Not long ago I found myself crying in a heap on the floor of my bedroom. The tears wouldn’t stop. Its a place I’ve found myself before, the cold floor and I have come to know one another well, meeting every few months since I moved to New York. My own capabilities seem to crash into all that is required of me here: raising my children away from all our extended family, adjusting to living in the midst of constant noise and lights and an ambitious culture, and still trying to find a rhythm, to make friends and homeschool my crew.
I’ve learned a lot about what I thought I needed, and what I actually need. A lot about my own heart and the entitlements I used to view as necessities. For most of my life I could only picture a large family on land with a sprawling front porch and a beautiful garden to tend. Now, I am amazed that my building has two elevators and a laundry room in the basement. Six of us live comfortably inside of this 1,000 square-foot haven, squished at times, but so thankful. I sometimes wonder what we used to fit inside our big house and how I would ever furnish one again. I think our place is massive for New York. For goodness sake, I have not one, but two bathrooms…its unheard of.
Perspective will do that. It will bring thanks and peace and new eyes that give understanding. Which is why I’m continually confounded by my sessions of tears that just keep on coming, season after season over the course of my journey here. Have I still not learned contentment? Have I still not learned to trust my Jesus for my bread, to thank him for all my gifts? Am I back at the beginning?
It was through these words that I found myself weeping to my sweet second mama and mentor, Sally Clarkson. For the first time aloud, I questioned my faith, my strength, my capabilities, even my mission. I questioned whether I was fit for ministry with such a discontent heart, with such a sadness at times as I surveyed my circumstances. My children were consistently being greeted by too-tired, too- worried, too- stressed out mommy. Surely I had lost my integrity.
Sally’s words to me were full of grace and care and they were life changing: “You have to own your life. You have to start building a life that enriches your soul. Your have to own your circumstances, choose joy! Like the wise woman, you must build.”
A wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands a foolish one tears hers down.- Proverbs 14:1
The wise woman built. Not with brick and mortar, not with nails and wood, but built intentionally into matters of her heart. She cultivated a life that enriched her soul and the souls of those in her care. I was certainly not building. In my passive state, my heart was nurturing the images of the family life I had dreamed of building long ago. Images of a home with land and chickens and grass were seeping in all over my concrete reality like a weed. I longed for my ideal. I cast my affection somewhere “other” and the overflow of my heart represented what I had nurtured. I was not intentionally cultivating and building into my life, I was tearing down our little haven one small thought at a time. And through it all, I neglected what was beautiful, what I enjoyed, what brought life to my very soul and I became over-run by the mundane. Some days all that my children saw was the wild eyes on a harried mom trying to get everything done.
Have you ever found yourself in this place? Ignoring the beauty of creation, of a meal, of flickering candlelight and grinning faces because you are holding on so tightly to an ideal? Or are you so tired and weary that you just aren’t sure where to begin? Sisters, we must own and build and cultivate and nurture what God has set before us to enjoy…our very lives.
Lately, my homework has been to create anchors of joy into my life. My list is beginning to include some afternoons at the museum, time baking in the kitchen, a free art history class here and there, lots of time to write and dates to take in tea with friends that are an encouragement to me. I’m going to be wise. I’m going to build. I’m going to build a family life in this wild city that is marked by joy and a mama whose heart is content and full because she drinks in and delights in beauty. I will not neglect the tending of my own soul.
Will you join me in your own corners of the world? What are some ways that you can build into your own heart? What do you love to do that makes you flourish? Would you share with our community?