Wednesday, January 6, 2016


This blog post centers around an event that happened a few weeks ago. I’ve been letting this sift through my heart for a while before writing about it, because it happened in a dark period and there is pain surrounding it. Also, writing about it shows chinks in my armor, and vulnerable is never a comfortable place to be. But I’ve shared this with a few close friends and I think there is value in sharing it here, mostly because one day my children will read it and know they aren’t alone.

The dark side of motherhood is living with the feeling of being inconsequential. The world pays lip service to motherhood, saying it’s the “Most Important Job Ever.” It sounds like a holy calling  which it is – but it’s a calling that comes with tremendous strings attached. It’s a calling that requires the withering of the person you used to be.

I’ve bristled under the yoke of motherhood, because – frankly – I am self-centered and don’t want “Elizabeth” to wither so “Mom” can flourish. I watched my own mother be Mom exceptionally well; so well that when I (the last of 3 kids) went to college, Mom no longer had a daily need to mother and the “Mom” part of her withered. But by then, the individual she used to be (Brenda) had been smothered for so long there was nothing left for Mom to transition back into being. I swore this wouldn’t happen to me.

Twelve and a half years into mothering, I’m realizing it’s inevitable.

At the start of last month, I hit a brick wall personally. I looked at the writing and photography dreams I’d been pursuing and saw only a bunch of smoke and mirrors. I was spending energy trying to build the Elizabeth Empire while also trying to build the Katie Empire, the Jackson Empire, and be co-architect in building the Dan Empire. Suddenly, it became clear to me: my empire needed to wait.

I had no business trying to build ELIZABETH during this season of my life when I have an 8-year-old and 12-year-old at home, requiring so much of my patience and passion. I also have a husband who needs his own space and creative outlets, which he wasn’t getting because I was busy chasing my own passions. I told myself that ELIZABETH needed to wait. I needed to be – I HAD to be – satisfied with my existence as Laundry Washer, Grocery Shopper, and Toilet Paper Changer.

One morning in early December, I got the kids on the bus then spent hours in quiet time before God. I begged Him to please-please-oh-please take away my longings and desires to be something other than Toilet Paper Changer. I read scriptures that supported my begging: verses about dying to self and especially the verse Paul wrote asking God to take away the thorn in his side. I realized the more time I spent begging Him, the more I felt the tug to become the person God made me to be – which is more than just a Toilet Paper Changer. Being the ultra mature person I am, I decided stop talking to God. If being with Him meant feeling desire for “more,” then I’d simply stop being with Him.

I needed to become okay with feeling invisible. And when you're meeting with El Roi (the God Who Sees Me), it's kind of hard to be invisible.

Later that same day (of course, because God has to pound lessons into my head sometimes), I met the kids at the bus stop so we could rush to piano lessons. Katie got in the car and I asked what the best part of her day was. I really didn’t want to ask because I really didn’t want to feel. I wanted to be a numb robot Toilet Paper Changer but I know “good” moms ask about their kids’ days, so I did too. She responded there had not been anything good about her day. This broke into my pity party enough for me to ask what happened.

Katie told me about a girl at school we’ll call Ashley. Ashley draws so well that friends give her lots of attention. Katie prides herself on her drawing abilities, but doesn’t get the accolades Ashley gets. I replied to Katie, “So you want all the attention Ashley gets?”

Katie’s face looked like she sucked on a lemon as she said, “What? No! I don’t want attention!” (because she has always been a kid who shies away from the limelight). I responded with, “But you don’t want to be ignored?”

Sheepishly, she said, “No. I don’t want to be ignored.”

I summed it up for her by saying, “You want to be seen but not noticed.” And this phrase is what caused my throat to constrict and my eyes to sting with tears because this desire deeply resonated in my soul: I don’t want to be Invisible Mom (a.k.a. Toilet Paper Changer), but I don’t want to be Spotlight Elizabeth (a.k.a. Famous Author). I want to be lowercase elizabeth, who matters as a person and not just as a role.

With sobs threatening to escape my mouth, I told Katie I’d been feeling the same way all day long: invisible and inconsequential.

To help her understand her situation better, I described it like this: Ashley is the Taj Mahal. People come from all over the world to tour the Taj Mahal and wonder at its majesty. It sounded like Katie doesn’t want to be the Taj Mahal. She affirmed that, and also added that she doesn’t want to be a tourist going to visit someone else’s Taj Mahal. (“I’m not a groupie!”) However, she isn’t a shack that people should pass by and ignore.

I looked Katie in the eyes, as best as I could while driving, and told her this truth of my life: “Katie, you are the Taj Mahal to me.” Then I explained another truth of my life: as a mother, I feel like I am simply the scaffolding whose only purpose is to build the Taj Mahal. She didn’t know what scaffolding was and in one of God’s great moments of timing, we happened to be passing a construction site where scaffolding surrounded a building. I pointed out the window and showed her what scaffolding looks like.

I described scaffolding for her, saying it’s construction equipment made of common metal that isn’t very precious. Scaffolding can be dinged and lost and replaced, and it isn’t very useful after a building has reached a certain construction stage unless you’re restoring or cleaning.

With a trembling chin and cracking voice, I told her that’s what I feel like as a mother. I’m the support God uses to build the Taj Mahal of Katie’s life, knowing the focus is on the Taj Mahal and not the tools used to build it. I told her this so she would know that I know what it’s like to want to be seen but not noticed.

I told her this so she would know she isn’t alone. I told her this to minister to her heart. And wouldn’t you know it, but that girl ministered to mine.

Because in the next breath, she looked at me with all the compassion her body could hold and said, “But Mommy, you’re MY Taj Mahal. You’re everything I want to be!” When I scoffed, she pointed out the qualities I have that she’s striving for: creativity and faith and really good handwriting. (!)

I told her she shouldn’t try to be me; she should be Katie-The-Not-Taj-Mahal-But-Not-A-Shack-Either. With a wink, I told her I’m glad she’s not a shack because shacks are usually only one story and don’t require scaffolding. Right now, she is in a Taj Mahal stage of her life. One day, she’ll meet a man and fall in love and become a townhome with him. Then she’ll have kids and become scaffolding for their Taj Mahals.

And then, I couldn’t talk anymore because I was broken inside. I simply reached over and held her hand and told her how much I love her, and we sniffled together for a few miles.

As much as I would like to say it did, this conversation didn’t cause a full course correction in my heart. As I mentioned above, I can be immature and thick-skulled. I went about the next few weeks continuing to act like a numb robot Toilet Paper Changer because it seemed easier to turn from my desires/dreams/callings than to chase them. There were days God would lay a devotion topic on my heart (like He regularly did when I was actively writing my devotional book), and I intentionally turned away from His nudge. I was disobedient and refused to jot any notes down for future writing sessions. I specifically reminded Him that I. Am. Not. Writing. Anymore. and would even catch myself folding my arms across my chest in defiance.

Sheesh. It’s a wonder He didn’t just strike me dead right then and there!

Even today, as I write this post, I would say I’m not completely out of the woods yet. Yes, I’ve stopped crossing my arms in defiance. Yes, I’ve jotted down a few nudges God has given me for devotional topics. But this time, I’m not charging full throttle into the writing calling like I did last July. That whole staying up late to write and exhausting myself (not to mention neglecting my husband and kids) isn’t sustainable. Besides, who really needs an Elizabeth Empire anyway?

I guess you could say I’m in a middle ground, the stage after the beginning but not quite before the end. I’m Taj Mahal Scaffolding with scaffolding of my own, deep in a reconstruction stage:
I’m talking to God again. I’m back in the War Room, listening and learning and leaning into Him. I’m grateful He always welcomes me back.
I’ve started reading a book called Simply Tuesday that is already rocking my world, causing me to reassess my Spotlight Elizabeth tendencies and swap them out for a nice bench or, in my case, a comfy couch for inviting friends to sit a spell.
I’m trying to instill new habits of slowing down (daily yoga, reading real books instead of Facebooks).
Just yesterday, I took a big step and asked a friend to intentionally mentor me through a wound that’s been festering for two years.
I’m scared, looking for hope. I’m tentative, looking for tenacity. I’m a Taj Mahal with scaffolding.

What a way to start the new year!


Brina said...

Beautifully written my friend. I feel very much the same way about not losing my "Brina" self in my "Mom" self. Maybe that's why I've been so passionate about running?

Robert Farmilo said...

You are a truly great writer.
I don't know quite where to begin...with what hit me the most.
Perhaps (for now) it is your beautiful and practical description of being the scaffolding for the Taj Mahal.
I urge you to keep writing...your message is personal, intuitive, real, and I think is being coaxed by the divine essence. You sound like a really cool person, too.
Enjoy the cavalcade of words that pour from your heated pen.
And when they drop out, like misers too proud of their gold---patience wins the day---for the words are infinite, and like notes in music, there are only so many's just the way you let the inspiration work it's magic that makes your song sing.
All the Best!
Robert Farmilo
PS-IF you want to, come on over and visit my website:


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