Wednesday, March 5, 2014

On Ash Wednesday, Would You Pray For Them?

I don't have much to say today, except to ask you prayers for some of God's children.

The entire Western New York community has heavy hearts this week, as we learned that Ben, a little boy I've mentioned here previously, has weeks to live.  Despite surgery and initial treatment his brain tumor has grown so inexplicably that he has been sent home to spend his last days in peace surrounded by his family.  The grace and strength that Ben's mother has shown through this ordeal are nothing short of a call to action for the Body of Christ.  We may want to cry and wallow in the unfairness, but if Mindy can find the strength to rise to this challenge, we must find the strength to pray her through it.  Please pray for this family.  If you feel called to do so, please donate to help them or for information about attending Ben's benefit.

I mentioned another child facing brain cancer here once before.  My friend Jeff's little girl was diagnosed with brain cancer around the same time as Ben.  Please pray for Ava and her Dads as they begin the arduous treatment process.

Finally, a friend of mine from college contacted me recently to let me know that she has been diagnosed with breast cancer.  Her cancer is in stage one and is very treatable.  Regardless of the great prognosis the treatment will be difficult and she has 4 small kids.  Please pray for Sweetie.

You may read this list and feel hopeless and helpless, and you are.  But God is not.  Please join me in praying that His will be done and His children be comforted.  Ben and his family, Ava and her family, and dear Sweetie and her family will benefit from them.

Monday, March 3, 2014

7 Posts In 8 Days?

I really loved Olivia, I don't care if they were jumping the shark a tad.
Well, I was really hanging in there on the 7 post in 7 days but here we are on day 8.  I have a tendency when I get behind on something to throw a pity party and decide the whole thing is ruined and what's the point in finishing now which is SUPER MATURE.  So I won't do that.  A day late for the last post is not too shabby.  This was tough, really really tough, but I'm glad I did it.  I learned a lot through this experience and I hope if you stuck with me that maybe you learned something too.  The biggest thing I learned is that blogging is at it's best when it's a dialogue, so please, when you read something here and you disagree or it doesn't ring true, I'd love it if you could share that in the comments.  We'll all learn a lot more having a conversation than we will if this whole thing is just me giving my narrow experience.  
If you missed them, here is a roundup of the whole 7 days:

The next 3 posts caused in my mind what one could characterize a minor kerfluffle but taught me A LOT:

Day 6:  When You Assume  In which I attempt to de-kerfluffle and there is a funny picture of a donkey in a predicament so if that's not click bait I don't know what is.

Day 7:  Here we are, actually on day 8, but you know what I mean.  The discussion of what you should and should not say/do for someone facing a health crisis bore so much fruit as far as I'm concerned.  I hope if you haven't read them that you will and add your experience and advice.  If you read them and were upset, or if you agreed, or if it made you think about these issues in a different way, I'd also really like to hear from you.  I'm learning a lot from the conversation and I really think my readers are learning more from the discussion than anything I have to say.  

Final thoughts--

1.  One thing I forgot to put in the shoulds.  When you are arranging a meal, or cleaning, or a gift, or important thing to do as much as possible is to require as little thinking/planning from the family you are trying to help as possible.  Get in contact with one of their closer friends or their family and try to work out the logistics for them.  Open ended offers are sweet, but it can be hard to work out details when your mind is swimming in appointments and what ifs and difficulties and the best help is the kind that doesn't require any extra tasks, even if that task is looking at a calendar.  This doesn't mean don't offer if you can't get in touch with someone else, just understand, once again, that things might not go as you planned and have mercy.

2.  The person/family going through cancer or whatever crisis is not a person in a Lifetime movie.  A movie can be turned off, but real life can't.  Please just be merciful when someone doesn't react how you thought they would.  

3.  Thank you for reading and commenting.  I hope you'll continue the conversation and like me on Facebook.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

When You Assume...

That's me up there after those last two posts.

Get it?  I made an ass, not really out of you, but definitely out of me.  I ended up dangling from a metaphorical cart because I broke a cardinal rule of writing and I assumed you knew what was in my head without me communicating it as clearly as possible.

When I wrote the What NOT To Say To Someone Facing a Health Crisis I made some fatal mistakes.  I mentioned that each person's response to facing a health crisis will be different and that is so important to remember and I just did not emphasize that enough.  In fact, each individual response will be SO different that I followed up with a post about what you SHOULD do that effectively contradicted the first one.  I heard from dear dear friends who read the NOT post and felt like they had messed up somehow and that could not be far enough from the truth.  So I'm going to try to filter the mud I mixed up over the last 2 day and communicate things a bit more effectively.  

Clarification #1

I wrote those posts with a certain group of people in mind.  I guess I was envisioning that advice going to the friend/acquaintance on the periphery who was moved to act but was not necessarily close enough to the patient or family to be able to easily identify their needs.  What I realize now is that a) I didn't make that clear and 2) I didn't account for the extrovert-y types who don't really have this "acquaintance" category.  

Clarification #2

I originally wrote those posts remembering certain incidents where I encountered someone who, while still meaning well, lacked appropriate boundaries or was just so codependent that they didn't realize that they were making my illness about them.  These are a small minority of the interactions I had during my illness but they were the most draining and traumatic.  I generalized those to inform all of my advice and didn't emphasize that the majority of people who would want a list of do's and don'ts aren't the kind of people who would ever make it about them anyway.  I didn't think that through completely which created a situation where when I listed "I can't imagine" and "How are you?" as things you shouldn't say I alienated a lot of well meaning people because I wasn't clear enough about what I was trying to say.  

So What Were You Trying To Say?

I'd like to clarify my stance on "How are you?" and "I can't imagine".  These are likely ok for most people but understand, if you ask how someone is and they say "Fine", don't push.  Unless you are very very close to that person please respect whatever boundaries they are setting at that time.  Don't say "I can't imagine" and then fish and fish for "it's not that bad", or if you get "it's not as bad as it seems" or some such don't push and push for all the gory details.  You wouldn't put a veteran on the spot about what they've seen and gone through if you are not extremely close to them.  I'm not comparing cancer to war, but when you have cancer or watch a loved one go through it you don't go to the hospital so they can feed you Skittles while they braid your hair.  It is traumatic, it is grueling, and it's hard to discuss every single time you have a conversation.  So express concern, ask after their wellbeing, but don't push a cancer patient or their caregiver or someone else going through a crisis to make you into their confidant or savior.  I hope this helps clarify things a bit.

Ninety eight percent of the people we've encountered on the road to recovery have been nothing but generous and loving and wonderful.  One other thing I'd like you all to remember is that when someone is diagnosed with cancer, or loses a child, or faces some other awful crisis, they do not become a character in a movie.  They stay the same unique, flawed child of God they were before, so the same hang-ups, impulses, and baggage they had before the crisis will inform the way they receive your efforts.  The human spirit combined with the grace of God can meet immense challenges in ways that are incredible, this is true.  What is also true is that extreme hardship brings out all of our personal protective measures, so using me as an example, everything in me was screaming to get in the bunker and hide all the while I had to be out at appointments and accepting people into my home more than I ever had in my adult life.  This colored my interactions with everyone all the time so that there were times that well meaning conversations were just too much at that particular moment.  So if you do reach out to someone and it doesn't go how you thought it would, please have mercy, they are bringing so much stress to every interaction and that is going to cause some awkwardness from time to time.

Finally, I want you to know that I remember what it's like to be on the other side.  To hear about a situation that is (here I go contradicting myself) unimaginable and to short circuit at the enormity of it and your powerlessness to do what you most want--which is to stop it.  I know what it's like to want that person to know how deeply you feel for them and what it's like to realize nothing you say seems like it can do much good.  When you approach someone with love and prayer and your very best intentions, you will bless them.

 You will not take it away.  You cannot take it away.  

You WILL still bless them and lift them up.  

Back to you dear me sort this that any clearer?