A friend came up to me the other day after church and commented, “I’ve never seen you alone. I had to make sure you were okay.” It’s true. I’m never alone. I usually have one or two children hanging onto me and three more milling about with my husband close. But at that moment, my husband had stepped away to collect the younger ones from the children’s service, and my older two had run off with their friends.
I was standing alone.
And as I stood there, one thought crossed my mind, “This is what it will be like when they’re grown. Who will I be then? I don’t know who I am without them.”
I knew who I was before children, a magazine editor, writer, dreamer, aspiring book author. But so much of that has slowly changed in the last 14 years. As my children have grown and matured from tiny tots to toddlers to now even a teen, I too have changed with them. I’m not the same person I was then.
Motherhood has shaped me and molded me into someone different, someone new, someone who sees the world and all its offerings and trappings through a completely different lens, a lens imprinted by the indelible mark only children can leave.
I know many of you reading this feel the same way. It’s why the ache of every new childhood stage hits us with such nuanced, heart-searing emotion. We recognize the rapidity of the passing years, and we’re not sure we know who we’ll be when those passing years stack up behind us. When college beckons or that first job offer arrives or they sign the loan for that first house—what then? What happens when their dreams seem to be unfolding and ours seem to be . . . well, stalling?
This is the question I’ve been pondering the last few days. Not because that season is right around the corner but because I realize it’s around the eventual corner, and those eventual corners are coming faster and faster. My oldest will be a sophomore next year and my youngest will start kindergarten. I have had children home with me for the past 14 years, but next year they will all be in school. While I relish the idea of some time to myself, I also know I will be keenly aware of their absence. The house will be too quiet during those school hours, too tidy, too childless.
Ready or not, that time is coming. Every learned skill, every new achievement is a reminder of that. It’s all a little letting go that will eventually culminate in a big letting go—graduation, marriage, a job offer across the country. And when it does, I will be praying I did everything I could to prepare them for this beautiful, blessed life. That is my job after all, is it not? To ultimately raise these children to send them out.
All of these thoughts have crossed my mind since that moment at church, that moment of keen aloneness. Clearly, I will be a basket case when that little girl who starts kindergarten next fall walks across a graduation stage a little more than a decade later.
Or will I?
Just as those thoughts enter my mind, a whisper enters it too. Surely the Lord is preparing me for the years ahead, just as He’s preparing my children for the futures He has written for them. If I believe the Lord has good things in store for them, doesn’t He also still have good things in store for me? Doesn’t He still have work for me to do?
I hear Him whisper these truths to me even as I type these words. His mercies endure forever. To me, to my children, to my children’s children, and so on. I know this to be true. I may not know who I’ll be when my children are grown, but the Lord does. He knows who I’ll be, the work I’ll be doing, and the impact I’ll be making because He’s ordained it all.
At this current stage of life, I can’t imagine what the next stage may look like, but then again, I couldn’t have imagined what motherhood would look like. I couldn’t have imagined the sensation of watching my heart walk upon the earth cloaked in someone else’s skin. I couldn’t have imagined the transcendent beauty and the searing heartache. I couldn’t have imagined how it would open a deep well within my own heart. Motherhood has been so much more than I could have ever dreamt.
Won’t this next stage be the same? Won’t God be just as good then as He is now? Won’t His plans be just as gracious?
Abraham, Moses, David, Naomi, Elizabeth and so many more all experienced God’s miraculous intervention and direction in the latter parts of their lives. When they thought perhaps things were starting to slow down for them, God was just getting started.
If you’re in the latter parts of motherhood or you’re wondering who you may be when you get there, know this . . . when we’re standing alone wondering what the future holds, the Lord is standing beside us, and He’s just getting started.