By the time I made my dazzling appearance into our freshly completed family, my mom already had her hands full with two little boys—one 4, one only 16 months. And then there was me: a perfect little angel sent straight from heaven.

Actually, I think she told me I refused to sleep through the night for at least a year. Whatever. Close enough.

I have no doubt I was (and probably still am) a bit of a handful at times. Raising me through the late teenage years probably should qualify her for sainthood. Despite all the grief I gave her, she was my first friend, teacher, role model, and often the only member of the “Lisa Fan Club.” She is still the person who knows me best.

I could say thanks for giving birth to me (I really do appreciate that, by the way), for providing shelter, food, etc., but those things aren’t what I’m most thankful for. Now that I’m a mom, I see motherhood through a different lens. I have moments I wish I could go back and say sorry for all the bad attitudes, for never really appreciating this woman when I lived under her roof. The real moments of motherhood have taught me no one’s perfect, we’re all doing the best we can, and maybe mom really did know best.

So here’s to our mothers. Thanks for letting us see you struggle, ask for help, and never give up on the ones you love. You didn’t just bring us into this world (we know … and you could take us right back out!), you showed us what it meant to walk through it. More than anything, thanks for letting us see your own real moments of motherhood.

Here are just a few to thank my own mom for:

1. For making me take that ghastly cold medicine when I was sick.

You kept on pouring it into the spoon no matter how many times I gave it back to you. That’s impressive. I think you might have a shirt stained permanently green from that vile liquid, but you persevered. I learned even unpleasant experiences can be good for me.

2. For not giving up through those potty training days.

I don’t remember the experience myself, but from going through it with my own kids, I know how hard those days can be. And dirty. Thanks for seeing that one through. You assured me my son would not start college in diapers one day. Be patient, you said. Some things just take time.

3. For modeling what marriage really looks like.

Forty years with the same man isn’t just rare, it’s a treasure for generations to come. And because of you and Dad, I know it takes a lot of hard work, forgiveness, love, and even some laughing when you don’t know what else to do. I learned marriage isn’t a Hallmark movie, and I never heard either of you utter “divorce.” Because of that, I don’t in my marriage either.

4. For letting me live past the tween and teenage years.

The fact that I am still alive after telling you to “shut up” when I was 15 attests to the love you have for me. Or the repeated slamming of my bedroom door to remind you I was angry. Or the eye rolling, smart-mouthed comebacks, and strolling in past curfew. (Wait, did you know about that last one? Ya know what? Never mind.) You taught me loving people through their worst is worth it.

5. For letting me dress up in all your “fancy” stuff.

At 6, I rocked those high-heeled cowgirl boots that came up to my thighs. But as a mom myself now, I get mothers sometimes yearn to have one thing all their own that isn’t touched by sticky hands. Something precious just for her. Yet you still let me try on every bit of jewelry, the black velvet dress, and the high heels I coveted. They were all special items, but I knew they didn’t mean more than me. I was what was precious to you. I now know stuff is just stuff, relationships are the real treasure.

6. For all the sneaky treats.

When I was young and got to tag along to the grocery store, or as I got older and my mood swings were something to be feared, you always picked up a sweet treat for us to share and then hid it so Dad and the boys didn’t find it. It was just for us. Those moments taught me the little things can turn a day around.

7. For letting me see you cry.

Oddly enough, it makes me feel less alone when I have my own tear-filled moments as a mother and wife. Sometimes the little moments make us cry: burnt lasagnas and living rooms that just won’t stay clean. Other times, it’s the big stuff: sick kids or hard times in marriage. I know crying isn’t a weakness, and neither is showing emotion. You can’t love your tribe as much as you love us and not have a little of that spill over from time to time. And that’s okay. I learned that from you.

8. For allowing me to be me.

For two people who look so alike, you and I can seem so different. I chose things you wouldn’t have, did things you never did, and we both would agree I still say things you would never say. Yet you supported my decisions and let me find my own path into adulthood. You never pushed me to be someone I wasn’t. You let me have my own thoughts and opinions, even if they were different than your own. Thanks for giving me the freedom and confidence to be myself.

9. For forcing me to sit at the table until the end of time to eat a single slice of a beet.

I’m not gonna lie, it was disgusting. How on earth do people eat those things? But I’ll admit, I’m not traumatized from it. I don’t have nightmares about it (anymore). And I am just as mean to my kids at the dinner table now. But I am also not a picky eater anymore because of your refusal to make me a sandwich when you served something I didn’t like. (But I still don’t eat beets.)

10. For modeling unconditional love.

I was in my 20s before I ever really sought a relationship with Christ. There was, and still is, a lot I don’t understand. But the idea of unconditional love wasn’t a foreign concept to me because of the way you loved us. You might have wanted to kill us one moment, yet in the next you would hold us in a tight hug simply because we were yours. That is a fantastic feeling. I accepted God’s love so much easier because I already had a glimpse of it through you.

I’m now experiencing plenty of my own real moments in motherhood. And whether I want them to or not, my kids are seeing those, too. I hope they learn from my failures as much as my ultra-rare moments of parenting triumph. I hope I am teaching them it’s okay to be who God made them to be. And I pray that through these real moments, they’re seeing glimpses of the unconditional love He has for them.

Thanks, Mom. Your real moments prepared me for my own.

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