We have all heard the phrase “You can’t pour from an empty cup!” This was my least favorite quote because I am busy with kids, ministry, homeschooling, and an online business. I can’t stop to refill my cup. It doesn’t work like that in my world.
When my mom (Nanny) checks on me, she asks, “Did you eat today and did you do something for you?” I used to internally roll my eyes while thinking, “I’m kinda busy! I can’t focus on me.” She would close by saying “Mandy, I love you. I don’t want you to burn out. You have to take care of yourself!”
She was right!
In 2015, my husband and I lost 11 friends and family members. It wasn’t all at once, but it felt like when one funeral was over, another was beginning. I had the privilege of helping care for my husband’s grandma who was battling cancer. This was my first experience with cancer. What an emotional ride! On the day we buried her, I lost one of my paps.
2015 was a hard year. I grieved. Yet I tried to carry on normally because I have kids! Most of all, I was internally battling wanting a 4th child while my husband was maxed out. God knew what my 2015 would hold. Eleven deaths is a lot. Now that I’m past that year, I’m grateful I wasn’t given a baby!
Let’s fast forward to 2016. My husband went on a mission trip in January. While he was away, I took my three kids to Park City to meet a friend. When I was driving on the highway to get there, I had my first panic attack! Full body sweats, shaking, labored breathing and chills took over my body. A few days later, I drove our Durango to the automatic car wash. The car wash malfunctioned while I was inside. The large exiting door slammed down repeatedly on my windshield. Instantly, another panic attack attached to me.
I had one panic attack after another for months. It was ugly. I went from being the life of the party to someone who never wanted to leave her home. I stopped driving. I had to go on medication every four hours so I could barely function while my husband was at work. I am saddened when I think how lonely and scared my husband must have been. He did all the cooking, errands and cleaned our home without a single complaint. I was distressed and distracted. I was full of fear. I could not shake it.
Death scared me! I would spend hours crying in the shower after my family went to bed. My mind would race with fears about my husband dying. Would I be a lonely single mom with kids? I was too exhausted to pray. I didn’t want to pray. I was mad. I was never supposed to be “this” person. I cried a lot. Nanny reminded me my tears counted as prayers.
I didn’t want to pray but I knew I should. Are you ready for my long theological prayer? “God HELP!” I began tuning our radio to worship music 24/7. Grandma told me when I was caring for her that the devil won’t hang out in a place of worship. The struggle I felt to escape the sadness was a heavy burden. I knew I needed to get a shower and get dressed every day. However, knowing is not enough. I had to take action and do it! If I learned anything from 2015, it’s that time is ticking for us to be our best selves.
2016 was dark and uncomfortable. I can’t remember a specific moment when things got better. However, when I accepted my new reality instead of beating myself up about my feelings, I improved slowly. I would lay on my bed imagining it being God’s palm. I slowly began to say affirmations like “I am safe! I am a great mother! I’m a fun wife!” I did not believe my affirmations at all, but it was a start to speak them out loud.
If you follow me on any social platform, you have seen me talk about “punching Satan”. I began to imagine myself beating satan up. Every good choice I made was a punch. This simple phrase gave me the motivation to fight every hour.
One day while talking and crying to my husband Bobby, I heard God interrupt our conversation, saying, “Stop looking to Bobby for answers!” I had resisted going to counseling for years. I decided it wasn’t fair to my husband. I knew I needed more guidance than he could offer. Nanny went to counseling most of my life. I didn’t understand what the fuss was about. I thought counseling was for weak, messed-up people. Finally, I caved and started getting the help I needed.
My life has been changed because I am taking care of myself. I have been consistently going to counseling for five years. If you’re on the fence about therapy, go to therapy! Don’t only go when life is bad. Go when life is great, too! I have learned so much about myself. Not all counselors are the same, so don’t say “I tried that once and it didn’t work.” Make sure you connect with your therapist. If you don’t connect, then change who you are seeing. Keep showing up regardless of how you feel.
2016 taught me that I have to refill my cup often. I never want to burn out again. I thought I could never burn out because I said so! I learned it’s not selfish to focus on me so I can love others well. I encourage you to focus on “you” with Jesus.
Searching for things that make your soul happy might be uncomfortable. I had three kids under the age of five at one time. My life was crazy. Still, I added a few small things in my day that made my heart happy, like a fancy ice tea glass to drink out of every day. I use a straw with my iced coffee. I have a favorite shampoo. I wear dangly earrings. I have monthly therapy. I listen to worship music. I encourage you to find small things to make your heart smile in the midst of your very busy day. If you can’t think of a thing, ask God, “Help me find my small joys!” He will come close to you.
Today we’re in the year 2021. The desire of my heart was fulfilled: I have a fourth child! Friend, you will survive your hardest chapters. Your tears are words to the Father. You are uniquely crafted but you are human. There is a reason why God talks about resting! It’s okay to pause throughout your day. Even Jesus went up to the mountain to pray alone!
Take care of God’s greatest creation, you! God can take your mess and turn it into a message!
“Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness. Let the whole world know what he has done.” (Psalms 105:1 NLT)