Mothering on Empty- The offering of an empty cup.

I should have felt empathy, at least. Or fear. Something. Instead? I felt mostly-numb.

I rocked my 9 year old back and forth as he screamed and cried, holding his infected ear, begging to know: “Why is this happening to me? Mommy- why don’t you make it stop! I can’t take this pain anymore!” I had no answers. I couldn’t take the pain away. He’d already been to the doctor and it just takes some time for he antibiotic to work. “It’s ok, the medicine will work. It will stop. I don’t know why it’s happening- people just get sick, there isn’t always a reason why. I’m here. I’m here. I love you” The words sounded hollow. Probably because I was hollow. Empty. Exhausted. I’d spent that day waiting for a loved one who was having a complicated and risky surgery. It had taken what little energy and patience I had left on reserve to get through the day, and now- while I had nothing left to give, my son needed: more.

So, I sat. Hollow and crying on the inside, rocking him and asking God the same questions he was asking of me: “Why God? Please, can’t I get a break? Please make it stop.” “Lord I am empty- I have nothing but an empty cup. It would be nice if you’d at least fill it up so I could give my child what he needs…Instead I have nothing. I’m just going through the motions.”

This is not how I like my life to be. I try to handle one crisis/aggravation/ stressor at a time. Preferably with time in between to recover. Not so much this time. 2 weeks prior, we’d been on vacation, which, while wonderful- took a full week to recover and catch up from. The week before we’d had a minor home remodel turn into a nightmare resulting in a 8′ square hole open all the way to the basement. Instead of a simple re-flooring- it required re-bracing of floor joists and leveling and much sawdust and cutting. I didn’t know it would turn into a circus of people tearing my house apart while we tried to keep the dogs ( and children) from falling through the floor. The workmen had just finished the day before. As I sat rocking my screaming child- 3 rooms full of goods still sat in boxes in the dining room, mocking me and waiting to be put away.

The exhaustion from vacation, the stress and disarray from the re-model and the stress over the surgery hit like emotional tsunami after tsunami. The ear ache wasn’t the straw that broke the camels back…it was the straw that sucked me dry.

After a long day of surgical waiting…All I wanted was a hot bath to get rid of my headache. and to go to sleep. And maybe a side of chocolate. I did not want a child screaming in pain. I wanted to catch my breath between the waves, but there just wasn’t time. Instead, I sat rocking. Holding out the empty cup that was myself, and hoping he wouldn’t notice how empty it was. I felt like the worst mother ever. My kid was in pain, and all I could think of was how tired and how empty I felt.

Still, I rocked. And rocked. And mumbled comforting hollow words. Eventually, he rested. He fell asleep. Maybe the ibuprophen had finally kicked in, or maybe God took pity on us. By the next morning, his eardrum had burst, and the bulk of his pain was over. I took a long hot shower and cried. Hair still wet, I cuddled him on the couch for a few minutes before heading over to the hospital again. He leaned his head against me. “I love you mommy, thanks for making me better.”

I thought about giving God the credit- or maybe the antibiotics…because I knew I had not made him better. I’d had nothing left to give. But in his eyes I saw something. Something that said my offering of an empty cup- and hollow words had somehow been enough.My presense in his pain… had been enough.

Maybe God had made up the difference.

“I love you too- schmoo.” Was all I could say.

Maybe today- you feel empty. Maybe you feel sucked dry, or frustrated and angry. Maybe all your plans have turned to holes and there hasn’t been a break between the waves to come up for air. Maybe, you feel like the worst mother ever- holding out an empty cup to a child who needs… something..Don’t give up. Go ahead. Offer it up, I have to believe that when we are at our emptiest- God makes up the difference…. in ways we don’t understand or even see. You aren’t alone. Every mom feels like this, sometime. It gets better. The boxes will eventually be emptied. The surgeries eventually heal. Earaches go away. We will be filled again.

He’s done it before- not just for me…

1 Kings 17: 9-16 9 “Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there. I have directed a widow there to supply you with food.” 10 So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, “Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?” 11 As she was going to get it, he called, “And bring me, please, a piece of bread.”

12 “As surely as the LORD your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.”

13 Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. 14 For this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the LORD sends rain on the land.’”

15 She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. 16 For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the LORD spoken by Elijah.

Dear lord- I pray for each mom that feels empty. I pray that as she extends that empty cup- you will fill it up with what our children need. I pray for gulps of fresh air between waves and for hollow words to be enough. I pray that we’d find rest and filling in you, to pour out to our children- in Jesus name- amen

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