Friday, March 23, 2018

Showing That We Care

I know several people facing difficult health challenges right now - in the hospital, on total bedrest, or going from doctor to doctor looking for answers.... It's hard to watch those we care about suffer.

This week, I thought I'd share something I wrote several years ago that I hope will be helpful. There are many ways we can show that we care. I'm so grateful for all the people who expressed love and support to me during all the years of illness. May we continue to reach out and encourage one another.

How to Express Love and Support to Those with Chronic Illness (Part 2) 

I want to say thank you to all of you who desire to encourage others with chronic illness! Living with EI (environmental illness), or any chronic illness, is a continual battle against discouragement. Your show of love and support enables us to keep going. Thank you!

Last week I shared the "Don'ts" of how to express love and support. (If you missed last week's post, you can read Part 1 here.) Now here's a list of some helpful "Do's."

Do's -

1) Do give GRACE. 
Regardless of your opinions or understanding of their situation, show grace by accepting the person exactly where they are. Forgive quickly. See the best in them. Love unconditionally. Listen, even if you don't understand. 

A simple definition for grace is undeserved kindness. Most people living with chronic illness struggle with feelings of condemnation, inadequacy, or guilt. When you demonstrate grace, it helps them see more of God's grace toward them. You can be a powerful instrument in God's hands to help them experience God's grace more and more! 

2) Do communicate with them in a way that works for them. 
This could be through texting, emailing, calling, FB, letters, etc. 

Some of my friends with chronic illness don't even own computers because of the EMF's. But they can handle short phone calls. Or with others, I write a letter on plain paper, using pencil, and then wrap it in aluminum foil to mail (to shield it from smells in transit). Other friends prefer to text or use FB. 

Ask the person what works best for them, then use that mode of communication. Honor them by respecting their needs and limits.

3) Do be sensitive, ask them what they need from you, and pray for wisdom in how to best encourage them.
Sometimes when a friend would call me, I didn't want to talk about my life. Instead I wanted to hear about all their adventures and the good things in their life. Other days I really needed someone to listen as I poured out all the craziness and hardship I was going through. 

It's ok to ask the person, "Do you want to talk about your situation? Or do you want me to just tell you funny stories about my kids?"

Also, when trying to encourage, balance being a good listener with also not letting them go on and on about negative symptoms. 

There's a time to let the person unburden their heart. In those moments, simply listen and say "I love you, and I'll keep praying for you."  

Then there are times when it's better to redirect the conversation away from negative thoughts to God's faithfulness or a positive topic. With chronic illness, it's easy to continually rehearse physical symptoms or complaints. Sometimes we need a friend to gently direct us to thanksgiving, trust, and praise. 

Only God can guide you in how to be sensitive and what to say in each situation. But hopefully being aware of these needs will help you as you converse with others.

4) Do be thoughtful about gift-giving.
With chronic illness comes feelings of isolation, being forgotten, missing out, etc. Receiving a thoughtful gift from someone can make a huge difference!

However, especially for those with chronic illness gift-giving can be tricky. For a few years basically the only gifts I could receive were CD's or DVD's. I couldn't even read books for a while because of being allergic to paper. 

If you don't know what products are good for the person, then just ask. It's better to ask what they like and can use, than to try to send a "surprise" gift and cause them to have a reaction.

For those without allergies, think about what they like and what kind of gifts will uplift them - perhaps a Christian fiction book, a funny movie, a beautiful journal they can write in, etc. It doesn't need to be expensive or elaborate. Small gifts are wonderful if there is thoughtfulness behind them.

Also, gift cards are a wonderful option. To an EI person, a gift card is not "impersonal" - it's a treasure! Most of us have limited finances, so a gift card to Wal-mart,, etc., is always appreciated. 

Ask God what gift would be best for the person. He will guide you in finding ways to encourage and bless them through thoughtful gifts (especially on holidays or birthdays as they are rough times for those who are ill). And I can tell you from experience how meaningful it is to receive a thoughtful gift in the midst of the daily struggles! 

5) Do recognize that God can still use the person for His glory.
Chronic illness does not mean useless. 

One of my EI friends is a talented artist. When she has a little energy, she often makes cards for people out of her drawings. Another friend is a faithful prayer warrior for many people. Another one likes to write songs. 

Even when people live with drastic limitations, God can still empower them to do good things. Obviously productivity doesn't equal value. And even a thankful heart glorifies God. If you see God at work in a specific way through the person, praise Him for it! And encourage them about what God can do through their life, even in their illness. (Many people encouraged me to keep writing during my illness, and God has brought much fruit from it.) 

6) Do pray for them.
Yes, keep praying for their healing! God is able and we can continually ask Him to heal.

But also pray for the person to develop greater intimacy with Jesus through suffering. 
Pray for inner strength, courage, peace, and joy in the midst of their trial. 
Pray that God's Word will come alive to them like never before.
Pray that their faith will grow and that God will empower them to praise Him in the storm.
Pray for God to bring eternal fruit from their pain.  

When I consider all the blessings God has given me through my health trial, I know it's because so many people were praying for me. And they didn't only pray for my healing - they prayed for so much more! I have received incredible answers to those prayers in spiritual growth, a closer relationship with Jesus, greater love for God's Word, fruitfulness in ministry, and much more! 

Through prayer we have the opportunity to invest in the lives of others and be part of God's divine work in this world. Even though praying for those who are ill may not seem like a world-changing effort, you never know what God will do in each life! Everything we do matters, and prayer matters most of all. 

Well, I hope these tips are helpful for you. Showing love and support to those with chronic illness requires effort, getting to know the person and their needs, and relying on God's strength. But it's a wonderful opportunity to be an expression of the love and grace of Jesus Himself. May we be His tangible presence in this hurting world. 

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Healthy Uses For Onions

A quick online search will list many different health benefits of onions, including things like regulating blood sugar, boosting immunity, and reducing inflammation. Clearly they are a wonderfully healthy food.

However, did you know there are healthy uses for onions besides eating them? In the last few years I've learned about various ways to use onions that have now become part of my routine. I'll list a few things here. I hope you'll find something helpful.

1) Fighting infections - Onions are anti-bacterial, so anytime I feel like my body is fighting an infection, I cut an onion in half and hold it in my right hand for anywhere from 7-12 minutes. (Be sure to throw it away after holding it.) If it's a tough infection, I sometimes do this twice a day. Obviously there are other natural things you can do to help your immune system when fighting an infection, but this has become one of my preferred tools to use.   

2) Absorbing smells - One time when some food had burned badly and the house was filled with smoke, a friend told me how to use onions to get rid of the smoke smell. You can cut some onions in half and place them in a bowl of water, cut side up. (They'll usually just float.) Set the bowls of water around the room with the smoke smell for about 15-20 minutes. Then throw away the onions. If there's still some smoke smell lingering, you can repeat this until the air smells clear again.

3) Absorbing toxins - Similarly to setting out onions in bowls of water, you can also just set them around by themselves in order to absorb various toxins. Cut the onions in half and set them on plates or on paper towels (so the onion juice doesn't drip on anything, because it will stain). Leave the onions out for about 10-15 minutes, then throw them away. I've used onions this way to help absorb toxins such as:
- cigarette smoke (for example: if you've bought used furniture or a used car that smells like cigarette smoke)
- certain cleaning products (like if a workspace is cleaned with strong chemicals, take your onion and set it out to help detoxify the space)
- chemicals from air freshener plug-ins (such as some homes or workspaces have)
- some (not all) mold-related toxins (for example: if you're staying overnight somewhere where there was a mold exposure, you can set out the onions to help reduce the toxicity)
...and more. 

4) Cleaning the air inside - Depending on where you live, if you're not able to open your house and air it out frequently, then you can set the cut onions around your living space periodically to help improve the air quality. Again, leave them for about 15-20 minutes.

A few notes about using onions:

1) After you remove the onions you've set out, you might want to set out a few plates of baking soda to absorb any lingering onion smell. Unless you don't mind the onion smell. =)

2) Generally speaking, do not leave onions sitting out for more than 20 minutes. If you read on the internet to leave onions sitting out all night, just know that's not really a good idea. Once the onions have absorbed all they can, they need to be thrown out. Otherwise those germs or toxins in the onions will be sitting there affecting the environment.

3) When throwing the used onions out, it's good to put them in a ziploc bag, and then put them in an outside trash can (because they will stink).

4) I try to always buy organic onions. If you can't find organic ones or can't afford them, then at least you can know that onions are low on the pesticide level list. (See for a list of the most toxic and least toxic non-organic produce.) I prefer to use yellow onions, though I have occasionally used red ones for these things.

Well, I hope these tips are helpful! Let us know if you have any other healthy uses for onions, by posting in the comments. =)