Designed for Work: The High Calling Synchro Blog

There are seasons in life, I am learning. And sometimes the rougher seasons are the very ones in which the work we do can be a source of inspiration and solace, a place of ministry and renewal. The details of this part of my story have been shared before, but it’s good for me to remember and to celebrate.

The six year stretch between 2005 and 2010 was a tough one for us. At times, it felt as though my family was riding a dangerously out of control roller coaster, careening from side to side, tilting on one very narrow edge as we rounded some treacherous turns and corners.

Here are a few ‘highlights’ from that season:

My dad died in February of 2005, leaving my mom both exhausted from care-giving and desperately lonely for her partner.

My husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer two months later, enduring painful and debilitating surgery and a long, rocky recovery. 

Our son-in-law was applying for long-term disability, literally fading away before our eyes. His wife, our eldest daughter, was beginning an intensive 12-month master’s degree program in special ed — after almost 20 years of being an at-home mom. Their three boys were struggling to find their bearings in this new universe.

Our middle daughter’s 3rd boy was born in distress, tiny and in the NICU for 5 days.

Our daughter-in-law needed a slightly dicey C-section for her first-born, just weeks after her cousin’s difficult entry into the world.

Our son-in-law entered the last year of his life with multiple hospitalizations, and a miraculous six-month respite, giving us all some memories that were lovely and lasting. That year, 2008, ended with a devastating pneumonia that took his life in a matter of hours.

My youngest brother landed in the ER with a severe leg infection, requiring a long list of care-giving efforts from all of us.This began a hard, downward spiral of missed diagnoses, homelessness, sober living residences, heart surgery and eventually, sudden death in 2009.

The very next month, our beautiful town was hit by the first of two wildfires requiring evacuation from home and church, plunging our worshiping community into emergency mode for months on end.

As I said, it was a difficult few years.

And every week, except for vacations and emergencies, I went to work. Many people wondered why: why do you want to step into other people’s difficult situations? Why do you want to visit the sick? Why? Haven’t you got enough on your plate already?

I don’t know that I can fully answer that ‘why’ question, but I will try to write a coherent list of possible reasons here:

work grounded me;
work reminded me I was not alone;
work taught me about community;
work provided an external focus;
work brought at least the illusion of order to my terribly disordered world;
work brought relief from the weight of worry that
was a constant companion;
work allowed me to stay in touch with the
creative parts of me as well as the care-giving parts;
work gave me a different place to look,
a different place to reflect,
a different space in which to be me –
the me that was called and gifted and capable.
As opposed to the me that was helpless, impotent and
overwhelmed.

My life was spinning frantically out of control,
at least out of my control,
heading down deep and dark crevasses that terrified me.
Work was more easily containable,
expectations were clear,
contributions were valued.
Work was grace for me during that long,
long stretch of Job-like living.

Work was a gift,
a gift of God to a weary and worried woman.
And it brought me into contact with people
who could bear me up,
who could tend my gaping wounds,
who could be as Jesus to me,
even as I tried to be as Jesus to those
I loved most in this world.

I did not do any of it perfectly. Lord knows, that isn’t even possible and it surely wasn’t true.

The end of 2010 brought the end of my ‘official’ work life. I have missed it at times. But I am discovering that even in the different structure, schedule and, yes, ‘work’ of retirement, God is underneath. And around and in between. Just as God has always been. And somehow by the grace and goodness of God, we are still here, clinging to the sides of that coaster car, doing our very best to enjoy the ride.

I am linking this with The High Calling’s bi-weekly synchro blog, this time on the theme, “Designed to Work.” Please check out the other posts in this link-up, and while you’re at it, read the fine articles published by THC this past week. They do such good work there!

 

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Comments

  1. Gwen Acres says:

    Your life between 2005 and 2010 was a litany of soul suffering. You now speak from that place and it brings hope and life. You have not wasted those years of pain. Your ‘tribe’ thanks you!

  2. I wish I’d known you in that hard stretch so somehow I could have helped lift your arms.

    Work is a gift… and a grace. Hang on. He’s not done with you yet. 🙂

    • I’m counting on that, Sandy! And I had just begun to know you right at the end of that long season, I think. I started reading your blog at the end of 2010 and started writing seriously on my own about that time, too. Things were beginning to look up about then. 🙂

  3. Such wisdom here, my friend. You’ve expressed so well, some of my own feelings about work as a gift. … I knew you back during the latter part of the phase you’re referring to, but didn’t realize how much you were really going through.

    Thank you for linking with us.

  4. Thank you for this meditation on the joys and gifts that work can bring even during a very dark season, Diana. What a heartrending time that must have been. Your post reminded me of how I, too, have been blessed deeply by my job (I work with children) and the people I encounter there. I tend to see work as a way to pay the bills, but it can be so much more than that.

  5. What an overwhelming list of stressful, painful circumstances for one family to endure. I love the image of people attending to you as Jesus would, during these crises, even as you tried to be as Jesus to those you loved. It reminded me of the privilege God gives us to encourage, support, and inspire others, to aid in accomplishing his good plan. My prayer would be that I never miss an opportunity to bear up a struggling servant of God!

    • Amen, Nancy. I’ll join you in that prayer. We got home to discover a friend’s husband had died while we were away – time to write her a love note, I think.

  6. A whirlwind. Work is definitely a blessing. It allows you to do the next thing and the next thing. Having that support and the ability to be useful especially during such times of personal anguish is so vital. I pray God refreshes you and your family, giving you rest and clarity.

    • Exactly right – doing the next thing. And the next. We came through that season of fire, faith intact, tired but grateful. Our widowed daughter has remarried, very happily, and both of those ‘babies’ turned 9 this year. My husband has had no recurrence of cancer and we are — most of the time!! — out of the whirlwind right now. Thanks for you lovely comment.

  7. Having something that grounds us and takes our mind off ourselves by allowing us to serve others, in times like you describe is a gift from God – – I can relate to that truth. 2Co 1:4 has always been an encouragement to me for it reveals, at least a glimpse of the purpose God may have for our troubles. May your story continue to bless and inspire others, Diana. Blessings!

  8. Reading through that list made me clutch my chest a little. And this reminds me to be grateful for the work God has given me to do and remember it as gift. I know your work blessed many during that difficult season. I will miss you at Laity Lodge this week, my friend! I’m glad to hear your foot is doing better, though. I’m praying maybe 2015 will bring us together somehow.

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