It’s the not knowing that’s a killer most days. I think I could rise to the occasion of just about anything if I could just know what I was supposed to do – what was going to happen – what my life was going to be like. But most days, I can’t tell you for certain the answer to any of those questions. I don’t know if “this” is normal for a stroke survivor or something that should have me rushing to the nearest emergency room. I don’t know if I will have time next month to sing in a choir concert or help with a wedding shower. I don’t know if a particular food will hurt or help my daughter’s condition. Some days my brain feels like it is going to explode as I try to determine the best course of action for any part of my life.
I believe in the system set up by my friend Abby, “first things first, and second things not at all”. But honestly, I spend a large part of my day scrambling to figure out what is the first thing. I know what the first first thing is – get up in time to eat my own breakfast before the wards start waking. If I sleep a little later, or take too long waking up and getting dressed before I eat, then there is a good chance I won’t get breakfast until lunch time. That motivates me to get out of bed no matter how tired I am. It is my version of, “please apply your own oxygen mask before attempting to help others.” But after that, my day just kind of unravels one string at a time.
Last month was a particularly frustrating month where this was concerned. I was beginning to realize that all those things I signed up for in February (when I was a one person caregiver) had come to roost in April (where I became a two person caregiver). None of them were really big things in themselves (well, maybe that 60th wedding anniversary thing would be considered a big thing). But when you realize that somehow you have signed up for an average of 1 ½ extra things a week for the entire month, it gets a little hairy.
Suddenly I found myself getting speeding tickets and eating an entire bag of licorice without even tasting it. I realized, too late, that when I thought the first thing was to turn around at the ATM to go back home and attend to ward #2 instead of going on to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription for ward #1; the real first thing was to retrieve my debit card from the ATM machine. It’s a downward spiral.
I text-lectured a friend of mine one week,
You need to learn to say, “when I agreed to make cupcakes, I wasn’t taking care of a sick family member” Walmart has cupcakes.
But I didn’t take my own advice. I don’t want to give up any of the things I have agreed to. It’s like going backwards. It’s regress instead of progress. But here I am, having to face up to the fact that life has changed once again. What I thought were easy little additions to my life became monumental achievements. I have to face up to the things I need to let go of.
In the thick of it, I forget that at the very foundation of first things are the “one another” passages we find in the New Testament. It’s kind of like the Hippocratic oath, “first do no harm.” I have to start with how I am treating the people around me. (As I type this I am reminded of a moment last week when I was yelling from one bedroom to the other, “I’M COMIIIING!” ugh). I have to think about how my words, my face, and my conduct are reflecting my trust in the Lord.
Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you.” (John 13:38) Nothing could be more humbling than to think about how Jesus has loved me. “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:3). So I must ask myself, “What is the way of love in this situation?” Often it does mean laying down my life for the sake of my friends (who happen to also be family). I don’t cling too tightly to the convenient or the indulgent. I give up my little luxuries and laziness to tend to the needs of those who can’t help themselves. Because I know my own tendency toward laziness and self-indulgence, I always start here. Are these things I am holding onto so tightly really that important, or do I just want to feed the flesh? But while I have to keep a healthy suspicion of myself, I don’t want to be lazy in the very act of trying to love. There are times when the example we have from Jesus is that of withdrawing from the crowds. He made provision for his own spiritual and physical needs. If I continue to expend myself to the extent that I collapse under the weight, then I have not only hurt myself, I have also left two needy people without adequate care.
It has taken me months to write this one blog entry. “This month” has been changed to “last month” and should really be changed to “in April”. About the time my daughter started getting back on some solid ground in her health, my husband has had a string of health issues. My army son came for a short visit. My chorus had their spring concert. Other loved ones are in the throws of difficult providences. I am weary. But I have had three nights of uninterrupted sleep. And Saturday, I slept most of the day. So things are looking up (despite the fact that I reduced two grown men to tears on Sunday with stories of my pitiful life).
The sermons at church this month (which might actually be last year by the time I post this) have been from the middle of 2 Peter 3 : the Day of the Lord. I have to confess for most of the sermon yesterday I was distracted by a conversation I had with Strokeman earlier this week on his DNR status and how he would like to go ahead and buy a burial plot. But at some point Pastor Eddie had us turn to Luke 21. During my distracted musings I glanced down at the page and saw this underlined in my Bible, “By your patience possess your souls” (Luke 21:19). I have been taught well by my elders not to lift a verse out of its context and apply a willy-nilly meaning to it. So I looked down at the bottom of the page in the study notes to see if it would give me a summary and found this,
“21:16-19 This Passage is a strong affirmation of God’s overriding control. For some of His followers there will be a martyr’s death, for others deliverance. Either way, God is bringing His purposes to pass.” Hmm.
So my thoughts are this. Whether we are talking about the Day of The Lord, or just the days of our life, the approach needs to be to remind ourselves that no matter how our earthly eyes may see things, the truth remains that God is bringing His purposes to pass. And I, as His handmaiden, need to be patient. He is not slack concerning His promise to come again and gather His people to himself. He is not slack concerning His promise to complete the work He has started in me. He is not slack concerning His care for his people.
I don’t have to know the answers. I am not ultimately responsible for righting the universe. It reminds me of when my nephews were young and my brother would say to them, “Tranquilo.” Calm down. Or when Jesus said to the roaring storm, “Peace, be still.” In the quietness of my house this morning, with everyone else still sleeping, and the sound of rain on the window, I am reminded not to try to possess what is not mine to possess. Whatever the question, my Jesus has the answer. My rest is in His arms. My confidence is in His plan. Let this world throw at me what it will. My Shepherd will supply my needs, Jehovah is His name.