Last week was a challenge. Nothing extreme, but intense nonetheless.
A cranky toddler with a fixation on tormenting her sisters. A sick kiddo who couldn't move quickly to do anything. General boredom and discontentment run amok in the ranks. More 100 degree days looming ahead, trapping us indoors yet again.
I couldn't find my stride.
One morning, after my intended prayer time got sabatoged by an early riser, I found myself --at 9:30 am--wishing I was a smoker, because I could really use a cigarette break!
And suddenly, like a rising tide, I missed Ava. I missed her calming presence. I missed the clarity she gave me about what was important in life. I missed the direction and focus she gave to each day.
I missed the space when so many things didn't really matter.
Matching clothes, clean floors, balanced meals, order and direction for our days...for many, many months they were impossibilities, so I let them go. Some of you saw it up close and marveled at how peaceful life was. And so often, by the grace of God, it was.
But that was it: There was a grace.
God's grace enabled me to do what I'd never been able to do before. The intensity of Ava's journey required that I let go of a lot of things, and pursue only that which was essential. Like jumping into a river to rescue a drowning child, it was a response so visceral and all consuming. With life hanging in the balance, priorities were suddenly in order and the lawn getting mowed or the beds getting made moved appropriately down the list.
Yes, what we went through with Ava was without question the hardest thing we've ever done. But surrounded by prayer and practical support, eating meals prepared by friends, knowing our big girls were lovingly cared for, it was also, in some ways, easy.
And even when the sleep was fleeting, and the home/hospital schedule was taxing, and we weren't sure we could do another day, we had the gift of knowing our time was short to keep us from projecting out the hardships of today into the months and years to come. For the most part, we were able to savor each moment, even when it required sacrifice, knowing those moments were numbered.
Ava never had a tantrum, she never did something to make me feel angry at her, and so I never felt the guilt of overreacting. I never had the chance to feel resentment or frustration over her behavior or how my life had changed against my will. The unique circumstances of Ava's life enabled us to be the parents we wanted to be, and now, months later, to have very few regrets about how we lived those 365 days. I will be thankful for that for the rest of my life.
But then the adrenaline rush ended. The prayer chain emails stopped flying and life returned to a different version of normal.
And the new reality is: even on a good day--and there are many--parenting well is a different kind of hard.
Without the crisis to inform our days, all the priorities that have been held at bay come flooding back. Now at least, I perceive that I can control some of those things and making my kids eat vegetables, developing a working schedule for our days, potty training, meal planning, grocery shopping, Elizabeth's therapies, paying bills, and keeping our home in order fill up my days again.
Now, with all the extra space in our lives, letting go of the non-essentials for the well-being of everyone is a choice I have to make a dozen times every day.
And I realize, just maintaining my joy, patience and grace is a feat. Speaking with loving words when someone is being irrational and out of control is a challenge! Prioritizing people over tasks--which felt so easy three months ago--is again difficult.
But that is the mom I want to be.
So the honest truth is, my "before" and "after" lives both require heaps of grace for myself and my little people. Every day it still requires speaking the truth to myself moment by moment. Believing what is true about God. Trusting the path He's chosen for me and fixing my eyes on the One who defines my success, knows my frame, and even still gently leads me forward.