Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Shift

I was in Junior High and I remember waiting for my Mom to get home from a doctor appointment.  I don't remember being worried about her appointment.  I mean, she was my Mom.  She was the pillar of strength for our whole family.  It was dark when she pulled in the driveway and put the car in the garage.  No one else was home and I walked through the dark family room to unlock the back door for my Mom.  When she walked in she stopped and looked at me.  I asked if she was ok and she said, "I have a tumor." And then she started to cry.  I wrapped my arms around her and held her as she cried.  In that instant something changed in our relationship.  I realized that the woman who was always there for me, the woman who went to every appointment with me and seemed so unflappable was human--just like me.  She had weaknesses and fears and needed my support just as much as I needed hers.

My mom and I have always been close but I truly do think her health crisis that year was key in shifting our relationship.  We weren't sure if the cancer she had fought 10 years before was back, and we were so thankful to learn her tumor was benign.  But post-op complications meant a long recovery and my Dad would pick me up from school and drive me to the hospital where I would sit by her side, do my homework and drink apple juice until I couldn't stand the flavor anymore.  I just knew that I went from the childlike idea of Mom being there every time I needed her to the idea that I was so blessed to have her in my life in whatever capacity she could be there.

I think that's why it is so strange to me that I don't want my kids to have the experience of having a sick Mom.  So often I grieve over the normalcy that they miss in their lives.  They were 10 months and almost 5 when my aorta dissected and their experience has always been the experience of having a mom with serious health issues.  They've both had to deal with a mom who was more fragile, who couldn't do everything other moms can do.  I never felt cheated by having a mom with health issues but over and over I've felt like my own kids got ripped off somehow.

My daughter easily slips into the role of caregiver and so I push against that and push her to go out and live her own life.  But since she's 20 I do lean on her more and confide in her.  She's always been one to call me on my moods and can sense when something isn't right.  I don't try as hard to be strong for her.  But my baby boy is a different story.  This man-boy was the kid that I couldn't do the pretend cry with.  It did him in.  If my daughter wouldn't share I could pretend to cry and she would giggle over how silly I was.  If I did that to my son he would cry too.  He couldn't stand to see me upset.  So I carry that.  I try to put on the brave face for him.  "Here's what the doctor has said, and it's going to be ok."  But he sees the stress and yet I won't let him break out of the sensitive little boy mold that I've locked him into.

Today was different.  I was frustrated after a call from the doctor's office.  The procedure that's supposed to be the first step in hopefully fixing my CSF leak needs to be scheduled.  The urgency I feel doesn't seem to match the doctors' and so I was told that we're going to get this scheduled and that the doctor who will do the procedure is really booked up so it might not be right away and she'll work on it and call me tomorrow.  I've had a steady headache, dizziness, back pain, fatigue, etc since July now.  But it's really been happening intermittently for the past 5 years.  It's obviously not killing me but I'm weary.  So I hung up the phone, sat down to trim beans for dinner and silently started to cry.  And that's when the shift happened.  My man-boy came over and wrapped an arm around my shoulder.  He asked me to talk to him and as I poured out my frustration in the middle of my sobs he held on to me and reminded me, "Mom, God's got this."  He asked me what he could do to help me, and as I leaned my cheek against his big, hairy, man-arms I said "you're doing it."   It's that shift like I had with my mom happening all over again.  Maybe it's a shift that's hardest with your baby.  He's not a little boy anymore.  He doesn't need to be protected and sheltered anymore.  It's ok for him to see that I have weaknesses and fears and that I really need his support just like he needs mine.

My son is right.  God does have this.  Every delay in my treatment can be used for great things.  God taught me something so valuable today that I wouldn't have learned without the delay.  My son is growing into a man who is strong and dependable.  He doesn't need me like he did even 5 years ago.  But what a beautiful thing to start to transition to the relationship that we'll have for the rest of our lives.    Thanks for my son God, and thanks for the lesson.

Saturday, November 12, 2011


Weeks ago I was laying flat on my back with a headache.  As Rick, my husband, walked past I said "I feel worthless; I'm just laying here doing nothing."   That was before I got the test results that told me that I have a CSF leak.  You would probably think that finding out that I have the leak made me feel like it was ok to lie around.  But I really don't like lying around. I like to be up and doing things.  I like to be the one serving others.  I like to be active and involved.  And there's really nothing wrong with that.  But in this period of time, many of the things that fed my worth have been stripped away and it's a struggle for me emotionally.

Our society equates worth with what we contribute.  I can remember as a young stay-at-home wife and mother attending business parties with my husband.  Other women would ask me, "What do you do?" My answer that I was home full-time was usually met with a polite dismissing comment and they would excuse themselves to talk to someone who seemed more interesting to them.  I was happy to be home with my kids, but these encounters still stung.  Part of the way I dealt with it was to remember that my contributions weren't financial but they were still important.  And that way of thinking has carried me for a lot of years.  Again, I don't think that it's a bad way to think.

But like God so often does when we're on the edge of the truth, he finds a way to bring me into his center because God doesn't want me to stay on the edge.  All these years I've been justifying my lack of outside employment and how that ties to my worth by looking at all of the ways I contribute through my life.  I could count up hours instead of dollars and I felt good about how much I was pouring myself out to serve others even if I wasn't making any money doing so.  I still felt like I was contributing--to my home, to society, to God's kingdom.

God says my worth comes from who I am and whose I am, not my tasks. I've said I believed that for years.  But if I truly believe that, when my tasks have to slow down or stop, I wouldn't feel worthless.  Scripture over and over talks about worthless idols and often when people are described as worthless it is because of their idol worship.  Am I an idol worshipper?  Maybe, if the idol is being healthy or being the one who jumps to help others.  (Remember an idol is anything that takes the place of honor that should only be reserved for God.  If these things are more important than doing what God asks, they've become idols)

So when I first had to start staying home more and laying around more I thought, "Ok, I'll just be the prayer warrior.  I can't go in and serve but I can be useful by praying like crazy while I'm home."  Again, this isn't a bad thing.  It's awesome to pray for others but my ability to spend time praying for others doesn't give me my worth anymore than a job or volunteering or any task does.  Philippians 3 says, “I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. 8 Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ 9and become one with him." (NLT)  Christ is the one who gives me my worth.  Not because of anything in me or anything I do, but because of HIM!  Psalm 139:13-15 reminds me that I am fearfully and wonderfully made and again the thing that tells me is that my worth comes from being made by God.  It says "wonderful are your works." Not because we're special on our own but because God is special and he made us.  

So if my worth comes from being created by God and the gift of Christ's righteousness, I can rest in that when I can't do anything else.  When I can't do anything else, I can still love the Lord with all my heart, all my soul, all my mind and all my strength. (Mark 12:28-34) So when I go back to the basic questions; "What gives me my worth? What makes my life worthwhile?" I can fall back on the truth of scripture and remember that there's nothing I can do that will add to what Christ has already done.  I just need to live my life worshiping the one who gave me life and has allowed my present circumstances.  That's a lesson worth learning.