Lately I’ve been thinking about my early days of motherhood. It was nearly ten years ago that my sweet Jonah’s birth made me a mother, and he and I spent three years together before his sister Parker Jane arrived on the scene. It was another three years before Lincoln came to us, and I’ll say kid number three changed life quite a bit.
With one baby, then with two, life was still simple enough to feel the days go by slowly, but with three, I’m certain the hours sped up times a hundred and any extra margin of time that existed suddenly disappeared. It was a new phase – one where I had to work hard to find the time and space necessary to mother my babies as well as I hoped to.
There are many aspects of my early days as a mom that I hope never to return to –
such as that all-too-real battle of identity: where I was tempted to measure my motherhood against the actions and appearances of other moms rather than allowing the Spirit of God to speak it into me;
where much of my early mothering meant fighting for some sense of accomplishment, successes counted in the choices my kids made and the validating responses they gave to my work;
where my biggest (unvoiced) aim was to maintain control of life – mine, theirs, and my husband’s;
where grace was never the goal.
Don’t get me wrong – the battles haven’t disappeared, but I think the bondage has. And I never want to go back to being her again.
But rarely are the journeys we take all good or all bad. And some of being her wasn’t bad. True, back then my mind grasped very little of gospel for motherhood, but it was the gospel still that held me together.
And one of the best things about being that new mom almost a decade ago was how the days were filled with intention. I spent so much time thinking about parenting – considering the true needs of my child’s heart and praying Scripture over them; investigating practical ways to reach their hearts and apply discipline in a spirit of truth and grace; researching systems and plans to help me follow through in faithfully teaching and instructing them; conversing with friends for hours about our strategies to mother according to God’s Word and encouraging one another in those callings; reading book after book after book and picking the brains of the experienced moms I encountered.
In those days, cultivating a vision for motherhood was essential, and I crashed into nearly every learning opportunity I found along the way.
Although my heart wasn’t centered on grace, I do look back and wonder, where has all of my intentionality gone? I clearly had more of it back then! It was imperfect, but I do remember waking up, readying my mind for action, and starting most days focused on “What do I need to offer my kids today?” Whether it was instruction, training, or more relational nurturing, I pondered what needed the most attention at the time and directed my efforts there. In prayer and with Scripture, I’d make plans and let them guide me in pouring in, building in the character qualities and habits they needed.
Somehow over the years, with twice as many kids in our home and what seems a fraction of the time, my parenting has morphed into a new rhythm, one that I hate admitting because it’s so ugly and far from the purpose and calling God’s put on my life as a mom. This new rhythm is one where I have an agenda for my days (my kids’ souls not always making that list) and parenting is now about responding to my children interrupting that agenda. Sadly, it’s often a matter of reacting and managing interruption rather than intentionally planning and embracing with grace the expected messiness of parenting.
This is where I am at the start of this year – asking God to revive in me an everyday (and day-to-day) vision for mothering each of the children in my home. Seeking the heart of God through Bible study and prayer, I want to more intentionally give my kids what most feeds their souls, and I want to begin my days tuned in to that purpose. I don’t want to wait until their little sin natures pull me there at some point in the day, when their distracting behavior drives me to feel frustrated and desperate. Wake me each day, God, with intent, with a clear vision for shepherding their hearts from the start.
Proverbs 14:1 is the perfect banner verse for these things God is working on in me:
“The wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down.”
Mothering is, in simplest terms, a constructive endeavor. Building requires a blueprint, and I need God to keep me focused on the one He’s given for this home.
In what ways do you seek to be intentional in parenting your children’s hearts? Are there any systems you’ve found helpful in centering your thoughts on the most important mothering tasks? Share your practical suggestions!
The truth that stood out the most to me while studying the Sermon on the Mount last fall, the hinge-point connecting the rest of the words in Jesus’ sermon, was Matthew 6:19-21, and nowhere did this conviction intersect my life more directly than in my parenting:
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
I don’t want the extent of my parenting treasure to be found here on earth; rather, I want eyes on Christ and for my mothering to flow from that, with focus, vision, and intention.