“You see, the short-lived pains of this life are creating for us an eternal glory that does not compare to anything we know here.” 2 Corinthians 4:17
“Faith must be tested, because it can be turned into a personal possession only through conflict. … Faith is unutterable trust in God, trust which never dreams that He will not stand by us.”
Recently my husband speculated about a lifelong friend; wondering why this person’s life had taken the turn it had. He pondered why certain things haven’t happened the way we expected them to; good things we’d hoped for him. Tom turned to me to ask what I thought. I almost surprised myself when I said, “We can’t figure out why things didn’t turn out differently for him. There are so many variables–life is uncertain.”
Lately, I’ve experienced visceral pain for friends who are in hard situations. Desperately praying; I carry them close to my heart. I remind them of my thoughts; what else can I do?
I used to know everything, or at least thought I did. Of course, I would never have said that; but when I look back I realize I behaved as if I had all the answers. I guess I thought most outcomes could be determined simply by choices; that things would work out if we behaved and worked hard, or something like that. Choices and actions are important. Then, there is that Ever Present Looming Universe Over Which I Have No Control.
I had a lot to learn in the compassion and humility departments.
Years ago, I probably would’ve had answers as to why our friend hasn’t achieved the things we expected. I’d have known what he should have done in order to be successful.
Before I had children, I’d hear screaming mamas and kids while grocery shopping. I’d roll my eyes in judgement. I could tell that mama what to do to make her kids behave. A parenting expert without children! That’s what I was.
I had suggestions when a friend suffered from depression. I truly cared for her, but I didn’t understand her inability to stay in a good mood. She needed to get involved with other people and get her mind off herself. I wanted her to snap out of it.
Somewhere along the way, the teacher called Life came into play. Bad things happened to me. My marriage partner for life decided to leave. The baby I was carrying when he left would have serious disabilities.
When my daughter was three, I dragged her with me several hours to a revival where a well known speaker would be leading the services. Apparently he was known for faith healing. The only thing needed from me was an ability to really believe she’d be healed. And believe I did! In my mind, I could see her normally engaging with people around her. But, sadly, the miracle I wanted never happened. And it hasn’t happened to this day, many years later.
My daughter wasn’t healed and I was painfully disappointed. Then, other troubles came upon my family. I won’t bore you with all the details but there were some very hard seasons.
As I look back now these many years later, I have a very different perspective than I did when I knew it all. I see all of the troubles and heartaches I’ve experienced, as a gift of sorts. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t wish that “gift” on other people, and I don’t want to re-do those experiences. But they have begun to mold me into what I wanted from the very beginning. Christlikeness. I’ve seen the process over and over in other people. I honestly wonder if Christians ever change and grow without the trials that beat up against us. I tend to think they are a necessary part of life.
These days, I say, “I don’t know” all the time. Why did I ever need to have answers for everyone? Frankly, it was probably fear. If I could figure out how to create positive outcomes then I’d be able to avoid my own pain, which seemed like a good idea. I’m a chicken when it comes to pain.
I’m closer to God and trust in His miraculous power more than ever. The way He’s blessed my life and answered so many desires–especially my Tom– has humbled me. I pray each day for impossible things to happen in the lives of people I care about, and some people I don’t even know. I continually pray for a miracle for my daughter, Dawn.
I try my best to focus on Him and allow His Presence to overshadow the bad things that happen in this earthly life. Horrible things like young people dying and parents of small children taking their own lives.
I’m a more grateful person now. I’m looking for beauty in the moments; things I overlooked or minimized for so long.
I typically see folks now through a lens of compassion. Especially the ones I would have thought weird or scary in earlier decades. They’re the ones who I imagine have suffered the most. And they are still standing on their own two feet. Certain kinds of heroes.
I know far less than I used to know, but I’ve relinquished my life (a little) more freely to the One Who Knows Everything. And He is Wholly Good.
Pray, and let God worry.
On my morning walk I was praying like it was my job— serious praying that befits this season. Friends with serious health diagnoses, a sweet friend fighting for her life after a horrific accident and a couple manuevering a very painful breach in their marriage—we love them all so much and we’re crying out for answers. It seems almost too heavy a burden sometimes.
Not only are there urgent needs; there are those perpetual prayers that I’ve voiced for years, sometimes becoming weary and bored with my own words. I pray rotely— like songs or idioms that stick in your head. They never completely leave my consciousness.
Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever see the answers to those long-term prayers. The measure of my hope seems to be commensurate with the amount of time an item has been on my list. Those old tired prayers can become repetitous, almost numbing.
On my best days I stir myself to visualize glorious outcomes. I watch for the answers, peeking through the cracks of my awareness much like when I’m expecting arriving friends—walking to the door; looking through the window to see if they’ve arrived.
I believe for the answer but I know that it may not come in the way I want. There is that faith element in our companionship with God that we can’t get away from. It takes believing without seeing to even know Him. Faith motivates us to keep after it (prayer) when we don’t see results. When we think God is deaf or busy doing something else. I have to pray in agreement with what I believe He would pray and then trust that I’ll see it come to pass. He is Love. Also, He is Sovereign and He keeps some things in a secret place that I’m not privy to.
What if God answers some prayers after I’m gone? What if He answers differently from what I imagined? What if an amazing response finds its way into the life of someone in conjunction with my prayers?
AM I ABLE TO LET GO AND REALIZE THE FUTURE BELONGS TO HIM?
Years ago as I was thinking along these lines, I found myself encouraged by a beautiful young woman named Ruth. There is true beauty in one whose heart is so pure and selfless.
We find Ruth living in Moab in 1140 BC. At that time a Jewish family relocated from Bethlehem-Judah to Moab to escape a serious famine. One of the family’s sons married Ruth. Sadly, after only a few years, the father and two sons died, leaving only the mom, Naomi, and her two daughters-in-law to fend for themselves. One daughter-in-law, Orpah, decided to remain in her homeland, but Ruth insisted on staying with Naomi and returning to Bethlehem. Naomi urged Ruth to leave her, but Ruth was emphatic, even though the future looked very bleak.
” Don’t urge me to abandon you, to turn back from following after you. Wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried.” Ruth
Ruth’s story is interwoven with God’s Sovereignty; His overall Purpose in history was sure to be accomplished. In Ruth’s determination to support her mother-in-law, she played an important role in continuing the lineage that would bring the Messiah to our world. As she set out to earn a living, Ruth found favor with a prosperous leading man of the city. He allowed to her to glean barley in the fields after the workers left. The man, Boaz, kindly asked the workers to leave extra grain for her to collect. Ruth quickly created a livelihood for herself and her mother-in-law. She also caught the eye of Boaz. Naomi had explained that he was a relative of hers and one of the men whose responsibility it was to care for widows in their family. In what is a true love story in itself, Boaz married Ruth and relieved she and Naomi from their fear of the future. Ruth would go on to have a son, Obed, making Naomi a happy grandma and carrying on the family line.
That’s all exciting enough, but here’s the real clincher. RUTH WAS A DISTANT GREAT-GRANDMOTHER OF JESUS CHRIST THE MESSIAH! And…she didn’t even know. Ruth made selfless choices apparently with no thought of herself. She chose what what she perceived to be God’s will in real life decisions. And just look how prominent a role she plays in history!
Ruth has given me much hope. Our pleadings DO HAVE RESULTS, even though we may never see them. We have to walk in faith, praying and making the best decisions we know to make and then LEAVE THE RESULTS TO OUR FATHER. As earthlings, we see only part of the big picture. We might be flabbergasted if we knew how profoundly our choices and prayers affect the future.
Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.
Is your table big enough for folks outside your family? Is your heart large enough to offer a hand of friendship to a neighbor or a stranger?
I remember how scared I was the day before I hosted a dinner in our home for the very first time. As a new bride, I was very excited and anxious about setting a table and serving new friends— another married couple. I was a public school teacher and I worried about having time to get everything ready. I decided to prepare the meal ahead of time. I guess I was afraid I wouldn’t be ready otherwise. I wish I could remember how I arrived at my particular thinking and what food I’d served. I do remember that it wasn’t well suited to being prepared ahead. In other words, it was quite overcooked by the time we sat down to eat. Looking back, I could probably easily have whipped it together after school that day. That was back in the day when I’d sit in bed at night poring over cookbooks and imagining serving the lovely staged meals in the photos.
The meal surely wasn’t all that great, but I do remember the conversation being easy and the enduring friendship which began that night.
I recall another low point early in my culinary career. My sweet daddy went to the grocery store and bought me a chicken after he happened to see the one I’d planned to cook for dinner. It would be my first chicken and who knew they had expiration dates? If he hadn’t intervened, I may not be here today to tell my story!
My mom was wonderful in the kitchen, daily working her magic; I certainly didn’t lack an example. I likely had no interest in cooking at my parents’ home. That seems to be how kids are. Until it’s important to you, you don’t acquire the skill.
My first hosting experience came back to me recently along with the nervous feelings. It was such an odd feeling— I don’t remember having anxiety about hospitality in thirty years or more. Here was the occasion: our new neighbors were coming over for dinner! We’d barely met them and it would be my first time cooking and entertaining in our new home in Columbia.
Why show hospitality?
As Christ followers we’re connected to a large body of other people. We need each other. Hospitality is a practical way to show love to fellow Christians as well as to those who don’t have a relationship with Christ. As we sit around a table together we’re on common, level ground. Our homes are the perfect place to reach out to people of different backgrounds and lavish them with kindness.
1 Peter 4:8-9
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.
Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.
Romans 12:13, 15-16
When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.
Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!
- Call and invite someone over for a meal before you have time to get scared.
- Say yes if your guest asks to bring something. People like to help and it makes everyone more relaxed.
- Offer who you are and what you have–be authentic!
- Don’t wait until your house is ready!
- Order pizza & salad or prepare something simple.
- Don’t attempt a Thanksgiving meal!
- If you do the prep, a one dish meal is best. A pot of soup or large salad with a delicious loaf of bread, for instance. Band-Aid Bread (Recipe Included)
- Set the table ahead of time. Use what you have—light a candle and cut some flowers or greenery from your yard.
- Remember the essentials: a smile and a listening ear.
Our recent dinner with neighbors went well. We enjoyed learning about each other and they seemed to like the meal. I even told them a bit of my story and confessed that I was nervous that night.
My first entertaining experience lit a flame in me that’s never gone out. There’s nothing I’ve enjoyed more than inviting people to share our table. A magic happens there unlike anywhere else. Is your table big enough?
“People will forget what you said, forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
– Maya Angelou
I stepped outside into a beautiful April morning and did a little trimming in our mini-yard. Compared to the acre we lived on earlier, this yard is on the tiny side. I stumbled into a small spot in between our house and Debbie’s. There, hidden away, was the most beautiful profuse light-blush-colored rose bush.
I was reminded again:
I’m reaping things I didn’t sow. Several times in recent weeks that truth has popped into my mind.
In John chapter four, there is discussion about followers of Jesus reaping a harvest of new believers after other people sowed Biblical truth into their lives. Maybe we’ll reap people, too! But for now, I’m looking around and acknowledging the current gifts in my life that I didn’t work for:
- The beautiful purple Clematis that previous owners planted. I’d never had success growing it!
- A metal arch in our new yard with a vine growing over; something I had on my want list.
- The fragrant lush rosemary and the light green shrub that’s good for cutting and arranging.
- Daffodils that popped up out of nowhere; fun and spontaneous.
- A screened porch which we’ll really enjoy! Someone who never knew us built it long ago.
- Miles and miles of walking paths in our new community which I love. I choose routes with views of the lake since I’m a bit obsessed with water.
It takes conscious work to focus on gains rather than losses.
I moved out of state to be with my husband. He has a job which is a fantastic fit for him. After he moved, I focused on our daughter and her upcoming wedding for about a year. I also procrastinated and delayed my move as long as possible. Tom knew how difficult it was for me to leave family, friends and home so he never rushed me or insisted I leave Wilmington. He’s like that.
So often I think, “How would I survive without a relationship with God?” How awesome to have an easy flow of communication with the Father and the entire Trinity. When I don’t know the answer to a conundrum I chat with Him about it and if I really listen and truly want to know, He’ll speak. Not usually in an audible voice, but a voice inside that’s nearly as clear and certain as a human voice. That’s been my experience for the last forty plus years. When I went to Him about moving from Wilmington, He encouraged me to support my husband and celebrate him. I already kind of knew the answer, but this was a big deal and I needed extra confidence—knowing it was all part of God’s plan.
God knew, when He spoke so unmistakably, that four months after my move I’d still find it difficult to drive by our old house. That I’d still almost take the familiar path home and then have a heaviness come over me when I realized my mistake. That our granddaughter, at twenty-two months would say, “There’s Mimi’s house”, when we drove near our old street. Each time sadness breaks into my thoughts, I remember that I made the right decision. I’m so grateful for a Father who cares about all the details.
When I cut some of those beautiful roses, I tried carefully to avoid the thorns but a big one got me! I was both mad and determined. That pain wouldn’t stop me. I thought again of the parallels.
You have to press through difficulty or inconvenience to get at the reward. Pain is often the tool to spur me on.
C. S. Lewis says:
“Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
I’m such a wimp about pain. I hate it. But in retrospect I’m always thankful for what I learn during those hard times, and there have been quite a few of them.
I can’t imagine living several hours away from my husband. We’re having so much fun together– our marriage gets better and better. God knows what He’s doing! I am blessed.
In our new neighborhood we have a lovely walking path that I’ve referred to as “hilly” and “good for the legs”.
Last week I took out an instrument of torture on the lovely path— the instrument I formerly referred to as my bike.
The lovely hilly path was today, Mount Mitchell, NC, as far as my heart and legs were concerned. Any pretense of fitness on my part vanished in thin mountain air.
My legs fatigued oh so quickly. How long had it been since I’d been in the saddle? Apparently quite a bit longer than I’d remembered!
As I huffed and puffed up the
mountain incline, in second gear, I was comforted by three thoughts.
- I know how to gear down and ride very slowly.
- I know how to walk the bike.
- If all else fails, I have my phone for a 911 call.
Then, I started to realize how my maiden bike ride parallels my current life story.
I’ve been permitted to gear my life down as I am gradually adjusting to our move and big life transitions. To be less busy and move at a slower pace. To focus on deep and important things; investing time in relationships with people and God. I may appear to be covering less ground, as a lower gear indicates, but, sometimes the progress is deep and unseen by others. Considering what I’ve acquired from this time, I have no regrets.
Even at a slower pace consistency creates momentum. “Slow and steady wins the race”. One walk and conversation with my new neighbor. One letter written. One invitation for lunch to a single woman I’m getting to know. Baby steps count. Momentum becomes progress. Progress encourages me to keep going. Eventually my confidence is strengthened. I know I’ll fulfill my purpose if I keep going in the right direction. There will be habits and character created that will be with me for the long term. As I avoid obsessing over results, the results will happen.
I identify with Oswald Chambers’ take on purpose:
“We have no right to judge where we should be put, or to have preconceived notions as to what God is fitting us for. God engineers everything; wherever He puts us our one great aim is to pour out a whole-hearted devotion to Him in that particular work.” “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might”. Ecclesiastes 9:10
I can call for help when I need it! We lived in our home in Wilmington for so many years; longer than any other place. It has been very hard for me to adjust to not being there. When I think of going home I still think of that house. There will always be a map in my heart that leads to that special place.
Sometimes I need to share my feelings, however awkward I may feel, with another person. I’ve been encouraged countless times by loved ones who’ll listen and empathize. Life is never meant to be navigated alone! We need each other. I’m adapting to our new home in Columbia and I have joy and anticipation—knowing it’s God’s plan for us to be here. I couldn’t have done it without the support of people who care.
My husband says after about ten more bike rides, I’ll laugh at how difficult my ride was. I’m not looking forward to checking those off my list! I wonder, will I also laugh one day at how difficult the move was for me? We shall see! His point rings true.
“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.” – Confucius
I rushed to my sister’s side as soon as I could get there. Sisters of the heart, if not by birth. I told Dolly, “I must really love you to drive seven hours to see you!” She’d come close to death after a long hospital stay in her home town. (See http://tranquiliving.com/true-blue-the-splendor-of-friendship/.) Through the help of a caring friend, who just happened to be a cardiac nurse, she was admitted into Birmingham’s UAB Extreme Heart Failure Unit. When she arrived, the doctor had little hope for her survival.
She’d been there about five days when I entered her room on a Tuesday afternoon –I sensed an atmosphere of celebration. All eyes were on the doctor standing at the foot of her bed. Seconds earlier he’d agreed to the procedure she’d hoped for—a defibrillator/pacemaker would be implanted for her heart and her very life. Hope!
Dolly—my friend of over forty years. It’s funny that when you’re young and nonchalantly making friends, you don’t think ahead to how a friendship might play out. How you’ll find yourself years later, thinking like that person or even talking like her. I realize today that I’m pretty much a compilation of all my relationships plus the Grace of God.
One thing we remembered together is how people, through the years often asked if we were sisters. My husband even confused us when he and I first met! Then, it happened again in the hospital! “Are you two sisters?” We smiled and said, “Yes”, and then told our story.
A few years ago, our son John was about to be married. I called Dolly and said,” I don’t think I can get ready without you.” She answered, “No, you can’t, I’ll be there!” She did my makeup and hair just as she’d done for my wedding thirty years earlier. The celebration was a dream, and I never worried about how I looked!
At UAB, I was with Dolly for most of four days. I was there when the Doctor Without Hope stood again at the foot of her bed and said she was doing GREAT and would soon be released!
Rather than drudgery, as it sometimes seems during hospital visits, my time there was a pleasure. We reminisced and caught up on each others’ lives. We gathered around, held hands and prayed with her husband, Jack, and close friends. We shared together deeply and believed for what we asked. I sensed an unnatural peace wash over me. I’m using the term loosely, but I felt like I was on holy ground. Our talks and prayers were so weighty and real and heaven-focused. I could exhale and relax, knowing that everything would be alright. While praying for Dolly I kept pondering the word immortal.
adjective: living forever; never dying or decaying.“our mortal bodies are inhabited by immortal souls”
A funny thing happened recently. I looked in the mirror two days after my eye surgery and saw an unfamiliar face looking back at me. I studied my skin with all its splotchiness and thought, “The sedation meds must’ve had some weird effect!” I couldn’t imagine why my skin had taken on a different color and older look. On the same day I noticed a Facebook update— the emoji colors were brighter and more vivid! Many things were taking on a new appearance. When I started noticing freckles on friends’ faces where I hadn’t seen freckles before I finally realized what had really changed—my eyesight! I’d had brand new lenses inserted in place of my cataract covered lenses. I knew my vision was poor, but not until I saw clearly did I realize how skewed it had been.
The timing of my new physical vision was not lost on me. My surgery occurred at the very time I was packing for a move from our long-time family home to start a new life in another city. I looked into the mirror, trying not to be completely saddened by my image and said, “Lord, what other more important things have I not seen clearly?”
Growth implies change. Change doesn’t come easily for me. I need to remember that since I first began to follow Christ, my primary goal has been to grow in my faith; to be fully surrendered and aligned with His plan. Did I believe my growth would happen without experiences and surroundings changing? I’ve encountered plenty of change in my life; and our home and community were great sources of comfort during the changes. Now I see that even the absence of those comforts is incentive and impetus for growth. I recently read, “No beginnings without endings. Growth brings change.”
Gratitude isn’t dependent on circumstances. While reading the New Testament I noticed that Jesus thanked God when there wasn’t enough. In Luke 9 Jesus is concerned about feeding the 5,000 men and their families who had come to hear him teach. He asks the disciples to give them something to eat. Since they could only come up with five loaves of bread and two fish they were at a loss as to how they could feed all those people! Jesus, without hesitation, has all the people sit in organized groups. Then He proceeds to thank God for what clearly was not enough! As He gave thanks for the very small amount, there was enough food for all the folks with twelve to-go baskets of left-overs! What do I have in my hand that seems like not enough? How can I thank God for the not enough and watch Him create abundance? He’s done this for me many times!
I need to keep Jesus ever present in my mind. One day while I was taking a walk I asked God to show me, practically, what keeping my eyes on Him meant. I had the idea that whenever anxious thoughts would come, I’d imagine a looming image of Jesus in my mind overshadowing those worries and causing me to think of Him instead of the anxieties. I’m very visual and I think God obliges me often when I need a specific application. His Presence and influence is vast enough to overshadow circumstances. He’s always with me.
I need God to lead my life, not my feelings. My feelings and emotions are important and valid but they are not what I need to base my decisions on. I hear him primarily through reading Scripture, and He speaks to me in my thoughts. Many times I also hear him speak through other people. One day a dear friend spoke clearly into my life during a near melt-down. I’d thought, “I can’t do this!” She confidently spoke to me, “Number one: you CAN do this. Number two, picture yourself happily in your new home doing things you enjoy. Number three; picture how your life would be if you stayed here rather than joining your husband in his new community.” I already knew what I was supposed to do, but I needed encouragement! Her words put hope in my heart and there was no doubt Who the Source was! After following Jesus for over 45 years I recognize when thoughts line up with His Truth.
This morning in my prayer time I felt like the Lord said, “You were made for this.” I share that with you, my friends, because I believe you also, were made for whatever the this is in your life. If you know Him you will never be alone. He will never fail to lead you in the way He has for you to go.
“Our house was not unsentient matter — it had a heart and a soul, and eyes to see with…. We never came home from an absence that its face did not light up and speak out its eloquent welcome — and we could not enter it unmoved.”
Thinking back over my life I realize I was never one to get attached to a house. That is until now.
Virtually my entire childhood happened under the same roof. My parents brought me home to our little ranch when I was about one year old.
Growing up I didn’t know how deprived I was! We had one tiny bathroom and each room in the house was also quite small. The house was my home; my normal and it met all of my needs. Things like houses were different in the sixties.
As I entered adolescence, and my sister and I became more interested in peers, daddy took it upon himself to “close in the carport” and create a den. We’d have a place to gather friends. He’d work nights and weekends to get the project done; in his own time and own way. Looking back now, I can see why friends wondered if it was a house trailer.
At the time I thought we were moving up; adding a fancy den with indoor/outdoor carpet to our home. After the add-on our house was a whopping 1700 square feet! Huge.
I left that home to enter college and eventually marriage. I had fond memories of my home, but the future was where my heart was coaxing me.
Then, there was the little house that ultimately became a sad place for me due to an unwanted divorce. I loved that house and the way I creatively made it a home. It was the cutest 980 square feet you’d ever find. (Smile) But the pain from that era was all too close to the surface and I moved on.
Next came a long string of rental houses in another state. These included a mobile home. I was working full-time to support my little family. Over the years while I was at work, my friends moved me multiple times. (That reminds me; I need to remember to thank them for that!) I was in survival mode those years and guess I didn’t fully realize how much was done for me.
I came home from work on the day the mobile home became my home. Barbara walked me to the bedroom window and pointed to a small retention pond—a low spot that collected rain water, in the woodsy area. She pulled back the small curtain and said, “I put a chair here by the window so you can look at the water!” Her whole heart was encouraging mine.
All those rental houses were pretty easy to say goodbye to. Although there was that nice upscale house that had a swimming pool and just happened to sell right after I arranged furniture and hung pictures on all the walls. That one was a little hard to leave.
But now we are planning a move from the house we’ve raised our family in for 28 years.
I can’t look at the stairs without seeing Christmas garlands and decorations. In my mind’s eye I still see the kids sliding down on sleeping bags and other paraphernalia.
The dining room table speaks of celebration to me.
I love to open the front door into our foyer— it gives me that sweet happy anticipation upon entering.
I recall Tom and John side by side, building our deck. John had his own pile of scrap wood that he’d add nails to with his child-sized hammer.
This house…our home…it will not be forgotten. I’m convinced, even through my fears, that the feelings of sadness and sentimentality will give way to pleasant memories; just in time to create new ones in our next home.
“Where we love is home – home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.”
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
I was feeling weak and vulnerable. Awake most of the night, I was anxious about house-buying decisions and transitions; then dragging around in a fog early the next morning,
When I showed up to take care of Eliza, Mary and John read my expression. Sharing with them briefly through my tears, and hearing their responses eased the pain.
I began to see some things differently in the light of day. I recalled the times I wish I’d asked for support; when I swallowed hard and acted strong and together. It wasn’t arrogance that caused me to appear unruffled and unemotional. I believed my stalwart demeanor was expected and even required. Everyone has challenges and no one wants to hear me complain about mine, I thought. I was self-conscious about my labored droning on and wasting someone’s time.
I never set out to be the strong one.
When I was a single mom of two young kids I pushed my emotions down deep inside. It was my responsibility as the care-giving parent to keep it together. I was worried that my son could be harmed by my debilitating emotional pain. I was the sole provider, working two jobs at times. I wanted to show him what I knew to be true: that God is a good Father and He would see us through.
My daughter with autism was ultra-sensitive to other’s emotions, and reflected what she perceived. I was extra vigilant when around her (and still am!) as her expressiveness could be very difficult to corral and manage.
Recalling my childhood I don’t remember ever talking about feelings. The unspoken message was to be quiet and good. We knew our parents loved us unconditionally, but it wasn’t exactly in vogue to share feelings.
Once while walking with my friend Cynthia, I casually mentioned how hard it had been staying up all hours of the night with Dawn who couldn’t get to sleep. It was an ongoing problem for years. It became routine; Tom and I would take turns staying up to keep her calm and try to coax her down to bed, sometimes not getting her to sleep until daybreak. It was horrible! Cynthia stopped abruptly and said she’d always wondered why I’d never complained about raising my special daughter. She didn’t know how I’d kept it together.
Another clue that I was holding it all inside.
I remember a pastor discussing what it’s like to have a broken heart. Without warning, I broke down in a way that I’d never done in the past and haven’t since. I hurt so deeply inside and couldn’t quit crying. Every memory demanded my attention. That very day I’d had such difficulty managing Dawn’s behavior so I could attend church. I cried so much that morning, experiencing such pain but ended up feeling freer somehow.
When my sweet mom passed away a few years back, so many griefs from the past seemed to tag along right beside the recent grief and loss. I promptly felt the pain of an earlier divorce, of raising a cognitively disabled child who needed constant attention and raising a son without his father. As I looked back, I actually felt sorry for that girl who endured so much pain and wished it could have been different for her.
Evidence of storing the pain away.
Recently, days apart, I bumped into two acquaintances from church. In each case, when I asked, “How are you doing?” each indicated that she was doing terribly. One began to cry. I felt grateful for honest answers! I really cared. I like to pray specifically for folks. The Lord used them as examples for me. I realized that there are people with whom it’s okay to cry and talk about my distress.
I still haven’t figured all this out but I want to be better at being honest. To not stuff emotions until a meltdown occurs. But to look at things in my life and take risks to share my burdens with others. I’m glad to do that for friends and I know there are folks who’d do the same for me!
I’ve begun to see true strength in a different light. I’m strongest when I’m transparent and honest with others and allow them inside my pain. To let some light in.
Bear one anothers burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2
Be happy with those who are happy and weep with those who weep. Romans 12:16