Sometimes I look in the mirror and barely recognize myself. What happened to that person I used to be–the one who was bubbling over with good ideas and introduced to strangers with an impressive trail of accomplishments following her name? The person who had dreams and ambitions greater than getting every room in the house clean at the same time. She was the one I was counting on to organize my life, to write my book, to check off all the goals on my daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, and lifelong to-do lists. She was the one I was hoping would do something worthwhile with this breath of earthly existence I call my life.
But she can be really hard to get in touch with.
I am thirty-six years old. I am a mother of small children. What once seemed like the central vision for my life has slowly moved out of sight and into the rearview mirror. I know that I am meant to be a mother. I never doubt that. I know that I am blessed beyond measure to have six healthy, beautiful children who keep my life full of wonder. I know that one day I will miss these very busy days, and I will look back in disbelief at how I ever thought it a chore to tuck the babies into their little beds at night and see them through till they fell asleep.
Raising young children and meeting needs sun-up to sun-down (and usually through the night) is exhausting. Beautiful, yes. But exhausting. I often feel there is little time and/or energy for anything that is not directly related to caring for these little ones. And out of necessity, I have let a lot of things that I thought were an essential part of who I am fall away.
But there is a seed of vision that has wanted to continue living and growing. It would like to flourish. It would like to be a whole garden, but there is no time in this season of short daylight hours for cultivating something so labor-intensive as that. It reaches up for sunlight in the early morning, before the babies wake, before the day is crowded with the colorful voices of this home. The little tree grows, season by season, sometimes flowering, sometimes laying dormant. But it wants to live. Despite my neglect, despite my occasional whim to uproot it altogether and throw it into the compost of my life… This little tree continues to grow, and at times, it flourishes.
And for this, I am thankful.
Sometimes, as mothers, there are seasons where there is so little time to cultivate creative vision that the best we can do is commit to keeping that part of us alive as we lovingly turn our hearts to the needs of our children. They are our world. They are our focus. And though we are holding onto this thread of who we are, we are allowing motherhood to work on us as part of the creative process. Of course our children are changing us. We wouldn’t want it any other way. They wake us up to beauty (the moon, a firefly, a perfectly-ripe summer peach). They fill us up with laughter. They deepen every one of our emotions. They draw us closer into relationships with one another. They teach us to love and forgive. They force us to get up out of bed when life deals us a difficult blow. They truly gift us with the ability to strip it down to the essentials. To let go of so many things that are not serving us. And to conserve our energy for what really is important.
But there is something inside of us, separate from our children, at the core of who we are, that we need to hang onto. It is the one little seed of purpose that was planted before these little people were born. And cultivating this little tree will bring great fruit into the life of our family.
For me, it is writing. That is pretty much the only thing that can get me–by my own will–out of bed at 5:30 a.m. on a morning like this. I used to do a lot of other things. But I have found that creatively, I feel really satisfied when I write. I write in journals daily, and I keep a list of ideas with me at all times in case inspiration strikes. I am constantly coming back to my book or to my blog, incorporating the details of my life into the story. And even though I don’t write as much as I’d like, and even though I don’t finish anything as quickly as I feel I should, over time, I am making significant progress toward something that feels connected to the reason I was put on this earth. Writing helps me understand my life. It helps me process the world around me, which, despite its aching beauty–let’s face it–is often chaotic and messy. I write because it makes me feel alive. It wakes me up to the miracle of my life as a mother and a woman and a human traveling through this world. It is a mirror for my soul. It is my most genuine prayer. It is the little tree that I am trying to keep alive in every season. And ultimately, taking a few minutes every day to do the thing that makes me feel authentically me allows me to give myself over more fully to the needs and desires of my family. I recognize that when I have found time to cultivate this vision, I am a better mother. And I am more able to help these children see and tend to their own incredible and creative voices.