The first day of advent saw me digging through the mess in the basement to find it, our one small box of Christmas/Advent supplies that always seems to get buried in the 11 months since we put it away last. I lugged it up the stairs and wondered aloud why I thought it wise to put the Advent wreath at the very bottom, under layer upon layer of ornaments and nativity characters. Ah well. I found it, fixed the candles in their places and turned to set it on the table. Except the table wasn't ready.
There were crumbs from someone's snack mixed with tiny paper clippings from someone else's craft everywhere. Someone had left a hoodie right in the middle, stripped off when the running and hollering that is their usual mode of entertainment had proved a bit too warm. I looked from the table to the wreath in my hand and shrugged, set it right down smack in the middle because that's what Advent looks like. That's what faith here looks like. That's what life looks like when you're just a mom like me.
This year I'm pregnant with my seventh and I'm thinking about it a lot, especially after Thanksgiving when conversations inevitably turn to "so, what's new with you?" Why Moms get so defensive about it. Whether you are "just" a mom for 6 weeks of maternity leave, or until your kids head to kindergarten, or maybe, like me, a seeming "lifer" in this role - why it smacks so hard. Why we bristle at the term, rush to assure those around us that we have so much more than "just" this to offer.
We get so scared of being defined by maternity, by the daily monotony of sippy cup filling and diaper changing and homework checking. Why? We worry that we will "lose ourselves," that our talents will go to waste, that the gifts God has given us somehow atrophy when not highlighted in a way where others can see them. We worry about living a small life, about boring our husbands with nothing but the daily rundown of what the kids did today. We worry about wasting our time, our talents, our youth. And yet...
Isn't that sort of what it's all about? Isn't that what Mary did? Accepting what God had given her, not bemoaning a loss of self but recognizing that doing what God had called her to do was the absolute point of life? Her charge was to be a Mother. The Mother of Christ.
Maybe our focus is in the wrong place. What if we considered that we aren't so much losing ourselves to our maternal side as losing ourselves in Him. That could change everything.
I'm not saying it's wrong to work outside the home as a mother. Absolutely not. Women, like men, are called to many many things. And this is true for whatever it is you are called to. Being "just" that, if it is what God has asked of you? Is enough. Being called to be "just" this, whatever that is, either for just today, or for the next twenty years - it is more than just enough. Using your gifts in the place He called you to is what those gifts were truly meant for. And it's there that they shine, not for your glory - but for His.
This Advent, I'm just a Mom. Pregnant with my seventh, lighting the Advent candles and having my babies join hands in prayer and pointing them toward Jesus. It's a humble life, often devoid of being noticed or appreciated by those I care for day in and day out. Some days it is the very last thing I'd like to do. But I remember that God calls us to lose our lives to find Him. To follow Him always, even and most especially when His path for us bucks conventional thinking. It's an Upside Down faith.
Today I have a ton of laundry to do. The five year old lost another tooth. A co op class to plan. Three meals to make, four kids to educate, two toddlers to keep out of a trouble and a never-ending mess of a house to wrestle with. In short, just Mom things. Nothing extraordinary, nothing praiseworthy.
Today I'm just a Mom. And I'm completely fine with that.
"If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me."
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