I’ve always been a person who celebrated new seasons – new homes, new school years, new ages with each birthday, and of course, each new year on January 1st. New Year’s day this year had a different sense for me this time around, however. Instead of hopeful, expectant looking forward to things I knew would come and things for which I longed, I instead awoke on January 1st with a sense of emptiness and frustration.
Ever since becoming a parent and leaving the marketplace and work outside the home, it has seemed like every day is pretty much the same – a change of calandar pages doesn’t mean a lot to a mom of a two year old in which every day, holiday or not, brings its unique mixture of joys, milestones and frustrations. But over the past two years, in particular, some of the challenges in my oldest two daughters’ lives have been so intense and prolonged, sometimes it feels like the color is draining from my world. That reflected in my answers to people’s well-meaning, “What are you looking forward to in the new year?” questions at holiday parties and at church. Basically, I just didn’t have an answer. I now realize that was because I’d lost hope in the challenges I face with my two older girls. In particular, in the battle we face with our six year old in pursuit of healing for her GI and urology problems.
For over two years, she’s peed and pooped in her clothes, in her bed, around the house, on furniture and in the middle of most family outings. It is behavioral and physiological, but it’s never been clear how much of each, so I’ve had to deal with it from both sides in weekly counseling and frequent appointments at Children’s Hospital. I’ve had to become the potty police to my kindergartener. I’ve had to nag her to use the restroom at specified intervals, log amounts of fluids consumed (and the nag her to drink each and every ounce). I’ve washed extra bedding and clothes more times than I could ever count. I’ve had to change family plans to accommodate her need for restrooms every half hour. I’ve scrubbed furniture over and over again. I’ve found hidden pullups full of urine behind chairs, in closets, under beds, on my bathroom counter, in my car. I’ve been peed on, pooped on, screamed at. I’ve discovered puddles of urine in the bathroom, knelt in them accidentally while helping one of my other children and slipped in them in the kitchen.
Thus this new year looked like more of the same and didn’t hold any special interest for me this time around. Just more of the same work, smell, frustration, anger and resentment – for everyone involved. And I felt that all the more intensely on New Year’s Day, when my former self still wanted to have something to celebrate about a new year in my life. So I spent the first few weeks in a daze, not really engaging anyone in my circle of friends, easily irritated by everyone in my family. I felt hollow and bleak and truly without hope that anything would change.
Then I read the familiar story of Jacob, Rachel and Leah in Genesis. I try to read through the Bible every year, so once again I’m in Genesis in January. It couldn’t have been more appropriate or challenging than I found it a few days ago when I came across Jacob’s sad plight. He fell in love with a woman, worked 7 years under her father to earn the right to marry her, then on his wedding night discovered he’d been given her older sister, with whom he had no desire to be wed! He confronted their father about the deception, and ended up working another 7 years to get the girl he’d wanted in the first place. What hit me about this story was two-fold. First, that he labored with a light heart all FOURTEEN YEARS. That’s a lot longer than the 2 years I’ve labored with my daughter. Second, he didn’t lose hope after having a major setback, he just signed up for next round of years and did what he had to do. He could have thrown in the towel and walked away. It took hope and courage to try again, when he had a track record with the father that might have led him to doubt his word. What if he worked another 7 years and didn’t get his heart’s desire even then?
All of that forced me to face the real issue in my despair. I ceased trusting that God truly has “plans to prosper and not to harm” me and my daughter through all this (from Jeremiah 29). I began this next round of work not believing that what I hope for (her healing, and release of our family from this issue) would ever come, even if I keep doing what doctors and counselors recommend. I had to face the question: do I trust God and believe He will do me good and not harm, to give me a future and a hope in this part of my life and family? The answer until I read that passage again was a clear no. But since then, I’ve begun to feel my heart thaw in this area. I feel like God is giving me an ability to laugh again, and is lifting my heart out of the despair into which I’d begun to sink. My heart still doubts that healing will come. But I’m hoping again, inspite of it all, and for that I am very thankful. So even though it’s a couple of weeks late, I do believe that in some way, whether one that I understand or not, this may indeed be a happy new year after all.