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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Why The Cottage of Content?

Twenty-five years ago, I came across a pretty blue and white plate with a poem on it.  It said:

As I was wandering oer the green

Not knowing where I went

By chance I saw a pleasant scene

The cottage of content.

Pictured was a quaint English lane winding to a charming cottage.  Somehow, this little plate captured my powerful desire to create a safe place for my family; a place where we might rest from the world’s troubles, sort out who we are and get our priorities in order with lots of love and wisdom.

I hoped that if I could give this to my family, then they would be prepared to go out into the world to contribute, learn well and love well.   At least that was my hope.  I squared my shoulders, dream in hand, and brought that little plate right up to the counter and made it mine.

My pursuit of the cottage of content almost did me in sometimes, especially during the difficult times, and really, looking back it all feels difficult.  I went to bed night after night feeling like I wasn’t a good mother. I struggled with a fractured marriage and asked myself thousands of times, “Is this marriage going to work or not?”  In the most stressful years we left our longtime church, my health deteriorated, and eventually my marriage ended in divorce.  I wondered if I’d ever have a career and be able to support myself and my family.  I so wanted an older, wiser woman to talk with, someone with an understanding heart and wisdom because she’d been there and knew when to listen and when to speak the truth.

Then about two years ago, one of my three sisters discovered we’re related to a now deceased Christian author who was quite popular back in the 1940’s and 50’s.  As I read some of her fiction, I kept wishing she had written something to future generations, woman to woman.  And then it dawned on me.  “Wake up!  This is your turn!  Go give what you missed out on while you still can!”  This was quite an emphatic thought.

Yet, in the way that I’m so good at, I quieted it down.  The thing is this – the idyllic dream of the cottage of content has been shattered and replaced, redefined and refined more times than I can count.  Oh, what painful lessons I’ve learned and am still learning.  Besides, young women today are so much savvier than I ever was.  And, I reasoned, I’m too busy, really, much too busy right now because I’m remarried and that career finally happened.  Lastly, I told myself, “Maybe someday.”  And with that the idea obediently stopped bugging me, for a while.

Recently the idea started whispering again, quite insistently.  I’ve been noticing the need for women of all ages to have someone they can trust who will listen well and speak truth.  Then my youngest daughter began to press me to write, of all things, a blog.  She elaborated on the need younger women have for sound advice from older women.  I sat up straighter as she gave voice to the same words I’d once thought.  That insistent idea bravely got louder and practically shouted at me, “Well, are you going to step up or not?  You think all those trials and tribulations were meant for you alone?  Get to work!”  Yikes!

So, here’s my first post of my first blog and I just offer it up and open wide the door to the cottage of content. It’s not perfect in here, but love and kindness rule.  I’m an unabashed follower of Jesus Christ.  He is the source of any safety and peace you may feel here.  You see, it’s my heart that is content, and that’s the door I’m opening.  I try to guard it carefully so it’s safe for me and all who enter in.  I share openly and honestly, and sometimes it’s rather messy, but there’s a whole lot of grace here, too.  Consider this a safe place to rest for a while, feel a warm compassionate shoulder next to yours, a place to perchance glean wisdom from lessons learned.  All so that you may go on your way having been loved well, ready to love well.

The plate that started it all!

The plate that started it all!

Welcome!

Jill Cristao