I leaned close to her face and kissed her nose.
Her hair sprawled out on the rug all around her, a halo of chocolate.
She smiled, her face morning soft and her hand stole around my neck.
“You are my chocolate bar,” I whispered, and her eyes sparkled.
She and her blond sister look so different that we tease them about being chocolate and caramel, equally delicious but individual as can be.
The winter wonderland outside pressed hard on the window panes, but the roaring flames in the fireplace fought back, warm winning in this old farmhouse. I reached for my coffee cup, half drunk. I always take my time, both because I burn my mouth so quickly, and because I love to prolong the warm goodness as long as I can. So long, in fact, my husband shakes his head sadly and hands me his favorite mug, now empty, long before I’m done.
My chocolate girl pulls her beloved blanket up over her face, entirely hidden except her fingers “cornering” the worn corners out the top. She has bonded with this blanket, found comfort in an addicting sort of way. Skip the pacifier- we’ve hauled this lovely but chunky blanket everywhere we have taken this child; on the road trip from the east coast to the west, in planes and busses in Central America.
When the house is too quiet for too long, I’ll regularly find her sprawled on the floor somewhere, cuddled up to the blanket, her thumb in her mouth and fingers strumming against the corner. And while it is horribly convenient, I’ll be honest- I’ve felt guilty. Somehow this blanket provides the constant comfort and stability that I somehow feel as her mother, I should be doing. If I were a perfect mother, she wouldn’t find the need to put herself down for a nap in a random room- I’d already have sensed she was exhausted and tucked her in.
I set my coffee cup down on the hearth, and she pulls me close.
“I love you more…”
Her squishy little arms wrap around my neck and pull me in.
“I love you too,” I whisper back, “more than french fries!”
She squirms happily, unaware that this mommy of hers faces a giant taunting lies and hurling insults every day.
I was unprepared for this thing of mommy guilt.
While I soaked in the intoxicating delight of my first baby, I didn’t hear the tidal wave of expectations and “a good mom will…” rising heaven high and ready to crash at my back door. I didn’t even realize they were there, those sinister voices, and dark faces, peering in my windows at night and standing over me in bed, till my little brood grew from one to three. By then, the rows of cloth diapers flapping in organized, color coded lines in the breeze gave way to bulging trash cans of loaded disposable bombs, waiting for trash day. The prepared and pre-thought dinners moved out and quick, thrown together breakfasts for supper moved in.
It is always wise to listen to those who have moved on from your season of life and glean what they have learned. The gray-headed couple in the grocery store pause as my little parade passes, two in the cart, two trailing behind.
“Awwww, these are the best years of your life,” they nod. Their eyes glitter at the memory of their own wild escapades, and smile encouragingly, “Have fun!”
I’ll take that any day over the negative, “Oh my GOODNESS! You have your hands FULL!” with the rolling eyes. Folks, I only have four. I grew up in a family of six kids; this is NOTHING. Children are stereotyped into a negative ball of work and sacrifices, how
hard these little beasts make life.
Let’s be honest- these may be the best years of my life, but man alive, they are the hardest. But negative comments? I don’t need to hear them.
Our house is a home, not a battlefield. Our family is filled with precious children and unique individuals who each add a valuable and irreplaceable element to our home. And while I take deep breaths and give myself mental pep talks each day, we don’t need any more loud sighs or pessimistic observations, thank you.
I know it’s not easy, as I kneel next to the heaving figure as they deposit everything they ate yesterday into the toilet bowl. The small shoulders shudder, she gasps for air. “Good job!” I whisper, as if anyone ever throws up well. I offer a warmed washcloth, and she wipes her mouth of the acidic residue. What I really mean to say is, “I’m sorry, honey. I wish I could take this for you. I’m here for you.” Instead I stroke her back, and she glances my way with tear-filled eyes, gratefully.
No one wants to watch someone throw up.
No one wants to strip off the dripping clothes and address the explosion that Huggies couldn’t contain.
No one wants to make supper, and clean it up too.
But we take the fresh smelling baby, and deal with the disaster in the bathroom that comes from bath time. We embrace the giggles, and wink at the hours of an upset stomach.
As much as the grocer rolled her eyes and whispered words of pity, I wouldn’t trade my life for her quiet one. Her evenings alone in front of the TV have nothing over our afternoons at the park, or evening reading times, little arms laced around my neck.
Even the difficult moments are good, when I look deep in my heart and see how my own anger lashed out and slapped words of anger at my 9-year-old, who is facing the rough waters of child-meets-man. It’s here that I meet my need for God, again.
Motherhood has stripped me raw and naked, and I stand gasping, seeing my own need for grace. My need for God to fill this person, all too quick to speak and too slow to listen.
Have you ever watched the lady at the park walking her dog, her perfectly exercised body and french manicured nails whispering that her’s is a life as it should be. I look down at the hands pushing the swing and see a body that has carried little ones, has grown people, has held people. I feel insufficient. I feel like I don’t measure up. My own expectation of perfection higher than I will ever be able to reach.
But I’m learning to stop there, and spit back. Spit at the lies, laugh in the face of tomorrow. You see, mothering IS hard. But it is such a special season, a gift, really. Little feet that come running to me first, because my arms offer the safest place on earth.
David wasn’t even a grown man when he stepped out onto that battlefield. Behind him, a row of resentful and mocking brothers was no support. But David gripped the leather strap and fingered the smooth river stones and walked ahead confidently. He had learned to listen to the right voice. To act on truth and not the undermining agenda of the enemy of doubt.
Because David knew his God, he moved from a cowering little child to an offensive, dangerous soldier who could reek havoc on the enemies plans. Instead of tucking tail and running from the conflict, David dropped the all too heavy armor of expectations, and faced the battle in the unique way God had prepared him. All those months in the desert watching the flocks, listening to God and singing back to Him suddenly became the foundational training ground for today.
“You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin,
but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts,
the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.
This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand,
and I will strike you down and cut off your head.
And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth,
that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel,
and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear.
For the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hand.”
God is calling us to be powerful mothers.
Women who can stand up to the lies of the enemy and come back with the word of God. Mothers who know their own needs, yet lean hard into the force of grace, and walk in the power of God flowing through them. It is not because of who we are that we pose a serious threat, but because of who we are looking to.
Your enemies today are not the little children in your home. The laundry and dishes and dirty floors aren’t even the foes. This place is your training ground. Recognize the darts of the enemy.
“You are a failure,” fell silent on Moses’ ears when he followed God’s call back into Egypt, the place from which he had fled.
“You are too inexperienced,” meant nothing to David, the boy shepherd, because he was listening to God, who was reminding him of a dead lion and bear.
“You are just a watchmaker,” slowed to a stop in Corrie Ten Boom’s heart as she leaned into what she knew God was asking her to do, and stowed valuable souls into her bedroom closet.
“You are an angry person.”
“You never had a good relationship with your own mom, how can you be a good one to your kids?”
“Your years of sin and depravity disqualify you from being able to teach your children to walk in truth.”
The lies are endless. And they are powerless if you choose not to listen.
Fill your mind with truth. Arm yourself with weapons that will cut down the enemy.
Jesus’s words to those who had believed him were these:
“If you abide in my word,
you are truly my disciples,
and you will know the truth,
and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-36)
This is what He created us to be.
Free from lies, and free to throw our arms wide and embrace who He says we are.
Free to love lavishly, and pour our lives out with purpose.
Free to be a good mother.
That’s what happens.
We go from cowering in assumed failure, to standing tall and strong, confident in who God is.
By knowing Him, and letting His word live and breathe in our hearts, the truth of it all sets us free.