My friend Christie has known me since before I had kids. I now have three. And she’s one of the few people with whom I can share my hard, ugly days of motherhood and always find help, empathy, encouragement.
I asked if she’d share about weathering some of those storms that can rock any mother. Because sometimes we all need to be reminded that we’re not in this alone.
Today, my firstborn begins the second grade. Stepping away from the bus stop, I am propelled toward my front door on a rushing tide of memories.
Predictably, I remember the first words and first steps. I remember the warm, September day she was born. But this river carries me even further back. Maybe it’s because we look so much alike?
Whatever the reason, I remember my own second-grade classroom (a portable unit), my best friend, Michelle (dark hair and freckles), and my teacher, Miss Hendry. She had romantic, upswept hair and looked like an Edwardian lady. All second-grade teachers should be so kind and beautiful.
I remember the heartbreak of discovering that my precious “show and tell” sand dollar had shattered in my bookbag. I wish my daughter might never open up a bag to find broken dreams and disappointed hopes, but I know that she will.
Her birth nearly eight years ago was, for me, dream made reality. I had waited, prayed, and cried for a child, and there she was. Flesh and blood and beauty in my arms.
But a dream come true is not always dreamy. By the time she was three months old my friend Cris had nicknamed her the “Texas firecracker,” and Cris hadn’t even seen her in meltdown mode.
A few years into motherhood, I sat in a small circle of women. An acquaintance turned to me and asked innocently, casually, “How’s your daughter?” I burst into tears. Back then, tears were the only answer I had to that question.
The out-of-control emotions, the out-of-control behavior, my own shameful, out-of-control responses to it all . . . these experiences had wounded me. I was a tearful, bruised mother looking for answers in every parenting book I could get my hands on.
Last week, a friend from those days gave me a call. Perhaps she was thinking of my bookcase stuffed with parenting solutions, or maybe she was thinking only of my hard-won experience, but she too was wounded. She could hardly voice her questions through the tears: “How did you handle these terrible, explosive days? Why does my small child have so much power to hurt me?”
We talked and prayed. I told her that time heals. It does get easier. Though I suppose it’s actually God using time, his own creation, to heal us.
I told her that in all those books I had, occasionally, found some little answers which helped, but I had never found the big answers I most needed. The answers to the questions: how to survive, let alone thrive? How to heal?
After our conversation, I walked into the home office to hang up the phone, and I spotted a handwritten note on my desk. In the awkwardly perfect print of a seven-year-old it said: “I love you a lot.”
From nightmarish meltdowns to love notes.
God does use time to heal. He uses time to make new. This note, well, it’s not only from my daughter. It’s a love note from the God who has sheltered us both.
Almost eight years in, I no longer picture motherhood as a list of questions matched up with expert answers. Now I know that on its darkest days, motherhood is not a test to be aced, not even a job to be done well, but a storm. What should a wise woman do? She should take shelter from the storm.
Today, motherhood looks to me like a boat. Yes, a boat.
It is a boat pitching about on wild waves, a fragile boat tossed by fierce winds. Searching desperately for answers, and afraid for my little seafaring companions, I find my Lord lying on the bottom of the boat. And He is asleep.
In the stillness of his body and the steady rhythm of his breathing, I discover the Answer I’ve always sought. I don’t wake Him. I don’t even ask, “How do I fix this mess?”
Instead, I lie down by His side. I curl up tight and close my eyes, and in Him I find my rest.
Shelter from the storm for us all.