I’m failing at Advent. Ben is really good about lighting the candles, dolling out treats, reading scripture to us and singing Advent songs with our family whenever he is home. But the nights where has to work… it feels like I’m barely passing as human, let alone a spiritual guide for my children. We watch a lot of television. We didn’t even used to have one, but that was before. Before the debilating anxiety attacks, before the stress migraines and hives, before my mental illnesses were triggered. I feel endlessly guilty about so much, but the tv has been bumped lower on the list and I just laugh at those stupid articles detailing why moms who let their kids watch tv are categorically lazy. Come, walk in my shoes. I wish I could trade one of my problems for laziness.
My house is a disaster, my family does help and Ben assures me that I’m not being lazy, we just haven’t gotten around to setting up an organizational system yet. When 6 people, 2 dogs, 1 cat and 1 python live in 1200 square feet, organization is essential. We are still mid renovation, though, the floors (a Christmas gift from my inlaws) are next. The floors will be am immense blessing! It means we can do baseboards and I’ll stop putting my high heel through the midway manufactured home seam that runs down the middle of my living room. White trim and moldings will make our dark (read comfort) color palette pop beautifully. But doing our floors means moving everything all over again. It is much easier for me to feel at peace when my home feels orderly. When your mind is a veritable white water rapid, you take what you can get.
When I dream at night, I dream about doing chores and it is a welcome respite from the constant stream of Things To Do that runs through my head when I’m awake. I get all the chores I worry about the most done while I’m dreaming. I have boxes of Christmas presents that I just need to get to the Post Office. Christmas Cards I’ve had waiting to be addressed since before Thanksgiving. All of my christmas shopping was done by the weekend after Thanksgiving, but I need to wrap them now. I was really close to being on top of it this year.
Shift bid is coming up for Ben at the ambulance company. He has been on night shift for a year now and it has begun to take its toll on he and I. We don’t get to see each other much. We play tag team in order to sleep. The workload of being a night EMT has been an incredible education for Ben, you’d be amazed at what he has seen, people he has resuscitated, people they couldn’t save — all in year. But I need him around at night, it is when I am worn down, most vulnerable to my demons and when the children, also being exhausted, require the most attention.Long story short, I’m tired. I’m tired of fighting to know the difference between reality and what goes on in my head. I’m tired of the migraines and stress and trembling. I’m tired of insomnia at night and exhaustion during the day. I’m tired of not being my best for my husband and kids and friends. This sucks and I don’t think I’m a “bad” Christian to acknowledge that fact. This is a trial, one I didn’t invite, but God brought it to me anyway. By and large, Christians have a bad reputation for not being able to help people with problems like mine. That reputation is not without reason. I’ve been told that depression and anxiety are caused by sin and I just need to confess what I did, make restoration and then I won’t be sad anymore. It has been rare to find pastors who encourage me to go get help from anyone outside their area of expertise (like a medical doctor, or a professional, licensed counselor). All I can say is that much of mental illness is caused by sin, but I also know that sometimes those symptoms are the result of being sinned against, not personal trespasses necessarily. For me, the trauma I experienced as a kid that wasn’t triggered until traumatic experiences as an adult. Depression and anxiety are my constant companions right now. They are, undoubtably, intensified when I do sin, but it wasn’t my sin that brought me this hardship and praying for forgiveness isn’t the cure — I tried. I’m coming to realize that I might never be “cured” from this illness this side of Glory. God allowed all this for a good reason. How could I know that healing is going to be a part of His good plan? After all, I’ve seen good come from this evil. God works in mysterious ways. So I’m praying for wisdom and peace in the midst of the storm. I’m praying that Ben will have the strength and joy as he faithfully cares for me. I’m praying for grace with my children and that God would use these struggles to bless them. Every night I thank God for each of my babies. I thank God that I get to be their mama and then I ask God to help us all grow into men and women after God’s own heart, “like David.” I usually need to take a deep breath before that last bit. David, who didn’t have a Pinterest perfect life. David who sinned against God, who was sinned against. David, who despite all this was still counted as one of the good ones.
Advent, it is a time of hope. I’m praying that I would be immersed in hope during this time of suffering. Not by hoping to be cured, but hope in the knowledge of God’s grace and mercy to people like me: forgiven failures, broken and exhausted, shamelessly clinging to God. People like David.