With my son’s first birthday this past weekend, I’ve been doing some reflecting on my first year as a mom. I wasn’t supposed to be able to have a child, actually, but just when hope was all but lost, God gave us our miracle boy. That’s a story for another time, but it matters here because I stepped into motherhood from a protracted holding pattern. Years of back-to-back fertility treatments had siphoned off my energy, time, brainpower and emotional bandwidth, and I’d been living for a long time with a very real sense that life would start when this was done - whether it was by giving birth or giving up. I was basically holding my breath for about four years straight. Pregnancy wasn’t the end of it, either. Having experienced loss before, I don’t think I really breathed until I heard Owen whimper for the first time. Then I cried. But we’ll get back to that.
It wasn’t just infertility that I had allowed to shove me out of my life - prior to that it was waiting for the perfect job - the one that was going to define me and make me awesome and impressive. And prior to that, it was all about finding my soul mate. At some point it was all about getting into, and then graduating from, the right school...heck, I can trace this all the way back to being desperate to leave the horrid little town I grew up in. The point is, I’ve spent much of my life waiting for my life to happen. And with each milestone I’ve reached, I’ve simply found the next one to latch onto as THE ONE. The one that’s going to make it all come together - where I will be the woman, the Christian, the world changer, the all around impressive person that I know I’m destined to be.
This has played itself out in my life in a number of ways: it’s caused me to fail to put down roots, to not fully engage in community, and to experience frustration about the mundane things in my life that I don’t see as driving me toward the big, lofty stuff. In the end it has really robbed me--of depth in relationships, peace, joy, and a lot of opportunities to be used by God.
One of the many ways God has blessed me through my son this past year is by disrupting this pattern. When Owen was born and they placed him on my chest, purple and bloody and covered in vernix, the moment was so raw, so sacred. This was no dress rehearsal. This boy belonged to and depended on me, the first person in line to hold him. It was an incredible thing. I felt like I stepped into my life in that moment. This past year has been punctuated with moments of absolute, unadulterated joy. Moments where you know as they are happening that this is the good stuff. You inhale them deeply and store them away in your heart. They happen on the regular. Like pretty much every time the kid smiles.
There are a lot of other moments, though. Some really, really difficult ones, and a whole lot of just horrendously unglamourous ones. When it comes down to it, much of Owen’s bringing me into the here and now has been less mystical and more logistical. He needs me. Here. And now. The time I used to spend on existential crises has been pretty booked with washing his poopy laundry, changing him, cleaning up after him, and keeping him from eating banana peels out of the compost bin. These are the moments I’m tempted to resist, to resent. But here’s the thing: these moments are also the good stuff. These moments are worthy of complete inhabitation.
I got a picture of what this looks like a couple weeks ago when we had a guy painting and doing some tile work at our house. While he worked, he was blasting this awesome tribal sounding choral music (he was from a village near Cape Town, South Africa). I didn’t understand a word of it, but I loved it. I loved the guy’s boundless joy as he sang along full voice, whether he knew the songs or not. In the next room, Owen was swinging his feet in his high chair, and the place just felt good. The guy bounded from one task to the next with puppy-like energy. A friend called him at one point to complain about being bored at work, and he replied with a huge smile, “One should never be bored at work!” This from a guy who tiles and paints houses for a living. I don’t know if you’ve ever painted a house. It’s T-E-D-I-O-U-S. Yet this guy was embracing it with his whole heart and loving every second of it.
It wasn’t until a day or two later when I listened more closely and heard some English in one of the songs that I realized it was worship music. The reason the house felt so awesome was that our tile guy had been bringing Heaven down to our living room for the past two days while just going about his work.
I’ve gone back to this over and over since then as a reminder of the value of the time that I’m tempted to throw away. I thought of it this weekend as I went to pull some weeds in the yard. I turned my attention to the smell of the dirt and the feeling of it between my fingers. In that stillness, I heard birds singing and felt the sunshine on my back, and my heart swelled with thankfulness that God has provided us with a patch of earth for Owen to play in. And suddenly weeding was worship. I know, right?
I’ve got some glorious, messy unglamourous moments ahead of me caring for my sweet boy, and I’m praying for grace to inhabit them all.
Liz is a California native who moved to Vancouver with her Canadian husband Brian a little over 6 years ago. They have a pretty fabulous toddler. Liz works part-time with her husband at their small consulting firm. She loves 1940s jazz and has a love-hate relationship with puns.