Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
We find those instructions on nearly every bottle of shampoo. I don’t know about you, but I rarely follow those instructions. It occurred to me recently, however, that it is a good description of motherhood. No matter how many times a day you nurse the baby, he will still need to be fed tomorrow. There is no such thing as a ‘once for all’ diaper change in which you wipe the bottom, clean up the mess, and poof! You’re done with that one. Check it off the list!
As children grow up, it’s more of the same – disciplining for the same offense over and over, washing the same clothes, sweeping the same kitchen floor, teaching the same lessons to child number 4 that you’ve already been through at least three times. And as the number of children increases, the tasks and challenges seem to increase exponentially along with them. Rachel Jankovic, in Loving the Little Years, calls this “Motherhood in the Trenches.”
But while we’re in the trenches, let’s be encouraged and challenged by this: Galatians 6:9 reads “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”
Mothering IS hard work. At times wearisome. Often repetitive. Mothering draws on all our skills and resources as we not only nourish our babies with milk, but nourish the fat souls of our children with wisdom, training, and love. Yet the sacrifice and work is minute compared to the blessings and joy we reap if we do not give up.
God did not leave us to do this on our own. What He calls us to do, He will equip us to do. Not by our own strength, but only by the power of the Holy Spirit working in us can we love our children as we ought. That is an encouraging thought – the moment I surrender my own will, my own plans, my own ideas of the perfect home --- that’s the moment I begin to truly be used by God in the lives of my children. Only when we ask Him for the grace that He promises is sufficient will we be able to supernaturally love and serve our families.
On a practical level, this means dying to ourselves every day and asking the Lord to show us what He wants us to do with this day. Proverbs 16:9 says, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” Mothering is not only a life of sacrifice, but a life of interruptions. Only, we realize at some point, that the ‘interruptions’ are not interruptions at all, but the very deeds our Sovereign Lord has ordained for us to do this day.
I was a pretty organized and ‘put-together’ Mom a few years back. When I only had 3 children. To some degree, even after baby number 4 arrived, but was still too young to cause much trouble. I think I had become a bit puffed up in my own ability to keep it all under control. I had a good working schedule for the homeschooling and housework, a master grocery list, and a home-cooked meal most nights.
And then there were five. I think the Lord knew I needed some humbling and had some growing to do. Because five children has brought me to the very limit of myself and my own ability to cope without that supernatural grace. I have had to learn that sometimes meeting God’s standard for mothering my children actually means lowering my own. I have had to learn that the atmosphere of our home – and my attitude in it – are more important than the messes made there as a troupe of seven goes about daily life. I have had to learn to throw myself at the foot of the cross daily and ask for grace and energy and wisdom needed. I’ve learned to prioritize and when I feel overwhelmed, to just do the next thing.
While the challenges abound, the blessings abound even more. Nights around our dinner table can be quite the circus, and though we make a glorious mess, we have a great time. And the good thing about having seven folks to make a mess, is that you have seven folks to work together to clean it up! I’ve had the joy of watching my older children read to the younger ones, play with them, and after many years of ‘sowing’ am now reaping the fruit of built-in babysitters! A noteworthy bonus to a large family!
I also have the privilege of watching the Lord bless our efforts and take five eternal souls, with five different personalities, grow and mature, and occasionally surprise me with their humor and insight. I’m beginning to enjoy the journey from childhood to adulthood as my relationship with my older children increasingly resembles a friendship.
And I am reminded, daily, as I look around and count my blessings, that mothering is a privilege that is worth every bit of it!
Proverbs 31:28 says that our children will rise up and call us blessed. I’m convinced that when we rely on God’s grace to not grow weary in well-doing, we will reap a harvest of blessing in the days to come.
Happy Mother's Day!