I’ve done motherhood both ways. This body swelling all on its own and me going along for the ride. Never having to tell it what to do. Never having to tell my heart how to love because it gently grew in beat with the living soul inside me.
And then there are the times when the stretching and pulling happened to my spirit, not my belly. I expanded in ways I didn’t know was possible. And as these two babies grew inside other women’s bodies, the joy of the Lord grew inside me.
The natural and unnatural expanding of heart and life to receive another. They are both divine. And each journey has led me to the same place – the feet of Jesus.
Twelve years ago yesterday I became a mother. I labored a little baby into the world. He was beautiful. None of me, all of Mark. We confidently welcomed our first born son into our home, making us a family. It’s all the years following that are teaching me how to receive life. This learning how to let someone take from me, while trusting God will fill me. And at the heart of this kind of living is exhaustion. Emptiness. Because receiving life means giving yours. Which is why, more than anything else, my children have prepared me for this life of hospitality – a heart that welcomes, a spirit that invites, and a life that is interruptible. For these children, they enter. They take. They interrupt. And there are days it feels like they are literally consuming me.
Motherhood requires greatness. Sacrifice. Few personal boundaries. Lots of resources. And this giving of my life, in order to prepare them for theirs, is what takes me to the feet of Jesus. It keeps me on my knees. Praying for grace. Offering my thankfulness. Listening for wisdom. Begging for endurance. Because sometimes the emptiness is such that even chocolate won’t make me better.
But then there’s a smile from a little one. Or a sweet conversation with the oldest. Or a hug that catches me off guard. Or an unprompted word of gratitude. Or a snuggle that seems to pour into me. And suddenly, miraculously, I am filled once again.
Children have a way of restoring. It must be because restoration is Kingdom work and the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. God’s spirit dwells in them richly, and I realize just how cool it is that God is filling me through the very ones who empty me.
Receiving life – any life is the same way. Whether it’s a child, a neighbor or stranger. Whether you’re growing a garden or protecting the earth. Whether you’re speaking life and truth into a situation or relationship, or you are providing for those in need – all these life giving, life receiving acts require greatness and sacrifice. They change your rhythm and interrupt your patterns. They reshape your identity and exhaust your resources.
But here’s the promise offered in this life of pouring out: When you receive life – when you welcome God’s creation to share in you — you will literally be given life in return. New life that glorifies God and brings you hope and satisfaction.
So don’t be afraid of emptiness. Because it is when you are emptied that you get to experience God’s filling. His restoring work in you. His abundant giving.
Have you heard what happens when the Lord is your shepherd?
You will lack nothing.
He will lie you down in green pastures, he will lead you beside quiet waters, he will refresh your soul.
He will guide you along the right paths for his glory. And even when you walk through dark valleys, you won’t have to fear because he will be with you. His rod and staff will comfort you.
He will prepare a table before you in the presence of your enemies. He will anoint your head with oil; your cup will overflow.
Goodness and love will follow you all the days of your life and you will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
*edited from a previous post, Psalm 23 quoted