The past few days we have been visited by the stomach flu. It is always strange to me that these experiences, though not fun, so often make me feel connected to power and God. I won’t go so far as to say I love the stomach flu, but there is something amazing I am reminded of each time we have this kind of trial. When my body is shaky and running on a few hours of interrupted sleep, I’ve put on my sweats and not even tried to cover the dark circles under my eyes or had a chance to wash the vomit smell from my hair, and I’m snuggling my baby amid mountains of laundry, I surrender. I surrender to the experience that we are going through. I surrender to the reality that I may well be asked to do this several more days and nights (with 6 kids it can take a while for a virus to move through the family). And no one can take my place. I surrender to just holding and rocking my baby, sleeping when I can, and letting the dishes wait. And I reach out for strength, knowing it will come because it has to – I am needed and I can’t walk away from what I am called on to do in my kids’ hour of need.
In times like these, I remember what it’s like to pray always. Not that I am on my knees with closed eyes. These are prayers that are ever present, not fully formed sentences – ‘I need you to get me through, Lord.’ and ‘Thank you!’ with deep gratitude for an hour of merciful sleep. And I feel his hand carrying me, giving me just enough to keep going, and encouraging me that it will all be ok.
When it is all over, which I keep reminding myself it will be soon, I am always amazed that I was able to do all that was demanded, and that I felt so much peace and sustenance through the process. I know there are other moms who have been through much more difficult trials than the stomach flu and felt the same strength given to them. I think it is the result of two things. One is expressed by this quote:
“Mothers work wonders once they are convinced that wonders are demanded of them.” -Charlotte Mason
When we know what is needed, we instinctively step up and do it, even if it is harder than what we thought we could handle. Mothers do this in childbirth and they continue to step up to new challenges throughout their children’s lives. We surprise ourselves about what we are able to handle, and each trial makes us stronger. Mothers are strong because love propels us to attempt near impossible things for our children.
But that’s not the whole story. I think the other reason mothers are able to work wonders is because, when we realize that a wonder is demanded of us, we have the power of heaven there ready to assist us, and we can reach out for that help in unspoken prayer and have little tender mercies returned to us in just the right amount to keep us going, while giving us an opportunity to see the strength in ourselves as well.
I’d like to hold on to that constant state of prayer and pleading, and that feeling of being carried. It can be easy to forget once life gets routine again, and I easily become deluded again into thinking I am doing fine on my own. But the fact is, wonders are demanded of mothers every day, even if everyone is healthy and things are going well. Raising children is a wonder that requires divine help. And that help is available to us even when we aren’t in dire straits – we just have to reach out and ask for it. That is what I want to remember (hopefully, without the assistance of the flu to jog my memory!).
Empowering Action: Try to reach out for help and recognise the tender mercies that come to help you with your work. Focus on the larger picture of the ‘wonder’ you are working as a mother, and seek divine assistance every day to help you accomplish your great work.