Pouring From an Empty Cup
The other day I was in the worst mood. Everything trivial felt heavy and exhausting. Laundry, dishes, homeschool, work, cooking, and cleaning piled up and left me weary. I was tired, worn, and just sick of my own thoughts. The dog chewed something; I yelled. Someone made a mess; I sighed like I was trying to let the neighborhood hear me. I cringe thinking about how ungrateful I sound, but it’s true. That day I was whiny, irritated, and full of self-pity. It was one of those days.
But then, I prayed, and it all changed, but not in the way you think. I didn’t drop to my hands and knees and cry out to God for help. I simply prayed with my nine-year-old at bedtime. I laid next to him minutes before and told him I was having a rough day. My oldest son chimed in when I spoke of my mood, “It’s okay, mom, you were fine.”
I didn’t feel fine. I felt annoyed with myself for being annoyed. I felt like a failure as a mom. I wasn’t patient enough, I wasn’t cheerful enough, and I didn’t finish my list of tasks for the day. As I left the room and sat down in my bed for what felt like the first time all day, my youngest son showed up. I had just gotten my daughter to sleep and finally had a moment to rest when I saw him standing there. I was noticeably annoyed that the revolving door of kids in my bed was leaving me with no “me time” that night which is a big part of my self-care. I didn’t yell, but I asked why he couldn’t stay in his bed. “I’m just so tired,” I grumbled at him.
He left my room with tears in his eyes and went to lay back down in his bed. Now I had tears in my eyes. Tears of guilt and shame washed over me like holy water until I felt convicted to go to him. I melted into his bed and apologized. He just nodded and hugged me back. I laid back down in my bed, still tormenting myself. Normal mom torment mixed with a bit of Duchenne mom guilt. What’s the big deal if he falls asleep in my bed sometimes? How much longer will he be able to even get up to come into my room? Suddenly I remembered when his older brother could still come into my room at night, and I missed it. I missed it so much it hurt.
I wasn’t an awful mom like I was telling myself over and over again. I was simply pouring from an empty cup. The night before, I got up about seven times. My whole day was spent trying to catch up. I realized later that I had not done a single thing for myself that day – no bath, no walk, no workout, no bible reading – nothing. I’m not excusing my irritable mood and behavior; I’m simply trying to understand it, so I can avoid it in the future.
Then came bedtime. I was so tired I could’ve slept standing up. I had zero energy left, and my kids were all needing me at the same exact time. I felt like a tethered rope about to break apart. That’s when I looked up and saw my son, standing in my doorway once again. He crept in so timidly that I immediately felt ashamed again. I scooped him up and put him in bed next to me. I apologized to him again for being grumpy and took his tiny hand. Without a word, he just quietly scooted closer and cuddled up against me. As he looked up at me with his big brown eyes, something important occurred to me. I had been struggling all day, yet I hadn’t asked God for help once.
I’d complained about my mood to my children and my husband. I’d mumbled under my breath, grimaced as I scrubbed floors, but I had not stopped to ask God to restore my mood. I didn’t sit down and rest. I didn’t pray for help. I just sat and wallowed in my own exhaustion. I swam in my self-pity instead of surrendering it like I should have.
Every night before bed, I try to pray with my kids, so I took Mason’s hand and told him we needed to ask God to help fix mommy’s mood. “Do you need to ask God for help with anything, buddy?” I asked, but he shook his head no. “Nothing?” I confirmed. “How about anything you want to thank God for?” I suggested. That’s when God answered my prayer before I even said the words. Without even a whisper, he simply looked up at me and pointed. “Me? You want to thank God for me?” I asked. He nodded with a sweet smile. He didn’t seem upset about my bad mood or ashamed of me like I was; he somehow wanted to thank God for me. The one who thought she was an utter failure of a mom that day.
I held his hand and prayed aloud for patience, comfort, and a better mood. I thanked God for giving me the sweetest kids in the world. No matter my mood, it is a divine privilege to be a mother. I don’t have to take care of these little souls; I get to! Suddenly like magic, my thoughts shifted from poor me to lucky me.
What did I do to deserve the kind of love I get to experience every day? The answer is simple, nothing. God did it all, and he chose me for this role. Not because he wants me to do it alone, but because he wants me to rely on his strength where I fall short. Every time I get into one of these sour moods, I realize that I’m trying to do it alone again. I’m trying to finish my day using my own strength. When my supply is depleted, I don’t need to run on fumes; I need to recognize that I’m human and ask for help.
That night will now remain a happy memory in my mind. The whole day somehow became a blur when I said that prayer with my sweet boy. I don’t remember the mistakes I made that day; I only remember a tiny innocent little finger pointing at me. He thanked God for me, even on my worst day. He didn’t see my mistakes looking back at him like I did; he saw a mom who loves him relentlessly. I will never forget that moment. I didn’t deserve his grace, yet he gave it to me with a smile – just like God does for us.
My children teach me about life every day. They model grace, compassion, and courage on a daily basis. I am who I am because of them. I will always be grateful for my role as their mom, even on the tough days. Because even when my cup feels empty and exhaustion kicks in, that cup will still overflow with love and endless gratitude for the life that I get to live.