Each Mother’s Day, I usually take a step back and remain silent, because our family’s identity was formed in loss. Loss of family, heritage, ethnic solidarity, and culture for two of our kids. And loss of a child as well. Usually, I opt out of Mother’s Day because I feel so selfish to have been able to have the joys and sorrows that women across the world were unable to have. I’ve also avoided Mother’s Day because kids were still across the ocean that we were working so hard to bring home. But this year, I wanted to take a bit to talk about how mothering has changed me.
What do you see in this photo?
I’m sure I’d get a thousand different answers, and some might be about the messy counter behind me…but let me tell you my answer.
I see years written on my face.
Do you see how one eye is partially covered and one eyebrow up? A couple years ago, I went to the doctor because I realized in photos one of my eyes had started over the years to not open as much as the other. The differential diagnoses at the time were a tumor on my spinal cord or something else scary. And then I went to the ophthalmologist. And he said it was just age.
“Your years are showing on your face.”
I had just turned 30.
I subconsciously compensate for my one eye being droopy by raising my opposite eyebrow. It’s not something I intend to do. I’m not being quirky or flirtatious or snarky. It’s just a subconscious physiological response.
I also see bags under my eyes, partially from heredity and partially from years of helping kids deal with trauma and chronic anxiety. Some days I wonder what kind of mom I’d be if I had parented birth kids first. Would I have less anxiety of my own? Would I be more syrupy sweet? Would I raise my voice as often? Would I have homeschooled? What would our family dynamic be?
I absolutely don’t regret my choices, but I can see the marks of my choices on my own body and in my own personality. I am not the person I was eight years ago. I still use humor to cope with pain, but I lack the certainty and die-hard, gung-ho, my way or the highway decisiveness. I realize daily how flawed I am and how much I need grace. Let me say that again. I realize daily how flawed I am and how much I need grace.
Motherhood has been, if nothing else, a humbling and sanctifying experience. I realize how insignificant I am and how my ideas and decisions are mere pebbles on the highway of life. Through God’s mercy and grace, I haven’t been hurled headlong. I’m able to keep traveling this highway, day by day. But my motherhood journey has brought a posture of humility that nothing else has in this life. Marriage takes work, yes. But motherhood– the idea that I’m raising these ambassadors for Christ to send out to change the world—that’s awe-inspiring and one of my biggest motivations in life.
I don’t think it’s wrong to wonder or grieve about what might have been. I also don’t want you to think I’m disparaging my photo. I am actually grateful for the physical markings on my being. Just as some women extol the virtues of stretch marks, I can be grateful for bags under my eyes, wrinkles on my forehead, and most of all for the laugh lines that are ALL over my face. Because laughter is a gift. Children are a gift.
Today, if you’re a woman, children or no, I’d like you to take a look at what is written on your face. I hope you see years of joy. But if you see years of grief, I hope you also see how that grief has made you more compassionate. I hope you see years of plenty, but if you see years of longing on your face, I hope you also see how your lack has made you generous with your words, your time, and your thoughts. I hope you see the beauty that is written on your own face, dear reader, because you ARE beautiful. Your beauty was made to reflect the beauty of our Creator. He is beautiful, indeed.
And He makes all things beautiful in His time.