Imperfectly, Perfect

My small four-year-old fingers are intertwined in her soft and silky long brown hair. In my ear, all I can feel is her warm breath as she inhales to sing another lyric of a song that makes every bone in my tiny body melt into her more. Love evaporates from her into me and molds me more into all that she wants me to be. The smell of her soft perfume permeates my senses and all I can do is melt into her and listen to each and every lucid lyric that comes from her soft mouth straight into my heart.

This is one of my first and very most treasured memories of my mother and I. In times of struggle and feelings I’ve lacked in self-worth, this memory has been one I’ve held on to many times throughout my life. The young remembrance of my mother’s love and her song all over me is really what I think of her when I dig deep into my memory bank. I haven’t thought of how clean our house was, what was served at dinner, or what she wore. My memory cave brings me back time and time again to the way I felt in her arms when it was just her and I. All that consumes me when I blanket myself with my memory of her is…love. Pure. Unapologetic, raw and beautiful love.

We as women get caught up in the idea we have in our heads as to what makes us a good mother. The pressure to be perfect has never been more intense and our own mind creates this version of what we should be to produce amazing children to gift to the world when we are done raising them. Having this preconceived notion that we have to dance a dance of perfection plagues this generation of mothers who are just trying in this life to do more than has ever been done before. We now have to add the task of providers, protectors, nurturers and loving creatures that will do and be what our kids deserve.

Is it ever enough?

A good friend of mine recently said that she thinks she is a bad mom. Now, this statement left me in shock and a bit angry. I mean, this woman is a GREAT mom who loves on her kids with every breath she takes,  kissing on them, planning great days filled with films of memories for them for when they are older. So, why does what I see as a perfect mom think she is, in fact, a bad mom get me so riled up? Possibly because I often times feel the same way about myself. The reflection she had on her defeated face was staring me blankly in the eyes that looked all too familiar speaking lies that can sink even the strongest of vessels.

This made me take pause at my own life. She said her house is a mess and she doesn’t cook really great dinners like you see on Instagram. Quite honestly if I was held to this regard I would be the worst mother alive. My house isn’t spotless (okay it’s a hot mess at the best of times) and I’m pretty sure if it weren’t for my husband Alan, we’d all completely die of starvation. Yet, as I sought out my reality in this encounter with my dear friend, I too have thought this of myself on many occasions.  But why as God see’s us as perfectly imperfect and that is enough for Him.

I’m a bad mom. I work too much and often times am writing when I could be spending time with them. They don’t have perfect little cubby hole things to put their toys in so their rooms don’t look like a hurricane just drove a deep dive through their bedrooms. I have vices I wish they didn’t know I had. I am tired and cranky at times and look like a zombie on the weekends. I’m sometimes quicker to anger than I wished and I don’t have them in five thousand activities that I’m sure would make them poised to be leaders of the free world.

Why is it so hard for me to hear my friend say those things about herself?  Although I can speak the same language to myself on more occasions I’d like to admit I have. Every time I sit in a deep sinking mud of self-loathing that wants to drown me, my husband reminds me of what a great mom I am. I do hear him and drag myself out of the messy quicksand and wipe myself off and try to remember that I do give them all the love I have. But, why is it so much more of a wake-up call now that I’ve heard my friend speak the bad mom language over herself? I truly think this is so because I see her as a perfect love for her 4 kids, so why do I not see that in myself? Why are we so impossibly hard on ourselves for being…well…imperfectly loving and capable mothers?

My oldest son who is 20 tells me that he appreciates all that I’ve sacrificed for him. My 17-year-old son tells me I’m his hero. My little ones who are 10 and 5 squeal with delight when I come home as I hug them longer than I’m sure they’d like. That speaks all it should, but at times it isn’t enough. I hold myself to this high and impossible regard that at time steals my joy because I can’t obtain the perfection that I have in mind for myself.

A messy house with unfolded clothes on the floor and dreams of play times that pass me by are always in the back of my mind but deep in theirs has to be the love I give them when I hug them. When I walk away early in the morning to work to provide for our family they see me laboring hard for us and the dreams I chase in the aftermath must mean something to them.  As a matter of fact, I know it does, as my (almost) grown children have told me so.

When you hold your baby to your heart (no matter their age) and allow them to feel the passion you have for them that is like no other it makes you a good mom. When you put down the distractions of the day to watch them play you truly take in the essence of motherhood. Breathing in the air that surrounds them is like filling your lungs up with oxygen and feeding your soul with enough water to travel decades in the desert.

When my daughter asked me tonight to sit on my lap, I immediately put my phone down, grabbed her on my lap and breathed in her essence as I sang a single lullaby in her ear. A messy house behind me, and my insecurity telling me that I need to be better, I recalled my encounter with my own mother and my heart lifted knowing that this is what she will remember. This is enough.

Soft sweet nothings sang in her ear with my love exploding all over her like a thousand stars lighting up the sky took over all my insecurities of what I have deemed it is to be a perfect mom. That is what she’ll remember and all I will treasure when it’s all said and done and I’ve given my best version of myself to the world.

The Testimony

Hearing the testimonies of some amazing young people recently made me introspect and consilidate my own story…my reason for praise in midst of darkness.

 

lake_trail_by_alancross

I was raised in a Christian home.  Kinda.  My grandparents were my primary caregivers from age four until nine, and we went to church every Sunday morning.  Yet I longed for my mom and dad who were too busy living their own lives with their other families to care. At least that is how I felt.  And still do.

While doodling on the offering envelope with the smell of oak pews and mold in my essence I caught words in the sermon that yelled the consequences of not knowing Jesus as my personal Savior.  This revelation terrified me as I didn’t have a savior and the thought of flesh-eating fire was a little…well…scary.

So I accepted Jesus into my heart in the depths of the night, in the suburbs of Chicago as a little girl who had wide eyes of fear of a God who could abandon her and send her to hell as fast as the night turned to day.  It seemed real enough given my circumstances thus far in life.

Fast forward ten years where I was given the opportunity to truly experience Jesus through worship.  Music in its truest form has a way of convicting the heaviest of hearts and breaking through the thickest of oppositions.

I was sixteen, passionate, and in love with Jesus, proclaiming His Love and shouting His mercy at every turn.  I wrote an award-winning poem, I sang in worship, played my flute to his honor Him and brought the Word of God whenever I was asked in the form of speaking.

I.  Was. On fire.

Pain and parental abandonment meant nothing in the face of Christ’s unconditional love and that can be the raw beauty of a life story, the light is outweighed by the darkness.  Love gives way to hate and we can be set free…

I met my first husband at Intervarsity Christian Fellowship and we praised our God together.  Our testimony alone was the place we were despite the places we had come from.  And our spirits were full.

Until tragedy struck our young lives and instead of turning toward Him we fled.  Faster than the wind and swifter than a famine.  We abandoned our faith in exchange for anger and resentment of a God who had always given us all we needed.  We left Him and neglected His Grace because we couldn’t see The Testimony in the face of devastation.

We had a child, a  baby boy with black hair and big eyes encompassing possibility that I just couldn’t leave in a mess of complications filled with single parenthood.  So I followed the journey of godlessness, believing every last lie I was fed.  We were a family filled with love and questions of how God could bring tribulation to good people, and how Jesus could leave us unwashed with His grace?

I lived breathed and knew secularism.  It suited me, being a strong independent woman who knew who she was and where she wanted to go…on her own.  My future seemed bright and filled with joy and promise.  As the enemy screams so you succumb to the lies.

Eventually, divorce came and left me ragged, turmoil knocked at my door and Jesus never felt so far away.  I married again, a Canadian with a heart bigger than hearts themselves; just not enough to save me.

Because people never can save us.

We had a baby together in the cold of March and we felt the loveliness that a child comes from.  Yet we didn’t praise our God who gave, we simply just didn’t...

Then a year later we lost a baby in the warmth of spring with the songs of birds and promise.  Jaden Hope went on to the next and I hated God more now than ever.

“See!” I cried.  “You are not my God.”  No God would take the one thing I love the most, my children. 

Yet, eighteen months later I found out my twenty-three-week old baby boy would die too.

My anger peaked, my faith diminished further into a blur of reality and existence, a place where no one knows which is more powerful.

“This is why I don’t believe!”  I bellowed into the night’s sky trying to figure it all out.

Why?  Why just why?

He told me that I was not broken that I was filled.  And I shouted, “leave me alone, I don’t know what you want from me!”

Days later a dear friend from my youth prophesied over me telling me that God had provision over my life that I would find Him again and be even more of a powerful tool than I was in my youth.  My eyes rolled and my heart churned in a cadence of anger.  “You are not using me, God, for you have wrecked me.  You’ve taken from me.  You’ve left me for dead.  I hate you.”

Yet I didn’t hate, or regret, or demolish my God.  I was finding my way back through His grace.

For He had a plan.

Four years later as I gave birth to a perfectly healthy baby girl in the trenches of a cold December Wisconsin afternoon and then I saw His grace come full circle.  The hospital room was filled with people watching the unfolding of God’s promise and Truth as my tears met my husband’s forming a perfect Rainbow, letting us know we will never be stricken by the same tragedy twice and that we had finally met our Grace.

My climb back truly began somewhere in between.  My older sons at that time immersed themselves at Journey Church in Kenosha, Wisconsin after I brought them there instinctively after a major life crisis struck.

The sound of song flowed beautifully throughout my home as my oldest son, the black haired baby who had grown up found a passion for music as I had as a teen so many years ago.  My second son Cameron bled the Word of God and even though I wanted it back only in small pieces God always had a plan.

They begged us to come to church and I fought it until I just couldn’t deny the gift of grace on my life any longer.  The testimony begged to be told, the ending needed to be unveiled.  Because God told me one cold February night at Saturday church as Pastor Jordan sang and the angels watched that it was time to come home.

To fulfill the prophesy allowing my life to be used in a greater manner than it was in my youth.  It was time, and He told that through my suffering He was using me, waiting for me, but mostly, loving me.

And…He really was all along the way.

Luke 15:32… My son,the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.  But we had to celebrate and be glad because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”
My life isn’t perfect, I struggle and then I fall.  I get it and then I don’t.  But through my vision of loss and redemption,  I see that my testimony alone is the place I am despite the place I came.  

Please enjoy the song that inspired this blog post…and may its words soak into your heart as you overcome odds and fulfill your destiny…