Empty Arms on Mother's Day

We aren’t here to one-up one another, but to help one another up.
— Ann Voskamp

Motherhood has been the strangest journey for me. I didn't dream of motherhood, until I couldn’t have it. Then every thought was focused on why I couldn't become one. I was ready for motherhood and even more so, I wanted my husband to be a father. So we tried. For weeks. For months. For years.  

Anger. Sadness. Fear. Inferiority. Depression. Shame. These were my companions on our journey through infertility. We walked through four-and-a-half total years of trying and praying to conceive. All we conceived was silence.

As the sun rose each Mother's Day, I only saw darkness. I felt robbed. I wanted to roll over, stay under the covers, and hide. Shame and depression woke up with me. Anger and frustration stayed close. 

Just as I walked through the winter of infertility, I also, by God's grace, experienced spring. Spring always comes. The blooms might not look how you imagined, but there is always new life after dark winters. And here I am, eleven years later, having written a book on my experience of motherhood and how it unravels me so often.

But I am convinced there is one thing we can do, with arms empty or full, that is a game changer. We can definitely do this on Mother's Day, but even more so in our daily lives. If everyone did this one thing, we would completely transform our outlook. 

Let’s stop, see, and celebrate others. 

If you have a friend walking through infertility or longing to be a mom on Mother's Day: Stop, see, and celebrate her. 

Stop, take the time, and go find her and hug her. Or send a message. Or ask how she is doing. Acknowledge how she nurtures others around her. Sit with her in the dark of grief and sadness. Pray for her. Tell her how her identity does not hinge on being a mother or not being a mother. Like each of us. It is far greater. She was purposely made by a Creator and is the daughter of The King. Tell her how motherhood is bigger than babies in bellies—it is nurturing, loving, nourishing, growing, and caring for people and for ideas.

If you are walking through infertility or long to be a mom on Mother’s Day: stop, see, and celebrate others. 

This may feel like taking up your cross, because it is. But life always comes after death. You can do this. Celebrate the wide beauty of mothering in others around you. Celebrate the children around you. Celebrate how women mother ideas and dreams, how women nurture neighborhood kids and nieces and nephews, how women bring life into our world with words, art, leadership, faith, hope, and love. Celebrate your own mom and your mom friends. Grief and celebration can coexist. You can celebrate through tears. I've done it, by strength only from God in the middle of my weakest place. And even if you step away and weep in your closet for fifteen minutes (or an hour), resolve to return and celebrate. 

But this may bring up some questions: 

Who will take care of me if I stop caring about myself and care about others?

God will.

God sees you. He weeps with you. He is for you. He celebrates you. The only way we can see others, cheer them on, and forget ourselves is if we trust that God remembers us. In a world where women were invisible, Jesus saw them.  You can trust Jesus to care for you in a variety of ways. He could use others around you to hold you close. He could give you peace. He could surprise you with His beauty. He could bless you in ways you can't imagine. 

What happens when we stop looking at ourselves and start to see others in celebration?

Two things for sure: God produces good fruit in us and through us. And we defeat our enemies of shame and fear. 

When I feel robbed, robbing others solves nothing. But if we cultivate a garden of giving around us, we will certainly enjoy the bounty. When we practice gratitude for others, we pull the weeds of shame and fear about ourselves. When we encourage others, our soul soars. 

What do I do with all my fears and grief as I celebrate others?  

Acknowledge all of your emotions with safe people. This is not a call to silently suffer. It is a call to heal with the salve of celebration. This is by no means easy, but it is good.

Celebration breeds more celebration. Beauty comes from blessing others. Lifting others up lifts up our souls.  

 

Friends, by God's grace, we can all do this. We can all stop, see, and celebrate others. Let’s plant, water, and grow love. Grow joy. Grow life.

We may find our arms are fuller than we thought.

She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”
— Genesis 16:13
You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.
— Psalm 56:8
Amy Seiffert