Friday, October 25, 2013

Be Still and Know That I Am God Psalms 46:10

My week began as any other week. Declan was feeling better after his first virus/ear infection and I was ready to get out of the house. It was Tuesday and I went to my Mommy Bootcamp at the mall. It was a tough workout too! I was so sore the next day.

The pain seemed to get worse and worse. I felt very uncomfortable and nothing helped. I knew I hadn't done enough to be in this much pain. Little did I know that I wasn't sore from the exercise, but that I had Shingles!! What!?? Someone my age (Ok, I am 36) could get Shingles- the dreaded, painful sickness. Apparently, it is seemingly common these days for someone of any age that has had the chickenpox before (mine I had in 3rd grade I think).

What brings on Shingles you may ask? Well, there isn't really anything that doctors know as a cause, but it is known that extreme stress can cause you to develop them. When you have chickenpox, you develop an immunity to chickenpox, but the virus goes dormant inside your nerves until one day it arises again in the form of Shingles. It is very painful and the blisters that form after the pain are very painful with burning and itching. The only way I can describe it is that for two straight weeks, I have felt that a very strong super villain with the power of fire has had a grip on the right side of my body. And, Superman is no where in site. Nothing really helps the pain either except for sleep if you can sleep.

Okay, enough of the physical and on to the MENTAL. What caused my shingles to surface? I am 99.9% sure it was stress. Many people have asked me what I have been stressed about. Well, I could give my life story over the past 10 years and even some before, but I won't bore you with the gory details. What it boils down to (no pun intended), I have succumbed to Jonesitis (oops, apparently this is a real word that means lazy) keeping up with the Joneses. Not in the way that you think though. I am very happy that God chose us to parent Declan and I love the area we live in and our church. I have a wonderful family and I have the privilege of staying home with our son. I also have some very supportive friends and a loving husband.

What I mean is that I have developed somewhat of an identity crisis (my husband's words). Those of you who have been in the workforce and who are now stay at home mothers will understand what I mean. I have always been someone who set goals for myself. Graduate high school- check; graduate college - check; earn my Master's- check; get married- check; have a job I am successful in- check; have a home- check; finish my design degree - check; have a child- check.

What I didn't do was set goals for after that. I focused so much of my life on getting an education and being successful at my teaching job that it became who I was - my identity. Being a teacher is not a 9-5 job - it is your life. Yes, you are with those kids just during the day, but in the evenings and even at night and on the weekends you are planning for those kids and worrying about how to help those kids and wondering how you are going to complete all of that paperwork. It becomes your life whether you want it to or not. And, in my case, I was without children of my own for so long that those children were my children. I loved them as my own. I shared in their successes and their lives. I was there for them when they had troubles.

When we began our fertility treatments, my mind became consumed with trying to become pregnant while still putting in 110% at my "IDENTITY  JOB." This caused a great deal of stress for me and my husband. We decided together for me to quit my teaching job. You would've thought that would've given me the relief I needed. But, quitting my job also took away my identity. I wasn't a teacher anymore. I also wasn't a mother. I was lost in a way.

We then brought Declan home. It was the best day of my life. I was a mother. Finally, after 8 years I had someone who would call me mom. We were elated.

Sometime after that first few months, when we got into the swing of things was when my stress seemed to begin again. I was going on very little sleep. I was caring for a new baby- something I had never done before. My husband was back at work and it was me against the world (my house). My identity then became WIFE, MOTHER, HOMEMAKER. I again threw myself into my work. I was determined to be the best mother and homemaker. After all, I am an educated woman and I was going to be good at this. I had also had 8 years to watch other parents and know what I was going to do and what I wasn't going to do. I made the baby food, I kept the house clean, I cooked the meals. And, whenever anyone gave me advice on how to care for Declan, I cringed. I took it personally when anyone said I should do something different when it came to his care.

I had lost my identity as a teacher. I didn't have a principal, parent or other teachers coming into my room saying I was doing a good job. I wasn't grading papers and seeing that the kid I had worked so hard with finally made a passing grade. There also wasn't anyone standing over me when I changed Declan's diaper saying, "Yay! Way to go. You changed that diaper in 10 seconds flat."

It took Shingles for me to realize that my identity is not in my role in life. People may see me as a mother, but what matters is that I am a Child of Christ. We need to remember that our identity lies in Him. We aren't here on this Earth to please those around us. We shouldn't seek praise from people. Whatever we do, we should be doing it for Him. Then, and only then will we have peace. Why? Because, He already gave us the A+ we don't deserve. When we have a bad day and our kid is grouchy and bad, we still get an A+ for the day because we tried and gave it our best. God gives a lot of parents children, but he chose Declan for us. I was always to be Declan's mother. He was always to be my son. We are so blessed.

But, the past year, I have been working to please others. I wanted everything to be perfect. If the house was a mess when someone stopped by or if the dishes were still in the sink at night, I felt a failure. I forgot why God gave Declan to us. He gave him to us to bring joy to our lives. He gave us Declan so that we could raise him up as a Godly son and man. That is what is really important now.

So, the next time you mothers out there feel as if you have failed for the day or week or month please remember that you have already received your A+ from the one who made you in His perfect image. Being stressed and not being content where God has you for a season is a sin. You are putting your body at risk of sickness and your mind at risk of focusing on things of this world instead of Him and the things that really matter.

I pray that (and I hope that all of you reading this will also pray) I will remember the pain of this sickness for many months and years to come. I need to remember the sickness that had me flat on my back for weeks. The house hasn't fallen down. My son and husband have not gone hungry. And, I have had time to listen in the quiet.

If any of you are feeling this way, there is a wonderful Bible study that I was able to make 4/6 weeks. The Bible study is for moms. It is called Moms Matter. It was hosted by North Point Community Church here in Georgia, but was begun by a woman named Karen in her non-profit organization called Birds On A Wire.

Here are some Bible Verses that can give hope to all of those struggling mothers out there.

What will I take away from these few weeks of physical pain? I need to remember where my identity lies. I need to remember that although people are looking at me, they are probably not judging me and if they are, it doesn't matter. I also realized that comparing to other people's highlights in their lives does not make me happy. I need to remember my highlights because I have plenty. I also need to remember I am not alone no matter how alone I feel at times. And, most important of all - I need to take time for myself even if it means exercising for an hour alone or going to the grocery store alone so that I can have a coffee and a little quiet.

Now, since I wrote a book and I am now in some pain again - I will go sit on the couch.

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