If this was the first time we had ever met, you might look at this picture and think that my life, portrayed here as a strong mother surrounded by 3 amazing children, would be something to envy. I mean, we were filming a commercial for a well known hospital. There we were…dressed up, make up perfect, all smiles.
What you wouldn’t see is how we got there…..
You see, first, we walked through the valley of the shadow of death.
Clay and I were so young and in love when we married and began a family. All we could think about was being together and building a life that we could love and enjoy. Everything seemed perfect and wonderful. Becoming a mother was the fulfillment of many dreams.
When I held my babies, or when I prayed over them, I always imagined the good things ahead of us. I celebrated the thought of watching them grow and mature. I saw happy moments in our future.
I never imagined this….
I never saw myself as a single mom. Never.
But, there we were. Watching them crank the coffin into the ground. Saying goodbye to their dad…my love…for the rest of our lives. I couldn’t change it. I couldn’t escape it. I couldn’t rescue my kids and swoop them back to their pre-cancer, perfect life. I had no ability to do what I wanted to do.
All I could do was this….
Pull them in close and point them to Jesus.
I always told them that He was the most important part of their lives. I always taught them to pray and love the Lord. I reminded them all through their childhood that a life built on the foundation of the Word of God was all they needed.
Well….now it was time for God to prove it. We were in the fire. The refining had begun, whether I felt ready or not.
Romans 5 contains one of the most foundational scriptures of my life,
“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
What more could I ever want for my children than for them to be filled with endurance, character, hope and love for God? Nothing. They don’t need anything else. But, how will they attain these attributes?
Through SUFFERING. Through pain. Through difficulty.
The very things that I strove to keep them from…are the very things that will move them to love God and exude the character of Christ.
The very things I prayed they would never experience…are the same things that will create an unwavering hope in their soul. A hope that will not put them to shame.
God has proven His Word to be true. His promises have stood the test. My children have walked through the fire without being burned. They know He is real. As much as my mom heart wants to take all their pain away, I wouldn’t trade the lessons they’ve learned.
One of the greatest blessings of my life has been to have them standing by me through this time.
They have loved me when I didn’t deserve it. Helped me when I was weak. Encouraged me when I was tired. Supported me when I felt alone. Hugged me when I needed it most. Listened to me when I needed to talk. Remembered with me even when it was hard.
They are my greatest joy in this life. God has protected them and helped them, in spite of all my weaknesses. Their lives are no reflection of me. They are proof that God is able to do far beyond what we ask or think.
On the day we filmed the commercial, I listened to my kids tell stories about their dad and talk about their loss with such confidence and hope. Of course, we cried a little, but the overwhelming theme of the day was hope and encouragement. They saw that his life had meaning and they’ve seen God do amazing things. As they told stories, while standing in the middle of suspended pictures of our life, it felt like a dream.
They are not perfect, but they have emerged with strength. They have compassion for others who experience loss. They have a broader perspective of life.
Moms, parents, grandparents….anyone reading this,
If you find yourself trying to protect those you love from the hardships of this life….don’t. Let God have His way. Trust Him that His ways are higher than our ways. When you don’t understand why…just release your life and the lives of those you love. Trust God that He will not fail. He has not forgotten you. He will not abandon you.
It is in the valley that we see the table.
It is at the table that He anoints our head with oil.
It is as He anoints us that our cup overflows.
It is in the darkness that we see His light.
It is in our weakness that He is strong.
Hebrews 10 tells us,
“For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For,
“Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.”
But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.”
As a mother, my greatest joy will be watching my children receive what is promised. One of the last things Clay told them before he died was how much he longed to be with them again one day. He implored them to follow Christ, so he could have the promise of a reunion.
And so, my prayers for my children have changed dramatically. I regularly tell the Lord to do whatever He has to do to make that day a reality for my family. I don’t ask Him to keep them from trouble, or shield them from this terrible life. I ask Him to shed abroad the love of God in their hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit. And, when I pray this, I know the fulness of what I’m asking. I know how He accomplishes this work.
Of course, I want them to live a blessed life and to walk as pain free as possible, but my greater desire is that they know Him and that they endure. I pray that they never shrink back, but that they believe to the saving of their souls.
And so, I will walk with them. I will help them. I will support them. I will pray. And, I will trust God that He knows how to get them to that glorious day.
Happy Mother’s Day!
P.S. I love this picture of me and the kids standing between the two most important mothers in my life….
I love you, mom. You were my example.
I love you, Flo. You raised the best man I’ve ever known.