I have always known I wanted to be a mother, but I had no idea of the direction that journey would take me or the degree to which the Lord would use motherhood to sanctify me. He has used and continues to use motherhood to expose the brightest and darkest places of my heart.

After a painful divorce at the age of 24, I felt like my dream of motherhood was dead. Trust and hope were gone. Then, there he was, the beautiful specimen that later became the father of my children and soul-mate for life. Three girls and then a boy followed our wedding, and in parenthood, the Lord has had a plan we might never comprehend. I have decided God likes to keep us fluctuating between panic and hysterical laughter. Through the years, my children have challenged me to tears and yet make my heart explode with love and gratitude. They are a blessing I do not deserve.

the early years

We danced and sang in the kitchen a lot. We cried simultaneously even more. I struggled with feelings of isolation because everyone else was doing all the things that matter and there I was at home — a food source, keeping people alive, and hoping to wash my hair one day. I had to realize “work” and “things” outside my four walls were not all that mattered. Not all moms are called to stay home with their kids, and I have had to learn that my calling has an important place in this world.  Answering the call to homeschooling this past year has been quite the journey for this self- proclaimed “I could never homeschool” mama. “I cannot, but He can,” resonates within my soul.

I have watched those other quiet, calm children sit in chairs waiting while their Mommy was talking and thought surely they were sedated. The Lord has made each of my children differently and ultimately to glorify Him. Their dramatic outbursts may one day blow up a hut in Africa with the light of Jesus. The “passion” (otherwise known as constant crying) may be used to bring about justice for “the least of these.” The strong wills that struggle to submit to authority may oversee great things one day. I have learned to accept I am not responsible for their outcome, but I am to take every opportunity to disciple and love them while I can.

Missing Jig

I struggle with doubt and have since the sudden death of my mother on May 23, 2007. Faith had always come easily for me until that moment. One phone call changed that, and everything I knew to be true was in question. My grief was incapacitating. I struggled for months to be the mother and wife I needed to be.  I was angry at God and rendered hopeless. Watching my girls grieve was often more than I could bear. Their cries for “Nanny” shook me.

Jig, as we lovingly called her, laughed and loved bigger than anyone. We had a rocky relationship during my teenage years, but later became the best of friends. She taught me so much about motherhood and was the first to admit she made her share of mistakes. She would say, “Just love her, sister,” when she saw me at my wits end while my toddler cried hysterically for the seventeenth time that day. I have never forgotten those words and countless other bits of wisdom that graced her lips. She studied God’s word ferociously and poured it into us all. I long to leave that legacy with my children.

I have grown up a lot since her death. “Don’t sweat the small stuff,” has taken on a whole new meaning. The brevity of life spurs me on to not want to miss opportunities to listen, hug or make my children feel safe. I desperately want my children to feel like a treasure instead of a nuisance. That is not to say I am not often a complete mess. I have anal tendencies. Sticky fingers and dog poo on shoes have been known to send me completely over the edge. I am sensitive to sound, so the noise levels make me less than patient at times. I raise my voice, and I say hurtful things. When I am not “prayed-up,” I am an empty vessel destined to fail. But at the end of the day, I have to rest in the grace and mercy of Jesus and just surround my kids with myself, trusting God for the rest.

Finding J

Five years after losing Jig, life seemed to be easing up when suddenly, our hearts were breaking for children all over the world without a family. Random crying sessions and divine encounters were sprouting up everywhere. We rallied around and prayed for our adopting friends and were open to the idea, but had not felt led to adopt. Then my husband Sean had the opportunity to go to an orphanage in Africa. There, baby boy J, with the biggest brown eyes and the softest skin you have ever felt, held up his arms to him. Sean hugged him tightly and heard that still small voice say, “This is your son.” We have not been the same since May 5, 2012.

I went to bed that night overcome with every emotion imaginable and awoke the next morning feeling like a mommy of five. Only the Lord can bind the hearts of strangers. Then came the worry. Does he have enough food? Does anyone go to him at night when he is afraid? Will he accept me as his mommy? I was able to go and be with J four months later. Once you have held, chased, and rocked to sleep your baby boy, everything changes. The longing becomes ten-fold, and the separation can be unbearable at times.

Our love for J has changed so many things for our family, including our financial decisions and our priorities. We have watched our children’s hearts soften as they bring us every single penny they have to put in the adoption jar and dream of the day he comes home. I will never forget the night my husband brought our 3-year-old to our bed. He had been screaming from his room just like every night, and I was determined to not let him win. After months of this struggle, there was Samuel lying next to me, and I was frustrated with the weeks of consistency this was going to undo. Sean looked at me with eyes full of tears and said, “I went to Samuel because I could. I can’t do that for J.” That was all I needed to hear.

Mothering from Afar

Mothering J from a distance is one of the most difficult experiences of my life. I pray daily for the Spirit to whisper into his ear, “We are coming,” while he sleeps. Leaving him behind was one of the hardest moments of my life, but our Father takes care of the tiniest sparrow, and He will care for J in our absence.

Peace in Motherhood

Losing my mom was not something I had planned. Neither was falling in love with a sweet, brown-eyed boy in Africa. But these are God’s blueprints on my life. He has guided me and sustained me. God’s tender mercies are new every day for this beautifully complicated journey called motherhood.