For When Your Well Is Too Deep

Dear Mother,

Maybe you’re like me and you hate, really loathe a pity party. Perhaps you’re a bootstraps kinda girl and after all, having all these babies was your decision. Nobody forced you. You know life is hard. But today, you just want a break. You need the waves to stop crashing at your doorstep.

You’ve been through a long, hard season. And saying you’re “through” it, well, it’s just not true. You are still very much in it. You need help. More than help, you need community to step alongside, to love your babies, to listen to your rambles, to do a load of laundry. You need to know somewhere someone is on their knees on your behalf and someone is pulling a casserole out of the oven just for you. Someone is thinking about you, wanting  to be a part of the light yoke you wear. Because today, it feels heavy.

Maybe you have an ill child. Or an unemployed husband. Or a baby with special needs. Maybe it seems as if your well of need is too deep and you just can’t ask one more person for one more hour of help. In your mind you’ve constructed a spreadsheet with all the hours people have given to you and you’ve determined you’ve reached the max and you are so far in the red, you have no hope of ever repaying the kindnesses that have come your way.

And yet, you need more. 

Might I suggest you push “pause” on the whirring mind that never stops? For just a moment, STOP worrying, push away the grief, the overwhelming anxiety that I know is your constant companion. I know you can’t sit in this spot for long, but do, for just a minute so you can hear this.

I understand. When it feels as though your list of burdens is too long, it is. I know you’d rather buckle down and take care of it all yourself, bear the entire burden with grace and wisdom and maturity, but honey, you need to sleep. You need to eat. And you desperately need to know you aren’t going to walk this road forever, all alone.

I have watched friends I love dearly walk through hard, soul-crushing, grief. Sometimes the road is long. Usually, the process of healing, or simply just getting through the day, is tedious. There is nothing romantic about it. It is imperfect and ugly. But this I know; it is sacred. When I fumble along the road of another person’s pain, I feel very small and very honored. It feels messy, but it feels right.

I know that when I was a 20-year-old bride with my whole future ahead of me, I didn’t see any of this coming. I had no idea how hard life could be, how sad I would be when my children were given burdens that  seem unfair and unjust. How tired I would be. And how lonely I would feel.

Might I suggest that it will not get easier from the bottom of the pit? And while, throwing a pity party once in a great while is completely normal, and perhaps even necessary, you already know it won’t change a thing. Breathe, mama. Whisper your prayers. Cry them. And then get up, and ask for help, again. Put down your pride, deny your guilt the pleasure of a comfy chair in your heart, and allow yourself to be a part of the community you say you believe in.

Some of us need a little extra help. It really is okay. I know we live in a society of “all by our own selves”, but mama, it’s not supposed to be that way. We’re supposed to do this thing together. We are supposed to be burden bearers. True love carries, and that kind of messy-handed, unyielding, imperfect, faithful love is exactly how God shows a hurting world just how kind and gentle He is.

You see, this life is hopeless if we don’t love each other well. Allow the body to be the body. Allow it to work. Allow His hands to serve you. Allow His arms to carry you. Allow His feet to walk step by step beside you. This is your God. These are His people. And in Him, all debts are canceled. You’re in the black, forever.

Breathe, mama. 

Love,

Sarah

***This post is written in the spirit of sharing the mess and the glory that Amber Haines over at The RunaMuck started with her beautiful compilation of “Dear Mother” letters. Head over there to read more and to know you are not alone.***

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Little

We’re in a season of little things, my love. Few grand gestures, rare opportunities to go all out. The little things, they really are how we count the ways, aren’t they?

Like the 3rd cherry limeade you brought me this week.

Like ten minutes you brainstormed with me yesterday.

Like the coffee you handed me as I buzzed out the door with the baby to get his ears checked again. It was creamer-ed perfectly. I don’t know how you know how I like my coffee even more than I know how I like my coffee.

Like your arm tight around me as we watched friends take their vows and the rain poured down on us and all those “gathered here.”

Like the smile on your face as you boss me when I sass you. I like that we still flirt that way. 

Like when you put the baby to bed because he has me beat and we all know it.

Like the way you let me sleep until the very last possible minute every morning.

Like when you tell me how awesome I am because the house is clean-ish when you come home. Like the way you know I need to hear those words.

Like how much faith you have in me, the way you never question if I’ll achieve my dreams or not.

Like when you work overtime to pay for my ticket to a blogging conference.

Like the way you look at me, and the absolute certainty I have in your devotion and in this life we’re living together. 

Grand gestures are wonderful, but they’re fleeting. These little things, they build. They encourage us to keep taking little steps. They’ll see us through this season of little ones and little sleep and little time and little money. It’s the little things that make the big things beautiful.

Uncovered

I heard the crash and immediately knew what I would see as I ran outside. My beautiful hand-painted ceramic flower pot, a Christmas gift, lay in a dozen or so pieces on the hard cement patio at the feet of my unremorseful 2 ½ year old.

I bit my tongue to stop the harsh words that threatened to spill off my tongue and onto the head of my blonde toddler-boy, and instead offered measured words of sadness over my broken gift. I breathed at even intervals to contain my frustration and anger. He toddled off, completely unmoved by my sadness. I knew I wasn’t yet in a place to say any more and by the time I was, his 2 ½ year old mind would have moved at lightspeed beyond the entire incident. I stood there, angry.

Then I felt a small hand on my shoulder. I looked down into the brown eyes of Cole, my oldest boy. They squinted up at me, his eyebrows slanted, and his lips pursed in empathy. He patted my shoulder a few times. I smiled into his eyes as tears filled my own eyes.

My anger flew away as I remembered…

A few days before, I returned home from a necessary trip away, having taken only the baby with me. The three older boys stayed home with their Daddy and had a marvelous weekend baking with their auntie and playing with their grandparents. When I spoke to my husband on the phone the second night I was away, he told me that Silas, our second-born always mentioned he missed me right at bed time. This didn’t surprise me, but it did touch my mama’s heart and I told my husband to make sure they all knew I missed them too. I knew Jonah at 2 1/2 is too young to express missing me, and I knew better than to ask if Cole had expressed anything similar.

He doesn’t suffer from separation anxiety and never has.

Upon returning home, I came through the door at 8:30 PM and walked immediately to the living room to greet them. Jonah was already in bed, but Silas smiled and hugged me tight. His mommy was home and now all was right in his world. I squeezed him back and kissed his head.

I turned to Cole expecting his routine and unenthused, “Hi Mommy” linked with some sort of demand, something Daddy may have forgotten or not known to do while I was away.

Instead, I looked into his boy-face and saw pain etched across it as he ran at me and wrapped his arms around my legs.

“You were gone too long, Mommy. Don’t ever do that again.”

The lump in my throat cut off my voice as I scooted myself down to press my face against his and hold him close. I pulled him to my lap and his words continued. He missed me. He was sad. He wanted to sleep in my bed that night to make up for lost time. I didn’t want to let him go, and I was ready to let him stay in my arms like a newborn baby all night if it meant we could stay just like this, attached at the heart, exactly like I’d always wanted.

And now only a few days later, standing among the pieces of my broken flower pot, his eyes held mine for so much longer than a moment, and he was sorry for me. He wanted me to feel better and so he reached out his hand to pat my shoulder. And he held my gaze until I smiled.

My brilliant boy, so different than most, had to learn that. Slowly, methodically. We taught him to care. We practiced empathy with him. His teachers have contrived situation after situation and practiced the appropriate responses. He has worked hard. And he’s doing it.

My cup overflows.

But I didn’t teach him to want me. He didn’t practice missing me. No one has told him he should feel that way about his Mommy.

For 5 ½ years I have struggled to accept that he never would. He’d love me just like he loves everyone, with great enthusiasm. But the attachment that I enjoy with my other boys was not to be with my Cole. Most days, I managed to make peace with it. The blessings of autism can far outweigh the curses, but sometimes my heart ached for all I was missing with my first baby boy. It could never feel completely natural.

And now here he was, arms tightly wrapped around me, begging me to never leave again. I can’t explain how it happened, except that I know God is in the business of grace. Perhaps someone looking in on our little living room scene would simply see a mother and her boy, a little too old to be so moved by her return.

But in my heart, I see amazing grace.

Our experience with autism thus far has been one of slowly uncovering the hidden parts of our son, the parts autism threatened to rob him of forever, accepting that some things are gone for good, and embracing the unique gifts it has given him.

This was a moment of uncovering.

What once was lost now is found.

Amazing grace.