His little breath on my cheek. His sweet eyelashes brushing against my face. The warmth of his body curled up next to mine. I willed time to come to a stop, and as I sat there with him, I breathed deeply of this supernatural gift. I absorbed his softness, helplessness, innocence – and I walked away stronger, more courageous, and filled.
We lived in the south and were on staff with a church. A large church with 1,000s of members, and over 500 in the group that my husband led. It was to this group that we had a gifting/personality expert come speak. After spending several hours both listening and talking to our group, he determined that I should never have kids. At the time, my eldest was a few months old, and the speaker seemed genuinely surprised (and worried) that I already had a child.
The reasons for his assessment were that, after having completed evaluations on personality styles, it became clear that my basic personality, and the traits required for parenting, didn’t mix.
I like time by myself.
I like to begin a project and complete it.
I like things organized and peaceful.
I don’t like a lot of noise.
I don’t like conflict.
I don’t really care for physical touch. I am not a cuddler or hugger.
For those of you who are parents or who have hung out with kids for any period of time, you recognize that those “likes” aren’t fulfilled in the typical day of being a full-time parent. Very rarely could my day be defined as “peaceful”. I hardly ever start and complete a project in one week, let alone one sitting. Plus, most of the tasks that I do undo themselves very shortly after they are done (ie. sweeping, dusting, changing diapers, cooking meals, cleaning the pantry).
Who I am, the expert said, didn’t jive with parenting.
I believed him. I was already relationally drained from trying to act like an extravert on a regular basis. I was already tired from trying to be everything to everyone. And then you throw in ever-multiplying children, and I was surviving, but not thriving.
Fast forward a few years. I had two young ones: 4 1/2 and 2. I was tired. Really tired. I knew what I needed. I needed all the things listed above. And, I really needed the upcoming retreat.
The retreats that my husband led on a periodical basis were life-saving to me. Everyone else went for the spiritual and social infilling. I went for the solitude. I got a babysitter, packed up all of my reading material and a few articles of clothing, and headed off into the woods, not to reconnect with nature and others, but to reconnect with myself. I drank in the quiet like it was an oasis. I dreamed, planned, and held my breath for weeks before the approach of the time away.
I really needed time away from being a mommy.
On the day before departure, one of the worst case scenarios happened – my 2 year old got sick. Stomach sick. Not-able-to-stay-with-a-babysitter sick. I found myself with two options: Stay home and care for the little guy, or take a sick little one with me on the retreat. Neither option was great, but I chose to take him with me. I found myself in a hotel holding my son’s head over the toilet or over a bucket. I found myself changing his clothes over and over. I found myself wiping his face and forehead.
It was under these conditions that the Lord taught me something that I’ve never forgotten.
As his stomach virus ran its course and came to an end, what I was left with was a spent little boy. He was drained, tired, and weak. He curled up next to me on the bed and fell asleep. I felt his body begin the process of healing after a rough ordeal. I felt his breath on my cheek, and I felt his eyelashes silently close. I felt him completely relax.
The retreat ended. People traveled back to their homes, and I traveled back to the life that I knew I’d be unprepared for, because I had been robbed of the quiet time alone. Instead, it had been replaced with noise, sickness, physical contact, no projects completed, no books read.
And yet, as I readied myself to take on the garments of motherhood again, I realized that I was amazingly full. I wasn’t empty, tired, or drained. I felt strong and courageous. I felt replenished.
It was at this moment that the Lord spoke to me. He said, “You know yourself. You are a good student of your personality, and you have accurately assessed who you are and what you think you need to maintain your life. However, I am the One who created you. I am the One who ultimately knows what you need. If you’ll trust Me, I’ll send you gifts outside of your personality that will sustain and minister to you. I will turn the scenarios that would normally drain you into situations that sustain you.”
I realized that the time alone with my sweet boy cuddling was replenishing. It shouldn’t have been, but it was.
I realized that the time feeling his little breath on my cheek was healing. It shouldn’t have been, but it was.
I realized that feeling his little eyelashes on my cheek filled my heart to the brim. According to my personality, it shouldn’t have.
But by God’s loving grace, it did.
So many times – so, so, so many times – I have seen God come through on His words to me. I have quit assuming how I’ll react in various situations, and have started encouraging others to do the same. I hope that today you stop to see if God might be trying to use a situation that forces you out of your comfort zone, or one that would normally drain you, to bless, fill, and strengthen you.