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Mom's Journal

The Upside of an Upside-Down Life: How God used my mother's imperfect love

I'm probably the least likely person to head a mothering organization. I grew up in a broken home. My parents were divorced when I was 5. My older sister, younger brother and I were raised by my alcoholic mother.

While my mother meant well?truly she did?most of my memories are of me mothering her rather than her mothering me. Alcohol altered her love, turning it into something that wasn't love. I remember her weaving down the hall of our ranch home in Houston, Texas, glass of scotch in hand. She would wake me at 2 a.m. just to make sure I was asleep. I would wake her at 7 a.m. to try to get her off to work.

Sure, there were good times like Christmas and birthdays when she went all out and celebrated us as children. But even those days ended with the warped glow of alcohol. What she did right was lost in what she did wrong.

Ten years ago, when I was asked to consider leading MOPS International, a vital ministry that nurtures mothers, I went straight to my knees?and then to the therapist's office. How could God use me?who had never been mothered?to nurture other mothers?

The answer came as I gazed into the eyes of other moms around me and saw their needs mirroring my own. God seemed to take my deficits and make them my offering?"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Cor. 12:9).

Since my mother's death in 1991, I've done a lot of growing up in my own mothering. As I take my turn at handling less-than-ideal family moments, I've come to understand the inevitable trials of motherhood. While I've resisted the crutch on which my mother leaned, I now comprehend why she felt she needed it.

Although my mother loved us as best she could, her love failed. But I have come to see that I am who I am today because of my mother. God used her illness to shape my resilience. God used her emotional withdrawal to carve me into a tenacious pursuer of those I love. He used her neediness to mirror my own need for God. I became a survivor.

These are the upsides of the upside-down reality of living with an alcoholic. They carved out an offering of character in my personality where there might have been only deficits. A mother's love may sometimes fail, but God's love takes even the imperfect love of an imperfect mother and uses it to shape his perfect design in the life of her child.

Thank you, Mother. I know now you gave all you could.

Elisa Morgan, M.Div., is president of MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) International. Her most recent book is Meditations for Mothers (Zondervan). Elisa lives in Colorado with her husband, Evan, and their two children. For information about a MOPS group in your area, call 800-929-1287.

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