If you have a toddler and a preschooler at home like I do, I don't have to tell you that our days are packed. From the moment Liam and Lanie are awake, we're juggling the day like spinning plates, shuffling between play dates and storytimes at the library and Costco runs and trips to the park. When we're home, we manage nap times and snacks and attempt to keep our living room (and really, every room) from looking like a war zone. Let's be honest: life with two little ones often feels like a war zone. There's pushing and crying and spills and tantrums and stinky diapers... all at once. There have been times I've run into my bathroom and closed the door to just have a couple minutes alone, only to hear two little pairs of feet tracking right behind, begging for Mommy on the other side of the door.
On the days that I work as a nurse, our babysitter arrives 30 minutes before I have to leave so I have a rare, uninterrupted few moments to put on my scrubs and mascara and gather myself before the next 9 hours begin. On my 12-minute drive from my house to the hospital parking garage, I often sit in silence. I take deep breaths and even think a few complete thoughts during the quietest part of my entire day.
A few minutes later, the elevator doors open onto the fifth floor. There's always a flurry of activity on the floor, whether it's a family member standing at the desk with a grimace on her face or a psychiatric patient screaming out from his room. I work on a busy medical floor where all of my patients carry a different diagnosis and diverse needs.
Just the other night, I had a particularly heavy patient load, with patients whose rooms were spread out on every corner of our unit. I dashed between rooms, delivering medications, repositioning patients in bed, wiping sweat from my forehead. One of my patients was nearing the end of her life, her bed surrounded by teary-eyed loved ones, as I monitored her oxygen levels and did my best to kept her comfortable. Another patient was vomiting violently. Another had just been transferred from the ICU and had multiple wounds that had soaked right through the dressings. My fourth and final patient - a mostly independent woman who was there to receive IV antibiotics - called out to the desk and told the secretary she needed to see her nurse right now. So I finished emptying a bucket of vomit, made sure my dying patient was still breathing, and hustled down to the end of the hall.
I could feel the heat of her anger from the door.
"You're exactly who I wanted to see," she fumed.
"How can I help you, ma'am?"
"How am I supposed to eat this sandwich? It's dry as cardboard."
"I'm sorry about that, ma'am."
"Well, can't you at least get me some mayo?"
Take deep breaths, Whitney. Deep breaths.
"No, I'm sorry but we don't carry mayo on the floor and the kitchen is closed."
"Well then HOW am I supposed to stay here with this kind of care?"
Her face was burning bright red, ready to shoot smoke out of her ears like a cartoon. And I, standing next to her bed, was either about to laugh or about to cry.
After I sent the nursing assistant to try and remedy the issue, I ran into the supply closet for a fleeting moment to bury my head in a pile of split gauze and keep from crying. I knew she was just complaining about mayo, but with serious issues going on with my other patients and an exhausting day with my kids, I was done. I couldn't handle one more question, one more demand, one more putrid smell or sticky spill. I sighed heavy. I. Can't. Do. This.
And that still, small voice (or, the Holy Spirit) whispered back: "You're right."
My head snapped back as I was hit with truth that, nope, of course I can't do this. I can't do it alone. This load is far too heavy and the needs too great for any one person to handle it all without Jesus. And as trite as that may sound, it's what my soul needed to hear in that moment. It's what my soul needs to hear more often than I'd like to admit. I need him. Every. Hour.
Practically speaking, what does that look like? For me, it looks like seeking Jesus. Seek him in the morning, even if it's 5 minutes in his Word before you hear your little ones calling out, or a few minutes on your knees, asking him to bless your perspective on the day ahead. Recognizing you need his power, his wisdom, his strength is just the first step. Resting in his finished work on the cross is the next. There's a peace that can only come from being in constant communication from him, and it's something I miss out on all the time. One of the very best practical things I've done recently is to be more intentional about memorizing Scripture. I'm working on Romans 8 right now because it's so foundational to our faith, and also so comforting.
In those moments when it all feels like too much, the Lord draws this out of my memory bank and slips it into my heart:
"I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." - Romans 8:18
As a nurse, I bear witness to so much suffering. The 22-year-old newly diagnosed with HIV, a life that will be presumably infection-ridden and cut short. The 45-year-old mother of two whose breast cancer has metastasized to her brain. Hard, gut-wrenching stuff that begs the question, "Why, God?"
But I also catch glimpses of his glory that will be revealed. My children's lives bear witness to God's glorious creativity and joy. Some of my patients wait patiently and cling to hope in God even in the most dire circumstances. I'm a witness to some of the most beautiful, resilient souls housed in bodies that languish in hospital beds. I see miracles every single day.
Hug a mommy today. And if you know one, hug a nurse. If you're reading this and you fit both categories, I wish I could reach through the screen and hug you right now. Your callings are downright demanding in every way, but I believe the Lord has given you these holy tasks and has prepared you in every way for them. If he wasn't with you and for you, you wouldn't still be standing.
Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens. - Psalm 68:19