Free shipping on all orders over $75🎄

The first lie I ever told was probably not the one I’m remembering right now. I’m sure there were other smaller, simpler ones along the way leading like stepping stones across my life to this tale. I’m sure I said I’d brushed my teeth when I hadn’t. I’m sure I said I’d played nice with others at school when I, for sure, circled them up like penitents at recess and subjected them to my will. How many little lies do we tell in a day, a week, a childhood? But this one, on this particular night at the age of eight, I consider my first to cause fallout.

We’d had chili for dinner than night—basic beans and meat and cheesy fair. That’s what I recall the most, that everything about the night had been basic. Snacked after school, did homework, ate dinner, etc. As the youngest of two with a twelve-year gap between my brother and me, I was used to the steady flow of solitary days at home. He was off in college tooling around in my grandpa’s old pick up and becoming a real adult. My father (a doctor) worked a lot of on-call shifts. Independence grew in me like the meat of a nut. It was a natural thing and easy.

Night came and bedtime on its heels. And here’s where the timeline shifts from what should have been to what did. Had my mom and I fought that night? I’ve dug around in the dirt of my memories to find out, but haven’t found anything solid. Maybe I hadn’t wanted that chili for dinner. Maybe I hadn’t wanted to go to bed yet. Maybe I’d had an early hormonal surge and was testing out pre-teen tantrums. Whatever the case, here’s how it played out before I turned to walk up the peach-carpeted stairs.

Me: “I don’t want you to tuck me in.”

Mom: “Okay, but what about your prayers?”

Me: “I don’t want you to say my prayers with me.”

Mom: A beat. “Okay.”

And so I went. I didn’t stomp. I didn’t slam the door. I didn’t call my best friend and list all the things wrong with my life. I was only eight. I didn’t know what I was doing. So, I crawled into my daybed with the eyelet comforter and I stared at the flowered border trailing my ceiling. I followed the vines with my eyes until I lost a thread and had to start over again. I tried to pick out the faces in the newel posts of my white rod-iron bed, the ones that always looked like they were winking or laughing at me. I did whatever I could to pass the time, certain in my knowledge that my mother would come. Because she always had. She’d walk those step with me and tuck the sheets up to my chin, but not too tight, and smooth the hair away from my face and we’d put our hands together and pray. The prayers weren’t complicated. A creature of habit, I always said the exact same thing every time:

“Dear Lord, please don’t let any robbers get in. Please don’t let a fire catch on our house. And please keep everyone safe. Amen.”

Apparently, I catastrophized even then. But the words wouldn’t come out that night. A tightness in the center of me spread until my fingers tingled. The tension from trying to listen for footsteps was too much. So, I got up and, tucking my nightgown around my knees, crouched at the door to hear better. Maybe mom was rinsing out the chili pot, a slow job, or talking to dad, or changing into her robe? But after a while, five minutes or an hour (who knows as a kid?), I heard only the muffled sounds of a football game on tv. No one was coming for me.

I crawled back into bed that night and fell asleep. The next morning, I went to school like always. Mom wasn’t any different. Neither was I. The cheerios and banana didn’t taste worse after the first night I spent on my own. Mom didn’t abandon me. It wasn’t a full stop after that of tucking in and prayer time. It was simply more erratic. She would ask me from then on, each night, if I wanted her to come up. And every night I would have to decide. It was a lot for a little person, not yet in her double digits, to think about.

The truth is, I always wanted her to come up. I always wanted her to tuck the covers just how she knew to do it. I wanted my hair brushed from my face and I wanted my prayers overseen by her and with her stamp of approval. I wanted them noted, notarized, and made official. But already I knew I could not take us back to that assumption of her presence.

Now that I’m a mother, I look to my own kids and wonder, what do I do when you start to break away from me, peeling off like bark from a tree? Do I trust you to know your moment? Do I trust myself to know it? That first lie bought me an independence more weighty than freeing. I broke too early. There is a time to let them navigate their relationship with God on their own, but when it will be for each of them, I do not know. Along with all my prayers of theft and fire prevention, I am adding one of prescience, so I catch the right moment just as it comes. I don’t want to hold on too long and accrue all the angst that comes from steamrolling their road to faith, but I also don’t want my little people with ears to their door holding their breaths and wishing for me.

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our new book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available now!

Order Now

Jamie Sumner

Jamie Sumner is the author of the middle-grade novel, Roll with It. Her second and third middle-grade novels with Atheneum Books for Young Readers will be coming out in 2020 and 2021. She is also the author of the nonfiction book on motherhood, Unboundand the forthcoming bookEat, Sleep, Save the Worldfor parents of children with special needs. She is also mom to a son with cerebral palsy and she writes and speaks about disability in literature. She loves stories that celebrate the grit and beauty in all kids. She and her family live in Nashville, Tennessee. Connect with her at   

This Is Why Moms Ask for Experience Gifts

In: Faith, Living, Motherhood
Mother and young daughter under Christmas lights wearing red sweaters

When a mama asks for experience gifts for her kids for Christmas, please don’t take it as she’s ungrateful or a Scrooge. She appreciates the love her children get, she really does. But she’s tired. She’s tired of the endless number of toys that sit in the bottom of a toy bin and never see the light of day. She’s tired of tripping over the hundreds of LEGOs and reminding her son to pick them up so the baby doesn’t find them and choke. She’s tired of having four Elsa dolls (we have baby Elsa, Barbie Elsa, a mini Elsa,...

Keep Reading

When You Just Don’t Feel Like Christmas

In: Faith, Living
Woman sad looking out a winter window

It’s hard to admit, but some years I have to force myself to decorate for Christmas. Some years the lights look a little dimmer. The garlands feel a bit heavier. And the circumstances of life just aren’t wrapped in a big red bow like I so wish they were. Then comparison creeps in like a fake Facebook friend and I just feel like hiding under the covers and skipping it all. Because I know there’s no way to measure up to the perfect life “out there.” And it all just feels heavier than it used to. Though I feel alone,...

Keep Reading

When Your Kids Ask, “Where Is God?”

In: Faith, Kids
Child looking at sunset

How do I know if the voice I’m hearing is God’s voice? When I was in high school, I found myself asking this question. My dad was a pastor, and I was feeling called to ministry. I didn’t know if I was just hearing my dad’s wish or the call of God. I was worried I was confusing the two. It turns out, I did know. I knew because I was raised to recognize the presence of God all around me. Once I knew what God’s presence felt like, I also knew what God’s voice sounded like. There is a...

Keep Reading

To the Woman Longing to Become a Mother

In: Faith, Grief, Motherhood
Woman looking at pregnancy test with hand on her head and sad expression

To the woman who is struggling with infertility. To the woman who is staring at another pregnancy test with your flashlight or holding it up in the light, praying so hard that there will be even the faintest line. To the woman whose period showed up right on time. To the woman who is just ready to quit. I don’t know the details of your story. I don’t know what doctors have told you. I don’t know how long you have been trying. I don’t know how many tears you have shed. I don’t know if you have lost a...

Keep Reading

I Was There to Walk My Mother to Heaven

In: Faith, Grief, Loss
Hand holding older woman's hand

I prayed to see my momma die. Please don’t click away yet or judge me harshly after five seconds. I prayed to see, to experience, to be in the room, to be a part of every last millisecond of my momma’s final days, final hours, and final moments here on Earth. You see, as a wife of a military man, I have always lived away from my family. I have missed many birthdays, celebrations, dinners, and important things. But my heart couldn’t miss this important moment. I live 12 hours away from the room in the house where my momma...

Keep Reading

God Sent Me to You

In: Faith, Motherhood
Newborn gazing at mother with father smiling down

I was a little unsure As I left God’s warm embrace: What will it be like? What challenges will I face? There were so many questions Running through my mind. I asked around for the answers I was hoping to find. Who will hold me And cuddle me tight? Who will rock me To sleep at night? RELATED: The Newborn Nights Feel As Endless As My Love For You Who will comfort me When I’ve had a rough day? Who will be there To take my worries away? Who will nourish me And make sure I grow? Who will read...

Keep Reading

Addiction Doesn’t Get the Final Say Over My Son

In: Faith, Motherhood
Woman praying with head bowed

She is so tired. It is a kind of tired that no amount of sleep or rest can alleviate. It is a kind of tired that surpasses physical and even mental fatigue. It is a tiredness of soul—a tiredness that comes from wondering, and grieving, and not knowing how to save her son from the drugs the enemy has bound him up in. She kneels alone on the floor in her bedroom closet. This is where she came when the fear and the uncertainty and the panic started to creep into her heart again. She came here to pray, though...

Keep Reading

I Want to Be a Praying Mama

In: Faith, Motherhood
Dirt road at dusk

I want to be that praying mama. The one who stops on the side of the road when the time seems fit, just to take those few short, undistracted moments to lift my kids up to God. I want to be that praying mama. The one who prays while she drives down the road to schools and lifts each one up as they exit the car for the start of their day. RELATED: Praying For Your Kids is Holy Work of Motherhood I want to be that praying mama. The one who does it so much that the youngest doesn’t...

Keep Reading

Blessed Are Those Who Can’t Even

In: Faith, Living
Woman rubbing temples with hands, color photo

We argued about an orange last night after dinner. Not even a large orange. A tiny mandarin. As emotions escalated between my beloved husband and me, the eldest child graciously removed herself from the table and donned noise-canceling headphones while the smallest child openly snickered and was dispatched to her room to play while we hashed things out in “peace.” I’d love to say that was the most insane thing we’ve ever argued about, but that would be a lie. My kids love to remind us about the breadstick incident a few years back. Life has been a bit overwhelming...

Keep Reading

I Don’t Want My Sons Growing Up Thinking I Wanted a Daughter

In: Faith, Motherhood
Two boys smiling

“Are you trying for a girl?” They ask this question under the assumption we will try for a third child and will be disappointed if we don’t finally get our girl. And by “they,” I mean almost everyone we encounter these days. What if, medically, we can’t have another? And what if we are content with the two boys we’ve been blessed with? In a world where having one of each means your family is complete, it’s easy to feel like a failure if you’ve only been given one child or children of one gender. Or no children at all....

Keep Reading