When There's No Joy [Getting Past Perfect Book Club: Chapter 8]

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Welcome to the Getting Past Perfect Book Club! We’re reading Getting Past Perfect: How to Find Joy and Grace in the Messiness of Motherhood, by Kate Wicker.

When you fall, that's when the Simon of Cyrenes and Veronicas will step forward to help you. It's our job to accept their help. #gettingpastperfect #bookclub

I have been waking up joyless for nearly a year.

I walk down the same steps every morning, let out the same dog, walk to the same coffee maker, say the same prayers, make the same breakfasts, pack the same lunches, answer the same questions, break up the same fights, fold the same laundry, and so on and so on and so on.

True, the monotony of the mothers routine, no matter what age her children, can quickly grow seemingly meaningless, boring, insignificant.  And because so many of us mothers step into this vocation believing that it is our mothering that gives us our purpose, that it is our children who give us our worth, how quickly we grow despondent and defeated; how quickly we see ourselves as failures.  

Because this, beloved daughters, is a lie. This, right here, is a trap.  

Our children belong to God.  They are not ours.

And we first are His daughters. Not mothers.

Who we are matters very little when we fail to recognize whose we are. And people, with children as no exception, will always fail us, will always fall prey to sin, will always hurt and betray, will without a doubt, at one time or another, pierce our tender hearts.  

Motherhood will be hard, and it will wreck us in good and bad ways unimaginable.  

So you see, our hope must be in something else–it has to be in something else– besides how perfect we parent; how perfect we appear to be.  

Our hope, if we desire to make it through this battle of raising small souls right, can not be in things other than God.

But there is joylessness, and there is hopelessness.

I have felt both.

I have battled through diapers, and tantrums, all night baby crying, calls from teachers, messy kitchens, and all of the other things that most every mother can feel overwhelmed by.

But at the end of these days, I am able to pour a glass of wine, and peek on my sleeping little ones, and see how perfect these little imperfect creatures are. I am washed over with limitless love, and the day, with all of its tears, both the babies and mine, are without question, worth it.

But when joy runs off, and takes hope along with it, a glass of wine is useless to me. I need real help.

“Motherhood-and just being a human being in this broken world-requires a hopeful heart.  It requires the hope that there is light at the end of the darkness, that there is a point to all of this-if simply to love the best we know how and to trust that God’s grace will fill in the cavernous gaps.”

I have experienced brokenness, and I have experienced darkness, and I nod my head “yes” to Kate Wicker’s every word.

And, like Kate, I am no longer ashamed to admit this.

Because I no longer believe that super mom is a thing, and that mothering was ever meant to be done alone to receive credit for it.

What I do believe is that your misery becomes your ministry, and isn’t the beauty in suffering all about that split second of heart and eyes opened; when we realize we have a God who comes to our rescue, who steps into the gaps and fills us with His grace, and that we are charged with the mission to go out into the world and show mercy and compassion to those in similar pain?  

Kate Wicker, recalling Simon of Cyrene and Veronica, reminds us that as much as we are to accept help, “It’s also our job to reach out to others with compassion, not judgement, when they are suffering.”

But sometimes, the road we are on is so dark, we can not help others, let alone ourselves.

In response to her own battle with clinical depression, Kate Wicker writes, “You have to want to accept love, grace, and help more than you want to appear like you have it all together.”

Appearing like you have it all together is a hideous substitute for authentic living. And I finally reached the point where I was so exhausted from pretending, I literally curled up on the bathroom floor, and begged God for help. What felt like the lowest, worst possible place to be, was actually the very place God needed me to be in order to step in and do His work.  

When I took off the mask and admitted my pain; when I allowed the truth to surface-that yes, I loved my kids, and I loved my husband- but dear God, I am drowning, and I am scared because I do not know why I am so sad, and I have no idea how I got to this place-it was here, that I was able to receive the help I so desperately needed.

“We can’t get through life all on our own,” Wicker reminds us. “We weren’t designed that way. We were created to need God as well as the help of others to get through tough days.”

Sweet friends, there is such power in looking in another person’s eyes, and telling them, “me too.”

You wonder if you are the reason your baby does not sleep through the night?

Me too.

You are afraid your marriage is suffering, but you can not help feeling like your kids need every ounce of you all day long, even though you know that is not right?

Me too.

You can’t stop comparing your body, home, clothes, children’s behavior, and bank account to everyone around you, and you feel like a failure at all of the above?

Me too.

You wonder if the road your teenager is on is because of your poor parenting?

Me too.

You fear your children will give up on their faith and choose death over life?

Me too.

You wonder how you can possibly get through one more day?

Me too.

I love the comfort of a sweet reminder Wicker gives us, as she leads us to our Lady.

“When all seems lost, when in our arms we hold deep sorrow, we must turn our eyes to Mary; the most blessed of believers, and trust that we do not suffer in vain.”

I wish it did not take fear all too consuming to finally open closed hands, and place my children in the arms of Mary.

But the good thing, I suppose, is I am here now.

I reached out to God and I reached out to my friends.

I talk to good therapists, and I drag my kids along, too.

I still wake up every morning to the same routine, only just now, my prayers are beginning to change.

Instead of telling God my desires and perfect plan, I sit in the silence, and wait to hear His desire for me, His perfect plan. I tell Him I trust in Him. Even when I am not quite sure that I mean it. I say it anyway. And then I offer Him my children; I put them in His care.

And I think that, right there, is a game changer.

By admitting that my children belong to God, I release myself from the expectation of living up to my own idea of perfection.

By admitting that I need a Savior, and can not do a single day on my own, I open myself up to the power of His grace.  And when grace fills in the cracks and spills out of my wounds, hope is restored, and joy can be found.

To Ponder, Reflect, and Discuss:

  1. Do you have trouble accepting help? Does accepting help make you feel like a failure? Remember, even Jesus accepted help in carrying His cross. If it is good for Jesus, it is good for you, too.
  2. Are you exhausted from trying to appear like you have it all together? Pray for the humility and courage to admit your weaknesses and for the strength to hand it all over to God. It is time we live authentic lives- not only for ourselves, but for those God has given to us to care for.
  3. If you are consumed by darkness and can not dig your way out, reach out. Family, friends, your Pastor, anyone who will sit and listen. Remember, what feels like the worst moment of your life is the time when you are most likely going to allow God’s grace to flow through you. He has a plan for you. His plan is for good. He wastes nothing. You matter, you are loved, and you are worth more than you know- not because you are a perfect mother, but because you are a beloved daughter of a perfect Father. Press on beautiful warrior…you are in my prayers.

Feel free to comment on your own thoughts from this week’s reading, your impressions and reflections, and/or your answers to these questions.

When you fall, that’s when the Simon of Cyrenes and Veronicas wills step forward to help you. It’s our job to accept their help. #GettingPastPerfect #bookclub

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Copyright 2017 Laura Phelps

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About Author

Laura Phelps is a wife and mom to four, who enjoys writing, blogging and speaking about her faith. She serves as a Regional Area Coordinator for Walking With Purpose, a women’s Catholic Bible Study, and blogs at www.lauramaryphelps.com.

9 Comments

  1. Thank you for your beautiful, honest reflection, Laura. Your words, the chapter, and this book have helped me discover why I always feel a twinge of discomfort when I see people posting pics of their kids with captions like, “My life” or “My heart” or “My everything.” Now, I know they’re just expressing their love for their children, but on its face, it’s out of proportion and, it seems, setting them up for the kinds suffering we’re all too likely to invite when we make motherhood the end all and be all of life and our children all about us.

    • thanks Carolyn. It is never a coincidence when Catholic Mom chooses “just the right chapter” for me to reflect on! And this one…was tough. Because it is so personal. This book opened my eyes and heart to SO much, at such a personally heavy time for me. And I whispered an AMEN to your comment…about how we fall so easily into the trap of making motherhood “the end all be all of life, and our children ALL ABOUT US.” Wish I had this book to rad 18 years ago…but all in HIS time, I suppose. xo

    • thanks Lisa.
      I think, sometimes, my honesty frightens people away! But I have been comforted, more often, by another woman being honest with me, than handing me a glossy edited version of what she wished her life looked like. And when you hear that your words touch another heart…how quickly everything you have endured so easily becomes worth it.

  2. Like others, thank you for your honesty in being able to share your experience. I liked how you wove together key concepts from the different chapters that built toward this one. I especially liked revisiting the concept of our identity.

    • Amanda…I am right there with you on the IDENTITY thing. It has been stuck in my brain and on my heart for a few days now–not just for mothers, but for our kids…they struggle so hard today to know who they are. It can be painful to watch your child trying to figure out who they are in this world, apart from Jesus. This identity concept was by far my greatest take away from Kate’s MUST READ book.

  3. Wow, thank you for such an honest and open reflection. How beautiful it is when moms can be as real as you have been.
    Question #1 has been something that has really changed for me in the past year.
    It is really hard for me to accept help from others- but going through the worst morning sickness ever…and then an appendectomy at 30 weeks preg…I was forced by my body to just accept those meals and offers to help with my kids.
    Now that baby is here and the meals are being offered once again, I am so grateful and have learned to simply accept the help.
    All of the extra help has also made me so grateful for the people God has placed in our lives in this moment in time. He knew that we would need spiritual and physical help from others. The Mom’s and Parents Group at our church have given us just that.
    Their prayers and help with carpools have been such great acts of love. We have seen and felt Jesus through the extra folded and working hands of our community.
    What an immense gift it is when you admit your inabilities and let others take care of you, for a change.

    • What an awesome comment, Stephanie, thank you…this is has been on my mind so much this week, and a topic I am about to sit down and write about! Everyone needs help….with something…and denying help is turning down what you describe as “immense gift”. You are so right. Thank you for taking the time to share–you have inspired me today.

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