Sick Day Revelations

I am sitting on the couch between Liam and Everett. Both of them have been battling a stomach bug since yesterday morning. I think (HOPE) we are over the worst of it, so we’re watching cartoons and snuggling, while they take tiny nibbles of saltine crackers and little sips of Gatorade.

Sick days are a terrible kind of blessing. I hate seeing my little guys suffer, but their illness jolts regular life to a screeching halt in a special way. Our world becomes much smaller and simpler, and my tasks are really clear. Everything else can wait while I tend to my boys—fill water bottles, rub their backs, disinfect everything, hold them after they get sick, throw in another load of yucky laundry, and repeat. While some of this can be a bit heartbreaking and definitely more than a little gross at times, I always feel a huge sense of privilege that I am the one who gets to care for them. 

They are my boys, and I wouldn’t pass off any of this to anyone. I’m the one they want in their misery. My kisses and hugs are the ones that bring comfort. My words give them hope that this sickness will not last forever. 

After Everett got sick yesterday, he proved he was like his mama in his need to verbally process what had just happened. He sat next to me as I cleaned everything up and said, “Throwing up makes me really sad. And I get more sad, because this is how I’m going to be forever. I’m going to be sick for the rest of my life.” 

I hid my smile as I replied, “I know it feels like that right now, bud. But you’ll feel better really soon.” 

In the middle of the night last night, Liam cried, “I think I’m dying, Mom.” 

I rubbed his back and whispered the same reassurance, “I know it feels like that right now, bud. But you’ll feel better really soon.”

I have been a mama for nine years and ten months, and a mama of three boys for four years and nine months, so I’ve experienced many stretches of sickness with these fellas. But this time has made a different impression on me. This time has stopped me in my tracks and pointed me to Jesus with new understanding. 

Because I recognize my own heart’s cries in my boys’ voices. I have been in a season of crying out to Jesus things like, “I’m really sad. And I get more sad, because this is how things will be forever.” I’ve prayed, “I think parts of me are dying, Lord.” Unlike my boys, however, I’ve said those words with shame. Shame over not having a better perspective after all this time when I feel sick after treatments; shame over still feeling anxiety and trauma leading up to CTscans; shame over feelings of hopelessness over a recent new financial blow; shame over how repetitive my prayers and worries sound—the same insecurities and struggles rearing their heads again and again. 

The boys’ bout with sickness has shown me how my shame stems from the way I’m picturing Jesus’s reaction and the tone of his voice when he answers. I picture exasperation. I hear things like, “Caitlyn, why haven’t you figured this out yet?” or “Of course I’m with you. How could you doubt that when I’ve proved myself so many times to you?”

And yet, if I—in my sinfulness and humanness—delight in helping my boys when they are sick and weak, why do I think Jesus reacts so differently to me, his beloved daughter? 

A Bible study I’m doing right now on the book of Jonah pointed me toward Paul’s discussion of perpetual struggle in 2 Corinthians 12. Paul talks about a “thorn in [his] flesh.” He writes, 

"Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong" (8-10).

What if the Lord’s response to Paul, to me, was said in the same loving tone I use when I’m rubbing my sick boys’ backs? What if I heard his promise to have enough grace for me as the comfort it was meant to be and not an exasperated censure of my weakness?

These two days of caring for my sons have filled me with comfort. For now I can hear Jesus’s loving response. When I’m on my knees before him, he is rubbing my back saying something like, “I know it feels like this will go on forever. I know you feel like parts of you are dying. But all things will be healed and made right in my perfect timing.”

And when I come to him with the same old thorns in my flesh, he does not role his eyes. He wraps me in love. Because I am his girl, and he wouldn’t want me to turn to anyone else. He’s the one I want in my misery. His touch is what brings me comfort. His words give me hope that the trials of this world will not last forever. 

May you feel comforted by the creator of the universe who tends to you like a mother tends to her sick child. May you know that His grace is sufficient for whatever you bring before Him. And may you trust that his power is made perfect in your weakness.


Sawyer's Parable

Early in the school year, Sawyer told me that there was a bully in his class. He told me she said really mean things to the other kids and made them cry. I asked him what he felt he should do about it. He answered, “I’m just going to be friends with every person she’s mean to.” My heart burst with pride, and I told him that was a good idea.

Over the next several weeks, three different mamas found me at pick up time to tell me that Sawyer was the nicest little boy. He had befriended their children when they were feeling picked on. They thanked me for raising a young man who knew how to be such a good friend. I was so proud of Sawyer, I cried.

About a month ago, Sawyer told me he was worried about the “bully.” When I asked him why, he said, “She doesn’t have any friends, Mama.”

“Well, that’s what happens when you’re not nice to others,” I pointed out, thankful he was seeing this example of natural justice. 

He was quiet for awhile and then piped up with, “Yeah, but I think she just doesn’t know how to be a friend. Maybe I need to be really nice to her, so that she knows how to be nice.”

Humbled, I answered, “I think that’s a wonderful idea, my love.”

When I went to pick Sawyer up last week, the “bully” gave Sawyer a huge hug and said, “Bye, Sawyer!” before heading home with her mama.

As we walked to the car, I asked Sawyer how he had become friends with the girl who had been being so mean to everyone.

He answered matter of factly, “I just kept being really nice to her until she couldn’t help but be my friend.”

This boy teaches me so much about Jesus. He rises to the defense of the oppressed, but he also loves his enemies. Sometimes Jesus’s instruction to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44) feels pretty removed from our daily lives. In my life context, there aren’t very many identifiable enemies. In Jesus’s time, the enemies were more obvious. This didn’t make his instruction any easier to follow back then, but perhaps it was more simple to see who he was talking about. Sawyer is showing me that to love my enemies, I need to remember to love people, not because of how they treat me, but because they are image-bearers of our God. I need to love people so extravagantly and consistently that they can’t help feeling loved. That kind of love changes other people and me. That kind of love reflects the Jesus we follow.


Equipping Sawyer

Sawyer clung to my legs this morning and sobbed into my stomach.  I heard muffled repetitions of, “I don’t want to go! I don’t want to change! Nobody asked me if I wanted to move.”  I rubbed his back as my heart pounded and I fought the urge to snatch him up and run from the school.  I felt torn by the need to ease his pain and the knowledge that he would be probably be ok as soon as he stepped through the classroom door…probably.

Sawyer’s first month in his new school has been full of very high highs and very low lows.  Weeks one through three, he walked out of his first grade classroom at the end of the day with a big smile on his face, but by the time we got to the car, he melted into tears and worry and confusion as he tried to explain what happened in school.  Making friends was not as easy as he thought it would be; the school was bigger than he thought it would be; the procedures were more foreign than he thought they would be. 

Ryan and I reassured Sawyer that sticking it out would pay off.  We promised he would feel more comfortable every day and prayed over him that he would feel the Holy Spirit’s presence.  We also reminded him God had him at this school for a purpose.  Maybe there was a kid in his class who desperately needed a Sawyer in his/her life.  I mean, come on, EVERYONE needs a Sawyer!

At the beginning of week three, all of those tears and talks and reassurances paid off, and Sawyer ran to meet his friends as soon as we got to the drop off spot in the morning with a barely-audible, “Love you, Mama,” tossed over his shoulder.  My heart soared and broke at the same time.  We had just gotten a notice that Sawyer was on an overflow list to be transferred to a different school.  The elementary school was overenrolled by fifty kids.  The principal told me she was doing everything in her power to come up with a solution, but in that moment I thought I was going to have to tell Sawyer he had to go through all of it again right when the earth was starting to feel more solid again under his feet. 

And I was mad.  I was so mad.  I fumed at the California education powers that be.  I talked to everyone who might know a way to have Sawyer stay put.  I prayed angry prayers through hot tears:  

“Please, Lord, not Sawyer.”  
“He’s been through too much these past three years.”
“He needs stability.”
“He doesn’t need another huge transition right now.”

I had a lot of reasons why this should not happen.  Sawyer had done everything we asked him to do.  He had been brave.  He had been kind.  He had persevered and fought for a good attitude.  I didn’t want to tell him all of his efforts were for nought.  I didn’t want this majorly mismanaged way of handling kids to scar him or make him less trusting or mar his outlook on the world. 

During a conversation with my lovely friend, Lindsay, I realized I was believing a lie. I trusted God to equip me for whatever would come my way, but I did not believe he would equip my children.  I felt I had to stand in that gap somehow, and much of my desperation over the school situation stemmed from how impossible it was to be equipped enough for everyone in my family.  Lindsay said, “You know, Cait, these hard moments are going to happen to Sawyer no matter what you do.  And they will form him.  So far the really hard moments in Sawyer’s life have formed him into a phenomenal kid.”

With those wise words, I was able to quiet the riot in my heart.  I turned my eyes to the one who has formed my boys into incredible little men of God.  They have seen more pain than they should have in their young lives, but God has been faithful to use pain to shape them into boys who love fiercely, feel compassion, ask deep questions, and live for others (most of the time;-) Even though I know most of my hurt over Sawyer’s potential transfer was for his sake, I could now see how much of it stemmed from my own angst.  I want smooth sailing for Sawyer, because I long for it too.  I want to be able to tell him he can rely on the powers and establishments of the world, because I would really like the comfort of that too.  I want to tell him things won’t change and a good attitude in any given situation will yield a happy outcome, because I want to believe that too.

But I can’t tell him that.  In fact, I have to warn him our sailboats will travel across stormy seas, the powers and establishments of the world will fail us over and over again, and things of this world will always change despite our best efforts.  

Once I let go of all of these hopes and frantic prayers, I sat before the Lord with open hands and asked him to fill them with truth.  He gave me his promises:

“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (Deut. 31:8).
“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness” (Jer. 31:3).
“He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6).
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Cor. 5:17).

These are the promises that remain true through change, hardship, transition, and pain.  These are the promises that remain true through contentment, triumph, joy, and healing.  Thankfully, these are the promises I can tell my boy when change and the unknown loom before him again.  

They didn’t end up transferring Sawyer to a different school, but he was moved to a brand new 1st grade class with a new teacher.  Some of his friends were transferred into the class as well, but he doesn’t know most of his new classmates.  So yesterday and today, I had to pry his sweet little arms from around my legs, look into his tear-streaked face and tell him what I know is true: “You are brave, and you are kind.  You can choose to bless everyone in your class today.  The Holy Spirit is with you every step and every breath you take today. God has a plan for you.  I love you, and I WILL be here as soon as school is over.”

My speech didn’t stop the tears, but it got him through the door.  All day I have prayed for peace and comfort for his spirit.  I don’t know what kind of report I’ll get from him when I pick him up, but I trust that he spent the whole day cradled in the hands of our mighty God—the creator of space and time, the redeemer of all pain.

May you feel steadied by the promises of the great Promise Keeper.  May you trust in his promise to equip you for whatever path he leads you down.  And may you find joy in the journey.