As I sit here with tears pooling in my eyes on the eve of my first-born’s graduation from high school, I have a million thoughts in my mind that I’m trying to trap long enough to put them into words for you. Yes, YOU, Sweet Mama. I’ve been thinking about YOU a lot over the last year as I’ve been looking down the shaft of the arrow, focusing on the target, readying my aim to launch my oldest child from the nest. There are quite a few things I could tell you from my vantage point. Thinks like, “Cherish every moment because time passes too quickly” or “Someday you’ll miss their noises and messes.” To be honest, I’ve heard all of those snippets of advice before and I hated them too just like you probably dislike hearing me saying them now. But here’s the thing, everyone else will say those things to you so I don’t need to. Here’s the one thing my heart needs to share from where I stand today. Be prepared for the future. I don’t mean to say that you should make sure you save money for retirement and plan that celebratory vacation to Hawaii as soon as your last child leaves the nest. What I mean is, make plans for YOU. Even in the midst of diapers, snot, endless messes, thankless day after day, stinky soccer cleats, exhilarating rides with green drivers, hounding and helping with homework, signing permission slips and refereeing screen time, remember who YOU are. It really is true. One day, your kiddos will be on their own. And where will YOU be? In my current field of vision, from homeschool to public school mom to stay-at-home mom to working-outside-the-home mom, I am seeing mom after mom walking around looking…hallow and wandering aimlessly. That’s the best way I can describe it. Whether it’s because of the natural progression of life because their kids have grown up or they’ve been sent a curve ball like a job loss, death of spouse or a school-choice change, whatever the reason, what I see is moms that don’t know who they are. It frightens me. Mama, life never turns out the way we expect. Be prepared. Know who YOU are. It’s okay to be the best darn mom ever (whatever that means to you) and still keep an eye on who YOU are. I thought I knew how life was going to play out and had defined myself with names like stay-at-home, homeschool mom, mom of four-under-four. And then life happened. God leveled me to the very basic me and asked me to step out in obedience and follow Him on that unspoken road. A road that has been hard and not at all in my plans, but on that road, He has humbled me and is still teaching me how to press in to Him even when I can’t see the next step. On that road, He has shown me that I matter to Him and those names I’ve defined myself by are not the ones He defines me by. Honestly, it’s on this unspoken broken road that He has done the greatest work opening my eyes to see who He has known I am all along, even when I lost myself in the shuffle of motherhood. Mama, don’t be afraid to figure out who YOU are…now…even before you start your launch. From where I stand today, looking back, I can see the way God began a great work a long time before I realized that I needed to pay attention. It was only a year ago that God surprised me by throwing open the doors for me to pursue a quiet wish of my heart that I figured would never be a reality, if I stayed within how I had been defining myself for so long. It was crazy. It was inconvenient. It was out of the box. My family might need to sacrifice a bit. The timing…well, would any time ever be perfect? I was terrified. Heck, I’m still terrified. But you know what I’ve learned? It’s okay to be ME, no matter the season I’m in. It’s okay for me, the mom, to pursue my purpose beyond motherhood. And I’m glad I’m doing it before my quiver is empty. I don’t want to be lost and wandering, wondering who I am apart from my children. If you don’t agree with me, that’s okay. Let me leave you with the words my launching-daughter left for me in a note about a year ago and let it encourage your heart to figure out who YOU are, sooner rather than later. It matters to my kids that I know who I am apart from them. My guess is that it matters to your kids that you know who YOU are apart from them too.