Whether you’ve nursed your firstborn or you’ve been a spiritual mother to the children in your neighborhood, no matter how you arrived at motherhood the moment comes when children grow up and strike out on their journey.
When my second (of my four daughters was young, one of her most cherished books, Stellaluna, tells the story of a sweet, orphan fruit bat that is raised by a mama bird. One day Stellaluna realizes that she is not a bird but a bat. Stellaluna discovers her true identity when she realizes that she flies at night— not day, she craves the taste of succulent mango— not worms, and she hangs upside down, outside of the nest— not tucked inside the nest like hatchlings.
During her maiden flight, Stella learns that her wings are designed for a particular purpose, so Stella boldly unfolds her wings and intrepidly soars to new heights.
Another memory about my Stellaluna-loving daughter is that she detested her curly hair. Others admired, often coveted, those chestnut ringlets that spiraled well below her shoulder. She journeyed through a hair phase where she habitually tucked her tresses into a tight bun, practicing out of sight out of mind. Inevitably at some point through the day, a coiled lock of hair fell from form as if to remind her “I am still here---tuck, tie, twist, but this mane is what it is.”
Girlhood and the teen years waxed and waned with hair angst. All along, deep down, the words from the Gospel of Matthew echoed, “even the hairs of your head are numbered; fear not…”
My curly girl transformed into a woman in what seemed like overnight. Her flame for the Gospel became heart-ignited. As she stood at the recipe of adulthood, the big question loomed large, “What’s a girl to do? She’s all grown up. Her heart made plans, but the Lord guides her steps (Proverbs 16:9) became her roadmap to the future.
Then one day she understood His perfect sovereignty. The ugly duckling days and all those feelings of unworthiness that she hid in the abyss of her heart floated to the top as she “set her mind on things that are above, not on things that are on the earth (Colossians 3:2)."
That is what happens with our children: they discover who they are and what they are meant to do. They grow up and leave the nest to get His job done.
Much like the brown-eyed missionary Amy Carmichael, my curly girl discovered her hair was perfectly designed.
Amy Carmichael was born in 1867 in a seacoast village of Northern Ireland. When she was only three, she prayed that God would change the color of her eyes from brown to blue. The next morning she ran to the mirror, but her eyes were still brown. Saddened by the outcome, Amy’s mother gently reminded her that God did answer her prayer. He answered "no."
Many years later, Amy became an extraordinary missionary to India. Dressed in Indian clothing, her Irish skin bronzed by the Dohnavur sun, and with her brown eyes, she resembled the native Indian. All of which served her well in her ministry. Many times she rescued children from prostitution and the dangers of the temples of India. If her eyes had been shades of cobalt or azure blue she could not have accomplished this Great Commission work.
Amy reflected that she now understood why she had brown eyes--a blue-eyed missionary would have been an oddity that never could have truly fit in with the people--and was thankful that God had persisted in his intricate and elegant design instead of catering to the wishes of a girl who had not yet met her calling. She even darkened her skin with coffee to further aid in her integration and assimilation into Indian culture. She did all of this, primarily, for her Savior and the children she ministered to in India.
My beautiful daughter with the untamed hair serves as a missionary in Haiti. The girls at the orphanage happily braid curly girl’s hair like a sister.
The same faith that gave Amy Carmichael contentment with brown eyes and my daughter peace with those crazy curls serves the Almighty God.
Give your daughters biblical roots and wings. Roots, dug down deep and firm that no matter where that divine road map takes them in this big world, the sinews of roots that connects their relationship with Christ that pumps and pulsates love for Him.
Wings, as writer Jean Fleming attests in her perennial book on motherhood, A Mother’s Heart, “to reach up to God and allow Him to set them free from fear of others, free from self-imposed limitations, and free to become all God intended when He created them." Wings that soar above spiritual mediocrity to altitudes that challenge and sets them apart from the standard flock.
So be it freckles, curls, or lanky legs, the design is a perfect fit, ready to wear. As parents, our job is to show them how the pieces fit together, how to follow the divine road map, dig deep spiritual roots, and then take flight. Equip them to grow up and serve the King.
DENISE ULTENFUSS is wife to a farmer, missional mother to six, and a writer. She lives on a farm in Maryand’s Eastern Shore. Connect with Denise at www.denisesultenfuss.com or on Twitter or Facebook.