Lament for the Downcast Soul

The clouds loom gray above my head.
Will the sun ever pierce this gloom?
How long until the pain is gone?
How long until I feel more than a sense of doom?

Lord, You say You know my inmost thoughts;
You say You will not leave me.
So why is it that when I pray
My prayers never seem to get past the ceiling?

My feelings rage and seek to rule me,
Filling my heart with anger and pain.
I look around for help to find me
And pray for a break from this endless rain.

I yearn for the day when I can stop fighting
And rest in Your steadfast love alone.
Lord, make your face to shine upon me;
May I find mercy at your throne.

Help me hope in what I cannot see.
Help me trust in what I know is true.
Help me surrender the lies I believe
And gently guide me back to You.

When faith seems far and evils near,
Dear Lord, be kind to remind me
That though I think I’m all but lost,
Your grace will always find me.

–Erin Mount

The Prayer I Stopped Praying

As the weeks leading up to Ava’s arrival pass with increasing speed, I am filled with a variety of emotions: panic at the thought of raising a newborn, when it’s been 6 years since I did such a daunting thing; stress about the fact that her nursery is nowhere close to being ready (she does have a crib to sleep in, but it would help to have a clear path to said crib); excitement as I think about what Ava will be like and how she will be different and similar to her big sister (will she be born with a head full of adorable hair like Charlotte and cry incessantly the first few months of her life, or will she be bald and content?). And of course, there’s the anticipation as I think of meeting Ava for the first time, gazing into the eyes I have dreamed about, clutching the tiny fingers, caressing the tiny feet and toes that spent weeks kicking me from the inside. There will be much to wonder at and take joy in, much to compare to my experience with Charlotte, and no doubt much that will be new and different.

One such new thing is that this time, after I bring my daughter home from the hospital, I will not have to think about counting down the weeks until my maternity leave ends. In those early weeks of Ava’s life, I will not have to agonize over getting her ready to sleep in a daycare crib and eat on a schedule. Why? Because this time I am getting what I long ago desired with Charlotte–the chance to stay home with my baby. Last week I sat down with my boss, after much dread and anxiety (I have worked for him for 7 years), and I told him that my last day is May 17 and that I do not plan on coming back after Ava is born. Even as I type those words, it is hard for me to believe they are true, but they are.

After Charlotte was born I struggled mightily to reconcile my desire to stay at home with the need that my family had for me to be working. Over time I made peace with the fact of being a working mom, but pangs of longing still lay buried in my heart, and I would plead with the Lord to make a way where there didn’t seem to be a way. I prayed off and on about my desire to stay at home for several years, until finally I didn’t pray anymore. I decided that God was telling me “no” to that particular prayer, and so I did what I could and searched for all the ways that being a working mom was a blessing: it helped provide for my family; it gave Charlotte the opportunity to socialize with other kids and be exposed to so many sweet, dear teachers at her daycare; it stimulated my mind. And in those early days of being desperately sick with ulcerative colitis, and later on with my two hip surgeries and lengthy recoveries, it was a relief for me to know that Charlotte had a place to go every day where she was loved and cared for, when it was hard for me to do those things for her.

Nevertheless, when I found out I was pregnant with Ava, after years of wondering if my health would ever be stable enough for me to have another child, I felt that familiar longing rising to the surface. So I started praying again, asking the Lord to provide a way for me to stay at home, even for just a while. Our finances were certainly better than what they were when Charlotte was born, but we still were uncertain about how it would work. Meanwhile, we put as much money into savings as we could and talked about the pros and cons of quitting my job. The numbers didn’t completely add up, but with our savings, we knew we could make it work for several months at least. I had to ask myself if I could be okay with giving up my job in exchange for 4-6 months of time at home with Ava, and when I thought about it, the choice was easy. I knew what I wanted to do, and I knew it was possible in a way it hadn’t been 6 years ago when Charlotte was born. There will be other jobs, but there is only one Ava. So we’re taking a step of faith and walking into unknown waters and trusting that God will help us cross safely to the other side. I don’t completely know how it will all work, but that is the way of life, isn’t it? We pray and we trust and we do our best and know that God will give us what we need, nothing more, nothing less.
I may have stopped praying that prayer a long time ago, but the hope in my heart was resurrected, and now I see God answering prayer upon prayer upon prayer, and all I can do in response is offer my deep gratitude and praise.

We will sing to our souls,
We won’t bury our hope.
Where He leads us to go,
There’s a Red Sea road.

When we can’t see the way,
He will part the waves.
And we’ll never walk alone,
Down the Red Sea road.

from “Red Sea Road” by Ellie Holcomb

I Don’t Want to Be Fine

I was at a very low point.

It was November 5, 2012, the day after Charlotte fell and cut her ear, and the morning of the surgery to stitch up that ear. And I wasn’t there for her. Instead, I was at home, barely able to get out of bed, much less drive my car, and because the doctors thought I had C-diff, which is highly contagious, the hospital didn’t want me on the pediatric floor anyway. I felt terrible physically but also emotionally because I wanted so badly to be there for my baby. I was hopeful, however, that things would soon turn around because my doctor had called in a prescription for a stronger medication to treat the C-diff. I hoped that the medication would finally put me on the path to recovery so life could return to normal.

Then, I got a call from the pharmacy. They were out of the medicine and wouldn’t be able to get anymore until the following day. All the other area pharmacies were out of the drug as well. I would have to wait another day. I was crushed. In the grand scheme of things, one more day was not a long time, but in that moment, after weeks of feeling awful and on top of everything that had happened with Charlotte, it was too much. I burst into tears and just sat there in the dark in my living room. Stephen and my mom were both at the hospital with Charlotte, so I couldn’t talk to them. I felt so alone. I pleaded with God to speak to me, to show me His love because I was having a hard time seeing Him in the midst of all this.

Not a minute after I prayed, my phone rang. It was a sweet friend from church, calling to see when she could bring by a meal for us (as so many others in our church did during the time that I was sick). Instead of answering her question, though, I burst into fresh tears and asked her to pray for me because I was having a really hard time and felt like I was losing it. Without hesitation she prayed for me, and her words washed over me like a wave of peace. The prayer she offered didn’t change my situation, but it changed my perspective, like prayer is so apt to do. I have no doubt that the Holy Spirit prompted Karie to call me at that exact moment, and I am so grateful that she was obedient to that prompting. Prayer is a powerful thing, not because of the person praying but because of the One being prayed to.

That moment from November will forever be etched in my memory as a turning point for me, a time when I realized that it does no good to keep struggles bottled up inside. It does no good to put on a mask and pretend to be fine. As Lisa-Jo Baker wrote in a beautiful post earlier this week, “Fine means the end of a conversation. The beginning of nothing.” If I had just pretended to be fine when Karie called me, I would have missed out on the blessing of having her speak truth into my life. I would have missed out on the Lord showing His love to me through one of His children.

Vulnerability is a hard thing, but isolation is even harder. None of us has to bear burdens alone unless we choose to. I choose not to. I don’t want to be fine. I want to be known. I want to be in community.

Slowly but surely, I am finding my way there.