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Saturday, August 4, 2012

Before and After

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. 


Halli said...

Thanks Sara for the beautiful and thoughtful words, good to hear when a mound of dishes await me in the kitchen and all the kids still aren't asleep. Lovely.

Elissa said...

So well said, my sweet friend! But it just made me miss you more since it reminded me of our chat in your living room :) In this world where so much is contrived and veiled, thank you for being authentic and transparent! Praying with you from the trenches to be the kind of moms grace can enable us to be.

Becky said...

Thanks for sharing Sara! Such words of wisdom. I often feel like my days fly out of control, and sometimes I fly out of control, but if I can collect my thoughts for a moment and focus on Jesus, there is grace for all of it! I am so thankful for other mom's who share the realities of their struggles because it makes this journey of motherhood not feel so lonely....we can do this! He hasn't called us to do this on our own, but by HIS grace and HIS strength we can speak loving words when things seem out of control and overwhelming. I feel like Jesus has been reminding me that my kids are on a journey, just like me. They're not struggling with the same things as they were a year ago....there is progress and they have victories and I need to remember that in the midst of current struggles they may be facing! Hugs to you, Sara...:)

Beckie said... are SO articulate in your expression of how hard it is to find grace in the day to day....and I SO relate to this entry!! Thanks for helps put words to my own daily struggle. You amaze me and I'm grateful for the gift of friends like you to help give perspective as we journey as parents together....blessings and GRACE to you!

Sara said...

Sweet friends, thank you for your comments. I'm grateful for your encouragement and humbled that I can walk this journey of motherhood with such beautiful women. Your hearts encourage and inspire me too. I always write with a bit of fear and trepidation...but also much relief, as each post is a little like a birth from my heart. I so appreciate your camaraderie in the trenches. Much love.