Just over a year ago, I gave birth to my first baby, a beautiful girl we named Violet. One of my sisters had her camera ready and snapped this shot at the exact moment I first saw her. For me it captures the culmination of countless prayers and years of waiting.
Violet was, and is, the most miraculous gift I've ever received.
After that magical moment passed and it was time to go home from the hospital, however, I found myself in a total panic. I can't take this baby home, I thought to myself. I have NO idea how to raise a child! Somehow all of the information I had studiously procured from countless parenting books while pregnant simply vanished into the postpartum fog.
The first several months home were a blur of exhaustion and anxiety. I frequently found myself desperately wishing that I could have just one conversation with my mother, even just twenty minutes to rapid fire a million questions and get some much needed advice (and a hug...and maybe a nap), but this wasn't possible as my mom had passed away from colon cancer two years before. Many nights as I prayed for strength and guidance, I would send thoughts her way, “How on earth did you do this four times, Mom?”
Fast forward a year and that tiny baby is now a crazy, unstoppable toddler! She's recently in the phase where she copies everything my husband and I do, from conjuring up a very unconvincing cough when we cough, to laughing when we laugh, to trying to comb her own hair as I do mine in the morning. It's entertaining, and frankly terrifying at the same time. The terrifying thing, of course, is that she doesn’t only copy the pleasant things, she copies EVERYTHING. If I'm frustrated and throw my hands up, she does it too. If I get huffy in a moment of impatience, she's suddenly fuming and making baby growling sounds (which is simultaneously adorable and maddening).
Each time she copies me in something negative I cringe, and hope I'll be able to somehow raise this child without permanently scarring her with my own imperfections. How can I teach her about goodness and heaven and grace, without sounding like (and being) a complete hypocrite? How can I make sure she hears the words I say and feels the truth in them, so that she’ll follow the path back to Heavenly Father?
How did Mom do it?? Again my thoughts turn to her, even multiple times a day. As I’ve poured over the memories I have about who she was, and the circumstances in which she raised four children, I've come to an important conclusion: my mom taught me how to live a happy, Christlike life by living a happy, Christlike life herself.
Maybe I should explain. My mom taught me to pray as a child, not by simply telling me, "Calee, prayer is important", but by making it a priority to kneel and pray with our family every night. She taught me kindness, compassion and goodness by what she did—including serving the people at church and in our community. Now I'm not saying she was perfect; in fact, maybe it's important to note that she could not have taught me forgiveness and grace without being imperfect enough to require those things from God herself.
She made Heavenly Father accessible and familiar to me from a very young age through her daily walk with Him. Even as I watched her struggle through a horrific terminal illness, she taught me that peace is not the absence of conflict; it is the presence of God in our hearts and lives.
For now, Violet is too young to tell her about Heavenly Father with words. But she learns about Him each time she sees me demonstrating Christlike attributes. Each kind act, softly spoken word, and patient response teaches her about who He is and how I feel about Him. While concepts like heaven and grace may be too advanced for her to understand, I am guiding her on the path which leads to Heavenly Father (or away from Him) through every action I take, the same way my mother guided me, and the way all mothers everywhere guide their children.
As I stumble through this exercise in humility otherwise known as motherhood, I’m realizing that mothers bring their children closer to God by bringing God to their children. Mothers make Him reachable and present in their children's lives by inviting Him into their own. I'll be forever indebted to Heavenly Father for every blessing in my life, but perhaps most significantly for a mother who brought me to closer to Him in the way she lived hers.
I wrote a song as my Christmas gift for Mom in 2010 as her battle with cancer became terminal. She passed away just a few weeks later.
You can find the link to the side of this text.
While the song was written for her, it is truly a tribute to all mothers—who put love, faith, music and light inside each of us.
Calee Schroeder Reed grew up in San Diego, California, and was taught to sing by her mother at a very young age. When Calee’s mother passed away in 2011 after a battle with cancer, Calee decided to write her first CD, The Waiting Place, as a tribute to her. Calee and her family, including adorable two-year-old Violet, live in Salt Lake City, Utah. You can connect with her on Instagram @caleereed.