Motherhood · Writing

Mothering in secret

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Real life.

(Lately words have been slow in coming. I hope you will forgive a half-baked, incomplete piece. Perhaps this is more of a conversation. Me to you, whoever you are who might need to remember this as much as I do.)

But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6)

Lately my thoughts about this exhausting season of life are less-than pretty. But most of them center around this one question that I find myself asking again and again: Where is my recognition?

It is a human feeling, right? The desire to be seen, the desire to have our hard work noticed.

For me, motherhood brings this question to the surface especially often, since a mother’s daily labors seem fruitless and trivial. In a world where titles and job descriptions and accomplishments bring praise and recognition, the role of mother sounds underwhelming and invisible. Even those closest to me don’t see most of what I do day-in and day-out.

Most of motherhood is entirely hidden. The 12 a.m. and then 2 a.m. and then 5 a.m. wakings; the patient word uttered to a toddler in the midst of a meltdown; the nap time spent chopping herbs and boiling vegetables to prepare for dinner. Most of these moments go entirely unnoticed.

I am not here to discount the encouragement that a word of recognition can bring. I am not here to ask for praise.

I am here to remind myself, and hopefully another mother or two who might also need to hear it:

The things we do in secret are often the most important—and the most sanctifying—ones.

I have been thinking often on Christ’s instructions to His disciples in Matthew 6. Let your giving be in secret. Shut your door and pray to the Father in secret. Keep your fasting secret. These are some of the most fundamental practices in the Christian life, and we are exhorted to practice secrecy in all of them.

And with each of these practices, there comes a promise: And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

How humbling and beautiful to read those words. I am reminded again that it matters not what man thinks of me. I am seen and known by a Heavenly Father who accepts my small offerings of sacrifice. What is the praise of man compared to the reward of God?

Motherhood is a practice in “letting no opportunity go by for serving others in love,” its sacrifices “a bouquet of insignificant little blossoms that are daily placed before the Almighty—a silent, life-long martyrdom.” (St. Edith Stein)

I am asked only to be faithful in the tasks I am given, to look not for the praise of man, but to work and wait and pray that one day I may hear the only praise that matters:

Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into your rest.

Motherhood · Writing

Two Years

_SMO5473 copy copy(HERE are my thoughts on year one.)

“In God’s new kingdom, the role of the human couple has changed; it has become a relationship of mother and son. The Son of God is the Son of Man through his mother but not through a human father… does it not indicate the nobility of motherhood as the purest and most elevated union of human beings?” (St. Edith Stein)

“What was it like when you saw her face for the first time?”
“Like I’d been missing her all my life.”
(Call the Midwife)

My baby girl is two tomorrow.

It is remarkable to me how a child’s birthday is just as much about memory as it is about anticipation. It is a child’s and a whole family’s celebration of what has been and anticipation of what is to come: all of the learning and growing and developing. But a birthday is also about memory; often silent memory, memories treasured in a mother’s deepest heart, quietly recalled and reflected upon in between diapers and meals and bedtimes.

These last few days hold so many memories for me. While I know that in the immediate, these moments weren’t as magical and beautiful as they seem now, memory almost reveals to us the deep sweetness in the moments that feel impossible, overwhelming, even terrifying at times. It seems that memory returns those moments to us so that we might see within them the meaning and the wonder that they held. Here are some of those memories, given to me now, as moments of deep grace.

No sleep for three days. My mom not being able to keep up with me on our walks because I was so determined to move this baby along. Blooming aliums in the gardens. Going to the midwife, going home again, going to the midwife, going home again, discouraged, not progressing. Pleading with my mom to help me make the petocin decision. The anticipation of finals still to take hanging over Travis’ head. A night of contractions, breathing, walking, Christmas lights, Audrey Assad on repeat. Pushing, and wanting to cry, and sleeping for a few seconds here and there, water, blood, fear, pain, encouragement, pain, relief, victory, sunshine.

Our windows faced east and she came with the sunrise. The dream ended, and mercy met us with the morning. The magic in that was unmistakable.

Two years later, she is everything we thought she would be. Hilarious, passionate, energetic, demanding, smart as a whip, and a live production every moment. We go to bed every night laughing about something she said, wondering at her newest trick or her recent excitements.

Of course with every new baby, the magic is new again. But there is something about first firsts that I’m not sure I will ever quite get over. She was my first pregnancy, my first labor, my first delivery, my first baby, my first time breastfeeding, my first 2 a.m. alarm clock, my first everything.

She is the first to teach me that “love is the stuff of life.” (Call the Midwife again.. I kind of love it.) Love creates life, and love gives life, and love sustains life. I am certain there is no love like this mothering love on this side of heaven. It is hard, and inconvenient, and exhausting and it demands a lot of me. But it is invigorating and profound and tenacious and delighting.

And it is love that comes to me and reminds me that I am loved even more than I love my children. My children are loved even more than I love them. Oh love divine!

That morning in our hospital room, when I saw her little fingers and her sweet nose and the day dawned, this love came and met us and filled us. And I discovered what I didn’t even know I was missing.

Books & Reading

Written Words, II

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The Bright Field, R.S. Thomas

I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the pearl
of great price, the one field that had
treasure in it. I realize now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying
on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.
Kiddos · Little stories · Vignettes

Vignettes

DSC_0007Me: “I have to get up to shower tomorrow.”
Travis: “No you don’t. You’re not going anywhere.”
Me: “Yes, I do. There are ladies coming over.”
Travis: “Are they ladies who shower?”

(Thanks to my husband for always being supportive of my less-than eagerness to wash my hair most days.)

~

The other morning, while Edith was playing outside with some other children, a loud airplane flew low over the backyard. Edith’s little head popped up and she watched the whole time it was in her line of sight until it disappeared—her eyes wide, a big grin on her face, saying something to herself that I couldn’t hear from inside the house. Probably “Airplane! Whoosh!” over and over and over again. I love to see her noticing things—her eyes bright, and her face turned with complete attention. I love it. I want to foster that in her, to teach her to see things and notice things and giver her full attention to them. It is good for me to remember that she will best learn this act of noticing from me. It is a weighty thing, this job I have of being a model for another person to imitate.

~

Processed with VSCO with c2 presetOn Sunday, during communion, when Edith usually says (very loudly): “Jesus here!”, this week, she said: “Jesus read Frog and Toad?”

~

I am glad that whoever planned my house thought of the sunshine. It comes in the large, back doors, first thing in the morning, as we are still working on waking up. Then it moves a bit and spills through the big window on the other side of the dining room, warming our breakfast and getting in John Henry’s eyes as he bounces in the kitchen doorway. Then it warms up the whole house, all afternoon, through the huge front window. I live for light, and this home has given me so much. It is making up for my first three years of lightless apartment living.

~

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As I tried to communicate to Edith the dangers of running into the road, I told her one time that the cars would “get her.” Ever since, she would say “cars get you street.” “Trucks get you street.”

“That’s right, Edith,” I would say. “The cars will get you so we stay in the yard.”

The trouble is, she has taken this very much to heart and every time we are in the front yard and she hears a car coming down the road, she crouches in the grass and looks around like she is expecting it to jump off the road and tackle her to the ground. Now she won’t even walk in a parking lot with me, holding my hand. “Cars get you,” she says in tears, again and again, until I hold her.

Mom fail or mom success? I haven’t decided.

Books & Reading

On the feast of the Annunciation

DSC_0210In one of his Advent homilies, Bernard of Clairvaux offers a stirring presentation of the drama of this moment. After the error of our first parents, the whole world was shrouded in darkness, under the dominion of death. Now God seeks to enter the world anew. He knocks at Mary’s door. He needs human freedom. The only way he can redeem man, who was created free, is by means of a free “yes” to his will. In creating freedom, he made himself in a certain sense dependent upon man. His power is tied to the unenforcable “yes” of a human being. So Bernard portrays heaven and earth as it were holding its breath at this moment of the question addressed to Mary. Will she say yes? She hesitates … will her humility hold her back? Just this one—Bernard tells her—do not be humble but daring! Give us your “yes”! This is the crucial moment when, from her lips, from her heart, the answer comes: “Let it be to me according to your word.” It is the moment of free, humble yet magnanimous obedience in which the loftiest choice of human freedom is made.
(Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives, Benedict XVI)