Last year Mother’s Day was really hard for me. I had all this pain inside that I had been trying to manage for months. I had cried myself to sleep the night before about the challenges my daughters and I couldn’t seem to overcome and then had to wake up to a day that was supposed to be happy.
Maybe you can relate…
To all the mamas who recently have fallen flat on your face, humiliated, hurt, and perplexed on what you should do next. When there is no parenting technique left to try…only to pray. Only to beg Jesus for help with your child.
I remember once thinking my parenting style is just the one I see in Mark 7:24-30. A mother fell at Jesus’ feet and wouldn’t let him leave until he agreed to heal her daughter.
For a long time, I thought, Yep, that’s me. That’s the biblical parenting advice that makes sense to me right now.
I got straight A’s in high school, but who cares? When I’m knocked down like that, it feels like I know nothing. Just desperate and begging Jesus because He’s the only One who can heal my daughter, the only One who can help us.
To all the single moms.
You’re making decisions every single day on your own. Every single day, you’re deciding what to make for dinner. Every single day, you’re deciding how to set your budget and how to spend your money. You’re the only one who is sitting at your kitchen table looking at all your bills and your tax forms, and you’re the one who is keeping it all together.
Every single day, you’re deciding how to discipline your kids. You try talking to other people about it, and you get some good advice, but still, you’re the only one who is this child’s parent. You’re the only one who knows the child well enough, sees the big picture, and who has to follow through with the discipline. It’s you. You’re the one.
And I know that some days you drive home from work, and you wish that someone else would help them with their homework tonight. You wish that just for one night, someone else would yell at them to turn off the TV and get off their phones and finish their chores. But it’s you. You’re the one.
And I know that sometimes you go to your bed and close your eyes because you can’t deal with anyone any longer. And they keep opening your door, whispering to see if you’re awake and if you can help them with something, but you’re about ready to lose your mind right here, right now, so you keep your eyes shut. It’s better than other destructive coping mechanisms. Close your eyes for a little longer and pray. Don’t feel bad. NAPS ARE FREE.
And then there are days when you’re wishing that your children would open up to you. You want them to come to you, sit next to you for a while, let you hold them. You’d give anything to know what’s inside their hearts and minds. You ache for them that they don’t have a father nearby, and you wonder if you’re doing enough to meet their emotional needs.
To all the stepmoms and foster moms.
You didn’t give birth to your children, but you’re showing up every day to love and care for them. You’re the one who is signing the parent’s signature on the permission slip, you’re the one who is buying the new shoes for track, you’re the one getting emails from their teachers. You’re the one on the receiving end of the stress your children feel, and you’re the one who gets the ugly attitude after you say no to something.
You bust your tail to honor their biological mother with everything you say and do, to honor her role in their life and their relationship with her. Every day you merge your values with their biological mom’s values, merge what you teach them with what they have already learned. Mama, you merge into their journey, respecting every part of it, joining with your children to love all their good memories that you weren’t a part of.
You wake up every day, and this may not be anything like what you expected your family to be, but you have to decide—as my friend Stacey says—to put the “fun” in “dysfunctional.”
And maybe they’ll yell at you because they’d rather spend the night at their friend’s house instead of spending Mother’s Day with you—and “you’re not even my real mom anyway!!!!” …I’m not going to tell you not to cry about that. Because I know it hurts. It hurts every single time. But I believe that the longer you have your relationship with them, the more the good moments will outweigh the bad, and the more they will see that your love for them is real.
They may not call you “mom” even though you’re doing all the mom things for them. But you’re the one that they accidentally call “Mom,” and that counts for something. That’s a privilege in itself.
To all the moms who need a breakthrough.
I don’t know your situation. I don’t know how many tears you cried over the last year, and you don’t know how many I tears I cried. But God knows. In Psalm 56:8, we read, “God, you keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book” (NLT).
For several months, I was like the mother in Mark 7 on the ground, begging at Jesus’ feet to bring healing to my daughters and me.
Exactly one year ago, I was desperate for God to give me a breakthrough. I had already been begging God for about 10 months to give me this breakthrough. And in July, He did. God renewed my physical, emotional, and mental strength. God brought clarity to my mind, and He strengthened me to stand steady during challenges. It was not the end of struggles (not at all!!), but it was the beginning of God’s peace guarding my heart and mind through everything.
I didn't know it last Mother's Day, but JOY was just around the corner.
Things can get better for you. God answers prayers. God is still at work in your life, and He hasn’t forgotten you or any of your family members. Whatever you need, ask God for it. Remember what Jesus did in Mark 7…Jesus stops to listen to begging mamas.
Has anyone ever told you that it looks like you have “bit off more than you can chew”?
Over 2 years ago, I became a foster parent, and thank God, the girls who were my first placement surprised me by becoming my daughters. And now I’m a single mom. I imagine that several people observed my situation and thought that I had bitten off more than I could chew.
But do you know what I’ve decided? I’m blaming my decision-making process on my parents because they’ve been biting off more than they can chew for as long as I can remember. My dad has always been a risk-taker, and my mom has always joined him 100%. In 2016, my dad left the church where he had been pastoring for over 30 years to start what will likely become the nation’s largest aftercare facility for victims of human trafficking (hopecenterindy.org).
He and my mom could have finished out their years serving at the church and retiring comfortably. But instead, at 60 years old, Dad took on the challenge of starting something completely new, exerting his energy to cast the vision and be the executive director of Hope Center Indy. He and his team secured a 25-acre campus to be the location of the Hope Center, and over 5,000 people have toured the facility to support this ministry. The Hope Center received its first residents in August 2017.
When my girls and I were at the Hope Center’s open house on June 25, 2017, I looked around and saw that over one thousand people had come that day to tour the facility. My dad was speaking to everyone, and I told Gabby and Anna, “Sometimes I can’t believe that my dad is the one behind all this.”
But then again, I can believe it—because he’s one of only a few people I know who has the faith and the guts to launch a huge endeavor like this.
The question isn’t… “Is this more than he can handle?”
The question is… “What does God want to do here?”
Seasons with Difficult Assignments
I believe that God gives us seasons of rest and seasons of renewal. But I believe that God also gives us seasons with difficult assignments that will always be more than we can carry.
It’s almost Good Friday, and I think about Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, so overwhelmed that he was sweating blood. He knew the task in front of him, and he begged God, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup [of suffering] from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).
Then in 1 John 3:16, we read, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.”
Based on Jesus’ example, I’m thinking…since when are God’s assignments meant to fit within our comfort zone? Since when is sharing Jesus’ love with others not met with intense spiritual attack? Shouldn’t we be more concerned if we’re always content to bite off less than we can chew?
I’m not endorsing the idea of doing a million different things at once. If you know me well, then you know that I try to live very simply—I simplify my schedule, simplify my wardrobe, simplify my responsibilities (that’s why we don’t have a dog right now because I’m not ready to take that on as another responsibility lol). I almost always take naps on my days off, and I don’t feel guilty about it because NAPS ARE FREE!
But when God gives us one big challenge, then I believe we need to SAY YES. And the odds are that once we get into the thick of it, it’s going to look and feel like we have bitten off more than we can chew.
At one point last year, I asked God, Who do you think I am? Do you think I’m wonder woman or something? Do you really think I have the ability to navigate all of this? I’m barely hanging on!
During a conversation with my friend Molly last summer, I put my face in my hands and sighed, “Oh my gosh, I’ve done a million things wrong.” I felt so stupid and discouraged.
Molly looked at me for a moment, then said, “Yeah, but, Mary, I’m sure that you’ve also done a million things right.”
I still tear up when I think of her saying that.
Because that’s the truth.
This is what I would have said to myself about this time last year, and it’s what I want to say to you now:
If you’re in the middle of a difficult assignment, don’t beat yourself up for making mistakes. Ask God to defend you and to carry you. Ask Him to lead the way and to show His power.
If you’re in the middle of a difficult assignment, don’t feel guilty for not knowing the answers. Don’t feel stupid when you’ve tried everyone’s advice, and that advice doesn’t work. Just hang on and do your best to listen and follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance.
Don’t feel weak just because others look at you with doubt. Don’t blame yourself when others want to blame you. You were the one—maybe the only one!—who had the guts to say yes to this mission. Maybe you’ve done a million things wrong, but I bet you’ve also done a million things right. You’re doing the most important thing right: you’re not giving up; you’re persevering in love.
Don’t feel alone when you’re crying in your bed or crying in your car, when your head is pounding, pounding, pounding from your problems and your tears—because God sees you. He hasn’t forgotten you, He still has good plans, you’re still here, and you’re going to feel strong again soon. The chaos and pain are going to last for awhile, but keep trusting and Jesus will soon speak peace to calm your storm.
Peace is coming. It came for my situation, and I would have never believed that was possible. God is good.
Here’s to all of us who took on the big mission. “May God equip us with everything good for doing His will, and may He work in us what is pleasing to Him, through Jesus Christ, whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (Hebrews 13:21)
P.S. Our school’s boys basketball team is playing in the state championship game this Saturday!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Go Jackets!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Mary works at Brookville Road Community Church, where she leads children's ministry and women's ministry. She is the author of She Won't Shrink Back: A Story of Building & Believing.