Grace-filled motherhood—it’s something I’ve struggled with over the last few years. I’m quick to give others grace, and to tell others to give themselves grace. But myself? Yeah, no. That’s hard.
When we’re young adults without kids, we think we know everything there is to know about raising children. It’s partially because we still very much remember being kids ourselves. I’d never be that type of parent, we tell ourselves. And then some days our mother flows right out of us and we get slapped upside the head with the wet noodle of reality. But if you’re anything like me, you think back to the times when your parents were right, and you were wrong. And to the times when you were right, and your parents were wrong.
Intentionally Living a Grace-Filled Motherhood
One of my favorite quotes is “be who you needed when you were younger,” by Brad Montague. While it’s a beautiful reminder of giving grace to our kids and being there for them constantly, what happens when we fail at all of it? Because believe me, I fail, a lot.
Here’s an example. I have struggled with the fact that sometimes I don’t find a happy balance between work and motherhood. Sometimes work takes priority, when I know full well it’s ok to work. But still, I guilt myself.
Some days I think I should be there for him more (and some days I should be). But I’m not sure how much more I can give. You see, my child is an only child. We’ve tried for years to have more, but it has just never happened. I’m ok with that, I’ve moved on. But that doesn’t change the fact that he doesn’t have a playmate or sibling to grow up with. He may never have a sibling he can complain about mom and dad to. In the same respect, he may never have the chance to experience nieces and nephews of his own—or have a sibling to grieve with when mom and dad are dead and gone.
I guilted myself so many times for being “broken”. Normally it comes in waves of why can’t I just be normal and have another baby, or, why couldn’t things have gone differently for us so that he wouldn’t be alone?
But then one day grace got hold of me, and it looked a little something like this . . .
There are some things that are completely outside of our control as parents. There are other things that are not outside of our control. What a beautiful experience to show our children the reckless love of God. What an incredible way for us to prove that God has a plan for each and everyone of us. That plan looks different for each and everyone of us as well. And it’s beautiful and messy and lovely, and it never looks the same for each individual.
The first step to grace-fill motherhood? Reminding yourself to constantly live in a state of grace. Remind your heart that there are some things you simply can’t control—like the water pipe breaking, the kids running through the yard naked when you weren’t looking, or getting sick and spreading it to the whole family.
Force yourself to live motherhood in a constant state of grace for the things that are completely outside of your control. Laugh when they happen, smile, and let it go. Keep moving.It’s not your fault, mama. Time to stop the guilt! And remember this scripture . . .
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?” [Luke 12:22-26 NIV]
Intentionally Changing Through Grace-Filled Motherhood
While there are a lot of things that are outside of our control, there are equal amounts of issues that are within our control. Bitterness, anger, jealousy, laziness, and resentment are all emotions that we might deal with on a regular basis. Some of those emotions can be warranted depending on the situation, but they are never a place to set up tent and camp out.
Living a grace-filled life doesn’t mean we keep living the way we were living before. Instead, living a grace-filled life means that we give ourselves grace in the process, but we continue to be better people through the process as well. We feel it all—all the raw emotions, all the sorrow for the way we acted. And then we repent of it and move forward. This is grace.
Consider this—when we scrutinize our children for doing something wrong over and over again, often times they might roll their eyes and eventually tune us out (especially the older kids). The same goes for ourselves. Should we continue to scrutinize ourselves under the microscope of motherhood, we’ll begin to resent ourselves. If you’re constantly drilling into your mind that you aren’t good enough, you’re not doing enough (even if you aren’t), or you’re not worthy, then eventually you’ll believe it. Eventually you’ll begin accepting it. And once you believe these things about yourself, you render yourself useless.
Remind yourself that you are worthy because God made you worthy. That you are capable because God made you capable.
But also remind yourself that grace is not an encampment where you get to do and say whatever you want for the rest of your life. And the only way to properly live in grace, while consistently being molded into who Christ wants us to be, is through embracing our weaknesses and allowing the Holy Spirit to guide us through them.
For example, I used to be a yeller. That’s right, I was, let’s just be real here. I would pray so hard to God to take this yelling characteristic away when it came to my child, but the reality is that the only way to get rid of it was through embracing the fault and repentance. Instead of constantly guilting myself because I was a “yelling mother”, I would give myself grace. No, that doesn’t mean I just continued to yell. Stay with me here . . .
The more grace I gave myself (“man I messed up again, Father forgive me and help me through”), the more the attitude and yelling went away. But not without an apology first . . . which is what we’ll talk about after this section.
My embracing of my weakness, owning up to it, and repenting—these three things had to transpire before my heart could move forward. And I couldn’t wallow in it either. I made a mistake, I deal with the mistake, and then move forward.
So often we just don’t “deal” with this part of grace. We think that grace means we get over it and sweep it under the rug. But the reality is that grace means you must deal with the issue immediately, and then and only then move forward. Don’t linger.
Remember this scripture when you see your true character flaws as a mother, and to remind yourself to allow grace to change you.
“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” [1 Corinthians 12:8-9 NIV]
As well as . . .
“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” [2 Corinthians 7:10]
Repentance and Forgiveness in Grace-Filled Motherhood
This is where things get sloppy. Really messy. Oddly uncomfortable. This is the stuff we don’t want to do. This is why we literally choose not to live grace-filled motherhood. We’re too prideful. Even the most humble mother can have enough pride that holds her back from apologizing to her child for that outburst, that word she said, or that time she ignored her kids when they needed her.
You know, the most awkward part of being a parent is realizing that I have to apologize to my kid sometimes. It was weird for me, because I don’t know if I ever remember my parents apologizing to me when I was a kid. They probably did, but it’s not something I thought I’d have to do as an adult. You’re a parent, you shouldn’t have to apologize because you’re always right, right?
You’re still a human being. You still make mistakes—we’ve learned this consistently in life. While we might remember what being a kid was like, we’re still parents for the first time ever. It’s like learning how to live all over again. You’re going to mess up every now and then. Parenting won’t make much sense until your kids are gone—until they have kids of their own and you watch them grow.
Mistakes will happen, and while intently living a grace-filled life, repentance and forgiveness are the only way to solidify that grace. They are the only way to truly live a grace-filled motherhood lifestyle.
Grace is three-fold, as mentioned in the previous section. And it works like this . . .
- Understand that you’re human (imperfect) and give yourself grace (Romans 3:23)
- Allow the Holy Spirit to work through your imperfections—deal with the issue (get rid of your pride) instead of sweeping it under the rug (2 Corinthians 7:10; Ez. 36:26; Romans 12:2)
- Repent of your flaws and bad character traits, then go back to those you’ve wronged (your spouse and children) and ask them for forgiveness (James 5:16; Matthew 18:15)
And if you can do those three things each and every time, freedom will come. Change will come. New life will come. And sweet friend, this is when the best years of your motherhood will begin.
When we decide to work through our issues and deal with our flaws, rather than wallow in self-pity and depression, grace comes like rushing waters. Happiness flourishes. Redemption in your family happens. And a grace-filled life begins.
Moms have so many things that they deal with on a regular basis. Adding guilt, sorrow, and emotional distress on top of it all isn’t something we should have to deal with. Your kids want you to be a happy mom, not a miserable mom. They need you more than you realize. And they need you, their mom, not some super mom out here who just looks like they have their act together.
So give yourself a little grace, mama.
Allow the Holy Spirit to work through you. Make some alone time for you and only you. Self-care is so necessary during these years. You are, after all, still very much a child of the Most High King. Go have some one on one daughter and father time!
Deal with the issues. It will be hard at first, but it will become easier the more transparent you become with your family. Transparency is so liberating once you get the hang of it.
And understand that motherhood is a journey, and you’re the only one who can walk this journey with your kids.
I get it, mama. I’m right here with you, cheering you on while walking this journey of my own. It takes a village. A village of mama’s that can come together, laugh together, cry together, and have a mutual understanding that motherhood isn’t all rainbows and butterflies, but my goodness, is it easier when it’s full of grace.