I’m excited to have Jennifer Camp sharing at The Accidental Mama today! She has been an encouragement to me through her writing, and as I’ve been on this blogging journey. Draw close today and let God’s wisdom through her words speak peace over your heart:
“Jessica, Nicole, Ashley. . .” My plans to be a mom were sketched out on lined notebook paper while I watched the latest episode of The Dukes of Hazard. At my best friend’s house for a sleepover, I lay on my stomach, pajama clad feet plunged into Raggedy Ann sleeping bag, and listed my top girl names: all girls because remember, I was ten, and boys were kind of gross. When I got married, I would have three or four girls, and I would get to name them and dress them up and take care of them, making sure they looked cute everywhere we went. Being a mom, and having little kids to take care of, captured my imagination.
My mom was a woman most beautiful. She gave freely, considering her five kids’ wants and needs before any desire of her own. She surrendered her dream of going back to school, to become a teacher, when we were young. I remember the nights she came home weary from class and the challenge of completing schoolwork while attending to the demands of five children. And then the moment, in the kitchen, when she announced she decided to quit: “I am doing this for the kids.” Mothering us, being present for us, was her priority. She felt she was less important. Her needs and desires were hardly noticed.
But I noticed.
I noticed to be a mom meant to abandon all desires, all dreams. Your children were the dream. Your children were the hope of everything.
It is difficult to write these words now, thinking of my mom, loving her so–and wondering about the struggle women face. We may want to have children, but we may also want to pursue other dreams, too. . Is it okay, as a mom, to have dreams to mother but to also have dreams beyond mothering, too?
My mom encouraged me to write, to dream, to go to college. She believed I could do anything and drove me an hour each way from our home for weeks one summer to attend a writing class. She believed I could write, and she made sure there were people in my life who encouraged me to do it. She took the pack of us, my four siblings and me, to the library every week, letting us pick out as many books as we wanted. She would scour the shelves and pick out treasures we would never have discovered on our own. For me, long days of summer were filled with dog-eared pages of Fitzgerald and Hemingway, Alcott and my most beloved copy of Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God. She drove me to track meets six hours away. She drove me to rock concerts, far away from our tiny town, and spent the night in motels with paper-thin walls, just so I could attend, with my friends. When I think of her, I think of a woman who loves with a fierceness–a full-on, I am here for you, I believe in you, you-can-do-anything-and-I will-do-everything-I-can-to-help-you-kind-of-love.
She astounds me. And I wonder if my heart is selfish for wanting to love my own children with this beautiful intensity but to also pursue the desires God has placed on my heart . . . to write, to connect with women, to encourage women to listen to God’s voice in them, experiencing the things He has given them to love.
When I was pregnant with our first baby (the first of our two boys, followed by our little girl), I was determined to go back to work as soon as my three month maternity leave was over. Our baby was due in November, and I planned to go back to teaching in February, when the new semester was about to start.
I feared being swallowed up by parenting. I feared the loss of my identity as a teacher, something I had worked so hard to achieve. I feared I would be forgotten, I would be lonely, I would lose friendships, and I would not know how to navigate my way. I feared, more than anything, being “just a mom”.
I had yet to begin dying to myself; I had not yet given God the part of me that cares more about “doing it all.” I still cared more about what the world equates with success rather than what God sees in me and urges me to pursue.
And when I realized I wouldn’t be able to do a good job, as both a teacher and a mom–I believed I was failing. I was failing as a woman. I was failing as mom. I believed I needed to do it all. I was chasing down love in places where I could be seen–with a paycheck and teenagers who crave the presence of another adult in their lives to lend a listening ear.
Unless we believe we are enough, no matter what we do with our hours–mothering or working or both–we will not be satisfied with the life God gives us to live. And we will also miss out on His gifts to our hearts–opportunities to be loved by Him. In addition to mothering our children, this big-hearted Father of ours loves to show us what other things we love to do, too.
And, after eleven years of being at home, caring for my three kids, doing the most challenging work of my life, God is showing me the mom I most want to be. He shows me through me being a mother, and He shows me through saying ‘yes’ to the other things He given me to do, also: writing, speaking, encouraging women to pursue their own heartbeat within the heart of God. He tells me, she looks like this:
She parents with fierce love and humble determination, knowing her best mothering begins with a surrendered heart and an identity rooted in God’s love for her.
She knows her name, the one He calls her as He reaches in and strokes back her hair and whispers, “I know you, I’ve got you. I’ve got your children. I hold them in my arms just as I hold you.”
She is a girl-grown-woman who gives of herself, knowing she is not forgotten but is seen by a Father who cannot turn His eyes away.
She pursues what He puts on her heart, knowing she loves best, with His heart in her, when she follows His footsteps, with the unique passions and gifts He has given her from when she was knitted in her mother’s womb.
She is broken and beautiful. She is weak and strong. She is sinful and made new. She is a beacon of His glory and loves her children like no one else ever could.
She is held. She is desired. She is adored. She is created to be enough–the perfect mom–for her children. She knows God knows what He is doing. He gives her everything she needs.
And so, with these words, I hold up the example of my own mom, the beautiful way in which she loved, and I lay it down at His feet. Whatever your example of motherhood has been, know that your Father is the author of your story, and He gives you everything you need to love your children with His love in you. And your dreams? He gave those to you, too. And they are just beautiful, to Him.
Who was your model of motherhood? What dream is God asking to partner with you in, in this season of being a mom?
Jennifer lives in the California Bay Area. She is married to Justin and is the mom of their three crazy kids. She is also a listener, writer and speaker, in that order. She writes her heart at her blog, You Are My Girls, and His words for His girls, at the email devotional, Loop. Loop is written straight from what she hears God say to her when she asks Him, “What do you have to say to your girls?” His words are one of her favorite things to ever scrawl down.