I have this reoccurring dream where it is almost college graduation day, only I suddenly realize that I failed multiple necessary classes. The dream is always the same– I failed because I forgot to show up. Each class was signed up for, I attended the first day, but I somehow didn’t remember to attend after that.
I tend to have this dream when I am feeling stressed and exhausted in my non-dream life. It’s like my subconscious translates my everyday fear of failure to keep up into dream world failures.
It kind of makes me think, “Geez, can’t a mom get a break?” Why can’t I have nice dreams about white beaches and delicious food not cooked by me in my limited sleep time? (Because obviously, beaches and good food are appropriate dream goals for a tired mama).
I have made no secret of the fact that my transition to four kids has been really difficult. There have been so many moments of joy, and I am truly thankful for my little rainbow baby. Even so, many of my days seem to ping pong back and forth between deep contentment and heavy weariness.
Being needed constantly is hard work. And there are plenty of moments I look around and feel like I am failing.
Dinner scorches because my attention is drawn elsewhere. The counters and table remain covered in a thick layer of notebooks, papers, and other random items waiting to be put away. Toys are scattered across the floor for the hundredth time that day. The laundry piles up. And my hopes of sitting down to read or write or rest are put off once again by a more pressing task.
Everywhere I look there is something I need to do– things urgent and things neglected because I can only do so much.
We all go through times of feeling stretched and overwhelmed, where life seems chaotic and many days you are just managing to hold on.
Then as you look ahead and see more of the same tonight and tomorrow and the next day, there is a temptation to despair or succumb to the discouragement that seems to be just an arms length away.
Rachel Jankovic describes this situation so well in her book, Fit to Burst. Reading this passage again yesterday was incredibly refreshing. It’s not just me! Here is my story, written in a book. I am not alone.
“This is the kind of stress that just makes you tired. It can be caused by lots of people pulling on your pant leg, asking for drinks, being anxious about when dinner is coming. It can be compounded by things like a new baby up in the night, a difficult discipline problem, or a lot of mess around the house. It might make you feel emotional, but when you try to sort out what the problem is, you can’t pin it down. Nothing is wrong. Oftentimes I will know it’s true that nothing is wrong, but I feel so “stressed” because there is so much to do, so much that isn’t done.
This kind of stress is simply the ambient noise of faithfulness.“
“Welcome home Mommy!”
Motherhood makes us weak and vulnerable. It’s uncomfortable. Honestly, I don’t like feeling weak. I would much rather be always confident, always organized, always ready with a smile for my family.
But it is exactly in this place that we are exposed, to others yes, but especially to ourselves. Our own neediness is spotlighted. We squirm at the exposure but rejoice that there is hope and grace enough to push on.
When the ambient noise of faithfulness is ringing in our ears, it is easy to start ticking off in our heads all the things we wish we were doing better (easy because these things are often staring us in the face). But this only amplifies the noise. It’s in this cacophony that the accusations of failure build.
We can answer the accusations of failure by remembering that as long as we continue to show up, to keep trying, to do the next thing, we are succeeding.
I do not have to do everything perfectly. I just need to keep showing up. I need to do the next thing.
There is a little watercolor painting on a table in our living room with a verse from Psalm 37.
“Trust in the Lord and do good,
Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.”
The last part about cultivating faithfulness is what I have been repeating over and over in my head this week.
I love the picture of faithfulness being cultivated. A garden takes time to grow. It would be incredibly foolish to look at a garden in the growing season, while the seeds are still underground or tender shoots are just beginning to push out of the soil, and say that the garden was failing.
In the same way, it is our ordinary, everyday living that matters the most. Cultivation takes consistent watering– not a one and done dump with the hose. Weeds must be pulled frequently– one day of back-breaking weeding does not ensure a weed-free garden in the future.
The great days and the grueling days and all of them in between are being used to cultivate faithfulness in your life.
Every time you choose to love and serve. Every time you flop into bed exhausted after a long day. Every meal you make, mess you clean, diaper you change, lesson you teach. Every hug you give, shirt you fold, book you read aloud. Each is an opportunity to cultivate faithfulness.
Nothing is wasted.
I am not writing this from the other side. This is the outworking of my life right now.
I pray that you see hope in my story, and that if anything I shared resonates with you, knowing you are not alone will be like a glass of cool water on a hot day.
Let’s press on towards maturity, friends. I know the days can be long. I know the struggle to keep up and the battle with fear and shame when you’re tired and feeling overwhelmed. But God meets us in our weakness and gives us a joy deeper than our unfolded laundry piles.
Let’s keep trusting in the Lord, keep doing the good work in front of us, and keep striving for faithfulness. Together.