I remember being covered in my two first babies, born just 16 months apart. One crying while the other clinged, one hungry, the other tired and me wondering what I had gotten myself into. I knew I wasn't exactly cut from the same cloth as my mom, but I thought i might be able to at least muddle through my motherhood dream with some amount of grace and joy. But this was hard. Really hard. And truthfully very different than I had expected. The dream in my head had more to do with reading good books to my curious toddlers, making messy art with them, exploring the wonders of nature and watching butterflies emerge than it was about sleepless nights, cleaning up spit up and sweeping ever messy floors. You see, the dream that had drew me into motherhood had me at the center of a perfect picture, joyful with love pouring out onto my gaggle of happy children. But I've found that I'm not at the center of my motherhood. It's not about me. It's about these lives who have come and merged with mine. And once I remember that (and I have to remember it again and again) motherhood does become the stuff of my dreams.
Today one of my motherhood mentors (6 kids!) talked in church for Mother's day. I wish I had a copy of her talk because it was excellent. What I took away from it is exactly what I started to feel back then juggling those two little babies. We mother not because it is a dream we are chasing but because we love. Mothering is motivated not by ambition but by compassion. It is sacrifice, real sacrifice. Not the kind of wimpy sacrifice where you sort of fake it and then hope for blessings (I try that one a lot). It is really about swallowing up yourself into something bigger, a family, a child, a little life. Forgetting yourself. It is a truly a refiners fire. If we surrender to it it will burn us up. But we really do emerge from it changed, new, strong, full and bright.
All that brightness and grace I saw in my mom as she raised us, all the glory she infused into motherhood, came from her being swallowed up in the fire of it. She surrendered to her mother-love completely, let it consume her, forgot herself and always emerged newer and brighter and more full of love.
And her love is rooted in my soul. I like to imagine that it's giving me the strength to figure out how to follow in her heart-steps, to put love at the center of my mothering. To forget myself more, complain less and trust that I'll emerge radiant from this bright, glorious fire of motherhood.
And, one last thing. I think this video has already gone viral, but I loved it. Hope you do too. Motherhood is the toughest job imaginable. Like they say, what motherhood asks of you is: insane, crazy, chaotic, almost cruel, a sick twisted joke, all encompassing. But the meaningful connections and feelings you get from helping your "associate" are immeasurable. Out of all that sacrifice comes true power and beauty and love. I firmly believe this. You can see it in these people's reactions. There is nothing more powerful than the love that flows from real sacrifice.