While this post is somewhat about motherhood, it’s more about mothering. And while I will be talking about my perspective as a mother, I hope there is something here that will encourage you— whether your mothering is in the biological realm, the spiritual realm, or both. To embrace our God-given design as lifegivers is a joyful expression of who we were created to be.
I’m a mother of five and a grandmother of eight. I’m fortunate that my own mother was able to come stay with us when a new baby arrived. Having her there to help in all sorts of ways made those first crazy days survivable. As terrifying as it was to bring that new little person home from the hospital, it was nothing compared to watching Mom drive away and knowing I was now on my own. When my own daughter began having children, I couldn’t get that airplane ticket fast enough. Every passenger between Houston and Nashville knew that I was going to meet my newest grandbaby! From my experience of being both on the receiving and the giving end of this special kind of caretaking, I can’t help notice some similarities with our role as spiritual mothers as well.
We all know the intensity of a newborn’s cry for food. Eating is serious business! But a new mama needs to eat as well. Remember that early fog? When you feel like you just ran a race and want nothing more than to sleep, unless that something more is food? Labor and delivery were only the beginning of this marathon! Having mom there to shop and cook and do the dishes and make all our favorite meals was more than just help: it was nourishment for our weary, hungry souls. The last thing on my mind when I was a gazillion-weeks pregnant was making things look pretty, yet here Mom was: putting the jam in a pretty dish, folding napkins, and making our time around the table a celebration.
When my own house was full of little ones, my older children knew the best part of having a new baby was the meals from our church friends. Every night was like Christmas as these dear saints blessed us with dinner (usually with plenty of leftovers!). I will never forget the morning that Miss April brought over a platter of freshly fried chicken. I don’t remember why she was there at 10 AM, but I do remember that those drumsticks didn’t make it to dinnertime! After spending a week with my daughter last month, I was reminded how much hungry kids can eat. What fun to bake and cook for a crowd again!
If you are in a spiritual mothering relationship, you know that one of the best ways to care for your daughter is through the word of God. It is her food and she needs to eat. Sometimes we model that by showing her what a beautiful feast looks like: a specially prepared Bible study or devotion, a lesson from our own life that we can share. Sometimes we show up with that “emergency meal” and remind her that no Christian can survive on a starvation diet…
When I was about twelve, I was asked to help with a special assignment at our church on Mother’s Day. As each mother entered, I was told to hand them a pink carnation and say, “Happy Mother’s Day!” I distinctly remember my follow-up question: How will I know who is a mother?
These kinds of gestures are certainly thoughtful and meant to be celebratory, but, oh, how narrow-minded we can be on this holiday! As a believer in Jesus, be encouraged this Mother’s Day not for the reasons the world labels it as “happy,” but find joy in the precious words of Jesus that bless and exhort each who are uniquely touched by the emotions that accompany this particular day.
For Those Who Have Lost A Child
“I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38)
You likely enter Mother’s Day with empty hands and a longing heart. Whether it’s because of a miscarriage, disease, or other tribulation, there are so many tender emotions tied to Mother’s Day because of layered grief. Dear woman, be encouraged by the depth and width of the love of Jesus. There is no hardship or suffering that is great enough or powerful enough to separate us from the love of Jesus. It’s because of this immeasurable love that we need not be consumed by grief or bitterness. It’s because of this immeasurable love that you put one foot in front of the other, still loving those whom God has put in your midst. You are embraced by the powerful love of Christ, and nothing can loosen His grip.
For Those Who Long for Children..
It’s that middle place for children, right after self-awareness and just before it’s singed with pride and embarrassment: When they look back at you after a great or terrible act with a question in their eyes, “Did you see that?” Of course, this carries far past the little years, but there is this short period of time where their need to be seen is so… seen. They threw a ball! Did you see that? They pushed their brother. Did you see that? Their chubby little fingers stacked the third block and it didn’t fall—head turns and eyes grow: Did you see that?
Our seeing their accomplishment actually completes it for them. But it’s more than that, isn’t it? They feel at home in our gaze; they feel like a whole person with our eyes on them. To be seen is to be. We would be fools to think that we somehow grew out of this basic human need. We’ve just figured out how to shade our eyes so that no one sees us looking around, trying to catch another’s gaze: “Did anyone see that?”
Longing to Be Seen
We can feel this sorely, though not solely, as mothers—when every part of our body and brain and soul just needs to lie down, and we can’t even remember what made us so tired in the first place. We hurt from loving, we ache from longing, and no matter how affirmative our husbands might be, we can still feel unseen. (Is anyone watching me make four lunches at once?) We may (I have) turn to sharing our moments on social media. Maybe a few hundred hearts and thumbs will quench this thirst. Maybe a comment of solidarity will pick me up off the ground. But it can’t last, can it? I can’t hold that person’s face in my hands and fix their gaze forever.
It’s not just the hard moments that we wish for others to see—like when two people need their bottoms wiped at the exact same time (always, always… law of nature!). But it’s the beautiful moments, too: when your baby hugs your leg and says, “I love you!” for the first time, unprompted. Oh, did anyone see that?! And so, like I experienced as a young mother, our brains can spiral down into a philosophical depression—is my life of motherhood the proverbial tree that falls in the forest? Do these common, everyday moments mean anything outside of someone’s gaze?…