Sunday, October 20, 2019

When Your Blessings Involve Hard Work and a Bit of Misery

I often have flashbacks, when the current moment triggers a memory of something similar.

My dad got a stroke and died in September, which will be a future blog post after I get the pictures and video organized. Ever since his death, I have been mentally and physically exhausted, operating on maybe a third of my normal energy.

I was scheduled to fly to Texas on October 16 to speak at a ladies' retreat. I was excited about going until Dad's death put me into such a dysfunctional state that I was taking two naps a day and carefully choosing the three or four most important tasks to do every day before my half cup of octane was all used up.

I figured I could handle a Texas trip if I conserved my resources, because it felt irresponsible and inconsiderate to bail a month before their retreat. Thankfully I had a team of people praying, and their prayers lifted my stranded canoe off the rocks and got it floating downriver, so to speak.

On Wednesday morning, I was at the kitchen counter sipping tea and eating a big breakfast. With all my heart and soul I wanted to go back to bed and stay there instead of getting dressed, hauling suitcases to the car, and going to meet the shuttle in Albany to take me to Portland to the airport.

So I felt sorry for myself. Poor little me, wearily schlepping heavy books to the car in the morning chill while other people got to sip a cup of coffee in their jammies.

I had a sudden flashback.

When I was a teenager, I read Ann Kiemel's bubbly inspirational books about her and Jesus changing the world. Ann was so lucky. Not only did Jesus actually answer her prayers and stuff, but her books were bestsellers, and she got to go all over and speak to people.

Well. In one of her books, Ann told how she woke up in a motel room and was lonely. She was in yet another city, and pretty soon she would go before a thousand people and speak to them. But she was realizing it was a hard and lonely life.

At the time I thought, Oh you poor little famous successful pookie-wookie, getting to do what most writers only dream of and hope for, and you have the audacity to fuss that you don't like parts of it.

Yet there I was, on Wednesday morning, myself a poor little pookie-wookie, who got to go fly to exotic places and speak to women who were willing to sit there and listen, and I was all fussy and whiny because it meant actually getting up early and catching a plane. 17-year-old me reached forward through the years and slapped my face. "I didn't have the faith to dream of half the life you have now!" she scolded.

When you finally reach a dream, a goal, a longed-for event, is it ever right to be honest about the hard things it entails?

If babies are a gift and a blessing, and you know that Angela down the street would love to have one but is infertile, is it right to admit that mothering is extremely hard for you? Maybe you know better than to complain to Angela, but is it right to admit it to anyone?

The same with your husband, although our daughter Emily notes that it's not an exact parallel. "All babies are blessings, but not all husbands are," she said.

"Indeed," we said. "Well then."

Either way, you finally get what some people will never have, and you find out that it's a blessing, yes, but it's also like the rest of life: hard work, challenging, and sometimes monotonous, with ample obstacles to test your maturity and selflessness.

Life is challenging for us all, and saying this out loud helps us find perspective and a path forward. Maybe it's all about saying it to the right person to get it out of your system. And then to laugh at your silly self, brush your teeth, and head for Texas full of wonder and gratitude that you actually lead this wildly adventuresome life.

The retreat was at the True Grit Ranch, about an hour from Dallas, a truly Texan place with cowhide rugs on the floors, two big glowering bulls across the fence, and forty fun ladies who listened to all my talks like they mattered. The time there was actually restful, which doesn't usually happen when I'm speaking somewhere.

Coming home involved long flights, sitting outside in the cold so I wouldn't miss the shuttle, and walking in the back door at 1:00 this morning. My friend Jean felt sorry for me when I told her about this at church today. "Go home and sleep for a week," she said. 

Our blessings are part of life, and sometimes life is overwhelming, exhausting and miserable, but that doesn't make the blessings any less blessed. It's always good to get a full night's sleep and remember just how incredibly fortunate I am to have this life, these gifts, and those astonishing opportunities.


  1. Please take care of yourself! I need you whole and healthy!

    Love, Jerri

  2. So good to read this blog post; I agree with your conclusion and appreciate your honest heart.

  3. I am so sorry about the passing of your dad. I was looking forward to sending a birthday card to him. I'll be praying for you all.
    And it's true. Motherhood is hard and so is marriage but I believe it's so much easier when we have Christ to run to when the going gets tough. And it is such a blessing to have someone to admit that to.
    And yes a good night's sleep is always good!

  4. Yes, this. Apples of gold in pictures of silver.

  5. So sorry to hear about your dad. When we lose our parents, we are freshly reminded of how much we love and depend on them, even when we are old and gray ourselves...

    I love that you have been so blessed in your life, but are not ashamed to admit to some small group of us that even blessings are not all gleaming gold all the time. There are those little bits of tarnish that we have to just...get over from time to time.

    1. "Little bits of tarnish." I like that.

  6. I love how you brought this post together; I'm remembering your teaching at WAWC about listing all my thoughts and then realizing how these three (or those two) ideas will come together into a good post, and I'm smiling. You do this so well. I'm sorry about your dad. Your 17-year-old self made me grin with recognition.

    1. So funny--it never crossed my mind that i was following my own advice.

  7. Great and 'effortless' writing!

    It's a side point, but admitting that fulfilled dreams aren't all rosy makes me think of the idea of validation, which I finally grasped in therapy awhile ago! The idea is, no matter how wrong a thought or feeling is (and of course wanting rest when you're tired isn't wrong), it's always valid just in the sense that if we understand a person we'll be able to say "I can see how you'd feel that" or "I can see how you'd think that." Feeling understood helps a person be able to change! Sometimes it seems like people are either all about acceptance, or else all about judgement, when maybe it's best to have both. I'm finding that idea really helpful.

  8. Yes to all of this!!! I was just nodding and amening as I read this. Emilys comment made me laugh. I'm glad my husband is the blessing kind.

  9. Our sympathies in your Dad's passing, and many blessings for your faithful care of him.

  10. Thank you for breaking the sound barrier. I was hoping we would hear from you about your father's funeral...

    I learned during my mother's final illness and death how exhausting grief can be. I found out I wasn't the only family member that experienced early morning insomnia, and the resulting sleep deprivation. And after we lost our dad so suddenly.

    This past Monday after my uncle's funeral I expressed my condolences to your uncle for his brother's death [your dad]. He also talked to my about his daughter-in-law's grave illness, her son's pending wedding... LRM

  11. My mother, who matter-of-factly accepted death as a part of life, told me that she did not expect to be adversely affected by her father-in-law's sudden passing. But that summer it was difficult to function. She told me this years later in relation to (and sympathy with)someone else who she felt was going through the same thing. May the Lord give you grace at this time and new strength, Dorcas.

  12. How does one find out about retreats you speak at? I live close enough to this one that I'd have loved to come if I'd known about it. But maybe it was for a certain group?

  13. I love your post because I can identify with it and find the last paragraph to be exactly true. In a year of exceptional challenge and great blessing I've thought about this concept over and over again. Those who have not experienced or recognized it can't quite understand what you've said here. Blessings on you in your grief process--be gentle with yourself.