I have always believed that motherhood is my biggest ministry. Raising little hearts and cultivating them to have a love for Christ and for others has always been a priority for me. However, that has never truly felt like enough. I have always struggled with my identity. I have always felt like I needed to be more than just a mom.
I am not really sure where that need comes from. I guess it comes from a lack of self-confidence in myself. I grew up as a survivor of tragedy, and I was always afraid that the national media attention that was brought on after that horrible moment in my life would end up defining my identity. I did not not want that! I wanted to be known for something different than “the little girl who survived that night.”
Eventually I found my identity as a southern wedding and portrait photographer. I spent years running a very successful photography business, and that platform gave me a sense of security in who I was. I no longer felt like people were looking at me as a victim, but rather a strong, independent woman. But I still always felt like something was just missing.
Fast forward eleven years into my photography business and I felt myself getting burned out. I was super busy! I was averaging about 45 weddings per year and quite a few portrait sessions in between. I WAS SWAMPED WITH WORK, and this was not making my job as a homeschool mom very easy. For every wedding that I shot there was at least ten to fifteen hours of additional work to be done before preparing for the next wedding.
I tell you all of this because I know that I am not the only one out there who struggles with identity. Why do we feel the need to be more than what God ever intended for us to be in the first place? As I buried myself in my photography business my children were noticing. I will never forget the moment when my son Tyler asked me, “Mom why are you always on your computer?” THAT was the moment that made me realize that I needed to take a long hard look at myself and figure out what was going on with me. Even though I had this huge platform, and I was no longer known as a victim, I knew something still wan’t right. I still wasn’t fulfilled.
Eventually my husband and I found ourselves in the middle of an adoption of a ten year old little girl from our community. At that point we decided that in order for me to help her through all of her own trauma, I needed to take a step back from shooting as much as I was before. And friend… let me tell you about that experience.
First I panicked! If I am not a photographer, then who am I? This identity crisis that I found myself in gave me anxiety. However I eventually noticed how productive I was becoming in my own home, as a mother, as a wife, and as a homeschool mom. Everything started falling into place. I felt a sense of peace that I had never felt before in my entire life. Opportunities that I never had time for previously became gifts from God. I felt true joy!
I had a come to Jesus meeting with Jesus Himself! This is seriously the only way I can explain how I was able to make this shift from needing to find my identity on my own, and finding the identity that God gave me. I was looking for my identity in all the wrong places! I spent way too much time looking at other people’s lives and comparing myself to them. Everyone always seemed to have it together, and I wanted what they had… a normal life full of adventure, grand gestures, and pretty houses.
What I eventually realized is this: God allowed me to go through what I went through all those years ago because He needed me to learn something about myself and about Him. He had bigger plans for me than I could have ever imagined. Because I am so stubborn and bull-headed, it took me WAY too many years to understand what He was trying to teach me. He needed me to be on the struggle bus for a while because He KNEW that He was placing this little girl that we are adopting into our lives, and He also knew that I needed to understand her pain and her trauma.
When Did Being “Just a Mom” Become Not Good Enough?
But let me ask you this: When did being “just a mom” become not good enough? There was a time not so long ago when women could only DREAM about the husband they would end up marrying and the children that they would have together. There was a time when girls wanted the white picket fence. But it seems like progression in our country looks more like sin and we are all left looking around at what everyone else’s life looks like instead of focusing on our own. Comparison is the thief of joy! I am living breathing proof of this.
I am still running my photography business, but I am limiting the number of weddings that I will shoot every year. I finally realized that my family is my biggest ministry, and once I began truly focusing on how I was showing up for them every day, God began giving me more. That is how He works. Why would God trust us with more when we can’t even manage what we already have? He created us to be set apart from the world. He wants us to focus on Him and His will, rather than the world and what everyone else is doing.
Motherhood is one of the biggest blessings that God gives us. And sometimes that blessing is easy to take for granted. Motherhood is a ministry in itself, and I have come to realize that God is waiting on us to get it right. I may not be a perfect mom. Actually I know I am not. But I finally realize that my identity is exactly who God made me, not who I have attempted to make myself. Owning my story, leaning on God for wisdom and understanding, and focusing on the life He gave me rather than the life I thought I wanted is what finally taught me who I truly am. Who am I? I am His.
Can you relate at all?