Letting Go of the “What Next?” of Motherhood
by Courtney Westlake
My daughter takes life slowly.
Anyone who takes her hand to cross a parking lot can expect to shuffle slowly along with each of her careful steps. Stepping over a crack or threshold will take several seconds as she musters her courage and balance.
Brenna was born with a severe skin disorder in which the top layers of her skin build quickly upon themselves, thick and very dry, which restricts her movement. Her skin doesn’t easily stretch and lacks the muscle strength that allows her to catch herself if she falls, so feeling off balance is a scary thing for her. Physical contact like bumps and pushes, cuts and scratches, are particularly hurtful to her body.
Yet this has given something special to Brenna: a true attention to detail. She is always focused on what is happening right now, right in front of her.
Because she is moving slowly, she sees the bird that lands on the sidewalk, gleefully pausing to call out, “Hi, birdie!” Because she is not running quickly, she notices the truck that just went by, explaining that it looked like “Daddy’s truck.” And in the middle of the rush of school, she slowly takes in the activity, reporting on what color shirts her friends were wearing that day.
My daughter’s daily decelerated pace has transformed my entire experience of motherhood, in the best possible way.
Through these challenging years of raising Brenna and her older brother Connor, motherhood for me has become a journey of letting go of my own expectations so that I can truly understand and accept who my children are as God created them. Motherhood means the privilege and joy of discovering the child that has been gifted to me and getting to encourage and bring out the best version of who that child is, rather than pushing her to become the person I might have envisioned her to be.
Often, it is easy to become consumed with the “what next?” of motherhood. The momentum of hitting the growing-up milestones of first steps and lost teeth, and the excitement of new activities and upcoming seasons, builds upon itself until we may need a big reminder to take a breath and stop looking forward, so that we may get to know these little people in front of us for who they are now, not who we may be hoping they become.
God created our children in the utmost uniqueness, wrapped completely in unconditional love, and yet it can feel challenging sometimes to recognize and reconcile that incredible uniqueness in front of us with the person we may have been expecting to raise. Motherhood challenges us, stretches us, and transforms us . . . but it also surprises us with joyful purpose and intense beauty if we allow it to.
All of the surprising kinds of beautiful we can find in the unexpected parts of our children and within our role as mothers are God’s loving gifts to us. And accepting these pieces of beautiful is our gift back to God, as a way to honor and glorify Him.
If I’m not careful, I find myself grabbing at life’s moments ahead instead of forcing life to grab me in order to get me to slow down, because I’m not paying attention. At least, not paying attention to the now . . . and the why and the how. I become too busy living in the “what’s next,” anticipating instead of appreciating.
But my daughter’s special health needs have helped me to realize that God’s offer is on the table, every day—what the world has to offer us, what our different life experiences have to offer us, what our bodies have to offer us, what the people in our lives have to offer us, especially our children. And it’s our choice to accept, to reach out and grasp these offerings, to let our hearts be open to celebrating this beauty, even and especially, when it’s unexpected or different than we had planned.
There is so much beauty the world has to offer us if we take the opportunity to accept it, and often we don’t even need to seek out these unexpected pieces of beautiful but simply turn our heads to see things from a new angle, to realize this invitation of celebration is right in front of us or right next to us, there for the taking.
Discovering and celebrating who our children are, with all of their glorious imperfections, is much easier discussed than done. It takes a sort of courage to slow our daily rush, to set our sights on what is in front of us rather than what is ahead of us.
Yet it is in those moments of motherhood that we can fully say yes to accepting God’s gifts of beauty, letting go of what we think we want to see so that we can recognize and appreciate the unique magnificence that God has placed within our children.
Courtney Westlake is the author of A Different Beautiful, releasing August 1. Courtney is married to Evan and mother of Connor and Brenna, and she began chronicling family life on her blog after Brenna was born with a severe skin disorder in 2011. You can also find her on Facebook and Instagram.
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