A Fire Hydrant of Joy

I am on a wild ride right now! Within two months we are celebrating my oldest daughter’s college graduation and wedding, my third daughter’s high school graduation, two graduation parties, two of my girls’ birthdays, a few wedding showers, and a final family-of-five trip. Then, we are sending my second daughter to Bolivia for a month, and waving goodbye to the newlyweds as they head to the midwest (the day after they get back from their honeymoon).

All of this in exactly two months.

It is like trying to drink from a fire hydrant of joy! So many joys to savor in such a short time.

People ask me how I am doing it. Here’s the short answer: not alone.

Earlier in the spring I could feel my stress-level rising as I saw the calendar looming. Over the last four years I have learned to pay attention to the feeling.

It is my yield sign.

Nothing good happens if I ignore the stress and stubbornly plow forward.

Slow down. Go somewhere quiet. Unburden it all to the Lord. That is how I’ve learned to respond when life begins to overwhelm me.

A Jesus Calling devotional sums it up well: “When you start to feel anxious about something, relinquish the situation to Me. Back off a bit, redirecting your focus to Me. I will either take care of the problem Myself or show you how to handle it. In this world you will have problems, but you need not lose sight of Me.” (June 7)

So, on that early spring morning two months ago, I did just that. It has become a familiar response now that I don’t have John to absorb my stress overflow.

It has also become a place where I expect to hear from the Lord.

And I did.

As I poured out my looming list of demands, I truly sensed the Lord telling me I didn’t have to do it all. He clearly brought to my mind two areas where I simply needed to ask for help during this crazy season.

Two areas that I was stubbornly digging in my frugal heels: my yard and my house.

I am the only one who can cut our yard in the spring due to my kids’ allergies. And, consistently keeping our house clean falls to me. My teens aren’t reliable help at the end of the school year when demands on their time are high.

Later that morning, I talked to a dear friend who reiterated the Lord’s leading. She said, “Maria, when you wake up the day after the wedding, how are you going to think back over the past two months? Will you have regrets of how you spent your time?”

Tears began to puddle. These are my last two months with my oldest daughter. These are the last two months with all four of my children here. Time with them is golden. And finite.

She also pointed out that my stress level sets the tone in our home. Anything I can do to anticipate the stress and lower it is important for all of us. Setting yourself up for the best chance of things going well is a realistic way to live life.

Such. true. words. My reality: John isn’t here to naturally step in and carry the stress load with me. It is on my shoulders as the only parent. And, it isn’t just his actual physical help with the chores of life.

It is much deeper. Marriage brings stability and strength. You know you aren’t alone. You are in the midst of all of life’s storms and sunny days together. You might be wet and shivering, but you are holding hands as you face the gale.

John isn’t here to hold my hand. He isn’t here to process this season of saying goodbye to our daughter. I want him here for her, and our other children, and for my new son-in-law.

But, I also really want him here for me.

We raised her together for nearly 18 years. I’ve raised her alone for four. We’ve held her close since that little bundle was placed in our arms. Give her away?  I’ve been fully committed to holding her tight.

John & I should be working through this season together. Laughing. List making. Reviewing plans. Remembering her growing up years. Smiling. Celebrating.

Wiping each other’s tears.

Yes, I have friends. Close siblings. I even have my parents. They are all wonderful and supportive. But it isn’t the same.

After four years without John in my life, I have been amazed to experience the Lord stepping into the void John left. He is my strength and comfort and company every day. And it is beautiful.

It is different, but it is truly good and very real.

However, I can still get cocky. I can still be tempted to think I can do it all.

On that spring day, I held up my white flag of surrender.

I am so thankful I did.

For these few months I have help with my yard and house. As any woman knows, knowing your house will be cleaned (all at one time) is a tremendous blessing. Ditto to the harvesting of my crop of waving grass.

It encourages my heart to know that actual real help is headed our way. Those are days where something predictable and orderly happens around here, and those two parts of life get checked off the list. It blesses me.

And, I smile because the Lord was right. I did need help. I didn’t have to do it all.

In our culture it is counter-intuitive to pause and truly surrender, but I hope my story encourages you to turn to the One who knows you best and loves you most. Surrender will be sweet.

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and He helps me. My heart leaps for joy.” Psalm 28:7

there are greater, never-ending joys yet to come…
with love, Maria