Mother's Day 2013

In my early mothering days, I thought I had it all figured out. As I look back now, my ideas of motherhood were laughable...arrogant and naive at best.  Initially there was some shock of course, as I transitioned from career to full time at home. But after I got into the groove and I'd survived a couple of infants, I became incredibly sure of my systems. I could schedule and potty train and do playgroups with the best of them. I had it down. Fortunately, I'd never bought completely into the lie the world was telling me, that children are a burden - something to do after you had all the fun of youth, but before it became biologically impossible to have them. Thankfully, I never believed that I could have it all and nothing would suffer. Yet I still bought a portion of the current values - the ones that so permeate our culture today. I had slowly been sucked into the thinking that while children were definitely something you "should" do at some point and they made for really nice Christmas card photos, that there were other really important and self-gratifying things that I "wanted" and so children must be worked into that schedule. My plan. They were cute and adorable sometimes, but I should have plenty of balance, fun, money and "me" time. I knew that there were difficult choices to make, but I was still incredibly selfish and I completely misunderstood God's design for motherhood. I suppose it was good that I didn't quite comprehend fully. If I had truly grasped how He would use these kids to refine me...I probably would have run screaming in the other direction.

Now thinking back, I imagine God just shaking his head. Lovingly of course, but with that look all parents have when they know their children are completely ignorant of the reality barreling their direction. I sometimes find myself with that look now, when around new moms. Not in a self-righteous, "Oh...you just wait" way (okay, maybe occasionally like that)...but rather wanting to just give them a hug and tell them to start praying now because it is the only way they will survive and not crumble. Their own strength will not be enough.

As I reflect, eleven years into my role as I mother, the differences between expectation vs. reality are practically unbelievable. I envisioned a couple of over-achieving, perfectly coiffed children. Busy and active, but I would still be very organized and in control...it would not be more than I had the time or resources to manage. (Insert hysterical laughter here.) However, God had an entirely different plan. We now have four kids and if they are all able to find clean socks and comb their hair it is a good day. Instead of quiet and order we have crazy and chaos. We have adopted internationally, so I am learning how to parent a child who was given a rough start. We have a son with life-threatening food allergies. We are a bi-racial family. We have walked a daughter through cancer, watching her suffer tremendously as we watched helplessly, unable to take away her pain. She is now an amputee. If someone had told me this story fifteen years ago, I would have pitied this poor, crazy soul...wondering how that dear mom could survive in such an environment. But that soul is me. And not only am I surviving, but I am thriving...not through any strength of my own, but through Christ. There is no possibility that I could have wrestled with all of this and come through stronger and wiser on my own merit. It is Him. I don't even recognize that young mother in her 20s and while I know there is still much I must learn, I love that I'm not that girl anymore.

Eleven years ago, I was going to conquer motherhood. That is what I did generally...tackled challenges and "won." I was going to have the best plans and schedules and systems and information and it would be easy. Ultimately, it was all about my need for control. I was incredibly selfish and things were going to go my way. But that was long ago. Now I realize that motherhood is essentially for two purposes. First, to teach your children about Jesus (thus preparing the next generation to spread the gospel) and secondly, to refine the mother. We all know that there are beautiful joys with children, those amazing moments of hugs and kisses and cuddles that keep you coming back for more. There are many precious blessings over the course of raising little ones. But essentially, the daily muck of motherhood is about dying to self. It is not an easy task for anyone and it is also not something held in high esteem in today's society...a society obsessed with self.

While I am not even half-way through this mothering season, the lessons are tremendous even to this point. I have learned that children are not a burden, but an amazing gift to treasure and cherish. I now understand why we should let God design families, rather than would-be parents who want to squeeze children into their own very busy "plan." I have grown quite content in my role as a stay-at-home mother, and even though many days are long and tiring, I am grateful that I don't have to miss a second of their little lives. The time with babies is fleeting and precious. The scary reality looms that big kids are much more difficult because the issues are of the heart and the mistakes can be life-altering. The most important thing I have realized so far is that God has a specific plan for each of my children, and no amount of organizing, reading, scheduling, running interference or worrying can control it. As a mom, I can try to be obedient. I can teach. I can pray. The rest is not up to me.

Just as everything else in my life post-childhood cancer, Mother's Day seems very different this year. I have a much greater understanding of the true sacrifice of being a mother and of the thousand little cuts and sometimes gaping wounds that are birthed from the love a mother has for her child. If I am doing my job well, they will no longer need me...and this might be the greatest blow of all. In the last year, as we fought cancer, I have been introduced to so many mothers who are hurting...caring for children with special needs, sick children or aching for kids who have already left this earth. I am thankful for each day. It is amazing to me, where I stand now, and I am humbled. There is much mothering yet to do, and in that process, more of my sin to expose. I imagine that God is still shaking his head at me...a loving father knowing I have much to learn. But before, when I just had little ones, I was doing it on my own strength and only realized that it wasn't enough as life began to crash down. Now, as I enter a new season with big kids, I know that I simply cannot do it on my own and I must rely on Him. My perspective is completely changed.

Wishing you a special Mother's Day. Hopefully it is a happy one, but if not, may it be a time of reflection and remembrance of past blessings.

1 comment:

Heather said...

I really like your post. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. They are very much like mine.