This is part one of a four part series on a Restorative Sabbatical. Please read the series – and be encouraged.
If I had to choose one thing that has had the greatest therapeutic value in our lives recently it is what I would call a “Restorative Sabbatical.”
I’m going to be honest here; we have had three long hard years. Life is getting better, there is no doubt. My children are showing signs of healing and we are hopeful, but the intensity of parenting at this level has taken a toll. While I have sought out the support and help of my friends and family, Russ has been left much more isolated.
I can pick up the phone on a hard day and most likely I will find somebody to help me through a rough moment. I have my Bible study on Thursday mornings with my friend Kathleen who also has kids from the “hard places”; we laugh and cry our way through our time — even if it is only on the phone. Online I have blogs to read, friends to email, and a small list of women who have shared my life for the past three years. If I want support, I can find it.
Russ carries a weight that is unimaginable to me. I would find it very challenging to feed and care for our large family. He works all day and then comes home to a house that needs repairs, 8 acres of property that need to be maintained, eleven children who need his attention, cars that are all on their last legs, a Boy Scout troop that he leads, and so many other responsibilities. And as much as I try to hold back, I want his help, his time, his attention.
Think about it ladies, our husbands are spread thin as they love us and love our children. Most of them do not have a bunch of buddies they can call and say, “Man, I’ve had a hard day. The kids won’t stop crying, my wife is exhausted and needs my help, I haven’t had a good night of sleep in five months, and frankly, I’m not sure I can make it through another week.”
The past year has been particularly difficult and exhausting. Therapy has brought my children (and our family) back from the brink, but it has taken a toll as well. In twelve months we have made 24 trips to Seattle. Nearly every other Sunday we pack for our kids and ourselves, load up the car and drive 300 miles. We meet with Deborah from 10:00 – 12:00 Monday morning, grab lunch and drive 300 miles home. If Russ goes with me, he misses a day of work on Monday. If he stays behind, he manages the family at home while also trying to work on Monday. He sees the credit card slips for gas piling up and envelopes from our insurance company coming in the mail. I try not to think about the financial cost of it all; he doesn’t have that luxury.
I could keep writing about the way Russ has been impacted, but let me cut to the chase, my husband was not doing well. He was exhausted, irritable, unhappy, and just not himself. The daddy who used to come home and wrestle on the floor with our little guys, the daddy who used to read stories every night, had disappeared. At first life was so challenging that I hardly noticed and honestly, I was in worse shape than he was. We were constantly faced with decisions about our children’s care, the needs of the children who were being impacted by their struggling siblings, and the rest of life. I leaned on Russ and we leaned together on the Lord.
Once we made significant changes, particularly getting Dimples in school, finding a team of friends to help us, and most of all, starting therapy with the kids, I began to have hope. I could at least look up and see the blue sky from the bottom of the pit I was in and know that I was going to make it out. Russ, on the other hand, couldn’t see it. He could only think about putting one hand over the other, straining to climb upward, but not really believing we would ever make it.
We talked to Deborah and she encouraged him to take care of himself, get breaks, make time to enjoy life. We nodded our heads and both thought, “Great ideas, but how will we do it? We are barely making it through each day.” Then it seemed that Russ was sinking more and I was worried. At that point Deborah gave us a firm assignment.
[Read part 2 here.]