Friday, May 8, 2015

Still The Best Convent


Mother's Day 2009
This is a re-post from 2009.  Nothing has changed except that everyone is now at least 3 inches taller than me, and it's not ice skating lessons, ballet, field trips, and Little League games, but coordinating the use of the car, track practice, job schedules, college visits and care packages. I still believe motherhood has been the best convent (a community of persons devoted to religious life under a superior) for my personal sanctification. My "community" being my marriage to Robert, and our "Superior" being Christ. 

In The Five Aspects of Woman, Barbara Mouser discusses the sanctity of motherhood - the setting yourself aside for the purpose of motherhood. She explores the reasons women may try and "fit motherhood in around the edges" rather than devote themselves to it as they would a career or a cause. The reasons are fairly obvious...no instant gratification, no accolades, acknowledgments, or awards, no salary, and yet the requirement of an all-out surrendering of your time, your body, your sleep, your mental energy.....in three words, your whole self.


This just seems like a very long, painful, and unnecessary route to maturity, respect, and security. And though there are other paths beside motherhood to these things, listen to the requirements of the early church for the taking in of widows who are in need of financial support. These widows were provided for by the church in return for their service in the church and ministry to other women.

"Let a widow be put on the list only if she is not less than sixty years old, having been the wife of one man, having a reputation for good works; and if she has brought up children, if she has shown hospitality to strangers, if she has washed the saints' feet, if she has assisted those in distress, and if she has devoted herself to every good work."  

I Timothy 5:9,10

Mother's Day 2013
In other words, the best preparation for leadership and responsibility for a woman was not a college degree, or a career crashing through the glass ceiling, but the giving of herself to her own home, her own family, and her own church.


It reminds me of a scene from my favorite book, Stepping Heavenward. In this exchange, Katy's husband has asked her to visit one of his patients. The patient is a very young woman whose main ailments are boredom, apathy, and selfishness. The young woman talks of her efforts to help poor children (they were unruly and smelly) and mentions that she might have joined a convent, but those are now out of vogue..... (HA!)

"The best convent," I (Katy) said, "for a woman is the seclusion of her own home. There she may find her vocation and fight her battles, and there she may learn the reality and the earnestness of life."

"Pshaw!" cried she (Miss Clifford, the "patient"). "Excuse me, however, for saying that; but some of the most brilliant girls I know have settled down into mere married women and spend their whole time in nursing babies! Think how belittling!"

"Is it more so than spending it in dressing, driving, dancing, and the like?"

"Of course it is. I had a friend once who shone like a star in society. She married and had four children as fast as she could. Well! What was the consequence? She lost her beauty, lost her spirit and animation, lost her youth, and lost her health. The only earthly things she can talk about are teething, dieting, and the measles!"

"As you have spoken plainly to me, knowing me to be a wife and a mother, you must allow me to speak plainly in return," I began.

"Oh, speak plainly, by all means! I am quite sick and tired of having truth served up in pink cotton and scented with lavender."

"Then you will permit me to say that when you speak contemptuously of the vocation of maternity, you dishonor not only the mother who bore you but the Lord Jesus Himself, who chose to be born of woman and to be ministered unto by her through a helpless infancy."

Miss Clifford was a little startled.

"How terribly earnest you are!" she said. It is plain that to you, at any rate, life is indeed no humbug."

I thought of my dear ones, of Ernest, of my children, of Mother, and of James; and I thought of my love for them and theirs for me. And I thought of Him who alone gives reality to even such joys as these. My face must have been illuminated by the thought, for she dropped the bantering tone she had used hitherto and asked with real earnestness:

(Have I mentioned that I love books that use the words "hitherto" and "earnestness?")

"What is it you know, and that I do not know, that makes you so satisfied while I am so dissatisfied?"

I hesitated before I answered, feeling as I never felt before, how ignorant, how unfit to lead others I really am. Then I said:

"Perhaps you need to know God, to know Christ."

Stepping Heavenward, pp.262-264


Mother's Day 2014
Cooper went with me to Texas to move Kory out of his dorm last year over Mother's Day weekend.
We went to Austin Stone on Mother's Day and ate lunch at Whole Foods = Perfect!
I wish I could say that I have devoted myself fully to motherhood and not tried to just fit it in around the edges. It is the hardest job in the world, requiring the greatest sacrifice - and I am selfish! I want time to myself, to do the things I want to do, when I want to do them without having to take four other people into consideration! And it may appear that I have completely devoted myself to my family from this glowing blog and the fact that I homeschool my kids and therefore spend nearly every day, all day with them, but don't be fooled! I struggle with this giving away of self every day. And yet, in doing it by faith for 14 years, I have grown. It has been the main avenue of sanctification in my life, and I can truly say I am thankful for the transforming power it has been. Within the walls of my own home, I have found my strengths and weaknesses, fought many battles, and learned the realities of life. I have had to cling to Jesus, and have come to experience Him in the intimacy my heart so desires.


It has indeed been the best convent for me. 



It has now been 20 years of motherhood for me. (That's right.  Kory turns 20 next month. How did that happen???) Come August, I'll only have Kayla at home. (Poor girl!) Kory will be a junior at Baylor, and Cooper will be beginning a "gap year" of work and adventure in California. It is both heart wrenching and exciting to watch them go.  There will be many tears, but also much delight in watching them move into the next season of life. I have plenty of regrets regarding my failures as a mother from the last 20 years, but none regarding the choice to be a mom, even a stay-at-home-homeschooling mom for all that time. Katy's right, it is Christ who alone gives reality to such joys as these, and I know Him more intimately because of the both the joys and the regrets.


Last Tuesday morning Cooper woke up to a terrible stomach virus. 12 hours of vomiting, fever, aches, chills, back pain.  Just horrible.  We had to head to the pediatrician's evening office hours for emergency meds to alleviate the nausea so that he could keep fluids down.  He was down for the count for three days and in some ways is still recovering. I hated that he was sick, but I loved one last opportunity to take care of him before he moves out. One last chance to rub his head and tell him it would be over soon. One last time of cleaning up after him and offering him comfort, a cool cloth, and an iced drink. One last tangible way to show him that despite my nagging and frustration with him at times (many, many times), he's mine, and I love him so much. 

Oh, they'll always be my kids and I'll always be their mom, I know.  But the season of hands-on motherhood is drawing to a close and I'm treasuring and pondering every moment.

I hope this Mother's Day brings you much hope in Christ knowing that the call is one of great challenge and self-sacrifice, but also one of great joy and rejoicing. And I pray that hitherto you will exercise great earnestness in setting yourself aside for this purpose, if you are so called.  It is worth every explosive diaper, pool of puke, bedtime ritual, and Little League game.  I promise.

6 comments:

Aimee Gould said...

Beautiful, Melanie!

Aimee Gould said...

Beautiful, Melanie!

Melanie said...

Thank you, Aimee.

Anonymous said...

Happy Mother's Day, Mel! Love and blue skies from K&J

Anonymous said...

Happy Mother's Day, Mel! Love and blue skies from K&J

Nancy K said...

Thank you Melanie! Well said! Very timely!
Truth!!
😊
Nancy Krumrey