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Squealing with delight, my boy and girl pounce, tug and push on their Daddy’s arms and legs, determined to show him their strength, to break-free of his hold.  From the kitchen, I watch this wrestling match play-out in the middle of our living room floor.  My husband’s tiny opponents keep coming back for more until he surrenders, at last,  from the exhaustion of grappling with squirming legs and sharp elbows.

I wrestle, too.  Only, instead of rolling around on the living room floor, I wrestle in my head, with God.  I wrestle with the sudden loss of a dear aunt just days after Christmas.  Death is a natural part of our life here on Earth.  But how do we fill the hole in our souls when we lose a family member who treated us like her own children?  Driving several hours just to attend the birthday parties of my little ones,  sitting with my boy and girl on the porch swing on long afternoons, and taking extended walks together along the surf’s edge each summer.  How do we adjust to the absence of this small, but mighty lady?  The quirky aunt who captured our own hearts as small girls with her signature style and undivided attention?

My family and I, we move through the motions.  And then, my girl falls ill just days after returning my beloved aunt to the earth.  As sickness often does in families, my boy picks-up where my girl leaves-off, ten days later.  I spend these weeks nursing ailing bodies and hurting spirits.  And, I wrestle.  Just as Jacob wrestled with God.  Bless me Lord, just as you blessed Jacob.  I will not give-up until you give me a blessing!  (Genesis 32: 26)

Weary of struggling, I write in my journal, trying to work my way-out of this wrestling match.  I check e-mail, my eyes pausing at the title to Stephanie’s blog post – Remember to Breathe Out.  I remember to practice breathing in grace.  But, have I breathed out, lately?  Have I breathed out the sadness? the anxiety? the isolation?   And then the familiar words come to me:

Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you.  – Psalm 55: 22

“Breathe out your worries to make more room for my grace,”  He whispers to me.  I surrender and the wrestling match is over.  I am blessed with a peaceful heart.

In loving memory of Suzanne P. Carrington

January 12, 1945 – December 27, 2011

It is 2:30 in the morning.  I kneel beside my boy, rubbing his back, waiting for the sickness to subside.  “Mommy, why isn’t God making it stop?  I asked him to help me and He isn’t making this terrible sickness go away!”

 How do we explain to a sick child that God doesn’t always make the pain go away, even though He has the ability?  How do we reconcile this truth to ourselves when we are hurting?

I pray a silent prayer.  My boy feels relief, for now.  I walk him back to his bedroom where he falls back into bed.  I pull the quilt that his Mamaw made over my boy’s shivering body and find my way back to my own bed where I crawl under the duvet, hastily thrown-back just minutes before.  “Can you believe this?”  I groan to my husband.  Our girl just finished recovering from the same sickness several days prior to this early awakening.  I was hopeful that we might be reestablishing the rhythm to our days.

God, I am so tired!  Please give me a sign that you are  here with me!

I feel overwhelmed, thinking of the calls that need to be made in the morning.  My husband has an early meeting scheduled.  Who will take my girl to the bus stop?    How long will this siege of sickness last?

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. – Philippians 4:13

The words from this scripture run through my head.

That’s right!  I don’t have to do this alone.  When I am weak, He is strong. 

I can’t go back to sleep.  The ears of a mother.  Listening for the next sign of sickness.  I lay there, remembering to practice gratitude.  To practice hard eucharisteo.  The practice that keeps me from going under.

  • The ability to stay at home with my children when they are sick.
  • A trustworthy neighbor who can walk Emma to the bus in the morning.
  • A washing machine that is working.

Bleary-eyed and out-of-sorts, I scramble through the morning, launching my girl and husband off to school and work.  Left on our own, my boy and I exchange sharp words, irritated that our normal routines are interrupted by this sickness.  I settle my boy onto the couch, breathe, and pray for the ability to redeem this day and the days ahead with words and actions of grace.  Later, I open my e-mail and read the title to Ann’s latest blog post – when sickness knocks quiet:

“When we meet an ill moment with a surrendered smile, it loses some of its sting… Perhaps this is the art of medicine, to create loveliness in the midst so love can do certain healing, regardless.”

I turn Ann’s words over in my head and wonder how I might create loveliness for my boy in the midst of his sickness.  That bulletin board that I have meaning to hang in his room still sits on some boxes up in the attic.  My boy loves to arrange and decorate his room.  Today is the day I will hang the bulletin board, hang love, over his bed.

I carefully position the red-framed cork board over my boy’s iron bed, hammer two small nails for hanging, and gather the photos and treasures to be pinned:  Grandma hugging my boy, postcards from beach vacations, dream catchers, and the God’s-eyes that we made together over the summer.  A visual of God’s love.

When I lead my boy upstairs to see the new addition to his room decor, I witness the light in his tired eyes. “Oh, Mommy!  Look at the dream-catchers all together!  And the God’s eyes!  God is sure to be nearby now!”

God is always with us, son.  Sometimes our eyes just need a reminder so that our souls may feel his presence.

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