Go forth. And mother.

You are she. 

 

The keeper of fruit snacks. The laborer of nine pound babies. The rocker of colicky babies, babies who won’t sleep just cause and babies who think night is day.

Her with sore breasts, and round, tired eyes. Aching hips and sore joints. You are she who is perpetually hunched over. With shoulders sloped over a crib-side, a kitchen sink, or a sheet of math homework. You could make a bottle of formula or change a Pampers Swaddler at 4 a.m. with your eyes closed, and you damn well pretty much do.

You are her of the frazzled hair, muffin tops and post-childbirth body. Her who lost her senior-prom hard body and driver’s license weight, her sanity, her car keys and her three year old in the grocery store.

She of the cottage cheese thighs, stretch mark bands on her once smooth places, and straw-like hair. She who both avoids the mirror because she can’t bear to look, and the woman who stares into the mirror and wonders where the person she knew went. You remind yourself that she is just in the other room, only a little out of reach. But you’ll find her again. Soon. Or maybe, you’ll hang out with this woman for a while more because you like how she is turning out. 

You are the woman who does not care. She who wanders Target in mom-jeans at 2 p.m., and the woman in Walgreens at 2 a.m. in food stained leggings buying motrin. And you aren’t even worried if you look like you have been partying at Coachella in the clothes you bought at Wal Mart. 

You are the late night sentinel- both consciousness and unconscious, the mid-afternoon chauffeur and maid, and the twilight storyteller

You are the woman in line at school drop off, at the dining room table sweating through homeschool assignments and waving young adults off to college. You are she who drops off casseroles when new babies come, soup for the person who needs a pick me up and the check for the electric bill. 

You are she of late nights, early mornings, long afternoons where hours move slow as molasses, and children ripen right under your watchful eye and also draw on the walls when you aren’t paying attention. You are the woman who draws with sidewalk chalk in the driveway and puts Neosporin on bee stings on lazy summer days. 

Go forth. And mother.

You are the woman losing her mind when the husband is home late from work. You live fifteen lifetimes in that hour as you watch the clock, stir rice-a-roni and peel crying children off your legs. 

You are the woman who doesn’t even care anymore. Let people talk. Let them stare while your child has a meltdown in the produce department. 

You are a work in progress, a tapestry unending, a Mona-Lisa-smile even when it’s hard old soul who has lived a thousand lifetimes through her children.

You are the woman who has only just begun.

You are the mom who doesn’t need to watch the clock. Who doesn’t care that the dishes are piling high and who knows she needs to run a load through the washing machine, but fifteen more minutes, please. Fifteen minutes more to snuggle, rest your head on your pillow, to sit and just be because one day it will be too late.

You are the person who thinks she is always getting it wrong, so much more wrong than anyone else has ever gotten anything wrong. She who never feels like enough, never believes that her good is good enough.

You are the mom who can’t remember what eight hours of uninterrupted sleep or her bed are like. What it’s like to be out at ten o’clock on a Saturday and not feel tired on a molecular level. You don’t remember what it’s like to feel like you aren’t always forgetting to do something but you do remember the name of every dinosaur from the cretaceous period and My Little Pony there ever was.

You are the person who rests her head against the steering wheel. Who turns on cartoons for her children and leaves the room to sit on the edge of her bed. Who lays awake at night. And cries. Oh, boy. Do you cry. Did you even cry this much when you were a baby? Did you know that you would cry this much ever again, and that it would be because you were raising babies?

You are the woman in the bleachers on a Saturday morning, in a seat in the bright orange high school auditorium with nine hundred other parents, but you’re sure that you are the proudest one there. The mom who shows up even when she is bone-tired because she knows that every moment from this one to that is worth it when she sees her child succeed. 

You are the mom doing it all alone. Homework. Parent teacher conferences. Moody teenagers. Cold and flu season. Missed school buses and difficult conversations and making ends meet. You’re carrying more than twice the load while you bear the stigma of single parenthood. 

You are the mom of a child with disabilities and constant health scares. You love them wildly. You worry about what they will do when you are gone, if anyone will care for them like you do. You manage appointments, critical and condescending doctors and medicine dosages. You would rather pull your eyelashes out than sit in one more waiting room or schedule one more appointment. You wonder where self-care has gone, and when your next date night will be. But you are sure that every step forward, every milestone, every life event that they are here with you is beyond a gift.

You are she who dances with her husband in the living room when the kids go to bed. You who squeezes in romance when you can because you have figured out that romance is not about roses and brunch, it’s connection in its most intimate form.

You are the girl who stands on the back porch when she kisses him goodbye and bids him head off to work. And you watch him climb into his car and you’re sure, while those kids are still sleeping, while you’re standing there in your pajamas with a mop of hair on the top of your head, and you are both exhausted, that life will never be this simple again. 

You are the mom who works. You pack lunches, and make it to soccer practice while your lungs want to burst out of your chest from hurrying so much to be in two places at once. You are the woman who bears the scrutiny of other moms who either wish they could go to work or who think you’re compromising everything to pursue your career. And you bear the brunt of coworkers criticism when you duck out for the pre-k class party and the school play. 

You are the woman who simultaneously wishes above all that she could just give up because it’s all too much to ask. And the woman who would never. Never ever. Ever. Let go. Because hope builds the bridge between not good enough and faith.

You are the woman on the street. The woman sitting on the other end of the line at her desk working customer service. The woman in the department store. The woman in Starbucks. The woman in the church pew. The woman down the street. 

You are all of us, and we are all you. 

Now. Go forth. And mother. 

 

 

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Maybe it’s time to be alive again.

This might sound morbid. But, I am going to be honest.

In the months following my dad’s death, I waited to die, too

I’m not sure what logical reason I could give for such a morbid concern. I don’t know if I will ever have an explanation. I think it came from seeing my world crack in half like an egg.

I observed it, like I was a spectator. But then I lived it in realtime, over and over again.

Any pain in my chest or shortness of breath or vague ominous feeling creeping up the back of my neck sent me headlong into an inner torrent of worry. 

My husband and I were laying in bed one night, and I revealed this to him as I lay staring upward, eyes never leaving the slant of the ceiling, for fear that I might look at him and his face would betray me as the lunatic I felt like I was. 

“You aren’t going to die,” he reassured me. I didn’t know if I could believe him.

Maybe it's time to be alive again.

It took a while for me to notice the uptick of anxiety in my every day life, and for me to understand why even the simplest tasks suddenly became challenging. 

We live near a gigantic bridge that stretches the width of the Chesapeake Bay, and even now I can barely stand to cross it – even if I travel in the middle lane. For a while, I was certain that someone would slam into us from behind, and we would all careen over the railing into the choppy water below.

Even merging into everyday traffic became an unnerving ordeal.

The fear that my children would somehow end up in the street pervaded my mind every time I let them play out in the yard.

This is the aftermath of what losing someone suddenly can look like. You learn to not automatically trust in certainties and probably not’s.

My mind raced to fill in the negative space left from losing my father. It filled it to the brim with worry and depression, my mind oscillating between the two like an old, rusty fan. 

Each new day, I wondered what burden would I carry around with me today. Untold grief or strangling worry? Door number 1 or door number 2?

Meanwhile, as an avowed middle child used to disguising her feelings, I operated in my day to day life around other people as normally as I could. I smiled, cracked jokes, made light conversation when necessary, then retreated swiftly when I sensed I was running out of the energy to be both sociable and guarded.

I was “functional,” as I described myself numerous times over texts to the people who intermittently checked in with me. 

Meaning, “I can stand here and make dinner and wash dishes and run the washing machine, but don’t ask me how I’m feeling. Don’t ask me for more than this. Don’t you dare ask me to tell you how it’s really going because I can’t stand to tell it.”

Just like I didn’t notice how much grief was controlling my life as it was happening, there was eventually something else I didn’t notice. 

The part where I started living again. 

I waited so long to turn a corner. In fact, I tried to force it many times. I would concede some millimeter of myself to God, when I even wanted to talk to Him, and think I was cured.

I used to be believe grief was something a person sloughed off, like a butterfly from its chrysalis. 

We believe this lie that we can shed off the things that hurt us, the things that damage us, and never feel the weight of those things again. That we never have to return to this dark place again.

But I’m not sure that’s true. 

I think what is true is that this pattern, this journey toward finding peace, isn’t linear. It has high points and low points. And you never see it coming when you round the bend to what lies ahead when life takes hold of you again. 

Joy, loss and hope. I am a keeper of all three.

You never see it when hope seeps back in to your life. When the joy creeps in. I didn’t necessarily make a conscious choice to be over my pain. It’s just that life found me again. And by the time it did, I was unknowingly at a point where I was ready, despite myself.

My wonderful husband assured me many times of how my father would want me to be happy. He would have wanted me to carry on. For so long, those words hurt. I wasn’t ready for them yet.

Maybe I felt guilty for knowing that eventually, life would carry me further away from the memory of him, the sheer existence of him. It would fall prey to the mechanisms of time until it was just a thing that happened long ago. 

I worried one day, Lord willing, I would be in a rocking chair on my porch, gray and weathered, and it might take effort to recall the sound of my father’s voice, and that thought broke me. And, what if my life can’t be spent building a temple to him and his memory?? What if nothing else feels good enough to honor my grief? 

Does it mean I’ll forget if I carry on, that I’m leaving him behind? 

It was eventually I realized that if I carry on, I can carry my father with me. 

And I could start living again when I realized that my sense of loss could coexist with joy if I was brave enough to trust God that the two could abut each other.

I didn’t need to build a temple to my father and my grief. I realized that I was the temple. And between the chasm of joy and loss is hope.

And somehow, with the Lord’s help, I can be a keeper of all three. 

 

 

 

You are not responsible for your husband’s happiness.

I am going to lay out what may be a difficult or hard but (hopefully) freeing word for us as wives.

 

You are not responsible for your husband’s happiness.

 

You are not his keeper.
You are not his babysitter.
You are not his surrogate mother.
You are not meant to be the single source of his contentment, hope, effectiveness and peace, just as he is not meant to be yours.

 

What you really are is so much more than these things.

 
You are not responsible for your husband's happiness

It is time for us wives to find freedom from a burden that we have been saddled with for far too long. We have permission to not be everything to our husbands, women. We have permission to be as complex and flawed and in need of grace as they are.

We wives were built, in part, to be helpers to our spouses. But that is not our only purpose and gifting. We are meant to magnify the Lord preeminently in all we do, even if we happen to take a husband at some point.

And yes, our God’s greatness will shine through us in how we love and treat our spouse.

However, as an occasionally misguided extension of that reality, we are hardwired to be fixers even when a situation may not require it of us. Many of us want nothing more than to see our husbands succeed and find fulfillment – even at a disservice to ourselves. 

And Lord knows, we wives will spin plates and walk an exhausting tight rope trying to make that happen – by whatever means we think is necessary. Whether those means are nagging, compensating for your spouse where they fall short, lowering expectations or raising them, striving for constant perfection in an effort to keep them continuously happy, keeping quiet to keep the peace or NOT keeping quiet.

 

And it is to our own detriment when we take these efforts of our husband’s fulfillment, success and even sanctification completely upon ourselves. 

It is simply not our job to complete or constantly cater to our husband. 
This is does not mean that their happiness and joy is unimportant to is. It simply means that we surrender feeling like we have failed at some divine task when we see our husband struggle. And instead, we take up the mantle of championing them and seeing them through difficult seasons in life as their wife and spiritual companion.
 

Our job is to be a conduit of God’s grace to our husbands. Which means forgiveness when he gets it wrong. It means encouraging him when he is discouraged. It means helping him, and being attuned to him in ways no one else can be. 

It means cherishing him above all else and anyone else in this world.

It means grieving when something wounds him as you would for yourself – because the two of you are one flesh.

It means being honest. It means speaking truth – in boldness. And it always means being faithful to the Lord first, and above all things. 

And, it also means allowing yourself to be the flawed, finite human being that you are as you both walk this road together.

It also means there are times where you can and should be asking for his support, prayer and respect because grace is reciprocal. 

But we are not ever ultimately responsible for making them feel complete. It isn’t even in our jurisdiction. And it was never meant to be. 

The onus is not on us to always concede ground in a disagreement. The onus is not always on us to be sure they feel happy or fulfilled. The onus is not on us to be all things at all times.

We have permission to be as complex and flawed and in need of grace as they are.We are responsible for making sure that we are not adding to their burdens in their every day life, and for being a blessing to them.

We are responsible for being a safe place for them to land when they need it most.

We are responsible for praying for and seeking out ways to foster their continued growth in the Lord within our marriage and relationship as best as we can.

We are responsible for caring deeply about their needs, and esteeming them above ourselves, just as they are responsible for caring for our needs and esteeming us above themselves.

We are responsible for showing respect to them, and for giving them the room to be complicated, flawed and imperfect entities. Much like we are! 

We are responsible for sharing our own hurts and successes and joys with our husbands in an effort to build intimacy and humility.

 

This doesn’t mean that there won’t be seasons where this is more work on our part than theirs. And conversely, there will be seasons where they will put forth more effort than us because life and redemption and growth are not linear, and because we will be tested.

The hope we should pray is to ask God to help us be the wife that our husband needs in whatever season you both find yourselves in.

 

And that our husbands would remember that God is the only God he needs – in every season.