Sunday, April 19, 2015

Letter to a New Mother: There is Grace

Last night I went to a party for another expat here who is about to be a mother for the first time - to a 12 year old girl. "Jen" is a single woman courageously stepping out in faith to adopt her daughter from our host country before she ages out of the system and is ineligible for adoption. It was a beautiful celebration.

We had been asked to write a note of encouragement, but I felt ridiculous trying to offer encouragement to someone in such a different place than I have ever been in as a mother.  Then as I thought about it I realized we are not so different after all. Our particular circumstances of entering into motherhood are wildly disparate, yet our position in motherhood is exactly the same. We are both completely desperate for God's grace to cover us and our children. And I wanted to her to know - the grace we need, it is there and it is abundant.

So I may have gotten a little carried away with my "note" but I was overflowing with the hope of this truth. And since I need to hear it again and again, I was really writing to myself as well as my friend. And to all new mothers, or not-so-new mothers, like myself.  THERE IS GRACE.


Dear Jen, 

It’s kind of funny to be in this position – a mother of 8.5 years to four children attempting to offer encouragement to a new mother… whose soon to arrive daughter is older than my oldest!  You are in a unique position entering into motherhood for many reasons and there is so much that the mothers surrounding you do not know about it. But here is one thing we all know well and can testify to, and it is the greatest encouragement there is to give or receive – there is GRACE. 

As in all areas of life, our only hope is in the grace of God. This can be a relief – “Whew! It’s not all up to me!” And it can be a big panic – “Wait… you mean I don’t have any control over this?!?” As a mother my greatest struggle is wanting to control life so that my children are protected and cared for perfectly and so that they grow to embrace the Truth and follow it with their whole lives. But I can’t control any of these things – and it kills me. And not only that, I see the things I want to protect them from coming from myself – impatience, judgment, dismissal, inattentiveness. My sinful, selfish nature is challenged and put through the refining fire by the constant need that calls me to deny myself and put another (or several others) before myself and it brings out the dross – often in ways that are very visible and impacting to these little people that I love so fiercely. And I am overwhelmed and undone.

God, I want the best for these children and I’m giving them the worst! I can’t do this! I can’t be present all the time and I can’t guarantee their safety. I can’t see into their hearts to understand what is going on there, what the needs are, much less change their hearts and bestow an understanding of who you are. I can’t even protect them from myself and my impatience and fear and selfishness! I can’t give enough; I can’t BE enough!

EXACTLY. We can never be enough. It is in the moment that we acknowledge and accept this that grace becomes a relief instead of a threat.  Grace doesn’t take away any control from us; there was never any control in the first place. It was only an illusion. When we can see past that illusion and let go of it, THEN grace comes swooping in, a blessed relief. 

In my experience, there is nothing like motherhood to bring you to the end of yourself and show you just how not-in-control and desperate for God’s grace that you are. That can be a miserable place or a refreshing place. For me personally it is usually the first place before I arrive at the second place. But, O, how sweet the relief when I let it go and put my trust once again where it has always belonged – with the Trustworthy, Faithful One.

He is FOR you, Jen, and for Anna.  HE is in control, so you don’t have to be. HE is enough, so you don’t have to be. That doesn’t mean that what you do doesn’t matter – incredibly, He chooses to use us, to let us be a part of what He is doing. But He doesn’t depend on you.  He is not waiting for you to hold up your end of the bargain – that defies the very essence of grace, which is FREE. There is freedom and rest in this. He holds you both, tenderly and full of love. “Underneath are the everlasting arms.” (Deut. 33:27)

With you and for you,

PS. My favorite parenting book is not a parenting book at all, but a book that has opened my eyes to God’s grace like no other book ever has – “One Way Love: Inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World” by Tullian Tchividjian (Billy Graham’s grandson). A very easy read and full of HOPE.

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