Four autumns ago, our then 18-year-old daughter moved away. Thirteen hours away.
She took many clothes, her make-up, a dozen or more of her favorite books, several pairs of shoes, her childhood teddy bear and Laura Ingalls bonnet…..
and part of my heart.
Her moving away has taught me something. It was a lesson other older mothers had told me about that now, four years later I know is true:
When you are raising your kids, hold on tightly to God.
But hold your children loosely.
Yes, cradle them in the palms of your hands and cherish them deep in your heart.
But do not clench your fists. They belong to God, not to you.
Yes, treasure the moments with your kids; love them; teach them; point them to God.
Do not, however, make them your God.
That is a hard thing to do. We mothers love our kids beyond words. We center our lives around them and their well-being. From their earliest days, we feed them, train them, nurture them and help shape them. We spend hours rocking, comforting, correcting. We help with homework; with relationships; with triumphs and disappointments.
Yet, with all our motherly duties, we must be careful to not make our children the most important aspect of our lives.
They are not.
Then our husband is next (if we have one).
Our kids are third.
They are Third – Hold Our Children Loosely
I had many people that first year or so, concerned how I was fairing, ask me “How are you doing now that Kenna is gone?”
Surprisingly well, I must say.
Now, if you had known me the first few years I was a mother, you would never believe this. My life revolved around my kids. And, when they are very young, in many ways this must be the case. But I was headed down a dangerous path. My kids were fast becoming my ‘god’, taking the place of my ‘God’.
Thankfully, I had a few wonderful mentors. They shot straight with me. They helped steer me gently in the right direction. Also, I watched them closely. I saw how they, unlike other women I observed, did not fall apart when their children spread their wings and left the nest.
They had their priorities straight.
Above all, they loved God.
Secondly, they made their relationships with husbands a priority OVER their kids.
Now, that is not to say that there are times that attention to the kids might warrant priority for a moment or an hour. But, as a rule, their husbands came before the kiddos.
Oh…and they made sure the kiddos knew this.
Not in a harsh way, mind you. But in a fun and loving way.
Ask my kids… I am famous for saying, “I love you guys like crazy, but I married your dad. He and I will be together loooong after you are grown and gone. So, take a number, kiddo. Your dad comes first.”
Now, of course I didn’t say this to them when they were two. But at 22,18 and 15, they all know it now. And, I firmly believe it helps to foster security in them. In a day and age when MANY of the marriages all around them are falling apart (and some because the kids came way before the spouse and, as a result, the couple lost touch with each other) our kids can sense a strong commitment if we visually and verbally live this way in front of them.
And also, ever since Kenna was little, I have realized that I cannot be (nor was I designed to be) her everything. I have specifically prayed for other women who will be godly mentors for her and God began bringing these women into her life, beginning when she was about eight.
Yes, she has a mom, but she also has an Ellen, a Carmen, a Julie, a Mrs. Annis, a Sarah Grace, a Miss Wendy and Miss Lysa.
Yes, she has LOTS of God’s girls who love and shepherd her.
And so, even though I sit here in the middle of the mitten that is Michigan while a part of my heart is now far away in Charlotte, NC, I am doing all right.
I have learned to see the truth.
- My kids belong to God, not to me.
- He loves them more than I even do.
- I did not have kids to have them live with me forever.
- I can rest in the fact that Kenna is in the center of God’s will, so why would I want her home with me?
- I can trust that God will use others to mentor her.
- I can experience the excitement of seeing her life unfold and not lament that I am losing mine. I just need to adjust to my new ‘normal’.
Now, this does not mean I’m not counting down the days until Christmas break and planning many of her favorite activities to do and foods to serve. Of course I spend time calling her at least once a week and sending her little messages of encouragement and scripture verses; I send her care packages in the mail and “Luv u” text messages at night.
Even though she is third, she can still be my BFF :-).
So moms, hold on tightly to God while you hold your children loosely.
God is first.
Your husband is second.
Your kids are third.