I see in his eyes. This desire to become alike to those he loves.
In the eyes of a three year old, it easy to see and to interpret that look. That desire.
But in the eyes of a twenty year old, a twenty-eight year old, a thirty-eight year old, a fifty-right year old, it’s harder to spot. It’s still there though.
This desire to be alike to those we love or to those we admire doesn’t go away with age.
Because perhaps, if we look closely, we can find beautiful ways that those we love have already shaped us. And that they have shaped us so deeply, it’s hard to distinguish their influence from who are most deeply are.
That can be a painful truth. But it can also be a beautiful truth.
It has struck me again and again this year, and particularly this Mother’s Day, how there are so many pieces of me put in place by others. Unintentionally maybe. Subtly. Beautifully.
And as I become aware of them, it’s up to me to keep them, or change them.
Today, I want to focus on all the wonderful, beautiful things about me that were taught by and learned from my mother. I’m still learning from her, becoming like her, seeing the fruit of my childhood admiration come out of the deepest parts of me.
And today, I’m thankful for so many beautiful pieces of me that are credited to her. To her teaching, her loving, her serving, her planning and organization, her openness and honesty, and most of all her willingness to admit weakness and failure and her need for Jesus.
I have so many memories of her leading and guiding us toward Jesus, or simply watching her pursue Him herself.
I pray that this can be my legacy as well. That those memories and habits I watched in her all these years become so deeply a part of me that they become who I am too.
So many pieces of me I take for granted, Mistake as innate. Till I stop and watch You live and love. Then with sudden clarity I see myself, All the pieces of me That aren’t accidental at all. Instead they are hours And days and years Of you sacrificing, Pouring yourself into me. Yourself out for me. And most of all Pouring yourself out Before Jesus. Letting Him fill you So that you could pour Into me something better Than just yourself. I hope that I Can pour myself Out that way too.
I sat across the wooden table with a bright, plastic tablecloth and weighed the words about to come out of my mouth carefully. I wanted to be sure I meant them with my whole heart…that I could say them truthfully. And for the first time in a very long while, perhaps ever, I felt that I could…
“I know its a lot of work, but I don’t have a job right now, I don’t have a lot of commitments. I get to choose what I am busy with. And this is something I want to choose.”
This is something I am going to choose…
The past year has been an incredibly challenging year for me in many ways. Lessons I had been learning, or attempting to learn, for years came to a head. It was do or die, and I felt like I was dying. I couldn’t keep up. I couldn’t slow down. I couldn’t change my mindset.
After years of God teaching me about breathing, rest, work, and peace, I felt like a failure. All the things I had learned, I couldn’t seem to do. Life was moving faster than I could keep up with, and I had less responsibilities than I’d ever had.
More than once, I broke down emotionally and mentally.
I felt utterly stuck and completely useless.
All the ways I found my worth, all the things I used to identify myself seemed to no longer be true of me. I wasn’t disciplined. I wasn’t healthy. I wasn’t organized. I wasn’t a hard worker. I wasn’t on top of things. I wasn’t a help to my husband. I wasn’t a joyful mother. I wasn’t a planner. I wasn’t a writer.
I was lost. I was stuck. I was done.
And it all came to a head, because, for the first time in my adult life, I wasn’t working anymore. I was staying home with our one-year-old and helping my husband transition into starting a business. I was still volunteering some at our church, but I had been doing that plus more before.
So why was I still stressed?
Why did I still end the day overwhelmed?
Over and over, my husband told me, “You have complete freedom to choose your day, to choose what you will and won’t do. Choose as best you can, so that you aren’t utterly exhausted at the end of each day.”
In my mind, I knew he was right, and I was so grateful for the freedom of this season. But at the same time, I couldn’t tune out the expectations I felt weighing on me.
And so I kept slowly drowning myself under the weight of should and can and want to and good, until even the most life-giving things became burdens that threatened to level me. It wasn’t until I saw myself failing my family over and over, because I could not seem to slow down, that I broke. I hit that point of feeling lost and stuck and useless. I thought I’d never change. I thought I was hopeless.
So I heartbrokenly laid down my self-made reputation, all the things I wanted to be and had thought I was.
I despaired of ever “rebuilding” myself into a good wife and mother and friend and follower of Jesus, and instead just begged God for help.
What I didn’t realize, is that this was exactly where I needed to be; that this was exactly where God wanted me. Once I laid down who I wanted to be and thought I should be, and just asked God to help me get through each day and to glorify Him somehow through it, He could start rebuilding me.
Once I laid down my identity and reputation and pride, He could start making me into the woman He wants me to be.
In the moment, it didn’t feel remotely right or spiritual or redemptive. It just felt like I was failing at life in every way.
I had no choice except to beg God for help, to beg Him to be enough for me today and tomorrow and the next day. To beg Him to be enough through me each moment of the day.
And He was enough.
He is enough each day. And somehow, He is rebuilding me.
Honestly, I look a lot the same as I looked before. But now, it doesn’t matter what I should do or be or look like. At least, it is mattering far less.
Suddenly, I am free to chose to say no to things that felt essential to who I was as a person just a few months ago. I can acknowledge something as good and choose to set it aside for the sake of something better. And when I get overwhelmed, I can choose to change my schedule, adjust my priorities, and reset my focus on the few things I need to have my focus on.
Because in this season, God has primarily called me to be a wife and mother who loves, supports, and takes care of her family well. I cannot do that when I run myself ragged with expectations. I cannot do that when I push my body, mind, and soul to their utter limits every week.
My family needs me well, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. So many of the things I think I need to do to be a good wife and mother and follower of Jesus are not necessary. They are not what God has called me to do in this season.
As I seek God, I can lay those things aside with freedom and joy. My choice to not do them does not make me a failure or less-than or useless. I am not defined by what I do and don’t do as a mother, a wife, a daughter of God.
I am defined by who I already am in Jesus.
My challenge in this season is to stay in this place, to live each day in the freedom I’ve been given. The things I do, the ways I spend my time, look very much the same as they did before. My life is almost imperceptibly different. But my heart is different…
I am more often living in the freedom I always had, and that makes all the difference.
I can now choose joy over stress, peace over busy, best over good. I can make these choices because I no longer believe that these choices make me good or right or worthy or valuable.
I am free to choose, because I am free from my own expectations. I am free.
I remember being in high school and constantly hearing adults telling me and other girls my age, “Be yourself.”
At times I got almost paralyzed by the idea. How did I know who I really was? How did I know that I wasn’t just faking myself out? How did I know that I wasn’t being helplessly shaped by my environment?
As an adult, I’ve stayed far away from that question. There have been so many other things to learn and grow in. However, it still plagues me on occasion, especially in my current season of hearing so much talk about “loosing yourself” in motherhood: the warnings about how not to, the encouragment to dive in headfirst, and everything in between.
A few weeks ago, as the first showers of a rainstorm caught me on a morning walk, I pondered again this frustrating question.
How do I simply be myself? How do I know who I really am?
As the rain fell and I scurried through the gathering drops, it hit me that the answer had been in front of me the whole time. The answer was there, just presenting itself as the answer to other questions, to other needs.
There are two different version “my truest self” I could find, and it’s up to me to decide which it will be.
I can give in to my every whim and desire and curiosity and become the fullest manifestation of my own sinful, broken self possible. Or I can spend all my energies and passions pursuing Jesus, growing close to His heart, seeking to know Him, and allowing His perfect knowing of me to reveal in me who He ultimately created me to be.
My truest self isn’t one predefined destiny that I need to search out from some hidden space deep inside me.
My truest self isn’t a destiny written on the stars that will take some epic journey to discover.
My truest self isn’t waiting at the end of a spiritual retreat designed to bring me into better touch with myself or nature or the universe.
My truest self can be found, but it will be found by the very real and practical life choices that I make every single day.
My truest self is who I am and who I choose to become, who I allow myself to become.
My truest self is either the me I become by indulging my every desire or the me I become by laying down my desires to follow Christ as He makes me into the woman He designed me to be.
Will I pursue becoming the truest version of my own sinful nature, or will I pursue becoming the truest version of who God created me to be?
Will I shoulder the responsibility for choosing the path my life takes, or will I allow myself to be batted along by every whim and fantasy I encounter?
Will I lay down myself – my own sinful desires – and instead put on Christ, trusting that His version of me is the very best version of me there could ever be?
Will I choose to follow Jesus even when it feels like loosing myself, knowing that only by loosing myself will I find all I ever needed and wanted in Him?
I hope you’ll hear my heart in this. I hope you’ll hear the words God spoke to my heart that morning a few weeks ago. I hope you’ll ask God to speak these truths into your heart.
I hope you’ll see that who God created you to be for His glory is worth far more than any other version of yourself you might be able find. I hope I will this. And continue to see this.
Because the truth is, sometimes this path will feel like just the opposite.
It will feel like dying to yourself. It will feel like laying aside your natural desires and instincts. It will feel like abandoning yourself. It may even, for seasons, feel like saying goodbye to your deepest passions and dreams.
Jesus even told us this in Matthew 10:39. “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
In the end we will find that abandoning ourselves for His glory will lead us to know Him and then ourselves in a way we could never have found on our own.
In the end laying down our lives will look like gaining the richest, fullest, most real version of ourselves. A version better than we could ever dream or imagine, because this is the version dreamed up by our Creator on the day He first thought of us.
It might just take till heaven for us to fully see it. But I truly believe that what we do see while still here on this earth of who He is creating us to be will take our breath away in all the best ways.
In those first few post partum weeks, I watched myself emotionally swing back and forth so quickly. I watched the way I handled the fears and the exhaustion (usually coming at the same time)…
And I’m thankful. I’m so thankful for all the ups and downs I’ve had in my life. I’m thankful for the things I’ve learned and the habits I’ve formed to this point.
If I hadn’t walked through hard days and battled to come to the throne of Jesus anyways…
If I hadn’t failed and failed and failed and had to practice the grace daily offered to me in Jesus…
If I hadn’t desperately needed to learn how to preach grace to myself….
If the storms hadn’t come and I hadn’t learned hard lessons in the past…
…then I wouldn’t have the tools I needed to handle the emotions of today.
If I hadn’t learned how to lean heavily on the Rock, then I’d be swinging hard on the pendulum of emotions.
Don’t get me wrong, these past thirteen weeks haven’t been all smiles and peace. I’ve had my tearful meltdowns and my fearful sleeplessness. But I’ve also seen myself pull up short when the emotions come swinging in. I’ve also preached myself back into leaning on the Rock. I’ve also humbled myself to listen when my husband has encouraged and challenged me to stick close to Jesus in the moments that I’m crumbling under the weight of motherhood.
And there’ve been moments, when I’ve found myself swinging hard on the emotional pendulum, but instead of leaning into the swing I’ve reached out to the Rock and He has caught me.
And thankful that I’ve see growth. …that I’m not responding the way I would have a year ago or two years ago or five years ago. And thankful because the times I see myself still respond in ways that are wrong, I know he’s not finished with me yet.
I know this is just the beginning of a whole new process of sanctification. I know He’s going to keep growing me and refining me and teaching me.
And I know that someday, another storm will come and I’ll look back thankful for today’s lessons in steadying my heart on Him.
No matter how off track I get, He won’t move or change. Because He is the Rock of our salvation.