I returned from a mission trip to an orphanage in Haiti a couple months ago on a spiritual high. I was eager to share all that God was doing, not just at the orphanage, but in my heart. His grace had brought me on the incredible journey of short terms missions work, where all the compassion that was stirring in my heart could be poured out in action; the fruit of my labor easily visible right then and there. I wanted to change the world in some way, to touch lives for Christ. In Haiti, my ability to be used by God was tangible. I felt alive in a way I rarely do in the U.S. I experienced the very real feeling of living out my purpose.
Then, almost immediately upon my return, struggles at home hit hard. My two children on the Autism Spectrum entered valleys that we’re still very much in the depths of. The days are filled with meltdowns; the tears and screaming feel endless and suffocating. Life is a moment-by-moment exercise in emotional survival. During these seasons, I often feel as though I’m drowning and utterly alone. My light grows dim and I can lose sight of God’s promises. The enemy plants a lie in my head that I’m afraid all too many of us believe:
Motherhood doesn’t count.
For a while, I was certain that the hours spent helping my son through meltdowns, baking with my five-year-old, role-playing with my oldest to help her work on social skills, or shuttling my second born to dance class didn’t count as ministry. I bought into the lie that all these long days, all these short years, pouring myself out for my kids wasn’t time spent changing the world. Motherhood didn’t feel like a purpose. It felt like an existence.
It’s hard for me to fight the tendency to compare my overseas missions work with my work in the home. The results of my efforts in parenting are rarely seen immediately. Saying, “Try that again, using kind words.” a thousand times a day and still hearing my children talk back (with some serious attitude) makes my guidance feel pointless. Sitting them down and working them through conflict, having them pray for each other and about their issues, just to walk back upstairs and hear them fighting all over again…it can be so defeating. At the end of each day, I can hardly move because it seems the demands of this “job” have drained the very life out of me. Then is when I sit down and want to cry (but am too tired to actually do it) because I feel as though I’ve just run a parenting marathon and have nothing to show for it. I’m sore and exhausted (and really want ice cream) and it hits me that I’m just going to have to get up the next day and fight the same battles all over again, probably with the same results.
I love my children. I love being a mother. It’s something I’ve dreamed of my whole life. I thank God for my kids every day and wouldn’t change a thing. I know full well the gift that motherhood is and I don’t want to take that for granted. Yet, the reality is, it’s some of the hardest work on the planet and, even when you give it your all, it may still take a lifetime to see the fruits of the labor. This is why, at first glance, it felt like working with the children at the orphanage was real Kingdom work and true purpose, while motherhood was…just motherhood.
After another long, difficult day at home, I finally cried. I cried so hard I thought I’d never be able to stop. I felt broken; like I’d failed somehow and would never truly be able to make an impact as a Christ-follower because, in my mind, there was no way for me to ever be a real, full-time missionary. My legacy would amount to nothing because I’m “just a mom”. I’d lost sight of the very important truth:
Not only is motherhood a ministry but, without it, all other ministries would suffer.
As mothers, we are full-time ministers of God’s love to future generations. We are on the front-lines of the battle for our children’s souls. The daily effort we pour into our families, even in the “little things”, has an eternal ripple effect. Though we may not see the results of the seeds we’re planting in the hearts of our kids (at least not right away), we can be sure that God is growing them and will use them to change the world. As mothers, we carry the privilege of giving our lives to serve others in a way that shapes and molds generations after God’s own heart. If that’s not the definition of full-time ministry, I don’t know what is.
DO NOT discredit your work as a mother! Everything you do, right down to laundry and diaper changes, matters. In the daily, seemingly mundane details of life with your kids, you’re setting the example of what it means to be a Christ-follower. You sow the seeds of kindness, respect, and integrity into future generations. You are the hands and feet of Jesus in the lives of your children and, therefore, the world.
From one exhausted mama to another, here’s truth to combat the lies…
Your ministry matters. You are a full-time missionary in the most impactful mission field of life. And you’re incredible.