I can remember as a young girl, daydreaming about the day that I would become a mom. I dreamed of baking cookies with my children. I dreamed of building forts in the living room. I dreamed of camping out in the backyard. I dreamed of kissing bobos and wiping tears off wet cheeks. And in all these dreams, I saw myself with this glow, almost like an angel, with a soft smile on my face, hair perfectly in place and laughing often.
I always knew I wanted to become a wife and a mother. I had high aspirations of going to medical school, but I could never reconcile how I would do that and become a mom, preferably before I turned 30, and preferably without a nanny. So that decision was made for me when at 22 years old, I found out I was pregnant with Emerson. I decided not to pursue any continuing education and instead became a stay-at-home mom.
And while it was tough in the beginning with Emerson, after a few months, I became that ideal mother. Emerson was my world. I soaked up every minute of my time with him. I made my own baby wipes. I made his baby food from scratch. I was the skinniest I had ever been. I ran my first 5k. I colored my hair. I was running a small fair trade business. I made sweet friends in the neighborhood. I made time for my husband. I spent time doing DIY projects. Yes, there were moments of weakness. Yes there were times of cleaning up poop and vomit and all the things that mothers have to clean up. But this season of being a mom to one fulfilled the lifelong dream of mine. I had become the “perfect” mother that I had hoped to be, and Emerson was going to be so blessed because of it. Being a perfect mom was the greatest gift I could have ever given to my son…
Fast forward a few years, and now I was a mom to two. And once again, it was so tough in the beginning. But after a little time of transition, I got into my groove. I was living in a new state, in a precious house, blogging regularly, homeschooling Emerson, getting regular pictures taken of our children, and pretty much rocking the whole motherhood thing. In this season I had learned to pursue God more deeply. I was honored in leadership positions. We were focused on growing in the fruits of the Spirit. There was no way that our children would make it through life without knowing Jesus. Being used in ministry, cultivating my gifts for God’s glory, intentionally homeschooling them in the ways of the Lord – these were the GREATEST gifts I could have ever given my children… The focus was once again on ME. My children were so blessed to have ME as Mother. They would not have to spend hours in therapy, because I was doing such a good job with them.
Fast forward to child number 3. I was so determined to keep up this goal of perfection. I remember telling one of my friends that I wasn’t scared about having a third child because I had Emerson and Etta Jayne on such a good schedule and routine, that baby number 3 would just roll right into our schedule (ha ha ha). Our morning devotions at the table would continue as normal. Emerson would go to preschool and then I would homeschool him the following year. I would go through the Fruit of the Spirit curriculum with Etta Jayne, just as I had done with Emerson when he was her age. Eliza would have newborn pictures done, and then 6 month pictures, one year pictures and so on and so forth. She would have the most perfect first birthday party, because this was child #3, and child #3 was not going to be treated any differently than the other two. The greatest gift I could give to my third child was to give her the perfect life that I felt I had given to the other two.
But then something happened.
I lost my grasp on perfection. (Okay let’s be real, I never grasped perfection in the first place!)
No matter how hard I tried, my body did not return back to its original size. I could no longer fit into my size 0 shorts, even though I had been able to get back into them pretty soon after both of the other pregnancies.
I was determined to start working out regularly right after having Eliza, but when I went on my first jog at 6 weeks post-partum, it felt like I broke my back. Turns out my core was not strong enough for me to even think about jogging yet, and so I would need to do months of really sloooow core re-building exercises.
I was determined to get over any feelings of post-partum depression sooner, but this time it went past the one-year mark. We found out later that my thyroid isn’t working like it’s supposed to, and I have low levels of lots of the minerals that I need in order to function properly.
I was determined to blog more regularly. I wrote out a whole list of subjects I wanted to write about, but when I sat at my computer, the words just never came to me, except for the few posts I wrote about the winter season and the no-nag technique, which I can’t even follow 100%!
I was determined to have beautiful, radiant glowing skin and focus more on self-care, but instead I began to battle frequent acne, my eyelashes started thinning, and my hair stopped curling.
I was determined to continue our tradition of an annual family book, but my hard drive crashed one day with all my pictures from 2016, and I found that I just did not have the free time I thought I would have with being a mom to three.
I had huge dreams of not only being super mom and super wife, but also to have a thriving business with The Bravery Boutique. But it was just too much. So much for being brave, right?
I was determined to throw Eliza the cutest first birthday party ever, but we ended up combining her birthday with Emerson’s and celebrated at a park with friends and family. The cake didn’t even match the few decorations I had gotten.
I was determined to homeschool Emerson, or at least put him in private school, but he ended up going to the public school down the street. “Hey, we can at least walk him to school in the mornings and exercise as a family,” quickly turned into, “Emerson, hurry up and get in the car or we are going to be late!!”
For so long, I grieved over the “lost season of motherhood.” I told Trice again and again, “If only I could get back to that place where I used to be.” I felt like this wilderness season was somehow my fault. Too much complaining. Too much grumbling. Not enough faith. Too many carbs. Not enough kale. Too much yelling. Not enough patience. Not enough sleep. Too much talking. Not enough listening. Too many boxes of macaroni. Not enough homemade snacks. Too much sitting. Not enough exercising. Not working hard enough. Not being still enough. Not getting quiet enough. Not pressing in enough. TOO MUCH YET NOT ENOUGH.
What do I even have to offer to my children at this point in the game? They have seen their mama cry, kick, yell, scream and have been told “no” often. They have seen me quit things that I started. They have seen me with acne on my face and frizz in my hair. They have seen me wear sweats for a week.
They have seen that their mama is imperfect.
Utterly, completely and totally imperfect…
... but they have also seen this utterly imperfect mama cry out to the One Who is perfect.
They have seen me weep at His feet. They have seen me pray with fervency for the grace to make it through the day. They have seen me clutch the hem of His robe. They have seen me apologize and ask for forgiveness.
They have seen me at my absolute worst being loved by the absolute Best.
It is in THIS season that I realized that the greatest gift I can give to my children is not to be perfect. It’s not having a rockin’ body. It’s not keeping the house in perfect order or feeding them a perfect meal. No, the greatest gift I can give to my children is to show them that I am an imperfect human who is loved perfectly by a perfect God.
The greatest gift I can give to my children is to show them that their mama might act broken, but she serves a God who is in the business of healing and fixing and restoring.
The greatest gift I can give to my children is to show them how to love themselves because of WHO they are in Christ, not because of WHAT they do for Christ.
The greatest gift I can give to my children is to show them how to see themselves as beautiful because they have been fearfully and wonderfully made, not because they have flawless skin.
The greatest gift I can give to my children is to teach them to see themselves as strong and capable, not because of anything they have done, but because of what the Father is doing in them.
The greatest gift I can give to my children is to make room for them next to me at the feet of Jesus. To teach them how to clutch the hem of His robe. To teach them how to abide in the Father’s love, even when they don’t feel loveable. To allow the Perfect One to perfect them, and to sit still long enough for Him to do so.
Not only is it so important that our kids see us be wholly loved by the Perfect One, they also need to see us love and accept ourselves even amidst our imperfections. You see, I had set up all of these conditions to loving myself. My husband could love me regardless of my attitude, shape or size. My kids could love me regardless of how I had my hair fixed that day. But the problem lied within me. After our first two children, it was easier to love myself because I felt like I had it altogether. But in the desert season where it felt like everything fell apart, could I still love myself then?
Can I love myself just the way I am, right now?
Can I look in the mirror and see myself as beautiful when my hair is all over the place in the mornings?
Can I love myself even if I am not serving in any area of ministry?
Can I love myself even when I don’t feel like I’m using my gifts and talents?
Can I love myself when it feels like every area of my life is sub-par?
I wasn’t able to, but now I am learning that I must. I must love myself just the way that I am, right now, because Jesus loves me just the way that I am, right now.
He isn’t waiting on us to get our acts together to be intimate with us. He doesn’t tell us to perfect our parenting, our fitness routine, our beauty regimen, our dreams and goals or our quiet times before He shows us love. He wants us right now, just as we are, and the best thing we can do as Moms is to show our children that Jesus wants them right now, just as they are.
That is the beauty of the Gospel message. That God, in His perfection, sent His Son down to the world to save us, to take our imperfections upon Himself so that we may have LIFE. And not just any old life, but ABUNDANT life. And if God can accept me just the way I am, right now, then I MUST also accept myself, just the way I am, right now.
My children MUST see me love myself. They MUST see me speak highly of myself. They MUST see that I see myself as wholly loved.
Maybe you are discouraged today because you feel like a failure. Maybe your eyes have been opened to the ugliness of your imperfection. Maybe you have been hard on yourself because you haven’t done this Mom gig like you thought you would. Maybe you have found yourself in a rut, a pit, a wilderness season or a desert. And maybe because of this it has caused you to hold back, to hide, to cower.
But maybe you need to hear today that God has you right where He wants you. He is absolutely in love with you and He adores you just as you are.
Oh fellow mama, we must stop trying to be so perfect. We must stop squirming and trying to fix everything. We must stop trying to clean up before we come into His presence. But instead, we must get still and recognize that He wants us just as we are. Instead of viewing our imperfections as a bad thing, we must allow the Lord to use them as a holy and sanctifying thing. We must invite our children to see our imperfections, and show them how to cling to the hem of His robe.
For perhaps it is when we feel the weakest, and when we feel like we have nothing left to give, that the greatest gift is given- the gift of utter dependence on Christ. And teaching her children how to accept the grace that Jesus is offering and depend fully on Him is the greatest gift a mother can give to her children.