It's Mother’s Day 2000. You stand on the edge of a year that marks the beginning of the best part of your life!
You have been married just shy of nine years to Allen and you have four children: Sarah (a rule-following 8), Jared (6 going on 16), Joshua (just "fo years old"), and 7-month-old baby Rachel (“the squealer”). WOW! Just WOW! I'm not sure how you are doing it. I am exhausted just at the thought of it all!
Allen commutes three hours a day to New York City from your home in New Jersey. You stay at home, trying to corral all the kiddos and make some money from a small side job. You both fall into bed exhausted at the end of long and blurry days.
You are highly involved at church. Allen is an elder. You are in charge of the church nursery (your main and silly goal to keep it germ-free). Both of you oversee the busy Sunday School. Allen goes to Bible study Tuesdays and prayer meeting on Saturday. You attend Bible study for moms on Wednesdays. Sundays are spent going to church, give or take a few hours in the afternoon. The rest of your week is filled with all the other social events with this community of kind souls.
You have lots of friends from a neighborhood filled with young families. Your life is extremely busy and looks picture-perfect from the outside. You are the quintessential Christian mom, or so it seems.
Little do you know what I, your 54-year-old self, know about you. I love you, younger version of me, but I never want to be you again. I say that tenderly, knowing that you are just stuck and don't know better and are trying your hardest with what you know and believe right now.
You want your kids to behave above all else. You believe that getting them to keep all the rules at school, church and home, is the answer to the giant question of whether or not you are a good mom. You use guilt and fear more often than not, those being two readily available resources in your faltering tool chest.
You genuinely do love your kids, but you believe God's ultimate goal is to get you to behave (hence your goal for your kids), to be the perfect mom. You set rules that keep you in check and when they don't, you fall into the shame and blame cycle, heaping that onto your kids as well.
You are trapped in the crazy formulaic thinking that following all the rules makes for a good and happy home life, but when it all falls apart a few years from now, thankfully bigger life-changing things like grace and mercy come flooding in from a BIG GOD like a tsunami.
He gently picks up the pieces of your broken and confused heart and puts you back together in a way that's better than if you had never fallen apart. He is a GOOD GOD and worthy to be trusted in all the beautiful and messy moments that make up your mom journey.
Twenty years from now, you will have growing relationships with each of your four, and they all will speak words of kindness and understanding as you discuss all your strengths and struggles in raising them. What a gift this will be to you.
One morning, you will find a small note on Facebook (something that doesn't exist yet) that "you are the greatest mom of all time" from your second-born. You will receive a text (something else that doesn’t exist yet) that your 20-year-old wants to have a family “Zoom” time every Sunday during a crazy pandemic. Your oldest will write a blog post (oh my gosh, that doesn’t exist yet either) on your birthday telling the world what a gift you are to her and her two-year-old. You will eat dinner every night with your second son during the bonus time when the world “stops.” It doesn't get any better than this. LOVE WINS!
I repeat, I love you, younger version of me. It's all going to be okay. What you see now is but a dim shadow of the beauty that's to come. I promise you a few things: you don't do it all right. In fact, you make lots of mistakes.
You are afraid sometimes, very afraid. Your faith is tested to the shattering point. Your heart is broken into a million pieces. BUT, you do not give up HOPE, even in the middle of your fear. The One who is the source of all HOPE does not give up on you.
You do not give up FAITH, even though the waves swirl around you, and it's hard for you to see the Object of your FAITH. He keeps his eye unwaveringly on you.
Though your heart splinters into fragments, you do not give up LOVE. LOVE HIMSELF slowly shows you that you are LOVED beyond measure and this LOVE is freeing and healing. It's from this LOVE that you will begin to love your kids well. You have a long way to go, and so do I.
I wonder what our 74-year-old wiser self will say to us 20 years from now. It's just good to be on this journey together! Take heart, young mom me. All will be well.
From my heart to yours,
Older Mom Me