When motherhood and I were just getting acquainted, I thought I could approach her like taking a test. If I prepared well and made few mistakes, I could ace this thing and therefore send my children into the wild blue yonder with nary a carry-on size bit of baggage. I assumed good parenting would fit nicely within my hard work ethic and efforts, and the results would be few mothering mistakes.
Let’s all just take a moment to roll our eyes and say, “Bless your heart” to my younger, clueless self.
It didn’t take long to discover this parenting gig brought more trick questions and multiple choice answers than I ever dreamt. I didn’t know all the answers then or now, not by a long shot. Some days, I was certain I didn’t know any. I made (make!) mistake after mistake after mistake, and I was sure I got everything wrong. I became afraid of my weaknesses, certain the more I messed up parenting, the more I messed up my kids.
Discouragement sat beside me and continually asked me one question: Why can’t you get your act together?
And the answer came like a song on a breeze,
Because it is through your mess I most teach you about Me. You are a great mama — not in spite of your mess, but because of it.
The longer I work through this parenting gig (nineteen years and counting!), the more I see it’s true. Because while we all have our hot mess moments and feel like we don’t often have our act together, we have a God who brings good out of everything all the time.
So, here are three reasons your mess makes you a great mama:
1. Your mess sends the message we’re to rest in promises, not perfection.
I know in my heart perfection is an unrealistic and downright bad ideal, but how often do I act like perfection is attainable and acceptable?
Perfection should never be the goal of parenting because a perfect mom is not an excellent mom. A perfect mom – if she could exist – is an unapproachable mom. How could our kids be close to us if we demanded perfection from ourselves or them? Our kids aren’t perfect, and they know they aren’t. They know we’re not. It comforts them to know mama doesn’t expect perfection, either in themselves or herself.
So instead of resting in perfection, we rest in promises such as these:
He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart, he gently leads those that have young.
Isaiah 40:11 (NIV)
It doesn’t say He spends energy on raising perfect little lambs but gathering, carrying, and loving them.
2. Your mess sends the message that you are just the right mama to raise your babies.
If you spend quality time with your kids, love God, and talk to them about Jesus’ love for them, you’re a good mama regardless of what you feel like. Regardless of what you see that mom doing over there that you aren’t doing over here and think you should be doing to be a good mom. Remember, it’s not good mom/bad mom. It’s good mom/different kind of good mom.
Often I tell my children that if God lined up all the kids in the world and told me to pick only three, I would pick them — the three I have. What if we turn that inside out and imagine God lining up all the mothers in the world and picking just one to mother your particular children? He picked you and only you. Since God placed your children — with their distinct personalities, character traits and interests — into your life, you are the best mama for your babies, period.
We all have different kinds of messes, but we can all still be good mamas in the messes because God fills all our different gaps.
3. Your mess sends the message that mistakes are allowed and grace is welcome.
Our messy parts hold the opportunity to teach our children one of the most important lessons they can ever learn: grace.
Every parent blows it from time to time, but it’s what we do afterwards that stays with our kids. When we mess up parenting, we look our kiddos in the eyes and tell them we’re sorry. We ask for their forgiveness and remind them that mama needs grace as much as they do.
Proverbs 3:34 says, “The Lord gives grace to the humble.” When we apologize to our kids, we show humility and invite grace into our homes, and heaven knows everyone wants to reside in a house where grace lives.
Imperfection is the prerequisite for grace. Light only gets in through the cracks.
It is inside the imperfections, the weaknesses, and the cracks that light escapes. It is where Jesus is what we cannot be, so we can be the great mamas God designed us to be.
We all have different kinds of messes, but we can all still be good mamas in the messes because God fills all our different gaps. -@Kristen_Strong: Click To Tweet Leave a Comment
Michele Morin says
OH! How claustrophobic it has been to approach parenting as if it were another SAT–the whole future resting on the right answer at the right time. I’m grateful for the dotted line that I can draw between my failings and my strengths and the kids that God custom designed for this deeply-flawed-but-loved-anyway mum.
Blessings to you, Kristen, as we shine through the cracks and offer our messes up to God!
Kristen Strong says
Blessings to you too, Michele. So thankful you’re here!
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
I love your post and I do trust that God knew what He was doing when He picked me to be the mama of my two. I wasn’t a perfect mom, but I tried my best and raised my children according to God’s precepts, yet here I sit estranged from both my adult children. They both have their issues and they are in that class of the millenial self absorbed. Yet, it hurts so much that they can be abrasive and verbally abusive in their language and actions. Yes, God is teaching me a lot of things about relying on Him through all this, but ultimately a mother would always like to have some kind of decent relationship with her kids, into whom she has poured a ton of love. Kind of perplexed on this one….
Bev , I understand somewhat what you go through.. I’ve prayed for you much in this as I have a similar situation. Middle child has no relationship left with older and younger siblings. They all do with me and my husband but I’m tired of trying to keep it all good when I see them again.. including grandchildren separately. 3 years now I’ve pleaded with God. He hears the broken-hearted.. He says He works all to good for those who trust Him.. you & me .Hes doing a mighty work in their lives and ours… I have a peace now knowing He’s got their backs and ours.. just keep breaking the backs of those prayer words and know He’s in control! Blessings sweet mama.. keep calm and Jesus on \0/
Kristen Strong says
Bev and Sadie, you’re both in my prayers right now. May God soften hardened hearts and move your family members toward one another rather than away. Sending you both much love–so glad to have you here within this community. xoxo
Bev and Sadie,
I’m so sorry for what you are both going through. Although this is a day late I’d like to join Kristen in a prayer for both of you…….
blessings to all,
Oh thank you for that devotional and encouragement. I don’t feel like a good mom because I have yelled again, or am disappointed in a choice they have made, or don’t do fun things with my kids as other moms or my husband does. I don’t want to have my kids turn away from me when they are older because I scarred them somehow. I was scarred by my parents and no longer have a relationship with them for the benefit of my family’s safety. But I can guarantee that my parents never once though that this could happen to them. But these “fears” are not for me to carry alone and I know the God is there. It is just hard to see myself as a good mom. A friend encouraged me a few weeks ago when I shared a bit of this struggle with her and then here you are confirming again. Thank you for sharing your thoughts! God bless your ministry!
Kristen Strong says
Lydia, I hear everything you’re saying here, I really do. If it helps, I’ve yelled so loud my kids hid under the table, and I *may* have been called the “fun kabosher” more than once. Heh. Anyway, a good apology, when it’s warranted, covers a multitude of sins. What we do AFTER we blow it (because we all do) is what counts and is most remembered. And yeah, I pray daily for my future relationships with my adult children.
God bless and keep you, dear Lydia.
Amen, amen and I’ll say it again…amen!!! I had a very tough season in life that lasted about 3 years. Being a results-oriented person I slowly fell prey to out-of-whack priorities. Successes at work in a position that was draining every ounce of life from me became strangely more tangible and fulfilling than the every day, but not so noticeable successes we so easily dismiss of being a wife and a mom. I have asked my husband and children for general forgiveness to cover the 3 year period, but the Lord occasionally brings something very specific to mind and I believe it is for the opportunity to teach, both them and me! This happened just yesterday on our drive to school. I recalled in my spirit fastening my little ones in the car, dreading what my work day would entail, often running behind, and already a bit disgruntled from some ridiculous squabble between my boys. This sometimes resulted in me driving faster than I should while probably barking some kind of reminders about THEM allowing the Holy Spirit to help them with love and self-control. Ironic, right?!? I used this past mistake to specifically tell them 6 years later that I couldn’t imagine how scary it may have been for them to see their mom acting this way and how my words about the help we have through the Holy Spirit may have been more powerful (and believable) if I could have demonstrated the power in my own life. Also, speaking to my now 16 year old, how important it is to not let our emotions “drive” us. Their response…”of course we forgive you, but we don’t even remember that.” Sound familiar? My mind immediately went to Psalm 103:10-12: “He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.”
From one mama to another, thank you for these words of truth!!
Kristen Strong says
Thank you for sharing this sliver of your story–and the Scripture reference. They both encouraged me more than you know.
I really appreciate how you’ve pieced together this passionate, heartfelt post, thank-you.
Have a blessed day,
Kristen Strong says
Thank you for taking the time to comment here, Penny. Your kind words are a gift! xo
Melissa Spaulding says
I think this applies to step parenthood also. I am a new step mama to a 15 year old and 12 year old. I don’t have any of my own. They are amazing kids. However I am constantly wondering if I am doing it right. I wonder what they think of me and if they are having a good time. I feel like I walk on egg shells around them. I compare myself to their mother and how she does things. That produces high anxiety. My husband is so encouraging and tells me the best gift I can give them is to be myself. I count my blessings in that my hubby and the kid’s mom have a good relationship and she has and is so supportive of us. She and the children love Jesus. Amen!!! So I need to be gracious with myself. I know Jesus is cheering me on saying, “good job my sweet one, keep it up.”
Kristen Strong says
YES–Melissa, be gracious with yourself. (And I’ll remember to be the same with myself!) It sounds like you’re doing a good, good job, dear one. Sending love!
Nancy Ruegg says
When our three children were ages three through eight, I confided to my dad (a man of godly wisdom and great integrity), “I don’t want to be too strict as a mom and end up with rebels, but neither do I want to be too lenient and end up with lazy, entitled brats. It’s hard to find the middle of the road!” And Dad replied, “It’s wider than you think.” You, Kristen, have named that road–it’s the road of grace. My children are grown now, and leading responsible, productive lives–thanks be to God who did fill in the gaps. Dad was right, and so are you!
Kristen Strong says
The middle of the road is wider than you think. OHMYGOSH I love this so much. Thank you for sharing this, Nancy. The road is named Grace–may we never forget!
Beth Williams says
Parenting is hard in & of itself. Today’s society doesn’t make it easier, but harder. So many distractions & stupid rules we feel we need to follow. Truth is there is no right way to parent any child. Each one is uniquely made in the image of God. We need to extend the gift of grace to them & shower them with much of God’s love. I’ve never parented little ones, but I did “caretake” aging parents. The same analogies can be used. I had to extend much grace to them. They would do things not realizing the consequences or even what they were doing/saying. It was a hard time for me. In the end I feel I did the best job this “mama child” could do for her parents. I gave them the best care I possibly could with God’s help.
Thank-you for opening up about caring for a parent(s). I’m sure your parent’s appreciated that you did the very best that you could. I agree, there’s lot’s of similarities between caring for a parent, and a child. Nor could I have gotten through without God’s help.
Blessings to you,
Kristen Strong says
I know you gave the best possible care, Beth. Your parents were indeed blessed to have you!! Much love.
A very timely post as I begin a new journey as a grandma babysitter. I hope my parenting years have prepared me for the “what NOT to dos” and that grace will be more abundant this time around. I’m so grateful for this opportunity – God is so good to grant this desire of my heart…
Of my, I love this!!! So encouraging, thank you!
Marinalva Sickler says
Kristen, I needed what you brought today. I’m a mother of 3 grownup children, 5 grandchildren, and raising 2 grandsons, 14 and 3. My messes, thank God, brought grace. It’s wonderful. I worked too hard to be a perfect mother and a bad divorce taught me the contrary. God’s grace kept me going and brought me to US. I’m a Brazilian pastor’s daughter. Thank you so much.
Kristen thank you for your refreshing honesty and openness. I am often hard on myself when I’m running late for the school run or I’ve shouted at my kids or forgotten something they need. I don’t give myself Grace. Thank you for reminding me that despite my mess or mistakes God loves me and he is there to meet me at the point of my need. God bless you for shining a light on this topic it is needed.
Becky Keife says
So good, friend! Thank you. xx
THANKS, I NEEDED THAT!!! Mom to six (ages 29-40), grandma to eight (so far) — EACH of them with their OWN MESSES — I’M STILL feeling messed, and messing…GRACE is the key!