A Canopy of Forever

It started Sunday, with the tantrums. They were not hers, but mine, and they were fueled by a variety of external factors, excuses – too much noise, not enough rest, too much sugar, not enough time – and I had become itchy with discontent. I was on edge, a jagged, barbed wire version of myself that fenced out the good: gentleness, patience, kindness, love.

When I’m feeling particularly edgy, I forget a lot of things. I forget that I’m the grown-up. I forget that I am her leader, that I set the tone. That my barbed wire of self-preservation does nothing to further our bond but instead, encourages everyone else to – quickly, quietly please – build their own fence to protect each other from the elements of our truest selves. I forget that love – the kind of love I’m seeking – comes without conditions. I forget that shaming a child is no form of discipline. I forget that yelling is the easy way out, and I forget that she is a sponge.

Life is linear, they have shouted. It has momentum, and one day builds from another – one choice from the one before. And so, I wonder, what does it mean when you have a string of bad days? How do you stop the momentum that has been building from crashing, burning, destroying? How long does a strand of bad decisions stretch before it strangles the good, before it wraps around your finger like floss, around your neck like a noose?

We cannot know.

But part of me believes that life may not be linear, after all. Perhaps these bad days are not strings tied together, but are stars – scattered under a canopy of forever? Some beautiful, some terrible, some far brighter than we’d imagined? And by peering at them from afar, from underneath, we see them as they are?

I choose, daily, to believe in a God that is not constrained by time, or space, or boundaries. Life, as I believe that He sees it, is not linear. And so, perhaps I’m looking at all of this from the wrong perspective.

What if a mother’s yell is merely an opportunity to voice forgiveness? What if a child’s disobedience is an opportunity to practice a mother’s self-control? And if that’s true, what if a mother’s guilt is simply an opportunity to accept – to show gratitude for and to cling to – a greater love?

Because here is what I do know: when love is offered unconditionally, everything changes. I know this because I believe in a God who is the very essence of unconditional love, and it surprises me more each day I am a mother. Is it irrational, and unthinkable, and holds little understanding. I am a toddler, a sponge, and certainly there are conditions that come alongside this God’s love? Certainly I will lose just a tiny portion if I, say, disobey and run out into the street? Or color on the walls? Or eat the dog food?

And yet, I am loved. I see it, in small flickers, a star on the darkest night of forever. I feel it, and I accept it, and I carry it until tomorrow.

And so, because of this, I love. She sees it, in small flickers, a star on the darkest night of forever. She feels it, and I can only hope she will accept it, and I can only pray that she will carry it until tomorrow.

  • I think that when everything seems to go wrong is when we come back and focus on the most basic needs of ourselves – love. It puts everything in perspective. I also think that feeling edgy is a way for us to get more intune with ourselves, and we need those check-ins.

  • I love that first picture of you! You have such a pretty smile.

    And I really needed to read this. I have a 3-year-old, very spirited, little girl. I never knew that I had a breaking point, but there it is. How I need grace!

    • Ah, thank you Kathleen!! And ha, I hear ya. Grace abounds, and I’m so grateful. :) I’m in need!

  • Oh Erin, you could be telling the story of my weekend. I’m totally claiming PMS but there were times I’d rather not remember when I scolded or yelled or lost my mind… each time Forrest ran up with arms spread wide, asking for “love-loves!!” and I do, and I have to, and I take a deep breath and try to move on into a better light.

  • gosh erin you write beautifully … my little girl is 19 and there were times where i was so at that place you speak of … and then at times in recrimination about it … but my daughter experienced my humble apologies many times … and it is at that place you know the love of the Father … unconditional and forgiving x

    • Oh thank you, Dawn – it’s so encouraging to hear from an experienced mama like yourself! :)

  • I can’t tell you how grateful I am that you share in this way. I have four very young kids and although they are these little monstrosities of joy, they are the recipients of my worst moments. It keeps me up at night, thinking of how all my discontentment, frustration, entitlement and shallowness wells up into anger and spills onto them. It brings me to tears and then brings me to my knees. And they are forgiving and graceful and it reminds me of this greater Love, of His love. All this to say, I read your words and they have impact. They hit home. They deepen the breath and slow the world. So, thank you.

    • Ah, thanks for sharing, Jenny. If there’s anything I know, it’s that we’re not alone. :) Wishing you peace and stamina with the four littles today!

  • Thanks for sharing these thoughts. Demonstrating God’s love for myself and to my two kiddos, is a daily challenge. Im so relieved to remember that God’s love–our LIfe–is not linear, but rather simple and infinite like the stars.

  • Erin – I’m a longtime reader of your blog, but I don’t think I’ve ever commented before… I just wanted to thank you for posting this. It’s funny when I saw this initially in my inbox, I almost didn’t read it because I didn’t think I could handle how perfect your life sometimes seems – you seem like such a natural at being a mom, (you always seem calm and confident and an endless well of peace and patience), and there are times when I definitely struggle to find that poise… Especially coming out of this endless northeast winter while pregnant and caring for a 3 year old :) Thank you for your honesty and lovely words – this post reads like poetry.

    • Oh Robin, thank you so much for your honesty. I am so very far from perfect, and the patience and peace certainly doesn’t come easy to me. :) But I’m learning much, and doing my best, and asking for forgiveness when the first two fall short (daily!). :) Also, pregnant and a 3 yr old? You’re superwoman to me. :)

  • I love this post, Erin and so appreciate your honesty. Motherhood is just HARD sometimes. As I was reading it I couldn’t help but think of how many times in a day I am expressing gratitude to God for giving me so many opportunities to “develop my patience,” and respond with love instead of anger…especially when my 4-year-old is running amok and my 2-year-old has so kindly emptied a basket of freshly folded laundry. ;)

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