There are some circumstances which seem, to me, like a true test of motherhood. People often think of giving birth as a huge test. In fact, it is, but for me, the reality and difficulty of those birthing moments are already in the more distant past. Certainly those were interesting and challenging moments, but they were over fairly quickly and soon (mostly) forgotten. More difficult, I think, are the ins and outs of daily mothering. Early mothering involves a lot of sameness of every day's basic tasks, and then the need to repeat those tasks again and again and again. Now I am at the stage where some of those basic tasks are being taken over by my children--Clara Anne can dress herself, brush her own teeth (after I apply the toothpaste), take herself to the bathroom, etc. But I am finding there are still some tests to this whole motherhood business.
The most glaring example recently has been in Clara Anne's own attitude towards discipline. Recently we have seen some moments of terrific stubbornness from her, almost unbelievable determinedness of will, as she has sought to test us and see exactly where the boundaries lie. We have tried our very best to administer discipline with love and grace, and build the bonds of the relationship as much as possible. But lately this testing, instead of coming out in one or two dramatic incidents, has been more of a daily, hourly, moment by moment resisting. This morning I had planned a special shopping trip where just Clara Anne and I were going to go. She was excited about it, but then dawdled, and delayed, and fussed about having to wear tights under her jeans (it's been really cold here), and wanted to wear two different colors of socks to which I said no, and on and on until finally the getting dressed process had frittered away so much time that we didn't have enough time to go and get back before lunch. Not being able to go on the special outing was a direct result of her not obeying quickly the first time I gave her commands. She was sad, and I was sad, since I wanted to take her, but there was nothing else to be done.
On one hand, I feel a bit frustrated at her constant testing of me. I admit that it is hard to keep my cool when I feel like my every simple command (Clara Anne, do not take that away from Chloe. Clara Anne, come here, etc.) is ignored, questioned, or only complied with grudgingly. On the other hand, it seems to be a totally natural and expected part of childhood, especially considering that every child has a sinful heart. As I lamented my fatigue over the constant battle the other day with John, he said oh-so-very-directly, "Did you really expect anything else, Rachel?" Ouch. But he's right; it's par for the course.
I've recently been enjoying a brief time of prayer right after lunch, when the girls sit down with Lou, my helper, and do a little language study in the form of an Asianese Dora video. I retreat to the bedroom and have a half an hour of precious time. Today as I went into that time I was feeling truly in need of an encouraging word, and of course the Word did not disappoint. I'm following a one year plan of reading through the Scripture, and today's reading came, in part, from Psalm 11 where it clearly says, "The Lord will test the righteous . . . " (italics mine). I felt that was a confirmation to me, saying "Rachel, this is a test, but this is only a test. Rely upon Me and I will help you!" I needed that! Whether this testing goes on for another day, or two, or a week, or two, or longer, (maybe years), I need to stay faithful to Him, loving and gracious towards my daughters, and relying on His strength for it all. A big task--a true test!
The task of training and raising children, shaping their characters for eternity, pales in comparison to the other test of motherhood that I've experienced lately--that is, cleaning up throw-up. Now there's a test! Chloe woke us this morning at 5:30 crying, and had thrown up in her crib, though miraculously missed the important items (her blanket, her stuffed Mater that she sleeps with, and her doll Zipporah). Somehow, the words of my friend Danna still ring true: "Before I became a mom, I used to think that changing diapers was so gross. But now, if my child is about to throw up, I cup my hands in front of her!" Such is the paradigm shift of becoming mothers! But, you know that you are truly a mother when you get in there and do what needs to be done, cleaning up the mess. I can say that I successfully passed that test! The rest still remains to be seen . . . but with every new day, there is fresh grace, and fresh hope. So it is with all of us on the spiritual journey. May we all persevere and someday hear the words, "Well Done, my good and faithful servant!"