I didn’t think God would trust me to take care of a girl.
After all, I hadn’t been able to take care of myself. My early adult years—the first chance I got to take care of myself—were overshadowed by an eating disorder, self-destructive choices, shame, and a persistent feeling of never being enough.
Thanks to the relentless love of the Lord and those around me, I finally broke away from the lie that I was small and worthless if I wasn’t perfect, and learned to care for myself. I found an area of the world that I wanted to impact, pursued it purposefully, and began to actually transform some very small corners of the world. Slowly, my view of myself changed. I could do imperfectly good things.
And yet, as I began to feel the pull towards motherhood, I never pictured a daughter. Although I worked with girls professionally, and did it well, I knew that parenting a girl would be a much bigger job and frankly, I didn’t think God would trust me with the chance to wreck a girl again. Surely, he’d give me a resilient boy—someone that society would prop up in the places I didn’t do my job well. Not someone that our world tears down little by little. Not someone who looks to me as their model.
So when the nurse came out and said “it’s a girl,” I was overjoyed to meet her—and terrified about how I would mess it up.
Little did I know that having girls would mess ME up—in ways I still don’t completely understand.
Having girls has taught me how little I matter. I don’t say that in a self-deprecating sense, but seriously—in the scope of the whole planet we live on, with all the activities and people and joys and sorrows, no one else is losing energy over how my stomach looks today versus yesterday. Having two precious girls has both allowed and forced me to take my gaze off of myself and to focus on things that are infinitely more important.
I read the news differently—with an eye for what the stories say about the world we are creating. I realize that I won’t have eternity here on this earth and I want to spend my time making this world more loving, more just, and more gentle for two special girls and other children like them.
When I cry and worry now, I’m angsting over others—not so much myself. Having daughters with active minds and bodies has kept me busy enough that there isn’t time or energy enough for a rabbit hole of self-concern. I’m often the last thought on my mind, which is such a relief. When I do have time “to myself,” I recognize it as the treasure it actually is, and usually spend it productively and positively.
And as I have watched my daughters’ chunky legs give way to thinned limbs and their toothless grins turn white and their words come where no words were before, they have taught me to appreciate time. I realize now that THIS IS MY LIFE. It is fleeting. I cannot grab the moments again; I have to spend them well and release them—onto the next.
Our last house had one full-length mirror; it was in my daughter’s room. I realized pretty quickly that she watched me every time I looked at myself in the mirror. Did I want her to see me body-checking and feeling inadequate, or did I want her to hear me say “blue looks good on me, now let’s go play?” When we moved, I didn’t even bring the full-length mirror, because I’ve taught my daughters that having clothes on our bodies and shoes on our feet is a gift…and I don’t want to waste time critiquing a gift.
Staying home with my daughters has involved financial changes. Out of necessity, I stopped shopping for confidence in the mall and started developing confidence that goes beyond my clothes. I’ve bought less than ten pieces of clothing in the last two years—and along the way God has demonstrated to me in a way I would have never been receptive to before that my appearance is irrelevant to my worth.
Having daughters has taught me how hard and how long I can work and how much I am capable of with God’s help. It has strengthened my ability to find joy in tough times. It has increased my creativity and flexibility and trust in God’s provision. I used to crave achievement; now, I crave wisdom.
Having daughters has made me think about legacy. It has made me get detailed about the characteristics and values I want to bring to my everyday, intimate relationships. It has made me assess who I am and who I want to be—not with eyes of critique and self-flagellation, but with eyes of possibility and dreaming and excitement about who I could be for them.I thought I understood grace as a scared 20 year old, eating huge plates of food and recognizing the second chance at life she had been given. I recognize now though that I never fully accepted the grace—only the mercy.
I knew God forgave me, but I was still on edge. I had used my one screw-up, and He had saved me, but I better play it safe and not mess up again.
If I went back and told that 20 year old that she’d have daughters someday, she’d think “oh wow, God really gave me a second chance.”
Being trusted with these daughters, and learning how to walk with Him daily as I parent them, has taught me that there is no such thing as a second chance with God. Because grace isn’t a second chance; it’s a first chance over and over again.
He’s not slowly recovering from my last screw-up, reluctantly handing over the trust again—I am white as snow to Him. The old has gone; the new has come, and it comes over and over and over again. He isn’t pacing while He waits for my inevitable fall; He knows I will fail and yet He trusts me.
A decade later, I am shaped and moved and carried by this and only this: nothing I do can make Him love me more or less. He loves me because He is love—not because of me.
My flesh fits comfortably now because He made it and He loves it. And slowly I am learning that when He looks at me, He doesn’t see my actions or my efforts or anything else I do to “deserve” or “earn” his favor or “win back” His love after my mistakes.
He only sees me. And He calls me good—because I am His.
Last week, one of my daughters had a series of bad choices that led to an injury and a mess. As I washed her hands in her tiny bathroom she apologized over and over and over again: “I’m sorry, mama. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. ”
“Honey, I already forgot what you did,” I told her, meaning it. And all I could think of was the scripture—“you are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.”
We are clean—not because of our merit. Not because of our good choices. Not because of our outstanding achievements. But because HE LOVES US, and because He has decided that is enough.
Becoming a mama has put flesh and bones on the gospel message: He loves me enough to give me endless second chances. He loves me enough to give me something important to do. He loves me even though I mess it up.
He loves me because He is love.
And He trusts me to be a vehicle for His love on this Earth.
There is no greater privilege.
I wouldn’t be able to enjoy this blessing- and challenge-filled job without the support of my own mom, dad, mother-in-law, sister, partner, and group of wonderful friends. Thank you to ALL of you for investing in me and my family and for being my friend on this journey. And I am especially thankful on this Mother’s Day and on every day for my daughters’ birthmothers, who gave my girls the gift of life and who entrusted me with this job.
Oh, and here was our best attempt at Mother’s Day photos. We should be models! 🙂