Your Family Needs You to Be Courageous

Your family needs you to be courageous.

There's something I've been keeping from you. And if I'm going to grow, I can't keep this to myself any longer. It might not be a surprise based on hints I've made to this. I just avoid putting these words to it, largely because of the struggle to be considered a good enough mom.

Are you ready? Here it is...

While I love being a mom, (there's just no other way to put it) I don't love being a mom.

I know, judge all you want, it's the simple truth.

I love my kids and am incredibly honored and privileged to be trusted with their care. I love their sweet cheeks, their adorable eyes, their innocent hearts, and their overflowing love and kindness. I appreciate everything they teach me about love and life and God. They make me laugh, warm my heart, and color my life. And I know I'll one day long for them to be little again.

But sometimes, sadly, the selfish child in me comes out. And I throw internal tantrums or ugly pity parties about how being a mom excludes me from what I want to be doing. And I'm not talking about going out drinking and partying and having fun (I've never drank or "partied"). I'm talking about feeling excluded from mission and purpose.

When I was 15, my first plane trip (ever) included a series of flights from Atlanta, USA to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Nine months later, when I returned home to Kansas (irrelevant side note: "home" was Tennessee when I left), it became evident that adventure awakened in me a hunger for mission and a thirst for purpose.

In college, I started dreaming more about where my post-school adventures would take me. Maybe to be a missionary? Maybe to Colorado for evangelism training? Maybe to Spain for a minor in Spanish? Maybe to grad school to pursue family counseling?

I hadn't learned all the stuff I'm learning now about discovering and pursuing passion, so I was a bit unsure and excited about the possibilities. (Shouldn't purpose and passion be covered before we drop tens of thousands of dollars on a 4-year degree?)

Didn't matter much, because none of those big ideas happened. By the time I graduated college, I was married, had a 5-month-old and a full-time job. Blessed, content and happy. (And not a bit of sarcasm in that.)

A couple months after graduation, Daniel got a job in Florida and we moved. Instead of working full-time, I would now stay home with Brylee (who was 18-months-old at the time), and I was ill-prepared for that transition.

The responses to my getting to become a stay-at-home mom were genuine happiness for me, purely positive, and often nostalgic. "Oh, staying home with my kids when they were young were the best years of my life!" was a common response from older women.

So why wasn't I feeling genuine happiness, and purely positive with a bit of nostalgia? Why didn't these feel like the best years of my life?

I longed for the full-time job that held accountability, clear goals and achievements complete with encouragement and a "keep up the good work" from the boss... and purpose. Home with a toddler was lonely, frustrating, exhausting, and seemingly without purpose. The daycare we left in Nebraska did a better job caring for her than I was--she was at least less bored there.

It took about a year, but we slowly adjusted and found a routine that worked. We got involved in a weekly mom's group, had a weekly routine that helped us get out most days, became members of a great church, and made friends that taught me a little more how to be a good mom.

Yet, I can't say I ever really found my purpose or mission in staying home. I was getting better at it. I was happier and more positive. I saw the nostalgia as Brylee grew and I became pregnant with baby two. But my passion was elsewhere. Surely there was something else out there that would better use my strengths and help me feel more alive.

Is that terrible?

I mean, my kids and spending time with my family makes me feel alive. Then, in the day-to-day I always feel a drive for more, and it's rarely in more crafts, art projects, or "fun" messes (isn't that an oxymoron?) for the kids. That's just not me. I'm sorry, Brylee and Ian, you got the boring introvert mom who thrives in "alone" time, writes for fun, and calls a clean house "art."

I longed for a mission and a purpose. An adventure in the way I remembered it years earlier. The way I learned about it from Pamela Moore's Safer than a Known Way. It was a book I read shortly after returning from Mongolia. She lived a comfy and predictable life in England and, on a spiritual weekend retreat, prayed her life over to God while essentially requesting He leave her life comfy and predictable.

Of course, He answered a little differently and led her overseas, used her in public speaking (her greatest fear), and led her to her husband in her 40s rather than in her 20s like she wanted. She was happy and content through it all because trusting God was all the comfort and predictability she needed.

Her book put a real-life story to what I longed for. There was evidence that the adventure I sought existed, and just maybe God wanted it for me too.

Of course, life distracts me from that a bit, and often tells me I can't have it. There aren't too many epic adventures awaiting a primary caregiver of two little helpless souls. I periodically try to convince myself those two helpless souls are my adventure, but between the whining, colored walls, and Curious George it just isn't convincing enough.

I long to be an epic Christian, to let my light shine, to rock this world in Jesus' name! That has been my earnest prayer over the last couple years--that God would use me in big ways for His glory.

If only His answers came to me all at once in the form of clear direction. I'm one of those that Shane Claiborne classifies as having the "gift of frustration." I am frustrated by my desire to give up on traditional church and the misunderstandings I get from that. I am frustrated by the apparent gap between being mom and being part of Jesus' epic call to missions. I am frustrated that this growing process looks like death at first, but is really life.

I'm frustrated that at its roots, what I'm talking about is comparing letting-go-of-my-passions-to-focus-on-being-mom to feeling like death!

I'm frustrated that this is just all so confusing.

God knows when I'm feeling that way.

A couple weekends ago, our church held meetings for young adults. My college public speaking and magazine writing professor was the guest speaker. (He's also author of this and this--apparently incredible books I sadly have yet to read.)

Daniel warned me it was going to be good. He got to enjoy one of Chris Blake's talks just a week or two before, and he was inspired. So, we made it a priority to show up.

The Friday evening session caught my attention, and I was ready for whatever else would come in the remaining sessions on Saturday. Problem is: there wouldn't be kids' programs for those. So our kids would be with us. How can I state this clearer? Considering my not-yet-church-trained two-year-old, this made me a little hesitant. But it wouldn't stop us.

We showed up. And we sat on a couch in the back, where we would be out of the way. One of the pastors pulled Daniel aside asking for help with the anointing they had planned for the end. There would be a communion, and Daniel would help a few others pray over individuals. They would anoint their hands with oil as they prayed for their mission and purpose.

Excuse my nerdy-ness, but this sort of thing gets me excited. Especially considering the growth journey I've been on as of late. This anointing would be just the sort of symbol I needed to make it all "official."

Time wore on and so did the kids. At last, so did I. The noise and the trying to escape, the coloring on things, and the noise. I was about over my limits when someone leaned over and hinted it probably wasn't a good idea to let Ian play with something he had. (I plead the fifth on that.) Sure, it was obvious he shouldn't play with it. But I was watching him, and I was just trying to make it to the end of this thing and get to the good stuff!

Finally, as they were bringing out the wine (juice) and bread, I called it quits. The kids' fatigue and hunger won, and I couldn't keep them there any longer. I wasn't even sure what Mr. Blake was talking about anymore.

Frustrated and, well, frustrated, I walked out with both kids and whispered to Daniel that I couldn't do it anymore and I'd meet him at home. I was disappointed I'd be missing such a vital part of the weekend. I was frustrated that being a mom trumped my ministry for Jesus. I was frustrated with the young guys that walked out right behind me seemingly because they weren't comfortable with the commitment requested from the end of the service.

Fine, you take my kids and entertain them, and let me stay here and recommit my life to God!

Is that judging? Probably.

I let those flames fade while I went home to prepare lunch. Daniel walked through the door, and the first thing I could get out was, "How'd the anointing go?"

He gave a vague, "Good."

And I pressed, "I mean, what'd you guys do? How'd you do it?"

He held out my hand, lightly rubbing two fingers in my palm and describing the oil and prayer, concluding as he let go of my hand, "That's it."

"Okay, anoint me." It's all I cared about. Being called and validated in that call. Jesus, anoint me please! Make this frustration mean something. Use me in big ways for Your glory!

Not sensing my seriousness, he chuckled, "I can't, I don't have the oil."

A disappointed sigh escaped as I returned to picking up toys in the living room while waiting for the lasagna to finish baking.

Within moments, I hear him calling me to the kitchen. He's standing by the stove with one hand out to me, an open bottle of canola oil on the counter behind him. I chuckle trying to brush off how much I really cared as he uses his free hand to move a toy train and a block from my hands to the counter.

He gently rubs oil in my palm as he prays over me. Anointing this lil light to shine for Jesus in the world, and in our home. I don't remember all the details. Just that tears flooded my eyes as I glowed in the moment. This moment that it became a little more clear that my mission and purpose start in my home.

I recently read Psalm 127 and this gem in verse 4 caught my attention:

"Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
so are the children of one's youth."

If we're at war and children are our weapons (our "arrows"), then why do we let ourselves feel so futile and purpose-less as parents? Why do we let ourselves think that because we have to head home early to put the kids to bed, or because we have to slip out the back door so a cranky babe won't disrupt the service, that we're automatically excluded from the race and from the adventure?

The truth couldn't be any more opposite. And the truth is this, parents: We are at the heart of battle. Preparing these little arrows to fight the good fight in faith. Training them to win over our enemies in love. Teaching them to disciple the nations in loving fear of God. Challenging them to be Mighty Warriors bringing glory to Him.

And in this process, we ourselves become the arrows we were once prepared to be. We join this battle that we know is the Lord's. We find mission and purpose, and it's nothing short of an epic calling.

Sometimes, we won't feel like it. Sometimes the whining or the potty training or the missing a talk we really want to hear will distract us. Sometimes we'll momentarily lose focus, and other times we'll throw an all-out internal tantrum that this is what we've been called to.

But God hasn't given up on us. He's used to calling a stubborn people, and He's patient through this conversion process. He's patient in convincing us of, and qualifying us for, His calling.

So, friend, keep on keepin' on. God wants to use you in big ways for Him. And He's likely calling you to start in your home. To sharpen the tools you've been given for His purpose. To be courageous in the work, the little ones, he's given you. To start by meeting your family's needs.

And your family needs you to be courageous.

Revive us, O Lord. | Ps. 119:107


also read:
momcations + mommy breaks
mantras for tense mom moments
comfort for good enough moms
dear moms: i'm sorry

linked up: women living well // creative christian momma // the alabaster jar // the better mom // titus 2sday // christian mommy blogger // growing home