A Note to the Other Mamas, with Ordinary Problems --
I don’t know about you, but I find it pretty draining out here, right now.
Last night I crashed after I put one of my three children to bed. He wasn’t even asleep yet, just tucked in for the night, when I walked straight to my own room and ducked for cover.
This was not a plan so much as a reaction to my sudden, immediate, pressing level of tired. What did I do to be so tired at 8:30 pm? Just life. I did life, for one more day.
Ordinary life is requiring all our energy in these shelter-at-home days, isn’t it?
I think it’s because every small thing is a little bit harder, now, and we’re still doing so very many, small things.
I know you barely have time to read this, so I shouldn’t work up to full tirade about the many things
we’re holding together and why, from our brains to every bodily cell, it’s just HARD. But if you have a few minutes for one small, shared rant? It’s not helpful when friends remind us we should be grateful, that we now have time to enjoy our homes and children, that we can finally SLOW DOWN from the pace we’ve been living.
Especially, it’s not helpful when our Christian friends speak these words, with the added, unspoken weight of some spiritual work at which we might be failing. Because we know all those true things… about our generally fortunate state, about the pace we were keeping, which was never all that humane. We are the people who KNOW THINGS, deeply. And, I find, we’re the ones ready to throw out what wasn’t working. But, in the meantime, as we find our way, we need no unintended guilt or shame when we can’t "carpe every diem".
In fact, I believe guilt and shame are on a short list of things God would have us give up, now, and give up for good.
I do love my home. I love my people. I love the possibilities that stretch before us, every day we aren’t bound by the school or work schedules that used to hem us in. I also struggle with the possibilities EVERY. STINKIN. DAY. Because, without the scaffolding around which so many of us have built our middle class lives, it’s all just one big ball of things to direct and monitor and influence and create and plan and keep up with. All the time. All while -- if we’re very fortunate -- our work responsibilities haven’t gone away.
Juggling it all, we moms are usually the people who SEE and KNOW, first. When the house slides from “comfortably lived in” to full on “slovenly mess.” When the children’s attitudes creep from “managing OK” to “five minutes from break down.” When everyone in a household edges to the place they need to scream or cry or let out some emotion, we know. And yet, so often, we tuck ours in and soldier on.
So, let my voice be but one reminder of something else you know, deep down. You, beloved child who also mothers, are not meant to push yourself past all the edges. You do not have to hold all your children together. You are not responsible for ALL. THE. WEIGHT. OF. IT. And, you -- just yourself, not your performance or your coping skills -- matter so much to your God.
What you are doing, in the ordinary offerings of mothering, is valuable and worthy stuff. It is seen and it counts! What you feel you should be doing, but just can’t muster up the strength for, matters less than what you actually did.
Trust that, in the hands of a Loving God, your offerings are enough. As their mothers, WE aren't enough for every child, all the time. That’s not what I’ve lived and not what I’m claiming. It’s that I believe The God Who Loves Us and Loves All the Children will take whatever heart-sprung, holy-intended imperfection we lay out. God will accept it every day, and God will make that enough.
When it all becomes TOO MUCH for the moment, stop and breathe for 90 seconds. Just take in air and let it out, again, while you think about how, long ago, the word for “spirit” was the very same word for “breath.” And the name for God was 4 breathy sounds, almost too holy to speak. You have a pneuma -- a soul or animating spirit -- that was created and is now sustained with every breath. Your spirit can be flattened. But your spirit reanimates. Such is the quotidian nature of grace. It waits and rests, flows through and calls out and calls us back, in the smallest acts of breathing.
Finally, it’s OK if you can’t paint water-colored gratitude over all these pandemic days. That was near impossible BEFORE. Again, just take 90 seconds a day, when “grateful” blips across your radar. In any fleeting moment, as you laugh or smile and make eye contact with your child, consciously think the thought, “I delight in you.” It’ll take less than 90 seconds. But if we can think it once a day, over every child, somehow they’ll know. And a lot of what they need -- and what we need - is such heavenly delight.
There are a million ways to be a good mom, to healthy and spiritual children, right now. And there are zero ways to be a perfect one. Hang in there, Mamas -- breathing and thinking and praying, in all the meantime.
Holy One --
We come tired; we come empty; we come proud of our efforts and a little afraid we aren’t measuring up. We come to you harried and anxious and hopeful, all the same.
We come for what we need, which is a moment to just be us, before we go back to being their mothers.
Can we rest here, for a moment, God?
Thank you for the rest. Thank you for the renewal of spirit in every deep breath.
These days test us in every way. Our little people test us, and our own wayward hearts test us. Sometimes, they betray us.
So we learn as we go, to lean deeper into you for the strength of a single day. To keep up our habit of talking with you. And not to be stronger than we need, in these days.
At the end of each one, we ask for Your Spirit in our sleep; may it be untroubled and restorative.
When we begin, again, we ask for Your Son in our waking thoughts; may we feel Christ’s own compassion for the suffering that’s so much bigger than us. May we lend our hearts out, past our own homes, for a whole world in need of a mother’s hug.
May we be dazzled by the bravery and ordinary goodwill that punctuates every day of sad, hard news. May we be moved by how interconnected we all are -- and how none of us was ever enough, without all the others.
Hold us and hold the ones who call us mom. Hold up our whole world, Mother God. Only your arms are finally, fully, enough to comfort us.
Rev. Ginger Brandt ministers at First Christian Church Tyler, TX, where she leads and preaches for Contemporary Worship. She also mothers 3 red-headed boys of beautifully diverse temperaments and ages -- they are 18, 12 and 5 years old. Her husband, Jeremy, is an educator. Together, the household is currently using 7 devices and overwhelming the wifi, daily, as they work and school and endlessly Zoom, from home. Everyone is ready for a change or a permanent schedule -- whichever can be worked out first.