Hold the Mayo

img_2711My late husband, Ray, long-suffering when it came to my foibles, drew the line at fast food orders. In the days before “have it your way” became a slogan, I’d request a cheeseburger, lettuce, tomato, no mayo, no onions. Minutes drug past while they made my special order.

Ray would mumble, “You know it’s not fast food when you ask for something special.” Who could blame him? After all, he was hangry.

That long-ago scenario came to mind as I thought about writing this post.

Sandwiched

Often, when someone asks how I’m doing, I reply, “I’m sandwiched.”

According to a HuffPost article, “Social worker Dorothy Miller originally coined the term ‘sandwich generation’ back in 1981 to describe women in their 30s to 40s who were ‘sandwiched’ between young children and aging parents as their primary caregiver . . .  Women are delaying child-bearing and seniors are living longer . . . the ‘sandwich generation’ definition has morphed along the way and tends to target both genders and the predominant age is 40-65 years old.”[1]

I’m blessed to have my 88-year-old parents living close by in their own home, able to take care of each other and their daily needs. I’m equally blessed that my daughter, son-in-law, and 3 grandchildren live a mere 6 miles away. Mary and Justin are capable of tending to their little brood. So, technically, I’m only responsible for my own upkeep. Nonetheless, I’m part of the support team for my parents and my children and grandchildren. I check in with Mom and Dad each day, have dinner with them several evenings a week, and take Mom to most of her medical appointments.  And I spend two days each week with my grandchildren.

These people are precious to me. I’m thankful to be retired and available to help out.

What about me?

But I’m one person, an only-child and widow at that. Sometimes the load gets heavy. Days go by when I can’t keep up with my chores, much less work in my garden or write anything meaningful. The hardest moments are those when both generations need me, such as times I’ve been with Mom or Dad at the hospital on a day when I’d normally be helping Mary with the children.

I’ve never figured out how to be two places at once, though there were plenty of times I longed for that superpower. Over the years I worked full-time for a large corporation, raising my daughters alone, I’d sometimes quip, “I wish I could lie down on the copy machine and make copies of myself – one to stay at home, one to go to work, one to handle miscellaneous stuff.”

Even though I’m retired, I still occasionally yearn for the ability to duplicate myself.

The next thing

By now you may be wondering about my disdain for mayo. It’s not so much that I dislike it, more that I prefer it in limited quantities. And therein lies the problem – fast-food cooks tend to slather on way too much, thus overpowering the other flavors. Burger, cheese, lettuce, tomato –all present, but indiscernible as bite after bite tastes like mayonnaise!

Likewise, seemingly ceaseless demands, commitments, and responsibilities can produce a layer of stress, anxiety, even resentment and guilt, which overwhelms and disguises the sweeter flavors of life. The blessings associated with relationships, serving others, and stewarding the gifts and talents God has entrusted to us become obscured when our existence feels like one big to-do list.

Elisabeth Elliot is quoted in the book Suffering is Never for Nothing: “There’s an old legend, I’m told, inscribed in a parsonage in England somewhere on the sea coast, a Saxon legend that said, ‘Do the next thing.’ I don’t know any simpler formula for peace, for relief from stress and anxiety than that very practical, very down-to-earth word of wisdom. Do the next thing. That has gotten me through more agonies than anything else I could recommend.”[2]

That sage advice lines up with Jesus’ admonition in Matthew 6:34 to concentrate on the immediate instead of heaping up concerns about future events.

Sufficient grace

I recently had the opportunity to attend a 3-day women’s conference. The extended time of fellowship and learning allowed me to focus, to savor the experience unencumbered by responsibilities at home.  As I packed my bag on the last morning, a too-familiar sense of anxiety crept into my consciousness. Re-entry loomed on the horizon.

Tears welled up and spilled over when I told a friend about my apprehension. Her life-giving words echoed the teachings of the weekend: “Patsy, you didn’t need that extra measure of grace the past couple of days. God will give it to you when you need it again.”

You may not be “sandwiched” as defined above, dear reader; however, I’m guessing you have some conglomeration of responsibilities piled on your plate, a conglomeration that doesn’t lend itself to easy answers.

But there is One who assures us His yoke is easy, who offers rest for our very souls (Matthew 11:29-30). May we trust Him for wisdom and strength, moment by moment. For His grace is indeed sufficient and His power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9a).

[1] Huffpost.com, “The Sandwich Generation: Who is Caring for You?”, 9/7/14, updated 11/7/14

[2] Eilsabeth Elliot, “Suffering is Never for Nothing”, (Nashville, B&H Publishing Group, 2019), 45-46.

Fixing our eyes

A while back, a friend asked if I’d ever heard the adage, “Heaven may be my home, but I’m not homesick yet.” No, somehow I made it through over half a century of living without hearing that one, in spite of being a believer for the vast majority of those years. Since becoming acquainted with it, however, I’ve had a number of occasions which have brought it to mind, but with a twist: “Heaven is my Home and I’m so very Homesick” . . . like the news I received a few days ago.

I was feeling a bit sorry for myself, stuck inside on such a lovely day when I would rather have been outside playing in the dirt. But, not wanting to risk injury or infection to my recently-operated-on hand, I opened a bunch of windows and enjoyed the breeze. A phone call from one of my sisters-in-law broke the afternoon silence. Even before I answered, I knew it was unlikely she’d call me in the middle of a weekday just to say hello. Sure enough, the tidings weren’t good. My youngest brother-in-law had died the day before, felled by a heart attack at a much-too-early age as were his father and brother (my husband) before him.

I’m all too familiar with phone calls that bring such life-changing news. The report that another loved one has suddenly been called Home puts everything else into perspective. The disappointment I was feeling about not being able to go outside was quickly eclipsed by the more pressing reality I’d been made aware of. I’m convinced no matter how many such life-altering phone calls I receive, they’ll never get easier. My tears are quickly followed by numbness and denial – Not again, Lord! How can this be happening? – Yet death is one of life’s certainties. And those of us left behind grieve, but not as those who have no hope.

God has great compassion on us, remembering we’re dust. He reminds us through the Apostle Paul that our present troubles, which are described as light and momentary, are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. He encourages us to fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, while what is unseen is eternal. Similarly, Jesus tells us to store up our treasure in heaven, not on earth. Commenting on Jesus’ directive in light of loss, Elisabeth Elliot states,

“The loss of someone we love, whether by death or otherwise, brings us to the brink of the abyss of mystery. If we wrestle, as most of us are forced to do, with the question of God in the matter, we are bound to ask why He found it necessary to withdraw such a good gift. Cover "The Path of Loneliness"We will not get the whole answer, but certainly one answer is the necessity of being reminded that wherever our treasure is there will our hearts be also. If we have put all our eggs in the basket of earthly life and earthly affections we haven’t much left when the basket falls. Christians, being citizens of Another Country, subjects of a Heavenly King, are supposed to set their affections there rather than here – a lesson few learn without mortal anguish.”[i]

Later this week we’ll gather in a tiny South Dakota town to remember Phil, a quiet, gentle man. He never married but cherished his family and endeavored to attend most all of the weddings of his numerous nieces and nephews. As we stand in the windswept cemetery just outside of town, I’ll strive to fix my eyes on the unseen. For then I’ll see two brothers, eternally reunited and I’ll rejoice in the assurance that our treasured family circle will one day be completely restored in a Home where there will be no more tears or death or pain.

Phil Kuipers. a kind and gentle man 1-9-1961 to 8-26-2015

Phil Kuipers, 1-9-1961 to 8-26-2015

[i] Elisabeth Elliot, “The Path of Loneliness”, (Grand Rapids, Revell, 2001) pg. 59