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.
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.
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.