It’s Time to Let Go of the Pretense – I’m Not as Strong as I Think
I’m not given to the blues, but here I am, the second December in a row, teetering at the edge.
It was easy to understand last year. Major surgeries in October and December followed by challenging recoveries left me discouraged, weary, fatigued, and lonely. I had a right to be depressed I was told. Even if that were true, I knew that what pushed me into darkness wasn’t what seemed obvious to others.
I’m stronger this year – with new knees and healthy enough to prepare for and host Thanksgiving in our home, as we’ve done for my extended family for years. Last year it wouldn’t have happened without everyone’s help. Cheerfully – gratefully – I did most of the work this year myself.
The truth, though, is that my strength is relative – a pretense. I have new knees, but I also live with chronic auto-immune crohns, lung, and rheumatoid diseases. My body has compensated in many ways, but pain and fatigue are constant companions, in spite of my attempts to ignore them. I’ve just finished leading a mid-week women’s study at church and hosting another weekly study in my home the past 3 months, while assimilating a long list of stresses that included 2 6-hour infusions of new-to-me chemotherapy for RA. I think I’m physically and emotionally stronger than I really am. I need more help than I care to admit.
So on the Monday after the week of Thanksgiving – a week that brought me great delight, but included travel, a birthday party, a grandlittle sleepover, hosting Thanksgiving, Christmas Tree decorating with 6 grandlittles (ages 2, 2, 4, 5, 8, 8) and 3 of those grands staying with me 3 days and nights after Thanksgiving – is it any wonder I wake weary and fatigued and at the edge of being depressed?
Like last year, I know that the reason isn’t as obvious as it seems.
It’s embarrassing to admit the truth, but the breeding ground for these blues is not the challenges of chronic illness or the demands of growing older in a busy season – though they certainly contribute – but the grieving over anticipated future losses. It’s a sadness for what is yet to happen, and it threatens to prevent me from experiencing joy in today.
I knew last year that a son and his family would soon be moving far away. I grieved the projected losses that move would mean for me. On the Monday after Thanksgiving this year, I experienced that loss in realizing that no little ones live close enough to be in our home over Christmas. Added to that reality, I began to grieve the anticipated future losses for me when our daughter, who has lived at home for 24 years, graduates from college in the spring and spreads her wings – moving out of our home and community.
The studies I led this fall – at my church and in my home – were based on Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts Devotional and DVD study. Ironic, isn’t it? Every day, for months before and during the study, I nourish my soul with scripture and gratitude and count God’s never ending gifts, and just two weeks after the last study, in a moment of exhaustion and weariness, I wake up counting future losses instead.
“That which tears open our souls, those holes that splatter our sight, may actually become the thin, open places to see through the mess of this place to the heart-aching beauty beyond. To Him. To the God whom we endlessly crave.” Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts
And on that Monday morning after Thanksgiving, I cry through a box of tissues, rescue me, Jesus…from myself, and God meets me in that “thin, open space,” where my soul is torn, and He fills it with more of Himself.
I’m not as young as I used to be. I need to swallow my pride and admit my weaknesses. When I claim that “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength,” I must remember that God will give me the strength to do what He wants me to do, not necessarily what I want or others expect of me. Fear of the future and its inevitable losses reveals a lack of faith and is a serious waste of time. And who has time to waste? If I’m going to back away from the edge of depression and choose joy in the day in this season of life, I’ve got to be more intentional to take care of myself – body and soul – and leave the future in the hands of never-ending Grace, Who will always meet me there.
Patricia Hunter is a freelance writer and photographer. A contributing and ghost writer for subscription magazines, she recently collaborated with Robbi Cary to produce the award winning book, No Matter What, It’s a God Day When – Finding Blessings in Difficult Days – offering stunning photographs of God’s creation alongside a heartwarming message of truth. Patricia and her husband Louis have been married for 38 years and have 4 grown children and 8 grandchildren. You can follow Patricia at her blog Pollywog Creek, Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest.
Latest posts by Diane W. Bailey (see all)
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I love your wrestling heart… to daily fight for joy through the endless days of bone tiring fatigue and a body that aches… This scripture is your daily living… “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.” I love how He knows so many times it is a sacrifice to praise… Laying much on the altar to give Him thanks…your life is a sweet aroma to Him… xoxo
Such a sweet comment, Ro. Over the months I led these 2 studies, God allowed numerous circumstances to occur in my life that challenged me to “practice what I was preaching” but they were too numerous to elaborate in the post. I didn’t always choose well, but they provided an opportunity for me to be vulnerable and transparent before the ladies I was leading and reinforced for that I was most grateful. Yes…God knows that many times it is a sacrifice to praise Him, to thank Him, in hard places, but He also knows that when we do, it produces the fruit we so desire – joy and peace. Oh, how I want to be that sweet aroma of Christ. xoxox
What a hard & transparent post. As life brings changes,especially those we may not want to embrace, it is easy to feel down. Yet as I read your words, I realized how many times my “what if’s” never even came to pass. I am so grateful He pulls us to focus on Him “and leave the future in the hands of never-ending Grace, Who will always meet me there.” Blessings to you today!
Joanne, as hard as it is to admit my weaknesses, there is so much freedom in transparency. As I mentioned in my comment above to Ro, I had multiple opportunities to “confess” my failures, my moments of missing the mark, over the weeks I led these studies in the fall, and it is so freeing to let go of those pretenses that I have it all together. It’s simply more grace, don’t you think? I love the scripture that tells us that it’s God’s kindness that leads us to repentance. He KNOWS the burden that is lifted when we do. Blessings to you, too, my friend.
I understand. I made the pies this thanksgiving but had to double up on meds and… well I just relate to so much of what you’e written here. Please take it easy and give your body time to recover. I love you. XO
((((Amy)))) I know you understand. We need to reschedule that phone call. Much love to you, too.
OH my ! I love it when God sends me exactly what I need to hear.
Today in NEPA it is gloomy and gray. The hubby and I are a bit frazzled as he was recently diagnosed with a malignant melanoma in his eye-of all the weird places. It kind of blind-sided us because several drs told him it was nothing too serious…then BAM! Cancer 0_0.
He also has Crohns and so I get anxious over how his body will react to all this. Add to this 2 kids out on their own, 2 mid-11th grade doing school at home, in-laws that live with us because of failing health….it is DEF a CALGON TAKE ME AWAY season of life.
BUT, like you said: God meets me in that “thin, open space,” where my soul is torn, and He fills it with more of Himself.
We are worn, but not destroyed; we are wounded but not broken; we are stressed, but not void of strength.
Thank you for your willingness to be vulnerable. You are not alone…and neither am I!!!
Here’s to a holiday season where God meets us in the thin, open spaces of our hearts!
(((Donna))) I am so sorry about your husband’s diagnosis. How can we pray for you? How are they going to treat this? Surgery? My surgeries were a little tricky because I’ve been on prednisone for years, so they gave me large doses before and after surgery to ward off any problems. I had to stop some of my immuno-suppressive drugs for a couple of weeks around the surgeries, but the added prednisone kept me from flaring. All things considered, I really did well. I pray your husband will, as well. Such a hard time for you. Bless your heart – you are certainly in the middle of many lives. May you lean on God’s strength – knowing He will carry you.
Thank you for this transparent and honest look at how you are, in the midst of life’s struggles and losses, seeking to apply your faith and the Word. I loved the phrase ” backing away from the edge of depression “. God bless you!
Hi, Rosie – thank you for commenting. Depression feels like a large, dark pit. To back away from the edge creates a picture in my mind of how to keep from falling in, but I know it’s the LORD who gives me the strength to do even that – to even be able to see the pit is grace. Amen?
Yes, ma’am, me too. I’ve been suffering recurring panic attacks – thwarting even simple daily doings. I want I want I want depends on Him.
Oh, Darlene! I’m so sorry. That enemy of ours is such a bully. Praying for you right now, my friend. xoxox
Ah, this answers the question I asked you over at my place. I wondered what you were teaching and what you’d learned. And now I see.
I feel this, too. This projecting myself into the future and finding the days there short and empty. Not the way I planned them. I try to remember that God is there, too. In the future. He’s got a plan for me, even there. I have a feeling we’ll find there are more thin places than we were first led to believe, and that will be a beautiful thing to behold.
Ah, yes, Deidra. There will be more thin places – far more than we imagined – but what joy there is in knowing that it is Jesus we will see there. And that knowing that God has a plan for you and me in the future? Earlier I was having tea with a friend and she said the very same thing. Maybe we see the days ahead as “short and empty” because they won’t be filled with what we think we want, but in reality, hasn’t God always filled our days…if we…if I…would quit looking for what was instead of what is?
Dear Patricia. May our gentle, patient Lord answer your prayer, and as He rescues you from yourself, may you find Him more than sufficient. There was a time in my life when worry about potential or even probably losses would propel me into paralyzing fear. But then the Lord invaded my over-active imagination with this simple truth: we can easily imagine hypothetical horrors, but we can’t imagine God’s grace into them. Grace is given for actual needs, not imaginary ones. Like you said, God will meet you in the future He has planned for you. He has already gone before you into it and waits to welcome you with all the love that chooses so well for His beloveds. Loss and grief are real, necessary parts of the stories He is writing for each of us, but as you know and so beautifully share, His presence redeems and transform even the most difficult and painful suffering into a gift. Such a wonder.
Love you, friend. Thank you for opening your beautiful soul and inviting others to be real. xoxo
Oh, Jeanne…your beautiful words always bless my soul. I remember a Beth Moore study from years – decades probably – ago when she talked about grace like manna. Oh, how we’d like to see a mountain of us where we could go scoop up what we need when we need it, but, as you said, God gives us grace like manna for the day. It will be there when we need it but not before. You are so right – we can’t imagine God’s grace, but we sure do know it in the moment. Oh, how He loves you and me. Thank you, my lovely friend. xox
Oh, Mary – so very sweet of you to encourage me like this. What a gift. Blessings to you, dear friend.
Patricia, I have been a Pollywog Creek subscriber for ages and always enjoy your wisdom…so it is nice to meet you here 🙂
There are so many on FB facing similar difficulties as you, so it’s great that there are bloggers like you always writing encouraging uplifting posts to cheer and encourage others.
Keep up the good work !
I was thinking the last few days how you heard of my knee replacement and started praying for me and posted encouraging notes on my Facebook page. I think we connected through Deana Trautweins blog. You blessed me so much. You said you knew what it was like. Today I pray for you, your body and spirit.
Hi Carol! Yes!!! You know all about how hard it is to recover from these surgeries, and I knew what you were in for. It was my pleasure to pray for you and encourage you. Thank you for praying for me. It is truly the sweetest gift.
LOVE this, Patricia. Thank you for your vulnerability and your wisdom, my friend. I learn from you on a regular basis.
The feeling is mutual, Diana. There’s so much more freedom in being vulnerable, isn’t there? It’s one of the many things I’ve always appreciated about you, as well. Love you big, my friend.
I so appreciate your honesty in sharing your very human struggles and the process you’re going through to realize you need to care for yourself…Thank you so much. Thanks, Diane for hosting Patricia 🙂
Dolly, thank you so much. Over the years I’ve found it so much easier to be honest and real – to let go of pretenses and admit my needs, but sometimes I get caught up in trying to make everyone happy or to not be a burden on my family, and it just snowballs until I collapse under the weight of it all. Added to my fears about the future, I reached that “think place in my soul.” But it’s a blessing – because I always meet my LORD there, and in the gentle kindness of repentance.
It’s good that you’re recognizing that you need to slow down. I can somewhat relate…after having pneumonia since August & dealing with a stressful teaching job (11 hours or so each day), I resigned from my job. My first day off Mother had a subdural hematoma on the left side of her brain….surgery followed. We took her home to our house after being in the hospital for a week. What timing God has! I’m not commenting to tell you my story… even though I just did…what I want to say is this: We have to learn to say no to things in order to fully enjoy the things & people we love. You have suffered so much. I can’t believe the list of ministry & activities you just listed! God has used you to touch so many lives, Pat! It may be time for you to pull back, & enjoy Emily now. You need time for your body & healing. Don’t mourn the loss before it occurs…life is too short for this. Every moment is a gift! OK, well I may have said too much, & if I did, please forgive me. I felt very lead by the Lord to write this. Be blessed today, dear friend. Rest in the Lord.
Carey, I just now saw this. I had no idea. ((((Hugs)))) And yes, yes, yes about enjoying Emily. I’ve heard that whisper – and yet, she is so ready to be independent, so I’m practicing letting go more than I’m drawing near. She’s going through a stage of being embarrassed by her old mom (I AM considerably older than most of her friends’ moms), so I’m walking a fine line there. She’s such a beautiful girl – heart and soul. I’m incredibly blessed to have a daughter who loves the LORD and lives like it. I love you, Carey. Wish we were still traveling in the same circles. xox