Saturday, September 22, 2018

Loving Motherhood

I have officially been a stay-at-home mom for over nine years now. It has simultaneously been very fulfilling yet very draining, very lovely yet very messy, completely natural but at times completely overwhelming. In short, I affectionately refer to it as the beautiful chaos of my life! In fact, I am currently sitting in my favorite coffee shop, slowly typing with one finger as I try to nurse and comfort my fussy baby. My stomach is rumbling for the lunch in front of me that I hope to eat before it gets cold, and I am hoping she cooperates enough for me to craft the words that have been flowing through my heart and mind all morning. I sure do love this little lady!

As a full-time mommy, I am so keenly aware of a mother's need for encouragement. I am always on the look-out for that which will strengthen and inspire me in this most worthy calling. A few years ago I was blessed to stumble across an amazing ministry called Above Rubies, founded by Nancy Campbell, committed to "strengthening families around the world" by offering encouragement to women as wives, mothers, and homemakers. I truly discovered a treasure! Since then I have regularly read their articles, read (and re-read) several of Mrs. Campbell's books, and subscribed to their free magazine which comes out a handful of times each year. I have never felt so affirmed as a mother!

Recently I was given the privilege of sharing an article in the most recent edition of the Above Rubies magazine. My piece was entitled "They Could Never Guess" and is a condensed version of the chapter "God's Formula" from my book Reflections from Holland: A New Mother's Journey with Down Syndrome. What a gift and a joy it was to be able to add my voice to this beautiful ministry to women!

As I stated earlier, motherhood is both a rewarding and difficult occupation, but it is a high-calling deserving of the utmost respect. Each little child is an eternal soul entrusted to us to raise and nurture. Mother's are truly shaping the next generation. Sadly, we live in a culture that has progressively devalued the significance of motherhood.  On several occasions, Mrs. Campbell has written about her observation that, while all mothers love their children, many mothers sadly do not love motherhood. The two are not completely synonymous. To truly love motherhood, we must have a deep sense of purpose and vision for the task before us, even in the midst of the repetitive and the mundane. Loving motherhood involves living with intention and dying to ourselves on a daily basis as we love, teach, and nurture with joy these vulnerable, little human beings given into our care. Loving motherhood means not viewing our children as an inconvenience but as the great purpose of our lives. Loving motherhood means recognizing that there is nothing more significant that we can be pouring our time and energy into during this season of life while our children are being raised in our homes. 

I deeply love my four children Benjamin, Joelle, Josiah, and Ava. Over the last nine years I am learning more and more to truly love my motherhood, even those portions which cause me to grieve. Embracing motherhood takes on unique dynamics and struggles when raising a child with special needs. The demands are oftentimes greater. The progress is most definitely slower. By this I mean that the natural progression of childhood and maturity is much more drawn out and sometimes halted altogether. The "season" of childhood may in fact be a lifelong one as the child's physical body grows into adolescence and adulthood but the mind and emotions do not. The "empty nest" will most likely never come, and, when we're really honest with ourselves, the future can sometimes look bleak. "Will he ever be able to talk?" "Will we still be changing diapers when he's a teenager or an adult?" "Will I still be singing The Wheels on the Bus and Patty-Cake to make him smile another ten years from now?" "What will happen if we reach a point where we are no longer physically able to care for him?" The unknowns and fears can quickly creep in and suffocate us if these thoughts are not taken captive and given to the Lord. We do not know what the future path will look like, but Jesus does, and He can be trusted with every detail. 

I have often been told the faulty sentiment, "God gave you a child with special needs because He knew you could handle it." No. I cannot handle it. I do not have the strength and patience within myself. But Jesus does. He offers me His sufficiency in the place of my insufficiency. He offers me His peace in the place of my fear. He offers me His strength in the place of my weakness. He offers me His victorious life in the place of my sinful state. He is enough. And I don't just need His grace and power to mother my sweet Benjamin; I need Him to mother all my children. I cannot be the mother He has called me to be on my own. 

I truly believe that embracing motherhood first involves embracing a Person--Jesus Christ. He is the one who gives the eternal vision and purpose for raising children. It is not about us. It's not even about them. It's about Him and His kingdom that will never end. He is looking for those who love Him wholeheartedly and who will be faithful with however much or however little has been entrusted to them. 

Last week my husband was asked to preach at our church's Wednesday night service. He talked about living for eternal rewards. This life is fleeting, but it is in this life that we prepare for eternity. We can invest our lives in that which will fade away, or we can invest our lives in that which will remain. This principle is the very core of true motherhood. Shawn shared the example during his message that God is looking for faithfulness to Himself and to the callings He's given to us, and He does not judge the way the world does. He said, "My wife is a homemaker, and many people may look down on her for that. But her calling is no less significant to God than Billy Graham's calling was to preach to the masses. It's about faithfulness."

If you are a mother reading this, I hope the reflections of my heart today have encouraged your heart. You may be feeling weary and forgotten in the trenches of motherhood, especially if you are raising a child with special needs, but take heart! You are doing a mighty work! Though often unseen and maybe unappreciated by the world, you are seen and known by the Lord of all creation. Your labor is not in vain!  

"You're greatest contribution to the kingdom of God may not be something you do, but someone you raise." --Andy Stanley 

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