What Makes a Mother?

Mothers give birth…and sometimes they don’t. I know this because I am currently a mother to two girls I did give birth to–and more recently, to two babies I did not give birth to. There are birth mothers, foster mothers, adoptive mothers, grandmothers, and step-mothers…and they are all important in the life of a child.

Mothers make elaborate, organic, fulfilling meals—and they also microwave leftover pizza. I know this because last night my children exclaimed, “Oh no. Pizza again!?”

Mothers wear high heels and lipstick and fancy dresses—and they also wear sweatpants and spit up and weary smiles. I know this because last Sunday after I finished getting ready for church, my four year old told me no less than 27 times that I was “so pretty”. (Despite the fact that I was only wearing jeans and a shirt. I think she was just overcome by the fact that I was not in pajamas.)

Mothers smell like perfume and sunshine—and they also smell like laundry-that-was-left-too-long-in-the-washing-machine-because-no-one-remembered-to-move-it –to-the-dryer-and-now-it’s-sprouted-mold-spores-and-smells-like-a-boys’-locker-room. (It doesn’t help that my washer and dryer are the dingy basement and I have to carry the girls’ loads down three flights of stairs, okay!?)

Mothers snuggle and color and play Barbies and Legos—and they also shut their bedroom doors for an hour to secretly catch up on The Good Wife. I do not know this from personal experience, but I can imagine there are mothers out there who would do this. (wink)

Mothers have one child—or they may have twelve children. It is not the number of children you have that gauges your worth as a parent. As my own mother recently reminded me, “You can be a great mom to one child or a terrible mom to one child. You can be a great mom to twenty children or a terrible mom to twenty children. It is not the number of children you have that makes you a good mother.”

Mothers laugh and tell stories and whisper words of encouragement—and they also scream and rant and complain. If you haven’t ever yelled at your kids…just. go. away.

Mothers worry about germs and goodbyes—and they also worry about boyfriends and driving privileges. It doesn’t matter what age our children are, we will surely be worried about something.

It’s not what you do that makes you a mother. It’s not how you cook, how you discipline or how you survive. It’s not the number of children you have, nor is it their stages, ages, talents or abilities. It’s not whether you have a clean house, an organized pantry or a scrapbook full of memorable trips. You are a mother because a child needs and loves you.

You are a mother because you need and love that child, too.

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Behold what manner of love…

Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us that we should be called the sons of God!

1 Jn 3:1

It’s been three months since she came to live with us.  There are so many things we have thought and felt and changed and mourned since then.  But as so often happens, God takes the things of this world and is using them to shape us and refine us. 

This is the thought that has repeatedly resonated with me:  How could God, righteous and just, pull me, wretched and selfish, out of this life of sin?  And then–and this is what astounds me even more–despite the muck and chaos, He choose me and calls me his daughter!  He loves me.  He revels in me.  He wants me. 

Because the choosing was hard–knowing that our lives would change and her life would change and everything would change–was hard.  And the doing was even harder–mourning the simple life we had and fearing the storms to come.  But the hardest part is exactly where we are right now.  The loving. 

To take in a child who has no one to care for her only requires pity.  To feed and foster that child, clothe and care for her, only requires benevolence.  To discipline that child so that she can be wiser and stronger and someday be an influence for good only requires morality.  But to bestow love on that child?  That’s the work of God.

It is not by chance that the Spirit lead me to re-read Knowing God, by J. I. Paker over these last few months.  This is what I read today…

In the ancient world, adoption was a practice ordinarily confined to the childless well-to-do.  Its subjects were not normally infants, as today, but young adults who had shown themselves fit and able to carry on a family name in a worthy way.  In this case however, God adopts us out of free love, not because our character and record show us worthy to bear his name, but despite the fact that they show the very opposite.  We are not fit for a place in God’s family…

Adoption, by its very nature, is an art of free kindness to the person adopted.  If you become a father by adopting a son or daughter, you do so because you choose to, not because you are bound to. Similarly, God adopts because he chooses to.  He had no duty to do so.  He need not have done anything about our sins except punish us as we deserved.  But he loved us…And throughout our life in this world, and to all eternity beyond, he will constantly be showing us, in one way or another, more and more of his love, and thereby increasing our love to him continually.  The prospect before the adopted children of God is an eternity of love. 

For none of the choosing, the doing, the caring, the disciplining–none of it matters without love.  . 

Thy will be done

With adoption continuing to move forward and fears continuing to loom, I still find myself questioning “Is this really what God wants for our family?” “Is this really His will for us?” For it’s certainly not what I had planned out.
Most of us would say we want God’s will for our lives. But what if that will is to take us through tragedy to gain our trust? Or what if it means walking through pain to get closer to His heart? Would we really want that…Really?

Last night I was talking with a friend about some of my fears and questions about this thing God has asked us to do, she was so kind, listening and working through it all with me. Then she said, “It’s just so hard because first and foremost you’re a mom to the two children He’s already given you.”
And the words came tumbling out, aching but firm, and I couldn’t have grabbed them even if I’d wanted to because they weren’t my own…
“No. That’s not true,” I said (heart breaking, hands hurting from grasping for control of my own life, which is not my own), “I am and always will be, first and foremost, a child of God. He always comes first. Before I’m a mother or a wife or a sister or a daughter or a friend–I am a child of the King. And I’m called to obey. So if he asks me to do something, what else can I say but ‘Yes’?”

The words of the hymn “In the Garden,”echo in my head strong and pure…

I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses;
And the voice I hear, falling on my ear, The Son of God discloses.

And He walks with me, and He talks with me, And He tells me I am His own,
And the joy we share as we tarry there, None other has ever known.”

So today, as I prayed, asking God for wisdom and a word of encouragement, I should not have been surprised when He gave me Colossians 3:23. Because when I looked it up, I was humbled when I saw the words…

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.”

When you enter this the world, it’s you and Him. When you depart, it’s you and Him. And when you fold shirts and make meals and buy milk and drive and shower and talk and breath…it’s still ultimately about you and Him.
Because if it’s not, then why are you doing it at all?

Expecting a teenager (Part II)

All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator in all I have not seen.

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

I want to wash my hands of it.

The what-if’s and worries reel and whirl in my head and settle in my stomach and I think I just don’t want to do this. The unknowns, the fears, the possibilities and probable failures wrestle me till I’m weary and worn out.  Oh, how I want more faith! How I want to be like David, who trusted God with everything, even his very life!

“The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” (1 Sam. 17:37)

If faith is “trust in things unseen,” then can’t what we have seen certainly increase our faith? David had seen God defeat the lion and the bear, and so he trusted him to defeat his enemy. But we have to force ourselves to remember what God has done, because we “have spiritual Alzheimer’s, always forgetting.”(Voskamp)

I think, instead, that I’m more like Hagar in the desert, who although she had seen God face-to-face, had accepted his promise and named him “the God who sees me”—still forgot. Years later, when she thirsted in the desert, she forgot the God who saw her, and she wept for her fate.

But God did not forget her. And he will not forget me.

I can say with certainty that God will not be mocked, and when he calls us to obedience, he will deliver. Just like with David—he will win the battle.

So I force myself to remember. When I want to run, I force myself to remember. When I want to give up, I force myself to remember. When things do not make sense, I force myself to remember. For the God who sees me is the God who “chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise…what is weak in the world to shame the strong…what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.”

He sees me. He sees you. And he knows how the story ends. Remember…

We’re Expecting!…..a Teenager

So here’s the story.
Ever since Hubby and I were dating, we’ve talked about adopting “someday.” But when we had our first child, the thought got pushed into the background, replaced by the constant onslaught of diapers, sippy cups, and sleepless nights.

Last year, however, Hubby came to me and quietly asked, “What do you think about adopting…now?” My response was of course humble and gentle. “WHAT?” I snapped, “Are you crazy? Two little kids is enough right now. Why would you even ask me that?” But in spite of my response, what God laid on his heart was not to be denied, so he began praying (unbeknownst to me) that if this was truly what we were called to do, God would change my heart and align it with his.

Then last September, out of nowhere, I had this recurring, nagging thought that I needed to at least look into adopting. So I talked with friends who’d done it, researched online until my eyes burned…and prayed. After a few weeks I went to Hubby and said, “Uh, so…what do you think about adopting a teenager?”
With tear-strained voice he replied, “Funny–I’d been praying you would ask me that.”

We love teenagers. We enjoy spending time with them, we cherish their stage of life, the questions, the conversations, even the heartache of poor decisions made and regrets formed. And when we visited various websites and saw the great need for adopting older children through the foster care system, our hearts broke. Who will guide these kids as they begin making the tough decisions of adulthood? Who will fight alongside them as they face the challenges of growing up? And once they graduate high school, where will they return “home” for holidays? When they have kids of their own, who will they call “Grandma and Grandpa?”

We’ve done hours and hours of training and reading and talking and praying. We know there will be challenges. We are aware of the risks. And yet, we cannot deny God’s moving in our hearts and his calling on our lives. Will you pray with us as we enter this new stage of life? As the young Samuel said, “It is the Lord. Let him do what seems good to him.” (1 Sam. 3:18)