Everyone is buckled into the minivan, and for a moment, I just breathe.
I linger in the garage doorway and search the crevices of my mind for forgotten tasks and items. I can’t remember the last morning we didn’t forget something, but my overloaded brain doesn’t seem capable of doing anything other than recovering from the chaos of the last 40 minutes.
I’m pretty sure one or two of the kids never actually ate any of their breakfast, and I know for certain that I didn’t brush the baby’s teeth. I hope, but probably won’t ask, whether or not everyone is wearing socks under their shoes.
I shove one last sippy cup into my giant tote, along with a pair of sneakers for the littlest, whose bare little toes I recall kissing as I buckled him into his carseat. I’m quite certain today will be the day the straps finally break on this bag, hanging over my right shoulder – the one that’s been serving quadruple duty as purse, diaper bag, pantry, and fix-all treasure chest.
I grab my coffee in my other hand, and my sunglasses between my lips, and open the door to the garage, where my little ones have been waiting for approximately seventeen seconds.
Before I even have the door fully opened, I hear a chorus of “Mommy!” and the names of those who need to be tattled on. I decipher a request for music and a few desperate pleas for food and water, though the only thing we’ve done since breakfast is get into the car.
How can there be this many problems by 8am? How can I be tired already?
I’m just now glancing in the mirror for the first time of the morning, and I’m thankful to find a hairband around my wrist to throw my mess of hair into a high bun.
Friends, this motherhood thing is no joke. Full and abundant, relentless and exhausting. It’s no wonder so many mamas can’t seem to stop the complaining from spilling out of their mouths, whenever they happen upon a listening ear.
A handful of years ago, I found myself stumbling into stay-at-home motherhood, and subsequently, into playgroups and mommy meet-ups. I found myself frustrated and confused that we all seemed to sit around talking about how little sleep we got or how long our husband’s work hours were, or how strong-willed our child was, as if it might make us feel better if we won the medal for “Hardest life.” I was frustrated with other moms, and I was frustrated with myself, for going right along with the negativity. I knew we should be more grateful, but it was also nice to connect with others who “get it.”
I absolutely adored my children, and often times the negative words leaking from my mouth didn’t even feel true. I was just grasping at an opportunity to be seen in what I was working so hard to do, but for which the world seemed to have no words or appreciation.
In that season, part of me still believed that the menial tasks of motherhood were beneath me. I thought I should be doing something bigger or more impressive. Or at least doing this “small” job more perfectly. Yet, another part of me felt like being a stay-at-home mom was the most difficult thing I had ever done.
Though I knew that I knew that I knew that my children were an absolute gift, on many days, I found myself falling into a puddle of self-pity.
I felt sorry for myself for not being understood. I felt sorry for myself that I had nothing to show for the soul-crushing day I had just survived. I felt sorry for myself that I was giving and giving, even when I was tired, or sick, or sad, or lonely. I felt sorry for myself for the emptiness I felt, even when my home was full of adorable little faces.
More than anything, I felt deeply ashamed of my ingratitude. Right alongside friends longing for a family or struggling to get pregnant, or wishing to be home with their children more, I often looked at my children and felt unworthy to be their mama, wondering why the mere look of them wasn’t filling my life with total joy and satisfaction.
At some point, I determined I must be missing something. This simply could not be it. This could not be God’s heart and desire for me.
I didn’t want to be like the grandmas in the grocery store who tell me to soak it up because this is the best time of my life. I didn’t want to tell every new mom for the rest of my life that it’s going to go way too fast. I didn’t want to just survive this, and then regret all that I missed by not figuring out how to love it while it was happening. I didn’t want to fill up photo albums to create memories of things that I didn’t actually enjoy very much.
I wanted to live these moments. I wanted to soak them up in a way that changed me.
I began to wonder what would happen if I just stopped giving everything to my family begrudgingly, and started giving as if this was all I was ever meant to do. I had always loved long snuggles and bedtime stories, but what if I gave the same energy to laundry and diapers, and arguments and bad attitudes?
What if I poured my energy into, not just the fun moments of parenting, but all of these in-between mundane moments, as if these days were the only ones I’d bring before the throne of Christ, at the end of my life?
I began to have eyes to see all of the ways that I had been grasping to keep my life in tact…I rolled my eyes at the messes, because I was trying to preserve my dignity. When a child was disrespectful, I crossed my arms repulsed, because I was trying to preserve my pride. After a certain amount of work, I began to function out of this thinking that I really deserved a break, because I was trying to preserve my comfort. I sputtered awkward answers at a cocktail party about what I did other than “stay at home” because I was trying to preserve my relevance in the world. I was bitter about being late because I was trying to preserve my image as a dependable, punctual, responsible adult.
I began to wonder what it would feel like to treat my children like the vulnerable Least of These Jesus talked about, and to give it all away with reckless abandon. What if I simply threw my life into this thing the Lord has given me to do — not neglecting self-care, but abandoning myself to be poured out — and let the Lord give me his abundance, right in the middle of the mess?
For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. Matthew 16: 25
As I threw off my fears of keeping it all together, and let motherhood get a bit messier, giving when I had nothing left, because I chose to believe God gave me each of these little things to do, I began to find the life I had been so afraid to lose. I found purpose inside of my own four walls, and deep joy in the middle of chaos. I found myself delighting in my children, not just in the peaceful and sweet spaces, but in the disheveled and unpredictable ones, too. I began to find abundance in the emptiest moments, energy in the midst of sleep deprivation, fun in the middle of work, and worship in the middle of mundane. And I found deep satisfaction in the in-between, invisible, far from Instagram-worthy moments that only God could see.
I began to discover the heart of God to fill us up as we are poured out, and to let us share in lavish resurrection living as we share in the death of Christ by abandoning our preferences, pride, comfort and convenience.
No matter what your day-to-day looks like, sister, whether you are a stay-at-home mama, or you are juggling work and home, whether you have tiny ones or teenagers, be encouraged that God’s heart is to strengthen you out of his glorious riches, with power through his Spirit in your inner being. (Eph 3: 16).
As we pour our lives out in places where we can’t receive back… As we offer forgiveness seventy times seven times… As we let our lives be poured out like a drink offering… As we choose to release our pride, our comfort, our lives to whatever little tasks are put before us… we see the abundant grace of God multiply in our hearts and homes.