This year was the fastest year of my life.
It didn’t necessarily feel that was when Cora was two months old and I was so sleep deprived that I was questioning my own sanity all day long, but as a whole, this year sped by like none I have experienced before. Maybe that’s what happens with each new child that enters your family. If so, then any more kids is going to send me straight to my fortieth birthday.
This year, while it was exhausting at times and full of total joy and silliness in others, was one of deep growth for me. This is the first year out of my life where I experienced God come into my anxiety and depression and I’ve been living in more freedom there than ever before. But more on that in a minute.
Rio Vista has been growing on me. I still sometimes wish for the conveniences that come with living in a more affluent city. I still wish there were more places to go and things to do and a place besides the grocery store where I might bump into someone I know. I still wish the local parks had bathrooms and shade. I still wish there was something to hike nearby. However, despite all that is lacking in this small town, there is a lot that I’ve come to appreciate. I like that when I drive down the street, people I don’t even know throw me a little wave and some of the older men still tip their hats. I like how we don’t live right next to tons of shopping malls and chain stores and have to fight our way through traffic to get anywhere. I like that I can put my kids in the stroller and walk almost anywhere in town. I like how on Friday nights in the fall I can hear the cheering from the high school football game as I sit in my living room. I like driving on the highway through peaceful fields of cattle and sheep. I like the herds of turbines and how on our drives as we see them out in the distance we say, “Turbines mean we’re almost home.”
Like I mentioned earlier, this year I experienced a huge breakthrough in my struggle with anxiety and depression. Throughout my life and Christian journey, it’s been something that has continued to come up. At times it’s been minimal and during others it’s felt like life was swallowing me up and there was no way out. I’ve tried managing it through getting more sleep, exercise, supplements and medication, but while some of those things helped, they never cured it, only helped me cope.
After I had Cora, my anxiety was high. The lack of sleep combined with the new tall order of expectations made me feel like I was spinning out of control. I was on edge because for a while it felt like my whole day revolved around keeping kids from crying. Feed the baby. Make the kid breakfast. Hold the baby. Clean up breakfast. Make a cup of coffee. Get the kid dressed. Feed the baby. Clean up spit up. Put on baby wrap. Start a load of laundry. Heat up cold coffee in microwave. And on and on it went. With no family or close friends living in our small town, at times I felt so alone. Who was there, besides my also sleep deprived husband, to help pick up my slack? Who was going to offer to swing by for an hour to visit just to boost the morale in our home? There is nothing quite like the cry of an infant to make you want to jump out of your own skin.
So during this time I struggled. I just didn’t want everything to feel so hard all the time. I longed for some rest and peace of mind. Another thing that was difficult for me during all this was knowing how to view my struggle. Was it depression? Well, sometimes I did feel depressed. I would wake up physically exhausted and lacking any motivation to get through the day, but it didn’t last for weeks or months on end like I saw in the commercials. Oftentimes it was a day here or a day there or just for a few hours at a time. Was it anxiety? Sometimes I definitely felt anxious. Some days were full of it, but then on other days I felt great! I’d suddenly have tons of energy and a surge of tenacity. On those days I would accomplish a lot and make up for the days on which I barely scraped by. Was it a mild case of bi-polar? I had one psychiatrist agree that it could be that after I told her about my days which were very up and then very down. However, through all of this I was frustrated because I didn’t really know what my problem was. I wanted to call it something. Having a name for it might help me find peace, but none of the titles seemed to be an accurate diagnosis.
When Cora was six months old, a new friend invited me to a women’s workshop on a Saturday morning at church. I hadn’t planned on going, but I was eager to get to know this new friend more so I decided to join her. When the workshop started, the worship band took the stage for a time of singing. It was during this time of worship that the Lord spoke two extremely powerful things to me.
He said, “You’re my Cora.” Something so personal that it could have only come from my Maker.
And he also said, “Whatever it’s called, I will lead you out.” Again, so personal that only the Lover of my Soul could have known I needed to hear those words.
I didn’t walk out of that workshop instantaneously healed, but for the first time in my life I really believed the Lord was with me in that struggle. Even though he had brought me out of so much already in the past, for some reason I doubted whether or not God could help me in that area. It had been something I’d dealt with for such a long time that I wondered if this was just something I was going to have to carry forever… But his words to me showed me that he understood my inner confusion about what I was dealing with and that he had a plan.
I left the workshop with new hope. I didn’t know HOW God would lead me out, but I was certain that he would do what he said. That next season was one where I tried to memorize scripture like I never had before. I don’t consider myself great at memorizing things, but through the trying the Lord brought me into more freedom than I had ever experienced in this area. I wrote Bible verses on 3×5 note cards and stuck them to my bathroom mirror, next to my bed and on the cupboards above the sink because let’s be real, the most time I have to read all day long is while I’m doing the dishes. I stopped being a total victim to my emotions and I started to experience how God’s Word CAN in fact shape my emotional life, little by little, if I will keep putting it in the forefront of my mind. I also read Stronghold by Beth Kinder, the woman who spoke at the workshop. Her stories and inspiration also coached me on how to believe the Word as being more powerful than my emotions.
From this past year, the first year of having two small children, I can say that motherhood is messy. So much messier than I anticipated. I am more messy than I anticipated; both my home and my appearance at times, but especially the interactions that go on throughout out our days. There are a lot of sorrys and will you forgive mes. Lots of outbursts and not enough caffeine to help us on the hard days.
And yet, these years are intentional. They must be. Why would God make it so that no matter how type-A you are, there are so many moments that are going to break you in motherhood? Success in these years cannot be measured by how clean your floors are or by how stylish your clothes or your hair look. Success cannot be measured by whether the bed is made or the fridge is stocked. Of course we pursue these things and feel good when we accomplish them and of course we’d like to feel like we have it all together all of the time. Of course.
But success in these years is forged in the dark. Not always in the literal dark, but there too because when you’re up late and then up again early to care for your baby the presence of God is there with you. In the dark, when you’re stuck at home most of the day because your children are napping or crabby and you wish you could be anywhere else – anywhere with more people around. In the dark, when you flop it up and act like a toddler yourself in front of your children, but instead of just walking away, you humble yourself and ask that tiny person to forgive you. In the dark, when you work so hard to clean up a room, only to have it destroyed again the following day or even moments later. In the dark, when the dishes and laundry never end. In the dark, when nobody is praising or even noticing all your hard work, nobody except for God.
God must know that the work that is done in a mother’s heart during the moments or the periods that are overwhelming and lonely cannot be done anywhere else. God can’t reach your heart when you think you’re fine; when your life’s activities shine with perfection and spin effortlessly. God forges perseverance, love, humility, tenacity, gentleness and strength during these times when you think that there is no possible way you can wake up and do this all again tomorrow. During these messy years God can form gold in the heart of a mother. The kind of stuff that she will use year after year after year once she posses it. That is what success looks like when you’re a mother of small children. Grace, grace, grace defines you. More grace for yourself and more grace for others is success.
As for the birthday girl, she’s snuggly, adventurous and has an obsession with my hair. When she’s sleepy she likes to grab it and rub it all over her face. She has the deepest ocean blue eyes and strawberry blonde hair. She already has eight teeth and two more on the way and it seems like she is constantly eating.
Cameron is obsessed with airplanes and captures my heart daily when he always finds an opportunity to pick me a flower from the grass or bring me a “special leaf” if he can’t find a flower.
Both my kids have unusually loud voices. Both are precious, fun and just weird enough to be Kidwells. Being their mom is sweet and difficult and totally worth it.