“God surprises us and often likes to mess up our appointment books; prepare for this without fear.” Pope Francis recently shared this wisdom with a group of newly ordained bishops, but he could have easily been telling our family the same thing. The last couple of months have had us constantly adapting our schedules and plans.
Nearly two months ago, both my sister and Meghann’s sister gave birth to baby girls within a day of each other. Much anticipated and much loved, both babies and their mothers are healthy and happy. We were able to visit my sister who lives nearby and meet her baby right away, but Meghann’s sister lives about an 8 hour drive from us. Being the planners that we are, months before the baby’s due date, Meghann and I had scheduled a road trip to meet her sister’s new baby. We had plotted out how we would do the trip with our own kids (road trips take longer with small children), and how we would time it for a few weeks after the baby was due to give the baby’s grandparents time to come and go without overwhelming the new parents. We were even able to nestle this conveniently between my treatments.
Around the time that both of the baby girls were born, a number of unanticipated things happened. My other sister (not the one that had the baby) was struck by an unusual medical disorder that stumped a number of local doctors until she finally saw a specialist at the Cleveland Clinic. My mother came down with a respiratory bug that turned into a months-long battle against wheezing and asthma. Meghann’s grandfather was hospitalized, then released to the nursing home, then hospitalized again, and then released to the nursing home again with a mixed set of health problems, many of which are related to the fact that he’s nearly 91 years old.
In our house, Meghann and I started trading weeks of being sick with a dash of our children’s sickness sprinkled in. First Meghann was hit with a cough that had her dragging for several days. At the same time, our son developed a raging ear infection that burst his ear drum in the middle of the night. The two of them recovered just in time for my next scheduled chemo session, which went well but dovetailed directly into me being sick for a week with both the cough that Meghann had just gotten over and my own addition of a high fever. In spite of hairy’s weakening of my body, I somehow managed to avoid a visit to the ER that week. This was largely thanks to my doctor’s careful care and an immune system that is starting to bounce back. As I finally recovered from my week on the couch, Meghann was hit with food poisoning that caused her gut problems for yet another week.
When you are the parent of small children and your spouse is sick or gone, sometimes surviving the grind of the day feels like a major accomplishment. If the kids made it out the door to school with packed lunches, snacks, and nap toys and I made it into work at a reasonable time in the morning and we ate something somewhat healthy for supper that night after work and school and the kids were bathed and in bed before it got too much past their bedtime and the kitchen was cleaned up with things ready for the next day before it was past my bedtime, it was a very successful day. If one or more of those things didn’t happen (say I forgot my daughter’s favorite baby doll when I dropped her off at school and still got to work 30 minutes later than I wanted to and ended up going through the drive-through at Skyline on the way home to avoid having to cook and clean-up), success may be just that we managed to survive the day. The grind of days like these make me extra thankful that I have a wife to share in parenting our wonderful and exhausting small children. I have great admiration for all single parents, and I often wonder how they can do it by themselves.
In this midst of these health challenges, life threw a few other curve balls in our direction. In early September our daughter moved from the baby classroom to the toddler classroom at her school. Though that transition and new routine is often a challenge for both the kid and the parents, true to her very confident 16-month-old personality, she picked up her own lunch box, marched into the new classroom, and didn’t look back. The same week that she moved classrooms and I came down with my multi-day fever, a major leadership team change took place in my office. The change was a shock for a number of members of our small and tight-knit team, and somehow I was just healthy enough to be present to help calm the rocking boat that was our company at the time.
On top of all of this, my treatments continued every other Friday, largely wiping out the following weekend as I recovered from the chemo medicines in my body.
The chaos and health challenges of early September caused us to postpone our carefully thought-out road trip. We also were forced to adapt to unanticipated days out of the office, missed choir practices at church, and rescheduled or canceled client meetings. Most evenings were spent doing the bare minimum necessary to cleanup, pay the bills, and prepare for the next day before going to bed. We continually faced the disappointments and frustrations that come from rescheduling and postponing those fun plans we had again.
Yet, through it all, God was and is here.
There has been much good in this time. We have two healthy little girls added to our family. We were able to reschedule and take that 8 hour road trip with the kids. My family’s health is improving. My kids continue to grow and learn and amaze me. Meghann’s business is doing well, and my work team is doing great. We were able to squeeze in a date night. Our friends and family have continued to remind us how loved we are and how big of a support community we have.
Also, my hairy cell is getting better, and the treatments appear to be working. My immune systems is recovering, and I feel a great deal of hope that we will get to the other side of this.
Through the trials of the last couple of months, I have found myself unconsciously repeating the prayer “Give us this day our daily bread.” We humans have very little control over most things in our life, and that can be very stressful. Yet our faith gives us the ability to counteract that stress by teaching us to live in the present. Living through a period like the last few months has been a good reminder of that. God gives us what we need to get us through each day, even when that day is hard. No matter how worn out we are at the end of the day, we can go to sleep at night with confident expectation that we will have what we need again tomorrow.
I won’t pretend that it has been easy to live in the present in the last couple of months. However, life has compelled us to live this way, trusting each day in our daily bread. As usual, God is using times like this to make us into better people. That shouldn’t surprise me at this point in my life, but His unceasing quest to make me better still catches me off-guard. For that, I am thankful.
Give us this day our daily bread.