Wednesday, December 6, 2017

the unseen.

It had been a long day. She’s been sick and we had flu shots and the park was just what we all needed to get some fresh air. But then we left the park and the epic meltdown ensued. She didn’t want to come in the house, so she stood in her stroller and screamed on the front porch for a solid ten minutes.The rest of the night was like land mines were exploding all around us- everything set her off into heaving, sobbing tears. 

By the time bed time came, I felt like I’d lived five lives in the span of a few hours. We endured one last pajama induced tantrum and finally she laid her wet, still trembling head down on my shoulder as I sang to her. 

Every night, I turn off the light, turn on her white noise machine, and stand next to her crib, holding her while I sing her lullaby. The whole routine takes only a minute or so. That night though, I lingered for a few moments longer, just long enough to realize that no one but me will ever see this goodnight ritual. 

No one will see the way I spoke calmly this time when she fought me on every thing from pajamas to dinner to the way I sliced her apple. No one will applaud my gentleness when what I really wanted was to scream back at her and grab the keys and run. No one will give me a positive evaluation for trucking us all to the park when we’d been cooped up for days with a cold and commend me for for counting just the way she likes on the swing. No one will take stock of how how I went above and beyond by indulging her fascination with collecting acorn tops and arranging them for the squirrels to find. 

So much of motherhood goes unseen, doesn’t it?

I crave affirmation. I struggle almost daily in craving acknowledgment and praise in the things I do. I’ve been this way my whole life. I remember once, when I was eight or nine, my Dad telling me how witty he thought I was and days later, after thinking about it almost non-stop, I approached him to ask him to expound on that a little. “Give me an example, Dad.” It’s not that I didn’t understand, I wanted to savor the sound of praise; absorb the unexpected feeling of admiration, coming from his mouth again and again. I bloom under the light of positive feedback from employers and authority figures and I will collect accolades from friends like little treasures. 

And then God saw it fit that I should be a wife and a mother- two selfless roles that are built on the assumption that the best work will go undetected and unseen. 

And that’s been hard. Really, really hard. 

But it doesn’t go unseen. Not really. 

God sees everything. He sees what goes unnoticed, what gets taken for granted. He saw every kick, every hiccup while she was still nestled inside me. He saw every contraction the day she came into the world. He saw every latch in the long, tedious season of nursing. Every dish I wash, every diaper I change, every tantrum I deescalate. He sees each of us mothers as we bustle around each other in the library or at swim lessons and as we encourage  our toddlers to share and use gentle hands. He sees every book read seven times in a row and every request to sing something “again peese?” 

He sees what no one else notices but he also see what no one else could see. He sees when my eyes open in the dead of night because I thought I heard her stir and he sees my frantic Googling when she’s sick. He sees the mornings that begin too early and the nights that stretch on far too late. He sees what our spouses and our own mother's miss when they look at us. He sees the mental load, the endless lists. He sees my racing heart because this little person who is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh is loved so fully that sometimes the fear of messing her up lights up my nerves with anxiety. 

And the thing I’m only just now starting to realize is that what God sees is good

When he look at us, he is pleased. He isn’t some jerk boss who stands over our mothering and evaluates us. We have an enemy who does that and we are sure to come up short and filled with guilt by his measure. No, our Father looks on our efforts as moms and deems it all well done. He laughs with us at the silly moments and grows our hearts in the tender moments. He covers us with grace in the moments when we yell or slam doors and our answers are biting and laced with frustration. He pulls us in when the nights are long and the fevers spike, when the tears are plentiful and the pain stings fresh, showering us with the peace that this too shall pass. 

In the Old Testament, it’s a mother who gives God the name El Roi, “the God who sees me”. She knew the gift of being seen. So, be encouraged, Mama. If you’re reading this today and you feel like it all went unseen, unnoticed, unappreciated, take heart; I’m inclined to believe that none of it does. 

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