As the rain trickled down yesterday morning, my husband and I snuggled in bed talking about walking with Jesus. My walk with Jesus is typically tied to the topic of motherhood, because along being a child of God, motherhood is so deeply woven into my identity. I am a mother. This is what I do day after day after day. I mother. It is the verb that describes much of my current life.
I want to speak frankly from my own experience. Some of you will not be able to relate to this, but I know, unfortunately, there are many of you who will see a reflection of who you are or once were.
In the first years of motherhood, I was fairly paralyzed. I knew I wanted to be a good mother, but I really didn't know how to go about that in the day to day. I saw a big picture of what I desired, but I didn't know how to get there. It was pretty overwhelming, so I did nothing. I also believed a lie that it didn't really matter what I did in the first three or so years of my child's life because she wouldn't remember anyway. I spent those first three years of my oldest daughter's life trying to get my junk together which only served to make everything worse because I was focused on me. This was a time in my life when I knew a lot about God, but did not truly have a relationship with Him.
Another lie I believed (and can easily fall into today) is that gentle, loving, and intentional motherhood just comes naturally to "all of those" ladies. I saw no inner struggle. It seemed to just be their nature. And I felt like I was at a disadvantage because, "That's just not me."
Unfortunately, I wasted a lot of time. I was terribly lazy all around. My home showed it. I struggled to maintain a tidy home, struggled to get meals on the table, struggled to be present with my child(ren), and yes, yes, struggled in my marriage.
When the Lord captivated my heart, He began to show me my beautiful calling as a wife and mother.... which was all the more overwhelming from a biblical perspective! How was I to measure up? How could I possibly do those things?
I became passionate about these things, but because I was doing them in my own strength, my passion quickly pittered out. I found myself going through the motions because "this is what is right" but my heart wasn't in it. As a result, I was often frustrated, angry, exhausted, and always on the verge of feeling like giving up. Many days I would have day dreams of running out the front door as soon as my husband got home from work, but I knew I didn't have "such a luxury". Where would I run to anyway?
But one day, I did just that. One morning I woke up, and I ran out the front door. I had had enough. I ran out the front door and into the arms of Jesus. While my children tidied up after breakfast, I paced outside, crunching colorful leaves under my feet, and pouring my heart out to the Lord as a chilly breeze licked at my face.
"Jesus, do whatever You've gotta do to me," I cried out, "because I can't go on living in such misery." You see, the reality was that I was miserable "doing nothing" and I was miserable going through the motions.
I am often reminded of something my dear friend Becky said, "There are things that have to be done in our lives. Meals have to be made. Diapers changed. Homes tidied. It's not a matter of if we are going to do something, but rather whose strength we are going to do it in."
There have been times when I lazily waited for God just to motivate me to be active in my family's life, and then, on the other extreme, times when I, knowing His calling for me, barged ahead like a bull in a china shop. Neither is what the Lord wants from me. Or you.
In Christian circles, we are often told to "do something great for the kingdom." We want to do something noble, something amazing, something powerful. We want to make a huge impact while we are here. Feed the poor, nurture the sick, help the impoverished. Yes, yes! That's what we want to do. Yet, so often while we allow our imaginations to run wild with all the amazing possibilities of wonderful things we can do for the Lord, we forget that He has very intentionally placed us within an incredibly noble mission as mothers.
I know it doesn't sound very noble to wash dishes, change diapers, vacuum rugs and sweep floors, read books to little children, fix several meals (and snacks), and deal with many loads of laundry day after day after day. Our days as mothers are largely made up of tasks that are easily (and quickly) undone and must be repeated often. Week after week, month after month, we pour our hearts and lives into our children and wonder if it's doing any good.
The other day the children and I were reading through Scripture together when Evangeline pipes in, "God's not real, like Santa's not real, right?" And I felt like banging my head against the wall, especially since I make the point, "This really happened! This is a true story!" every time we read the bible together or talk about biblical events. (We actually never taught our children about Santa, but of course, during the Christmas season, Santa is everywhere so we have had to explain who this character is.)
I sat there mentally beating myself up, wondering if my passion for the Lord and His word was falling on deaf ears and blind eyes (or even making any sense) until my oldest son, Nolyn, began to share what he had been reading in his spare time (from the bible). As I listened to his enthusiasm, the anxiety in my heart slowly unwound and fell away, and the Lord reminded me, "This is a slow process, but one day you will look back and see growth. You will see the benefit of your time, effort, and sacrifice. I will give you tastes and glimpses, so be open and aware and present. Trust that it is happening even when it doesn't feel like it. Be patient in those times, and know that I am working in their hearts and using you, their mother, to direct and disciple them. I am using you to show them My love. I am working through you— guiding you in your nurturing, loving influence—to build up your children and bring them into a relationship with Me."
Over the last year, the Lord has been teaching me how to be present with my children. He has been showing me that being intentional matters, even in the mundane moments. He has reminded me over and over to not give up and fall back into laziness and not run ahead and press through on my own strength, but to remain in His presence every moment of every day.
I wake up and my soul calls out, "Lord, here I am. I am about to get out of this bed, and I need You. This day will be a mess without You. I trust that You are with me. Help me to stay close to Your side." I fling my legs over the side of my bed, knowing Christ is with me because He says He is in His Word, believing that He will guide me in all the little mundane tasks, trusting that He will reveal special moments when I can pour a little extra into their lives, reveal to them a little more about His love, direct their steps with grace and compassion, and weld our bond a little firmer. And at least fifty times a day, if not a hundred or more, I find myself singing out to Him, "I need You, O, I need You! Every hour I need You! Oh bless me now my Savior; I come to You!"
Sometimes I find myself pressing through the day, attempting to check off my own agenda, and I feel this little niggling within as though the Lord is whispering, "Come back to Me!" Last Monday was one of those days. I found myself walking in frustration and exasperation rather than the peace and joy of the Lord. It took a couple hours (which is fortunate since some times it takes nearly the whole day) for me to stop resisting, for me to just relax and fall into the Lord's rest. Finally, I tossed aside my plans.
"No lessons today, kids," I announced. I confessed to them that I was frustrated and so we sat and read our bibles together, tidied the house, and then ran errands so we could get a few things to make our homemade cleaning products. I released the day to the Lord, and He made it wonderful, and the kids actually learned a lot, despite our "giving up" on lessons for the day. Many days our routine is the same, and the Lord is in it, guiding me through it. Some days I cling to my routine and demand that it go in a timely manner, and the Lord reminds me that I am to cling to Him alone.
Sometimes I read books of great things women and men of faith have done, and I feel discontent with my position in life. "I want to do something noble, something great," I think. And the Lord smacks my pride down. He calls me to be content in the beautiful calling of motherhood, reminding me that in the day to day it doesn't seem so mighty or glamorous, but that it is one of His greatest callings and most noble ministries. Oh how quickly I can forget the importance of raising everlasting beings who have been made in God's image!
I feel it is impossible to be intentional if we do not know (or have forgotten) God's wonderful calling for mothers. We can take it so lightly and miss out on the mission He has for us if we are not renewing our minds in the Lord. Our culture does not value mothers, but God does.
He doesn't want us to hang back, overwhelmed of the task or unaware of the ministry before us. He doesn't want us to charge ahead, thinking we know what to do and how to do it. He wants us to be with Him, and with our children, right here, right now.
Once again I am taken back to my favorite verse, Isaiah 40:11:
He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.
Note that He is currently doing this. It is an action He is doing. Right now. He so cares for mothers, and He knows our struggles, our weariness, and our worries. He is not asking us to go down this path alone. He is not asking us to figure it out ourselves. He only desires that we would stay close to His side and allow Him to lead us because He deeply, passionately loves us and our children.
Maybe you are in a position where your heart longs to be all in, to be all there, in mothering, but all you see is this big picture and you feel paralyzed. While it is so, so important to see the big picture and know the calling of God on our lives as mothers, what we must realize is that our steps are so small. They are often so tiny and minute that they seem insignificant.
It's simple really, but you should know simple is not always easy because we like to complicate everything (and plus, we are often warring against our flesh)!
Maybe right now God is calling you just to pick up your baby and snuggle her to your chest as you sing a hymn or make up a song or whisper verses and sniff the sweet smell of her hair. Maybe your son is excitedly tapping your shoulder and wants to show you something. Go! Go with gusto and see what he wants to show you, and be aware that the Lord may want to show you something there too. Maybe the Lord wants you to love on your daughter by braiding her hair or painting her nails. Maybe it's lunch time, and it's just the same ol' same ol' sandwich, but God is just calling you to smile and serve your children to show an unwavering faithfulness, a steady example, a daily provision. It means something. Don't think it doesn't. Sit with them. Talk with them. Walk with them. Don't feel pressured to make every moment magnificent, just be there. Hear them. Sing with them. Love them. Serve them.
When I think back to my childhood, it really isn't the big, grand displays of parental love that stand out to me. It's dinner, night after night, gathered around the table together as a family talking about our days. It's the little bars of soap mom bought for me and allowed me to melt away in the tub. It's the sweet sounds of the piano keys creating a beautiful melody as one of my parents played from memory. It's the smell and warmth of fresh laundry as I folded rags while mom hung the clothes. It's the memories of my mom fixing my hair nearly every single morning. Braids? Clips? French twist? What would you like today? It's the joy of piling into my parents' bed on Saturday mornings, reading the Sunday comics after church, clipping coupons of things I wanted my mom to buy (but she rarely did, with good reason) while everyone lounged in the livingroom. It's the sweetness of running in from sweaty play, and mom handing me an ice cold glass of water. It's Dad's adventurous stories (featuring my brother and I as the heroes). Saturday biscuit baking and creamy sausage gravy. It's the conversations with Mom over mexican food. Rocking in the big plush chair with one of my parents. Sticking colorful clips in Dad's hair. Riding on the lawn mower with my dad or big brother. It's the comfort of a familiar routine. Mom's loving touch when I was sick. My parents' listening ears when I wanted to read a poem I had written or a story I had made up. Much of what makes up the joy of my childhood is simply their presence in the every day mundane, in the steady and predictable, in the seemingly insignificant.
I think we all need reminders that those things matters. In the moment, it might feel like no one notices, no one cares, or no one is grateful. But it matters. It has a purpose. It all adds up.
I think someone needs to hear this, so I am going to write it and hope that it speaks to you, whoever you are.
God loves you, Mama. His desire is for you to be successful, so He has, yes, believe that He has most definitely, no question, equipped you for this very task. Everything you need is in Christ, and only in Christ.
God does not want you to fail. He is not tapping His foot in impatience. He is not waiting for you to "get it all together". He is not waiting for you to screw it all up. Yes, you will fail. You will screw it up. But He will be there to pick you up. And you don't need to wallow in the guilt. He doesn't want you to continue to beat yourself up. Accept His forgiveness. Believe that He passionately loves you as though you were the only person on the face of the earth.
Remember that Jesus did not die on the cross, carry our sin and conquer death so that you would be doomed to live a life of defeat. Right now, all He is asking you to do is trust that He loves you, trust that He is nearer than near and hears the cry of your heart.