Deep & Wide

Seventeen years ago today I birthed my first baby. I woke up that morning, had a big breakfast, had a baby, and then had lunch. To my great relief, it wasn’t the horrific experience my mother endured delivering me into this world. For me, the birth was the easy part. It’s everything since then that still has me wondering if I’ll ever figure out what it means to be a mom.

Last week my oldest daughter asked if we could go clothes shopping. Aside from needing a fully licensed adult in the car with her, she didn’t really need me for much that day. She drove to the store, chose her own clothes, and paid for them from her own chequing account. I milled around the store, occupying myself as best I could. As I waited for her outside the dressing room, I checked my phone for messages. But apparently no one in internet land needed me at that moment either. As I slid my phone back into my purse, I raised my eyes only to notice I was standing in the children’s section, and right in front of me was a rack of adorable toddler spring dresses. I nearly burst into tears. How could the beautiful young woman in the changing room be the little girl I dressed like this for Easter, only yesterday? Where did those years go?

Today though, on her seventeenth birthday, it’s happy tears springing to my eyes. As fast as the show has been, I have so loved watching her grow. I enjoy seeing the woman she is becoming. I love her confidence, her daring spirit, her sense of adventure. I marvel at the awareness she has of the world around her and her place in it at such a young age. She reads books that are brimming with living ideas that I didn’t discover until I was well into adulthood. I see in her life the fruit of this wide and generous curriculum we have been feasting on as a family for the past decade. 

This morning, in keeping with years of tradition, we enjoyed our usual family birthday breakfast. Somehow, between bites of waffles and whipped cream, berries and bacon, the course of our conversation reminded our birthday girl of a verse she read in her quiet time. She jumped up from the table, fetched her Bible, and read it for us. I sat there with a lump in my throat as she flipped through her well-loved Bible, complete with colourful sticky notes, highlighting, underlining, and handwritten notes in the margins. She knows how to hold and handle this book in ways that I didn’t when I was seventeen. And to me, her mother, it’s breathtakingly beautiful. 

I know she has many miles to go, especially when I consider the ground I’ve covered myself since I was her age. How she will navigate that terrain is anybody’s guess. But amidst all the unpredictability, there is one thing I am certain of — even as she continues to figure out how to be the woman God created her to be, I will still be trying to figure out how to be the me and the mom that God created me to be. My kids aren’t the only ones growing and changing. I am too. And so is the way I pray for them.

Since those early days of being a new mom, I have adopted a much wider lens in praying for my kids. I have realized in recent years that a mother’s duty is not to pray her children into some kind of picture perfect, pain free existence. Instead of trying to manipulate every twist and turn of my child’s life through my prayers, I now have one earnest heart cry for them, as I lay them day after day at the feet of Jesus — “Lord, plant them deeply in the truth that You are good!”

When I look at my own life, I can see that the times I have strayed farthest from God are the times I allowed myself to entertain doubts of His goodness and love. That, by far, has been the biggest determining factor in every step or misstep I have taken. My prayers for my children have been greatly simplified yet deeply intensified by this realization. Now, instead of praying that they will get every detail right in every major decision they ever make, I pray that they will know, beyond the shadow of any doubt, God’s unending love for them. Instead of fearfully praying for unswerving obedience and outward conformity in their lives, I pray that they will genuinely love Him back. And realizing from personal experience how impossible it is to love someone you don’t trust, I also beg God to help my children trust Him implicitly, above all else. Every morning as I pray for them the following John Greenleaf Whittier poem comes to my mind:

We live by Faith; but Faith is not the slave
Of text and legend. Reason's voice and God's,
Nature's and Duty's, never are at odds.
What asks our Father of His children, save
Justice and mercy and humility,
A reasonable service of good deeds,
Pure living, tenderness to human needs,
Reverence and trust, and prayer for light to see
The Master's footprints in our daily ways?
No knotted scourge nor sacrificial knife,
But the calm beauty of an ordered life
Whose very breathing is unworded praise!--
A life that stands as all true lives have stood,
Firm-rooted in the faith that God is Good.

Those last two lines have become my battle cry in prayer for the lives of my kids. It may sound overly simple. And of course, as my children face specific needs, I offer specific prayers for those struggles and concerns. But my overarching prayer for them remains the same — that they will love and trust their Heavenly Father. If everything in their lives flows from a loving, trusting relationship with God, they are well underway to living out His will for them. Not my will, but His will. Planted immovably in the truth that He is good — now that is fertile soil for God to grow them, sustain them, and shape them into who He has created them to be. 

Seventeen years ago today, I pulled back the blue blanket the nurse had swaddled my baby girl in, and I caught my first glimpse of her hammer toe — that little crooked toe that was an exact replica in miniature of my own. Same toe. Same foot. She’s put a lot of miles on those feet in their first seventeen years. As have I, on mine, since becoming her mom. And even though our paths are unique, I’m praying the same prayer for both our crooked feet — Lord, plant us deeply in the truth that You are good!

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