She was such a tiny thing. A pint-sized combustible ball of energy with a personality so vibrant, it splattered all over everyone that crossed her path. And for a time, she was my shadow. Everywhere I went, Lara wanted to be right beside her Aunt Angie. She held my hand, made me pinkie-promise that I wouldn’t reveal her secrets, adored playing hide and seek and always scanned the room to make sure I was close by.
We cracked eggs, whipped up cupcakes and sampled frosting. We frequented the park, ran to the store for milk and visited thrift stores to add to her burgeoning toy collection. During the summer while I worked at the office on layouts for a women’s catalog, she would spend the day with her grandparents, anxiously awaiting my return.
One morning I was headed out the door when she came over to me with tears in her eyes.
“What’s wrong Lara?”
“I miss Fred and Ethel!” she cried, heaving with sobs.
I swallowed my laughter that tried to spill out of my mouth, knowing she couldn’t be talking about the characters on I Love Lucy.
“Honey, who are Fred and Ethel?”
“My goldfish. They died.”
I tried to console her, but the tears kept flowing. Propping her up on my lap, I didn’t have the heart to leave her so I said, “Lara, if you can promise me…” Her face froze as she waited for the next words out of my mouth, sensing something good was coming…“that you’ll behave yourself, I’ll take you to work with me.”
That was all it took. Fred and Ethel were forgotten. The waterworks stopped as she sat up straight and took in a deep breath. A smile formed on her flushed face as she jumped down and scampered around the room to fill her backpack with toys to take to the office.
All of us have our own Fred and Ethel moments that bring us to tears. News that depresses us, a loss that overwhelms us with grief or a difficult time that endlessly drags on. I experienced that a couple of weeks ago. I’d just finished a weekend of dog sitting for a friend, snuggling up with her pooch and spending my time reading, writing or watching DVDs.
But when I got home, everything felt off. Like I was sloshing through quicksand with 10-lb weights on each foot. Or peddling a bicycle up a steep hill in 5th gear. It was like I was handed a math quiz to complete but none of the formulas I’d used before were working for me now. I was empty of answers. The heaviness of some personal stuff drained my energy and I just wanted to cocoon myself away from life and wait until I’d transformed into something lighter and full of hope.
I think it’s easy for caregivers to feel this way because for the most part, we aren’t given an end date. I never set a time limit when I moved back in with my parents ~ at this month and year, I’ll regroup, move to such and such a city, and pick my career back up where I left it. Being a caregiver changes you; it changes your future. It’s not like working towards a degree where you take X number of classes over X number of years before you graduate. It can be nebulous and seemingly unending.
All that week I prayed. I cried. I tried to pull myself up by my bootstraps and make my own happiness, but that didn’t work. Because sometimes what we need is an invitation.
Once a week, I call a good friend from college and we catch up with each other. What’s going on in her life, what’s going on in mine. And then we pray. We lay our needs at the feet of our Heavenly Father and ask Him to intervene, to make His will known, to strengthen us, provide for us, give us clarity and make a way where there is no way. And He does. Many times we’ve been blown away at how God has moved on our behalf.
But we also share the hard stuff. The sloshing through quicksand in 10-lb weights strapped to our ankles kind of stuff. That in and of itself is immensely helpful. Of all the friends we have, each of us needs an inner circle ~ someone or two in whom we confide and share things that nobody else knows. We let our guards down. We make ourselves vulnerable and once we’ve shared, we feel better, lighter.
At the tale end of my very trying week, I called my friend to pray. She and her family moved to Charleston, SC a few months ago and before I even had time to share my broken formulas or my insanely difficult bike ride up a steep hill, she blessed me with an invitation. Come to Charleston and spend some time with us. A break. A vacation of sorts.
It was just like my invitation to Lara to get out of the house for the day and come to my office. There was a break in the clouds over her head, as there now was over mine. That invitation was the first of three things God did over the weekend to pull me out of the miry clay, set my feet upon a rock and establish my goings. He had heard my prayers, as He always does. And He was answering them.
God knows exactly what we need. Just like I didn’t want Lara to be miserable at home while I worked all day, God doesn’t want us to be miserable. He takes no pleasure in our pain. We are not sinners in the hands of an angry God. We are saints in right standing with the One who calls us to live an abundant life.
So no matter what you’re going through, cry out to Jesus and let Him break through in your life just like He broke through in mine. Let Him pick you up out of the quicksand, wash you off and then sit in His lap so He can position you to receive His very best. It’s an invitation you’ll never regret accepting.