She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children arise and call her blessed;
Motherhood is easily idealized. Mary, Jesus’ mother has been elevated to near deity. Mother and Child has been the theme for countless works of art. Instagram and Pinterest are filled with images of motherhood, family crafts and homemaking.
But the reality is much more messy, chaotic, frustrating and sometimes heartbreaking. Many are thrust into motherhood unprepared, while others yearn desperately to be mothers but are denied. Even for the Moms who planned and prepared, motherhood often throws curve balls: your perfect child has a physical or learning disability, addiction or illness; the little princess you dreamed of is a pants wearing tom-boy, the football star you expected is more interested in art, or vice versa! I was amazed at the questions I had to field by kindergarten age. Kids just tend to surprise you and stretch you out of your comfort zone.
Kids are often more unpredictable, loud, emotional and comfortable with chaos than us adults. And then they can be curious, affectionate, helpful and amazing - often with tiny hands still covered in chocolate. Motherhood is rewarding, but it comes with fear as well: am I doing it right, will they be safe, will they make friends, will they do well in school, will they be happy, will they love God, will I be able to help them with Algebra, will they hate me one day?
I was thinking of several young mothers I know when I drew the above illustration. I tried to capture the sense of chaos and confusion that I often experienced as a mom. Full of strength and dignity is NOT how I felt during that period of life! I spoke with wisdom and faithful instruction in the mom-mobile, but usually with goldfish crackers or French fries flying past me, and someone kicking the back of my seat.
Eventually I discovered Philippians 4:4-9 and I used it as a recipe for peace in the midst of chaos ever since.
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
Step One: Rejoice in the Lord. Pause and remember that God is in control. Consider the many blessings in your life despite the current situation. I used to think of a few ways the situation could be worse and that helped me be grateful for what it was.
Step Two: Gentleness. This one is tricky, but don’t lose your cool. My kids liked to ‘push my buttons’ to get a reaction, and I found myself counting to 10 (20, 30, 50) before I responded angrily or out of proportion to the situation. Motherhood teaches grace under pressure like nothing else.
Step Three: Remember you are not alone! God is right there in the middle of it with you! The Lord is near. He puts up with humanity like a patient Father, and He’ll help you as well.
Step Four: Let go of worry and anxiety and give it to God. Cast all your cares on Him. Pray, ask, give thanks and trust that God will take care of it.
Step Five: Let that blessed Peace of God guard your heart and mind. If you can find that peaceful calm in the eye of the storm of life you’re in, you will be able to find patience and wisdom to face the issues with discernment and not just react emotionally.
Step Six: Fill your head with all the good stuff. Don’t dwell on the challenges, fears, or Satan’s lies. Swat them away like gnats and focus on the positive possibilities.
Step Seven: Live out your faith. Christian parenting is especially hard because sometimes it feels like you have an audience waiting for you to slip up so the finger-pointing can begin. It’s okay. We live and learn – in our faith and in our parenting. But strive every day for the fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, etc. Our ultimate goal is to raise kids who love Jesus and follow hard after Him.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there: younger or older, mothers-in-law or mothers-in-love, women who raised or mentored others’ kids, anyone who has given their heart to a child asking nothing in return – blessed are you among women.