In seventh grade, I wanted to be a live-action news reporter. An F-5 tornado swept through a nearby town, and I stayed glued to the television for the next few days. I became enamored by the guys on the field standing in the aftermath of such a beast. They demonstrated stoicism in the midst of turmoil. They kept their cool while the people around them lost their minds over their lost homes.
As I studied the art of live journalism, it seemed to me that a really good journalist couldn’t be tied down with a house full of children. I decided I would choose the career path of an award-winning reporter instead of a motherhood. It seems like a good trade to my seventh-grade self.
By the time I graduated from high school, I made an 180° turn. I felt called to be a wife and mother. I had ambitions for college, but I chose a career that would allow me to be home when children came on the scene. Career became secondary to raising children to love and honor God.
That was twenty years and three kids ago. I am completely sure of that calling I felt at eighteen. But I struggle with the execution. The tension between motherhood and my personal passions is strong. It ties the muscles in my neck in knots and creates a fragility in me that I do not like.
On the one hand, I am very fulfilled being the mother of my three kids. I enjoy the special moments like awards day when we can both be proud of their achievements. I also hold tight to the treasures found in the mundane. Chatter at the dinner table and lining up children’s books on the library counter are lovely moments. My happy place is curled up with them under a warm blanket as we watch old episodes of 7th Heaven.
But parenting is hard. Unlike the news reporters I idolized as a pre-teen, I never feel like I keep my cool in the midst of the madness around me. I certainly don’t feel stoic. The work is never done. There is always one more load of laundry, one more fight to break up, and one more dinner to cook. The memories of the last twelve years and the thought of sixteen more years of parenting make me feel tired. And then there is the fear that I am messing it all up and creating little monsters.
When I work as an occupational therapist, I get things finished. I have a list of patients and I know exactly what is expected of me. I can be strong for my patients, offering hope for recovery. I feel a sense of accomplishment when people get better and go home to their families. And I get a paycheck.
When I write, I am able to process through thoughts and emotions until they make sense. It helps me find my calm in the chaos. Writing is in black and white. I can see it and feel its effects.
Spiritual and social blessings are both wrapped up in leading a small group. It feels like true kingdom work to share scripture and facilitate conversation about what we read. The support found in a small group makes the hours of preparation worthwhile. I always leave our group time revived.
All of those things are good things. They feed my soul, give me purpose, and pay the bills. But if I am trying to get down to the basics of what really matters in this life, it is not the work I do with the sick. It is not the words I write. It’s not even the lessons I teach from the Bible.
Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not only me but also my Father who sent me (Mark 9:37, NLT).
What matters most is my calling to raise children to love and honor God. I can store up retirement savings, author books, and lead hundreds of women in Bible study, but if I do not do this one thing well, I have not lived out my calling.
Practically, this means living with-in a tight budget so I don’t have to work much. It means embracing this season of sometimes writing and full-time parenting. It means prioritizing the spiritual training of my children over the spiritual training of my sisters in Christ. It means unplugging from the distractions and plugging into their lives. It means dying to self and living for the sake of someone else.
Isn’t that the life Christ called us to live?
These days of training, loving, and disciplining are hard. It is never done. We won’t see the results for years, maybe even decades. And, for goodness sakes, there is never a paycheck. I imagine I will always feel that tension between my passions and parenting. But I can get back to the basics of my calling by remembering my eighteen-year-old self—naive and called, the place where faith begins.
Photo credit: moritz320 via Pixabay.
Sharing at #livefree Thursday (thanks for the writing prompt “collecting people not things,” Suzie!), Intentional Tuesday, Purposeful Faith, Sue Detweiler’s #LifeGivingLinkup and Holley Gerth’s #coffeeforyourheart.