I heard it said once that, “How we spend our days…is how we spend our lives.”
That being true, it feels like I’m going to spend the rest of my life…in waiting rooms. I’ve been in six waiting rooms in the last seven days, and it’s given me a lot of time to ponder life as I stare at the florescent lighting and mint green walls.
Every time I enter a waiting room I’m reminded of a chapel message I heard when I was in college, which feels like a billion years ago.
And yet…I remember that chapel talk like it was yesterday.
The speaker was talking about “The Waiting Room.” That place where you have waited for so long…that you start to actually wonder, “How long, O Lord, am I going to be here?”
We humans, are always, always waiting for something. Racing to stoplights…just to stop and wait at them. Rushing off to the school pickup, and then waiting in line for twenty minutes just for our favorite little scholars to appear. Seeing Christmas decorations at Costco…and then waiting four more months for the holiday to finally be there. Why, O why, Costco?
But sometimes, a wait transcends the usual “every day waits.” Sometimes…it’s a wait much more similar to the kind you feel in a doctors office or an emergency room. And those kind of waits are different. Those are filled with fear and doom.
And what I remember most vividly about that talk from so long ago, is the emphasis on what happens in the deepest places of your heart…as the wait drags on for forever.
How…the longer you wait…the more hours you watch tick by on the clock…the more people who come and go from the room with their good news…the more you become filled with fear. The more absolutely convinced you become that when, if ever, that doctor actually does come into the room…it’s going to be bad news for you.
Bad news about the adoption you’ve been waiting on for three long years. Bad news about the cancer scan you now have to get every six months. Bad news about the relationship you were so hopeful would end in “happily ever.” Bad news about the positive pregnancy test you’ve hoped for every single month for the last five years.
Those aren’t stop light waits.
Those…are the Waiting Room.
And I feel the agony of this wait a lot right now.
I have waited and waited and waited for three different babies to come home to live with us…and they are never, ever coming through our front door.
I have waited through months of deeply discouraging doctor’s appointments and countless blood tests…and only now finally have a diagnosis of what destroyed my body, and completely devastated our souls.
We finally have a name. Toxic mold.
And now we begin a new wait. Waiting…to feel better.
And. I. Don’t.
I have inflammation literally from the crown of my head to the tip of my toes. Imagine the worst ear infection, the worst throat infection, the worst sinus infection, the worst stomach infection, and the worst headache of your life…all at once…and the inflammation never goes down.
That is my new wait. Waiting on inflammation. Waiting to get better. Waiting to actually get to feel better.
My doctor recently ordered a test called “The Human Transforming Growth Factor” which measures the health of your body at a cellular level. It basically measures inflammation in a way that tangibly reflects the health of each cell. The reference rage for this test is between 400 and 2,000.
And mine..is 10,867.
Which means that, within the structure of each cell in my body, I am fighting off dangerously high inflammation.
On one hand…this is just plain bad news. On the other hand…it’s a relief that we finally have a blood test that accurately reflects on paper, the daily misery I feel. I feel inflamed. And it’s helpful to finally have a test that shows what my body is doing at a cellular level as the mycotoxins rage on.
But it’s also true that the longer I sit in this waiting room…the more utterly convinced I become that I am just never, ever going to be better. That being sick…is the new black. That this is my life, for forever. That I should just give up, and give in to despair. And that if the doors ever do swing open, and that doctor ever does come out…he’s going to have one word for my wrecked body and my deeply damaged soul…cancer.
So…those are some of the perky thoughts I’ve been having lately as I stare at these Waiting Room walls.
But there’s something else on my mind as well.
The other day my phone died while I was waiting for a blood draw, and I found myself flipping through the magazine Marieclaire. I’m not even sure who Marie Claire is. But I do know who Drew Barrymore is, so I decided to read Marie’s interview with her.
And there it was…something profound and unexpected from a Hollywood star…right there in the Waiting Room.
Drew Barrymore has taken a lot of flak lately from feminists groups because of her recent statement that women, “Can’t have it all.” She is a new mom, and though totally successful in her career by the world’s standards…she is learning as a mom, what we are all learning as mom’s…you just can’t have it all.
And so, in defense of her statement, Drew told Marie, “The sentiment is not that you can’t have it all, but that you can’t do it all. You don’t get to do everything all at once, and all the time. Life doesn’t work that way.”
I can’t tell you how profound this is. Not because no one has ever thought it before…but because nothing is more antithetical in our culture right now…than the idea that you can’t have it all. Because we think we can.
Now that you can fly from New York to LA for a reasonable price in less than five hours…a mom actually can have a business meeting across the country, and still be home in time for soccer practice and Tuesday tacos. Now that you can get a degree online…you actually can get your Master’s degree at home. Now that you can find literally every recipe ever invented by any human living in the technological world…you actually can make a gourmet meal and an impressive Pinterest dessert to follow.
But fifty years ago…none of this was true.
Fifty years ago, no woman lived under the weight of what another woman cooked for dinner…unless she was at the church potluck.
And what happens. sadly, now that it is possible to see, and have, and do, and observe so very, very much, is that…
We buy into the lie that we can have it all.
But as one who loves looking at and making things on Pinterest, and who genuinely enjoyed the seminary classes I’ve taken, and who really appreciates that direct flight from LA to NY…I’m here to tell you…
You can’t have it all.
And before I lost it all…I still kind of lived in the illusion that I could.
But, nothing, nothing, nothing has made me realize my frailty as a human, my limitations over my own story arc, and that I simply cannot do it all…like getting poisoned by mycotoxins, losing literally everything we owned, and having to bury half of my precious children in the ground.
I can’t do it all.
I can’t be this sick…and also be at every event in my little one’s lives. I just can’t.
I can’t have this many doctors appointments…and also do all of the cool, Pinteresty things I once did.
I can’t be the fun mom I want to be, who constantly throws caution to the wind and heads to the beach…when we literally still need to sell and rebuy and nest and settle…into our new stuff and our new home.
I can’t have this much inflammation in my body…and also be trying to bring another little person into this world.
I can’t do it all. All at once. I hate this. But that doesn’t matter. In the end…I just plain can’t.
And you…can’t either.
Because, just as Drew said, some things really are…even for us modern women…mutally exclusive.
And though you can be healthy at every stage of a pregnancy and all the years that come after…you simply can’t be a size zero…the week after your baby is born.
And though you can be at some of your kid’s events, and cheer them on with all your heart when you are able to be there…you can’t be a full-time working mom, and be at every single moment of their lives. I know this, because I am not a full-time working mom…and even I can’t.
And though you can make cool crafts, and do fun outings, and have hip clothes, and eat cool food…you’re going to have boring Friday nights, and disastrous family outings, and gray sweat pants days, and macaroni & cheese dinners. Believe me…I know this. Because I do.
Life…just plain has limitations. Not because we are women. But because we are human.
I know that men feel these limitations too. I know that they can also feel the weight of wanting to be an amazing dad, and a loving husband, and a good friend, and an impressive athlete. I know they feel the tension of wanting it all, and having human limitations. They just seem a lot more accepting of them.
But we women…well, we see every single thing that every other mom and wife and friend and Pinner and cook and baker and sewer and soccer coach is doing…and by golly, we’re going to do it all too. And then, we’re going to put it on Instagram.
And all I want to say, now that we eat far more PB & J dinners than I had ever conceived possible, is don’t. Don’t.
Don’t live in that illusion.
Mrs. Pinterest-pinner, Instgram-gramer, Tweeting-tweeter, & Facebook-facer.
Because in the end…only two things matter.
One…matters just a little. And the other, is the most important thing…ever.
It doesn’t matter if the world of Instagram, the world of Facebook, and the world of Pinterest think you are a good mom…it only matters if your kids do. Did you pin those fun things and make those sweet surprises for them? Well, then, they’ll love you for it.
But what will change their lives…what will rock their worlds…what will tenderly protect their souls when the storms of this life threaten to destroy all of who they are…is if they felt loved by you. And if they saw Jesus…even when they didn’t.
What matters most…is if they saw you and Daddy make up after a fight. If they heard you say, “I’m sorry” when your heart hurt theirs. If they saw your deep awareness of your utter depravity as a wretched, flailing, limited human being who simply knew that she couldn’t “do it all.” Who simply knew how much she needed Jesus. To get into Heaven. And to get through every broken day leading up to it.
That…is what truly matters. I think about how much it matters every time someone tells me I’m “an awesome mom.” I think to myself, “Well. That’s great. But do they?”
And what matters WAAAAAAY more than even that…is God’s opinion.
What is God’s answer…to the question that matters most?
Did I love Him?
Did I love Him when the storms raged so fierce that I thought I was going to lose my very soul? Did I love them when I had absolutely nothing to give…let alone to make a Pinterest meal? Did I believe His love…when the only reason I had left to believe it…was because the Bible tells me so?
That…is what matters.
Because that…is what matters in the waiting room.
This week, Reid and I had to go in for yet another “couples check-up” on the nodules found in our thyroids. Some couples take ballroom dancing classes together. Some couples golf. We…go to doctors.
And as I sat there waiting for yet another doctor to check if we had cancer…I wasn’t thinking about those dinners I love to pin. I wasn’t thinking about whether I was a “cool” enough mom, or a “sexy” enough wife, or a “gourmet” enough cook…or the millions of other “shoulds” we humans bury ourselves with.
I was thinking about one thing and one thing alone…
If this is bad news…did I love them?
My kids are so precious to me. Did. I. Love. Them?
If this is bad news…did I love him?
There is no one I would rather be sitting next to in this dank doctor’s office. Did I love him, and respect him, and treasure that I got to be his?
And if this is bad news…did I love Him?
Am I ready to meet my Maker? Will I love Him to my very last breath, even when these days He wrote for us were filled with so much suffering and sorrow? So many baby burials. So many doctors offices. So very much bad news.
Did I love Him no matter what? And am I ready to be with Him soon?
Drew is right. We moderns simply cannot have, and do, and be…all that we want…all at once. Life isn’t like that.
And life in Christ…really, really isn’t like that.
Because the Christian life is so entirely NOT…about having it all.
It’s actually about losing it all.
It’s about denying oneself, taking up a cross, and following the only One who did have it all. And who laid it all down for us.
Drew’s words were good. A needed reminder in this idealistic, over-published, post-modern world we will have to fight hard to walk with Jesus through.
But Paul’s words…were even better. And I am so very thankful that he gave us something to cling to when it comes to “It all.”
“More than that, I count it all as loss compared to the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ.”
Words that give life.
Words that drop expectations.
Words that bring hope.
Words to ponder. Here in the Waiting Room.