After each conference, I have had an ear-full and a heart full of stories fresh from the hearts of sweet mamas. Many marriages mended since last year. Mamas feeling inspired and whole after healing their relationships with difficult children. A sweet homeless mama who was treated to a conference last year and given a roll away bed--back again this year with 15 other women, having a new life, a new home and stability since a year ago. Dallas also reminded me of the difficulties of living in a world that is fallen, one groaning to be restored to the original design of Jesus--I learned of a sweet baby who died several days ago, not being able to live any longer on life support; a young woman ending her life as a teen; a miscarriage; a husband who left his family behind for an affair. Yes, there are many stories of broken lives and pain. (If you missed it last week, you can find part one of this series here: Light a Candle, Don't Curse the Darkness.)
Loneliness, sadness, discouragement can indeed invade our lives daily and in ways we never imagined.
My sweet friend and I talked today of how each of us has heartbreak and our own "thorns". Yet, we also talked of the hope and restoration and life He has given us in our own lives after many years of waiting--waiting for healing, for prayers to be answered, for His ways to become visible in dark and difficult places, and yes, to see that He is indeed God and that He is good.
Both of us talked of how much these trials had softened our hearts toward others in need. Now, we have more compassion and the ability to identify with many women, and a knowledge of the comfort we can offer as we share what helped us through our own difficulties. Learning to see God's fingerprints and His goodness, even in the midst of the battle, is a gift--we hold fast to His goodness by our will, by our faith, because we have seen His faithfulness and goodness come through after waiting on Him and letting Him be the Lord of our lives.
Now a few more points of encouragement to continue the series:
3. Learn every day, in every circumstance. I observed a very difficult relationship problem this week and the sadness of it deepened my compassion for those who are lost and hurting. It even made me rethink some messages I was working on for an upcoming mission trip. They will now be much more filled with grace, comfort and love, because of the lessons I learned in my own circumstances. I had a choice--to let the hurt overwhelm me or to say, "What can I learn? How can I move forward in graciousness and be sure that I never do this to anyone? What does a person who has been hurt like this need? How can I pass on this kind of love and comfort in my messages?" God's hand can deepen our hearts and love--He can turn things out for the good--when we walk the road with Him as our Counselor.
Your story becomes the platform for your message--your chronicle of God's goodness--if you embrace it as a place where God will intervene and turn everything out for good in His time.
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose" Romans 8:28-29.
4. Figure out what is bothering you and resolve to get rid of as much stress as you can. I met a young mom last week who was very down and crying. She was very hard on herself and felt like a failure as a mom and was quite discouraged with her children. I asked how old her children were and she said they were 7, 5, and 6 months. Then I asked her if she had gotten a full night of sleep lately. Immediately her tears began to fall and she said, "No, and I feel like this season will never end."
We arranged for a friend to keep her precious children for an overnight, and this mom had time alone and time to sleep 9 hours, and by the time I saw her again, she was a different person. "I thought I wasn't going to make it, but you can't imagine how much better I feel about life and I even missed my children. I feel totally different about my circumstances."
Sometimes it just takes sleep to feel better. It is easy, when our feelings are overwhelming, to ignore our physical and emotional needs. Recreation, sleep, pleasure, love and grace are all things we can add to our lives which will indeed provide us the ability to keep going with strength.
Sometimes, it is the messes or the "relentless of it all" that pounds us down to our low places. It is at these points that sometimes, I have stopped all activities for a couple of days and just spent time getting everything back together. I hired someone to help me put my house back in order again and then I felt immediately better and lighter of burdens.
Other times, I have made a fun plan--to make time to do some things that I knew would fill up my emotional cup--as well as put things into my schedule to look forward to. Years ago, in the spring, I would always plan a fun trip for me and the kids and some other friends. This is the time of year I would become weary of the relentless work and Clay had to work long hours, so I would plan a short (or long!) history trip out of town with a friend and it gave us a break from mundane life, and we all became better friends and my children and I had a great diversion from the mundanity of life. After the Raleigh conference, Sarah and I will travel once again to Asheville for a few days, as we've done for six years now. Can't wait.
5. Of course, pray and spend time with the Lord. We are indeed needy people in a fallen world, and yet we have the profound privilege of coming into the presence of God with hope, because He listens to prayers and because He listens and answers us even as we would answer our own children. Learning to persevere in prayer and wait for God has been a lesson He has been teaching me for a long time. Often the very things I was worried about, over time, changed and showed me that He was working all along. When a toddler is exhausted yet doesn't want to take a nap, a kind parent will see that he gets one anyway, even without the child's permission! So God, who knows what is best for us, will put up with our tantrums and put us down for a nap against our will, because He knows what is best for us. So the sooner we learn to submit to His plan, the more easily we will find contentment and joy.
I do not want to make light of the many struggles we all face. But learning how to accept the limitations of this world, and choosing to see God's fingerprints amidst the days of trials, has given me peace, assurance and comfort to leave all the details in my life in His hands and to trust that in His time, He will indeed work all things together for His good.
May you know His grace and love today, amidst your life.
Need some encouragement today in the area of mothering? Perhaps you might find it in my newest book, Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe.
"With Desperate, Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson touch the tender, innermost depths of a mother’s heart. Sarah Mae articulates the struggles that may have remained unspoken in all of us. She is courageous and breathtakingly honest while giving voice to the real challenges of motherhood and the frailty of a woman’s soul. Sally Clarkson answers those anguished thoughts with sage, sound, gentle mentoring and the kind friendship of a woman who has walked the same path. Together, they offer today’s desperate (or even simply soul-weary) mothers hope, encouragement, and a tangible roadmap for navigating the rough paths along motherhood’s journey."
—Elizabeth Foss, author, Small Steps for Catholic Momsand Real Learning: Education in the Heart of the Home
Get your copy of Desperate here.
And don't miss SarahMae's discussion of Chapter Six here: Oxen, Five-sies", and a Foundation of Love!