This is My Cross?

I guess it all started shortly after we found out we were pregnant with Mallory. Sweet baby girl was not planned…well, not by Kevin and me! We have this tendency to just begin thinking about having another baby only to find out we’re already pregnant, which I know is something some women could only dream about. But when you’re one of those women who has awful pregnancies, it can be fairly unnerving. Somewhere around my throwing up for the 26th day in a row (and realizing that I have now probably thrown up no less than 500 times between all my pregnancies), I began to think “I really don’t want to do this anymore.” And that subtle mind shift, away from the truth of babies being a gift from the Lord and child-rearing to be a divine calling on my life to a more self-centered, self-focused “Eeyore” way of thinking, began to take up way to much space in my brain and my heart.

But, sadly, I didn’t really see it until Thursday morning. Wednesday was not a good day…Mallory didn’t take a single full nap so she spent most of the day crying, Maggie fussed and fussed to the point I was ready to jump out the window and even Molly Kate and Mikias (my usual happy-go-lucky kids) were in particularly bad moods, squabbling with each other over absolutely pointless matters (like the fact that Mikias had two Tic-Tacs instead of one…seriously?!?!).  By the time I was in the van driving to our Wednesday evening meal at church, I was fighting back tears and fighting them hard. When Kevin got home from church and we were finally able to talk, all those tears came flooding out. I couldn’t even put sentences together, talking in fragments that went something like “there just aren’t enough hours,” “I’m failing at everything,” “I don’t want to nurse anymore,” “I’m so tired of getting interrupted sleep,” “how do I take care of Maggie and Mallory at the same time?” and on and on.  Our conversation resolved nothing, which is typical as I knew I would probably have to work this one out on my own.  I went to bed utterly discouraged and tipping toward despair.

The next morning, after stumbling through reading my Bible, I picked up my copy of Mission of Motherhood by Sally Clarkson. We had been talking about parenting books at our bi-weekly MOMs group Tuesday night and I thought I’d flip through this old favorite and read a few highlighted sections. And this is what I happened to read:

This brings us to a third thing that Scripture tells us about our commitments as mothers. Romans 12:1 provides a vivid picture of what it means to give our whole selves to the Lord’s way of doing things: “I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.”

To fully experience fulfillment in Christ and fulfill his will for our lives, we must come to the point where we give our whole selves to him–our freedom, our time, our bodies, all of our possessions and gifts–trusting him to show us how to use all that we are for his glory. To sacrifice means to give up or surrender something of value. We are living sacrifices, which means that moment by moment, out of our worship of him, we are to surrender our own needs and expectations for the greater value of pleasing our Lord.

Oh, knife to the gut! God’s word is living and active, sharper than a double-edged sword and Thursday morning, the truth of Romans 12:1 cut through all the falsehood that I have been daily living out of to show me truth. For months now, all I’ve been thinking about is me. My needs, my wants, my desires…very, very little of my day was spent thinking of how I could sacrificially give myself to anyone. I mean, I was throwing up and living with 24/7 nausea in order to grow a person inside me…wasn’t that sacrifice enough? But God has slowly and steadily been calling the selfish me to an even greater cross…

I’ve been nervous lately that at any minute a really hard trial is going to hit…like cancer or death or financial stress. But I failed to notice that my days are already full of trials…a toddler fussing, children bickering, the baby wailing, little boys pushing and shoving, older children tattling, toothpaste smeared on the toilet, wet pull-ups left lying on the bedroom floor, a whole house being flooded by the fussy toddler who turned on the master bath when no one was looking, a growing-up daughter who needs quality time with her “too-busy” mother, an eldest son who needs more training in the English language, a house that always needs tending to, bills to be paid and a budget to be balanced, meals upon meals and loads of laundry that never EVER end. My days are hard…they are busy, rarely quiet, exhausting and lately, quite frankly, fairly miserable.

But they haven’t been miserable because they are hard...they’ve been miserable because my thinking has been oh, so wrong. Instead of willingly sacrificing my needs and desires to please the Lord in His call on my life as a wife and mother, I’ve selfishly coveted days that are easy and peaceful, with children groomed and happy around the breakfast table ready to joyfully start the day of learning and serving, maybe even lying on their beds quietly for countless hours of reading. In my cloudy thinking, it never dawned on me that these little people (whom I do love dearly and I can’t imagine my life without) are also the very means by which God wants me to learn what it means to pick up my cross and lose myself for His sake.  Motherhood (the journey I so long awaited and have found so much value in)…really, this is my cross?

So I put down the book and headed out for my daily walk/run (way more minutes walking than running). And as I do every morning, I began praying. I confessed my sin…my selfishness, my deluded thinking, my failure to give myself fully the Lord for what He might like to accomplish through me each day. And I begged for grace…grace to love more deeply, grace to give when I feel like I have nothing left, grace to endure the fussiness, the crying, the bickering, grace to invest and nurture and listen to stories about make-believe places. And you know what? God gave grace. Thursday wasn’t perfect…there was still squabbles and discipline and messes. I was weary and worn by dinner. And there was still a load of laundry that needed to be folded and put away. But…I wasn’t miserable. All day long I saw God give me patience and strength and love…there was kindness in my tone and time to just sit outside and watch the children play. I pushed Maggie on the swing, listened to a very lengthy story from Miles and Madden about a pretend game they had been playing and helped Molly Kate with her back-bends. I watched Mikias do a new flip on the trampoline and I snuggled with Mallory a bit more than usual. I poured myself out all day long, but not in a dreaded, frustrated, angry kind of way. More like in a way that gives true life…”For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for Me will find it.” Matthew 16:25