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What I didn’t know: Words for a young mother

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Opinions expressed here are solely those of the author.

Spring is here at last. With it, the rains have come, and the budding of the leaves, and the flowers. Just before the chicken coop, marigolds march in cheerful rows. They are looking to root. Beneath the surface, tiny tendrils unfurl in the dark, unseen. And tomorrow, it’s Mother’s Day.

I’m thinking back to the naïve, young woman who gave birth one December day. When that 8-lb., 10-oz. chunk was born, so was a 96-pound mother. I’m thinking today of all that girl didn’t know. Now, 34 years later, there is much that she’s learned and much for which she is grateful. If I could go back in time and talk to that young mother, these are some of the things I would tell her.

First, I would tell her that mothering will be the hardest job she’ll ever have. It will require more from her than she thinks she can give, but it will give her more than she ever dreamt she’d receive.

Exhaustion will be her long-term companion, for motherhood is costly. It costs infinite time, resources, and energy. It will take a toll on her physical body, but all of this she will gladly give, and all for love.

I’d tell her that mothering will strip her down to the bone, showing her how selfish she can be. In laying down her life for her children, she will take it up again, and that life will be sweet, and rich, and full. She will learn, as she walks this sacrificial path, just how much strength she has. It will be far more than she knows.

She is the greatest of investors, this mother, for she invests, not in stocks or bonds, but in lives. She will learn the immutable law of sowing and reaping by living it. There will be seasons of planting, pruning, weeding, and fertilizing young hearts and minds. Just as she puts cages about her tomato plants, binding them carefully to the stakes until they reach full growth, just so she will guide the souls within her care. And exactly as it does in her garden, the fruit will appear.

I would tell this young mother that parenting will cause her faith to grow like nothing else could. She will quickly see that the job is far bigger than her tiny frame and that she will need a great, big God to help her do it. She will find that God is well able, wholly willing, and always faithful.

Her children (I know this now) will pull her to places she’d never go and to people she wouldn’t otherwise meet without them. Because of her own sons out in the world, her heart will be greatly expanded, and she will see everyone she meets as what they are—someone else’s kids. By learning to love others, she will find deep contentment and true fulfillment. Her children will learn to love others, too, and so the Light will spread. I’d tell her this as well.

“It’s okay to fail. You don’t have to be a perfect parent. As long as you’re connected to the Perfect Parent, you will have all that you need to mother your children. God will take it from there.” That is the final nugget I’d give the mother who stood in a hospital room all those years ago and nuzzled the head of her firstborn, breathing prayers.

Now, many years hence, this veteran mother reached out to her four sons with one question. “What is the biggest thing you’ve learned from me? And don’t flatter.” This is what they said.

Son one, 34, on staff at a rehab facility: “To listen to the Lord and claim truth over lies, whether bad situations, intrusive thoughts, or the enemy’s lies.”

Son two, 30, aspiring actor: “One of the biggest things that you’ve taught me is the importance of having deep wisdom for navigating life, how it is necessary for helping others, and how it only comes from intimately knowing and loving God. Also, you have taught me the importance of having good humor and how much easier life is when we can see the ‘funny’ in things. One of the reasons I enjoy spending time with you guys so much is because our family is one of laughter, and from a very early age up to now, you have modeled for me how it gives you an instant connection with people. Growing up, you modeled for me how you could disarm people with your quick wit and love of making people laugh. Now it is a favorite tool of mine that I love to use with the people around me.”

Son three, 25, politics: “One of the things that you have taught me about is God’s character. You explained once how patient he was with you during (a difficult season) awhile back and how he ‘proved’ his love to you. You also put it into context that he is very respectful and will not go where he is not invited. These are just a few of the things. Thank you for teaching us these lessons.”

Son four, 17, happy teenager: “Best thing you taught me:  always be a blessing to people and keep eyes open for those that need it.”

To all mothers everywhere who are carefully tending young plants looking to root, these words. Beneath the surface where you cannot see, those tendrils are unfurling. Much good work is happening in the dampness and the dark, and soon the fruit will appear. And just as I’d tell that other mother from long ago, “You don’t have to be perfect. It’s okay to fail. Stay connected to God. He is faithful.”

From America’s small, caffeinated mom, “Happy Mother’s Day!”