Feeling Weary?

Tired Woman

Every so often my passion for helping others just kind of sizzles out in an exhausted sigh.  It raises all sorts of uncomfortable questions at a time when my brain and body are begging for a break.  The questions, however, are necessary if I want to figure out why I’m feeling so tired.

Here’s my “go to” list of questions:  Am I happily serving others or am I doing some inner complaining?  Am I tired physically?  Spiritually?  Emotionally?  Is this burnout or a season of discouragement?  Do I base my serving others on the response I get short term?  Am I too results oriented?  That old buzz word, “co-dependent” flashes through my mind and I have to do a quick check to assess it.  Am I compulsively serving?  Is it feeding a need in me?   Exactly why am I serving others?  And what exactly have I been doing lately and is it stuff I’m really wired to do?

I went through this just a month ago.  It was the beginning of December. I groaned as I looked at my to do list.  I wanted to throw in the towel on everything, even the good stuff.  I didn’t have the energy or the desire to do any of it.   And I didn’t want to spend the energy going over all those questions, either.  Then I came across this.  Let me rephrase that.  Then I came across this, again:  “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Funny how this verse keeps popping up in my life. I’m pretty sure I was in my twenties the first time I picked up this particular clue phone and it’s rung often since then.  It was time to answer it yet again.

It took a good two weeks to contemplate all the questions and figure out why I felt so weary.  Actually it wasn’t a what but rather a who. Someone who had reached out to me for help was being rather unkind. I realized I was looking at temporary results based on someone who had other issues in their life that weren’t about me at all. Though the issues affected our relationship, there was no need for me to take it personally.

I acknowledged my hurt feelings, prayed about the relationship and put the person and their issues in God’s hands. I forgave them, and was able to let it all go. The weariness went away.

Which brings me to today.  I just returned to Chicago from D.C. after spending time with my daughter’s family.  I was able to help out as they welcomed their latest, a healthy baby boy.  It was a gift to be invited into their home and their lives for the better part of two weeks.  I’m so proud of my daughter’s efforts as a military wife and mom to their three children. She continues to amaze me as I watch her bloom and grow.

My time there resurrected all kinds of memories of raising my own kids, and honestly, they were tough memories.  Life with kids is a constant ebb and flow of wills, spontaneous laughter, daily disasters and joyous milestones. There are tedious chores and tender feelings and lessons that are only learned the hard way.  That goes for parents and for kids.   And, I’m learning, for grandparents! But that’s another post…

I came home with a strange mixture of exhilaration and exhaustion.  I wasn’t quite sure what that was all about until I read my Bible this morning.  In Luke 8, verses 43-47, is the story of the woman who had been bleeding for twelve years.  She touched the edge of the cloak Jesus was wearing and was instantly healed.  “Who touched me?” Jesus asked.  “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.”  The woman, seeing she couldn’t go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet.  In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and had been instantly healed.  Then Jesus said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you.  Go in peace.”

I love this story for several reasons, the first being that Jesus persisted in wanting to see her, know her, hear her story.  He really cared about her. That’s love.  That is exactly what He has done for me.  He seeks me out.  He wants to hear directly from me what I’ve been going through.  And He heals my heart, over and over.  You know, I hope, that He cares exactly the same for you.  He wants to look in your eyes, know you and hear your story and pain and heal you and love you, over and over, again and again.

I also love that the woman shared the intimate details of her illness, regardless of the people around them.  She knew she could trust Him.  She was so grateful that she let nothing hold her back, not the crowd, not the social mores, nothing.  That is so inspiring.  But what struck me today was the power part, how power left Jesus.  I’ve always wondered about that.  How did He know power left him? (Power in this instance means inherent capacity to carry something out.)

Today I finally got it.  I gladly served my daughter and her family, but in giving to her, it took from me.  I was tired.  The same goes for my situation back in December. Giving takes from us and gives to others. In the process we lose power. We get tired. We feel worn out. And that’s okay. That’s what giving does when it comes from the heart. That’s what love is, that’s what love does.

But there’s more. After Jesus healed that woman, He continued on that day and raised a little girl from the dead. Just a few paragraphs later He sent out His disciples and “gave them power {that same kind of inherent power – ability} and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.  He told them, “Take nothing for the journey — no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt…”

Our ability to move forward comes as He provides.  We just have to show up. Say yes. Here I am. Send me. Which is what I did with my daughter. I showed up, not sure exactly what I could do that would help the most. Turns out it wasn’t the cleaning or watching the kids or any of the things I intentionally did that helped the most. It was who I am, the way I’m just wired to be a calming influence that meant the most to her. That, I can tell you with the utmost truth, is not something I can do on my own. That is simply a gift God has given me. He gave me that to give to her. He knew what she needed. Seeing that happen brought tears to my eyes.  Though I doubted my ability to be enough for her, God made me enough.  Showing up, giving, may come with a cost to us. But the most meaningful gift to others is Jesus shining through us.  Knowing that is both rewarding and exhilarating.

I had to smile as this all began to fit together when I read those verses today.  God began preparing me for my trip a month ago when I had absolutely no energy to serve anyone. He knew what was ahead and what I was meant to do.  Once again, He has my back, just like He has your back right now. He keeps preparing us, encouraging us, and giving us what we need to do the work before us. Sometimes, it’s as simple as a really good verse:

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”  Galatians 6:9

Dick and Jane Days

A Fall Drive  1948 Ginn and Company

A Fall Drive
1948 Ginn and Company

Remember back in grade school, all those pictures of America? Pictures of roads and cities and delivery trucks and fields and farms? They showed men in business suits and uniforms or overalls, women wearing aprons over their shirtwaist dresses as they cleaned house, or wearing skirts and jackets as they shopped. Children played in the yard or pulled red wagons down the sidewalk, or held their mother’s hand at the grocery store.  The sky is usually a bright blue, clouds are scattered here and there, trees are perfect and regularly spaced.  City streets are clean and country roads have fields of corn in straight, long rows.  Barns are red and beautiful in the flickering sunlight.  Dick and Jane days, that’s what I call them.

Sometimes I’ll catch a glimpse of something perfect, like in those pictures, and I’ll think, “This is a Dick and Jane moment.” I love those moments.  Each season brings to mind different pictures, but sometimes I’m too weighed down by life and disappointment to remember to even look.  But every so often, like today, I’ll take a step back and look intentionally

Today I saw white pickup trucks in pumpkin fields that still held thousands of pumpkins.  A lot of families will be getting a lot of pleasure from those pumpkins.  I saw a Skippy peanut butter semi truck with a giant jar of peanut butter staring at me as I drove behind it.  I was just about addicted to that delicious looking peanut butter by the time the truck turned off. I wonder how many sandwiches will be taken to schools with peanut butter from that truck.  I wonder about the pride and hard work that goes into driving this truck as the truck driver supports himself and perhaps a family by driving the roads of America.

I passed a woman with gray curls and the pedal to the metal of her burgundy Buick as she flew past me on country roads – a farmer’s wife with pressing needs?  Is she okay, is her husband okay?  Emergencies and frustrations come to all of us, that’s for sure.

I saw women in their sweatshirts and jeans at the department store, and an aging mother asking her daughter if she liked a particular hat.  Women still shop in the middle of the day, even on Mondays.  And I still love seeing mothers and daughters, of any age, shopping together.  I kinda wish they were holding hands.

I saw farms with fields of corn already harvested, while other cornfields stood patient, tall and strong despite the stiff breeze blowing through them.  I saw farmhouses with their yards neat and clean, some with signs advertising pies, others eggs or vegetables and one was selling goats.  Farmers still love the earth and what it grows and supports.  Women still love their farmers and tolerate the work, and they all likely have even more patience and faith in a good harvest and a good God than I do.

I drove a patch of road with a sign that said it is maintained by a group of Girl Scouts. Apparently they had just cleaned up, as fat orange refuse bags still sat on the sides of the road, waiting to be picked up.  Girl Scout leaders still volunteer and believe in young girls, and young girls are still learning the value of civic pride and the blessing of giving of self to make this world more pleasant for others.  And yes, people are still littering roads with tons of garbage, a fact that still drives me crazy!

I saw a man with white hair sneaking out from beneath his red cap that matched his red coat and his red riding mower.  He drove slowly as he cut the grass that sloped in a gully in front of his home.  Old men are still retiring, and still have enough gas and know how to mow their lawns and keep their mowers running.  There’s something comforting in that.

I saw another older person, a woman, walking up the driveway from her mailbox as she carefully clutched her walker.  She accomplished something that others today may not do.  She is home, she is walking, the sun still shines down on her within the confines of her more limited world.  There is hope in that.

I also saw a young boy skateboarding in a city park.  Now, either he was visiting on vacation, is a home schooled student or kids still play hookey.  I have no idea exactly how he got to be there, but he is really good at skateboarding.  He is young and strong and a risk taker, even if it’s just to skateboard.  As long as he doesn’t hurt himself, he’ll likely see more of America’s future than I will.  There’s a lot of hope there, too.

We are the fruit of our forefathers and our country.  As a whole, we live a life that is still envied the world around.  The slice of life I experienced today was still similar to those Dick and Jane days. Take your camera to the cities and rural areas and you’ll capture similar scenes.  The geography may have changed, the demographics, the morality, yes, they’ve changed, too.  But this is still a beautiful country, no matter how or where you slice it, because the individual parts are still made up of a whole. I still get to live out some very beautiful Dick and Jane days, right here, in America. What a gift.

The Christian Divorce – Should I or Shouldn’t I?

The words “Christian divorce” always sound like an oxymoron to me.  Though I know Christian couples are just as likely to divorce as non-Christian, there’s still something inside me that says, “wrong.”  I keep thinking Christians should know better how to avoid mistakes (sin), know better how to heal, forgive, and love really, really well.  But no.  I should know, for I’m both a Christian and I went through a divorce.  Though it’s been 11 years since mine was finalized, and I’m nine years into my second marriage, I’m still struck by the incongruity of divorce within a Christian relationship.  I’ve shared before how “The Cottage of Content” represents my driving passion to create a loving, safe place for all whose paths cross mine. Divorce shattered that original hope, and learning to hope again, regardless of my marital status, is an ongoing lesson for me.  Yet here I am, as passionate about it as ever.

Because I found so little support online during my most painful years, I thought I’d begin to share some insights I’ve learned along the way, not just on my own journey, but as others have shared their journeys with me, as well.

For those who have time, as in your spouse hasn’t asked for a divorce, the journey usually starts with indecision.

Indecision

Is this really the right person for me?  A tough season in marriage can make us question ourselves and consider things we never thought we would.  We wonder what happened to our judgment and “why didn’t my spouse tell me about that?”  Our spouses do this, too.  This forces us to look for answers.  It stretches us beyond what we thought we were capable of, good and bad, and we are not who we were when we started.  We change, the marriage changes.

But that’s not what I’m talking about.  I’m talking about the realizations that come when your marriage has been cracked to the core.  When sin enters into the sacredness of your vows and destroys trust and your sense of safety. You begin weighing back and forth all the details of your lives and see the enormity of all that hangs in the balance.  Your life, their life, the kid’s lives, the extended families, where you live, your work, the pets, the stuff, the money, the insurances, your relationship with God, what the Bible says, everything, everything, everything is weighing on you. You try counseling. You pray for wisdom and healing for your marriage. You read books, you try harder, you try anything. You try to distract yourself for a moment or a day or a week or two but the question of whether this will work or not just won’t go away. You may talk to trusted friends, or keep it completely to yourself. You wait for circumstances to play out that may influence your decision. You hear those who say with disdain, “Everyone rushes into divorce these days.  No one is willing to do the hard work that marriage requires.”  They have no clue how hard you’re trying and how difficult your marriage is, but you wonder if it’s true and push yourself even harder.  You give one more chance and pray for a miracle.

And then one day, something changes.

Let’s say that this particular change leads you to the road called, “Not Now.”  

You step onto that road.  

Not Now

It’s been my experience that in really difficult marriages a dedicated spouse will choose this road many, many times. Each time it looks a little different. That book recommended some new things that were sound and reasonable – and hope began to flare again.  Talking with the counselor helped affirm what was good and worth saving.  Attitudes began to change.  One spouse began to fulfill some promises and built trust. Forgiveness was extended and some healing began.

Sometimes it’s not that clear.  Perhaps an emergency within the family forces everything else into the background while you both turn your attention to the demands of the urgent situation.   And, realistically, sometimes it’s more about realizing you need a break from the uncertainty. You can’t take the stress anymore and you’re just not ready to say it’s over. For a while, it’s time to set it aside.

Whatever the reason, and IMHO all the above are valid, the debating within stops. There’s a freedom and release from internal agony that is a relief like none other. Amazingly, you don’t realize it at first, but then you catch yourself laughing again. Your heart isn’t racing for the first time in weeks or months. You begin enjoying things again. You begin to see how indecision was taking its toll.  Indecision is brutal.

Sometimes I wonder how many of these external circumstances or internal changes are a result of God’s intervention.   Years accumulate this way.  People often get through the worst and grow even closer.  Families make it.  “Not Now” might just lead to a very tolerable road named “Til Death Do Us Part”.  

Mandatory Warning – If you’re choosing “Not Now”, I must ask – is abuse involved? If so, please be honest about the cost of your particular choice. Remember there is always a cost to every choice, and those in an abusive relationship pay the highest price.  Who in your life is paying the price?  Protect yourself.  Protect those in your care.  Find the help you need no matter how many times and how many ways you ask. Though you feel weak, consider how strong you really are to have put up with the abuse for any length of time.  The alternatives to staying may not look great, but looking back you may see that you forgot to anticipate the goodness that comes. Our fears tell us only bad things, but good things are possible, too.  Don’t give up hope that the future holds good things, too! Rest if you must but arise stronger and wiser than before!  

Stay tuned for further insights into divorce – When “Not Now” leads to “Now.”

Summer Vacation

One last picture before leaving.

One last picture before leaving.

I prepared myself as I anticipated the summer visit from my daughter and her family.  Schedules would be upside down, and so would the house. I’d be cooking up a storm some days and other days they’d be out on their own and I’d barely catch a glimpse of them.  I finished the bathroom just in time, got the beds freshly made and the rooms ready.  Stacks of towels were waiting in the closet, the refrigerator and pantry were stocked with their favorite foods.   Minutes before they were due I took a deep breath to take in all the peace and quiet and then exhaled to let it all go.

They arrived and the whirlwind ensued.  Within minutes my five-year-old granddaughter had me wrapped around her finger with her sweetness, charm and that curly ponytail that had grown several inches in the six months since Christmas. As usual, she melted my heart as she raptly listened as I read to her.  Our eight-year-old grandson with his blond crew cut and large blue eyes had joined Little League and our tradition of playing catch and Nerf gun wars wasn’t quite the same anymore.  His speed and aim have significantly improved and I could see it’s just a matter of time before he plays with me only to be polite to his dear old grandma. Sigh.

There were late night talks with my daughter and son-in-law.  Katie and I went over old recipes and I gave her some things I wanted her to have.  Josh helped my husband chop down the trees that hadn’t made it through last year’s drought.  We made s’mores with Uncle Ian and Aunt Erin around the fire before the mosquito bites made us run for the indoors.  We all ate too much and did too much and it was wonderful.

What I didn’t prepare for was how fast the two weeks would go.  They left today, in their cherry red truck, waving and beeping and shouting thank you’s.  I stood in the driveway and waved as they disappeared around the corner.  My feet seemed rooted in the spot.  Letting go.  It was harder this time.  I lingered out there, their voices still ringing in my ears.

Why is it this way, this fullness that life takes on when loved ones are around?  As mom I’m still the protector, my world is right and good when they’re around me, even though they’re older now. I know they’re safe when they’re here, that for a brief time I don’t have to wonder or worry.  I love going to sleep knowing we’re all together and we’re all where we need to be.

But, it’s temporary.  It’s vacation.  They really need to go back to their lives and their futures, as do I.  I have to let go.

As I walk inside, I smell the blueberry waffles we made for breakfast.  The house is not quite so upside down anymore but I’m in no hurry to wash sheets and straighten the few things up.  The TV is on, the silent movie my daughter was enjoying reminds me how much she is like me.  Next time I see her, Lord willing, she’ll be holding the baby she is expecting.  Time to embrace yet another love.  A love that will likely break my heart a little, too.  But there’s always room for more.

Yes, tears fill my eyes, I will miss them terribly.  I look at my hands with five blue nails and five red nails, painted last night with Tinkerbell polish by my granddaughter.  They will stay this way for a while.  I see the juice boxes I forgot to send with them.  Their bedrooms smell of them, the faint scent of their laundry soap lingers.  It was such a good visit.  I want to call them back, they’re still just miles from home, but I can’t, I have to let them go.

Now the dishes are washed, the sheets are in the laundry, the rugs are vacuumed and I’ve thrown out that awful red micro something blanket I bought for the guest room that sheds red lint all over the place.   I find a part of toy that dropped on the wrong side of the bed.  I find two pieces of wrapped bubble gum hidden in a secret spot, the can of bug spray they left behind.  I touch them all.  I chew a piece of bubble gum.  I keep willing myself to let them go, but it’s so, so hard.

I find that in all the giving I do to prepare for them, to make their vacation special and fun and as easy as possible, it is I who have been given the most.  It’s a gift to do these things, to provide this little respite for them.  To soak up the love and charm of grandchildren, to see one’s adult children so blessed and so in the middle of all that is good in this life; these are things we are not promised, some do not get.  Yet here I am, blessed beyond measure.  It is I who have received the greatest gift, the greatest satisfaction.  And I’m oh so grateful, but it has taken me by surprise.  I wasn’t prepared for that.

The Mentor Me Series Kick Off

MentorMeKickOff

A wise and faithful adviser or teacher – that’s a mentor.  Would you like one?  What would you talk about: personal growth, how to move forward in a relationship or career, how to grow in your understanding of God, or…? Finding a good mentor is like finding gold, it’s exciting, it’s potentially life changing, and it’s rare.  How many mentors do you know?  Not enough, right?

The good news is that when we accept forgiveness for our sins through the sacrifice of God’s Son, Jesus, the Holy Spirit actually guides us and speaks to our thoughts and is faithful in helping us grow in ways no one else can.  That doesn’t mean, however, that we don’t need input from trusted people.  The Bible tells us to get together with other Christians, to be iron sharpening iron for each other, to represent God’s graces as we love each other according to the special and unique way He’s gifted each individual to love and bless others.   Considering this, the world should be full of mentors, but it’s not.

Let’s change that.  Yep, right now.  Let’s talk.  You and me.  Right here, right now, as if we’re sitting down face to face, just like I’ve done countless times with others, ready to listen, encourage, share some insights as I pick up on where you’re at and how you’re doing.  As a mentor, I’ve seen the impact of giving someone the opportunity to speak about what they need.  They do the hard part, the growing, I just try to ask the right questions and point them to resources or next steps they may not have considered.  I also pray for them, and invite God into the process.   The best part, for me, is watching the growth and subsequent joy in the life of the person I’m mentoring!  And, it brings, well, contentment, to my soul that is deeply satisfying.

I’m committing to do that for you here, through what I call, The Mentor Me Series. It’s a simple, clear format.  I’ll ask the questions through easy steps.  You answer through your own private notes or journal, through comments on the blog if you prefer, or you may even email me.  Below the questions for you, I’ll give you some insights into why I’m asking the questions and some potential tips that may help you as you answer the questions.   This may look easy, but if you’re doing the work, it’s not.  But it will help you grow.

So, if you’re doing this on the fly, quick, grab your phone or tablet and open your favorite Notes app or Dictation app,(or grab the closest envelope, post it or whatever!) and get ready to take down the first step.  If you’ve got a little more time, get your tablet, computer, a notebook, or a special journal and perhaps a cup of coffee or favorite beverage, and let’s get to it.   Really.  We’ll tackle Step Number One today, and in a few days we’ll move on to Step Number Two.  You’ll do your part, I’ll do mine, and we’ll see what happens.  I can’t wait!  Oh, and do me a favor, say a quick prayer that God will help you with this (I’ve prayed, too!) – and, that’s it!

Step Number One – Your Contribution:  How Am I?

I really want to know.  Write out how you’re doing personally – emotionally, physically, spiritually.  How are the significant relationships in your life?  How are you doing with your relationship with God?  What’s the reality of your life right now? List out all the things that are going on right now that are impacting you.    It may help to draw a circle with yourself in the center, and then begin to label all the things going on in your world within that circle and maybe some secondary things that are outside your world (circle) that are indirectly affecting you.  If you need to come back to it later as you think of more things, then do so, but at least start with the top five details of your life that stand out to you.

Step Number One – Mentor’s Contribution:  How Are You?

I’m looking to see how you’re doing – how you’re really doing.  Though we may be just getting to know each other, I”m hoping you’ll begin to be transparent.  If you will honestly define the reality of your life right now and say it out loud, (write it down) then the reality of it may prepare you for the work you need to do.  

Identifying just one or two things impacting you today will have me concerned that perhaps you’re not taking into consideration all that you’ve got going on.   This is your life.  Are you in control of it or is it in control of you?      This will determine your starting point, what you may need to do to grow.  If you’ve got fifty things written down, this too, will help determine your starting point.  Are you overwhelmed or are you simply a very self-aware person?   You tell me.  Just be honest.  Write it down!  My goal for you here, is that you get focused clearly on the reality of what is going on so that in Step Number Two – What’s My Goal? – you’ll be ready to define it accurately.