...Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.
There was an extended period in these early years of mothering young ones, where I tried desperately to keep my mouth shut in public. I couldn't muster positive truisms, only heart-felt confessions of how dark my heart felt. With confidants I shared the hardest of my hard days, and here on this blog I walked through many of the valleys, pointing to Jesus' promises as I trudged along in faith. Many of you sojourned beside me.
After five years of hard days, each one seemingly out-doing the one before, I was finally diagnosed with prolonged postpartum depression. Relief and sadness mingled at the diagnosis. While the prescribed remedies, purposed to bring my natural hormones back in balance, didn't bring instantaneous healing, I have come to realize in recent days that I am indeed on the other side. It once was Friday, but today is my Resurrection Celebration of Sunday.
These past couple of weeks as people have casually asked, "Hey, how are you?" Both surface level and sincere, this greeting was once a knife. But not recently! The realization that I feel truly happy has brought tears to my eyes with each greeting the past few weeks.
"Hey, How are you?"
"I'm good... I'm really good."
I have walked through the fire and am standing on the other side. And what I see before me is more beautiful than I could have imagined. This... this is what I see. These are the smiles, still smiling. These are the soft-hearted boys, still eager for tuck-ins. These are the ones I colored with and made smoothies with today. These are my sons, and their love has covered a multitude of my weary sins, though my goal was to let my love cover a multitude of theirs.
It's all such a miracle, this Love Covering. Jesus' love poured out is what we celebrate this Holy week! The darkness of Good Friday; the literal darkness of the sky that horrid day, and the figurative darkness of our soul's sin and sadness. Jesus' Love Covering, the blood cleansing, the absolute forgiveness of sins. Hope for death, depression and darkness. The Sunshine promise of Sunday, and even more than Sunday... forever! Once, for all! And I am here to attest that in your hard days, your darkest nights, your whacked out hormones and your own sin-nature... His love is covering, cleansing, restoring, refining, and transforming the hearts that turn to Him today.
And so I ask you, "Hey, How are you today?"
For He rescued us from the domain of darkness,
and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son,
in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
"How are you today?"
I waited patiently for the Lord;
He turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
and put their trust in him.
"How are you?"
The night is nearly over;
the day is almost here.
"How are you?"
I'm a testimony of Sunday's power! And, Sunday is coming, Friends! Sunday is coming!
One of my children has been going through a real challenging time lately. But that's his story, and not my own, so I am learning to not share details. Yet I am keenly aware, as I relinquish the story of his life to him, that these early chapters are producing in him faith, endurance, and maturity.
Consider it pure joy, my brethren,
when you encounter various trials,
For you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance.
And may perseverance have it's perfect result,
That you may be perfect and complete,
Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial
Because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life
That the Lord has promised to those who love him. James 1:2-4, & 12
It's taken me 30 years of grappling to learn this lesson, but already I see The Refiner producing beautiful things in my boy's life with fire.
It is true, God uses the hard to turn our hearts to Him. The trials, tests and the tribulation are lovingly balanced in the same Holy hand that generously disperses blessings and unmerited grace. It is from the hand of a loving God, a kind and caring Father, that anointed trials come to us. Not by accident.
I had the immeasurable pleasure of speaking to a dynamic Women's group yesterday, sharing much of my own journey to understanding these truths... that God is kind, sovereign, purposeful and good, even in the darkest of trials. Today, as I honor my son by keeping his own journey private, I recognize that God is kind, and sovereign, and purposeful, and good, even in the darkest of my boy's trials as well. How marvelous. How wonderful. How confident I can be in the plans that God has for him!
"For I know the plans I have for you", declares the Lord,
"Plans to prosper you, not to harm you,
Plans to give you hope and a future."
And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally
finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. Philippians 1:6
I've heard other mothers of young children say, "I pray that God will spare my children suffering. I want them to have very boring testimonies." Personally, I don't pray that anymore. Suffering is the way to the cross. Suffering and trials are the refining tools of maturity. And I want that (maturity) for us all!
Hearts that cling to Him, are cultivated in lives that are painfully aware of how desperately we need Him. Theologically, we all can agree we need Him for salvation, but the life that clings, that passionately holds on and abides with tenacity, is developed via "various trials". Yes, the life that tucks in and stays close to the Light... has come fleeing the darkest of nights.
I don't know how the "tone" of this post is transmitting, though I hope you sense my faith, trust, and even joy. I trust God with my sons.
For (you) are His workmanship,
created in Christ Jesus for good works,
which God prepared beforehand
so that (you will) walk in them.
I am honored God gave all three of my sons to me, to nurture and admonish, ever pointing us all to Jesus along the way. As for my story, I've had to trust God more than ever before, and that's produced in me perseverance. Amazing to me, the same author is telling a similar story in the lives of my sons.
"Do you trust Me?"
"Yes", was my answer. And I did and I do. I trust the Lord with my 8 year old son, Brody, as he makes his way from my homeschooling side into a traditional classroom five days a week. But getting to that trusting place was a journey, one you may have sojourned with me here. I was happy to share the journey because I wanted to testify to the One who is so worthy of our trust. And as I shared, my heart filled with praise as I recounted the work God did in my heart. "Yes, I trusted Him with my Brody."
Then, in the middle of the very next night, I woke with a start. My heart was constrained within my breast. The room was dark and my mind was consumed with fear... fear over my first born son. Caleb had gone to bed that night with tears. He relaxed as I stroked his bare back, confiding as he calmed. He wept and said, "I can't get my writing done in class. I just can't focus in class to write. I just can't! I'm behind in my autobiography, and now we're starting our history research paper, and then I'll be writing my biography on Davy Crocket. In class! All of them in class."
And now I lay in bed, hours after he finally succumbed to sleep, thinking, "what can I do to help him? What should I have done? His writing was so good when we home schooled. He had a quiet room, with drapes we would close specifically for times when he would write. I didn't label it ADHD at the time, because I've never been able to read a paragraph or write a cohesive thought if there was any noise around me. Even classical music for heaven's sake! So I got it, and I gave him an environment where he could thrive.
But now, in a classroom with 24 bodies, complete with movement and noise enticing his focus away, he feels lost. And so I gave into tears and fears of my own, lost as to how I might help him.
Then, somewhere around 3:30 that morning the familiar voice came again. "Do you trust me?" "Of course!" I cried, "remember yesterday? I trusted you completely with Brody, even when it's hard..."
The dialogue trailed off. "with Brody, even when it's hard..."
You've got to be kidding me! Not him too!!! I've got to trust God with Caleb too? Even when it's hard? Oh no, especially when it's hard. It doesn't take faith to trust God when it's smooth sailing. Faith is for the fiercest gail. And in that storm, on the weak boat of your own understanding, at night's darkest hour, faith takes sight of a Savior, walking across the water.
Yes, absolutely, Caleb too.
The next morning I awoke Caleb the same way I had sent him to sleep, with the gentle stroke of a mother's hand on a child's back. When he stirred and wiped the sleep from his eyes, I spoke these words.
"Caleb, I've been talking to God about your school work. And I want you to know what sort of conversation the Lord and I had about you, okay?"
"Okay," he said with his raspy morning voice.
"Caleb, I trust that God made you absolutely perfect the way you are. There isn't a mistake in your whole body. God doesn't make mistakes. The bible tells us that you are fearfully and wonderfully made, and I believe it! So that means God made you with this difficulty focusing in class. And so I am just going to choose to trust Him when things are tough. Can you do that with me?" He nodded. "You have got to give every school day your absolute best. And when you bomb, and you sometimes will, you are going to do the same project over at home in your room, on the weekend. This is not punishment. It is our way of partnering with your teacher to make sure you're picking up what she's putting down. Get what I'm saying?" He nodded again.
As I type this new testimony, I know I should expect some issue with my youngest in the days ahead. Therefore, right here, right now I'm going to choose to surrender him too. Choosing to Trust God with Asher's life as well.
These last days have been eye opening for me. I didn't know how weak my faith was, but I am thankful that God used these present trials to grow me.
The boys have been learning James 1:2-4 at school this week; three verses I committed to memory when I was their age.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds; because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish it's work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Of all the verses I hid in my heart as a child, these are the ones I have admitted most freely to not understanding. Until this week. I see now why we are to be joyful in affliction. Without the difficulties of life we would never be forced to trust Him, never need to persevere in faith, and therefore we would never mature and be complete in Christ. Yes, I am joyful today. Puffy eyed after a sleepless night, but joyful.
The LORD is my strength and my shield;
my heart trusts in him, and I am helped.
My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.
I sign off today with another pictorial tribute: This one goes out to Caleb's new teacher, and his new school, where the maturing process is underway, in the classroom, on the lacrosse field, during lunch, in chapel...
It's been a long day... week... month... start of the school year... five years. Truly. Going to three boys (five years ago) sent me for a loop, a loop that's still left me whirling.
There's this thing now that feels like anger. Before I had children I don't remember ever being truly angry. O, wait, there was the once when I was about 7, and my brother told me to "shut-up". I got so angry I swatted at him like an uncoordinated schoolgirl, hitting him awkwardly in the mouth, and ripping open the flesh on my finger against his new braces. Then he laughed at me and I got even angrier. Other than that I only recall feeling sad when I was wronged. Never angry. Then I had children. But even now, as I write this, I'm not even sure I'm angry. When I look back to the top of this paragraph I see the phrase "feels like anger". It's more like frustration stacked upon weariness stacked on dry bones, stacked upon all those expectations. You know the ones, that child-rearing was simply easel painting and cookie making with sweet tuck-in's at the end of each laughter infused day. All those things stacked upon my mothering shoulders, and I'm done by three pm each day. My Long-Suffering, is short. My Patience, is not. My Love, is spent. My Joy, is simply a cousin who lives in Arizona.
I'm aware that my lack of quiet me time, not enough sleep, and inconsistent diet and exercise isn't helping, so I am trying to sanctify some quiet anchors to hold me down each day. To ground me, so that the storms of behavior, learning challenges, messes, brother-squabbles, and unmet expectations don't drag me to that "feels like anger" place.
Today I knew that there wasn't much time for me. 24 minutes was all I could squeeze in if I didn't take a shower. So I got on the elliptical machine in the garage, gave the boys a movie for their "P.E." (yeah, I know), and grabbed my Bible and my new book "Unglued," and hit it hard. After reading through my study and writing (in awkward chicken scratch — due to the funny lobbing up and down of the elliptacle), I finally broke into chapter one of "Unglued," by Lysa TerKeurst. Within the first two sentences I felt as though I had written the book. Me, but on the other side of the weariness, where hope lives.
I wanted to share with you my favorite line from today's (bumpy) reading. Already underlined by my sweet friend who is sharing this treasure of a book.
I thought of that stuff that "feels like anger," but is really so much more complicated. And I thought of the times I most assuredly respond in anger to my beloved boys, and I made this pledge: No More. But Lysa stopped me before I could start. She went on to say that women tend to want their transformation over night when they make a vow to change. But it doesn't. Miracle that it is. It's a process. One foot in front of the other, moment to moment process that she calls "Imperfect Progress." And so I am embarking on this, imperfect journey towards an increase fruit: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control.
My son and I responded:
Ladybug in green
Cold without freedom inside
- Ladybug set free
Spring, O Bloom,
Bloom forth in me!
Lifts up to Thee.
And Deep Core Seed.
All of Me,
Yes, All of Me.
Raised up to Thee.
I took a moment today, in between the teaching and the laundry, foregoing another sink full of dishes to walk out into my garden. Discovering new blooms within the dark green spring-leaves of my rose bushes each day has brought me so much joy these past two weeks. It's silly how much, really. I wonder if it is because our home is so noisy and I am the only girl within it that I long for beauty. Or maybe it's just the private places in my heart that the Lord made that way.
One of my 8 rose bushes alone had 24 enormous buds just days away from opening. So I cut all of the perfectly unfurled ones and brought them inside. Vase after vase.
The dishes were all still waiting for me when I came in, and somehow three little people were all hungry again. These beauties don't erase the busy necessities all around, but they do add a fragrance. A fragrance that reminds me of my Grandma, and a beauty that heralds I remember that I am a girl here within this house full of boys. Each day as the sun rises higher and higher, these bouquets of creation brought within tease me to break away again and find the warmth of a new day, new blessings, new kind words. All things beautiful.
All of me,
Yes, All of Me.
Raised up to Thee.
Today I took a long, soul-satisfying walk beside the lake. Spring was underfoot and in the trees; it budded, chirped, and blew all around. I strode happily, though the hills were high and the heart in my chest beat steadily. Time alone in God's creation is rare for me. If you have little ones with you all day each day you understand. But here was my moment and I walked until my muscles quaked from exhaustion... and then turned back and headed home. Celtic Music wafted from the cell phone in my pocket, keeping a happy rhythm for my feet to jig along home to.
When clouds gathered to block the sun I untied the sweatshirt at my waist and put it on. Mist came upon thick in a Springtime moment, then cleared away again. On and off my sweatshirt went.
Around the last bend I came to a meadow of wild lupine, cobalt and striking, and stopped to pick myself a nosegay. Instantly I knew the vase I'd use for the evening dinner table.
As I continued up the final hill to our home, with the music, and the flowers, and the vista, it began to rain. Not a rain that soaks you through or makes one melancholy, but a happy sort of rain with just the right number of droplets to increase joy.
As I cleared the final hilltop and saw my home I thought how much like a character from a Jane Austin book I must appear, and a soul-springing-up smile spread across my face. My husband stood on the porch talking with a neighbor, and I waved.
It was a wonderful walk. I came home nourished from the inside, ready to love my beloveds fresh again.
On a Holiday such as Thanksgiving I love a perfectly set table with gleaming crystal and an overflowing fragrant centerpiece; I love the gentle strains of a string quartet mingling with the aromas brought on by 24 hours of cooking. O... and how I LOVE well groomed children wearing coordinating shirts, sitting patiently (and thankfully) around the table, eagerly awaiting our feast! But let's be realistic here...
This was how our Thanksgiving Day looked.
Shirts were tossed off
In lieu of sunshine on the skin.
Tire swings and branches,
Basketballs and dirt bikes,
Happy outside boy bodies.
They came to the table with sweat.
They came to the table
Switching place cards with brothers
so they could sit next to a specific friend.
They came to the table
pointing out the things they would eat
and the things they wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole!
Then they gobbled up their turkey and asked for more Martinelli's
They were loud with laughter and... thanks.
It was all a bit chaotic for me. Truth be told it always is. But in hindsight I'm challenged to be thankful myself. Thankful for the three boy bodies shooting out energy and joy from each and every pore. Thankful for the space here at home for them to romp and roam and play. Thankful for friends with bushels of boys who understand our crazy Holiday madness.
Have I given up on table manners? HEAVENS NO! Did I still buy them coordinating Christmas sweaters that will end up on the floor before Grandma can snap a picture on Christmas Eve? Yes, yes, yes... Ideals, Ladies! Ideals! I am a sentimental fool and spend much energy each day correcting behavior and training their outward manners and inward hearts. But I refuse to let their BOY-ness shatter my THANKFUL-ness. I commit each day to be Thankful for what they are that day, even as they interrupt my quiet and controlled dreams of elegant Holiday tables. Let's purpose to enjoy them as boys as we help cultivate them into Gentlemen.
A special welcome to those visiting from