I have never been a huge fan of sugary things. Pie or cake? Nah. Chocolate? Meh. With the exception of gummi bears, I can pretty much take it or leave it. But I have learned that I can’t live without a certain kind of sweet.
One morning after I had spoken at a women’s event, a young woman came up to me at my CD table. She introduced herself and said she had a question for me after hearing my story.
“You seem so content that you never got to be a mom”, she said. And then asked “Are you content?”
I had to stop for a second and think. Was I indeed… content?
Here’s the thing: I had always wanted to be a mom. From as far back as I could remember I wanted it more than anything.
I had been a focused businesswoman up through my forties and hadn’t married until I was 41. And with a new husband 11 years my senior, it became clear to me that having a child together was not the right path for us. So although my dream of finding my lifelong partner was exceeded beyond my wildest dreams, the dream of ever having a child… died.
I’m not going to lie. Waiting all those years to find God’s man for me was tough but this… this was a bitter pill to swallow.
But 14 years ago, disguised as a personal crisis, God gave me a shot at a “do over”. Doggone it if He didn’t let me start my life all over again when He gave me the chance to get out of myself, grow up and grow deep with Him, and I grabbed it with gusto. He began maturing me in all areas of my life, showing me in spades that He had my back and wanted me to experience all that life had to offer. I dug deep into His Word to learn more what that meant and realized one day that I had given in, had completely accepted what He had for me, and had developed a desire to want what He wanted for my life.
It just didn’t appear that having a child was going to be one of those things.
But here’s the thing. Over time, I began to realize that accepting life on life’s terms left a sweet taste in my mouth… and besides, I learned there are a lot of other ways to be a real mom. Here are a few I’ve found:
When I married Wolf, an extraordinary stepdaughter came with the deal who I couldn’t love any more than if I’d given birth to her myself. (Mariah often jokes that it’s a darned good thing I didn’t because if I had, she might’ve gotten my thin hair!)
Wolf and I host young people in our home from all over the world who come here to study English. In the time they are with us, we are given entrance into their hearts and thoughts as we pour into them, striving to provide as full a cultural, family, and spiritual experience as possible. Some of the richest times we’ve had in the last few years have been with these kids and I wouldn’t trade the experience of being “Mama Sillye” for anything.
For 13 years, I’ve gotten to be a “co-mom” with moms all over the third world who are unable to take care of their children on their own. As a result of events at which I and my partner Billye have spoken, over 5,000 moms have fewer worries about their kids’ futures because American “moms” have sponsored their child*. The mother of a child I sponsor in Africa humbled me to my bones when she thanked me for helping her raise her children. Me??
Up until very recently, I had the honor of hosting a group of young women in my living room every Tuesday night for five years who still call me their “BFF spiritual mom”. Each week, I got to guide them through God’s Word where I wanted them to see how sweet their life could be if they could just develop a taste to want what He wants. We went through breakups, marriages, cancer, pregnancy, and job woes and they began to see that peace is possible, regardless of our circumstances.
You can’t tell me I haven’t been able to be a mom.
So when that young woman asked me that day if I was content, I had to be honest when I said I was not. But what I could tell her was that, in all honestly, I was in full agreement with God on His choice for my life. Today, I get it. Today I see why He withheld this “dream” of mine and I joyfully accept and embrace the extraordinary life He has given me in exchange.
When life turns out differently than the stuff of our dreams, we have a choice. We can get bitter, wasting months and years pining for what we didn’t get, or we can begin to recognize there are just simply things we won’t understand on this earth and accept what comes our way, relishing what we DO have.
And with that, taste the delectable calm that accompanies the sweetness of acceptance.
With all your heart trust the Lord and not your own judgment. Always let Him lead you, and He will clear the road for you to follow. Proverbs 3:5-6 CEV
Sylvia Lange is a Christian women’s speaker living in Southern California.
My mother is a recovering Southern Belle. She would still be Emily Post’s only begotten child if not for having her dignified roots collide with my father’s California surfer casualness in the 60s. Years after moving away from the daily influence of her refined Northerner mother and bonafide Southern gentleman father, she too became more and more casual with time. But even though Daddy has successfully loosened her up over the years, she has never lost her connection to her Memphis upbringing.
You see it everywhere in her life in some hilarious but mostly thoughtful ways. One would never pour ketchup straight out of the bottle in her house; of course not, it’s ladled from a silver bowl. She would never think of drinking coffee out of anything other than a porcelain teacup. Thank you notes are in the outgoing mail by nightfall, usually penned on engraved monogrammed note cards. She would never show up to a wedding without having sent a gift weeks ahead, wouldn’t dream of letting her living room be devoid of fresh flowers at any time, and never, no never would she arrive at your home for dinner without a case of your favorite fruit, an exotic round of cheese, or an orchid in tow. As a child, I drank root beer floats out of a crystal goblet, never wore pants on public transportation, and owned two pair of gloves by the time I was 6.
However, it is in her speech where her “Southernness” is especially apparent. Her Tennessean drawl is still alive and well after over 50 years on the west coast and she isn’t afraid to use it to get what she wants… and she always does. No lie, that archetype shows up when you least expect it. She can get total strangers to do the most unbelievable things by simply purring “Oh my, I’m in a terrible jam and I just know you’d love to help me”. (Admit it: you’re reading this with an accent, aren’t you?)
Further, she uses all kinds of colorful expressions that people from that corner of the world are known for. Though I adore them today, we would often cringe as kids and struggle with “calling her blessed”. No kidding, there wasn’t a situation I’d face for which she didn’t have an expression at the ready. If I was tempted to telephone the latest heartthrob who didn’t even know I existed, she’d be quick to tell me “Darlin’, don’t you know a good cow sells tied in her stall?” If I complained about someone who had wronged me, she’d say “Sweetie, just remember that no pancake is so thin that it doesn’t have two sides.” When I’d criticize a boss or a politician, Mom would empathetically spew “Oh honey, he doesn’t know if he’s a foot or on horseback.” Oh yah, I’ve got a million of ’em.
But it’s the expressions she’d say in my darker moments that stick with me the most. When my fiancée cheated on me when I was 26, she scooped me up and defiantly stated “Sweetheart, let him pound sand because he doesn’t deserve someone as amazing as you”. When I was going through a phase of joblessness, she’d continually hurrumph “Sugar, something is going to happen any day now because there is no one as capable as you”. When I thought I’d lost my faith, she whispered “God’s still got you, sweetie.” And when I came to the end of the asphalt 14 years ago and was finally ready to transform the way I was living, Mom’s unhesitant response was her usual “I am soooo proud of you”, which quite simply helped to change my life.
The way she has mothered me has also taught me what to look for in other mom influences in my life. I’m not sure I would’ve recognized the powerful impact my spiritual mom Gail would have on me at first if Mom hadn’t not only encouraged the relationship in its early days, but in fact, strongly urged it. Even now when I’m struggling with something, she’ll ask “have you talked to Gail about it?”
Here’s the thing. She’s not technically my mother. But then again, I guess that depends on what definition of the word you use. She got me and my two older siblings in the deal when she married my father and endured all kinds of drama that sometimes goes along with being a stepmother. She went on to have a child of her own who shares her DNA. I don’t. I don’t have her nose. I don’t have her body type. She’s short and I’m tall. But she is my mother. And in more ways than not I’m proud to say I’m just like her. She knows me better than many biological moms know their daughters and has taught me that you don’t necessarily have to give birth to be a real mom, something I’ve needed as I co-mom my own stepdaughter.
I may not have my mother’s blood in my veins but that matters bupkes to me. I may not have her hair or her eyes or her ample bustline, but I have her heart, her values… and maybe even a few of her Southern ways.
So, the next time you ask me what I think about something you want to do and I respond with “Honey, you need to do that like a fish needs a bicycle”… you’ll understand.
Her children stand and bless her.
Sylvia Lange is a Christian women’s speaker who lives in Southern California.