I've had this blog post swirling in my mind for a week or so. It has been written, rewritten, and reviewed. I hesitate to share it. I love being real on here, but is this too real? Do I really want to invite unknown people into this part? Truth be told, no, I don't want to.
Let's just get this out there right from the start. I do not have it all together. I am not super mama. I am not amazingly spiritual.
I can't quite put my finger on it, but in the last week or so, the enemy has crept in and filled my mind with lies and stolen my joy. Just like the blink of an eye or the flick of a switch--poof--joy gone. Joy that used to fill my heart and soul with abundance and joy that kept me going even in the tough stuff. Somewhere, in the midst of all these lies, mothering has become a job. Not just any job. A job I don't always want to face, a job I want to slack off on, a job I want to quit at times (yes, it is true), and a job I quite frankly don't feel qualified to do. My heart's cry has been for Him to restore my joy. Please God, please....restore my joy. Help me to find fulfillment in this job. Help me to want to do it. Help me to see it as privilege and not burden.
Something happened. The jump from three to four children, the ages of all four combined, the needs to manage a home with six people living in it, the demands of schooling one of those children full time....something happened. It is a lot. I am spread thin. I feel often like a machine. I get up, I feed mouths, I clean up, I dress bodies, I launder and fold, put away and hang up, I prepare another meal, clean up, referee fights, discipline, train, educate, wipe up messes, and clean up mountains of toys. It feels so....mundane. So boring. So useless. Please God, get me out of this Arctic tundra of joylessness. Dry as the Sahara. I am parched and need watering.
What has happened? I don't know. I struggle to find time for anything other than the basic and mundane. Please excuse the state of my home the next time you are in it because doing anything more than a random vacuum or swipe of a Clorox wipe is well beyond my abilities right now.
There is so much hard about mothering four children (and those of you with more than four are laughing, saying how easy four really is). Each day I lose my temper (y'all think I have it all together, but let me assure you, I do not). I fail. I say and do things I have to apologize to my children for. I go to bed with regret and tell myself tomorrow will be different. A good bit of sleep and I will rise with the joy. It will return. Then I wake up (an hour earlier than I typically do in attempt to be able to get ready entirely alone....a huge part of my sanity and start to my days and that has yet to happen since China). Instead of peacefully getting ready, focusing my mind on Him, I have one child throwing a massive tantrum on the bathroom floor before I can even wrap my shower drenched body in a towel, another instantly whining that oatmeal is not an acceptable breakfast option, a child dancing around who cannot obey me to go to the bathroom alone as asked, and another complaining that the others woke them from slumber too soon. Did I even get all the conditioner out of my hair? Is that a zit on my nose? When was the last time I actually brushed all of my teeth? Sigh....... And I stand in the middle of my bathroom half dressed and dripping with five unhappy bodies crammed into the smallest room in our itty bitty house and I want to cry. Will today really be any different than yesterday? I feel my blood boiling and it isn't even 7AM yet. God, where is my joy?! I want to stomp my feet and demand that He give it back. Right....this....instant.
And the enemy creeps in and whispers more lies in my ears. These circumstances are hard. They are wasted minutes. Useless time. All this wiping of bottoms, creating of meals, training of children--wasted and useless. What about ME, right? Who am I?
My joy is being determined by the circumstances around me--how much snot, saliva, food, and play dough I have caked to my shirt by 9AM is dictating how joyful I feel. Yes, in the bigger picture and grand scheme of things, it is pretty challenging right now to survive a whole day. Getting through an entire day is victory. In all my demands for God to return my joy, I feel like things have actually gotten worse. Doesn't He hear me? How can anything good come out of the chaos my life has become?
Then I see the cross. I see the gross and the gory. The undeniable reality that on Good Friday it appeared that absolutely nothing good could possibly come from what God was allowing to happen to His Son. Circumstances were hard. Very hard. Pain was intense. Hearts were breaking. Cries were being shouted to heaven. And in God's great mercy and grace, He allowed the pain to continue. Had He taken Jesus down from that cross, we wouldn't have the joy that comes with Easter, would we? They joy yet to come far outweighed the cost of enduring the pain of Good Friday.
Maybe my hard right now is God's tremendous grace and mercy to me. Because He knows that after I walk through this time, where the joy isn't abundant, that Easter will come and the rejoicing and shouts of praise will return. Maybe I need to look harder. The joy is there, but the enemy is trying to shroud it in negativity. I just have to look harder. Things that are frustrating and hard can be seen as precious.
Instead of begrudgingly wearing Hannah yet again in the ergo carrier to fold laundry and prepare meals (things I can accomplish in half the time without a 22 lb load strapped to my chest), I can find joy and praise that He provided me with a child who wants to be held, who can tolerate that closeness, who seeks to experience that level of connection. I can praise Him that she fits so perfectly in that spot, to nuzzle up and set her cadence to the rhythm of my heart beat. Instead of hating that I have to face yet another battle over school, I can rejoice that I have the privilege of educating my child at home and get to choose another approach for next year that might help us both feel more excited. Instead of seeing all the minutes lost while calming a hysterical child over a discipline issue, I can praise Him for the minutes of snuggles afterward and the eyes opened to things requiring attention. Instead of getting annoyed at the constantly injured child, I can thank God that this child runs to me and knows me as Mama and healer of all boo boos. The joy is there.
But joy is not and cannot be determined by my circumstances. Joy must each day be based upon reality. Reality is that I am a horrible sinner. I fail every.....single....day. I drive a wedge between myself and God over and over and over again. But then there is Jesus...... Jesus, who cleanses me of all this muddy, messy failure. Who presents me as whole and blameless. I deserve death and eternal wrath. Yet there He is, on a bloody cross, where the circumstance seems so utterly and profoundly like a mistake, but oh no. It is no mistake. It is precisely where God wanted Him to be. Reality is that I am still and continue to be precisely where God wants me to be. He called me to mother these children. He placed each one of them in my care. He never said it would be easy. He never promised the joy would bubble over ferociously. He simply placed me here and gave me a job to do. And so I mother them, whether the circumstance provides me with joy or not. Because the joy comes from the knowledge that I am His and He is weaving each part of these hard, demanding, draining days together for my good. And I trust Him.
The enemy tells me my days are awful. My clothes are stained. The knees of my jeans are worn from crawling on the floor. I have marker on my sleeve, crusted oatmeal on my chest, boogers on my shoulder, saliva dribbles on the other shoulder, sticky juice in my hair, and tear stains down the front my shirt. I've forgotten to unhook the belt of the ergo carried strapped around my waist and it dangles uselessly to my knees. I've disciplined three of the four before we hit the breakfast table. The enemy says this is a hard day. A worthless day. A day to wallow in self pity and grumbling about the lack of joy. It is hard and the enemy tries to make me feel isolated and alone in the hard parts.
But then He tells me my days are packed with meaning. He sees my clothes as radiant white. He tells me I've rebuked sin and pointed toward the gospel. It is a day He ordained for me. It is where He wants me. It is what He has called me to do. He reminds me that I have been blessed that mothering has brought me such joy for as long as it has and He promises me that it will, indeed, return one day. He tells me He never promised me that it wouldn't be hard, but He does guarantee I will not face it alone.
So that might be more real than you wanted me to be. Things are hard. Mothering four isn't easy. I fail. But I have blessed assurance that Jesus is mine. You know what else He tells me? The joy? His word tells me sorrow lasts only for the night and the joy comes with the morning. I know the joy will return. In the meantime? I rest peacefully knowing that this hard--it is exactly what He ordained for me. I walk securely knowing the joy of Easter will come.
**As an aside for all you wonderfully concerned blog readers and followers, no, I am not depressed. No, I am not struggling with post-adoption depression. No, I do not need suggestions for how to "get happy." I do find joy in life. I do smile and laugh out loud. I'm merely struggling with "the job" right now. Things are hard and challenging, but I am by no means experiencing total misery. Thank you in advance for wanting to ensure my total and complete happiness.**