“Prayer is not eloquence, but earnestness; not the definition of helplessness, but the feeling of it; not figures of speech, but earnestness of soul.” ~ Hannah More

The obsession with youthful beauty in our culture has reached ridiculous proportions. I find that I am noticing its poignant affects particularly on my older two daughters, who are quickly reaching an age where outward appearance will matter much more to them. My mother’s heart is unprepared for everything about this part of young womanhood. I’ve always known it was coming, but I didn’t expect to have such a mother-bear protectiveness over the girls’ purity and innocence. Boys have started looking. We need deodorant and more frequent showers now. Those skirts, shorts, and tank tops that looked just fine a summer or two ago look almost scandalous now. Knobby knees and scuffed elbows are turning into not-quite-comfortable curves and awkward slenderness, which will in turn become feminine, womanly beauty itself.

Everything about this transformation has me mesmerized. We are barely arriving at the double digit years, but the teen years will be here in about three seconds. I’m scrambling in my mind as I try to remember just how I survived these times in my own life, and what wisdom, what protection, what lettings-go must I be ready for as this process unfolds with or without me? Have I prepared them enough? Will they remember those hundreds of conversations we’ve had about the true beauty Yeshua gives His daughters – and how priceless it is? How will I bear it when they begin to understand just how cruel the worldliness of this world can be? How much can I protect them from it without smothering their burgeoning souls?

The other day we experienced a plethora of hormonal tears over a completely inconsequential issue, which is something that likely will continue and even increase as the girls grow. As I looked at my daughter, I saw her as a young woman and spoke to her with expectations in the same way I would speak to a peer or someone much closer to understanding what I can understand now as an adult woman. But later, I turned around and saw her American Girl doll propped up primly, sitting next to her as she did her math workbook. When I looked at my daughter that time, it was as if we had jumped backward several years. I felt as though a two-by-four hit me between the eyes. My girl is still a little girl! She’s practically a baby. The years ahead of her are filled with wonder and tears, joy and struggle, and ultimately, she will define who she is in Christ and what she is designed to accomplish in God’s kingdom. It’s the most exciting and terrifying thing I can imagine as a mother – and I’m not even there just yet! But childhood is like a freight train. No brakes on this baby. Before that American Girl doll moment, I don’t believe it had really sunk in just how irreversible this process of growing up is. I’m not even sure I’m ready to be a grown-up, and here I have six (soon seven) stair-step babies who are going to grow faster than I can even realize it’s happening, and then they will be gone with me standing there gasping for air, wondering what just took place.

The first thing that wells up in me is tears at the astounding burden of releasing my arrows into the big, wild world, but even more so there is an ache over my incredible responsibility as a mother in the few remaining years of mostly-exclusive influence I have. I’ve heard it said time and again that intercession is only more crucial the more children you have. I am convicted at how much time I haven’t spent in prayer as we’ve seen this crossroads looming before us, always thinking it was further away than it really is. I am only deceiving myself if I think I “don’t have time to pray” when that is the only thing I ever can really do for my children in light of eternity. How often has busyness overshadowed time on my face before my heavenly Abba, seeking Him with everything in me for the very souls of my children? That they might walk circumspectly in this world? That they may love Him no matter what exclusions and loss they might face in this life? That they will not be sucked into the distractions and fleshliness of time-wasting pursuits but will live wholeheartedly listening to the Spirit of God? Do I somehow think that we’re just going to glaze over those stormy waves I see on the horizon? Is it just business as usual – brush teeth, read a Bible story, thank Jesus for dying on the cross, and give kisses goodnight? No. For now the very future of these little birds in my nest hangs in the balance as mama bird prepares to push them out to fly. I’m caught between longing for the simplicity and straightforwardness of having little ones around my feet at all times and knowing that even Yeshua Himself eventually had to send His disciples out into the world. I want them to have all that He has prepared for them, I really do. But my heart is way too tender for this part of the journey. I don’t know how I’ll survive it but by His grace alone.

In the meantime, I have to ask myself if I’ve absorbed every little drop of beauty that has passed by right in front of me, collecting it in the scrapbook of my heart. Or have I been too tired and weary with scrubbing cloth diapers, dealing with endless tattles, teaching them how to read, and trying to listen graciously and answer cheerfully to the gift of constant chatter that only toddlers possess? I’m convicted that just being here in this house, homeschooling my children is not enough. I must be present. They know when my heart is elsewhere, and the excuses of being exhausted and seeking any kind of alone time even if it’s on the toilet are not going to hold weight any longer. They are going to need more conversations, more attention, and more hand-holding. They will have more questions, even as they want me to step back and let go while they attempt to walk the tightropes of adolescence.

I think God has a sense of humor in how He has staged me for this aspect of motherhood. My girls are changing and entering the phase of ideal youthful beauty (the kind you can buy for a lot of money even if you’ve lost it). Meanwhile, I am finding more gray hairs on my head. Their teeth will need some braces but they will have captivating smiles when it’s all said and done. Meanwhile, the fine lines around my eyes are getting more firmly set. I’m getting more wrinkles. I can’t wear whatever fashions I want anymore. My beauty is turning into age, and my body has been through a lot as I’ve mothered these little ones, in some ways irreparably. But I’m going through a transition right alongside my girls. I have a choice. I can try to hold on (expensively and likely unsuccessfully) to youthful beauty, or I can embrace the gray hairs and smile lines that I’ve earned over the years of being Mommy. I can learn the dance steps of this new older, wiser, grayer mother who has learned how to lean on Jesus. Just as my girls walk into the unknown, can I show them with dignity and trust in my heavenly Abba that even unknown and stormy waves can be traversed with Him? My prayer is that I can show them by example how to cling to His hands and plant their feet on the Solid Rock.