On Mothering… (when you don’t feel like you have enough)

One of my earliest memories takes place in my parent’s bedroom on a sunny summer day. My best estimate is that I was 3 or 4 years old. I was standing on something, perhaps their bed, looking out an open window. A bee flew in and stung my arm.

I remember screaming. I remember Mama holding me for a moment. My memory jumps ahead to the moment when I was looking down at the dried baking soda and water on my arm. She must have set me down, stirred the paste together, and then slathered it on the sting to lessen the pain.

I love that memory. I think I love it the most because it’s part of the foundation of my life. I was hurt but Mama was there and everything was okay.

It’s impossible to tell my story, to write about my life in any way, without mentioning my mother. She is such a part of who I am and how I think. I am thankful, every day, for the gift of her presence. It’s possible that because she faced cancer twice, I am extra-aware of how privileged I am to have her.

But I’ll be honest, it all scares me sometimes when I think of my own life and my own children.

A mother is such an intricate part of a child’s life and I have no idea how to do this mothering thing.

On Mothering

Yesterday, I was so angry with my children that as I lectured them, my voice cracked and I started crying. Not like, trying to get sympathy tears (I can’t do them, even if I wanted to)– like, angry tears.

Then I walked away and huddled out of sight with my Bible, sobbing because good. grief. Every book I’ve ever read about parenting older adopted children says that reacting isn’t good. You should be calm. Collected. Don’t let them phase you. Use logic. Love and logic. Love and logic.

It’s like my own private mantra that is on repeat in my head. Love and logic.

I realized it’s not much different than the feelings I struggle with when it comes to my infertility. The whispered lie of the enemy that I’m a failure. There are books on getting pregnant you know. There are doctors that you can pay money to who are there to help you get pregnant. There are people who believe that I could be healed if I just had enough faith.

It’s the same story, stuck on repeat in my whole life.

There are books on parenting children who have experienced trauma. There are therapists and doctors who can tell you how to parent them.  There are opinions galore and medications and ideas. There are people who think that if I just have enough faith, my children will heal.

And good grief, I’m failing at this too.

Except.

Except.

I’m not really. And this is where the truth on mothering really comes in. This is where God’s goodness and faithfulness to me shines.

If I was on my own, I’d probably fail. I’m sure I would. Because I’d be believing all these lies.

The lie that pregnancy would validate my life. The lie that following certain procedures in parenting will make or break my children. The lie that I don’t have enough somehow to do the things God has laid before me.

But God is so faithful to speak truth into the jumbled up mess.

As I look at myself and all that I do wrong, God pulls at me and turns my face back to where it belongs. On Him. On His grace. On His mercy. On truth. 

This time, I realize that I didn’t sin. I was angry. I cried. My hands shook. But I didn’t sin against my children or my God. I only spoke truth, and even though my voice was intense, I didn’t scream or spout flippant words.

I didn’t follow all the adoption-how-to books but I did follow Christ.

And it’s like a rush fills me.

Here is the truth on mothering… there aren’t manuals. There just aren’t. Ideas are just that, ideas.

So later, when I sit down with them, my boy and my girl. I sit there and I look at them. And I don’t react to the tears over getting caught. And I draw a hard line on what is allowed in our home and what is not. And I tell them I’m not sorry for being angry.

They look at me, all wide-eyed.

Usually, when I get angry, I apologize. Usually, I have to. Usually, I speak too quickly and too harshly.

But this time I tell them about righteous anger. And how it’s okay for me to be angry when they are hurting each other and me. It’s not okay to lash out in anger, but it’s okay to feel it.

And we just talk. All three of us. We just talk about what love is and why I chose them and how no matter how much they hurt me, I’m still going to choose them and love them and we’ll walk right through all that pain together.

And my daughter, she sits back and leans her head to the side. “I remember, Mom,” she says, “I remember one time when I was smaller. I lied to you and you held me and prayed with me. You told me that I wasn’t created to be a liar. You told me that I could be trustworthy. I just,” she pauses and her eyes take a far-away look, “I’m just sure that you always tell me the truth, so I know it’s true. I want to follow Jesus, Mom. I really do.”

And my son, he crawls over and snuggles into my lap. I rock him like he is three instead of nine and he sobs into my shirt. Not the dramatic tears of getting caught and fearing consequences– but the actual heart-felt tears of repentance.

My mother, she laid a foundation for me– from those earliest memories, all through my life. And when I think about it– the beauty wasn’t in doing it all right or not getting angry or always keeping me from pain— the beauty was in nurturing me and guiding my feet in each faltering step toward the Father’s heart.

This is the truth on mothering. This is the goodness. And I do have enough. I really do. This God who fed five thousand with just a few loaves and fish? He is fully capable of taking the little bit I have to offer my children and multiplying it– spreading a foundation under their feet that will hold solid when the storms of life blow.

Oh, how thankful I am.

Infertility after Adoption

infertility after adoption

There we were, sitting around the living room, and I was blinking hard. No matter how many times I took shaking breaths, nor how many bites on the inside of my lip, I couldn’t stop the burning ache behind my eyes.

Ah, Lord, really? Am I really going to cry about this now?

No matter what I did, there the tears were.

I was happy she was pregnant. Good grief, I was incredibly happy for them. They are part of our church and part of our lives and what brings her joy wraps me in joyfulness as well. We’re the body of Christ and it’s good.

And all of that can be true, at the very same time this bubbling sorrow in me is also true.

They’ve all been pregnant together, you know. All of them. I glanced around the room, mentally kicking myself for even taking stock, but doing it anyway. One is holding a six month old. One is cuddling a newborn. I tick them off in my mind all the way to my dear, dear friend who has a barely-swelling midsection that whispers of the little one to come.

Oh, God, this hurts.

Not because I want them to not have it but because I want to have it with them.

There is movement across the room and this tall ten-year-old, she stands up, gathers the newborn close, and carries her to me. “You want to hold the baby, right?” she says.

I look up at this beautiful girl with the jet-black hair and creamy tan skin, who calls me mom. She is leaning close and I want to shake my head no, because Oh, Jesus, I can’t handle this, but I know she’s seen my tears and I can’t let her know that I am crying for the babies I can’t have. She is the gift from the Father of Lights—and the only thing that could hurt worse than this would be for her to know what I’m crying over and think she’s not enough.

She was eight when she came and in these years since her arrival I have watched God transform her and transform me and there is no baby—from my womb or outside it—that could ever take her place. She is everything my mother heart could ever want.

infertility after adoption (1)

Oh, Lord, what I wouldn’t give to have been able to snuggle her into me as an infant. To hold her right on my arm and teach her to laugh and sing and dance. But I get to teach her to laugh with joy, and to sing for You, and to dance for Your glory. Don’t let me forget that.

I take the newborn from her and I snuggle this little one into my arms and turn my head to keep the tears from splashing the baby’s face. My daughter prances back to her seat, happy to have shared the baby with me, and I take deep breaths again.

God is gentle, y’all. He truly is.

He washes over me with grace, again and again.

For there in the middle of that study, with everyone around me barely noticing the battle—but still loving me through it—I clung to the thing I was aching for and felt the touch of Abba God.

The One who reaches me even when I am struggling. The One who dumps a baby in my arms while I am lamenting not having one. The One who loves on me when I am a teary-eyed mess.

This is life, you know. I can’t have babies. And every morning I wake up and think, “Oh, maybe today my body will start working right.” And every time I feel a bit of nausea, I think, “Oh, maybe I’m pregnant!” And every single time I read about God healing in the Scriptures, I think, “Maybe it’s my turn?”

I am, after all, an eternal optimist.

But it’s been seven years since there was even a miscarriage.

So those odds? Not so great.

Not that odds matter to God.

(See how that optimism works?)

The reason I share this story is simple. Adoption, with all its beauty and harshness and agony and glory, doesn’t fix infertility.

I have these marvelous, incredible, energetic two kiddos—and I love them. Oh, my, how I love them. They are startling pictures of redemption in my life. They teach me more about God than anyone or anything. They may not have come from my flesh and blood, but they definitely came from my bloodied knees and aching prayers.

And I still ache for the babies that will never be.

It’s okay that I do.

Because there, in the aching, I can know God.

And knowing God is a glorious thing.

There will be tears. There will be pregnancy announcements at church. There will be moments when I am fighting for my adopted children with everything in me and I am cursing the day they were set in anyone’s arms but mine—because I hate the foothold the enemy has cemented in their lives with all the fear and heartache and mistrust.

And there will be days of beauty too.

Of course there will be.

There always are.

Because God never leaves. And while He isn’t afraid of sorrow, and will walk with me through it, He is also no stranger to joy.

infertility after adoption (2)

When the newborn baby went back to her mama, I looked down at my feet and saw my nine-year-old son with his hands wrapped around my ankle. I smile at him. “Do you need something?” I ask. And he grins. “Naw,” he says, “I just want to be close to you.”

Oh, Abba, how good You are.

 

 

How to Fight the Devil (and win!)

The enemy only has so many tricks up his sleeve. I’ve noticed this, as I watch and teach my children. It’s always the same things—over and over. It makes me so angry sometimes, I almost shake. And then I remember to channel that anger toward the right thing and I whisper (or shout) the prayers for God to break strongholds and redeem the time and grow His love inside them until the walls around their hearts crumble and they can breathe light.

And then I will turn around and stumble hard over the same. blasted. things. that I just battled in my own life last week. Or yesterday.

But thankfully, oh, so thankfully, God did not leave us without instructions. He did not leave us without the knowledge of the battles to come and the blueprint to fight them.

God knew, He knows, that the enemy of our souls is a poor excuse for a king. He will wage war on the armies of God—but he uses the same plan of attack every time. He knows no other way.

He is the father of lies and all he has to offer are lies. Three main ones, to be exact.

How to Fight the Devil and win

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The Lions Aren’t Hungry Tonight (or, when parenting is like facing a den of hungry lions)

The Lions aren't hungry tonight

The house is quiet except the sound of my husband chatting with our boy. Not our new little one, but the grown-boy who spent his teenage years calling me “Ma” and helping us on the farm. He came to see the new evaporator that is set up to boil our year’s worth of maple syrup in the next few weeks. It’s so good to see him. The mother-heart in me just settles when he’s at my table. Like all my children are home, finally.

Oh, what a day we had here. The littles didn’t want to do school. Well, they never really want to, but today they just sat stubborn and left their pencils on their desks. Daddy stopped work and came home to chat with them about the coming consequences if school did not commence post haste.

I was so tired. Like, this achy tiredness that just seemed to sweep over my body. At one point I told the children to just do whatever they wanted because that’s what they were doing anyway.Continue Reading