Pressing Pause

By Diane Stark

Pressing Pause

“You might be wondering why there’s a treadmill on the stage this week,” my pastor said one Sunday morning. “I’m going to use it as an object lesson, and my good friend Kyle is going to demonstrate for us.”

Kyle walked up to the stage and got on the treadmill. “Take it easy on me, Brett,” he said, grinning at our pastor.

Brett shook his head and started the treadmill at a slow place. “So this is Kyle, going about his day. He has a job, of course.” Brett handed Kyle a briefcase and a cup from Starbucks. “And he has a wife and two kids.” He handed Kyle a framed wedding photo and two baby dolls. “And we all know how busy life gets once you have kids,” Brett said. He reached over and sped up the treadmill by a notch or two.

Kyle’s eyes grew wide as he tried to hold all of the stuff in his arms while keeping up with the treadmill. But Brett wasn’t done. “Kyle, you look pretty fit,” he said. “I’ll bet you work out.” He handed him a dumb bell and said, “Gotta hit the gym every day.” For good measure, he sped up the treadmill a few more notches.

At this point, Kyle was very nearly running, and he was barely holding onto all of his stuff. But Brett still wasn’t finished.

“And you’re a Christian so you have obligations here at church too,” Brett continued. He handed him a plastic soccer ball and a package of disposable diapers. “Wasn’t it your turn to help in the toddler room this morning?” He grinned at Kyle. “And you know how fast some of those kids can run,” he said as he cranked up the treadmill again.

Kyle tried his best to keep up. But as he ran faster, he dropped one of the baby dolls. “Way to go, Kyle,” Brett said. “You just dropped one of your kids.”

Kyle started laughing and everything else slipped from his hands. Quickly, Brett stopped the treadmill and thanked Kyle for his help. “In case you haven’t figured it out yet,” Brett said, “my sermon this morning is about the evils of going through life at a breakneck pace.”

I had figured it out, and I was hoping the person next to me was listening carefully as well. My husband’s life looked exactly like Brett’s treadmill demonstration. “You’re doing that same thing, except you’re carrying five baby dolls, instead of just two,” I whispered.

 Eric shook his head and whispered back, “Yeah, but I’m not carrying the dumb bell. I don’t have time to work out.”

I snickered. “Maybe not, but you’re running on that treadmill with all of those other responsibilities, plus you’re carrying your dad.”

Eric sobered at the mention of his ailing father whom he helped to care for every morning before going to work. “You’re right. I’m overdoing it. And I think you are too.”

 It was true. For the past six months, we’d been living in survival mode. Last April, Eric’s dad had suffered yet another stroke, and his mom could no longer care for him by herself.

 Caregiving had become a part of our routine.

Eric reached for my hand. “It’s time to press pause on the treadmill.”

The following weekend, one of Eric’s sisters came into town to take care of their dad so that we could get away.

It wasn’t a vacation in the true sense of the word. We stayed in a hotel only an hour from home, and we only spent two nights.

But that didn’t matter. It was absolutely luxurious. Eric and I lingered over our morning coffee, something we never got to do at home. We had uninterrupted conversations, a miracle in itself. We walked downtown and shared an Italian ice. We ate good food and watched funny movies.

It was nothing special, but at the same time, it was incredibly special.

Because while our time away was brief, it re-energized our marriage. It reminded me that my husband is an amazing man, and I am so blessed to be married to him.

So many people need my husband’s time right now. His job needs him, his parents need him and our kids need him.

Sometimes, I feel like I’m just another person who needs something from him, another demand on him, another drain on his time.

But our weekend away reminded me that Eric doesn’t think of me or our marriage as another obligation. In fact, it’s just the opposite. He manages his other responsibilities more easily because of our relationship.  I was concerned about being another drain on him, but he said he draws strength from our time together.  Turns out, he needs me as much as I need him.  It was a wonderful realization. 

Sometimes, in life, our problems are so much easier to see than our blessings. The problems seem bigger, the blessings seem fewer. That’s not reality, but often, our blessings get overshadowed by our challenges.

And that’s when we have to press pause on the treadmill. Just stop and say “Enough is enough.” Take a day or two – or even just a few hours – and look for our blessings.

The blessings are always there.

But pressing pause makes them a whole lot easier to see.

About this writer

  • Diane Stark Diane Stark is a wife and mom of five. She loves to write about her family and her faith. Her essays have been published in over 20 Chicken Soup for the Soul books.

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