When Does it Get Easier?

I slumped into my favorite Northwoods chair with a thud and my now cold coffee and glanced at the clock on the mantle: 10:45am.

Where had the morning gone?

Here I was in one of the most astoundingly beautiful, serene places on earth, the sun lighting up the golden tamaracks like a harvest across the river and all I could think of was how amazing it would be to go back to bed. Feeding and dressing my four kids every morning was enough of an undertaking at home, let alone in a new place with new distractions and new places to sit at breakfast and new arguments to be had about who sat in which new place.

When does it get easier?

This was a question I had asked myself countless times before. In the midst of those twilight feedings. While scrubbing blue marker from my freshly-painted living room wall. When feeling the hard floor press against my back as I struggled to get comfortable on the floor of my daughters' room during yet another thunderstorm. As I played referee in yet another argument over who last sat behind me in the van (just when and why did that become a "thing"?).

When I was a new parent and my girls were still babies (less than 6 months old), many of my thoughts began, "I'm sure it will get easier when _____________." Whether it was a coping mechanism to get me through some tough days or I actually believed it to be true, I cannot say for sure. Perhaps it was a little bit of both. But I mean, c'mon, isn't it the truth? It'll definitely be easier when they can walk on their own and I don't have to carry them everywhere. (Translate: They can run incredibly fast in opposite directions, especially when in an incredibly busy parking lot.) Or...it'll certainly be easier when they can feed themselves and I don't have to constantly think about nursing or preparing and packing bottles. (Translate: Food will be everywhere which will result in the need for more frequent baths and much more frequent vacuuming or the acquisition of an incredibly hungry pooch.) Or...it'll feel so much easier when the older ones go to school and my amount of "free-time" increases. (Translate: An exorbitant amount of paperwork, permission slips, book orders, lunch tickets, homework and over-tired attitudes are brought home on a daily basis, requiring enough organization to constitute a full-time job.) Or perhaps my favorite: it'll be so much easier when my children can talk and just tell me what they need or feel. (Translate: Lots of unasked for opinions and unpleasant whines can be heard when decisions are made without first consulting said children.)  

In my short six years as a mother (short years, long days), I've learned that the illusion that the journey of parenthood somehow gets less intense as your children grow is a farce. Don't fall for it.

I hate to tell you this, any "new mom" readers out there: it doesn't get easier.

The challenges just change.

As a fellow mom, I never want to sound like the one who's "been there done that" and knows so much better than you. I've heard too many times moms of older children say to those of little kids "Oh, just wait! You wish for them to get older but let me tell you, I'd much rather deal with tantrums and sleepless nights than curfews and teenage mood swings." I've also found myself wanting to tell the brand new mom with her single baby, sleeping soundlessly in her carseat "Don't you dare tell me how tired you are! Do you see these four monkeys I run after all day?" But why do we do this? Don't we remember how it felt to be at that stage of parenthood, how the days stretched before us and the thought of going to the bathroom uninterrupted seemed like an unattainable dream? None of us have it harder than the other simply because of the stage we and our children are in -- we all have our own challenges and struggles regardless.

As I watched from the window that day, sipping lukewarm coffee, I breathed a silent prayer. I asked God to help me see my children for the blessing that they are. I asked Him to show me the joy in the current stages of my kids and help me not to "wish away" the day we were given in hopes of an easier tomorrow. And that's when He reminded me: I'd only been woken up once the night before by one of my son's because he needed to use the bathroom (a habit we'd been working on quite diligently). I'd given my kids breakfast that morning which they fed to themselves and didn't come from me or a bottle. I was currently sitting in a way-too-comfy chair, still in my pajamas, watching them play at the wood's edge. Sure, there were a whole new set of challenges before me which I felt completely unprepared to handle... but there were also many others which had gotten easier over the years.

And God had equipped me for them all.

Right Where God Wants Me

I sometimes have an embarrassingly competitive nature. I say sometimes because the competitiveness really only comes out when I think I have some kind of a chance. For example, I’m not competitive when it comes to mini golf… at all. In fact, I’ll be your tee-side entertainment as you experience a whole new level of horrible golfing. On the other hand, get me started in a game of scrabble (or practically any board/card game) and you won’t know what hit you. I don’t really know where this trait came from. I mean, my family and two siblings aren’t and never have been super-competitive, even amongst each other. The only sport any of us have ever played on some sort of competitive team was basketball. It’s also not much of a stretch to say that we weren’t what you would consider the “star players.” But goodness, when I’m in that competitive mode, you can bet your bottom dollar my laser-like focus will be on coming out on top.

I can remember during those two months at Craig Hospital in 2013, my competitive side was certainly present. You see, spinal cord injuries are pretty male dominated. In practically every one of the group classes I was in (especially the physical ones) I was always the only lady in the crew. On those long pushes to the Safe Way grocery store a few blocks away in wheelchair skills class and some of the CrossFit style weightlifting, there was no way this 21-year old female was gonna be in the bottom of the pack.

Sam_PT.png

I think it’s natural to want to win. To succeed. To triumph. To overcome any and every obstacle. To be the first to the finish line that can be so easily envisioned in one’s mind. To want to push forward into the future, looking towards tomorrow, to the week after that, to the month after that, to the year after that.

Preparing for the future is awesome, but it causes me to forget that my present contains many of the moments I was once looking forward to. I’m one of those people who struggles with being content. It’s like I’m constantly seeking more; competing against myself and my situation to achieve even greater things.

I’m in a season of my life right now that I certainly hadn’t imagined. I’m living at home as a woman in my mid 20’s. I’m single after having been engaged and expecting to get married. I’m entering into the slow and arduous application cycle for medical school for the entering class of fall 2017. I’m in a season of transition and waiting. Transition is hard, waiting is even harder.

But now, O LORD, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand. ~Isaiah 64:8

It’s really hard to let go, to surrender that fighting and competitive spirit and realize I’m right where God wants me to be. This season, this season of trial, pause, and singleness is an important part of His beautiful plan for my life. I know and need to trust that God is using this time to mold and shape me both as a person and in my faith. Now I will be the first to say that waving the white flag of surrender is anything less than a challenge. I don’t “give-up” easily and when I hear of surrendering, I assume that that is exactly what is going on. Yet, I don’t think that is really the case here.

Surrendering to this season, to these moments, and to this present, I’m able to see some pretty amazing things. When I was in the hospital, I looked forward to the day I could get out of bed without a nurse’s assistance. I dreamed of being able to dress myself without any kind of help. After being discharged, I just wanted to regain my independence as a driver. To be able to go and sit at a coffee shop by myself and not have to call someone for a ride back home.

You know, I’m there now. I’m there and even further beyond.

I’ve never been very good at art so I imagine my pottery skills would leave something to be desired. It sure doesn’t appear to be that way with God. Submitting to Him in any and all times, allowing Him to work His callused and practiced potter hands on this lowly lump of clay sure does yield some remarkable results.

Sometimes there is no need to compete.

Sometimes surrender is the best and most beautiful option.

What Once Was

While fall is certainly my favorite season, spring is pretty high up on the list. The warm(er) weather is a plus and the sometimes never-ending rain makes me think about really happy ducks and I can’t help but smile. But my real reason for loving spring? It also happens to be lambing season. I have a bit of an obsession with sheep that started when I brought market lambs to the county fair as a 4-Her in high school. Fast-forward a few years to my second year of college where I spent my spring break in Oregon working on a 3,000 sheep farm during their hectic lambing season. Add another year to that when I was the student manager of the University sheep flock. Long story short, I really like sheep.

My current “state of life” –paraplegic and wheelchair user from a spinal cord injury a week after college graduation in 2013–doesn’t really involve these precious little creatures like it once did. With that being said, when things just seem to fall into place allowing a visit back to the University I graduated from DURING lambing season, I’m all in.

Sam_w_Lamb_WM
Sam_w_Lamb_WM

I should probably admit that I’m one of those people who really likes school. I love learning, so it makes sense that I have a lot of really great memories from my time as an undergraduate. It was great to go back and catch up with professors, see the sights, sheep, and buildings I spent 3 years of my life in and remember how things “used to be.”

I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with looking at your past and remembering those “what was once the present” moments. Yet, when your current life situation offers a few more challenges than you may have had to deal with before, those comparisons of past and present can be dangerous things.

“I used to be able to get in that building from the front doors but now I have to figure out a back way because of those stupid stairs.”

“I used to be able to pick-up that little lamb over the edge of its pen but now I’m so short.”

“Wow, life used to be so much easier, what’s up with that God?”

I know I’ve questioned God about my present reality in those hours or even days of struggle, asking why me? What was wrong with MY life plan? Why couldn’t you have left things the way they were?

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. ~Philippians 4:12-13

Being content in any and every situation - sometimes that feels like a less than simple task. How do I be content when I just got fired? How is it possible to be content with this diagnosis? How can I be content when I just learned my significant other has been cheating on me?

You know, in each and every one of these situations we as Christians already have everything we truly need to be content:

The love of a Father that is greater and more faithful than we could ever imagine.

But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. -Psalm 86:15

A Father who tells us he will take care of us and we can hand ALL of our troubles to him.

Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken. -Psalm 55:22

A Father who promises to never let us fall.

The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand. -Psalm 37: 23-24

Sometimes it isn’t easy to be content; it’s a daily struggle as we look at the lives of those around us or what our own life once looked like. Yet God has and will provide for us as His children, and as I have come to find out, in much bigger and better ways than we could ever imagine.

I’ll always feel those little twinges of nostalgia when I think of my time at the University of Minnesota or see pictures of the St. Paul campus I made so many memories on. Yet, I’ve come to look at those memories with appreciation instead of anger. Being thankful to the Lord for those beautiful experiences, loving where He has led my life, and looking forward to the opportunities HE has planed for my future.

I loved being the shepherd while I was in college, but now I’m learning to love being the sheep.

The LORD is my shepherd; I lack nothing. ~Psalm 23:1

Sam_Headshot
Sam_Headshot

Sam Schroth is a perpetual learner, loving to live life to its absolute fullest each and everyday the Lord blesses her with. Currently in the midst of applying to medical school while adjusting to life as a paraplegic, Sam is “Never Sitting Still” as she learns and grows in God’s grace and never ending love.

www. samschroth.wordpress.com

Are you thriving? Got contentment?

Fill in the blank from the following word bank:____________________________________________

new job         married            baby         new car          new phone

new outfit      fewer bills        vacation    promotion      new house ____________________________________________

“When I get (a) _____________, then I will be happy. I won’t need anything else for a while.” We’ve probably all said this…and probably more than once.

What happens? How come the thing we wanted so badly can’t seem to satisfy our needs for very long?

You and I were born to live in perfection; we were originally designed to live in paradise, in the Garden.

This side of heaven…this side of perfection, there will always be a gaping hole that we are longing to fill. Nothing is going to be quite right, no matter how blessed we are.

The only thing that can fill that hole and make us whole is keeping our eye on the ONE thing needful, our Redeemer.

Contentment Bench

Contentment Bench

He gives us the strength to do his work and to find contentment.

Apart from Jesus, there is no contentment.

Looking to “things” for contentment is not the only way we take our eyes off of the prize. Sometimes we spend too much time looking at ourselves and comparing ourselves to others.

“I wish I looked like ___________.” “I wish I could ________ like _________.” God has given us the gifts and abilities we would need for his work.

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which He prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10

Pastor Rick Warren, author of A Purpose Drive Life suggests that, “Some animals run, some hop, some swim, and some fly. Each has a particular role to play, based on the way they were shaped by God.”

Each of his creatures is well equipped for the work He has in mind, and that includes you and me!

What gifts do you have? What comes easy for you? This can be a clue to how you can best serve God by using your gifts and can also lead to being content with your gifts.

Remember when you were in speech class and you were told to act confident until you became confident? The same principle holds true here.

Each day, I encourage you to take time to reflect upon your life and say, "I am content."

Contentment is a primary characteristic of those who are not just surviving, but thriving!

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:11-12

Rhoda Signature

Rhoda Signature

Dr. Rhoda Wolle is an educational psychologist who serves as the Dean of Student Success and Associate Professor of Education at Wisconsin Lutheran College in Milwaukee, WI. She is an international speaker on the topic of student success and thriving. She also enjoys travel, music, sports, and walks with her dog, Kipper. Her life purpose is to celebrate Jesus and encourage others in using their God-given gifts!