The Unexpected Gift of Weakness

 

As I have bragged on this site before, around 6 am most mornings, my 15-year-old son brings me a mug of coffee that he brewed himself, along with a heated lavender wrap. This boy is not a naturally compassionate person like one of his brothers (known by all his acquaintances as a sweetheart and delicious individual but also one who sleeps late in the morning), but he has learned to be kind because he knows I am weak.

Let me explain.

I had always been an athlete and active person. I was on the New York State championship basketball team in high school. I played rugby for four years in college, bulking up my strength to play loose-head prop, elected captain of the team my senior year. I hike, I bike, I ski, I play tennis, swim, wakeboard, and sail. I bore six children through natural childbirth with midwives. Hear me roar!

However, in 2011, I was bitten by a teeny tiny arachnid, a black-legged tick, also known as a deer tick. I removed the tick from my hip before it was fully engorged, but about a week later I fell ill. I felt as though I had malaria, soaking my bed sheets with so much sweat they could be wrung out. I could barely move from the full-body pain. Unable to drive, I called my doctor’s office, and they prescribed antibiotics immediately, hoping to treat Lyme disease. Of course, it was the weekend, and my husband and two of my children had flown across the country to visit his grandmother who was turning 97. A friend brought me medication, and my oldest son tried to help care for his younger siblings aged nearly 2, 4, and 6 who were with me at the time.

Unfortunately for me, I had also received co-infections from the tick of ehrlichiosis, which is treatable with the antibiotics I was prescribed, and babesiosis, which was not treated at that time. I have not felt well since May 2011. I have arthritis in my joints, especially my neck, I see a cardiologist for heart problems (pulmonary hypertension), my neurologist has documented my nerve damage in both my arms, I am constantly fatigued, and I have night sweats and run fevers most days.

As a homeschooling mother of six used to very good health and only seeing the doctor for annual checkups (or as they call them today, well visits), chronic illness for the past eight years has been very difficult.

So where’s the gift in this, you might ask?

I thought I wanted to show my children a strong mother, who could do everything! Instead, they see a mother who is weak and needs help and love and tenderness. As mentioned above, my curmudgeonly 15-year-old son makes my coffee nearly every morning and delivers it to me, along with a heated lavender wrap to soothe my neck and bones and a hug. And sometimes a kiss! My children take turns to clean up the kitchen every night after dinner. They understand that when I “go to the couch,” I can’t function normally and need to stay off my feet.

My children have learned to care for me. They have learned that their mother cannot be and do everything. They are forced to be compassionate and to look for ways to help out.

They have an excellent example in their father. Papa Toad prepares me water with lime juice squeezed in it to soothe my tummy. He makes one about every 18 hours, a 16-oz cup that he leaves for me on the counter with a cover, and I drink them throughout the day. He has made me these for the past 7 years, at least, as a sign of his love and concern and desire to help me feel better, thousands of tangible examples of his love for me.

He constantly rubs my aching neck, and they do too.

He brings me wood in the winter to stoke the stove that heats the living room, where I spend much of my days. The warmth of the fire soothes my bones and keeps me from getting chilled, which I do easily.

This dedication and service are humbling to me. I would never have asked for the gift of weakness, but as a wife and a mother I see it as a gift that has made my husband and children stronger and better and given me a more humble and appreciative heart. I used to hate to ask for help, seeing it as a sign of weakness. Now I know I am weak, but as I lean into the warm support of those around me who love me, I feel how good it is to be loved. What an unexpected gift.

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  1. Vectorman Inactive
    Vectorman
    @Vectorman

    My guess is that you return their love with as much kindness that is possible in your condition. And you have given them the gift of “adult responsibilities.”

    • #1
  2. Kevin Schulte Member
    Kevin Schulte
    @KevinSchulte

    Wow, had no idea MT. My heart prays that this condtion would be healed. 

    Thoughts on the brood.

    When the queen has served the subjects with love and self sacrifice, then is laid low and in need. The subjects will go to the ends of the earth to lend aid.

    Blessings MT.

    • #2
  3. JoelB Member
    JoelB
    @JoelB

    Your post reminded me of what the apostle Paul wrote and added a new perspective for me.

    2 Corinthians 12:9-10 NKJV

    9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

    • #3
  4. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Stay strong as best you can.

    One guy I worked with not only had lyme disease, but his wife and adult daughter as well.  I can sympathize with your condition, having listened to his narrative on how their lives had been totally changed due to crappy little, disease-carrying hitchhikers . . .

    • #4
  5. She Member
    She
    @She

    Absolutely beautiful.  Mr. She is fond of saying that “sometimes our greatest strength is also our greatest weakness, and vice-versa,” and I’ve often found that to be true, but never more so than in this post.  Thank you.

    • #5
  6. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    JoelB (View Comment):

    Your post reminded me of what the apostle Paul wrote and added a new perspective for me.

    2 Corinthians 12:9-10 NKJV

    9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

    Amen!

    For we preach Christ crucified! A stumbling block to Jews and a folly to gentiles…

    • #6
  7. Blondie Thatcher
    Blondie
    @Blondie

    You have also given the gift of homeschooling your kids. I hate you have had to deal with this, but your family has risen to the occasion. This is also a gift for all who see you and your family as an example of kindness and love.  

    • #7
  8. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    I had no idea of any of this. I can’t imagine how you do any of what you do, even in perfect health let alone in this situation. I certainly can see that you have a wonderful family, and what also strikes me is your rare ability to see the positives in this situation. That quality in you, even more than having such a loving family, is one of the most important qualities a person can have. And I have a feeling your character is a big reason your children have turned out the way they have.

    I always say a person can, to a large degree, decide to be happy or not. I always told my daughter there are people who turn a bad hair day or a hangnail into a tragedy, and people who can find a positive side to terrible disasters or illness. You’re one of the latter.

    • #8
  9. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    RightAngles (View Comment):
    I always say a person can, to a large degree, decide to be happy or not.

    I agree.  I always say, “God doesn’t make mistakes.  He makes challenges.”  Turn setbacks into challenges, then get to work addressing them.  Being able to fight back is a powerful reason to be happy . . .

    • #9
  10. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    What a beautiful post!

    All relationships are unequal in at least some respects; there is nothing wrong with that inequality – it is, instead, an opportunity for kindness and love. 

    • #10
  11. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    I had a moment when my kids were really little that has stayed with me. My daughter Kate was turning six in three days and was in first grade. My daughter Carrie was four and in nursery school. There was a lot going on in my life at the time, and Carrie had a doctor’s appointment for a checkup. So with my arms full of things and holding Carrie’s hand, we hurried out the front door and the screen door, whereupon I slipped off the front step, and my left foot and ankle buckled under me. I didn’t actually fall down, and I hobbled to the car, grateful that it was not my driving foot.

    I took Kate to her school and proceeded to the pediatrician with Carrie. My foot was getting much sorer. I limped into the pediatrician’s office, and of course he asked me what happened. I showed him my slightly swollen foot and tried to make light of it. He looked at it from afar and said, “Just wear tight-fitting shoe for a few days.”

    But when he left the room, his nurse whispered, “No foot should be in that much pain. You need to get to the emergency room.”

    “Thanks, but I’ll be fine.” I had a birthday party to put together, Carrie needed to get to nursery school the next day, my Brownie troop needed me for our meeting next week. I could not stop to fix this stupid thing.

    Over the course of that day, it got worse. That night I went to the emergency room where it was x-rayed, and the doctor gave me codeine and a crutch. He said to put ice on it and keep it elevated. I went home and went to bed with the codeine.

    I had never had this drug before. I woke up at three in the morning, and I could not straighten my swollen ankle and foot, and I was very thirsty. So I dragged my foot to the kitchen to get a glass of water where I promptly fell on the floor–not because of the foot but because of the codeine. :-) I had a common reaction to it–it had made me very woozy and nauseous. Hearing the thud, my husband helped me back to bed.

    The next day, after I dropped Carrie off at her nursery school, I went to the orthopedic guy who had been recommended at the hospital. By this time my foot was swollen ridiculously and all black and blue. He looked at the x-ray and then took his own. He said that the tendon attached to the foot bone was stronger than the bone, and it had actually broken the bone. He put on a cast all the way up to my knee, and he told me to stay off it for two weeks. “But I can walk on the cast, right?”

    [continued in comment 12]

    • #11
  12. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    [continued from comment 11]

    He looked at me sharply and, without a word, went back to work on the cast. “Okay, listen up. You’re just like my wife. I know you’re not going stay off of this. So I’ve rounded the bottom of this cast so you cannot walk on it for two weeks. I will flatten the bottom of it in two weeks so you can walk on it, but for the next two weeks, you are on the couch. Understood? Because if you try to walk on this thing, you’ll fall down.” Gee, thanks.

    I drove to the nursery school to get Carrie (and, yes, I was late, and no, I should not have been driving), I got home, and I tearfully called my husband at his office.

    “Don’t worry, honey. I’ll figure this out.” Two hours later–two very short hours later–his mother and father arrived at my house. They had come down from their home north of Boston to Cape Cod in record time.

    Throughout all of this, I was worried about Kate’s birthday party the next day. Kate kept asking me about it all day. “Mom, what about my party?” My husband and in-laws decided not to cancel it. “How hard can it be to look after eight exuberant little six-year-olds?” But Kate was still worried. It wouldn’t be the same now.

    At this point, I was a little concerned about my daughter’s moral development. Here I was in a lot of pain, and all she talked about was her birthday party. It was unsettling. As a friend of mine once said, with the first born, mothers are always afraid the child will be stuck that way forever. By the time the second comes along, mothers understand growth, development, and phases. But with the first, there is worry. Lots of worry.

    That night, while I was sitting on the couch, I heard Kate crying softly in her room. Her dad went in to see what was wrong, and she said, “Mommy’s hurt.”

    Phew. :-)

    Postscript: We did have the party, and it completely wore out my kind in-laws. :-)  And one really funny thing that happened that week was that Kate’s dad had to make the cupcakes for her classroom party in school. Not a baker, he went to the grocery store and got some chocolate cake mixes and canned frosting. He doubled the mixes and made 24 gigantic chocolate cupcakes. I would never have done this–it was homemade with just a little bit of icing for me. But dads think differently from moms. “What’s the easiest way to do this?” He piled up the goopy frosting on these super big cupcakes and took them to school. The kids loved them! For years later, every time Kate’s birthday came around, her friends would ask, “Is your dad going to make cupcakes?” Too funny.

    • #12
  13. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    An unexpected gift for accepting and encouraging compassion and consideration!


     This conversation is part of our Group Writing Series under the March 2019 Group Writing Theme: Unexpected Gifts. There are plenty of dates still available. Tell us about anything from a hidden talent to a white elephant. Share a great surprise or memorable failure (oh, you shouldn’t have!). Our schedule and sign-up sheet awaits.

    April’s theme is “Men and Women.”

    • #13
  14. Shauna Hunt Coolidge
    Shauna Hunt
    @ShaunaHunt

    Wow! This is spot on. I could relate to almost everything in your post. I’m glad you have such a wonderful support system. There’s a support system here, too. Counting our blessings and gratitude make the days more bearable. I’m so glad you’re here. Chronic illness is a day to day, hour to hour thing. Thank you for sharing your story. You’ve put into words what I can’t express adequately.

    May God bless you and your family! 

    • #14
  15. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    MarciN (View Comment):

    That night, while I was sitting on the couch, I heard Kate crying softly in her room. Her dad went in to see what was wrong, and she said, “Mommy’s hurt.”

    Phew. :-)

    Awww! This story and Mama Toad’s just reminded me of the time I was sick in bed and my daughter, age 5, appeared at my bedside with a (very sloppy and uneven) peanut butter and jelly sandwich she had made for me, unasked.

    • #15
  16. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    Dear Lord, I love it when my babies ask me if I want my lime water, or if they can heat up my wrap, or if there’s anything they can do for me. And sometimes when they just snuggle up together on the couch to each read our own book while we share a blanket. I feel so blessed. Those moments are eternal.

    • #16
  17. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    CB Toder aka Mama Toad (View Comment):

    Dear Lord, I love it when my babies ask me if I want my lime water, or if they can heat up my wrap, or if there’s anything they can do for me. And sometimes when they just snuggle up together on the couch to each read our own book while we share a blanket. I feel so blessed. Those moments are eternal.

    Yes, they do have a way of making it all worth it.

    • #17
  18. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Mama Toad, every time you share a part of your story, I’m so inspired. Now I can include your family in my awe and admiration. Clearly, you are loved at Rico, too.

    • #18
  19. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    RightAngles (View Comment):

    CB Toder aka Mama Toad (View Comment):

    Dear Lord, I love it when my babies ask me if I want my lime water, or if they can heat up my wrap, or if there’s anything they can do for me. And sometimes when they just snuggle up together on the couch to each read our own book while we share a blanket. I feel so blessed. Those moments are eternal.

    Yes, they do have a way of making it all worth it.

    I forgot to add that the fact that peanut butter and jelly was her favorite food on earth and her idea of perfection made it even more precious to me.

    • #19
  20. Barfly Member
    Barfly
    @Barfly

    You have obviously done well by your family. They are most fortunate to have you to care for.

    • #20
  21. Instugator Thatcher
    Instugator
    @Instugator

    This is a blessing. No doubt.

    My own occurred in the late 1990’s. My son had been sick and passed it to me. My fever was 102+ and I was a single dad.

    I drug myself out of bed to pick him up from the sitter. My sitter had told me to stay in bed and she had collected him from school in accordance with our normal schedule. She was awesome, and had already fed him for the evening. I got him home, bathed and ready for bed. Such a good boy he read a little to me, then went to bed.

    About midnight I woke up and he was in my bed (back then, if he woke in the night he climbed in with me) but I remember this time vividly. He was cradling my head and rubbing my hair, “Dad,” he said, “I just wanted to love on you”.

    Broke my heart.

    I got up, got him some water and put him back to sleep. He was between 5 and 7 then. 

    What a blessing!

    • #21
  22. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    Instugator (View Comment):

    Broke my heart.

    Mine too. God bless you and all little ‘gators.

    • #22
  23. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    After this post went to the Main Feed, I shared it with my mother, who sent me this that she was discussing in her prayer group yesterday:

    God has created me to do Him some definitive service.  He has committed some work to me which he has not committed to another. I have my mission.  I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next.  I am a link in a chain, a bond of connections between persons.

    He has not created me for naught.  I shall do good; I shall do His work.  I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it if I do but keep His commandments.

    Therefore, I will trust Him, whatever I am, I can never be thrown away.  If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him, in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him.
    If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him.   He does nothing in vain.  He knows what He is about.  He may take away my friends.  He may throw me among strangers.  He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me.  Still He knows what he is about.

    From the writings of blessed John Henry Newman

    Amen!

    • #23
  24. Jimmy Carter Member
    Jimmy Carter
    @JimmyCarter

    @cbtoderakamamatoad  Is it strange when minding My own business I come across something that reminds Me of one of My imaginary Friends at Ricochet?

     

     

    • #24
  25. Shauna Hunt Coolidge
    Shauna Hunt
    @ShaunaHunt

    Instugator (View Comment):

    This is a blessing. No doubt.

    My own occurred in the late 1990’s. My son had been sick and passed it to me. My fever was 102+ and I was a single dad.

    I drug myself out of bed to pick him up from the sitter. My sitter had told me to stay in bed and she had collected him from school in accordance with our normal schedule. She was awesome, and had already fed him for the evening. I got him home, bathed and ready for bed. Such a good boy he read a little to me, then went to bed.

    About midnight I woke up and he was in my bed (back then, if he woke in the night he climbed in with me) but I remember this time vividly. He was cradling my head and rubbing my hair, “Dad,” he said, “I just wanted to love on you”.

    Broke my heart.

    I got up, got him some water and put him back to sleep. He was between 5 and 7 then.

    What a blessing!

    Wow! Children are intuitive. You are blessed. 

    When I’m in a lot of pain, my kids will watch tv with me. Or sometimes we just like being in the same room. I have two. My 16 year old brings me treats from Cinnabon and Cold Stone. My 14 year old likes to watch M*A*S*H and makes sure that I get drinks and food.

    My husband spoils me rotten.

    • #25
  26. She Member
    She
    @She

    CB Toder aka Mama Toad (View Comment):

    After this post went to the Main Feed, I shared it with my mother, who sent me this that she was discussing in her prayer group yesterday:

    God has created me to do Him some definitive service. He has committed some work to me which he has not committed to another. I have my mission. I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connections between persons.

    He has not created me for naught. I shall do good; I shall do His work. I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it if I do but keep His commandments.

    Therefore, I will trust Him, whatever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him, in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him.
    If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. He does nothing in vain. He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends. He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me. Still He knows what he is about.

    From the writings of blessed John Henry Newman

    Amen!

    That’s lovely, and so deserving of thought and reflection.  

    I think of John Henry Newman almost as a friend and neighbor.  The Birmingham Oratory, which was founded by Newman in 1848, and then moved to the suburb of Edgbaston in 1852, is located only about 1/2 mile away from the enormous home in which my dad and his siblings grew up.   I’ve been in the area, and driven by and through it, dozens of times in my life.  Auntie Pat, dad’s last living sibling, lives at a retirement village (to which she finally moved when she was 90) about 1 1/2 miles past it in the other direction.  It has a connection to Tolkien (who also lived in Edgbaston when he and his mother moved to England from South Africa) because, when Tolkien’s family could not come up with the rather expensive tuition for the highly regarded and local King Edward’s Grammar School, young Ronald attended the Oratory school with the cooperation of the Fathers there, and for much less expense, until the family coffers filled up and he could return to King Edward’s (Dad’s two brothers attended KE, as did Mark Steyn, and a surprising number of other luminaries).

    There’s some interesting information on the Tolkien/Oratory connection on the Oratory site, on this page

    • #26
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