It was a classic Mother’s Day quote and slipped right on out between my sly smile before I had the maturity to rephrase what my heart was feeling. “It’s ok babe,” I said to my husband, “we both know this Mother’s Day won’t be anything like what it’s supposed to be.” Snarky, I admit. One of those stripped down, bare statements that can only be spoken between husband and wife, understood for the humor that surrounds what was simply an undeniable truth. There was no sleeping in, no breakfast in bed, no bubble bath run for this weary mama. My partner in crime had been working far more hours than he was sleeping lately and had mercifully gotten up with our 5:00-AM-er the day before. It was my turn. Breakfast demands were made long before anyone else of cooking age was up to fulfill them. A bubble bath was run, but it was for my five-year-old splash queen. She got the soak, I got to sit and wash and dress and do hair.
Husband and son were up and out of the house early for a soccer game so I was left on solo duty to entertain our energizer bunny who loses all ability to play on her own come Saturday morning. Laundry was done, dishes were scrubbed, kids were fed and house was tidied all before 11:00 AM Mass. Being that we were late, I hurried in ahead of my crew to grab some seats and enjoyed a whole cycle of breathing before my son caught up with me, leaned over and proclaimed, “Ma, Mary has to poop.” Of course she does. Up and out of the pew to meet my little one downstairs, her sneaky smile revealing her desire to check out the bathroom rather than actually use it. I denied her request, scooped her up and headed back upstairs, all the while feeling a bit of pride over my more “seasoned” intuition.
That night, after making my own Mother’s Day dinner, I sat across from my three kids and searched my brain for words that would adequately describe how enormously blessed I feel to call them my own. “You guys made my dream of becoming a mother come true,” I said. It sounded so trite, even silly, but I hope they got it. I mean, how often do you get to literally hold your dream in your arms? I’ll take the cooking, the cleaning and the never-ending laundry if it means I get to love on these strange and fragile creatures day in and day out.
I’ve been thinking lately how incredibly appropriate it is that mothers are celebrated in the month of May. It is a month of rebirth after all; the month that springs us forward from the old to the new, the cold to the warmth, the short days and long dark nights to long bright days. It is the fulfillment of a promise, that which sits void of life becomes full once again and hope seems abundant.
The moment we found out we were expecting our son, my heart was forever changed. My life was no longer my own. I was no longer in control of my sleeping, my eating, my level of energy. Even more foreign to the life I once knew, all of a sudden I was no longer in control of my emotions. They were intimately tied to this little person. He made his entry into this world and my joy was tied to his. If he was upset, my heart ached. If he was happy, my heart swelled. If he wasn’t meeting one of the important milestones at just the right time, my heart was filled with fear and when he finally started sprouting hair on his two-year old cue-ball head, my heart felt the beauty of relief. One of the very definitions of spring is, “to be resilient or elastic.” I just love that; it describes a mother’s heart perfectly. I never knew my heart could be stretched to such extremes and still manage to function on a semi-normal basis. With the addition of our second son and then our daughter, my heart became all the more elastic and stretched to include and absorb all the emotions, needs and love of these new and amazing little beings.
[Tweet "I never knew my heart could be stretched to such extremes and still manage to function on a semi-normal basis."]
Anyone who knows the inner workings of this Mama’s heart knows I have a deep devotion to Mother Mary (our daughter carries her name, after all). To me, she epitomizes the strength, beauty, grace and selfless commitment to this crazy thing we call mothering. While I can’t claim to know my Bible all that well, what has always stuck with me are the stories directly involving Mary and her relationship with her son Jesus. If any mother’s heart could have been utterly destroyed by fear and resentment, it was Mary’s. If any mother could have been entirely justified in wrapping her child in bubble wrap and keeping him locked in the house, it was Mary. I am both captivated and amazed at the amount of resilience and elasticity found in this mother’s heart.
One of my favorite bible verses to reflect on is found in Luke 2:19, “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart." In these words, I find the secret to really loving our children, and more times than not, I find it incredibly hard to replicate. The example of Jesus being lost for three days before finally being found in the temple is enough for me to award Mary five gold stars for her patience after finding him. After searching for three long, fearful days, she finds her son and essentially asks him how he could have gone off on his own without any concern for them. What she gets for a reply is comparative to one of the more snide comments we might receive from our teenagers when presenting them with an open (and what should be obvious) invitation to apologize profusely for the torment they caused us. Once again we are told that “his mother kept all these things in her heart.” She went through much of her role as a mother understanding very little about her son and what he would be called to do. She trusted God and the perfect will he had laid for him and she was strong enough not to question but to accept. Over and over again, she suffered, she feared, yet she trusted, she accepted. Mary teaches us that the best way she could have protected her son was in her total surrender to and acceptance of God’s will.
A mother’s heart is a beautiful thing. The capacity for love, the strength for forgiveness, the courage to trust; every beat worth celebrating. Next time you are standing in a room full of women living the role of mother, stop and take note of each heart and what is treasured inside, left to ponder in quiet, private moments. Amazing to think about. Whether we are living the role as mother to our children, have grown into the role of mothering our aging parents or invoke the role of mother through relationship with special people in our lives, our hearts are full. We get up day after day. We cook, we clean, we play taxi-driver; all the while carrying and pondering so much.
One 60-second glimpse into my world on the outside would show me cooking pancakes for my three kids while laughing at the silly things my daughter is doing and answering questions from my sons about the plans for the day. 60 seconds on the inside, however, reveals my fear that, despite my frequent warnings, my daughter will never understand that touching the stove could really hurt her. “Why does she do that?” I wonder. “Why is she always vying for attention when it seems she is the center of it at all times? How long will I have to be hyper-vigilant with this little love of mine before she finally understands what can be dangerous? By the way, why is my middle guy so quiet this morning? He seems so moody lately. Is this what the next eight years of teenagehood are going to be like? Am I missing something? I wonder if everything is ok at school? With his friends? And why exactly does my big guy’s chest bone stick out so far? There’s time to Google that before I need to flip the pancakes. One site tells me this is pretty normal and the next tells me it could signify heart conditions. Good Lord, time to call the doctor. I’ll have to do that after breakfast. What are we going to do today anyway?”
After all is said and done, it’s clear a mother’s heart can hold on to quite a lot. The beauty is that we can’t hide anything from God even if we wanted to. So, the “ponderings,” all the messy stuff we carry around in the midst of our more mundane duties, God see it all, He hears it all, and, if we let Him, He’s got it all covered.
And therein lies the beauty of letting go.
Copyright 2016 Nicole Johnson
About the Author
Nicole and her husband of twenty years have been blessed with three children. Introduced to the world of early intervention with the adoption of their daughter who has Down Syndrome, Nicole now works part time raising funds and marketing the mission of the local non-profit that provides early therapies for children diagnosed with developmental delays. She also serves with her husband on the board for the New England chapter of Bethany Christian Services, the national adoption agency that brought their daughter home eight years ago now. Nicole's family works to advocate for life, adoption and embracing children with special needs. Read more of Nicole’s story and her understanding of faith by visiting her blog, Joy in the Journey, at www.nicolejenniferjohnson.com.