by Ashley Veneman
It was a Tuesday morning and I was sitting in our kitchen at our breakfast table. My children were playing in their rooms together nearby, my food was cold in front of me after an hour of trying to get a chance to eat it, my blue coffee mug was empty from attempts to caffeinate the earliest parts of the day, and now my toast was wet. My toast was soggy on my plate from the tears soaking into it, and it was a holy moment.
Tears are not an unusual thing in motherhood, but this morning was different. They weren’t tears of frustration or anger, tears of exhaustion or anxiety – I’ve had my fair share of those – but no, on this morning, they were tears of gratitude.
I’m not the kind of person who generally thrives in the mundane. I know women who do, and I always feel inadequate compared to them. They seem so content, so at peace with motherhood, being a wife, supporting their household – whereas I never really even saw myself fitting seamlessly into these roles to begin with. Having a baby six years ago was a life changer for me. The pregnancy was relatively simple, and I had a rather drama free nine months. I finished my masters in school and quit teaching at the University of Memphis when the spring semester ended. Then September 16, 2011 came and my life changed forever. That baby boy was born and I loved him instantly. Everything about him was perfect and I was so thrilled to be his mommy. We stayed our two days in the hospital and then drove home in our little car and walked into the kitchen as a family of three. Everything was wonderful – for a few days – and then came the tears.
Tears are nothing unknown to me, but this kind of crying, this kind of anxiety and panic, this dark place I was falling into felt like an Alice and Wonderland rabbit hole that didn’t land anywhere pretty. Why? Why couldn’t I stop crying? Why couldn’t I calm this anxiety that screamed at the top of its lungs but was trapped inside my throat when I tried to articulate anything? Nothing prepared me for this season.
While every other Sunday school mom pushed her stroller around the church smiling at this stage of motherhood, I felt like an imposter, a liar. I’ll never forget our first day back at church. I was exhausted, still wearing ill-fitting maternity clothing, hair barely washed, and terrified. When Cole cried in the middle of our Sunday school class, I grabbed him and headed for the door while everyone smiled at his sweet baby sounds. I tried to smile back like I was a pro, and then as soon as I was out the door I did all but run to the parking lot. I texted my husband and told him to meet me at the car with the keys ready. Coming back home that day I felt as if I would never function normally again and I sat down at our breakfast table and cried out to the Lord to help me. That was six years ago.
Fast forward to now. Sitting at that same breakfast table, listening to my now two children playing together, I realized that even in the middle of a crazy morning where Cheerios had spilt all over the floor, and the towel rod in the bathroom had been pulled off the hinges by a pint-sized ninja warrior – I was so grateful. I wanted to pause that moment of listening to them and keep it forever, because I truly loved my life. Then the tears started flowing. In that holy moment I realized that those prayers of desperation from six years ago had been answered, and that dark season brought forth such appreciation for the joy on this side of that valley. Those prayers in 2011 whispered in the middle of the night begging God to help me love this season, pleading with Him to help me thrive, had been answered. Over soggy toast, the magnitude of His faithfulness settled in to the core of every part of me. He is faithful.
Does this mean I love all days? No, not even close (that’s why God created dark chocolate and Jane Austen), but most days, the beauty isn’t hard for me to see. I’m not a perfect mom by a long shot. Some moments, I’m not even a good one. But those kids playing in the other room love me, and I love them with every fiber of my being. These little years will pass so quickly, but I’m grateful that God is continuing to help me love where I am. I know I will miss these days.
So sweet mom, if you’re reading this thinking that no one really knows what you’re going through, if your tears are flowing out of fear and frustration, and if this season is one in which you feel like you are just making it through – call out to Jesus. He is the faithful God who knows your every thought and fear, and praise His name, He uses all of it for His good.
I love The Message version of Romans 8:27-28. It says, “If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.”
It’s His desire to show you the beauty in the mundane. He longs to give you soggy toast moments that take your breath away because you realize He is good. What He has called you to is perfect in His hands, and He will not just sustain you, but He will turn your tears of sadness into tears of gratitude that can only be explained by His great love and kindness. He is right there.