Friday, March 12, 2010

What Is That In Your Hand?

I had two related conversations within the past couple of weeks--one with my mom and one with Alysa.

First was with my mom, and I was telling her that I was discouraged. I was discouraged because I don't have very much energy and all the things I want to do, I don't seem to get to do.

I'll back up a little bit. After I had Lucy, I went through the usual six-week post-partum blues. Except after six weeks, they didn't seem to get better. They got worse and added new fun, symptoms too--like not being able to remember things; and not being able to figure out how many plates I would need for Lucy's baptism party if 40 people were coming; and throwing away important documents, such as our license plate stickers that we just paid $200 for; and being so dizzy in the morning that I had to crawl on the floor to the bathroom. Oh and crying at everything too.

Finally they diagnosed hypothyroidism, which happens pretty frequently in women of advanced maternal age (yay!) and is easily treatable though you'll have it for the rest of your life. First they put me on a dosage of meds that was fantastic. I could do anything and everything, and I didn't sleep because I didn't need to, but that didn't last because it turned out that I was on speed. So they finally fixed the dosage, so I now have a synthetically produced thyroid and everything's fine except it all works a little more slowly and I get tired a lot, but you just live with it. Kind of like the apostle Paul's thorn in the flesh? Except boring.

Flash forward now 6+ years, and I'm complaining to my mom about how I want to do great stuff and I want to go on missions trips and become a foster mom to kids from Haiti and I don't know what all, but I can't even seem to get my laundry folded.

"Why can't I be like Alysa?" I asked her. "She's always doing all this cool stuff like sponsoring a refugee family from Iraq or having her kid's birthday party at Feed My Starving Children or having some great international meal for 20 people at her house or going down to the homeless shelter and making dinner for everyone."

And by the way, I know I am given to hyperbole, but I have not exaggerated one single thing in that above paragraph--Alysa does all that and MORE. And when I say going to the shelter and making dinner, she doesn't want those ladies to feel like less than they are, so she makes a fancy dinner and serves it with tablecloths and candles and stuff. It's crazy.

I feel like just a plain old mom who does all the mundane, tedious mom stuff and half the time (conservative estimate) not even that well, and I try to make money on the side but it's always, always, always a challenge and I'm forever wanting to do more, but I'm too tired.

My mom gave me this great advice. She said, "You have to accept that you have a big heart, but you don't have the physicality to match it. And God's allowed that for you. What did He say to Moses--'What do you have in your hand?' and all Moses had was his staff. Give your dreams to God, and let Him do what He will with them. You can trust Him."

Now flash forward a few days, and I'm IM'ing Alysa. Out of the blue she says (and I have her permission to say this, I think!), "I'm just kind of discouraged. I seem to be able to do a lot of things but not anything really well. You and Julie seem to have found your niche with writing and photography, and I'm happy for you, but I just haven't found anything for me."

I told her what my mom told me and then said, "Girl, we both seriously need some G.K. Chesterton," (which might possibly be a phrase that has never been uttered before). Anyway, here's what he says:

“In other words, there must be in every center of humanity one human being upon a larger plan; one who does not "give her best," but gives her all….The woman is expected to cook: not to excel in cooking, but to cook; to cook better than her husband who is earning a living by lecturing on botany or breaking stones….the woman is expected to tell tales to the children, not original and artistic tales, but tales--better tales than would probably be told by a first-class cook. But she cannot be expected to endure anything like this universal duty if she is also to endure the direct cruelty of competitive or bureaucratic toil."

Then yesterday, this came in the mail:

And here's what's inside...

Photography by Julie, scrapbooks created by Alysa, accessories by Becky, (article not written by Alice!)...

Is that cool or what?

The issue and that article in particular is about leaving a lasting legacy. Isn't that what we're really striving toward?

I love one of the quotes Alysa put in the scrapbooks from my dear Elizabeth Prentiss in Stepping Heavenward: "Suppose, then, you content yourself for the present with doing in a faithful, quiet, persistent way all the little homely tasks that return with each returning day, each one as unto God, and perhaps by and by you will thus have gained strength for a more heroic life."

I think of all us regular women out there, living day in and day out, trying to do what we can. Washing the kitchen floor, figuring out what's for dinner, cleaning the clothes, reading bedtime stories, kissing scraped knees, living within the budget--all the while, wishing for a more heroic life. I think of my mom, who did all those homely, returning tasks year after year, still telling me what's what in life, and how she is now the hospice nurses' favorite patient--they love to come over and ask her questions about the Bible.

I guess that's the real lesson: God really will just use what we have in our hand. We can leave the heroism to Him. And the bonus is that along the way, He provides good friends to give us a lift up if we need it.

"Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!" Ecclesiastes 4:8-10

P.S. If you want a copy of the magazine, it should be available at Family Christian Stores. Or you can email me, and I'll hook you up with a copy!


Julie K. said...

I love this post! It so resonates! And not even because of the fabulous pictures of a fabulous experience but because of the truth in using what we have in our hand. What a great reminder. Thank you Alice for everything!! xo

Mae said...

3 years ago we left Guleph Bible Chapel where I was involved in quite a few things, feeling like I was being "spiritual" and being used by God.

It seemed like the Lord changed so much and took most everything away from me when we moved here to St. Marys. A number of times the first couple of years here I felt I was just useless, doing nothing for the Lord. Then He would whisper in my ear of His great love for me and that this is where He wants me and that He is giving me rest, time to study and know Him better, time to see what a walk with Him is all about.

He also reminded (and keeps reminding me) me that it doesn't matter what others think about "my ministry for the Lord". The only thing that matters is what He wants me to do.

Thank you for being so honest and being a blessing in sharing what we housewives have felt so often. The world doesn't put much value on house cleaning, baby sitting, etc. but the Lord does. I'm so thankful that I'm not in competition with anyone in my work for the Lord and He doesn't compare me with anyone else.

Cleary said...

Well said Alice. I see why Alysa loves you so much. Thanks for the reminder that we all need.

Cindy said...


Great post! Our sermon was about this today. It's not about the staff, its about what God can do with it. Your right on sister.

Take care!!!