Friday, July 21, 2017

To the Tired Mama from a Kindred Heart

To the beautiful heart of the tired mother who thinks her job of mothering means little or is loosely regarded (and my own heart),

As the mother in the thick of mothering, I've learned what it means to be truly tired and truly discouraged. Even during the days of having one newborn, I became well acquainted with the weariness of exhaustion that came with motherhood and the constant giving of myself only to move into new moments of constantly giving of myself.

Nine years into this journey of motherhood, I don't just know exhaustion and weariness on a new level; I also now know the beauty and joy and fulfillment of motherhood on a new level.

And much of that beauty has come from God revealing to me His heart, His design for motherhood and family-- the beauty of it, the grace of it, the sacrificial love of it and the shear importance of it.

I've often felt like mother was synonymous with unnoticed and undervalued. And all of this was wrapped up in many of my own thoughts as I took personally the disrespect and irritation of my children and soaked in a view of motherhood from a sometimes hostile culture that sends the message that we're darned if we do and darned if we don't across wide and varied circumstances.

I've felt unimportant and irrelevant and so stinkin' uneqipped and judged many days, and it's not only disheartened me but it's stolen the zest of life and robbed my family of God's intended goodness.

There is an exhaustion that comes with motherhood that drives beyond the sleep deprived and stems from the disregard of the importance, beauty and relevance of our roles as mothers.

So if I could, if I had the chance, I would tell mothers, each of them, what God has been revealing to my heart -- that they are by God's design a gift of beauty, grace and wisdom to their families in their perfectly imperfect lives.

 "A wise woman builds her house; a foolish woman tears it down with her own hands." Proverbs 14:1

As mothers we are builders of our home. We are creators. We are nurturers, keepers of memories, tellers of story and ones who see character beyond behavior. 

So if I could, I would tell each mother that her repetitive, often selfless albeit imperfect tending to the needs of her small and big people means much more than what the eye can easily see when she's in the thick of the motherhood journey, surrounded by thick and tall walls of needs. 

If I could, I would tell mothers that every time they respond to a need of their child they build a pathway of trust in their child's brain. "I need water! I need snuggles! I need food!" A loving response to these expressed needs starting at the very first cry as a newborn and spanning all the way through to teenage years builds trust and security. And the ability to trust another human being who is worthy of being trusted is an absolute gift. The aftermath of not being able to trust trustworthy people, which I see on a daily basis in my own home, is in the least heart wrenching and in the most wholly destructive to relationships and self worth. 

If I could, I would tell mothers that every time they gently redirect or lovingly correct a disrespectful or destructive behavior, they are not only establishing manners for how to treat others but also establishing boundaries for how their children will expect others to treat them. This baseline of treatment with basic dignity and respect will manifest in the relationships our tweens, teenagers and young adults engage in, and I see daily the struggle in my home and in my children's friendships who want so desperately to be accepted that they'll put up with much destructive treatment. 

If I could, I would tell mothers to laugh and laugh often with their children. I would say to them, celebrate lavishly the glimmers of people these kids are becoming when it's hard to like who they are in the moment. Bless them with your words and time and listening ear. Fill their buckets before they go looking for their buckets to be filled elsewhere. In my home, the buckets are so leaky from years of missing out on the celebration of their personhoods, their souls, their inherent worthiness as people made in the image of their Creator, that their buckets need the work of repairing as well as filling.

Remember: the words we use, the actions we express, the way we listen and look and see either helps us build our homes or break them down. 

This is as much true for our children and spouses as it is for the way we treat ourselves. 

If we I could, I would tell mothers that they matter, too. Their needs, their wellbeing, the entirety of their persons -- body, mind, heart and soul -- are of the utmost importance. And that empty cannot pour in to make full. When we take time to refill, refresh and replenish, we are not acting out of selfish ambition, but rather we are working to live lives of overflow that fill the buckets of those around us. 

Sally Clarkson says it like this, 
I thought again about how ministry and the need to help another, soothe a child, confront sin, share wisdom from scripture never happens at convenient moments. It happens amidst the craziness of life. And whenever we are squeezed, what we have stored within will come out.

So if I could, I would tell mothers to take the time to store well. 

If I could, I would share that our most important job won't come with great insurance, a paycheck or three weeks of vacation per year. 

In fact, it will probably come with the opposite. 

But the bonus plan for this job is out of this world when these people, these precious souls we mother, begin to love God, value themselves and then do the very work God has called us to do in loving our neighbors as ourselves. 

Probably none of us will ever win a Noble Peace Prize for Motherhood. 

Maybe we should. 

"If you want to change the world go home and love your family." -Mother Theresa

But perhaps we don’t need it. 

Perhaps each of these souls is the living embodiment of such a prize, walking around the world, filling it with the goodness they've got in them from God overflowing out of them. 

My prayer has largely become that God would help me live in the fullness that was intended for me as a mother, caring as tenderly for my own soul as I do for those who call me mom. 

If I could, I would tell every mother

You are important. 

You are sacred. 

You are chosen. 

Your being a mother is not a mistake.

So let us mother with the purposes and passions of our Father's heart. 

May we each know our inherent value and deep worth first as beautiful creations of our Father and help our children realize their inherent value and worth, too.  

On taking the new street

About two months, John and I ventured across the ocean by ourselves; it's the first time since we met 12 year ago on a study abroad trip to Egypt that we've gone abroad alone.

A year ago at this time, I'd expected that our next trip would be centered on the two of us because a year ago at this time, we had finally completed the adoption of our two daughters and been home together as a family of six for an entire year; feeling quite settled and done with adding children to our family, I was anticipating that our next trip alone would be our always-pushed-to-the-future honeymoon.

But the honeymoon remains in the always-pushed-to-the-future status. At the beginning of May, we ventured off alone together to live in the Baltics for three weeks, with the intention of bringing back home to the States with us the newest member of the family, our 16-year-old daughter.

Our newest addition is the oldest biological sister of our two other daughters, both of whom were adopted two years ago.

She's our surprise baby, to put a complex situation simply; she's a gift we hadn't anticipated or planned.

There was a beautifully serene slowness to the trip once we arrived for our three-week stay; we planned the entire trip within three days and we left within five our receiving our referral.

While we were in country on the adoption trip, the three of us lived together. During that time, I sipped actual hot cups of tea, soaked in God's Word, experienced life abroad in a way I haven't since before we had our biological sons and remembered what it's like to just have one baby on which to focus much of my attention, energy and love.

It was restorative in so many ways, and it was life-giving in so many ways, too. Our time spent with our newest daughter was a gift, truly, and it was such a lovely foundation to build upon as we re-entered life as we know it at home with four, now five children.

One evening, while our oldest daughter spent time with her friends, John and I spent time walking down new-to-us streets, exploring the city we've called home for a month at a time the past three summers now.

As we walked, I didn't realize there were so many parts of the city we had yet to discover. It was mind-blowing for me -- this realization that there was still so much to understand, explore and know about this city we've called home for about one month every year during the past two, now three, years.

During that walk, we happened upon my new favorite street on a quest to get to city center after dinner; we took a path that we didn't yet know, one that was very different than the main road we have normally taken.

We didn't exactly know where we were going when we decided to follow the uneven cobblestone street toward where the sun was setting, but we knew the direction we were heading would take us where we wanted to go.

Can I just pause here and say that I never anticipated this?

Any of this.

This life of following hard after Love; my life feels so surreal sometimes that I don't even know how to explain it.

Since I surrendered my life to following Jesus 12 and a half years ago, Jesus has become so much more to me than a far-off historical figure.

After many years of simply accepting Jesus' existence and believing,  now following hard after Him and getting to know Him and His ways step by step certainly reframed my entire understanding of existence as I know it and has blown apart what I thought Christianity looked like.

This adventure of following after His heart of love has brought me down the most unexpected, challenging, beautiful roads ... ones I didn't even know existed.

Ones I'm really glad I didn't miss.