Motherhood is Messy

Being Born as a Mother

adult-agriculture-child-1683975

Photo by Daria Obymaha from Pexels

“The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new.” -Osho

And so we arrive at motherhood. We must nurture this new life being born in us while also caring for that of our newborn babies. The task is absolutely marvelous, miraculous, and at times, feels like bordering on insanity. This has been true of my journey– of seeing Christ born in me in a new way, in this new person that I was becoming, am becoming, as “mother”; a woman in some ways the same, but in other ways, drastically different than who I was before.

I was suddenly faced, in the early days of my motherhood, with the unwanted burden of reconciling the many facets of who I was, while striving to become who I wanted to be. I was caught somewhere in the middle in a sudden, unexpected new mother- identity- crisis.

The process of demolition began in my heart. I sat for some time, amidst what felt like many pieces of shattered and jagged glass–some pieces leafed in gold, other pieces rough and unappealing– as I submitted, daily, sometimes hour by hour, to God, and often paused to notice the way he was putting these pieces of me back together into a new tapestry. God seemed to be holding each piece of me up to his light and asking “Now where shall this piece go?” as I acknowledged each jagged tile, wondering how on earth it would all fit together– how the ugly parts would be used as part of the beautiful whole. Like a new basilica which would be built piece by piece, this new mosaic resembled me but was sometimes not a “me” I recognized at all. I was undergoing a reconstruction of the heart and soul that could only be described as Christ being born in me in a new way. I came to understand that these were the growing pains my daughter would also feel, the ones I, as God’s daughter, was experiencing.

Wrestling with these unexpected feelings, I found the grace within to see myself anew, and like a new baby, which clutches to its mother for moment by moment sustenance, warmth, comfort, and security–so vulnerable to the elements, symbiotic for survival–that is how I found myself before God: needy, clinging, desperate.

Two years of this building later, holding my second large needy baby in my arms, who would grow rapidly, soon picking up language and the ability to walk, I was continuing to learn, anew, what it was like to walk hand in hand with the great comforter who was my father, who was also mothering me by sheltering me in his love through all of my vulnerabilities. God was raising me up in this new role and life– entrusting me to raise my own helpless and precious babies.

Motherhood, for me, has been startling, wild, scary, and sacred– and continues to be. In committing to be the best mother I can be, I am faced with the reality of needing to become closer to Jesus, without whom my mothering comes up seriously short, and without whom I am but shattered glass. What’s more, I realize that in learning and knowing my daughter, and now my son, I am continually given new opportunities to become who it is that God has created me to be. I have been given this holy opportunity to know myself and to know my father more intimately, while growing with my kids. All of the pieces continue to come together into the stained glass that is motherhood.

Poetry

The Baby Who Rests, Somewhere

Recent discussions and the passing of the law to abort late-term in New York has me saddened, heartbroken. In praying and pondering, I was inspired to write a poem to honor those precious lives lost too soon– 50 million in the US since 1973. (Abortion was the leading cause of worldwide death in 2018.)

The Baby Who Rests, Somewhere

By Jessica Wrasman

 

Some claim “rights” to discard,

Some proudly,

Life.

To make him or her unknown

 

His or her life, then, I say,

We have the right to know

 

Where did that baby go?

That one taken from the secret place

And now discarded

There, somewhere, also secret.

 

My only solace is in knowing,

Perhaps,

Laid there, bare, and secret

Little lips, fuzzy hair

Tiny finger prints

 

In some sick way,

Is its sanctity, in its being hidden there,

Protected?

Else why the unknowing?

 

Its life started and lost too soon

That baby, this baby, underfoot

Whose life became–soot, somewhere.

 

Because as we learn from Donne–

That baby affects me, and his death, her death,

Becomes my cause to mourn.

 

And when I look at a tree I might

Hope

The baby has been laid to rest–somewhere–

And is now shaded, nourished by a life

Which will

Not be truncated before its time.

 

And, in living and dying,

It might nourish that which was supposed to nourish it, teach it, love it,

Him or her, that is,

Laid there.

 

Devotions

Spark Joy; A Christian Response to Marie Kondo’s Tidying Up

img-1422Part 1: It’s Always Been About the Heart; God Said it First
How I Came to Get Rid of 50 Trash bags of Stuff Three Years Ago
When Marie Kondo’s show recently came out on Netflix I was excited, having been a fan of her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, when it came out in 2014. Watching the show wasn’t so much a binge as it was a continual gourmet dinner of feasting. It’s irresistible.
The shots of Marie Kondo in perfect pastel designer wardrobe in front of a perfectly made bed coordinated in the same palette with three other things in the room- What’s not to love? Her hair, so silky, and perfectly in place– fresh flawless face- can you imagine? And that sweet voice and accent. No noise or chaos around her. In fact, no kids or husband or any friends or any life is to be seen in the peaceful shots when Marie is debriefing on her own in the show– the only life is maybe a bamboo shoot sticking out of a vase. It may not even be a live bamboo.
Don’t you wish you could see Marie around her actual family in her actual home, like be a fly on the wall in her real life?
The Story of My Stuff Purge
Rewind four years ago when I had just had a major transition in my life after giving birth to my daughter. I took up reading The Life- Changing Magic of Tidying Up and other texts (when I could have been spending ten minutes here or there actually cleaning or organizing) and was inspired at the prospect of cleanliness and living in simplicity. My life was not simple, or organized, or decluttered. I had a what- I- now- know was a colicy and ultra-demanding baby (and still have not slept through the night in 4 years… but I digress). I became drawn in to the delight of the author, Marie Kondo’s, reasonable answers to all of the home’s messes and loved the idea that clarity of clearing and cleaning the home would translate to clarity of the mind and peace.
I began doing, as is common for women in particular to do when upheaval happens– to get to work. I started getting rid of my stuff, a process which happened gradually over the next two years. I got rid of porcelain and ceramic teapots thinking, When will I ever use these again? I have an infant that nurses every 20 minutes and screams off and on every hour! What is tea? Who am I? Why did I ever think these tea sets were a good idea? All I want is coffee! I can’t even walk to the bathroom. Tea?
I had an entire collection of ‘60s business skirt suits, dresses, faux fur coats, and holiday dresses in a downstairs closet- my “for special occasion clothing.” Again, flabby with post-baby foreign-bodyness and contemplating the meaning of life and the next generation, these things seemed laughable to me. “A cocktail dress?” I was still, at that time, in the early stages of postpartum and did not realize that, after giving birth, you can in fact wear clothing you once wore, later. I bought the line about yoga pants for life. All evening outing clothing- gone.
Anybody that had ever given me things that I was momentarily annoyed with, all gone. Admittedly, there was a certain satisfaction that came in the clearing, in seeing empty space, and perhaps the gratification of seeing the result of my labor immediately. Was this another strange form of instant gratification?
With each trip to the thrift store, loaded down with all of my now useless to me stuff, when handed a donation slip, I felt a sense of strange pride. I am so noble. So accomplished. So beyond the status quo. I am someone who is contributing to these good causes at the thrift store from the earnings of my useless, previously valuable, stuff. After all, they donate blankets to NICU babies!
I don’t really miss my green polyester long sleeved ruffle blouse with little cute ‘60s flowers on it. That much. I did go looking for my silk leather leopard blouse with shoulder pads the other day and realized it got axed along with with my matching brown blazer with black polka dots that I wore together. I miss that. It’s sparking joy now that I think about it years later. I hope someone in Brooklyn is enjoying it now, having purchased it perhaps on Ebay for $24 after someone bought it from the thrift store and resold it. That was a great shirt.
After two years of this, I had gotten rid of 50, yes 5-0 trash bags of stuff and I was not even previously a hoarder! It was incredible. And my house pretty much looked the same besides the closets were a little more organized and my attire, a little less funky.
Was I all around a little more clear headed? Maybe momentailty. Probably not. This would not be the end all be all to my life and happiness. Because the truth is, it’s never been about our stuff– that’s the point, right? It’s always been about the clutter and focus of the heart.
I am reminded of the great words I recently read from author Ruth Chou Simmons who says in her book Gracelaced, “Any notion I have of finding comfort and satisfaction in the perfection of my surroundings has simply shown itself for what it is: an idol of the heart that can neither sustain nor deliver.” So true.
Not acquiring so much stuff was God’s idea, not Marie Kondo’s, whose prayers and personification of inanimate objects of home are rooted in 8th century Shinto beliefs. God also said it before the minimalist movement. And before the recent tiny-housers and nomads. (Though I realize none of these people or groups are claiming exclusivity to their ideas per se.) We must remember, though, that all truth is, firstly, God’s truth.
Examples:
  • “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21
(Message: Your heart is more valuable than anything, so don’t align your heart with mere treasures–put your heart toward something that actually matters.)
  • “And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.” Matthew 5:40
(Message: Don’t get too attached to your stuff and don’t become fearful of losing your things–give it willingly, which is freeing.)
  • “Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?”
‘Nothing,’ they answered.
He said to them, ‘But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.’” Luke 22:35-36
(Message: The less things you take with you the better. Also, God gives us the resources we need and the ability to provide for ourselves.)
  • “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until your return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” Genesis 3:19
(Message: This life is very temporary and we will all return to dust–the adage about not taking things with you– so do not lose sight of that. Thus, the Christian emphasis of eternity starting now and the brevity of life. Losing focus of this makes us easily focus on externals rather than matters of the heart, and takes our worship off of God and onto self, possessions, image management, etc.)
  • In the Lord’s prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) when God says, “Give us this day our daily bread,” we are reminded that everything we have for each day, and our very sustenance for life, comes from God. In trusting in our things we can get into the wrong thinking that we did it all and can sustain it all. This is a lie. It’s God who made us, God who gifts us, God who sustains our every breath and provides for all of our needs, and who always has, and always will.
It is, Has Always Been, And Always Will Be, About the Heart
It is a temptation of mine to focus too much on the home and the externals. I love all things home and design and I am learning to reconcile this love in healthy doses appreciation and detachment. Because all of it– the organizing, the desire for Better Homes and Gardens now– can become a sick form of idol worship–of self, of perfectionism, of home, of idealism. And more than that, can distract from what is most important–loving, living– being here and now with God and loved ones.
What I do like about this movement (of less is more, minimalism, Marie Kondo’s contribution) is what my friend Pam said about it which is that “It is waking people up to the excess, particularly in the American lifestyle.” I agree. I would add that it is waking people up to issues of the heart, which God said long ago, and what we already know but so soon and often forget–that our stuff won’t save us or deliver us from a sick and messy heart. And if ever my house happens to be clean, I will still be sitting there in my state of icky-heartness needing a savior.  And probably some bee will have gotten in and will be buzzing around my perfectly clean future home. Only reliance upon and trust in God for salvation, for wisdom, for discernment, and in dwelling in Christ through spending time with Him in prayer and in the Word is inner peace found. Our stuff is for our use in this temporary time–to enjoy. I fully do believe God wants us to have and enjoy our things, but he doesn’t want them to have and own us or our hearts.
The fact is that to “dust we are and to dust we will return” but we are so much more than dust. We are people whose hearts, aligned with Jesus, will dwell forever with Him from now to eternity, which is why God has reminded us that it’s all ultimately, though sometimes glittery and full of feel-goods, stuff, and therefore, dust.
Questions:
  1. What are your thoughts on the recent minimalist movement?
  2. What does it mean to you to dwell in the Lord as opposed to the idea of dwelling in our earthly houses?
Bible Verse:
“He who dwells in the shelter of the most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
Prayer:
God, allow us to dwell in your sustaining and good presence. Our peace is only found in you and may we always find our rest there. Teach us what it means to abide in you and let us live there. Amen.
Uncategorized

The Day I Got Schooled by Maya

 

I met Maya Angelou in New York at an event for the last book she wrote, Mom and Me and Mom, in 2012. I waited for about an hour in line to meet her and as I was waiting, I was contemplating what to say when I actually approached her. In the meantime, I watched her. There she was, about four hours into this speaking and signing event, taking her time with each person who approached her. I was admiring the ease with which she took her time with people but also feeling sad that she was attached to an oxygen machine. I’m sure it was incredibly difficult for her to expend the energy and breath on the crowd of people gathered in anticipation of their special moment with her. I was learning a lesson in patience and generosity. 

When my moment came to approach her, I ended up introducing myself as a teacher. I suppose I was trying to create some quick common ground, as I believe that she is one of the great teachers of the last century. Upon my introduction of “Hi, I’m Jessica. I’m a teacher” (at the time I was teaching high school English) she responded, “We’re all teachers, Honey.” What she said after that is unclear in my mind, but that line has really stuck with me. In that moment, it made so much sense to me. Of course we are. And because of that experience, there is a certain accountability I took with me from that conversation and applied to the way I communicate my life. 

Homeschool. This is a concept that I feel so deeply and am so painfully, profoundly and honorably aware of. My life is being my daughter and my son’s teacher, along with others like my husband, the church, the community, the people we allow her to be surrounded by in her youth and the experiences in which she engages. This is a high calling and an amazing responsibility.

And so we approach “homeschool” with the understanding that it is all a learning experience and has been since her moment of conception – everything I’ve done and everything I am has in turn affected my daughter. 

I told my daughter that our “school” time together will be dedicated to learning all of the “cool stuff in life.” In my mind, this consists of revealing her amazing value and worth as a child of God, in appreciating and experiencing the great gifts that God gives us in provision: food, home, clothing, and in the beauty of nature and understanding the processes of the natural world. It also consists of interacting with other people: to know others and to be known by others. It includes living with our whole beings, expressing our ideas and creativity, and really worshiping and appreciating God’s world with our whole selves. 

Learning is exploring and relating to life in a deliberate, purposeful way and I can’t wait to grow in this process with my daughter. After all, she is also a teacher. 

Originally posted on The MOPS Blog: https://blog.mops.org/the-day-i-got-schooled-by-maya/

 

Little Thoughts on the Big Stuff

Blindly, We Sing

Photo Credit: Kairut Murataliev @kaito_muratalievkairat-murataliev-755917-unsplash

“Yet in some holy place within us, God lives and moves and has being.” (2 Cor. 6:16)

A smiling, disheveled woman is led to the front of the small church, clutching her white cain. Her shirt is stained, and her clothing seems haphazardly thrown together. Her eyes are shut, and the guitarist guides her to a spot where she is to stand. The guitarist begins strumming. Both women are standing in front of me in this small storefront church.

The blind woman begins shaking a bit. Perhaps she is caught off guard, having not seen a visual cue of the song’s beginning. Hands to her sides, it is noticeable her right hand has been maimed in some way. She holds it awkwardly. After a few words of the guitarist’s singing, the blind woman joins in, and trails off on some words. Together, the song is beautiful and people are joining in. Children in the front and side rows are compelled to pirouette and spin.

I am struck at how she offers her voice–courageously, however imperfect. The scene breaks my heart in the best way.

True beauty is in offering ourselves, our true selves, however broken, however imperfect, as worship to the Lord.

Her voice flows from a sacred place deep within–a joyful noise she offers up. I am wholly and holy-encouraged. I think to myself that this picture is of me–walking blindly and feebly toward God, not clearly seeing the way but being led with each step in trust and faith, offering my voice to Him.

The woman takes her seat after the song. The service culminates and I’m compelled to meet this courageous singer. I walk up and introduce myself and tell her what a blessing her song was to me. She tells me she’s been attending this church for quite some time. Though I have visited a few times having just moved to the city, this is the first I’ve seen her. She tells me it’s hit or miss that she’ll be in attendance as she takes public transportation from fifteen minutes away and sometimes, depending on who’s riding the bus, there may be an hour’s worth or longer of stops and she may miss the service to only end up back where’s she’s started from.

“But as a friend told me, ‘Your arms are too short to box God'” she laughs. “And so I just say, ‘Okay, Lord’.”

I am lifted up by the story of this song arriving and carry it with me in my heart, humbled and stronger.

 

Motherhood is Messy

Motherhood is Messy

September 16, 2018|MOTHERHOOD (Originally posted on Authenticfamily.org) Photo Credit (my kids pictured): Chels E. Photography, St. Louis, MOThe Wrasman Family 061.jpg

It’s been one of those days where every pen in the house seems to be without ink. Every game my daughter has chosen to play involves a thousand pieces, a million clippings of paper. My attention has been pulled in two directions between my infant and my toddler to such an extent that I feel I am constantly neglecting one or the other, playing clean up and patch over more than being actively invested and involved. And around here somewhere lives the maintenance guy, er, my husband whom I’ve most definitely neglected over the past four months since my son has been born, or has it been over three years, since the birth of our daughter?

Speaking of my daughter, she somehow found a permanent marker today and the dining room table is now decorated with one hundred permanently black C’s. During her five minute stint with the permanent marker she also managed to draw a perfect Hitler mustache on her face.

Motherhood is messy.

I have now started wearing socks in my house, not because it is chilly but because I am shielding my feet from the goop. So much goop. Globs of it everywhere. My feet are actually both up on my chair as I write this because underneath me is an interesting smear of, let’s hope, chocolate. I think to myself, “How is it that everything that we own can end up on the floor at the end of the day?” And also, “Didn’t we clean up today?”

And while my husband and I have done the same bedtime routine with my daughter for the last three years, she has decided to see bedtime as a personal assault to everything she holds dear and has just wailed for a good hour. Everything was wrong and I was the reason in her mind, the enforcer of life’s misery of teeth brushing and shirt putting-on. “You are not the girl I need” was one of the lines she shouted, and part of me felt it was true. Sometimes it takes more energy, more ability to bargain and restrain and calm down than I am able.

I sort of want to bring cookies to my neighbors and apologize for our collective existence as a family, but I am too tired, so tomorrow I’ll politely wave when I see them and act like business as usual.

Raising kids is hard.

I am not sure on days like this whether to cry, or go to bed without cleaning up, or to stay up into the early hours of the morning thinking up how to try to make tomorrow better when I feel like all of the knowledge I have put into the wisdom of today has failed. Part of me wants to pour Merlot to the very tip of my wine glass until it is almost overflowing, but I restrain myself, only because I don’t want to wake in the middle of the night with my eyeballs stuck to my eyelids from dehydration (not that I have any experience with this).

I feel it all below my rib cage. A little ache like a close friend that wants it all to be clean, to be easy, to look nice, to feel perfect, but it does not. Will not. Yet behind that little aching friend is another feeling of being alive. Terribly, wonderfully alive. Amazingly in this moment. Terribly and frighteningly aware that the permanent marker drawings and sock wearing are not permanent at all. And amidst the disaster that is parenting and child-rearing, I am anchored by this feeling of aliveness and I hope that tomorrow will be just as real as today. With just much slobber and mess and baby-breath in my face and toddler dancing. Just as challenging and full of hope and purpose and growth.

Our story is very much still being written and I know there are some good-working pens around here if I would only just stop to look for them.

And until then, I will hopefully shower and wipe the raccoon swirls from my greasy mascara eyes to face tomorrow with a grin. After all, I need my face at least clean when I greet my neighbors.

Little Thoughts on the Big Stuff

Gathering

Photo Credit: Andy Wrasman, Contradictmovement.orgIMG_5531This morning I am taking time to gather. To search for what I can carry in my basket with two hands. I want to carry light things. Spaciousness. Quietness to notice. I want to carry a pause. A moment to articulate thoughts and feelings.

I will discard from my basket those things that are too heavy for me. To place them behind. God reaches out to take them from me. I give him each useless voice. Each waste of time. The fast fix. The hurry.

But there is still more to give. Here is my worry. Burdens taken on unnecessarily. Needless noise.

Here are the words I could have kept inside. The words I could have spoken. He takes them gently.

There is a pause.

I reach into my basket. That deeper place. I find misunderstanding there.

I give callousness and greed. The weight of frenzy released feels light.

My basket now is spacious.

“Come with me to a quiet place and get some rest” (Mark 6:31).

I put in a small flower. I pick four juicy peaches and put them in; one to eat and three to give. An encouraging word. A prayer. I capture a smile and put it in.

A note. Wisdom.

And there is still space. I leave it open for hope.

I keep walking and feel I can carry on this way.