Friday, February 25, 2011

Let Someone Else Shovel!

You know, as mamas, we are forever busy taking care of others.  It's okay, it's more than okay!  We were made to handle it.  Most of us are at our best when we are nurturing, comforting, providing for, or helping others.  This is our most natural sense of self.  But, there are those times when it may be emotionally or perhaps physically impossible for us to be the ones doing the caring for and nurturing.  These may even be the same times that we need someone to care for us!

Recently I found myself in this very circumstance.  About a week ago, I developed flu symptoms.  Before I knew it, I was in the grips of a full-fledged flu and it knocked me down....literally!  I did little more than leave the couch to visit the bathroom for 4 days.  Thankfully, my husband was available for most of the time with the exception of his work-day on Friday.  In fact, an ice storm on Sunday evening caused a power outage early Monday; by Monday afternoon, we found ourselves at my husband's parents' house for an overnight stay.  Little did I know it at the time, but even this was a blessing in disguise.  My husband took great care of me and the kids while I was sick.  Once at my mother-in-law's, she and my father-in-law took care of the kids and let me get further rest and recuperation.  They even offered to keep our kids an additional night so that I could rest at home on Wednesday!  Really, this flu bug had wiped me out and I needed every bit of extra rest available to me!

During this time, my eyes were opened to some simple truths.  Mamas need to sit down and be taken care of now and then.  I know, it should be an agreeable truth, but our very mama-instinct internally shouts "No!" to this.  We still want to be the ones extending the helping hand, offering suggestions, planning meals; it's tough to give up this role...even when we need to!  When my husband was here, I was fully aware that the kitchen wasn't being cleaned to my specifications (though I definitely appreciated all he did), but I had no choice but to be still.  I physically did not have enough energy to protest.  I think my husband actually got a kick out of me being forced to be still--to not get up and fix everything--and it was good for me to see that the whole house would not crumble if I wasn't in charge!

When I heard my kids bickering at Grandma's house, everything in me wanted to run downstairs and attempt to settle the dispute...but I was too exhausted.  So I would lie in bed and hope that conflicts would be resolved, and you know what?  They were!  My presence was not absolutely necessary.  Would the meals be prepared exactly as I would have prepared them?  No.  But they were certainly fed!  I know, this seems over-the-top obvious, but when you are accustomed to being the one constantly running the cruise ship, it's tough to turn the stern over to another.  But it is a good thing to have to do.  Personally, I think I put so much pride in what I do and am able to juggle as a mom, that it has been a healthy experience for me to see that, although things were functioning differently in my so-called absence, they were functioning!  Everyone was getting along just fine.  Not to suggest that moms are not needed, but I believe that if we are doing what we do best when we are able, then everyone will get along fine when we are unable.

The other truth that I learned (or re-learned) is that mamas need extra love and tlc too!  And, it's there for us when we need it.  It may come in ways that surprise us or we wouldn't readily choose for ourselves, but it will be there.  When our power went out I didn't think, "Oh yay! Now I can get a day off from my responsibilities and visit my in-laws."  No, I was frustrated and my gut reaction was "Now this too?!  On top of the flu, now we have no power!"  I was less than enthusiastic when I reluctantly began packing our bags to spend the night elsewhere.  But, it was a blessing (for me) in disguise!  My kids had fun too!

Today, I am feeling much better, but God gave me yet another reminder that He looks after and cares for His mommies.  We were slammed with an additional 6-8 inches of snow overnight...on top of slush!  My husband had to leave for out-of-town meetings very early--too early to shovel--and I need to leave with the kids later this evening.  I looked outside as I donned my winter gear and sighed, "I can't believe I have to do this and I'm still not feeling 100%."  I attempted to shovel the sidewalk.  I struggled!  I shoveled off the porch.  I could barely catch my breath (still coughing from the effects of this flu bug!).  This was going to be so tough and I just may die!  I really felt like I might just collapse and someone would have to shovel me up!  I took a break inside; fixed my kids lunch; ate a sandwich; and sat down briefly at my computer to glance at a social networking site.  I made a comment "Where are those teenage boys who offer to shovel?  I have CASH!"  Within a short time, a friend from church recommended her teenage son's shoveling services to me; he gave me his number; we talked on the phone; and he knocked on my door an hour later!  What a relief!  He was a polite young man and I'm sure he was happy to earn a little extra money.  I am so happy that I didn't have to go back out there!

Moreover, I had one additional reminder--in case I'm ever tempted to forget--that God sees His mamas' needs!  He knows where I live.  He knows what I need.  He never forgets about me.  As Kari Jobe sings, "I know that [He] will never forsake me in my weaknesses."  I am pretty sure that my kids are glad I'm moving around again; making their meals; making sure they have clean socks to put on.  But, it was good and healthy for me to be reminded that I'm not the one who makes their world go 'round!  It has been just as encouraging for me to be reminded that I have a God who sees my needs, who meets me when I'm at my weakest!  He provides just the right help at just the right time, and I'm so grateful!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Value of the Valleys

I've had cause lately to consider the valleys in our lives.  This isn't entirely personal, but I have given personal reflection to it.  I was reading a wonderful devotional passage yesterday by Marjorie Holmes and the prayer she wrote at the end was, "Father, grant me the patience to see the value of the valleys, as well as the joys of the mountaintops."  This really spoke to me.  She referenced our heart (the largest organ in our body) and how it contracts and expands just to work properly day in and day out.  So it is with our very lives!  So it is in my life.  So it is in my dealings with my children. 

Most of us agree that our character is defined by the valleys in our lives.  Anyone can celebrate and exude joyfulness and thankfulness when times are good.  But, who are you when times are tough?  How are you toward others--those you love and don't like so much--when life is rough?  How is your outlook on life when it seems like the valley is where you have been for way too long?  We all want the mountaintops, along with the mountaintop views, but we forget that we must climb up there!  Before we climb each mountain, we rest (and sometimes camp) in the valley.  The valley provides us a really good view also, and time for reflection and necessary preparation. 

I'm not an experienced mountain climber, but I have done some hiking.  I spent some time in Switzerland during the summer of my senior year in college and did some beautiful hiking there.  I couldn't wait to get to the higher place on this one particular mountain.  However, it wasn't long before I realized how tough this climb was.  At the higher altitudes, it was more difficult to breathe.  At times, the climb seemed so steep and treacherous that I just wanted it to be over!  Don't get me wrong, the higher we climbed, the more beautiful the view was (when I actually stopped to look).  But, in all honesty, I enjoyed my rest in the valley even more than the climb to the top of the mountain.  Sure, the mountaintop was breath-taking, but I couldn't stay there forever.  It wasn't reality.  It was temporary.  Such it is with most things in life.  Momentous victories are wonderful and breath-taking, but we don't live there.  I'm not suggesting that we settle for living in the valleys either, for we need both, but there is value in the valleys

Billy Graham said, "Mountaintops are for views and inspirations, but fruit is grown in the valleys."  This is true too.  Who we are is tested when we are down in the dust, on even plains.  We can dream here too.  Yes, we can dream on the mountains, but let's not forget we must first do the hard work of climbing them.  I'll admit that as a mom, I have such dreams and desires for my children; I want them to live on mountaintops!  But, I have enough sense to admit that such an existence wouldn't even be healthy.  They must go through the times in the valleys just as I must.  In my parenting, I need to learn to embrace the valleys also. 

Boy, sometimes it is anything but nice.  Sometimes, in the valley of my children's defiant behavior, whiny attitudes, or bickering nature, all I want is a nice juicy slice of pineapple.  There are the moments, hours....days when it seems that the fruit will never ripen.  I wonder when we will head up the mountain.  I wonder when I will see the victory of my hard work.  I wonder when they will show me that they actually have learned a lesson.  Then it happens!  I see a victory, or at least a victorious moment or situation.  It feels wonderful on the mountaintop and I feel like heaven is near!  These times are beautiful!  But, I can honestly say that these mountaintop moments really wouldn't be much to celebrate if the valley didn't feel so endless at times.  I'm not so sure that I would enjoy the mountaintop views either, if I didn't have the valleys to look at once I am there.  When I'm on the mountain, I can easily appreciate my time in the valley.  When I'm on the mountain, enjoying a crispy ripe apple, I remember how it was grown while in the valley. 

So my personal challenge is to remember that there is purpose--there is value--in the valley.  When I am tempted to complain, fret, become frustrated, or even run up the hill instead, I hope I choose to reflect on the purpose of the work done in the valley.  The valleys in my life don't always look so beautiful when I'm in them, but they make the mountaintop view that much more splendid.  My personal challenge is to accept that there are days when there is much work to be done in the valley.  But I know I will not remain here always.  Just like the heart that is in perfect balance, expanding and contracting, so it is with my life...and so it is with my work as a mom.