On Being a Mother

No one ever told me how emotionally taxing and exhausting being a mother would be.  Sure, people talked about the sleepless nights, the terrible twos, the “I know everything” teenagers and the process of letting a child grow into adulthood, but no one ever talked to me about the fear, the doubt and/or the gut-wrenching, cut to the bone, overwhelming sense of responsibility that consumes you the second you enter motherhood.

Motherhood is hard.  I’ve been a mom for 2 1/2 years and although my boys bring me more joy than I ever could have imagined, I am consistently overwhelmed by being a mom.

I 100% believe that my feelings of fear, doubt and responsibility are intensified greatly because of the fact that I have spent the better part of my 2 1/2 years as a mother studying and practicing clinical social work, causing me to learn and experience first hand the devastating impact of poor parenting, however I do not believe that I am alone in my feelings.  Every mother I have ever shared my heart with has echoed my fears, doubts and sense of responsibility in some way or another.

So, in the spirit of honesty and sharing my heart in an attempt to normalize motherhood, here are the things that make me feel fearful, doubtful and overwhelmed with responsibility:

  • I fear that my children will get hurt.
  • I fear that I won’t be able to comfort them when they do get hurt.
  • I fear that I won’t be a good mother.
  • I doubt that I have it in me to be the “good enough” mother that is required for a child to adapt.
  • I fear that my children won’t grow up to know, love and follow hard after Jesus.
  • I doubt that I have the ability to be a Godly example of a woman who knows, loves and follows hard after Jesus.
  • I feel overwhelmed by the responsibility of raising children to know, love and follow hard after Jesus.
  • I fear that I have misused, will misuse and constantly underestimate the period of time in which children learn and form appropriate attachment styles.
  • I doubt that I have done or will do everything I need to do in order to ensure the mental health and proper attachment styles of my children.
  • I am overwhelmed by the responsibility of ensuring proper and “good” mental health for my children.
  • I fear that I won’t want to hang out with my kids when they are teenagers.
  • I doubt my children will want to hang out with me when they are teenagers, which breaks my heart, because I know a family in which this isn’t the case and I want it so badly.
  • I feel overwhelmed by the responsibility of raising Godly, productive, strong, genuine, patient, kind and selfless members of society.
  • I am overwhelmed by the responsibility of teaching my children that they are unique and special but that those qualities do not entitle them to anything and that selfishness, entitlement and greed are ugly, ugly characteristics to display.
  • I fear that I will not know how to let go and allow my children to become independent adults and therefore I will not be able to have healthy, lasting, adult relationships with my children.
  • I feel overwhelmed by the responsibility of raising children to value and cherish purity of heart, mind and body, especially knowing how little I have cherished these things throughout my life.
  • I fear that I will be a judgmental, outspoken, mean-spirited, meddlesome mother-in-law (because I am all of those things as a person, wife, mother and friend) and that my relationships with my children-in-laws will be tense and stricken with mistrust and obligations.
  • I fear being the mother of a girl.
  • I doubt I know how to mother a girl.
  • I fear I won’t be able to parent differently in the areas I want to change and parent the same in the uncountable ways in which my parents did a phenomenal job.
  • I am overwhelmed by the responsibility of “breaking the cycle” regarding so many personal and family unhealthy habits.
  • I doubt I know how to raise physically healthy, active and confident children.
  • I fear that my baggage will become my children’s baggage.
  • I am overwhelmed by the responsibility of being the first representation of Christ’s love to my children.

Truthfully, I could keep listing my fears, doubts and overwhelming feelings of responsibility but for my own mental health, I have to stop.  Because, you know what?  These are tools of the enemy.  Feeling these things is natural.  Using them as motivation to draw nearer to my Maker and to being the mom that He created me to be (flaws and all) is helpful.  But dwelling on them and allowing them to consume and paralyze me (as I often do) is exactly what the enemy wants.  He comes to “steal, kill and destroy” and every second I dwell on these fears, doubts and overwhelming feelings of responsibility, he is destroying me as a woman, wife, mother and most importantly, child of God.  I refuse to allow the enemy to steal the joy that comes from being mother, to kill my ability to mother with love, patience and confidence or to destroy my relationships with my children because of it!  When I dwell on these things, I allow the enemy to win and do not allow myself the grace required to be the best mother that I can be.

I tried to write this blog about 4 1/2 months ago, right after Noah was born.  I was experiencing postpartum depression and the enemy was winning.  I had no perspective and couldn’t get through the first paragraph without becoming paralyzed by my fear, sobbing and doubt.  I decided to wait until I wasn’t so hormonal, sad and tired.  Sometimes, that is how motherhood goes.

So here’s to you mommy friends who feel intense fear, agonizing doubt and an overwhelming sense of responsibility.  You are not alone!  There is hope and it is found in the peace of Christ.  It is found in His love, strength, grace, forgiveness and gentle embrace.  It is found in the mother He created and equips you to be.

And take heart, mommy friends who are paralyzed.  Know that the enemy has been overcome by one who is greater and can be overcome in you.  Get out of bed every morning prepared for battle.  “Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Guard your heart and do not allow yourself to compare.  Pray endlessly and rest in His assurance that even if/when you do fail, His grace has covered you.

This motherhood thing is a wild ride; harder and more emotionally exhausting that words can say, but you are not alone.  I am not alone.  You, my friend, just like me, must trust in the mother God has created you to be!

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The Struggle

“Worn”– Tenth Avenue North

I’m tired I’m worn
My heart is heavy
From the work it takes
To keep on breathing
I’ve made mistakes
I’ve let my hope fail
My soul feels crushed
By the weight of this world

And I know that you can give me rest
So I cry out with all that I have left

Let me see redemption win
Let me know the struggle ends
That you can mend a heart
That’s frail and torn
I wanna know a song can rise
From the ashes of a broken life
And all that’s dead inside can be reborn
Cause I’m worn

I know I need to lift my eyes up
But I’m too weak
Life just won’t let up
And I know that you can give me rest
So I cry out with all that I have left

Let me see redemption win
Let me know the struggle ends
That you can mend a heart
That’s frail and torn
I wanna know a song can rise
From the ashes of a broken life
And all that’s dead inside can be reborn
Cause I’m worn

My prayers are wearing thin
Yeah, I’m worn
Even before the day begins
Yeah, I’m worn
I’ve lost my will to fight
I’m worn
So, heaven come and flood my eyes

Let me see redemption win
Let me know the struggle ends
That you can mend a heart
That’s frail and torn
I wanna know a song can rise
From the ashes of a broken life
And all that’s dead inside can be reborn
Cause all that’s dead inside will be reborn

Though I’m worn
Yeah I’m worn

To caution all drivers on the road in Northwest Oregon and Southwest Washington, if this song comes on when I am driving I simply cannot control my reaction, which I am sure causes me to be one of the most unsafe drivers on the north coast.  I can do nothing but cry, lift my hands in surrender and thank Jesus that someone else gets it; that someone put words to the state of my heart and therefore I can express my heart through my favorite art form.  I didn’t have the words before hearing this song to express the tiredness of my heart.  I bought the lie again that I was alone and that no one could possibly understand what is like to walk around feeling like the life has been sucked right out of you and feeling like you should be able to fix it.

Anyone who has ever dealt with addictive sin knows what I am talking about.  You know that feeling of hopelessness.  That feeling that you are the one to blame and that if only you were better at controlling yourself, life would be perfect.  You know how the cycle goes.  Things are great for a while; you are succeeding in your battle and life feels good.  Things begin to fall into place and you start to believe that maybe this is the time that you will completely overcome.  Then life happens.  You get arrogant or stressed or whatever is your trigger and you say, “just this once” except just this once turns into one more time and one more time and before you know it, you are completely out of control and right back where you said you would never be again.  For some people their addiction is obvious to those around them and the impact of the sin is not at all subtle.  For others like myself, addiction is easily hidden and the impact, while present and painful, isn’t quite as obvious.  It takes months and months for me to begin to connect the dots between just how out of control my sin is with my tired heart, tired relationships and general dissatisfaction with life.  Im-So-Tired

You would think that connecting the dots would be enough to stop, but it isn’t.  Justification, by this point is so deep in my veins that my heart is hardened to the idea of stopping.  I begin to ask God why He doesn’t just take it from me.  He knows how hard I’ve tried in the past.  He knows how tired I am.  He knows how much I desire to be used by Him but feel held back by my inability to stop.  One of my dreams is to speak on the Women of Faith stage someday, but I can’t even begin to fathom working toward that when I feel like a hypocrite and don’t have anything redeeming to share.  I hear the stories of other survivors, of people who have overcome their battle and they get to stand there and talk about the goodness of God and how there is this HUGE change in their life because of Jesus’ saving grace… that isn’t my life.  It is exhausting.  It hurts and is devastating to try and understand how God could put this desire in my heart and not free me from my addiction.  I want to know that what has died in me, because of my own choices, can be revived.  I want so desperately to be who God created me to be, yet I know that I’m holding myself back.  I don’t understand how the passions, gifts and dreams God has given me can be fulfilled when I keep giving into sin.  I want to see redemption win and I want others to see it in me, but it hasn’t happened and it doesn’t feel like it ever will.

This is typically when I begin to doubt my own salvation.  My heart is burdened with the idea of not being good enough, of not really repenting.  True repentance is followed by change.  That is what I’ve always known and believed.  I’ve heard it in a thousand sermons… in fact, I just heard it again a couple of weeks ago.  Godly sorrow doesn’t leave you in mourning but spurs you toward change.  If these things are true, then clearly I haven’t repented.  Clearly I’m not sorry and I probably never will be.  These are the lies that invade my heart and build even more walls between myself and my God.  I stop talking to Him at all because I am so ashamed, so frustrated and frankly, mad.  I’ve said I was sorry so many times and failed to change.  I’ve asked for help and begged Him to free me from it.  I’ve asked why and I’ve, at times, asked for help from other people.  It never works and it hurts.  I feel abandoned by a God that I profess to love and follow and at the same time, I desperately worry that I’ve allowed my heart to harden so far that even if He was trying to help, I’d wouldn’t know it.  Someone once told me that the fact that I question these things and fret about them are proof that my heart isn’t as hardened as I assume, but even this doesn’t take away my doubt.

There is another song on the radio right now that completely makes my heart ache.  If I didn’t already hate myself for not being able to overcome, even with the help of a God who, deep down, I know loves me, the first two lines just pour on the guilt even more.  The song says, “Who can stand apart from your presence? Once we have tasted, the goodness of Your love.”  My sin, my decision to partake in sin requires that I stand apart from the presence of God.  The more I give in, the further I get from Him.  According to this song, I wouldn’t be able to make that decision if I had truthfully tasted the goodness of God.  I HAVE tasted to goodness of His love.  I have experienced His love and lived sweetly in it.  But I’m still human and this thorn in my flesh has not come out despite my best efforts.  photolibrary_rf_photo_of_exhausted_man

I heard, on the radio, the lead singer from Tenth Avenue North explaining why he wrote this song and while his feelings of being worn are so far from my feelings of being worn, he said something that really resonated with me.  He said that “sometimes God redeems us from the struggle and sometimes God redeems us through the struggle.”  I’ve heard something like this before.  Someone I know who struggles with addiction as well once told a sanctuary full of people that once while she was begging God to take her struggle from her, He asked if she believed He could.  She said yes and His response was, “would you still trust me knowing I could take it, even if I didn’t take it from you?’  She had to really wrestle with this idea that maybe God’s plan for her life was for her to struggle and that he might not ever fully redeem her FROM the struggle.  As someone who is tired and worn, these are not encouraging words to me.  I want to be redeemed FROM the struggle.  I want to be able to share my redemption story and have it be meaningful and encouraging.  I am TIRED of being redeemed through the struggle; it doesn’t feel redeeming.

Accepting that God may redeem me THROUGH the struggle seems like a risky decision.  It feels like an open door to give up… to stop trying… to simply give into to every whim and desire associated with sex and justify it to myself.  If God is redeeming me through the struggle, do I really have a responsibility to fight against the addiction?  Does it matter whether or not I try to rid my life of this destructive and painful sin if I know I’m never going to overcome it?  Of course it matters; I know this (Romans 6:1).  However, my fear is that accepting that I, like Paul, must maintain the thorn in my flesh for a lifetime, feels like an easy justification when I am tired of the fight.  I don’t even want to begin to imagine what my life will be like if I stop fighting to get better… fighting to recover.

If you’ve read any of my other  blogs, you know that one of my favorite artists is JJ Heller.  Her music resonates with my heart in deep, powerful ways that I cannot put words to.  Her newest single, Who You Are, is no exception.  In this song, JJ sings about dreams not met.  She sings of a woman who has begged for a child of her own but has not been given a child.  She sings of a father who loses a child unexpectedly.  She sings of hurt and pain and unmet expectations.  JJ also sings of the Father’s love, though.  She sings of His love that is found in these unmet expectations.  She says, “I don’t know what you’re doing, but I know who you are.”  I actually was typing those words right as I was listening to them be sung and it brought tears to my eyes.  What an amazingly bold statement of faith.

I have spoken in the past about learning to be okay with living in the tension.  The idea of living in the tension deals with accepting the mystery of God as something that is beautiful and romantic, not something that turns us away from Him.  I think this is exactly what JJ’s new song is saying; just because I don’t know everything that is happening, everything about You, the one I love and follow, doesn’t mean that I don’t KNOW you or KNOW your character and what you have promised me.

I have absolutely NO idea what God is doing in my life when it comes to this struggle.  I don’t know how it will be used or if my dreams will ever be fulfilled.  I don’t know if I will ever be able to say “I used to struggle” instead of “I do struggle.”  I don’t know if a song will rise out of these ashes or if my tired heart will be restored.  What I do know is that my God loves me.  I know that He is love.  I know that there is purpose.  I know that He will not give me anything I cannot handle (1 Corinthians 10:13).  I know that redemption has ultimately won and that one day, this too shall pass.  I know that my God hears and cares for my aching heart and that He has not left my side.  I know WHO my God is and just because I don’t know what He is doing doesn’t make Him any less loving, compassionate or tender.  Because I know who my God is, I have hope.

Letter to Micah

In the spirit of Mother’s Day, here is my letter to my sweet, sweet boy who made me a mother just over a year ago.

Micah Dean,
You, my son, changed my life. I wasn’t sure if I wanted kids or if I would know how to be a mother but the first time I held you in my arms all of that changed. Your breath melted my fears and your heartbeat changed my life. In an instant I knew love differently and more deeply than ever before.  I never knew love could be so full of joy and peace and compassion until that moment when daddy placed you into my arms. I know God’s love and grace deeply because of you; He gave me you and I did nothing to deserve such love and blessing in my life.
Micah, my boy, I have been praying for you and for the man God has created you to be since the first I saw “pregnant” on the home pregnancy test. I knew that I would not be enough. No matter how good of a mother I turn out to be, you will only achieve your potential through Him. I pray that you grow into a relationship with your Creator, that you grow to know and love him deeply. He has so much planned for you and will lead you there if you let him. I pray that you become a man of courage who exudes tenderness to the world. A man of boldness who expresses grace and mercy in all of your relationships. I pray that you know your worth and value through the extravagant relationship you cultivate with Christ. May you learn from others’ mistakes so that your pain and sufferings are minimal. Know that growth comes from seasons of pain; the act of pruning is painful but He is continually shaping you into the man you have been created to be.
My sweet, loving, joyful boy… I want you to know that there is nothing you can ever do that will make me stop loving you. You have my heart, no matter what. I may, at times, be disappointed by your choices or hurt by your actions, but my love well never end. May you know that my love is imperfect because I am not perfect but my love, by the grace of God, is a reflection of His prefect love for you. He has granted me the privilege of expressing His love to you so that you may know Him more fully.
Micah, my love will never end; however, God has also given me the privilege of allowing you to see His love even more fully through your relationship with your wife. I pray that you love her deeply. That you honor her and respect her in all you do and say. Know that it is your responsibility to serve your wife; to be a reflection of Christ to her. Son, gentleness, compassion, understanding, courage and honesty are the aspects of love that are going to empower her, to allow her to continue to grow and will point her to the love of the Father. It is a huge responsibility, my dear son, but I already know you can do it. You will fail and it is going to hurt, but you have the ability to humbly repent and know that you will be forgiven. Son, I pray that you choose wisely when picking a spouse. Follow after His heart and He will lead you to a woman who is perfectly suited for you. Remember in your dating and hormone fueled years that God is preparing you a wife, a woman, not a girl.
Micah Dean, I love you so much. You have changed my life and brought me so much joy in just one year… I am so excited to continue to know and love you. Thank you for loving me and for allowing me to be your mother. As the song I sing to you every night reminds me, “the love of God is evident in the miracle of you, little one.”
-Mom

Lullaby- JJ Heller

Go to sleep little one
May it be peaceful
May you dream of lovely things
And awake to find them real
Little one

Close your eyes little one
This is your lullaby
The love of God is evident in the miracle of you
Little one…