Time stands still. They all look to me and I, unsure of how to respond, stare at them silently and feel...defeated.
The three-year old is crying. The seven-year old needs help with math and the five-year old wants to read me a story. Who am I in this moment? To whom do I respond and with what hat? Mother? Teacher? Listener?
If I fail to be one, I fail to be...for which one of these things exists outside of myself?
How do I exist in an environment where I seek to be so much to small beings who need me to be all? How do I lay my head down at night feeling as though I did not, in fact, fail to be everything they need...everything God has called me to be?
As I struggle through this complex issue in this chaotic, redeemed life I have grown to love, I feel the Lord pressing upon my heart a simple truth that can set me free if I choose to embrace it. If I choose to ignore the world and exist in a moment to moment life of clinging to the very heart of a Savior.
Mother first. Everything else follows.
As I strive to be mother first, the all of whom I am created to be, the rest follows with a great amount of order. Any day I strive to be a teacher first, or cleaner, or cook, and choose to ignore, even for a moment, the call of mother, it all falls apart.
In the chaos that seeks to consume, it's easy to forget my first love and tear through the day with my list and my books and my food. The child sits, math completed and phonics accomplished, with a heart hungry. The three-year old weeps for the mother while she remains vacant in this foolish race.
Race for what? For what and whom am I rushing? Through my precious moments? Through this precious life, redeemed by the Father and blessed with His mercy of small, smiling faces?
I think...I have to think...there is enough time to be mother first and teacher second. Because, in the end, the mothering is what facilitates the teaching. Without a comforting, loving heart that is turned toward my children, their hearts are not open to instruction. As I mother my children and feed their souls, the rest of the pieces start to fall into place. More teaching is done. The meals are prepared. The house is cleaned as we work together...mother and child. Isn't the essence of this very truth the miracle that led me to homeschool in the first place? The fact that the mother holds the heart?
When I comfort the small child and the others remain patient. When I help with math...a smaller child on my hip. When I listen to a story...the little one snacking on my lap. When I hug the math student for a job well done and praise the reader for all she has learned. When history gets postponed for a moment or even (gasp!) a day while I read to the smaller child, hungry for a mother. Will not God honor these more than a curriculum completed perfectly or a checklist marked off completely? Will not God fill in my gaps when I honor Him by being mother to my children? Is not God's grace sufficient?
I have years to teach them and they have a lifetime to learn. A child on my lap is fleeting and the picture books fade fast. I want to never miss a chance to mother my children. I never want to discount the mothering for a lesson completed more quickly or a house a little cleaner. And as I feed their souls and hold their hearts, I teach them the most important lesson of their childhood...the lesson of sacrificing all for the sake of the little ones. The lesson of pouring out a life for the least of these and of wearily holding a child, with a still heart, in the midst of chaos.
A still heart in the midst of chaos is a gift that can only be given by a mother who hears her call and embraces it completely. Wholly. Putting aside the pressing matters of now to invest in what is eternal.