This is the manuscript from sharing with the ladies at my church at our annual ladies luncheon. Wow…what a special time. I was able to sit with my own mother, my aunt (my mother’s sister), my mother-in-law, my grandmother-in-law, and my two oldest girls. I was also surrounded by so many women who have played such a significant role in my life. Happy Mother’s Day!
When I was about thirteen years old I had an identity crisis. Consistent with adolescence, it was dramatic. It was big. My questions were the most pressing thing EVER. I was trying to figure out who I was. If you are familiar with developmental theories then you know I was right on schedule: a little self-centered. We give them a hard time, but teenagers are supposed to be a little self-centered. They are figuring out some pretty big things about themselves before launching into adulthood where they make some pretty big choices like life long mates and careers…and the only way that they can get to know themselves is if they think about…themselves.
Anyway, I remember talking things over with my mom and dad…wondering who I was supposed to be. Am I Emily, the tennis player? Emily, the student? Emily, the good friend? Emily, the church youth group girl?
I am sure my mom and dad were finding this whole exchange a little amusing because obviously we all know that the answer to the question “Am I this or that?” is “YES”. All of the above.
People sometimes refer to this idea as “wearing a lot of hats”. Maybe a more relevant idea for us today is that we really wear a lot of shoes.
How many pairs of shoes do you go through every day?
When I wake up I find my slippers. They carry me through my morning chores…making breakfast, getting kids out the door, picking out my clothes, getting ready.
Some days my work shoes go on next. Practical, comfortable, hopefully a little stylish.
When I get home I can’t wait to get those things off and grab my chocos or my tennis shoes…my activity shoes.
Later on if I am going back out to book club or to eat or to church I might put on some fun shoes.
We all wear a lot of shoes.
I have a wonderful mother and mother-in-law. Many of you know that. They are strong, beautiful women in my life. But I realize something that they have probably known for a long while now…a biological mother cannot be everything to a child.
One of the privileges we have in the church is to experience the mothering of many…we have many mothers and we mother many.
In fact, I would say that I have many mothers, many mentors for each of these pairs of shoes.
I have learned about mothering and pastoring and being a friend from watching mothers like Sandy Bishop for many years. I learned about mothering and praying and loving my family at home when I worked for Liz Osborne. I have learned about mothering and being a hard worker and being a thoughtful friend from mothers like Jenn Browning and Anna Anderson. I have learned about being a woman and a missionary from Claudia Rosson, Daniela Augustine and Sunny Evans. I learned about mothering and being a pastor and a counselor and a professional from watching women like Gail Lemmert and my mentor Celia Ferguson. I have learned about mothering and teaching and loving students from people like Sonia Griffey, Tammy Johnson, and Cheryl Johns. There are many more. I am amazed when I consider the tapestry of influence on my life from so many godly women.
I remember being a young woman in my early twenties hungry for mothering figures in my life. I have been amazed over and over and over to watch God open up relationships to me.
And now I watch my girls growing up in the church and I am desperate for them to have women love on them…women who will be mothering mentors in their lives…because I know we were never meant to be everything to our children. I am not God…I cannot be everything to my children. I need you. Desperately. And I need you to be…YOU.
Of course any one of these women I have mentioned could be examples of mothering in probably any of these shoes. But God has used each woman’s special, unique gifts to be an example to me in a very specific, unique way. And, if they had tried to be anyone else I would not have had that example given to me. I wouldn’t have a picture of a mother who is a pastor’s spouse, a hard worker, and a friend. I wouldn’t have a picture of a mother who is a teacher, a therapist, a servant, an encourager, a person of prayer.
Proverbs3:5-6 tells us to trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding. Commit all of YOUR ways to the Lord…and He will direct your path.
YOUR WAYS. Not the ways of the person next to you. Not the ways of your best friend. Not the ways of your mom, your sister. YOUR WAYS. And He will direct your steps.
Each of you, whether you are a biological mother or not, have a mothering call on your life. We need you so very, very much. I’m a therapist. I work with people of all ages each week. I work with teenagers and young women and hear their stories. Sit in the office long enough and you soon learn that we are desperate for a body of Christ…a Body filled with mothering women.
A mothering mentor is a gift. A beautiful gift. Gifts often are wrapped beautifully. We enjoy looking at the gift and enjoy the sense of expectation…but, here’s the thing about relationships…to get to the inside we have to unwrap it…we have to do more than just look at it.
When you unwrap a gift paper gets torn and thrown on the ground. If you have ever watched a child open gifts at a birthday party then you know that the unwrapping of gifts can be messy and even a little chaotic! Relationships are not always easy. Sometimes we have times when we don’t see eye to eye. Sometimes our differences rub a little raw. Sometimes we are on different time schedules…don’t see each other as much. That’s just part of it…that is just part of getting to the good stuff…on the inside.
I have had a babysitter coming to my house a few times a week to babysit Hillary. We don’t talk much…just a little bit before and after she watches Hillary.
One day as I sit and chat with her before she walks out the door, I am reminded of another twenty year old who just needed someone to give her a hug…someone to smile, someone to offer a consistent face, a piece of banana bread or a snack.
And, it hits me. I’m getting the honor of returning the blessing God gave me with people like Liz and the many other mothering mentors in my life. I’m getting to pass it on. I’m getting to participate in this beautiful thing called CHURCH.
Are you looking for a mother? Look around. Be open. They are here. They aren’t always on your timetable. You may not see them every day or every week. It might not look just the way you want it to…it might be messy opening up that gift…but I promise that if you stay open…God is unwrapping gifts all around you. The gift He is unwrapping might be a relationship that helps you find a new pair of shoes He wants you to wear…and who doesn’t want a new pair of shoes?
Are you open to being a mother? I sure hope so. You don’t have to force anything. Be YOU. In all of YOUR ways acknowledge Him and let Him direct YOUR steps. Show up. Smile. Hug. Be available. Look outside of your own family. Maybe when you are hugging on someone else’s child it will give someone a chance to love on yours…and it might be the very example your son or daughter needs to fulfill their purpose in life. Wearing the shoes God has chosen for YOUR steps might give someone the example to follow for their own shoes. YOU might be the gift of new shoes for someone else.
Open up the gift. Slip on those unique shoes God designed only for you. Wear them. Take the steps God has for YOU. Someone will be following. And, it might be my daughters.