“Mom, is it still fall?” The question comes from a little girl growing too old too fast. She’ll be five next month. I’m trying to wrap my head around it.
“No, it’s winter,” I reply absent-mindedly. I maneuver the van around a car turning ever-so-slowly on a green light. Why doesn’t he just drive? Patience is not my strong suit.
“It’s not winter!” The voice from the back seat is insistent. “It’s still fall!”
Stray snowflakes are straggling out of the sky. There are patches of gray-brown snow pushed up against houses and ridges in the ground. It is January 24—and according to the calendar, winter began over a month ago.
I’ve learned to pick my battles with this child—some things just aren’t worth arguing about. She’ll learn. But I’m curious now.
“Why do you think that it’s fall?”
“There are still leaves on some of the trees.”
She’s right. Here and there, scraggly brown bits hang limp from bare branches. Occasionally, there is a mass of the bits all balled together. A squirrel’s nest, I think. I’ve always meant to look it up to be sure.
Our conversation leaves me deep in thought. For years, I was engaged in an epic struggle to believe that I was good enough for Jesus. Despite the fact that no one is good enough. Despite the fact that that’s why He died.
Despite grace all around.
It’s all too easy to define myself by the scraggly brown bits dangling from the bare branches of my life. Even when the truth is something completely different.
One day, my perspective changed completely. But the story begins before that…
I huddle under the covers, warm tears on my face and a cold ache in my heart. Many nights throughout pregnancy are like this—me stifling sobs in the darkness, my husband gently snoring beside me. I envy his peace.
I’m such a failure! An unspoken prayer that always begins the same way. A third child? Lord, how am I going to do this? I’m so inadequate as a wife and mother.
There isn’t any real reason to feel this way, but the lie is rooted deep. So very, very deep.
No matter how hard I try, I can’t measure up.
It starts before children. I have high hopes and expectations for marriage. My husband and I both love Jesus, but things don’t turn out the way that we expect. And although everything looks rosy on the outside, inside I grow bitter. I’m not proud of it, but there are many, many times that I wish I could walk away.
I find solace in work. I don’t feel like a great housekeeper or cook and marriage is hard, but at work I feel important and successful. So when my first child comes along, I find it difficult to adjust to being at home. Then another daughter comes along. I love my girls so very much but I don’t love being a stay-at-home mom.
Just three weeks after finally returning to work full time, I find out that I am pregnant yet again.
I sweat and cry and push for only four hours in the hospital the day she arrives. We name her Chloe and it is love at first sight. Still, I am convinced, deep down in my heart, that the sweet little life that I hold in my arms—and the other two sweet little girls that can’t wait to meet her—deserve far better.
Not just better than I could ever offer. Better than I could ever be.
Less than a month after Chloe’s arrival, thanks to some dear friends, I find myself at a women’s conference at a large church in a small town in Southwestern Ontario, my newborn in tow. I look down at the gorgeous baby sleeping peacefully in my arms as music rises loud around. And the Holy Spirit whispers to my heart:
Would I entrust you with your precious family if I didn’t think you could do it? Where you are unable, I am more than able. I gave you this beautiful family because I love you. They are a gift! But you are also a gift. You are My gift to them! Just as I gave them to you because I love you, I gave you to them because I love them. You are exactly the wife and mother that they need.
The truth sets you free and I go home changed. Me—a gift. For the first time ever, I am able to give myself to my family without holding anything back. I’m able to truly love. Not that I didn’t love them before, but it’s different now. Deeper, fuller and more alive.
Life flows into bare limbs and I blossom.
Things aren’t perfect, of course. There are days when the children are fighting and the house looks tornado-swept. I get impatient, lose my temper and lean heavy on grace. But I see beauty in the chaos.
I see Christ’s beauty in me.
When the enemy whispers his lies, I’m able to fight back with the truth of God’s Word. And yes, even find the boldness to seek help. Because when doubts threaten to sweep me away, hope has a name. A voice. A promise.
I am not defined by the scraggly, brown, limp bits in my life. I am defined by grace.
The beautiful grace of Jesus.
And it blossoms in the mess.
What about you?
Do you struggle with feelings of failure? Maybe, as a wife and mother, you feel like you constantly fall short. Maybe you’ve made some mistakes. We’ve all been there. So let me encourage you, one woman in the trenches to another.
It started before you were born. While you were still growing inside your mother’s womb, God tenderly formed you. He wrote your story before you ever came to be (Psalm 139). He has good and perfect plans for you (Jeremiah 29:11). He has chosen you and placed a very special, unique calling on your life (Ephesians 1:4).
You are a gift.
You are a gift to your family. You are a good gift. You are a perfect-for-them gift from the Father above. He loves them so He gave them you.
Is it difficult at times? Yes. But where you can’t, He can. The Bible says, “My grace is sufficient for you. My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). There is an abundance of strength and grace and beauty for you.
Rest in that.
Let the truth—His truth—flow into your barren limbs. Because as grace flows, the scraggly brown bits lose their hold.
So blossom, sweet woman of God.
You are exactly the wife and mother that your precious family needs.