the lost and found of motherhood

I am in a sweet spot of mothering right now–and before any of you fellow moms retch and mentally call me dirty names–please know that I know that next week I may feel entirely different!

But just a few years ago I wrote this about myself (though I wrote it in third person, which tells me something about my state of mind at the time!):

Pieces of her are floating away, more each evening. She tries to reassemble herself during the quiet daytime hours, but she cannot find all the bits before the scavengers gather again.

“Mom, take me here.”

“Mom, I can’t find my shoes.”

“Mom, I need help with my math homework.”

“Mom, what’s for dinner?”

It seems comical—or at least overly dramatic—this feeling she has that the more they need her, the more she shrinks, the smaller she feels. She knows there are others dealing with problems far bigger—far more REAL—than the one she wages in her mind.

Do other mothers feel this way? she wonders. Was I not meant to be one? Where is the joy I am supposed to feel at being needed? Where is the sense of calling and purpose?

Perhaps she was supposed to lose something—some strong sense of individual self-hood—at her children’s births. Maybe it should have come out with the afterbirth, and she should have examined it for its wholeness. “Yep, that’s all my self-focus. No bits and pieces left inside.” Some part of it must have escaped, and that is why she cannot serve without a vague sense of resentment.

“Do it for yourself!” she wants to scream at times, but it almost never comes out.

Instead she sometimes whispers, “I want to run away.”

But what would be left of her if she did? If she were to stop all the doing, what would be left?

Is there being without doing?

Who am I? she wonders, as her hands fold laundry and turn the steering wheel and fill the grocery cart with more food. Is my spirit supposed to be fully engaged in this? Does it have a life of its own? How do I do all this and yet remain me—or even know who I am in the doing of it?

I’m sharing that piece of vulnerable writing because I’ve had quite a few conversations in the last few weeks with moms of young ones, and several of them are not only weary, they’re feeling a little lost, too. The daily feels like forever, and they see no sign of refreshment. One mother of two preschoolers and one kindergartener teared up as we talked. The process of getting everyone out the door in the mornings was wearing on her, and she’d yelled that very morning—and then cried after she dropped her oldest off at school.

“I thought motherhood would be different,” she told me, her eyes wistful, a little wounded. “Why do I get so angry?” she asked me. “Does it get easier? Will I ever feel like the ‘me’ I used to be–or is that gone?”

Does it get easier? Will I lose some integral part of me in motherhood?

Hmm.

A friend of mine is writing a book on motherhood as a spiritual discipline, on the idea that motherhood, in itself, is a formation and practice used by God to refine us; to deepen our knowledge of ourselves; to increase our longing for Him and His presence in our day-to-day, nitty-gritty lives; to expand our awareness of His deep, boundless love for us…

So easier?

Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s the point.

But will we find our being, our ultimate completion, and our very soul in the Christ who draws near to us as we are reduced to crying out to Him?

Yes.

p.s. I would want to share the article titled “The Paradox of Motherhood” simply because the writing is incredible, but I also love what she wrote.

Being loved well

Chai dog enjoying the pond

Chai dog enjoying the pond

The dog needed a walk. I needed… something.

Turns out we both needed some time in the woods.

As I walked, I began praying the Confession, bit by bit. I’d only gotten to “I have not loved You with my whole heart; I have not loved my neighbor as myself,” when words from the devotional I’d flowerread with the kids earlier this morning came to my mind: “Your love is human and limited. It can easily get tangled up with your weaknesses and selfishness.” (Jesus Calling, kid version, p. 139)

It’s so true, I thought. Even in my best efforts to love others, my selfishness is mixed in.

dandelion clock“I don’t know how to love,” I confessed to God. “I am incapable of truly loving.”

The devotional I’d read with the kids had progressed beyond this idea, reminding its readers to “(t)ake time to rest in My Presence, and let Me fill you up with My Love.” As I walked down the forest path, I thought, “You know how to love me. You know how to love me well. This is precisely what I needed this morning, and every blade of grass, every dandelion clock, every red-winged blackbird I see is a bit of Your perfect love for me.”

pondOne morning last week, as I dropped my younger children off at school, I told each one, “_______, you are loved.” The last one to get out of the car was worried about an upcoming test and had studied the entire way to school—was still studying! “_______, you are loved,” I said.

So very, very green!

So very, very green!

“Okay.” And the child hurried off.

I laughed a little as I drove away, but then I thought, How often does God say, “Jen, you are loved,” and I respond, “Okay”?

Each of us has love notes from our Father scattered throughout this day.

Lord, help us to notice them.