I have a friend who recently shared with me that she needed to step back from some commitments she had made because life was just too much at the moment. She also shared that she had been needing to do so for awhile but in some ways felt guilty in doing so because it involved saying no to some other people who seemed to have a lot more going on than she did. Like her need to step back somehow indicated that she wasn't as together as the people with whom she was comparing herself.
And one of those people she was playing the comparison game with was me.
I desperately wanted to tell her how "untogether" I was. How hard the last 9 months have been for me, probably some of the hardest I have had which is saying a lot as we have dealt with the deaths of two parents, the care of a grandmother, multiple adoptions, just lots of stuff. But that some how Zeke's homecoming and this surprise pregnancy have literally sent me back on my heels in ways none of the other stuff has. From feeling sick and uncomfortable most of the time to feeling like I often can't keep up with the simple parts of life to feeling overwhelmed by my three kids and wondering how I will manage with a fourth, in a lot of ways I have just been reeling, trying to regain my footing a bit, wishing I were doing better at so many things. I've just felt less together than I probably ever have.
I've never been someone who struggles with guilt. In general, my personality is pretty "here I am, take it or leave it." And while I have always been a performance based achiever, I have generally been able to perform well enough to not feel guilty.
Call me crazy, call it hormones, call it whatever you want-I have spent a lot of the last 7 months feeling like a shoddy mom. Most of it probably centers around my own inability to maintain my emotions and parent from a calm place. Some of it probably has to do with being exhausted every night and wanting nothing more to disconnect from life by being online or watching tv instead of engaging with my husband. Regardless, I have just felt worn, physically, mentally, and emotionally. Much of my thoughts have been consumed by the guilt of not doing a good job now and how much worse I will probably do once the baby is here. It is not where I should be living because God did not call me to a life filled with guilt, regret, or shame.
I picked up Lysa TerKerst's devotional that accompanies her Unglued book as freebie for Kindle a few months back and much of her words have spoken to my heart as I've contemplated my own unhinging. A few things I thought I'd share:
"Do I really believe God will help me manage my emotions?" Too often, I find myself caught in the cycle of bad behavior, apology, same bad behavior, same apology, feeling like I can't end the cycle and that I have no idea how God will help me end the cycle either.
"It is about imperfect progress." Imperfect progress...I often aim big and expect perfection or at least a huge improvement.
"Conviction motivates, condemnation enslaves." There is a difference between the Holy Spirit convicting and the Accuser condemning. Yes, God desires certain behaviors in me but there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. When I come to God asking for forgiveness, the act has already been done. It is not a matter of "if" or "when" but a matter of "already."
"A good husband, good children, a good friend make a very poor God. No education or job or house can save you." I've spent a fair share of time feeling like the grass might be greener on the other side of the fence, wondering if maybe it's time for me to head back to work, that perhaps if I were not surrounded by my children all day, that maybe I would be a more loving mom. I'm guessing you can probably hear that the heart of that is not a well positioned heart. It is not a heart that is asking what God wants for me or my kids but is a heart that is feeling trapped and longing for escape.
"When you try and try, always feeling like the answer is just around the corner and then it isn't...It can make you feel frustrated and unsatisfied with everything. Even those you love. Maybe especially those you love." Again a reminder that my discontent is probably not going to be resolved by a new job or better behaved kids.
From my prayer journal-"Do I really believe that? That my behavior does not influence how You feel about me. That Your love for me rests not in my performance but in Who You are and Who I am in You. I find it hard to wrap my head around, hard to teach my kids that."
"I am not gentle by nature but I can be gentle by obedience. I am not patient by nature but I can be patient by obedience. I am not peaceful by nature but I can be peaceful by obedience." Definitely need to remind myself of this, that it is not natural but it is possible.
"Sometimes I act as though Jesus can work miracles for other people but not for me." Lysa shared this statement in the context of the assorted situations she is aware of where God has done miraculous life changes. Drug addicts who are clean. Ex convicts who mentor others. Major life changes. And yet, we doubt God can help us conquer our emotions.
"My reactions testify to the kind of relationship I have with Jesus and the kind of effect He has on my heart. When my happy gets bumped, what's really going on in my heart is on display. In those times, I will either add to the authenticity of my love for Jesus or negate it." Ouch.
I'm about halfway through the devotional but it has definitely affirmed in me where my heart is and what God wants me to hear. From our pastor's sermon on Sunday which was taken from the story of the rich young ruler who asked Jesus what he could do to have eternal life...you can't do the done. I cannot do enough right because God has already done it. And that includes motherhood and my fears and failures.