The Mirror of Motherhood

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I remember sitting in my living room with my small group leader, my infant son napping peacefully and angelically in his crib. “Believe it or not,” she told me. “Someday it will be hard to love him.” I knew she was right, but it was definitely difficult to imagine at the time. Today, as I spend my days with my now two year old son and my three month old daughter, I can tell you that love is a choice and it’s often a difficult one to make. I can also tell you that the love that is the most difficult to give is the most meaningful to give.

In many ways, parenting is a picture of salvation. Through Jesus, God causes us to live (Ephesians 2:5). He meets us in our greatest need (Romans 5:6). He spoon feeds us when we are weak and helpless. He chooses to love us when we are unlovable and gives us new mercies every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23). Gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love (Psalm 103:8), He patiently cares for us, disciplines us, teaches us so that we may become mature and complete, lacking no good thing (Hebrews 12:10, James 1:4).

Being a mom is both a joy and a struggle. It is evidence that I am made in the image of God as well as a reminder of how far I have fallen from it. I find such joy in my children. I delight to meet their needs, to care for and protect them daily. I love seeing them grow and learn new things. There are so many wonderful moments, but there are also very hard moments, moments when it is difficult to love.

My son is whiney and selfish. He cries if he doesn’t get his way. He is foolish and short-sighted. He wants  things that will harm him and is angry with me when I won’t let him have them. He doesn’t trust that I know what’s best for him. He is so very helpless and needy. He is just like me.

As adults, we (hopefully) learn not to have fits when we don’t get our way. We learn to cover up our inherent selfishness, but it’s always there. We are not so different from a two year old child.  Growing up can modify our behavior, but only the power of God can really change our hearts.

I’ve found that motherhood is a mirror. I see myself reflected in my children, their great weakness and need, their foolish desires. And when it is hard to choose love and patience over a sharp word or anger, I find myself amazed at how longsuffering God has been with me and convicted of how short I fall of loving as He does.

If motherhood is a mirror, it is a two way mirror. Through my children, God is giving me a picture of what I am like and how greatly He has loved me in Jesus. And through me, though they don’t even know it yet, He is daily giving them a picture of what He is like. I am His messenger,  through word and deed, of love to them. This picture I give them is marred no doubt, but in the day to day sacrificing and serving of motherhood, He is refining and clarifying and sharpening His image  in me so that it might be better reflected to these little ones whose greatest need is to know His perfect, transforming love.

“As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust…from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children.”   -Psalm 103:13-14,17

Good Friday Was Bad

The older I get, the more I become aware of life’s fragility, of our precarious position in this world. We are not promised tomorrow, nor even tonight. What’s more, neither are our loved ones. Living is risky and loving is even riskier. Motherhood has made me all too aware of this. From ISIS and the zika virus and just basic human error the endless list of what if‘s could bring a mother to the brink of insanity. I think with each pregnancy, I will confront fear again and again. I can be haunted by the words of Job, “What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me…”

The question then, is what is the answer to the problem of our fears? Is it a blind, unfounded belief that bad things won’t happen to us? Do we just tell ourselves God wouldn’t do that? I don’t think so because we can plainly see that bad things do happen to people. As scripture tells us, God not only lets them happen, but He ordains all that will come to pass. How then can we know that this God, this sovereign God is really good? How may we look our fears in the face, knowing that they might all come true and yet believe that God is trustworthy?

Whenever I wrestle with the sovereignty of God and the existence of evil and suffering, a profound mystery, God always leads me to the surer, solid ground before the cross. We celebrate today, the day Jesus died, and we call it good, but the truth is, it wasn’t really good. Good Friday was bad. Nothing could have been more disastrous, more terrible for followers of Jesus than the death of the one on whom they had pinned all their hopes.

But it wasn’t even just that it seemed bad at the time. It was really wrong. It was really evil and unjust that Jesus, who had committed no wrong, was crucified at the hands of those who had. Jesus himself, when they came to arrest him, said, “But this is your hour when darkness reigns” (Luke 22:53). What a startling statement for the light of the world to make. God purposed that darkness, evil, should reign–but only for a time. For we know that the real injustice wrought by man was, at the same time, mysteriously coinciding with God’s perfect justice against sin and amazing grace to sinners. You see, the cross tells us that God always re-purposes or rather, “supra-purposes” evil and suffering. What man intends for evil, God intends to work for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Genesis 50:20, Romans 828).

So my answer to my fears and worries is not some wishful belief that they will not happen, that they could not happen. As they happened to Job, they could happen to me. All that I fear might come to pass and it might be truly bad, truly wrong. Yet if I follow the logic of Romans 8, the logic of the cross, I find the freedom to walk in faith instead of fear. Good Friday was bad, but now it is so very, completely good. Through His resurrection, Christ redeemed His own death and if He can redeem such a great wrong, He can and will redeem all the pains and sorrows of those He suffered so greatly to purchase. If He can redeem the cross, He can redeem anything and if He can redeem anything, we have nothing to fear. That is not trite, vain hope, but plain, solid truth to which our souls can firmly hold.

 

For the Mother Whose Life Feels Small

It has been a while since I’ve written. I’ve wanted to write, but honestly, I just haven’t had much to say and don’t want to write something just to write something. With the New Year, I’ve been reflecting back on where my writing took me in 2015. I don’t regret a single thing I wrote, but it has caused me to sort of re-examine why I write and what I want my writing to achieve. I think the ultimate answer to that question is that I’d like my writing to enlighten or encourage and, in the best of cases, both.

I remember driving back to school the summer before my junior year of college and calling my dad to tell him I didn’t want to study Microbiology anymore. “I want to write,” I told him. It was a little crazy, but I changed my major to Philosophy halfway through school and as I got into my studies, I knew I had made the right decision. I felt so assured of God’s purpose for me. My strengths, my passions, and God’s plan all seemed to be in perfect alignment. And they were, although in a different way than I thought at the time. I saw myself doing what I loved, thinking and writing, and doing it for the glory of God. If I was honest though, I envisioned more than a little glory for myself too.

It’s funny how as we get a little older, we realize that our lives are not going to be quite the movie or biographical material we thought they would be. It can come as a bit of a shock to our individualistic American sensibilities that we are after all, quite common. Growing up, I was a star. I say this not to applaud myself, but more to laugh at myself retrospectively. I was a star athlete, a star student. Man, I had potential. With my perfect GPA and variety of extra-curricular activities, I felt as if I was on an upward path to something really special.

Now sometimes, I feel more like a rocket that failed to launch. My days are quiet, as quiet as days with a one year old can be. Each day is a repetitive cycle of diapers, dishes, and laundry. My greatest recent achievement is teaching my son where his nose is, which he points to and inevitably starts picking. I love being home with him. I treasure the moments of tickle-induced giggles and sleepy bedtime snuggles. I wouldn’t trade any of it. I know I am so incredibly blessed.

But sometimes, my life just feels small, so very insignificant. I look at people who I went to school with, out conquering the world and doing big, important things and think, What am I doing? Putting on real pants if I’m having an especially motivated day, that’s what. “I know what I’m doing is important,” I told my husband the other day, “but it just doesn’t feel very important.”

What I’m learning, really re-learning and then re-re-learning, is that importance cannot be measured in audience members or applause or even in difficulty. The greatest of tasks can be cloaked in the humble and ordinary. Purpose is not always tangible and it’s often delayed in fulfillment. The one who sows the seed waters bare ground for days before he sees any reason to. And then it is many years until that seedling becomes a great tree. So it is, I think, with being a parent of little ones.

My husband and I met with our pastor today to get some advice about starting to discipline. On the way home, I was thinking about the end goal, the vision of the godly man I hope my son will grow to be. I was struck by what a great task the Lord has given us and how very important it is, but that that importance is only felt in light of this far-off vision. What this world needs most apart from Jesus Himself is men and women who are like Him. And so it needs fathers and mothers who do the mundane task of watering and nurturing our children like the tiny plants they are. That is my task, my great, great task which for the moment, feels so very, very small.

So for now, I’ll teach my son where his ears and feet are. I’ll make sure he has a clean diaper and keeps his fingers out of outlets. I will do these menial tasks to meet his basic needs, to love him. But someday…someday, I will teach him greater things. I will teach him to love what is good and to hate what is evil, to cling to what is honorable and right and true. I will point him to Jesus, to life. And someday, I pray, he will be like a tree, planted by the stream which is Christ (Jeremiah 17:7), bearing much fruit and offering shade to the weary. I hope that day comes and that then he will know what I am learning: the most important things in life are often what make us the least self-important and the greatest life is the life which is given away.

 

8 Things I Learned in My First Year of Motherhood

This is definitely a departure from my normal type of post. Since my son just turned one, I thought I’d take a break from more serious topics and do something a little more light and hopefully humorous. I’ve only got one year under my belt so I am by no means a motherhood expert, but thought I’d share a few things I’ve learned. Hopefully, current moms and those about to become moms can laugh, relate, and maybe be a little bit scared.

1.  An epidural is your friend .

First thing’s first. you have to actually have the child, right? As you may have heard, this involves some pain that we women have to endure because, well, Eve really wanted some fruit. I’m not sure where an epidural fits into the whole curse thing, but I like to think it’s an expression of God’s mercy and forgiveness to us.

Let me be clear that I have nothing against those women who choose to do without or even give birth at home. These women amaze me and I actually wonder sometimes if I could be one of them. Buuut I’m pretty sure I was born without that level of pain tolerance and I’ve got nothing to prove so as for me and my house, we shall be anasthetized.

2. Projectile poop is a thing.

Your newborn comes with fully loaded bladder and bowels which they have absolutely zero control over. And since their stomach is the size of a pea and all they eat is milk, it can pretty much shoot out of them in any form at any given moment. There is no conclusive scientific evidence that these miniature people plot to wait to relieve themselves until the diaper has been removed, but in my experience, there does seem to be an indication of premeditated peeing and pooping. Advice: keep carpet cleaner on hand.

3. Your body is capable of operating (okay, semi-operating) on way less sleep than you thought.

As aforementioned, when your baby is born, their stomach is the size of a pea and they are not much bigger so they are eating constantly in order to stay full and put on weight. This means you are now a milk cow. A full-time milk cow. Your baby does not know or care that you are so tired you can’t see straight. Daytime and nighttime mean nothing to them. You might wonder if you will ever sleep again. You will. Though you think you might actually just fall over and die from sleep-deprivation, you won’t (probably).

4. Your wardrobe choices will totally depend on your ability to breastfeed.

Gone are the days when you picked your clothes based on weather, fashion, and if they actually look good on you. Say goodbye to that cute dress with the high neck or tight straps. Remember, you are now a milk cow. If you won’t be able to halfway undress yourself at any given moment, then it isn’t going to fly.

5. You will breastfeed in the strangest places.

Basically, all of these points center around the fact that you are now a milk cow. If you actually want to have a life and go anywhere or do anything the first year of your baby’s life, you’re going to have to get over your self-consciousness of breastfeeding in public. Your baby will get hungry at the restaurant in the car and you will simply just have to make it work. Probably the funniest for me was pumping behind a blanket in a (private) karaoke room at my sister’s bachelorette. Mom’s know how to party. And if I’m really being honest, I may have breastfed my son in the car, in his carseat on on desperate occasion. That may have happened…

6. Poop will monopolize your thoughts more than you ever thought possible.

Maybe there was once a time when your thoughts were filled with deep, meaningful things, but not anymore. Now, what will you think about? What your baby eats, when your baby eats, and when your baby poops. You keep track of it.  You assess it. You ask your baby if they pooped as if they can answer you. You find yourself telling your husband about it when he gets home frome work. “He’s only pooped once” or “Oh my gosh, he had a doozy today.” Poop, it’s proper makeup and disposal, is your new field of expertise. Those are the moments when you will think “I’m so glad got that college degree…”

7. Motherhood kills brain cells.  

This is the real killer. Somewhere between using your body’s energy to create another human being, birthing that human being, and then the sleepless nights spent caring for that human being, your brain cells start to die or maybe they kill themselves off. Maybe they stage a mutiny and jump ship. Not only do you not have room for those deep, meaningful thoughts anymore, you can’t remember basic things. You can’t do math in your head anymore (although, maybe it was questionable if you ever could). You mess up your words and walk into rooms without knowing why and find your phone in the refrigerator and the ketchup in your diaper bag. Again, this is when you think, “I’m so glad I got that college degree…”

8. It’s all worth it.

To sum it all up? Motherhood can be tiring. It’s not glamorous. It’s humorously and sometimes, not so humorously, undignified. It’s thankless work and sometimes, it can feel like you’re basically a glorified maid/butler/chauffeur. But the truth? You get to be their favorite person in the world for a few, short years. You get to be there the first time your baby smiles, the first time they belly laugh, the first time they roll over or crawl or clap their hands;  You get a front row seat to their lives, to see them become who God made them to be, slowly, but surely, day by day. You get to see it all and it makes it all so worth it.

Lessons of Motherhood: Identity Crisis

As women, we feel a lot of pressure to do it all and have it all. Really though,I think this pressure might come more from within ourselves than from without. We feel like we need to be the perfect mom, wife, homemaker, career woman whatever. Our house needs to look like a Pinterest board. It needs to be clean all the time even though, hello! People live here. We need to come up with awesome, innovative ways to help our kids learn and grow so you know, they’ll be reading by the time they’re two. We need to make DIY furniture, laundry detergent, and anything else we could possibly “do ourselves.” Oh, and we need to look fabulous while doing it.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes, it’s all just a little overwhelming. Sometimes, okay a lot of times, I feel discouraged because that is just so not how my life looks. I was wallowing in this tonight. Here’s a brief sound byte of what was going through my head. Oh my gosh this place is a mess. I just picked up. How is it already this big of a disaster? How come everywhere I turn, I see something I need to clean? It’s like impossible to keep things clean. I have one kid. What am I going to do when I have a whole bunch? Other women seem to be able to do it…Gideon’s face is covered in snot…and now so is my shirt. I always told myself I wouldn’t let my kids walk around with snotty faces, but there you have it…He still hasn’t started waving or clapping. I’m probably not doing enough to teach him and aid his development. He’s probably going to be slow because I didn’t teach him to wave…I haven’t showered and my hair is a mess. I used to have good hair, but now it’s kind of blah. I haven’t put make up on in days and I live in t-shirts and athletic shorts. That’s it. I’ve let myself go. I’m frumpy mom…

So there I was, wallowing and feeling just generally kind of depressed when God, as He sometimes does, opened my eyes and let me see. He showed me that I was doing it again. I was finding my identity in my “job performance.” Being a mother, wife, homemaker is currently my primary job, but it shouldn’t be my primary identity.

The story of Mary and Martha came to mind. Most of us are familiar with the story. Jesus comes to visit Mary and Martha. Martha is busy serving and trying to be a good hostess and she gets upset that her sister, Mary, isn’t helping, but is sitting at Jesus’s feet. I’ve never felt like I related much to Martha. I’m a thinker. not a doer. Just the word “multitask” gives me anxiety, but I think maybe now I understand her more. I think maybe Martha was letting her performance as a hostess and as a woman define her in ways that it shouldn’t. Maybe Martha was so upset because her identity was too tied up in it all. I think Jesus saw that. “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things. but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her. {Luke 18:41).

It got me thinking about what I want my son and hopefully, other children to remember me by. What do I want them to learn from me? Do I want them to remember that I was always stressed about having it all together or that I always sat at the feet of Jesus? Do I want them to learn that our worth is in our performance and image or that our worth is in Christ?

I want to choose the good portion. I want to be like Mary, who felt free to not strive, but rest in the presence of her Lord. I want my children to know from my words and my life that one thing is necessary. One thing, one person, Jesus, is our peace, our hope, “the sure foundation for our souls.” I want them to know and so I need to know that Jesus is enough and we more than enough in Him.

Lessons of Motherhood: A Love Like His

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day and I still keep kind of forgetting that this holiday and that word, “mother,” apply to me now. I am a mother to a beautiful little boy who lights up my world when he smiles and melts my heart into a puddle when he reaches out his arms to me. People tell you before you have a baby to prepare to love someone like you’ve never loved someone before and it’s true.

It’s funny how much I love him really given how little I really know about him. I know the way he smells and the way he smiles, but there’s still so much I don’t know, like what kind of books he’ll like or his sense of humor or his favorite subject in school. There’s a lot left to know about him, but one thing I do know. I know that he’s mine and for that I love him wholly and completely.

After he was born, the thing I kept thinking was, I’ve never been so sure that I would die for someone as I am that I would die for him. If it was him or me, I’d choose him. If he was in trouble or danger, I would take his place. No questions asked. Because he’s my child. Because selflessness and love are two different words for the same thing.

Isn’t this how God has loved us in Christ? I think back to the Garden of Eden and how right after the fall, God immediately promises to send Jesus (Genesis 3:15). He didn’t have to think about it. He didn’t have to weigh his options and decide if we were worth it. No, the instant He saw that His children were headed for death, Jesus stepped up to the plate and said, “I will take their place.  I will do whatever it takes, pay any price that they may live.” His plan was always to save us.

I know I will not love my son perfectly as God loves us. I know it will not always be easy or fun to love him. I know that real love is costly and hard, but I’m thankful for the privilege of being his mother and for this small, but clearer glimpse into the love of our Savior who so eagerly, so willingly paid the high price to purchase us as His own.

“For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him.” Psalm 103:11-13

Lessons of Motherhood: The Little Life I Never Dreamed Of

The words to an old Switchfoot song have been playing through my head lately. “This is your life. Are you who you wanna be? This is your life. Is it everything you dreamed that it would be when the world was younger and you had everything to lose?” I think that song was out when I was in middle school or high school. I always liked it, but the words hit me differently now than they did then. I recently turned twenty-six. To my pessimistic self, that means I’m basically thirty, which means I’m basically old. Okay, I know I’m not really old, but I am older. My youth is passing away.

I remember when I went to college how big the world seemed, how full of endless possibility. I had dreams and visions for my life: who I was going to marry, where I was going to live, what I was going to do. I, of course, was going to do big, important things. By twenty-six I’d probably have gotten my Ph.D., written a best-selling book that changed the world, you know, those kind of things. I wanted to live my life for God, but I assumed that meant I had to live it loudly.

The funny thing about choices though is that they have a way of narrowing our lives and eliminating possibilities. I’ve made my choices. This is my life. I’m certainly not unhappy with it, but it is smaller than I expected. It mostly consists of the four walls of my home where I pass my days with my baby boy. I don’t have a Ph.D. I haven’t written a best-selling book. In fact, I haven’t done anything of much notoriety at all and perhaps I never will.

What I’ve been learning is that it is harder to be faithful in the mundane, to find the glory in the ordinary, and to follow God through the thickets of the everyday. It is more difficult to lay down your life in the small ways when no one is taking any particular notice. It is likely that few will remember me when I die. No one will chronicle my life with a biography, but my hope and prayer is that my son and any future children will be able to say that they learned grace and wisdom and integrity because I was their mother. I hope they will learn to love the word of God because I taught it to them. I pray that they will know Jesus because they knew me. I pray that I can be faithful with my little life and the little lives entrusted to me.