The glass windows were frosted over and icicles were starting to form from the roof, scattering light across the room. It wasn’t even December yet and I had no intention of decorating the small trees that sat in front of the fireplace in our living room. In fact I had just woken up from a long nap to see that the entire world was covered with a thick covering of white sparkly snow for the 8th time that season, making it feel like a winter wonderland yet again.
That must have been what they were thinking when they found the box I had tucked away.
When I got up, and saw how sweetly they were working together and how tenderly they were carrying each ornament, I didn’t have the heart to tell them to stop or put them away. Instead I sat close by, and watched quietly, as they carefully placed each ornament on the tree; My 6 year old son, my 4 year old son and the 6 year old neighbour boy. These boys had my heart and they knew it!
After a few minutes, just decorating must have got boring, because my oldest son got excited and squealed, ‘look this one’s plastic’, and then attempted to bounce the pretty, thin, glass ball on the ground.
It shattered on impact before I could even squeal a warning, and the three boys stood silently, their mouths forming o’s as they surveyed the scattered pieces of fragmented glass. Isaiah, the one who had bounced the ornament, bent down and slowly began to pick up the pieces. He brought them to me, reverently presenting them in outstretched hands and trembling lips.
At first I wanted to scold him, getting angry that he had taken the balls out without permission in the first place. Then I was mad at myself for allowing them to do it while I just sat and watched. But something quiet whispered to my heart, and instead of scolding, I asked a question. The three pairs of eyes moved from the sharp, tiny pieces, up to my face as they considered the answer. ‘Can any of us mend this broken ball?’
It was obvious that the hundreds of tiny slivers couldn’t possibly be put back together, Isaiah shook his head sadly, apologising for his mistake, still trying not to cry. But it wasn’t regret that I wanted him to understand just now, it was hope.
I reflected on my own life. My hopes and expectations for what I thought it would be like to be a mother and a wife. I clearly remembered how many times I had fallen short despite my best efforts. The times when I had shattered the beautiful gifts that I was sent with, times when I wanted to give up much more desperately than any human but myself knew. Times when I felt cracked.
The marriage I’d experienced for more than 20 years was always rewarding, but never easy. We definitely were not the couple that never fought, or whose passionate love made daily life a constant bliss. Between significant shared mental, & physical challenges, it seemed like few things had turned out the way I had expected in my family.
And then there was parenting… I had always dreamed of being an awesome mom, reading stories to the younger kids around a fireplace, chatting late into the night with the older ones, as they poured out their secret dreams and fears, exposing their hearts with me. All of this in preparation of course, for taking them on grand adventures around the world where we’d feed starving children and sleep on dirt floors and eat nothing but mud cakes and tea for dinner.
As each new child was born, they were welcomed with enthusiastic delight into our growing family. And the plan was working flawlessly. The sleepless nights and poopy diapers had never overwhelmed me much, but when those chubby cheeked angels grew up a little, and the toddler days were behind me, I was surrounded by complications that I never imagine I’d be facing.
Never-ending access to technology, friends, and the distracting messages of the world took its toll on my happy world. Kids became teenagers and it seemed like nothing was the same anymore. Suddenly our united, fun home, seemed to turn upside down as children ventured off on their own long before my mother heart felt ready to let them go. Private struggles with my oldest 2 girls, fought Goliath battles inside my heart, persuading me that I was a monumental failure, and the relationships around became strained and distressing.
I guess no mom likes it when their children leave home, and I was no exception, the only difference was, mine left when they were only 16 & 17. Still far too early to be on their own, in my opinion.
Ridiculous questions plagued my days and especially my nights:
Had I been too strict, or maybe too lenient? Maybe I never should have given them cell phones, or allowed them access to social media at all. Had I chosen the wrong diet for my kids, maybe it was GMO’s. Was it because my devotionals weren’t interesting enough, or was it because of all those mornings that I missed even teaching devotionals? The vitamins that I bought were probably the wrong kind, or when we visited Drs. They were most likely the wrong Dr’s or they must have prescribed the wrong medicine. It was the underwear, definitely the thong underwear I found secreted away in their drawers that had started it all!
Endless dark thoughts crept in whispering convincing lies and foolishly I believed.
Days past in darkness and despair, spending hours locked in my room weeping into my pillows, and begging God to take away this pain. When my daughters were doing great in the world, going to school, making friends and working, I was proud, and felt glad they were having this grand adventure without me. But when I heard word that they were alone, or afraid, or cold, or hungry, or hurt, or abandoned, or abused or sick or in bondage, I thought my heart would surely collapse. In fact one day, my heart did give way and I fell in heap onto the floor where I couldn’t breathe. I felt the beats of my heart slowing down and I wondered if this was the moment where I would leave this earth life. In all honesty, I was glad at the possibility of escaping all this pain and finally going home.
But then it came; The vision of all my other kids and my husband, my parents and my sisters and brothers. I knew I wasn’t supposed to leave just yet, and If I did, I would regret it for eternity.
I begged my heart to breathe again, I desperately wheezed in one breath and then another. It felt like my heart was being crushed and my lungs were screaming for air. I knew that I was meant to win this battle. I was going to get up and fight. I suddenly became determined to never allow this darkness to consume me again.
I was going to shine a light on the lies and the whisperings that were holding ME captive. I was going to believe that regardless of all the things I did and didn’t do, that God had chosen me to be this wife, this mother, this sister, this daughter, and somehow with His Grace, I WAS GOING TO BE ENOUGH!
My husband found me a half later on the floor shaking, covered in sweat, my breath finally having returned normally and the crushing pain subsided. He picked me up gently and carried me into the bedroom where we discussed our options. We made a plan together of how we could get through this experience, and how we could be the parents and companions that we both wanted to be.
We had a support network of amazing friends and family members that helped inspire us, and we discovered powerful mentors in the professional world that taught us things in our personal lives that were game changing.
I learned the power of meditation, affirmations, deep breathing, exercise, water, sleep, emotional stress management, and prayer.
Above all else, I learned how to share my burdens with our Savior Jesus Christ.
If you are in this situation, overwhelmed or paralyzed with fear or despair I encourage you to check out
THIS POST about Emotional Stress Management and get help from friends, family or medical doctors.
As the days turned into months and the months into a couple of years, the fears and doubts that had previously seemed to rob me of my happiness at the most inconvenient times, slowly began to transform. My heartaches got tumbled inside and the jagged edges were smoothed into something that didn’t feel quite so painful.
I began to see the transformation of my own children at home and away from home, as they made mistakes, picked themselves up, and tried again. I got visits and small messages from my girls who were away from home, reminding me of how magnificent and strong they were, and how the beautiful gifts that they had possessed since birth had blessed other people.
It seemed like I could feel the muscles of my heart being torn apart and then fiber by fiber stitched painfully, slowly, back together. I was learning to turn my life over to God, to have faith in His great plan of happiness for my family. My feelings of despair, and discouragement gave way to something unexpected. I was growing a heart that was stronger, happier, and full of the expectation of joy for family and future.
Here I was two years later, staring down at my son’s outstretched hands, looking at the shattered pieces reflecting the light from outside in a million different directions. There was no way to put all my thoughts into words that this little boy would understand, but I hoped with a simple explanation he could at least grasp a little of this message.
Even with our hardest work and most focused attention WE WILL MESS UP! We will be surrounded at some point in our lives by shattered pieces of something that was once beautiful and that we cannot possibly repair alone.
But the splendid & wonderful news of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that if we let Him, the Great Healer CAN repair our lives and makes us whole again!!
I am glad that my sons reminded me of this heart saving lesson. I am glad my daughters continue to test me and try me, and even though 5 more glass balls broke before the afternoon was over, I am glad that today I learned about Christmas.