The Grey Days of Motherhood, Outside Voices, and Joy

It’s late afternoon and I sit in my car on the side of the road overlooking a lake several hours from home.  We were supposed to be enjoying a rare, midweek getaway, but my husband had had some service calls to make and work to do, and I’d had to entertain the kids most of the day.  Both little ones were recovering from a nasty cold and were terribly overtired, and I finally just had to escape the room, thinking I’d get some peace and quiet.  But then the baby screamed in the car and wouldn’t fall asleep, and I couldn’t take it and had to pull over
So here I sit, parked in a dusty parking lot.  In the rearview mirror I watch the toddler’s head sag as he finally drifts off to sleep, and I look down to the fussy baby sitting on my lap.  The grey skies outside seem to reflect my heart all too well.  A hotel coffee mug with strong, black tea sits next to me, getting cold.  I decide to sit here until it’s gone, and then I turn up the music, heart weary.
“Messiah/You’re Beautiful” comes up on shuffle and peace immediately floods over me.

***

My head swirls with outside voices.  Voices proclaiming how strong and worthy working moms are.  On the opposite end of the spectrum, voices proclaiming how you should be able to handle baby after baby in succession and be happy about it.  And all I feel is failure in light of those voices.  Because I trudge away at home.  Because I don’t want to, or feel called to, have baby after baby for the rest of my childbearing years.  
I feel tired…so very tired.  And not just because of how little sleep I got the night before.  I feel soul tired.
Earlier that day I went to Target thinking I would be refreshed and instead spent the whole time bouncing and nursing a fussy baby, and wishing I just had a kid who’d fall asleep and stay asleep in their car seat.  Wishing, too, that I had more money to spend.  Wishing that the tall Starbucks coffee I’d bought wasn’t too small for the nifty coffee cup holder on the cart.  Wishing that I could just sit in a coffee shop for a couple of hours…with just quiet and coffee shop music to distract me.

***
The baby on my lap finally nurses.  I put her in her car seat and sing along to the music playing.  She rewards me with a big, toothless grin.  I realize that I wouldn’t trade a million quiet hours at a coffee shop for that one smile…that I wouldn’t trade a job or being super mom to a billion babies for that one sweet smile from my girl.
And I know that I won’t always be so tired.  That someday I’ll sit in a coffee shop, heart aching for the fussy baby smile.  
And I know that those voices are just voices.  They are not me and they are not God, and all they do is make me lose sight of what God has given me to do…and they steal from me the joy that is found in being exactly where God wants you.
And I know that my days will not always be easy.  Sometimes I may just want to scream and cry.  Some days may seem pointless and rote.  And that’s okay. That doesn’t make me a failure.  Even in those days, I am right where God wants me.  I know that He will give me the strength and wisdom to see them through.  

***
Later, I pause before going back in the hotel.  The sun is setting burning orange in a beautiful painting from the Lover of my soul…the perfect balm for my worn and weary heart.  And He knows it.  I am not alone.  He is what I need.  He is all I need.  
Both babies are napped and happier.  I think of the good food and good sleep that definitely hopefully awaits me inside.  Almost imperceptibly, joy creeps into my heart.  Joy that is only found in the center of His will…joy that cannot be quenched or lost, even on the greyest of days.  A smile creeps across my face.  And inside, I’m smiling too.   
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