I just finished week two back to school with the kids and found myself jotting things down in my planner and trying to pin down more time again. I thought last week was an added item on the agenda, leaving me with little time to write or think on my own. The “whirlwind” of last week had nothing on this one.
I’ve shared before on this blog, here and here, about the illnesses our family has been dealing with this year. My mother-in-law’s husband whose journey with Alzheimer’s came to an end a week ago as his soul passed onto greener pastures. I know “mother-in-law’s husband” sounds a little distant. I don’t say step dad or anything of the sort because they were married later in life and he wasn’t truly a father figure to my husband, but he
was is a cherished member of the family and one of my children’s grandparents. “PaBo” to be precise, a man with open arms for wiggling children, a deep laugh, and one who loved their Nanna well. He will be whole again in Heaven and he will be missed, mourned, and celebrated on this earth.
We received that news last Sunday and had to deal with the emotional logistics of deciding if we can be there for support and if we are able attend the funeral or not. Flight restrictions are much more complicated right now and there is only so much time that can be taken off work. That was just setting in as I covered my planner with stickers and chicken scratch to figure out the days and how to move through them, to care for my family and be a present (even when physically distant) sounding board for my friend, mentor, and bonus mama.
That was all jostling around in my brain when I received the next phone call. My father’s treatment team at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance had made a new selection for a Stem Cell donor, and it was my turn at bat. This was good news, my sisters and I were all fighting over who got to be the one who donate. Not that we got to make the selection, the team chooses who they think will be the best match and we simple say ‘yes’ or ‘no’. There was absolutely no doubt in my mind what my answer would be and I joyfully accepted the request and hurried about the business of making plans; childcare, food, rides to extracurricular activities, canceling plans to tighten up my social distancing again, writing notes to help those taking care of my children, finishing up our stack of logs for the fall so my husband can continue that business while I am away.
Through all this planning I ran into a sticker in my collection with this little piece of modern wisdom on it “You do You.”
I know it, I’ve said it when I am overwhelmed by the opinions of others and need a moment to reflect on my heart. When I need to remember who I was made to be is not the same as who my friend was made to be and I should celebrate the work in Christ that I am.
I believe all of that and I value it, but I tossed this sticker away. I couldn’t think of any place where I would honestly use it because, to me, what is says in this context is that I should be the most valuable person in my life. I should be the one who my world revolves around and I shouldn’t cave to the opinions (or needs) of others….and I just can’t let that slide.
You see, I was never meant to just “do me”. I was meant to put on Christ.
“For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ Jesus have put on Christ.”Galatians 3:27
I was meant to put on Christ and He has a passion for community.
Since receiving the good news of getting to be my father’s donor, I have had time to reflect on that and how I am able to view it as good news. It would be a different scenario if the request came from a distant man who was a father, but not a dad. Or if I grew up in a home with parents who were always looking out for number one and putting themselves first. I don’t know what my response would have been in any such situation, I can’t say that I would have been as joyful about the opportunity.
My parents didn’t take care of themselves first. They took care of themselves, also. They nurtured us and their marriage, and a relationship with Christ and it was done with love and with unity. It was done with a spirit that viewed others needs as more important.
“Above all put on love-the perfect bond of unity. And let the peace of the Messiah to which you were also called in one body, control your hearts.”Colossians 3: 14-15
I’ve been pondering this over the last several weeks after stumbling across a post about gratitude for the noticers. The children who stop on walks to look at every bug, touch every leaf, admire every flower and the beautiful nature they possess. It is so beautiful.
I have one of those children in my home now and I love her curious spirit and the way she stoops to admire a bug on the road or desires to help it cross to the other side. I love watching her walk through a field of flowers trying to decide which one to pick or staring at every puddle that comes into her path. When her brother was at this stage, we took long, slow walks and stopped to smell the roses…and the dirt, and the bugs. I was able to do this easily with just one child in tow.
Now, however, I have two. One straps on his running shoes to bolt around the neighborhood while the other meanders behind. I can’t let them both be totally free to “dance to their own rhythm” and still get to our destination safely. Sometimes life in community is learning to step in unison.
I was a ballerina growing up, a fairly mediocre one to be honest. I didn’t learn until recently that my mother actually chose to put me in ballet because she hoped it would help with my natural clumsiness and I suppose it did, just not enough to make me grab the spotlight in ballet class. There was only one area where I got to truly shine and that was flexibility. When we got to stretch or kick, you can bet I got to stand out. This was great in class or for a solo, but in a corps they don’t actually want you to stand out. When we would do kick lines or group dances I frequently had to lower the height of my grand battements (or really big kicks) to remain in step. It wasn’t that what I was doing was wrong or didn’t have a place, it was that I needed to bring my efforts to the community in that moment. It wasn’t about making myself stand out, it was about sharing the beauty of unity.
This is why I always struggle with the expressions of taking care of yourself first or “just doing you”.
Now if you are saying first as in prior to….I get that. Personally I eat my food while it is still hot because that is how I like it, my children pick at theirs as they are able, and I help them with cooler food (which they prefer) after I am finished. I typically dress myself for the day before dressing them because I know they are apt to spill on their clothes by the time I am ready and it just doesn’t seem like good time management to dress them twice.
So maybe it seems like I am splitting hairs. Perhaps I am, but some hairs are worth splitting. My quarantine mane certainly seems to think so (ba dum tss)
Finding time to do what fills your soul is important, seeking quiet restful time with Christ is vital, caring for your physical health is crucial but we need to remember that Christ can fill our cup in the burn out. That there will be seasons where we are dancing in step with those around us or behind as we let them have their moment in the spotlight and we can find the joy there too.
This life isn’t about making ourselves shine. It is about making Christ shine through our strengths, through our weakness, and through our joyful service and community.
Sometimes the noticers will have to run to keep up and sometimes the runners will stoop down and share the joy of a wriggling worm. Both are to celebrated, both are to be encouraged, and both are to find the best way to be themselves with compassion and allowance for those around them.