Thursday, February 9, 2017

To the Mom Who's Drowning

I have never been a strong swimmer. Mainly, because I never practice.

My mother-in-law is a triathlete. She asked me to train with her one summer. I was too proud to admit I didn't want to swim or was too out of shape to even attempt what she could. So what did I do? I said, "Yes, I would love to train to do a sprint triathlon with you!"

I should have known early on in my relationship with her son that this family was VERY different than mine. These folks were fast-twitch fibertastics who were visibly excited about Christmas Eve runs together. You know, like for fun. There was no rest and repeat cycle in this family. There still isn't. 

As I started to train for the triathlon,  I discovered that the biking wasn't awesome, the running I could handle–but the swimming. Nope. I just kind of half floated and doggy paddled my way to a side ache.  So I never ended up racing with her. I just kind of pretended to train. Knowing full well, that I wouldn't be able to do it. That I just wasn't prepared for the swim. 

It was uncharted territory. 

And this my friends, is motherhood.

I had my third child 9 months ago. If anyone knows about what it feels to be drowning, it is I. And anyone who has entered into the deep waters of parenthood. We start on the dry sand, warm with dreams for our pregnant bellies. Then we get our toes wet through baptism by fire in labor and delivery. Then we wade deeper and deeper year after year into the waves that are unpredictably stormy and calm within seconds of each other. 

And then one day we realize we are on the brink of going under. 

It doesn't matter if you have one child, two or seven, or if those kids are babies or toddlers or teenagers. If there is one thing I have started to realize is that wherever you are at in the parenting spectrum it is the hardest place–simply because you have never been there before. You have no practice. 

When I feel the waves crashing over my head it is usually in moments like these: I'm crying in the parking lot of a carpet store, or into my purse so no one hears me. Or I can't get the kids to stop fighting. Or when my heart breaks because my in-the-middle daughter wants to give away the baby, because she feels invisible. Or when my husband is carrying so much on his shoulders and I still don't have sex with him because I'm just too tired. Or when my oldest son is struggling in Kindergarten and his teacher suggests occupational therapy. 

These real talk moments. These are the times when our chins slightly dip below the surface of the water until our faces are splattered with salt and tears and we don't know which is which. The waves simply do not let up; slapping us in the face; atagonizing us. We begin to panic.

These are also the times when Jesus is my absolutely lifeline. Oftentimes, if I'm truly sucking in salt water I turn to Ecclesiastes. 

Misery loves company I guess. 

And yet, Ecclesiastes is refreshingly honest. It is one of those books that you can tell was written at the end of things. After a few lessons have been learned and tested to be true. There is slight cynicism to the words, but with a wise monocle over Solomon's right eye. 

Solomon was one of the most prominent sages in the history of Jewish culture. He wrote this book at the end of his life as a summation of sorts of what his biggest learning lessons were. And man, there's so many lessons to clutch to our chests for the mama whose underwater. 

Ecclesiastes 3:14 "I perceived that whatever God does endures forever, nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it."

To the mom who's drowning: God has done it. Whatever the worry. Whatever the fear. Whatever the struggle. Whatever the secret. Whatever the bloody mess. He HAS done it. He has won the battle for your heart. For your kids' hearts. He is a wonderfully wasteful God who would spill his guts all over again to invite you into his forever. Rest. He has done it. Subtext: you can't do it. So stop trying. 

Ecclesiastes 5:4 "Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few."

Ouch. This one stings at first. And then it becomes absolutely freedom. If we know our place, we no longer struggle with insecurity. God is in heaven, we are on earth. He is in control, we are in chaos. Be still before him. Quiet your heart and be wise with the words you toss up before the King. He deserves respect. He deserves thoughtfulness. He invented language. He knows every nuance of word and silence, and that unbelievable truth should only increase your ability to choose select words like Anne Lamott suggests: Wow. Help. Thanks. 

Ecclesiastes 5:7 "For when dreams increase and words grow many, there is vanity; but God is the one you must hear."

So this isn't what you thought it would be. You aren't the kind of mom you dreamed you would be. Your kid isn't the type of child you thought you would have. The edges don't line up sometimes: the puzzle hangs in a scattered mess with wide gaps and ill-fitting pieces. Let those dreams die a dead, dead death. Let those expectations get rolled up in the next diaper you change. If you feel pained because the dreams you had have hidden themselves in the immense challenge at hand, say the hard words: It's vanity. My vanity.

If you find yourself talking, talking, talking but not seeking, seeking, seeking; flip the script for a week or two. Listen instead. Open the Bible. God is the one you must hear, because my friend, we already know what we are going to tell ourselves. And it's one of the reasons why you feel like you have weights tied to your ankles in the open sea. 

Ecclesiastes 7:21-22 "Do not take to heart all the things that people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you. Your heart knows that many times you have yourself cursed others."

I have heard my children say they hate me. Not often, but I will never forget the first time I heard it. Like my insides were on fire. Do not take these curses to heart. We are all bound to the curse of man. This includes inflicting hurt on those who've inflicted hurt on us because they were hurt. The heartbreaking cycle should not take residence inside the mama's heart. We need to be diligent in staying heart whole. Figure out a process for emptying those words from your mind. Mine looks like open palmed prayer and a bubble bath. (Ok, just open palmed prayer. Bubble baths? Ha ha. That's hilarious.) 

Do not take hurtful words from your kids' mouths, from other mom's mouths, from your husband's mouth to the inner sacred chamber of your heart. Lock that place up tight. Fill it up with the love that Christ has for you. Look for places in His story where he talks about your value. And remember that kids are a rebel force obsessed with fruit snacks and the word 'no'. Their words can not be trusted as truth. 

Ecclesiastes 8:15 "And I commend joy, for man has no good thing under the sun but to eat and drink and be joyful, for this will go with him in his toil through the days of his life that God has given him under the sun."

Commend joy in your life. Give gladness a pat on the back. Linger on the moments that fill you up so full that you experience a different type of drowning; a life giving end-of-selfness. And chill out. I have learned to chill out as a mom. I am someone who is just sliiiiightly uptight in general. The wisest man in history (ok, second wisest. Jesus wins.) calls our bluff: stop thinking you are so important and all of this matters so much. Instead. Eat. Drink. Be joyful.  Sometimes moms want to suffer in silence. We want to cling to our pain and call it purpose. Nada. The second wisest man in history's prescription: Eat. Drink. Be joyful.

For this will go with him in his toil through the days of his life that God has given him. 

There will be toil. There will be tears. There will be days of drowning. 

But friend, there is joy. It just requires a little practice. 

We're in this together, 

1 comment:

  1. You've hit the sweet spot where all us moms need encouragement and flashing, bright signs pointing to Jesus. Well done, friend!


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