At first it was only a few complaints, but then the list grew. The things that troubled me about being a mother and wife started to weigh on me, to bog me down with anger.
The girls got a cold. My household's needs increased with paperwork, therapy, gardening, and family events added to my agenda. My writing stopped. There was nothing left. Not a spare hour that was mine and unclouded with exhaustion.
And I was so angry.
When would it be my turn? My turn to eat an uninterrupted hot meal? To sleep without having to be woken up countless times to check temperatures and soothe coughs? Would I ever have an hour that was truly mine again? Ever?
Two months ago those thoughts pinged through my mind like nasty shrapnel as I tried to steal a moment during nap time to work on a novel. As I reached for my laptop and my collection of notes, God halted me.
"No," He said. "No."
I gritted my teeth. Really? Even God doesn't want me to do what I love?
As if He pointed fingers at the turmoil of my heart, I suddenly became aware of horrifically unhealthy state of my emotions and thoughts. I clenched my fists and closed my eyes.
Oh, God, how do I fix this pain?
Back in April, a woman I respect told me that God values our work as mothers and will pay us back for this hard work. That there will be a day when we will have the time and energy to pour into our other dreams.
I hated hearing those words. She meant them so gracefully. She meant them to encourage me. But all I heard was that I need to wait.
Wait to publish a book.
Wait to have my own time.
Wait to start on my dreams.
It was the strangest story to give me hope, but when I fell upon the story of Elisha and the city being raided, I suddenly understood that woman's words about trusting God. In the story, the king of Isreal, and his people were starving inside the city of Samaria which was under siege by the Armeans. When the king is told by a woman that her and her neighbor ate their own child, he is moved to deep anger. He sends a messenger to kill the prophet Elisha. Elisha replies that in a day there will be no more hunger. And it was true. God defeated the entire enemy army by scaring them and making them run away leaving behind all their supplies including clothing and food. Suddenly the people in the city were free and had plenty to eat. They went from starving to having more than enough.
We have no idea what God's timeline is. We can be filled with faith do His will day by day, minute by minute. He knows our needs and He knows His plan for us. Though we may feel starved from time to time, the floodgates will open.
I took a deep breath and told God that I would wait on his good timing. That I would pray for the time and energy to come so I could fulfill his plans for me. From that moment on, the anger left and was replaced by joy. God has me and I will let Him carry me and all my dreams.
He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.
Awake, my soul! Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn.
Psalm 57:8, NIV
Like a tiny ember simmering up into a soul-warming fire, I felt my heart awaken as I read those words above.
I've been asleep.
A deep hurt struck our little community. As we dealt with the loss of an amazing man, it was hard adding the pain to already busy lives. In this place of farming and ranching, our world was claimed by harvests and shipping of calves and lambs. To add grief to that was a tough order.
I stopped writing. My spare moments were spent desperately hugging my girls, talking to friends, or pouring over my Bible trying to move past what was becoming a funk of exhaustion--body, heart, and mind
Today I read those words, "Awake, my soul." And the fire rekindled.
It helped that I had finally gotten two nights in a row of good sleep and that the bulk of this week's meetings and events are behind us. That first sharp cut of grief is starting to ease a bit in its awful sting.
Awake, my soul.
There was a smile in my heart and energy in my step today as I attended Adela's first IEP meeting. I felt God's joy rush in me and through me. Thank you, God. Those days of shadow were weighing on me. I am so thankful to move out of this.
Life throws us into seasons like these. Take heart that it is natural to have times when you need an extra breath to talk, more quiet to think, and more friends to smile. These are times of healing and readjusting to a new angle your life has taken. It is only a season, a turning in the bend of a beautiful life God has designed for you.
One day, if it is time, you will let your heart whisper, "Awake, my soul."
And you will awaken the dawn.
My heart is steadfast, O God,
Micaela's scream made the hair on my neck stand on end. I rushed to the other side of the living room to see my shaking toddler sitting next the the writhing body of a wasp. I snatched her away then ran back to take care of the invader. After I dumped the dead wasp into the trashcan I gathered Micaela into my arms. She was still crying but had stopped shaking. It took me a few minutes to find the sting because it was nestled in the folds around her chunky wrists. I don't know of any cures for wasp stings. I dug into the medicine drawer and pulled out calamine lotion. I dabbed a bit on her wrist but when I tried to lift her into my arms she pushed me away.
Micaela is like that. When things overwhelm her she tends to deal with them by avoiding any extra stimulus. That means that she stops interacting and reacting and sort of shuts down. I forget this about her. In that moment all I could think about is how much pain she must be in. I wanted to distract her from it, give her something else to focus on. I lifted her into my arms again and tried bouncing her but she screamed at me and pushed away another time.
I let her be. Quietly Micaela sat on the floor and breathed in an out. She held her hurt wrist in one hand. Her crying stopped. Five minutes later I watched her give herself a little shake and then strike out on a fast crawl to a favorite toy.
In that moment I thought of a couple dear friends of mine that are dealing with some of the biggest hurts life has ever thrown at them. I have tried to encourage them and offer support but truly I feel at a loss to aid in their healing. It wasn't until that moment today watching Micaela that something hit me. Both those precious friends of mine are desperately trying to simply move forward and march through the pain. They have allowed themselves no time to simply deal with the sting.
I remember that. When I lost Isabela, then lost Mom, then brought home a severely neurologically damaged Micaela, I gave myself no time to deal with the horrid sting of life. I blocked it out and bullied my way through. But the whole time the sting never left and it crippled me emotionally. Nine months later I finally stopped and dealt with that awful sting, truly allowed it the place it already held in my life. I took time to concentrate on healing. I allowed the deep expanse of my wounded heart to grieve.
Today I knelt down and kissed that wasp wound and marveled at the light in Micaela's eyes.
God, thank you for these little things. For that little nudge, that little reminder, that we are allowed to stop and deal with our hurts, our wounds, and seek healing. Thank you for reminding us that we were not asked to pretend pain away or limp wounded pretending we are whole.
We come to You, God, with honest hearts about the stings of life and may we find our help in You.
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
Ever had a case of the parenting blues? Or the blahs? Your fourteen-month-old becomes obsessed with banging pots and pans and your five year-old is determined to memorize all the scientific names of dinosaurs. The days become all at once chaotic and yet monotonous and all you can think is, "This is really not fun. It just isn't anymore."
Take heart. We have all been there. I went through some pretty tough months feeling both disappointing and exhausted with my motherhood. It wasn't until Micaela came along and I realized that baby and toddler years are going to be twice as long with her (perhaps even tripled or quadrupled--she has a lot of developemental delays) that I finally realized something key to parenthood.
Parents get to have fun, too.
Yes ma'am, and sirs, we get to be part of it. In fact, the moment that you embrace this idea you are going to find that you connect with your kids and make amazing memories with them. It will help them in their learning and growing and socializing. Why? Because when you are happy, energized, and focused, your children are getting the very best YOU.
This is so simple. I wish I had figured this out during some of Adela's younger years. *sigh* But, you can only move forward in life.
Okay, get a pen and paper and list 10 things that you truly enjoy. These ten things should be things that always put a smile on your face. My ten are reading, doing art, baking, romance, graphs/analyzing, organizing, music, stories, exploring outdoors, and spending time with family.
Look at your list. Right now I love doing adult coloring pages. I bet Adela would love it too. She could really work on her fine motor skills as she tried to color in those intricate designs. Later, when it is time for Micaela's physical therapy I will be turning on Pandora to some Contemporary Christian music as we practice going from sit to stand. And, as I do these things, I will be focused and excited and energized because I can bring my own passion into the mix.
Our kids need to see this side of us. It is real. It is sincere. It is life. And it is so much better than go through the motions and trudging through those parenting blues.
Bring YOU back into parenting and have some fun. They are only little just this once.
I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. Ecclesiastes 3:12-13, NIV
I don't know about Adela, but there sure were butterflies in my stomach each day I sent her off to school those first few weeks. My mind swarmed with worries. Will she pay attention? Will she show the teacher we have been working on holding a pencil this summer? Will she be respectful? Will she make friends? Will anyone be able to understand her English-Spanish jargon?
Adela is, in my mind, a spectacular child. I love the way she nurtures her animals, includes Micaela in games, and enjoys extra-dramatic imaginary play. But school is not coming easy to her. I thought it would. School always fit me like a guppy in the ocean. However, Adela hasn't shown much interest in academics and her speech delays have become a source of frustration for her.
In my mind and heart it is difficult for me not to start freaking out. My thoughts get caught up in a cycle where all I can think about are activities that might help her bridge the gap so she won't always struggle.
As my heart hurts for her, God has been leaving me bread crumbs everywhere so I can grasp a more important truth. A couple days ago when I was speaking to Micaela's vision therapist I finally got it--RELAX.
Micaela's vision therapist raised two boys who are now in their 30's. She smiled at me as I related to her my concerns for Adela and shared that one of her boys did not take to reading when he was in school but that now as an adult he loves spending hours reading huge novels. She said she had wished that she had relaxed more as a mother because in the big scheme of things everything worked out just fine.
Her simple story helped me take a deep breath and give myself some peace.
Academics are important but they are not everything. I know lawyers who have always made C's in school and college but are stunning at their jobs. I know that good work ethics trump a naturally ability to grasp phonetics and number sense. And anyone with a healthy sense of self-worth and a relationship with God is going to fulfill a path that is beyond what my own mind can comprehend.
Adela needs love more than she needs to know the correct way to hold a pencil. She needs positive reinforcement for all she does well more than she needs to be able to write her alphabet right now. Helping her learn how to get a job done and feel good about herself is priceless.
My job isn't easy, but to do it right I need to relax. I need to stop trying to shove her precious soul into that box I made for her and let her be the person God created.
If you are a mom or dad struggling with this, I encourage you to talk to God. Ask Him for strength and peace to accept the child He gave you as you prepare them for His plan.
The unnerving realization came to me the other day that I not yet a butterfly.
If in life and my walk of faith things happen in stages then I am am a hairy funky-looking critter bumbling around and trying desperately to fill myself with enough good things that I can move forward to a greater purpose.
But, that is okay. I have to be a caterpillar before I can be butterfly. I simply need to celebrate the fact that I am in forward motion.
In the book of Mark in the Bible Jesus healed a blind man in two steps instead of doing it all at once. At first the story confused me. Why did my all-powerful God not simply heal him with a single touch? But Jesus healed the man in stages asking him between applications to tell Jesus what the blind man could see. I wonder if Jesus chose to heal him in such a way as to remind us that we do not reach a point of perfection all at once. There are stages.
Our walk with God reminds me of the phases of a butterfly. When I was a child, sheltered and protected, I was still in an egg. Now I'm out and about and growing. I am looking and searching and consuming. I have not yet learned how to sit back and wait upon God. That is the next stage. I know it is. I know it because I watch the more mature Christians in my church and they have peace. They have sat in their own Chrysalis and given their transformation over to Jesus.
Yes, I am wrinkling my nose right now. I don't want to do any waiting. I might be hairy and awkward, but I struggle with the idea of giving over my right to motion.
I am not a butterfly yet.
But I know it is coming. God is working on me.
He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?”
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"...and God was already there with me."