It had been one of “those” weeks. You know the kind: where everything falls apart and even planned family fun crumbles into disaster. I recently gave birth to our third daughter, and her presence in our family, while a sure blessing, has, of course, turned our world topsy turvy. All newborns do this, I know. But it doesn’t make the transition any easier.

Sarah, our now middle child, is struggling with potty training. Along with that, she’s been extremely loud and obnoxious, presumably to gain my attention more noticeably now that I’m in a sleep deprived haze most of the time. That or feeding, changing, or soothing the baby. As a result, we’ve had our fair share of public tantrums and meltdowns. Gotta love developmental regressions following a major life change.

Felicity, our oldest, has developed a sassy mouth. We quickly discovered that she, too, is lacking adequate sleep due to sharing a bedroom with Sarah, who likes to serenade her with midnight crooning.

Lately, the days have all blurred into one big foggy continuum of time. It’s summer all around, and life is buzzing with abundance, but I’m often trapped inside the house, too exhausted to enter into the momentum of activity. It saddens me and then overwhelms as I frequently glance at the outside world, longingly daydreaming of participating in that block party or neighborhood swim or moonlight bonfire.

Trouble is, my body can’t stay awake past 8:30 or 9:00 most nights. So the world whirs past me and time with it. This period of maternal hibernation seems so out of sync. I equate holing up in the house with winter months, which are far more conducive to cozying up in the dry warmth of home. As a result of feeling off kilter, I’ve felt entirely left out—of social activities, professional opportunities, and short stints of travel time to get away on retreat for a little respite.

But then I read a line from Psalm 90: “Give us joy to balance our affliction.” It became my prayer of desperation, spoken to Jesus in the dark nights when the world sleeps and I am awake with a newborn.

It seems that most, if not all, of life is bittersweet. The afflictions that plague each of us are varied: some physical, some emotional or mental, and even spiritual. Our lives scurry past us, and we cannot grab ahold quickly enough. So it passes without warning, and we are left in the wake of the time we believed was plentiful, now something entirely tenuous.

Though time slips away and those weeks transition into months or years of heavy crosses of loneliness, Jesus hears our cries for joy. And He grants them, even if they are few and fleeting.

Shortly after repeating this prayer several days in a row, God granted our family a window of joy. It was a gorgeous day full of sunshine and a refreshing midsummer breeze, and we traipsed downtown for an afternoon boat ride on the river near a local park. No one cried or screamed or fussed or protested. For three, full hours we basked in each other’s company, laughing and engaging in lively banter that only 4- and 6-year-olds can understand.

It sounds so simple, really. The fact that we were grateful for a moment in time that encapsulated a family activity seems a bit over-the-top. To us, it was an answer to prayer. It was the joy granted to balance our affliction.

Our crosses do not go away. Yet somehow, as they grow heavier, we become stronger. We seek the moments of joy in the midst of chaos and struggle, and we find far more than we desire.

Text (c) Jeannie Ewing, all rights reserved.

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