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What Chronic Illness is Teaching Me About Saying Yes

I almost missed out on a beautiful bike ride recently. Our schedule had been packed to the brim, and I needed two things at the store, so my inclination was to say “no” when my guys asked me to go bike riding with them at a nearby greenway.

But I’ve been trying to move a little more lately – and the gorgeous fall day (my favorite!) was beckoning me.  So I got on my tennis shoes and a sweatshirt, filled my water bottle, and hopped in the truck.  Face lotion and baby aspirin would have to wait.

Fall bike ride on the path

New Paths with a Touch of Bravery

I expected us to bike around the paved path by the lake.  That’s what the boys had done just two days prior.  But as we pedaled, we discovered off-road greenways that needed exploring.

We crunched over fallen leaves from the towering oaks and maples, skidded on slim paths next to a rocky creek, peddled hard up hills (ok, our seven-year-old and I walked our bikes up the steep ones) and adventured through a tunnel that took us to a neighborhood street.  It was magical! We rode for over an hour, and I was amazed at the growing confidence our son displayed on his bike. Letting my baby grow up may have some advantages. To tell you the truth, we’ve lived in the beautiful city of Raleigh for almost 16 years, but haven’t fully taken advantage of the expansive parks and greenways. I’m not much of an outdoorswoman, and weather conditions usually need to be perfect for me to feel adventurous.  Not too hot, not too cold – just call me Goldilocks. And in recent years, my health has given me an excuse (at times justified, other times not so much) to not venture out much.  I prefer my cozy living room and a Hallmark movie.  But just like the autumn leaves, this may be changing. 

I’ve always considered myself a “yes girl” to adventure, but I’ve let my chronic-illness instinct of “no, I can’t” win out more than it probably should.  Sometimes being brave is testing the waters to see what you’re capable of, even if you’re not 100 percent feeling it.  At times it hurts and you know to slow down, other times you’ll find strength you didn’t know you had.

Saying No is Brave, Too

Contrast that glorious bike-ride Sunday with just two days before.  It was our son’s birthday. I woke up feeling pretty normal.  I planned to walk a couple of miles, then join my husband to take lunch and cupcakes to our son’s school for his birthday. 

ate breakfast, got a Starbucks flat white, then began my walk.  About a mile in, I started to feel wonky – as in, “I must go home NOW!” I made my way home, told my hubby what was going on, then lurched into bed. I was feeling sorry for myself, sad that I couldn’t take cupcakes to school. My mind started spiraling into “my body always fails me, I can’t believe I have to miss out, not another birthday” pity party. 

You see, on our son's second birthday, I was in the ER ‘til wee hours of the morning the night before his party.  I did not want a replay of that – which of course, was completely beyond my control.

Turning my thoughts over to God was key in preventing me from tumbling down the anxiety “what-if” rabbit hole.

So I quieted my spiraling mind, prayed to God to help me feel better (I still needed to go pick up his cake!), and went to sleep. I slept for the next two hours, then spent two more just resting in bed. I felt much better, even joining my guys for a steak dinner (our son's favorite) and finishing the party prep for the next day. I listened to my body, which was telling me I needed to rest. It took a little acceptance and bravery to make that call, but it was the right thing to do.

Captive Thoughts and Renewed “What Ifs”

Finally, turning my thoughts over to God was key in preventing me from tumbling down the anxiety “what-if” rabbit hole. I can do what I can, while leaning on God if He’s calling me to a few hours (or a season) of rest. It’s a spiritual battle for my mind to take every thought captive (2 Corin. 10:4-5) and not let the unknowns of chronic illness rule my thoughts. I think even those without chronic illness can relate. We all have limitations on our time and energy. Sometimes we just have to listen to our bodies and say “no” or “not now” even if it means missing out.  And sometimes we need to say a forced “yes” so we can experience a gorgeous day with people we love.

We can replace the scary “what ifs” with “What if we make awesome memories?” “What if we discover new places?” “What if this makes me feel stronger?”  Now THOSE are the kind of “what ifs” I can get behind! Have you ever had a surprising lesson come from saying “yes” or “no”?  I’d love to hear it!



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Maybe your faith is dangling by a thread. I get it. While living with an incurable genetic condition, I'm learning faith can be firm even while life is fragile. Join me as we journey to God's goodness on life's uncertain path...

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