I sat in a dark room and rocked our 6-month-old back to sleep for what seemed like the 1,000th time. “Dang it,” I muttered under my breath. London was going through a sleep regression. I felt a familiar tidal wave of emotion wash over me and I didn’t know how I was going to make it through.
Still rocking, my mind began listing all the messes that awaited me on the other side of the door: piling laundry, dirty toilets, dishes spilling out of the sink and onto the counters, kids who hadn’t bathed in who knows how many days. I was a mess too: dirty hair, chipped nail polish, hairy legs, spit-up lace shirt. The messes seemed to have a megaphone, screaming at me and rattling my soul until it felt like this reality would never in a million years change. This is us – the messy Swifts, my internal dialogue announced. But the messiness inside my soul was the most difficult to acknowledge – my impatience, anxiety, anger and lack of grace. I felt “not enough” for the task at hand, bone-tired, overwhelmed and hopeless.
Most of us can agree that motherhood is both beautiful and messy. Some of us might argue that there’s more mess than beauty. It is not a journey for the faint of heart. I can honestly say that every additional child has challenged me, stretched me and grown me; sometimes in painful ways I would have avoided if left to my own devices. When you’re faced with your own humanity and your true lack of control, it tends to drive you to your knees. And hope can seem a long way off.
But as I sat there in the darkness of London’s room, a crevasse of light shone into my heart. An image came into my mind that I had been given months earlier:
I walked along the beach with my oldest daughter, Harper. We meandered slowly, collecting shells and admiring the waves. I smiled as she began dancing down the beach chasing birds. I watched her come alive along the shoreline. I stood back watching in wonder as Harper took her finger and began drawing hearts in the sand around different items lying on the beach: an iridescent shell, a pink piece of coral, a uniquely colored rock. As I trailed behind and observed her, I was struck by the profound simplicity of what she was doing. She couldn’t take every treasure home, so she decided to take note of what she loved by drawing a simple heart around it. She was receiving the gifts in front of her, acknowledging them and leaving them there on the beach.
I noticed myself cringe inside, ever so slightly, when she drew a heart around objects that were not particularly beautiful to my eyes. Why draw a heart around the torn up, green-brown seaweed washed ashore? What did she notice in the average looking rock or the broken piece of shell? What about these things made me cringe?
For reasons unknown to me in that moment, I knew I was supposed to hang onto this image. It wanted to teach me something.
Months later, sitting in the middle of my messy reality of four kids; stretched capacity, nerves on edge and hope fading – I remembered Harper and her hearts on the beach. I was reminded that whether I am experiencing motherhood as beautiful or messy, whether I feel strong or weak, whether I am filled with hope or hopelessness, Jesus draws a heart around it all.
I believe there is an invitation for all of us to draw a heart around our lives, and to experience hope through receiving, acknowledging and laying down our present realities. We find hope when we open-handedly receive what is in front of us. The truth is, there is a gift in both the beauty and the mess. We find hope when we acknowledge the truth of our situation. Whether we express our gratitude for the beauty or admit we need help in the mess, both lead us toward wholeness. We experience hope when we lay it all down at his feet. It’s too hard to carry the mess on our own and it’s too tempting to cling to the beautiful.
Motherhood is beauty and mess. Let’s draw a heart around that.
Audi Swift is a heart-sharer who loves writing about the things that uncover the soul to experience God in deeper, more honest ways. She lives in San Diego, California with her husband, Jeremy and their four kids: Harper (8), Bentley (6), Kensington (3) and London (8 months). Learn more about Audi’s writing at audiswift.com.
This article originally appeared in the Spring 2017 issue of The MOPS Magazine. If you didn’t get a copy and would like your own, you can subscribe to get The MOPS Magazine in your mailbox every season. If you subscribe, forward your receipt to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll shoot a copy of the current issue in the mail to you for free … just because we like you.