As we celebrate Mother’s Day, we take time to remember all the dozens, or rather, hundreds of ways our moms have encouraged, cared for, or disciplined us over the years—all in an effort to shape us into human beings fit for society, to help us become worthy of the name bestowed on us at birth, and to hopefully keep us from embarrassing God, our families, ourselves, or them in the process… and not always necessarily in that order.
Moms can be biological, emotional, or spiritual in relationship origin—meaning that some moms give birth to the sweet children who will one day make us crazy, while others have children we adopt into our hearts as our own, and others, the truly fortunate, are blessed with both.
Great moms love Jesus and love like Jesus, with an everlasting love, drawn with kindness, that is unshakeable and unchangeable no matter the circumstances. We love that way best when we recognize that we were loved first by God when we were unworthy. We were bought with a price not because of anything that we have done, but because of who HE is and because of His incredible love for all His children, without partiality, and without exception.
When we recognize that we are loved, we can live a life that is so full of Jesus that we cannot help but have His love spill over into the lives around us. That is the beautiful thing about love; it is the only thing that grows only as we give it away. Love that we keep to ourselves quickly becomes stagnant and confining, but it is the love we give away that gives life and substance to those around us.
Rocking the Cradle
I have been privileged to work with various mission organizations and ministries around the world, and have seen entire communities changed because of the work of mothers who wanted something more for their children. Hope begins in the hearts and minds of mothers who desire a better future for their families. As that hope grows, these diligent women become a force for good within their local communities. Their desire to seek a better tomorrow for their children raises the standards of education, health care, and domestic wellness throughout the world.
In 1865, William Ross Wallace wrote a poem praising motherhood as the pre-eminent force for change.
William Ross Wallace’s well-known and often quoted refrain states simply “the hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.” We as children are influenced by our mother’s love. It is the first place that we encounter the outside world and learn about security and trust.
As a mother, I remember looking into the face of each of my children for the first time—holding them in my arms, and staring with wonder and awe at each sweet little life that was now completely dependent on me (and of course my husband). There was this wash of emotion at the enormity of the responsibility I had been entrusted with…and then the desperate prayer, “Oh Lord, please don’t let me screw this up!”
No offense to William Ross Wallace and his beautiful, poetic tribute to mothers, but rocking the cradle is the easy part. It’s the long sleepless nights, the colic, the crayon drawings that seem to keep mysteriously appearing on walls, the mountains of insurmountable laundry, and the last-minute projects and requests for baked goods that I remember most. “Oh by the way, mom, I need to bring cupcakes tomorrow to school for me and 3,000 of my closest friends”. I don’t know about your household, but there wasn’t much time left over for “world ruling.
“Doing Crazy” Well
I will admit that I had the privilege of not having Facebook and Pinterest as constant reminders of how much I was failing at motherhood. However, there has always been for most of us, this desire to raise our children well, or to at least not see them later as guests on some tell-all talk show.
I remember the time that a sweet, retired pastor’s wife, who had successfully raised five boys, gave me advice about focusing on what’s most important as a mother. She was reminding me that when my children are grown they would better remember the time I spent with them than whether or not the house was clean. Then she emphatically declared that I should give up dusting first, because “it comes back in about 5 minutes anyway.” As tears started to gather in my eyes, she leaned in and hugged me, she said, “Oh dear I’ve just set you free haven’t I?” I hugged her back as I cried and whispered, “I love that you think I dust.”
We have all had those days, haven’t we?
There were several occasions throughout our time when the girls were small that I would stop and wonder if anyone else’s life could possibly be as chaotic and crazy as ours. This led to the decision that if I couldn’t make life less chaotic for our family, then I better get good at managing crazy.
I was given opportunities to “Do Crazy Well” almost immediately and on many days after:
- When I caught one of our daughters with a large box of flour in her bedroom, shaking the open box with eyes wide in joy and wonder, and shouting with delight, “Look Mommy, it’s snowing!”
- When our youngest decided to use a purple magic marker to color in all the square tiles in the entryway of our home, and then decided to come back for a repeat performance with a green marker after her beautiful artwork had been scrubbed away. It’s just so hard to resist a blank canvas after all.
- The day I walked into the bedroom to find our oldest cutting a giant hole in our sheets as she cheerfully proclaimed that she was going to practice sewing.
- The time that one daughter decided to paint our new computer and keyboard with toothpaste. We were able to save the computer, but from that time after, there was this burst of minty fresh air every time someone typed on the keyboard. At this point I had been a mom long enough to be thankful for the pleasant odor, fully realizing it could have been much worse.
One of my most embarrassing stories involving technology, however, comes from a printer that I look to a local computer store to have fixed. I had just had the printer fixed and two days later it was doing the same exact thing! I took the printer back and explained how frustrated I was that the printer was still experiencing the same problem. The manager was very apologetic as he pulled the ticket and reviewed the problem. He smiled as he walked back to the counter and said, “Let’s take a look and see if it’s the same problem.” Then he flipped the printer upside down and I watched in shock and awe as dozens of pennies poured out. It seems my children had decided that the printer made a good piggy bank.
Motherhood is not for the faint of heart. There is a good dose of insanity and humility packed into each day, and prayer and laughter are about the only things to keep one from going completely over the edge. As mothers we model what we believe for our children. They see everything!
Launching our Children into the World
Anyone who works on a project will tell you that it is important to begin with the end in mind. That what you are trying to develop, create, construct, or accomplish should be clearly in mind before you begin. If you think about it, one of the first things we teach our children when they are small, after learning how to say “mama” and “dada” is how to wave goodbye. Eventually, we will launch them into the world, and we have a responsibility to help prepare them.
For my own children, I have been praying for my daughters’ future husbands since they were born. I have been praying for the mothers of these young men as well. Praying that their mothers will teach them to love the Lord, to respect and value women, and to be faithful, promise keepers. But I have also, I hope, shown my daughters that they can make a difference.
I remember being the only woman in an MBA class where I was told that I was a bad mother for taking night classes once a week rather than being at home with my small children. The professor who was embarrassed and outraged by the condescension of my classmates asked if I had anything to say. My response was, “I have three young daughters and my greatest desire is for them to change the world and make it a better place. I want them to know that they can make a difference and that they don’t have to bear sons to do so. I’m not here to be a bad mother. I’m here to lead by example.”
One of the most important things that we do as mothers is to just be there! To bear witness to our children’s lives, to reminisce with them about stories they would be too young to remember, to celebrate their triumphs with them, to cheer them on or cheer them up when they need it, and to hold their hearts for a while when life doesn’t turn out quite the way they’d hoped.
Mary, the mother of Jesus is a great example of being there. She bore witness to her son’s birth, life, ministry, and death, and remained constant through it all. Even when the disciples denied him and ran to hide. Jesus’ mom remained. She stayed even while her heart was breaking and believed still that God had the best of plans for her son.
This is the work of motherhood. To remain consistent, to be present, and to provide an environment where our children can thrive. So whether you are a mother by birth, circumstance, proximity, divine appointment, or any combination of these, I want to say thank you for making a difference. Your labor of love matters, and God is using you as an example of what it means to live as one who is loved with an everlasting love, and drawn with unfailing kindness (Jeremiah 31:3).
Note: This post was originally published in May 2021.