Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Relaunch: Mother's Day

Here is a little talk I wrote for church this morning. I'm using it to relaunch my blog (so to speak.) I'm relaunching because I think that having a blog to post to will help encourage me to get more writing done, and have an outlet for it. I have a lot of work to do on adjusting the sidebars and all that organizational stuff because I doubt I'll be posting much of anything about knitting anymore. And feel free to mine the archives for all kinds of nonsense -- who knows what's in there?!?!

Any new readers from Twitter, if you were brave enough to click the link I tweeted, welcome! Let's see if this is the beginning of a new journey or just a moment in the clouds together :)

I am always sensitive in my preaching to not go on and on about my children or about motherhood. I know that people don’t want to hear about it every time I get into the pulpit and I know that there are people in the congregation who either don’t care for children and tales of their escapades, or who wanted to have a family and didn’t or couldn’t, or who just get bored hearing about the antics of the same old kids time after time. But apparently today I am allowed to gush about my little ones and how they have affected me, so I want to share some things with you about how motherhood has changed my life and also impacted my faith.

I believe that God has all manner of experiences and encounters and opportunities that he can use to teach us the lessons that we need to know throughout life—and those lessons are learned in different ways by different people, and we are each as different as every snowflake that falls and every blade of grass. And I also believe that although motherhood is for many a biological reality, and of course all of us here today had mothers, at least biologically, one can be a mother without bearing a child from her womb.

You can be a mother if you have literally adopted a baby, or if you are a godmother, or if you are an auntie, or if you are one of the many members of any village that it takes to raise a child, even though we no longer live in villages. You have been a mother if you’ve answered a call from a frantic neighbor with a new baby, and offered her an hour of sleep while you rock and walk and bounce the little one. You have been a mother if you’ve walked beside a teenager, allowing them to share things with you that they just can’t bear to tell their parents, and have helped to lead them in the right direction. Being a mother, or like a mother, can teach us all so many things.

For me, it has taught me many lessons already (with many more in store, I’m sure), and has been a tool that I believe God has used to help me learn more about myself and the world, and about God. One of my friends said to me right before Jack was born, “Well, now you get to really be a grown-up.” While I believe that at some point, we all turn into grown-ups if we live long enough, for me it really has been true that having a family has helped me grow and mature, both in my personhood and in my faith.

Growing up, it was always my sister who was referred to as being “good with kids,” or “kid-friendly,” or “the fun one.” I was more cerebral, always wanting to talk to the adults, not the first one to give my little cousins a piggy-back ride or play tag in the lawn. So I got the impression that I was “not-good-with-kids” and perhaps not even nurturing.

To my surprise, I think I am actually a pretty good mom, though! I can’t raise a houseplant to save my life and I’m still not the best one to play Legos with for hours on end, but I love my children and I think motherhood has come a bit more naturally to me than even I expected.

Here are some things I have learned about being a mom, about having children. Hopefully at least one of the things I’m about to say will resonate with you, whether you’re also a mom or not. These thoughts are both serious and irreverent, and presented in no particular order:

Being a mother means learning to operate on a constant, underlying level of exhaustion, and to wonder what you did with all the excess energy you had to have had before becoming a mom.

Being a mother means that from the moment you learn that a bundle of cells is growing inside your body to become a child, your heart learns to expand exponentially with love.

It means understanding why sometimes the only way your mom could communicate with you was through clenched teeth and with her fingers grasping the fleshy underside of your arm, as in, “If you don’t move over here and stop doing that right now, I don’t know what I’m going to do with you.”

Being a mother means understanding how you can both simultaneously love someone to bits and be so irritated with them and their behavior, in the same moment.

It means sneaking into your child’s room at night after an especially hard day just to watch them sleeping so peacefully.

It means watching the faces they make in the moments of newborn sleep and feeling your heart hurt when they make what is only an involuntary frown, because it just looks so sad.

It means completely understanding why car seats are so important for safety, but being so frustrated that the baby has to ride in one because it equates to shrieking from the backseat on car rides.

It means realizing why sometimes the only answer is “Because” when your child is in the “why?” phase of being a toddler. You can only explain things so far down to their root cause.

It means opening your heart to another human being who, though so small, has the power to hold you in the palm of their little hand.

It means allowing cheddar Pepperidge Farm goldfish for breakfast if that’s really the only thing that is going to get this child to change out of pajamas for the day.

It means being amazed that this new little baby needs you so much, knows who you are, and clings to you so tightly, even though you’ve just met.

It means a brand new level of vulnerability, sometimes physically painful in the center of your chest.

It means a new appreciation for the satisfaction of a good belch when you know it’s the only thing that is going to bring this child comfort in this moment.

It means learning about how you must sound when you talk; when every sentence begins with the word, “Um…” and ends with a dangling, “So…”

It means suddenly shifting the percentage of the budget spent on your own clothes because baby clothes are just so darn cute!

Being a mother means spending all afternoon looking forward to seeing your beloved: no, I’m not talking about the spouse, I’m talking about the kid. That look when they see you arrive at daycare and run into your arms is worth more than anything money can buy.

Being a mother means understanding why you got that look from the mom sitting four rows behind you when you inadvertently shushed her baby during church when you were in third grade.

It means a brand new, and more thorough, understanding of Psalm 139: “You knit me together in my mother’s womb.”

Being a mother means feeling like you need to buy a van just to take on vacation because you need to pack anything in the house that the baby could possibly need over the next 7 days.

Being a mother means sometimes thinking that your child’s birthday is more important for you than even for them: sure, they get gifts, but you get to reminisce about one of the greatest gifts you ever received on that day so many years ago.

Being a mother means knowing that if it were between you and your child eating if there were no food, you would go many days without so that you could make sure your child got something in his belly.

Being a mom means a new appreciation and empathy for the mom in the grocery store whose child is laid out across aisle 2 having a meltdown because she wouldn’t let her eat M&M’s at 10:30 in the morning.

And finally, being a mom means knowing that when you said to your own mom, “You’re so mean. You don’t love me!” you were so, so very wrong.

It means believing in miracles; after all, what else do you call creating a fully functioning human being out of several tiny little cells?

It means believing in the creative and sustaining power of God; knowing that no matter what happens, you will not be able to ever deny the existence of God because you have seen life begin.

And it means having a completely new appreciation for your own mother, what you put her through, what she gave up for you, how big her heart swelled to contain all the love she felt for you and your siblings, and how God must feel—if God’s love is anything like the love of a parent for a child, God’s heart truly must be so big that it completely surrounds the entire universe, because God loves each and every person just as much as a mother loves her child, sometimes, even more.

We are all beloved children of God, even if we were born to a mother who didn’t seem to care for us, even if our households weren’t warm, safe places to be, even if Mother’s Day brings more pain and longing than hugs and sweetness. God love us so much that God knit each of us together while we were in our mothers’ wombs, and God continues to love us today, tomorrow, and forever. Thanks be to God for our mothers, those who have been like mothers, and for God’s motherly love!

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