“The crucible of motherhood.”
Even as I wrote it in text form to a dear friend this week, I felt long-absent inspiration to write hit. Even as the inspiration hit, I felt the tension to which I was referring in the text. Do I write or do I sweep my floors while the toddler is occupied and the baby is in the swing? If both kids are napping, do I snatch a nap too or catch up on the never-ending stacks of laundry? Do I stress that my house has hit an F-6 on the toddler scale of chaos, or do I jump at the opportunity to have a girlfriend come over and give me grown-up talk?
I clearly remember one night not too long ago when I was sobbing on my hands and knees collecting the shards of a tall, clear vase I had filled with glass beads and artificial flowers. The vase and flower combination was at least four feet tall altogether, heavy, and not toddler-appropriate at all. In retrospect, I probably should have given it away or stored it out of sight until all residents in my house were at least as tall as it was. But I didn’t. I proudly installed it on a corner table in prime position for a tiny foot accidentally to hurl it to the ground in a quest to scale the chasm between couch and love seat. Toddler and husband both watched in horrified silence as snot and tears soaked my face and weird little squeaks split the silence. Mama was in hysterics, and it was quite the sight to behold.
Today I can look back on that night at laugh; but at that moment my broken vase symbolized the shambles of the perfect, ordered life I’d envisioned, joining the ranks of the cracked French door pane too late understood to be an inappropriate medium for drumming, and the missing screen on the window that the dog chose to jump through on a quest for a squirrel. I remember squinting up at JD and whining, “I just feel like I’m not allowed to have anything nice.”
While I write today, I hear the happy giggles of my toddler chasing the dog in the back yard and the contented coos of my baby in her swing. It’s funny how your perspective of “nice” changes. I have things to do, but I choose to embrace this quiet moment of concentrated peace. Tomorrow, I will probably choose to stress over the vacuuming I need to do. This is the crucible of motherhood, where we live moment-to-moment, where we learn perfected love and to how to prioritize. This is the place where we make those daily decisions to ignore the imperfections, kiss the boo-boos, and give the stack of half-finished books a cursory glance and half-sigh on our way to make smiley-faced pancakes. Somewhere between scrubbing washable marker out of the couch and mopping bath water off the floor we find a place of communion with the dancing, laughing Jesus who took children on His knee at the height of His ministry. Somewhere in the nibbling of leftover cheese-sandwich crusts and half-eaten apples, we find grace to fast that we did not have in our days of excess. Somewhere in building forts out of the couch cushions the toddler insists belong on the floor we learn to meditate on His stronghold. And always, in those 3:11 mornings when we are changing wet sheets–the by-product of a diaper explosion–and soothing away bad dreams, He’s there whispering, “My grace is sufficient. Keep going. You’re ministering to Me with every selfless act to the least of these.”
The greatest gift is a portion of thyself. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
And now the baby is crying and the toddler is asking for his lunch. Blessings, friends. 🙂