My children bounced out of their rooms, arms spread wide, ready to cover me in their exuberant love …joyfully screaming things like “Breakfast time?!?!” or “It’s Muddy Monday!!!” or just “Mommy!!!”
One heart can hardly contain it.
I grip my chest with the shear abundance of sweet voices and reckless love and youthful life held in a four-foot wide hallway. Waking to this sight and sound is rich and full and beautiful. But today, friends, I wasn’t ready for what would swiftly and inevitably come – what always comes, but can feel wildly different, depending on the state of my heart.
Not ten minutes after our joyful greeting, the needs had mounted, arguments ensued, required items were missing, sweet tones became shouts and whines, nerves were frayed, little hearts were heavy with leaving mom all day. The voices that sang excitement and joy now held frustration, questions, stress, needs to be heard, for snack to be packed, shoes to be tied, all of the things to be done. As words of greeting were pleasant to all of my senses, like delicate harmonies and lovely aromas that bless my soul…. ceaseless demands and questions feel like shots fired from all sides.
Head spinning, I was unraveled with impatience and the urge to run. I feel fickle and shortsighted to allow myself to be given over so quickly from experiencing life as rich and beautiful to overwhelming and wearying.
How is it that these same honeyed little mouths hold the power to deliver me to extravagant delight and crushing strain, to vitality and to exhaustion, in an instant?
The simple answer: they shouldn’t.
My children should not hold the power, with their tone or behavior, to determine the state of my soul and spirit. They were never meant to be the ground I stand on. And if I am to guide them to steady ground, I can’t ride the wave of their emotion with them.
I’ve heard it said that a mother is only as happy as her least happy child. Of course, our hearts break with a child’s broken heart, we hurt their hurts, and celebrate their victories…
But if I allow my children’s tumultuous feelings to be the driving force of my life, I will be in an almost perpetual state of misery. From a missing orange crayon, to illness, injury, or friendship struggles, it’s highly likely that someone is in some level of crisis. At any moment, someone is probably crying, pouting, whining, or otherwise not engaging in the joy that is mine to claim.
If we aren’t careful as moms, we can inadvertently hand the reigns over to the tiniest or noisiest person in the house, and let them determine the state of our hearts, of our day, of the culture of our homes… This is a burden far too heavy, and one they were never meant to bear. And this is equally important with one child or seven.
My mistake today was simple: I was unprepared. When I’m unprepared…
I react, rather than respond.
I worry, rather than pray.
I feel attacked and inadequate, rather than equipped.
I feel claustrophobic, rather than abundantly blessed.
So today, after learning again the hard way, thankful for a God who doesn’t hold my weakness against me, I am recommitting to arm myself for the battle of my day. Whether I rise for a quiet hour before dawn, or I pause for 3-minutes with children piled on my lap in the chaos of the morning, I am making a commitment to prepare myself for the task I’ve been given.
I see today with clear eyes that I am in battle. Marching onto the field unarmed is a surefire way to get beat up. There is a way to be stand on rock when the ground around us shifts. There is a way to be stable in the midst of volatility and unpredictability. There is a way to keep peace while the flaming arrows fly.
Mama, you can be unshaken. Unflappable.
The Bible describes for us the armor of God that can enable us to stand firm as lies swarm and darkness creeps in. I’ve always loved the words of Ephesians 6, but I’ve needed to personalize it a bit for these unique days as a mom of little ones…
- The Belt of Truth is rejecting the lies that make me feel sorry for myself, and proclaiming that my children are a blessing. I find myself complaining with other mamas, comparing horror stories of fits and sleepless nights. I love that our authenticity helps us to not feel alone, but I sometimes strap on a belt of self-pity instead of the belt I want. As I pull on my jeans or yoga pants in the morning, I’m putting on truth. I’m rejecting a complaining spirit and tongue, and claiming my children as pure gift.
- The Breastplate of Righteousness is owning the beauty given to me by God, and shedding the shame and self-talk that says I’m a terrible mom. I am called “righteous” from the moment I believe in Christ, so I can walk with dignity and regality, as if I am wearing a long flowing robe of righteousness. I reject curses spoken over my body that tell me that I’m flawed and less-than. I can walk with confidence as God’s creative work of art, a temple of the Holy Spirit, a vessel for miracles of new life. As I slip on a shirt, or I zip up a hoodie sweatshirt over my chest, I put on God’s delight in me, claiming that I am pure, righteous, and lovely simply because God says so.
- Worry and hurry can feel like a mom’s best friends…but they’re not the ones I want. Strapping on Shoes of the Gospel of Peace means that I am ready for the unexpected things… the delays and tantrums, skinned knees, blow-out diapers, fevers and tears. As I put on my shoes, I ready myself with the eternal perspective that brings peace to the momentary struggle. God’s rescue plan is in place. Nothing can snatch me from the love of God. The pressure is off. God can handle omnipresence. I am free to aggressively eliminate hurry from my days, and forcefully reject the worry that cannot add a single hour to my life, or the lives of my children.
- Taking up a Shield of faith means that my eyes are fixed on the unseen, choosing to believe in God’s goodness and sovereignty. “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see (Hebrews 11: 1).” God is able to hold my everything…my dreams, my fears, my hopes, my people. As I throw my purse or diaper bad over my shoulder, I take hold of trust that God sees the whole story in a way I cannot. I pry my hands open and place my children into the tender loving hands of the Father God. I empty my hands of control and desperation to protect, and grab hold of faith.
- Motherhood shines a light on my weakness like nothing ever has. I put on the Helmet of Salvation by believing that I am not the hero of this story. I am free to be weak and imperfect. I can refuse to be browbeaten by perfectionism and never being enough. My weakness clears space for my children to look to Jesus to be the perfect hero of their story. As you do your hair today –maybe in a messy bun or a wet braid, like me – put on the belief that Jesus’ death and resurrection was enough for you, and enough for your children.
- I take up the Sword of the Spirit by readying myself with the truth of God’s word, to fight against the lies that steal my joy. When I feel bitterness bubble up, I know that the last will be first (Matthew 20: 16). When I’m desperate for someone to see all the thoughts and prayers and needs and schedules I’m juggling, I know that my Father in heaven sees me and I store up for myself treasures in heaven (Matthew 6). When the work is hard, and my body exhausted, I proclaim over myself that in view of God’s mercy, I offer my body as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, and all things of my day are as worship (Romans 12: 1). As I face my weakness all day long, I hear God saying “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12: 9). Like it or not, the item in my hand more than any other is my phone. Most of the time, the goal is to put my phone down. But when it is in my hand, I like to take it up as one way to wield my weapon of God’s word. I share truth over texts with friends, proclaim it on social media, look up scripture, ask my friends to share it back with me. Other ways I’m taking up my sword are posting scripture around the house, leaving my Bible out on the counter, keeping scripture memory cards in my car for moments when I’m sitting in carpool lines, or simply saying out loud the truths I know instead of the things I feel. Find your truths, sweet sister, and take up your sword.
When I’m clothed in this armor, my nerves and careless words are quieted, my emotions are stabilized, my pace is slowed, my feet are steadied…and I am held. I believe the unflappable mom I have envied is steadied not by superhero strength, but by the hand of God. Not by greater ability, but by greater dependence. Not by standing stronger, but by setting her feet upon the rock and not the sand.