We ended up with cookies—delicious cookies—but by no means with cookie-cutter perfections.
By Kelli Martin
As mothers are often wont to do, I am slapping up an old photo on the refrigerator for each of you to see on your next stop-over for a quarantine snack. See thirty-three-year old me aproned and armed, an icing knife poised in midair. Cutout cookies cover the kitchen table in a vast array: angels without wings, trees and wreaths with crumbled branches, untwinkling little stars and gingerbread men with missing legs, bleeding out colored sprinkles and frosting glops. I guiltily stare at the camera, clearly caught by surprise. Messy mama, messy kitchen, messy kids. Three of them are perched in chairs, hunched over like little da Vincis, painting cookies and slaughtering cookie dough. Big sister Elizabeth, standing nearby, grins and strikes a dance pose, one leg high in the air. This is not wartime—it’s a holiday homeschool tradition. Make hundreds (yes, hundreds) of goopy, sloppy cutout sugar cookies with your four kids, all the while squeezing out every possible educational lesson: following instructions from Nana’s grease-spattered recipe, calculating math with floury fractions, creating icing art, and of course listening to Christmas carols.
We did not make perfect cookies. My girlfriend up the street made perfect cookies. While her kids were safely tucked away in classrooms at elementary school, she created photo-worthy Christmas confections. Her pine trees resembled real pine trees with little sugary bulbs neatly nestled in the branches. Her cutout angels looked like, well, perfect cutout angels. But my Caleb and Micah were not bakers; they were chemists experimenting with blends of frosting colors. Rachel was too young to wield the metal cutout forms and properly shape wise men. With bottles of sprinkle choices, Elizabeth let the artist in her loose and tried them all, in every combination, on the same cookie. So, with one snap of that disposable Kodak camera, I am caught for posterity trying to do triage on three-legged reindeer with bleeding noses. We ended up with cookies—delicious cookies—but by no means with cookie-cutter perfections.
That photo is just the opposite of what I thought a mother was. ‘Cause somewhere between my first diaper bag and my last baby delivery, I whipped up the perfectly shaped, frosted, and sprinkled mother, and felt guilty that I was not her. Where did I get those ideas? Can I blame the idyllic Proverbs 31 lady? Had I read too many parenting books? Did it sprout from little seeds of envy and jealousy lingering in my heart? Was it some of those Mother’s Day cards? Is there anyone else besides me who opened one of those pink perfections with words like selfless, kindest, best, beautiful, greatest, sweetest mom ever—yet could only remember the days when she melted down, yelled long and loud, failed to get the laundry folded and the dishwasher unloaded (or even loaded in the first place)?
Thank the good Lord, I finally stopped looking around, escaped for some me-and-Him time, and cried out for a download of divine parenting tips. His secrets quite surprised me. He wasn’t after my motherhood. He was after me… and my offspring. He stirred up prophecies He had long ago spoken over my life. He brought back memories from my childhood, the good ones, where I was Kelli in all my quirks and gifts. That little thinking girl with a pen in hand, playing teacher, reading books, filled with words like alphabet soup. The athletic girl who body surfed in Lake Erie waves, dribbled in for a baseline drive, took early morning runs through city streets. His girl who wrote prayers in girlie journals and gathered thoughts from stony beaches. “Remember how I made you,” the Father whispered. Then, He started collaging my kids in prophetic snippets, clues to who they would be and what plans He had for them. “Write them down,” He told me. “Now, do what you do best. Rest in who I made you. Trust my divine recipe: you and James and these little lives, quality ingredients for some of my sweetest cookies on earth.”
A Jewish tradition says that parents are a child’s first prophets but we also have the opportunity to create a home where prophecies can take root and come to pass. Indulge me while I imagine the Bible greats through the originality of their mothers (fathers, too, of course, but those reflections are for another holiday). That experts might consider some of these as parenting flops is irrelevant. It is the omniscient Father’s estimation of us that matters. He is the keeper of the prophecies—ours and our children’s. Just perhaps… Noah’s mom was not a neat nick; logs and building blocks were left scattered on her floors. Abigail’s mother taught her how to speak up to men. David’s mom was not a ‘helicopter,’ hovering over him every moment. No, she let him play with lions and bears, the real ones not the stuffed variety. Samson’s mother embraced his long hair when most people did not understand the requirements of a Nazarite vow. I’d wager Lydia’s mother knew some things about running a business and appreciated designer clothing. Could Luke’s mother have had nursing skills? Matthew’s mother been a bookkeeper? The Bible is an anthology of the influence of mothers.
Can I Let You in on a Secret?
Can I let you in on a secret? Some of those hallmarks are not characteristics of just mothers; they are fruits of the Spirit. We cannot conjure them up in our mixing bowls. That’s right. We get the plump fruits of kindness, goodness, patience, and selfless love from hanging on for dear life to the vine of Jesus. I can’t take credit for any of that. I can just be the person He called me to be in my role as mom, always bringing my authentic self to the kitchen table. As spiritual mothers, we are called to bring authentic creativity to the church and nurture it in our spiritual kids, as well. In any family, whether natural or spiritual, God is not looking for cookie-cutter kids. He’s looking for each of us—a masterpiece of His own design—to demonstrate His love, bring His solutions, and display His creative divine nature. I believe our most influential act of motherhood is to show others how that’s done.
Now, here’s a card that reads like my mail. My son, Micah, gave me this last year. “Good moms let their kids lick the beaters. Great moms turn the mixers off first.” Yes, that’s more like it. Elizabeth gave me a Mother’s Day card once that thanked me for loving on her dad so she could be born. Now that’s a perspective to ponder! Caleb gives me a candle because, well, we all know how I like a good candle. Rachel often ditches the greeting card aisle and writes her own letters. “Because I know how much you value words, Meems,” she pens. There’s a sweet little line tucked in Proverbs 31. “Her children rise up and call her blessed.” Miracle of miracles! Those before whom our imperfections, quirks, gifts, and rawness were paraded day after day, love us in spite of them … or maybe … because of them.
So have a sweet day, mothers of both home and sanctuary. You, who live your lives in originality and who nurture well God’s masterpieces commissioned to your care. And cheers to all you dads out there who sat with us while we sobbed over spilled milk and broken cookies. You patted us on the back. You sopped up the milk. You tried in your best reassuring voices to convince us that, regardless of our shapes, we were the sweetest mothers on earth. By God’s grace, so we are.
By Kelli Martin
Kelli lives with James in the woods of Fort Loudon, PA, where James is lead elder of Freedom Lighthouse Ministries, a DOVE Partner Church. Their four children have flown the coup but thankfully return often for family dinners, imperfect cookies and hikes in the woods. Kelli spends her time supporting the family business, writing and pursuing a master’s degree in teaching writing.