I sit down with a plan to write, but most days I don’t have the energy to recount the day’s memories or retell what we’re in the midst of because that requires reliving it. And right now, living it is hard enough.
I don’t want pity or sympathy, but I refuse to sugarcoat it.
The last two weeks of January were the hardest, most draining and tear-filled days of my life.
Sad. Exhausted. Confused. Tender. Annoyed. Hopeless. I’m in a chapter that seems to be never-ending. I keep waiting for the hero to show up, swoop in and rescue us. All of us.
Instead, I hear two distinct, high-pitched voices screaming, “MOMMMYYYY! DADDDDYYYYY! IT’S MORNING TIME! WAKE UP! WAKE UP!” I hear four little feet running around and watch as M stands on her tippy-toes to turn on the kitchen light.
So we do what we always do; E and me, together. We rise, we care, we love, and we give. We give every ounce of love we possibly have and they take every ounce of patience in these bones. We also argue, snap, and shout “NO!” more than I’d like to admit.
I drop off the twins to preschool and rush into work. As I do it all, I think of the ease mornings used to have. I think about how much I miss going for a run, eating a meal before it gets cold, and quiet. Oh, how I miss quiet. Before I go too far down that rabbit trail, I remind myself of all the good, amazing gifts that come with parenting two, beautiful children. Because they aren’t “ours,” I cry and assure myself that it’s all still worth it. I sit with the tension of knowing there’s nothing I’d rather be doing (except for the list of a million things that would be easier) and how desperate I am for a break. I wrestle with scripture and the belief that to lose your life is to gain it. I’ve lost my life, God. Where are you? What am I gaining? So I try to focus on the positive and swallow down my anger.
The struggle isn’t so much that I’m angry. Anger isn’t a bad emotion, but I do believe it’s one to pay close attention to.
Not too long ago my Pastor, Jeanne Stevens, and I were chatting about how I was doing and I told her I was doing well, except that I was having hand tremors. Even the way I casually mentioned it showed how little concern I had. But not Jeanne. She said, “Amanda, the mind can lie. But your body, the physical, it never lies. It doesn’t know how to lie. So those tremors you’re experiencing… I would pay attention to whatever your body is trying to tell you.”
I walked away from that conversation thinking about how good I’ve gotten at writing off my body’s signals, especially the ones screaming STOP! SLOW DOWN! REST! HELP ME!
After several days of trying to pinpoint who, what, or why I’m so angry with no success, I settled on one confession: I feel unseen.
It wasn’t easy to open up and admit it. My defenses rise, reminding me that I don’t need to be seen by anybody. I’ve got this. I’m better than that.
Who am I kidding? I’m no superwoman – we are all born with a desire to be seen, known, and loved. I’m no exception.
Living in a state of constant anger isn’t what God wants for me, nor is it sustainable, so I reached out to my counselor and scheduled a session. It’s unlikely that I’ll get answers right away, but I’m expecting God to reveal some of my junk… and that’s a good place to start.
Scrolling back in my messages with my husband from earlier in the week, there’s one text I sent him which, reading it again just now made me feel needy and selfish, but after talking with one of my newer friends who also chose the path less-traveled toward motherhood, I know I’m not alone. It’s the disheartening truth.
“Without social media, very few people seek to stay up to date on life. Nobody picks up the phone to call. Rarely does anyone send a simple card in the mail, or flowers. I became a brand new mom… to three-year-old twins… just a couple of months ago. I feel like hardly anyone is walking with me in this. I feel like no one sees me.”
I got to thinking about all of the friends I’ve let down; those I haven’t been intentional with or called to check up on when they entered a time of transition. Those who have taken on a new job, gone through a break-up, relapsed in deep depression, entered a new relationship, lost a job, miscarried… you name it, there’s probably a friend walking through it as I type these words. Someone who feels unseen, just like me.
My hope since the very beginning of our foster care journey has been to provide a filterless window so that someone might take action to the call on their life, or so people could have a realistic picture of what they’re getting into if they decide to go this route. However, no matter how open I am willing to be or how much I’m allowed to share, it won’t accurately depict this ridiculous emotional roller-coaster. You really don’t understand unless you’ve been smack dab in the middle of it yourself.
I deleted all of my social media apps two months ago so that I could have really vivid memories with the girls and because I knew I couldn’t juggle another ball in the air. Something had to give and social media was the obvious choice to be cut out first.
To my surprise, I haven’t missed it.
I don’t feel like I’m missing out by not seeing what everyone else is doing and I certainly don’t need to be perusing online or sharing my own daily snapshots when I can’t even find the time to crack open my Bible, call a friend, take a yoga class, or talk with God.
Over these last two months without Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, I’ve missed – even grieved – feeling seen by my tribe.
I’ve felt so disconnected from friends who I didn’t realize were really only close through convenience.
I’ve wondered, while swapping clean clothes out for wet ones in the dryer, if anyone thinks of me.
As I watch the girls hit new milestones and become more like me, I’ve thought about how much I wish everyone could see how incredible our attachment has been.
When N is waking up sick in the middle of the night, I long for gratitude from the woman who birthed her.
In the middle of the grocery store, when M is throwing a tantrum, I ache desperately for someone to reach out and say, “You’re doing a good job. I see you. You’re not alone.”
When I bump into someone, I desire to be real and transparent, but there’s no point in getting past the surface because an hour could only cover the half of it.
So, I go on. Hidden, knee-deep in my own story.
We weren’t created to be in hiding.
We were created to be seen and to see others. It’s in our God-given DNA. And I think most of us know this, otherwise we wouldn’t have an interest in friendship, community, or social media. We enjoy being heard, being known, and being with others. Being seen is a gift; one that many of us open every chance we get.
It wasn’t until I picked up a book that had been lying on my desk untouched since September, Unseen: The Gift of Being Hidden in a World That Loves to Be Noticed, that I discovered something so life-altering, which flipped my perspective and changed my trajectory.
I discovered that hiddenness could be just as much a gift as being seen.
Upon finishing her book, I scoured the internet to find Sara Hagerty’s email address and sent her a note of gratitude.
In Unseen, Sara wrote about seasons of feeling unnoticed and unappreciated and asks the question: how do we find contentment when we feel so hidden, so unseen?
She suggests that this is exactly what God intended.
While everything in our culture is documented, shared, liked (or not), it’s difficult to determine what really matters or what’s a big waste, if anything at all. Sara shares that what is hidden, unseen, and intangible is beautiful waste at Jesus’ feet. Only when we give all of ourselves to God—unedited, abandoned, apparently wasteful in its lack of productivity—can we live out who God created us to be.
We may be “wasting” ourselves in a hidden corner today: The cubicle on the fourth floor. The hospital bedside of an elderly parent. The laundry room. But these are the places God uses to meet us with a radical love. These are the places that produce the kind of unhinged love in us that gives everything at His feet, whether or not anyone else ever proclaims our name, whether or not anyone else ever sees.
God’s invitation is not just for a season or a day. It is the question of our lives: “When no one else applauds you, when it makes no sense, when you see no results—will you waste your love on Me?”
She so beautifully put to words how I’d been feeling and the ways in which I’d been suffering throughout my hiddenness.
As a result, I began tapping into the gift of being hidden and seen by God alone.
I began talking with Him through every little part of my day. While loading the dishwasher, changing N when she pees her pants, holding M when she throws a fit, wiping down the table for the seventh time before noon, and discussing this week’s grocery list with E.
I began allowing myself to be thirsty for Him and sit in my weakness instead of numbing or distracting myself in times of need.
I began going to bed with nothing crossed off my to-do list and no Insta-worthy pictures taken (essentially nothing to show for myself or prove anything), yet praising Him, genuinely, for a day well-spent.
I began feeling a peace about laying aside my book project in this season, saying no to another ministry opportunity, and even letting someone believe what they wanted to believe about me instead of rushing to defend myself.
Finally, I began desiring God in way that I haven’t in quite awhile. Like a dear friend, I wanted more time with Him. It comes from pure desire, rather than discipline or obligation.
In a state of being so under the radar and off the grid, it’s true – I’ve never felt more seen and known by God, my husband, my mom, and two close friends who see me regularly in sweatpants, with greasy hair, exhausted and needy.
You are seen. Whenever you feel otherwise, tap into the gifts of being hidden.
As lovers of Christ, we were born to be His showpiece. On display and in secret.
Both are equally significant.
Click here to purchase the book referenced in this post: Unseen: The Gift of Being Hidden in a World That Loves to Be Noticed by Sara Hagerty.