Yesterday, I ran into a friend I haven’t seen in a while, and she asked me where I’ve been. I tried replying, but I’m not sure I even knew the answer.
If this post had a subtitle, maybe it would read “That Time I Tried Working Two Part-Time Jobs While Homeschooling My Children, Supporting My Husband Through a Career Change, Becoming Foster-to-Adopt Licensed, and Why Not Throw in a Trip to Disney World Followed Closely by Influenza, a Stomach Virus, and Two Minor Household Floods.”
It’s been that kind of a year already, and what is it — March?
Many promising things are unfolding around us, and I am trying to keep my attitude and perspective in check, but I’m struggling.
Last night, I got home from work at 9, grabbed a snack and told my husband to meet Chummy and me in the living room. That’s code for “Let’s watch Call the Midwives.” Well, somehow the TV was never turned on and we ended up having a long talk about where we are and where we’re going.
I unloaded some baggage on my husband – basically the same baggage I’ve unloaded on him a hundred times. He probably has it memorized by now.
I’m up before 5 to read, exercise, and/or answer emails. I focus my attention on lessons with the boys during the day, which feels like top priority, but since we’re home most days and the boys are too young to be conscientious of messes, the house gets wrecked every day. And I mean wrecked. In the afternoons, I pick up some, start dinner prep, and by the time we’re done eating, I’m torn between squeezing in some chores or sitting with my family for a few minutes before I go to bed at an embarrassingly early time. Most nights, the kids wake us several times. In the meantime, I am certain we are supposed to adopt another child (or children), but am I even doing a good job with these kids? How will I manage schooling with another little one in the picture? Will the laundry ever get done? The dishes?
My husband looks at me a long while before gently asking, “When will you stop telling yourself you’re not enough?”
I know his question is dead on. It’s not about the lessons or the laundry or even whether we have three kids or ten. It’s about my forever-struggle against the Not-Enoughs.
I’ve had them my whole life. They haunted me on the playground and the basketball court and the track field. They taunted me in math class. They bit me when I failed at natural childbirth and they’ve always, always stared back from the mirror.
I am painfully aware of the problem, and I’ve prayed hundreds of prayers asking God to replace the Not-Enoughs with peace and purpose. My journal is full of such requests.
Just last week I ordered Jennie Allen’s new book Nothing to Prove: Why We Can Stop Trying So Hard. Maybe some perspective from another busy mom would get through to me?
I asked a dear friend for encouragement and accountability.
Will you please speak Truth to me when I doubt? Will you remind me that God will equip me to handle the life he has called me to live?
She did encourage me, both in person and through a thoughtful email. Her love and friendship encourage me every day.
So why was I still struggling?
I asked the question to myself and to God this morning in my quiet time. I sat with my coffee and my candle and wondered if I could ever just be fixed. If I could ever stop second-guessing myself and live a life of bold confidence that my efforts are enough – that my love for God and people and children, especially children, could be enough.
Moments later, my five-year-old came into my office and asked, “Mommy, what kinds of things do you like best?”
“I like God and family and nature best,” I answered.
“No, what kind of birthday things do you like best?” he continued.
“Hmm. I like books and plants and nice-smelling candles and dark chocolate.”
“Your birthday is tomorrow, right?”
He smiled and disappeared.
A few minutes later he asked for some tape. “The kind that sticks to boxes.”
He returned for wrapping paper.
He returned for a card. This time, he sat down on the floor of my laundry room office and asked, “How do you spell ‘Stacy’?”
I wrote it on a note and handed it to him. He copied it to the card.
“How do you spell ‘Dear’?”
I wrote it, and he copied it.
“How do you spell ‘I love you’?”
I wrote the letters carefully on a pink sticky note, words blurred by the tears in my eyes.
He smiled and left the room, coming back for a piece of ribbon.
The last time he returned, he handed me a wrapped box. “Now Mommy, you can’t open this until tomorrow — in the morning when Daddy is home too and we have pancakes and bacon.”
I took that small box and that boy into my arms and kissed him so hard, holding him for a long time so he wouldn’t see me weeping. I promised I would save it for tomorrow and thanked him for making me feel special.
“You’re welcome, Mommy. I love you.” He walked away to join his brothers at the Lego table, but turned back at the end of the hallway to yell, “And I’m hungry!”
Half an hour later, I’m still sitting with this box on my lap, trying to stop crying and get it together so I can make some breakfast!
How many prayers have I prayed?
How many times have I doubted and second-guessed and fought back against the Not-Enoughs?
I believed God would respond to my cries. I truly did. But I kept expecting the healing to take place on grown-up terms — at Bible study with my girls or through a note from a friend or some song or scripture that spoke to me in a new way.
Instead, He sang soothing, healing words over me through a child. I could not imagine a more perfect way to be loved on this day. Once again, He knew what I needed more than I even knew myself.
I don’t know what’s in this box on my lap. I’ll unwrap it in the morning at the breakfast table, surrounded by my husband and my three little loves. Honestly, it could be a dirty sock and it would still be the most meaningful gift I’ve ever received.
Maybe you’ve been praying the same prayer for weeks of months or years, hopeful for healing — hopeful for God to move.
I promise you, my friend, He will move. We may not receive our answers or our healing in the places we expected, but the God who cherishes us, the God who sings over us, would love nothing more than to give us with the sense of belonging, peace, and purpose for which we hunger.
Ask the tough questions. Pray the tough prayers. Be steadfast in your faith.
And I’ll tell you what’s in the box tomorrow… 😉