"One woman, an older missionary, even advised, "Don't let your children conrol your life! You got lots of gifts and messages and a ministry to share with the women of the world! It would be a waste of your time and experience to focus too much on your children and lose your ministry! Don't have more children. It will take up too much time."
"Confusion and questions began to flood my soul. What is right? I love teaching women's groups! I don't want to lose what I've spent so many years developing! And hasn't God called me to this work? Don't I have a stewardship--an obligation to continue in my ministry in order to help others? But I have waited so long to have a child. Shouldn't this child have first priority in my life?" Sally Clarkson in The Mission of Motherhood
I am one chapter into the book and I'm tempted to skip to the end and see how it all turns out. This is, of course, the tension I've revisited my entire adult life. From the first time I threw up in the classroom bathroom (confusing the heck out of the first graders outside the door when I insisted I wasn't sick), to leaving the "perfect" work-from-home job I loved, to making decisions nearly every day not to speak somewhere or write something or even to read too much.
Here's where I confess that I spent an hour on the phone with Sally herself yesterday and I know with all certainty that these questions are never answered once and for all. There is no skipping to the end of the book and wrapping the answers up in a neat bow. They are answered again and again, in every new season, with every new opportunity.
I awoke yesterday to the news that Patrick will most likely begin his studies at the University of Virginia in January. I admit I wish he were going in August instead. I admit that I wanted to cry. OK, I admit that I did cry.
Then, I spent most of the day with my friend Cari. I've known Cari since two days after I got married. She lived a few doors down and she taught me how to plan menus and how to make a pie crust and how to cut little boys' hair and yes, she even tried to teach me how to sew. Years later, those early mentoring sessions "stick" in ways that continue to bless me. She came over to help me choose fabric for drapes all over my house. We've lived here eleven years. I'm finally going to have curtains. I feel like a big girl.
Cari and I caught up. We talked about our big kids, the ones who were little together. All three of hers are grown and married. And what we recognized, as we traded stories and prayer concerns, is that you never stop being a mom. The job isn't finished. Indeed, I feel like it's a well kept secret that motherhood actually can be more emotionally challenging and more time consuming when your children aren't really children any more. (There, I've probably broken some unspoken rule and told a lot of younger moms that potty training isn't as hard as it gets.)
Later in the afternoon, I had the chance to lock myself in my room and talk with Sally. (Little did I know that Cari was measuring my windows and cleaning my kitchen while I was on the phone--she's good like that.) My conversation with Sally only affirmed what I was feeling. The mission to be a mother isn't a short-term gig. This mission is a vocation. It's our primary path to heaven. God isn't finished with us when our children are old enough to drive.
Speaking of driving, my oldest wrecked his car last night.
Big kids. Big things. See?
After driving to soccer, I called one more friend. A new friend, but one who, like me, has big kids and little kids. I ran this whole theory by her. We're not finished. We all know parents who think their jobs are finished when a child reaches 18 or so. I know parents who say that those big kids have no right to large amounts of their time. But my experience doesn't bear that out. Just as I was grateful to have a mentor at 21 (when Cari spent lots of time sharing life and faith over sewing machines and rolling pins), my children are thinking big thoughts, praying big prayers and I am grateful they want to talk about them with me.
This post is part of 31 Days To Remind Myself of the Mission. I'd love to hear your thoughts about mission and vocation in the comment box. Find all the posts in the series here. And please, help yourself to a button if you want one for your blog. I'd love to read what you say there.