I was born on Mother’s Day. I was the 3rd child born to my parents with a large age gap between my older siblings and me. I always knew I was quite the “surprise/accident” although my parents vehemently deny it. Whatever…about 32 years later when I gave birth to my own precious “surprise/accident”, I confirmed that they could lie all they wanted, but they truly did not see me coming any more than I had seen my own surprise coming. It’s all good though. It has never, not one time, affected my self worth. God wanted me to exist so I exist. So. That Mother’s Day Sunday morning, my mom went into labor and headed to the hospital while my Daddy ran up to the church to preach a quick, frazzled sermon then met her there. They were a well-oiled machine by this point in the labor and delivery game. I met the world later that afternoon and my has mom has told the tale of my birth every year to date. “The best Mother’s Day gift I have ever received” is how she refers to me every single May when it rolls around.
My mom is a wise lady. Really. She has a discerning spirit inside of her. She often knows people’s intentions upon meeting them. I was always amazed by that as a kid and even now. It’s not a spirit of judgement. Not at all. Its a God-given, gut reaction that has protected her kids and her husband time and time again. She could see which friendships would hurt us. She could see who did not have pure motives towards us. And on the flip side, she also saw authenticity in people! She could pick out those who genuinely loved and wanted good. What a hedge of protection God gave us as her family! But, as kids, it wasn’t always to our personal liking…. She could see straight through US like glass. She knew when we were hiding things, when we were lying, when we had disobeyed, when we were manipulating her. When she suspected something was awry with us, her detective skills were stellar. SHE KNEW IT. I hated that she always knew it. But she did. However, she also knew the genuine good in us when she saw it, too. When God was at work in her children, she could call it. Maybe not in detail, but inside her is the ability to discern. So therefore, she always knew when to pray extra and provide extra support. Mom prayed us through many things in life. She interceded on my behalf when I didn’t even know I needed it. And probably, many times, she prayed face down, on the floor, in a puddle of tears. At times, in my growing up years, I bemoaned the fact that she would “know” these things somehow, but its a characteristic that I sincerely begged the Lord for when I was gifted with our firstborn child.
Hand in hand with her discerning spirit, there was a very clear authenticity that accompanied. I never one time felt intimidated by my mom because she had it all together. She did not have it all together. We, as her kids, were well aware. Balancing 3 kids, supporting her preacher husband who was often unable to be present, teaching school, maintaining a home, facing a string of health concerns, etc… She, quite simply, had a lot on her plate. She did it all so well but she dropped some balls every now and then. More than just dropping the ball though, she got overwhelmed and we knew it. And, as kids do, we played to that weakness and we just about drove her crazy. We fought, we disobeyed, we constantly argued with her, we never put our clothes up, we couldn’t find our homework…we gave her a run for her money. In fact, while I have a thousand memories of my mom doing good things, those are not my best memories of her. The memories that make her, HER, are the ones where she was far from perfect. When she called us by the wrong name, constantly. When she walked into a room for something and stood there blank because she couldn’t remember what she came for. When she lost her keys. When she burned the rolls. When she was so overwhelmed getting us from place to place that she ran out of gas in the McDonald’s drive-thru. When we would make her so crazy that she would go in the backyard and just scream. Really. We kids, affectionately called it her “war whoop” which made her even more frustrated.
Mom has said many important things to us but the one I repeat the most with my own kids is this: When mom got lost going somewhere, when we had to turn around and go back home because she left the oven on, etc… we, exasperated children would say, “Mommm, where are we going?????” To which she would always calmly say, “Crazy, wanna go?”
And do you know what?? We did go with her. We still do.
Mom always invited us into to that imperfection rather than masking it. We just went to the crazy, messy place with her because that’s what life is! It’s not tidy. It’s not wrapped in a box with a pretty bow. Life spins and pulls and pushes us beyond our human abilities to remember everything from the baseball cleats to plugging in the crock pot. Mama sooo wanted to be perfect. But she was human and she was incapable of doing it all. She would give it her best even if she crashed and burned sometimes. Looking back now, as I am an often overwhelmed mama myself, I think that is what actually made her such an amazing mom. The fact that she was so transparent about not doing everything right only made me realize that Christ is the only standard by which we can gage ourselves. And that is a measure we cannot attain. Truly, many of her shortcomings impacted me as much, if not more, than her successes. Now that I have my own children, that blesses me tremendously and gives me great hope!! Oh, how I pray that the Lord would use even my failures to bring my children even closer to HIM ….because my failures and limitations on any given day are MANY. I lose my temper, they go to school with no breakfast, they wear the wrong shoes, I discipline when I shouldn’t and don’t discipline when I should. I try to do things the right way. But I just flat out, mess up. Constantly.
The apostle Paul addresses this ever frustrating, but beautiful struggle of ours… He says this, “To keep me from becoming so proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a constant limitation from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. 3 times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time He said to me, MY GRACE IS ALL YOU NEED. MY POWER WORKS BEST IN WEAKNESS. So now I boast about my weaknesses, so that Christ can work through me. That’s why I can rejoice in my weaknesses, hardships, handicaps, and troubles… For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
When I think that Paul asked the Lord, 3 times, to take away his struggles, I often think of my mama, (and now her daughter) as she recognized her insecurities in parenting these THREE souls entrusted to her care. With all 3 of these lives, I pray as I know she must have, “God, I can’t. I’m such a mess.” And He says,”You’re right. Let me make good of your mess.” We want to do it all right. But we just can’t. Only Jesus can.
My mama lived this verse and she still does to this very day. She still shows us daily that God works and gives grace in her limitations and her struggles. Her weaknesses do not break her. Her handicaps do not deem her unusable. They do the exact opposite. They empower her testimony to her children and grandchildren. She is a wise mama because she shows us Jesus in her imperfection.
My mama has always said that I was her greatest Mother’s Day gift. I have always thought that is such a ridiculous thing to say. What a terrible way to spend your special day…Right?? Enduring the pain of childbirth?? Essentially, I completely crashed her special day and made it all about me, unknowingly. Just like I did from every day forward. That’s just what being a mom is all about. Our children break every plan we thought we had. They take everything we own and use it as it wasn’t intended to use. From stealing our best scissors to getting sick on the day of our most important tasks, they take away who we are and that is NOT a weakness. Even though we feel like our children are breaking us sometimes, we don’t lose our identities in mothering, we expand them! We grow and become richer and stronger than we were before. And you know why?? Because we lose control. We cannot drive this train alone. God alone transforms our poor attempts at “having it all together” and He wrecks that notion. And in its place, He gives grace. Grace that is greater than all our sin and weakness.
Knowing my temper tantrums and smart teenage mouth, I’m certain my mama hasn’t always seen me as a “gift” but I’m thankful that she decided to keep me:) Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. From my birth until my last breath, your legacy to your children is the love and grace of Jesus fleshed out in imperfection. In this crazy, messed up world, THAT WILL PREACH. I pray my children and their children see the same in me.