I heard it all over Facebook and Twitter and in phone calls last year. The disappointment.

The flowers that didn’t come, the cards that were forgotten, the breakfast that was a disaster and that you had to clean up while everyone else was watching TV.



The house that wasn’t quiet or clean or tidied up. The getting to sleep in that didn’t happen, the nap that evaporated into a toddler’s meltdown, the meal that someone else didn’t prepare. The laundry that wasn’t folded for you.

The kids that didn’t call, the sermon that wasn’t about mothers, the grand kids who didn’t visit.

I heard it again and again in so many different, disappointed, let down ways – how this one day can’t possibly live up to what it means to mother.

How 24 hours can’t possibly hold the measure of a lifetime of laying oneself low for the loving and raising and wrangling of tiny humans.

Why do we think it will? I ask myself this every year after the inevitable disappointment.

But we do. We expect.

We expect so big and so hard and with so much pre-programming that we don’t know how to turn the expectations off.

We expect and the expecting is high and impossible until it blossoms into full blown entitlement. And entitlement? Entitlement is a very slippery thing.

Entitlement believes that we know best, deserve the best, and resents the rest who don’t deliver.

Entitlement takes the sacrifice of motherhood and spins it in dizzying, disorienting circles.

Motherhood bends. Entitlement demands.

Motherhood serves. Entitlement stomps its foot.

Motherhood delights. Entitlement keeps lists.

Motherhood laughs. Entitlement whines.

Motherhood celebrates. Entitlement sulks.

Motherhood forgets itself in favor of remembering her dimple, his fastest mile, their mouths all ringed around with chocolate.

Entitlement tastes bitterness in every bite of a day that doesn’t go as planned.

And the grand irony of a day devoted to remembering mothers is that it can make me forget how content I am in this skin. Because I am not the sum total of breakfast in bed or empty dishwashers. I am not defined by how tidy the playroom is or who remembered to make me a thoughtful card.

What I believe, what I’ve learned, what I’ve earned through all those sleepless nights, all those miles of carpet walked, all those parent-teacher conferences and cold meals and ruined clothes is that the gift of motherhood, the art of this beautiful, terribly holy work is to find a way through to forgetting myself in favor of someone else.

The holy of motherhood is how it teaches me to lose myself, to let go of Lisa-Jo and surrender myself in an act of rebirth that only a God who wants to help me uncurl my desperate white knuckles from around what I think I’m entitled to could envision.

It’s been a hard battle to hold onto my contentment. In this small, rental house with these sometimes drive-me-crazy kids.

So this year, this year I want to be prepared. I want to take Mother’s Day into my own hands and make it magical in unexpected ways.

Because I’m learning. Slowly, stubbornly learning that we fight the fear of missing out by remembering that it’s in bending the knee to serve that we are most satisfied.

So this year, this is my plan to make sure I don’t miss out on the joy of Mother’s Day.

HOW NOT TO BE disappointed this mother's day

An UPside Down Mother’s Day Gift List:

  1. Send a card to the special women in your life (whether they are mothers or not) to thank them for all the ways they have mothered so many with their words and their lives.
  2. Quit the Hallmark Channel in the days leading up to Mother’s Day.
  3. Invite a single mom to lunch and celebrate her.
  4. Pick flowers from your back yard for the women in your mom’s group.
  5. Let your husband off the hook – just go ahead and tell him exactly what would make you feel loved – so he has a fighting chance of getting it right.
  6. Invite that friend who is pretty much an adopted mom to everyone in your community over for lunch.
  7. Help serve meals and build bathrooms in South Africa for mothers a world away and see motherhood and your own messy kitchen as anything but ordinary through her eyes.
  8. Write each of your kids an individual list of why you love being their mom. This will help you remember why you’ve already got everything you need today.
  9. Call your mom, your grandma, your favorite aunt in the week ahead of Mother’s Day – it doesn’t have to all be on that crowded Sunday.
  10. Give a gift, a card, a slow conversation, a phone call to the motherless daughters and mothers in your midst who ache today. Take time to remember their mothers with them.
  11. Fill your table with women who have mothered others whether they are mothers themselves or not. Celebrate and serve them.

Because the thing is, we mother because we’re called to it. We mother because it’s a gift.

We mother because God trusted us with these kids. We mother because we can’t not.

Over and through and under and around the unappreciated days, we mother on.

And I want to remember to keep seeing it for what it is.

A messy, beautiful, chaotic, miraculous, unexhangeable and irreplaceable gift.



Mother’s Day for the Motherless Mother

When You Feel Like No One Notices or Appreciates What You Do for Your Family, You’re Wrong

Surprised by Motherhood: Everything I Never Expected about Being a Mom is my book that tells the story of losing my mother and gaining 3 kids and the belief that God puts remarkable people into our stories to mother us despite our losses, our loneliness and our questions.