I Am The Hippopotamus

Have you read But Not the Hippopotamus by Sandra Boynton?  I had not until last night, and my eyes unexpectedly filled with tears as I read it to the kids. Micah is a sensitive guy. He is always disturbed when I cry while reading, so I tried to hide my red eyes and swallow the lump in my throat.

Basically, all the animals are busy--having fun, doing life--"but not the hippopotamus." He is always observing, never participating. This hippo is living my life! Or I'm living his. Whichever.

Currently, being the observer is not my choice. Well, maybe it is my choice. I suppose I could choose to continually risk my life, feel horribly ill, impede my healing and burden my family, but I am fairly certain that would be a poor choice. Regardless, my separateness is necessary for my safety and well-being.

Having to stand on the outside looking in has been quite the refining fire for me. For starters, I've had to overcome jealousy. Yes--I get jealous.

I have struggled with jealousy since childhood. Of all the feelings I've ever felt, jealousy is the absolute worst. It eats the soul alive. I know it's wrong. I am aware of its ugliness. I hate it. I hate myself for feeling it. Jealousy is so bad we treat it with the same taboo we reserve for "the big ones" like adultery, thieving and murder. If we talk about it at all, we are usually referencing someone else's jealousy and never our own. It's embarrassing!

While my shame is yet incomplete, I will admit to being jealous over the stupidest things. I've been jealous of people who can eat pizza, of people who don't have to cook every night, of people who have all kinds of conveniences they take for granted, of people who can see movies at the theater, of people who can go to church, of people who can wear makeup, of people who have energy to clean the entire house in a day, of people who can take their kids to the zoo, of people who can go on vacation, of people who can pop a pill to get pain relief, of people who seem to have as many babies as they want while I dream of a house full and will not be able to have another.

Thankfully, jealousy has not beaten me. Some time ago, I discovered the cure! His name is Jesus.

Instead of merely willing myself to wish the object of my jealousy well and scolding myself upon every failure to do so, I look at Jesus and rest in His presence. I gaze upon His beauty, dwell upon His goodness to me, worship His person, speak aloud His Word, and am thereby made entirely content. I cannot help but wish the whole world well!

You with the Facebook photo of your steaming hot Johnny's pizza? Enjoy that cheesy goodness! God bless you!

You who just posted that you picked up curbside because you were too tired to cook? I am so thankful you had that option.

You who took that selfie, dressed to the nines for your hot date? You look gorgeous! Have fun!

You with the eight kids who just announced your next pregnancy? Praise God! Babies are glorious!

Other challenges of separateness include--
  • learning to be alone without feeling lonely, learning that because I walk with Christ, I am never alone
  • working through the frustration of not feeling useful
  • feeling sad and guilty for not being able to "show up" for the important people in my life

I missed my sister's birthday party last Saturday, which disappointed us both. Jenny called me yesterday, and asked me to be a bridesmaid in her wedding. She and her husband never had a wedding before, and they want to have one now. I think it's a glorious idea! I want to be there more than I want an entire Johnny's Sweep the Kitchen pizza to myself! I am asking God to make a way if He wills it. As of now, I cannot see one. And then the holidays are rapidly approaching. We will celebrate, but it will not be the same. Family gatherings and nostalgia are hard things for me to give up.

One might think that missing everything would get easier, that I would become accustomed to it and accept it as my norm. The hard truth is that though I do accept it and I can be happy in spite of it, it grows more painful with each missed event like a wound that opens again and again, never healing.

Living this life, it's easy to focus upon all the things I cannot do. There is an overwhelming number of them! But this negative focus impedes my walk with Christ, fills me with discontent and shrinks my ministry further. Discouragement is a cloud which affects everyone.

Of all the things I can't do, I must remember the most vital of them all--I cannot have my children growing up in a dreary, bleak environment. As wife, mother and homemaker, I set the tone of my home. I have a responsibility to myself and my family to be a person who takes joy in what I can do, surrendering all the "can'ts" to the authority and goodness of Christ.

I can read my Bible and memorize scripture. I can pray--for myself, my family, for friends, for people I have never met. I can be happy in the Lord. I can cook, wash dishes, clean and fold laundry. I can smile at my babies, kissing them as often as I like. I can listen to and answer the unending questions of a four year old and anticipate his desires--happy faces in his food, for instance.

I can sing hymns and songs for an audience of three (Micah, Sara and Jesus). On days when I am unable to put one foot in front of the other, I can read books until I lose my voice. On days when I do not struggle quite as much, I can scrub a bathtub or sweep the floor. I can read. I can write. I can hide love haikus in my husband's lunch, and greet him with a smile when he comes in from work. I can talk to my friends on the phone. I can help and encourage others who share similar health problems. Because I cannot expend any energy outside of the home, I can expend all of my energy inside it! What a blessing!

There is much for which to be thankful. I was starving to death in June, and look at me now! I'm scrubbing a toilet here and there. On Saturday, I vacuumed for the first time since March. I survived it, too. I need less help from others, which is also a significant improvement.

I am the hippopotamus. I have yet to join the world......but one day I will. Meanwhile, if I keep "looking unto Jesus" I can reflect His light into the hearts of my people. I can make this single-wide trailer the warmest, happiest place on the planet for them. 

My life is different but valuable, slow but effective, separate but full. And truly--I am very happy.


Recommended reading: The Hidden Art of Homemaking: Creative Ideas for Enriching Everyday Life
by Edith Schaeffer

Admittedly, the title makes it sound like the target audience is Mennonites and old biddies, but this book is for everyone from the retired adventurer to the young mother to the career-driven bachelor. I have Brandon reading it, and he's not even human! The book is about discovering and cultivating one's creative talents in order to honor Christ, enrich one's own life and bless others.

A Fun Fact:

I had planned a version of this post yesterday afternoon before reading But Not The Hippopotamus, but as I read it, I knew I would include it in the post. I did not know it would make the title until I finished the rough draft.

Prayer requests:

  • My allergies have my body on edge right now. Serious reactions are popping up here and there. This creates more stress for Brandon and more difficulty for me.
  •  I get a weekly treatment on Tuesdays. As a result, I am sick on Wednesdays. If I come to mind on any given Wednesday, give me a shout out in your prayer time. 

  • The kids are struggling with their allergies as well, Sara more so than Micah. It's difficult keeping up with everyone's individual sensitivities and needs!

A Fun Update:

I continue to work on my novel, and am having a wonderful time! Work is kind of slow, which can be frustrating, but I recently received the following word from the Lord:

"I am your life. Marriage and motherhood is your career. Healing is of utmost importance. Writing is your hobby."

I think that is a pretty clear outline of my priorities!

Thanks for reading! God bless!