A Mother Becoming

Today, you are mama-to-be. At the start of your journey. Your body will be stretched. Your heart will ache for the one you have yet to hold. And just when you think you can't bear it anymore. Your body will bring forth life. Beautiful, sacred, life.

And you, will be her mama. Through those first years, you, mama, will be the source of everything she needs. Your body has done the work of growing her. Now it is the sacrifice of your heart and soul to nurture her. Your body will admit defeat. Long nights turn into early mornings. Exhaustion overwhelms, and you'll long to feel like you again... yet, mama, you continue to give and pour into that sacred life day after day. 

Towards the end of the first year, she will look to you and say "Mama", your favorite name, her word for everything... because to her You Are Everything.

As she transitions from baby to little girl, your name changes again. Mama means everything, yet she is growing more independent everyday. She can eat by herself, put on her own clothes, and has even mastered potty-training. Soon, she'll be walking the halls of school alone. Simply waving before she enters those doors, as you look on longing for your home to be full again. She needs less of you physically. 

And so, she calls you mommy. Mommy brings comfort. Mommy cares. Mommy is always there. In the midst of her independence she will fall and fail. She will get bruised and cry out for help- Mommy. This is where you nurture, comfort, and encourage her soul. You are a gardener, and she, your rose. The truths and love you speak now she believes and carries her whole life. And from those words, she will bloom. Mommy. Mommy cares. Mommy loves. Mommy is always there.

Eventually, your name will change again. A child too preoccupied with growing up, friends, and extracurriculars, will be too old for her everything mama and too independent for her caring mommy. 

So she'll shorten your name to mom. Perhaps shortening your role in her life. Or maybe, your shortened name will be a reminder of the short time you have left before she goes. 
There will be arguments. You'll wonder if she's retained or even cares about the things you've poured into her. You'll start to believe you don't matter anymore. But don't fret. 

Mom simply means home. Mom means a single constant in an adolescent's world of chaos. Mom gives refreshment and life to her child overwhelmed with this stage of life. Mom means there is always someone to go back to. 

This season is a season of battles, your heart will feel torn, your spirit almost crushed... but don't look beyond the battles. For in the midst of the battles, mom is the reminder of everything that young warrior longs to be. Stand tall, Mom. Keep refining, Mom. She will come home, Mom.

In what seems like a flash, there you will sit. Your shining silver hairs will gleam in the sun, a vision of the brilliant crown awaiting you in glory. Your name longer, much like the life you've lived. Your days simple. Your home awaiting the next visit. And your heart longing for the mama, mommy, and mom you were yesterday. 

You won't hear your name as often as you used to, and many of your updates come by phone. But you will sit waiting, longing to hear your child's voice again. And when she calls, she'll say, "Hello Mother!" Mother- meaning faithful, wise, grace-filled, kind, love.

On this journey of motherhood, your task has been much more than raising children. Your greatest task has been to personify these words... always pointing back to Jesus.

You brought forth life, and gave her your everything. - Mama

You nurtured hearts, planting seeds of the gospel. In the midst of comforting you introduced the Great Comforter. -Mommy

You stood tall, unrelenting, unwavering, a constant home. In the midst of battle after battle, you revealed Unconditional Love. - Mom

And there you will you sit. Your simple days will be spent praying and reading. Faithful. Wise. The legacy you'll leave behind will be stamped with the gospel at every twist and turn. And your children will called you blessed. - Mother

They Aren't Mine.

Two nights ago I laid in bed, tears streaming down my face, thinking about my girls sleeping soundly in the room across the hall, my heart pounding through all my fears. I had just seen photos of the children lost in Syria, and read the story of a little boy's last moments with his mama. So, I got up, snuck into their room, got on my knees, grabbed my sweet Star's hand, and wept as I prayed over my girls. While I sat in the quietness of their room, the Lord reminded me of words spoken to me just a few weeks ago- "They aren't yours." Typically His gentle reminders bring a calm to my overwhelmed soul. But in this moment, these words only brought more tears to my eyes. "They aren't yours", is the most terrifying phrase that's ever been spoken to me. Yet, I cannot deny it's truth. They aren't mine.

As I wept on my knees, terrified, I was also reminded of who spoke them to me. A woman who sang hymns over her first born child as she breathed her last breaths. Her first moments as a mother brought truth to the words- "they aren't yours." She wasn't even able to make it through her first day of motherhood without surrendering her control over to the Father, trusting His plan to be perfect, even if it meant she would leave the hospital empty-handed. Yet, even after facing the death of her daughter, she not only sought to have more children, but she also raised them with the same declaration- they aren't mine. And for my entire life, my mom has lived these words out in faith.

Most days, it's easy for me to quote the verses that bring comfort- "Trust in the Lord with all your heart", "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord", "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength." When I look at my girls, I see a curly headed daughter who is in every way my spirit. She embodies so much of my soul, and brings such life to it. Then I look over and I see my baby-blue-eyed heart. A heart that is filled with immense joy and love for all people. When it comes to them, it's a little bit harder to say I love the Lord with all of my heart and soul. It's a little bit harder to say I trust Him completely. It's a little bit harder to say that I know His plans will give us a hope and a future, even if it means I don't get to hold onto these hands forever. The little feet that pitter-patter around our home, and the sweet hands that fit so perfectly into mine are the hardest things I have ever had to surrender. But the words are true- they aren't mine.

So on the days when my fear outweighs my surrender, I must always return to the cross. At the cross, I am reminded that my Heavenly Father willingly sacrificed His son. The Lord knows full well the weight of surrendering a child, and He understands my fears in the midst of all the suffering and evil. But He also cannot accomplish His great plan, a plan that goes far beyond our time here on earth, through me or through them if I am unwilling to surrender my girls over to Him.

I do not know what His plans hold, and I cannot keep our home safe from every evil of this world. But I choose to speak these words over my children everyday-

 

They aren't mine.

When my fears drown out my faith- they aren't mine.

When the flood of evil threatens our shelter of peace- they aren't mine.

When sickness or injury steals- they aren't mine.

When it's hard to surrender- they aren't mine.

They are Yours.

Because they are Yours, I do not have to fear the unknown.

Because they are Yours, I am assured that while evil may invade, You are our fortress.

Because they are Yours, I know that when the strength of their body or mind is stolen, their souls are held in the palm of Your hand.

Because they are Yours, may your perfect will be done.

For they aren't mine. They are Yours.

Don't Lose Yourself.

I have been blessed with a sister-in-law that was my sister long before we married brothers. We are blessed to see each other often, and every time we get together, we talk about marriage, our attempts to figure out our husbands, and the ways our men are so alike. Last weekend we were together, sitting in the middle of nowhere, as our husbands hunted wild hogs. As we sat there, I looked to her and said, "I'm proud of you for not losing yourself in marriage."

J and I got married so fast, completely obsessed with each other, but totally unprepared for the hard work of loving each other sacrificially. We were the first to get married, and were 21 year old babies. The only other marriages we had seen were our parents, and we were as different as night and day. After a few years of marriage, we decided to have children, and we ended up having two back-to-back. In my attempt to become everything everyone thought J should have, and through my personal pressure to be the "perfect" wife and mom, I lost myself and walked away from some of the gifts God had given me.

Sometimes, I have looked in the mirror and seen a woman at war within herself. In many ways, God has softened her heart and made something beautiful out of the remains of yesterday. But in other ways, the woman before me has isolated herself from the people who love her most. She's become anxious, perfectionistic, melancholy, and insecure. The woman that used to be independent, optimistic, free-spirited, and tenacious often finds herself pushed to the corner out of fear.

But in the last few months, I have begun to see life with a little more clarity. The fog from post-partum life has lifted. My husband and I are walking through our sweetest days ever. And I am finally reaching out again to my dear friends. With a renewed mind, I can pinpoint the first time I felt as though I wasn't enough. I can go back to those first few months as a new mom and feel the sting of tears roll down my cheeks as I sat there wondering how I'll ever do it all. I can remember the first time I began to isolate myself from my family and friends. And I can see glimpses of that go-getter, spark in her eye woman coming back, pushing fear aside, ready to run with wild abandon.

With clarity, we are faced with the truth, and with the truth we have the choice to walk forward and share with wisdom, or to run and hide.

As I sat with my sister, I chose to admit my wrongdoings, come to terms with my failures, push past my fear, and share. And as I shared my heart pondered these things-

Don't forget friendships, only to try and rebuild them later. Hold onto them tight. Stay connected. You still need them.

Don't be intimidated by the wisdom of your mom. Remain teachable. Let her words speak truth into your life. She knows. She's been there. And she wants you to succeed more than she ever did.

Don't forget to call your sister as much as possible. She is your first and most treasured friend. Let her encourage you and love you through the dark days.

Don't worry about your skills as a wife, mom, and cook. These skills take time to master, some skills are instinct, but no one can tell you how to do it "perfectly". Each husband, family, and taste bud is different. Keep trying and you'll find the right combination.

Don't let the "red flags" of it happening too fast or the differences others see determine the value you bring into your husband's life. God has given you to this man, knowing one cannot fulfill His great plan without the other.

Don't settle for the hardships of right now, thinking they last forever. Marriage is hard work. It is only through Jesus that a marriage of two sinners is made holy. So walk in hand-in-hand in fellowship with Him. Pray for eyes like His to see past the hurt and flaws. Pray for lips like His that spill forth sacrificial love and encouragement instead of venom. And pray for a heart like His, filled with love and forgiveness on the best and worst days.

Don't lose yourself. God has given you a tenacious, strong, independent spirit, don't apologize for it. Instead, seek Him and ask Him to refine it for His purposes. Your gifts are valuable to Him because He gave them to you. He wants you to use them for His glory. Never be ashamed of the beautiful soul He has given you.

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While I have felt lost, I know I haven't been alone. My precious husband has always been here, loving me through it all, encouraging me back to the joyful, bold, carefree woman he married. He's never expected perfection, and he's never asked me to change. My family has never quit speaking truth into my life, even when I've pushed them away with harsh words. My friends have continued to be apart of all of life's big moments, and have allowed for me to lay the first bricks of rebuilding. And now I sit, surrounded by many young wives and mamas, willing to say I haven't gotten it all right, but there's hope. And where hope remains, fear doesn't reign.

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But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob,
And He who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by your name;
You are Mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned,
Nor shall the flame scorch you.
For I am the Lord your God,
The Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
I gave Egypt for your ransom,
Ethiopia and Seba in your place.
Since you were precious in My sight,
You have been honored,
And I have loved you;
Therefore I will give men for you,
And people for your life.
Fear not, for I am with you;
I will bring your descendants from the east,
And gather you from the west;
I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’
And to the south, ‘Do not keep them back!’
Bring My sons from afar,
And My daughters from the ends of the earth—
Everyone who is called by My name,
Whom I have created for My glory;
I have formed him, yes, I have made him.”

Isaiah 43: 1-7

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