The Cost Of Caring

Our days are filled with the tension of what we know and don’t know, of waiting and watching to see what comes next. We anticipate what we hope will happen.

Often with little to no control over circumstances.

Such was the case as we waited for the birth of Baby Nolan. My daughter was having a scheduled Cesarean Section, and as we watched her two older children, we couldn’t wait for the baby to show up so we could see him over the phone. With no visitation at hospitals, this would be the best we could do.

The wait seemed interminable. We knew when the surgery had happened, but we weren’t getting any news. In typical mom-mode, I panicked. My mind went to the worst-case scenario.

When we finally got the call of his arrival, we learned that Nolan had been taken fairly quickly to NICU–the neo-intensive care unit– because of fluid on his lungs. He’d be there for at least 24 hours so they could rid his lungs of the problem and get him to breathe on his own.

Nolan’s brother and sister wanted to see him. Waiting isn’t something that comes easily.

For anyone.

It’s easy to worry about what you don’t understand. After talking to several people who knew way more about Cesarean section births than I did, I finally grasped that this was not unusual.

When a baby is being born normally, squeezing through the birth canal takes care of the extra fluid in their lungs. But birth by surgery means that process was missed altogether.

The fluid still had to come out.

Nolan was in an incubator and had a tube in his nose. The appearance of his condition seemed way worse than it was. Thankfully, this was a matter of waiting and watching when his lungs would be clear.

His arrival, however, wasn’t easy. One of God’s little gifts to us is not remembering how we got here. The pressure, the pushing, or in Nolan’s case, the clearing of his lungs, reflects the reality of life itself for each of us.

Life is hard.

We care for those we love, so we are present with open eyes and listening ears.

Such care costs. We hear people’s fear and pain. We see their grief and sadness. We experience their disappointment and despair.

There are no other options. To choose to ignore what’s happening to those we care about is choosing to miss the opportunity to show compassion and comfort when we are able. To be unaware of the needs of others causes selfishness and arrogance in us that prevents a genuine connection with others.

Caring costs.

God cared so much for us that He gave His Son to pay a price He didn’t owe. To cover the cost of a mess He didn’t create. To redeem people who often ignore Him. He showed up because we need Him.

His caring cost Him dearly.

Our daughter and son-in-law went through a difficult pregnancy, waiting for someone they didn’t know but already loved. Caring for a son whose future is unknown, whose personality and issues are as yet to be seen.

Their care will cost them. Time, energy, emotion.

Love.

In God’s eyes, we’re all worth that cost.

 

 

 

 

 

Pause Before You Hurry On

Cal is almost three and has become a mina bird of repetition. We all need to be cautious of what we say around him because he will repeat it–often with the correct context.

We gathered on our porch a few nights ago, sitting around the fire pit because it was brutally cold–the high 60s. His favorite place to be is Papa’s lap, watching videos on volcanoes, or listening to animal sounds.

But this night, he stretched out on one of the chairs, hands behind his head, and grinned at all of us. “I resting.”

His little bare feet to the fire, he was the picture of contentment, calm, and quiet.

Not his typical persona. Resting isn’t in his vocabulary. He’s often a whirlwind of movement, talking to anyone who will listen, and throwing things if people won’t pay attention to him.

This calm Cal was a delight.

What amazed me was how he understood being still. He sat contentedly for many minutes, a picture of stillness that gave me pause.

Then he was off and running.

That picture has stayed with me. One of voluntary stillness. 

I’m worse at that than Cal.

I’m a high energy person that prefers doing to sitting. Over Christmas, with our kids and grands here, I was always “doing”–cleaning up after folks, cooking, serving. I have no qualms about doing that–I love to serve others. 

My children were quick to comment that I needed to sit with them and enjoy being a family. They didn’t need me to do for them. They needed me to be with them.

I have a lifetime of busyness that often wears me out. Being quite verbal, I often complain about how tired I am. As if my doing is a badge of honor, a trophy that points to my achievements.

I need to learn to rest. And as this new year begins, it’s an attitude I’m seeking to be aware of.

We live in a culture of hurry and busyness. As an affirmative, diligence and perseverance are character qualities we hold in high regard. But too often those attitudes deprive me of a needed pause to consider how I’m doing, how my soul is faring. 

It’s so much easier to keep moving and not think. It’s comfortable to ignore my own emotional health or challenges that I’ve marginalized because I don’t want to deal with them. 

Hiding in my brokenness from what I need is a false refuge. 

“One reason we can hardly bear to remain silent is that it makes us feel so helpless. We are so accustomed to relying upon words to manage and control others. If we are silent, who will take control? God will take control, but we will never let Him take control until we trust Him.” Richard Foster, “Freedom of Simplicity”

Being silent opens our hearts to what they really need–rest from God in His truth and goodness. As long as we move and talk, we ignore His quiet voice, calling us to be with Him.

Rest and silence. Huge challenges in our current culture.

Larger needs for our present condition.

Don’t be afraid of the cost of rest and stillness.

It will fill your soul.

 

The Gift Of Today

photo courtesy of Kira Auf der Heide on Unsplash

2021 has finally arrived.

The new year brings the hope of change, doing life differently.

The beauty in life, however, is the wonder of each new day giving us a chance to show up as our best selves. To live life now, being present with our circumstances and people around us.

Making each day count.

The anxiety of 2020 led many to wish away their current situations, waiting for a bad day or hurtful season to end or at least give them a chance to plan for something better and more pleasant.

We can’t legislate better times. We can only do today to the best of our ability. For many, living in the present, being focused on the here and now, is difficult. We’re always thinking of what we should be doing next.

Today is what matters.

We do today better in community.

Our daughter’s friend has a daughter who began watching “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” during the pandemic. She came to love Mr. Rogers and his kindness, how he was a soothing and trusted adult, a man she could count on to be caring. She wanted to send him pictures she’d drawn just for him, and her mom didn’t want to disappoint her that Mr. Rogers had already passed. My husband was the only Mr. Rogers she knew of, so the pictures came to John.

John took the time to respond by sending her some “friends from my neighborhood”, like Daniel Tiger, and a book.

Taking the time to be kind matters.

We need to make the most of the moment. Even when life is tough.

Mr. Rogers had many wise thoughts about valuing people and time. It’s what made him safe for children and an enigma in a world that categorized and labeled people.

He recognized how much we need one another.

“All of us, at some time or other, need help. Whether we’re giving or receiving help, each one of us has something valuable to bring to this world. That’s one of the things that connects us as neighbors–in our own way, each one of us is a giver and receiver.” Fred Rogers

Right now, we all need help. Help to focus on what’s important, help to embrace the challenges of living with restrictions, help to see hope in the moment.

Jesus came to give us that hope. He came not just to give us a new year, but to make us new people in Him, with renewed attitudes and His power living in and through us. He came to remind us that we might receive from Him the one thing we need more than anything else–the hope of complete forgiveness and the power to live out that reality. He came to make us aware of our value to Him–His love for us is boundless if we’ll just receive it.

He’s made each of us uniquely beautiful. We are His gifts to one another, all of us different, all of us in need of others.

None of us does life perfectly. Jesus, however, is perfect. In His perfection, He’s offering to make us whole in Him.

It’s not a new year we need.

It’s a new attitude.

 

 

 

Unlimited Hope; Unimaginable Grace

photo courtesy of Mick Haupt on Unsplash

There are many who are anxiously awaiting the end of this year. As if 2020 has been the worst of the worst for everyone in the world.

It has been a challenge for all of us globally. The pandemic has colored our experience and given us new norms and words to describe our experience: masks, social distancing, zoom meetings, flatten the curve, isolation, quarantine. 

When we think of last February, when all this was just beginning to percolate, nobody anticipated it would last this long or be this widespread. Or that the repercussions would be so world-embracing. 

The losses have been real.

When tragedy hits, we don’t have the privilege to just moan and groan. Complaining comes naturally to us all, but it doesn’t help anyone. With new challenges come new ways of thinking and new attitudes to address the current reality.

Many difficult things have happened–loss of family and friends, loss of jobs, loss of security, loss of hope. Depression has become a national epidemic, and it needs to be addressed in a way that is sustainable for the entire population. 

But there have been bright spots in this crazy-maker of a pandemic. Families have spent more time together. People are recognizing they don’t need to be entertained as much as they need to be with others and enjoy those they love and care for. 

We’ve learned to pivot. To not become so stuck to one way of doing things that we can’t figure out a new way to adjust. To adapt instead of demand. 

COVID has made us aware that we can change.

People have stepped up to help others they may never have helped before. People who, in the past, have been the givers, have learned to receive kindly and graciously. Those who have a little more have generously shared. 

Challenge has brought out a better part of us.

We’ve seen the harsh and heavy. Not everyone is experiencing the help of their community. 

But we can learn. It’s never too late to change how we do things or our attitudes.

When Jesus came into the world to bring hope to the lost and grace to all who would receive it, He did things differently. He didn’t follow the religious rules of the day. He didn’t disregard government, but He did differentiate between commitment to obey rulers and commitment to obeying God. 

Jesus refused to be put in a box that the authorities wanted to keep Him in. He preached a gospel of love, forgiveness, grace, and mercy that dealt with the heart of a person. He understood true hope wasn’t about solving our current problems. It’s all about giving us a future, which we can be assured of in His truth.

We need to remember that we have survived difficult crises before. God has sustained us in ways we can’t even imagine. Loss will always be part of life this side of heaven.

Hope can be part of it as well if we choose to trust the Author of Hope.

2021 will not cure all our ills. Pain and loss will continue.

But God.

His presence in our world is real. If we choose Him, we can experience His hope.

What will it take to choose hope?