A story by Ashlee Eiland
This morning, for the last time, I made my way to the first home Delwin and I bought together. I made sure the trash and recycling were all clear, put the bins back into the garage, and did a final sweep of the home we fell in love with right before we were married in August of 2013. It was too big for the two of at the time, but we chose it because we knew we didn’t want it to be just the two of us for long.
It was the place where I’d nest and paint and scrub and clean to turn walls into warmth and security. This was the place where we hosted worship nights and small groups and friends’ showers and Super Bowl parties. This house became the place where both Brooklyn and Myles were introduced to our family. This was the house where I became a mom, and today I said goodbye to it.
Motherhood, for me, has been a hard and holy lesson in the art of goodbye. I realize that when we talk of goodbyes, we usually only mean in the hard way—the way we talk about saying goodbye to a child who’s going away to kindergarten or college; the way we talk about saying goodbye to someone we’ve loved and lost; the way we talk about God letting go of His Son as Jesus obediently said “yes” to a human body, a life here on earth and death on the cross.
Motherhood has been that, for sure. It’s meant saying goodbye to free time as I knew it, my snacks, my bedsheets, my body, and my bathroom privacy. I’ve said goodbye to my daughter’s toddler years as she’s made her way into a new pre-school classroom and said goodbye to my son’s baby stage as he’s taken his first steps.
But my motherhood journey has also been holy in that it’s taught me the beauty in saying goodbye as a necessary practice in making room for more of God. That room hasn’t always been filled with the comfy and pretty and exciting, but I’ve noticed that when I’ve chosen to see it this way, saying goodbye to parts of myself, my kids, my way—my house—has always made room for God to give me more of Himself.
Two days after Myles was born in January of 2016, I found myself alone with him in an orthopedic surgeon’s office. He’d been born with club foot and, according to the hospital staff, his foot would be just fine. This visit would simply be a checkup and assurance that the foot would correct on its own. The doctor came into the room and, although he was kind and gentle in his approach, he told me that Myles’s foot wouldn’t correct on its own. In fact, he’d need a full-leg cast that day and he’d be receiving treatments (that would later include surgery) from then until he was four years old.
That day, I was catapulted into saying goodbye to the expectation that I could always ensure that my babies would be fine. I realized in that moment that, as a mom, I was vulnerable and in need of a lot of help. Most days (with coffee, especially) I feel strong and capable and like I can muscle my way through a throng of tantrums, scrapes, and screaming. But that day was a reminder that God wanted me to say goodbye to the false sense of control that I was holding on to way too tightly. He wanted me to let it go so that He could show me the depth of His hospitality, care and provision toward me—and toward my kids.
I’ve said goodbye to shame around being a mom who works full-time, making room for God to show me ways he’s using my spiritual gifts in the workplace, carrying me through busy days, and tapping me on the shoulder to be present when it counts most.
I’ve said goodbye to needing everything to be clean in my house all the time, because dirty dishes and messy beds means more energy to play a holy game of peek-a-boo and dance around the kitchen.
Being a mother and learning to say goodbye to different stages of my kids’ lives and stiches of my expectations and personality have made more room for me to lean into God and all of His ability to fill the goodbyes with introductions to more than I could’ve ever imagined. Sometimes the goodbyes feel easy and freeing; others feel hard and prying. But in all of the goodbyes, I’m reminded and comforted by how small I am and how big He is. At the end of the day, more than I want to be a great mom, I want to be a daughter of the Most High who wants and needs him more than anything else in my life.
Saying goodbye as a part of the motherhood journey can mean lingering pain and hurts that take so much time to heal. But it can also mean saying “hello” to the new and unexpected.
As I closed the door to our first home for the last time this morning, I felt like God made room in the midst of that goodbye and gave me the gift of a flash forward to what was next. I was in the kitchen of our new house and was watching our two oldest kids playing in the back yard while Delwin was grilling. I was in the kitchen, holding and feed our third baby—a baby we don’t yet know but that we’ve been praying for as we’re currently in the midst of an adoption process—and I was filled with gratitude.
Motherhood has been filled with many hard and holy goodbyes for me. But I’ve found so much joy in the fact He’s always been right there, waiting and willing to welcome this mama home to Himself.
Celebrate Mom at Willow Creek this weekend, May 12/13! Learn more here.