My husband said I was stuck in survival mode. Actually he said, “you’re surviving,” to which I excitedly agreed, because, day-to-day, you never know. But then he said, that’s not good, and that I should be thriving. Suddenly, I felt like there was something wrong with me. I have 7 kids… 4 months, 2, 4, 7, 11, 15, and 18. Between Autism, ADHD, Diabetes Celiac, Preschoolers, and a baby who literally sucks the life out of me (true story), surviving seemed like an accomplishment.
I wake up each morning to boys fighting in the living room. That noise wakes my 2-year-old who promptly begins yelling for someone to get him up, but hello… I am trapped by (dun. dun. dun.) …the baby. I finally escape, quietly, so I can 1) pee, 2) brush my teeth, 3) wash my face, 4) brush my hair, and 5) get dressed. Always in that order. I’ve learned to prioritize in order of necessity, because I never know if I will make it through the whole regimen. Shower? What’s that? (just kidding, but really!)
Somedays, I make it downstairs while baby remains asleep. I start getting children food, calculating carbs, cleaning pans and surfaces in between cooking, because, GLUTEN. Then just as I start to cook my breakfast, before the coffee even makes it to my lips, my boys are asking for the homeschooler phenomenon known as “second breakfast.” Homeschoolers, you know what I’m talking about.
I hear the baby crying in my room and one of the girls goes to get her while I forget to chew. Then walking back with her, she yells “the boys ripped the arms and legs off the baby!” I’m frantic, now, because WHAT?! And, then, I realize she means that baby (the doll)….
The girls hit the books, the boys begin fighting, the baby wants to be fed, I start some laundry, the boys complain of hunger, I sweep the dirt they track in, someone poops in their underwear again, time to make more snacks, something breaks or is dismantled, and round and round until my husband asks me what I am planning for dinner. What? What time is it? How soon will you be wanting to eat exactly? Don’t get me wrong, there were days when I had a plan, but most days felt like I was being punched in the head repeatedly.
“Is thriving even something to be attained? At this stage in the game?” This thought raced through my head and I immediately sent out an S.O.S. to my Christian Mama group to decide whether my husband was crazy or I was missing something. The answer pretty unanimously was that “surviving is a win.”
That’s when I knew it: I was wrong, and so were they. Mere surviving is not a win! It was validating to hear, but it was a lie. So, once I settled that selling some of the kids to the gypsies, or strategically applying duct tape, were unacceptable solutions, I began to consider what thriving would look like for me.
First, I prayed. I cried out to God — wailing, belligerent crying out. “What am I missing? What do you want from me? Where can I find this thriving and why all this pressure to do so?” I’d love to say the answer came in a booming voice or even a quiet whisper, but it didn’t. Instead, it came as a light unto my feet — one step of light at a time.
Suddenly, I began uncovering areas of false worship, and I began repenting of them. “Oh Sleep! I’m breaking up with you. As much as I have loved you, now, we can only be friends.” And God removed the love of sleep from my heart. “Dear Bread, we are through! I think I might have celiac, and maybe it’s actually a gift that I can no longer enjoy you in all your glutenous glory.”
One by one, bunches of little idols, that once had seemed unimportant, began to be shaken from my life. Things that were not evil in and of themselves, but by devotion to them, had become evil for me. God had answered my prayer, by helping me remove one little idol after another.
And then, life got crazy. The kind of crazy where you’re falling into an enormous pit and you try to grab the edge but instead you just pull more dirt down with you. Then, God whispered again. “Praise Me.” So I did. When things got complicated, I praised Him. When they got harder, I praised Him. When they got scary, I praised Him. And suddenly, in the midst of a raging storm, I was praising Him and my circumstances all seemed like no big deal in light of His glory.
And that is where I found this Thrive that my husband spoke of. It wasn’t in striving that I found it; it was in dying. It was in giving up all of my wants, desires, ideas and plans and worshipping God in the midst of what I didn’t understand and couldn’t control, that I found it — or rather it found me.
Friends, thriving is something to be attained, at any stage, even with seven crazy, needy children when life is tumbling down all around you. However, it can only be attained by giving up everything for the One Thing! In dying to ourselves, God’s amazing abundant, empowering, thriving life comes in.
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