Golden light hung over the country fields around me on a glorious Sunday evening. My tennis shoes hit the pavement in tempo with the music dancing through my earbuds. This mama hen had flown the coop for a few quiet moments away from her chicks. I needed some space to think and breathe and settle my frayed edges.
As I inhaled the fresh, country air, my eyes skittered across all the pretty scenery around me. A couple of farms off in the distance. Rows of corn and soybeans stretching in all directions around me. A few stands of friendly-looking trees. Suddenly, my eyes stopped and took a second glance: There, in the middle of the soybean field—a lone corn stalk pushing its way toward the sky.
How did that get there? I wondered, looking at the lonely plant standing awkward and gangly amidst the perfect rows of soybeans. Maybe some seed leftover from last year’s plantings? Or maybe the wind blew corn seeds over from neighboring fields during spring planting?
I had no answers to satisfy my curiosity, so I shrugged and kept walking toward the old, red barn that would mark my turn-around point. The image of the corn stalk wouldn’t leave my mind, though. A part of me wanted to walk right into that field and sit down beside it, because in that lonely plant—so different from everything around it—my heart recognized a piece of myself.
I know how it feels to stand amidst the rows and wonder why I can’t quite seem to fit in.
Most of my days are filled with the everyday tasks of family life. It’s a steady rhythm—caring for kids, household chores, school/church activity, and a bit of work to support the family budget. But in the midst of all these mundane activities, small moments of self-doubt and questioning arise.
A friend mentions her child’s involvement in a local math program for gifted middle-school students, and I wonder: Should I have looked into that option for my son? I chat with another mom about her busy schedule juggling full-time nursing with family life, and I think: Why can’t I seem to keep things under control at home when I’m only working a few hours a week?
Nighttime can be brutal, a flurry of insecurities often tugging me away from the sleep my body craves: Should I be making the kids do more chores? Should I be pushing my son to try out for the play? Should I be volunteering more at school, or at church, or in the community?
In so many ways, in so many moments, I look at other moms around me and feel deficient. Like that corn stalk in the middle of a soybean field, I feel different and awkward, incapable of building a life that works like everyone else’s.
I reach the old, red barn and turn around for the return walk home. I feel safe as rows of golden-tasseled soldiers watch over me from the cornfields on either side of the road.
As I approach the soybean field, I see my lonely corn plant again. Only this time, I notice something in the fading sunlight. There are tassels on this plant too—ears of corn tucked safely amidst the stalks. It’s a perfectly healthy plant, I realize with a jolt. It looks different than everything around it, but it’s bearing its own unique produce—corn husks looking green and full.
And yet again, God reminds me of a truth he’s been trying to imprint on my heart for years: I just need to be myself. He doesn’t expect me to look just like everyone around me.
At my best, I don’t worry so much about everyone around me. I don’t mind if my family looks a little different or I don’t pull off the same mothering feats as everyone else. I remember that we’re all made for different purposes and it’s okay if my “fruit” is a bit different than those around me.
The truth is, the landscape of motherhood is far more vibrant than that field I gazed upon: It’s scattered with a kaleidoscope of plants. Some growing strong and healthy. Some struggling amidst weeds and thorns. Bearing fruit in different seasons, in various colors and shapes and size. But all of us, together, beautiful. Cultivating life in our homes. Preparing precious minds and hearts to offer their bit of nourishment to an aching, hungry world.
There’s freedom in this variety because it means we don’t have to do. every. little. thing. Other families may pile in the car for soccer tournaments every weekend, but it’s okay if you stay home and relax on Saturday mornings. While other moms may thrive at leading the PTA or organizing a fundraiser, it’s okay if your gift is baking cookies for the Christmas party or writing encouragement notes to the teacher instead.
It’s okay to be different. Thank God we are all different! Because the world needs more than just soybeans or ears of corn. It needs the joyful abundance of every mother—and every family—staying true to the unique people God made them to be.
I’m musing and doubting during the early-morning drive with my son to school, once again pulled away by thoughts of what others are doing and where I fall short.
As my son gathers his backpack and clarinet and tumbles out of the car, he does the same thing he does every morning as he walks away. He turns around and gives me a little wave. Our eyes connect for the briefest of moments, and we share a smile.
I don’t have it all figured out yet. And I fumble my way through motherhood like everyone else, wondering when I’m called to do more, and when I need to let it all rest. But as I put the car in gear and drive out of the parking lot, I think of my son’s small wave. It’s just a little bit of fruit. But it’s enough to carry me past the doubt and comparisons for today.
Amy Tol writes at her blog, where she helps women connect with God’s grace amidst the mayhem of everyday life. She lives in Zeeland, Michigan with her husband, Brian, and two talkative, tween-age kids. When she’s not writing, Amy enjoys connecting with friends over coffee and chocolate, reading books while curled up under a blanket, and all manner of crafty endeavors—especially when they involve needle and thread. You can also connect with Amy on Instagram and Facebook.