Every since I was a little girl, all I wanted was to go to school, study writing, marry a charismatic minister and have lots and lots of babies. As antiquated as this sounds, I wanted to devote my life to faith and family. From 16-18 “train up my children in the way they should go” was my life verse. During these years, I dreamed of mornings with my children that began with “Rise and Shine and give God the glory, glory” and family prayer times at bedtime. I looked forward to baptisms in our pool (these dreams were spun under the scorching Texas sun, after all), bible quizzes in the van while we run errands and hours of Veggie Tales. I wanted the sign above our doorpost that says “as me for and my house we’re going to serve the Lord” and at some point, maybe not while their little but definitely before my daughter turned thirteen and the boys start lurking around the door I wanted a gun above my mantel. How this fit into my dream being a Bible-believing family or raising thoroughly Christian children– I’m not sure– but every man of God I admired had a gun and a robust plan to intimidate would-be suitors so I figured: Jesus, guns, and fear-based encouragement kept your daughter off the pole with her virtue in tact. My goal in Christian parenting was to basically recreate every mountaintop faith experience I ever had as a Pentecostal teenager and fit every stereotype of a bible-believing family in the Bible belt, possible. Stereotypes are stereotypes for a reason, right?
But, then I had these three children and they’re complex with their stubbornness to not rise, or shine and give God the glory, glory. I have these stingy children who would rather fight about seat privileges when we load up to go to Target than quote the various pieces of the armor of God and I’ve found these slightly sarcastic children (not like they didn’t learn that from yours truly!?!) are deeply, deeply allergic to talking vegetables singing silly songs.
When real-life happened, I had to recalibrate my parenting approach and look to Jesus to help re-frame my role as a Mama. Surprisingly (and maybe not so much, I mean I did ask him to help, right?), I’ve found him in the mundane mothering moments. At the sticky coffee table at 5am and the lumpy couch in the middle of the night. During long walks under kaleidoscope trees on a chilly Monday morning while listening to All Sons and Daughters on my iPod. Jesus started whispering truth to my heart while I washed dishes and cleaned up vomit and silently sob in my closet while I prayed for peace. During that season of re-framing, I fell in love with him after “aha” moments when my favorite tattooed woman pastor teaches on grace and when I’m viciously underlining pages of books written by “radicals”.
Eventually, I came to know why I love Jesus and it wasn’t only because of the mountain top, charismatic, chandelier swinging moments, so why not alter the way I introduce my kids to include those more tender, personal moments? If I love Jesus shouldn’t my children’s introduction to him stem from that love and not my anxiety that they “get it right” or have an amazing altar call experience? What if my role in spiritual formation for my children starts with me a woman who loves Jesus who happens to be a Mama who wants her children to as well? It’ll shift my parenting paradigm from Mountaintop Moment Manufacturer to more of a Matchmaker between Jesus and my babies. What if love wins in this situation?
These were the questions that gave my clarity to my calling as a mama.
So I decided to stop striving to make mountaintop moments for my kids to learn about Jesus and began asking him show up in everyday, unexpected ways for them– just like he did for me. I asked him to use a caterpillar they found at the park as a visual aid to teach how he can transform us too. I let them watch a movie about an orphan who goes to the future to meet his future family–The Robinsons–and as he realized that eventually, someday, he will find a home I prayed for the Holy Spirit to remind my children of the scripture they hear from their parents all the time–that God sets the lonely in families– then I asked Jesus to let them know they are a part of the family of God. I laid down my pride to let my children see me –their mama–mess-up royally when I snap at their daddy and then asked Jesus to help me use my weakness to teach grace, forgiveness, and reconciliation.
Basically, I started asking Jesus to start wooing my kids on their level, to show up where they are, and show off just for them.
And you know what he did.
This weekend, my daughter and I watched “Gilmore girls” on Netflix while doing laundry and even though I’ve seen the series multiple times, on Saturday I realized I had a kindred spirit in Miss Patty.
Miss Patty is the local dance teacher. She’s big and brash, pushy and peculiar; Miss Patty is everything you’d expect from a once show-girl. She’s kind-hearted and well-meaning, but knows a few things about men…and dating….and marriage. Therefore she enthusiastically makes matches– including, but not limited to Lorelei Gilmore.
I love Miss Patty. I love that her desire to match-make comes from a good place of knowing the joy of being in love. When I watch her insinuate connections and suggest companions, I see a woman who cares deeply that those who are dear to her are loved and loved well. I see Miss Patty studying Lorelei, her idiosyncrasies, her preferences, all of her good qualities and a few of her bad and saying, “Look here– I’ve found the right person for you.” On the episode about the town picnic basket auction, I loved how Patty admitted to carrying around a picture of Lorelei in her wallet to ” in her daily travels” she runs across a “nice, single guy”, she likes to have “a visual aid to help with the wonderful buildup” she gives Lorelei.
It’s just the kind of intentional (yet, slightly creepy) mechanisms of matchmaking that makes me think MIss Patty is my spirit animal (even though I so, so, SO want to be a Rory). It also makes me rethink my responsibilities as a Jesus-following mama. Maybe all Jesus wants from me is to be willing to carry around a picture of God that looks like him and whenever the opportunity comes, I whip it out for my children to see and say, “Look here- I’ve found the right person for you!”
This approach, this love-based, open-handed, Holy Spirit inviting approach takes the pressure off of me (and my morning routines or introductions to animated Christian characters) and leaves space for a love story to blossom. And you know what? I think that’s what Jesus dreams for my children. He loves them, he wants them, and my job is to orchestrate moments for them to fall in love– not function out of legalism.
I remember praying for my children one day and asking Jesus to meet them and I felt a very strong sense that he not only wanted to but he wanted to meet me in the process too. So, resolved that morning to stop manufacturing mountaintop moments and look for meet-cutes between Jesus and my babies. I resolved to let love blossom all around us and simply enjoy its fragrance in as we go about out day.
They don’t happen all the time–these divine meet-cutes. Sometimes they happen when my daughter finds out we’re got an amazing gift and exclaims, “that’s so God!” or my son says, “Thank you, Jesus!” when he finds the Pokemon card he’s been missing for days. They don’t happen often, but when they do, I sit back and smile and trust that love will always win their hearts.
Seeing Shalom as a Matchmaking Mama,