When All You Get is Leftovers
For two weeks, someone in our house was ill. I felt exhaustion in my toes. I was tired and irritable and running on fumes. Everything made me cry. My body begged for rest after what had been a grueling few weeks of taking care of everyone—everyone but me.
I looked at the calendar expectant of the coming Saturday: my day to sleep in.
When parenthood took over, Ben and I made a deal. Every other Saturday, we switch who gets up early with the kids. The other lucky one enjoys a few extra hours of sleep—uninterrupted, no-alarm-set, wake-up-with-drool-on-your-face sleep.
My Saturday was the only thing getting me through. And then I took a second look at the calendar. We had an activity scheduled that morning.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I thought. Tears streaked my face almost instantly.
Having something scheduled on a Saturday meant I’d have to set an alarm. I’d have to get my butt up at a reasonable time to get everyone dressed and out the door. No waking up when my body was ready. No slow Saturday. No coffee in my PJs while the kids played in the basement.
I was on the verge of an atomic-sized meltdown. Naturally, I texted my unsuspecting husband:
I am SO irritated. It’s my Saturday to sleep in, and we have something going on. I am getting the shaft a lot lately.
My self-pity was in full force, spilling over into outright anger. I was tired of getting nothing but leftovers. Leftover time. Leftover energy. Leftover dino bites masquerading as my lunch. Living on leftovers had me feeling like there was never enough—especially enough of me.
I raged to Ben in a series of strongly worded text messages. The poor man was probably in a meeting, his Apple Watch blowing up. After my tirade, he responded:
How can I help?
I had no idea. I looked at my to-do list and calendar, and apart from two weeks of solitude (not a viable option), I didn’t know what to tell him. My erratic texting turned into stark silence as I contemplated a response.
I took my case upward: “Lord, what do I really NEED?”
I knew in my head that self-care is essential to the wellness of me and my family. Being rested and refreshed allows me to be a better version of myself. But when everyone else is sick, I have writing deadlines to meet, groceries need to be purchased, and I’m the only one well enough to do the dishes, self-care seems impossible. There’s just not enough margin for me.
I begged God to help me sift through the circumstance to see the solution. A phrase from 2 Corinthians is what bubbled to the surface:
My power is made perfect in weakness.
Weakness. A feeling I knew well. In fact, it was pretty much all I felt.
I let God’s words sink in for a moment. In doing so, His Spirit rubbed up against mine. I got a gentle nudge that said, “Just keep loving. I am in it with you. Don’t let self-pity or bitterness win. Don’t miss out on seeing me today, right in your weakness. Look for me. Keep loving. Let me take care of your rest.”
I was annoyed. Really, God? This response was not the beach vacation I envisioned. I stewed for a bit until something in my heart clicked into place. I realized: God doesn’t stop loving. There’s not a point at which He says, “You know, you’ve been asking for help way too much lately, so you just need to deal with this yourself. I’ve reached my limit with you.” He just keeps giving, just keeps loving. And He asks us as parents—heck, as PEOPLE—to mimic this love.
Humility washed over me. Yes, I needed to take care of myself. I need to do better at communicating my needs to Ben and to my support people. But as a parent charged to love and take care of my kids, I don’t get an “off” button. There’s no situation so dire that lets me off the hook from loving them with everything I have—and when I have nothing, loving them with everything God is.
My perspective on parenting changed that day. And by changed, I mean I got a much-needed kick in the crotch. And what a difference it has made.
Over the last few months, since this day of desperation, God’s been showing me how to approach life less from a survival-based mentality to one of expectant abundance. He’s moving my heart from searching for scraps to resting in His plenty. When days are hard, I’m learning to look for Him in it. When I want to give up, I remember He is faithful. When I want to ask “Why me?”, I instead think “Why not me?”
Yes, there’s still a place for self-care, for bubble baths and sleeping in and time away. (Just Google “Sabbath” if you need to give yourself permission.)
But even if I never get another day for me, God is enough. He is near, just waiting for the perfect moment for His power and glory to be revealed in you and me. While I still secretly hope His glory appears in the form of a nap, I know whatever it is, He will provide. He is enough.
photo credit: public domain via pixabay