It kind of goes without saying that I haven’t posted in a while, and that over the past several months my posts have been much fewer and farther between. I see the WordPress link on my favorites tab, and the app on my iPod, and I long to click it–to share those funny things that the kiddos have said, to give an update now that we’ve started school, to share a nourishing insight I read one morning. But something has been stopping me. I told myself that I was just too exhausted by the time the kids go to bed to sit down at the computer and think, or that I was too busy during the day now that school has started to take time out to spend on the computer. But that’s not entirely honest. I think the main reason I haven’t been writing is that I made a commitment to myself that I would keep this blog real. No sugar coating. No trying to make myself or my life sound shinier and prettier than it is. For that matter, no creating more drama or trying to make things sound worse than they really are, which for some strange reason people like to do far too often. And for some time now–has it been days? weeks? months?–I’ve been struggling. And I didn’t really want to write about it. And since I didn’t want to write about my struggles, and I couldn’t let myself write as if things were great when they weren’t, I just didn’t write. At least that was honest. But was it? If my goal here is to be honest about my beautiful ordinary life in the hopes of encouraging the handful of people who read my words, isn’t it just as deceitful to simply be silent during struggles as it is to write as if they weren’t there? If I simply wait to post again until things are looking brighter, then that isn’t really an honest portrayal of my ordinary. And then some other mom, who is struggling herself, will never see that reality in my writings, and therefore think there is something wrong with her for struggling when apparently no one else does. So, I haven’t been writing for the sake of being real. And now, for the sake of being real, I must write.
My struggles aren’t based in some huge, dramatic ordeal. No tragedy has occurred. No major crisis. Just ordinary struggles of an ordinary mom trying to live out her ordinary life. I usually try really hard not to play the Mommy-Martyr game of complaining about how hard it is to be a mom and how moms do everything for everyone else and get/ask for nothing in return. And I really hope that is not what comes across here now, and that’s one reason I’ve been hesitant to share my heart lately. But, for the sake of being real, let me just say that parenting five children from ages 1-8 is hard. Yes, I love it. Yes, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. Yes, I am extremely thankful for each one of my five blessings and it is one of my greatest joys in life to be their mommy. I am convinced that my family is the reason I am here, that my purpose and calling in life is to be Clay’s wife and Abigail’s, Catherine’s, Elisabeth’s, Samuel’s and Silas’s mommy, along with anyone else God may send our way. That may not sound very liberated of me, but it is absolutely true that I have no higher ambition in life. But it is hard. It is emotionally draining to watch these little sinners grow more and more skilled and creative at sinning. It is emotionally draining to watch your babies begin to navigate the world of “big kids” and get hurt in the process and not be able to take that hurt away. It’s emotionally draining to watch them treat each other with such careless selfishness. These are true for every parent, regardless of how many kids you have. Parenting is just plain hard work. Compounding all that in a large family is the sheer physical exhaustion that comes from being the primary caregiver to so many children who are too young to do much on their own. People call me SuperMom and I want to cry. I’m not SuperMom. I’m just tired.
Going hand in hand with the struggles that come with having a large family are the struggles of homeschooling a large family. Again, one reason I’ve been hesitant to be honest is that I hate the thought of sounding like I’m whining about what is in actuality one of my favorite parts of our life, and what has been one of the biggest blessings in my life. Just like having lots of children, I absolutely love homeschooling. I love seeing the lightbulb in my children’s eyes as they figure out that p + a + t = pat. I love getting to be the one to explore Ancient Greece and Laura Ingalls and multiplication facts with them. I love learning things myself again for the first time as I study along with them. But homeschooling, like parenting, is hard work. Not every moment is a lightbulb moment. Not every math session is sitting down one on one, uninterrupted while we cheerfully attempt to complete 100 subtraction facts in five minutes. Whether it’s having to leap up from the table to finger-sweep cat food out of Silas’s mouth, or ushering two wild little blondies upstairs to the playroom where they can hopefully play without disrupting us too much, or fighting the daily battle of “Can I skip these questions? Pleeeeeeease? My wrist is tired from writing!!!”–all of which happen at least once a day–homeschooling is not all fun and games and singing and coloring. It’s hard. Not only does a homeschooling mom rarely get a break from caring for her children, but she has the added responsibility of their education. No pressure. Yes, it’s what we chose and we didn’t have to choose it. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s hard and exhausting. Rewarding, absolutely. But draining.
The exhaustion from homeschooling added to the exhaustion from parenting, without taking the opportunity to refuel and refresh myself by the still waters of the presence of God, means that my cup definitely does not feel like it’s overflowing. And this, then, is the root of the problem. Yes, I’m in a difficult season of life. Yes, it involves lots of tears, and they’re not all from the children. (People tell me these are the best years of my life, and I want to smack them. In many ways, they’re right, I know that. But best years or not, they’re very hard.) And there are plenty of other circumstances going on around me outside of parenting and homeschooling that add to the weight on my shoulders. But the real problem is not the circumstances, the temper tantrums, the sisterly arguments, or dirty diapers. The real problem is my failure to grab hold of the comfort that is there waiting for me in Christ.
It’s easy to give in to the exhaustion and convince myself that I’m too tired to read a good book by Elyse Fitzpatrick or Nancy Leigh DeMoss that will require concentration but really minister to my soul. It’s easy to convince myself that I can’t get up any earlier in the mornings to spend time with the Lord. It’s really really easy to convince myself that it’s just too chaotic at my house to try to listen to a sermon or podcast while I’m fixing lunch or folding laundry. (And actually, that one may be legitimate.) And so my struggles, which are ordinary and could be easily preached to and comforted, are magnified in the absence of the truth that I’m “too tired” to soak up. And the absence of truth being poured into my heart combined with the magnitude of pressure that is being a parent, knowing that we are responsible for shepherding these five little souls to Jesus, as well as getting them safely to adulthood with basic social, life, and arithmetic skills to boot, leads to some major discouragement. Without a proper mindset that is rooted in Scripture and a proper perspective of God’s grace and guidance and sovereignty, the weight of responsibility that I should feel as a parent and that should drive me to the arms of my Savior for help and wisdom, simply transforms into a weight of failure. “I’m a failure. I’m a failure. I’m a failure.” I hear it in my head all the time. When my child sins in the same way that I’ve been trying to deal with a thousand times already. When their test grades aren’t as high as I thought they would be. When I oversleep and can’t go walk in the morning. When I give in to the stress of the day and “comfort” myself with a cookie. When I look around at my house that I can’t seem to find time to clean. Failure.
How foolish I am, and as I type that I feel humbled because I have distinct memories of typing along this same theme in several other posts. How many times will I walk through times of discouragement that are a direct result not of hard circumstances but instead of my own lack of utilizing the resources that are mine in the Spirit? The lesson is slightly different each time, but the main point is the same. When I am not soaking in the Word or spending time by those still waters with my Lord, I will suffer. I will struggle. If my focus moves off of Christ and onto the temporary difficulties that seem to multiply the more I look for them, then I will suffer. I will struggle. I’ve written about it before. And sadly, I’m writing about it again. Apparently, I haven’t learned the lesson fully yet. But I’m being refined.
We all struggle. We are all fragile. Easily broken, easily led astray, easily distracted from the truth that we are more than conquerors in Christ, even over the circumstances that threaten to undo us. I have spent the last couple of months wandering as if I had no Shepherd. But He has opened my eyes yet again, and I am so thankful that He promises never to stop pulling me back to Him. He Who began this good work in me will indeed be faithful to complete it. He will not abandon me to my own foolishness, to my seemingly too-big difficulties. I will fix my eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of my faith and trust Him to continue to refine me as gold. I’m sure I will stumble again. So I’m counting on those new mercies which He’s promised will be there every morning to open my eyes again and pick me back up when I fall. Praise the Lord for His faithfulness during my foolishness.