I have a note card taped on the window frame by my kitchen sink that reads “A day’s portion every day.” It’s taken from the story outlined in Exodus 16–God has delivered his people, they’re in the wilderness and they’re hungry, they moan that it would have been better to stay in Egypt if they’re just going to die here and so God provides miraculous food from heaven that falls to the ground every day. God tells the people to gather up just enough for each day and use it all up, except on the sixth day when they’re supposed to gather enough for the next day too, since it’s the Sabbath and they won’t work that day. Simple enough, right? Except the people try to take more and stockpile it. Just in case. So the manna rots and gets all wormy and stinky.
Motherhood has always been my crucible. I’ve always believed that long term relationships are the place where growth happens–we simply can’t experience the same level of change all by ourselves. Sometimes marriage is the crucible, or that one friendship, or our relationship with our parents. Every single one of our long term relationships force us to mature, all the time, but in my experience there’s usually one that is at the forefront leading that charge toward higher ground. Motherhood is that for me.
I’ve been parenting from a deficit the entire time I’ve been a mom. That deficit got bigger over time as my mental health deteriorated, but it’s been true since the beginning. But even though my deficit might have been bigger or more preventable or categorically different than yours, we all enter our relationships with some kind of deficit and that deficit is what forces us to grow. The problem with those opportunities for growth is how much they look like hardship or failure, right? So we shy away from them.
I spend a lot of time holding onto what I think I need as a mom. I jealously ration my attention, my emotion, my time. I grasp it all and hold it so tightly because for a long time I was afraid of what would happen when it ran out, and that habit of fearful living is hard to break. It never works out the way I hope, though, because when you hold onto your resources instead of using them, you don’t end up with more of what you need, you end up with a moldy, rotten mess.
These days I’m trying to use a day’s portion every day. I set aside my book to look babies in the eye, when I remember to (it’s still a learning process for me). I do what I can to prioritize connection over the to-do list. When I am getting panicky, I try to lean toward my kids instead of away from them, because it’s mostly true* that the healing is found in close proximity to not in space from the people I love. I still very much prioritize the things I want to do for me, like reading and writing and playing my guitar, but I speak that truth into my heart the entire time, especially when things inevitably fall apart: A day’s portion every day. I have what I need. Tomorrow I will have what I need. God’s grace and provision are not going to run out, and here–with my people–is where I will grow.
*I say it’s mostly true because there are certainly long term relationships in which space is needed, perhaps permanently. These truths about growing in the context of relationship apply to the healthy, normal hardships that occur whenever we live for a long time with people (in our homes or otherwise), not the destructive, aberrant evil of abuse.