My introduction to motherhood looked nothing like I thought it would. There was no pregnancy, no baby shower, no planning, and no hopeful anticipation. The phone call woke me from a dead sleep: one of our nieces was in complete crisis and unless a family member took her in, her future was going to take a tragic turn. So, with a whopping 6-months of marriage under our belts, and with a 20-minute conversation, we said, “Yes!” to inviting our 15-year-old niece into our home.
Nothing about our first 6-months of marriage matched my 23-years of dreaming. 3 months in, unthinkable tragedy came out of nowhere and shook us to our core. Our heads were still spinning from anger and loss, and grief had a choking hold on our souls. I felt completely inadequate to parent a teenager on my best day, and I hadn’t seen a “best day” in a long time. When Tara arrived, she was in a dark, hopeless place, needing absolutely everything, and I wasn’t sure we had all that much to give. Desperation drove me to my knees with cries for mercy, grace, wisdom, and strength, and God proved so near as the days turned to months.
There was English homework and math problems, chores, shopping for clothes (and trying to agree on them), after-school arrangements, and dance classes. There was the uphill battle of learning to communicate, and to establish boundaries and clear expectations, not just with a teenager, but with THIS teenager who was teetering between darkness and light. There was conflict. A lot of conflict. And some of the hardest decisions we’ve ever had to make. Tara lived with us until she was 17, and it was a difficult parting, but one thing remained: God put a deep, protective, mothering love for her in my heart. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Now, 11 years after Tara moved in, our home is full, busy, and very pink thanks to two daughters: 7-year-old Abigail and 3-year-old Ella. Whoever told me I would forget the pain of pregnancy and childbirth was a big liar. The adjustment of life with an infant felt like a far greater challenge than adjusting to life as a married couple. I can sum it up in 3 words: loss of freedom. So-long weekly date nights and the easy life of planning weekend get-aways. The sleeplessness and crying (sometimes the baby, sometimes me) left us grumpy for about 18 months. I mean, we adored Abigail and she brought plenty of joy, but it was a tough adjustment for two independent souls. We finally found some balance and got happy about our new routine somewhere around her second birthday. We took Ella’s arrival much more in stride, though Abigail really wanted to send her back at first.
Like so many mothers, I’ve wondered if I’m doing it right. Do I work too much? Are they eating enough vegetables or too many processed foods? How long before they realize their birthday parties will never be Pinterest-worthy? Do we talk about God enough? Am I leaning on technology too much for entertainment? Can swimming count as a bath in the summer?
But I’m far less concerned with doing it right these days.
Much like marriage, parenting exposes the deepest parts of me in need of redemption: my impatience, selfishness, and desire for control. I expected to be challenged, and I knew I would love my children, but I was not prepared for the depth of it all, or how it’s transformed my faith. God consistently shows up in the unexpected moments of motherhood to help me know Him more.
Here are just three of the many takeaways:
- God made us for community. I’m super independent so asking for help doesn’t come easily, but God made us to need each other. Tara’s needs were far beyond what we could handle financially, emotionally, and spiritually on our own, but God put a community of people around us who loved us by loving her. I’d never seen God’s people mobilize like that – from advice and emotional support, to furnishing a bedroom and tagging along to help chaperone homecoming. And now, as David and I are both in full-time ministry with crazy hours and demanding schedules, there’s a village of people who’ve become family. Our need for each other points to our need for God, and I’m learning how great it truly is.
- God delights in helping us. Not once have I felt burdened by helping my children learn to walk, talk, color, or eat on their own. In fact, I find great joy in helping them do new things. Somehow, I believed God is burdened by my inadequacies – like maybe He lets out a heavy sigh every time I ask for help. As a very imperfect earthly parent, if I find delight in helping my children learn, how much more delight does my perfect heavenly Father feel?
- Being God’s child comes with safety, belonging, and protection. Becoming a son or daughter of God truly is an incredible miracle. God doesn’t just let us slip in the back door. When we become His through the grace and mercy of salvation, it’s fully and completely. We become coheirs with Christ. We have His name. There’s no sending us back or whishing we’d never come. We never have to feel like an outsider or an inconvenience because we belong. Just as we protect our children when they are afraid, God pulls us close when fear creeps in. Just as we joyfully provide for our children – not just what they need, but so often what they desire – God lavishes good gifts on us to turn our hearts toward Him. Just as our children feel safe and secure in our embrace, He is our safe place.
Today, Tara is a mother of a beautiful daughter and she uses her story of struggle to share God’s grace and rescue with others who feel lost. We couldn’t be more proud. Abigail is wrapping up first grade and loves creating works of art to share with others – her enthusiasm and zeal for life remind me to take time to feel alive. Ella loves to play the piano and snuggle – she’s very “three,” which makes me all the more grateful for God’s patience during my own grown-up tantrums.
While I hope to teach my children some important things – like how to go potty, tie their shoes, and show kindness – I’m pretty sure they are really the ones teaching me.
Read the first chapter of Meredith's New Book HERE!
*Tara's story used with permission.