Speaking of Oil

Seed oils, even.

As many of you know, my husband is afflicted with chronic pain, both head and neck, and is frequently confined to bed. It’s been more than 15 years now, and we are accustomed to running our family much as if dad were in the military or traveling for work a lot. He’s here, but…well, he’s not here. Whether it’s illness, or travel, or long hours at work, many young mothers find themselves both alone and lonely in their role. Motherhood, even with the best of husbands, is still a very solitary job. Even with help from husbands, friends, and older children, nobody else is Mommy. This life makes for hard days and long nights, and we do have to go through these things alone sometimes.

When my fifth child was about 11 months old, Get Along Husband had been having the headaches for a few years. I had become used to him coming home from work, going to bed, and having at most only one good day every week or so, but I had not found peace with that routine yet. I was usually able to contain my tears, never having been much of a crier, but one night, after a particularly busy and eventful day, I found myself crying into my dishwater over it all. I was so tired, and the kids still needed to be put to bed, and I was late getting them fed.

“Lord, I don’t think I can do this anymore. I’m so alone.”

Just that minute, I heard a little bitty splat¬†behind me. I turned around to see through my tears that my little guy had crawled into the kitchen and stealthily loosened the lid on a gallon of vegetable oil. I had put it down on the floor when I’d brought in groceries earlier, and my baby was now slipping and sliding and slapping in a gallon of soybean oil, quite happily!

I couldn’t believe my eyes.

Or this child’s timing.

Then that still, small voice came through. “Are you sure you can’t handle this any more, Cindy?”

Oh, Lord Jesus, why?

Still boohooing, I scooped that baby up, warned the rest of the children to stay out of the kitchen, and took him for a bath. Then I put all of the children in front of a video and somehow cleaned that whole gallon of oil off the floor. By the time I was done, of course, I was no longer crying. You really can only cry so much, even when you’re as tired and lonely as I was that night. But as I sopped, then squeegeed, and then soaped that floor, I had a talk with Jesus. It was not the task of a few minutes, so it was a very long talk.

I do sincerely believe that God Himself put that baby and that oil in the floor that night to show me just what I can take. I’ve never wondered since that episode whether I could handle the hardships of mothering alone. As I said in my last post, all I had to do was pour. That day, I poured my little pot of oil into my family by keeping my temper and just doing what had to be done. God just kept filling up my reserves until the job was done.

When I woke up the next morning, my self-control was restored, and my floor was clean, and my children were just fine. Jesus did that. I cannot take any credit at all! I was so tired. I did not have the wherewithal to handle myself in that moment. But He did.

I was never alone. 

If you’ve never been a young mother with lives dependent on your very body for sustenance, it may sound like I was crying about absolutely nothing that day. But you who are mothers, you know. I still tear up every time I think about it. I’m crying as I write. It was such a hard day, after so many other hard days just like it.

Thank God, I’ve never felt since that day that I could not do it anymore. The days didn’t get any easier for a very long time. But God showed me how to pour myself out that day. It wasn’t long after that that our family was in a car crash, and we nearly lost my husband. What I learned that day with the baby and the oil carried me through that emergency, as well as many more that have followed in the 11 years since.

If there’s one thing I want you young mothers to know from this story, it is that you are not alone. You are doing it humanly alone sometimes. There’s no getting around that. But God is truly, literally, powerfully working through you. Don’t despair the way I did that night. Don’t give up on your husband, or your kids, or your Savior, or yourself. Don’t be bitter about whatever circumstance has you so lonely and so tired. Even if you’ve been wronged somehow, and that’s why you’re so alone and tired, don’t let it make you bitter. Know that you are being refined and made into the kind of Mother that gets written into hymns. You are doing important work.

Just keep pouring.