I was chopping vegetables with my five-year-old a while ago when he told me a story. He began by referencing something we both heard that morning, but it was his interpretation of what he heard that caught my attention. It caught my attention so much that I could feel my physical anger reaction almost immediately.

My heart beat faster. My breaths shortened. My hands started to shake. I was angry. Within seconds I was forming a response. I wrote down what he said, I formulated the story for my husband, and I started composing a mental email.

I expect my child to be exposed to misogynistic thinking in advertising and television, I don’t expect him to face it here, I wrote in my head to people involved.

I listened to my son, and I let myself get angrier and angrier thinking about it. I was so angry that at some point I realized I was enjoying being angry and enjoying having a reason to be angry about a specific group of people. The evening went on, and when we had some privacy, I told my husband about the conversation. He suggested that perhaps I didn’t understand the context. He told me the story because he and my son had been there for the whole thing. He expanded out the boundaries I put around it.

I didn’t write any protest emails. I didn’t talk to anyone. I misunderstood the context my son was talking about because I wasn’t there for all of it.

The situation with my son didn’t need an angry email from me, but after my emotions settled, I could see something else.

My anger was pointing at something.

It was like an arrow directing my attention toward a situation, a bigger situation,  that needed to be addressed. The specifics here are not important, but I needed to be able to separate what I was getting angry about in the moment from what I actually needed to pay attention to. Because what it pointed at is something that required action.

The bigger picture involved an important decision we have to make. We needed to reflect on our reasons. This would mean many complex, sometimes difficult, discussions between us as a couple. It meant we needed to communicate that decision with others, people who may not understand or may be hurt by our actions. And there were many, many things in there that I needed to let go.

You don’t have to do much to find anger. Just turn on the news. Spin the dial on your radio. Listen closely to your friends. Pay attention to your emotions. We are an angry people. We know more, we feel more and that can keep us from seeing what we need to do. I wonder about your life and its specifics. What events or people push your buttons easily? What else could it be pointing to? Perhaps there is more action for you to take.

Being angry is easy, looking at what our anger is trying to get us to see can be so much harder, taking action can be harder still.

It requires our courage, vision and action. It means we need to slow down, let our emotions diffuse, let the anger go, but let the arrow remain. However difficult it may be for you to look at the thing anger wants you to see, dealing with it is what will bring freedom and peace.

Now it’s your turn: What is anger pointing at in your life? What steps do you need to take to deal with it? Is there someone with whom you could share this who could help you discern what to do next? 

confessions graphic FINAL

There are musicians that partner with you in the different stages of life, and for me Sara Groves is one of those. My little sister gave me “Fireflies and Songs” before I left for Geneva to be with not-yet-Husband.

He and I started our three months in the same city by getting engaged and ended it with our civil wedding. It was packed three months, let’s say. The majority of our relationship was long distance, so these months were virtually the only time we had to understand the daily ins and outs of each others lives.

I used to sit in my apartment – a friend’s that she generously shared with me in her own last months in Geneva – listening to song after song from “Fireflies,” writing in my journal, staring at the Jet D’Eau and the lake, trying to come to grips with what was happening in my life. It was a happy time, yes, but it felt so deep, so serious, the process of getting ready to commit my whole life to another person, and I found comfort in the raw honesty of Sara Groves’ words about the difficulties of marriage.

A few weeks ago one Saturday morning, I got out of bed and walked down with Baby in my arms. Husband and Little Boy were in the kitchen making pancakes, and this CD was playing through our sound system. I wasn’t fully down the stairs before the wave of memories took me back to the couch from Pakistan, the fireplace, Anna’s little speakers on the floor.

We’re looking for the music in the music box, tearing it to pieces, trying to find the song… 

I had almost forgotten the order of songs on the CD because when the next song started playing, I heard season after season of the past three years of babies and bellies, marriage and changes and life. I read somewhere that Groves wrote “From This One Place” about her struggle with the onset of anxiety in her life; she didn’t have it before but one day it started when she was about to go on stage and play (I’m working off my memory for this one so it might not be correct).

Maybe one of the reasons why I struggled so much was there was never a real diagnosis, no one ever thought I was depressed or anxious. I was functioning, and in a lot of ways I was more than “just” functioning. We ate well, our apartment was in order, the boys were always taken care of. I didn’t shower often, but you know. There was never anything technically wrong, but it didn’t change the sadness of soul that was permanently there.

From this one place, I can’t see very far… I hear her singing from our white curving staircase in the yellow house in Stockholm 2013, and it’s the words I want to go back and tell my 28, 29, 30-year-old self.

All I could see was breastfeeding that would never end, never having my body to myself again.

All I could see was never having a full night of sleep again.

All I could see was the mountain of work that childcare is, the physical, emotional and spiritual work that seemed to never ever end.

All I could see was time I no longer had with the husband I loved and with myself.

All I could see was that hobbies, friends, the things I loved were changing, disappearing.

All I could see was a new version of myself, a version I could not recognize, a person I did not know.

From this one place, I can’t see very far. From this one moment, I’m square in the dark. 

My outlook was one of total lack – I did not have enough, I did not have what I needed, I did not have what I wanted.

But the truth was so much simpler.

From this one place, I could not see very far. 

Difficult times always feel desperate, and it’s these seasons when we are most tempted to make declarations about our lives. “I will never _______, it will always ________.” It wasn’t the time to judge, to have expectations, to whine, to complain, to try to change people and control. It was the time to grieve and to wait. 

I walked into the kitchen where Husband was making pancakes, and Little Boy was screaming excitedly waiting for his. We sat down as a family at our Saturday morning table, pancakes with maple syrup with two boys that we adore, Husband holds my hand, Little Boy holds the other one and we pray.

We thank God for giving us our daily bread, butter and maple syrup.

And I move on from this table with life, with confidence, with peace, with security, with joy overflowing, and truly I cannot believe it because I can remember how deep the pain ran these past three years, the bitter taste still on my tongue. But I know the battle I waged against insufficiency, I can recount every fight with the demons of insecurity and disappointment, and I know that when I look at my open hands today and see beauty and good and joy and safety and peace, I know that these are the fruits plucked only from the tree of suffering.

From this one place, I can’t see very far…. these are the things I will trust in my heart: You can see something else. 

What are you facing in your life today? What declarations are you making about this time? Is it the time to judge? Or the time to wait? 

This post is Day 15 of 31 Days of blogging in October. I am writing this month about my first season of motherhood, sharing stories and lessons that stayed with me from that time.

(New to this series? Start here and follow the links to each day’s post.)