Things got busy at work.
The work itself isn't hard, and for the most part, I've considering it a work of mercy, even though I get a pay check for it. I show up, and I care for three people who are unable to care for themselves. I try to think of them as our Jesus would. I try to think of them as if they were our Jesus wearing his "the least of these" face.
Some of the people we work with were doing some pretty shady things, and they ended up getting fired--three at one time. I took over a morning shift, and worked my own with it. This left me with some very long days. I would drag myself home, spent, and promptly go to sleep.
At some point I began to feel as if I were neglecting my own home, in order to create a home for other people. I cooked their meals, but not my family's. I cleaned their kitchen while my own was about to be shut down by the health department. I showered and washed the women's hair, while my own little girls wore the same ponytails three days in a row, and needed mama's tender loving care badly.
So where was I supposed to be? At this job, providing for my family, or at home, doing the same, but without a paycheck? My husband is disabled. We barely make it month to month. Me working gives us so much, but then, it takes so much away.
All this was beginning to get to me, and all the while I'm trying to find my feet in this new path my faith has taken. Beloved, Orthodoxy is a narrow way. It demands constantly, it challenges my laziness, and has turned my life upside down and inside out. In a good way, but it is change just the same, and change can be very difficult.
I should have suspected the pain would return. It starts with those blinding headaches, and progresses to these throbbing, searing places all over my body, and I get tired. Two naps a day tired. I can't even stand to say my prayers tired. I don't have anything left tired. The doctors call it Fibromyalgia. I wonder if I shouldn't call it, "the message".
Then came the grace. Grace is a funny thing. It comes in surprising packages. I noticed with my other symptoms these little itchy bumps on my arm. Then there were a lot of them. I'd gone to the monastery with Dan and Jane, both doctors, and sheepishly asked, "Could you tell me what this is on my arm." Jane winced when she saw it, and like a true disciple of Christ, she didn't say, go and be blessed, I will pray for you. No, she went into Miejer's, the megastore she hates to go in, and got me some hydrocortisone cream.
It got worse, and apparently contagious, because the kids were breaking out with it too. I told my job I had this awful thing, and they gave me time off to get better (with a doctors excuse, of course). But it's not better. I'm still itching and oozing, and the fibromyalgia pain is back in all it's miserable fullness.
But God doesn't despise the misery. He meets me here. Having this strange rash has planted me back home, and I have cared for my own little children--my own "the least of these" with the tender loving hands that are a mama's primary tools. My children have been blessed with the anointing of hydrocortisone cream, and christened with calamine lotion.
Here in our affliction, I have found the tenderness of Jesus. He reminds me of His love for me, even as I slather healing treatments on my children's bodies, murmuring my concern, laying hands on them, and clucking at the terribleness of their temporary wounds. He reminds me of His mothering, and His own gentle, nail scarred hands upon me.
Sometimes grace is a stunning, unexpected kindness. Sometimes it is rash, literally. However we are dealt it, we must have hearts tender and surrendered, eyes open to see, ears swift to hear. We don't know what God is doing, but we know He loves us, and will use in His divine economy, all things for His glory, and for our good.
"Blessed are the contagious, for they shall get time off."
Itching to feel His touch,