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,