Sugar and spice and everything nice right? 🙂 At least, this was the cutesy answer told to us in a nursery rhyme when I was growing up. And while it technically was focused on little girls and what they are made of, we all know there was some intent for this memorable line to be used to develop grown-up women into sweet, Betty Crocker housewives that cooked for and supported their husbands (who are getting dirty and working hard as grown-up versions of snips, snails, and puppy dog tails; I know there is a note of cynicism here and I am not against the cute nursery rhyme, I just know there is more to being a little girl and a woman then it portrays). However, now that I am actually living out being a “grown-up” (SCARY), I realize there is so much more to being a woman then the nursery rhyme wisdom imparts, especially when it comes to being a mother.
In fact, I have observed both personally and professionally that there is an overarching confusion in our current American society over what it means to be a mom. As our culture moves toward a unisex understanding of life with non-traditional gender roles and multiple gender identities, even the biological aspects of the female sex are being challenged and re-defined before our very eyes. And with all of these changes it makes sense that the foundation of who we are as women is becoming unstable and unknown as we search out true meaning and understanding among a multitude of competing perspectives.
Fortunately, as Christians, we can find a firm foundation in our Creator God and in the truth of our creation as both woman and mother described in His Word. I love that Sally challenges the current confusion by searching out God’s mission for motherhood and begins our journey with a rediscovery of the calling to be a mom that is first understood in light of creation as a woman and what we are truly made of.
What are you made of?
If you were to ask me this question point blank, I could give you a variety of answers. I could focus on the physical and describe that I am made of skin and bones and muscle and blood (gross). I also have a mind and a spirit that work within this body. I could focus on the psychological and that I have a tenacious and strong personality that is often more serious than fun but has some crazy moments mixed in to keep everyone guessing ( 🙂 ). I could give you my heritage from a regional or ethnic perspective, or begin to recount the challenges I have had to overcome that has shaped who I am today. Honestly though, I probably would not go back to the original creation and determine what I am made of in light of God’s creation. Which is why I am so grateful that this is exactly where we start in this posting. As Sally discusses in detail, Scripture is quite clear that we were created to work in tandem with man but with distinct abilities and giftings based on our biological and emotional differences. The implications of our creation are many, but I am going to discuss the two highlights that really stood out to me in reading through this first section:
- Divinely Designed and Especially Equipped: From the very beginning, God had a specific purpose in mind when he created women. Our female bodies and characters (even with all of their diversity) reflect a divine design that is especially equipped to give life and nurture life (p.27). The original female (untainted by sickness and death and our fallen world) had the capacity within her womb to grow and birth a new human life as well as sustain it with her body during those first formative years. She was also given specific character traits, such as being innately more relational, more nurturing, and often able to better simultaneously complete multiple tasks when compared to her male counterpart. I love that Sally points out that being a woman as well as being a mom (being fruitful and multiplying) was a part of the PERFECT core design in creation (p.21). I had never really caught on to this part in all my readings of Genesis, but had always gotten distracted by the whole “pain in childbirth” section of the curse. And unfortunately, this is often where we find ourselves today as over the years, sin and human nature have distorted this original creation through infertility challenges, personality differences, and relational difficulties that cause us to doubt and question our roles as women and moms. However, I truly believe that we as females still closely resemble Eve in much of our design and how we are equipped to inspire and nurture the lives of those around us (whether biologically related or not). By recognizing and maximizing this resemblance, we find a deeper sense of focus and purpose that resonates with our design and our Designer.
- Confidently Called and Completely Committed: Embracing our divine design and the special attributes we have as women leads right into understanding that we have thus been called to actually use them and commit to actually using them!!! This means recognizing that our bodies and characters, with all of our similar as well as unique components, have been constructed specifically to complement our calling: to influence this world in light of eternity and work towards building a life-giving spiritual legacy (p.13). Please know this does not necessarily mean staying home, having babies, and never getting out of the house again except for church. It means taking all of you, your female body and your personality and your gifts and your abilities, and using them for God’s work in the lives of others. This includes your children (if they exist), as well as the children and adults you come into contact with both within and outside of your family. You being you was not an accident, and God knows both your strengths and your weaknesses as well as your circumstances and still calls you to influence those around you for His kingdom. When we really understand and employ this, we grow not only in our calling, but in our confidence of our calling. We are also challenged to commit wholeheartedly to this calling, which I think is one of the biggest difficulties facing women and mothers today. Are we completely committed to anything these days, but especially our God-given calling as women? I truly believe this is why we have a stress epidemic sweeping our nation among women (and men too for that matter) as we are trying to “have it all” and end up only doing lots of things half-way. This was never God’s intent (a house divided will not stand; you cannot serve two masters), and instead, wants us to have healthy priorities and filters for how we live out our calling. This means looking at our priorities and ensuring that first things come first. If you have children and your family and home are not your first priority, you will constantly be struggling with an inner conflict (you may become desensitized to it over time, but it will still be there).Even if you do not have children but are a Christian and are not putting your calling first, you will experience this distress as well. When things are in their proper position, we experience the freedom and peace of knowing what is most important, and being able to filter out the things that drain us or take away from that which is priority. We can give our best to what is most important, and no longer fret about what is not. God wants us to give all of ourselves to Him, to use the innate abilities we have been given and live out our callings with undivided hearts, so that we can experience the confidence and freedom that He divinely designed from the very beginning.
So, what am I made of? I am a divinely designed female human known as a woman who is especially equipped both biologically and psychologically to cultivate and nurture life around me. I have been called to wholeheartedly use these attributes to influence the lives around me in light of eternity and build a spiritual legacy that will last for generations to come. Well, when you put it that way… 🙂
How Does this Apply to Me?
The above imparted truths are incredibly near and dear to my heart because I have always struggled with the concept and calling of motherhood for myself. It always seemed better suited for someone else, but not for me. For those of you that did not know me growing up, I was the least likely of all my friends to be predicted to be a mom one day. I was not the typical “girly girl” (I am still not); I was never really into babysitting, never sought out opportunities to be around babies or children, and focused more on my academics and career than anything else. So when I found myself desiring a family for the first time in my life and then actually getting pregnant, I also found myself having to face a multitude of fears and insecurities that I had kept locked away for years.
Maybe you were the exact opposite, and have always been drawn to children and babysitting was and still is your favorite thing to do. Being around littles ones has always been easy and fun for you, but now that you have children of your own, there is a different weight and pressure that was not present when you were babysitting. These little ones look to you for everything, and you cannot give them back to their parents because you are the parents! All of a sudden, mothering looks different than you expected, and there are fears and insecurities and challenges that surface that you were unaware of as well.
And your story may be a combination or nothing like the two above, but the fears and insecurities attached with motherhood and being a woman are real and experienced each day as we press on. This is why we need to move beyond just recognizing the truths above, and actually living them out and applying them to our daily lives. For me, this looks like the following:
- Written Reminders: This is a big one for me, especially when it comes to mothering. When I first became a mom, I was plagued with stress and pressure and guilt that were at times overwhelming. In addition to not having a clue of what I was doing, I so badly wanted to do it “right” that I forfeited much of the joy that comes in actually just experiencing it. I finally had to combat the thoughts that were holding me hostage, such as “I’ll never get this right” or “Maybe I am just not really mom material” and for me, the best way to do this is to write out truth and put it around my living area where I can see it multiple times a day. In my journal, I began writing out truths, like the ones we have read about this week, that I am actually intrinsically divinely designed and especially equipped to be a mom, even if my mothering looks different from someone else. I was created from the very beginning to be the exact mom that I am -just like you were created to be the exact mom that you are- and our mothering can look different and still be ok as long as we are both seeking the Lord for guidance and direction on how to use all that He has given us. I will never mother just like you, nor you like me, but that is obviously what God intended for our children to grow to be exactly who they are supposed to be. After writing this in my journal, I also wrote out similar truths for my desk, posted pictures reminding me of the importance of my perspective and heart position in the kitchen, and even created a graphic of written truth for the wallpaper on my cell phone. These written reminders keep me grounded in these truths throughout the day, and provide confidence and encouragement to recognize and live out this truth!
- Meaningful Meditations: Building upon the written reminders described above, I have learned that I must move one step further and actually integrate the truth into my core being. I have to go through and confront the negative lies deep within my soul, and this means taking the time and effort to meditate on the truths I am reading and experiencing around me. Much like taking the time to allow tea to steep and infuse into the surrounding waters, I take the time to meditate on these truths and let them work their way into both my heart and mind. Often, I pick one theme or truth that I am currently learning, and that becomes my meditation focus. These past few weeks, it has been the concept of a “gentle and quiet spirit” (1 Peter 3:4). After reading this verse during a quiet time, I realized it was an aspect of both being a woman and being a mom that I had not been experiencing and had not been promoting among my family. Since then, not only have I created written reminders to prompt reflection throughout the day, but I have made special time to reflect upon, apply, and meditate on this concept as I begin my day, interact with those around me, and complete my day. There have been moments where I have been the complete opposite of gentle and quiet, but the meditation has revealed these instances in ways I had not noticed before and also inspired different courses of action that I had never considered. I am a living testimony that meaningful meditation is a must for moms!
- Powerful Prayers: Writing and meditating, while great, are both me-focused and occur in my own strength. And while there are days that these work, they will have absolutely no power if I do not plant them in God’s truth and promote them with powerful prayer. There is nothing that has brought me to my knees more than my marriage and my mothering, crying out on behalf of my self, my husband, and my children. When I discover a truth that God has revealed to me, I have learned that submitting it to Him in prayer is by far the best thing I can do. For instance, when I first became a mom, I tried to do it all; be a stay-at-home mom, carry a full-time teaching load, continue counseling part-time, and volunteer in ministry. Sometimes I could pull it off, but most of the time I was running from place to place, exhausted, overwhelmed, and wanting to give my best to each thing but really only able to give partial because it was all I had left. The disservice of this quest really hit me when my son started struggling with naps (aka Mommy’s time to work) and all of a sudden, my anger was uncontrollable. I “needed” this time and now I was not getting it because my toddler had decided not to nap. I remember telling my mom and my husband: “if I did not have work to do it would be just fine, but every nap he misses is more work for me later.” My heart was obviously divided, and I was torn between two masters of work and home. After I read Sally’s description of wholehearted mothering, it changed everything about my life. It was the truth I had been searching for, and I decided then and there to pursue an undivided heart. I was no longer torn about what needed to happen because I knew God had called me to love my family first, and all else would get what was left. This meant changing my priorities, guarding my time and not taking on too much (limiting my course load and counseling), and making myself completely available to my children, even during nap time. This change has not been easy, and there are still struggles, but this is where prayer has been so powerful. Many days throughout the week, I start the morning with a prayer version of Sally’s words on pg. 45, asking for an undivided heart and that I would “see my children’s care and nurture as God’s best will for my life” and begin “treating each day as sacred.” I will also prayerfully consider anything I add to my plate, from what courses to teach to whether or not to attend a certain event, and let God filter what I give my time to. By submitting these requests to God, I have truly seen His power at work in and through me and my family.
I love being reminded of all of the above, because to be honest, I feel like I often need someone screaming it at me! In the midst of living life and getting caught up in the challenges and struggles of family, friendships, ministry, work, finances, chores, AND mothering, I lose sight of my divine design as well as my calling and end up beating myself up for not being able to do it all, be it all, or even consider myself somewhat successful based on my own distorted sense of accomplishment. And when I lose sight of truth, I lose sight of my mission as a woman and as a mom, and as Sally describes, when we lose sight of our mission, the important people in our lives, especially children, are easily seen as “a time drain, a monetary expense, a career impediment, and a curtailer of personal freedom” (p.33).
With this in mind, I challenge us to take a true inventory of our current heart status. What does your heart look like? If you made it a pie chart of your heart, what would it look like? Would it be divided into multiple, competing sections, complete with different colors and drawing from you in different ways?
Or are you willing to commit to wholeheartedly seeking what God has for you in this time, setting your priorities according to His best will for you? There may still be different areas of your heart that require time, effort, and energy, but when completed under one master and with each area in its proper place, it can promote a sense of unity, freedom, and peace.
My prayer for myself and for you is that we would search our hearts and rid ourselves of any divisions that are causing division and pain. May we embrace wholehearted living and celebrate in our divine design and the ways we have been especially equipped to confidently and completely commit to the call He has on our lives… to truly enjoy and employ all of the wonderful and amazing things we are made of. ♥