Given the no-matter-the-season spontaneity of illness and issues that arise in caring for my medically fragile daughters, routine keeps me grounded. I need that form of constraint for security.
Ah, September! Though summer brings opportunity for family trips, time outside and ridiculously late nights around a campfire, I crave the discipline of autumn. Allow me to be completely transparent and testify to the immense joy I have returning to routine.
Given the no-matter-the-season spontaneity of illness and issues that arise in caring for my medically fragile daughters, routine keeps me grounded. I need that form of constraint for security. When my kids are hospitalized, and I am sharing a room with them, I have my “hospital routine” that fends off cabin fever and anxiety. No matter how little sleep I pick up through the night, with staff coming in the room and alarm bells ringing, I get up at 7 A.M., fold the bed back into a chair, get dressed, find a coffee and pick up the newspaper.
At home, I’ve created a daily routine that supports the nurses and promotes healthy boundaries for me to step away, knowing what is happening in my absence. For some, it may almost seem anal-retentive, but it ensures that medications will be administered and hopefully eliminates any misunderstanding about providing care for Rachel and Janneke. My girls fall so far from the proverbial parent tree that I am overwhelmed with their daily care – unless I create some semblance of a pattern that attempts to order their day.
The problem with clinging to routine for security is that things don’t always go as planned. This past July, Janneke became very ill at our campsite. After several hours of treatment and consultation in the local hospital, she and I were airlifted from Parry Sound to McMaster Hospital in Hamilton. As we flew, my tears of worrying about Janneke were also tears of frustration with things not going as planned.
Later in August, I drove Sophia to Michigan for a week-long service project. I intended to spend a few days with a close friend and my brother, as a way to recharge emotionally from the past month. Unfortunately, as I was driving Soph along the I-69 in Michigan, Ralph was on the QEW Niagara, zipping Rachel to McMaster in Hamilton for what was later diagnosed as the same septic infection Janneke had in July. I slept for a few hours in Michigan and then turned around to relieve Ralph with Rachel. Tears for that drive home were a combination of worry for Rachel and frustration that plans were once again coming undone.
Somehow over the past two months gone awry, I finished A Beautiful Constraint by A. Morgan and M. Barden. The subtitle reads, “How to Transform Your Limitations Into Advantages, and Why It’s Everyone’s Business.” I picked it up at the start of the summer, half-heartedly thinking it might inspire me to see beauty with the limited abilities of our family. I wanted to see what a couple of business guys would have to offer as I seek new ways to spin our family’s circumstance in a positive light.
The irony of reading such a book while experiencing a summer of interrupted plans and anxiety over my kids’ health did not escape me. The idea of constraints being beautiful threatens to mock the legitimate angst that often prompts me to kick at the walls of limits instead of colour them, yet oddly enough, I found A Beautiful Constraint encouraging.
What I found most memorable was a quote the authors pulled from something American poet Robert Frost said in 1954. Frost suggested that freedom is moving easy in harness. When we are appropriately constrained, we are actually free. Free to be creative – and free to kick at those constraints.
I see God’s grace in between the lines of the book, whether the authors intended that or not. His grace both guides us into a disciplined life and challenges us to love and serve beyond our cosy circles. His grace allows me to work through a routine to find order in the chaos, knowing all the while I might have to let go of what I hold. Ultimately, God’s grace means I can express frustration and worry in my tears and be held in his embrace, the most beautiful constraint of all.