Monday, November 18, 2013

Being the mama

I am blessed to know a lot of young mamas. Women who are in the thick of wiping dirty bottoms and feeding seemingly insatiable little mouths and never getting enough sleep.

Women who look back at their carefree lives before babies entered the picture and wonder if they will ever feel the same youthful easy-going freedom they used to enjoy.

Women who probably never feel good enough for the task at hand.

Raising those babies.

It's overwhelming and exhausting and staggering and breathtaking, this motherhood thing.

I remember so many times being completely at the end of my rope. So tired. Worried. Empty. And yet the gift of being the one who brought ultimate comfort and completion somehow sustained me through the dark hours when I knew I simply had nothing else to give. And yet I gave. And gave. And gave.

Mothering is all about giving yourself away.

Holding and loving and comforting and giving... leaning into the huge role of being the mom... regardless of whether I feel like it or not... it stretches us beyond ourselves and pulls back the curtain to reveal a supernatural strength we never knew we had.

And somehow - all that giving gives back. Because it reveals a depth of character - a wisdom - a crazy-amazing woman deep within who most-likely would never have emerged if she had never had to lay down her self over and over and over again.

I am also blessed to know a large number of older moms. Moms whose nests are empty. And who wear a gentle, soft, graceful understanding that exudes peace and contentment. They are full of experiences that culminate in a quiet serenity.

I would venture to guess this demeanor comes from years of letting go.

Letting go of sleep and discovering how amazing our bodies are and how they can just keep going...
Letting go of vanity and understanding that true beauty is manifested in the little things... like the sweet pulsing lips of a sleeping infant.
Letting go of expectations and fully accepting the little people we raise as they are.
Letting go of perfection.
Letting go of control - recognizing all we really can control is our reaction to our circumstances and that peaceful acceptance goes a lot further than resistance.
Letting go of independence and discovering the blessing of true connection.

I am sure there are women whose reaction to all this talk of letting go immediately go to a place of resistance - fearing they are somehow going to get lost in the process. Who have bought into the modern lie that they can 'have it all...' That somehow mothering is just another thing on the success checklist.
  • Career: check.
  • Successful husband: check.
  • Beautiful home: check.
  • Perfect body: check.
  • Self-care: check.
  • Personal fulfillment: check.
  • Amazing, pride-building, well-rounded kids: check.
Except what I've discovered is that it doesn't really work that way. The more I hang onto the way I think it should be, the less it turns out that way. And the more I let go and give it away, the more I'm able to relax into the way it is actually turning out. And remarkably, the way it turns out is WAY better than the way I thought it needed to be.

In my experience, the checklist ended up something like this:
  • Career: never wanted one. Somehow still ended up with the perfect job at the perfect stage in my mothering with incredible flexibility and a mind-blowing level of personal fulfillment. More than I EVER could have hoped for and not even something I thought I wanted.
  • Successful husband: trusting Asia to be a good decision maker in this arena and believing that ultimately God is our provider, we have more than we ever need and are amazed at how trusting God for provision has ultimately led to amazingly fulfilling 'jobs' for both of us and a crazy awareness of how blessed we are to make money doing what we love.
  • Beautiful home: it's certainly not model home or Pinterest perfect. But it's a place of comfort for hundreds of people who have landed here at some time or another - either for an evening on the couch or a meal around the kitchen table or a longer term space to call home. Our home is beautiful because of the souls who have passed through it - all of whom have enriched us as a family. I am a terrible housekeeper, but I've learned people who need a 'place' aren't concerned with my cleaning abilities. Allowing people into my imperfect space with it's worn out carpet and it's dust bunnies is humbling and real and the freedom to be honest about what life looks like here has somehow made our home ridiculously comfortable/comforting.
  • Perfect body: I could go on and on about this one. Learning to love my body not for how it looks but for what it can do is an ongoing lesson for me. Learning to nurture and care for myself and lean into my imperfection as part of what makes me special and unique - to view myself as my kids and husband do - and trust that depth of character is what makes a woman beautiful... this is ongoing.
  • Self-care: learning how to make space and time for myself in a healthy, balanced way is a huge part of feeling cared for. Instead of hoping someone else will take care of me I've learned how to say no - and how to give myself permission to rest instead of always straining and striving. It's natural for women to always be running and responding to whatever urgent need presents itself... and I'm discovering the value in understanding I am not the only solution to all those problems - and that taking time to be still gives me an important presence of mind to handle it all with grace.
  • Personal fulfillment: the less I worry about my own needs, it seems the more fulfilled I am. Trusting God to take care of me and help deepen my understanding of how my needs are met is a huge, developing part of my story. Allowing God to mold and shape me instead of trying to cram myself into my shallow understanding of what I think I need is always more comfortable. It may feel painful in the process but the end result is incredibly right
  • Amazing kids: again - letting go of this one and allowing my kids to become who God created them to be - whether that looks anything like my definition or not - has allowed my kids to develop into the most incredible, unique beings. Resisting the pressure to push them into every enrichment possibility gave them permission to learn to say yes - and no - and discover themselves. It means I've had to stop my self-serving desire to show off my kids' abilitites and instead celebrate who they are - not who I wish they were.
I believe motherhood has taught me all of this and more.

It hasn't been easy. In fact, it's the hardest thing I've ever done.

But it's SO good. The sleepless nights and the anxiety and the boredom and the frustration have all played their part in gently leading me to this place where I find myself. Jesus promises to take us to green pastures. To lead us to quiet waters. To restore our souls. And he does. Mothering shows me my need for that guidance and protection. It blatantly exposes my fear and then gently comforts me. And it mercifully fashions my heart and being into something beautiful and honorable.

What an amazing gift it is, being the mama...

2 comments:

  1. You are amazing, Cathy! So inspiring! I wish we could spend more time together so I could be reminded of these things more often. I love your blog!

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  2. Great!! Cathy, you captured the spirit of what mothering is - the laying down and giving that so fills and fulfills us. The dying to self is how we grow in Christ-likeness and I think if I had never been blessed to be a mom how small and selfish I may have remained.

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