Hey Sweet Friends! Turns out the Lord is even sovereign in concussion symptoms because if I had produced a full post last week I might have missed Him on this one and something tells me that would have been a big miss.
I stood in the kitchen with my roommate talking about motherhood and that deep desire in both of us when all of a sudden I remembered something that happened when I was in the first grade. I was around 31 years-old when the Lord recovered this memory for me. Now, at 40, and in the years in between, I hold onto that memory as a lifeline to the desire I have to be a Moma. That desire that I believe God Himself put in the deepest reaches of my heart.
There I was, at school, playing with a couple of friends when the little boy I was playing with asked our teacher how many children she had. She immediately answered with, “Well, I have 20 children” (or however many students were in our class that year). The little boy looked shocked and she smiled a little and pointed around the classroom and she said, “All of you are my children.”
He understood then but said, “Noooo, how many children do you have at home?”
She answered simply, “My husband and I don’t have any children.”
Up to this point, I had only been an observer of this exchange, but at her answer, my little six year-old heart broke.
Standing in my kitchen with my roommate, remembering this moment, I remembered thinking that was the saddest thing I’d ever heard.
I don’t know why she never had any children and, really, I don’t share this story to highlight her story but to tell you about the heart of six year-old Kathryn who, even then, wanted what she still doesn’t have. I’ve never even had a chance at it.
And, as we enter into Mother’s Day and hear all sorts of encouraging things to help bolster the moms in their calling as moms, I hear the Lord encourage me to speak up. For years I have grieved quietly and waited for others to speak to my broken heart. These days the Lord is stirring me up to speak to myself and the women like me.
Before I get into it, let me be clear. I don’t want you to feel sorry for me. Please don’t feel sorry for the sovereignty of God in my life. I’m simply asking you to see me and the women like me. Because Mother’s Day isn’t just hard for the women who don’t have babies.
When I was just 5 months old my Moma lost her Moma. I watched her grieve that loss openly, every Mother’s Day, until I was in Middle School, of course, it was called Jr High back then. Then somewhere around that time there was a shift in her. Later, she shared that someone in her life encouraged her to think of Mother’s Day in a different way, through the eyes of her children, because while she may not be able to celebrate with her moma anymore, she had children who wanted to celebrate with her.
For some, Mother’s Day is hard and it isn’t just the day. It’s the week’s of commercials leading up to it. Every day, for weeks, simply checking my email is a reminder that it is coming and for me, I’ve just gotten used to the intrusion, but what about the woman who just suffered a miscarriage a week before? Something tells me that email campaign, in the wake of her pain, hits differently for her.
In 2019 it was projected that Mother’s Day would bring in a whopping $25 billion. I’m not suggesting we undertake remaking such a commercial holiday, or even that the momas in our lives don’t deserve everything we gift them. I simply want us to be more sensitive to the fact that we don’t all experience the same warm and fuzzy holiday.
Several years ago, after moving back to Columbus after four and a half years in the Nashville area, I asked my moma what she wanted for Mother’s Day. She looked at me in earnest and said, “I want all of my children to go to church with me.” My heart sank, but I took a deep breath and I made a decision to love my moma more than I loved myself.
I stopped going to church on Mother’s Day years ago. Seeing all the celebrated Momas is hard enough on Instagram and Facebook from the safety and comfort of my own couch, but soul crushing in person, at church. Occasionally, I would attend a service where the pastor was sensitive to the women in the room who wanted to be momas but who were struggling with infertility and while that made me feel better for them, I still wasn’t acknowledged. My pain wasn’t seen, so I did the safer thing and kept me and my pain at home.
But my Moma, my biggest cheerleader, one of my best friends, she wanted me to go to church with her. That was the only thing she asked for. So I wrapped my pain up in my 35 year-old heart and I went to church.
As I sat next to my moma, in a pew I grew up in, I wondered if things would be different this Mother’s Day. I wondered if maybe over the last decade they had changed up their Mother’s Day recognition. Maybe “wondered” isn’t the best word to use here. Hoped feels more accurate. Desperately hoped that what I remembered is not what I would experience in a few short minutes.
When I was a little girl, I loved the Mother’s Day service of the church I grew up in. The senior pastor would get up and ask for the oldest mother, the youngest mother, and then the mother who had the most children. They would all come up and get a gift, everyone would clap and then all the mother’s were asked to stand and then the ushers would come and give each mom a small token. It was my favorite part, watching MY moma getting a gift. My favorite part in the innocence of my youth, now a dreaded moment of truth.
They hadn’t changed up their Mother’s Day recognition.
The tears began to flow. When they asked all the momas to stand and I was the only woman in my family who remained seated, when I was the only woman I could see who was still seated, I openly wept. And when I remained unseen, when any woman in that sanctuary, not a moma, for whatever reason, remained unseen throughout the pastor’s message, I continued to weep.
Bless my moma, it took her zero time for her to see me in my trying to hold it together. I think it was right after she sat back down that she put her arm around me and whispered in my ear, “I will never ask you to come to church on Mother’s Day again. I am so sorry!”
She sees me and I am so thankful.
I think it was the next year that I stood next to Moma, holding hands with the family as we prayed and I listened as my uncle listed every woman by name in that kitchen, except for mine, as he prayed and asked God to bless them. Moma squeezed my hand. When the prayer was over and everyone began making their way to fill their plates, she said, “And Kathryn. Lord, bless Kathryn.” My uncle said, “She isn’t a mother.” My moma, my sweet, cheerleader, warrior of a moma said, “Willa counts!”
I’m pretty sure my uncle rolled his eyes and scoffed and while that stung, I only had eyes for my moma. Like I said in What Not To Say!…I really do have the best Moma.
If I have heard a woman’s highest calling is motherhood one time I have heard it one too many times.
Can I ask you a question without you getting offended? Where does it say that in the Bible? If you can find the verse that says motherhood is a woman’s highest calling, I will stand corrected. But if it isn’t in the Bible, where did this idea come from? I imagine it came from some old preacher somewhere down the line to make women feel better about themselves and their lot in life. But frankly, I’m not interested in what some old preacher said from the pulpit over a hundred years ago to placate women who weren’t even allowed to vote and were the property of their husband’s. We have GOT to stop saying things just because we have always heard it said! What does the word of God say?!?
Now, for the women who are mothers, yes there is a chance that motherhood is God’s highest calling on your life and I would never try to take that away from you. But I will not take part in and condone a blanket statement where I cannot find myself. And if it makes me feel this way, I will not continue to let leaders in the church perpetuate wounding the women who are not mother’s without speaking up.
While I was verbally processing all of this with my friend, Christie, who is a moma, I asked her what her thoughts were on this statement and others that are said from church leadership and she drew a powerful parallel.
Physicians take the Hippocratic Oath before they begin practicing medicine and the commitment to “First, do no harm” is made. Her parallel was, what if pastors had a similar mindset. Before they did anything in their vocation of ministry they first, did no harm?
That got me thinking…what if that is how the whole Body of Christ acted? What if we were so in touch with the Holy Spirit of the Living God, we operated in a way we first, did no harm? In the way we share Christ with others, we first did no harm. Even when addressing a large group of people on a Sunday, celebrating the women who are mother’s, we first did no harm to the women sitting there holding onto hope with their fingernails.
That doesn’t mean it won’t still hurt. That doesn’t mean they won’t still cry. You can’t do anything about that, Sweet Friend. We are still going to hurt and we will still cry but you CAN, by the spirit of the Living God not add more harm and hurt and maybe by not adding to the harm, you can be a part of the healing.
So if the Bible doesn’t say that motherhood is a woman’s highest calling, what DOES it say?
Isaiah 54:1-4 says,
“Rejoice, childless one, who did not give birth; burst into song and shout, you who have not been in labor! For the children of the desolate one will be more than the children of the married woman,” says the Lord.
“Enlarge the site of your tent, and let your tent curtains be stretched out; do not hold back; lengthen your ropes, and drive your pegs deep. For you will spread out to the right and to the left, and your descendants will dispossess nations and inhabit the desolate cities. Do not be afraid, for you will not be put to shame; don’t be humiliated, for you will not be disgraced. For you will forget the shame of your youth.”
I love the Lord! How can verses like this be true all while Proverbs 31:10-31 are true as well? Because God is multi-dimensional and so is life and so is each individual experience.
Sweet Friend, who is a moma, you might cling to Proverbs 31:28 and pray that your children will rise up and call you blessed and it is right that you would cling to that. But I’m going to cling to the promise that “the children of the desolate one will be more than the children of the married woman.”
Because while you absolutely know something about the heart of God the Father as a moma that I do not know there is something I know about the presence of Jesus in the fellowship of his sufferings after enduring 26 years of monthly periods that literally have me in the bed with no baby to show for all that pain, discomfort, and grief. And Sweet Friends, here’s what I know to be true…both of those things are valuable, but only one of them is celebrated.
What do you want to be when you grow up? It’s a fun question we ask our kids to get them thinking about the future but also to find out what dreams are in their hearts, even if they are silly.
One of my earliest memories is finding out the little boy I had a crush on in Sunday school when I was maybe four years old, couldn’t marry me because he was going to grow up to be a garbage man. Really dude?!?
Looking back, I totally giggle at that 4 year old boy, but when I was four, I think I remember feeling a bit devastated. I can’t blame him though. When you are a child, there are so many options available to you. In Kindergarten I wanted to be an astronaut, by junior high I wanted to be a lawyer, and in high school I wanted to be a teacher.
When I was 34 years old I remember listening to the audio book Start by Jon Acuff and so much of what he talked about in that book asked the question, “What have you wanted to do since you were a kid?” When people asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” what was your answer?
I can remember exactly where I was when my heart screamed, “A moma! When I grew up, I wanted to be a Moma!” Sometimes, honestly answering questions leaves you more devastated than you anticipated, because really, what was I supposed to do with that revelation? Like all life marking revelations, it came in a pivotal season of my life when I was trying to discern what the Lord wanted me to do next, the biggest thing being a move back to my hometown of Columbus, Georgia where, unbeknownst to me a job and calling at Teen Advisors waited for me. I was not just moving back home to be closer to my family. I had a whole calling to walk into…but would I lay down the dead dream in my hands?
You see when I moved to Nashville I had a very specific idea of what my life would look like and four years later, I had a choice. I could stay two shades away from miserable, all the while holding desperately onto that dream, or I could lay it down to lay hold of what God had always intended my life to look like. So in utter exhaustion of trying to hold everything together I laid down what I wanted my life to look like so my hands would be empty and ready for what God would put in them.
It’s been about six years since I had that heartbreaking conversation with the Lord and it cost me a lot but God never asks us to sacrifice in vain. There is always beauty from ashes, a ram in the bush, a Savior on a cross, grave clothes in an empty tomb.
So for the Moma without children? What is the picture you have in your heart of what you wanted your life to look like? Have you had a conversation with Jesus about whether that picture is the one He had in mind when He created you?
Believe me. I know how risky that conversation feels. Have you ever considered He might have always intended your story to motherhood to look differently than the one in your heart? Maybe it’s adoption. Maybe it’s foster care. Maybe it’s being a stepparent. It may not be what you imagined but if He is in it, you know it’s going to be good, but Sweet Friend, you cannot lay hold of those ways until you lay down the dead and dying dream in your hands.
When I stood in that bathroom as my heart screamed, “A Moma! When I grew up, I wanted to be a Moma!” I believe Jesus was interceding for me to the Father. Interceding so I would have the strength to lay that dream down so I could pick up the gift of Matthew and Eli and Maddie and Sarah and Amy and Macy and Sydney and Lesey and Molly and Hannah and JJ and Felicity and Ellie and Cassanadra and Brooke…my sweet Brooke…and every single one of the students I’ve had the privilege to call mine and who have thought of me as Moma Kathryn.
When I think of what my life would be like if I had continued to hold that dead dream…
Sweet Friends, this is where the fear of the Lord is real! When I think of everything I would have missed out on…I can’t!
Is it different than I thought it would be? One hundred percent, and do you know what convicts me the most? If, at 25 years-old, God had given me a choice between my life now and the dream in my heart, I would have chosen the dream, without hesitation. And yet, those I wouldn’t have chosen, choose me. They choose to spend their time with me. They choose to trust me. They choose to invite me into their lives.
And while, at 25 years-old, I wouldn’t have chosen to love other people’s children as my own, I joyfully choose them now and because of that I am smack dab in the middle of God restoring the years that the locusts have stolen. Because last year I got a phone call on Mother’s Day. Not because she saw my emptiness but because she was actually wishing me a Happy Mother’s Day as she thanked me for being a Mother to her.
What if I hadn’t laid it down? I would have missed the absolute privilege that she is!
Sweet Friend, who is a Moma without children, would you lay it down? Ask the Lord for a glimpse of HIS picture for your life. Chances are, it’ll be a little different than yours but I guarantee it will be a beauty from ashes situation because that’s just how He operates.
Let me pray for us…
Father God, thank you for my Moma. Thank you for people like her who see the hearts of the Moma’s without children and shout to the rooms of our lives, “Willa counts!” Thank you for the people who see our Spiritual Motherhood as something of real value in their lives and acknowledge it. Holy Spirit, would you increase our sensitivity to the hurting and help us see them, becoming more like Jesus as we too draw close to the brokenhearted.
Jesus, for those without momas because of death or abandonment, we pray for a comfort only you can bring. God would you redeem the years that the locusts have stolen? We trust that you will use this part of their story in your greater story of redemption and we anticipate the great amount of beauty you will bring from their loss!
Holy Spirit we pray for the moma who has lost a child, whether in the womb, or even at 25 years old. Father God, only you know their specific kind of ache. May they have the hope of eternity, the reminder that this isn’t all there is…this pain, this life, this soul crushing grief…this isn’t all there is. Give them a new song to sing, Jesus and be closer than their next breath, Lord.
For the moma with littles running around never giving her a moment of peace. Jesus, would you be her Prince of Peace. For the moma with teenagers brooding in their rooms making her rethink her parenting strategies, Holy Spirit, would you give her the mind of Christ. You chose her to parent THESE teenagers. She has what it takes, with you! For the moma who is about to let her baby fly into the world, the first 18 years of parenting complete, would you remind her breaking heart that a child, no matter how old, ever outgrows the need for their moma. She still has a job to do. Holy Spirit, show her how to be a moma to an adult.
And Jesus, for the Moma without children, give us your picture for our lives. Give us the courage to lay down the faded, dusty picture we have so that we can lay hold of what you always intended to give us. And Jesus, if those pictures are the same, give us the courage to hold on to hope…to hold onto You, our Hope who will not disappoint. Jesus, we ask that people would be kind to us this weekend, but even if others don’t see us, God we know that you do. You see us, know us, and love us unreservedly. Thank you for the faith to believe that, in our bones, no matter what the circumstances in our lives say to refute it.
You give children as good gifts, Lord, this is true but may all of us be reminded that You alone, are the prize, Jesus! You are enough and when it’s hard for our flesh to believe that, Holy Spirit, I boldly ask that you would rush in to remind us in a way that leaves little room for argument.
Jesus. Thank you for the gift of a Moma’s heart and how it reflects your heart towards us, your children. From the six year-old little girls “playing house” with their dolls, to the new momas who haven’t showered in three days, to the Spiritual Mothers who absolutely count. Thank you for our Momas. Give us eyes to see all of them! In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen!
Sweet Friends, I see you this Mother’s Day weekend…all of you…however this weekend feels to you, I see you. I celebrate you. I grieve with you. I long for with you. And I pray this weekend is whatever you need it to be, in whatever way you need it to be.
Until next time, Sweet Friends.
Thank you for being here.
Remember to take deep breaths.
And God has got us!