My children are grown now, for the most part. There are no little ones slipping their chubby hands into mine to cross the street. No cookie crumb kisses. For now. Until the next generation is born.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t still precious opportunities to mother.

My youngest son, who is now almost sixteen, has inherited my debilitating migraines along with the nausea and dizziness that accompany them. He has had to miss a great deal of school recently as we have tried to get to the bottom of the cause and find the best treatment. During a particularly rough morning, he was concerned about missing another day, as he tried to hold in the nausea on the way to school…everything spinning. If you get the type of migraines that stop your world, you understand that you can’t gut it out until the symptoms pass. You must stop and lie down in a dark room immediately with a cold compress after taking something for pain relief, or the symptoms will just escalate. I called to speak to the kind secretary about the reason he was missing so much school as I waited in the school parking lot (still dressed in my pajamas) for him to take a test in the morning before leaving for the day. Whether he was excused or not, he could not stay.

It was nothing. A small gesture. A day in the life of a mother. A stepping up to come alongside, to go to bat for him. A calming voice of reason to say, “You’re going to be ok. I’ve got you.”

Not in the way we get to do when they are young, of course. Teenagers and young men do not allow their mothers to hold them on their laps to make it better. They are becoming men. And, a mother’s role is different in this stage of their lives.

Not long after that incident, my oldest son called about some paperwork we had been working on for his college internship. I was reflecting on the stirrings of my heart as I left my Moms in Prayer group that morning, thinking of my own mother, as a wave of missing rushed over me.

My own mother was kind of tough, hard-working, and rarely soft. I learned to be very independent, and likely would not have asked for her help in many situations as a young person. Occasionally, though, there was no place on earth that felt safer than being near her, especially when I became a young mother myself. Because sometimes, in this harsh world, we just need a safe place. And, no matter how imperfect the relationship, most of the time, mom is a safe place.

What makes a mom?

Well, I’m certainly not going to attempt to sum up the answer to that question in a blog post. Being a perpetual grace rebel, I’m quite resistant to anything that may resemble measuring our performance as mothers. We come in all shapes and sizes and most of us, whether we admit it or not, stumble through this task with glorious imperfection. But, to me…underneath all the daily things a mother does as she pours into the lives of her children…

Mom is the one who makes it all better. As our children grow and life gets more complicated, there are moments of pain and regret she cannot take away so easily. Yet, she remains a safe haven in the storm. She is the place where you’re loved no matter what. She is the one who will help you sort through the mess and make a plan. She is walking grace that covers the broken mess with love. She is the one with knees worn through her pants (or long flow-y skirt) from the countless prayers lifted on your behalf. She thinks of her children more than they will ever know.

The bible tells us we are created in the image of God. In our broken state, covered in flesh, it is sometimes hard to see God in the face of humanity. But, in the heart of a mother, I believe that He has woven some of the sweetest pieces of His infinite grace and unconditional love. Whatever we may or may not get right as mothers, He has placed that love and grace into our hearts as a gift for our children.

My prayer for you today, my prayer for me, is that we will allow His love and grace to pour through us. That we will put away our measuring sticks as women, as mothers, focusing less on our performance or the performance of our children and more on the grace. Nothing melts a hardened heart like abounding grace and love without conditions. There is no argument against it. And, any changes that may need to occur in us or in our children must happen in the heart, if they are meant to last. Eternal healing happens in the attitude of our hearts. We point our children back to Jesus when we begin with love and grace, not the kind we merely speak of, but the kind we live.