1 Peter 4:10-11
Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.
In a matter of days each of our three children will climb a few stairs, stride across a stage and leap right into a new season of life. No harness or carabiner, no net or ropes. Just mom and dad as spotters along the sides.
It is such a great and deep mystery to be a mother.
When exactly did I transition from wiping bottoms and filling sippy cups to helping with budgets and degree plans? The reality is that it took years and yet all happened in one mysterious blink of an eye. Our family is faced with a month of marking time in big ways. We did not plan it this way. Three graduations within 10 days. Add 2 birthdays, an anniversary and Mother’s Day into that same time frame and there is valid reason to say a little prayer for my sanity.
Oh to process all the BIG feelings! Head down in the rut of motherhood is where I’ve spent a significant chunk of my mental and physical energy for the past 22 years. My eyes have been focused on growing our three children and doing all the daily repetitive tasks: the fertilization, the watering, the pruning, elbow deep in the muddy mess. All of a sudden I raise my head and I’m startled to discover all the growth that’s happened overnight.
Beautiful thin places are ahead for us all, those moments when the veil between heaven and earth shimmers especially bright. I’m already beginning to feel their holy weight and I do not want them swallowed up by a busy schedule and lists. So I’m writing the feelings down. So I can recognize and honor the moments as they occur. And so I don’t forget.
This is the odd truth. I’m just not feeling very motherly. I watch these babies of mine prepare to launch in 3 different phases and I feel like an observer. Each is getting ready to do their thing and I’m standing here holding my breath, somewhat disoriented.
And so as I’ve chewed around on this feeling, the big idea that has been made clear is that the call of motherhood is more accurately the call to stewardship. The definition of steward that seems at this this time very familiar is “one who manages or administers as an agent of another.”
I am God’s steward in this role as mother.
It may just be a matter of semantics, but these years of parenting have actually been spent stewarding three gifts loaned to Todd and I by our King. And staring down the month ahead I feel, in some ways, like a steward transitioning her place back to the rightful owner.
It began that first day in the hospital with Caitlin. She was delivered along with an absolutely overwhelming sense of ‘oh no i can’t do this’ responsibility. God was asking me to take care of his precious child on his behalf. It was a task I knew I could never do on my own. But only God would dare ask me to do something he knew in advance I was incapable of without him. Three times he asked me to do the impossible.
As steward, I’ve had to be put in my place often, repeatedly relearning my character’s role in the big story. During terrified middle of the night prayers. In the midst of more temper tantrums than I can count (I’m talking about mine, too). And in all the out of control moments that being a mother delivers.
All I do as a mom goes poorly if done on my own. But if I view my mothering as stewardship, I am able to rise above the grit and shift perspective back to who it is I labor for. Not myself. Not even my children.
This stewarding gig has taught me, more than anything, just how much grace I need. Thankfully, the reality of grace is that the more you press into it, the more comes your way. Thinking about the many grace gifts to come along, three especially stand out.
The Gift of Their Own Story…
My kids are part of my story. I am part of theirs, but we are not the be all and end all of each other’s existence.
They weren’t given as a blob of unformed clay to be used for my own selfish sculpture. No, I was charged with the care and keeping of autonomous human beings with a story uniquely their own. They came with a personality and gifts, strengths and weaknesses all laid down in the tracts of their DNA.
Some of my worst moments as a steward have been when I forgot their story. When I forgot who the rightful author was. When I tried to make what was happening to them about me, me, me.
It is a daily struggle to get out of my own way so I can mother with a higher purpose. As a steward, each child I’ve been given requires a completely different mindset. It is my job to help them uncover, to seek like treasure the plan and purpose our King has for them. The way I mother one cannot be compared with any other because of their unique story. This is so hard to remember and even harder to practice.
It’s why I have never been a fan of scripted parenting. It’s a tenuous balance to search out parenting ideas, advice, and strategies without falling into the comparison trap. The uniqueness of each mother/child combination cannot be overestimated. My children are writing their own stories and that requires me to go beyond simply finding out what everyone else is doing. It is a complicated waltz, this dance we do.
Sometimes I’ve gotten cranky at the King because of ways the story has unfolded for my child. And then when sweet moments of victory come how easily I jump to take all the credit.
So God keeps reminding me that I am not the boss of those stories. It all seems to work better when I mother not as owner of, but as a student of their story. Isn’t that part of the mystery of motherhood, that we learn more in the process than we teach? Thank goodness for the grace here. Which leads to…
The Gift of Imperfection.
I love this quote by Becky Ahlberg, “Character building starts early, and godly character is countercultural in the truest sense of that word. We don’t build character in our children when we keep them from being exposed to the world, we build character when we teach children to be in the world but not of the world…in the crucible of choices and consequences.”
To me that ‘crucible of choices and consequences’ can happen only because of the gift of imperfection.
I don’t remember when the tipping point was, the one moment when I realized trying to be the perfect mom to the perfect children was not humanly possible. That it was kin to crazy to believe so. It probably was after the 57th grocery store meltdown. Or the day I almost broke my hand in anger on the steering wheel. Or when I would hide and cry in the closet. Or when the tub of butter splashed high enough to stain the ceiling. Or when I … (ad nauseum)
All I know is that it was early on in my mothering days when perfection proved itself to be a lie, for myself and for my kids. But, man this is a tough nut to crack because the stakes are high, pressure is great and some days it all goes down into a squirrelly mess.
Imperfections create the holy stew of a steward.
Remember Denethor? He was the crazy steward of Gondor in The Return of the King who thought the kingdom was his, that he was in total charge and owned it. As I watched this movie, I recognized something of myself in him and am confident that my own Denethor style stewardship has warped pieces of my children’s hearts. Some weedy seeds of their mother’s insecurity have no doubt been sown inside my children and will need to be rooted out. But my one desire has been for them to bloom into the adults God wants them to be. No matter how many detours that takes. No matter how many hard lessons have to be learned by us all.
It’s only been recently that I’ve begun, not just to accept, but to embrace those imperfect places in our lives as gifts of grace. It has kept me grounded in the reality of our need for God and therein lies the gift. By acknowledging the imperfections in all our stories we are gracefully led back to our original need for the King to return and make it all perfect someday.
I am thankful to author Brene’ Brown for leading me along toward this truth. “Shame is about fear, blame, and disconnection. Story is about worthiness and embracing the imperfections that bring us courage, compassion, and connection. If we want to live fully, without the constant fear of not being enough, we have to own our story.”
So as a mom I find myself apologizing often. In our house, we have hard and awkward talks about sin. And because of that I pray the message has been communicated that perfection is a lie and that my kids are learning to own their story. And while we learn I must not forget…
The Gift of a Loose Grip.
If I can think of one thing I did right as a mother so far, it’s been those times I trusted God to parent my children better than me.
I get all jacked up in my mothering practices when I forget these children are not mine to start with, when I take over the reins and rule as if they are my possessions. That their behavior and plans and personalities are a direct reflection of ME. When I get all jittery because of their choices and decisions and attitudes is when my inner control freak comes lashing out, trying to manipulate circumstances and overlay my agenda on top of their best interests.
As a mother I’ve been afraid of the past. I’ve been terrified in the present and I’ve trembled with uncertainty at the future. What if it wasn’t good enough…What if I didn’t give them enough….What if I gave them too much….What if I wasn’t enough….?
That’s when grace steps in and whispers these words in the quiet of night when my knuckles whiten, “Hold loosely. Trust me. I know what I am doing with these gifts I’ve loaned to you.” This is both encouraging and terrifying.
This job as steward of these precious children has, over the years, gotten tangled up in my identity. Over and over I’ve had to allow God to pry my sweaty claws off the process.
To hold loosely is to feel the joy of stewardship instead of the weight of ownership.
The amazing news is that each morning God offers a pool of grace to flop around in while I do this job he has called me to.
“They hold heir thrones in stewardship from God—responsible to Him.” Ray C. Hilliam
(We have an obscene amount of outtakes to get a decent picture around here)
We recently attended the funeral of a dear mentor and friend. It was spoken that “his life was about deliberately stewarding the influence he had been given.” Oh how I want those words spoken about me.
Who knows how our stories will eventually end. While I wait to find out, I’ll do the best I can with each day, while pointing my children in heaven’s direction.
And may I stand like a steward waiting on high alert for the return of the King.
(I shared these words with a group of beautiful women last week and thought I’d share them here too…So I don’t forget.)
This song by the Tow’rs has been on repeat for the past few weeks. The video just slays me. Maybe it’s those faces, the guitar player, the trees and the words about their mother…I just love it.