A few months ago my husband and I planned a seven hour road trip with our two kids to visit family. We had the (brand new) van packed, the DVD's ready, and we were on our way, singing a happy tune. We were thriving. Then, exactly halfway (I mean, to the minute) our littlest started to look a little pale...and then...she threw up. All over our (brand new) van. We stopped quickly to clean up, and continued on our way, hoping it was a fluke (too many movies plus too many snacks?) A few minutes later though...repeat performance. Second verse, same as the first, but a little bit louder and a little bit worse. We were no longer thriving.
So we stopped again...and let me just set the scene for you:
We're pulled over on the side of the interstate (for the second time in a half hour). The back door is open, and a sick toddler stands on the folded down seats, stripped down to her diaper. My husband and I are scrambling around, using every napkin, baby wipe, and beach towel we can find to clean up the kid, our stuff, and the (did I mention? brand new) van. As my seven month pregnant self waddles around amid litter and roadkill, I realize: I have to pee. (because, of course).
And as if on cue, my preschooler chimes in from her seat: "I am NOT having any fun!" I feel you, kiddo. This is indeed, not any fun at all.
It's moments like this when I think of the Thrive Moms saying (and weekly link up), Thrive Where I Stand...and I feel...like a failure.
In good times, I can see that phrase as catchy and inspiring. It can be an encouragement to soak up these ordinary but fleeting moments of childhood. A reminder to thrive can help me see this season as an opportunity to do my best for my kids, to love them well and to fully focus on all the sweetness of these early years.
But in the tough times, I struggle to see that same sentiment through a positive lens. I can feel it as pressure for me to live up to a particular standard, and guilt that I'm not doing things a certain way. I see the snapshots of others, and read how they're choosing joy, and keeping perspective, and I feel inadequate. I want to put on my angry preschooler voice, stomp my feet, and yell: "I'm not thriving right now!!!"
That's fair though, right? I understand the call to thrive where I stand, but does that still apply when where I stand is on the side of the highway, covered in vomit? C'mon, that's not really a place where people typically thrive.
It's not just that one instance where I've struggled though. FAR from it. Sleepless nights with a newborn? Not where I thrive. Minute seventeen of a door-slamming, toy-flinging, toddler tantrum? Not where I thrive. Day in day out monotony of laundry-meal prep-clean up? So not where I thrive.
But as I started to reflect on it, I know I'm not alone. No one thrives in the muckity muck of parenting. No one likes the drudgery of chores, looks forward to sickness, or enjoys seasons of physical and emotional exhaustion. But if we are indeed called to thrive even in these times -- and I do believe we are -- maybe in order to do so we need to adjust where we stand. Not literally, as we can't always change that part. But we can change our stance; adjust our posture. We can learn to stand in God's grace, to stand in His protection, to look for His wisdom and bask in His power.
If I'm basing my fulfillment on my physical placement, or my limitations, of course I'll struggle to thrive. I will continue to find myself in messes, and will fall short. I will again find myself standing in yuck, covered in yuck, feeling yuck. But when I do, I won't pressure myself to "enjoy the moment!" "Be thankful!" Because, no. But I also won't let those moments (or days, or seasons) of yuck overshadow my hope. Instead, I will try to relish the shade that the massive shadow of a powerful and caring God provides. That's where I'll stand. And that's where I'll thrive.