July 24, 2017 | Nina
I have been living in a bit of a dark place lately; the sun doesn't always shine there and my baby’s cute smiles aren't always contagious. Nothing seems to turn out as I hope and sometimes there doesn't seem to be much point. These dark places can creep up on us and all of a sudden we feel we’re drowning without a life vest.
We had been having a fairly good run with the new baby and three kids didn’t actually seem so bad.
Then I remembered.
Oh how I painfully remembered. The baby waking after one sleep cycle, getting into bed only to hear them cry, again, dropping a piece of paper on the floor and somehow they seemed to hear it and wake up. Getting annoyed at your partner because ‘you put your toothbrush back too noisily and she’ll hear you’, hearing a faint sound in the background and betting all you own that it most definitely IS the baby, again. Strategising in the early hours about how long to let them try to resettle or whether they’re old enough to still be hungry at that time, preparing a bottle of water so they might kick that 11pm wake up. Aaahhh, I had long forgotten these days and now they are my reality once more. Hence, my dark days.
I recently re-read (and saw the movie of) The Shack after feeling somehow drawn to it on my bookshelf. I thoroughly enjoyed it the first time and I knew I had to read it again. (I totally recommend this book as a beautiful, helpful and captivating story of who God is).
In the book, Jesus’ character speaks to Mack (the main character who is wrestling with the continued grief over the loss of his abducted daughter) about how we as humans try to be autonomous from God but that He never intended it to be that way. He says that we are either living in the past and losing sleep over things that have already happened or our heads are in the future, concerned with what will be, how things will pan out - will we be financially secure, will my child grow out of this thing; the list goes on.
You see, the other thing that has been clouding my days is worry about what the future will look like with my boy who is highly emotionally sensitive and has trouble eating.
I have spent countless hours looking back on decisions I made over his first 4 years - how I wasn’t patient with him as a baby, how frustrated I would be with him - right in front of him, how mad he made me. Of how maybe if I would have tried baby led weaning (which I hadn’t even heard of yet) then maybe he would be more adventurous with his food. If I would have had a game plan that was relaxed when he became a problem feeder maybe he would have grown out of it or if I didn’t wipe his hands so much and keep him squeaky clean as a baby maybe he wouldn’t be so wary of mess.
Then there’s worrying about the future; what if he never improves or what if he stops eating more of his already limited foods? What if he can’t adjust to full time school because it’s too emotionally tiring? What if he gets labelled as naughty because his reactions are misunderstood?
The absence of hope can destroy us. As soon as we start to feel that something won’t come to an end or is inevitable we start to panic and become overwhelmed.
It is very out of character for me but I have spent too many moments since having children (and even more in the last couple of years) a little breathless, rapid heartbeat, panicking that this future I dread; one of thousands more uneaten meals and behaviour that overpowers me, will be my concrete reality. It has made me physically stressed in the everyday and oftentimes strains my relationship with my boys.
In the book, Jesus goes on to say that when we live in the present and trust in Him who is inherently good, it is much less overwhelming. It is a hard truth to put into practice because I hate feeling out of control (and trust me, this is not something I can control – Lord knows I’ve tried!). Worry and regret often pop their heads up before we’ve even noticed them.
We can miss the often fleeting moments of joy or wholeness when we are frustrated because we think something won’t change.
We have no more patience left for our child because we feel we cannot keep doing this everyday for the rest of time! Sometimes we can stop and make a plan to help us cope but sometimes we need to settle into each day, right where it is. Today my son isn’t eating dinner and that’s ok. When tomorrow comes, he most likely won’t eat dinner again but that’s ok too. I can keep loving and keep journeying and try to enjoy my wonderfully sweet and empathetic, special little boy in moments that don’t carry the heaviness of his struggles. I can (learn to) trust God that he holds us both in his hands – me, with the worries of the future and the strain of today – my son, with the struggles and burdens that he feels each day.
There's an old hymn that says:
When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
Today I tried to live out the peace of where things are by taking the kids to the beach after school. We all seem to relax in nature and I thought it might help me appreciate the good in my family (instead of going home to experience the after-school meltdown). Don't worry, this isn't the part of the post where I share that everything turned out peachy perfect when I simply changed my mindset. I did frolic around in the sand with my boys, baby strapped on and all, felt the wind in my hair and laughed out loud – but the truth is, it still ended in tears (dramatic tears about salt water stinging their legs - think acid corroding their skin and you will get the level of drama we are talking about!) One boy even declared, "I don't ever want to go to the beach again" as we drove home but I kept my peace because I held on to those moments we shared before it all went downhill.
My current reality is that it was never going to be perfect – and that's ok. This is my lot right now but I am learning to say, it is well, it is well with my soul.