How three peanut butter and jelly sandwiches became the catalyst for healing, grace and discovering my purpose
WORDS // Lisa Graft PHOTO // Megan Mellinger Photography
I wasn’t actually looking for my divine purpose that evening, I was trying to survive. I was 7-months pregnant with my son Calvin, weathering the ups and downs of marriage to my wonderful husband (who had recently been laid off), and learning how to mother my spirited, stubborn girl who was 2½ going on 15. On top of that, I was working full-time, attempting to write regular content for my self-care blog and co-hosting Radio Theology each Sunday on 99.5 WZPL, an Indianapolis-based pop music radio station.
Most days, I was drowning in all of the tasks and to-do’s that I couldn’t keep up with. Sprinkle some mom guilt, shame and fear into the mix, and that’s where I was as I spread the peanut butter and jelly onto the bread, cut it into triangles, and fed it to my daughter Josie for dinner for the third night in a row.
Frustrated with my lack of ability to do and be more for my family, I sarcastically said to myself, “Wow, I am Mother of the Year!” I don’t know where that came from, but something about that stuck for me. So the next night, I thought back through my day to award myself that wonderful honor again. And the next night and the next night; I found the most ridiculous things that warranted a fake award. Sometimes I was able to choose significant moments, but other times, I earned Mother of the Year for being able to sneak a piece of chocolate from the pantry without Josie catching me and her demanding to smell my breath.
Then, instead of only being able to see the horrible moments in my motherhood, I began looking for the ways I was succeeding.
As with all good news, I knew I had to share it, so I brought this winning motherhood strategy to Radio Theology. I told my co-hosts the story of how I had been in Target that morning and saw a mom who was dressed cute – hair done and makeup on – with a toddler in her cart, and it wasn’t even 8:30 in the morning yet. I had wanted to stop her and give her the Mother of the Year award! My co-host said, “You should carry stickers with you!” He just moved on and we closed out the story, but something went off in my soul that day, and I knew that I had to pursue this idea of Mother of the Year award stickers and making this thing official.
In that moment, the Mother of the Year movement was born and sent on its mission to create a tribe of moms who are encouraged, celebrated and committed to helping other moms feel the exact same way. Through a growing online community, more than 3,300 moms from across the country are sharing their victories big and small with a supportive group where judging is not allowed.
And those Mother of the Year award stickers also became a reality. In the first year since launching this movement, moms across the country have awarded Mother of the Year stickers to other moms in grocery stores and at the park, have mailed them in notes to dear friends as a reminder that they are not alone and anonymously given these stickers to the moms behind them in the Starbucks drive-thru lane. In fact, more than 2,000 stickers have been used to surprise moms with random acts of kindness in the past year. All of these stickers were tools in ushering in divine, encouraging moments between two mothers, cutting the judgment and leading with love.
This is where I can tell you that this whole thing has been God’s from the beginning. There are dreamers and doers, and I have found comfort in excelling in the doing. In each career endeavor, I have been paired with a dreamer to help their vision come to reality. Now, I’m a fish out of water as I find myself the one with my own dreams and a vision to change mom culture, with a hefty goal to move moms from isolation, fear and overwhelming chaos to community, confidence, peace and freedom. I’m now the one in the spotlight, as a writer and a speaker, but I take comfort in Hebrews 13:21, “What He has given you, He will equip you for.” I’ve most certainly found this to be true.
Whether you’re a dreamer or a doer, if you’re looking to start something new or are just trying to survive your current circumstances, my advice to you is this:
- Pay Attention: I wasn’t looking to start a life-changing ministry, but I was paying attention when God gave me the nudge to turn my fear and pain into passion and purpose.
- No Dream is Too Crazy: I’m selling and awarding stickers to mothers. Mothers who probably have a sticker stuck on them at this very moment and have no idea. Of course, it isn’t about the stickers, but the divine moments of encouragement that happen when a mom sees another mom and speaks truth to
- Tell Yourself the Truth: Fear has been my most constant companion along this journey, but fear is a liar. I’ve found that replacing my lies with the truth has actually begun to retrain my brain to think positively first. In fact, this has been such a powerful game-changer in my motherhood that I now offer “What’s True About You” journals as a tool to equip moms to begin replacing their lies with truth.
I wish I was able to tie this story up with a beautiful bow that says I’ve conquered fear. That I live and mother in peace now. That I’m so sure of what the future holds that I just can’t wait to get there.
The truth is, I waffle back and forth between anticipation and dread for what lies ahead on this adventure. I question myself and God no less than a thousand times per day. But one step at a time, I will choose obedience over comfort, and I will continue to allow God to use me to accomplish His purposes.
Lisa Graft is a working mom to two young children. In addition to a full-time career, she serves as a radio co-host and is founder of the Mother of the Year movement, which includes regular blogging, speaking engagements and social media management. You can follow her at iammotheroftheyear.com or by joining the I Am Mother of the Year Facebook group.