Saturday, February 25, 2017

Because "mother is a verb too"

This is a post I wrote for a friends' Facebook group W.R.I.T.E (Women Relating in Their Experiences). It's a subject that is near and dear to my heart, and it is obviously geared toward stay-at-home moms. I think it's important to note, though, that the work of "mothering" is not solely reserved for women who have pushed babies out of their bodies. I recently read a book by Gloria Furman called Missional  Motherhood. It was super encouraging and refreshingly written to all women - married, single, children, no children. Furman asserts that, regardless of life stage, we are all mothers to someone because, as she says, "mother is a verb too." I couldn't agree more.

Being a Stay-At-Home Mom: Delight or Drudgery?

I glanced up at the clock for the tenth time in as many minutes.

2:10 pm, it told me.

I knew that meant I had about an hour of nap time left before the "big" kids got up and would need a snack. It also meant there were roughly two hours until I needed to get dinner going and around four left until John came home to rescue, I mean help, me.

My gaze wandered to the window and the peacefully falling snow outside - a sharp contrast to the screaming baby upstairs who must not have received the quiet time memo. Have you ever noticed how much louder everything seems when you are expecting your home to be quiet? Over the next 15 minutes, I listened to doors opening that were supposed to be closed, tiny feet making impressively big noises as they bounded toward the bathroom, and one curious toddler's questions about what I could possibly be doing downstairs by myself.

I walked into the kitchen, looked over the dishes left from lunch and chuckled to myself as I thought back to a conversation with a  girlfriend about how, some days, it seems like we never leave the kitchen. Skipping the dishes, I walked upstairs to move the laundry over - flu season kills us in the clean bedsheets department. And so the day went on. The kids got up, we had snacks, did math lessons; there were toys to pick up, dishes to clean, shoes and coats to put on, babies to hold, floors to dry after shoes and coats came back inside, etcetera, etcetera. If you're a stay-at-home mom this probably sounds pretty familiar to you. It's true what they say, "The days are long, but the years are short." Some days just feel longer than others.

I knew this week, as I tried to write about finding delight in being a stay-at-home mom, that I would often struggle to feel delighted (Satan's smart and that's how he rolls). Of course I was right; John had to work extra-long hours, babies were sick, everyone was cranky and I found myself struggling to feel purposeful in what I was doing. In the midst of it all, I tried to hold on to something I've realized over the past several years - that my purpose, and therefore delight, in mothering is not found in the daily tasks that I do for my family, but in what you might call my "long game."

Focusing on the constant repetition of often mundane tasks (i.e. my short game), leaves me feeling less than fulfilled. In fact, considering how often I am redoing things that little hands have undone, it can leave me feeling downright frustrated and bitter. Don't get me wrong, certainly we should work to serve our families (as we should work to do anything) as though we are serving Jesus (Colossians 3:23). After all, Jesus himself came to serve and not be served (Matthew 20:28). But we are missing out on something glorious if this is where our vision for motherhood stops, if we neglect the full scope of what we are called to as mothers. Make no mistake about it, we have indeed been tasked with a great mission.

Enter the long game.

Jesus' last words to His disciples included the command to go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19). While many of us may never leave this country in the name of the gospel, let's not miss the fact that God has gifted us with tiny disciples in our very own homes. We have been assigned the awesome responsibility of raising up the next generation of people who passionately love Jesus. I hope you can pause for a moment and appreciate the weighty privilege that statement holds. The knowledge of it should shape every moment of your day - even the mundane ones. When I get up and go about the business of mothering, I need to have the end goal in mind - I want my children to know and love Jesus, not on a superficial level, but in a heart-changing, life-affecting way that shades every corner of their lives. This is what it means to work on my long game; I'm working today for who they will be tomorrow.

I can start by praying for them; we know, after all, that heart change can only come from God (Ezekiel 36:26).

I can also flood my own mind with scripture - reading it, listening to it, memorizing it, meditating on it throughout the day - until I say, as David did, that God's words are "sweeter than honey to my mouth" (Psalm 119:103). I can only pour over my children that which already fills me.

And I can teach them. Deuteronomy 11:19 instructs us to teach our children all of God's words, "talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise." So when we're hanging out at home, when we're on the go, when we go to bed and when we wake up - that's literally all the time. Why? Because God wants our children to remember Him, to know Him. At this point I will shamelessly hijack a line from Andy Mineo (look him up, you're welcome): your life is the first Bible that your children will ever see. What is it telling them?

Mothers, you are molders of the future. I pray the importance of what you are called to is not lost on you. From your arms will rise the leaders, the activists, the missionaries, the world-changers, the JESUS-LOVERS of tomorrow. You should take great delight in fulfilling that purpose.

But you should also know that this is not your greatest life calling. Your primary and ultimate purpose in life is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever (Romans 11:36, 1 Corinthians 10:31, John 17:21-23). If our greatest joy is found in fulfilling our ultimate purpose, then there can be no greater joy than that found in knowing Jesus. When shifting circumstances cause your feet to falter, the future hope that is found in Him is steadfast. When every area of your life is in flux, or when you find yourself stuck in stagnant routine, He is the rock that grounds you; His is the voice that calls you out of the mire. True joy that transcends circumstance is bound up in the person of Jesus and the knowledge that this life is but a vapor, appearing for a little time and then vanishing away (James 4:14). The ultimate long game, then, is an eternal one - living our lives today in light of who we will be tomorrow.

With that, I will leave you with words far wiser than my own, "Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Christ" (1 Peter 1:13). Peace and joy, sisters.