Knuckles jutting rose as she clasped both around mine, the same ones that would run gently, tenderly through my hair in the childhood dark when nightmares would rise and sounds creak too loud; her hands are growing just a little more papery by the year. Cold, sharp tears crept up my throat and crawled unwelcome behind my eyes as I set my jaw and swallowed hard and admitted the haunting fear.
“What if I’m not the mother you were?” I whispered to her.
I feel it most when I walk distracted through the day, choose activities to suit me best, linger alone downstairs while upstairs I’m needed, wish wearily for night and a quiet house, don’t kiss goodnight and shut the door a little too quickly settling in for a few hours of peace - a whole day gone, never to be relived and I'm met by heavy realizations of so many wasted opportunities, so many chances for laughter and lessons and wrapping my arms around them into me ignored, squandered.
What if someday they look back and feel like in my sigh I am breathing out their nuisance. What if they feel my fatigue as rejection.
What if by my own shortcomings I leave them feeling like they’ve fallen short.
And even softer, never said because of how loud it threatens,
what if I’m not enough.
She smiled gently at me, understanding.
“Oh, honey, you won’t be me. You’ll never be.
You’ll be, you are already, the mother your children need.”
I’m who they need?
I’ve said before, they’re the ones I need,
but to think I’m the one they need? That is where I’m humbled.
I’m who they need to show them how to hug with arms wrapped all the way around and squeezed in tight.
It’s my coffee they need to smell each morning.
I’m the one they need to sing at the top of my lungs at the breakfast table because the sun is shining through the window and throwing flickering reflections across a messy, crumby table and it IS the day the Lord has made.
I’m the one who they need juggling and juggling, somedays quiet and somedays busy and letting them play for hours on their own, telling them to be quiet, taking phone calls, paying bills, and running everyday life.
I’m the one who they need to see throw the snarky remarks at their daddy and then finally come back to him again with tearful I'm sorries forgiven and kissing him on the lips.
They need my multi-tasking, my distraction, my healthy, my sweet tooth, my penny-pinching, my shopping sprees, my bossy, my pride, my love for learning, my artistic streak, my passion.
I’m who they need, because I’m who was chosen for them.
In all my insecurities and inabilities every bit as much as my interests and my intelligences, in all I was created to be and foreknown to be and still loved enough to be chosen to be.
I’m who they need.
And just like that, my fears are brought back down to all they really ever are, accusations to paralyze.
And just like that, her words of life breathe strength and hope and vision.
It’s what she’s always done, really.
Speaking truth in a world full of facades.
Speaking grace in a world full of noise.
Speaking her delight over me.
And once again I'm left assured and simultaneously challenged to do the same to my own.
To get down on my knees softly in order to speak most strongly.
“The tongue has the power of life and death” Proverbs 18:21
Too often my words are caught up in the winds of humanity, frustration with shortcomings, repetition, and exhaustion winding with swirling intensity, beating down on tender hearts.
“Set a guard over my mouth, Oh Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.” Psalm 141:3
Or I let words fall few or even perhaps too many, but either way flattery, vague, inattention, meaningless.
“Those who guard their lips, preserve their lives” Proverbs 13:3
When I could instead guide with firm, lasting speech, redirect with purpose, carry life with every breath.
“Gracious words are like honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and healing to the bones.” Proverbs 16:24
Oh to harness this power to equip with truth and grace, imparting confidence rather than coddling, ministering rather than meddling.
“Finally, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” Philippians 4:8
What if I could with conviction dwell more on the beauty of my children’s spirits and speak to who they’ve been fashioned, hand-created, called to be?
What if I could with vision speak to the great things they’ve done and how much more they will do?
“For the mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.” Luke 6:45
What if I filled my heart with only wonder of His creation, these tender, beautiful souls, and thus let it bubble over so vivaciously?
I have to pause, let this settle in.
How powerful this would be.
In fact, isn’t this unmatched, awesome power, isn’t this the very message of the Gospel?
Isn’t this the glorious reality of our redemption?
Isn’t this what He does? What He’s already done?
The righteous God, My Savior, The Creator of all creation, He doesn’t see my flaws, but my beauty. In fact, it’s not all about what I’ve already done or failed to do, but truly, simply, that He chooses me.
“He takes great delight in you; he renews you by his love; he shouts for joy over you." Zephaniah 3:17
And He delights in me.
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