The Risk of Motherhood

Risk-taking looks different for all of us, doesn't it? For some, jumping out of an airplane would seem like a huge risk while for others it's considered adventurous and exhilarating. For some, meeting a new friend for coffee feels like a risk, while for others it's exciting and comes naturally. Whether we're talking extreme sports, traveling the world, giving a speech, or taking a relational plunge, I believe risk-taking is all relative to the one taking the risk. 

Several years ago I had the privilege of attending a women's conference in Austin, TX. It was a great weekend for so many reasons. It was my first time to Austin (which turns out to be a very cool city), it was MUCH warmer than the frigid Chicagoland climate I'm used to, and I was able to enjoy some alone time out of my normal day-to-day routine. The speakers were top notch and I met many women who shared similar passions and desires for God to move in their hearts as well as in the hearts of the people they do life with in their communities. The seating at the conference was a little different than most conferences I've been to in that rather than "stadium style" seating, we were all sat at long farm tables which sat 40-50 women each. We were facing each other. People we didn't know. And there were questions laid out of the table. I can imagine that for some of the women who attended that conference, just getting there was a risk. The thought of opening up your heart in whatever condition it might be in, to a bunch of women you've never met, can be scary.

There were times through out the weekend where we were to discuss some of the questions laid out at our tables. We grouped into fours or fives and dove head first into some raw, heart-revealing conversation with complete strangers. One of the questions asked that weekend hit me a little more than all the others. The question was this:

"What is one area of your life where you feel like God is asking you to risk?"

As the ladies around me started to answer I knew that my response probably wasn't going to be like theirs. Most said things like, "reaching out to my neighbors who don't know Jesus", or "getting to a place where I can say "God I'll go anywhere you want me to go". Some were afraid that if they loosened the grip of control they had on their own lives, God might tell them to move to a mud hut in Africa. 

For many of us, living a life of risk means our loving father is going to ask us to do the very thing we are terrified to do, and we have no choice but to say yes. And maybe sometimes that's the case. We often learn and grow the most when we are in a situation where we feel the least equipped or qualified. (Because it forces God to be in charge. And He's really good at that.) But risk doesn't always look like that. Sometimes it looks like the mundane, the day-to-day, the things that challenge us to persevere and test our level of faithfulness. A difficult friendship, a messy marriage, a wandering child, a role in which we don't experience meaning or purpose, those too can be times where God can ask us to step into risk. And often the risk is to just keep going. To keep loving. To keep obeying. Even though there may be pain and heartache ahead. 

The "big" risks tend to be easy for me. If God wanted my family to move to some third world country, I'd say "Let's Go!". Those are the kinds of things I dream about. Just ask my husband. It's not hard for me to say "God, I'll go where you send me." (Unless of course it some not-so-desirable place like Nebraska or Idaho in which case God and I would have to sit down for a chat.) 

The risk I struggle with is the RISK OF MOTHERHOOD. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE being a mom and I LOVE my kids more than I could've ever imagined I could love someone but I didn't grow up as a little girl dreaming to one day be a mother. I'm not naturally a nurturer and I often feel like the mom role doesn't fit me so well. 

The risks of motherhood for me are many. Being intentional, being present, being consistent, being selfless, embracing my weaknesses, asking for help, being physically run down, showing Jesus to my kids, and giving grace to those around me. 

I think anytime we feel like we might fail at something, that's when it becomes a risk. If the idea of failure isn't in sight, then it's probably not a risk. 

So there I sat at the women's conference with my new friends and I knew that Motherhood was the area in which God was asking me to risk. Because I feel so inadequate and ill-equipped and because so often failure seems to be too close in view. But when it does I remind myself that Grace is bigger and jumping into the risk of motherhood just might be one of the most rewarding risks of all. 

I want to risk. Risk to love my kids well. Risk to show them Jesus. And risk to let Grace be bigger than the fear of failure. Here we go!

Moving out of the darkness

I've been a part of a handful of conversations lately with friends who are either fighting an ongoing sin issue themselves or have spouses or other loved ones who are. These are not rare or unusual conversations because we all struggle with sin. But the unique thing about several of these recent conversations is that these friends have kept quiet about the sin. They haven't told anyone. They've kept it in the dark, at least until now.

That got me thinking about the power of the darkness and how much the enemy of our souls wants us to keep things there. If we allow our sin to linger in the darkness, to hide there, then we give him control. And that's exactly what he wants.

I got to share some thoughts yesterday with my bi-weekly MOPS group (which I love!) and I read a snippet from Jen Hatmaker's book 'For the Love' that says SO much about the power of bringing something from darkness into the light.

"Simply speaking truth out loud is healing in and of itself. When people courageously voice a true, hard thing, they've already stolen back some of its dark power before we offer one word to fix it.

"Pulling something difficult from its dark hiding place and into the light is innately healing.

(For the Love, Chapter 7, Page 47) 

I love those words. 

You don't even need to have a firm grasp on a solution to the problem before you're able see a glimmer of hope. The first step to healing is simply bringing the truth into the light. 

The hard things in this life were never meant to be fought by ourselves, in the dark. There's a very slim chance of victory when that's our approach. When the true things of our hearts, how ever ugly they may be, are brought into the light the destructive power that "thing" has over us is weakened and it gives the people who love us a chance to walk the journey towards healing with us hand in hand. That way it was intended to be. 

In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. 

John 1:4-5 ESV

sitting in the middle of someone else's pain

Recently I had some time to myself so I spent it at one of my favorite places... Chick-Fil-A. Their sweet tea is one of my favorite things on the planet so it's not a hard sell to get me in the door. I usually take a book or my laptop with me in hopes of spending some time reading or writing while I sip my on my bottomless cup of sugar and caffeine (mixed with a touch of tea). When I walked through the doors on this particular day I immediately noticed something was different. The line was long. Normally, it's not. The restaurant was loud, and crowded, and bustling with energy. And then I noticed the difference. It was a group of about twenty-five young adults with special needs and just as many aids to help them. I had a hard time taking my eyes off of them because they were precious. Some with greater disabilities than others. Some being spoon fed pureed food by their aids, others carrying their own drinks to their tables. Some talking, some not. Some smiling, some not.

Once I got through the line and had my food it was time to find a seat. There weren't a lot of choices because the restaurant was pretty full but I noticed a few high-top tables near the back and right next to the group of young adults. For some reason my heart just wanted to sit next to them. Among them. With them. I knew there probably wasn't going to be any conversation between us but it was as if in my own head sitting among them was a decision of solidarity. I see you, I hear you, I'm with you. So I sat. And it wasn't what I expected.

It was uncomfortable. And at moments even a little disturbing. At one point a young man started to yell very loudly about every 60 seconds which was a little disturbing in itself, but it also seemed to upset one of the other students because he also stood up and started yelling and smacking himself in the head. This went on for 15 or 20 minutes. I thought about moving to a different seat but I just couldn't. What would that say to them? "Your challenges are inconveniencing me on this lovely day as I'm trying to enjoy my lunch." Where some of them in physical pain? Probably. Emotional pain? Maybe. Psychological pain? Possibly. I'll never know exactly but I knew that if I got up and left it would speak volumes about how society ALREADY treats them and views them and I wasn't interested in jumping in that boat. So I sat. And I stayed.

This experience might not mean anything to you but for me it sparked so many thoughts about sitting in the middle of someone else's pain. And how necessary it is.

But here's the honest truth when it comes to sitting in the middle of someone else's pain....

It's uncomfortable.
It's awkward.
It's disturbing.
You might not know what to say.

But more than any of those things, what I learned at CFA that day is it speaks volumes when we do. It speaks volumes to the person you're sitting with and it speaks volumes to the people around you watching. I'm pretty sure no one noticed where I sat at CFA that day but I know there are plenty of times in life when people DO notice. There are so many people in this world who are aching for someone to sit with them in their pain. To join hands in solidarity. To know that they are seen, heard, and valued.

Who can we stand in solidarity with today? Refugees? The homeless? Foster children? Single moms? Orphans? The poor? The oppressed? The widowed? The list could go on and on and on.

With words or without, solidarity says "You're seen. You're heard. You're valued." Someone needs to know that today.