Fighting mental and physical exhaustion brought her to this silent battle almost daily. There have been many days and nights when motivation feels like chasing a leaf falling from a dying tree. One moment it seems that she just might catch it, yet the very next second it slips through her fingertips, only to fall faster to the ground. Her journal holds the words she couldn’t seem to let herself verbalize, because they seemed much more docile on paper:
Voices filter in
night and day
I sing to drown them out
lies to which I fall prey
Lyrics take form
I stand, sit, kneel
a homily of my heart
a place too numb to feel
The steps I climb
they rise, I fall
I seek the prize
yet, my soul denies a call
Silent battles within
a beckoning sincere
chains hold me in fear.
She remembers the words of her poem then hears a whisper in the wind as she grips the hand of her daughter on their afternoon walk. “Come to me,” a faint, yet firm voice beckons. This voice was different than the ones she felt plagued by. There was peace that echoed with every word. The sunshine offers a warmth that she didn’t even realize she had been yearning for. The mother has heard this familiar voice before, but in her exhaustion today she struggled to listen. Her little girl begged her to go outside and play, but this mother’s weary spirit left her hesitating to make the trek to the park. “If only I could sleep,” she thought, “then I’d feel alive enough to engage my little one.” She felt her stomach grumble and her soul did the same. “If only I could sit and enjoy a hot meal, then maybe I’d have the energy to grow my relationship with my child.”
Painfully, graciously seeing past the mother’s idols of comfort, the patient voice calls out: “Come to me, and I will give you rest.”
Rest has largely become a foreign concept to this young woman in her new season of motherhood. She knows she is blessed beyond belief in countless ways, and the inability to cling to the hope she professes only brings more guilt. She discovers time and time again that no amount of sleep, nor any temporal comfort can satisfy her longing for deep rest.
On walks with her daughter, she always passes the same tree along their favored path. It has become a place of serenity, a reminder to breathe deeply, and a notion of rest in an unrelenting world. Almost a century’s worth of growth from roots to tips was embodied by this oak. The small, green leaves fanned out from each and every direction. Some branches seem so close to grazing the grass as the wind pushes and pulls them back and forth, up and down, almost tickling the grass like a mother playing with her infant.
When the wind blows, countless leaves trickle to the ground below. Together, as if choreographed, they twirl and flip their way to the ground. It’s mesmerizing. Yet, for each leaf that falls, that is one part of the tree that has detached—that has died.
The tree’s trunk has a gentle bend about halfway up, with patterns and formations unlike any tree she’s seen. At some point in it’s life, this tree was struck by lightning. The damage was harsh, but all that is left now is unique beauty.
Saplings have sprouted up beneath—nurtured by the light of the sun, yet protected by the cover of the overarching branches; each representing a part of the tree that has fallen, but that gives new life to the world around it.
It’s amazing how God has designed what looks like death to be ripe space for new growth. Flowers wilting in a garden, leaves of trees falling, decomposing, and nourishing the soil of the plants below. The wind may break away leaves—even whole branches—and lightning may leave scars that always remain visible. But in it all, there is growth. And there is beauty.
This young mom often feels the wind pulling parts of her away—parts of her that have to die. And more than once it feels as if lightning has struck. But rather than try to hide what is broken, she hopes to learn from the oak tree—to find the beauty in it, to find what it offers to those around her, and to find the opportunities to give hope to others who feel the pain of broken branches and lightning scars.
Rather than feeling the need to hide our brokenness, we can take off the masks we feel pressured to wear for others and celebrate the growth that can come from the breaking. We may all face different winds, and we will bear unique scars and bends from our lightning strikes, but in each situation, we are given the opportunity to give life and beauty to those around us. Today is a day to celebrate all mothers. Let us celebrate their unique stories too.
She walks through hardship alongside, encourages, uplifts, and spiritually nurtures the women she pours into. She always desired a family of her own, yet the Lord’s call for singleness on her life has proven a beautiful, heart-aching journey of sanctification as she plays a part in growing the family of God.
She places a hand on her belly and mourns the emptiness she feels. Her baby would be due soon and her heart feels torn from her very chest with the weight of grief. She trusts in the Lord to carry her through this suffering and she knows her little one will someday greet her at heaven’s gates.
She knows their situation might be temporary, but her heart yearns to bond with her foster child. She can’t help but dive head first falling in love with children in need who don’t stay. She prays to plant seeds of hope and asks for strength from the Father of the fatherless and Defender of the guilty to protect these little ones in ways she can only attempt to.
Her hands are wrinkled with worry and covered with callouses that show years of care and concern. She has worked diligently to provide for her family and asks the Lord why life’s challenges for a single parent do not seem to relent. She pauses to lean into the Heavenly Father’s arms knowing that He will prove a love and faithfulness to her children that no earthly father can.
There will be brokenness in this life. There will be trials. There will be loss. There will be parts of us—perhaps many parts—that need to be ripped away by the winds. We will all get struck. We can choose to hide our falling leaves and breaking limbs, or we can take the chance that maybe, just maybe, it’s what someone on a walk may need to see. We can choose to try to cover up our lightning scars, or we can embrace the new direction they take us in and the unique beauty we have to offer to others.
Not all trees look the same, nor are all falling leaf patterns identical. But they are beautiful. Not all journeys of motherhood are the same, nor are any of our stories identical. But they can be beautiful. We need only embrace them and share them as we embrace one another and the life-stories that shape us. For there is a greater story of redemption at hand. A story of the One who calls out to you, “Come to me.” Friend, it is in the Author of the greater story that we find the deep, soul-filling rest which can restore us— where we can find the confidence outside of ourselves to remove the masks we wear and be wholly accepted, scars and all. Listen for His voice as He calls to you. He claims us in our brokenness and turns it into beauty.