Friday, March 27, 2015

worry prayer problem days: when mama has a limp

At one time it was epilepsy, but it has been everything from church problems to health problems to someone else's problems to something on the news.  Some days are defined by that THING, that one very loud thought, that worry-prayer-problem that refuses to leave my thoughts alone.  It is a concern with a strong gravitational pull: I may be able to wrest my thoughts free for a moment, but the second I am not preoccupied, the concern sucks my thoughts right back to that place and tries to consume me.

Days like this I know I must begin with prayer.  I do this, but what often follows is a day of futile coping and very little relief.  I do not have an easy answer for this kind of day, but I would like to put words to some of the things I know do NOT work, and share some of my favorite crutches.  (Please share your own too!)

That kind of day

The worry-prayer-problem there in my mind, loudly taking up my thoughts even before my feet hit the floor.  I linger in bed to pray about it, but long before I am ready, little feet stomp down the hallway, and little bodies crawl into my bed demanding cartoons and food.  I sigh.

How do I enter the world of child joy and noise and frivolous "crises" one after another when this worry-prayer-problem hangs so heavy?
Chasing the Wind- futile coping measures I have tried repeatedly
  • Solitude: Perhaps I ought to hide from the kids so I can obsess on the worry-prayer-problem.  It's taking up so much of my mind I know I am going to be short with them anyway....
  • Mental Gymnastics: If I hide for a little while, maybe I can contort my mind in just the right way so that the worry-prayer will go away.
  • Numbing: Perhaps I can try really hard and kill the feelings associated with the worry-prayer-problem.  THEN I can reenter my vocation.
  • Demanding the above through prayer: Ok God, here's my problem.  Can you make the kids leave me alone today so we can talk about it until it is resolved?  Or you could take it utterly out of my mind please, and let me get back to life? (Does this actually work for anyone? It seems to me that God says NO to this prayer more often than not.)
There is a false presupposition underneath all of this "coping:" 
I cannot do my job with this worry-prayer-problem.

A half truth
What do you mean by this, Emily? 
I do not want to do my job with this worry-prayer-problem! and I simply cannot do it... perfectly.  I cannot do it even as well as I normally do it.  I am tired and emotional and... Lord, Can't I just take a personal day?

On normal days, I am much more capable of being patient, fun mommy.  If I didn't have all these distractions, I could be that mommy who skips cheerfully with her well-groomed, cooperative little flock, singing hymns as we frolic joyfully down the path of righteousness.

Haha, OK maybe not.  So today I will not do my job perfectly.  What else is new?

Lowering standards
It is true, I cannot do my job perfectly when I am carrying a worry-prayer-problem, when I am limping with some kind of wound.  And in my experience, God doesn't just make those kinds of things vanish when we ask Him to.  Sometimes even in the midst of our vocation, we must limp. Sometimes, instead of instant healing, He offers crutches.

I cannot be normal mommy on days when I am not normal mommy, when my heart is weighed down by one of the million griefs of this life.  Yet I can still be mommy.  And so you  have my epiphany: Wounded mommy can still be mommy!

Because mommies are not machines, we cannot perform the same tasks in the same way day after day after day.  We are affected by events, weather, hormones, health, and problems of all kinds.  Some seasons we buzz about on healthy legs with no limping, but in others, we mother with injuries, and when we are injured, we would be crazy not to use crutches!

So, wounded mommy is going to do things a little bit differently than normal mommy, children.  She is going to lower her standards, and she WILL be using crutches.

My favorite crutches
  • Depending on the type of worry-prayer-problem: Good, sweaty exercise can be cleansing and invigorating
  • Shortening the list: Eliminating anything that requries uber-energy or uber-patience that is not absolutely necessary.  Wounded mommy cannot do crafts, cannot let you paint, will not let children "help" make cookies, and probably will not be up for a wrestling match.
  • Nap: Perhaps for me, but definitely, DEFINITELY for all the other kids, at once.  They shall not come out of their rooms until I say so, period.
  • Receiving God's gifts through His Word and hymns (wounded mommy must do this frequently throughout the day, even if she has to lock herself in the bathroom for a minute!)
  • Soaking up the sounds and smells of the country, especially on warm evenings
  • Receiving help offered
  • (still learning this one) ASKING for help! 
  • Being honest with children and even (gulp) husband about why I am "limping" today
  • Comfort food. (Does anyone need to be told this one? I often receive grace through mashed potatoes)
  • Looking at the children: Really looking at those I have asked God to help me love.  Taking a real time-out, refusing to work on whatever else it is I think I need to do, banishing worry for a few minutes if possible, and getting down on the floor, looking at those blessed details that make my children unique, listening to their laughter, doing something with them that is fun for me too, just because I want to. 
  • Prayer, frequent prayer.  Such as:
  • Lord, help me to parent despite this wound.  Teach me to love even when I am hurting.  Help me to remember that it is not the children's fault that this world is fallen.  Nor is it my husbands, or the dog's.  Keep the pain from turning into anger and hurting those I love.  Those acts of love You require me to do today- equip me- and show me what I can let go so that I can rest in You and heal.  Thank you for your tender care for me when I am limping.

(originally published 5/17/11)


  1. I so thought I was losing my mind when I came back to read this post again and it was missing that 1st day you posted it. You have completely nailed it on the head how I feel some days. Your posts make me feel normal. Sometimes those worry problem prayer days make you feel as you are losing it. Love reading your posts. Think your blog also helps you to relieve some of your tension. Another good crutch for you. With love Laura

  2. I had a "OH WOW, thanks for reassuring me that I am NOT losing it!" moment last night too- aren't those such a relief? haha

    You are absolutely right- blogging (my substitute for adult conversation) is an excellent crutch!

    Prayers for you- maybe tomorrow will be a day with less limping :)

  3. Wonderful insights Emily. Thank you so much.


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