At 17 I swore I wouldn’t grow up to be all barefoot and cliché in the kitchen.

The pastor’s son laughed and told me I was destined for babies – my salvation depended on it. I grit my teeth and disagreed even when two elders sought me out after service one day to try and convince me otherwise.

I was the girl whose mother had been in the hospital for a year already with no hope in sight of coming home. My dad was losing his mind with grief and I was already practicing reluctant motherhood on my two younger brothers.

But I had plans for growing up that didn’t automatically include a husband and his brood of kids and I held onto them with both hands as the waters of sadness closed slowly over my head.

I went to school every day with that one shoe split open in a ragged grin and refused to replace it since my mom had bought them for me. I studied history and literature and how to roast a chicken on Sundays – stuffing and prepping it early before my brothers got up for church.

My mashed potatoes were as runny as soup and I served them with eyes just as wet. It was little Luke who told me they tasted so good, as long as you closed your eyes when eating them.

I was the most grown up, naïve 18 year old I knew.

And then my dad came home from the hospital one day with my mom’s suitcase and I lost everything except my faith. That was the miracle of it. That God kept holding tight onto me even while everything else was free falling away.

It turns out everyone grows up, with or without a mother.

Four days ago I stood in an auditorium with 3,000 of them. We stood with the hands that are raising a generation stretched to heaven. There wasn’t a whisper of cliché. Just this deep throbbing in my heart and gratitude so big I could hardly swallow.

I stood in the moment and let the music just wash over me – this current of redemption that has come from a God who always saves the best till last. A God who sees us. A God who isn’t interested in threats or stereotypes but instead lavishes time and love on the nuances of each individual story.

He had grown me up into a mother. Not because the church said so. But because He is a good gift giver.

Standing in a sea of motherhood I could feel the weight of His glory. He is the God of invisible moments. The God who sees. The God who bears witness to the three am fevers and hours spent walking off the colic. He is the God who celebrates first steps and never tires of hearing first words.

He is the God who watches with the block builders, the stain removers, the back yard sand box sitters, the park walkers, the baby food makers, the classroom volunteer helpers, the play dough bakers.

He imbues each seemingly small moment of a mother’s day with the eternal and by simply being in it with us blesses it and makes it holy.

He sees us.

The view from 37 back to 17 is a long one. I wanted to reach through time and wrap my arms around her and whisper,

“He isn’t in a rush – this God they tell you demands children. No, He is the great gift giver. And He knows when the time is right.”

I’m singing so hard with my heart that no words come out of my mouth. I stand and stand and stand until I have to sit and bow my head and just let all the gratitude spill out of me.

There are three children waiting at home for me and they are my gospel.

This is my ministry, my music, my love story. How God was never afraid of my story. But saved the best till last – not the children, but the gift of making me whole.

And maybe you don’t have kids, can’t have kids, don’t want kids.

Maybe you’re anxious and tired of being the stereotype.

Maybe you’re angry at Him or confused by Him or terrified of being left behind.

From a convention center in Dallas, Texas I simply want to reach out my hand and testimony to you.

God is the eternally patient, good gift giver who is willing to wait years before He unwraps what He has planned for you.

You are not forgotten.

You are not lost.

You are on your way home.

Especially when it doesn’t feel like it.