I have an appreciation for beautiful things: freshly cut flowers – preferably tulips- in an mason jar with crystal clear water, driving into the sunset on an open road that leads to home, a cup of cafe con leche and a good book, an elderly couple holding hands across a table as they gaze into each others eyes, as if for the first time.
Then, there are the beautiful memories of my mom’s loudness: her deep, strong, raspy voice, her contagious laughter that filled the air, her whistle – which she did with two fingers slightly spread apart and pressed against her mouth – the sound of her feet pounding against the hallway floor, as I tried to sleep in just a little longer.
For me, my mom depicted beauty inwards and outwards.
But the most beautiful things I love to observe are the interactions between a mother and child.
A newborn baby slowly turning his head towards the sound of his mother’s voice.
A mother wiping the tears of her child’s eyes as she gives the booboo a kiss. I can see my mom rubbing my knee as she says…
“sana sana colito/culito de rana, si no dana hoy sanara mañana. (Heal, heal, froggie’s tail, if you don’t heal today, you will heal tomorrow).
A mother’s face of joy as she watches her child walk across the stage during a graduation ceremony.
A child walking down the aisle or standing at the front of the church, as the mother cries with joy and a bit of sadness because their baby is leaving them and cleaving to their spouse – the next chapter of their life.
Moments like the ones above are precious and truly what we hold close to our hearts.
And then, there are the other moments. The not too fond moments, the ones we would love to rush through, and keep at the back of our heads.
Recently, I experienced one of those moments.
It was a hectic and frenzied morning, I could easily blame the construction that seems to be occurring on every expressway, or busy intersections. However, a true Chicagoan like me should know better. There are actually two seasons in Chicago, winter and construction, so I should have left earlier.
My daughter, Bianca, needed to purchase a watch for her Advanced Placement (AP) test. As I was dropping Naomi (my other daughter) and her off at the Walgreens a block away from their school, I accidentally drove off with Bianca partly in the car. She made almost a complete 360, and landed awkwardly on her ankle.
We all have a child that has low threshold when it comes to pain- that is my Bianca.
To make a long story short – Bianca had to reschedule her AP test, and I ended up canceling my before school tutoring that I was originally rushing to get to, plus calling off from work.
Instead we spent the morning visiting two clinics and the hospital for X-rays. And everywhere I went I had to repeat my no-so-mommy-of-the-year story.
Thankfully, nothing was broken, and she only had to wear a compressor for a couple of weeks.
There was a time in my life, where an incident remotely close to the one above would be reason enough for me to condemn myself for days.
You see, I used to feel underserving and unequipped to be called a mother.
I had a habitual tendency to focus on my shortcomings.
I thought I wasn’t good enough and my precious children deserved better.
A miscued tape would play in my head. I am sure some of you are familiar with this “stinking thinking”.
You aren’t affectionate enough…
You aren’t patient enough…
You aren’t creative enough…
Because, you aren’t like that mom…
Sometimes the guilt would leave me – discouraged, defeated and deflated.
I became useless to my husband, to my children, and to the Kingdom of God.
Until, the truth set me free- those corrupted thoughts weren’t from God.
On the contrary, God wants to take my ashes – my shortcomings, flaws, mistakes, sorrow- and turn them into a crown of beauty.
…and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes…
Ashes are meant to be worn for a season of mourning, or of shame.
However, like me, some of you can attest, you have struggled in washing off the ashes. I’ll even go as far to say, we keep repeatedly smearing the same ashes all over us.
Unknowingly, when we do this, we are undermining Christ dying on the cross for us.
We are telling Him, what He did for us is not good enough to wash away our ashes.
To redeem us.
Now, don’t misconstrue the message or, take advantage of His mercy and grace.
We still need to work on our flaws and shortcomings.
Our God wants to refine us through the fire, and make ashes by burning away those parts of us that aren’t like Him, or those areas in our lives that don’t glorify Him. As you can see below, it doesn’t end with ashes.
“… I will put into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The LORD is our God.” Zachariah 13:9
As a mother, I had to come to terms with the fact that I will never be a perfect mom. I will never be like that mom!
And that is okay.
I am called and equipped to be the mother of my children.
And as for my children, they get to witness God’s work through me, how He will use my ashes – flaws, shortcomings, and mistakes – and turn them into a crown of beauty.
Mothers, delight in knowing our God is able to take our messes and make them into our message.