The Ministry Of Motherhood
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Politics and Activism

The Ministry Of Motherhood

The daily, crazy important work of raising our tiny people

The Ministry Of Motherhood
Kellie Garcia Photography

One year ago I was working on staff at our church in full time ministry with high school students and young adults, a job I'd been doing for over five years. I love my job, I'm passionate about that ministry. There were definitely some hard seasons and times when ministry was brutally exhausting. But my perspective on my ministry job has shifted a little bit in recent months. You see, high school students can be difficult, but at least they can feed themselves and wipe their own butt. When they cry because they are mad or sad you can often talk it out or reason with them logically, or simply pray for them and write them an encouragement note. All better (not really but kind of).

But my ministry changed a little this past year. I transitioned to working part time on our church staff, and am now also unofficially employed by someone who weighs 17 pounds, poops her pants, can't pay me, and is fairly needy, but I'm pretty obsessed with her.

However, I started this new job extra tired. Pregnant for 38 weeks and 40 pounds heavier than I've ever been. And then a surprise two-week early baby with a 27 hour total induction/ labor and very little sleep in the hospital. Nothing could have prepared me for the physical tiredness I experienced in those first couple months of parenthood. But I didn't get vacation time or sick leave like I did at work. I just had to "mom it out."

I think what I'm realizing, in my most exhausted moments (and rare moments of clear thinking like this one) is that parenthood is servanthood. A unique ministry that happens mostly in my home, for hours on end with no one else watching. My daughter Norah doesn't know how to talk yet, so "thank you" isn't really part of the deal. At least not right now. But I don't think that's the point. Or the goal. The goal is to take care of my daughter, to humbly admit that it is incredibly important - although largely unseen - work. Every mom is a "working mom." Some moms just have another job, too.

At the end of the day when my husband comes home, I find myself wanting to justify what I did that day. "Guess what? I showered, and I folded laundry, oh AND we took a walk!" In those first few months when he walked in from work to find me sitting on the couch feeding the baby and watching Netflix or the Food Network or HGTV AGAIN, I'd say "I promise I don't just sit here all day! I do stuff!"

I like to-do lists. I like measurable goals. I like progress. But then this tiny miracle came crashing into my life two weeks early and changed the scale on me. On nights when she slept well, I excitedly thought, "We've arrived, I think she's got the sleep thing down! Go us, our baby is totally the exception in the world of newborns, she's like a sleep genius."

And then the next night, she cried, "3:15, 4:15, 4:50, 5:30, 6:15, 7:00." Husbands have a weird ability to virtually sleep through all of it. Moms can sleep through exactly NONE of it. And we've backtracked. One step forward, two steps back.

I remember one night when she was about four weeks old, feeling mad at my baby for not eating well, which means she wasn't sleeping well. I was MAD. At a four-week-old. As if she was maliciously, purposefully trying to make me so tired. I knew that feeling wasn't good.

But I think what I realized, although I'm not proud to admit it, is that deep down I wanted to be able to control her. To be able to control something. Because if she wasn't sleeping well, it must have been something I was doing wrong, right? If I was in control, then I was the one to blame when my "system" didn't work. Guilt. Shame. Insecurity. You name it. I felt it. I'd read books and Google things like "how to help your infant sleep" because I just wanted to figure her out. When she had really fussy, rough feedings, what did I do? Get on the internet and order a new, different kind of bottle of course. After a long night where she woke up too many times what did I do? Get on Amazon first thing in the morning to order another book about baby sleep. Always looking to fix, always searching for solutions. I like it when things are that easy. But babies don't roll like that.

But I'm learning that she's a PERSON. Not a person I'm to control but a sweet girl I get to raise.

Train? Yes.

Teach? Yes.

Instruct? yes.

But control? No way.

I think a part of me knew I had some control issues, and then I became a parent and thought "OH MY GOSH I HAVE ISSUES." Luckily, Norah isn't old enough to realize it, she just thinks I'm awesome and funny and really great to snuggle with. We're gonna ride that out as long as humanly possible. And when she figures out that I have a little bit of basket-case-ness in my mothering, we'll teach her a fun new word called GRACE.

Even though the days sometimes blur together, and some days I feel like I don't get anything done, I have to remind myself that these are important days. My version of "getting things done" doesn't really work anymore. The achiever in me likes to cross things off a list, pat myself on the back, and think, "I totally crushed today." Working as a High School Ministry Director for several years, I already knew the feeling of 'bringing work home' with me sometimes, having a hard time checking out mentally from the burdens and responsibility that come with caring for people. Anyone in a ministry role on a church staff knows that feeling, whether they are part time or full time.

But now I'm not just bringing my ministry home with me at the end of the day. My main ministry IS home. Aside from cultivating my relationship with Jesus and investing in my marriage, this is my most important work. This is not the stuff I want to delegate to someone else. No one else can be my daughter's mommy like I can. My most important discipleship right now strangely involves a tiny not-even-one-year-old little girl.

Pastor and author John Mark Comer, in his book Garden City, refers to parenthood as "the art of unfolding humans." I love that. My main ministry now is to cooperate with God in the shaping, training, unfolding and growing up of this precious little girl.

And right now teaching my baby about the love of Jesus mostly consists of just, get this - LOVING HER. Humbly serving her even though she literally can't do anything for me in return (except smile a lot and sleep through the night. Those might be my new love languages). And wiping her bottom. And washing her hair. And getting her dressed. And holding her when she's sad. And caring for her when she's sick. And choosing to live and rest in the reality that the time I spend with her is wildly important and always will be, regardless of who sees it, regardless of how easy/ hard the day is, and regardless of if she "appreciates" it or not.

Motherhood is ministry. Legit, valuable, brutally hard, amazing, beautiful ministry. I get to watch her grow and change every day. And the thing is, I'm changing too.

I'm not even a year in to this mom gig and I have a long ways to go and endless amounts of wisdom to gain. But what I'm learning right now is to embrace the ministry I've been given. This was a job I prayed for, longed for, and dreamed about for years of my life. And I'm living it. Its messier, harder, and more incredible and fun than I could have imagined, but I'm doing it.

I'm a mom.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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