I know it’s been awhile. I have much to tell you all—and I hope I can find the words in time because it’s a good story. I’ve been ill for a little while and I’m finally on the better side of it, stretching towards recovery, wholeness and health…I opened up the computer to figure out where to begin and found a draft I never let fly. It seems like a good time now:
October 2016—I was sorting my laundry this week, and when I tell you we have laundry at our house of eight, I mean enter the laundry room at your own risk. Actually, that’s not always true, at least it wasn’t two weeks ago…but it was very true several years ago, and it was true today. But OK, let me back up and explain.
Two weeks ago I had six kids 15 years old and under working as a team on all the things that threaten to morph into “at risk” situations, i.e. the laundry, the dishes, etc.
(I’ve worked hard at this “team” thing in our home; everyone has a job and we rotate. It helps in regards to the workload, learning responsibility, as well as having a sense of contributing value to our little tribe here. It hasn’t always gone smoothly though. Last year, I decided to focus intensely on it, so it’s been a solid last year of enjoying a true team effort around the house.)
But, recently, as I write this, an amazing out-of-state educational adventure presented itself for my two oldest boys (we homeschool) and I no longer have my team together. My boys have (temporarily) taken flight for the first time from our home. As I write this, I now have four children 11 and under working as a team to create more “at risk” situations than I can even…
To say the least, I really didn’t realize how huge of a “contribution” my oldest boys were making. We all have felt the loss of their presence, on many levels. (I can’t believe this post isn’t about my mama heart watching my boys fly for the first time!)
OK, reigning me in…So, there I was in my laundry room (this week) trying to take a deep breath as it all came back to me…
I could see me in between the mountains of laundry that I’ll admit to frequently laying down smack in the middle of, admitting total and complete defeat. In so many ways, I died there. I know I can be a bit dramatic, but really.
Every mama does die, one way or another, to her former self—in order to emerge intact. Many of us, several times (raises hand here). Pregnancy, that picture of our bodies changing shape in every way—that gives us our first clue…but we usually miss it (raises hand again). That’s another conversation.
For now, however, I realize again, I “died”, oh, it was not lovely—yet, here I am, living…alive.
How did that happen?
For one instant this week the memories of it all came back to me, that first decade of parenting where six bodies dwelled and exited my small frame. The sense of fullness and emptiness racked my mind with reality. Oh. That. Really. Happened.
A common refrain, from the mommas who have been there and lived to tell, “The days are long, but the years are short”, kinda floated by in the air as I reached my hands out to the washing machine and wall to brace myself. Wow.
I remembered, the years before, sitting down on those laundry mounds stretching into my kitchen, overwhelmed. My youngest, not even one year then, brought me a book to read to him…since I was sitting down and all. Oh, the little years that are not so little, but then are…all of the sudden, not so suddenly.
I finished reading him the book, he toddled off and I laid me down. Right there on the laundry room floor and I cried. Later that day I found the little notebook I carried around and wrote poems in. I laid me down, in words, prayers, born from the tears.
This was important because it wasn’t the laundry that made me cry, it was the mental anguish, the fears that the laundry wouldn’t let me not face, it was the questions the laundry wouldn’t let me escape. I mean…If I couldn’t contain the laundry how could I contain the children?
If I couldn’t keep the house, how could I tend their souls?
If I couldn’t take a shower in peace, how could I shower them with peace?
How could I be, “a wise woman who builds her home” that my children would one day “rise and call blessed” and want to come back and see me at Christmas, at least???
Who would want to see this, this tired, overwhelmed me? I didn’t even want to see me.
I am in company in writing when I am afraid.
“Even when the way goes through
I’m not afraid
when you walk at my side.
Your trusty shepherd’s crook
makes me feel secure.
You serve me a six-course dinner
right in front of my enemies.
You revive my drooping head;
my cup brims with blessing.
Your beauty and love chase after me
every day of my life.
I’m back home in the house of God
for the rest of my life.” —King David (Psalm 23:4-6)
I know there are “bigger problems” in the world, I knew that then, but in my world, the fear was so real, it became the world I lived in. Fear masquerades as reality, and has been the lie behind more than a few runaway mommas. I used to wonder why, but in that season, I didn’t wonder anymore. I needed truth, like I needed water. I needed to find a way through; words, sang or wept, read or written, have so often been that door for me.
A modern day “psalmist”, Rich Mullins, often captured the heart of a psalm and translated them for us as he sang. I feel like he took Psalm 23 and summed it up in one marvelous string of words;
“I’m home anywhere, if You are where I am.”
I’m so thankful for words. In the book of John we get a peek into a conversation where one day Jesus turns around to two of John’s disciples and asked, “What are you seeking?” They replied, “Rabbi, where are you staying?”
I hear this, when I read those words: Where is your abode? How do I be there with you?
I get that question. I want to be with Jesus, here, now, not some far off day. I might not make it that far.
“How do I be with You?” This is a cry of the heart prayer. Sometimes it just feels like anxiety but if we listen close, sometimes, beneath the surface, we can hear the truth words trembling, forming.
In the valley of death between the laundry mountains, how do I be with You? In my deepest fears about whether or not I have what it takes for this thing called motherhood?…for this thing called life? How do I be with You? How do I LIVE, ALIVE?? “I’m home anywhere if You are where I am.”
It’s taken me a few months to complete this post, so as I write you now, my guys are home (and we’re all happy for more reasons than help with the laundry, really 😉 ). This week, it won’t be quite so overwhelming to keep everyone in clean clothes, but other things will rise up like mountains in my way, and your way; illnesses, losses, financial burdens, loneliness, etc.
The temptation is to stop and die the death that destroys, but there is a different death we must face, more people than we know are depending on it. Truest of all; true you and true me. It is the death that crosses the scariest divides we’ve ever faced. It is the death that promises resurrection but not until we’ve truly laid our all down, not until we’re ready.
I hope we’ll hear Jesus calling us onward together. “What are you seeking?” He can make our feet like deer leaping across the side of mountains, try to imagine that if you’re lying on your own unlovely deathbed right now. Be patient and know that some things can’t be rushed, but it’s all gonna be alright. Yes, we’re giving up “everything”…getting every real thing in return. Life alive is real, it’s just past and through the land called fear.
We may have to travel through many times. Let a few words open the way…
“Jesus, there is no other place that my spirit dwells in peace and full release than in Your Presence. Help me to know and understand Your nearness now, even in this place…
In my pouring out, let me be entirely Yours–caught by You, found, seen.
Then, would You fill me up again?…” —Pray, Like a Woman in Labor
Praying through the fears and the laundry and seeking the wonder of His Presence with you this week,
Please pass this on to anyone else you think would find some courage knowing we’re facing our fears together, finding peace in the now.
Whether you are a physical or spiritual parent, or simply soul hungry to let Mercy lead, I’m with you. I’ve written a book of honest prayers I’d love to put into your hands. We need each other. We need to be honest, pray and strengthen each other. My book is based on the prayer Jesus gave his disciples, with space for journaling as well as prompts to dig deeper in faith, not fear—Buy It Here.