Thursday, June 3, 2010

Worrying Will Not Help

I've been saving some of the daily devotionals from the Center for Action and Contemplation in a folder for months, wanting to share them here and reflect upon them with you. So here is One Long Musing.
"Paul’s conversion was a classic and authentic religious conversion. It was an inner and authoritative experience, not just an idea, not hearsay, nor some secondhand information given to him, not textbook knowledge. Afterwards, he knew. God has no grandchildren, only children.
"Every person has to come to the God experience on their own. Conversion is a foundational change in life position, perspective, and finally, one’s very identity. After the transformation God is not out there any more. You don’t look at God as a separate identity; you look out from God who lives in you and through you and with you. That is a major shift, probably the most major shift possible for humans.
"Like Paul, a converted person becomes convinced that they are participating in something bigger than themselves. After conversion you know you are being used, you know you are being led, and above all you realize your life is not all about you! You are about life! It is happening inside of you and all God needs is your 'yes' and your participation. It is likely the hardest yes you will ever utter, because your years of habit will all shout 'not possible,' 'not me,' and 'not worthy.' "
- From The Great Themes of Paul
"Mantra: What am I to do, Lord?"
His mantra could be mine, as well.
In the 10 months of Katie's illness and treatment, up to her passing, I experienced "conversion" as Father Rohr describes it here. I had spent a lot of time in reading and study prior to Katie's diagnosis, but afterward, there wasn't time to read or even really do much contemplation. It was the place where, as they say, "the rubber meets the road."

It was excruciatingly painful at times, yet it was the most "real" time of my life. No worries other than the big one, no superficial relationships and concerns. One big focus: to save Katie's life, and make the process tolerable for her - and survivable for us as a family of four. Living from, and in, Love. The BIG LOVE, with a capital L. As awful as the circumstances were, somehow, I felt "at home" within myself then. I was more “me” than I’ve ever been in my life; it seems that is part of Katie’s great gift to me.

It's hard to put into words, but I am nostalgic for the simplicity and the clear sense of purpose I had then. I had no time for worries or concerns about my “worthiness;” I had no choice but to do what was in front of me, to the best of my ability, moment by moment. I don’t seem to be living that way now, and I miss it. Of course, I'm not nostalgic for the suffering - not for Katie's, nor ours. But I miss the teamwork, the intense love and connection that I had at the time. I feel a bit lost now.

In an effort to stay close to the integrity of that way of living, I have tried to truly listen and respond to what (and who) needs me in the moment. Writing and speaking, raising awareness and funds, and the creation of Katie's Comforters Guild have all seemed to be the natural ways to work and live, while honoring Katie's memory and using what I've learned, during this time. But now, David is about to graduate from high school, and to move to the other side of the state. He is going to attend Gonzaga University, and Gregg and I will be living as simply a couple again.

Critically important, rhetorical question (you can't answer this for me):
What can I do with my time that is as worthwhile, as fulfilling, as meaningful, as creative, as being a full-time mother?

This question has been nagging, nagging, nagging at me, since Gregg first suggested that I might get a job (one that pays) when David leaves home. I can't seem to answer it myself, and when I can't answer it, I start to spin with it.

I think the part that is catching me, hooking me, is the feeling that I should earn some money. If I stop and look at what I've been doing, I certainly have been working for the past three years; I just haven't been getting paid for it.

I do not like to work for the purpose of earning money; it's not a good motivator, for me. I like having money so that I don't have to think about money, but in my opinion, money itself is not a good enough reason to do anything. It's like marrying for looks alone, or for social position. Not a good reason.
Marry for love, work for love.
Maybe this is impractical, but it feels as if it's in me on a DNA level, so deep that it's confusing me about getting a job.

"Instead of allowing yourself to be so unhappy, just let your love grow as God wants it to grow. Seek goodness in others. Love more persons more--love them more impersonally, more unselfishly, without thought of return. The return, never fear, will take care of itself." - Henry Drummond (1851-1897)

Something is changing inside of me. It's been bothering me for a few months, and I think I can pinpoint it now. In the spinning due to that important, unanswered question above, I feel as if I'm losing one of the most important gifts I received from accompanying Katie through her cancer experience: simplicity, clarity - which led me to feeling closer to God than ever before.

I've been so worried about this next step in my life, obsessing with fear about finding "the right job." I hate to be bored; I need to be free to create, and have variety in what is required of me. Sitting behind a desk day after day, being "supervised," is not going to work, for me.
I have been worrying, worrying, worrying...about earning money, about finding work that is meaningful, about hearing my "calling," about my appearance, about David...the list goes on and on. I, I, I, I, I (warning bells are going off now).
So of course, Bible verses come to mind about anxiety and worry. I look them up on, and find many translations of many different verses.
The import is this: worrying will not help.
Prayer and thanksgiving go together.
Make your requests to God in prayer with thanksgiving.
God cares more about you than about the most beautiful flowers in his creation; He will make your life beautiful, in His way.
He knows what you need, and wants to give it to you.
Jesus talks to his disciples this way, in Matthew 6:
30-33 "If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don't you think he'll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I'm trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God's giving. People who don't know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don't worry about missing out. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met." -The Message (MSG), Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Further on, in Matthew 6:34: "Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes." - ibid

This has been proved true, over and over again in my life. Why do I fear that it will stop now?

Luke 12: 22-24: "Don't fuss about what's on the table at mealtimes or if the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your inner life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the ravens, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, carefree in the care of God. And you count far more." - ibid

Philippians 4: 6-7: "Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life." - ibid

1 Peter 5: 6-7: "So be content with who you are, and don't put on airs. God's strong hand is on you; he'll promote you at the right time. Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you." - ibid

This is some of the best advice I could receive. I just need to take it in, and practice it. Replace worry with turning to God in prayer. Every time a worried thought arises, can I turn that worry over to God? "And this, too, Father: boredom. Oh, and this one, Mother: money."

Today's lectionary says (2 Pt 3:12-15a, 17-18)  "Beloved:  Wait for and hasten the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved in flames and the elements melted by fire. But according to his promise we await new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you await these things, be eager to be found without spot or blemish before him, at peace. And consider the patience of our Lord as salvation...But grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory now and to the day of eternity. Amen."

Psalm 90 "R. In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge. Before the mountains were begotten and the earth and the world were brought forth, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. You turn man back to dust, saying, ‘Return, O children of men.’ For a thousand years in your sight are as yesterday, now that it is past, or as a watch of the night. Seventy is the sum of our years, or eighty, if we are strong,
And most of them are fruitless toil, for they pass quickly and we drift away.
Fill us at daybreak with your kindness, that we may shout for joy and gladness all our days. Let your work be seen by your servants and your glory by their children.
R. In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge."

Maybe it doesn't matter WHAT I do (it's all like the blink of an eye in the face of eternity), as long as it's God's work. HOW I do it seems to be important; patience and peace would be gracious responses to God's patience. But accepting my own (and everyone else's!) imperfection seems to be vitally important right now. As Richard Rohr writes,
"God fills in the gaps of human deficiency by a great act of mercy and compassion, and the word for that great act for St. Paul is 'Christ.' For him Christ is the name for God’s great compassion, God’s great plan, God’s readiness to fill in the gaps of human sin, brokenness, poverty, and failure. It is not a begrudged mop-up exercise after the fact, but as John Duns Scotus taught us Franciscans, 'Christ was the very first idea in the mind of God.' 'All was created through him and for him …and he holds all things in unity and reconciles all within himself' (Colossians 1:16-17, 20). Christ is God’s master plan and blueprint for history! Salvation was the plan from the beginning, and not a mere response to our mistakes.
"So why do we make the Gospel into a cheap worthiness contest? After all, we have all fallen short of the glory (Romans 3:23, 5:12) and all are saved by mercy (Romans 11:32-36). Even Mary proclaims it of herself (four times!) in her “Magnificat” (Luke 1:47-55). Popes and priests, presidents and politicians are all saved “en Cristo” and by mercy and in our undeserved state. No exceptions.
"God does not love us if we change. God loves us so that we can change." - The Great Themes of Paul
May I be aware and present enough to God to trust His love, and to accept whatever work (and timing) He gives. Amen.


Allegra Smith said...

I know I have told you this before but when I was very young nana Petrona said that to worry about something was like a prayer for something you don't want to happen.

You are doing so much for others, and don't need me to remind you of that. The mission of the quilts as I call it is enough to keep anyone busy to "the tires" and yet, you never seem tired of doing that and your enthusiasm is contagious when talking about it.

What price for love to others? to give so generously and for the sole purpose of comforting those in need? What title for sharing the pain and the happiness with others would do? You are a gentle, complex, filled with love and compassion human being and maybe that is all you are supposed to be.

How about giving yourself some time to find your bearings after David goes to College? What you are supposed to do with your time and energy I am sure will be revealed to you in due time. Until then, enjoy your garden and the time you have left before you open the door to let David go into that big world. You will find the answer, we all have, not when we wanted it but when we needed it.

Love from here, wishing you a great and peaceful weekend/

Elizabeth said...

Your post, from start to finish and then Allegra's beautiful comment and advice stretch over the miles and settle deep into my own heart.

Your gift for writing, for expressing yourself and your conflicts is truly a wonder, a blessing -- you are "working" without even realizing it.

Thank you, dear Karen. I imagine that what is in store for you is rich in so many ways. The imagining gives me hope.

Anonymous said...

You expressed yourself eloquently! Although I have significantly different life experiences from you, I empathize with your feelings. I was/am a single mom with an amazing daughter. We had a great life together--we were on the edge of being poor, but we had the important things! When she left home, I was still employed full-time. It was a fairly easy transition--but time came for me to retire! OMG--what to do?? How do I still feel like I am contributing to society and have a purpose in my life? I certainly didn't want to sit at home and wait for the next stage of life--what an abhorent thought! I volunteered a lot this last year, and I enjoyed it and found some fulfillment. Now I think I am ready to look for part-time employment. I don't have the energy or desire to go full-time, that's for sure. Thank you for the insights you presented, which I can certainly apply to my situation. Changes happen--but adapting to them is challenging. I admire you and your outlook very much. I found you through Caren, Ben's mom, who is a friend of one of my friends. Then I discovered many other fantastic people from the comments--I spend a lot of time "virtually" socializing on the internet in my old age. I love it when I find great people, great writing, and great ideas. Thanks for "introducing" me to Laura, Shauna, and many others!

deb said...

Thank you so much for giving of yourself here.

It is such comfort to find kindred spirits in life. At least what I find here,only knowing what you post, it still feels like I have been so very blessed for no other reason than because. That is a beautiful thing. Is that grace?

I am not educated in "church speak" , but I certainly turn to words of and the Word, more and more in this journey of life.

I wish you slow quiet peace in this journey, and startling take your breath away revelations.

It will unfold just as it's meant to. Sometimes we just have to be. Still . and know.

I can't imagine I will ever work outside the home, even when my youngest goes away to school.
I will continue to be available to friends and family in ways others can't . To neighbours , people in stores, bloggers, and the community . I don't need the validation of telling people "what I do" . That was a huge life shift for me. I do what is intangible, valuable , and maybe, God willing, a little life changing for someone at some point.

( sorry for the ramble)

Mary Potts said...

Oh Karen,

As I read your words, I kept saying over and over, "me too... me too".

The intimacy of the family through an illness is a developed, united coordination of efforts.
The single focused mission of saving/caring for your child is an unmatched position.
The deep-rooted way the death of your child changes you, is unparalleled.

Where do you go from here? When you find the road, please share the wise words with one who is some steps behind you, hoping for true north as well.

Busy Bee Suz said...

This is beautifully written Karen...and I love all the comments before me.
You have some big questions to answer, and I have a very good feeling that you are on the verge of the answers. Or at least you know the direction you are going towards.
I agree, worrying will not help. I also hear that worrying will give us wrinkles, so lets drop that thought right there. :)
Hugs to you my friend, you are on another part of the journey.

Maggie May said...

I have had a similar feeling from very different circumstances. The work of recovering from my abusive childhood was so intensely connective and real that after I began to truly HEAL I too felt...lost. And I felt less connected to others instead of more, because their concerns and conversations seemed so wasteful to me, so passionless and without purpose. I still struggle with this to some degree.

Thank you for a beautiful post. That picture of you and Katie is heartbreaking...spiritually very painful...and beautiful.

Angela said...

sending you love...a big hug...and trusting...

Anonymous said...

Karen, this post has come at just the right moment for me as I consider changing tack in my job hunt (but what to do?) and have some major life changes to deal with as I move on from a relationship. I plan to print this and medidate on it in detail! I'll let you know if I get any answers - perhaps we both shall. Thank you so much for your words.


AnnDeO said...

Karen, I love your posts. You are brave when you write. That part about finding something that feeds your passion - not just a need for money is so right on. And it is hard after being home and and putting everything in to mothering. It feels "degrading" - well that may be too harsh but along those lines. You are such an inspiration to me. Keep searching. With Love, DeAnn

Karen said...

That was a long, deep, thoughtful read. You've really expressed your struggle well--in words with which many of us can identify. I too am learning to just trust. I used to control far more. Now when I feel that coming on, I try to step back and release whatever it is into God's hands. His ways are higher than ours and He's getting us ready for Heaven. I want to be the best kind of person when I get there, so now I'm a bit more willing for God to do "whatever it takes". I hear that in you, as well. You are in my thoughts and prayers for God's gracious leading in the next chapter of your life.
(BTW, it's hard when kids leave home and will cause a mom to do some spinning, for sure.)
Much love, Karen

Tracey Axnick said...

Beautifully written, Karen.

Kay said...

During some seasons of life there seem to be more questions than answers. I'll be praying as you seek out the next path to take.

Hugs to you, friend. : )

karen gerstenberger said...

Thank you, each one of you, for every comment left here. I read them all, and they are in my heart. Thank you so much for sharing your insights, encouragement, and your own wonderings with me. XOXOXO