In the fall of the year where I experienced depression and burn out, and had my fifth child, an unexpected pregnancy, I put my three middle children in school. I had home schooled for years by that time, home schooling my oldest until 4th grade, and then on the track to home school the little ones as well. But after that, I just couldn't do it. I needed some time to heal from the darkness and confusion that I had experienced. I needed quiet in my home to think and just "be". It was a painful decision, for I love to home school and I love having my children at home with me all day. I love the lifestyle of home schooling. For so many years, that defined me. I was*that* stay at home mom who home schools and bakes bread and talks about curriculum at ladies' nights. Pretty soon I became *that* home schooling mom who never socializes and never gets out of the home. That wasn't healthy for me.
I spent a lot of those early years of my marriage and raising my little ones in a fog. I attribute that to a lot of things. Having babies every other year, continually clawing my way out of the pit (not really realizing that), spending a lot of my days just. holding. on. until *it*(whatever *it* was at that time) passes. I was desperate for time to complete a thought. I wanted time to rest but I didn't know how. I just wanted to be able to have the time to clean out my junk drawer. Looking back, I was neglecting "me."
Christians flinch at the phrase "finding myself." And I get that. I used to be one of those Christians who waved it off. But nowhere in the Bible does it say, "Mothers must sacrifice their time, health, and general well-being for the sake of their family." I mean...does it??
During that time of burn out and re evaluating my life--everything from home schooling, to how I spent my free time, to what "friends" I had (or thought I had), to what I cooked for dinner, to what shows I allowed my children to watch on television, I read Psalm 139 a lot:
You have searched me, LORD,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, LORD, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
I found comfort in those verses. They told me that the Lord knows me intimately. He *made* me a certain way. Not like *so and so* who can home school and also find time to make fermented foods for her family, while balancing on a tight wire. He made me have the desire to have quiet time amidst the chaos of my home. I tried and tried to do it *their* way, but what I needed to do was seek the Lord to how *He* wanted me to live the abundant life and how *He* wanted *me* to raise my family and care for my children....and myself.
The summer after their first full year of school, we were visiting family in Utah, and were having dinner with some family friends. Dana is a lovely woman with a pottery studio in her backyard and a gorgeous garden. We sat on her back porch and ate corn on the cob and sandwich wraps. She asked me how it was with the kids in school. I told her how great it was and how well they (and I) were doing. "You had time to find yourself, right?" she said. In my prideful days I might have flinched at that comment. But this time I embraced it because it was truth to me. "Yes, I did," I said. "I really did."
Finding "me" doesn't always mean that I abandon a way of life for the Lord. It doesn't mean I spend my time and energy away from my family to the neglect of them. It means I live a life in devotion to Him, trusting Him and listening to Him on what is best for me and my family. This could certainly change from year to year. But I don't accept a model of a life lived just because it looks good on someone else. (I am not saying I did that, but there were certain decisions I made in which I did do that.) I will keep looking for ways to "find myself". I will get lost in the Lord and embrace His plan for me. This means there is much freedom in my decisions. This means my path might look different than others. And I'm ok with that.
"If I find in myself, desires nothing in this world can satisfy, I can only conclude that I was not made for here." ~C.S. Lewis