Keeping myself flexible has given me space to embrace the unexpected--both as an individual and as a mother--which makes me be a better mom.
I like to think I’m flexible—and invincible—and open to new adventures. And most of the time, I am—until I go to the trampoline park with my daughter Sophia. More than once I’ve gone with her to jump and flip and bend like a pretzel only to find out that I’m not a pretzel anymore! And I always pay for it the next day when I can barely stand up straight. This body that bore two children and has traveled the globe for more than twenty years no longer likes to be flung into the air and then bounced off a springing canvas. But each time she asks me to go, I feel compelled to go just so I don’t quit trying. I want to keep working on staying flexible, and so I keep stretching—in every way.
It is so easy to be consumed by motherhood, especially when children are still at home, living under our roof. It’s easy to forget there’s an individual inside of us, separate from the role of mom. But that person is still there. What makes YOU come alive? What do you do to stretch and grow and remind yourself that you’re still there?
I read books all the time to keep myself current with knowledge about leading teams, parenting my kids, and staying strong emotionally. I can’t expect to remain an effective leader to my team if I don’t keep enlarging in knowledge and the skillful application of it. I can’t expect to keep up with a generation that speaks differently and was educated differently from my generation if I don’t enlarge my mind to understand them and learn how to communicate effectively with them. As tempting as it is, I cannot rest on the success of my past to take me into the future in any area of my life.
I recently started working on my master’s degree in evangelism and leadership at Wheaton College. When I started, it had been thirty years since I last sat in a classroom. Even though I have a degree from Sydney University in Australia and have experience with university-level education, entering the American college system was intimidating. I had no idea what to expect, and the more I thought about it all, the more terrified I became that I wouldn’t be able to write a paper—even though I can write books! Fear is never logical. I almost talked myself out of starting the course, but my desire to keep growing is greater than my fear of failure. I want to keep growing in my capacity to speak and lead others. I want my mind to stay active and my spirit alert. I want to stay flexible. I want to be like Laura.
Ever since Laura joined our A21 team, she’s kept learning. She knows it’s part of God’s growth plan to keep her flexible, alive and young—and she’s willing to let others teach her. “I love how the team helps me when I have a new project I don’t know how to begin. They show me shortcuts on the computer or a website that will make me more productive. They are amazing! I laugh sometimes at how some things are so over my head. But God equips me, and he uses my teammates. I love what I have stepped into.”
What Laura stepped into was remaining flexible so she could keep flourishing—not just for herself but also for the next generation.
When I read Laura’s volunteer application, one of the most powerful statements she made—the one that moved me so deeply—was her desire to leave her grandkids more than just memories. She wanted to leave them a legacy—even though at the time of applying to A21, she didn’t know what that was.
“My grandchildren love to hear about all of the ‘world changers,’ as I call them, in the local office where I work, and those serving around the world,” Laura said. “It has brought a rich dynamic to our relationships that I could have never anticipated. One of my granddaughters even told me that she really likes how happy I am now that I work with ‘world changers,’ and that she is going to be a ‘world changer’ someday, too. Because I was willing to grow, God has given her a vision for a future that is so much bigger than before. I absolutely love it that my granddaughter wants to follow in my footsteps doing kingdom work!”
Having her granddaughter want to follow in her footsteps is definitely inspiring a legacy. Laura’s renewed vision for her future—even when it was fuzzy and unclear what that actually was—is what moved her forward.
What spark has God put in your heart? Where can you work, serve, or volunteer? Who can you reach, love, encourage, and mentor? Where might you need to be flexible and stretch yourself to take the next step?
I believe you can be a great mama and still nourish the YOU that often feels lost or neglected. I believe you are the answer to someone’s prayers. You are an unexpected blessing in someone’s life. God wants to use you, and he wants you to have vision for every age and stage of life—including this one. You can do it—you were made for this!
This post is an adapted excerpt from Christine Caine's new book, Unexpected: Leave Fear Behind, Move Forward in Faith, Embrace the Adventure, and is being reprinted with the permission of Zondervan.