I’ve been thinking about this place and what I write here and why I write so much about motherhood. You may not know this about me, but for most of my life I was determined to avoid motherhood at all costs. Peter married me knowing this. I had all kinds of confused junk I was sorting through and thankfully for me both Pete and Jesus loved me just the way I was.
But here’s the thing – God has since called me to mothers. God has commissioned me to you, precious been-up-since-4am-can’t-remember-when-last-I-went-to-the-bathroom-alone readers.
This coming from the girl who trained as a human rights lawyer and lived and worked in Ukraine for two and a half years combating human trafficking and spending day in and day out with its victims. This from the girl who comes from South Africa where her parents are plowing their lives into the orphan and HIV crisis. This from the girl who thought she would spend her law degree in human rights tribunals advocating for one group of women (the kind we meet on Compassion International trips) and for whom God has channeled all that passion into advocating for another, no less important group (the mostly suburban moms I write to and encourage on this blog).
Becoming a mother has been the most profound faith journey of my life. It teaches sacrifice and selflessness and breathes life into Jesus truths like nothing else I have ever encountered. I am convinced that encouraging people to become better parents goes hand in hand with encouraging people to genuinely and truly pursue God. They’re not in competition with one another, I think they’re designed to inform each other.
What pastor could possibly ask a mother to divorce her battle with temper and frustration from her daily challenge of raising a willful toddler. This is the heart of where Jesus meets us – through our kids. And I am convinced that the best way for any leader or influencer to connect with a population group who drives the Internet’s massive percentages of mommy blogs is to understand our heart cry. We are hungry for advice and encouragement on how to parent because we know how closely related it is to how we believe.
When I am learning how to like my 4 year old – the post I receive the most email on – I have been the closest to the Holy Spirit, done the most work, the most frequent fasting, the most desperate research of Scripture, the most midnight prayers. Motherhood calls me to Christ. I hear his voice at 2am. I walk the halls with Him and know He sings over me when I’m cleaning up vomit.
Lines in the sand that divide “‘serious’ theology from ‘non-substantive’ topics like parenting, homemaking, and relationships” (i.e. mommy blogging) are the house that has no foundation and must surely come crashing down.
Because of course in real life everything – everything that has breath – is a cry to bring us back to the Creator. God calls us each through unique avenues of life and for mothers, more often than not, His voice is heard loudest through our children.
Hannah must be the poster child for this.
Her entire faith journey was a reflection of her desperate struggle to be a mother – influencing even her annual temple pilgrimages so badly that she would have preferred to stay home. And when she is wretched and torn up about it she takes her identity as non-mother to the one most able to influence it – the Creator.
She takes it into the Temple. She pours it all out – her family priorities and her faith and her barrenness and her rival’s taunts – she lays it low to the only one who can do anything about it. And I love so much the Message translation of God’s reaction to Hannah’s prayer:
“Up before dawn, they worshiped God and returned home to Ramah. Elkanah slept with Hannah his wife, and God began making the necessary arrangements in response to what she had asked.”
I Samuel 1:19.
Oh how I love the God that plans and makes arrangements in response to the cry of a mother who spends all day long making plans and arrangements. Who understands that our identity and our faith are born in new ways through our motherhood. And God meets her there. Her genuine and passionate pursuit of God is as a direct result of her felt need.
More and more my children are my gospel in the sense that they teach, they reveal Christ to me. And if you haven’t read it, then Sacred Parenting: How Raising Children Shapes Our Souls is one of my favorite books to recommend on the topic. In it Gary Thomas says,
“Let’s admit that family life tires us as perhaps nothing else does; but let’s also accept that, for most of us, this is God’s call and part of his plan to perfect us.
Once we realize that we are sinners, that the children God has given us are sinners, and that together, as a family, we are to grow toward God, then family life takes on an entirely new purpose and context.
It becomes a sacred enterprise when we finally understand that God can baptize dirty diapers, toddlers’ tantrums, and teenager’s silence in order to transform us into people who more closely resemble Jesus Christ.”
~from Chapter 1, p. 17.
My identity as a mother is so profoundly connected to my identity in Christ I would be hard-pressed to separate the two. I could check the box that says “Jesus is my identity” because I know I’m supposed to. Or I could tell the truth and check the box that says “mother” because that is the identity where I meet Jesus on a daily, grindingly hard, desperately beautiful basis.
And so I keep coming back here with words about motherhood. I show up with my stories about sleep deprivation, frustrated four-year-olds and my constant wrestle with trying to make a home out of a house that is not my own. This is my truth. And I promise to keep on telling it, this love story. Of how Jesus would have loved me the same whether I had children or not. But how He is remaking me day in and day out through this gift that He saved till last.
So come back tomorrow. And the day after. And I will still be here, unwrapping, unwrapping, unwrapping all this crawling, toddling, laughing, crying extraordinarily sacred ordinary.
Photos thanks to my friend Mallory.