Thursday, September 30, 2010

It goes both ways

Well friends, it did indeed happen.  This past Saturday was the day that I caught Mary and Kaitlyn's tummy flu.

Instead of a much-longed-for weekend day of getting things done and being productive, I spent it on the couch, alternating between fighting tooth-and-nail not to be sick, and being sick.

This after several days of cleaning up after a sweet, sick baby--laundry, more laundry, multiple baths per day. 

And THAT after looking after Kaitlyn when SHE had come down with it.


Being a mother has its perks, and its challenges, and I'm learning that sometimes the challenges are perks too.

I count it a great privilege, for example, to care for my little ones when they're sick.  (It really helps that they're so cute!)  I really try to play it up--they get to have a cozy blanket and pillow to rest on the couch, we cuddle, sometimes there is Jello and usually various videos to watch.  (Sometimes on Mommy's bed).  Siblings rally around and express their sympathies.  If a child has to stay home from church, brothers and sisters return bearing treats from that morning's food table.  Cups overflowing with animal crackers and fresh fruit and usually a bagel with too much cream cheese that they ever so carefully smeared on after the service. 

It is so, so, soooo sweet.

Ministering to the sick is something that God cares about and that Jesus clearly did.  Most churches today devote some portion of resources to this act.  I've never given it too much thought, I suppose.  But this is something we moms do on a regular basis.  In our own homes.  And as I think more about it, there is something so incredibly precious about ministering to our little ones through making them comfortable when they're sick.  Really we're serving Jesus.

But there is more.

It dawned on me on Saturday evening, as a dirt-smudge-faced Kaitlyn came over to me (fresh from climbing trees in the backyard), instructed me to sit up, and placed a pillow behind me so I could rest against it, that my children minister to ME when I'M sick, too.  It goes both ways.  Anna offered to read to me earlier in the day, Yosef brought me crackers, and I get lots of "are you feeling better, Mommy?"s.  Sometimes it's as simple as a child rubbing my back asking if I'm okay.

I've never asked for any of these things.  And I'm not a dramatic sick person (nobody ever believes me at the hospital when I say I'm in labor--until they check me and find out I'm in transition.  :)  And I did the kidney stone thing twice without making a big to-do).  But my kids are amazingly empathic and love on me so.very.well. when I'm not 100%.

The fact is that God uses them to bless me beyond measure and they always seem to know when I need encouragement.  My default is to feel anxious when I get sick, because I can tangibly feel the weight of responsibility that raising five kids brings.  Meals to prep, clothes to wash, diapers to change, kisses and hugs to dole out.  On more than one occasion I have wondered, "How am I EVER going to get through this day with five kids and a flu/sinus infection/kidney stone/mono?"  People, upon hearing the number of children we have, will sometimes ask how I manage when I'm sick.  (It's probably one of the questions I get asked the most, actually.  Which makes sense.  It's a daunting thought.)

My answer has usually always been, "By God's grace", or something equally vague that downplays any and all merit on my part.  Because, trust me, I'm generally down for the count when I'm not feeling well.  I don't have a Type A personality, I'm not a high-energy person anyway, so when germs come to call, I pretty much just try and rest.

But I'm seeing that a more specific answer to that question involves the countless ways my children and husband minister to me in sickness.

Instead of my kids being a burden when I'm not doing well, their smiles and love bring so.much.gladness. to my heart.  Yes I still have to nurse Mary, but her big sister Anna is always so happy to bring her to me.  I'm still on for parenting, but my kids play happily or watch videos for hours.

Why am I so surprised by any of this?

It's just God making His grace known to me through my family.

That's what He does.

I remember back in the days when we had just three small children, but they were all ages 2 and under.  Probably our most challenging phase of parenting.  Harder than having five kids ages 6 and under.  Much harder.  Especially when you factor in the major adjustment period of an adoption.

And in those days, my husband commuted over an hour EACH WAY to work.

He rode in a van pool so there was no flexibility in terms of leaving for work a little later, running home at lunch, putting in a half-day.

Plenty of people are doing this, especially in California, and we made it work.  He had a pretty positive attitude about it, until it really did just get to be too much.

And then we moved to Denver.  :)

But I saw God's abundant grace in those days too.

He always met me.  Always.

Somewhere along the way though we pick up this idea that family is generally a good thing unless WE'RE the mom. 

Then family is about responsibility and work and "how am I going to get through this day?"

Which, yes, I do ask myself anytime I'm not functioning on all cylinders (or even sometimes when I am!)

But I want to start remembering that, yes, while I DO have five whole children to look after even when I'm not feeling up to it...I also have five whole children to love me and encourage me when I'm not feeling up to it.

Five little ones making me laugh and making my heart melt.

Love it.

So I'm going to challenge myself to start thinking about things this way,  Jesus ministering to me through my kids.  Because it goes both ways.

****And I feel the need to give a huge shout-out to Kevin who, on this particular day I got sick, took over all parenting and household tasks, including meal prep, baths, the boys' haircuts (!), the list goes on.  I think I need to schedule my sick days on weekends more often!  :)


Rachel said...

...and now I want the flu so my kiddos can be sweet and adorable towards me. j/k

Kids are awesome. I have been having ankle/shin/arches issues for a while now and the girls are so good about getting the ice pack for me when it is flaring up. It's so nice to see them in a nurturing role.

Kristen said...

Such a sweet post. I actually have rather fond memories of being sick as a kid, silly as that sounds. Sounds like you were similar to my mom - she would set me up on the couch with tv/videos, juice, snacks, etc. And she would cook whatever I wanted for dinner. Hmmm, come to think of it, no wonder I was sick so often! ;)


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