Rejoice Always

One day last week, I scrubbed the toilet with a toddler on my back. He whined/cried/fussed unless he was making direct physical contact with me. All. Day. Long. (“So just clean the toilet another time, when your child is more content,” the logical among you may suggest. I would, except this is the card I’m dealt nearly every hour of every day. I had put off this dreaded chore in hopes of a “good” time presenting itself, and it had come to a point where I had to just get it done.) It was a hard day, in a long string of hard days. That night, I resolved to journal the entire next day to depict what a typical day in my life was like, thinking this could be comical someday (like when I’m ninety)…but something strange happened.

We had the best day ever. I woke up at 7am after a full night of uninterrupted sleep, got ready for the day, and had breakfast alone while my child slept. (Aaron had already left for work.) I think I would have found eating alone depressing at an earlier stage in my life. Now it feels indulgent and luxurious, like a day at the spa. I eventually had to wake Evan up to go to Bible Study Fellowship. I was anxious about waking the bear, because he tends to be very grumpy when his sleep is interrupted. Also, I put it off for so long that I would have to feed him breakfast on the go, and my boy isn’t into convenience foods. (Somehow he’s managed to turn me into one of those women who cooks ON THE STOVE multiple times per day. Never would have dreamed it.) Miraculously, he ate a granola bar on the way to class. I realized while driving that I had forgotten Evan’s Bunny (his security object that eases the transition of me leaving him for our 2 hour class). Another wave of anxiety washed over me, and I sent a snapchat to close friends and family soliciting prayers for a smooth drop off and separation. This was the type of oversight that had the potential to unhinge our entire day. But drop-off came and went with no more than the standard amount of protest and tears. I made it in time for the worship portion of class for maybe the second or third time in 6 months, and was able to set my heart on God and His Word. The day was nothing short of an answered prayer, a gift from God. The next days were just as incredible.

Later in the week I had a flashback to a conversation with my mother in law, who once upon a time raised a little boy who was very similar to Evan Jake, especially regarding level of activity- his daddy. She told me, “You’d better put on your running shoes, because you’re going to be chasing after him all day long. I would just fall into bed every night exhausted when Aaron was little. But the day he turned 18 months, it was like a switch flipped, and he got so much easier. He could communicate, reason, and understand directions. It does get easier.” I had mixed feelings about this advice: relief that there would probably be easier days ahead…but also the heaviness that comes with doubting whether you can physically and emotionally survive the next year-plus. My doubts were not unfounded. Things got pretty sketchy there for a while (as detailed in The Story I Don’t Want to Tell). I learned through that experience that in the valleys of life, the Lord is near to me, and even when happiness can sometimes be difficult to come by, I was able to practice finding my true joy in God. Almost 17 months into our parenting journey, I can sense something shifting in our family dynamic. It IS getting easier. It’s like I can finally breathe deeply. Sure, my boy is still extremely energetic, intense, curious, and opinionated. That will probably never change, based on the temperaments and personalities of his parents. But I feel like we’ve made it, for now, to safe waters. I know from my mama-friends with older children that more storms will come, and different, new challenges will arise. Such is parenting, and life. Right now, though, I’m going to bask in it.

Rejoice always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

I nearly deleted this article today. The plush rug of smooth parent sailing was yanked out from under me, and I found myself sprawled out on the floor, rubbing my bruised ego and wondering what on earth has just happened. This morning was nasty. Like, my toddler reduced me to tears by 7am nasty. By 8:30am, on the way to Bible Study Fellowship, I was completely discouraged. But at 11am, the very same toddler who had stomped on my foot in defiance earlier, ran into my arms while shouting “Mama!” and planted the biggest kiss on my mouth. My ability to “Rejoice always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances,” was put to the test today, and sadly, I wilted in the heat of the moment. The good news is, I’ll have plenty of opportunities to practice and get it right.

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