I’ve always loved to travel. There’s something so easily correlated between God and my travels. He’s so easy to find. His presence feels so obvious to me. Think about following your favorite artist around their gallery, around each corner is a new masterpiece to marvel at. When you stand at the bottom of a waterfall in the middle of the jungle, you can’t help but see His majesty. Or when you are face to face with an elephant in Asia you can’t help but be in awe of our Maker’s fingerprints. When you travel to a new place out of your comfort zone, kids in toe, you can’t help but rely on His faithfulness. His handiwork is so evident in the world and in people across different cultures and races. It’s only when I’m at home, do I sometimes fail to see it. Over the last year or so I’ve found that it’s in the mundane where I tend to struggle the most. God feels a little harder to find when you are wiping butts, and sorting laundry, and telling your kid to hang up his wet towel for the umpteen time.
Motherhood is funny. How can something feel like my greatest work and my greatest failure at one time? I look at my kids and think, “they are the best thing I’ll be a part of on this side of heaven.” And yet at the same time, it’s showed some of the ugliest parts of me.
Growing up in the church I thought a good Christian mom looked something like this: went to church every Sunday, she always had it together, her kids were well behaved, she’d never let you see her ugly parts (or her kids’ ugly parts), she always had a smile on her face, you’d never ever hear her cuss, and she was always armed with a good casserole for those in need. You certainly wouldn’t find her hiding in the closet with chocolate cake. I’m reminded of lyrics from a Miranda Lambert song that says:
“Line your lips and keep ‘em closed. Cross your legs, dot your eyes, and never let ‘em see you cry. Run and hide your crazy and start actin’ like a lady cuz I raised you better, got to keep it together even when you fall apart.”
You can read the details of my journey to motherhood here but know this it wasn’t a straight road. There were many turns and twists that nearly broke me. I fought to get here. I guess I thought because it took so long to get the title of ‘mom’ that I’d love all the parts of it. There’s no way I could have known how hard it would be. And I’m not just talking about the lack of sleep or the temper tantrums. I’m talking about the broken hearts and the hard life lessons that shape a person at their core.
You’ll find I’m passionate about adoption, not just because of the role it’s played in my family but also in my own faith and the implications of being adopted as a daughter of the One True King. But adoption does not come without scars. I think a lot of people look at adoption through rose-colored glasses, and I’d be the first to tell you it’s one of the most beautiful pictures of the gospel that I’ve ever seen, but there is more tragedy and loss for a child to work out than most of us will know in our lifetimes. So how do you parent that?
How do you parent a child who has severe ADHD, likely as a direct result of someone else’s choices? How do you parent a child whose outward struggles make you weep because you know it’s that much harder for people to see the wonderful child that you can see?
I was raised in a very achievement-oriented house. You work hard and do things right than you get good results. Right? Well, that was true before I had kids at least. Kids are a whole different ball game. I found that as I got further and further along in the journey of motherhood lies began to creep in. If I were a better mom, I’d have “better” results. I’d have a “better” kid. I’d have fewer meltdowns, fewer negative progress reports, and fewer hard days. If I was a better mom not only would my kids struggle less but maybe, then, I could keep my house together. Somewhere along the line, I created metrics for success in my head:
I am succeeding if my kids are well behaved and never meltdown in public. Uhhhhh- uncheck.
I’m succeeding if my child is outwardly the best behaved child on a play date. Ha. Uncheck.
I’m succeeding if my house is clean and I have a home-cooked dinner on the table every night. Well, I’m currently wearing a bathing suit bottom as underwear and I have no idea what’s for dinner tonight. Uncheck.
I’m succeeding if all of our bodily functions happen in the appropriate places. For your sake, I won’t go into it but uncheck.
My kids should always be eating healthy home-cooked meals. I am certain my McDonald’s tab would tell another story. So go ahead and uncheck that one too.
I can laugh now but for a while there I felt like I was missing the mark of a good mom; but not only that, without all my travels and adventure I was finding God harder and harder to find in the ordinary days.
It took me a long time to be able to be comfortable in my mess. Turns out I don’t have to have it all together, I just have to trust the One who does. I’ve come to learn that I’d rather have a home with dirty dishes and piles of laundry on the floor but a door that’s always open to friends and family, rather than a home with a door that only opens when everything is put in its place. I’m still don’t know how to make a casserole and the fact remains that I’d rather spend the day outside with my kids than inside scrubbing the floor – besides I think I like my floors a little sticky and covered with glitter anyways. It adds character. Turns out the mess means we are living.
Right now, my season is chaos and the Lord is showing me the most beautiful parts of it. Yes, even on the messiest of days. The Lord has been opening up my eyes to see the joy in the ordinary. If the chief end of mankind is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever shouldn’t that be done in the simple ordinary moments? Yes, even in laundry and the hardest moments of child-rearing? It’s a work in progress for sure, I certainly don’t have it figured out, but I feel convicted to not just revel in God on my travels but to revel in him during each minute of each day, no matter how boring or messy it may be. To my surprise motherhood hasn’t ended my life of travel and adventure, it has enhanced it.
And because I think someone needs to hear this: this is for the mamas of hard kids – the ones with developmental delays and physical challenges, the ones with hidden struggles and the ones with visible struggles, the stubborn ones with wills as strong as steel, and the ones who push back at every boundary you try to set. For all the mamas who feel like they are not enough or that they are missing the mark of what it looks like to be a good mom. I see you because I am you. You are a good mom. Trust me, I know how easy it is to feel defeated and discouraged at the end of a long ugly day. I know what it feels like to be overwhelmed and out of your depth. But know this you are the exact mother God chose for your child, if you trust Him in the thick of all of it, He will make you enough as only He can.
Don’t get me wrong, I can’t wait until our next adventure, I wait with eager anticipation to marvel at what we will find around the next corner of the world. A thirst for the world is not something to apologize for. I know full well my wanderlust was put there by my Creator. But I’ve come to learn that the need for adventure isn’t something that can only be fulfilled by traveling across the sea. This messy journey we call motherhood is filled with adventure, we just have to open our eyes up to see it. The calling to shape hearts and minds is anything but boring. And besides, some of my favorite memories look a lot like ordinary moments.
Turns out motherhood works nothing like everything else in life. It doesn’t matter how much I put into it, how hard I try, or how tight I hold on to my kids- the only way to be fully successful as a mom is to learn to completely trust the One who loves them more than I ever could.
(Photos by: Rae of Light Photography )