Hesitantly, expecting him to say no, I said, “Maybe you and the girls could still go.”
To my surprise, Daniel replied, “Yeah, I had considered that.”
So, I spent the day tending to Deacon and packing the rest of our family to leave once the girls returned from school. They hugged and kissed Deacon and me and chattered their way excitedly into the car. Last night, Daniel sent me pictures while I snuggled my fussy toddler and soothed him to sleep.
Lately I’ve been thinking about faithfulness. When I was younger, when we first got married and even before that, I had thought being faithful meant not cheating. Of course that’s part of it. But lately I’m struck by how much of being faithful is just planting your feet and staying put.
Last week, while I watched her in the mirror, my hairstylist told me how her ongoing renovation was coming along.
“It’s been stressful,” she admitted, and told me she and her husband had been fighting. I smiled at her and listened as the conversation reframed to marriage in general.
“Honestly,” I said, “for at least the first five years, I would panic during the down times. I’d think something was wrong with us, that we might not make it. Eventually I started to consider that maybe this is just the nature of things. You can’t live with someone for the better part of your life and not have those times. I knew to expect challenges, but no one ever told me about the boredom or the irritation, about the persistence needed to maintain a marriage.”
She stopped cutting and stared at me in the mirror.
“I’ve been married for five years,” she said, “no one ever told me that either.”
She waved her scissors as she talked, “I can’t tell you how much better you’re making me feel right now,” she said. “I thought something was wrong with us, that maybe we were going to get a divorce. But what you’re saying makes sense.”
These last couple weeks we’ve seen a lot of progress in one of our children, who has started therapy. But then we hit a few-day snag where things got harder and seemed to regress. Our girls have been emotional, one in tears, the other screaming, and I heard Daniel say to them, “You can’t trust your feelings right now.” I wondered if it seemed odd to them, given how much time we spend talking about recognizing, naming and talking about feelings, but I have to believe that’s true.
In the thick of my daughter’s rage, when she is swinging and spewing venom, my feelings are a liar.
When my other daughter is overtired and in need of attention, when she cries with a turn of the wind, my feelings are a liar.
When my son defiantly, deliberately scrapes his metal fork across my heirloom kitchen table, the one my grandfather gave me, my feelings are a liar.
And when my husband, overworked, stressed, losing sleep and seemingly never home long enough, chooses to relax in the home I have made instead of helping me with that moment’s task, my feelings are a liar.
Never have I known the truth of this more clearly than in this season. I find myself poured out, so many times over, throughout every day. Always thinking ahead of what everyone else will need, making lunches and coffee at night for the morning, muffins when I wake up, dinner in the middle of the day. Filling my blocks of time with tasks to fill drawers and cabinets, not to mention cleaning them, fill backpacks and lunchboxes, shape minds and fill hearts. And if I’m not careful, those feelings creep in like they did this week: There’s nothing that’s yours. No one even appreciates what you’re doing. You are no more than the sum of what you are able to do for others.
These thoughts are always a sign that something needs to adjust. This week hasn’t gone the way I intended. This day isn’t going the way I intended. I thought Deacon would wake up well and we’d head to the campground to surprise our family. And instead, Deacon and I found ourselves still in our jammies at 10:30, watching Sesame Street while he whined. He’s not well enough to go anywhere. And so we stay put.
And, while I’m grateful to finally be in a stage of life where I have the flexibility to pivot when someone dear to me is in need, sometimes the lack of control over my own days wears on me.
So, earlier this week when Daniel said, “What do you mean you’re fine? Just fine?” and I heard those words creep out, I knew I needed to adjust.
Sometimes being faithful to my husband means sticking close to his side when I’d rather not. Kissing him when he walks in the door, when I don’t feel like it, going through the motions of loving him well until my heart catches up.
Sometimes being a good mother to my children looks much the same: using a measured tone and careful words when I’d rather yell, taking care to be gentle with their hearts and lavish attention on them when I’d rather hide in my room alone. It means missing the fun and memories of a family trip to snuggle a cranky, feverish boy back to health.
And being faithful to myself isn’t far off. Thursday I dragged myself to a yoga class, even though I would rather have used my time more productively. I changed out of my yoga gear and into real clothes before running errands, because I knew it would help me feel better. I put a cap on the amount of time I would spend doing housework during Deacon’s nap, even though it meant it all wouldn’t get done, knowing I’d be a more cheerful mother to his sisters and him if I did something for myself instead.
In the inevitable ebbs that come with marriage, parenting and life, I will choose to believe what I know over how I feel. I will choose to honor my commitments.
I will choose joy even when it feels far off. I will choose gratitude even when it is shrouded. I will choose faithfulness even when I don’t want to. I will remember that, of course, faithfulness is its own reward. Finding myself in love with my husband again and again, feeling my son’s head get heavy as he relaxes into sleep on my chest, watching my daughters’ eyes flicker as I settle in, fully present to hear about their days; none of this can happen if I’m not faithful, and all of these are pleasing to God, a blessing to others and healing to my soul in a way that hiding away or running could never be.
Let’s choose to keep showing up for the lives we have right now, for our people and for ourselves, even when we don’t feel like it—maybe especially when we don’t feel like it. Let’s be honest with the people around us about how hard that can be, because our courage to say that out loud helps us carry on and can make them brave too. Let’s plant our feet until the next wave comes.