Love from a child, in the form of freshly-made banana ice cream, chocolate chips, and frozen strawberries.
Two times in my life I’ve had a major health scare. Eight years ago, a preliminary diagnosis gave me just a few months to live. The second time was also a false alarm but it stopped me in my tracks none-the-less. And that is why this article, which was meant to be a practical discussion of couch schooling, will be about Mom’s attitude instead.
Because it’s your attitude that matters in the long run. If you are at peace with God and yourself and your situation, you will be able to find ways to make the practical details work out in your family’s unique situation. If you are upset, stressed, or overwhelmed with negative emotions, nothing will go well.
So here are a few things to think about.
God never calls you do to more than he equips you to do. If, for example, he has clearly not equipped you to leave the couch or has increased your need for sleep to 11 hours a day plus frequent rest breaks, then that has implications for what you should be trying to do. So re-examine your goals and expectations. You will most likely need to drop many things. This will be painful, but it can also be a valuable chance to re-evaluate your priorities.
You will be cutting back, true, but there may even be other things you can and should add in. Here’s a life-changing sentence from Hyatt’s new book Living Forward: Ask yourself, “What does this experience make possible?” I would add, “What does it make necessary?”
You will need to plan for as much healing as possible and this includes being thankful for what God has given you. Yes, there are still good things even in the worst situation. Even if you have received a death sentence, humanly speaking, there is a blessing in having time to prepare your children for this horrible event. And if, as in my case years ago, the death sentence was premature, having pondered such things will change your life forever.
Look back and look forward, no matter why you are on the couch or how long you expect to be there. Look back to what came before—the sickening crunch of breaking bones? The soothing beeps and frantic bustle of the hospital? A positive pregnancy test? An exhausting flu? The never-ending grind of a chronic condition? Whatever it is, be comforted by this: God knows it and has planned your way into—and through—these days. He loves you, and he can fix anything that would best be fixed but he won’t change things that are best not changed. So, despite the pain it is all, somehow, good. Someday we may understand, but remember, God didn’t tell Job the hidden story and he doesn’t need to tell any of us either.
Look forward. You may be able to plan for the future, or anticipate it. Even in the worst case scenario, you will go to God and, just as he has promised to be a father to the fatherless, he will also be a mother to the motherless. Prepare your little ones and your teens as well as you can with prayer and love, and your husband too. And live each day well, pointing them to God who is able to comfort them.
Or you may be looking forward to a long future on this earth. Take the clarity that comes from being faced with your own limitations and plan wisely for that future. Psalm 90 calls this numbering your days.
And be happy. Notice and give thanks for the little gifts. Rejoice in the bit of blue sky and the willow tree you can see from your pillow. Treasure caring toddler caresses, even if you may not have the strength to give a hug in exchange. Enjoy time with loved ones, conversations, music, food prepared with love, good books if you have the strength to read them. Give your family the gift of a wife and mother who is at peace. Smile your love at them, even if there are tears in your eyes.
If God has made it impossible for you to do your usual tasks, enjoy the time off gratefully. After all, how many people get to take days and weeks and months off from their everyday work? This ‘vacation’ approach really helped my attitude when I was a long-term invalid years ago.
Be grateful to your caregivers and helpers and let go of your own way of doing things. By their actions they are showing you their love; don’t you dare criticize this gift from their hearts! It goes without saying that you let them know how thankful you are, and don’t take advantage of them.
Of course, none of this means giving up. Plan for healing as much as possible. Challenge yourself wisely. Work diligently at getting well, whatever that means, but accept your current limitations with gratitude and good humor.
Finally, dear suffering mother, quiet yourself like a baby safe in its mother’s arms (Ps 131). Be at peace. You are being taken care of, so don’t let worries flood your mind. Yes, quiet yourself and be at peace. There is no need to fuss. And write this down somewhere, or everywhere: “Be still and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10), making sure you will be reminded of it every single day, or maybe even every hour.
And if, by your words and your attitude, you can transmit this confidence to your children, they will have learned the most valuable lesson you can ever teach them. Everything else, from phonics to Shakespeare, from adding to algebra, from Dick and Jane to Homer, is extra. Important, yes, but extra.
So keep on running to God, read your Bible, ponder verses such as Phil 4: 4-8 in the endless tossing hours of the night, talk to God through the Psalms, and then, somehow—I don’t know how it happens—you will be given the strength and peace to give thanks in all circumstances. You won’t always be happy; you will still experience pain; fear will still gnaw at your heart. But God will be with you through it all , and you and your family will be OK.
May God bless you and your family and your time of illness.
On a personal note, although I am currently facing some medical uncertainty, I am OK. My activities are curtailed somewhat, but I am not on the couch and am getting stronger week by week. And I’m learning, once again, to notice the many miracles God places on my path and, even more, to be grateful for the miracle of his love and nearness.
Please, dear friends, forward this to people who need it. I currently do not have the energy to do this, although when I am able I will link to some of the following: Raising Homemakers, Titus 2 Tuesday, Tell it to Me Tuesday.
This is part of a series of occasional meditations and devotional articles.