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

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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.