The Ministry of Lisa Copen

Lisa Copen, Founder of Rest Ministries which serves the chronically ill, shares about mothering, illness, ministry and more.

Counting the Blessings Hidden in Illness

it’s the little things that count when living with pain or illness

Del37473751_2 With the holidays nearing once again we are urged by everyone from Hallmark commercials to our local newspaper editor to take a moment to count our blessings. If you live with a chronic illness you may find that blessings are a bit more hidden in your life than they were previously.

Thanksgivings past you may have easily sat around the table of relatives before the feast and play the "I’m Thankful For. . ." game. When it was your turn, without hesitation, you chose one of the many things you were grateful for to share: "I’m thankful for my job, my family, my financial security." And–and, ah yes, there was that thing called "health."

Now though, the ease of being able to list health on your thankful list has disappeared. And perhaps you are even struggling with some other things you’ve lost, in part, due to your loss of health. Maybe the lack of finances keeps you awake at night in addition to the physical pain. Or maybe it’s the empty side of the bed where your spouse once slept.

Can we still be thankful? Yes! In his book  "You Can Be Happy No Matter What: Five Principles for Keeping Life in Perspective," Richard Carlson (who was well known for his "Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” book series before passing in 2006), writes, "Most of us experience fleeting moments of happiness but then let them pass us by without due notice. . . We do this because we are always looking to find happiness somewhere else."

So, what are some things that we can thank God for, despite our illness? Friends who care, a roof over our heads, and that we have hope and faith. All of these are important. But what are some of the unusual things that someone with a chronic illness may really be thankful for that a healthy person may not give a second thought?

·        A drive-thru of any kind: for prescriptions, coffee, food and banks

·        Parking spots, especially close ones that don’t require us to pull out our placard

·        Sugar-free desserts and the people who bring them on special occasions, remembering we can’t eat sugar

·        Being able to watch an amazing sunset without walking five feet from the car

·        Unexpected clear freeways when we were expecting rush hour traffic

·        The grocery clerk that says, "Can I help you to you car with that?" even though you are only twenty-seven and look perfectly healthy

·        Shopping carts that have four working wheels that all go the direction they ought

·        The ability to sleep well on a hotel bed instead of sitting in the bathroom reading all night so as not to wake our roommates

·        People that smile at us for no apparent reason

·        UPS delivery men who don’t give it a second thought that we are still in our pajamas at two-thirty in the afternoon

·        The smile of our child when we’ve done everything in our power to make sure she has a good time–and she actually does

·        Being able to get both shampoo and conditioner out of the bottles and hold your arms up long enough to use them

·        Bottles and jars that open easily and don’t require us to try three different jar openers

·        Products that have the word, "automatic" or "self-cleaning"

·        Car keys that turn easily so the ignition starts

·        The ability to request a wheelchair at the airport

·        Doctors who actually give you a light hug on your way out of the office say, "I wish I could do more."

In her book, "Have a Little Faith!" author Sherri Connell reminds those who have their health to be grateful for their abilities. "When was the last time you took the time to thank God for being able to sleep six hours straight or for giving you the strength to wash your hair? Have you ever praised Him for being able to scrub your toilet or being able to refill your soap dispensers? . . . Have you ever been elated to be able to dust a few pieces of furniture or for making a simple meal? People who have disabilities count blessings others never even stop to think about!"

If counting your own blessings feels a little dry, then have some fun with it like I did above and put a spin on what you’re thankful for. Start a” Funny-Gratitudes-that-Affect-My-Attitude journal and see how quickly you will be able to–not only have the longest list at the family gathering–but create some giggles as well as personal reflection among those you love.

Get Lisa Copen’s monthly ezine, HopeNotes, at and receive for FREE the first 40 pages of her book “Beyond Casseroles: 505 Ways to Encourage a Chronically Ill Friend.” Lisa is the founder of Rest Ministries and National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week. She lives in San Diego with her husband and 4-year-old son and has had rheumatoid arthritis since 1993 at the age of 24.


  maria wrote @

My illness causes skin cancer, among other things. Here are a few unusual items of mine:
An outdoor venue with shade that is close to the action (sports, concert, beach, etc.)
100% cotton clothing
Covered porches with swings
Comfortable chairs and/or exam tables in a doctor’s office
Free parking
Skilled doctors/nurses, health insurance & the power of choice

  Denise wrote @

This is wonderful. Thanks

  Christine wrote @

I loved reading this thank you so much. I was also featured on November Pain-Blog Carnival “suffererofRSD”
I would like to add a quick thankful:
I am thankful when the people walking by me don’t give me a dirty look because I am 28 and look healthy, yet I am flared up so badly that I need the stores electric cart.
I too am in San Diego.

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