“I don’t want this to be my story!”
I had been experiencing weeks of pain and exhaustion. Emotionally, I felt like my life was falling apart. I didn’t know what it was, but I knew something felt very wrong inside my body. I had no answers. All I could think about was finding a way to parent my four small people from the couch, because I could barely get myself up off of it most days.
That was a week before I found out I had Lyme disease. And while I can look back now and recognize that the disease only lasted for a season, a short time when my body couldn’t do all I needed it to, when I was in the middle of it, it felt like it was never going to end. I thought my story would be defined by my lack of physical energy, and that thought hit me to my core even more than the pain of being sick. Because what I wanted for my kids was more than a mom who sat on the couch. I wanted to be able to go on adventures with my kids, to watch them as they made discoveries about the world, to connect with them over something more substantial than Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. But it was all I could do to stay awake long enough to read them a book. I felt the weight of guilt knowing that the weeks were slipping away in front of me and I was unable to invest in them how I thought I should. And I didn’t want that story.
Lyme disease was only a season for me, but it isn’t the only season of low energy parenting I’ve been through. And the reality for a lot of us is that one season bleeds right into the next, and if it’s not a bacterial infection draining you dry, it’s something else – a baby that’s up all night, an ongoing battle for your health, an injury, or the overwhelm of an especially stressful time of life. The seasons of parenting on empty really might never end. Our physical bodies are limited. And it’s easy to want to reject that story. So often we think we can only make worthwhile investments as parents if we have a margin of energy to draw from, or we let the guilt and disappointment we feel rob us of the little we do have left to offer.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
What if we are missing out on something wonderful when we try to parent from a set of expectations rather than from the story we’ve been given?
What if the grace is found not in overcoming our inability, but in learning to live faithfully with it? His power is displayed in your weakness, not in your overcoming that weakness. So we don’t have to look at our seasons of low-energy as an inferior story or something to live with and make the most of. Like the apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians, we can choose to rejoice in our weakness because it is in that weakness that the power of God is best displayed in our stories. Of course we do what we need to do to be healthy and take care of our bodies. But in the mean time, while we are still low on energy, we can embrace our stories as beautiful instead of trying to disengage from them. We don’t have to wish we could fast-forward to the good parts. Our heavenly Father gives us only good. We’re in the good part, if we would choose to see it.
What does it look like to embrace a story you didn’t really want? For me it looks like slowing down and paying attention to my life. It means knowing myself well – what drains me and what will fill me back up. It means I’m refusing to scroll social media in an attempt to escape because it costs me too much emotional energy. I’m working on simplifying my expectations so I can savor more simple moments. I’m learning to meditate on scripture and in prayer when the moments feel hard. And above all, I’m choosing to view today’s story as a gift, even when it’s not what I expected.