beautiful still

Being the Mom

Being a mom. The hardest job. The best job. But the hardest. The best and the hardest at the same time. Sometimes the hard and the best take turns. Sometimes the hard gets harder and the remnants of the best are like tattered threads. At this unprecedented time in our history—with the world facing and dealing with COVID19, a super-contagious, lethal to some virus that has us all locked up in some form or another. It’s hard to imagine those who are coping with enormous pains alongside this isolation.  Just this week, I heard of a grade school friend who died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. She’s a mom and a grandma and by her Facebook posts, she was among those who loved the hardest, best job in the world.   The family—her husband, her children, and her grandchildren do not get to have the type of memorial service they NEED.  How do you say a full goodbye when you can’t get close to the ones you need to lean on most to see you through? I shake my head.

Pain on Top of Isolation

And there’s the man I started following on Instagram, Brandon Janous, who recently lost his bride and the mother of his three children to ravaging cancer. His posts are so real. So raw. Like the one where he is hiding in his closet crying because there are certain tears he cannot share with his children. He described those closet floor cries as the “I’m scared to death of life without her” cries, the “How am I supposed to do this on my own?” cries, and the “I’m sorry I didn’t fight harder, didn’t do more” cries.  He’s dealing with COVID19 on top of desperately grieving his wife of ten years. He writes so well and shares how much he’d give to be cooped up with and annoyed by his wife right now.

And there are those who were battling the walls of isolation before the walls of COVID19 were ever erected.  There were walls of isolation from depression and anxiety that many courageous souls were fighting to overcome long before the government ordered us to isolate.  Now it is as if all their valiant efforts to break free of the urges to stay away and be alone are in vain.  Now everyone is told that the best and safest thing they can do is stay away and be alone.  That’s like a death sentence to someone in the throes of depression. I’m praying for you.

Being the Mom to Depression

And then there’s being a mom of someone who is battling such an illness. I have been her. I’ve been neck-deep, and actually over-my-head in the thick of emotions of guilt, fear, shame, anger, sadness, helplessness more than once. Those feelings seem to recycle as the situation ebbs and flows. Some days “seem” better. Some days feel better. Some days I was in a stronger place. Some days my child was.  But most days were as if I sat on a rock on the ocean shore.  The waves came and threatened to get me wet, but they only came up to the edge. Sometimes the water sprayed me gently. Other times the waves crashed hard and if I wasn’t paying attention I would find myself slipping off the rock.  And then came the waves that took me by complete surprise. I anticipated them because living with someone with depression puts you on alert.  But sometimes what I saw coming was so underestimated that it knocked me into the ocean where I was drenched, coughing up saltwater, and afraid I might dash my head against the stones.  And sometimes my head hit those rocks with force. It’s not easy being the mom of someone who is hurting. In any way. Physically, mentally, emotionally.  

The Moment of Overwhelm

It was at one of those head-hitting, overwhelming moments that I wrote a plea to God. I like to say I puked it out to the Lord. My words vomited out of me—each emotion tangling with the next. This wasn’t about me making sense of things. This wasn’t about me documenting how it is to love someone who is not well. This was desperation. This was, pure and simple, puke.  The glorious thing is, that it came as no surprise to Jesus.  He listened. He wasn’t put off by all the anger, hurt, and pain. He didn’t distance Himself because I was ugly or scary. He wasn’t afraid of me or my emotions. He didn’t tell me to stop or to buck-up, or to fix things. He didn’t tell me I was right. Or wrong.  All I remember Him doing at that moment was listening, allowing, and then when I was wrung out and worn, He took a towel and began to wipe up the puke. And tend to me. 

It’s not lost on me as we enter Holy Week 2020, that Jesus took a towel and began to wash the disciples’ feet. The thirteenth chapter of John tells us that Jesus got up from the meal, wrapped a towel around his waist and began to wash his disciples’ feet.  He tended to their needs. He tended to mine.

The Real People

I wanted to share with you what I wrote in that journal entry—going on ten years ago.  When I wrote it, I never, ever imagined I would share it with anyone, let alone with you. But God has been doing good work in my heart all these years since and He nudged me today to share. Because, like the raw and real posts of Brandon Janous, someone needs to hear the raw and real in order to hold on in the dark until dawn breaks.   I encourage you to follow @thejanous5 on Instagram because Brandon speaks the truth and the real so well. And he doesn’t sugarcoat cancer or grief. And he doesn’t omit the most real of all-Jesus.

There are many such Instagram posts—another one I highly recommend is Dugan Sherbondy. He writes about the journey with his eight-year-old daughter who suffered a traumatic brain injury last August. His posts and his wife’s posts are the same kind of raw and real that we need more of.  Perhaps your solution for coping during this COVID19 isolation is to turn off all social media, and I get that. Boy, do I get that.  But if you haven’t turned it off, I suggest finding more people like Brandon, Dugan, and Lindsay to keep you on the high ground. 

My Real Raw

Here’s my raw and real for whoever God intends it for.  I have no idea. It’s my twisted journal entry—half purging, half prayer. I wrote…

It’s just so broken on so many levels…Only You can undo the tangles. Only you can undo the mess. Only you can help us restore our relationship. Right now, I let her go and I give up. I quit. Whatever I say or do is not going to help. Her dad may push me to say or do but it won’t work that way. I release her to you, Lord. Help her.

Lord, I said so many things wrong. Out of anger and defense and some things just to hurt her right back. But it’s such a mess. I give up. If I do anything now, I’ll not be sure it was of You and I need it to be You. Please save her. Heal her. Help her forgive her parents and all who she feels betrayed, abandoned and hurt her. Help her heal. But help me surrender. I could worry, call, write, plead, and beg—but instead I relinquish control. I can’t control her dad’s reactions, thoughts, attitudes, or actions, either. I can’t make this better with money or words. I have to trust. Really trust. And surrender. Total submission. It is Yours, move me in an obvious and clear manner—otherwise, I give in—it is Yours. I won’t carry it. I’ll trust. The exhaustion actually helps. I just know I can’t bear this alone. Or with friends. Or simply by talking, caring, or crying. I have to cast it on you and I walk with You in this. I have too much to learn. But please be a kind and gentle teacher. Right now I am exhausted and ANGRY. I cast my exhaustion and anger (which is probably just hiding my fear) onto you. Yet I walk with you. Satan shall not bury me. Let him do no harm to her mind. I hate this. I HATE THIS!  Who can work in this? Who can lose weight in this? Who can socialize in this? I want to run—so badly—I just want to bolt! I’ve got a sick child and I can’t help her. Please, Lord, untangle the layers and levels of complications and heal her and free her. Please save her. I’ll die if she does. I did so much wrong.

A Way Up and Out

At the peak of my despair, I found a way out. Slowly, but surely.  I stopped and asked “What would love do?” and discovered a painful reality in that question. In that moment of anger, fear, guilt, shame, and helplessness, I faced the truth that love was everything I was not doing and nothing that I was doing. I was furious at my daughter. When called to be empathetic and understanding, I screamed. How ugly was my face? I saw all I did not like about myself coming out of her. “She’s me”, I wrote in my journal, “stubborn, strong-willed, misunderstood”.  All I could see—bad.  All I could feel—worse. I wanted to scream. And I did. It was my little tongue that did the most damage. In my fear, I spewed venom, poisoning others in my sphere, splashing it back onto myself. My entire family was affected. What spilled out, could not be put back. The bite was irreversible. She didn’t feel good about herself and I did nothing to ease that. I didn’t know how to accept her honesty. It scared me beyond measure. It fell upon my shoulders as my fault. I was the negligent mom. The ignorant parent. The anger had no good place to rest. And since it was fear in disguise, the only answer was trust. 

And gradually I learned to “lay my Isaac down” and trust God with all the “Isaacs” in my life.  I have found Him to be always trustworthy, always kind, always truthful, always patient.  Ever so patient! And always intimate. He doesn’t treat me like He’ll treat you. He’ll treat you as you are designed. That’s so relieving. I do not have any idea how God will deal with your hurt, pain, anger, and fear.  I don’t know how He will alleviate your guilt and shame. I don’t know how He restores broken relationships.  But I do know that He does. And He will. Nothing is hard for Him. (Jeremiah 32:17)

I’m out here, praying for you. I really am.