This picture popped into my head earlier today:
It is the last picture I snapped as Brent and I closed our apartment door for the last time in Louisville. It was our first apartment together. It's was the place we clung to only each other when everything around us was new and different. Moving there was an exciting time, but scarier than I ever dreamed it would be to leave everything I knew, move in with my new husband in a new city, and begin a brand new career.
And then we left and I cried.
And the fact that I cried nearly scared me more than when I arrived. That place and that time had been important. I hadn't realized that while living it. And then it was too late.
When I left for college, I realized how wonderful my home was, and part of me ached to return to my childhood. But it was gone.
When I moved to Louisville, I realized how wonderful college was, and I ached to return to residence life. But it was gone.
When I moved to Missouri, I realized how wonderful Louisville was, and I ached to return to the simplicity of those first years of marriage on our own. But it was gone.
When I had a baby, I realized how wonderful "just the two of us" was, and part of me ached for the ease of that life. But it was gone.
When I had a second baby, I thought of the picture of my empty apartment.
I thought about how each stage of life has been so full and heavy of good things. I thought about how, because of that fullness, each stage sometimes felt like more than I could handle. More than I had bargained for. More than I had expected. More in the wrong ways. But as each season of life has passed, I can look back and see that the fullness-- the heaviness, the more-ness-- are so very commingled with the beauty and grace that came to me during that time that I can't separate them. In fact, often it's the fullness of that stage that I want to return to.
I look at that empty apartment and am reminded that we always want to go back. We always want to relive seasons of our life that are gone. And I wish I had been more present for many of those seasons. I wish I would have realized how good I had it. Even in the hard, messy, unfilled in parts.
Right now I am potty training and discipling a two year old, and nursing and nurturing a two month old. My days feel very chaotic and messy and exhausting and overwhelming. I was thinking about teaching and how much I miss the structure of those days. And then I thought about Louisville and how much I miss our little-one-bedroom-apartment-evenings. And then I thought about that picture. How leaving was so hard because I felt like I hadn't sucked all the marrow out of life that I was supposed to while I was there. And then I looked at my baby and my even smaller baby, and thought to myself: You're in the middle of another season, Kels. Someday this will be past. Don't begrudge this time. You'll want this season back too.
I thought of that Donald Miller quote again that I love:
…everybody, every person, has to leave, has to change like the seasons; they have to or they die. The seasons remind me that I must keep changing, and I want to change because it is God's way. All my life I have been changing... Everybody has to change, or they expire…. I want to keep walking away from the person I was a moment ago, because a mind was made to figure things out, not to read the same page recurrently. Only the good stories have the characters different at the end than they were at the beginning.
And this season is changing me. It is shaping me in new and different ways than my time in college did, or my first years of marriage, or even having one child did. And it is the heaviness of that changing-- the fullness and grit of it-- that sometimes makes me want to cry and wish this time away. But I am trying to live with 20/20 vision, instead of saving that for my hindsight. I am trying to relish in this season of my life that I know I will look back on fondly and miss someday.
During my quiet time [which is not so quiet these days], I was asking God to give me the grace to know how to live that kind of very present way; I was asking Him to show me how to not feel so exhausted and overwhelmed. And then in Deuteronomy I saw: "…and your STRENGTH will EQUAL YOUR DAYS."
When I was a "weary" college Junior in the throws of finals and missing my fiance, next to that verse I had written in purple pen a quote by Robert Louis Stevenson that Elisabeth Elliot referred to in one of her writings. It says, "Anyone can carry his burden, however heavy, until nightfall. Anyone can do his work, however hard, for one day. Anyone can live sweetly, patiently, lovingly, purely 'till the sun goes down-- and this is all that life really means."
Anyone can do his work, however hard, for one day.
Your strength will equal your days.
So today I will try and live sweetly, patiently, lovingly, purely. I will take a deep breath when Blythe fights her nap or has an accident on the carpet. I will whisper a prayer for more patience when Becks wakes up only twenty minutes after I put her down. Or wants to eat…again. I have been given enough strength for this day. And because of that, I can enjoy it more. I can treasure it more. I can accept this season with unclenched hands and hopefully when I look back I will think: I was exhausted in all the right ways and sucked every ounce I could out of that season.
And if one day we choose to leave this home, and I snap a picture of the empty walls and space as we are leaving, hopefully I will smile and know that our time here was filled with all the best kinds of MORE because there was a wife and mom who embraced each season of life she was given.