Give yourself a break. It’s taken me a few weeks to complete this post because I’ve been learning so much about this topic and I didn’t feel ready. I’m not sure I’ll ever feel ready so here it is ->
I picked Jonah up out of his crib this morning only to feel the wetness on my hand and smell the stench of urine coming from his tiny body yet again. As I sat him down on his carpet I mumbled to him that I just needed to get my coffee and then I would be right back. I stood in front of pot taking several sips of that warm comfort drink before shuffling back to his room, ripping off his bedsheets, stripping him down, giving him his medicines, and filling up his tub. Good thing he seems to enjoy a morning bath because this is becoming a regular occurrence. At least I can take my coffee with me into the bathroom.
My Tuesday a couple of weeks ago started off fine, just like any other day. But about 20 minutes into the morning routine my average day turned into a day of frustration and negativity. I wish it wasn’t so easy for things to turn south in my head but 20 months of struggling to get Jonah to do the things kids are supposed to be naturally good at, like eating, just sets off a pattern in me. His new g-tube has been a life saver, but because of the way it allows us to bypass part of the digestive process that happens from mouth to stomach, it has brought Jonah’s reflux back- with a vengeance! Some days aren’t too bad, but other days he will only drink one ounce of his food and spend the rest of the day spitting up and whining. Ugh! Why do we have to deal with this again?!? The doctors said he would grow out of reflux by age 1. Here we are, 8 months past that, still waiting for relief. His poor intake was followed by an occupational therapy session full of negatively charged remarks from the therapist and yet another new, unrealistic list of things I needed to do with him every few hours of every day. Days like this I feel like a little bit of a failure with an impossible task ahead of me. I feel responsible for my son’s achievements, or lack thereof. I feel like it’s my fault he isn’t further along than he is because I didn’t make the time or sacrifice enough to spend extra hours on therapy exercises with him. I feel guilty and at the same time annoyed that we have to work so hard on things that come naturally to most babies. Days like this it is hard to give myself a break. It feels too selfish.
I attend an awesome mom’s group at my church and we often talk about the importance of self care. To be honest, I usually dread those talks. All of us moms agree that it sometimes feels selfish to take time out to ourselves, but with an increasingly delayed special needs child, it feels even more so. Here’s how my brain processes things: Any time taken for myself is time taken away from possible progress for Jonah. Now, I know, logically, that this isn’t the case. I know that it’s unrealistic to expect every moment to be productive. I know I need to put on my own oxygen mask before I can help someone else. I know. I just need to explain what goes through my head. And don’t we all think thoughts that we know aren’t true? Yeah…we do. It’s hard to give myself a break when that feels like it means my son could suffer. I still try to do it, but I feel guilty about it sometimes. It’s hard to give myself grace in these moments.
I recently listened to a podcast by Risen Motherhood that talked about preaching the Gospel to ourselves throughout the day. I think they hit on the key to truly giving ourselves a break and avoiding drowning under all the pressure of parenthood, or life as a student, or our place in our career, or whatever it is in your life that you stress yourself out over. We- I – have to pause my stream of thought long enough to remember what God has done. That he has already taken all of this weight and burden on himself so that I didn’t have to. I need to remember that he offers grace for every pee-soaked, spit-up-filled moment of my life and every stressed, negative thought in my head.
What does that mean, though? That means that when those days arrive that I feel like I failed as a mom, He freely offers me grace. God is there to remind me that I’m loved and I’m safe regardless of how I react to tough times. His grace means He’s not going anywhere. He won’t abandon me when I loose my temper or blame Him for my problems.
When we spend way too long trying to escape our anxious mind by watching hours of TV, He offers grace on top of more grace for every second wasted.
When I get mad and depressed about the pitiful 25 minute naps that Jonah takes, He offers me grace upon grace- often through a partially tooth-filled grin from that sweet baby’s face when I go to get him out of his crib. Man, that breaks me down!
When you gossip about a coworker, snap at your spouse, yell at your kids, cuss at someone in traffic, whatever that thing you feel guilt over today is- He offers grace upon grace upon grace. Over and over. He never runs out of it.
But here’s the deal-we still have to accept that grace.
The podcast I mentioned offered practical steps for accepting grace by preaching the Gospel to ourselves that I’d like to share: (Risen Motherhood podcast, Episode 87)
- Acknowledge the sin: Ex. “I let my anger get the better of me and reacted by yelling at my child” Recognize what happened. Recognize your triggers.
- Repent: to God and to your child or the person you sinned against if appropriate. This means you need to forgive yourself, too. Don’t let guilt and shame make its home in your heart.
- Remind yourself of God’s truth: remember that (if you have accepted Christ as your savior) you receive Christ’s perfect record and have access to his character through the Holy Spirit (his patience, his gentleness, his boldness) and you are not defined by your actions (anger/yelling) but by Christ’s identity. In other words, when God looks at you, He sees Christ’s perfect record, not your sin. This step won’t be effective if we don’t complete steps 1 and 2 first. This order is important-this is the Gospel.
I know how hard it can be to remind ourselves of the Truth, especially when we’re in the middle of the anger, frustration, hard time, etc. It’s important to note that speaking the Gospel to ourselves like this throughout the day is a skill that we have to practice and learn. It may not come naturally and you won’t get it right away, but just keep practicing and soon it will be more natural. To help, here are just a few selections of God’s truths to encourage you, straight from the book He wrote for us (the Holy Bible). I’ll end with these:
Psalm 103:12 “He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.” (NLT)
Exodus 34:6-7a “The Lord passed in front of Moses, calling out, “Yahweh! The Lord! The God of compassion and mercy! I am slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness. I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations. I forgive iniquity, rebellion, and sin.” (NLT)
Psalm 86:15 “But you, O Lord, are a God of compassion and mercy, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.” (NLT)
Romans 3:24 “Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.” (NLT)
Romans 6:6 “We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin.” (NLT)
Romans 8:1 “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” (NLT)
Galatians 4:7 “Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child.[a] And since you are his child, God has made you his heir.” (NLT)
Ephesians 2:10 “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (NLT)
Philippians 4:7 “Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” (NLT)
Philippians 4:19 “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.” (NLT)
1 Thessalonians 1:4 “We know, dear brothers and sisters, that God loves you and has chosen you to be his own people.” (NLT, emphasis added)