When this year started, I chose a word that I really believed I needed to focus on as I continued to grow spiritually in the coming 12 months. That word was “rest.” And then, 4 days into the year, my world was turned upside down when we added a 6th child to our family…as the oldest. Now it is November and as I sit in a dark hospital room with a sick baby who is finally sleeping peacefully in the crib and I listen to the monitors hum, I’m reflecting on these past months.
They have not been “restful.”
- We have learned that adding an “oldest” child into your family creates lots of rest-robbing changes. Some are expected: they stay up later, they are involved in more activities, the conversations are longer, the questions are deeper. Some are not expected: operating day in and day out with the heightened mental awareness that comes from bringing an older child from a troubled past into your home is exhausting, relentless, and some days all-consuming.
- We have spent most of the year with 3 open foster cases. That means triple the meetings. Triple the appointments. Triple the court dates. Triple the babysitters. Triple the chaos. Triple the outreach. Triple the heartbreak. Triple the uncertainty.
- We have continued to look for answers for my chronic health issues. And, sometimes, looking for answers means changes. And (for me) changes to chronic health issues is one of the hardest things. Because, even when chronic health issues aren’t easy, they are known, they are “normal.” I can “handle” them. And changes are hard to figure out. New normals are hard to find.
- We have been blessed with a little who has come with some extra struggles. Extra milestones. Extra needs. Extra time in specialist’s offices. Extra therapy appointments. Extra time and focus. He has a tiny little body that needs lots of extra love and one that unfortunately succumbs to nasty germs more quickly than some of our others (and this is the reason I write from a hospital room).
- We have other children. This year they all got older. They have changed. They have grown. And we have struggled to find the balance of all their new needs. Struggled to really see their hearts. Struggled to know them as they need to be known. Struggled to meet the needs from their pasts that are so connected with their presents and futures.
I could write paragraphs and whole pages of the blessings that come with all the things I just listed. But the reality is that they come with struggles as well. And so, I think we are exhausted. And more than that, I think we have settled into a routine of living in exhaustion.
But, as I sit here, and as I reflect on this year, I find that I am thankful for exhaustion. And, as I am thankful, some very specific blessings rise to the surface:
1.) Exhaustion forces me to repent of sin faster.
I have a short temper when I’m tired. But, when I’m exhausted, it stays short. I don’t have the energy to nurture bitterness against my loved ones. I don’t have the endurance to fuel anger for hours. I do snap and snarl over small and meaningless things, but it is short lived. I have found that living at the end of myself, recognizing that my flesh will fail keeps me on my knees. I am desperate for a right relationship with Christ and those He has placed in my life. The weight of broken relationships simply isn’t worth the energy it takes.
2.) Exhaustion sharpens my focus.
The shining sun. A cool breeze. A child’s giggle. The sweet smell of a little boy’s hair. The warmth of my husband’s arms. Family dinners. Fall leaves. New shoes. Coffee. Conversations in the car. Joy in a new skill. Coloring alongside my children. A freshly mopped kitchen floor. Comfort food. Quiet morning hours. Happy chaos. Rowdy play in the living room.
I see and appreciate these things so much more when I’m exhausted. I’m more thankful. Every simple daily blessing is like healing balm to my tired soul.
3.) Exhaustion makes my true priorities very clear.
I love to say “yes.” I love to be appreciated. I love to pretend to be Superwoman and load things onto my “plate” of responsibility. But this year? I can’t even pretend anymore. I’m not Superwoman and no one is more sure of that than I am. I have had to step down from ministries. Say “no” to opportunities. Spend more time at home. My world has been forced to shrink down to only those things that are most important. And suddenly, I can see clearly where God has placed me and why He has placed me right in this exact spot. God has given me a huge ministry and, oh, the joy to serve Him simply where He has placed me.
4.) Exhaustion humbles my pride.
As I learn that I cannot maintain Superwoman priorites, I must let others in. I must ask for and receive help. Others will see me at my worst. They will wash my dishes. And clean my stove. They will bring meals. And babysit grumpy children. They will see my tears. They will see my struggle. They will know I am not perfect.
That humble vulnerability will teach me much of Christ’s love through His people. And it will teach me how to pass that love along in the ways that I am able.
5.) Exhaustion brings me to my knees.
Like…always. I feel like I have lived on my knees this year. And I am thankful. So very thankful to have lived nearly 11 months where each and every day I am forced to worship God as Creator and Sustainer because I am unable to fulfill the role He has called me to on my own. I simply cannot do it. And that realization is met with a sweet rest in the hands of the only One who can hold my life together. The One who has gently led me to this very place. The One who has prepared this path perfectly for me. The One who knows exactly where I need to be pushed, or where I need to fall. Where I need to fight, or when I need to trust. The One who gives rest…when earthly rest cannot be found.