I had to grab my camera and follow them. I could tell it was going to be one of those priceless, fleeting childhood moments that I’d want frozen in time. Not a big event or planned experience, but a spontaneous expression of being three and four years old. The moments in life that I tend to miss because I’m too busy getting “important” things done.
Tinkerbell and her older sister Supergirl ran out into the back yard, making sure to grab every “puffer” along the way, blowing dandelion seeds into the soft breeze. Supergirl headed towards the trees, arms outstretched, her pink sparkly cape flowing behind her. She had someone to save, no time to waste. Tinkerbell had no agenda. Randomly bouncing from one thing to another, she explored nature with abandon. Through the camera lens, I watched her collect leaves and at the farthest end of the yard and plop down in the mud to examine them.
“Look, Mom!” Supergirl had found a caterpillar. In an instant, Tinkerbell was by her side, examining the creature. How she did she get there so fast? She rolled. In a whirlwind of tulle and glitter, she hit the dirt and kept on going right down the hill that forms our yard, until she reached her destination next to her big sister and I.
I captured a few shots of that day’s outdoor experience but what I found myself really focusing on was what transpired as we headed back inside. The girls sat down on the steps to take their shoes off. It was then that I noticed just how dirty they’d gotten on their short adventure. Especially little Tinkerbell. They sat side-by-side and giggled together about all the usual things sisters share, paying no mind to the mess. They hugged each other tight. The kind of sweetness that makes a Mama’s heart swell. Being only 18 months apart, they fight for what feels like most of the day lately. But when they love, they love deep.
As I sat down later to look at the photos I’d taken that day, it struck me just how much I love the nature of my children. Their carefree attitudes, their endless supply of energy, their love for absolutely everyone, their sense of wonder, and their dirt-smudged little knees… Their God-given freedom to just be. They just are who they are. They feel no need to measure up. They believe that what I’ve told them is entirely true…God made them special; designed them perfectly. No need to question if they’re loved. They just know that they are. Dirt and all. They live life in the midst of that security, free to experience life through the lens of joy.
These truths about my babies make me so, so happy. It’s what I want for them. What I’ll always strive to preserve. I promised myself I’d give them a life built on the truth of God’s Word. One that reflects His great love and sacrifice for us, His children. I’d strive to give the beginning of their stories meaning that extends beyond this world and it’s troubles, so that they can continue adding pages to their book of life filled with strength, beauty, adventure, laughter, and love. I’d create a legacy for my children of knowing who they are in Christ so that they can live out His plan for their lives and serve others with His love in their hearts.
But what about my story? How do I create a legacy of identity in Christ for my children, when I don’t own it for myself? My girls still see themselves as characters in God’s great adventure story. After an experience out in the world, good or bad, they bring themselves home to me just as they are. Whether they’re caked in mud or, as my daughter would say, “240% clean”, they run into my arms and tell me all about it. When I come home to My Heavenly Father, I try desperately to scrub the dirt away and present a version of myself I think He’ll approve of. Knowing full well He can see it all- the stains on my heart may be invisible to the rest of the world, but not to Him. He knows me, all of me, better than I know myself. He knows that, though I stand tall around my friends and family, I’m shrinking inside. He knows that I can’t look in the mirror without seeing myself as less than. He knows the hands that have hurt me, the scars no one else can see. He knows the darkness that stole my light, when I was only a child myself. And, someday, my children will see it too. They’ll see past my words that tell them to treasure who God created them to be, to the lies that I believe about myself. They’ll see that, though I can build them up with truths from His Word, I continuously knock myself down. My promise to save them from the hurts of generations past will be so much harder to keep if I’m still carrying those hurts today. As hard as I may try, they penetrate my being and find their way in to my parenting until I’m no longer guiding them with steadfast faith, but with fear-driven emotion.
So, how do I do it? How does someone so broken raise children who are whole- children who believe that they are who God says they are? I’m finding, after several paths have failed me, that the only answer can be to let the One who first created me put me back together…one broken piece at a time.
The lies that tell me that I can’t be the mother my four children deserve can be replaced with the Truth that their Creator will equip me with all that I need to parent them well. When hurt, confusion and fear creep in, when I’m too tired to push forward and can’t fight the pain anymore, I will cling to His promise to fight for me…that I need only to be still. (Exodus 14:14) The past has left me only a shadow of who I once was. In the midst of my longing to be something more, He responds with life-giving hope that I can be more than I’d ever imagined. He reminds me that I was made in His image (Genesis 1:27)…and that is far more than I could have ever hoped to be.
Regardless of how deep the hurt, His love is deeper still. As I face the life I’ve been blessed with, the little people I’ve been chosen to parent, His love is the driving force…The answer to my every failure and flaw as a mother. The one thing that reminds me that I am free to run excitedly into His arms the way my babies do into mine, dirty knees and all, and find acceptance of who I truly am.