Monday, November 28, 2005

Reflecting on Wholehearted Motherhood

I read this inspiring post on Wholehearted Motherhood, and it was exactly what I needed. It was good to go through the post point-by-point and reevaluate how much of my heart I put into my vocation as a mother.

The wholehearted mother has learned to lay down her wants and desires when they conflict with her responsibilities... She knows that it is not enough to be a stay-at-home mom, to homeschool her children, to run a ship-shape home, or to plan the perfect rotating menus, if her heart is only partially for the home. She does not simply perform her duties and feel as if she has done all that is required, but she has a steadfast faithfulness and heartfelt dedication to motherhood...

I for one have a difficult time putting aside my desires for my responsibilities. How many times do I rush through the kids bedtime prayers or skip reading-time altogether because I may miss the first 10 minutes of Gilmore Girls? How many times do I get so caught up in keeping the perfect house and getting everything done that I neglect to spend time being a mother to my children? How much time do I spen on the computer and miss out on my duties as a mother? The answer: plenty.

The words "steadfast faithfulness" and "heartfelt dedication" are words I want to deeply apply to my life as a mother.

She is unswerving in her dedication to raise her children to serve the Lord. Her children observe her passion for this holy mission and see it for the splendid task that it is.

This is one of those statements that I know in my head, but need to hear over and over to remind my heart. Mothers and wives show their love for God by raising their children and loving their husbands. So how well, how much, how deeply am I showing my love for God in my vocation? Sometimes I feel like I merely survive the day, and to a certain degree, that is normal. But I must face it, there are times when I feel exhausted not because the day has been legitimately difficult, but because I have spent so much time wallowing over what desires I must sacrifice. Sometimes I make the days more difficult by my own rebellion... "For once, I'd like to do what I want, when I want!" is what I say, not realizing that those rebellions actually make the day more difficult to bear. If I recited the words "steadfast faithfulness" and "heartfelt dedication" to myself rather than the words, "I want, I want, I want!", maybe I would have less difficult days and more satisfying days.

Enthusiastic: The wholehearted mother is excited about her vocation. She says, “How blessed I am to be a mother! What a wonderful calling this is! I am so thankful for my home and for my family.” Her children know that she esteems motherhood and that she is joyful and eager to tackle its challenges. She makes work into a game and inspires her children to learn. Her daughters are convinced that motherhood is a glorious endeavor and worthy of a passionate and fervent devotion.

This is also an area I need to work on, and it is just a matter of adjusting my attitude continually, until it is ingrained in me and becomes a part of my daily habits. Of course I love my vocation as a wife and mother, and I love being an at-home mother. But I admit that I forget to be excited, joyful about it. Many may question my love for my life if I fail to show enthusiasm for it. It would break my heart if it ever came to be that my own daughters questioned my love for this life due to a lack of enthusiasm on my part. It is a matter of making sure my actions and expressions match the affections of my heart.

A wholehearted mother must first pursue God with a whole heart. “Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart,” Psalm 119:2. As she communes with the Lord and spends time in His presence, she will receive His vision for her family and be renewed in her purpose as a mother. This is the antidote for weariness, discouragement, and a sense of failure. Time spent with God will give her an eternal perspective and a fresh sense of the significance of her role as a mother. “Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord,” Psalm 27:14.

One again, a theme in my recent days...God calling me to time with Him before I begin any part of my day... to time with Him when I have a quiet moment to spare... to time with Him in the midst of my daily activities. Our Lord is pretty much shouting this message to me, repeatedly. How blessed I am to have a God who gives me the answers I need so clearly. Why do I not heed those answers? Stubbornness, laziness, forgetfulness, ingratitude, apathy...the list could go on. It is clearly time for me to overcome those obstacles and embrace the call God is so loudly, so constantly giving me.

Now, to give myself some credit (and indulge in a little bit of hope), I do think there are some areas I am doing a pretty good job in. Of course, I will always strive to do better....

...Determined: The wholehearted mother lets nothing sway her vision. Sure, she has days when she is not at her best. She may be tired in mind or body, but, she either perseveres through those times or gets back on track when they have passed. The wholehearted mother has a dream for her children, an unqualified resolve to raise citizens of the Kingdom who wholeheartedly love their God. She is determined to make the sacrifices necessary now, to avoid the pain of regret later...

...Free from all reserve or hesitation: The wholehearted mother doesn’t let the criticism of family or friends dissuade her. When she picks up a magazine and reads, “Motherhood is Overrated,” “Me, Me, Me,” “How to Have It All,” “Too Much of a Good Thing – the Dangers of a Large Family,” “Pamper Yourself Today,” “Don’t Lose Your Job Skills,” or “Buried in Diapers,” she smiles, lays it down, and reads, “Lo, children are a heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward,” Psalm 127:3...

...A wholehearted mother will have a heart for her husband. “That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children,” Titus 2:4...

What a perfect time for reflection on wholehearted motherhood, this post-partum time with a new baby. What a perfect season to ponder the improvements that need to be made in my life, this season of Advent. I thank God for blessing me with clear, constant messages that I cannot ignore. I thank God for anything that renews and refreshes me, especally in the areas of my vocation that are lacking. And, to repeat the prayer at the end of the referred post:

“Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting,” Psalm 139:23 & 24.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Post-Partum Letter to Myself

Dear Philothea Rose,

First of all, let me just tell you that your baby is perhaps, the most precious little thing on earth. His sweet face, gentle cries, and lovely smell are capitvating. Every stress you had about having five kids completely vanished the moment of his birth. Praise God, Praise God!

Now, time for me to knock some sense into you.

1. You just had a baby 6 days ago; of course your belly is still big! Please do not cry everytime someone sees you without the baby and asks when you are due. Please do not fret that you are still wearing maternity clothes because your old ones will fit one day. And please ignore the incredibly stupid lady you encountered in the doctor's office yesterday. As your Gorgeous Redhead told you, why do you listen to someone who is so obviously stupid?! (If you need a refresher, I am speaking about the lady with which you had this exchange):

Lady: Oh, how old is your baby?
Philothea: 5 days old!
Lady: And you are still pregnant?
Philothea: (looking down at her huge post-partum belly) Um... no, I had him 5 days ago.
Lady: Oh! I was wondering, "how that could possibly happen!?!"

2. Now, when your husband cleans the house for you and tells you how tired he is, please do not assume that he is trying to tell you that he is more tired than you are or that he is trying to make you feel guilty for not getting up and helping. He is just stating a fact. He can still be tired, sweetie, and he isn't trying to take anything away from the fact that you just had a baby and need rest. This isn't a competition, he is not trying to show how he can be "a better homemaker" than you are. He is just helping out! If he didn't help, you'd be mad at him for that and would cry that he was being a selfih, lazy jerk. Tell him thank you and go back to sleep. If he decides to rest a bit himself, it doesn't mean he's giving you a clue to get up and do some work. And please don't ever assume he has anythjing but good helpful intentions toward you, because it really makes you look like an ass!

3. Please do not get all worked up over your house not looking perfect. You were not expected to get your porch scrubbed or your air vents vacuumed when you were nine months pregnant, and no one expects you to now. When people come to your house, they are coming to see you and your baby. They are coming with love and support. They will not be running a gloved finger over your furniture to check for dust and they will not be counting the spiders gathered on your porch. And if they are, they probably don't have five kids as you do and so don't worry about what they think anyway! People are coming to the home of a recently-pregnant-currently-post-partum-mother-of-five with a husband who goes to work and school full-time along with internships and volunteering commitments. Your friends and family know this and do not expect your home to be a showcase. That will not come for another 18 years, at least.

4. Yes, your youngest daughter at home while the others are in school will be spending a lot of time at home, playing by herself, and probably watching a bit too much TV while you rest, sleep, nurse, and take care of your new baby. Get over it, It isn't the end of the world. She can count to 20, right? Her brain cells will be fine.

5. Just because you don't feel all that great doesn't mean you can't pray. You always think you have to be feeling fabulous and with everything done before you sit down for some good, quality God-time. But you'd be so much better off if you started out praying rather than finishing off praying (because when are you ever finished?). Pray tired. Pray sleepy. Pray sore. Pray nursing. Pray wiping. Pray "God, please be with me" in between the crazy moments. Just pray. It will help you tremendously during this time.

Now, you are in a good mood, a good place now. But you will completely forget all these things within the hour and begin stressing out again, so come back often and read this and remember the peace you were feeling when you wrote this. Your friends love you. Your family loves you. Your new baby loves you. Your Gorgeous Redhead loves you. Your God loves you. What do you have to stress out over?

Philothea Rose

Friday, November 04, 2005

Some input from other moms, please....

I have always experienced that "nesting hormone" rush before the baby comes. You know, the one that not only inspires you to scrub your entire house down for the baby, but also the one that actually gives you the energy and wherewithall to do it.

I have become inspired to clean my oven, vacuum my air vents, call a hauling company for the brush in my alleyway, and dust off the light-bulbs that are underneath the light fixtures in my bathroom. However, have I actually done these things? No. I've experienced the paranoia and panic of NOT doing them, and the despair and feeling so tired and heavy that I can't do them. So, is the nesting hormone less potent in me this time around because this is #5, or am I just still not ready to go yet and my body is still waiting to give me the cue sometime next week? I mean, with all the others, I had everything DONE by the time the baby came, and to me that was a clue that my body was ready to go because the nesting hormone had acted sufficiently.

So, right now, I am afraid that that baby will come too soon and I will have nothing accomplished (I don't even have the bassinet set up yet) because there is something deficient in my nesting hormone!

Then Monday I got smacked by a cold, yet it was minor. But to top it off, yesterday I was walloped by the stomach flu, of which I am recovering today. While this is quite inconvenient and actually more cause for that paranoid feeling of everything not getting done (since my house is now a disaster due to my couch-ridden state), I am glad to be getting the winter illnesses over BEFORE the baby comes.

So, ladies, ease my mind. PLEASE tell me that you ALL experienced the surge of nesting hormones before your babies came everytime so I will not worry that the baby will come before my body goes into hyper-overdrive and gets all pre-baby tasks accomplished. Please tell me the nesting hormone potency does not wear off with each child!

OK, so I've proofread this post and realize that I really, really sound like a hormonal pregnant lady right now. Maybe you should all offer up a prayer for me to settle down a bit.