Under the saddle

I came alive because of cancer. I remember the year before I was diagnosed, when my third daughter was just starting to toddle. I was completely, unabashedly overwhelmed as a mother of three girls three and under. I was pregnant already and I felt like someone hooked up an IV to my arm during the night and drained every last bit of energy right out of me. I told my husband I wanted to go back to work. This was too hard, cuddling children all day, trying to keep up my housework, the clinging, and the crying, and the poopy pants. It was just too much. I was stuck in a job I hated.

And when did mothering become work? Sometime after the second was born, and I could no longer give undivided attention to anyone. Worse than the actual hatred of my job as a stay at home mom was my guilt over my hatred for my job. What mom doesn't love working with her children? I felt like a complete failure, and I simply wanted out.

Then something miraculous happened. A blessing in disguise. The winter of my soul, the cancer that robbed me of my normal, dreary life, ended the season of my discontent. Years spent fighting the bit of motherhood were swept away in a torrent of lonely reflection when I left my family behind for three long weeks for radiation seeding treatment in 2008. The saddle suddenly removed, I saw the scars left by my twisting and turning, resenting the crown of motherhood as though it were a tight bridle instead.

The dippers cup stars in summer and spill them across the black in the winter. Close to the horizons, the sky is void of those specks of silver. I am a woman stretched across the heavens, arms reaching toward the trees, feet toward the moon rise. In this middle, high above the earth's orb, is perspective and peace. As a young mother, I was blinded by the lack of choice. When I am old, I will look back and long for these days. Though I am in life's winter, this season of suffering growing heavier each passing year, I can dance here, in the space of the middle, because I've known the much harder struggle of bucking motherhood.

I used to cup stars like the summer's dippers, holding my time close like a treasure to my chest. Now I am the dipper in winter, spilling stars, spilling laughter and giving time and worrying less and loving more. I revel in the giggles with my oldest daughter, sit in my messy front room cuddling my second, almost 7 and grown long and lean, just because it is her birthday party day and she wants me to. I wake up in the morning and lay still for an hour, my son digging in my armpits (don't ask! It's his comfort thing, ever since he was a baby) and my youngest daughter in that sleep stupor still, staring at the ceiling and holding my hand, a statue carved in the marble of morning. We spin together, through trials, tribulations, triumphs.

I will never fight motherhood again like I once did. And for that, I am thankful for cancer. This year of remission, I set a goal to learn to rest like Jesus did and to learn how to enter into the joy of childhood with my children. For isn't this one of the characteristics that draws us to His character? The ability to rest even when more work was left to be done, the foresight to care for His own physical and emotional needs even when the needs of others (such as those waiting for physical healing) hung in the sands of time? I don't want these years to slip by without notice. I want to burn them into my memory, fill them up with the quiet, simple moments that really matter.