“I want you to be our guest speaker for Mother’s Day.”

He said the words easily, no trace of hesitation. Was that a hint of enthusiasm?

I’d met him years before at a conference, a senior pastor from the northeast. He wanted to change things up, he said, to invite a mom to speak to mothers.

Novel idea, I thought.

Theirs was a growing, thriving church, filled with families. I’d be speaking at all three of the church’s services, and my message would officially launch their family-themed summer message series. No pressure.

It was huge honor and responsibility. I knew this, and relished it. Motherhood had been the dream I’d nursed since I held a baby doll and read Little House on the Prairie (four times). It was the reason I’d filled grade school notebooks with doodles of stick families and drafts of future baby names. And it’d become the one endeavor that absorbed my time and energy and emotion for two solid decades post-graduation.

And that’s when the thrill of the invitation ended.

For me, motherhood in reality looked far different than it did in my doodlings. Something more akin to un-motherhood. Sure, I’d had a houseful of cute children, made memories and snapped too many pictures. But motherhood also came with a few unexpected extras. Things like divorce, single parenting, step-parenting, mood swings (theirs and mine), rebellion, a runaway child, special needs, far too many visits to the principal’s office (theirs and mine), and conflict. Loads of conflict.

Even as I held the phone to my ear and listened to the pastor talk, one son (a fully intelligent and able son) was about to flunk out of school. Again. In spite of all the consequences and conversations. And that was just the beginning of the ongoing drama that was “The Cushatt Family.”

Suddenly my resume for Mother’s Day Speaker seemed weak. I was the last person a church should parade on stage. And I needed to let this well-intentioned senior pastor know, before he found out I was a sham.

Yes, a sham. That’s how well I thought of my mothering. I had good intentions, of course, and a splattering of good moments. But that didn’t compare with results. Parenting is a results-based business, right? And, at that moment, my results were entirely unimpressive.

I prepped to bow out with minimal humiliation, but before I could state my case, the pastor made his.

For starters, he saw my divorced status as a qualification. “That’s more the norm than the exception anymore. We need to reach out to the non-traditional family.” As for those struggling kids? The bad grades? The conflict and disappointment and visits to the principal’s office? “How many parents haven’t been there? We need that kind of authenticity. That will help the hurting mom more than anything else.”

It’s now been a few years since that speaking engagement. Even as I took the stage that weekend, I felt a twinge of unworthiness. Still, in the process of pushing through, I learned something:

Struggle and failure don’t disqualify you from ministry. Often it makes you ideal person for it.

For too long, I equated any kind of ministry with worthiness. And I measured worthiness according to behavior: both mine and my children’s. And I measured successful behavior according to day-to-day choices. Bad choices? I was the worst mother in the world. DCFS should lock me up. Good choices? I should write a parenting book. Maybe twelve. With great effort and finesse, I could vaccilate between the two extremes any number of times. On any given day.

But here’s the deal: My children don’t determine my worthiness. And I don’t determine my children’s worthiness. It’s an unfair weight too heavy for either of us to carry. Instead, worth is established by the One who “knit me together in my mother’s womb.” He created, he called, and he set forth a plan he promised would be good. For both me and my kids.

As for results? It’s best saved for later, when all the data comes in. If you try to measure motherhood too soon, you’re sure to be disappointed. Like the bulb that promises a lily, don’t look for the flower before blooming time. Beautiful things take time to grow. {You don’t have to have it all figured out today.}

I still don’t feel very good at this mothering thing. And I’m pretty certain I’ll never write a parenting book (you’re welcome). But let’s you and I stop measuring our success and worthiness according to the emotions and behavior of the moment. Instead, let’s lean into grace, into the slow unfolding journey, and into the Knitter of Babies and Grower of Lilies.

He knows how to bring all things to a beautiful end.

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Today I’m giving away 3 (yes, THREE!) copies of Kathi Lipp’s brand-spanking new book I Need Some Help Here: Hope for When Your Kids Don’t Go According to Plan. Need to know you’re not alone? This is 176 pages of PRESENCE.

To be entered to win, leave a COMMENT below and share this post to one of your social media feeds. {Make sure you link me so I can see it!}

And to SWEETEN the deal (because what mom couldn’t use an emergency stash of something sweet and yummy}, I’ll include a little extra something along with your book. Dontcha just love surprises?!

UPDATE, 6/22/14: WE HAVE 3 WINNERS! Congratulations to Sundi Jo, Heather Thorpe, and Stacy Cholas, winners of Kathi Lipp’s book I Need Some Help Here and a sweet surprise! Check your email for a note from me, and we’ll get your goodies shipped out ASAP. May your mothering chaos be shared with friends and seasoned with more than enough HOPE! Much love to you, fellow mamas. ~Michele


Free Book Giveaway!

I Need Some Help Here!

Do you ever feel like an un-mother or un-father, and completely unworthy of the title? 

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