No one will argue with the idea that we are all racing through life…and usually going as fast as we can from one thing to the next. Even if I am sitting in my garden, I am thinking about what needs weeding, harvesting, pruning, canning, drying or composting. There is a lot to do, even in a garden when I am trying to just sit and rest. It makes for a pretty garden, but not so much for the resting part. I rest better in someone else’s garden.
My son is dealing with a few “bumps” in the road he is on…literal bumps, in fact. The first was a large owl, flying into his car and taking out a headlight (the owl didn’t make it either). The second was a pounding hailstorm, leaving indentations all over his car. Those bumps are leading him into the fascinating and frustrating world of estimates, insurance and friendly folks from the auto body shop. Bumps are never fun. His mean a lot of work and expense he was not planning on.
As parents we want our kids to run their race to adulthood with a lot of fun moments, cool experiences and happy memories…but also stopping along the way to grow, mature, and learn kindness, faith and loyalty as they go. No one wants the growing-up to be terribly painful, so we try to teach them to avoid the potholes that can knock them down along the way. That is just good parenting. We know they will still find a few potholes, and helping them back up is one of the most important things we do for our kids.
I was thinking about some of the potholes I myself fell into as I was growing up. I was terribly, painfully shy. In my Senior year of high school, I decided to bravely run for Student Representative for the band in our student government. I won…but before we were called back into the room, a friend of the losing student stood up and said “She can’t be the band rep, she is too quiet!”. And so they re-voted, and I lost. I had expected to lose, since the boy I ran against was very popular. Then my friends told me about the vote and re-vote. I was shocked to hear that the teacher was in the room, but did not say anything in my defense.
After hearing the details, I was angry with the teacher, and with the girl who demanded a re-vote. I was also no longer the quiet girl, though even I did not know it…yet. I did not throw a fit, or yell or demand justice. I did open my eyes up to the possibility of not being the quiet girl any more. Later that same week, we voted for a new French Club President…and I ran. I also flirted, cajoled and was as outgoing and friendly as possible with every single kid in French club. I won easily (there wasn’t exactly a queue of people fighting for the position), but I didn’t stop there.
That year, I cheered my French club to go home and do ALL THE CHORES for their families, so that their mothers would bake ALL THE FRENCH GOODIES for our bake sale. No chocolat- chip cookies or cupcakes for us. We sold chocolate eclairs, chocolate-dipped french lace cookies and a whole lot of other incredible French pastries. Our teacher found the recipes, we all made them and sold them…and made far more money on a bake sale than had ever been made in the history of our tiny school. All that money was promptly used to send us all on a field trip to a fancy French Restaurant in downtown Seattle, where it was used to the gastronomical delight of us all.
Would I have been a decent band representative in student government? Perhaps, but the Lord allowed me to fall into a pothole, and coming up out of it, I found my voice. Now I am just thankful. I speak often in front of large groups of students and parents, volunteering with our Career Center, and helping families find a way to finance education beyond high school. I love it, and feel like it meets a real need. The quiet girl found her voice, and she uses it.
In becoming a mom, I felt like I was very well qualified. Years of babysitting, years of working as a Registered Nurse, and genuinely wanting to be a mother seemed like all anyone would or could need. My first little baby was all any mother could want. Then, exactly 15 months later, my little boy was another story. He was tiny, angelic and had colic that reduced us to frustrated tears faster than you can say “screaming baby”. His tummy ached from 9:30am until 2-3am…he was miserable, and so were we. My husband was lucky in that he had to go to work at 4pm, and so often arrived home just as I would finally, at long last, get the baby to sleep.
On top of terrible colic, I was dealing with post-partum depression. Talk about a pothole knocking me down. For anyone who has never had depression, it is like being at the bottom of a deep, muddly hole, staring at a ladder and having absolutely no idea how to climb it. Back in the “olden days” of the 1990’s, no one talked much about PPD, and it never occured to me to talk to our pediatrician about the baby and his colic. Life was just a loud, excruciating blur of exhaustion.
On one of the few Sundays when I actually made it to church, I was soon surrounded by older ladies oogling and smiling at my tiny baby. When asked why I had been missing church, I burst into tears, telling them about his terrible colic, barely getting sleep and being so exhausted I couldn’t see straight. Most of the ladies quickly stepped away, but one actually patted my shoulder and said “Oh, those days are so long ago, I just don’t remember any of that!” And with that, I stood there alone, still crying all over my newborn in the church lobby. No offers to help, to babysit, to cook a meal, nothing.
My baby weaned himself almost completely at 5 months, taking to solid foods like a duck takes to water. The crying stopped and I mastered the art of making my own baby food. I returned to work, and was promoted to Cardiac Rehab, where I met with patients during the day, wearing my own lab coat and beeper. No more life with scrubs and long 12 hour shifts in Critical Care. One day at work, when the baby was about 8 months old, I had an experience like the lights suddenly turning on (even though it was daytime, and all the lights were on already) and I realized that I definitely HAD had post-partum depression, and that it was now, finally, miraculously, gone. Whatever neurotransmitter I had been lacking must have finally kicked back in.
That painful 8 month long pothole left a mark on my heart. It didn’t turn me away from church or even old ladies, but it sure did give me a heart for young mommies. I understand when they are dealing with PPD, and ache when their baby is torturing them with colic. If I had only had easy babies, I might have never realized how challenging motherhood can be, and might even have thought I was pretty great at it…instead of recognizing that I wasn’t so great, but God is. Now I volunteer with MOPS and love being able to support young mothers, because I climbed out of that big pothole wanting to help anyone else who falls into that same hole.
Hebrews 12: 1-3 says “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
We continue to run this race, keeping our eyes on Jesus…and trusting that He is going to be with us even when we hit a pothole. Can you think of a time when you had a “pothole” experience and yet now feel that it fuels your passion to serve or help?
2 Corinthians 1: 3-4 says “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves recieve form God.”
Potholes happen, but we are not alone, and He promises we will be able to use the comfort for others that He gives us. Our trials are never for nothing.
Honestly, I still hate potholes. They are always a miserable place to be, even when I am convinced there will be blessings on the other side. I don’t think there is anything wrong with admitting we hate to be stuck in the middle of a tough situation. I do think that the more potholes we fall in, the more we realize how wonderful Jesus is, never leaving us stuck there alone.
My son just called after talking to the auto body shop, and found out they will provide him a free loaner car, so he won’t have to rent a car for the multiple weeks those repairs will take. What an amazing and unexpected blessing. “This whole experience is obviously for faith-building, Mom.” Well said, son. Well said.
I would love to hear about a “pothole” experience you have been able to use to bless others in the comments!
Sonja and her husband Keith attend our Redwood Campus. To read more of Sonja’s blog site called “Musings For Mom's From the Grandma Side of Life”, please visit her site here > https://holdmamashand.com.