Much Needed Rest: Monthly Update
My right eye developed a twitch in mid-March. It’s small enough that most people can’t see it, but I have felt the spasm constantly since. I know exactly when it started – as we were rushing from a gardening club meeting to a speaking event on a Saturday morning. Even if I looked calm on the outside, I was almost sick with worry inside at the time. In the past when I was stressed I have had moments of eye pain or muscle spasm, and I certainly had plenty of stress at the time this one started. There was an intense, once a year workload accounting for a grant in California, and as soon as those reports finished up, I jumped full-speed into application for a second, larger grant.
I worked until 10 or 11 most nights, excited about the opportunities but unable to relax at the end of the day. I was working twenty or thirty hours more per week than my ideal. We briefly fostered a high-energy dog. We had a missionary from Pathways coming and going and planning a training for pastors.
There were visa decisions and COVID certificates, traffic-stopping public demonstrations and car trouble. There was also an outbreak of polio in Malawi, the first case in the country in 30 years and on the continent in 5 years. I found myself on the forefront of offering vaccine advice to local doctors and parents, but as measures to eradicate the disease went into full swing, the questions and concerns forwarded to me multiplied. Oh yes, and we are also trying to decide whether to buy our first house, a condo as an investment/rental property on the other side of the world.
Even the patient visits to my office seemed more than I could handle recently – twice as many patients coming in to see me than I had space for in appointments, and some of them quite sick. Usually, my patients recover well with some lifestyle changes or new medications, but these weeks I had patients who needed admission for an entire week or weren’t improving on the highest doses of medications (for more details, see malawimillers.com.)
I realize now that my patients were recovering, that each day in the hospital brought them closer to wholeness. But at the time, I felt so much stress because I wanted to do more and I wanted them to be healed right away. Even our clinic motto says “We treat, God Heals” but sometimes I struggle not to carry everything on my shoulders. I knew I was out of balance, but I had trouble figuring out how to let go and how to rest. All the while, my eye served as a constant reminder that things were out of balance.
So that’s why this week is so amazing. Greg and I finished what we could and handed over the rest and flew to the US for the next month. We enjoyed our first true down day in a long time. Then, we meet the parents of our good friends who blessed us incredibly. Finally, we arrived at a conference for physician well-being. For the next few days, Greg will relax in the room as I dive into conference sessions about letting go of perfectionism, learning to set life-giving boundaries, and rediscovering the joy of pursuing my mission.
Overall, I’m learning that everything doesn’t rest on my shoulders. That’s easy to realize when I see that I can be away from my patients, away from our ministries, and things are still okay for a month. I am also learning that the more I am well, whole, and balanced, the more I can pass healing on to others. My eye is still a reminder of the toll that long stressful days caused, but I think I am starting to notice an improvement after just my first few days in this environment of renewal.
This month, please pray for us as we try to rest and re-set, and that my eye will continue to get better. Pray that our 10-year anniversary can be a special time. Please pray also for the partners and ministries in Malawi, and for a quick sorting of visa issues before we return. Oh, and please also pray that my eye gets better!
Thank you for your prayers and support!