The Overflow! where souls are filled and faith is spilled

Why Motherhood is Like a Never-Ending Game of Limbo

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Over at Encouragement for Today, I’m talking about that time years ago when my son gave me dead daises for Mother’s Day. And I’m explaining why those brown blooms were the perfect centerpiece for my table on that special day.  If you haven’t read it, you’ll want to swing over here and check it out. But before you go, let me tell you why I’m shrinking. And why the moms that you know might be shrinking too.

“Mom, I think you’re shrinking,” my firstborn said a few years ago in the middle of our morning rush.

He stood beside me with that infectious grin, the tip of his blonde head occupying the space above mine, and he puffed out his sixteen-year-old chest and held his shoulders tall to prove the truth of his declaration.

I stretched myself up on tiptoe so I could look my son in the eye.

Then, I returned his goading with a playful punch and reminded him that “sometimes the best things come in small packages…”

But what I really wanted to tell that boy of mine is that it’s his fault. ‘Cause I’ve been shrinking ever since the day that tiny pink cross on a pregnancy stick declared his existence.

Before I’d willed him from my womb with pushes and prayers, before I’d held all slippery seven-pounds of him in my arms, before I’d known his name or the sound of his flurrying feet racing across the floor, I began to shrink.

Pregnancy may grow a stomach large, but it’s just the beginning of growing a mama small.

I remember reading and re-reading every page of What to Expect When You’re Expecting before I even heard my baby’s heartbeat.  I underlined diet plans and plotted out exercise regimens; practiced kegels and bid farewell to my firm abs, my bladder of steel, and life without heartburn.

I learned how big my stomach should be measuring each week and how much sleep I should be getting every night. I scanned lists of what to pack in my hospital bag and what to purchase for the nursery. But there was no mention on those highlighted pages of how the me that had always been me would begin to shrink. 

No one told me that pieces of the woman I’d been would quietly disappear, as if that bump growing just beneath my heart was elbowing her out, making space for another life that would forever change mine.

I didn’t know it then, but I was learning the timeless dance of motherhood.

And, in time, I’d discover that this dance isn’t an ephemeral boogie or an occasional bop. It’s more like a perpetual game of limbo, an arduous blend of bending low and stooping steady. A selfless sway that moves with the heartbeat of Heaven.

So, I grew and I shrunk all at the same time, my stomach stretching thin and taut while the woman I once was waned and changed.

I dreamed new dreams.

And learned to pray.

I worried and wished and wondered.

My waistline disappeared and so did my stride. And as I waddled into that ninth month of pregnancy, even the very air I breathed seemed to be shrinking as an unseen tangle of legs and life pressed hard against my ribcage.

My water burst for the first time right there on our ugly plaid couch in the little apartment we called home, and the contractions swept me away on waves of hot pain and cold sweat. I gasped for breath and prayed for strength and wondered how one small life could consume every ounce of me.

I didn’t understand as I panted and pushed that I was giving birth to far more than my first baby. I was  giving birth to his mother as well. 

And  when the doctor placed that warm bundle of wet wrinkles and soft cries in my arms, I assumed that I’d already survived the toughest part of motherhood. After all, I’d lived through labor. But after bearing five children and clocking five thousand sleepless nights, after wiping bottoms and blotting tears, kissing skinned knees and praying over bruised hearts; after surviving potty-training and driver’s training and all the commonplace moments in between; I realize I was wrong.

The past eighteen years of motherhood have taught me what countless generations of mothers have always known–a mother’s labor never ends.

Oh, we can leave the delivery ward and those babies can grow six-feet tall, but they won’t be the only ones growing.

We’ll keep growing large in love and small in pride; tall in truth and short on self-importance.

Because motherhood is a daily invitation to contract in smallness so Jesus can grow bigger within us.

It’s painful. And messy–this life of dying to self and being emptied of entitlement, this life of loving without limits and serving without recognition.

It’s a dance that demands grace and second-chances, patience and prayer.

Motherhood is not the only way God refines us, but it is one of the surest ways…if we are willing to learn this dwindling dance.

Just moments after my firstborn declared that I was shrinking, he cast me a sheepish grin and asked if I could please pack a lunch for him. ‘Cause he was running late, and he still needed to cram for that physics test and find his track shoes and brush his teeth before he left for school. 

I really just wanted to sit down for a moment and take a sip of that coffee I’d brewed at 5 A.M., but I remembered the words I’d read in my Bible at dawn, the ones that had reminded me that my Savior understands what it means to shrink.

“When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.”  (Philippians 2:7).

So I reached for the bread and began to pack a lunch, and that’s when I realized it with fresh awe–Growing up into smallness is a giant challenge, but we’re not left to shrink alone. We have a Savior who understands every step of this diminishing dance, a Savior who has lived the ultimate limbo. 

My daughter hollered from her bedroom. She needed her running tights, the ones I tossed in the washing machine at midnight before I’d collapsed into bed. And my second-grader needed his mud boots. He was tearing up the garage trying to find them.

My kindergartner was crying upstairs because her purple toothbrush had disappeared. Again.

And the clock was screaming that silent warning- hurry or someone will be late for school. 

And for one fleeting moment, I wondered if my sanity was hiding somewhere with that purple toothbrush. But those words from the second chapter of Philippians echoed through my mind, and I bit my tongue and raced to the second floor to solve the morning mystery.

I found the toothbrush hiding in the drawer with the pony tail holders, plucked stray hairs out of its bristles and persuaded my daughter to brush quickly. 

My littlest girl scrubbed her pearly whites, and I squatted on the sticky bathroom floor in search of the toothpaste lid that had rolled off the splattered counter-top.

I put my knee in a glob of run-away hair-gel that had sat puddled on the linoleum for who knows how long, and suddenly, I pictured my Savior bending low to join me in the mess. I couldn’t hear anything above my daughter’s off-key humming and the whirr of the running water, but I knew if I could just tune my ear to Heaven, I’d hear Jesus cheering for me as I twirled across the ordinary dance floor called motherhood. 

My daughter flashed herself a smile in the smudged glass of the bathroom mirror and I smiled, too, as I realized this comforting truth-

I may never master this limbo or perfect every sway and twirl, but because the One who stooped from Heaven to earth lives in me, I can keep learning to labor and dance one shaky step at a time. 

Someone hollered from the kitchen, “Mom! We’ve got to go!’

So I tossed the toothpaste lid on the counter and headed downstairs to gather my tribe. I grabbed the mini-van keys and the Barbie backpack that was still lying on the floor, and my firstborn paused with his lunchbox before we raced out the door.

“Thanks for helping me this morning, Mom,” he said, draping one arm around my shoulder in a hurried hug. 

And standing there next to the one who called me Mommy first, I felt small. Gloriously small.

********************************************************************************************************************************************************************Today, I’m delighted to be giving away one of my FAVORITE mom books (written by one of my FAVORITE writers, Becky Kopitzke).

The first time I read the SuperMom Myth I felt like I was sharing a comforting cup of coffee with a friend who knows the worst in me but somehow calls out my best. This book makes me want to love more, laugh more, and fully embrace every part of this messy and marvelous gift called motherhood. With wit, wisdom, and tell-all honesty, Becky reminds us that supermoms don’t wear capes; they simply cling to Jesus.

If you’d like to enter for a chance to win this early Mother’s Day gift, just leave a comment telling us about a real live Super Mom you know and why you’re thankful for her. We’d love to celebrate you both this Mother’s Day, and we’ll be sure to pray for you both, as well.


21 thoughts on “Why Motherhood is Like a Never-Ending Game of Limbo

  1. Nicole Smorra

    My own Mom is a Super Mom that comes to mind… .she raised my sister and I by herself and I have no idea how she did it with working fulltime, managing a home,etc.

    May 9, 2017 at 5:36 am
  2. Sarah B

    My first born is 17 months now and this dying to self that you speak of is something that resonates with me everyday. I never thought I was a self centered person until I became a mom. The superhero Mom in my life is my biological mother. I never realized the sacrifices she made raising me until I became a mom myself. Thanks for the reminder today that motherhood matters in Gods eyes and brings me closer to Him everyday.

    May 9, 2017 at 6:43 am
  3. Lauren McCrea

    My own Mama is my Super Hero. As a military wife with a husband who was gone for 9 mo at a time as a helicopter pilot, she somehow managed it all, with 3 busy kids and with such grace. I still don’t think she understands just how incredible she is. Even now, with her babies growing up and having babies, she “mothers” her students in her Life Skills Preschool class. She amazes me.

    May 9, 2017 at 6:47 am
  4. Jessica Burmaster

    This is a reminder I needed this morning. A true superhero mom in my life, aside from my mom, is my sister. She’s got three under three and works part time, but she also takes every opportunity to remind those around her the truth of the gospel. She gently corrects and encourages me with every interaction. She’s truly a gift!

    May 9, 2017 at 6:54 am
  5. Emily

    Your devotion and blog post were just what I needed today to remind myself to choose love and embrace these previous children and moments in my life. I have many super mom friends, but my grandma sticks out to me as the ultimate super mom because she raised 8 children over the course of 26 years and clung to her faith in God while raising them. I’d love to win a copy of the book, but most importantly, thank you for reminding me of the previous gifts God has given me with my 3 children, almost 4 (surprise baby due in July). God bless and Happy Mother’s Day!

    May 9, 2017 at 7:18 am
  6. Dana

    I am blessed to have many super moms in my life, including relatives and friends. These moms have provided beautiful Christian witness in many stages of my life.

    May 9, 2017 at 7:18 am
  7. Kim

    Thank you so much for this encouraging article right before Mothers Day. My daughter is a super Mom. She is 30 years old and raising her 4 year old son all by herself. Not her original plan for motherhood but she does her best every day juggling the single parent and working mom roles. So proud of her and continue to support her in my additional role or grandma.

    May 9, 2017 at 7:32 am
  8. Kelley

    Your writing today was such perfect timing. I’m a mom who works full time with two little ones. There are days when I’m trying to manage it all and it just seems like I can’t get ahead of anything. Just recently I was beginning to have a pity party for myself and thought about my mom and how she managed it all too. Working and getting my sister and I off to school. My dad had his own business and money would get tight but she always found a way to get us what we needed and our requested wants. I remember her saving box tops from cereal for airline tickets. Which allowed us a trip to Michigan to visit family and allow me to have a birthday party in a park (that was my birthday request at the age of 5). My grandma had a rough start with motherhood. She had three sons and two were special needs from birth. Her husband died when the boys were very young which left them fatherless and the support of a father which every child needs. She had her own restaurant trying to make ends meet and she did what she knew to provide for them. Eventually cancer took her life, my dad shared with her how to have eternal life and we will never know if she accepted. I hope to see her in heaven one day. But I want to recognize both my mom and grandma for sacrificing and shrinking. Even to this day my mom continues to shrink as my fathers health is deteriorating. It’s not the golden years as the life they planned. It’s the visits to the doctor and trying to get him comfortable and figure out other options when medication won’t work. But she rises everyday doing what she knows she can do and gaining encouragement from the Word of God. And I thank her for showing me her strength.

    May 9, 2017 at 7:35 am
  9. PeggyS

    There is no doubt in my mind that my mom was SUPERMOM. She raised three kids and gave us her ALL, every single day. She died of cancer when she was 48 years old and I will run my 10th or 11th Race for the Cure this weekend in honor of her. I hope that I can give my kids the same undying love and joy that she gave to us.

    May 9, 2017 at 8:38 am
  10. Tiffane' Pennisi

    As I sit here and tears just stream down my face as I’m reading your blog….I look up to my messy house and I’m just overflowed with thankfulness!! I’m so thankful I have my babies, that I too am shrinking. I’m not doing this dance perfectly but I’m thankful I have been given the privelidge to raise these precious babies and that I was chosen to be their momma. I’ve been struggling with loosing “who I am” what are my dreams” but it’s not about me. I’ve been given a greater purpose to raise children that honor and love Jesus! It’s shrink less of me and fill me more of Jesus so my children know who our creator is!! I wouldn’t trade it for anything, anyone, any status, any other job, NOTHING! Thank you for sharing your ❤️ heart!

    May 9, 2017 at 8:45 am
  11. Liz

    My mom is a super hero – with every year that my 3 children grow, I see more and more of the struggles my mom must have endured with us when we were kids. And yet today, even though her oldest is approaching 40, she still sacrifices and gives everything she has to her kids! And she loves and enjoys every minute she can with her grandkids. I hope one day to be just a fraction of the mom she is and continues to be!

    May 9, 2017 at 12:41 pm
  12. Courtney

    At the present time, I don’t get out often, nor do I “socialize” with anyone outside of my immediate family. So, it it difficult to think of a “supermom” off the top of my head. However, w/o going into specific details explaining the quite complicated “history” or description of how I actually came to know this woman, I do have a “friend” that comes to mind. She is (about) my age, 29. She is a mother of 4 daughters. The oldest is 12, & the youngest is around 3. The 2 middle daughters both suffer from autism. The father of the 4, although he has been present majority of their lives is not the father the daughters nor the mom need & deserve. He struggles with addiction, which he has for over a decade, & is periodically in & out of trouble & jail. Despite this all, she takes care of them all & still manages to find time to do her hair & makeup. Haha! Even though I can’t see what or how things go “behind closed doors”, she seems to stay strong & keep her head up. To me, this is a great example of a real “supermom”.

    May 9, 2017 at 1:35 pm
  13. Jennifer

    The real supermom I know is my sister-in-law. Her son was born with a rare genetic illness that does not allow him to metabolize fat correctly. At 9 years old, he can only have 5 grams of fat a day and she must meticulously count every milligram so that he doesn’t receive too much. He must still be fed in the middle of the night to keep his caloric intake up so that his muscles don’t break down with the limited supply of fat. 9 years, of being up through the night, to keep her child alive. They cherish every moment with him knowing he will be their only (because of complications during his birth) and his life expectancy is only around 30 years old. She works diligently to manage his condition and does so with a joyful heart.

    May 9, 2017 at 2:19 pm
  14. Beth Ludema

    My mom is a super mom. I’m so thankful for the Christian upbringing she (and my dad)gave my brother and I. Now, she helps take care of our girls when needed. Our girls look up to her in many ways. She has taught them how to care for others who have less. She has a gentleness when speaking. She does special things with them…shopping, going to their favorite restaurant, playing their favorite game…. Thank you mom for all you’ve done for me and our family. God had truly blessed me with an awesome mom!

    May 9, 2017 at 9:34 pm
  15. Brenda

    This was a lovely article. It gives me comfort that so many women are like me. My children have almost all grown and are starting their lives as adults yet I can’t let them go. They were my world and Jesus gave me strength to do my best for them. It wasn’t easy but it has been an incredible journey.

    May 9, 2017 at 10:12 pm
  16. Kris

    One super mom that I love is my dear friend. She tragically lost her husband a few months ago and is left behind with their young 7 children. Her continued faith, determination, and strength is inspiring.

    May 10, 2017 at 5:27 am
  17. Elsie

    I always wanted to be a super mom. However, I realized it was more important to be flexible, live the moments and enjoy my children. “Enjoy life to it’s fullest’ John 10: 10 b – ” I came that may have life and have it more abundantly.”

    May 10, 2017 at 6:35 am
  18. Kassandra Velasquez

    When i think of who is supermom no one comes to mind specifically but every mom i know mom,nana, tias, spiritual mentor there all amazing women. I used tp try so hard to be supermom but a year ago i called myself wonder mom, then as life tends to do it come fallinh down on me with harsh reality i am by no means wonder mom i do not have it all together they way i tried to prove i did, i needed help and i wasnt perfect and thats ok, i was so busy trying to be wonder mom that i forgot to be just “mom” now that im not tryin to wear that cape any more i enjoy my 2yr old and 5yr old so much more

    May 10, 2017 at 12:03 pm
  19. Rochelle

    I always love your words, Alicia. They give me a hug and encourage me, thank you for writing them.

    I’d say that my good friend Sarah is a Super Mom. She has all the regular “mom stuff” to do each day with her 3 kids, but for her daughter who has a life-threatening disease, she is doctor, nurse, educator, therapist, advocate, insurance expert and administrator … I”m sure I’m forgetting another role, but she is living in stress AT ALL TIMES. Constantly monitoring her daughter, fighting for her treatment, fighting for insurance coverage, keeping all her i’s dotted and t’s crossed – and NEVER able to shut off.

    BUT. She has sought the Lord in it all. She has ups and downs and times when she’s run smack into a wall … BUT she keeps going, calling on the only source of her strength, our Almighty Lord.

    She inspires me and amazes me and gives me such perspective. I celebrate her!

    May 10, 2017 at 1:15 pm
  20. Carmen N

    I used to think a good friend of mine was Super Mom – she worked 3rd shift at the hospital, her house seemed immaculate (to me) even with 3 boys and she was active in church. But over time I began to realize she had just as many struggles, disappointments, and failures as I did … only they were in different areas. It was around that same time she mentioned to me that she thought I was a Super Mom 🙂

    May 11, 2017 at 9:48 pm
  21. Mandi

    Lovely words to read this morning. So needed to hear this. Thank-you! And I love the Iowa Hawkeyes gear I see in the pics of your kids! That’s my alma mater. Happy Mother’s day to you Alicia. With God’s grace, I pray we continue to shrink!

    May 14, 2017 at 6:56 am

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