What season you in?

Life’s seasons – we get so little control over them.

Here on the Northern Plains we are griping about a quick transition from too-cold winter to too-hot summer. We had a disaster-level ice storm in April; now we’re getting muggy tornado weather pushing into the 90s for May.

Then there’s our city joke: “We only have two seasons. Winter and construction.” Now that the snow’s gone the orange cones and barrels are up all over town. Traffic is clogged and every Monday morning can be an unwelcome adventure as we try to find some new way to work, school or wherever we’re headed.

Some good advice that some wise person gave me years ago (and why is it that the wise people in our lives are easier to forget than the jerks?),

“Accept doing for a season what you would not want to do for a lifetime.”

Care giving is a long season. But it is not forever. It might feel that way, but it evolves or ends.

I guess I’m feeling chipper because one seasonal stretch in my life is about over. For the last seven years, I’ve been working second jobs, mainly to provide health coverage for my family. My primary work – my “vocation” (calling) – is leading a church here in town. But the health premiums of our church plan went out of sight. So, hyper-responsible neurotic care giver that I am, I found a second, p/t job with health coverage. Pretty much all of my wages went to the insurance premium, but it’s been good coverage for our family and saved the church tens-of-thousands of bucks.

This never was ideal. I went through seasons within the season. Exhaustion. Feelings of failure and of being trapped. The pity party of feeling overworked and under-appreciated. It put strain on our family, on my church and dang sure on me.

Now, our little church has grown to the point that they are ready to provide a decent health plan. It’s kind of a crazy quilt, involving Melissa’s and Joey’s existing benefits, a single plan for me and some supplemental stuff. But it works and June 28 will be my last day on the second job.

What season are you in right now? Keep in mind that it’s only a season. The good times will run into challenges and the challenges will end or at least be tempered.

And don’t weather it alone. As a Christian, this season taught me way more about the love I thought I knew. About a God so intent on setting us free from oppressive seasons that He suffered a miserable, unfair season himself. In the words of a hymn, based on a New Testament passage,

Humbled for a season
To receive a name
From the lips of sinners
Unto whom he came,
Faithfully he bore it
Spotless to the last,
Brought it back victorious,
When from death he passed.

There’s a God who shared the grind of our seasons so that we could inherit unending joy.  May he come and guide you toward freedom as you pass through care giving’s seasons.

Ah, those wacky care giving holidays

2013-05-12_14-48-36_856We were giving Melissa a nice Mother’s Day (hey, that’s according to her reviews). Joey signed his card to mom, and seemed connected and actually happy with the goings on.

Even better, his brother fixed what seemed like a hopelessly broken VCR. Everything was going Joey’s way (yeah, even on Mother’s Day we worry more about how the special needs guy is doing).

So (as if you didn’t see this coming), Joey had a big seizure.

We got him into bed and he seemed to be sleeping it off. Then he threw up what seemed like several times his own body weight.

So we spent a good chunk of Mother’s Day at one of our favorite spots:
laundry 003

At least we didn’t have a trip to the ER. Can’t wait to see what he has in store for us on Memorial Day.

The Mother’s Day choice

I’m guessing that moms and wives are the care givers in most situations, although I’m meeting more and more dads and husbands who life sets in that role. But I digress. Today is for honoring moms.

In one of those easy to pass over parts of the Bible, I bumped into

Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; also his mother, who has been a mother to me as well. (Romans 16:13)

See, there’s two dimensions of motherhood going on in that little message. There’s giving birth. Rufus had a mom from whose body he was born. It’s majestic, but let’s face it, it’s not mysterious like it used to be. Dads are in the delivery room and cut the umbilical cord instead of pacing and smoking outside like in the old movies. Science and technology give us all kinds of in utero pictures. Rufus had a mom who gave him birth. We all have moms who gave birth to us.

We even have that corny new label, “baby mom.” It is used in a cutesy way but it’s also pretty dehumanizing. It’s all about the biological fact of having a baby, but goes out of its way to ignore any of what follows in terms of relationship to the kid (let alone the often absent “baby dad.”)

But then Paul, the guy who wrote that Bible verse, reveals that the woman who raised Rufus is “a mother to me as well.” He doesn’t spell that out, but we know that Paul was a grown man when he met Rufus & mom. He’s not talking about being adopted and raised from childhood – he’s honoring ways in which Rufus’ mom made his (Paul’s) life better.

That’s the dimension of mothering that goes beyond the drama of the delivery room. It’s the nurturing, encouraging, teaching, guiding and host of other noble qualities that a woman invests in those around her, whether or not they came from her body, and at all stages of life. It is a profound choice – I think that most birth moms go at the fullness of mothering with all of their might, but some (more and more today, I fear) retreat into the self and abandon it.

As a choice and a lifetime investment, motherhood is humanity’s icon of care giving. Yesterday our son had one of his seizures. By the time I got to him, Melissa had is head cradled on her lap. He was safe because his mother was there, caring for his adult body’s fragility just as she had carried him as a baby. A mother in every good sense of the word.

So a happy Mother’s Day, and, I pray, some respite and honor to all the woman out there who are invested in the care of others, whether they came to you by birth, choice or chance.

The Outdoors Restores

We’re having some spring weather ’round here, which lifts the spirits after winter hung around and beat us down.

More than that, we’ve been able to get outside. Care givers and those in our care can be locked in for all kinds of reasons. Sure, weather can be a force. But medical, behavioral, financial, and all kinds of other factors can turn home into a confining, discouraging place.

We’ve started getting out and about with some errands and even some dates again. And Tim took a weekend away with the church guys. Not to sit you down and bore you to death with vacation pics, but, sit down a minute and check out these vacation pics:

Pictures can't give the sounds and aromas that go with the gorgeous views.  One's overworked, raw senses are refreshed outdoors.

Pictures can’t give the sounds and aromas that go with the gorgeous views. One’s senses are refreshed outdoors.

You get "led by still waters."

You might be “led by still waters.”

You get a few laughs and some insights.  You can insert your own jokes.  The insight is that none of our labors -care giving included - result in permanence.  We just do the best we can while we can.

You get a few laughs and some insights. You can insert your own jokes. The insight is that none of our labors – care giving included – result in permanence. We just do the best we can while we can.

Not as roomy as home but a place of respite from care giving efforts.

Not as roomy as home but a place of respite from care giving efforts.

Even a severe place like the Badlands has a beauty of its own.  If nothing else, it gives profound quiet in place of care giving's anxiety.

Even a severe place like the Badlands has a beauty of its own. If nothing else, it gives profound quiet in place of care giving’s anxiety.

Even if it’s just a stroll or a drive, get outside of care giving’s four walls from time to time. The outdoors restores.

Respite Weekend

Yes, buffalo roam.  They like their space, too.  Don't intrude.

Yes, buffalo roam. They like their space, too. Don’t intrude.

Our blogging has been sparse of late. Things have been busy on a number of fronts.

Now there’s a chance for some rest, so we’re just posting this to say, “See ya next week.”

Tim is off to the Black Hills with the church guys, the deer, wild turkey, buffalo, antelope, trout and whatever all shows up. He’ll be tenting this time – not quite Man Versus Wild but a definite change from the usual cabin digs. Being out in a beautiful setting with no real agenda is refreshing.

Melissa will be on Joey watch, but on Sunday one of Joey’s fave adults will give her a break so she can go to a party for a friend who just graduated college and is newly engaged, as well as being a leader in the rebuilding of his homeland. It is uplifting just to be near him, and puts one’s struggles in perspective.

Thanks in advance for understanding. We need some time to breathe. We pray that blessing for you as well.

The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves. (Mark 6:30-32, ESV)