On the anniversary of becoming a mama

Posted on September 21, 2016

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(Also known as Valencia’s birthday)

Four years ago Valencia made me a mama.

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My heart swelled to hold this little 5.5 lb bundle, and I started on a new journey. I remember clearly knowing that motherhood would change me. But to be quite honest, I think I assumed the change would be kinda a one time thing. Like, Valencia would be born, I would take a few months to adjust, and after a bit of stumbling I would arrive at my stride. I would somehow transform into this beautiful butterfly gently guiding my children through life with an abundance of patience, wisdom, and tissue-paper crafts. Um….so real shocker, THAT never happened. Four years later and I still feel like I have not hit my stride.

Many days I feel like a ketchup bottle that is being squeezed, shaken, whacked on the counter and jabbed into with a butter knife, even though I am clearly out of ketchup. Often by 10 am, I find myself thinking, “Patience? Used up. Wisdom? Nope, none of that either. Crafts? That would require creative thinking (and planning) which also is apparently gone, gone, gone.”

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But I have recently (and very slowly) begun to be thankful. And I don’t just mean thankful for my daughters who I am in love with and in whom I take great delight multiple moments throughout the day. This kind of love for them, the beauty of watching them grow and getting to snuggle and tell stories, and get messy baking cookies together— this kind of beauty, I fully expected. This is easy to feel thankful for. Rather, it is a whole different kind of beauty that I am starting to see.

My two companions

(P.S. anyone read the book Hinds Feet in High Places? Despite what Tolkein might say, I love allegories. I need things spelled out for me. The author has her main character, Much-Afraid, traveling on a journey to reach the high places, and she is given two companions, Sorrow and Suffering. These unlikely companions given to her by the Chief Shepherd end up being her great helpers on the journey.)

I, too, have been given some companions for my journey. Constant Sacrifice and Perpetual Sense of Incompetence.  I don’t feel like the constant need to sacrifice is something that I have willingly chosen as some noble and virtuous path. Rather I feel it has been thrust upon me in a way that has continued to shatter my self-oriented life. Neither do I feel like I have, in a striking move of genuine humility, willing lowered myself to a place of acknowledging my own limitations and human weakness. Nope, my sense of incompetence is something I have labored to avoid, thinking that if only I read the right book, talked to the right parent who had it all together, or if I am merely consistent enough, then everything will smooth out and I won’t constantly feel like I am botching this whole parenting thing.

No, these traveling companions were given to me. And as much as I might try to leave them at a rest stop or shove them off a perilous cliff, they are annoyingly persistent.

For many months (years? perhaps even now) I have tried so hard to avoid sacrifice and to do anything to feel competent. It’s exhausting. I’ve been chasing a mirage. The illusion of the perfectly organized, peaceful home, with children who always listen the first time, and never demand more than I have to give. I’m finally ready to stop chasing that mirage and press into the beautiful, messy, hard, not back and white life of a parent of little ones.

I am ever so slowly  becoming thankful for what is happening to me and in me because of these companions. Being forced to daily sacrifice and feeling incompetent are perhaps even gifts. Given by a Giver who is far more concerned with my knowing His care for me, than in having everything be easy. And believe me there are many days in which I would still rather opt for “easy.” But then I am given moments in which, stretched beyond myself, feeling totally unqualified for what is before me, I get to experience being carried along, cared for and loved. Loved despite my often unlovely attitudes toward my kids. Cared for in the moments when I am least exhibiting care for my kids. Carried along, when I find myself no longer caring about about anything other than making it to the end of the day. And those moments, are the ones that are actually changing me. These companions for my journey were given to me for my benefit, for my transformation.

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I’ve realized I have had my verb tenses all wrong.

I thought I would be able to say after a few months into this parenting gig, “Parenting HAS changed me.” The reality is, “Parenting IS changing me.” (At least I think it is, though sometimes it is so slow and any change feels imperceptible, or I totally lose it and flip out on my kids, and I wonder if I’ve changed at all.)

I find great relief in remembering that I don’t need to oversee and evaluate my every move as though I am the chair-person for my own self-help project. That while I am certainly a willing and necessary participant, I am not the writer of my story. Words like these give me great hope. “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Phil 1:6

I am a work in progress. A reality that is both discouraging (because I’d really like to just have it all together right now, thank you very much) and incredibly freeing (you mean I don’t have it all together!? What a relief!)

And maybe I’m not the only one. Maybe some of you are in a place of chasing the illusion of your ideal life, your ideal self, and you are daily experiencing disappointment. Disappointment with your circumstances, the people around you, with yourself. Who are the traveling companions that have been given to you? Is is possible that they could be a gift?

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