I went to a writer's retreat last week, an incubated three days in a think tank with writers, authors, editors, and influencers. It was everything I wanted and needed that I didn't know I was missing in my life. I acquired pages and pages of notes and ideas and conversations over hours and wine and appetizers with new friends.
Bekah was my roommate, and she's a darling firecracker in a little tiny frame full of big ideas.
She released her first book earlier this year, a memoir called Almost There, about her life on the move as a military wife.
She wrote this flawless prose about finding your home even when it's forever a changing address, about learning what to take with you, what to leave behind, and how to really live from a place deep inside you. I read her book before I met her, and she taught me so much about the tribe of military wives, what re-entry looks like for soldiers and their families. She has this style that's easy and poetic, and then all of a sudden she hits me with humor that punches me in the face quite unexpectedly. I love her writing.
Bekah has a three-year-old little girl, a one-year-old little boy, and a baby on the way. (Kudos to the girl who released a book in the middle of that season, right?)
She's in the throes of that dichotomy of loving her children so much that it hurts,
of loving the role but hating the tasks,
of wanting to be with them but dying for a break,
of daily tasks that never ever stay finished,
Of the awareness that it passes so quickly,
and yet the greater awareness that this day is so unbelievably l-o-n-g.
I confessed to her the day I remember saying to my children, "Did you know Mommy is smart?" It wasn't my finest hour, the day I felt like I had to defend my college degree to my three-year-old. I wanted that season with them, but I also wanted more and bigger. My mind swirled with more and bigger. It's hard, that season of so constantly belonging next to people who need so endlessly. I remember it so well.
When my children were toddlers, I decided to think of myself as missionary to a foreign land. I created an elaborate metaphor in my mind, wherein I reminded myself that this season called for loving the natives, learning their language, feeding them before they grew restless and agitated, and occasionally negotiating with terrorists.
When my youngest started kindergarten, I felt like I had crossed the biggest finish line of my life. Welcome, furlough.
So I said to Bekah,
"Here's what you have to know: You will never, ever have less time to yourself than you have right now. You're trying to do so many things, to love them well but not lose yourself. In this season, everything is a victory - everything. Everything they do, everything you do, and definitely anything you do in the name of finding your writing voice. Celebrate anything, and reward yourself extravagantly and often. Because you will never have less time to yourself than you have right now. It will get easier. I promise."
Take heart, young moms, fellow missionaries who feel like you're navigating a foreign wilderness you've somehow created. There are so many long miles between the really gratifying moments.
Celebrate everything you can think of. Because everything is a victory.