After a month of living in what felt like victorious grace, I yelled at my firstborn son.
It began as these things normally do, an unforeseen wrench in the day, but I should have known… As my frustration built, my tone rose and I realized I had broken my commitment. I should have known, putting things on top of cars seem to be his and my kryptonite.
He is a young man with so many dreams, an insatiable appetite for adventure, he needs more from me than I can give. I try to help him take on the world, but for whatever reason transporting the gear is hard for us.
There was the time I was round with pregnancy, and he wanted to take the big plastic kayak to the cove. I let him, but he was just a child and it came crashing down as he tried to load it back on top of our van. I stood by too swollen with child to help. He gave up and I yelled – how else would we get home?
Then just a few days before I began this Gently + Quietly project, there was a ridiculous impetus. A moment when I was yelling in another parking lot, while my son yet again strapped a kayak to our roof, and I realized this has to stop. This time he was strong and sweaty, hoisting the craft upon our van while I tried to warn him before he walked home that that I had seen coyotes in the area. He was informing me of the necessity of coyotes in the food chain, and I ridiculous, hot and tired yelled back about how I knew they were important, I wasn’t debating their importance, I was the one who had taught him all that biology – I just wanted to warn him, to try to safeguard. That’s why I began this yearlong commitment to not raise my voice, because I turned from the van and wondered who had heard me yelling about food chains in the middle of a parking lot – my son had, and God. It is ridiculous, comical even, and definitely not the only time I yell, but when putting things on top of cars, my son and I seem to be at our worst.
So I should have known when I pulled up to pick him up from surf practice that strapping the longboard on top of our van would not be an innocuos event. He wouldn’t, and I wouldn’t because it was his responsibility and there we were – at an impasse. He is a wonderful young man, striving to serve the Lord, knowing his Creator deeply through time spent with Him in nature, but we are all a work in progress with our unexplainable moments of frustration.
Eventually we made it home, he apologized, even saying I shouldn’t have to start my year of not yelling over because he had been difficult, and thanking me for the month of not yelling. Maturity blossoming in a young man, I wanted to honor that by examining my own heart.
Why for a month had I been able to deal with bad attitudes, disobedience, disrespect and unexpected frustrations with quietness, but this moment at the beach was too much for me?
I realized that most often when I yell it is a matter of identity and wounds.
As my voice has quieted this month, I have heard clearly the cries of my heart. Some hurt so badly that I have been afraid I might split right open. When wounded howls rise within my soul, it’s easy to see why I would rather command a circumstance to stop than hear all the heartbreak I keep inside.
Normally after such an experience with my child I would have been anxious and snappish for the rest of the day. This time I sought forgiveness and quieted myself, listening… Immediately I heard within what had upended me…
I am tired of the beach. I feel trapped even, and I cannot say this because it would be considered ungrateful. I live in paradise, but for me fourteen years living in a world with no Octobers has worn my soul raw. I stood there on a hot sunny “autumn” day, sea-spray and sand in my face, wanting to go home, but I couldn’t just as I can’t find my way back to the rhythm of four seasons. I don’t want to change my childrens’ lives, but when I actually listen to my spirit’s cry I hear that I am trying hard to live as a foreigner, and I don’t know how to heal that hurt.
The second thing I heard is that…
I am tired of my worth being judged on how well I chauffeur. I have a bachelor’s in art education. I excelled in school and in every job I have every held. I homeschool my children, and I write, photograph and teach others in my few hours spare time. We keep a simple schedule, but for my three full-energy boys opting out of all activities outside the home is not an option. We have tried so many things and they need coaches and leaders other than just myself to help train their bodies and guide their minds. So in this modern age, with over seventeen years of education under my belt, I spend a great deal of my time and am most often judged by my ability to get everyone to where they need to be safely and on time. I say no to so many things, but my kids are always being presented with another opportunity that they ask me to take them to. I know my time in the car can also be a blessing, and I try to make it so. Moby Dick, Hemmingway, Tolkien and Narnia are just a few of the treasures that have filled our hours sitting side by side in our mini-van. But daily I stifle the cry, “Am I not made to be more than a taxi driver?”
These are the ugly truths. Maybe this is a beautiful awakening.
So I turned to the Spirit. What do I do with these gaping wounds, these questions churning inside?
First there was gratitude, for a mouth quieted so that I can hear my own heart.
Then there was surrender – again, always again. Whatever I do, I do as to the Lord. There are treasures hidden in the most mundane. I know this, I have built my life on this.
But then there were new steps clear as if a dark path had been lit.
I need to be gentle with the tender part of my heart that my children do not know, the part that grew up in trees plucking brilliant autumn leaves, just as they are growing up on long sandy beaches collecting sea shells. I need to honor this longing as tenderly as I would if they ever have to move away from the waves they call their home.
I want to earn my Masters degree. I don’t know how or when or in what. But I need to do this. Not now, probably not soon, because this is a time for cradling babies. However, my husband’s job pushes him on to continuing education, traveling the world and constant testing and evaluation. Being a Christian woman, cultivating a gentle, quiet spirit does not mean my mind or dreams should fall silent.
These wounds and realizations may look very different for each of us, but I promise that if you grow quiet enough to bravely listen to your heart’s cry, you will hear questions and truth, that you’ve been afraid to acknowledge to anyone, even yourself.
Friends, take these to our Good Father so that He can purify. It won’t always feel like He heals quickly, but Christ will light the way one moment, one step at a time.
Our Maker doesn’t work in spite of our brokenness, He can work because of our weakness.
So I restarted my year at 7:33 in the evening on Sunday October 15th, 2017. I’m not back at square one though, I’m far from it with a month of gentle + quiet growth, lessons, and unexpected joy in my soul, and I am thankful.
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If you’re reading this and want to join me, or would just like to listen and glean encouragement from others, please feel welcome to join us in the Gently + Quietly FB group!
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“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” – Corinthians 12:9 ESV