Friday, November 14, 2014

Operation Christmas Child 2014

It is shoebox packing time! Packing Operation Christmas Child boxes is an annual tradition for our family. We are grateful for this opportunity to reach out to children across the world in a tangible way. 

Throughout the year I look for good items that are on sale or on clearance. This year I even found some free-after-rebate school supplies! Because we found so many good deals, we were able to pack three shoeboxes this year! Last weekend we made our annual family outing to Wal-Mart to finish shopping for the children who will receive our shoeboxes. 

Shoebox gift for a girl age 2-4

We pack school supplies, toys, small clothing items, and toiletries for each child. We give every child a toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, and washcloth. This year we put Ivory soap in each box. Ivory soap floats, and that makes it the perfect soap to put in a shoebox. If a child drops his soap while bathing in a river, the Ivory soap will float, making it easy for the child to find his soap again.

 Shoebox gift for a girl age 5-9

This year we put tote bags in each shoebox. I recently read that many of the children walk a long way to get to a distribution center. Having a bag to put their items in makes it a lot easier to carry everything back home.

Shoebox gift for a boy age 5-9

We also send a card and a picture of our family to each child. We tell the children that we are praying for them. We tell them that they are special and loved, and we tell them about Jesus. We hope that one day we will be able to meet in Heaven the precious recipients of our shoeboxes.

William and Adelaide holding gifts that will soon be travelling across the world!

If you want to participate in Operation Christmas Child, there is still time! National Collection Week is November 17-24, 2014, so you still have a week to do your shopping and packing. Go here to find a drop-off location near youHere are instructions for how to pack a shoebox. If you print up a tracking label online Operation Christmas Child will even tell you what country your shoeboxes are going to! If you don't have time or energy to shop, you can build a box online.

Do you participate in Operation Christmas Child? What items do you like to pack in shoeboxes?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Chronic Illness and Friendship Series

Thank you for joining us for the Chronic Illness and Friendship seriesI hope that this series on friendship and chronic illness has been beneficial for both the healthy and the chronically ill as we seek to be good friends to those whom God has placed in our lives.

As we reach out to others in friendship, let us remember to have the mind of Christ. Let us consider others more important than ourselves. Let us serve one another in our friendships.
"Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Philippians 2:3-11

If you missed any of the blog posts in this series, you can find them here:

Chronic Illness and Friendship Series

Chronic Illness and Friendship photo FriendshipButton1small_zpse4fb4b6b.jpgThis Chronic Illness and Friendship button is now on the sidebar of my blog. You can click on the button to easily access all of the posts from this series anytime.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Chronic Illness and the Need for Grace in Friendship

Friendship is a gift to be cherished. Friends provide us with help, advice, love, and camaraderie. They bring a richness and joy to our lives. Trusted and faithful friends are a treasure, but there will be times when our friends disappoint us. We need to be ready to show them grace, patience, and forgiveness. We need to treat them the way we want them to treat us (Luke 6:31).

Dear friend with a chronic illness…

There may be times when your friend says something hurtful to you about the way you live life with a chronic illness, the way you look, or the treatments you take. She may make comments that she intends to be helpful or encouraging, but that in reality are hurtful. She likely isn’t trying to be hurtful or inconsiderate; she simply doesn’t fully understand life with a chronic illness.

When this happens, give your friend the benefit of the doubt; she probably has good intentions. Be gracious and quick to forgive. Be patient with her in your friendship, gently helping her to understand what life is like with a chronic illness. In time she will come to understand you and your chronic illness better.

Dear friend of someone with a chronic illness…

There may be times when your friend doesn’t understand what life is like for you. If she has had a chronic illness for a long time, then she might have a difficult time understanding the hardships faced in life by those who are healthy. Your life and your struggles may be very different than hers. When she doesn’t understand, be patient with, and gracious to, her.

On the days when your friend is in a lot of pain or feeling especially down because of her illness, she may be grumpy, frustrated, or sad. You can show her love on the days when she is especially unlovable. You can show her grace and forgiveness, gently helping her through those hard and painful days.

Exhortation for us all…

There will be challenging days in friendship. We are all sinners, and sometimes we will miscommunicate, treat each other badly, and become frustrated with one another. On the challenging days, we would be wise to follow the commands in Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

The hard days in friendship give us wonderful opportunities to work on developing the fruit of the Spirit. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law" (Galatians 5:22-23).

Let us seek to show these qualities in increasing measure to our friends. Let us be kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving. In our friendships, let us give the world a glimpse of the grace that Christ has so lavishly given to us.

Let’s hear from you!

If you are healthy, what is one of the most challenging things about friendship with someone with a chronic illness? How can you show your friend grace?

If you have a chronic illness, what is one of the most challenging things about friendship with someone who is healthy? How can you show your friend grace?

Photo credit: "Friendship" by Stefano Corso is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

This post is part of the Chronic Illness and Friendship series.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Initiating Friendship when there Is Chronic Illness

Finding friends and building friendships can be challenging, and when someone has a chronic illness, that makes it even harder. Someone with a chronic illness may spend a lot of time at home because of physical needs and limitations. She may not be able to participate regularly in community activities or church events that would give her opportunities to meet others and easily develop friendships. For this reason, it is necessary to be intentional in pursuing friendship. This is true for those who are chronically ill and want to befriend someone who is healthy, and it is true for those who are healthy and want to befriend someone who is chronically ill.

Someone with a chronic illness may reach out in friendship in a small way, such as talking after church or sending a Facebook message. If she is especially ill, that might be all she can do. Because of her chronic illness, there is a limit to what she can do to reach out in friendship, and those who don’t understand her limitations might not recognize her actions as offers of friendship. Her offer of friendship might not be reciprocated, but perhaps it isn’t because someone doesn’t want to be her friend. Perhaps it is because the person thinks, "Oh, I don't want to bother her. She's tired and needs to rest. If she is up for talking, she will contact me.”
If you have a chronic illness, before giving up on a potential friendship, maybe you should be bold and say outright, "I would love to be friends with you! Do you want to keep in touch through email, or would you like to come over and visit sometime?" This lets it be known that you want to be friends. Hopefully it will put the other person at ease, letting her know that you would love to be friends even if you are tired.

Someone who is healthy might reach out in friendship to someone with a chronic illness by asking if she may visit or bring a meal, or perhaps by sending a card in the mail or stopping by with a gift. Someone who is healthy and reaching out in friendship may be surprised to learn that her intentions of friendship might not be recognized. As one who has been chronically ill for a long time, I have discovered that it can be hard to know when someone wants to be my friend and when someone wants to reach out in service to me because I am a member of her church or community. Both are needed, and both are appreciated, but it can be hard to gauge what someone’s intentions are.

One person may bring over a meal because she wants to reach out to the woman with a chronic illness and help her in a practical way. She may not have the time or emotional energy to invest in a friendship with the chronically ill person, but she desires to help relieve some of the physical burden and show that she cares. Another person may bring a meal to a woman with a chronic illness because she wants to show that she cares, and because she wants to reach out in friendship. She has the time and emotional energy to invest in the one who is chronically ill, and she wants to move beyond acts of service and also be a friend and give emotional support. The actions of both women are good, needed, and appreciated, but if you desire to befriend someone with a chronic illness, it may be helpful to state that desire.

If you are healthy and want to be friends with someone who has a chronic illness, I encourage you to let her know that you want to be friends! You could say something like, “I would love to be friends with you. If you have enough energy, may I come over and visit you occasionally or take you out for lunch? If you aren’t up for visits, would you like to keep in touch through email or text messages?”

If you are healthy, it may be challenging to know how to befriend someone who is chronically ill. If you have a chronic illness, then it may be challenging to know how to befriend someone who is healthy. We all need friends, and it is worth facing those challenges and pursuing friendship! Let us be bold, and let us pursue friendship intentionally. Friends are worth it!

Let’s hear from you!

If you are healthy, what challenges have you found in pursuing friendship with someone who is chronically ill? What do you wish someone with a chronic illness would do in pursuing friendship with you?

If you have a chronic illness, what challenges have you found in pursuing friendship with someone who is healthy? What do you wish someone who is healthy would do in pursuing friendship with you?

Image credit: "Friendship" by Wrote, used under CC. Adapted by Rachel Lundy.

This post is part of the Chronic Illness and Friendship series.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Reaching Out in Friendship when You Have a Chronic Illness

I am excited to have my friend, Dorina, writing here today! Dorina and I met in Bible college 15 years ago, and within a couple of weeks we were the best of friends. She is one of the few people who have known me very well in my healthier days and in my very sick days. She is my original "Cranberry Tea Time" friend, so it is fitting to have her here for this Chronic Illness and Friendship series.

Dorina is here today to write specifically to those of us who have a chronic illness. I have asked her to share some ideas for how we can reach out to our healthy friends in meaningful ways. Please join me in welcoming Dorina to Cranberry Tea Time!

Friends are great! When you have a chronic illness it may seem impossible to show your friends how much you care. It can be hard enough on good days, but when “good days” are few and far between, it can feel like you are failing as a friend. Your energy, and therefore time, is exceedingly precious, and quickly and easily spent. I would hope that your friends understand and appreciate this. Despite the fact that you may not often, or ever, be able to get up and about to “do, do, do” for your friends, there is soooooo much that you can do just as you are. 

I must first state that the best friendship is built and centered on a personal, saving relationship with Christ. He is the only friend that will ALWAYS be there for you, ALWAYS understand, and NEVER give up on you or disappoint you. He loves you no matter what you are able to do, how you look, or how you are feeling on a particular day. With Jesus as your best friend, you can follow His lead for other friendships.

If you have a chronic illness, here are a few things you can do to reach out in friendship to a healthy friend:
  • Pray for your friend.  Jesus was often (and is still) praying for His friends. It may seem cliché, but praying for your friend is the best thing you could ever do for her. Many people are so busy “doing” that they don’t stop and take time to pray for the ones they care about. Not only does this bless the person for whom you are praying, but it blesses you as well!
  • Send your friend a message. You can send whatever you have the energy to compose. It can be as short as a one-liner text message saying, “Hi,” or a longer email or web message. If you have the time and energy, you could even write her a letter and send it through the mail. I get so excited when I get “real mail” in my mailbox!!
  • Talk with your friend. Telephones are a great convenience that allows you to speak with your friend even if you cannot get together in person. For some of you, talking might be more taxing than writing, but if it is easier for you to talk on the phone, then go for it! If needed, you can even make appointments to speak to each other. Skype is another option, and it adds the visual aspect - you can see and hear each other!
  • Listen to your friend. Sometimes we all just need a listening ear. Listening to your friend can help her relieve stress, figure out problems, work through feelings, or just connect with someone who cares.
  • Encourage your friend. Encouragement is something that means so much coming from a friend who knows our good, bad, and ugly. Your encouragement will help her to keep on as she faces challenges in life.
  • Lovingly correct your friend when you see that it is needed. Correction is best received if we know that is comes from one who loves us and is concerned for us. Sometimes correcting your friend will be a superhuman act of love. It is hard, but as a friend, she may need to hear it from you.

These are basic, but important, things that you can do for your friends without chronic illness. The variations and combinations of these are positively endless!  You have a lot to offer just as you are.

Please comment if you have any other ideas to share!!

Dorina Stanton was born and raised in Alaska. She is a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ as her Savior and is excitedly waiting for His return. In the meantime, she occupies her time as a domestic engineer specializing in childhood development.  Her hobbies include reading, running, knitting, swimming, sewing, and cold process soaping.

Dorina lives in North Pole, Alaska with her husband and three daughters.  They enjoy gardening, biking, teaching Sunday school and AWANA, baking warm goodies, skiing, sledding, shoveling snow, visiting the World Ice Art Championships, and watching the northern lights.

This post is part of the Chronic Illness and Friendship series.
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