Behold, I have graven thee on the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me. --Isaiah 49:16
If you are a mother, you know that nurturing a child is physical, earth-bound work. It will ache and stretch and bloody all who respond to its calling. These sacrifices of motherhood are written onto our bodies. Our babies imprint their wants onto our flesh. The needs of our children are made tangible in our bones, backs, and feet.
When I lie down at night, I take an inventory of my body from top to toe. I read the notes of my baby's demands as they are written onto the angles of my anatomy.
Ezra is graven on the soles of my feet. I feel him there with each step. His natural need to be lifted high, held, and hugged with each bump and bruise is archived in my aching arches and calloused heels. My chipped red toe nail polish narrates an attempt at normality that is as earnest and as imperfect as my daily mothering. The dirt beneath my toes is itself a story about our front lawn forays and backyard roaming--our small but significant journeys outward.
Ezra is graven in my back. I feel him there, down low. That quiet ache in my spine that comes from lifting him up and setting him down and lifting him up again speaks of his need to be an explorer, experiencing this brave new world from all vantage points including the safety of my arms, the back seat of the car, the plastic orange bench of the grocery cart, and the padded frame of his stroller. All day I mimic the arch of an elephant's trunk, swinging high and then low, high and then low. That is how we move as mothers to meet the needs of our adventuring offspring.
Ezra is graven in my eyes. I see him there and note how he has changed my vision. My mother eyes are more focused, quicker, always alert for any and all hypothetical hazards that could befall my baby. The bags upon which they rest are bigger, revealing the realities of late nights and early mornings. But my eyes are also brighter and wider, as they continually bear witness to the unanticipated joys of raising a child--a sneeze, a sideways smile, an uninhibited squeal.
At the end of my evening's inventory, I decide on this:
Our mothering bodies are a text. They not only speak of the daily necessities of nurturing, but are of themselves a holy narration. From pregnancy to birth to lactation to child rearing, our female bodies preach the gospel of consecration. They testify of our solitary sacrifices, well-meaning messes, and pungent pains and proclaim them acceptable tithes and offerings upon the altar. Our weathered, stretch-marked bodies affirm that physical transformations are partner and precursor to spiritual transcendence. They are our temples and our testimonies. They are this truth writ large: God has graven us upon the palms of His hands, and in motherhood we have graven Him upon the palms of ours.