“You can do hard things.”
It was a different approach to the inevitable, “It’s just too hard,” that often came out of my boys’ mouths when attempting something difficult—math homework, riding a bike without training wheels, obeying. It seemed a preferable response to the one that often bubbled to the tip of my tongue and, in the early years of parenting, often escaped before being caught: “Get over it.”
A subtle switch in verbiage, but it made all the difference in how the rest of the conversation and interaction went with my children. What used to result in tirades and tears, now ended in comfort and confidence. It wasn’t just those five words that diffused my boys’ frustration, but the two words I often uttered after: “I’m here.”
It wasn’t until adulthood—and two kids into this parenting thing—that I realized I struggled with anxiety. The weight of motherhood and marriage had brought things to the surface that could no longer be ignored, but once I started to recognize the signs within myself, it was easy to trace back in time and see that this silent enemy was not new. It had been whispering lies in my ear for decades. Lies that crept slowly into the back of my mind, leaving me broken and exposed. It soon became abundantly clear that these lies had a different name, and it was time to recognize it for what it was: Satan.
He had worked his cunning magic, leaving me with a past full of giving up and quitting—a lifetime of telling myself I wasn’t enough, and I couldn’t do hard things. Memories of the belly-curling discomfort I often felt as a child that usually led me to the school nurse’s office to seek shelter and relief still haunt me. I remember nights spent sneaking into my parents’ room to sleep on the floor beside their bed because the darkness seemed to close in on me in a tangible way. I fell into a pattern where I was always the first to count myself out. I couldn’t do it. I was inadequate. So instead of facing the hard and trying, whether I succeeded or failed, I simply gave up.
By nature and design, I am a creature of habit. This long history of carrying the weight of anxiety solidified this in me. I liked things the way they were. I didn’t want to face change or try new things. I stayed in the shallow end and embraced my comfort like it was the very thing that kept me going. If I can’t control it, I don’t want any part of it. But, as is life, I forever am finding myself in places where I have zero control. My initial reaction? Tears, always tears. God bless my husband.
I don’t know if I have ever cried as much as I have in the beginning few months of 2020. But, then again, I know I have never had less control over the things and happenings around me than in these months.
Hello, Coronavirus. Goodbye, all my plans and stable, happy life.
School canceled for two weeks: tears. Stores, restaurants, beaches closed: tears. Schools canceled for all of April: tears. No Easter services, no 3rd birthday party for my youngest, no kid-less trip with my husband that we had been looking forward to for months: tears. School canceled for the remainder of the year. Oh, the tears.
It was too hard. I didn’t want to do it. I wasn’t a teacher and had no desire to be. How was I going to teach my two oldest all the things they needed to learn? How was I going to keep them entertained and occupied? How was I going to stay sane without my Bible Study time and support group of girlfriends?
And then I would remember the reverse psychology parenting I used on my kids: “You can do hard things.” But, it wasn’t only these pointed words that gave me courage to move forward even when my feet felt weighed down with cement. It was the whispered words from a faithful God:
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
“I am with you,” He states at least 20 times throughout Scripture, but in my broken humanity, I forget. Or worse, don’t believe.
He doesn’t mince words. He isn’t suggestive or vague in the language that He uses. But, just as I can faithfully say to my boys, “I’m here,” He reassures me over and over that He is here—day in and day out, global pandemic or not. He stands beside me through my tears and empowers me to do the hard things, not through anything I bring to the table, but through the power of who He is.
And suddenly, the hard things were getting done.
On day 5, I became a homeschool teacher to my boys. We found a flow and rhythm and we got it done. Easy? Never, but we did it.
On day 28, we celebrated a 3rd birthday without a formal party. And it was the best day we had in a long time. Sprinkle donuts, balloons, Chick-fil-a, presents, and just our family of five.
On day 30, we worshiped our Risen Savior at a drive-in movie theater. Instead of walking through the doors of our church, we parked our cars and sang to the God of the universe. Empty buildings, sure; but also empty tomb.
Day 30 also brought about my first time cooking a ham—start to finish, solely me. And not only was it edible, it was amazing.
On day 39, I became a hairdresser. A few deep breaths and a video tutorial and I cut, not just my three boys’ hair, but also my husband’s.
Moms-to-be were celebrated and meal trains were created. Zoom calls were abundant as we each did the hard things and used our time and efforts to connect. Happy mail was sent. Meals were spent together. Communities worked tirelessly to keep those around them afloat.
Even still, it’s a daily endeavor to wake up, plagued with the coarseness of the world. The enemy still whispers his lies of inadequacy and inability, urging me to quit and give up. But, those words become unintelligible murmurs against the affirmations of the God who intricately designed every part of me.
And so, even in the face of my doubt, I choose to believe again and again in the One who conquered every hard thing long ago. Because of Him, I know I can do hard things.
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