The following guest post was written by Meredith Spatola. In addition to being a new mama and gifted writer, Meredith is a counselor at The Barnabas Center. She is also a Furman girl, which makes me smile.
It was a moment I had anticipated at several points throughout the past year; the crescendo of my daughter Charlotte’s first birthday celebration. During the nights and long days of the first few months, I silently wondered how we would make it to this point. But long days turned into fleeting weeks and then months. Here we were. Charlotte was placed in our dining room in front of the same cake my mom had made for my first birthday. I lit her candle and our family and close friends began to sing “Happy Birthday” to her. I hoped she’d be excited, and wondered if she’d burst into tears. Instead, she did something I was not expecting. Her eyes lit up and danced; she sat quietly listening and watching as the sound of more than 30 voices of people who love her welcomed her to year two of life.
A look came across her face that I have never seen on her before, and it was glorious. Her countenance was utterly absent of shame. She exuded an open delight in being celebrated, and (at least I like to believe) in that moment, she was not afraid to receive others’ enjoyment of her. The moment passed, and she gobbled down at least two slices of that cake, and we went on with the festivities.
But something in me remains deeply stirred by the memory. For far too many days of my daughter’s first year of life, I let pressure be the truest thing. Pressure to be always present, connected, and attuned, to make homemade baby food, to keep up with the steady flow of cloth diaper laundry, read to her “enough” every day, and the host of other expectations perfection-driven first time mothers place upon their own shoulders. I am sure that in a few years, I will look back and laugh at the burdens I put on myself to come through for my daughter perfectly.
I am so thankful that for a few minutes on Charlotte’s birthday, the Father of us both kindly met me, and stirred me with the hope that something else might be truer. Something far less controllable than me feeling adequate at the end of the day because I had parented well, but something far more sure and deep. He reminded me that in many ways, I was once that little girl too- that there had been a time in my own life when I was open to the longing that someone would find me delightful, when I trusted without fear that I was loved.
And He invited me to hope that it just might be worth it to live this way today. Not because I will always be surrounded by people willing to sing to me and celebrate my life, but because He sings over me and celebrates my life every morning that I wake up for another day of it. How kind and humorous of Him to use my one year old to teach me about my heart, when all the while I had lived like I needed to perfectly teach her. I am amazed at how committed God is to using motherhood to free us up from the shelters we run to for covering. I know He often does this through the painful letting go of mothering, but we can hope that He will also meet and free us through the innocent delight of our children.
“He will take great delight in you, and will rejoice over you with singing….” Zephaniah 3:17