Monday, August 23, 2010

Tempted to Be Weary

My birthday is coming up in the fall and the schedule for my chemotherapy indicates that I will spend my special day attached to the pump of toxicity. Noticing that scheduling quirk caused me to reflect on the circumstances of my last few birthdays:
  • three years ago: preparing to sell our house and move as Husband took a new call
  • two years ago: the week we realized Husband needed a medical leave for severe depression
  • last year: at the hospital with my 3-year-old son and his ruptured appendix
A strange little tradition I've got there. I could find other formats to fill in with timelines of discouragement. Some weeks I feel like the frustrations, large and small, accumulate endlessly and I am tempted to be weary. I feel sometimes that I have suffered enough and have earned the right to throw up my hands and give in. Who can endure this? Who keeps paddling against this flow of bad mojo when the current does not slow?

God is so gentle with me. He has not once whacked me on the head for thinking these things. He reminds me that I'm not paddling, I'm sitting in the canoe and He is paddling.

The other night, while Husband was at a meeting, my youngest son vomited several times. It lasted for exactly the two hours that I was alone with the kids. I was nearly overwhelmed with the feeling that I could not continue, that life was becoming too much for me. God brought to mind the passage from Isaiah, "Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." (40:31).

I have never understood that "they will run and not grow weary" because God strengthens them. I now think of this every day. Life is so hard right now, and every day I am tempted to think that I cannot stay in the canoe. God reminds me that He will keep me here and give me what I need today.

I expect that next year my birthday will be free of crisis. I know that it might not be. It is possible that some circumstance even more distressing than those of recent years is waiting for me there. My hope rests on knowing that God will be there either way.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Making Friends

Several readers have commented, in various settings, on how difficult it can be to have a good friend within the congregation where your husband is the pastor. I remember being advised by someone at the seminary that we wives ought not to have good friends in the church.

I understand the potential for friendship with church members to go awry, but I would not be content or feel at ease in a church without any close friends. So far, God has provided me with friends in the churches Husband has served.

The women with whom I have been closest are women who have personal experience in church work themselves. One is the daughter of a pastor, another was a teacher in a church school and had several church workers in her family. Their experiences gave them a more-sophisticated-than-average understanding of church politics and the stresses of a clergy family.

In both of those congregations, there was conflict. Sometimes I think my friends disagreed with me or with Husband. In every case, we were faithful to and supportive of each other.

I have my eyes open for God to provide an equally satisfying and supportive friendship in our new setting. I don't mind that this will take time. There is no substitute for a friend who knows the context of my family's life - the congregation - and who is unsurprised by my family's profound imperfections and who trusts God to be faithful.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

En Garde!

I am drowning in offers of help.

Is it ok to consider that challenging?

My life is entirely too much for me these days. My life has been too much for me for a long time now. I mentioned briefly in one post that I have cancer. I recently began a six-month course of chemotherapy. For some reason, being diagnosed with cancer and hearing I needed chemo did not knock me off balance. It seemed of a piece with depression - another long, ugly illness that will be resolved eventually.

Now that we have moved and I've started treatment, I am losing my balance. The move is, big picture, great for our family. In the short term it is incredibly stressful. Everything is new, we have no routine, the kids are excited and confused and uncertain. The chemotherapy is an enormous wrench in the gears of trying to get settled. The primary side effect for me so far is severe fatigue. It looks like I'll be alternating good week/crummy week for a few months.

When someone loving and capable offers to help, I am confident that God loves me and is going to provide what we need to get through this. I also wonder if I am going to pay for it later.

What I need most is help with my children. A stunning number of people in our new congregation have offered to spend time with the kids while I cope with treatments. I am sifting through the offers. A few people appear very needy themselves, so I smile, thank them for the generous offer, and never call for help. Almost everyone else seems fine, but there are so many ways that inviting virtual strangers into the intimate connection of caring for my children can become awkward. Do they expect a "special" connection with the pastor's family? If I ask for help once, will it be offensive if I do not ask again?

I am in no position to return any favors. Not only do I need substantial tangible help, but I lack the emotional energy to tend to other people's needs with any depth or consistency. I am in a tunnel of my own family's needs.

We all depend on God's grace at all times, but that dependence is not always evident in our everyday lives. Right now, my dependence on grace is acute. It makes me feel fragile, exposed. I trust God. I'm not so sure about His people.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Here We Are

The move is done. We're in a new home, getting acquainted with a new congregation, trying to remember where we packed our toothbrushes and underwear.

In the last week, we have been given:
chocolate chip cookies
zucchini bread
a french silk pie
a pan of chicken enchiladas
banana bread
bundt cake

Today someone rang my doorbell at a very reasonable mid-morning hour and I was still in pajamas. (Life is just like that around here sometimes.) It was a woman of my mother's age holding a loaf of bread. That I was not in streetclothes was only briefly awkward as we introduced ourselves and shared pleasantries.

Happily, I find I am not skeptical about any of these gifts. I do not accept them wondering at what point the giver will feel disappointed in me and turn away. I accept them as expressions of God's generosity and the congregation's delight in our arrival.