When Caregiving Life Resembles a Stinky Stable

It’s a most wonderful, busy, festive, overwhelming, exciting, disappointing, pressure-packed, beautiful, tense, fun, vulnerable time of the year! Yes, this is Christmastime. And for families already living with extra challenges, the holidays are ripe for a mess of added stress or sorrow even as we hold hopes for the best Christmas yet.

As I have done for so many years, I stepped into December aiming to appreciate the season — not just the event of Christmas. I know enough by now to foresee there will be plenty of unexpected snags this month. Nuisance and vexing interruptions are the course of life at our house. I know it’s true for you too.

We spent a few hours last weekend in the emergency room with our daughter, Carly, who has Angelman Syndrome. It was mostly precautionary. Her complicated year of gastro-intestinal issues erupted (literally) in a strange and stinky new way on Saturday night. It had us concerned and confused. So, by bedtime, we thought the safest thing to do was get a professional’s check of things.

We were back home just before 3:00 am Sunday, reassured that watchful waiting would suffice. The three of us were all snug in our beds — no sugar plums dancing — around 4:30 am.

When plans are derailed, it’s so easy to feel defeated.

As we settled into Sunday, it was an unremarkable day. And those are typically very welcome around here. But we had to skip two valued gatherings which included a youth bake sale and going to the visitation of a dear old friend. By noon, just I wanted to feast on the simple things of Christmas and enjoy the traditional chores like gift wrapping and baking. But what I needed most was time to snuggle my girl, smile at my husband, check my lists (twice), sip some cocoa, and read more about Jesus.

Larry and I tag-teamed caregiving duties and squeezed in some treats. Larry pulled extra weight on the caregiving front while I wrapped some gifts needed for tomorrow. Our newly-married daughter stopped by with a few groceries. Carly grinned a lot seeing her sister. Larry also made popcorn while we watched our Vikings football team lose a game they lost on mistakes.

The Vikings were defeated for losing focus. That’s when I lose too.

Did Mary and Joseph feel defeated because the only place they had to deliver and cuddle the newborn King was a manger in a cave or some smelly barn? Nope. It is clear their focus was on the marvelous magnitude of what was happening, not so much on how it was happening.

I want to live like that — embracing the moment with the big picture squarely in focus.

I want to appreciate the Kingdom meaning of moments rather than the activities filling those moments. Whether I’m waiting in a hospital lobby, wrapping presents on the kitchen table, re-filling medication organizers, or rubbing Carly’s back with one hand while holding my phone and reading my Bible app in the other, I want to meet Jesus there.

When I focus on the reason for the traditions and activities rather than the methods of my madness, I experience far less disappointment and find a truer, deeper joy in life and relationships.

Friends, for all the things needing to be done and all the derailed plans that are certain to occur, let’s keep our focus. Let’s seek Jesus. Let’s experience deepening intimacy with Him while we do all the things — whatever the things are — recognizing there are Kingdom purposes unfolding. God forbid we inadvertently give our children and others a crooked impression of why we are doing all we do. Surely, we’ll all be defeated if we miss the point.

Because of Jesus, we are not defeated in the weighty moments of life. And we are not living in victory only when life is running smoothly.

When your life feels like a humble manger scene in a stinky cave, gaze on the face of the King of heaven who holds all eternity in His care.

That is where the aroma of life is sweetest. That is where the victory is.

“Of His kingdom there will be no end.” Luke 1:33

Lisa Jamieson is a caregiver advocate and author of popular books and Bible studies includingFinding Glory in the Thorns andJesus, Let’s Talk. Along with her husband Larry, Lisa co-founded Walk Right In Ministries in 2008, a non-profit interdenominational organization building faith and community with special needs families. Lisa serves caregiving families as an ordained pastoral counselor and certified Christian temperament therapist with memberships in the Sarasota Academy of Christian Counseling and International Ministerial Fellowship. Lisa and Larry have three grown daughters. Their youngest, Carly, who has Angelman Syndrome, lives at home with them in Minnesota.

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