|Getting a salute from Captain America at Disneyland.|
You know the scene. It's in dozens of movies. There is a fight and the hero of the story is clearly outmatched by his enemy. He is down on the ground and the big bag guy is looming over him saying these words, "Stay down kid."
Every day I am living two realities simultaneously. I am okay and not okay at the same time. My daily routine hasn't really changed. I go throughout my day as I usually do. I drive my kids to school and all their activities, make meals, do laundry, check homework, and a hundred other tasks to keep my home running. I spend time with my husband, family, and friends. I attend church and other community activities. I keep moving forward because life doesn't stop. Even when things are difficult, stressful, or sad, life keeps right on going. So I keep going with it, but it is never gone from my mind one of my children isn't living at home. This means even while things are moving forward something is always wrong.
This sense of things not being right has a way of creeping into my days and catching me off guard. It's little things like when the friendly guy at Dutch Bros is amazed I have 11 people in my van. He comments on how wild that is, and I drive away with tears in my eyes because there should be 12. The absence of someone's face in the most recent photos from the latest birthday party stares back at me when posted to social media. The innocent question from a family member at the barbeque if all my kids came to the party, and I have to figure out how to respond. These moments bump into me all day long.
There is a desire in part of me that wants to quit. I want to curl up in a ball under my covers and refuse to face the outside world. I want to give up. I want to stay down.
But that is not an option. I am the mama of 10 children. Although one of them doesn't want me at this stage of her life, it doesn't change the fact I am her mom forever. Although it is painful, I keep loving her the best I can. I keep showing her what family means. As I walk out this journey in front of my other children, I am also teaching them what love and family means. It is the middle of a difficult season. I currently have more questions than I have answers. I don't know how it will unfold. I don't know what the future holds. I take it one day at a time. I weather the punches when they come, and I hold onto hope when its light breaks through the dark moments.
There isn't a manual for this. There isn't a step by step plan for how to navigate these waters. But as I have been dwelling in this uncomfortable space there is a verse from the bible that has provided me with guidance on how to spend my days. "Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
This isn't how I pictured my life. Other people have made choices outside of my control that have caused me great pain. However, I have complete control over my attitude and how I respond to what is happening. I can choose joy. Joy is deeper than happiness. Happiness is an emotion that is completely reliant on how I feel. Joy, is a choice. I can choose to walk out this difficult season with joy in my heart even on days I feel sad. This doesn't mean I don't acknowledge, accept or process my feelings. I have many feelings that can shake me to my very core some days. It just means I realize I can choose joy in spite of how I feel, and my feelings don't need to rule my choices.
Notice how the next part of the verse tells us to pray continually, not worry continually. This season of life has been teaching me the difference between prayer and worry. I am very good praying and giving my cares and concerns to God. Then promptly after saying, "Amen," beginning to ponder, contemplate, and try to solve the problem myself. I would say I am an expert at worry continually...the praying continually needs some work.
Give thanks in all circumstances
There are so many things I can be thankful for every day. Even on the most challenging of days I have much to be grateful for. Fifteen years ago I married the man of my dreams, and he and I have been partners in crazyville ever since. I am blessed to be the main chaos coordinator in our busy household. My children fill my heart with great joy. My family and my husband's family are incredibly supportive, and I have friends who have held my hand through the most challenging times. My home is warm and comfortable, and my needs and the needs of my family are met. And every day there are small things that remind me I am not alone; a surprise bouquet of flowers from a friend, a phone call from my mom, snuggles with my kids.
This verse has been my lifeline. The thing that has kept my head above water. In this season of not knowing what to do, I focus on these three things. As I write this blog I am in my pajamas, eating a Domino's pizza, and I have cried several times today. I tell you that information because I know many of you reading this blog are walking through your own difficult season. Your story may not be the same as mine, but you know what it means to be okay and not okay at the same time. Perhaps you are even feeling like you are only not okay. I don’t want you to think for one moment I am picking a verse from the bible to placate or trivialize your story or mine with a trite response. This is the verse I am living and breathing in real-time. Choosing joy, giving my concerns over to God in prayer, and being grateful for the blessings in my life is how I am surviving this journey.
There are several things that keep me focused on this verse.
The first is music. For the most part it is worship music. My playlist is currently packed with songs that declare God is fighting my battles for me, reminding me to pray and not worry. I also jam out to Disney music and 80's hits when I need a pick me up. The important piece is music keeps my head in a good place and helps me control my thoughts. It is way too easy to let fear take over, and my thoughts can spiral downhill very quickly. Music helps me fight this.
The second is leaning on trusted friends and family. I'm naturally the kind of person who likes to do things on my own. Asking for help or admitting I don't know what to do is challenging for me. These past few weeks I have asked for help many, many times and the phrase, "I don't know what to do," has become an anthem of mine. Allowing other people who love me and care about me and my family to help carry this burden has been essential to keeping my head above water. Being real and sharing what is on my heart and asking for prayer has been critical.
The third one is to ignore the negative voices trying to bring me down. It is important to know the difference between leaning on trusted friends and family who love me and listening to people who enjoy getting in on small town drama. The real truth is there are many people who have an opinion about my family's current situation, and many have felt free to share their thoughts. But if you haven't walked in my shoes the last seven years, you should be slow to make judgments. I am learning it's okay to walk away from someone who isn't speaking life and hope into my life. And it's okay for you to as well.
It would make sense for the hero in the movies to stay down. He is usually pretty beat up by the time the line is said. But if he is a hero that is worth anything, you know what he does. He stands back up.
I've been knocked down. Some days it feels like I am walking a bit hunched over. The punches keep coming, and I'm not sure when they will end. But allow me to let you in on a little secret. My favorite superhero of all time is Captain America. And in case he isn't yours, let me tell you about him. Whenever he gets knocked down, and even when he's told to stay down, he always gets back up and says, "I can do this all day."
I will keep getting back up. I will keep choosing joy, praying continually, and being thankful in all circumstances. I am a warrior. I am a mom. I will keep fighting for my children, all 10 of them.