The swirl of thoughts left me weary. What should my focus be? What should my days look like? What is my purpose?
The lack of answers, or my fear of failure, left me paralyzed. My present brokenness was all I seemed to know, and despite the pain, it was surprisingly comfortable.
And yet, the small flicker of hope deep within my heart convinced me there is a better way.
“The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing.” (Isaiah 35:1-2)
I had tried schedules and lists. I tried to push myself to the point of exhaustion, because I wanted to feel “normal.” Then, I swung the other way and felt worthless.
“We must live a presently existing love …” (I Believe in Love, page 61)
This quote quieted my swirling thoughts. It beckoned me to ponder my present state of feeling stuck in my life. It caused me to realize that I’m not living the way I want to live. The longing for normalcy and for my Hashimoto’s to simply go away was preventing me from being who God wants me to be in the here and now.
“… do away with this … put [your]self forever into an atmosphere of friendship with your friend Jesus … Go to Him as to a fountain of living water, as many times as necessary …” (I Believe in Love, page 63-65)
What if living with chronic illness is part of my life, my cross for the long-term? How could I stop waiting to get better and start living with grace?
With the liturgical season of Lent upon us, I started wondering how this Lent would influence the interior struggle I was enduring. How could this time of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving draw me closer to Jesus and all that He lovingly suffered for me?
As I contemplated plans for Lent 2017, those swirling thoughts started flooding my mind again. “There is so much I am doing wrong,” I thought to myself, “How on earth am I going to pick a good Lenten sacrifice?” I want a fruitful, blessed, and meaningful Lent, and yet my body, mind, and spirit are already worn out and weary. How could I lower the bar—you know the one—that seems to be so high, and still have a really intimate experience with the Lord this Lent?
And the Lord gave me His response through the words of a wise friend: Don’t lower the bar; throw it out.
To have a good Lent, I don’t need extensive plans. I don’t need checklists or benchmarks that will only add stress and anxiety to my already overwhelmed state of mind. I don’t need to overthink or overcomplicate Lent.
Some sage advice rings in my ear: Lent doesn’t belong to me. It belongs to Him.
The answer was clear. What I needed to do this Lent was give up on the swirl and shoulds. What I needed to do was fall at His feet and let Him carry me through Lent.
“What does it matter, my Jesus, if I fall every moment? … It shows You what I am capable of, and then You will be more tempted to carry me in Your arms.” (I Believe in Love, page 66)
When facing a chronic illness, it is difficult to surrender to the reality that it is important to make self-care a priority. It is especially hard to accept this when you are a wife, a mom with a bunch of kids, and the primary homemaker. How can self-care be placed at the top of my priorities list? The guilt is tough to get over, even if it is a false guilt.
But as my spiritual director reminded me, “You are in triage.” And God has made His invitation quite clear that I am to rest in Him:
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28:30)
So, I don’t mean self-care in terms of manicures and shopping sprees. What I do mean is rest, prayer, nourishment, shortening the to-do list, and being present to living this chronic illness with grace. I think it also means throwing out the idea that I “should” be de-cluttering my house, stuffing 40 bags, crafting my way through Lent, and adding more extras to my plate.
So this Lent I am giving up the swirl and the shoulds, and I am replacing them with prayer and Scriptural truths. Because His invitation is clear:
Stay close to Me. Plant yourself on the shore of My life-giving water. So that you yield fruit from this Lenten season. So that even in the midst of suffering, you do not wither and fade. So that what you do—big and small—will prosper. (Psalm 1)
What is Jesus’ invitation to you this Lent?
For more information about the Catholic Women’s Blog Network (CWBN) Blog Hop or to read how others Lent, please click the image above or HERE.