Twenty Years

As of last month, it’s been twenty years since my first-born was placed into my arms. It seems like yesterday, and so long ago at the same time.

I look at his tiny body in the picture and can’t believe that he is now a man: strong, talented, intelligent, sensitive, and godly.

And I look into the face of the young version of myself and remember. She is clueless about being a mother, but she has strong opinions and soft knowledge. Both keep her from asking the right questions.

Wouldn’t it be cool if she and I got together for coffee and a little Q & A?

What questions would she ask? How would I answer? I imagine…
Q: How can I get him on a regular schedule?

A: Honestly, I don’t think one exists. I’ve tried lots of things over the years, but nothing works for every child at every time. I suggest that you think a little less about schedules and a little more about resting when you can, pacing yourself for the long haul, and taking one moment at a time.

Q: What are the best options for kids’ diapers, food, clothes, activities, etc?

A: I would answer your question if I thought that’s what you wanted to know. But what your really asking is, “How do I have to dress, feed, and care for him so that everyone will think I’m a good mom?”

It pains me to think about how much energy you’ll spend trying to validate yourself and impress others. Cloth or disposable? Formula or breast milk? Home-made or Gerbers? Monogram or graphic design? Homeschool or traditional? Yes Disney or no Disney? It never ends. And I suggest that you start standing up now to the ever present “Mom pressure”. Prepare to be both judged and respected for the very same choice. So, make a decision and let it go. Let it go. Turn away and slam the door…  The cold shoulders should never bother you anyway…

Oh, and keep your sense of humor. You’re gonna need it.

Q: What’s the best way to give him a head start for school?

A: Be his mom more than his tutor. Talk to him, sing to him, and play with him. Push aside the flash cards, and pull him into a hug every day, no matter how big he gets. Give him responsibilities, hold him accountable, and tell him the truth. And if you do all of these things with grace and diligence… he just might be ready for all that school, or life, asks of him.

Then again, he might not. But either way, he’ll have learned the more important lesson: That he’s more than a student… he’s your son, and he’s loved.

Q: What’s the best discipline method?

A: Again, before I try to answer, let me rephrase your question so that it reflects what you’re really wanting to know: “How do I control him?” and “How do I get him to like me?”

And the answer is you can’t, and usually, he won’t. I know how difficult it is for you to loosen your grip on these things, but once you do, the discipline won’t seem so confusing.

Q: When will it get easier? 

A: It won’t, and don’t listen to people who tell you that it will. They mean well, but here’s the real deal: Mothering is a Rubik’s Cube of struggles. Difficult stages get rearranged to make room for other difficult stages. It’s a system of swapping out colic for teething, potty training for tantrums, learning disabilities for social struggles, puberty for driving lessons… An endless twisting and turning that just seems to get messier as you go.

Now no one wants to tell that to an exhausted mother who is holding a newborn and hoping for a lifeline! But the sooner you stop looking down the road for “easier”, the more likely you’ll see what God has for you in the here and now. And God will always offer what’s good. Maybe not easy, and probably chaotic, but good.

After twenty years of practicing something every day, you’d think I’d be better at it. Or you’d think that I’d at least have some confidence by now. You’d think that I’d have real strategies or more practical advice for you. Sorry.

But maybe God doesn’t want us to feel like were “good” at mothering. Perhaps He designed it so that we’ll feel weak and dependent on Him at every stage of the game.

Because motherhood isn’t just about raising kids. It’s about placing a proud girl in a job that’s way over her head so that she’ll do some growing up and stooping low.

It’s about God doing a mighty work now and through your next pink-wrapped baby, then another blue, then finally one more pink.

He’ll use this pastel Rubix cube to shift and turn your heart in many ways over the next twenty years, so that it will slowly become more aligned with His. But not for the sake of motherhood…

Not for order. Not for image. Not for perfection. Not for comfort. Not to please. Not for success…

But for Him.

And I know that you have one more question, but are afraid to ask:

Q: Is it all worth it? 

A: ((Hug)) Girl, woven into all of the twisting and turning chaos, are blessings beyond what you’d ever expect, and a love of which you never dared to hope. So pay attention! You’ll be distracted and will come close to missing these hidden treasures. Don’t you dare.

And you’re not going to believe me, but you’ll find peace where you stop trying to have control over it all. You’ll learn to trust in His plan and less in yours. You’ll learn more of what’s important and enjoy freedom from what’s not. Motherhood is not the only way to learn these things, but God will certainly make much use of it in these next two decades.

So, hold tight to that blue bundle. God is at work, using your roles as mother and son, to grow you both up and transform your hearts. Making you into His son and daughter for all the years of eternity.

For His Glory.

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Romans 12:1-2

3 thoughts on “Twenty Years

  1. Mary Geisen August 25, 2015 / 8:09 am

    Such sweet words to read this morning, Karen! I have been reflecting on motherhood a lot recently as both of my sons just got engaged. Memories keep popping up, questions as to whether they are ready for this big step but mostly am I ready to let go that last tether that I seem to be holding onto so tight. Happy birthday to your son and blessings to you for letting God’s grace and love lead you along the way.


  2. Julie Lefebure August 26, 2015 / 8:20 am

    Karen, you did it again. You’ve blessed me with your words. Beautiful answers. I wish I would have had them 20 years ago. But God taught us much through motherhood. Much about ourselves, our children, life. Stunning photos of you and your son together! I am honored you shared them with us. Celebrating the mother and friend you are today! Bless you.


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