Dear Mother: On Shame and Who Loves First

Dear Mother,

Last week I gave up.

Many nights I go to bed and stay awake to the dark. I hate shame, yet I use it for covers and writhe underneath at all the things I know I should be doing better. I have to teach my boys the Bible; I’m not homeschooling Isaac well at all; I lose my temper; I think I might be pregnant with my 5th child (not shameful, just terrifying); I don’t feed them veggies; I can have 50 quiet times and still not meet with God – and these are just the things on the surface. I make vows, try to love more, and then I ruin it again, and the shame beats harder. I have tried harder and harder and harder. I can’t be dramatic enough about it here. Shame erases hope.

So last week I gave up on shame, or at least I made the first steps in trying. I woke knowing it was registration day for Fall kindergarten students. I gathered the needed paperwork, not just for my 5 year old, but also for my home-schooled first grader. I prayed and I cried, and I asked for signs. I asked for help in laying it down. I registered them both, and my oldest started 1st grade on Monday.

I stared at the clock the entire time he was there, and I was almost first in the car pick-up line. We made eye contact, and his smile was as wide as my dashboard. I asked him if he loved well, and he said he asked a boy to play with him, the one the others had called weird. He made friends. He loved his math and running at recess. Those public school tests that I loathe, they were this week. He thinks he did well and really didn’t raise an eyebrow at them at all, while I secretly died to even smell a school hallway, much less hear the word “scantron.”

I reckon it’s all going to be okay without my checklists. How can I mother well by showing them the hopeless weight of the world breaking my back? How can I show them how loved they are if I don’t live out how loved I am? I have been called to some things and not to others. Our callings are different. But I know we’re all called to be free from shame.

My boy has Holy Spirit, so I let him go with Him. God whispers to me over and over again, “You only love because I first loved you.” There’s no undoing or getting better for us. He already loves. He loved before my story began.

It turns out that I’m not pregnant, but even in that, in my untrusting fear, He whispered. It turns out that I commit the same sins over and over again, and even in that, He is there. Where can you go, Mother, that He isn’t there?

It turns out that all He ever asks of me is that I believe that he loves me, and even when I don’t, He’s there. God can handle our doubt.

Lay it all on Him.

Dancing in a semi-clean kitchen (Glory!),



So obviously, this isn’t about whether or not to homeschool. I would choose homeschool myself, but I believe with all my heart that God chose differently for me.  He’s asked me to do other things right now and continues to confirm to me that, for now, this is where He wants us.

This post is about shame and how mothers can tend to wallow in it. I would love hear some of the things you’ve laid down before, whether or not you’re a Mama. I’d love to even hear that you know what it is you need to lay down to get rid of the shame.


Also, if you haven’t yet, follow Mother Letters on Facebook. I think we’re about to start a group there to encourage one another in this motherhood journey. We’ll let you know there when it gets started, and we’ll want you to jump into that conversation. I need the encouragement and sometimes just to touch base with another Mama.


  1. I am new here…came across your place from your love letter to husbands. Shame is such an ugly but powerful tool of the enemy…and shame comes from all the shoulding we do…I heard someone say…we should not should on ourselves or should on others…and yes…we can only teach our kids how to Love God and trust God to the measure we are doing that ourselves. There is freedom here…not that we present to our children that we love God enough and trust Him enough…but we too are learning daily how to do this…we too fail daily. I can say…my children(they are older) and I think most children…especially teens…want authentic…not perfect. Blessings as you mother well.

  2. Yes, Amber. Just yes. No shame, no guilt, only freedom. This is the thing of the thing.
    Sarah@EmergingMummy recently posted..In which I write something down for Holy Week :: Tuesday

  3. These two lines stick out to me the most:

    “How can I mother well by showing them the hopeless weight of the world breaking my back?”

    “My boy has Holy Spirit, so I let him go with Him.”

    With our oldest son Sam, (who, we believe, has some sensory issues) we began in private school then switched six weeks later, after meetings with the teacher who thought he should be more happy about coloring for hours on end. The next year public school recommended moving him up a year, which we did. The year after that we moved to TN (school #3) and found he was much younger than the other boys and struggling socially, so the following year he went to a magnet school and did 2nd grade over. Finally, in 3rd grade, he came back to regular public school and we kept him in one place for the next three years (he asked, “please can I stay in one place?”) And now that he’s in middle school we’ve gone back to private. Not sure yet what we’ll do for high school, but I have shamed myself many times over the last 8 years because I was never able to try homeschooling. But it was wrong to compare myself to others. So now we have the attitude that each kid is different and sometimes each age is different too, so we try to assess what’s working and what isn’t — every single year. For that matter, each Mom is different too, and you have to do what works for YOUR family. Thanks for sharing your story here. You are right to lay down the shame.

  4. Oh, Amber. Kindred spirits doesn’t even begin to cover it.

    You know… I have never labeled it “shame,” more “failure.” I don’t lay it down… I didn’t know that was allowed, really. Mothering is so big and so important that I’ve always felt that to lay it down would be irresponsible, that the guilt is meant to prod me to focus my efforts on fixing what I’m always (seemingly) in the process of breaking, mothering-wise (and wifing-wise, too).

    Guilt is probably my #1 motivator. ICK.

    You mean I can let it go? Some of it? I must ponder.

    I truly love this and feel a little bit released by it already. Thanks for setting a new wheel spinning in my churning little mind.
    Megan (FriedOkra) recently posted..WIWW: VS Dresses on a Regular Old Imperfectly Perfect Body (Yes, Gertrude, It CAN Be Done.)

  5. Oh.
    I failed at absolutely everything this week. I cried defeated last night…
    I cry reading this with a bit of hope today?
    I don’t know…hope in the fact that at least I am not the only one.
    LOVE your heart, your writing…
    Thank you for sharing both.
    Melissa recently posted..Marriage Letters: Serving Together

  6. I think this was a good post for me to read on the day I forgot my son got out at 11:30 and almost left him at the school. :)
    Cassie Boorn recently posted..Global Warming and All That Jazz

  7. you are a good woman, Amber…you make us hunger to live “free indeed”. This very wrestle goes on in my heart..I live for the days where I might just pull it all off. The yoke of failure is just to heavy to bear and I hate when I hang it on my kids with the measuring stick. Thank you for your passionate pursuit of the the light burden and the easy yoke… Jesus=peace…not a lifestyle, a parenting style, schooling, etc. Reminded this special week, of all the agendas and “better ways” that were not co-signed by the King..yet how in quiet trust we find our safe place. He is our peace.

  8. “Shame erases hope.” Wow – powerful words and a reminder that I needed today!
    the Blah Blah Blahger recently posted..HEY FATTY, A NOTE TO MYSELF

  9. I needed every line of this today. Between this and emily wierenga’s blog, I am doing a lot of crying. I feel so much shame in my mothering not adding up some days. Like right now I popped in a leap frog dvd just to have 30 minutes of nothing, and I feel guilt. “How can I mother well by showing them the hopeless weight of the world breaking my back? How can I show them how loved they are if I don’t live out how loved I am?” This is echoing in my heart.
    Amanda @wandering recently posted..marriage letters – on serving together

  10. “How can I show them how loved they are if I don’t live out how loved I am? ”

    This pierced me right in the center. I truly believe this is the point to which we all need so much to return. If only we can grasp His love for us … how well, then, we can love others.

    I’ve been hiding under covers of shame about a character quirk/flaw/trait, but it is a small thing that He is gently speaking to me of dealing with, and now, I think I’ll go and do the thing He has asked.

    Thank you for your hope words today.
    Megan at SortaCrunchy recently posted..what i wore wednesday – a few skirts

  11. I think I could write a small book in this little comment box about how this post just…soothes my life-tenderized heart. But, I’ll just leave it at that. Shame, failure, dissatisfaction have been my constant bedfellows of late, and boy are they cover hogs. I’m tired of the cold they leave me in and have left that bed to find Hope Himself is a far better lover of my soul.

  12. Wow, still digesting and ingesting and pondering. My middle son has found a great fit private prep school. We are full of joy… but this is after trying several ,not sure if I need one or two hands worth of digits to count the school changes. But, but God is good and we are beginning to look at colleges and we are coming through and came through with Him walking right there with us. Hoping Peace for you in your decision. Blessings this Easter. Like your blog a lot.

  13. Clean house. I’ve laid down clean house. Well, to be honest, I don’t know that I’ve ever had a particularly clean house, but I’ve decided not to sweat it. I try to keep it from being gross. Otherwise, whatever.
    Brandee Shafer recently posted..How Things Hatch

  14. Yep, self-loathing and I have been friends too much lately. I say all the time that I feel like there’s so much to do that I don’t do anything well. And it starts the shame/guilt cycle all over again.
    Sometime park at my house and we’ll all walk down the street and pick up Isaac together.

  15. In the midst of schooling decisions here too. Me, I don’t want to homeschool but I think God is calling us to it, for now. And that, for me, will be laying it down.
    Laura recently posted..Wednesday Wisdom: Make friends in different places

  16. “My boy has Holy Spirit, so I let him go with Him.”
    Those words move me…I rearrange them to suit my situation…” my kids have the Holy Spirit, so I will let them go”…in God’s grace, with God’s grace and because of God’s grace.

  17. This post is very influential. I believe with all my heart that God chose differently for me.
    Crosby recently posted..How to Make a Solar Panel

  18. Amber,

    This was such a beautiful picture. A reminder to me of laying down my dreams and being flexible with Jesus on the needs of my family. Sometimes I feel so dag gum headstrong. Like I am a horse with blinders on to what I assume my future, the “best” , is for our family that I miss the fact that my “best” is really killing everyone.

    This was good for me today, on so many levels. As we face some “failure”s of late. Thank you. Always am touched by your words.

  19. On Shame and Who Loves First it was a great one. Thanks for sharing this influential post.
    Liz recently posted..Hcg diet reviews

  20. Yes. It is four a.m. and I have been wrestling half the night with shame, and all day long it is not the sound mind that God gives but the wracking and confusing voices of guilt that I hear. Surely there is a simplicity of abiding that I can only find in the deep deep love of Christ, not ever by my performance. Thank-you for speaking truth so beautifully, as always.
    Jess recently posted..Lent, Poetry, Being a SAHM, and why I don’t exercise


  1. […] Amber on Shame and Motherhood…If I could write exactly what I am feeling today? This is what I would write. The woman is seriously gifted. […]

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