A few months ago, Chris said to me ever so timidly “You know, I haven’t wanted to say anything…(long pause)…but, the way you are interacting with the kids, its just off a little. Like it’s not “you” and I don’t know why.” If I wasn’t also so aware of what he was speaking to, I would have been tempted to be gravely offended. But I felt it too. Like things were one step off. We talked long and tried to trouble-shoot. We wondered together about what could be amiss. Depression? No, we both agreed we knew what that looked like for me, not like this. Over-committed? No. Maintaining pretty good boundaries on time and life stuff. We didn’t pinpoint it that night we had talked. I just did what I knew to do and kept pursuing Love.
December rolled around with all it’s extra activity and bustle and expectations. It was one of those holiday seasons (maybe you’ve never had one like this) that just doesn’t feel ripe with meaning and beauty. I’d poured out a great deal of heart and soul and prayer on some matters very dear to my heart….and by Christmas was feeling discouraged and disillusioned at the reality of things. Instead of looking forward with great anticipation at the respite that was coming my way in January as I’d planned a weekend away with a friend, I grew intensely fearful. This trip loomed larger than life instead of being a bright spot in my days to come. Anxiety hasn’t ever really been a big thing for me, other stuff tends to trip me up. But I was undone with a sense of worry and fear. I couldn’t talk about going on the trip with anyone. When I did I would usually cry.
I began to wonder what in the world was wrong with me. I knew I’d encountered some major losses. I had hoped beyond hope for some big things that didn’t come to fruition. That is never easy. Ever. But still, this unexplained dread took over my days and I pictured myself getting on a plane and hyperventilating in my seat as we departed. I finally told my friend I wasn’t sure I could go. She was of course kind and said we would do whatever we needed and if I couldn’t manage to go, that was totally okay.
It was finally a conversation with a lifelong friend that turned the lights on. As we talked over text (which I don’t usually love but wow, with 14 children between the two of us, talking is hard to come by!), I spoke words into my phone in a quiet whisper sitting in the garage one afternoon. I sat on the back steps and wept in the cold air as I realized why I was so beside myself in this uncharacteristic way.
Just waking up and getting out of bed every single day, caring intentionally for my husband then loving, educating, serving and equipping my children…all the while trying to help make sense of life for a child that is struggling in big ways….it feels like just doing that requires all the bravery I can find. Each day I’m living takes every ounce of brave this heart can muster. So I suppose, that’s why I can’t do this trip and leave my kids for three days. Plumb out of bravery.
And that was it. My every day took every bit of brave. So of course none was left. Knowing this was what made it so easy for me to walk up to the sweet older grandma at a Christmas event that same week and pour love over her with my words. As she cared with such patience for her autistic grandson I told her boldly how precious her obvious love for him was and what a gift it was she was giving, even if he didn’t know. When you can’t make life feel doable for a child whom you love and would give your life for, it takes such a toll on your heart. But you don’t quit. You just keep loving. And it is brave, the loving.
January came. Days passed fast and Sunday before the trip came. My kids didn’t even know there was a trip coming up. More anxiety bubbled over as I wondered if it was one of those gut feelings you should trust and I should stay home. What if I cried on the plane? What if I had any sort of unpleasant mama meltdown whilst on this supposed wonderful getaway/conference? What if something terrible happened with the kids while I was gone? What if I summoned myself to finally go and the time was disappointing? Then the clearest words came to my heart as I pondered what to do. What if I go on this trip, believing there is something great for me taking this time away, and nothing happens? What if despite my desperate expectation for God to meet me there and make some sense of things, He doesn’t?
The what if’s. Oh the life they can steal right out from under us. So I stared them in the face and packed my suitcase (but not until 9 pm the night before the departing flight!). I didn’t feel brave. I just literally shoved a few clothes in an old backpack and got in my car and left.
What I encountered when I finally had space and time and quiet would literally breathe life into my soul. I had utterly no idea how desperately I needed time away. Time with no agenda. No activity. A beloved speaker to listen to yes, but lots of time and room to not need to do anything for anyone. This felt so radical for me. So indulgent. But it was life. I took a birds eye view to my life and could see clearly things that had pressed in too hard on my everyday for me to be able to sort out. And with the view came a lot of emotion. But there was space for that. Space to listen to my own heart and give myself permission to grieve and room too for hope to seep in to every broken place.
I haven’t written in so long. And I didn’t really know where to begin (again). So I decided to just start with this little window into the last season before getting to the next one. For you precious few who still read, I am thankful and hope that you can find space if you need it, to do something brave. Even if that is just getting out of bed tomorrow and living your one and only life you have to live.