The Mirror of Motherhood

View More: http://maryfieldsphotography.pass.us/evelyn-grace-schuch-2016

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

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: 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.