Gabi Kelley

In My Weakness: The Truth About (im)Perfection

By Gabi Kelley

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Hey moms, you don’t have to be perfect. No, really. There’s no need to be spending your time and sanity trying to do everything right...stressing about things like, “Has my kid done enough creative things today? Is she getting too much screen time? Should I feed him a different snack? Am I spending enough time sitting on the floor playing with them? What if they’re not getting enough brain stimulation? Am I reading the right books, disciplining them properly, letting them get away with too much?”

Seriously, we can’t do this to ourselves anymore. Because here’s the deal—what your kids want and need is a happy mommy who loves them. And listen, I know you LOVE your kids, but are you happy? Or are you so bogged down by doing everything right (in parenting and life) that parenting has become a heavy weight you wish you could escape?

Let me tell you this: I will never judge you as a parent. I have been walking through enough hiccups and surprises with things our kids are going through, things our family has had to carry, that my sympathy/empathy/no-judgment level is through the roof. If your kids are angelic and clean and polite, then I celebrate you because you are doing awesome. You’ve been consistent and patient and kind, and you’ve had to work through plenty of things to have this good day with these good kids. And if your kids are having massive meltdowns and screaming their heads off in the middle of a grocery store, and they have chocolate stains all over their shirts, and you give them the iPad to play with just to calm them down, I celebrate you because you’re doing awesome. You’re there and you didn’t run out the door and I’m sure the things you and your kids are facing at home or elsewhere are more challenging than anyone in your life can understand. Regardless, those kids are all gonna grow up remembering that their mommy was with them. On the good days and the bad days, the thing that will stick with them is that you were there. They won’t care if they had salmon or pizza for dinner, they will care if you were present and engaged while they were eating it.

There are enough things in life to cause us stress, let’s not make parenting competition and comparison one of them. Your kids are YOUR kids, and God gave them to YOU—you with your quirks and your temperament and your skills and your sense of humor—and He knew the challenges you would have in your life (both parenting and non-parenting related). He knew the specific special needs your kids would deal with and decided that you (yes, YOU) were the one who would be able to handle them. He knew YOU would be mom to YOUR KIDS.

 I’m not saying we shouldn’t follow good advice or throw training our kids out the window. We have to train them, and it will be hard. But doing specific things just because you’re worried about being perfect or not messing up is not the right motivation. Press into Jesus. Trust the grace He has for you today. Believe that He catches all the things that fall through the cracks and rest in the fact that the strength He has given you today is enough for what you and your kids need. So if you don’t get everything done you “needed” to get done, or if your kids watch an extra movie because you just can’t do anymore, it’s ok. You’re ok mama. And you know what? You’re doing awesome and you were made for this.

In fact, one of the very greatest promises in the Bible is this:

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.
— 1 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV)

I know you’ve heard this verse a million times, that it’s one you can likely recite from memory, but let’s not take it for granted. Go back and read it one more time, slowly, and take it all in.

Seriously, if we can wrap our minds around this verse as moms, the heavy burdens of self-condemnation, competition, and guilt could be greatly lifted off of our shoulders. Because guess what? We have something that super-moms don’t have – God’s power.

Whoa whoa whoa—hold on, slow down. Does this perhaps mean that on those days when you really JUST CAN’T, the days when you KNOW there was a whole list of you completely messed up on or skipped or missed or just threw out the window—the days when your WEAKNESS is prevalent—that God gets to show up in the most special way?!

I think YES. Because those are the days (and the hours and minutes) when you get to fall directly into the outstretched grace arms of Christ and let Him do His thing.

We hang on to control so tightly, we work so hard, we strive and strive to be perfect, to be everything to everyone, but these, in fact, could be the very things holding us (and our kids) back from truly experiencing the power of God.

(Dang girl, this is good stuff!)

If you’re not sold yet, let’s take a look at this same Scripture in The Passion Translation together:

My grace is always more than enough for you, and my power finds its full expression through your weakness.

My power finds its full expression through your weakness.

Wow, I don’t know about you, but this brings tears to my eyes and kind of makes me want to fall on my knees and say, “Thank you, Jesus.” This is a beautiful, incredible promise we’ve been given! This is who our Jesus is. The same One whose most painful, most broken moment resulted in the most magnificent glory will do the same in us.

Maybe your apology to your kid after you lost your temper is more powerful and healing for his heart than if you hadn’t lost it at all.

Maybe it’s during those mornings when you turn on cartoons and roll over to go back to sleep that God is healing your soul.

Maybe it’s on the days when you all eat Pop Tarts for dinner because you forgot to go grocery shopping that will make your children feel deeply, intimately loved, because instead of cooking and cleaning, you laughed about the meal and you talked and played and looked each other in the eye, all enjoying the unique togetherness of the “OOPS.”

Maybe it’s those moments with your special-needs child when you are completely at a loss about what to do that God gets to step in to parent your child’s spirit because you’ve had to surrender.

Maybe it’s that season of grief and loss and pain that you’ve had to walk through, making it hard to be engaged as a mom, when the grace and power of Christ are at work in your spirit and the spirits of your kids, making faith roots go down deep. Roots that will sustain each of you in the future, displaying the glory of God in your lives.

Maybe it’s exactly when you DON’T have it all together, when you’re NOT super-mom, when you actually can’t do all the things you’re “supposed” to do for your kids that you get to learn true humility and genuinely experience the incredible, grace-filled power of God flowing in and through your life and onto your kids.

Except I don’t think God would say MAYBE.

I think He’d say DEFINITELY.

He’s a good God; a God of rest, and the true Father of us and our children. So lay down your burdens, reveal to Him your weaknesses, jump into His grace, and watch Him do miracles in your family’s life over the years that you never could have dreamed.

For Our Daughters // A Poem

by Gabi Kelley

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Little girl,

You’ve stolen my heart.

My eyes are sparkling

Because I love you.


Little girl,

Sleeping in my arms,

I want to keep you here,

Safe and happy forever.


But the world is dark

And people are afraid.

So I will need to let you go

And shine your light.


For right now,

I can hold you and sing

Songs of peace into your life,

Here where you are safe and whole.


Still, in time you will see

Many people hurting

And I will have to watch you fly

As you reach your hands to heal.


Little girl,

So innocent and small,

Your heart is growing day by day.

You will feel for the world.


“Oh God,”

You will cry,

“Stop our quaking, mend our fractures.

Use me to bind up wounds.”


I will be so proud,

Though a little afraid,

As I watch you grow up

And rescue the lost.


I want to keep you from pain.

I want to protect you from danger.

But I cannot,

For you have been born into a dark world.


So I give you permission,

With tears in my eyes,

To grow up fierce and brave and strong

So you can do the difficult things.


I give you my blessing

To pick up your sword,

To take up your cross

And march into your calling.


Here, watch me

I will show you how.

Sometimes we will cry,

But we are becoming strong.


Not so we can be heroes,

But so Jesus can,

For He will be your all

As you march into the world.


JESUS will be your battle cry.

JESUS will be your refuge.

JESUS will be your courage.

And JESUS will be your dancing song.


So, my sweet little girl,

Rest here in my arms.

I will hold you as long as I can

And I will whisper destiny words over you.


Let’s soak this in,

This time of peace,

And then when you’re ready,


You will fly – fearless and free.

Kudos, (Adoptive) Mom!

By Gabi Kelley

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Being a mom is tough.

Come on, let’s say it together in solidarity – being a mom is tough! There are all these dreams and visions of mommy bliss, but the crashing reality of teething and tantrums and too little sleep tends to blindside us and make us cry some of those big crocodile tears we had maybe thought were only for the weak (and clearly, that wasn’t going to be you…until it was).

So kudos to you, mom. Because you’re still in this, even with all the unexpected crazy days (like those days when you tried 4 times to at least not look crazy, but your toddler contravened your attempts to get 5 minutes alone to simply brush your hair).

Seriously, to all moms – kudos.

But there’s one particular set of moms I want to extra-kudo today (you know, sometimes there are people who need a bit of an extra tight hug, or just one extra high-five or “you’re doing great” to get them through the day). And those are the adoptive moms.

Hi, adoptive moms. I’m Gabi, and I have a 5-year-old son from Ethiopia and a 2-year-old biological daughter. Our son came first, nearly 4 years ago at the age of 16 months. As you know, people consider the “adoption journey” to be comprised of the moments between deciding to adopt and the adoption being finalized. But you and I both know that was the easy part, and the journey, in fact, is proving to be much more treacherous, vulnerable, and fraught with uncertainty on this side of the “finalization.” If no one has ever told you that this is normal, let me cyber-look you in the eyes and hold your hand and tell you emphatically, this is totally normal, and it’s ok to admit how challenging it has been.

Like me, you probably didn’t expect it to be quite this hard. Like me, you probably bought in (at least to a degree) to the idea that unconditional love, safety, and needs being met would be enough to make your adopted child feel and act the same as a biological child. But you and I both know this isn’t always the case. And you know what – that’s ok. It’s ok to admit it and it’s ok to face it. In fact, I’d go so far as to say, it’s necessary for your mental and emotional well-being to both admit and face it.

The fact is, the mess of adoption is real, the grief your child has experienced is real, and even if he experienced his trauma very young, something in him is responding out of fear and self-protection. His response is so very often a shoving against the things you thought could fix anything – your affection, your direction, your very act of parenting. And that response can cause a heartache in you that goes deeper than your bones.

Adoptive mom, you know all this already. But maybe you needed to hear it from someone outside of your own house, if just so you can realize you are not crazy. And you need to hear this, too – you’re doing great, mama. I’m sorry it’s been so hard. I’m sorry the heartache has sometimes made you cry. I’m sorry it has caused you to look in your mirror at yourself and ask, “Why are you messing up so badly?” I’m sorry it has made you second-guess your ability to be a mom. So let me say it again – you’re doing great, mama. Nobody is perfect, but you’re absolutely doing your best. And your kid? The one you love with all your heart but sometimes feel will be the undoing of you? He’s going to be ok. And you’re going to be ok. And do you know what the very best news of all is?

You are not alone. I don’t just mean that in the mom-blog-solidarity sense, either. I mean it in the sense that the Creator of the Universe (who also happens to love you more intensely and intimately than anyone else) knows exactly what you’re going through. In fact, this is the JESUS life, and aren’t we lucky to live it? Adoption has been at the center of God’s heart from the beginning of time. Adoption is redemption, which has been God’s plan from the instigation of creation. Because of the fall, we are born of the flesh and do not share the DNA of God. But when we believe the message about Jesus Christ we are literally adopted by God, and become his legitimate children who share all the rights of heirs. Check this out:

So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, ‘Abba, Father.’ For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children.
— Romans 8:15-16

This scripture is meaningful to anyone who is a believer, but as an adoptive mom, I cannot read it or meditate on it without tears filling my eyes. I’ve received God’s Spirit, I call Him Daddy, and He joins my spirit to affirm that I am His CHILD. I don’t know about you guys, but for me, this absolutely blows my mind. I know how much and how often I mess up. The trauma of my inborn original sin still haunts me all the time, even though I’ve been a Christian since I was a kid. I know God loves me, but I act out of self-protection and shame more than I’d like to admit. The older I get, the more I realize the ways I’ve pushed God away because of fear. I mean, could someone really love me as much as He says He does?

Guess what. The answer is YES. Yes, He does.

And oh, adoptive mamas, we get the incredible honor of displaying this truth in our very lives. We don’t know how long it might take our children to really believe to the depths of their souls that they are ours, they belong here, and they have full rights as our children. I’m certain that when I believe the lies that the enemy throws my way, when he succeeds at convincing me that I am not fully a child of God, or that I’m not loved as much as the Scriptures say, the heart of Christ aches. For millennia He has ached for us to understand this revelation, so when we give into the lies, when we don’t trust Him when He is completely trustworthy, He hurts – He hurts for us and He aches for us to know the truth.

We get to feel this hurt with Him as we raise up our beloved children, these ones who have been grafted in, but who we are committed to and love just as much as the ones that were born of our bodies. We hurt when their reflexive response is to push away, to not trust, to kick against the belonging that is rightfully theirs--fully theirs. We get to experience this hurt with Christ, sharing with Him in His suffering (see Phil. 3:19 and 1 Peter 4:12-13). This is our honor. To share in His sufferings is to become more like Him. To become more like Him is to become more perfected in love. To become more perfected in love is to know true humility. And all of this put together is to be given the privilege of laying our lives down for those who do not yet know or understand this love – and this starts first and foremost with our children.

I’m praying for you. Will you pray for me, too? We get such a chance to know Jesus and to sacrificially love our precious children who have known too much pain in their young lives. Sacrificial love hurts, and we need the grace and encouragement of Jesus and our sisters.

So let me say again: kudos, mama. You’re doing it. It’s messy and hard and beautiful and crazy. There are days when you want to cry your eyes out (go ahead do it) and days when the sunbeams come shining through and you want to dance for joy. Soak it all in. Lay it all down. Pray it all through. You were chosen for this. You were made for this. And your Daddy is very proud of you.