Imagine:

A mother, surrounded by her solicitous, clean and neatly dressed children.  She is attired in the coziest pajamas imaginable, propped up with pillows, surrounded by cards and flowers and a bottle or two of prescription medication.  She is suffering, but she’s at peace.  Her freezer is stocked with meals for the family, the laundry all washed, so only daily maintenance is needed and she is able to rest and recuperate with many little hands quick to bring a hot beverage or soup or refill the empty water bottle.

Add a little soft music and a recently vacuumed living room to enhance the overall effect of serenity…

Now the reality:

Imagine the same mother, in the most excrutiating pain she’s ever experienced, doing all she can to hide that pain from worried spouse and children.  Her face is horribly swollen, speech is garbled, the once cozy pajamas sweat-stained, and a growing pile prescription medications show a completely different picture, telling a tale of complications,  trips to the ER, scary moments of not being able to breathe due to severe swelling, infection, etc…not exactly the scenario she had imagined but always existent in the far reaches of possibility, and then, reality.  The laundry, a growing mound that the mother-in-law works at with such patience, with such diligence…which makes the mother weep as she sees this lovely, genteel woman bent over it, laboring to best sort, wash, clean and put away.  She remonstrates herself for the weeks prior, that she accomplished so little.  Dinner has been prepared every evening thanks to Dad, who’s missed more hours of work than was planned for due to mom’s complications and once again mom castigates herself for cooking for parties, cooking for friends…but not managing to better provide for her family’s needs during this down time…

So much stress, so much pain, so much sleep deprivation…

And yet…once again, grace creeps in on the edges.  The laundry pile is diminishing.  With an orderliness and a loving touch that is lately missing in my efforts, she accomplishes it.  Slowly, to be sure.  But well.  I’m all about “get it done” not nearly as much “do it well, with grace, peacefully…”  This is definitely more my mother-in-law’s style, and so I’m learning, once again, her gentleness in the midst of my chaos.

I witness her patience as she sits with the little ones, making sure math and phonics are accomplished throughout the day.  Her style is not mine, but she helps and encourages them and the work gets done…and I have comfort in knowing that all is not lost academically during this down time…

Stumbling into my kitchen for pain medication, I notice little things.  The counters seem cleaner, more organized.  No crumb covered floors, nor unwashed dishes in the sink.  Quietly and peacefully, she’s done all that I do, and I weep for my lack of appreciation…for the way I’ve felt “all is chaos” when everything is really just as it should be…

With all I didn’t do, it still gets done and I’m blessed by it.  It can be heartrending when you fear you’ve let others down, when your pain is too much to hide, when the recovery seems to be too long and too hard.  When you fear you’ve made a mistake…

Thus far we’ve been up against months of sickness, dozens of tests.   A surgery hastily scheduled on my birthday, leaving a scant two weeks of preparation.  Forewarned of the long recovery period and extreme pain, I resolutely trudged forward. The surgery itself was easy, no complications, the return home not too difficult.

By day three…nightmarish.  Pain unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.  I’m embarrassed by it, but must admit my arrogance when I really wondered with all I’d suffered over the past 30 years of pregnancy, childbirth, complications and constant sickness…what could they really “throw” at me that I couldn’t handle?

Well…now I know…and that’s about all I can say.  Because words hurt and tear at my throat.  Tears sting my eyes for the words I can’t say and spill even as I type.  Because it’s all about being humbled.  Here I am, I signed up for this, said I’d do it and then find myself saying “wait, no!  This isn’t what I meant!  I had a different picture in mind…I want that picture!  This one is so messy, so ugly…I’m trying to do the right thing but I’m using all the wrong tools…”

But God puts just the right tools in the right place.  My mother-in-law observes the work that must be done and does it.  My husband stays by my side as much as possible and doesn’t hesitate to leave work to take me to the ER to address breathing issues.  He comforts me through my tears and fears, comes home and cooks dinner, never once complains when he hits the computer to finish up work until the wee hours of the morning…never once complains that coffee’s not ready, there’s no breakfast because everyone is exhausted in this ordeal.  But no one has complained…

Except me.  Voiceless, I have grumbled in my heart.  When I can speak, I have rebuked myself for all my failings…as though the physical pain were not enough, I should bear the hurt of disappointment, too.

Well, I’m shelving my complaints now, opting for the grace that is given.  The pain is far worse today and is expected to be worse tomorrow.  But I can breathe now.  Which is important…low oxygen levels and narcotics make a bad partnership and forming a thought was much more difficult yesterday than today.  Last night’s visit to ER and threats of a hospital stay are fading away, and everything is clearer…

I can now see the keyboard to type.  I don’t have to talk.  I’ve finally changed out of the pajamas into significantly looser clothing…though this is not a liquid diet plan you’d want to sign up for…

And I’m in my warm home.  With clean laundry.  The children have been homebound and stir crazy, but as hubby said, the cars not running so it’s not like I’d be going anywhere anyway!  The air is scented with the rich beefy aroma of pot roast simmering in the crockpot and I am comforted that my sweet mother-in-law is taking a bit of break.  She and the teenagers have headed to the Mennonite market.  That’s a real treat around here and something everyone enjoys.  I hope she lingers.  I’m racking my brain for some way to thank her, to adequately repay her for the grace that she brings to everything she touches…may God bless her and all who give aid to the suffering!

And may God bless you, my friends.  I’ve read every comment, and blessed each of you for your prayers.  I’ve had no sleep whatsoever in more than 36 hours, so you can be sure I’ve had more than ample to return “prayer for prayer.”  Now if you could just talk to God about this sleep thing…prednisone is killing me.  I’m on a really high dose, the engine is revved and even super strong narcotic pain medication isn’t counteracting the effects.  I…need…sleep.  Even an hour would be good…two or three?  Even better!

Blessings,