“Am I Enough?”

This week my husband walks in the door after a long day at work to find: dishes piled in the sink, laundry all over the living room, the beef for dinner still in a frozen block, and me…looking like Frump Queen. He is gracious. And tells me to take a nap. I instantly obey. (Inwardly rejoicing.) And while I am sleeping for 45 minutes, he manages to clean the whole house…while watching our daughter. (A feat I clearly was incapable of accomplishing today. Many days.)

One part of my feels grateful the house is clean. I can relax now, right? But the other (bigger) part of me feels guilty and defeated. He just worked the whole day at his job, and then came home and did mine, too. Isn’t this why I am staying home? 

Every day I have this desire to accomplish something. But every day it feels I accomplish nothing. I try to clean something, but I don’t finish. I want to do a house project, make my space more beautiful, but all those gorgeous pics on Pinterest look like something from another world. Not mine. I leave to buy something, but roam aimlessly around in the store. Nothing to bring home. I try to write, but this little person cries for all of my attention when I sit at the computer. I clip coupons and price match, and still go way over on our budget. Agh. At the end of the day, there’s nothing to show for the last 9 hours of exhausting effort. Of doing what? 

When it feels I didn’t accomplish Super Tidy Housewife, or Spiritual Sage, or Fun Mommy, or Adoring Wife, or Betty Crocker, or the Likeable Friend…when I’m none of those titles, and all the opposites..

I have to wonder: “Am I enough?

I lay my head on the kitchen table, cheek against wood, and cry. I want my days to be of worth. But feel like they are all so: Unsuccessful.

As I lay, frozen, I hear a whisper, my daughter’s whisper:

Dear Momma,

Do you remember the nights you cried on the bathroom floor in the dark? When the pregnancy tests sat negative in the trash can? Remember when my nursery was just a storage room? A place for you and Daddy to throw your junk? Remember how you longed to brush my hair with your fingers, to sing me lullabies, to hold me close? And now I’m here. 

Am I enough?

When there’s dishes in the sink, and your skinny jeans sag from all the bending, and dinner’s ingredients still sit on the shelves of the supermarket, because your days are full, full of me. Am I worth your attention? Am I an accomplishment?

Am I enough?

You kept me safe today Momma, you kept me alive. You kept me fed, and rested. You played with me, and made me laugh. Does that count Momma? Am I one of your goals Momma? Just to be together? Even if no one sees it? Or knows it?

Am I enough?

Tell me Momma, did you think I’d be different? Did you hope I’d be different? Do you see me? I’m right here Momma, the answer to your sobbing prayers. But now that I’m here, is there something else you want Momma, to feel good? Do I make your day count Momma?

Am I enough?

And suddenly, the voice changes. My heart wrenches. The Spirit of God begins to whisper, making the table under my wet cheek feel more like the chest of God. And suddenly I know He’s near.

Do you remember when I said, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for Me?” (Matt. 25:40) “And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward?” (Matt. 10:42) Do you not see it here Child? 

All these days you live at home to serve this fragile girl, what you really are doing is serving Me. For whatever you do unto her, you do unto Me. So let me ask you:

Am I enough?

What is My worth to you? In the secret places, where no one sees? Look deeper Dear One.

Can you find Me in this place? In her face?

Every diaper, every clean, dry pair of clothes,

cups of water, Cheerios, all the laughter, every tear,

each soothing whisper in her ear.

In doing so, you so clothe Me, feed Me, hear My cry,

soothe Me with your lullaby.

If all you do is spend your days, your self, on Me..

Am I enough?

Motherhood: The Moments No One Sees

Today’s mothers hold a special power that no other generation of mothers quite held: the Smart Phone. And with this power (sometimes) comes the pressure to capture every moment of your darling child’s life.

(Especially if you have family out of town, who eat it up!) The least you can do is snap a picture, or post a video. Right??

It’s amazing that now 362 of your Friends can tune into Baby Girl smearing spaghetti sauce all through her hair at dinner. And by bath time, you can have 31 ‘Likes’ on it.

But this wasn’t always so. There was a time when the only people who could see your little guy run through the sprinkler in his diaper were the neighbors next door.

One part of me, (the minimalist part), wants to pull the curtains of Facebook closed for awhile and just live. I want to lose the constant camera waiting to burst out of my pocket, and the feeling of “I should be taking a video right now…” I want lose the self-consciousness, and the constant mirror my camera can become.

But, the other part of me (really) loves technology. I love that my brother-in-law in Africa can see his niece’s first steps, hear her first words, and spew out her first bite of rice cereal. I love that my sisters and parents can watch her splash in the tub after dinner, or dance like a maniac on the kitchen floor. Because in a way, they get to share it too, the moment. Moments they would otherwise miss.

But what about the moments we don’t capture? The moments no one sees?

Motherhood is full of these. No one gets to share some moments because you were laughing so hard, you forgot to snap a picture. Or you were too busy chasing monsters, or you were waiting to burst out of the closet, or you were ‘It’ in freeze tag. Maybe your toddler hid your phone in his toy box. Maybe you were too focused holding your breath in silence during hide-n-seek. Or you were lost in making Play-dough together, or painting, or building a fort out of cushions—so it was never recorded.

And some moments are so sacred, no camera could ever capture them. Like the tenderness of rocking your little one to sleep in a dark room, and watching her drift away in the moonlight. Staying there, with her, even after she’s long fallen asleep. Just to hold her. Or was she holding you?

Sometimes the moments no one sees, the moments you couldn’t capture, are the moments that captured you.

I don’t say this to make you self-conscious of what you post, or to bash my (incredibly gifted) photographer friends. That’s the last thing I want. By all means, take pictures, and videos, a lot of them! One day, you will be so glad you did. You will remember so many beautiful, hilarious, crazy moments you were bound to forget in the haze of your memory. And it doesn’t make you one bit vain to share them with others. It’s good to give others a window into your daily joy. It’s a part of community.

But I guess what I want to say to moms, and I want to say to myself is: It’s okay if you miss some moments because you were enjoying them too much. It’s okay if you were just too busy being there. It’s okay if while looking into those gorgeous blue eyes, or those chocolate brown ones, gazing into yours–you got lost, and didn’t even think to reach for your phone.

You were captured instead.

 

 

 

 

 

Mother’s Day and the Barren Woman

Every mother at our church had a special glow about her. Perhaps she took 10 more minutes on her hair, or saved that special new Kohl’s outfit just for today. Maybe it was the scrambled breakfast platter that two shaky hands brought to her bedside this morning, or the half-dead flower her 5-year-old tried to “hide” behind his curtain all weekend–whatever it was, the moms were just slightly more “done up” than usual this morning. And it was the first time I noticed.

Because I was not. I was not gussied up, and I had no reason to be. I was not a mom. And at our rate, there was a good chance I might never be.

Mother’s Day can be an especially hard day for the woman who could never conceive, who lost a baby through miscarriage, or who is still awaiting the adoption process. And I personally know why many barren gals play hooky on Mother’s Day: It’s just easier. For me, drawing the curtains, and hiding cuddling with my husband in bed would have been Plan A. (If he wasn’t the worship leader.) But we did go to church. And I’m glad we did, because if we skipped, I wouldn’t be able to know the feeling that can come with it.

Mother’s Day can seem to draw a line in the sand between mothers and non-mothers. Kind of how Valentines Day can feel for the single person. When I was single, I made a point to wear black every V-Day, just to show my angst at the world, and all the lovers out there. (Even though probably no one ever even noticed. Or cared.)

It can feel good to do that. To wear black. But, I want to say: don’t wear black this Mother’s Day. What I mean is, don’t spend it bitter and mourning what you don’t have.  But instead, do this, “…clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Colossians 3:12b (Read that list slowly. Maybe when you get dressed, you will remember to ask God to “clothe” you with each one of these.)

So how can you spend this Mother’s Day?

1. “Rejoice with those who rejoice…” (Romans 12:15a) It would considered socially awkward to cross your arms and let out a loud “Boooo!” during a wedding ceremony (just because you’re still single.) As it would be to sulk in the corner at your friend’s 30th birthday party because they get to open presents, (and you don’t.) But there is more to this scripture than just social etiquette–it’s quite purposeful. When you “rejoice with those who rejoice” it fills you with joy as well. (You get some cake, too.) It truly is fun to celebrate what God has done in someone’s life.

2. “Honor your… [mother]” (Exodus 20:12) Thank God for her. And thank her directly. Make her a card, write her a note, tell her some memory you have you guys together, something that would bless her. And may the childlike excitement you had when you once clambered to your mother’s bedside with a crappy-looking craft in your hand all come rushing back. (If you don’t have a mother, consider thanking, or honoring a “spiritual mother” in your life.)

3. “…And Be Thankful.” (Colossians 3:15) Thank God for what He has given you, who He has given you to love right now. And in His wisdom, who he will give you to love in the future. You are not forgotten.

And then say this: I serve a wise, loving God, who is jealous for all of my heart, all of my attention, and He has sovereignly arranged my life for a unique purpose, whether I understand it or not right now. “The LORD will fulfill His purpose for me,”(Psalm 138:8) and whether my life looks full, or empty, my life will be full of God–and I will rejoice because of the steadfast love He has shown to me!

So, when you see the mother’s glowing around you, perhaps you can have a glow of your own. Indeed, you barren one, can have a ‘Happy Mother’s Day,’ as well.

Can Fear Cause Barrenness?

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Fear has been like a constant shadow in my life. It seems to disappear at times, and reappear in a new guise–kind of like Alfred Hitchcock. Viewers used to make a sport of “catching” him in cameo roles in nearly all his movies.  “There he is boarding a bus!” (Or walking a dog, or sitting at a table in a photograph, or standing in a crowd.) And sometimes, you could only see him by his signature shadow or dark silhouette.

That is how fear has been in my life. Subtly (or not so subtly) appearing in moments of my childhood, teenage years, adulthood, and now motherhood.

For all the joy I felt when I discovered I was pregnant, a greater amount of fear came crashing in with it. For a while, I woke up every morning terrified my baby would die. I thought to truly rejoice would make me vulnerable. Vulnerable to pain. And I feared the more excited I got about this child within, the more devastating the pain would be if something happened to her.

I hate this; how fear is always sneaking into the picture. Always showing up somewhere new to make me a slave again. There’s no other way to describe it. Fear paralyzes me, making me more like a Kohl’s mannequin than a living person. (See how when I was at last physically pregnant, fear was turning me “barren” again?)

Fear Causes Barrenness

Can fear (really) make you barren?

Well, no. Not in a physiological way. (Though people will keep telling you if you “just relax,” you will get pregnant. I wholeheartedly disagree.) A medical study linking especially “fearful” people to being “unable to conceive” has never been proven or even done to my knowledge. Every day, both fearless and fearful women discover they are pregnant. Faithful and faithless. If fear prevented pregnancy, no market would exist for the myriad of contraceptives on every shelf, at every pharmacy across the nation.  The majority of people are fearful; so if that were true, nearly no one would be having babies! We may even go extinct.

But fear does cause barrenness—in another form. Fear causes a barrenness of the soul, which is far worse, because no doctor can give you treatment for it.

Fear is like those little suckers that grow on your tomato plants. They look like growth, but any gardener will tell you to pluck them off immediately(!) because all they do is steal the nutrients from the plant—making it fruitless. And, like fear, they keep popping up in new locations. So you must keep pinching them off, or you plant will never bear fruit.

Jesus said, “… I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last…” John 15:16a

Of course he is not talking about tomatoes. Nor is he talking about having a bunch of kids either. What makes you “fruitful” is abiding in the Vine, remaining connected with Jesus. He says, “Apart from Me, you can do nothing.” So when you disconnect from Christ, and let fear be your new master, it doesn’t matter if you can garden like Martha Stewart, or give birth to the Brady Bunch clan—you will be barren. The fear takes over and make you like a dry bush. You will not be able to see the good, even when it comes. (See Jeremiah 17:6)

Fear always does the same thing: robs you. Depletes you of all your energy. Fills you with constant dread. That dark shadow creeps up again. Maybe it changes from dread about finances, to worry about your parents, to distrust with your spouse, to anxiety over your kids (or not having kids), to being consumed with fear about your health, or being paralyzed about something God is calling you to do. Fear is crippling. And consuming.

Dismissing the Shadow

It seems like fear is always sneaking onto the set wearing some new costume. But we are not fools. We can see the shadow, and know who is casting it. Let me make this plain: Fear does not come from God; fear comes from Satan. In fact, the enemy of our soul delights in making us fearful. But is this how we should live?

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy: 1:7

I remember a phone conversation with a pregnant friend during my pregnancy-fear battle when she said, “I had no idea how much Satan would bombard me with fear once I got pregnant!” She explained how older mom’s say it’s no easier as your child gets older. There is always something to be afraid of. SIDS. Kidnapping. School-shootings. Car wrecks. Every new phase brings on new fear. But then she said something so freeing I will never forget, “That’s why my husband and I decided we have to say ‘No,’ to fear now. Right now. While our child is still in the womb, we are deciding not to let fear rule us. We don’t have any guarantees about our child. We only know he is from God, so we give him back to God and say, “God, he is yours. We offer him to You.”

It was true. Like her, I had no guarantees from God about my child’s life. I have none now. But I have a God who is bigger than my fears. Stronger than my weakness. Aware of all my needs. Faithful in all His promises. And who tells me not to fear. Ever.

Dear brothers and sisters, let today be the day you dismiss the shadow by crying out:

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. For You are with me…” Psalm 23:4

The True Light

We can spend today afraid of what may lurk in the shadows. Or we can invite the Light of the world, and watch the darkness flee away. For, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (1 John 1 :5) We have to choose. If fear makes us barren–then faith in a loving, light-bearing God surely makes us fruitful, alive, even powerful! Let’s abide in His words today, for they are truth and they are light when fear’s dark shadow falls on us:

He says, “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32) “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:27) “Do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9b And, in [My] presence, “sorrow and sighing will flee away.” (Isaiah 51:11) So, “To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him? says the Holy One.” (Isaiah 40:25)

So we say in confidence, “Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.” (Psalm 46:2) For, “In Your light we see light.” (Psalm 36:9)

And He says, “Be still and know that I am God, I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth!” (Psalm 46:10)

So do not be afraid, for “the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining.” (1 John 2:8)