Years ago, my sister Amy blessed me with a vacation with her and her daughter Lara to Disney World. After walking through Epcot for hours, we stopped for an Italian lunch to rest our weary feet and fill our hungry bellies.
The waitress led us to a table and placed an activity sheet and crayons in front of Lara while Amy and I explored the menu. Most five-year-old’s would doodle around the page and forget about it once their meal arrived. But to Lara, this was a broad canvas with which to express her artistic self. Her demeanor became serious as she fastidiously began to work. Soon she became agitated and angry. Her picture looked nothing like the image in her head and she began to scribble out her mistakes, which only made things worse and sent her spiraling downward until she began to cry.
Amy tried to console her, but Lara took no comfort in her mother’s words. I understood perfectly what Lara was feeling, because there are days I feel it too.
You wake up with angry scribbles over your head. Something inside you, or perhaps all of you, feels off. Like your head is set to a different watch and your body to a different rhythm than everyone else’s or you grasp for joy, but it eludes you. You want to make it right. You want to feel better. So you give yourself a pep talk and tell yourself everything is going to be ok. But the angry scribbles are still hanging over your head.
Each of us is given a day to paint. Some things are beyond our control, like the colors we’re given. But what we do with those colors, what we do with our day is up to us. We choose how we want to express ourselves. I stir from my slumber each morning longing for pinks and blues and greens. But there are times I wake up only to find charcoals, blacks and dark browns.
This is what stress feels like to me as a caregiver. I try to look on the bright side of my Father having Alzheimer’s, like that I’ve been able to spend the last eight years with my parents. I try to focus on the positive and all the things he can still do. But some days, that isn’t enough.
You don’t have to be a caregiver to understand this struggle. Maybe you’ve lost your job, or your marriage and you don’t know if there will ever be another day with color. Maybe you have family drama, a scary diagnosis or you’ve lost a loved one and you’re trying to be strong, but all you see in your hand each day is charcoals, blacks and dark browns.
So, what do you do?
When I saw that my niece had dissolved into a puddle of tears, I left the table and came back with a new activity sheet. I removed the one that upset her and placed the new one in front of her. The tears stopped. The angst vanished from her cherubic face as she picked up the crayons and started again. A second chance. That’s all she needed, for someone to take away the mistakes and give her another chance to paint her day.
This is what I do. I give the charcoals, blacks and dark browns to God and ask Him for pinks and blues and greens. I ask Him to reset my watch and recalibrate my rhythm. Does He answer that prayer? Yes. Sometimes it’s instant; other times it’s gradual. But always I must let go of the charcoals, blacks and dark browns first before God can give me a different palette.
Yesterday was an angry scribbles day. A simple excursion to Home Depot to cure cabin fever with both parents left me a discombobulated ball of stress. Mom pushed a cart to support her back. Dad pushed a cart to give him support. Since we moved at a snail’s pace, shoppers lined up six feet apart at the entrance, waiting on us so they could enter the store. I hoisted Dad’s rollator into the cart, so he’d have a seat to rest on after standing too long. It came in and out of the cart a couple of times, which forced me to accept the truth. The only way I could continue taking Dad with me outside the house was in a wheelchair.
I could not get rid of the angry scribbles all day and then realized I was holding onto them tighter than they were holding onto me. That happens sometimes. We hold onto things without even realizing it. So we parted ways as I gave them to God and asked Him for a brighter palette.
Each of us is different and we all have our own way of dealing with things. I discovered that positive thinking by itself is not enough. Yes, it’s powerful. But the fastest way to a brighter palette is when my thinking is based on truth ~ Divine truth.
- I am not condemned. Romans 8:1-2
- I am never alone. Deuteronomy 31:6
- God has compassion on me. Psalm 103:13
- He will keep me safe. Isaiah 43:2
- I am precious to God. Isaiah 43:4
- God’s plans are to prosper me, give me hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11
- I have divine peace. Philippians 4:6-8
- He strengthens and empowers me. Isaiah 40:29-31
- His perfect grace and mercy are mine. Hebrews 4:16
- He has given me authority to speak to my situation. Luke 10:19
- He will keep me from falling. Psalm 55:22
- He is my hiding place. Psalm 91:1
- He gives me everything I need. Romans 8:32
- He satisfies my desires with good things Psalm 103:5
If God’s words were powerful enough to create the universe when He spoke them, can you imagine what they create inside me every time I speak them over my life? They realign me with my destiny.
No matter how strong my feelings may be, if I put them aside and replace them with the truth of who I am according to my Maker, my palette changes. My day changes. What once overwhelmed me is now a memory, and like my sweet Lara, I’m given a second chance.