Perspective

parenting as a means of grace {& a poem by Hadley}

I didn’t necessarily choose to become a mother, but God in his grace chose it for me. Despite my sinfulness and foolishness, my “consequence” turned out to be one of the greatest blessings of my life–my daughter, Hadley.

I was sharing that with a friend this week, recalling the ways Hadley was a means of God’s grace to me. Because of her, I moved home. The depth of relationship I have now with my parents and siblings is in part due to our moves around the country, but it’s largely owed to those most recent years we spent together again, with most of us back under one roof, all of us in one city for at least a little while. My family loved my daughter and supported me, collectively taking the place as Hadley’s other parent. A few years later, my brother would walk Hadley down the aisle at my wedding, this symbol of my family relinquishing that role to my new husband. They stepped back into “just” grandparents, aunts, and uncle, but not without holding Hadley tight and making sure they were entrusting her to a man worthy to be called her dad. They handed her over to my husband confidently, but we all knew he had big shoes to fill.

Though I don’t remember it clearly, I figure Hadley was part of the reason I went back to church. Even though I felt the need to protect her from God, I was also lonely. Being 22 and a parent made it difficult to make friends, and eventually I found myself in a church, drawn once again into the community that can be found there. Later, I landed in a church where the gospel rang loud and clear, penetrating my heart and bringing me to life. I sat in a living room filled with strangers and wept as I confessed my unwillingness to dedicate Hadley to God–my fear that he couldn’t be trusted–the reality that I’d been running from him for years. I don’t remember the words that comforted me, but I remember that they were gentle and welcoming, that they assured me of God’s goodness, that I started to believe maybe he was my good Father, and that maybe he could be Hadley’s, too.

My entire journey of faith is intertwined with my growth as Hadley’s mom. So while parenting isn’t on the official list of sacraments, it’s been a means of God’s grace to me. A means through which he drew me to himself, a means through which he reveals to me who he is, a means through which he reminds me of my desperation, a means through which he reminds me of his power in my weakness, of his sufficiency in my inadequacy.

I know we go through seasons as parents where we’re confident we’re failing, and we’ll all pat each other’s shoulders and say that we’re all doing the best we can. And deep down, we’ll know that may or may not be true. Am I doing the best I can? Am I stewarding these little hearts entrusted to me?

Lately, I’m not sure the answer is yes. Lately, I’m tired and a little frantic. Following a season of feeling most like myself, there’s this growing distance between my kids and I, and also this pending deadline where we’ll all be together, packed into a tiny house, wondering how we’re going to make it through the day without killing each other.

And, like most moms who feel like we’re failing, I forget about the grace. I forget that it doesn’t all rest on my shoulders. That just as God is shaping me in the mess, so he is shaping my children.

He calls us to be faithful participants, but it’s his work, and he’s faithful even when we’re faithless.

This morning, I went to “Muffins with Mom” with Hadley. Hadley had signed up to read a poem she’d written, and her words took my breath away. Afterwards, I sat in the car and wept. Certainly in poems written to honor your mother you don’t say all the terrible things, but to think she could say such beautiful, kind things about this monster of a mother I’ve been–to think that perhaps this is how she’ll remember me–perhaps these will be the attributes we share. Only by grace.

This morning, I experienced God’s grace through the simple love of a daughter for a sinful mother. It’s just a Mother’s Day poem. But it’s also a reminder of the privilege it is to be this child’s mother. And it’s hope–hope for this next season of deepening friendship with my children, of growth as a faithful steward of their hearts, of ever-increasing dependence on the God who lavishes grace upon grace.

Here’s Hadley’s poem:

Collaborative, creative, courageous, and kind
Critical thinking and using her mind
Adventurous, active, artistic, and all
She’ll keep going no matter how many falls
Strategic, scientific, surprising, and sweet
Being in her presence is always a treat

Who is this person, strong of heart, mind, and muscle
Pulling people out the door in a hustle
Being the best just when you need it
She is amazing, no one else can beat it

This person I speak of with this certainty
Who is so special and amazing to me
Is my mom sitting right down over there
I could find her anywhere

And now my poem is ending like all poems should
I hope it’s been great, or maybe just good
But all of this is just to say
Mom, Happy Mother’s Day

(Photo by Northern Stories)