Joy, week 42
I am so grateful to have lived this week. My heart is full.
The week was one of our busiest, full of far away soccer games, doctor’s appointments, end of term homework assignments and projects, parties, concerts, phone calls, arranging schedules for the rest of the year, deadlines, driving, driving, driving and so forth. By Tuesday afternoon I’d resigned myself to what I call a “checklist week”, a week when every day had a very long list of things I had to do and none of them were optional or frivolous. Almost every “extra” in life fell right off the list. Lots of things are happening in the 11th hour before the deadline, not because we didn’t see it coming, but simply because the hours were so packed with other things that we couldn’t do anything about it until the very last moment. Several times I felt myself on the verge of tears. I am running faster than I have strength and I know it, but I cannot slow down. I operating on far too little sleep and my head has been hurting for days. When the big event ends or when I get home at night and am tempted to relax and just breathe I’ve had to stop myself, consult the list of bare essentials and get back to work.
And yet it was a wonderful week. Wonderful because I had to dig deep and deal with it, and find joy in the process. Because of this I have all these memories of little moments throughout the week when I took a deep breath and grounded myself in the moment.
There was the moment at the gas station while I waited to fill my tank for the 3rd time this week. I closed my eyes, listened to the sound of brittle leaves blowing across the parking lot, focused on what it felt like to feel the breeze on my face and the sun on my back. I thought about how great it was that I was standing on my own two feet, up to my neck in work and stresses, and yet I was able to function and do my own life’s work. I stood there and focused on all these things and as I did it my mind slowed and I marveled that I am here, alive, living my very own life, and it is awesome.
There was the moment when I knelt with my ten year old daughter to pray with her about something she had lost. She sat there and cried and I put my arms around her and held her and thought to myself, “Remember this. Remember the room, remember the smell of her hair as I kissed her head, remember how it feels to hold her, remember these tears of love pricking at my eyes. Remember this.” There was the moment when I snuggled with my three year old as her body slowly stopped shaking after a fairly major tantrum. I sang a song to her and it prompted very unique questions from her about Jesus and his powers, whether he has a car or if he can just run really fast, and then, interestingly, about herself and if she has any of the same powers. Again there was the thought, “Remember this. Every bit of it.” When my six year old sat on my lap to do some online homework I tried to memorize him. When my oldest daughter and I had to race to Target at 9:48 p.m. in search of a pair of black dress shoes that fit, I was tempted to feel irritated. I reminded myself, “You have to do this, whether you like it or not, so why not enjoy it?” And we did. We laughed, walked fast, tried on shoes in record time and then found, in true small miracle fashion, the only pair in the store in her size and in the right color, made it back out of the store at 9:59 as they closed, went home, and then worked together to pin up the hem on the choir dress that had just arrived in time for the concert the following day. We felt grateful for what was working out instead of unhappy about the lateness of the hour or the frustration of a rushed errand. When I waited too long in a doctor’s office with my son, I enjoyed being with him instead of looking at the clock. I could do nothing about the delay, but I could do something to improve the time I was spending with this young man who now towers over me and who will, in just a couple more years, be grown and gone.
Yesterday afternoon as I drove to a soccer game, with a birthday party for my daughter falling immediately after it and the feeling that I still had lots of loose ends to wrap up, I felt the tears start coming. I knew I couldn’t go there, so instead I started quoting Isaiah 40:28-31 aloud, over and over again until the tidal wave of “I’m not good enough” subsided and left in it’s place the sure knowledge that indeed, the “everlasting God…fainteth not, neither is weary.” Tonight there was the sound of eight children in the same van as we drove home from my brother’s house. They started playing the alphabet game and when they got to “Q” our ten year old jokingly yelled, “Look! There’s a Q in college! Quollege!” And then we all laughed and the jokes started flowing about getting “a quality education in quollege” which then gave way to a hilarious conversation in which every “C” and “K” in every word were replaced with the “qu” sound. Oh, we laughed so hard! And I thought to myself as we did it, “This is it. These are things I want to remember. This is happiness, right here in our own car, regardless of all the other strains and stresses that are part of our lives.” Every time I mentally stepped outside myself to notice what was going on around me, I felt myself calm down. The worries of 30 minutes from now and two hours from now and tomorrow all melted away and left me with “now” and I found, every time, that I could handle “now.” It was a good feeling.
So, tonight I feel full of thanks for such a hard, busy week. I know I can’t keep this up; I’ll get sick if I can’t slow things down soon. But the lingering feelings are so positive that I feel kind of awestruck. Please don’t think I’m bragging. I feel more like a beggar, for that is exactly what I’ve been doing on my knees and in my heart all week. My prayers were answered in such an interesting way. I still felt the full weight of the load. Nothing was unexpectedly lifted or made easier. The week remained complicated and little things still went wrong. But in the midst of these things, two things happened. First, I watched my husband step in and we were an awesome team, communicating well about what was most important and what we could do to help each other stay calm, then following through immediately on the answers. Second, we were made strong enough. I was made strong enough. The Lord made me strong enough to get through it, to finish one more task, to get up early one more time, to stay up late once more, to help with the project again, and He gave me power to do all these things cheerfully. As I tried to focus on the moment and just do my best instead of looking too far ahead, I experienced this fire hose of grace that filled in all the gaps and gave me the ability to smile and laugh, to hug and compliment, express gratitude and compliments. THAT was the miracle. It was also where the joy poured in.
I have 7 or 8 loads of clean laundry waiting to be folded. The towels need to be washed. The bathrooms are dirty again. This week’s calendar is as bad as last week. There is a long list of things to worry about. Yet it will all work out. In a hundred ways, God reminded me this week that He knows me and will help me. He gave me strength in ways that only I would notice. I am so grateful for this help. Grateful for what I’ve learned. Grateful for all the things I remembered. Grateful to be alive.
Oh, happy day!