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Monday, May 10, 2010

my real mother's day gift

(warning: this entirely too long but I can't find any natural break to make it a part one and part two. I suggest a cup of coffee and some bifocals to make it through)

“A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” Luke 6:38

Do you want to hear a confession? Luke 6:38 is a verse I prayed a lot, wrote on notecards, and thought of as a big-deal verse for my pregnancy with Elias – and I had almost no idea what it meant. It sounds so nice, right? This big blessing – just all shook up – spilling out of your tummy. Smile. I wish I was kidding.

A few weeks ago, I finally heard my Pastor explain this passage and I just chuckled to myself for about an hour. I was doing the dishes and I almost just sat on the floor and laughed.

I’ll back up. Who knows what they’re getting into when they pursue motherhood? About… no one. I know a few women who’ve made an intentional choice to try and understand, who’ve pursued it for the right reasons – but in general, I think there is so little we can even perceive about it before it happens. You just can’t describe what it’s like to be woken up fourteen times in one night to console a screaming infant and you can’t describe what it’s like to hold what feels like all of your love and passion and desire, knowing you can control very little of what happens to them or what they do. Anyhow, I think that of all the women I’ve ever met – I felt the least prepared for motherhood. I’m sure a lot of women feel that way, or I hope they do, but I really was clueless. I just stumbled right in and found myself in this tornado of love and diapers and sacrifice and blessing.

And I prayed this verse for myself. Prayed that the good measure would be pressed down, shaken together, and that the blessings would run over. I should pause now and tell you, I don’t think that because I prayed this prayer and asked for blessings, that the Lord made them pour over. My heart aches for women who beg Him for blessings, and in His sovereign love – He withholds. If anyone ever looked at my life and was annoyed with Him that He gave me so many children so quickly, I’d understand. I see women around me daily that are more deserving – more righteous, better mothers, with better houses to hold them.

In our life, though, the story was written that babies kept coming. When Elias was four months old and I still had literally no clue what I was doing, we got pregnant again. If you don’t know that you don’t know anything, you don’t really mind. So I was thrilled to have a little girl. But the little girl came and the combination of two children under two, a cross-country move, and the vast despair I had at being on the low end of the learning curve or motherhood... it all caught up with me. I was terrified to have more children because I was already so behind and already had so much to learn, and in God’s providence – He gave us another.

What three children under three, another move, and a super hard financial season did was - it gave me eyes for sacrifice. From the moment I woke up in the morning, I could see what I longed for as my own choice and saw what the Lord, what my situation, required instead. When I wanted to sleep, I needed to be up. When I wanted to spend, we had to save. When I wanted luxury, lean was required. Oh goodness all the times that I wanted to sit. Just sit. Everything that I wanted for myself seemed to need to die and I learned quickly to see my day as not my own. With my body, I made sacrifices, but in my heart – I knew what my own person still longed for. And I counted the cost, like a tab where the value increased by the minute, though no one would ever be able to pay me back.

Back to Luke 6. My pastor explained this beautiful verse in it’s correct context, not just it’s flowery lonesome self. The verse before makes the whole passage read like this: Judge not and you will not be judged, forgive; and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”

He explained that in the markets of Biblical times, when you went to buy – say, gluten free granola, you wouldn’t just get a bag, half-filled, with a ton of air at the top like we do. You would take your own bag, and have it filled. And as the buyer, you’d have the right to press it down, shake it together, and fill your bag of granola till it was absolutely running over. Just full to the top. So as believers, give like that and we’ll receive. Give grace, give love, give service – that overflowing measure is what you’ll receive back.

In my folly, when I was praying this verse for myself – I was basically asking the Lord to bring me to the breaking point. “Give, give, give!!!” I said to Him, not realizing that when you ask for such big blessings – you’re asking also to be poured out yourself. And He has given. Given me these children to just lavish my grace and attention and service on. And He’s been there – each night or morning when I’m sure I have nothing left to offer – reminding me that no, I don’t have a single good thing to offer – but He does.

And this year, for Mother’s Day, He gave me a new gift. He’s taken away my eyes of sacrifice. Well, He’s taking them away. Slowly. He’s changing the scenery of my heart and rather than seeing three bodies with needs to be met and measuring them with the rod of sacrifice and intentionality and effort that they will cost me, I’m able to see just them – image bearers of Christ and blessings, every one. Just ounces and ounces and pounds and pounds and minutes and afternoons and nights of blessings. And no, no one will ever be able to pay the debt of my sacrifice and why in the world would I want them to? The only debt that need be paid is the one for my sinful, selfish heart that measures children in diapers and sleepless nights and stretch marks rather than souls and gifts. And that debt, the one for my sin, was paid by my Savior.

And just like that, mother’s day became completely about thanking God for how much He’s given – rather than one more day to measure sacrifice. Unless I’m measuring His… and then I’d like to just say Thank You.


Jackie said...

Love seeing Him through your story! Thanks.

kellybollman said...

so beautifully written. Sweet Holy Spirit was all over that one.
Love you!

erin said...


kim said...

this was so lovely to read, jess. love you. love Him for the work He is doing in you.

Betsy said...

Wow - how true. You put into words what God has been teaching me over the past two years. Thanks for sharing your heart. Blessings!

suzannah @ so much shouting/laughter said...

jessi, this is beautiful. thanks for this perspective.