Motherhood is no exception.
It is Sunday morning... Mother’s Day. My brand new son, Harper, is a whole two and a half weeks old. My husband is burning up with a fever that he has had for the last three days. The morning thus far, is going something like this: Harper is fed and content rocking in his swing, now to fix french toast for my other three hungry bears. They are a happy, sticky mess. I check Josh’s temperature, 103 and climbing. I put a cool cloth on his head and try not to panic about the rest of us getting it. I really need some tea but I can’t find a clean cup in the mess that has become my kitchen. My thoughts are tired and disjointed, going from one worry and task to the next. I carry laundry to the girls’ room where I can barely walk since they’ve made a floor covering of every book they own. I feel like a machine set in motion and sense that I need to be resting and meditating on what the Lord wants from me today. My thoughts are interrupted by the shrieks of the girls fighting over a coloring book. I mediate that situation and glance at the mirror as I pass. My hair is a messy bun, shirt is half soaked in milk and my eyes are shadowed and heavy. I am just barely in the shower when Harper starts to wail from his basket on the floor, and now the girls are coming in trying to help by pushing a pacifier into his screaming mouth. There are now five people in our small bathroom and Ella says excitedly, “It’s like a bathroom party in here!”
The baby wanted to get up about every hour last night and my soul is just longing for a little window of quiet. The day goes downhill from here. Josh’s fever won’t come down and now he is looking slightly yellow. After a short discussion we decide a trip to the emergency room is in order. The rhythm of our home is off with the papa out of commission and a very tired mama with a very new baby who just wants to nurse and snuggle all the time. We’re in a funk and the kids’ attitudes are showing it and so is mine. I’m pulling on my mantra from Lamentations 3: “Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. His mercies are new every morning. Great is Thy faithfulness.”
How can I parent from a place of grace and love when my well seems so dry? So I talk to Jesus, always.
Later that night, the day has closed and quiet has fallen over my house full of sleeping children. I thought of my husband lying in some hospital bed with his own mother by his side. I sat in the garden with Harper. We sat on the swing in the nighttime air with just garden lights and stars. The smell of damp earth and summer is intoxicating. His tiny new fingers curled around my bottom lip and his just-seeing eyes looked up at me, this irresistible boy all balled up like he was still inside me. We sit for awhile and I revel in his smell and this tiny moment in space and time. I drink in the steady rythymn of his breaths on my neck. My heart swells with an indescribable love for this brand new life. All I can think about is…this gift of mothering.
Being a mom... it is part of my story. It is imprinted in my being that five other souls have taken form inside of me, one now in heaven and four others always by my side. God allowed me to grow and nurture these wild, precious creatures, given to me but not mine.
Pregnancy and giving birth is a physical symbol of all that will follow, the stretching, growing, the breaking, pain and joy entwined, the labor to bring forth life. Then grows this bond that is like no other.
I will feed and clothe them and show them the ocean. I’ll read them books and poems. I’ll tell them the names of the trees and birds and play them my favorite records. I’ll help shape and nurture them and tell them who Jesus is. I’ll take a million pictures and watch them grow faster than my heart can catch up with. I will pray over them when their heart is breaking. I will fail them again and again. My sin will wound them and I will say, "I’m sorry",sometimes daily. With body and soul, I will do the work of loving with the mighty Rock of Christ upholding me. I cling to Isaiah 70:11:
“He shall feed His flock like a shepherd: He shall gather the lambs with His arms, and carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead those that are with young.”
What a promise! It is not about how well I do as a mother, thank God! It is learning to surrender to my Father, who will guide and lead me in grace. Being a mother is not glamorous or easy; but it is real, human, deep and rich, and it is a gift every day that I’m entrusted with these little people. I am poured out, depleted, yet my cup runs over. I am terrified, yet undone by the beauty. It is the hardest thing I have ever done and yet far better than anything I could have thought up. I am needed every moment, yet carried by a Father who adopted me and whose love I can never exhaust.
I’m so thankful for my children. They have helped me become more of who I am in Christ, and have shown me a clearer picture of my own broken, mess of a heart.
I am so thankful for my own mother. She is amazing and was my first teacher. Where would I be without her?
There is one more thing I want to say. It takes a village, no? My value as a woman is not that I am a mother; but that I am a child of God, trying to live out His calling for me.
If you have had life inside your body at any point whether that child was ever born or not, than you are a mother. If you have adopted life or given a life for adoption -- you are a mother. If you have been an advocate for children, if you have loved the helpless, nurtured them, listened to them -- then you have mothered little ones that are precious in the sight of God. If you have had to be a mother to aging parents, lost a child or are anticipating the beginning of your journey, if your mother is no longer with you -- may the grace and peace of God rest on you today. If you have ever mothered another person, to all of you brave, warrior souls who take the risk of giving your heart, time and love to children --today we honor you and say thank you and keep going.
" Inside the frames, the bodies, the souls of our children, reside the children still to come. And the children then still to come. Like nestled dolls, future generations dwell within the child whose eyes I now look into, whose hands I touch. Every day we parent not one child, or even a few children, but every day we parent innumerable, countless children. When I raise my voice, frustrated with a child, I speak to generations of children. When I wipe away a tear, comfort, listen, I honor centuries of children. When we meet our children, children we will not live to meet on this earth, are met, shaped, formed, parented."
(Last year I was asked to share at my church on Mother's Day. I read from a blog post I wrote the year before. Some of this is re-posted from then.)