One of the perks of homeschooling is that we get to do vacation any time of the year. We try to take advantage of this and plan our get-a-ways during the slow seasons when crowds are less dense and ticket prices are a little kinder.
We spent the last week of October in the Rocky Mountains the same as we did last year. Our kids were totally pumped to be going back to the same place. They chatted excitedly, as we packed, about the fort they had built last year out of fallen branches. Would it still be there? Had any other kids added to it throughout the summer? Would Bally 1 and Bally 2 still be there? Considering that these were actually snowballs, they decided they would probably now be Puddle 1 and Puddle 2, but they figured they’d better check on them anyway.
I felt myself get excited as I listened to their big plans for our trip. I was ready for a break. I checked to-do’s off my list as quickly as possible, anxious to be done with the rigors of packing for 6 people and be on our way. Two days in the car were...bearable. We drove as long as we could as fast as we dared (particularly after my husband received a friendly written warning from a well-hidden law enforcer).
Finally, we arrived! The sun was setting so we took a quick walk to check out the fort and then headed to dinner. Settling in for the night, I breathed a deep sigh of relief and reveled in the knowledge that we were on vacation and I would be sleeping in all week.
At 6:30 the next morning, I was jolted awake by a loud thud and a child screaming. I raced to the kids room and found my 4-year-old laying flat on her back. The sound of her cry and the look on her face was something I had never heard or seen from her before, so I knew this was no ordinary boo-boo. Trying to keep panic in check, I asked the older girls what had happened. They said she’d fallen off the bunk bed. I asked if they saw how she landed while feeling her head for lumps. They weren’t sure. I tried to calm her down as my husband brought an ice pack. I had no idea where she was hurt, all I knew was that she didn’t seem to be able to move. In my mind I prayed, “Oh Dear Lord, please don’t let it be her spine,” because of course my mind was jumping to all the worst possible conclusions. After a few minutes of checking arms and legs for breaks I started to feel her back. Immediately, she screamed in pain but thankfully rolled over in an attempt to get away. I breathed a little easier now that I knew she wasn’t paralyzed. For 30 minutes we worked to help her calm down and move her body bit by bit. She was finally able to sit up, but cried that her back hurt. When we tried to stand her up she couldn’t put weight on her legs. Again, I fought against panic.
For 10 more minutes my husband and I tried to determine if something might be fractured or if she was just upset and unwilling to cooperate. We googled urgent care clinics in the area only to find that there were none in this town that opened before 9 am. We considered what to do. Drive to another town? We decided to wait. She had stopped crying and asked to watch TV. Ok. Sure. Normal behavior was a good sign. My husband carried her to our bed and I laid next to her, held the ice pack on her back…and prayed.
Long story long, she was fine. By the afternoon she was running around the park and climbing rock walls. Mama, however, was not so fine. As I pulled into the parking lot of a grocery store by myself later, I put the car in park and had a break down. I sobbed for a good 5 min. and thanked Jesus over and over that my baby girl was ok.
What a way to start a vacation! I remembered that day that mom’s don’t really get vacations. I mean sure, there are times when Mom can get away without the kids and relax and take naps, but it’s not like you stop being Mom. Ever. I think there is this unrealistic expectation that such a thing as “vacation from motherhood” exists. I don’t believe it does. Vacation is something you do when you stop doing your job for awhile. People say being a mom is such an important job, the greatest job and hey, “You are doing a great job, Mom!” The problem with this perception of motherhood is that motherhood is not a job. It is a calling. You don’t choose motherhood like you choose your college courses. You become a mother, and that is what you are and it is what you do. It is not all you are, or all you do, but you will never cease to be “Mama”.
While Mom can get breaks from time to time, she doesn’t stop being a mom. Even as she sits back in the lounge chair for a well-deserved nap, there is a slight tug in her heart and question in her mind that is needing to know if all is well with her babies. Are they eating well? Are they sleeping well? Are they staying out of trouble? Though her body may be resting, it is likely that Mama’s mind and heart are not.
It took me a long time to figure this out. I spent the better part of a decade wondering why I came back to my children after time away and within 5 min. of being with them felt like I needed another break. Hadn’t I just had a few hours/days of child-free rest? Why did I still feel weary? It wasn’t until I realized that, while I had taken a physical rest, I had ignored the rest that my soul desperately needed.
What do I mean by rest for the soul? Simply that there is a weariness that extends beyond the physical into our very souls. Raising children is not just a physical task, it is a spiritual task as well. In these early years, everything seems to be physical. We are extending our bodies way beyond their typical use in order to meet the needs of our ever physically growing children. It is far too easy to only be aware of the physical exhaustion and completely overlook the spiritual exhaustion.
This is what I realized on our first day of vacation. I had an expectation that I was about to take a nice long break from motherhood. I thought that by getting away from the demands of home and routine, I would find myself rested. My daughter’s accident reminded me that I will never stop mothering because I am called to mother. This is who I am and therefore, this is what I do. Every moment of every day my children are in my heart. I am continually praying, often subconsciously, for their safety, growth, faith and so much more.
Can you feel the weight of motherhood at this moment? It is almost a physical weight pressing down on our chests. This is why our souls are weary. This burden never lifts. We will never stop being mothers. And we wouldn’t want to.
As I reflected on this, while sitting in the grocery store parking lot, I literally declared out loud, “But I’m so tired! Lord, help me! I can’t do this!” And indeed…I cannot. I am weak in my mind. I am weary in my soul. I am anxious in my heart. The work is endless. The demands are constant. The days are long.
What are we to do?!
In that moment, these words came to my mind.
Rest in Me.
Yes, Lord. I know. But will it really be enough?
What does it mean to rest in Christ? How do we rest in Christ? Will resting in Christ really be enough to make this burden lighter?
I’m still figuring out the answers to these questions. Here’s what I know scripture says,
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
Ah! Yes! Rest for our souls!
By taking his yoke and learning from him. His yoke is easy. Could it be the heaviness we feel is because we yoke ourselves with work that he never intended us to do? Maybe. Then he says he is gentle and lowly. Could it be that, because of our weariness from taking on work that he never gave us to do, we are harsh instead of gentle, and because of our pride we don’t feel like we can set anything down? Have you ever been that mom that is racing through her day to get it all done, barking orders like a drill sergeant? Harsh and prideful instead of gently and lowly. Yep. I’ve been that mom. Many times.
Perhaps we have a lot to learn from Jesus. Perhaps we would have more rest if we strived less and listened more. I know I would.
This week, my husband and I celebrated 11 years of parenthood. Our oldest came into the world, red faced and screaming 11 years ago, thus changing both of us forever. I became a mother, and I didn’t have a clue. Still don’t most of the time. I had no idea how sanctifying motherhood would be. I didn’t know how much I needed to change to be more like Christ. I didn’t know how selfish I was. God has used motherhood to reveal his own heart of grace and compassion to me. He loves me as I am, and loves me enough to allow me to be confronted with my own failures and flaws so that I may be changed. Nothing makes one feel like a complete failure quite like motherhood - am I right?
And yet the blessing of motherhood is the beautiful sanctifying work being done in my heart. And the blessing doesn’t stop there. It includes the privilege of mentoring and discipling the souls of my children. In spite of my obvious sin and failure to be like Christ, he uses me for the purpose of sharing the Gospel with my children. The greatest work that can be done in my life is my privilege everyday as a mother!
Yet, I am prone to forgetfulness. I forget that I am not yet perfected in Christ, and the unrest in my soul is the Holy Spirit nudging me toward Christ. I forget that my primary purpose is not the perfect execution of Instagram worthy moments, but rather Gospel-centered moments where the work of the Holy Spirit draws me and my children closer to the finished work of Christ.
When I remember these things, my soul finds rest from the burden of motherhood, because the burden is easy when viewed in light of the work of the cross. To daily remind myself and my children of the work of Jesus is a joy. To know that this is the one thing that matters most makes all the other things less worrisome. And this is when my soul finds rest to the glory of God.
My prayer for me and you today is that we will have the wisdom to look beyond the temporary rest of vacations and naps and pursue the deep, satisfying rest that our souls need. I pray that we would seize the joy that becomes our strength as we bear the easy burden of sharing the Gospel of Jesus daily with our children, and rejoice in the fruit that this labor brings.
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing…By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I love you. Abide in my love…These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and the your joy may be full. John 15:4-11