Gen + 7

...every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. ~Philippians 4:12b-13

I am spending the day with two delightful little girls whose mother is serving orphans in Haiti this week. And Susan Fern. A long day with seven children, 5 and under. It is a good reminder that, no, on an average day with my four children, I am not yet operating at maximum capacity. That there is a reserve in me that I haven't yet tapped. And then the endless reserve of grace and strength my Father offers!

In my current state of physical and emotional exhaustion, I have thought a lot about "needs" and "wants". What do I really need, in terms of rest, relaxation, food, drink? And what is either built into my routine, or desired to fill the empty spaces that should be filled with other things - work, relationships, Christ, joy, prayer... My baby boy needs his mama in ever-increasing ways as we near another separation. I thought perhaps I was just being overly romantic to think so. But after testing it, I know my intuition is right. He knows something big is on his horizon and he has shifted entirely into sponge mode...soaking up every last bit of touch and affection and attention I will mete out. I have spent the better part of every night this week satisfying that need when I want to be sleeping. Have I disintegrated into a gelatinous mass of nerves unable to cope with the stresses of life? Has my body or mind wasted away or lost it's sharpness? No! Resoundingly and surprisingly no. I can be hypothyroid and exist on 2-3 hours of sleep. I can excel at schoolwork and housework and childcare with little physical rest.

I used to own a shirt that had my feelings screen-printed on the back: You can sleep when you're dead (Caribou Coffee). While I recognize that sleep is restorative, I also believe more and more that our perceptions of what is needed are skewed by an overly selfish society that does not believe in laying down one's life for others. Do I believe that I may be literally laying down my life - that cancer may be a product of not enough rest combined with sub-standard nutrition in these hectic years of early motherhood? No, I don't. I believe the human body has a wealth of reserves that we, in modern society, rarely tap. In generations past, I would have spent 16 hours per day on my feet, building fires, cleaning, sowing and reaping, tending animals and children alike, while devoting any spare time I had to creative homemaking such as needlework, sewing, candle-making, preserving food, painting or drawing, creating my own music, and teaching my own children everything they needed to know to survive in exactly the same way I was surviving. In a land of automated living...appliances, electricity, alternative heat sources, hermetically sealed homes, and off-the-shelf food sources...what work I do today compares so little to that of my forebears. My great-great-grandmother would have birthed these seven children, risking death with each delivery, and resumed her household chores a few days later, without batting an eyelash!

So here I am. 3 hours of sleep. Seven children to tend. Schoolwork to do. Writing a journal entry, nonetheless!

I've always feared my loneliness,
but now I find in my abyss....
This quiet assurance,
Your simple endurace,
This peace everlasting,
This calm in the eye of the storm.
~ "The Calm", a song I wrote in 2001