A blog share

Yesterday was Mother’s Day, and when I arrived at church, I received a tulip.

So did both my daughters.

So did every woman who arrived at our church yesterday–whether single or married, biological mother or not.

I am glad of this–because every one of us is called to a mothering of one kind or another. My children have several spiritual mothers, and I’m grateful for every woman who pours into their lives. My children need them. I need them. They receive mothering from all kinds of women–from me, from their grandmother, from their female teachers, from the young women who work in their after-school program, from the coaches who lead their soccer teams…

They are challenged and encouraged and pushed and comforted and guided and stretched and corrected–by all these women in ways that are specific to each one.

They need more than one “mother,” and, most of all, they need the motherly love of God, who, though generally referred to as “Father,” also speaks of himself as “motherly.”

I was very blessed this morning to read Mike Frost’s post “The Ferocious Motherly Love of God,” on this topic, and I am so glad to share it with you. May it encourage you as it encouraged me.

Grace and peace this day.

~Jen

 

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Housekeeping Notes

flower-side*I have a couple of blog/writing-related notes at the end of this post. Thanks for reading!

Earlier this year, trapped in a quiet waiting room while one of my children was doing academic testing, I picked up a book from a shelf and flipped through it. It was a book about Christian missionaries ministering to Muslim women, and it was compiled from the experiences and wisdom of women missionaries who’d served in Muslim countries for many years. I loved reading the accounts, but oddly enough, now there is only one I can recall with any clarity. It was from a woman missionary who felt amazed she’d been asked to contribute to the conversation. She, her husband, and their two daughters had been sent, years before, to a strict society, one in which she had very little freedom even as a Western woman, one in which her daughters had even less freedom.  She said something like this: “I have spent most of my time ministering to only two young women, our daughters. I have been their teacher, their spiritual mentor, and their mother. That has been my ministry. I do not know what wisdom I will be able to share.”

And yet, I remember clearly, she had much wisdom, the kind that comes from humility, quietness, watching, waiting, praying.

I wonder if I have been called to just such a season. My husband’s work is most definitely ministry, and it requires deep attention. It is good, good work, and we know he is impacting young men and women who desperately need good education and good male role models. Many of them need father figures. He is being used.

My children are in the middle of good work as well. They go to schools where they are the racial minority (except for my youngest, of course); they go to an after-school program with kids from our neighborhood; they befriend the three young boys who end up at our house many afternoons.

And I? I get them all out the door to do these works. I do the laundry and fix the meals and help with homework and encourage and remind and pray with and, when belonging seems far away, cry with. I homeschool the oldest child part-time, and my paid work is writing, which most of the time is done in quiet. Most days, I do not feel as if I am doing much of anything that is related to what we feel we’ve been called to here, to the work of being integrated, to the work of equality and justice and being/showing Jesus.

I recently wrote an article on the documentary film made about Lilias Trotter, one of the pioneer missionaries to Algeria in the late 1800s (look for a blog post in the next week or so about this). In the research process, I read this quote from her:

Surrender – stillness – a ready welcoming of all stripping, all loss, all that brings us low, low into the Lord’s path of humility  – a cherishing of every whisper of the Spirit’s voice, every touch of the prompting that comes to quicken the hidden life within: that is the way God’s human seed-vessels ripen and Christ becomes “magnified” even through the things that seem against us.
– 
Parables of the Christ Life

This, too, I am reminded, is good.

This, too, is God’s good work—in me, through me.

~~~

NOTE 1: If you’ve never visited my “freelance writing” page (follow the link here or scroll to the top of the page and click on the link there just under the header picture), check it out. If you have any writing or editing needs, please feel free to contact me. I love to help people get their ideas out of their heads and onto paper in clear and lovely ways. No job is too small!

NOTE 2: I added a donate button to my blog (well, actually it reads “Buy Now,” simply because I can’t get the formatting right for it to say “Donate”–oops!). Please do not feel any obligation to donate; I just wanted to give readers the option of contributing to the work of this blog and, through it, to the pro bono work I do for non-profits and churches.

 

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 “Mom”

*An audio recording of this piece is at the bottom of the post.

Weariness is an unavoidable byproduct of motherhood—no matter how committed you are to it.

A few weeks ago, at the check-in desk for Women’s Bible Study at church, I filled out my nametag next to a young mom with a preschooler perched on her hip. She pressed the tag onto her sweater. “Mommy,” her little girl said, pointing a forefinger at it.

“Well, I’m also ‘Julie,’” her mother told her.

“No, no ‘Julie,’” the preschooler protested. She jabbed the nametag again. “Mommy.”

Her mother smiled, a tired smile.

And I wondered if she felt, in that moment, as if she’d lost any identity other than “Mommy.” But then I thought that perhaps I was projecting my own sometimes fear that my children will lock me into the “mom box” and throw away the key. I remembered a recent conversation with them. Someone had been complaining about having to go to school, and I decided not to say, yet again, “Remember that in many countries, children would jump at the chance to go to school.”

Instead I said, “I would love to go back to school.”

Their looks condemned me to the loony bin. “I would!” I told them. “I keep looking at these two programs of study and thinking about applying.”

They didn’t even consider it.

“You can’t go back to school,” one of them said. “You’re our mom!”

Yet God does something supernatural in our hearts when we become mother to a child.

I was volunteering at a World Relief job class for immediately-arrived refugees. A young woman approached me, a mock application in her hands. She pointed to the question at the bottom of the form. “Children? Yes or No.” I put my hand, palm-down, a couple feet from the floor. “Little ones. Children. Do you have children?” She nodded. “Yes, I have.” She cradled her arms and rocked them back and forth. “A baby?” I asked. She nodded again. Then, “In my country. Baby there.” Her friend, from the same country but even younger, stepped forward. “She is mother there. Not mother here.”

I nodded and kept my face smooth, but my heart cried out in protest. No! I thought. We carry our children in our hearts. She is a mother here and everywhere. It is a gift of God, but when our children are lost or hurt or rebellious, it rips our hearts apart.

We forget at times the greatness of this gift, but moments of ferocious love remind us.

As I made my way down the hall of my children’s elementary school, a first grader walking past said, “Hey, you’re PJ’s step-mom.”

Something flared up, red and hot, in my chest. I blocked it from rising up my throat, from coloring my voice. “No-o-o, I’m not.”

“Oh, yeah,” the little guy continued, “not step-mom, adoption mom, right?”

I was well past him by then, so he didn’t hear my response.

“Just ‘Mom,’” I whispered. “I’m his mom.”

Let the Mom Wars…Stop

One year ago, as the mom of a 7th grader, I was on the games committee for the 7th and 8th grade gala at my daughter’s school. I chose that committee because I assumed it wouldn’t involve decorating and because, during the actual event, my only responsibility would be to run a game and hang out with kids. But on set-up day, after I’d put together an indoor basketball hoop (which I enjoyed doing), I was asked to hang some fancy paper on the walls. Other moms were busily—and seemingly happily—doing similar jobs, but with each passing minute, I wanted more and more to escape to a quiet corner, pull out my laptop, and write.

The parents of 8th graders have virtually no responsibilities for the gala, so this year, after taking a few pictures of Em and friends in fancy attire, I went out to eat with a few other 8th grade moms. At some point one mom asked, “So what does everyone want to accomplish this summer?”

One mom said she wanted to paint her kitchen. Another wanted to work on memory books for her child moving on to high school. I didn’t voice the writing goals which jumped up immediately, waving their hands—because they had nothing to do with running my household or mothering my kids. I cast about for a less self-absorbed goal: plant a garden? (I’ve thought briefly about it!), clean the attic?… and decided to say nothing.

A few years ago my daughter was dealing with some girl drama at school. It involved an “in group” and an “out group” and those who were somewhere in between.

When she asked me for advice, I said, “Just give it time. It gets better as you get older. Women are more sure of who they are and less worried about what group they fit into.”

I don’t think I meant to outright lie. I must have been feeling fairly self confident in that second, and maybe there is a little truth to it; she was in fifth grade, after all.

But I don’t think we’ve outgrown this.

Deep down we are afraid that others’ callings or gifts or interests have more significance than our own. So we compare to convince ourselves that our own interests/gifts/callings (i/g/c) matter—and since sin always takes a good thing (in this case, significance) and twists it—we cannot simply accept our own i/g/c as valuable but must de-value others’ differences in order to feel better in comparison.

My family has recently begun attending a church that strongly emphasizes the unity of the Body, so I’ve been doing much thinking about differences and gifts in the context of the church.

But it applies to my mom-world as well.

To look down on someone else’s i/g/c—be it paid or volunteer—is to denigrate the body of Christ (whether it is represented by a church family or a group of moms pulling off a school event). A single human—or mom—cannot do all the different tasks and assignments God is weaving together into one great whole. Therefore, each person’s unique contribution is needed. Crayola doesn’t produce nearly enough shades to accomplish God’s varied and beautiful masterpiece: one mom must color with her chartreuse; I with my burnt umber; another with cerulean blue:.

So some moms like to volunteer a lot in their kid’s school; some don’t. Some enjoy working outside the home; others don’t. Some like crafts and scrapbooking and recording life events in beautiful, handmade books; others—like me—hate that. Some are convinced that motherhood is the best phase of their lives; others of us are still wondering how it happened.

When we compare differences instead of celebrating them, we harm God’s work. Comparison keeps us from relationship with those who have varied interests or passions; it strips from us enjoyment and appreciation of another’s i/g/c (and therefore we don’t encourage others to use their gifts); ultimately, comparison robs us of joy in our own work.

I’ve thought a lot about valuing those who are down-and-out, who have a different ethnicity than mine, who feel “other.”

But what about valuing those who, from the outside, look so much like me?

Yesterday morning I attended the final session of the spring women’s Bible study at my church. With my contribution in hand (a plastic bag of bagels and cream cheese still in its container), I looked for the food drop-off area before heading to the chapel. I found a table laden with wonderful food, beautifully staged with lovely fabrics and antique pieces. Each of the eating tables nearby had sprays from a bridal veil bush artfully arranged in pots and jars.

I couldn’t do that if I had step-by-step instructions with a kit provided.

I wouldn’t even think of doing that.

And in spiteful moments, I might even look down on that gift as less necessary or valuable than the gifts of the women about to minister to me with their teaching and music and administration.

But—God be thanked—spite was absent.

Instead I noticed. I valued. I enjoyed.

 

 

It’s the little things…

DSC_0697Dave was watching football while grading papers (a common Sunday afternoon for him). I stopped as I walked by because a commercial caught my eye.

Scene: a man sits at the foot of his immaculate bed at the end of his day. He slips off his work shoes and then his socks. He sits there, socks dangling from one hand. Voice over says, “Just as Phil is about to drop his socks on the floor, as he does every evening, something occurs to him for the very first time: The clothes hamper is only four feet away, straight across from him.” Phil then leans forward and tosses the socks in the hamper. The camera pans to a woman just about to walk into the bedroom. Voice over: “Proving to Phil’s wife that miracles really can happen.” Her jaw falls slack, the shot holds for another beat and then fades to an Illinois State Lottery logo.

I howled with laughter.

Howled.

Dave raised his eyebrows at me, with a look that said, “Please tell me you don’t identify with that woman because I am NOT a slob, and if you tell me I am, I will have to remind you that I—yes, I—cleaned up after YOU in the early days of our marriage.”

When I finally stopped laughing, I said, “It’s not because it’s the husband. I mean, they could easily do it from the opposite point of view, wife for husband. Plus, for me, this is not really about you. Just think of all the things the kids do that could have been used for this commercial. I mean, if I went in the kitchen and found that someone had actually put the clean pots and pans away, I would think our house had been broken into by someone who was trying to stock their kitchen!”

He laughed then, too, and we brainstormed a couple together, but I decided to journal a longer list that, were they to change, I might just consider that a miracle:

  1. I open the cereal cupboard to find not one but two (and sometimes three) open boxes of the same exact cereal. When I look into them, I see why. There’s a little bit of cereal at the bottom of one bag. Rather than finish it off and have to actually deal with the empty box, “whoever” just opened a new box.
  2. Use #1 above and apply it to the last bit of leftovers in the fridge, the final slosh of milk in the bottom of the gallon, etc.
  3. I open the under-sink cupboard to put trash in the kitchen can and find it is overflowing. No one besides my husband and I seem to ever think of actually emptying the overflowing kitchen trash can—or at least pushing down the debris. Rather they all try to balance trash on top so they don’t have to “touch it—eww!”
  4. Apply #3 to the recycling bin.
  5. I find empty toilet paper tubes on the holder—with a new roll half-unrolled on the floor next to the toilet. (To be honest, they’re getting better about this.)
  6. “Mo-om, where’s my…?” I walk into the room and discover it’s three feet to their left.
  7. I change the kids’ sheets (confession: I don’t do that very often!) and learn the bed has become a dresser. Missing socks underneath the covers, t-shirts between the pillow and headboard, jeans stuffed behind the mattress.
  8. The top rack of the dishwasher is stuffed full—while the bottom is nearly empty, EXCEPT for the first compartment in the silverware container—which is bristling with forks, spoons, and knives stuffed in all directions! Reason: it’s more effort to actually bend over to put things in the bottom rack, and—in the case of silverware, which obviously can’t go in the top—it’s easier to pull out the bottom rack just a little bit.
  9. In the transition time from summer to fall, when the temperature outside is suddenly colder than inside, I find open doors, open doors, open doors. “Close the door!” Don’t know how many times I holler that.
  10. 10. Clothes on the floor. Doesn’t matter how often I make my boys clean them up (and I fuss the whole time), they STILL simply drop their clothes onto the floor when they change.
  11. 11. I KNOW I did this when I was a kid (and I have to remind myself of this often), but why is it that kids can take something out of its accustomed spot and never, ever, ever think of putting it back there when they are finished with said item. Then, when they need it again, they go back to the accustomed spot and assume that it will be there. (What do they think it is, magic?)
  12. 12. Question: “Mom, where are my shoes?” Answer: “Where you left them.” Question: “Where did I leave them?” Answer: “How on earth would I know?” (But I usually do L).
  13. 13. Soggy cereal in the sink. Don’t know why—but a pet peeve and one of the few things that gross me out.
  14. 14. “What’s for dinner?” I think this question should be banned for anyone who isn’t planning on contributing in some way to the dinner.

Oh, kids! Gotta’ love ‘em! And we gotta’ laugh, right?

Got any of your own? Let’s share a chuckle!

From death to life: the blessing of communion

Jumping in leaves at Nana and Papa's house (my in-laws).

Jumping in leaves at Nana and Papa’s house (my in-laws).

For two mornings I have been disgruntled with my younger children.

Picked at faults, pointed out shortcomings. Ranted about the fact that—though I have made a bulletin board with pictures that “tell” them all they need to accomplish in the mornings before we get in the car (so even my beginning reader can understand)—we have experienced the “we’re going to be late” scrambling rush two days in a row.

After driving to school the second morning, I came home and sat in my sin for a bit. I tried to shut down the excuses and even the premature/slightly false confession and asked the Holy Spirit to help me simply listen.

DSC_0485The Spirit peeled back a few layers and I saw some of the roots of my sin.

Then, more painful, I saw what these sins are doing to my kids: in bearing down on my children with a harsh spirit, I am crushing them; I am cutting off communication with them; I am modeling for them the very things I tell them they shouldn’t do to each other (pointing out faults, not allowing for differences, assuming that everyone should regard their time/likes/dislikes as most important, being inflexible, losing their sense of humor and grace.)

DSC_0486In doing all these, I practice hypocrisy right in front of them.

I was all set to wallow in this (oh, how often I forget the second part of repentance: to turn TO God) when I remembered a conversation I had earlier this fall with my mother-in-law. She shared that one Sunday morning a few weeks before, she’d been disgruntled. She’d snapped at her husband and said harsh words to her granddaughter (who was staying with them at the time). Though she then apologized, she’d gone to church still bruised with guilt. Once there she remembered she was supposed to serve communion. She leaned over to her husband and whispered, “I don’t think I should serve communion this morning.”

DSC_0490When she told me this story, she paused at this point. Then she said, “A few minutes later, Dad passed me a note. He’d written Romans 8:1 out for me to read. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

“I served communion,” she told me.

She served it—and took it—in the exact mindset in which we should always participate in communion: authentic gratitude.

The Holy Spirit brought this conversation to mind because I, too, was being invited into communion. In my state of guilt and hopelessness, my eyes were drawn to Christ, to His broken body and spilt blood that accomplished for me what I have no possibility of accomplishing for myself. I was invited, once again, to move from death to life, to receive grace.

Suddenly, I longed to have my children home from school. I looked forward to the moment when I could pull them close and say, “I’m sorry, truly sorry.”

From death to life, once again.

The blessing of communion.

 

Parenting and Growth–both neverending

This past Sunday, in the second service at church, we talked about guilt and grace in parenting. One of the reflection questions was, “What’s something you feel guilty about in regards to your parenting?”

My answer was this: Not wanting to be a parent sometimes.

I know that’s terrible (see, there’s the guilt!), but it’s true. Sometimes I don’t want to be a mom. There are times I want to run away and simply be me (whatever that means!).

I’m struggling with this off-and-on right now. I could pretend I’m not, but I’m hoping that writing about it will help (it usually does) and that maybe some other mom who’s feeling the same guilt will read this and say, “Oh, I’m not the only one.” (And some other woman who is struggling with infertility or loss will hate me.

I’m thankful our God is big enough for all of it!)

I think it’s the never-ending nature of parenthood that wears me down. I remember a conversation I had with a fellow teacher when my own children were still toddlers and her boys were nearly grown. She had just lamented that they were still leaving dishes in the sink for her to wash. “Plus,” she added, “at this age they’re facing choices that could have really long-term consequences. I pray harder for them now than I ever have.” She shook her head. “Parenting is never finished!”

I was horrified.

“Never, Lynnette?” I asked her. “Come on—give me something to hold onto here.”

I like teaching my kids; I love laughing with them; I enjoy going for walks and watching them discover things; I treasure our deep conversations.

But it doesn’t end there. A parent’s responsibility list is endless. There is no task for which a parent can legitimately say, “Well, I’ll let someone else deal with that—not my job.”

So in infancy we do it ALL! (At least they’re really, really cute!)

But as they grow older, the tug-of-war begins. We know that at some point they will need to take care of themselves, and we can’t just dump them at age 18 on some college’s or workplace’s doorstep and say, “I’ve delivered them safe and sound; now you teach them to work and clean and cook and manage their money and be generally responsible adults who contribute to society.”

So we must, bit by bit, make them responsible for those things as they grow.

They don’t like that!

At least my kids don’t. They resist my efforts to saw through the umbilical cord. They would be perfectly happy if I continued to cook every meal for them, clean up every mess, wash all their clothes and put them neatly away, help them with homework, etc. (That should be capitalized: ETCETERA.)

Yesterday a friend in her early thirties told me she and her husband are praying about having children. “I’m ready to stop working for awhile,” she said, and then she laughed at the irony (which she doesn’t entirely get yet—but that’s a good thing because quite a few of us would NEVER have embarked on parenthood had we known in advance how hard it actually is.)

Anyway, she asked me how old I was when I had my kids (30 and 34 [twins]—and then 38 when Patrick came home) and how I would compare my pre-kids stage to my post-.

“It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” I told her. I didn’t want to discourage her, despite my current wrestlings, so I added, “but, boy, have I learned a lot about myself. I didn’t realize I was impatient until I had children—and I was a middle-school teacher! God has revealed so much to me about the depth of my need and the greatness of His sufficiency through my being a mom.”

Then I looked at her face—a little shocked—and realized my addition hadn’t exactly been encouraging.

“It’s a good thing,” I said. “It really is.”

But it’s a lot of growth, too.

And maybe I’m not so unlike my kids in this respect: They don’t like it when I shove them into greater responsibility; I don’t like it when God does the same with me.

Yet it’s so, so good!

I don’t have a whole lot of parental wisdom. Much of the time I’m doing it in desperation, in blind hope.

Not so God. He parents me with purpose, inexhaustible sufficiency, and vast knowledge of who I am and who He knows I will/can be.

He does the same for my children.

And when I wrestle through my desire to run away and then through the guilt that follows, He comes alongside me, and I grow more–in trust and in perseverance.

So, somehow my bumbling efforts at parenting are used for growth in my children AND in me!

What a miracle!

 

Here are a few verses I’ve thought about during this latest bout of wrestling, because, really, my frustrations ARE light and momentary, though they don’t feel like it in the moment. These verses remind me to keep the long view in mind.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

From then to now-Grace

Random shot--beautiful leaf on my driveway

Random shot–beautiful leaf on my driveway

The past couple of days I have been ridiculously dramatic—in some ways approaching the time of mother martyrdom I wrestled so much with when my kids were very small. This time around, though, I’ve given into it with greater abandon and even a bit of flair, and deep down I’ve known what I was doing.

I attribute the difference to Grace.

I’ll explain, starting with the past first: When my children were toddler-stage, I believed that “good moms” loved being with their children 24-7 (along with a host of other bad beliefs). Therefore, I rarely took my husband up on his offers to let me “get away.” Despite his offers, in a deep down, hidden place in my heart, I blamed HIM for my sense of duty, for my unhappiness. But I didn’t come right out and say all this. I was prim and proper in my martyrdom, quietly convincing myself that I truly was right to see myself as the “martyr” who “willingly” (hmm!) took up the slack in her home, in her husband’s busy life, with their children, with her friends, in her job…

I saw that as saintly.

Ugh!

It was truly a miserable time. I was locked in a pious, tight mold of spiritual smugness. It was constricting. It stifled true life.

When God began tugging the log out of my eye, I began to see my “mommy martyrdom” more clearly, and I began to battle it. Not a pretty process! It was tooth-and-claw, hair-pulling, nail-scratching. I remember thinking—wailing at times—“I will NEVER be free of this!”

Fast forward to the present: I’m not going to claim “complete victory in Jesus” over my martyrdom tendencies, but I do have a far greater freedom from it than I did (which leaves me “free” to battle other monsters in my soul.)

So during the past couple days, as I’ve gotten irked with my kids for cluttering up the house (“I’m not your slave, you know! My job is not to clean up after you. I’m not doing you any favors if I do for you what you can do for yourself!”) and with my older daughter for asking me to run her here, there, and everywhere (“She has no consideration for my time,” I’ve thought.), things have been different. I didn’t hold back as I ranted in my journal yesterday about feeling invisible to my children, like a “non-entity.” I let it loose, and I didn’t try to couch it as a prayer for God to change my children’s hearts. And as I was doing it, I KNEW deep down that I was being a bit ridiculous.

After all, just the night before, Dave and I watched a documentary on REAL slavery, about the 27 million people around the world who live in bondage. Just that day I’d read about the Nepalese workers dying at the rate of one per day in Qatar because they are being forced to labor in horrific conditions on the stadium that will be used for the 2022 World Cup.

So I knew I was being dramatic, but at the same time I also knew I was getting a little closer to the honesty that makes me cling to Christ in real desperation. He sees right through my politely expressed prayers of grievance to the far grittier issues in my own heart, and THAT is what He wants to expose. So when I vent to Him (and not to every other person at random—that’s just complaining), I am coming like a little child, without pretense, admitting that I need…something! and I’m coming to Him because I may not know exactly what I need in that moment, but I know HE is the source of ALL I need, and I go running to him.

So, though my rant wasn’t pretty and it will never, ever, ever be published, I’m leaving it in my journal.

Because the difference between then and now is GRACE!

*Here are the links to the End it Movement website (lots and lots of great videos and info on human trafficking) and the news story on Qatar.

Mommy Magic (another journal written during my small-children stage)

They were younger even than this when I wrote this post--but they were still a lot younger than they are now! I cannot believe I have an 8th grader! (But I sure don't miss pairing up all those teeny-tiny little socks!)

They were younger even than this when I wrote this post–but in this picture they are still a lot younger than they are now! I cannot believe I have an 8th grader! (But I sure don’t miss pairing up all those teeny-tiny little socks!)

Mommy Magic.

I don’t mean the warm, fuzzy feeling I get when my 2 ½ year old twins look adorable in their footy pajamas or the way my heart melts when my 6-year-old sings a solo at the school Mother’s Day program. I’m not referring to the magic in motherhood—no— I’m referring to—

The magic that mothers provide.

In my household it works something like this. My children strip off clothing as they’re running through the house to the bathtub till I could follow the trail like I was a bird behind Hansel and Gretel. No matter how muddy or food-slopped that clothing was, it appears, clean, unstained, and folded, in the dresser drawer a few days after being dripped all across the house. And my children don’t give it a second thought. In fact, sometimes they complain that favorite shirts aren’t in pristine condition and back in the drawer the morning after being worn.

More examples: the last morsel of cereal is poured from the box, and another box gets produced from the storage pantry—or something edible appears. Toothpaste sprouts on toothbrushes on frantic mornings; lunchboxes, forgotten on the kitchen counter, are delivered to the school office by noon; the favorite bowl, plate, and spoon set—with the bunny or truck or princess or superhero on it—appears, filled with food, every dinnertime. Lost shoes and homework and action figures are found, and hats, coats, and gloves pop on just before the plunge into the cold outdoors.

No wonder my children have no trouble believing Cinderella had a fairy godmother and the man in the yellow hat can fix every problem for George the curious monkey. After all, they’ve got a magic to top them both.

Too bad for me that it’s—

Me!

My kids watched Mary Poppins not too long ago. They were most impressed with jumping into chalk drawings and riding carousel horses across animated landscapes. The scene they were least interested in was the one that fascinates me most. Mary Poppins regards the littered nursery with disdain. Click! She snaps her fingers at it, and—presto! The toy soldiers march into the box. Click! The bed makes itself. Click! The clothes fly to their places in the closet. I paused in my search for miniature plastic people under the couch to gaze in awe. “Oh, if only,” I thought, and tried snapping at the dishes by the sink. Nothing happened until I grabbed a sponge and scrubbed at them. And then—it was like…

Magic!

I may not like it, but I understood even before I became a parent that mommy magic is part of the job description. After all, my own mother provided me with plenty of magic while I was growing up. When my brother and I both invited friends to dinner—without phoning ahead—we assumed the meal, prepared for four, would magically stretch to feed six, and it always did. When I needed three costumes for my part in the low-budget school rendition of Cheaper by the Dozen, somehow my mother prepared them—and they looked like they arrived straight from the 1920’s. Mom equaled magician, but I didn’t know until well after I gave birth myself how much work this magic actually was.

What I also didn’t know was that the magic would spread. Several months after my first child Emily was born, the dog began searching the house for me—specifically me—whenever he wanted food or to go out. Often he walked right past the man sitting at the kitchen table or in front of the TV in the living room (the man is my husband, and prior to parenthood he was an equal partner in pet care) to find me in the upstairs bathroom. Suddenly I became the only one privileged enough to freeze my tush waiting for the dog to do his business.

Then I realized other children—not my own—had recognized the mommy magic in me. Before becoming a mom, I could have stood in the middle of a playground all day and been used for little more than a center for ring-around-the-rosie or a base for kickball. Now, however, little kids come up to me. “You’re Emily’s mom, right?”

I hesitate before answering. I’m learning. “Ye-es,” I say.

“Well, my little brother just puked on the slide.”

The expectation, of course, is that I will do something about it.

And I will. “Okay,” I sigh. “I’ll be right over.”

The kid nods, not impressed—I just did what was expected—and then stops, his eyes riveted on my huge purse.

“You got any snacks in there?”

Laundry, snacks, cleaning, organization…

I need some Mommy Magic for ME!