The Cross of the Stomach Bug

We had a stomach bug come reside with us for a couple of weeks last month. Typically, we love having company, will gladly open our doors for a visitor and do our best to offer decent hospitality. Tummy Bugs, however, are unwelcome guests in our home. Uninvited, they slip in while we are off our guard and often make their rounds before we even have a chance to fight back. With seven of us, it can get rather ugly. As the mom (i.e. janitor, or um, one person SWAT team) of that group, it can be downright intense.

Last month was no different. It started with Solly at the lake, out one end, then the other. It did not faze him really and after 24 hours he seemed totally fine....but not before passing the torch to Aidan of course.

Old enough now to take care of himself, Aidan spent a few not-so-peaceful hours hugging the porcelain throne before crawling back to his room for the better part of the day. I listened from the comfort of my bed, praying he would not need me. He didn't. (Mother of the year, I know. But come on folks, it's part of rearing independent people.....like tough love, without much of the love part....)

We got home from the lake, hoping that we had seen the worse. The next day however, I got the phone call that Liam had thrown up in school, totally missing the trash can. I will admit, I was secretly thrilled I didn't have to clean it up myself, and thankful it was Liam and not one of the girls who may have developed some serious anxieties over throwing up in the classroom. But by this point, that antsiness was beginning to set in: who would be next? Would it be me?

Liam was completely fine after that.

The next morning however, Liam smelled pretty foul so I lead him back into his bathroom where I found vomit all over the toilet. Liam swore he had nothing to do with it so I followed the trail back to where Solomon was sleeping on the floor. He awoke, looking at me quizzically.

"Solly, did you get sick again last night?" I asked.

"Yes!" he replied, almost proudly. "But I made it to the toilet!" You could almost see him patting himself on the back inside his little brain.

But, he was right. He DID make it to the toilet.........by way of his sleeping spot on the floor, trailing over the carpet, on top of Liam and all the way into the bathroom.

"I am so proud of you for taking care of it yourself and putting yourself back to sleep again," I said, praising the effort. (See? Independence!)

Next up? Kurt. By that night, Kurt was as sick as a dog. I handed him a lined bucket and told him not to miss. And I meant it. When he later tried handing me the filled bucket I directed him outside to the trash cans. (No, I am not earning brownie points nor in the running for Wife of the Year. And I am TOTALLY fine with that!)

The next evening, I had to leave soccer early due to several intense hours of nausea but by 1:00 a.m. I climbed into bed having had no ill effects. Solly threw up yet again the morning after that and by the weekend, both girls were sick at once, sleeping on the floor in two different bathrooms. (Yes, I also make my kids sleep next to the toilet when they are sick.....at least that way, if they miss, they are on tile and not carpet [Solly!] which I have learned is a HUGE pain to clean and sanitize!)

Late one night, as Madeline, true to form, was dramatically getting sick in the toilet, (really, the world was coming to the end from the sounds of it) I had a flashback to when I was a little girl, equally as sick. My mom pulled my hair back, holding it out of my face and repeatedly told me in her most calm and reassuring voice that it was ok; I was going to be ok.

"Pull your hair back, Madeline," I told her, throwing a hair band her way while standing at her bathroom door. She complied before lunging for the toilet again.

"It's okay, Madeline Jane," I assured her. "You are okay. Don't fight it. Probably just a few more minutes now...."

Then later: "Well, at least it isn't coming out both ends like Lily!" (Hey, I'm a work in progress here.....don't judge.)

There were buckets lining the bathrooms, Lysol at every corner, loads of wash going at all hours and oh, the rawness of overly scrubbed hands!! (Not to mention the lack of sleep for poor, ol' mama!)

It makes one want to shower twice just thinking about it.

I will admit, by the end of the two weeks, I felt like I had dodged a bullet. I was so glad I had stopped eating sugar (again) and doubled up on a probiotic at the start of it all. Perhaps I just lucked out but I am guessing it helps to have decent gut flora when trying to avoid stomach viruses.....or maybe it was the hazmat suit I lived in for two weeks or the bleach baths I soaked in every night.....hard to tell. (No, I did not really do that....but in my head I did and I think maybe it faked the germs out.....)

For two weeks, I functioned under the delusion that I could somehow control or at least contain the suffering. It wouldn't be so ridiculous if this had been my first rodeo, if I didn't understand, as I so painfully do, that these little buggers will run their course regardless. And while my approach has changed over time, I still show up, saddled with sprays and buckets and words of wisdom for the afflicted; not to mention the ceaseless praying (which typically sounds far more like begging.... begging that I do not catch it!)

Thomas a Kempis, a Dutch canon regular (priest) living in the later Medieval period, wrote:

Arrange and order everything to suit your desires and you will still have to bear some kind of suffering, willingly or unwillingly. (Dang stomach bugs!)
There is no escaping the cross. Either you will experience physical hardship or tribulation of spirit in your soul. At times you will be forsaken by God, at times troubled by those around you and, what is worse, you will often grow weary of yourself. You cannot escape, you cannot be relieved by any remedy or comfort but must bear it as long as God wills. For he wishes you to learn to bear trial without consolation, to submit yourself wholly to him that you may become more humble through suffering. No one understands the passion of Christ so thoroughly or heartily as the one who has suffered similarly.

The cross, therefore, is unavoidable. No matter where you may go, you cannot escape it, for wherever you go you take yourself along. Turn where you will -- above, below, without, or within -- you will find the cross.

If you willingly carry the cross, it will carry you. 

I know, I know....it's a long stretch from a simple tummy bug to the cross but still. Suffering comes in all shapes and sizes and no matter the degree, it leads us into a familiar spot: one that requires faith in the One who can calm the storm, or at the very least, calm us as the storm rages on.

The struggle lies in giving up our imagined control in order to cling to that cross, that we may be carried.

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