What just happened? It's like a crater was suddenly left in my life! This is a wake-up call I can't ignore.
The kids are back in school. I would ordinarily be doing my best mom's happy dance after a summer of squabbles and dysregulated schedules. My eldest moving off to college has made this year far more somber. EMPTY was the best word to describe how awful I felt after they were all situated this year.
Finding myself at this major parental crossroads, it has been a season of reflection for me. I look back wondering how I got where I am today. Somewhere in the midst of special needs, it seems I lost who I am. Dreams were ripped away, and life was too frightening to dare dream again.
Before offspring even entered the equation, I looked forward to discovering life with my beloved. The future seemed pregnant with potential. Adventure was calling our names.
What we ended up with wasn't the type of adventurous discovery we had in mind. My husband and I are both much older now, overweight, graying, beyond exhausted. Retirement is something for people who have money. Chronic illness and repeated job loss put us in a financial hole that we will likely never climb from, despite our life-long habits of fiscal responsibility.
At the same time, I fiercely treasure our children. The sudden reality that they won't be under our roof forever is palpable. Those years that I so desperately longed for when we were enduring the nightmare of miscarriages and infertility treatment are coming to a close. Teaching them the basics of life is winding down. Getting them ready to move forward into life apart from their parents is the task at hand.
The emptiness I am left with as they spread their wings forces me to rediscover who I am. Now I must no longer neglect the fact that I am so much more than a mother, caregiver, and advocate.
If I begin to unfold all from which I've become estranged, those things that I have stuffed or ignored, I see things that define who I am. I discover values that have become my "hills to die on." I become reacquainted with things that I love, but had to set aside for the sake of the children. I entertain the possibility of taking that risk to dream once more, embracing talents, preferences, and the space no longer occupied by intense medical management.
While I peel back these layers, I discover one constant that remains regardless of the season. It turns out that no matter what phase of life I have been in, I am a reflector of my Maker, revealing His glory in ever-increasing measure as He conforms me through this wearying journey. He has grown me, especially as I foster that daily habit of spending time with Him in prayer and His word. I am His ambassador in a dark world.
What a blessing to realize that HE is the One who defines me! Whether I am doing, dreaming, parenting, producing, or simply being, existing, worshiping, my Abba Father gives me infinite worth. This gives me such comfort as my children march closer towards adulthood. While my children may eventually be able to function without me, my Daddy in Heaven still has plans for me. In Him, I can look forward to knowing myself better again as well as dreaming new dreams.
It turns out that the journey of completely immersing myself in parenthood, with three children who each battle some sort of complex diagnosis, has been a two-decade-long lesson in dying to self. This has transformed my character as I separate from so much of my wretchedness, embracing the opportunity to look more like Jesus. These changes and solidification of who I am have come moment by moment, through the hard, frustrating, exhausting moments of IEPs, emergency room visits, every-other-day IV infusions, hospitalizations, therapies, and intense daily engagement with all of the moving pieces of my children's needs. My kids have been God's classroom for my soul.
It is in dying to self that I rediscover who I REALLY am. I would be willing to bet that God is trying to do the same with you.
PRAY: Jesus, You told us that unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it merely remains a single grain. But when it dies, it produces many more grains. Help us as parents to be trained up in this dying to self brought about by our children's serious needs. Soften our hearts to embrace the lessons You want us to learn. Remind us that when we yield to Your will, we emerge less like our wretched selves and more like our glorious selves, bearing the image of Christ.
~ Barb Dittrich