No one, except maybe you, expected you to be perfect.
The truth is, motherhood is messy. Very little of it is tidy. Not the birth, the innumerable diapers, or the soaked-through nursing pads. Not the scattered toys, countless crumbs, or the endless piles of laundry. Not the tears—oh the tears!—the meltdowns, or the sibling squabbles.
Nope, hardly perfect at all.
Of course, the illustrations on the baby cards alongside your anticipation may beguile you into believing that your rosy-cheeked infant will arrive a full-fledged angel. Or, like me, you prepped yourself by reading parenting material in advance, studying how to do this perfectly to ensure parenting success. But the moment those babies are born, you realize that all the books in the world could never fully prepare you for the lifelong journey of motherhood.
The awe you feel the moment your baby is tucked in your arms is immeasurable. Your heart soars with a love you never knew existed. You delight in every expression, melt with every sigh or coo, and applaud every milestone, until one day—so much sooner than you think—they are forging a life of their own. The truth is, the days until that day (some of which feel exhausting and long) take every ounce of our will to beat back selfishness and set aside our own desires. It takes self-control to exercise patience and gentleness. It takes superhuman strength to hold our emotions in check when we’re on the brink of losing our cool. It takes discernment to balance kindness and firmness in discipline, to be wise enough for each moment.
At times, especially when they are little, the days feel so long, but in reality, the years are incredibly short. Other times, discouragement, like thunder clouds, sets in and covers the light. We wonder if we have enough of whatever it takes for this mission. We bemoan all that we could have done better, and we wrestle with our doubts. When we grow weary and are about to give in to the berating voice that tells us we’re not capable enough, we discover GRACE.
Like a salve to a scraped knee, Grace permeates the not-good-enoughs, the messes, and the mistakes. Like a kiss to a child’s forehead, Grace soothes our aching hearts and weary spirits. It brushes away the clouds, and offers a lighted path, and strength to walk it. Grace tucks us in at the end of a draining day whispering to our spent souls, “Perfection is not required.”
And there’s LOVE. Like a warm hug to soothe and settle our souls, love saturates our spirit enough to pour out patience, kindness, and unselfishness. Love enables us to grow in humility. It looks for the good and builds our kids up. It slows down our impulse to grow angry and helps us be quick to forgive. It turns us away from darkness and helps us delight in the truth. It protects, trusts, never quits, and never loses hope. (see 1 Cor 13:4-7) Love is what every mother needs and what she freely gives.
And there’s JOY. It pins wings to our hearts and sets them alight in a breeze of laughter. It doesn’t clean up the messes but allows us to dance on tip-toe in between them. It splashes barefoot through the rain puddles alongside the child. It sings the song for the hundredth time as though the first, and plays on the floor until our jeans grow threadbare at the knees. Joy fills our hearts with wonder at the very sight of our child’s impish smile.
And there’s PEACE that flows through our being like gentle the ebb and flow of waves upon the shore. Soothing, constant, ever-present. We need only to dip in a toe and are touched. It’s there in the chubby-cheeked sleep of our infant, the squishy, squeezy hug from our toddler, and the bedtime books with our child nestled on our lap. It’s in the quiet nights when they didn’t wake up but we lay awake praising God that he entrusted us with their precious lives. It resides even in the chaos because the peace God gives isn’t dependent on circumstances.
There will be a multitude of messes throughout motherhood, but only one who is qualified to fully clean them up. Without God’s help, I might have squandered the treasure of motherhood by being too busy. As it was, I came perilously close and stuffed our schedules by saying yes too often and racing to all sorts of activities. I might have exchanged motherhood for the perpetually perfect house—ours was full of homeschool books, science projects, shoes, and toys! Worst of all, I may have tried to create perfect, cookie-cutter kids. All I needed to do was to rest in God’s grace, love, joy, and peace, available on a moment-by-moment basis. I needed to continue to trust the One who made our kids and gave them to us to raise. Who knew that all along it was that simple?
Once a mother, always a mother, they say. Even in the messes and mayhem, I wouldn’t have it any other way! As much as I wanted to be perfect, I reflect that despite my imperfections, and maybe even because of them, my kids are thoughtful and compassionate, beautifully unique and creative, and treat others with kindness and respect. But like me, and their upbringing, they aren’t perfect.
By God’s grace and love, we raise our kids as well as we can, with the tools at our disposal. We raise them alongside the messes and the broken and bright bits. If I could change anything, I would have trusted God more and worried less. Two of our four children remain under our roof for now, and Ralph and I are grandparents (a much easier gig!), so it appears I still have some years to practice!
To you, sweet mom, also doing the best you can, I’m cheering you on while repeating the words I started with: you’re doing so much better than you think.
I leave this list to encourage you in your mothering journey:
Receive God’s grace.
Soak in his love.
Experience his joy.
Accept his peace.
Listen to His words.
Move by His strength.
Live by faith, not by sight.
Don’t lose hope.
Trust him with the process.
Invite him into the messes.
I bless you in your journey through motherhood. May you find the strength you need for every moment through Christ.
Is it just me, or do other parents feel their heartstrings yanked apart when their kids leave? I know I’m not the only mom to experience that definitive ache when a child leaves for university, or moves into their own place, or gets married. But what about the incidental visits? You know, the ones that last a few days or a few hours? Why even then does my heart feel hollow after they leave?
It could be the whole enneagram four thing… I feel EVERYTHING. A LOT. It could be that we homeschooled for a bunch of years and became rather close-knit. Or it could be that somehow, despite that we homeschooled that long, my kids and I still get along shockingly well. Whatever it is, the dragging feeling that arrives on their departure can be difficult to shake.
It happened again this week. Elanna had a few days off and came home for a visit, and Konnor dropped by after a hair appointment in town. Whenever the big kids stop by it warms my heart more than I ever thought possible, and I drop everything. When we were in the thick of homeschooling, I used to dream of all the things I would do once they were launched. Hours of writing, painting, gardening, and tea-drinking floated around the fringes of my thoughts about my future. But now, when they come home, all of the things that seemed so shiny, pale in significance.
At the height of COVID, I could have chosen to begin my next novel, painted several paintings, or spent time thoroughly beautifying the garden or further decluttering, but all I really wanted to do was drink in these precious, unexpected, live-in moments with my adult kids. I mean, when was this ever going to happen again, and why would I waste it locked in a room plucking away at my computer or sorting stuff when they were once again under our roof?
As I’ve mentioned in past posts, about four years ago I embarked on a serious decluttering of my life, both my physical possessions and my use of time. The result was beautiful, wide-open space to breathe in all the blessings and truly soak in what mattered most to me—my family, my friends, and my God.
As if it were possible, COVID ushered in a further decluttering, an even fuller simplification of life. Despite the darker reason behind the need to make our lives smaller, we learned that we can do without many luxuries and still be okay. Our siphoned-down lives forced us to find beauty in simplicity and a slower pace. In our case, and maybe yours too, that more gentle period allowed precious time with each other.
And so, between that extended, unanticipated ‘COVID’ regrouping of our family, and these sporadic visits, I find my heart sighing in its attempts to both embrace and release the comings and goings of my grown kids, like inhaling and exhaling without missing a breath. But in truth, hasn’t it always been this way at every stage of our kids’ lives? The gathering in and letting go to allow them to grow? And so, I find myself struggling to do so even now. My heart turned inside out with the welcoming embrace and tucked neatly right side ’round as they drive away.
I hazard that’s just how God feels about us. We show up for a time, have a chat, then go on our way. I can’t help but think that God is delighted with those visits, that they bring him such joy. That he gives us his undivided attention as he listens intently to all we have to tell him. That he anticipates the next time, and that his heart may somehow ache a bit when we are gone too long—like a parent longing for the presence of their child again.
Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
It’s not every day that our kids come home from school for March Break and never return. With the swift arrival of COVID-19, our collective worlds were turned upside down. Teachers and parents quickly pivoted to learning at home. Now, three months, untold meltdowns, countless tears, and numerous naggings later, we’ve crossed the finish line! It wasn’t easy, but we did it! Or at least we survived!
Looking back on my prayer journals from 2010-2011, I came across several prayers I had written as a homeschool mom. Between reading the entries and recent chats with other moms, I realized that we could all use a little encouragement. At the end of this post, I’ve included an entry from my prayer journal and a link to a video where my daughters and I offer a few tips to both parents and kids about homeschooling.
Whether you’re a full-time homeschooling parent, or you were thrown into it this spring and are dreading the possibility of potential part-time homeschooling for the fall, here are a few thoughts from our eighteen years of homeschooling to quiet any fears of inadequacy or worries of how you might cope.
The following is some practical advice that I hope proves helpful. I wanted to tear down some beliefs and dispel fears that may surround homeschooling and offer some benefits to the process. Yes, boundaries need to be in place, and I’ll highlight a few, but much beauty can occur as a result of schooling at home.
During the years we homeschooled, I often struggled with fearful thoughts about the process which had the propensity overshadow our experience. I often felt inadequate, like I could never quite do enough (as you’ll see in the excerpt from my journal below). I had vague thoughts that I was failing my kids in some way or another. Did all the other mom’s really have it all together?
Many nights I fell into bed exhausted from doing too many things. Running the day over in my mind, instead of celebrating what we had accomplished, I bemoaned the ways I felt I had fallen short that day or the things that remained incomplete. I worried my kids wouldn’t know all they needed to know.
Years later, I see that I didn’t need to worry, and you don’t either. It is unlikely your kids will fall behind learning at home. Their education isn’t composed merely of the things they learn during this time. Learning is a life-long endeavor. You have the unique opportunity to model learning and curiosity not just for now—or for grades—but for their lifetime.
During the years we homeschooled, I was often asked about the socialization of my kids. Wasn’t I worried they wouldn’t be adequately socialized? If my idea of the socialization of a person was based solely on peer socialization, I should have been concerned. But homeschooling afforded my kids the opportunity to engage more fully with all different types of people and all different age levels.
Occasionally, I was asked if I had a teaching degree. I did not, but I do have a university degree—not to say that you need one to teach your children. If you are committed to the process and foster and facilitate a healthy learning environment, they will learn. You have strengths, gifts, and skills to extend to your child’s education regardless of whether you have a Bachelor of Education.
Don’t expect perfection. Go easy on yourself and your kids. Be patient both with them and yourself. Allow for bumps and bruises. Talk about what you can do better when you or they make a mistake. Alter your mindset or attitude, if needed, and your kids will take your cue and rise to your expectations.
While learning at home allows for fun and flexibility, it also requires some structure, routine, and boundaries. It’s helpful to start school at a set time each day, structuring in time for breaks and lunch, and an assigned ending time. Consider designating an area where most of the schooling takes place and remove as many distractions as possible. Setting clear expectations and an agreed-upon consequence for failing to meet those expectations is invaluable. Equally important is follow-through. This will prevent untold hours of infuriation and nagging.
Once you have clearly stated your expectations (consider making timelines for the completion of schoolwork), expect your child to deliver. If they don’t finish their work, first uncover why they haven’t. Were you unavailable for a time, or does your child’s schoolteacher have yet to reply to a question to finish? If they could have completed the work but chose not to, consider how to address that behavior.
Resist nagging. If you were clear on your instructions and expectations, and they could have completed the work, calmly inform them of the consequence. Consider asking your child’s opinion ahead of time what you should do if their work isn’t completed. Often their choices are harsher than you’d pick! If they don’t finish, when it comes time for play with friends or screen time, you can calmly say, “I’m sorry, I’d love to let you play but you chose not to finish your work.”
This works well for teens too but be sure to pick something that offers enough of an ouch-factor for that child. Then, whatever you do, don’t give in to begging! In this way, you help your kids learn the concept of reaping what they sow. In addition, you’ll be encouraging them to grow in self-discipline and gain responsibility for their choices.
Remain positive and hopeful. Avoid scolding or belittling, and gently correct undesirable behavior. You want to reach your child’s heart instead of training them to be a mere rule-follower. Whenever possible, use positive, encouraging words and praise your child when you notice a job well done or work completed in a timely manner. Celebrate mastery and milestones. Use sticker charts to track achievements, or rewards such as a special treat, a trip, or a party from time to time.
As you set boundaries, consider how your child will fill their free time, especially the amount you allot for screens and phones. It’s so easy to allow the extra time to be swallowed up on devices. Instead, schedule intentional pockets of screen time, such as during a break or for a limited time after school.
Homeschooling holds the potential to create valuable memories and close family connections. By virtue of being together, you have the opportunity to connect and speak into your kids’ lives in a way you might not have otherwise had. Be intentional about how you use this gift of time and the things on which you choose to focus the most attention.
Time spent learning at home allows space to adjust to your kids’ needs and learning styles. In the elementary years, I found I could squeeze more out of our school day when I changed locations for different subjects. They sat at a desk for subjects such as Math, Writing, and Spelling. For Bible, History, and Reading, we would move to the couch. Science would happen at the kitchen counter, and crafts might take place on the floor or at a different table.
In the early years, during read-aloud, the kids would often sit on the couch snuggled beside me. If they wanted to play Lego while listening, I allowed for that, occasionally checking in for comprehension. I let them choose books of their choice for free-time reading, even if they were above or below their reading level. If a certain curriculum or method of teaching wasn’t working, I changed course and tried something new.
Since schoolwork can usually be completed more quickly at home than in a classroom, the extra time affords your kids room to deeply explore an interest. If you notice curiosity toward a subject, you might consider providing materials or equipment to further engage their intrigue.
Avoid taking over or forcing the continuation of a natural bent or interest. Doing so may cause them to reject their natural curiosity. The extra time at home offers a spacious environment to independently sample various interests for the sheer joy of learning without any pressure to succeed.
Don’t feel you must fill your kids’ schedule with countless activities or endless amounts of work. Boredom fuels creativity and allows quiet space to process and refuel. There’s no need to stimulate your child’s learning at every turn, which can exhaust them or make them anxious with the never-ending flow of work. Instead, make space for free time, independent decision making, creative projects, play, reading, and relaxing.
Take opportunities to learn on the go. Hands-on experience is priceless. Get outside. Go for a walk or hike in nature. Take field trips or have a picnic in the park. Our kids loved our family trips and dedicated time apart from structured study.
The beauty of homeschooling is the ability to be flexible, the joy of learning together, the increased time as a family, simpler moments, and the capacity to a deep dive into interests.
When our kids were little, for our morning break I used to spread our teddy bear blanket on the floor and sit on it with them to enjoy milk and cookies. I loved the hours we spent cuddled up beside each other while reading picture books and then classic literature. Sometimes I played classical music or an audiobook during art. There was ample time for extra reading and creativity.
To make life easier, I tried to choose activities that the three eldest kids could participate in at the same time such as swimming, skating, gymnastics, and music lessons. We met with a local homeschool group for soccer, baseball, cross-country running, and field trips. We joined a homeschool co-op and for many years enjoyed learning with other homeschoolers one day per week. We played learning games, made crafts, or cooked together. We also cleaned together each week and each child was responsible for a level of the house.
Once the three big kids graduated from homeschooling, our youngest and I continued homeschooling for one more year until she enrolled in a Christian private school. During that one-on-one time, we enjoyed lunchtime picnics at the park and occasionally set up a fort in the backyard where we read together. Another homeschool mom and took turns teaching a subject to one another’s child for a semester.
What did I hope our kids would glean from our homeschooling journey? Apart from academics, I hoped to inspire intrinsic motivation, self-confidence, compassion for others, and a life-long love of learning. If they, in addition, carried fond memories of our time together, an understanding of God, and a secure knowledge of how entirely we love them, I had fulfilled what I set out to accomplish.
Whether you are a full-time homeschooler or schooling at home is temporary, there are untold ways to make this time as joyful and memorable as possible. Even though homeschooling requires much hard work and dedication, you will never regret the time you intentionally spent on your kids and the relationships that were strengthened as a result.
Click here to watch a video of my daughters and I offering tips and encouragement for homeschooling.
Prayer Journal Entry – May 2020
I see all the years of teaching, of asking them to write (even though they disliked it for so long and often moaned), of having them read great literature and reading aloud to them so much has definitely had an impact. I praise you Lord, because it is a joy for me to see what you have done in spite of all my inadequacies, and often lack of faith, that I was doing a good job—though always feeling it was never enough, good enough, or long enough.
So could you, Lord, level the path before us and make your way clear [concerning homeschooling for highschool]. We need you. I desperately need your wisdom to do this. Show us the way. Help me to trust you (not look too far ahead), and go your way, not mine. I am very thankful for what you have done and are doing in their lives and mine. May they be a blessing to you (as you love them so much). May they know this intimately, deeply, thoroughly.
It may not feel like it, but what you’re doing is sacred.
It doesn’t feel like it during the 3 AM feedings, or when you’re changing the seventh diaper before noon, or when you’re comforting a wailing baby while wailing yourself.
Motherhood doesn’t feel sacred when your two-year-old is asserting their freedom of speech at the grocery counter, when your three-year-old just completed a crayon masterpiece on the living room wall, or when your five-year-old just bit your best friend’s daughter’s arm.
It doesn’t feel sacred when the teacher calls home about misbehavior twice in one week, when you lose count of the times you’ve corrected for this misbehavior, or when you’re completely at a loss on how to fix it.
It doesn’t feel sacred when your teenager is distant, when they impart that they just backed the truck into your neighbor’s Porche, or when you happen to notice cut marks on their wrists.
Mostly motherhood feels messy and raw. Like you’re wearing your heart outside your chest while walking in the wilderness without a compass. But it’s also brilliant, beautiful, and sacred.
Because mothers change the atmosphere. They change it with their love, their laughter, their prayers, their protection, and their presence. The countless times you walked through ordinary, produced extraordinary. All your unseen and uncelebrated actions piled one on top of the other, day after day, bumped into eternity.
The times you wiped a nose, a bottom, or wiped away tears. The times you got on your knees and played even though the house looked like a tsunami passed through, or later got on your knees to pray for the strength to clean up said tsunami. The times you administered hugs, Bandaids, advice, desserts, medicine, money, drives, and driving lessons—all selfless, sacred acts that had a profound impact.
Because right now, right beside you, these little humans are becoming big humans. All you do for them and choose not to do (for their own good), is helping them grow into the person God envisioned from the beginning of time. The same child you helped learn how to walk, will one day run headlong into their own future and, eventually, into eternity.
Make no mistake, this is sacred work.
The way you love them, serve them, speak to them, look at them, and the time you spend with them has a profound impact. God chose you for the task. He has entrusted you with these little people, and when you trust him, he gives you all you need to accomplish this sacred work.
It won’t be easy—you already know that—but it will be worth it.
The years I raised and taught our four kids at home took more than I had. Some days it felt anything but sacred. But I believe that you too will one day look back and marvel at the impact of your selfless, sometimes mundane, day-to-day, imperfect, accumulated acts. That you too will see that every strand of your love wove a rich, strong, safe nest for those babies who are now, sooner than you imagined possible, ready to fly and soar on their own.
We get one crack at this thing called parenting. Let’s slow down, be present, and love them ridiculously well. Not one second of that time will be wasted! xo
“But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” ~ Isaiah 40:31
I’m about to become a first-time grandma. Even as I type this, I can hardly believe it. Since our son wed a year and four months ago, it feels as though time has unfolded like a map falling open all at once and I’m fumbling to neatly fold and navigate my sped-up life. One wedding, two published books, three grown kids relocated, one child attending ‘real’ school, and one grandchild, well… almost.
And now a grandma. Me? Already? Woah! Can we dial back this getting older thing a tad? I’m honestly thrilled at the prospect of having a grandchild, although I really do NOT appreciate the title (I am currently taking suggestions for other names). It’s just that some things happen sooner than you expect. I’m feeling vastly underprepared. I thought I’d be a stronger knitter by now and possibly NOT simultaneously have an eleven-year-old child still under our roof.
All joking aside, there’s profound beauty in the fact that Mariana, our daughter-in-love, is pregnant. Before I explain why, a small sidebar. Mariana is an absolute treasure. Oddly enough, it struck me she was possibly ‘the one’ for Kurtis even while he was dating someone else (I know that sounds weird, but it happened). On the day of this uncanny revelation, I quietly mentioned to God in my prayer journal that if she happened to be the one for Kurtis could He (God) just sort that out. Then I stayed out of it.
As it turned out, three and a half months later, without my uttering a word, Kurtis and Mariana began dating. Apparently, she too, even while he was dating someone else, thought that they were meant for each other. Around the same time I was scrawling in my prayer journal, Mariana was confidently relaying to her girlfriend that one day Kurtis was going to be her husband.
The beauty in this story is compounded by the fact that Mariana learned she had cancer at age fourteen and spent the next three years fighting for her life. That sort of near-death experience makes you approach life differently—you tend not to take it for granted.
With this bold approach to her second crack at life, and armed from the get-go with a peculiar assurance that Kurtis was going to be her husband, she didn’t hesitate to tell him she loved him on their first date. She maintains Kurtis is her best cancer perk because if she hadn’t gotten cancer, she would never have been homeschooled and would not have met him at the homeschool co-op they attended.
It is also profoundly beautiful that Mariana is pregnant because it’s only six years since her body suffered and survived the ravaging effects of cancer and chemo. Ironically, she had her last cancer check-up while already pregnant. To me—grandmother title denial aside—Montgomery (their soon to be born baby) is a miracle—a sacred life birthed out of a saved life.
And I can’t help but think this story is also our story.
Our lives were also snatched from death’s grip. We may not have had cancer, but our sin was eating us alive. We had no hope in hell that when we die, we would make it into heaven… but for Jesus. He knew we couldn’t manage to conquer death, so he gave his life in place of ours. He was the substitute and paid our sin-debt on the cross to secure life-eternal and more abundant life here and now.
So, I guess the question is, what are we doing with our second chance at life, and how are we making a difference to the sacred lives around us?
While you think about that, I’ll be over here writing (or knitting) from my rocking chair with spectacles perched on my nose!
Konnor came home for a visit today. Any mom will tell you that when your kids no longer live under your roof, any visit home is a precious event. This was demonstrated in the way Keira bolted down the stairs, threw her arms around her brother and clung to him, starved for his presence. I too adore seeing my son, catching up with him, admiring the man he has become.
The whole thing reminded me of how God must feel when we come to spend time with him, or when we return after a lengthy absence.
Since God’s love for us is even greater than a mother or father’s love for their child—or a little sister’s love for her brother—I can only imagine how happy God is to see us. His welcome is a door-flung-wide, arms-stretched-open sort. He is always thrilled to receive us.
But for some, their image of God is more of a looming, angry, and unyielding figure with arms-crossed in a posture ready instead to point out all the ways he’s been disappointed. For them, God is unapproachable, distant, and cross.
Sometimes our children’s actions or choices upset us or ignite an angry response. Our kids make mistakes—as do we—but because we love them we forgive them and continue to champion them on their journey. God behaves likewise to us, multiplied many times. Take a moment to read below what the Bible has to say about God’s nature:
Psalm 30:5: “For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime.”
Psalm 116:5: “The LORD is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion.”
1 John 1:5: “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”
Micah 7:18-19: “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.”
I John 4:9: “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.”
Like earthly parents, God is capable of being angry at his children. When our behaviour defies his holy standard—and it will—it not only hurts us and potentially others, but also hurts him. But here’s the thing: God is not only slow to get angry, he doesn’t remain angry. And maybe that’s where we get stuck.
In our guilt and shame, we further belittle ourselves believing God has rejected us, that he could never forgive us, that he wants nothing to do with us. But the verses above show that nothing could be further from the truth. He loves us so much that he sent his son as the remedy for all our junk: past, present, and future. The moment we repent, he forgives us and no longer holds those actions against us. Nor does he remind us of our failings. In Christ, every moment is a fresh start.
Just as we celebrate when our children arrive home, excited to get all caught up with them, our God is delighted when we share our lives with him, tell him all of our news, and rest in his presence. He doesn’t force us to come home, but anticipates the moment we do. His love is endless, his forgiveness knows no limits, his compassion is for all. No matter where you’ve been—or for how long—his arms are always open.
When was the last time you had a visit with God? It’s never too late to start or begin again.
If you’ve never received the free gift of salvation and forgiveness of sins through God’s son Jesus, it’s only a prayer away.
Mom—you matter. What you’re doing for your kids is priceless. Every cry you cuddle away, every nose you wipe clean, each math problem you help solve, the listening ear you lend, all matter. Every time you show up—though bone weary and burdened—matters. The way you encourage from the sidelines of your kids’ lives is profoundly meaningful.
Though there are days you feel you have nothing left to give, you draw from a well of strength to water those precious humans enabling them to flourish. Though there are times you feel unappreciated, invisible, or empty, you humbly serve until others are filled. Though you have worries and wounds of your own, you set them aside to tend to scraped knees and bruised souls so they can be healed.
And though they don’t necessarily notice it, their little eyes absorb your selfless actions. Their hearts are nurtured by your words. Their souls are refreshed by your hugs. Their minds are cushioned by your love—all of this mothering an example they will one day reflect.
There will be days you’ll mourn your imperfect parenting. The way you grow impatient, irritated, or ignore what needs to be done. It might perplex you when you don’t have all the answers, and feel frustratingly at a loss to guide a wayward behaviour or resolve a sibling conflict. But through it all, you cling to the hope that—though imperfect—you did your best and trust God will do the rest.
The days are long but the years are short, and soon the little humans entrusted to your care need you less and less. More often you find you have to close your mouth and wait to be asked than offer your advice. There are no words to describe your pride for the remarkable people they have become. Somewhat bewildered, and strangely at a loss, you gradually loosen your grip so they can launch.
Now, the memories of playing with paper planes and toy boats float on the edges of your mind, a fluid reminder of time passed. Yet within the recesses of your kids’ minds and memories, and built into the fabric of their dreams, drifts the voice of their mother cheering them on. The former years of words and deeds compiled to form a foundation of acceptance and love that enables them to reach for their goals and build their lives.
For all your personal faults and frailties, the part you played was integral and instrumental in raising these humans. Like the formation of a log home, your mothering carved beauty, strength, shelter, and a lasting impression into their lives. If you failed to do it all, God met you at every turn. And as chink, he expertly filled in all the extra spaces packing it with his love.
Today, be reminded that all you are, and all you’re doing, matters. Your sacrificial love and poured-out life is a gift to your children. Just as you can’t adequately put into words the depth of your love for them, they may never fully articulate all you mean to them. But God has seen it all and is cheering you on, aiding you on this lifetime journey of motherhood.
You are worthy, and needed, and so very precious. Happy Mother’s Day!
Her children rise up and call her blessed. ~ Proverbs 31:28
Eighteen years ago, I embarked on an unlikely journey of teaching my children at home. I only planned to continue until they reached high school, but the three oldest chose to home school through grade 12.
We learned a lot of things during those years, but what sticks with me the most isn’t the multitude of things we gleaned from books, but the things we discovered about life and ourselves. Those years weren’t always easy. Life still happened. And though I was far from a perfect teacher or mother, we came out the other side loving and respecting each other. Today, I am humbled and blessed by the close relationships we share.
Below is a random list of some things I learned. I’m sure I can’t think of everything, but these are a few that easily came to mind. Although it refers to our home schooling journey, I have a feeling you’ll be able to relate, or, at the very least, may find it an encouragement!
52 Things I Learned From Home Schooling:
1. Show up, even when you don’t feel like it.
2. Any effort is better than none. It all compiles.
3. Bear with one another.
4. Patience is necessary – it grows when exercised.
5. If it’s not working, try harder. If it’s still not working, try a different approach.
6. Meant to and actually doing the job are two very different things.
7. It’s hard, but nothing worthwhile is ever easy.
8. Quitting isn’t an option. Redirecting your effort is.
9. There’s no such thing as perfection, but hard work, perseverance, and a good attitude are a close second.
10. Don’t compare yourself to others or you risk feeling both inadequate and missing what you were created for.
11. Laugh. Cry. Start again.
12. Speak truth when needed.
13. Don’t worry about what others think.
14. Character, integrity, and wisdom are more valuable than all the knowledge in the world. There are plenty of intelligent jerks.
15. Figure out what your passions are and build on those.
16. Nothing is wasted. No effort, trial, or experience.
17. Put down the books, leave the work, and go outside.
18. Play often.
19. Be kind. Speak gently. Smile freely.
20. Not everyone will agree with you. That’s okay. Accept your differences.
21. Make your encouragements more prolific than your critiques.
22. Those entrusted to you rise to your expectations. Set the bar achievably high.
23. Forgive yourself and keep moving forward.
24. Even if it’s difficult, monotonous, or thankless, you are still making headway.
25. Nothing stays the same forever. Cherish now.
26. Life has seasons. Learn what you can from each one.
27. Read beautiful stories out loud to your kids.
28. Besides God, be your child’s biggest cheerleader.
29. Expect the best in others.
30. Catch your kids doing good.
31. Tell your kids what you like about them, and about the good you see in them.
32. Keep hugging your children even if they appear to no longer appreciate it.
33. A little mess won’t kill you.
34. Say sorry when you’re wrong, then ask for forgiveness.
35. What you do speaks louder than what you say.
36. Talk your kids openly about your faith and failures.
37. Let them work alongside you so they learn from you.
38. Help your children see the beauty in nature and in other human beings.
39. If possible, travel with your children. These experiences offer priceless bonding and provide hands-on experience they won’t get from books.
40. Teach them to serve others so they won’t be self-serving, but compassionate.
41. Guide, don’t control.
42. They aren’t you. Don’t try to make them be. Give them ample space to be who they were created to be. Celebrate their individuality.
43. Take each child out on one-on-ones. You get to know them better this way.
44. Love your spouse.
45. Set clear boundaries and stick to them.
46. Help them form strong habits to achieve their goals.
47. Champion their dreams.
48. Let them make mistakes.
49. Don’t do for them what they can do for themselves.
51. Let your children go and be the miraculous humans God made them to be. It was always the end goal.
52. Choose love first, always.
“Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.”
Last weekend, our first born got married to his perfect match. As if this weren’t enough emotion for this momma’s heart, on Monday of the same week we crammed the contents of our second born’s room into our van and moved him into his own apartment to continue his college education. On Tuesday, our littlest started school for the first time. I homeschooled our kids for the past eighteen years, and she is the first to go to “real” school. The same week, my third born left for New York City for a big audition. Continue reading “Letting Go With Open Arms”
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” ~ 2 Corinthians 12:9
By eighteen years of age, I had a parenting file. In it I kept all the Dr. Dobson tips inserted into our church bulletins, along with any other scraps of wisdom I stumbled across. I even read parenting books with all sorts of helpful advice. I was going to be an amazing mom – practically perfect, I thought.
But the books didn’t account for a few things.
There was never a mention of those days when you’re beyond tired and patience prematurely packs its bags. When circumstances shift so fast and hard that life takes a disorienting sharp turn for the worse. When you’re sick so long it starts to look like you’ll never get better. When all your “yes’s'” catch up with you and you’re running ragged, or just barely hanging on emotionally, physically or financially. No, there were no chapters dedicated to how to be an outstanding parent when the bottom drops right out from under you.
No book noted how to respond when a little voice calling mommy interrupts mid-sob, and you make tidy work of wiping tears gushing from a soul rubbed raw by the events you protected them from and some you couldn’t. When everything you did was motivated by love and most of the time that love was far too much or not nearly enough. Mostly, parenting felt like you were feeling in the dark with the occasional scrap of light.
But somewhere between the tickle fights and hair tangles, missing socks and math problems, untold bedtime stories and late night pacing, you managed to be a mom who, despite all her flaws, flips outs and failings was real and kind and good. And all you ever wanted was to raise kids that were too. And that had to be enough because though you didn’t feel nearly enough, you were the one God assigned for the task. And you look at these human beings God gave you to raise and think: they are kind and good and miraculously more than enough. More than you could have dared to dream.
Fast forward twenty years. The parenting books are now untouched. I still lament that I wasn’t a good enough mom, think of the ways I could have, should have, done it differently. I drag my failed self-wisdom and aching heart to the One who is good enough. And in those quiet moments – the moments in between the dinner making and the driving – I thank Him for trusting me with a job that was far too big for my credentials and self-education. Far too big for me alone.
And I realize, it was all because of GRACE.
Heaps and heaps of it. It filled in the cracks I missed, saturated the gaping wounds life inflicted that I couldn’t have hoped to patch, it spilled over the top in healing brimming over beyond measuring.
Grace. The free gift the books missed mentioning. The part where peace takes over and you rest knowing God knew all this and it’s still okay, because He loved so completely He died and made a way to eternity for the likes of those who feel undeserving and not nearly enough. And in His arms you understand that He never asked for perfection anyway – just like you never asked for it from your kids. And you, like they, feel loved…and that covers a multitude.
And this amazing Grace, like a love-blanket, wraps itself around us, pulls us close and declares:
You are enough. You are loved.
And you realize, it was enough, because He is enough.
He is the One who saw all the not-quite-enoughs, the beautiful sacrifices made when you were on empty, the way you looked into your child’s eyes when you could barely keep your own open, the way you laughed when you could have cried. He knew the mountains you were scaling. And with Him, it is all more than enough. Because somehow, together you were making beauty far beyond anything you could have learned from a book.
“Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
May you receive God’s grace and love freely today.