Today marks the beginning of “Christmas” for our family, as Jordan has two weeks off of work. Like any good family, we are celebrating by catching up on the 100+ chores and stuff that needs done, but we are doing it together, as much as possible. Farewell, ideals, and blog-worthy cute holiday activities. Hello, reality 🙂 We are getting to be old friends, you and I.
Honestly, the last couple of months have been hard. We went on a weekend trip with my family to Tennessee, and immediately succumbed to a violent stomach virus that left us all weak and exhausted and feeling very, um, non-vacation-y. In the week following, I was forced to stop nursing my baby, from sheer lack of milk supply, and then we were all hit by colds. Mine turned into a month-long sinus infection with excrutiating daily head/ear/jaw aches.
I am not saying this all to complain, just to relate the events. It was during this sickness that I entered a really dark place emotionally. It sounds weird to even say that, but it is true. I suppose it was related to a new pregnancy and all the hormones that come along with the changing mother’s body, but as a Christian, there is a spiritual aspect to everything, and this dark time was no exception. It is hard to even talk about, as outwardly there was (and is) nothing going on except a little bit of illness, but inwardly there was a raging storm. Fear, anger, sadness….I am not the type of person to feel these negative things very often, and so I have been surprised and overwhelmed by them, unsure where these feelings are coming from and utterly at a loss as to what to do with them. I suppose I could get that clinically diagnosed as depression? I don’t know.
I do know that I have struggled, regardless of the cause. Yelling at my kids (and I don’t yell), setting my baby down whenever possible (I normally love holding babies), resenting the changes of pregnancy in my body (despite mentally speaking gratitude for the new little one), spiritually crawling through my days in a foggy place, just hoping to make it to bed time and go to sleep. I feel so ashamed just writing these things. How can I, as a Christian, feel this way? What am I doing wrong? Just a couple of months ago I felt strong and confident in the life God has given me, felt capable of managing the challenges of my three children and even enjoyed those challenges. And now, I struggle to keep all the balls in the air, and am a little terrified at the thought of a fourth child in June. People tell us we are crazy, that God gave us a brain so that we would be smart enough to use birth control, and I have moments when I wonder if those people are right? I am not handling the three I have, how will I manage more? How will I teach them? Love them? Meet all their needs? Does it even matter, what I do every day? What if this baby is born with special needs, or one of my kids develops cancer, or is kidnapped, or my husband dies in an accident on the way home from work one of these days?
I know these thoughts are wrong, because they are based in fear. They are based on my perceived ability, not God’s strength in my weakness. But this is where it gets hard. Because sometimes God’s strength in my weaknesses doesn’t mean He takes over when I have the throbbing head and the empty heart and feel like there is nothing left of me to give, but all my little people are still demanding more. Sometimes it means I still have to do it all. Kids don’t quit needing Mom just because she feels done. God doesn’t come down and wash the dishes for me at 11 at night when I have no strength left. In this respect, I feel spiritually fragmented. I don’t know HOW to access His strength, or to let it work through me. I don’t have the mental energy to listen to my husband for more than a minute at a time, how do I do more than whisper half-finished pleas for help when my toddler is lashing out in anger again and I need to discipline without reciprocal anger? I don’t know. Over and over again, I have said that I can’t do this. But God hasn’t taken it away. He wants me to do this. When my emotions aren’t going crazy, I WANT TO DO IT TO! I normally love my “job’!
I know it is in the hard times that we grow the most, and I most certainly see God working in my heart. It’s just that growth is not easy. Stagnant is easy. Self-confident is easy. God is teaching me that I am NOT capable of doing this. Even in the easy times. I really need to live with the recognition of my dependence on Him. But I also need to live with the assurance that He gave me this task, this life, this particular season with the sick kids, and the headaches, and the tired pregnant body, and He knows I can do it, through Him.
He is also teaching me to rely so much more on His Word. It has been all too often I have used my busy life with three littles as an excuse for short or even no devotions at all. Maybe a quick verse read while eating breakfast and thinking about the dishes, laundry and Christmas projects that need done. He is bringing me back again and again to the verses about the wise man and the foolish man. I realize that if I am slipping in the storm (even if it is “just” an emotional storm…. goodness knows how I will handle a ‘real’ problem!!!) I am not founded enough on the Rock.
Ps. 139 has been a rock for me, as well. He has searched me, and known me. He knows my downsitting, and my uprising. He understands my thoughts afar off (even the crazy, hormone thoughts that I don’t at all understand). He compasses my path and my lying down, and is acquainted with all my ways (He is right there when I collapse, and knows all my ways – even the sinful, selfish ones, or the OCD, “My Christmas tree needs to look perfect, even though I’m already 5 minutes late to the store” ones). There is not a word in my tongue, but He knows it altogether (every lashing-out, every regretful apology, every tearful instruction to my child to not sin like that). He has beset me behind and before and laid His hand upon me. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. His works (Me!) are marvelous. Just as a new little life is being knit together in my womb under the guidance of His hand, so my life was knit together, and there is nothing about me that He does not know and care for. And most importantly, the darkness cannot hide me from Him. Even if I feel lost, He is there. Even if I cannot see the way, He can.
So, with a new case of sickness (pink eye) making its rounds through my kids, and a heart both full and empty, we go into the Christmas week. I am daily forcing myself to remember and to tell my children about Christ’s birth and sacrifice. I am struggling to put joy that I don’t feel, but know exists, into the Christmas activities. I am struggling to quit struggling and to learn what it means to rest in Christ as we approach a new year. The gifts that need wrapped, the cookies we baked, the Christmas lights, and the sheer happiness on my kids’ faces when we do something ‘fun’….we are purposefully taking the time as a family notice these things, even when we all feel to tired and sick to focus. I don’t know when the dark feelings will go away altogether. I hope soon! I do feel more and more on the light side. But either way, I am willing to walk through this ‘valley’ of sorts, and learn what God has me to learn and keep fighting until I see the light.