Editor's note: This piece by Lisa-Jo Baker originally appeared on Momastery.com. It has been shared here with the author's permission.
You don't know me. Hi, I'm Lisa-Jo. But, if there's one thing I'd like to let you in on, it's this:
I was the girl who swore she'd never end up anyone's cliche — barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen. Which is interesting since we currently have three kids, a hamster and a backyard where toys go to die.
I grew up in South Africa, where the streets turn Jacaranda purple in October and we take our tea hot with milk and sugar, and I hadn't turned 18 yet when I swore I didn't plan to be anyone's mother.
It was after my mom had been in hospital for about nine months and the pastor's son was over and caught me trying to figure out how to cook dinner for my kid brothers. I was barefoot. And in the kitchen.
I remember how the late afternoon sunshine was coming in at the window and I had my mom's wooden cutting board out — the one with the pot burns blackened into its surface. We'd been living on takeout, dad was burned out from the hourly evening commutes to the hospital, and that night I was chopping onions to get a real meal started instead.
But William laughed at me and I promised myself I'd grow up to do something big and brave and important.
For a while I did.
After my mom died. After I went to college. After I graduated law school. After I told the boy I was in love with that I needed him to marry me and not my ability to have kids. And he did. There was a while when I felt significant in all the ways that I thought were the opposite of helping someone finish his homework or someone else root through the piles of laundry for clean undies.
I was a legal specialist in Ukraine, and we fought human trafficking with gritted teeth and bared hearts and our guts tied up in knots. It was awful and incredible and necessary and there are things I will always wish I could un-see.
That's the part I need you to know because it's what makes being a mother to three kids so surprising to me.
I turned 30 in Ukraine. And by the time I turned 31 we would be back living in South Africa after a decade away. And I would give birth to our first born three days later.
Here's what I learned in between.
Here's what I want you to hear. Especially you, if you're wondering how life turned out like this, if you feel lost in your own story and looking for a way out.
If you're up to your eyeballs in kids and under the weather and desperate for the laundry to cut you some slack.
If you're gasping for breath and wrestling worries and bills and sweating the end of year report cards.
If you can't bear to come up with one more way to cook chicken.
If you're short on sleep and high on impatience.
If you feel small or invisible or like you are slowly fading away.
Can I just slip my shoes off, slide over on the sofa and tell you this: I believe God sees you. I believe God cheers you. I believe your work is holy ground and I am proud to stand here barefoot beside you.
I am convinced that the God who made you, sculpted you, loved you into being considers your story just as important as the work of rescuing women from the slums in Kenya or the traffickers in Ukraine.
Even on the days when no one knows what you did. Maybe most especially on those days. When there are no awards or headlines or standing ovations. I believe that the God who began this work in and through you will carry it, and you if necessary, across the finish line.
And that he understands tired. He gets needing space. He's lived the burnout of too many demanding hands all tugging at the same time. This Jesus-brother-human-maker who on the day when "so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat," said to his friends, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest."
Ain't no shame in those days, friends.
Nope, I think those are the holy days. The scars-worn-bravely days.
So, on those days, dear ones, dish up an extra bowl of ice cream and repeat after me:
I am stretched and tired and fearful.
I am wild and brave and broken.
But this one life is on purpose, and it's not by accident where I woke up this morning.
While my closet has a sense of humor and clothes in every size, my story is richer and fuller for it.
I've worn these hips around the labor and delivery dance, and they are not ashamed.
I have lost it, yelled it, fought it, cried it and apologized it all before 9 a.m.
I have fingerpainted, caffeinated, and run out of explanations for a line of why questions that stretches around the living room, out the front door and around the block.
I have tripped on Legos, stepped on scooters, slept on bottom bunks, and strung yards of white, twinkling lights to ward off the dark and their bad dreams.
I have been woken up, shaken up, thrown up, loved up, and shut up. I have never quite, completely, ever given up.
Love sleeps in my bed. Curiosity eats at my table. Delight runs laps around my back yard. Exhaustion is a faithful friend. But so is grace.
If I started tonight and counted backwards all the gifts of this wild and furious season I would still be counting when the grandchildren were standing on tippy toes with noses pressed against these same smudged windows.
So I count dimples instead.
And piles of stray socks and jeans with knees missing and shoes that only fit for a few months and hair cuts and loose teeth and how many times I look at them and say with the disbelief of the proud, "I can't believe how much you've grown!"
I am overwhelmed, infatuated, love struck and completely unhinged. Especially on the nights they bring in wild flowers and all the ever-loving mud in the world.
I am full and fulfilled.
I am older and comfortable in my skin.
I am about the work of raising tiny humans.
I am out of my mind and in my calling and desperate for five minutes alone and a lifetime together.
I want to stop time, tame my fears, bottle their dreams, live a hundred summers of dripping, sticky, chocolate swirl ice cream. And in between I hang onto my faith, my temper, and my sense of humor with my fingernails.
These are the good days, the glory days, the slow-as-molasses days. These are the fast years, the wonder years, the how-do-I-find-words years.
But we do. They usually start with "help" and end with "thank you" and the middle?
The middle is a thick layer of reliable wonder sometimes whispered, often shouted, always answered.
The middle is me. The middle is you. The middle is just this one, sacred, take-off-your-shoes-worthy syllable,
A child of South Africa, Lisa-Jo grew up on Karoo dust, purple Jacaranda trees, and the stories of Zululand. While she came to the States for college and a law degree she stayed for the boy from Michigan who became her husband. They make their home with their three kids under the cherry blossoms just outside Washington, D.C., returning to the southern hemisphere whenever the craving for biltong and family gets too bad. She shares her every day life lived in between countries and kids at LisaJoBaker.com. And she gives away her eBook — "The Cheerleader for Tired Moms" — to anyone who subscribes to her blog. Click here and enter your email in the form on her side bar to receive it.