“Your greatest contribution to the kingdom of God may not be something you do, but someone you raise.”  Andy Stanley

With Mother’s Day approaching I want to share revelations about mothering that I have uncovered recently.  However, it is necessary to step back and first tell you about my “cloud of witnesses” (Heb. 12) who I have firsthand learned from.
I think on mothering and I praise God for the heritage He has given me and the heritage which I know will extend beyond me as I commit my whole heart and all my desires in mothering to God.  I am blessed to have met my maternal lineage three generations back.  What a gift to have spent time with my great grandmother in my childhood.  My memories of great grandma Krahn consist mainly of visiting her in the nursing home at Herbert, Sask. ( a half hour drive from Swift Current) where we would eat Wagon Wheels with her.  She serves as more of an icon in my memory; but oh what an important one.  Her daughter, my Grandma Krahn, passed away when I was fourteen years old.  In those 14 years I learned much from her about being a godly woman of character.  Shortly before she passed away Grandma attended my cousin and mine’s baptism.  When the congregation was given opportunity to encourage the baptismal candidates she stood and loudly proclaimed to Lindsay and I that we ought never to forget Hebrews 13:5 “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake thee.” Grandma Krahn’s daughter is my mom, Alice.  My mother’s life speaks in so many ways that cannot be fully captured in words.  However, in striving to honor the incredible godly heritage I have, I attempt to capture her importance in one word: a saint.
Many verses refer to saints in the bible, I particularly like Psalm 30:4 (ESV), “Sing praises to the LORD, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name”
 I capture the picture of a saint as brought to my attention through Philip Yancey** “What is a saint?…: someone who, however flawed, ‘leads us by example, almost never by words, to imagine the hardest thing of all: the seamless love of God for all creation, including ourselves.’”
Why do we think that at some point we ought to be able to coast in life?  My mother has done nothing of the coasting sort.  My mom grew up in a godly, loving family which nourished her mind, body, and soul.  She attended University and became a social worker, empowered to make a difference in people’s lives.  The difference she could make in the parameters of her job were more meager than she had hoped.  She stopped working for pay outside the home for sometime when she had my sister, Carmen, 3 years my elder.  But, I recall her never stopping work: her volunteer spirit in our church and in our community was thriving.  When I was 5 years old, my Dad was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor.  Over the years he had numerous surgeries and appointments, always a 2 hour drive from home.  My mom previously did not highway drive.  My Dad went back to work 6 weeks after brain surgery expected to resume his normal duties, all the while maxed out with fatigue and hence laden with depression.  My Dad attends acquired brain injury support because truly all these operations have left Dad with numerous struggles.  My mom was mom and wife and a stronghold during these years. 
Fast-forward and at 60 years old (as I’m having my first child and feel like I need my mom) my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer and required a mastectomy.  Mom was cured of the cancer but the physical evidence of her disease plummeted Dad into depression again.  It was a somber time and I know it was hard for mom, and yet I really do not know.  Two years later intense backpain entered mom’s life.  I live 2 provinces away from her and did not realize how bad it was.  I noticed that she wasn’t calling anymore, but that was the extent of my selfish realization.  It became apparent that there was more going on and her back was badly broken and cancer was on table.  I froze in fear, even moreso than with my own diagnosis.  I needed my mom!  Her response was, “it will be okay.”  I return to this over and over.  The moment she first uttered those words to me is burned in my memory.  I have written about it elsewhere, but, it comes afresh these days with my own diagnosis.  My then 2 year old daughter played oblivious to us in the kitchen in these early morning moments and I started to cry.  Mom hugged me and stated those words: “It will be okay.”  This is my mom.  Rooted in God’s graces to know that no matter what, God is with us so it will be okay.  My mom has had to battle her own disease of multiple myeloma, now in remission, only to learn that her daughter has a brain tumor subsequently diagnosed as Stage 4 Glioblastoma.  My mom has to keep on mothering both her sick daughter and her needy wee-little grandkids.  And she does so without complaints (I know when I was initially recovering from surgery that I just wanted to be the patient, not worry about my mothering duties; but, mothering duties never stop.  My mom can attest to this.) This is my mom’s life through out which she has demonstrated a commitment to her family, to her faith community, to her prayer life and scripture reading.  My mom is a saint who I am so privileged to continue to learn from.     
With this heritage as my backdrop I have a good starting place to learn about mothering.  However, I uncover, I have more to learn than I thought.  Thank God, that He is with me and will never leave me because this mothering thing is a hard gig.  Join me to listen to how God is encouraging me in mothering.
I make a huge difference in the lives of my children.
This is an enormous truth, often overlooked in the busyness, in the chaos, in the difficulty and tediousness of it all.   Mothering: it is hard and beautiful and exhausting and ugly and rewarding all wrapped into our heartstrings. 
I am writing letters to my children, one for each year until adulthood, to be presented to them on their birthdays. The intention is that my words will continue to speak on into their lives even if I am no longer present to physically speak the words.  It is indeed a big task to write this stack of letters –  letters of the most heartfelt, heart-wrenching, vital nature, all with prayerful hope that I myself will speakthese words to my kids.  When I sat down to write my first letter, the magnitude of this task became apparent, and I’ll admit, felt quite daunting (especially with the intermittent looming fear of disease returning and the foggy-headed fatigue my treatments gave me).  These letters however, have become a beautiful task uncovering hopes and dreams, past and present, which enrich my daily living.  Furthermore, in writing these letters I am certain that my children will know my love for them and this provides deep comfort.
Let me step back.  A couple weeks ago I felt the heaviness of mothering.  My eldest was deep in a 5 year old disobedience phase and my 1 year olds frustratingly are still learning what obedience even means.  So I was writing letters of love to my children (as I do each week) and feeling the love for my kids and yet not.  The living of love for my kids was arduous.  I was annoyed with my kids.  I was burnt out from my kids and couldn’t wait for time away.  I was experiencing motherhood as motherhood is.  This is the reality!  I’ll be honest, I never realized how hard mothering would be.  I never intended to have more than 2 kids because I knew it was difficult —  but even despite this, oh boy it is hard in ways not mentioned.  Mothering demands so much- physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually – all of me!!!! 
I am supposed to be grateful for every moment with my children, right? Especially because I have terminal illness, right? When my twin one year olds are crying hard because who knows why and my 5 year old begins to whine and cry even harder than them because of something so small I can’t even remember it.  And it is chaos and noisy and in my post-brain-surgery brain the noise feels like jack-hammering.  I’m supposed to cherish all of these moments, right?  NOPE.  Flat out, NOPE.  For almost a week I wanted to be FAR away from my children.  I am a human and I am a mother and I fail big time.  Thank God, for His grace.
Because only by God’s grace can I love my children and then love them lavishly. Listen to what God’s grace did within my mom-heart this week.  I will share excerpts of my journal:
“What a great privilege to be used as a parent for God and His purpose.  Oh God give me wisdom to parent well – give Ryan vision to parent well and create a vision for our family.  Oh LORD you have given more children than we asked for – bless them richly, seal their hearts for Your purpose.  Use them for your glory as I pray the same for myself.
Oh give me supernatural energy to parent well.  For wisdom. For vision. For tenacity. 
Bless these children.  Rayna, Allison, and Garrett.  And bless their children.
The importance of my role as a mother to my children ought not to be overlooked.  It is HUGE and it is powerful.  What God will do through me as a mother if I fully open myself up in faith and love, is profound.  There is great purpose for me in being a mom and in being stretched in being a mom of 3 small children.
So I trust You and I invite you into our home and our family to get cozy, God, to make us uncomfortable to get moving for you.  God place a barricade of spiritual, physical, mental protection around our family starting with mine and Ryan’s marriage. Guard it, embolden it, breathe life, rich life into it.” 
To my children:
Oh I am a proud mother! My children I’ll tell you a secret, mothering is a very hard job.  It is harder than I ever imagined.  But the fruit of my hard work, with God as my strength and the Holy Spirit my Helper, is oh so sweet. And this is only the beginning!!! I am blessed. I am blessed to overflowing! How rich I am. To call you daughters and son is a blessed gift.  My sweet children, you are so very cherished. I love you.
To my Mother:   
Thank you for the gift of teaching me how to be a good and godly mom.  This gift extends for generations before you and beyond you: your elders and children yet to come. How grateful I am to share this lineage with you.  In you I see that mothering is never a completed task.  Life keeps journeying up and down.  Thank you for journeying with me as I face my own celebrations and my own hard paths.  You have taught me firsthand to live out that “It will be okay.” I love you.
While on the topic of mothering indulge me to share what I uncovered about motherhood when I was first diagnosed with a brain tumor; it was startling to me.  I had been trying and struggling to Mother my children myself (read my blog posts from the twins’ first year).  Only when I started getting help because of my brain surgery and subsequent cancer diagnosis and treatment did I realize the amount of help I had been really lacking to actually be a healthy mom (My twin mom friend was there one day and she took note of all the people caring for my kids and said, “Do you see how many people it is taking to do the job you did all by yourself?” I was proud in that moment for all I had been doing BY MYSELF. Yet looking back I realize how unhelpful pride can truly be.)  We need to be mothering in community and realize that our society’s presentation of motherhood only sets us up for disappointment and mental (and physical for that matter) health struggles. 
We need to break down the lies society is telling us about mothering.  We don’t need pinterest to mother well.  Heck we don’t even need to brush our kids’ teeth everyday! (Not that I’m really advocating for this and I can hear Rayna right now in my head asking why we only brush her teeth once a day – and well, the answer is because when the twins were born it just wasn’t worth losing our sanity to brush her teeth in the morning and we simply haven’t since resumed the routine – oh well.)  I don’t brush my kids’ hair much.  Sometimes I only shower once a week! (Twin moming pushed me to every 2-3 days or so and then cancer just shoved personal hygiene way on down in priority — and, amazingly, I am sharing this with you, but its okay!)  What I need to mother well is prayer and a village.  I need my village moms to mom with me and to pray with me.  That is the only way we can make it in this society that tells us we need to mother on our own in our own perfect house with an excessive schedule of extracurricular activities for our kids, which they better start early so they get an edge on the competition.  Tear down the fences! Share the load! Let’s mother in community.  Let’s share our dirty laundry.  Let’s encourage one another instead of compare against one another.  Let’s ask for help when we need it. Let’s give help to other moms when we see their needs.  (I thank all you women who have so graciously exemplified this way of life to me in the months since my diagnosis.)  Let’s applaud the beauty in one another. Let’s celebrate women!  Mothers you are beautiful!  Barren women you are beautiful!  And may I add, Mom, Alice, you are the most beautiful of them all.   
Happy Mother’s Day to all you beautiful women who have taken time to read this post.  
You are loved. 
You are cherished.
You are delighted upon.

**p. 71 Vanishing Grace, Philip Yancey quoting Reynolds Price