This…THIS is what I want for every mother

blog -for every mother

The vibrant green of leaves peaking in my kitchen window, ears ringing with little voices, stomach in knots over the tussles of the morning, and slumped a bit from the week’s travel that could be described as anything but vacation (more on this soon…), I struggle to put hands to keyboard.

Right here in the messy middle of it all – just like you – my morning was full of time outs and Cheerios on the floor and rushing off to swim practice.  I changed diapers and I said the wrong thing and I folded laundry and poured bowls of cereal and rushed a song of blessing and let out a few big sighs that may have given my precious ones the impression that I am exasperated by them.  I issued a few extra kisses to try to make up for my bad attitude and hustled to assist a little one in the bathroom.  I buckled seat belts and said “I don’t know” to most the questions and shot up desperate prayers for more grace, more strength.

This is how I sit to write — nearly always convalescing from some parenting failure, usually from the last ten minutes.  My mind often burdened with a child’s need for which I have no answers.  Feeling weak beyond measure.

And yet something aches in me that I can’t bear to not tell you.  A deep beautiful grace has rained down on me, and I want it for every mama.  

Before I had children, I was cozied in my assumptions about parenthood — a sweet overflow of a loving marriage, an opportunity to leave a legacy, enrich our lives, invite joy.  Sprinkled with truth, but troubling simplistic, I thought I would just do my best, make sure they know I love them, set good boundaries, have fun, and we’d all turn out fine.  I’ve always known children are a miracle, a privilege, a gift.  I always assumed we would experience ups and downs.

But there’s a weightiness that I never imagined and a freedom that has led me to the heights.

Jesus offers this sacred invitation…”whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10: 39)

I never knew that motherhood was an invitation to die…  I’ve wondered at stories of reckless faith and obedience to serve where God calls, but I never knew that I could find this most holy ground right here in my home — that I could be resurrected into a new kind of living, just on the other side of dying to myself. I never knew that in motherhood I would be invited to die a million times a day, and find the freedom of a life hidden with Christ.  I never knew that I would be invited to give away my comfort, my dignity, my autonomy, my privacy, my self-preference, my efficiency, my sense of control, and that I would exchange it all for intimacy with my King, the only source of true life.

There is always a place for personal boundaries and self-care.  Take care of yourself, sister.

But joy comes in making peace with this journey of motherhood being one of sacrifice.   I’m discovering the greatest invitation in motherhood is one to lose my life to find it.

And so, as we meet needs in the wee hours of the night, give our day away as a chauffeur, or as tiny people toss their trash at us, we can find the strength to calmly parent – a privilege and a sacred mission – in the place where we let go.  We let go of our rights, our pride, our life, and our hearts are set free.

What I want for every mama is for her to experience this sacred dance before her Father in Heaven.  I long for the beautiful invisible works of her hands to feel like worship.  I ache for you to go ahead and lay it all down so that you can experience the riches of God’s grace for you.

 

“My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise” 

Psalm 51:17

“But the king replied to Araunah, ‘No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing”” 

2 Samuel 24:24

How to experience the deep riches of generous parenting

IMG_0931
Wednesday Word of the Day:  
Generosity

One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.

Proverbs 11: 24-25 ESV

Sometimes it feels like motherhood is a journey of never enough…an endless poverty of time, energy, sleep, capacity.  The needs don’t stop coming, and social media says everyone else is doing it better, and somehow we missed the memo that every mom is actually supposed to be Superwoman.

When I’m tired and I start to feel like I’ve given enough, I tend to get a little stingy with my children.  “Just one book tonight.”  “Ugh, are you sure you really have to go potty….again?  Right now?  Really?”  “No, we can’t go to the park today.”  “No, you can’t play that sport, go to that birthday party, do that thing, make that mess, have that snack right this second…”

Just “No” because I’m overwhelmed and tired and I need the world to stop spinning for a little while, please?

Of course, there is a healthy and appropriate place for “No.”  Of course, we have a responsibility to teach and shepherd our children, as well as show them that the world does not revolve around their needs and desires.  However, the types of “No’s” I’m describing are not in pursuit of healthy boundaries, they are plain and simple fatigue and exasperation.

My grip tightens, my patience shortens, my capacity shrinks, and I just don’t want to give anything else.  And you know what?  The tighter my grip, the more miserable I am.  Every request is an inconvenience.  Every need is an overstep.  Every touch is an annoyance.  Every bump in the road is catastrophic.  I get to where I’m just over-touched, over-noised, over-stimulated, over-needed, over everything.

Tell me I’m not alone?

From this fraught and empty place, I have eagerly looked for another way…  I have looked for the wealth of riches, the endless wells of grace, the renewed strength, the joy and life I’m meant to find when I give it all away.  I have looked for God’s promises in this sacrificial and often invisible life.  The way I’m finding is impossibly simple and profoundly obvious and completely life-altering.  And I don’t think I could have found it until I ran completely out of myself.

 

The other way is simply this:  Cheerful giving – the kind that requires faith.

Once in a while, when I run out of myself (which happens quite regularly, now) I step in faith and give from the places that I think are empty, and I watch the Lord keep filling me up.

I’m not really talking about giving of our finances, though the Bible has a lot to say about that, specifically.  I’m talking about this powerful thing that happens when we give out of the places where we feel most impoverished.

When I feel impoverished of energy, I can choose to bring my measly offering and give of all the enthusiasm I can muster for our breakfast song of blessing, or our evening dance party, because we all just need to smile… and I reap bountifully of joy.

When I feel penniless in attention because my brain is full and my inbox is full and my calendar is full, I can choose to bring my offering and listen generously to that little one’s nonsense story, with the same fervor I would bring to the most critical subject…and I reap bountifully of connection.

Friends, in whatever ways you are feeling spent today, I invite you to join me in this different way of parenting generously. 

Because we have a generous God who has great riches in mercy and mighty power to restore us, we are free to cheerfully throw our two copper coins in the bucket, and trust that we will reap bountifully in our hearts and homes.  

Mama, may you sow bountifully and reap bountifully in your home today.

 

The point is this:  whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.  Each one much give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.  

2 Corinthians 9: 6-7

 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.  Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.  They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

Mark 12:41-44 (NIV)

 

Why you don’t need to be afraid to give it all

IMG_0940

A short-antlered buck gnaws at the lime green leaves of our freshly planted dogwood, and the fresh anxieties of the day begin gnaw at my heart.

My first sip of hot coffee touches my lips with all it’s promise of a boost of energy for the day, and the first cries of precious voices touch my ears, and my heart opens desperate wide for a touch of grace from my King.

Yesterday was one of those days when I drove my van sputtering into the gas station after my gas light came on way too late to be helpful.  And last night was one of those when my body and soul came sputtering into bed, having run the last few hours on empty, as well.  I should have noticed the needle creeping down on the fuel gauge, and I should have seen the signs of my patience and grace wearing thin.

But sometimes we just don’t know what we need until it’s almost too late.

And I want to think that these are just little insignificant moments, but then life is just a collection of little insignificant moments, and what does it looks like to live them well?  These few short years when my kids are here and listening…what does it look like to give them my best?

Sister, it frustrates me to no end that I sometimes try to function like I was made in the image of my gas tank – when, truly – you and I were made in the image of the Almighty God of the Universe.  Our gas tanks and our hearts are actually nothing alike.  We don’t have to use up all our resources, only to hit empty with sputters and short-fuses and failure and fatigue and desperation.  We don’t need to refill with some magical boost of energy and wisdom that will last us the next week or two.

We are far more like a branch on that sweet little tree in my front yard, with roots that grow further down and sit steadier and drink deeper and stay connected.  Unlike our gas tanks, we can choose to keep our souls attached to the source of grace, trusting that the supply will not run out.

FullSizeRender-4

There is a still small voice that beckons and pursues our hearts, and offers a lot more grace than my gas light.  We can listen and align and drink and stretch to new heights, as we give the refreshment of that grace away.  

As a mom, I often feel like I’m giving away what I’ve had for about two seconds.  I wake and decide where my spirit and attitude rest, then my children wake and I set the tone with that thing I just decided.  In ugly moment, I have to stop and breathe, and receive the grace not to react – and in that very moment, I get to give away the grace I’m receiving.  My children ask me what’s wrong as I hang up the phone, and I have an opportunity to speak out loud the truth I am deciding to believe right in that very moment about the news I just heard.  The truths we speak reshape our hearts.

 

There is a time to draw away and be alone with God, yes… seek and pursue this!  But a mama’s reality is that often when we wish to draw away, we cannot…and so, we are invited to give away not what we received yesterday, last week, or even this morning, but to give away God’s grace, as we are drinking from the fountain that never empties.

Don’t be afraid of running of steam today, sweet sister.  Go ahead, give your service, your attention, your caring, your patience, your grace.   Not in a way that is resentful, or martyr-like, or neglecting self-care, but in a genuine fearless offering of yourself through those moments when you are needed beyond what is comfortable to give.

As you give your life away, you will find it in your Savior who gave his for you.  

There is an ever-flowing, never-emptying fountain of grace available for you, sweet friend.  As you pour yourself out today, don’t empty out like a gas tank… stay connected to the source of refreshment.  Breathe and drink of God’s grace right there in the midst of your moments, believing that the water only gets sweeter and the color of your life only get’s richer, and the heights of your joy and peace only get higher, and the fruit only gets more plentiful.

Surprising joy when you feel you’ve lost your life -(words for Holy Week – Repost!)

img_6239

As I reflect on the meaning of the week ahead- this Holy Week- I am struck by the abundance that can only be found in letting go. The filling that we only receive when we’re first emptied out. The power that can only be found in weakness. The righteousness that can only be found in knowing our brokenness. The resurrection that we never would have known without the crucifixion. 

Reposting this one because I needed to be reminded to go ahead and die the million deaths to myself on purpose – to find joy on the other side of surrender…
A seed falls, and we do not weep for the death…but rejoice for the promise of life to come.

There’s a beauty and a trust as we witness a dying that brings life. This is, perhaps, one of those sweet hints in nature that points to a deep truth that echoes throughout the earth and reverberates in our very souls. Nature gives way and, each year as the winter chill sets in, the death holds a promise. We wait. We eagerly expect. We anticipate with full confidence that new life will spring forth in due time. And we know that without the death, the life would be cut short, cheapened, lost. As nature sways with the secret winds of the One who made it, we watch and celebrate it’s majestic beauty.

Life from death.

In the same way, I walk in the hope that Jesus not only died to pay the penalty for my sin, but that he rose and is alive. And because he died, I have life. He came to serve and not to be served, and He leaves an example of a life of sacrifice that brings life.

Research has shown time and time again that the happiest people are the ones giving their lives and resources away to serve others.

But if I’m honest, I think I have had an idealized sense of what a life of service looks like. I’ve imagined that the kind of dying to self that makes us feel like we’re really living can only happen in the big things.

I’ve dreamed of missions and living among the poor. I’ve partnered with beautiful organizations doing beautiful world-changing things. I’ve grieved that I don’t have more capacity to serve now that I’m home with young kids. I still deeply treasure these opportunities to serve the poor and needy, and celebrate all those doing this significant work.

But I have thought less of life as a mom. It often feels small and insignificant. I have fought against the way it shrinks and simplifies my life, and I have sometimes been frustrated by the way it fills all of the spaces and leaves no room.  As we fight against it, and wish for bigger better things, we allow seeds of resentment and bitterness to be sown.

But, in the last couple years, the truth of the life I’m living as a mom has slapped me right across the face. Sometimes, quite literally. The truth is that mamas die a million small deaths all day long. Perhaps the life of service and sacrifice that I’ve dreamed about is right in front of my face. Perhaps leaning in and reconciling with the dying that fills my days could be the key to unlock the life I sometimes feel I’m missing.

Friends, we mamas might have all the worldly comforts that make us feel like our days should be easy.  We might enjoy the comforts of beautiful homes, and minivans, and organic meals, and Starbucks stops. But, there is no peace for the mama who won’t die a thousand times, on a thousand days.

As we are willing to die in every corner of ourselves, we open ourselves up to new and better and fuller life.

Perhaps not whipping my body into shape after giving birth is not a failure, but an opportunity to discover life and joy in the death of my vanity. Dying to self is giving your very body to be stretched and scarred and changed. I give my body.

Perhaps I’m not less-than because motherhood has killed brain cells. I have frantically looked for a child who I’m holding on my hip. True story. But perhaps my distraction and preoccupation is not a sign that I’m now less worthy. Dying to self is giving your mind to organize and facilitate seeing that the needs of everyone else in your home are met before your own. I give my mind.

Dying to self is cleaning the messes that threaten your basic human dignity – the ones that leave you looking for the emergency biohazard hotline.  I give my dignity.

A place in me that once cared about some respectable thing now holds the lyrics to the Wild Kratts theme song. Dying to self is giving yourself to care about the little things…the names of all the dinosaurs, the microscopic boo-boos, the math homework. I give my interest.

I can feel embarrassed by my swift tears or sudden panic when it comes to my children. But dying to self is giving your heart to care about the big things…the illnesses and injuries that make our heart stop, the heartbreak and the grief of watching your children suffer or be in danger. It’s the giving of your heart in a way that you can never take back. The giving to a love that makes your heart beat right out of your chest, and makes you feel wildly alive and wildly in danger of being crushed. I give my heart.

The daily grind of chores doesn’t make my life small. Dying to self is giving all of the in-between moments to launder and clean and feed. I give my hands.

Dying to self is letting your family change and shape your goals and dreams, whether you are working tirelessly juggling work and home, or you’ve given up a hard-earned career to stay home.   I give my dreams.

Dying to self is being the rock against which my children can crash the wild waves of growing up. Dying to self is keeping steady for their uninhabited and unfiltered and underdeveloped BIG feelings to find their boundaries in the safety of my arms. I give my comfort.

Dying to self is looking with grace-filled eyes after being slapped across the face by a tiny person. It’s shepherding in love after being yelled at for some horror like offering the wrong lollipop color. I give my pride.

Only as I lean in and give myself away can I find peace and freedom. If God sees me, and I’m within his call to the life of sacrifice, I don’t need to fight to be seen. I don’t need to resent my husband for his freedom to leave the house, or my children for their ingratitude. There is a harmony in the song I’m singing.

And it all feels like worship.

My spirit gives a resounding “Yes!” to overseas missions and living among the poor. But I long to see us mamas shout a similar “Yes!” over the life of sacrifice that lies before us as we simply open our eyes in the morning (or in the night), with a willingness to do another day.

Nature points to this deep truth that we only find our life by giving it up. I long to see us fall each day like the seed, treasuring the promise that our death will bring new life.

As I talk with my mom friends, we still find ourselves feeling like being a mom is supposed to be easy and fun. The words of little old ladies who tell us with screaming toddler in grocery store line to “cherish every minute” echo in our heads. But I’ve watched my friends give up careers, and hobbies, and personal space, and clean shirts, and the last brownie. I’ve seen them die a million deaths. We get dirty with it.

And yet, somehow the world has us convinced that we’re doing it all wrong. Somehow we feel it doesn’t matter. We feel we need to do more, and better. And get out and serve in a way that counts.

Stepping into motherhood is risky in a ultimate sense. We allow the Lord to rip our heart out and give it legs. Ladies, this thing requires faith! I don’t say any of this out of pride, but to proclaim out loud that the devil, the Enemy of our hearts, has no right to steal the joy that comes from motherhood being a service unto the Lord.

If we are willing to lean into the life of self-sacrifice that is laid out before us, mamas, we can spend our lives in the sweetness of those feet-washing moments. You have an opportunity at every moment of the day to give your life away. And sister, your Father in heaven sees you!

The world fights against this motherhood thing with a force of self-indulgence and self- advancement. While some positions come with power, influence, lofty titles, impressive salaries, something to say at a cocktail party. Motherhood comes mostly with messes, failures and invisibleness. I think this is no surprise to God.

So, let’s let the seed fall. Let’s die the million deaths, on purpose. And let’s watch and wait as new life and joy spring up in your days.

fullsizerender-6
My dining room table is under there somewhere.

Mama, this is how you know God is after your heart… (And a GIFT!)

 

christian parenting blog

This morning I woke swimming in the mystery of life and motherhood…so heavy with burden and responsibility, so light with games of peek-a-boo and spontaneous dancing.  So emptied out of energy and time and space and refreshment, so full of laughter and wonder and silly conversation.  Despite the palpable beauty and the irrefutable blessing, there is a darkness that can cast shadows on a mama’s joy, and that leads us to live a shadow of the blessing intended for us.

There is the feeling of invisibility and having no visible achievement to show for the mothering of the day. There are sleepless nights and impossible pressures.  There are fits and messes, and the hurry of the world clashing with the maddening sloooow of children who don’t see the big deal about putting on shoes. There is the crushing inadequacy, the fear of the dangers and hardships our children could face. There is the tension of being a mom, with enormous influence and utter lack of control over future and faith and safety.

There are the yoga pants and minivans, the feelings of smallness and un-chicness. There is the lack of understanding from the boss or the dinner party host. There is the impossible-to-explain importance of a naptime. There is the intense grind of chores and meals and sports schedules, and endless driving. There is the hopelessness of keeping up, the discouragement of failure, the laying down your life in the most imperceptible ways. There is the absence of instruction or feedback. There are the postpartum hormones and breastfeeding struggles that everyone has but no one likes to admit, and everyone seems to forget by the time their youngest is out of diapers.

Something in me cries out for someone to see, for someone to understand the chaotic mystery I’m trying to live, somehow with intention and purpose.  Maybe like me, you yearn for someone to understand the strangeness of stumbling for coffee and trying to piece together a seemingly sloppy mess of moments into a story leading little souls to the feet of Jesus…shaping the next generation with the same handful of moments that can so easily be shaped by prolonged fatigue, grumpiness, and the inexplicable experience of “mommy brain.” All we’ve learned about life and faith and work seems to short-circuit in days of pure survival with tiny people.

And yet, our lives will be made up of a series of these mostly ordinary moments.  What might it look like to live these moments fully alive?  What might it mean to find God in the mess, instead of waiting for the mountaintop?

 

The days of a mother are full of things to distract us or keep us from the gift… I have to think that the secret to joy is not in pretending they aren’t there.  I have to believe that a feeling of purpose and fulfillment is not in finding enough affirmation.   I think the joy and peace and purpose we long for are just on the other side of surrender.

The key to unlocking joy and abundance in the midst of this motherhood thing – it lies hidden within our deepest cries and our desperate longings.

 

I believe God whispers to our hearts in the places that cry out the loudest.

 

As I open my ears to hear, I begin to notice God’s gentle whisper beckoning me to his heart – into deeper intimacy with Him – through the very things I thought were there to steal my joy.  I invite you to tune in and listen to how God is calling to your heart right in the middle of your mess…

As your human limits slap you right across the face…when two eyes, two ears, two hands are never enough to meet all of the needs… When you crash into bed like a force of nature despite the mound of things you “should” be doing…  When fatigue, lack of control, the inability to “fix it” for your kids overwhelm you… May these things drive you to submit to God’s infinite wisdom and sovereignty.  Through our fleshy and finite humanness, God calls us to know his omnipotent kingship.  God beckons our hearts through our weakness.

As you feel claustrophobic with small people hanging on you or talking ceaselessly, may you feel wooed into the safety and quiet of God’s presence. There was a time it was sheer discipline to remember to seek quiet in my day… it now feels like survival. I think of Jesus with the sick and desperate crowding against him as I feel the constant needs of my children assailing me. I think of newlywed days in a crowd and wishing to be alone with my love. God calls to our hearts through the pressure of our days…may you feel the longing ache to draw away and be alone with Him, the Lover of your soul. God beckons our hearts through the relentless pressure. 

As your sense of identity seems to slip through your fingers…  When everyone talks to your baby as if you are merely a backdrop…  When no one notices that you never got to sit down for the meal… When so much of your life, worries and fears, longings and hopes, service and heartbreak – so much is unseen… may you hear God’s whisper that he sees.  We are drawn into a life of self-sacrifice, before one set of eyes, the eyes of Our Heavenly Father. We are invited into a secret romance with him, and it’s all a dance of worship. God beckons our hearts through invisibility.

For this generation, there is a relentless unspoken law of “good mom.”  When the expectations to do everything right are crushing you, and your constant failure bombarding you…  If you fail to be the mom you want to be, and you are haunted by the thought of sweet little eyes seeing you do it all wrong… may you be washed in the truth that our shepherding is about our imperfection pointing to the perfection of Jesus, our weakness pointing to Christ’s strength.  May you be beckoned by the whisper that says it’s all about grace.   God calls us to security and confidence based not in our performance, but in our identity as His daughter. We are transformed by a keen and constant understanding of our need, and an hourly dependence on our Rescuer Jesus.  God beckons our hearts through our failure.

When you are frustrated by your child’s agonizing slowness and distractibility… may you be beckoned by the invitation to wonder and delight.  When you struggle to get them to focus, may you melt into their intoxicating giggles.  Children are Jesus’ example of the liberation intended for our hearts.  We are invited back to the magic of a butterfly.  We are beckoned by an enthusiastic attitude of “Do it again!” We have a picture of the faith Jesus describes, in which our confidence comes from knowing we’re loved, not by our performance. Accepting grace comes easily, love is assumed.  They move slow, are open to interruptions, are infinitely forgiving.  This posture opens up endless possibilities for encountering the Spirit of God, living in gratitude.  Children delight in every little thing of God’s creation.  God beckons our hearts through our child’s eyes of unhurried wonder.

As parents, we have everything to lose.  Fear of real or imagined danger and loss can be debilitating.  Every time we must let our children go to some new adventure or unknown circumstance, it is as if our hearts are ripped right out and given legs.   We are all Abraham laying Isaac on the alter because we believe God keeps his promises, and have nowhere else to turn (Genesis 22).  We are all Jochabed putting Moses in a basket on the Nile because we have no other choice (Exodus 2).  We could let this feeling trap us and paralyze us from joy-filled living, or we can listen for the whisper that gently says “I set the stars in place (Job 9:9, Psalm 8:3).”  We could tune into the voice that says “I know every hair on their heads (Luke 12: 7).”  We could listen for the One who says “They can never leave my presence, and I am the only one able to hem them in (Psalm 139).”  Though we don’t have a promise for perpetual safety and ease, we have a promise that God is near, and God is good.  God beckons us through our desperation for His covering over our children.

Days and nights full of laundry and dishes and lunch boxes and diapers and driving…they have a mind-numbing repetitiveness.  We could spend them waiting bitterly for a better life to begin, but I’m beginning to see that the mindless tasks can become like repeating a worship refrain. As we build up our muscle memory for folding shirts and loading the dishwasher, we can build a spirit memory of openness and adoration.  We can fold a shirt giving thanks for the one who wears it.  We can pack the lunch or scrub the pot giving thanks for strong arms for our task.  God beckons us with the repetitive refrain of our day, inviting us to sing a song of worship with our hands.  

God is after your heart, Mama. I pray for eyes to see the wild pursuit.

 

CLICK HERE FOR YOUR FREE GIFT

 

 

 

 

 

Surprising joy when you feel you’ve lost your life

img_6239
My in-home expert on surprising joy

A seed falls, and we do not weep for the death…but rejoice for the promise of life to come.

There’s a beauty and a trust as we witness a dying that brings life. This is, perhaps, one of those sweet hints in nature that points to a deep truth that echoes throughout the earth and reverberates in our very souls. Nature gives way and, each year as the winter chill sets in, the death holds a promise. We wait. We eagerly expect. We anticipate with full confidence that new life will spring forth in due time. And we know that without the death, the life would be cut short, cheapened, lost. As nature sways with the secret winds of the One who made it, we watch and celebrate it’s majestic beauty.

Life from death.

In the same way, I walk in the hope that Jesus not only died to pay the penalty for my sin, but that he rose and is alive. And because he died, I have life. He came to serve and not to be served, and He leaves an example of a life of sacrifice that brings life.

Research has shown time and time again that the happiest people are the ones giving their lives and resources away to serve others.

But if I’m honest, I think I have had an idealized sense of what a life of service looks like. I’ve imagined that the kind of dying to self that makes us feel like we’re really living can only happen in the big things.

I’ve dreamed of missions and living among the poor. I’ve partnered with beautiful organizations doing beautiful world-changing things. I’ve grieved that I don’t have more capacity to serve now that I’m home with young kids. I still deeply treasure these opportunities to serve the poor and needy, and celebrate all those doing this significant work.

But I have thought less of life as a mom. It often feels small and insignificant. I have fought against the way it shrinks and simplifies my life, and I have sometimes been frustrated by the way it fills all of the spaces and leaves no room.  As we fight against it, and wish for bigger better things, we allow seeds of resentment and bitterness to be sown.

But, in the last couple years, the truth of the life I’m living as a mom has slapped me right across the face. Sometimes, quite literally. The truth is that mamas die a million small deaths all day long. Perhaps the life of service and sacrifice that I’ve dreamed about is right in front of my face. Perhaps leaning in and reconciling with the dying that fills my days could be the key to unlock the life I sometimes feel I’m missing.

Friends, we mamas might have all the worldly comforts that make us feel like our days should be easy.  We might enjoy the comforts of beautiful homes, and minivans, and organic meals, and Starbucks stops. But, there is no peace for the mama who won’t die a thousand times, on a thousand days.

As we are willing to die in every corner of ourselves, we open ourselves up to new and better and fuller life.

Perhaps not whipping my body into shape after giving birth is not a failure, but an opportunity to discover life and joy in the death of my vanity. Dying to self is giving your very body to be stretched and scarred and changed. I give my body.

Perhaps I’m not less-than because motherhood has killed brain cells. I have frantically looked for a child who I’m holding on my hip. True story. But perhaps my distraction and preoccupation is not a sign that I’m now less worthy. Dying to self is giving your mind to organize and facilitate seeing that the needs of everyone else in your home are met before your own. I give my mind.

Dying to self is cleaning the messes that threaten your basic human dignity – the ones that leave you looking for the emergency biohazard hotline.  I give my dignity.

A place in me that once cared about some respectable thing now holds the lyrics to the Wild Kratts theme song. Dying to self is giving yourself to care about the little things…the names of all the dinosaurs, the microscopic boo-boos, the math homework. I give my interest.

I can feel embarrassed by my swift tears or sudden panic when it comes to my children. But dying to self is giving your heart to care about the big things…the illnesses and injuries that make our heart stop, the heartbreak and the grief of watching your children suffer or be in danger. It’s the giving of your heart in a way that you can never take back. The giving to a love that makes your heart beat right out of your chest, and makes you feel wildly alive and wildly in danger of being crushed. I give my heart.

The daily grind of chores doesn’t make my life small. Dying to self is giving all of the in-between moments to launder and clean and feed. I give my hands.

Dying to self is letting your family change and shape your goals and dreams, whether you are working tirelessly juggling work and home, or you’ve given up a hard-earned career to stay home.   I give my dreams.

Dying to self is being the rock against which my children can crash the wild waves of growing up. Dying to self is keeping steady for their uninhabited and unfiltered and underdeveloped BIG feelings to find their boundaries in the safety of my arms. I give my comfort.

Dying to self is looking with grace-filled eyes after being slapped across the face by a tiny person. It’s shepherding in love after being yelled at for some horror like offering the wrong lollipop color. I give my pride.

Only as I lean in and give myself away can I find peace and freedom. If God sees me, and I’m within his call to the life of sacrifice, I don’t need to fight to be seen. I don’t need to resent my husband for his freedom to leave the house, or my children for their ingratitude. There is a harmony in the song I’m singing.

And it all feels like worship.

My spirit gives a resounding “Yes!” to overseas missions and living among the poor. But I long to see us mamas shout a similar “Yes!” over the life of sacrifice that lies before us as we simply open our eyes in the morning (or in the night), with a willingness to do another day.

Nature points to this deep truth that we only find our life by giving it up. I long to see us fall each day like the seed, treasuring the promise that our death will bring new life.

As I talk with my mom friends, we still find ourselves feeling like being a mom is supposed to be easy and fun. The words of little old ladies who tell us with screaming toddler in grocery store line to “cherish every minute” echo in our heads. But I’ve watched my friends give up careers, and hobbies, and personal space, and clean shirts, and the last brownie. I’ve seen them die a million deaths. We get dirty with it.

And yet, somehow the world has us convinced that we’re doing it all wrong. Somehow we feel it doesn’t matter. We feel we need to do more, and better. And get out and serve in a way that counts.

Stepping into motherhood is risky in a ultimate sense. We allow the Lord to rip our heart out and give it legs. Ladies, this thing requires faith! I don’t say any of this out of pride, but to proclaim out loud that the devil, the Enemy of our hearts, has no right to steal the joy that comes from motherhood being a service unto the Lord.

If we are willing to lean into the life of self-sacrifice that is laid out before us, mamas, we can spend our lives in the sweetness of those feet-washing moments. You have an opportunity at every moment of the day to give your life away. And sister, your Father in heaven sees you!

The world fights against this motherhood thing with a force of self-indulgence and self- advancement. While some positions come with power, influence, lofty titles, impressive salaries, something to say at a cocktail party. Motherhood comes mostly with messes, failures and invisibleness. I think this is no surprise to God.

So, let’s let the seed fall. Let’s die the million deaths, on purpose. And let’s watch and wait as new life and joy spring up in your days.

fullsizerender-6
My dining room table is under there somewhere