Guest author Affton Dudgeon
The hope of spring seems to be filling our air and whirling with the anticipation of birth. New life budding from trees well rested under snow’s blanket of winter. No doubt, even in the beauty and rest, there are scars in these great arms of winter’s whippings. Yet that all seems to rise along with the warmth of sun as we are reminded…that wasn’t the end. What once was dazzling with ice and white glitter, moved to the inbetween of grey, will soon burst forth color. Softness of leaves will fill out what is now bare and empty, but not before the grand entrance is announced in lovely blossom’s air..and more..so much more. The birds of the air, both great and small, all seeking a place to lay their young. Nests, from twig and grass woven, cemented to these trusted branches and trunks. Cell filled eggs and hearts beating small and unseen. Buds and womb both swell with promise. Earth begins to soften, as if willing before its Maker, to be tilled open and filled with seed. What is it about spring that seems to sing hope over us? Creation does not write its own melody but was made to sing back the echo of our Father’s glory. It’s in this song we hear him sing a sweet lullaby over our hearts. The lullaby of hope and redemption, of life and making all things new, of birth and being birthed.
A mother’s heart is never really something that just happens. Mothering and birthing are connected. We are just as much formed and birthed into motherhood as we push forth into it our tiny babe. My own mother’s heart has been born and is being raised by many mothers in my life. My dear mother that carried me in her womb for nine months and brought me up, giving herself in sleepless nights, feedings, always wanting more for me. And other sweet spiritual mothers, poured out of themselves so that I may drink and live. As Ann Voskamp would say, “They make room for me in them.” Many, if not all, are mothers in some form or another. Some of you are young, watching, and learning to catch and emmulate how to be a mother as you care for any and all smaller than you. You may be single, but you walk alongside other mother’s holding up her arms and opening yours to hers. Some of you may be married and longing for children, trusting the Lord with His plans. Others of you may have felt the first excitement of the hope of birthing only to find you would wait a lifetime to embrace your baby. Maybe you have experienced adoption, and you know what it is to labor in paperwork and cross miles after growing your child in your heart. There are those that have swollen with child, labored long, and held their little image bearer still warm from womb. And some of you have faithfully birthed, loved, and began raising your child to have them step from earth to Glory, out of the order of life itself. And then there are those of you whose mother’s heart is in the three dimentional because you’ve brought up your arrows, and now you are also grandmother. Its here a mother’s heart has been formed and beats. Cells brought together, one by one, like any other organ…yet this one is unique. It takes shape and form, but the cause of the beating is unknown. At just the right moment and when each cell is in place, one suddenly begins to beat. Then another follows…then another and another until all beat as one, and the flow of blood and life itself is heard.
What is in the Mother’s heart that we hear? We hear rhythm’s whisper for longing…a longing for a postive test, the sound of the heartbeat through the ultrasound, a healthy pregancy, and safe delivery. Longing for that first cry that signals air is moving in and out of newly formed lungs. Longing to stare into newborn eyes of wonder. Longing to feed, to nurture, and grow. Longing to always be patient and calm, filled with all humility, for peaceful to be the air of home. Longing for endless energy and steady emotion in sleepless nights. To not be so rushed with what is to be done and pause for what is right now. Longing to know best how to school. Longing to celebrate and capture every fleeting memory that seems to go by even if you gaze until eyes dry and don’t blink. Longing for bedtime stories, family movie nights, real conversation, and hearts spilled. To soothe every skinned knee with a tender smile. Longing to teach them responsibility and prepare them for the world. Longing for manners and poise. Longing to always have the gentle tone and kind smile. To snuggle in slowly and breathe them in deep. A longing to be remembered that we loved them well, and that we cultivated a home for ours within ourselves. That we didn’t mess it up. A longing to give them Jesus and to help hide Gods word in their hearts. And yet it doesn’t take our Mother’s heart long to find this world is broken. We are broken. Singleness is prolonged so marriage and childbearing seem out of reach. Pregnancy tests read negative and void. Heartbeats turn still and silent. We experience complications like gestational diabeties, preterm labor, and spend endless weeks on bedrest. Delivery feels like days of agony and pleading rather than beauty and strength, and our birth plan unwravels. Rather than the cry of health, our baby is rushed to the nicu…or worse. Instead of faith, we feel fear. We lose our patience and tone is jagged and cutting to the least of these. We seek control, and calm becomes fret. We grow weary and ache for sleep. We hurry through our list and push souls aside just to move into another rush of day. We are crushed by the burden of school choices. We move past bedtime stories just to bedtime for time alone. We arne’t always sure how to even prepare them for the world when we are overwhelmed by it ourselves. We fail to soak in every second like we vowed and are bowed in guilt for blinking, and before we know it they have gone…and we wonder…”Will they stand and call me blessed?” We know deep down we fail, and we weep until tears run dry and throat runs hoarse. This is where we find, if we listen very closely to our mother’s heart…just what it is…deeper still…the true longing. We are longing for Grace. And not the passive kind of Grace that overlooks all our broken as if from a distance. That really isn’t grace at all but indifference. We long for a Redeemer. A Rescuer. The active and alive presence of God Himself. The kind that sees exactly who we are even better than we see ourselves. A relational God who calls us to Him and makes us to be like him. The kind that tells us where to find our home, to build our nest, and lay our young.
Psalm 84:3 says, “Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young-a place near your alter, Lord Almighty, my King and my God.”
This is the good news we need to be washed with as snow washes earths decay. Before hope’s blossoms bloomed, Jesus hung on winter’s tree. The one who bears the marks of sin’s whippings. Whose blood alone has soaked this soil and gives the growth to seed and water, buried in earth and raised to life. We need to know that one who has born us first. Who was King and yet entered into womans womb, cell to infant, boy to man, and knows this journey well. Who is aquainted with grief and able to sympathise with us who are dust, yet is able to claim victory rather than defeat. Who was first born among many, and who makes us born into newness of life. Who longs to take us under His wing and carry us on His hip, remembering us as a nursing mother. For we are never too grown up to need Him. We need to know that our being a mother was never meant to be the end itself, but only to point us in our weakness to the one who has come to fulfill every longing in Himself. The one whose breath breathes soul into flesh. Who did not abandon Eve in the curse but was her help in delivery and being delivered. The one who marries us in our single state. Who can grant even aged womb laughter born, yet even if not, promises his heartbeating into ours as we rest ourselves on his chest. He, who crushes giants and commands winds and wave. Who is our Great Teacher and schools each family where he wills. Who never sleeps or slumbers. Who proclaims to us his story of stories. The one who has fearfully and wonderfully made us as well as our children. The one who has overcome the world, after all, he created it all. Does it not bow and exist at his voice? Are not all things by him and for him and through him? I AM who engraves our names on his hands and writes us on his heart. I AM whose word is sword of two edges, to heal and to cut, and will not return void. The one who IS love which is always patient and kind. Who never grows weary but renews strength like eagles. Who has made every day for his glory and our rejoicing. We need to know he accepts our tainted works with hearts postured towards his because he holds the basin, to wash our dirty hands and feet, and teaches us how to be more like him. Even our righteous works alone are filth, and our tears need to be washed. But weilded in the hand of Jesus and bottled for his glory, they are called good. For we cannot add or take away from his love or what he has done. We need to know where to lay our children…where to find our home…were to lay ourselves. Its the altar of winter’s tree-the cross. The holy dwelling where we can lay our burdens and control, our idols and our longings. Planting and growth for our good and our children cannot be done in our own strength, and our Mothers heart knows. It weeps and mourns behind closed doors because of how well it knows. Just ask me how I know. We need more…we need more than our mother’s heart. We need our heavenly Father’s heart. and for those who are trusting in Jesus alone receive just that. Jeremiah 32 promises,
“And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them. I will make with them an everylasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me. I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul.”
We hear the song of Spring in this sweet word. We hear it straight from the lips and heart of Grace. We are His planting. This holy ground is for our growing as much as it is our children. The earth breaks forth because his back was tilled so we could flourish into His Eden. Because Jesus felt the turning away of His Father, we can breathe deep the breath of his face set a flint to do good to us. A mother’s heart, poured out and dying to self, is only one filled with the heart of God poured forth in his Son. One that can say we can count all loss compared to knowing Jesus. To know Him and be known. To be made like him. This is where we find our longings turned to joy rather than crushing burden. Our desire to be the good mom resting in our Great God.
Treading this narrow path with the flesh of our flesh is both dangerous and amazing. There are summits of unimaginable view our limited eyes could never fully take in, and valleys not deep enough to truly feel and hold the grief we will endure. There are wolves and witches waiting in shadows. There are jagged rock, slippery slopes, and bone chilling storms. There are also green pastures, a river flowing from streams of everlasting, and Spirit’s fanning flame that winter’s air thrusts us into. Matt Redman sings it best,”Never once do we ever walk alone alone.” Isaiah 42 assures us, “He carries the lambs in His arms and gently leads those with young.” He who calls out, “let the little children come to me,” is a good, good shepherd. So as we journey together, Dear Mothers, may we hear together the words of C.S. Lewis in the hope of spring,
“Courage Dear Heart…
Wrong will be made right,
when Aslan comes in sight,
At the sound of his roar,
sorrows will be no more,
When he bares his teeth,
winter meets its death,
And when he shakes his mane we shall have spring again.”
(The above writing in full was written and read by Affton at my daughter’s baby shower on April 29th. The photos taken by myself were take the week before and the week after said shower.)