I want to do a 4-part blog series called “It’s Time to Rise.” I don’t know what all I will share. I don’t know how long it will take me to write the 4 parts or when I will post them.
I JUST KNOW THAT GOD IS CALLING ME TO A SEASON OF FINALLY RISING UP!!!!!!!
And I hope a few of my readers can rise up with me from whatever they’ve been facing lately. If that’s you, know that my heart is with you.
Preface: I’m careful to share anything too personal or negative. I don’t want people to blame my emotions on my daughters. This is about me and how I’m handling the difficulties of life. Being a single mom is just hard, and dealing with the effects of trauma is even harder. I don’t want anyone to label my daughters or assume things about them because they’ve had a difficult background…because everyday they are overcoming a lot from their past. When we see people that they used to know from their old school or their old town, it amazes me that pretty much every single person makes a remark about how much the girls are different--how they've grown, how pretty they look, how their facial expressions and countenance look softer, kinder, lighter. It still takes me off guard because it happens every single time we run into someone from their past. Some days it's hard for me to see the overall change because I'm dealing with all the daily details, and we're yelling in the car and arguing way too much. But those brief interactions with people from their past remind me that God is working.
Gabby is 16 and Anna is 15 now, and everyday they have to deal with all the weird things about me! They have seen the best parts of me, and they have seen the very, very worst parts of me.
It’s Time to Rise
Let’s back up to almost a year ago. I recognized a martyr-mindset in myself in the summer, and I was intentional to uproot it from my life. I knew that I was letting my concerns for my daughters and the stresses of parenting affect how I interacted with others on a daily basis. (I felt like I should make a public apology.) All throughout September, I would repeat to myself the phrase, “It’s time to rise.”
I’m not sure how I chose that phrase, but I just kept saying it: “It’s time to rise.” I meant that it was time for me to pick myself up out of self-pity and keep my heart open to all my family members, friends, coworkers, etc. It was time for me to be a good listener to them and empathize with them and support them—even if I was stressed about other things, even if I couldn’t sleep the night before.
That same month, an incident blindsided me, and one particular Saturday in September, I felt absolutely shattered. (I feel like even almost a year later, I still need healing from this incident.) That was the first time in my life that I had ever felt that shattered. I sobbed on my couch and texted friends to pray for me. I was discouraged because I wanted so badly to not slip back into the martyr-mindset. But for that weekend, it was all I could do to put one foot in front of the other. I remember I stopped at Walmart and thought, I can’t believe I even have the strength to push a cart around this store. I saw an old classmate there. I knew that I had to look awful, but I tried to smile and ooh and ahh over her toddler. I went back home, lied on the couch, tried to eat half a bagel.
I woke up the next morning and went to church. Somehow I greeted people, set out supplies, hugged kids, and taught a bible lesson even though my heart was so bruised. But the hugs helped.
The next week I sat next to my friend at a conference. Let’s call her Dara. I’ve known Dara for about 5 years, and in that time, I’ve often heard stories about the challenges in her family. As a wife and mother, she has stayed strong in her faith even when all the others haven’t. Dara serves in the children’s ministry with me at my church, and I see her come faithfully Sunday after Sunday. I know her heart is breaking over her family, but she always musters up the strength to laugh and help the kids have fun. She’s so good at what she does, and she is faithful because she doesn’t want to let the kids down.
As I sat next to Dara at the conference in September, I leaned over to her before the session started. I asked her, “How do you do it? How do you serve with so much joy at church on Sundays when your heart is still black and blue from the week?” I told her about the incident I’d faced the previous week and that maybe I understand a little better now how she feels.
She smiled at me. She reminded me that there have been some Sundays where she didn’t make it, when the burdens were too heavy, and she couldn’t leave home. She admitted the mistakes that she had made in parenting her children and how she has come to terms with the fact that she can’t go back and change it. She told me about the worship music she listens to and the ways that God keeps encouraging her heart. She believes God will answer her prayers.
I looked at Dara, admiring her attitude. Her example reminded me that even though I’d been knocked down again, it was “time to rise.”
October was easier than September. But then November came, and another incident pierced my heart. I couldn’t help but think, This is the worst day of my life. After thinking that for about a week, I realized that if others—particularly my daughters—heard me say that, they would probably be offended. My daughters have faced such trauma in their lives, and what I experienced that day…even though it was very painful and worrisome, it was still minimal in comparison.
But the grief and discouragement were real. As I worked through the pain, part of me was mad that once again, just as I was trying to “rise” and not have a martyr-mindset, here I was again in survival mode.
I was thinking that no one else that I was close to knew what I was going through, and I showed up at work one day with my hair wet and a numb expression on my face. A lady—let’s call her Ruth—walked over to talk with me, but my phone rang. I gave a heavy sigh and explained to her that I needed to take this call. I closed my eyes as I answered my phone, feeling like I had all the problems in the world.
After my phone call, I walked back over to Ruth and told her a little bit of what was going on and what I was afraid of. Then she told me that she was actually living that same reality right now. She had actually lived through the things I was so afraid of.
As I listened to her story, I settled into my chair, stopped thinking about myself, and took in her warmth and perseverance. The very thing that had been keeping me up at night for the last 7 or 8 days, the very thing that I was so afraid of… was a reality in her life today. And can you believe she was even smiling tenderly as she described how she was working through it? Can you believe that she was still functioning, she was still okay????
I want to know that there is hope. I want to believe that I can be strong again.
I WANT TO RISE.
To be continued…
“It’s Time to Rise, Part 2” coming next week.
Mary works at Brookville Road Community Church, where she leads children's ministry and women's ministry. She is the author of She Won't Shrink Back: A Story of Building & Believing.