The Ministry of Motherhood

For my friends struggling to remember the beauty and the call that is motherhood, this was written for you. I am cheering you on wildly and loudly...


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I’m not sure when it happened, but at some point over the last several years, I became dissatisfied with motherhood.  That’s a harsh statement against myself, I know, but there it is. Please don’t misread what I’m saying.  I love my kids.  But I had gotten bored, even frustrated, with the day-to-day tasks of mothering: the laundry, the dishes, the carpool lines, the cleaning, and then waking up only to do the same things all over again.  It went beyond having “one of those days,” the ones that all stay-at-home-parents eventually have, and it evolved into this steady, embarrassingly resentful attitude that would bristle every time I saw the laundry piling up or the dishes that needed to get put away or the sticky counters that needed cleaning.  Little reminders that our kids are still small enough that they need me in a very tangible way around our house. 

I couldn’t figure out why I felt caught in this rut.  These were, after all, things I’d done for years. Things I’d done quite happily, I might add. And these were the kids we’d prayed for long before conception; after losing 3 pregnancies and wondering if we’d ever even have a family, you’d think I’d have a better attitude about the whole motherhood thing.  But as I said before, love me or not, there it is.

I did all that I knew to do once I recognized that these unwelcome feelings were sticking around: daily, I would beg the Lord for fresh passion and renewed vision for my place in our home. I didn’t want to be doing all the right things while feeling emotionally bankrupt doing them.  And I knew it was nothing I could pep-talk my way out of and no amount of “self-love” could overcome it. I knew intrinsically that Jesus was the answer, the only answer, and that he’d have to meet me in my brokenness as he’s done so many times before.

Meanwhile, as I was struggling to find my footing at home, I was beginning to write and teach on a regular basis for our church’s women’s ministry. I was asked to serve in a leadership capacity and, for the first time in over a decade, I was able to use gifts that had laid dormant.  It was an incredible moment for me as a stay-at-home mom (who had all but forgotten if I was even good at anything anymore besides packing lunches and running carpool lines) when along came other women who saw me, pointed out gifts they identified in me, and didn’t just speak life into my calling, but gave me an opportunity to actually step into it. But it was also an odd feeling, having so much renewed life breathed into one part of my soul while simultaneously feeling it slowly seep out from another part.

For months, I could feel the tug-of-war happening deep inside, all the while feeling like motherhood was one world and ministry was another and I was constantly trying (and failing) to reconcile them to one another.  I couldn’t have guessed that the Lord was trying to teach me something deeply profound, something that would re-shape my view of both motherhood and ministry.

It wasn’t until last summer that God pieced all of these moving parts together.

On a hot July day, I found myself in North Carolina sitting in what would be the last class of a three-day ministry conference.  Over 650 women were in attendance, but only a handful showed up to this particular classroom.  It was entitled “How to Juggle Motherhood and Ministry Without Losing Your Joy.”  I signed up for this class because obviously I had some things to deal with.  And it was here, in this small room on the other side of the continent from my precious family, where God etched deep truths into my heart he’d been hinting at for months.  It was as if he was telling me Elita, it is not ministry or motherhood.  It is the ministry of motherhood. For some reason, I’d separated the two – one seemed holy, the other seemed ordinary. And the Lord reminded me that not only is motherhood the holiest ministry he’s given me, he also convicted me that I had been despising the very thing he was using to develop me.  

 Do you know the definition of ministry? It is “a person or thing through which something is accomplished.” 

 I don’t know your story.  I’m guessing that most of you aren’t in church ministry.  But, like me, maybe you have a degree that isn’t being used and you’re slightly afraid you’ll be a washed-up 30-something year old looking for a job at the mall one day because your resume is a little dusty.  Or maybe you have a skill set that has been firmly set on the sidelines because you have babies at home.  Perhaps you stepped away from a job you actually really loved because your kids need you at home for this season.  And, like me, maybe you have been struggling to find joy in the everyday, ordinary tasks that motherhood asks of us.  Oh friend. I wish I could lean over there, hug your neck, look you in the eye and remind you to keep going.  Yours is a sacred and holy calling, a role designed specifically for you that no one else can fill. God wants to accomplish something in your home and in your kids through you.  Yes, there is laundry to be done and dishes to be washed and dinner to be made. But there are also little lives depending on us to embrace this ministry of motherhood - a whole generation of wayward hearts is looking to us to shepherd them toward a holy God.   

Even so, it can be hard to feel left behind or set aside as others seem to be launching ahead in their careers or passionately chasing their dreams.  But I love Ecclesiastes 3 because it reminds me that God is a God of seasons:

 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
 a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
 a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
 a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
 a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
 a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

... He has made everything beautiful in its time. 

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8; 11

 God wants us to trust him in the planting and the uprooting, the breaking down and the building up.  And he wants you and I to trust him with this slower paced season of motherhood. It is a beautiful gift and a holy calling. And while we never stop being mamas, there will be a day when our kids are grown and they’ll need us a little less. We’ll get to go to the bathroom by ourselves and drink hot coffee again.

But in the meantime. Let us stop looking at what we can’t do in this season and start looking at what we can do. Let us remember these slow days of chubby fingers learning to hold crayons; let us remember the potty training and the diaper changes; let us remember first days of school and packing lunch boxes; let us remember the crazy days of driving from one sports arena to the next; let us remember the family movie nights and the pancake breakfasts.  And let us not forget that even in these seemingly mundane things, God desires to write a beautiful story through the pages of our lives.  Oh, that we would be brave enough to trust him to write it.

 

Cheering you on in this sacred ministry of motherhood,

E

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The Unknowns and the In-Betweens

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"You're pregnant."

Wait. What?  I sit there stunned and confused weighing what I've just heard from my doctor.  I can't be pregnant. I know this for a fact because 3 years ago, after my daughter was born prematurely when my uterus almost gave out, the surgeon removed any possibility of me ever having kids again. Like they literally told me I had a zero % chance of having kids again.  And I'm quick to tell this to the man dressed in scrubs sitting across from me. "I can't be pregnant," I say. "It's impossible."

He gives me a sideways glance over the top of his thick black-framed glasses, a look that suggests he's somewhat annoyed I'm arguing with his diagnosis, and, a-little-too-casually for my liking, he exhales and says, "Well, it must be a miracle then."   

Now this is where things get a little bit hairy.  Everything went blurry and the next thing I know I'm home with Ryan, my husband, trying to convince him that we should place this baby in an adoptive home.  Feeling overwhelmed and completely unequipped for a 5th child, I try to phrase my argument well.  But Ryan, who was equally overwhelmed but not nearly as crazy, isn't having any of it. He is appalled that I would even suggest such a thing. Feeling temporarily overwhelmed is not a legitimate reason to put a baby up for adoption, he tells me.  But I am not deterred. I am angry.  Angry at this curve-ball.  Angry at myself for feeling weak. Angry at Ryan for being so calm.  Angry at my uterus, which apparently decided to start working again.  "We know so many wonderful people who would love this baby," I whine. "We just can't do this. I can't do this. But there are so many others that could. Let's give the baby to someone who can handle this."  

And that's when I woke up.  Yes, it was just a dream.  Although when I told Ryan about it later that morning, I definitely called it a nightmare.  I wasn't upset because I'd been pregnant in the dream.  I was upset because of my response to being pregnant. I couldn't believe how easily I'd been willing to put our miracle-baby up for adoption.  I mean, what? Just WHAT.  Honestly, I was scolding my dream-self for giving up so easily.  

And then, as is usually the case with me and dreams, I forgot about it.  Until that afternoon when a certain package arrived in the mail from Similac.  I half-laughed, half-cried when I opened the box and saw 2 cans of infant formula with a card that said "Welcome to parenthood!"  WHAT. IS.HAPPENING.   I mean, seriously, what are the chances. It was almost too much.  Almost.

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WHAT EVEN.

 

Allow me to give you a little back-story: In January, while on an anniversary trip with my husband, I felt the Lord speak.  It wasn't audible and it wasn't solicited - I wasn't in the middle of praying or reading my Bible.  But once you've been walking with the Lord for a while, you begin to recognize his voice in the ordinariness of life.  And so out of nowhere, and yet crystal clear, I felt the Lord tell me that this was a year for new things.  The word "new" became my anthem for 2018. 

When we came back from our trip, Ryan and I were ready to hit the ground running.  But instead of running, it felt like we screeched to a halt.  Our regular rhythms and routines were interrupted.  Nothing happened, mind you.  But again, after you've been walking with the Lord for some time, you begin to recognize when he's moving.  Not in big, obvious ways; just simply that he's moving -- moving his hand from one thing and placing it on another.  And it's been uncomfortable. I've cried the ugly cry.  It's felt heavy and lonely and I've become strangely quiet.  Because, honestly, I'm not sure what else to do when life feels unsettled.  When we've been asked to step out of one thing without knowing where to step into.  These unknowns and in-betweens.  It's where we have been living these last few months. 

And then in the middle of it all, a strange dream about getting pregnant.  A dream I couldn't shake for weeks. 

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Finally, I asked the Lord about it.  It's like he'd been waiting for me to ask him because I immediately sensed a clear answer from him: Elita, I told you that this was a year for new things. New beginnings. And there is always an element of pain and discomfort that comes when you are about to birth something new.  You can try to resist this.  You can try to give this new thing away to other people - people that you feel can handle it or are better qualified for it.  Or you can trust me with the process and receive it.

Over the next several days, God confirmed every bit of that word - down to minute details - through people and through Scripture.  

I don't think I would have shared this little saga except for the fact that I've talked to quite a few women lately who seem to be in a similar place in their lives.  Like me, they feel that they are in this strange in-between season where they don't know what God is doing.  Only that he is doing something new.  

So if I could encourage anyone who finds themselves in unfamiliar territory, I'd say this: KEEP PRESSING IN and KEEP PRESSING ON.  Don't do what I did in my dream - don't try to resist this new thing that God is birthing in you. Don't try to give it away, thinking you are unequipped or unable.  Trust God with the process - even when it feels lonely and the road feels narrow and you are just flat worn-out.  Don't retreat.  Don't withdraw.  Follow hard after God - into the unknowns and the uncomfortable.  And then before you know it, you will have given birth to something beautiful-- something that is only earned on the other side of learning to trust God through the pain. 

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