It was the night before Everett’s eighth birthday and everyone was excited for the festivities to come. I was sitting at the table with all my kids and took a breath for my "Preparing for Big Events and Let Downs" speech. One of my children struggles with differentiating between good and bad big feelings (all big feelings cause meltdowns; including happy excitement) and it has made me intentional about preparing for big feelings.
“Alright guys. Tomorrow is Everett’s birthday and it’s going to be awesome. We are going to have a great time. However–“
“We already know what you’re going to say,” Darla interjected.
I raised my eyebrows and she continued, “You’re going to say that there are going to be good moments but also bad moments. It won’t be perfect but we can still enjoy the good even when there is bad. Right?” She flashed an I’m-too-smart-for-my-own-good smile at me and I laughed.
“Pretty much verbatim, Darla. Big happy feelings can quickly swing hard to big sad feelings.”
I remind my kids regularly that we live in this weird paradox; the world is a fallen, dark, sinful place, yet God leaves His handprints on everything and uses even sinful, dark things to demonstrate His glory. When His light shines into the dark, the contrast awes us. We tend to think of our mountains and valleys separate but that has not been my experience. Often the sweetest comes in the hardest. Many of my spiritual victories have come on the heels of personal defeats.
This year has been one of “big feelings” for me. It’s exhilarating to be working on publishing my devotional for teens. I’m in the middle of making edits and getting insight from my editor. I’m constantly responding with, “Why didn’t I think of that!?” I’m stretched, challenged, and encouraged. The road of writing has been filled with big feelings on all sides–paralyzing discouragement followed by inspirational breakthroughs.
Pushing myself has been a theme. I started doing a little substitute teaching for kindergarten–8th grade. I was nervous I wouldn’t have the capacity, but it’s reminded me of my passion for classroom teaching (and convinced me I’ll never have enough time in life to do all I’d like to do).
My big feelings took a dramatic, grief filled plunge this year when my parents announced their divorce. It turns out parents divorcing can turn a grown woman into an I-want-to-throw-a-tantrum little girl instantly. I’m an adult and I understand the reasons. I suspected it might come to this and yet…it still just bites. Simultaneously, having to share this heartbreaking news with my children required me to pull on my big girl panties and deal with the hard stuff head on.
In June we had a garage sale where my mom sold a lot of her things in preparation for downsizing. It was an emotional day, but full of practical decisions and activity, which often pushes the emotions aside. I had been pushing hard for awhile–it had been the last week of school, Sean was busy with events, I was trying to meet a lot of ends and many needs.
That evening, I crashed. My mom and my sister were wrapping things up in the kitchen and the kids were outside. I was half eating dinner, half laying down. I complained that the clean up and bedtime routine with the kids sounded like too much.
As I was making a big fuss about hoisting myself up to call the kids in for showers, Hudson came barreling through the door, half screaming and half crying while his wide eyed cousins followed close behind. “I was whittling…my knife got my finger…”
My sister quickly put his bleeding hand under the faucet to see where the injury was. The water separated the top of his fourth finger into two parts. Her own eyes wide, she quickly wrapped a dish towel around and evenly said, “You’re going to want to call the doctor.”
I didn’t pause as I grabbed the phone. In only a few minutes time I had water bottles, snacks, a library book and phone charger. We were headed to the hospital.
It wasn’t until we slowed, sitting in the waiting room while I held the dish towel covered hand up in the air, squeezing the base of his finger, that I caught my thoughts. Worry for Hudson…exhaustion...a long wait in the ER on a Saturday night…sapped after an already draining day…trying to focus…what am I even wearing? When did I last look in a mirror?
I stopped my scattered thoughts. “Lord, what now? I don’t know if I want to cry or laugh about this. What do you have for us? Slow me down. Help me absorb what you have for me in this moment.”
I looked at my nearly ten year old son laying in my lap. He was managing to crack a few jokes while still wincing in pain. We talked about his fears over stitches. We talked about how God gives us courage and strength when we need it, but rarely beforehand. "All you need in this moment is courage to wait." We prayed that God would first give us courage to wait. Then courage to follow the nurse. Then courage for x-rays and ultimately–for shots and stitches.
It was a long night; waves of exhaustion followed by boosts of adrenaline. We passed four hours eating jelly beans, telling stories, people watching, and holding hands. He was courageous during brutal nerve blocking shots and stitching through his fingernail.
As we drove home, hours after bed time, I sighed. “Hudson, I know this was a crummy thing to happen. It wasn’t what I’d pick and it sucks. But thank you for making the most of it with me.”
He grinned a little. “Yeah, I cut my finger so I could hang out with you, Mom. Aaaand so I could miss bed time.”
“Ha! I bet!”
“But next time could we do something fun for special time?”
“Funny, funny. And yes–please.”
As he leaned back to doze off, my sleepy mind was at peace. It was the deep contentment of seeing the Lord's hand as He walked us through a painful event. I was thinking again how God uses the ugly, traumatic things to do His work. All I had wanted was an early, uneventful bedtime. Instead I got four (fairly) uninterrupted hours of time with my oldest son. We laughed, cried, yelled, prayed, and sat in quiet. I had to use a bathroom in the ER so I probably have staph, pneumonia, or STDs now. Yet, although I wouldn’t pick that night–it wasn’t wasted.
My big feelings are all over the board and embarrassingly unpredictable. I’m meeting my days with, “Lord, what now? I don’t know if I want to laugh or cry. What do you have for me?”
I usually laugh and cry. My highs and lows hit hard and often simultaneously. (I'm like a manic 8 year old birthday experience!) Circumstances are rarely what I expect, but I do trust the Lord as I hand my big feelings over and ask for His big Truth to hold. I know He is in the high and I know He is in the low. I am confident He won’t waste a thing.
Just throwing myself out there a bit...