On my church’s mom’s group email list, we have a question of the week. This week’s one really touched me because it hits on a lifelong area of struggle for me… finding contentedness in our present life. In answering it, it kind of turned into a blog post, so I thought I’d share here. It’s kinda long, but I hope it speaks to some of you.
I somehow missed this QOTW in the craziness of yesterday, but was so moved by what you posted that I had to share my answer. The question was, “As a mother, are there things in life that we are afraid to relinquish control of?”
As most of you know, a little over a year ago my husband Kevin was diagnosed with melanoma (a serious form of skin cancer). Over the weeks and months that followed, we slowly came to the realization that this was, in fact, a big deal, and that we very well might lose him to this cancer. Both Kevin and I have had many moments where we sat staring each other in the face wondering how this was all going to play out and how we would make it through. I constantly said, “If only we KNEW which way it was gonna go. Then we could make a plan.” Well, for those of you who have been following, we may be about to be on Plan E. So you can see how well THAT worked out.
One of the biggest areas of my life that I have struggled with was living in the future. I spent most of my childhood thinking that once I grew up, then I’d be able to make friends, and dress cool, and be popular. I remember in my late teens thinking that life would start in college. I remember when my college days ended up looking differently than I’d imagined, dreaming of a house and a family to raise. Seven years ago, one of my dreams for the future came true, marrying an amazing husband. And for the most part, I was happy. But still I struggled as we lived in a cramped apartment, tried to pay down mountains of debt, and I worked on finishing my undergraduate degree. I still found myself dreaming of “someday” with my focus now fixed on a house, the very thing that was pretty much an impossibility in the days of the housing boom and Los Angeles’ $700K home prices. Still, I struggled and tried to find contentedness in the day. Then, after we moved to Atlanta to be closer to my family and for those elusive low housing prices, I really felt like life was “about to start”. We spent a year looking for a house, lived with my parents for 8.5 months, and even made it through a 2.5 month job search for my husband. I was starting to grow a little, having patience that God was working things out, but still thinking that once we finally had our house, then we’d be settled, a picture perfect little family with our girl and our boy.
Evie was born two weeks early and had a weeklong NICU stay. Still, I didn’t surrender to God my desires to live in and plan for the future. I looked to the day she’d be released and come home with us instead of focusing on her in those quiet moments. Then she was the most colicky baby I’ve ever met and I spent six months waiting for her to grow out of it, praying daily to stop wishing this time away, this babyhood that was so fleeting and yet so miserable in the moment.
I knew, stirring in me, that God wanted me to stop yearning for the future day, that future moment when everything would be “just perfect.” Then, in September of 2011, we did it. We closed on our first, and hopefully only house. As the contractors started to clean it up with fresh paint and flooring, I saw my dream house begin to appear from the dark and dirty bank owned house it had been. Walls came down and new dreams went up. I began again to envision our life through the years in this house… Celebrations and daily rhythms of life… homeschooling in the new, sky-light filled office… sliding down the slide in the playroom… hosting guests in the dedicated guest bedroom. My head and my heart began spending way too much time on pinterest, making plans for the future.
Two weeks after we closed on the house, Kevin got a phone call. It was just a casual call from the dermatologist saying that the biopsy of his bleeding mole on his face had come back cancerous. A quick google search told me 90 percent of skin cancers are non malignant and so I put the worry out of my mind until the follow up appointment they’d scheduled for a week later. Oddly, I didn’t spend any time thinking about the future of THAT. It seems my struggles had always been my future dreams, not my future fears.
After that appointment came, with the jaw dropping realization that it was, in fact, melanoma, the less than 10% of skin cancers that were the bad kind and that this was, in fact, a very serious and aggressive form of it, my future dreams came to a screeching halt. I was forced right into the present day, knee deep in contractor delays, moving boxes, scheduled surgeries, a newly purchased mini-van with a dead transmission and a 10 month old with a urinary tract infection. And so it has been for the last year. Every day has been filled with just surviving and tending to the most pressing issues in the moment. It’s not exactly the way that I would have wanted God to teach me to let go of living in the future, but it sure has been effective.
That’s not to say that every day has been a horrible struggle, nothing of the sort. It’s just that, every day, I wake up and ask God to help me figure out what has to be done TODAY, because I have nothing else that I can plan for. I ask, no beg, His help to figure it out, because I simply cannot do it myself. That point was made abundantly clear to me through the past year.
Lot’s of days, we wake up and I realize that what is most important today is to spend special time just focused on the kids, regardless of the disaster zone in the house. So we run away from the mess… to a park or a coffee shop or even to the playroom at church. We sit and connect and play and then I come home and feed the kids and put them down for a nap. Sometimes God helps me find some extra energy to deal with the one or two most important phone calls on medical bills or whatever during nap-time and sometimes He grants me peace and rest to nap myself.
On some days, it’s a day where the bills or phone calls or traffic tickets or rodent problems absolutely must be dealt with, and God urges a friend to send me a text in the morning, just checking in, and offering help with the kids. I ship them off to that friend or neighbor and focus on the tasks at hand, again realizing that God is carrying me and providing for me, literally one hour at a time.
Some weekends, Kevin is well and we have wonderful family fun days. Other times, we are exhausted and send the kids to my parents and lie in bed for half of our Saturday. Then we go out to breakfast with a gift card some kind soul has sent to us. We sit and connect over coffee and eggs.
In all of those moments, God reminds me that His bread is DAILY. It cannot be treasured and saved up for the future. He reminds me that worrying will do nothing about the future and that there is no place for it in HIS plan. He has literally jerked me out of my future dreaming to be present for today.
It has been no small journey, and still it continues. There are many, many moments when I wish I could look to the future and see something other than a big out of focus blur. There is no possible way to dream of the future right now because we have absolutely NO WAY of knowing how this will play out.
But isn’t that really the truth with all of us? I mean, I keep reminding myself that everyday Kevin or I or the kids could die in a car accident (and that frankly, it’s statistically more likely!). But normally, we don’t live like that. We live like we have days and days and years and years ahead of us.
And I don’t know about you, but I have spent SO much of my life thinking of those days and days and years and years of future enjoyment at the sacrifice of today’s present. Today’s present really IS a present. It’s the only one we have! God does NOT promise us future days. In fact, He makes the point abundantly clear that while He has a plan for our lives, including our futures, that is not our domain to consider. We are to look to Him, trust Him, and eat of His daily bread. The manna that the Children of Israel collected for the future literally rotted overnight. And again He reminded them that His provision was for the day, nothing more.
But also nothing less.
And so back to the question. As a mother, what am I afraid of relinquishing control of? My future dreams and plans and desires, absolutely. But as God pries them out of my tightly clenched fists, I realize that I was never in control to begin with, and that a Father who is so much wiser and more loving and more powerful than I will ever be… Well, He’s already on it.