Thursday, September 30, 2010

Lessons from the South

[The following was written for a mothers-of-preschoolers group newsletter published in the Summer of 2007 in Nashville, Tennessee. I have republished it with permission from myself, thank you very much.]

Hal Ketchum's crooning over the AM/FM radio, the Budget truck's engine governor rattling its complaint against my husband's lead foot, the jolting movement of New Mexico's patched infrastructure under our wheels. Somewhere amidst all of this, I stared out the window with silent tears rolling down my pillow-imprinted cheeks. I cried for many reasons: sorrow for the friends, mostly moms, that I was leaving in Nashville; joy for God's faithfulness in providing for our family and sustaining our marriage while my husband completed his grueling three-year job training; grief, almost physical in its grip, for Lucy, whom we birthed, loved, lost, and now left her memorial in Tennessee; and then, I cried a somewhat restful cry, almost like a sigh, as I tried to relinquish it all to the constant Comforter.

The truth of the matter is that the South didn't welcome us with warm hospitality three years ago. It battered us with a string of broken cars, lost babies, mounting bills, spiritual doubts, and perhaps worst of all, the nagging and pervading lie that I was inadequate as a mom and a wife, even if I was empowered by God Himself.

Now, as I unpack the sagging, tired moving boxes, I realize that the things I treasure the most from your land are the lessons I carry in my heart.

I've learned that domestic tasks are not below me. Jesus did a fish fry for his disciples on the beach, so surely I can toast some Eggos with a right heart. And there was that one Sunday sermon about the little boy whose lunch fed 5,000 under Christ's hand. I'd like to believe there was a woman, much like myself, who planned ahead and packed that lunchbox. And if indeed a woman really packed that little boy's lunch, she did it without knowing the importance of the mundane task she performed.

For us moms, whether what we do is recognized or not, whether society tells us it is relevant or not, we are called to this day because God calls us to it, not because we have some major, indispensable purpose (which, of course, I think we do, but that's besides the point!).

I've learned to ask for help. I'll never forget the day when I called Cheri Varner, my mentor mom, with trembling fingers and a screaming, booger-oozing baby on my hip. Though we were becoming fast friends, I had yet to be truly vulnerable with her. With no family to turn to and no other moms that would want my kids' illness, I admitted to Cheri that I was afraid I was going to shake my baby or scream at my daughter. I've never regretted making that phone call, only savored the safety found in that moment of honesty. Even Jesus asked for prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, and I believe we are invited to do the same. How refreshing it is to know we don't do it alone, that "[w]e are laborers together with God" (1 Cor. 3:9).

I've learned that my kids are not perfect. If they were, their mother would be nauseatingly proud. And then, where would Mom's need for God be? Nothing brings a mom to her knees quite like those kids. With imperfect children, we also get the added bonus of victories won! What's the fun in winning anything if your kid is perfect? With imperfect children, you are driven to your wit's end and then, this wonderful thing happens when you throw your hands up to Jesus and say, "I can't handle them! They are yours!" (as if they weren't His from the start). In those moments of surrender, He can then animate your life through his Holy Spirit, which lives out amazing fruits through you. Sweet victorious patience and love, instead of the more common "gnashing of teeth" sometimes found in my house.

Undoubtedly, the biggest lesson I've learned from Tennessee is this: not only are my kids not perfect, but I am not perfect. Whereas a year ago, I would have shrugged at that, gritted my teeth, and resolved to try harder, now this announcement makes me want to lift my hands and rejoice. Crazy, I know. It all came together one day when I realized I was screwing my kids up. As hard as I was trying, this particular day ended with me yelling at my daughter and throwing a Tupperware in the sink for emphasis (who's the three-year old?!). That night, I lay in bed feeling that familiar sensation of inadequacy barreling through me. But then, recalling the perfect love of Jesus, I realized the most amazing thing: He will use my imperfections for His good! If we were perfect parents, would our kids need a Savior? There will undoubtedly be large holes in my childrens' hearts, some even caused by me. But the glorious beauty of God is that He fills the gaps with Himself. His grace in my life says that I don't have to be perfect, just willing to grow in Him and allow His excellent power to heal me and my family. What a gift of freedom and rest!

Now, I'm learning new lessons already in my new hometown - how to cook oatmeal at higher elevation, how to maneuver the various family dynamics, how to live without Chick-Fil-A. And I'm learning to rejoice in our Father who unites us as one, even though 2,300 long miles separate us.

To all of my dear blog readers, I pray that the joy of the Lord would be our strength today, and if we opt out of that joy, may the grace of His Son fill the gaps.

Resting In Him,

I've linked this post here, where Hillary does her best to show grace in 100 different ways. So thankful for grace, that fills in the gaps.


Paula said...

Thank you! We just moved and I can identify with so many of the thoughts you shared. Thanks for being transparent!

Brandi said...

I remember the first day I met you at the pool with your husband and beautiful baby girl...and thought "she seems like someone fun to know". Little did I know that three years later I would be saying goodbye to a wonderful friend. I thank Him daily for giving me such a perfect,supportive,funny,comforting friend to help make it through those crazy years. I look forward to a lifetime of "long distance" friendship:)

jsevenup said...


I saw your link on Quivering Daughters blog and followed it here. Good blog and topics, I relate to many of the issues discussed just from being in authoritarian churches for years. Thanks for truth. God bless~