“I’m past my limits!” The text message read. “I feel like a failure!” My friend was verbalizing what I had been internalizing for quite a while. Pushed far past my limits by my kids, everyday felt like one big fat failure after the other. My patience has been shot, joy has been elusive, and I have felt like a non-active bystander to my own life. At what is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year! Humbug to this mama. But reading those words typed out, exclamation points working to emphasize her frustration, I immediately wanted to defend this sweet friend to herself. I wanted to tell her how much she wasn’t failing, and tell her to just stop believing the lie that she wasn’t doing a good enough job. I started to type it out, and then had to stop. If I really believed this about her, believed that one bad day, or even week, did not negate what a wonderful mother she was, then I needed to reevaluate my opinion of myself as well.
The other day, after it had been a very (very, very, very) long day with kids, KC looked at me and said “You’re the best mommy ever!” I almost turned around to see who he was talking to. I’m sorry, this hot mess of a yeller, who can’t seem to get her words out today is your definition of the best mommy ever?? I almost felt sorry for him that he didn’t seem to understand what “The best” meant. But then later, after they were all asleep and I could actually hear myself think, I began to ponder what his statement meant. He didn’t hold onto all of the bad things that had happened that day, he wasn’t still mad at me for the time out he got, or for making him unload the dishwasher. He looked at me and he saw love, he saw his mama who holds him when he doesn’t feel good, or has an owie. He saw his mama who cooks him dinner (he is completely that kid who feels loved through his stomach). What do other people see when they look at me? Do they see me for all of my flaws, or do they see my heart?
Conversely, what do I see when I look at my kids? Do I see only their flaws, or do I see their little hearts? Truth be told, lately all I see is flaws. Things to be changed, addressed, disciplined. No wonder I’m running on empty. Where is the joy in constantly disapproving someone? Especially when that someone is myself?
When that text message came through, I guiltily felt a moment of relief that it wasn’t just me who was struggling. Part of me was happy to let her know she wasn’t alone with her sense of failure, raising my hand and saying “Hey me too!” But part of me also hated admitting it. There is shame in the feeling of failure, when you admit that you aren’t holding everything together, you aren’t executing life to the standards of those picture perfect Instagram feeds you follow.
The thing is though, we were never meant to carry ourselves alone. We were created with a unique need for support and community, a need to be loved and to love others. Our Creator had a great purpose in this design, to draw us close to Him, but also to help us form those relationships with others that bring out the best in us. The us that He created us to be. Hiding our ugly only increases the sense of shame we feel, letting others in to speak the truth in love is freeing.
What I sent back to my friend was this: “Know that you are not alone. You are a wonderful mommy, you have inspired me many times, but you are not perfect and it’s ok to break sometimes. You are loved and loveable.” I wasn’t just saying that to her, but to myself. It’s ok for me to break, I need the reminder that I’m not supposed to be self-sufficient. The last part of my message though…that was what I secretly feared about myself, that I wasn’t lovable. Saying it to her, in her moment of despair, made me accept that truth for myself as well. I am loveable. My kids are loveable. I need to tell them that, not just think it to myself. There needs to be room for love to breathe, towards others and towards ourselves.
My birthday happens to be on Christmas Day, so I get one day a year when I get presents, and I delight in it. I LOVE getting gifts! Not because I need more things, but because each time I open one, it’s getting to have a glimpse into how my loved ones perceive me. I get to see their heart in what they bought for me. However, those gifts would be meaningless if there wasn’t love behind them. I’m not interested in accumulating things simply for the sake of having them. The reason this season is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, is because of love. Love for others, love for a Savior that came to earth as a tiny baby.
When I started writing this blog, quite frankly I was happy if at least one person read it. I told myself that if that one person got something out of what I felt inspired to write, then it was worth it. I still very much believe that. So friend who is reading this, I want you to know something: You are loveable. It doesn’t matter what kind of day, week, month, year you are having. You are worth being loved, and you are not alone. That tiny baby came for you, to love you. Christmas is all in the heart.
“No it’s not in the snow, that may or may not fall, and it’s not in the gifts around the tree. It’s in the love Heaven gave, the night our Savior came, and that same love can still be found wherever you are. ‘Cause Christmas is all in the heart.” – Steven Curtis Chapman “All in the Heart”