Last week I spoke at our Mom’s group at church. I thought the talk might make a good blog post as well, so here we are…
The other day I asked husband, Josh, to help me come up with a funny story to begin. He asked what it was about, so I told him I was going to talk about a time in my past where I said yes to way too much, the downside of that and how I have grown from it, etc. He smiled at me and said, “Well, I guess you could tell them how you still have a tendency to do that.” I replied kinda hurt, “What do you mean?” “Well, you know that marathon you ran on Sunday? You remember that you signed up for that before you were actually really running again? Then you ran a half marathon in the process and Hood to Coast? I’m just saying…” A little while later, he came down from putting Sadie to bed with a twinkle in his eye. He said, “Guess what Sadie just said?” (which is not uncommon) “She was looking at the medals in your closet and said, ‘Mom sure does have a lot of these medals. I think after this marathon it is time for her to take a bit of a rest’.” So, I’m taking a whole week off.
My Friend Karen and I After Our First Marathon!
I have been reading a great book called, The Best Yes by Lysa Terkeurst. As I read the first two chapters again I was reminded of a season in my life where I said yes to way too much. We moved to Portland over 9 years ago for my husband to attend law school. Madeline was 5 at the time about to enter kindergarten and we had just adopted Timothy 2 months prior, so he was 1. As soon as we were settled I started studying for my real estate license and within a few months was working every spare minute. In order to be good at sales you had to know people so I started saying yes to any and every opportunity I could to make friends. I also really needed and like to have friends- so, it was not quite as sleazy as it sounds.
So, we said yes to hosting a small group at our church, yes to leading my daughters girl scout troop, yes to being the kindergarten party mom, yes to mom’s group, I said yes anytime someone asked me to cover an open house or show clients a listing, yes to any training event I could find and yes to having people over for dinner at least once a week. Then my daughter started having trouble in school and was asked to not come back to a private kindergarten program, so I started saying yes to IEP meetings and behavior specialists. My son was still not coming close to hitting any milestones, so I said yes to Early Intervention and Developmental Pediatricians. Soon, I was saying yes to hearing tests, speech evaluations, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, engagement therapy, I started saying yes to pediatric geneticists, EEG’s, MRI’s the list could go on for days. For a number of years I was the main breadwinner, but also at every single appointment or meeting concerning our children. We went all over the city seeing specialists and therapists for anything you can imagine. Aqua therapy? Yes! Neuropsychological testing? Sure! Cranial sacral therapy? Definitely. Social Skills group therapy? Absolutely! Then, after 7 years of trying and multiple miscarriages, I got pregnant. I was running a successful real estate business which included a separate investment business and managing my two children who we now knew both had pretty intense special needs all while hosting home community every week and staying involved in other aspects of church. Taking my daughter to ballet and gymnastics as well as all of my OB appointments (because of course, this was not your typical pregnancy) was icing on the cake!
9 months pregnant with Sadie
Then I had Sadie and my husband finished law school. When Sadie was about 18 months old I finally decided to stop real estate and focus on helping my husband run his firm. That was my first real life no. It was excruciating. I had an amazing business partner who I loved and felt like I was letting down immensely. I also felt like a complete failure for not being able to “do it all.” I never thought of myself as a quitter, but something had to give.
My life at this point was completely overwhelming and I had no idea who I was or what I even wanted my life to be like. My whole identity had turned into a mom with special needs kids. Our finances were wrecked, my spirit was crushed and my soul was lost. All of my yes’s came from a good place of wanting help for my children, providing for them and serving others, but the cost was so incredibly high.
Timothy never stopped moving/destroying!
As a result, I had to start saying no. Some of those no’s were made for us. My son’s therapists one by one told us there was nothing more they could do for him and they were very sorry. My oldest daughter, Madeline, was in such a tough place that we cleared her schedule completely except for school. And then I just started clearing out everything else that wasn’t essential. It was the first time in my life that I completely shut out any and everything I didn’t have to do. I stopped putting myself in situations where I was around new people and I allowed myself a chance to really take stock and start healing. I had a lot of grieving to do and a ton of bitterness and cynicism to work through. I was incredibly fortunate to have a supportive husband and a few really good friends who walked through this rough time with me.
Photo taken during a girls weekend with friends
This process took a few years and I am still working on it, but the reason why I bring this all up is so I can tell you a few things I wish I could have done differently or even just sooner. Lysa mentions in the book the danger of letting life get so crazy that you forget God in it all. She talks about the passage in Isaiah that says, “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength…” The first time I read that I was so touched I just stopped. What a revelation! God asks us again and again in Scripture to rest. Matthew 11:28-30 says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
In all the craziness of my life rest was not something I got much of and I am sure many of you feel the same way now. Yet, God was faithful once I finally stopped and started resting in Him. For me, resting in God meant a lot of journaling, reading the Bible, saying no to things I didn’t feel ready for and actual physical rest. While I was not able to ever really take a day off, I gave myself permission to grab moments of time. An hour here or an afternoon there. I look back and realize how beneficial it would have been to have someone walk alongside me and tell me much earlier that it would be okay to say no to a few things. The trouble is, I was going so fast and little by little isolated my feelings really well. I don’t know that even myself much less the people around me knew just how far gone I was. I tried not to ask for help and not complain. I felt like those were signs of weakness and unfaithfulness in God. He had given me these kiddos, so He had a plan. I didn’t know it was okay to gripe about that plan. I would let a little out every once in a while- usually followed up by a joke, but it wasn’t until I was quite literally busting at the seems with grief and having physical manifestations of that grief that I got the best advice I have ever received. First of all, she actually told me what I was going through was grief- it had never really occurred to me- and then she told me I had to let it out. I had become so adept at holding it in and keeping it together that this was a struggle. Thankfully, I had a friend who needed to do the same thing, so we had a few “sessions.” It was the start of getting in touch with my feelings.
Getting those feelings out and resting in God helped me stop the rush of life. I finally had the chance to start really looking at my life and assessing the reality of our situation. We made a lot of tough decisions. Good decisions, but really hard ones. In it all I am learning to slow down and think more about what is best for my family, and me. We have a long road ahead. In all reality we will be taking care of at least two of our children in some capacity for the rest of our lives. This cannot be done in my own strength, it just can’t.
Karen and I on a hike
My prayer for all of you is that you don’t lose yourself to motherhood and all the demands it comes with, but rather that you find a new and even better you that includes being a mom. Like it or not, we are all in this club for the rest of our lives. All the good and bad, the yes’s and no’s. From diapers to dating and beyond- we are in it and the best thing we can do is support one another, pray for one another and enjoy loving and serving one another through it all. Find a core group of friends. It may take years or you may already have them. Be intentional about building those relationships because you just never know when you will really need them. Finally, figure out what needs to happen in your life to really and truly rest in God. There is not a simple formula and it may change from season to season, but whatever it is- be sure to carve out time for it.
Friends Karen and Liz on a Girls Weekend