Laugh at Me
The other day I dropped our oldest son off at a dental appointment, and used the 45 minutes of spare time to grab some groceries. I'm sure it's an absurd sight to see: One mom, six kids who all basically look the same age, and all of us actually enjoying each other.
One of the last things I expected in motherhood was so much unsolicited commentary on my life. At the time when I was mom of three girls 3 and under, I took many a deep breath before passing through sliding doors into any store. Soon, I knew I'd hear, "Wow, you've got your hands full!" My favorite comments were varations of, "Yikes, three girls? You're in for trouble." I simply treasure the times when my daughters hear strangers speak of them like problems that grow worse with age. Apparently, having many children means we have to work extra hard to affirm their worth.
On this particular trip to the grocery store, we passed through the meat department and I noticed a woman stop her cart next to us. I glanced at her, in case we were in her way, and noticed her counting under her breath. Counting my children.
"Seven." I say, smiling. "Seven kids. We're waiting for the oldest to be done at the dentist."
Her response was the most baffling to me yet. She tipped her head back, and laughed. And trust me, it wasn't a nice or bemused laugh. Despite this, I said, "I hope that's a kind laugh that my children are hearing." She stopped. I smiled one more time, and walked away.
In order, our seven children are ages 14, 8, 6, 6, 4, 3, and 1. I know that this is staggering and wild. That's what God does with our lives - wild and staggering things that look like they could break us, but actually stretch and grow us in the perfect way. So, it's great. Really! It's great. The not so great: so many people want to tell me that I can't do it. Worse yet, I'm not alone. I'm watching and listening as my sisters are being bumped, nudged, and sometimes outright shoved into believing they aren't, they can't, and that they shouldn't. I pains me on the regular to serve in a world where we squander the necessary voices of women.
I wish the comments were limited to my motherhood. I was recently, unanimously, voted in as a pastor at our church. But I could tell you the story of the days I was told that keeping this job will be the worst thing I can possibly do to myself. That I would be hurting my family. When I was asked to leave the conversation. I could list the times I've been told to put writing away, consider not opening our home, turn the child away, say 'no' more. I'll write all day about living slow and the power of saying 'no' to the right things, but none of those 'no's should be forced on me by someone else's opinion. I wouldn't trade a day of this season of life for anything, because I've never known the goodness and depth of abiding in God and his people more than now.
I hesitate to even write this post. See, it's easy to become confused by the complications of polite Christianity. I know that most people who comment mean well. They want us to be healthy, and worry that we've over extended ourselves. They see themselves in our story, and perhaps can't imagine being called to it. Maybe these people are listening to God, but not necessarily listing on my behalf. I need to have grace for that. I'm temped to believe this means I should keep my mouth shut.
But these words aren't a finger pointed or an act of shaming. This isn't a condemnation, but an invitation. These words are for all of us who are being told we're not enough. And that message is usually subtle. I can imagine the one who wonders if she really is hearing God's voice correctly, when everything else says something different. The one who feels lead to speak or move, when the path isn't clear. To the ones who feel the weight of judgment even though they know the holy spirit is doing something here. This is a resounding, I-can't-keep-my-mouth-shut, YES! YES, God is. And yes, you can - to anyone who knows they are walking in a holy direction that makes sense to nobody else.
Laugh at me. Go ahead.
I'm a mother of seven, and with my whole heart, I will unfalteringly be a mother to more if I get the chance. I will love and pastor my church with all that's within me. I will dream with God about a farm that makes space for everyone, and with my family, we will build that brick-by-brick.
I don't know what good things God has been whispering to you, but I believe in them with all of me. Our God is a God of dreams and doing. You can do all that's set before you, because the truth remains in what God has told me: We were made for much, and we were made for more. Not one thing that I do is possible without Christ, but in Him all of the things can be accomplished.
Three things have guided my heart and spirit as I've struggled with the mixture of loud voices in our world. Maybe they can be helpful to you.
- Are the voices you're listening to, listening to God?
- If yes, are they listening on your behalf?
- Check the fruit (farmer phrase, can't help it).
God is my rule and measure. So, I will follow that direction. Popular or not.
I will listen and discern with the ones who know me intimately, and listen well. As for fruit, I can look around and see it in abundance.
Here's a question we all need to ask ourselves: When we're giving 'Godly' advice, is it God's? We need to stop with the generalized commentary, and really take pause to consider the words we're investing in one another.
When judgement or ridicule happens, this is how I want my kids to see me respond: I want them to hear me talk about it, and not be afraid to name it. And then, I want them to see me respond with love.
We wheeled past the laughing woman, chose to wave and smile, and then pulled over to the side of the next aisle. I looked each of my kids in the eye, and told them that a lot of people are going to comment on our family. When someone says that mom's hands are full, I want us to remember how full my hearts is because I have the best kids in the world. I told them that not everyone will understand the things we've chosen to say yes to, and that we can choose to be quiet, or we can choose to be kind. And have fun and laugh.
I'm sure you can guess what they chose.
We made a game of counting the number of comments we received the rest of the trip. At the checkout the woman said, "All your kids?" To which they yelled, "That's thirteen!" Thirteen comments. Thirteen reminders that it's okay to look different and laugh in the face of regular. Not mean laugh. But laugh with the joy of what you've been given. Delight yourself in the God of impossible, beautiful stories.
Like I said, I wouldn't trade it for anything.