Where is Mom?
When is it time to cut the cord? Stretch the apron strings. Or make them make the cookies, for once? I keep asking myself this question, and sure it’s laced with a fringe of guilt. But coming from a mom who has dedicated her entire life to her children, I sense the need to taste and see God is good outside of animal crackers and the cookies my kids can now make. All. By. Themselves.
As nutty as it might seem, when my children were little I wore chocolate covered fingerprints on my t-shirt like the mark of momhood. My excuse for everything. I smiled and humbly flexed my mommy-tattoo. I’d think, “Oh, the fingerprints of love—my baby needs me.” Then, “Oh, I’m late for Bible study—my child needs me.” Then, “Oh, sorry… I didn’t get my chapter turned in—you see, my teenager was having a tough day and…” Somewhere, sometime, my need to be needed dictated my ability to balance me as a mom and just plain me as me. Sometimes I’d simply get lost in the limelight of my children and humbly disappear.
Where did I go? I think I sent myself to a mommy time-out chair. Then I wrapped in a blanket of constant concern and preoccupation for my kids. I began to correlate the word selfless with being less. Slowly and credulously my all-or-nothing-thinking had me believe: if I was not completely self-sacrificing in an invisible me-don’t need a break-type way, then I was completely self-centered in an, I’m all about me-type way. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Where is the Chocolate?
I know now those specific characteristics of self are much farther apart than the length of a jump rope or the pendulum of a tire swing. Ignoring aspects of ourselves as followers of Christ, as wives, or as creatives who are inspired creations of God, is not being humble. Nor is it of noble cause. In fact, God doesn’t call us to disappear, but to appear boldly in the image of Him. As moms. As wives. As treasure worthy enough to serve Him and be used by Him. For many years though, I believed a core lie from the enemy.
How do I know? Because I read it on a candy bar. A fifth grader from my Sunday school class handed me a Hershey’s with a sticky note attached, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself—but thinking of yourself less.” Chocolate AND a power-packed message. Truth, lovelies. Delicious truth!
How had a missed such a critical component of humility? The esteem that considers less as less in a great kind of way, not less as in self-deprecation, unloved regard of self, or an overly critical kind of way. Hmmm?
Where is My Outfit?
It’s really hard to live in a world where parental expectations are high and reality is more like yellow poo. Or was I the only one surprised to change the very first diaper of that? I’d set the parental bar high and unrealistic. Then I’d try to touch my chin and fail. I listened as the enemy whispered that I was a sweet nothing into my ear.
Silently I judged my worth. I ignored God’s truth and promises of value like, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves in humility, gentleness and patience.” (Col. 3:21 NIV). This verse just one of the hundreds that read similar messages of God’s extravagant affection.
So let’s study this verse for a moment. Let’s memorize its excessive goodness. If you are God’s child, you are His. Chosen. Set apart and lifted and loved deeply by God. This verse mentions nothing about chin ups, or having a spotless house, or raising a son who doesn’t pick every stick up to aim at birds. No human examples of perfect parenting in the Bible. Noteven one.
Then we see the verse change from who we are, to what we wear. We are to put on humility and wear it like a favorite outfit. But make no mistake—humility is not invisibility. Although being an invisible mom could have its perks. But we are to dress like Jesus, in gentleness and humbleness. In this case we are what we wear.
Make no mistake—humility is not invisibility. It is letting go. It is lifting up. Strength on its knees.
The hint that humility is hanging in our closet? It glitters and shines with the reflection of God’s bold love for us. We aren’t less, but more. Humility should be evident in the way we love God. Gently love others. And in the strength in which we love ourselves.
Seriously. With weak arms I tried to dangle my children dangerously over my head. Even above the value of my marriage. How do I know? Because when the kids left our home, I felt as though the value of my marriage depreciated a little. All along, I thought my behavior was just a facet of being a great mom. And I am a great mom. Buuuuut, I worked too hard to squelch the “me” outside the circumference of my children’s reach. Oof!
My calendar, packed and busy, often rotated around my children’s activities like the earth revolves around the sun. And—come to find out—the earth does not rotate around the sun. Our planet simply orbits around the mass of the solar system. In retrospect, or retrograde (a word used to describe the seemingly backward motion of planets and stars—and that’s pretty much all I know about that), I should have been circling my Savior. Some days my orbit was just a bit off. That explains a lot.
Where is That Colic?
I want to emphasize: I love being a mom. Everything in me oozes with momness and the sense I may have to lick down that colic. Even if it’s not my kid. In line at Walmart I might think, “I must lick it and fix it.” While media adds a major proponent to this mommy-propensity, I can take credit for the majority of my own dysfunction. Thank you very much.
It reminds me of when my son was young (and of course it does, Beth), when Josh loved to read the book, “Where is Waldo?” Waldo—the wandering traveler—would blend into the backdrop of crowded zoos, bustling cities, and forest-filled campgrounds. Waldo was all about adventure. Correction: Waldo was the adventure. He lived it. Well, he didn’t actually live it since he was only animated, but Waldo and I understood each other. He wandered around Central Park in a red and white striped shirt in search of… everything. Now where did I put my cell phone? Has anyone seen it? Can someone please dial my cell—I think the couch is calling me?
I was totally baffled to read the actual illustrator of Waldo books created his original work completely void of Waldo. Waldo was fashioned to circumvent boredom and craft continuity page to page. Where is Waldo? Well, Waldo is not here, nor there, not anywhere. Sorry–that’s Dr. Seuss. My point: Waldo was a literal afterthought in his own book. What?
Believe me. Being a thought in your own home on the front end of parenting will keep you from resenting yourself on the backend of child-rearing. Or resenting your children. Or looking for yourself in the pages of old photo albums. “Where is mom?” It may even aid in alleviating future conflict between you and your young adult child. Resentment can be a difficult stain to remove after it’s soaked a few years.
We can also avoid relational resentment if we recognize two integral aspects of humility: To lift up and to give up. Humble love is the lifting up of someone’s heart and the giving up of our own. Moms know this. We love. We stretch. We give until we break, because something has to humanly give.
That’s why it’s important to figure out what messages we are telling ourselves.
God recognizes our worth, our choseness, and so should we. We shouldn’t try to disappear as moms, nor should we try to stand in the Godlight. The balance comes when we place our children in correct value—not above relationship with God, relationship with our spouse, or relationship to who we are apart from our children. Remembering that a meek heart isn’t a weak heart. A meek heart recognizes God as the driving force behind the tenacity to lick and slick.
Where is God?
Among the things I did wrong as a parent—there’s significant things I did right.
Losing myself in the love of my family isn’t a total bust. It was the heated challenge and role of being a mom that shaped His purposes in my life. I sought after God with passion and crazy pursuit. God dependency tucked my kids in at night. I knew I could rest in a flawless God loving a flawed me. And loving my flawed children. So what if I showed up to Mrs. Spellman’s class with burnt Valentines cookies. Once. The heart cookies chiseled into squares. A dollop of slathered icing and the kids cut me a sweet break.
Trust God to be everything in their life while you seek to make Him everything in yours.
It truly was all about the thought and the sugar that went into it all. I know that now. These small things mean something. Tiny things are enough. I am enough. I am chosen. Besides, my flurry of mistakes spotlighted God’s ability to love complete, whole, and perfect. We can trust God to be everything in their life while we seek to make Him everything in ours. Our fingers can hold, then point humbly away.
And so my children knew where God was on the pages of our hectic, and sometimes difficult days. I wanted them to see God, not me. Where is Mom? Still trying to teach the kids how to make better cookies than I can. And when that day comes—I’ll gladly eat my humble pie. Or should I say…I’ll humbly eat my cookie?