beyond belief this past summer. You blessed me more than you will ever know!
Ali- I am so glad that the Lord connected us! What a blessing you are friend in this journey!! Thank you for all of your support and your love (and your mama's too!!) Love you friend!
Terry, thank you so much for all of your messages on my Facebook wall and your continued prayers for healing. You are such a blessing!
Amanda, thank you so much for your sweet encouragement and the thoughtful cards that have always come in the mail at the right time. I am so grateful for you and all of your prayers!
Emily, thank you so much for your prayers and your support of my little Etsy shop. You have truly been a blessing!! THANK YOU for your thoughtfulness in so many ways!
To the sweet and amazing friends that wish to remain anonymous that have paid for so many things behind the scenes like the going to Disneyland, artistic supplies, gift cards to craft stores, and the Cruise. Many people never consider the "emotional" side of illness and your thoughtfulness, your love, and your blessings in this specific area have helped me fight for my health again and again. Thank you so much for reminding me that I am a "whole person" away from illness and your love that has showered me beyond blessing. You have demonstrated the Lord's love in a different way than I ever thought possible. I am so incredibly grateful for you.
To so many of you that have been a blessing behind the scene with a sweet comment and encouraging word, you are such a blessing to me. Thank you so much for your love and support through this journey. You are the unexpected blessing!!