Sitting on the side of the tub, leaning over the toilet bowl, I heaved my insides out. Face puffing, stomach rolling, tears pushed out, breathing in gasps, I bent again over the porcelain bowl.
Wham! The bathroom door bounced open, my 5 year old’s feet ran to the linen cabinet, slammed it open. The faucet pushed full throttle splashed big water into the sink.
I heard the sounds as I gasped and retched, unable to see the emergency.
A soppy wet clothe slapped across my forehead. Shocked, my retching stopped. Water dripped down my face, into the toilet bowl. My mind cried out, “What in the world?” – and I raised my eyes, into the concerned, big-brown eyes of my first-born.
Motherhood surprised me that such a little boy could have such a big heart.
I guess, the wash clothes I had pressed to his forehead, those times he’d retched into the toilet-The cool cloth to his forehead meant something to him. It makes me think of “give and it will come back to you, pressed down, shaken together, running over” (Luke 6:38).
The only difference? I’d wrung my washcloth out. I wouldn’t have traded that sloppy-wet washcloth he threw on my forehead for anything. It was one of the biggest most eloquent I-love-you’s ever!
My grandmother had taught me the same way I had taught my son. I remember in high school, retching my guts. She slipped into the bathroom, taken a washcloth, soaked it in cold water, wrung it out, and stood, her back to me, arm reached around, holding it to my forehead.
Motherhood stands strong, nurturing, caring not giving up – even when things get ugly – all-5-senses ugly.
Motherhood surprised me – with 5 boys. It took me 4 other sons to realize that not all of them were going to be like the first one – and by then we were committed and so in love with this crew – that we learned new love languages, strove to understand different gifts – and how they communicate and work together.
The Secret Garden, The Little Princess, The Little Colonel – Yep! They’re gathering dust. The bag of vintage dress-up clothes? Stuffed in the back of a closet. Girl talk? BBBaaaaahhhhhhhaaaaaaaa! It’s a foreign language in this house. It was like I’d studied for the role of Marmie and got the lead in Boy’s Town.
I’d been so scared I wouldn’t do it right – and to them, I really couldn’t do anything wrong. If I missed it, nap-time would come erasing any real memory.
Motherhood surprised me with demand performances of good-night sings, stories and soothings. These five people, albeit awfully little people, believed I could solve anything, do anything. I didn’t realize motherhood could be like this.
The middle of the night ups and downs, the harum-scarum schedule of 5 boys – I found grace in it, let God in it – and discovered much about me I didn’t know existed. I realize now that God places things in us that when triggered, like a time-release mechanism, start growing and showing themselves. I blossomed.
Motherhood is miracle grow to the soul.
I was humming along in this motherhood role – until one day, the hormones started building, popping out in attitude, followed by armpit hair. Each boy started seeing life differently than before. The demand performances become demands to stop: “Your voice really isn’t great – and, well, you don’t need to sing any more – ‘cause it kind of hurts the ears.” They’d say it so sweet, patting my arm.
It wasn’t as sweet in other areas. I’d miss it – and they’d wake up from a sleep remembering it. I learned a lot about forgiveness – because these boys from 13-19+ can be very unforgiving. When you need something like forgiveness – it becomes something you want to be given ATT (all the time) – not at first in an altruistic way – but in an a hope-filled-extend-it-to-me way. 13-19 can be a very long time.
I learned about unconditional love, along with unconditional forgiveness, too. While the invisible ink is made visible by heat, another chemical or ultraviolet light, unconditional love is made visible by uncomfortable situations resulting in pain, disappointment, anger from another’s behavior. So how do you know when you love unconditionally? When you are uncomfortable, don’t really want to, aren’t feeling it, but choose to love anyway – that’s unconditional love.
Motherhood surprised me, turning so much of my thinkology upside down. Other surprises?
- Visits to the Imax, museums, zoos, the theatre for plays and musicals – don’t always open your children’s eyes to what they want to be when they grow up, that not all children can find their niche in too wide a selection.
- I grew up in a broken home, but a home with great support: my mom, grandmother, grandfather. My children grew up in my dream family. Motherhood surprised me, opened my eyes to a slightly different set of challenges both households face.
- Love won’t stop rebellion.
- Boys feet sometimes really stink
- Effort doesn’t always produce intended results or reveal the heart.
- Squats are an ideal disciplinarian tool – and builds strong legs.
- A heart can love as many people as it chooses
- Experience develops real understanding, chips away at judgementalism, grows compassion and the ability to reach.
- Socks get lost
- I cannot always prevent/head-off challenges.
- When brothers grow older, they can give 7 second hugs and still be manly
- Some boys have to learn by walking through the challenges – and I can do nothing while prayer can
- All 10 year olds go through the blues
- Not everyone loves or responds or makes decisions the way I do – but I can meet them where they are and love them right there.
It’s spring here at the blue cotton house. I sat outside with my 4th boy-to-man – and talked about real repentance, listening to the still, quiet voice of God for a decision he needed to make. He faced a challenge – and is soul grew taller from it.
“We all need to find the path to the mercy-seat,” I told him. “If I were a perfect mom, I wouldn’t know how to take you there. We all miss it, need forgiveness. We all need to know the way to the mercy-seat. We all miss it.”
I’m not sure I would have learned that lesson without being a mom to these 5 boys to men.
I don’t think Motherhood will ever stop surprising me. There are days I wish it would – on one of those days where I do everything right. I have a sneaking suspicion, though, that with every surprise is the opportunity to love more deeply, more completely.There’s something delightful going on, not just in the blogging world, but in the book world today. I’m not a pom-pom-kind-of-cheerleader, but I really, really believe I’d be a good labor-and-delivery cheer-leader – and that’s what I get to do today as part of Lisa-Joe Baker’s Launch Team – oohhhh and ahhhh over the birthday of her book baby, Surprised by Motherhood.
It’s not a warm-fuzzy, feel-good, stereo-typical accounting of motherhood. Surprised by Mother is something more. She has pulled the rich threads of her family and woven a history of awakening, understanding, forgiving, self-growing and becoming – sharing a story that encourages other moms to study their history, to understand, forgive, grow and become. Maybe the greatest surprise of Motherhood is not the wear and tear of our bodies, the endurance – even the stories we hold dear in our hearts – but how we grow to love those around us and ourselves so much better.
Lisa-Jo tells a story like you’re sitting on the porch, drinking some Kiwi-Lime Ginger Tea and chess squares, watching the kids and heart-stories and encouragement spill out. She doesn’t hang out dirty laundry. She vintages a careful inheritance, pulling things out to reveal something incredibly beautiful. In the telling, she encourages you to do the same with your story – to vintage a careful inheritance, to pull it out, to find the beautiful, the strong, the courageous in it. Her voice cheers, laughs robustly, encourages, lifts up – is real in the hard places. You don’t want the visit to end but at the same time you cannot wait for your journey for your story to begin.
To read the first 3 chapters, click here. To order Lisa-Jo’s book, click here. You are also welcome to add your own story: “Surprised by Motherhood” here, too. You can read my “Surprised by Motherhood” story below.