Anticipating Mother’s Day…but Not This One

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festivalchaska.blogspot.com

Anticipating Mother’s Day can produce differing reactions in the hearts of women.

  • The infertile woman faces yet another year with no baby. Watching mothers receive refrigerator-bound drawings with cute stick figures with arms coming out of heads or hearing what the hubs did to honor her friends for being such a great mom reminds her that her arms remain empty. She’s still waiting for someone to make this day special for her, too.
  • The mom who battles guilt over never being “enough” for her kids finds it hard to accept their childlike appreciation. “If they only knew how often I look forward to the empty nest,” she chides herself. “They deserve a much better mom.”
  • The sorrowful mom who crawls into bed each Mother’s Day night battling disappointment over the seemingly dutiful — rather than heartfelt — thanks she received from kids who were prompted by their dad or spouse or older siblings to do something. 
  • The mom whose husband starts planning Mother’s Day far in advance; delivers breakfast in bed with giddy toddlers; saved to purchase a special gift she admired months ago while they were at the mall; and made reservations at her favorite dinner restaurant…with a table by the window.
  • The mom whose kids are away or she aches over an estranged relationship with them is reminded of how much she misses the years when they were all underfoot and smothered her with sticky kisses…and thought she was one great mom.
  • And then there’s the mom who planned the day herself because her husband or ex-husband or kids never think to. She’s grateful to have the day with those she loves, but avoids facebook because she can’t bear to see how other moms were doted on for the day.

What are you hoping will happen or not happen on Mother’s Day?

You see, no amount of gratitude or gifts will be enough. Why? Because the sacrifices of motherhood are just too many. Who can adequately thank someone for giving up your life, your body, your time, your career advancement, your sleep, your food and your very self for little ones who took your breath away when you held them for the first time and have required all your attention since? Kept you awake at night feeding…then worrying…then praying night after restless night? Made you realize you were made “for this” — which helped you persevere through all kinds of tough stuff because they needed you? Rushed into your heart and life — and, before you knew it, left you with an eerily quiet house.

Homemade cards and sticky kisses are treasures. Teen gratitude expressed in any form is heartwarming. Young adult thanks, educated by their own parenting sacrifices, are…well…really special.

But there’s only One who knows and sees all. He paid the ultimate sacrifice of His very life to empower us to give of ourselves till it hurts, and then keep giving.

No matter which category you relate to most above, please hear this: Your life is making a difference. Whether you are single or married, have one child or many, will be doted on this weekend or virtually overlooked, God knows and cares. He is watching and He is pleased. Yes, we are flawed. Yes, we fail and make mistakes. Yes, we get tired and want to give up. But we don’t. We keep wiping. Soothing. Rocking. Training. Reminding. Congratulating. Disciplining. Feeding. Clothing.

And then they grow up and the sacrifices continue into a new generation that takes our breath away all over again.

We are Mom. Momma. Mother. Mommy. But we are also daughter to a Father whose favor is ours even when we mess up, fail or sin against our kids. Because of the cross, we who know Him are the recipients of His love, strength and grace on our good and bad mothering days. Only He truly recognizes and values what we do day in and day out, year after wonderful, wearisome year. And there will be a Day when He says, “Well done.”

What a Mother’s Day that will be!

Borrowed Trouble

Aside

She stood shaking on the side of the pool. At age ten, she desperately wanted to learn to dive. But each time she tried she ended up looking like a pretzel falling into the water. Head pointing down but feet curled up in a cannon ball-like pose, poor Jaime just couldn’t do it.

It didn’t matter how many times her dad and I tried to coerce her or how often we gently put her into the right position. She just couldn’t overcome the fear of letting herself fall into the water without the reflex to protect herself. Poor thing. She couldn’t even explain what she was afraid of!

Summer after summer she tried again. And again. Suddenly it happened. In her early 20’s she dove into the pool. Her shocked family clapped and cheered. She acted like she’d been doing it for years.

Sometimes we don’t know why we’re unable to do something. We’re afraid of something — and don’t know what it is. Self-protective reflexes kick in: defenses; withholding honest information about what we’re going through; fear of being hurt (again); unconfessed sin; anxious thoughts about being misunderstood.

The puritans used to call it “borrowing trouble.”

Jaime watched person after person dive into the pool without cracking their head open on the bottom of the pool or drowning. Time and time again she played Marco Polo without being able to get into the pool quickly like her siblings and friends. She felt uncoordinated — even though she tore it up on the basketball court. There was something, though, that made her fearful of thrusting herself head first into the pool. Something irrational but nevertheless real.

I’ve been borrowing trouble recently. And trouble isn’t worth borrowing. The Bible says today has “enough troubles of its own” — so why borrow more from the future? Why reach into an unknown future, whether days or weeks or years ahead, and borrow things that may not even happen? And even if the trouble we think may come does in fact happen, tomorrow’s grace and help can’t be borrowed either. Today has it’s own trouble and grace.

What Jaime didn’t know was that one day she would get the courage to go head first into the water. Once she did it, the anxiety would be replaced with joy…and she can now assure her kids that there is really nothing to fear.

Are you facing something or someone that is tempting you to be afraid? Do you find yourself borrowing trouble from an unknown, uncertain future? Is there a refreshing pool of water in front of you that you can’t enjoy because you’re afraid to dive in?

No worries. No amount of coercing from yourself or others is going to help you. The only thing that will help is your decision to just go for it and trust God to let you experience the joy that courage brings.

More on that next time.

When Only an Embrace Will Do

mysteryreadersinc.blogspot.com

mysteryreadersinc.blogspot.com

Have you seen the youtube videos of children greeting their camo-clad father or mother upon their return from oversees military service? I have watched several through tears. Watching little ones jittering as if they need to use the bathroom while waiting for Dad or Mom to come into view, then seeing them rush with outstretched arms to a parent who own arms have longed to hold their beloved child gets me every time.

I imagine that when Dad, for example, was gone for all that time Mom tried hard to offer their child a good explanation.

  • “Daddy is working hard far away to protect and serve our country.”
  • “I know you miss Daddy, sweetie.  He’s doing a really important job and he’ll be home as soon as he can.”
  • “What does Daddy do?  Well, he fixes big tanks and trucks so people can use them to help keep others safe.”
  • “You know Daddy is a pilot, right? Well, right now he’s flying things like food and medicine to people far away who wouldn’t have those things without Daddy.”

I don’t know a single child who would understand why their Daddy or Mommy needed to be the one to do these things. What child would say, “Oh, I get it. Now it makes perfect sense why I won’t see my Dad or Mom for a year.  Thanks!”

Explanations don’t satisfy kids who miss and want their parents when only an embrace will do. A child who misses Mommy or Daddy can’t fathom any reason good enough for not having them tuck them in bed at night month after month or missing their birthday party or not being there on Christmas morning. The only thing they want is to be with Dad or Mom…now.

And that’s what their parents want, too. Seeing the beaming faces of mothers and fathers on those videos clutching their kids, often with tears streaming, fills my own heart with joy.

I’ve been thinking about how this relates to my relationship with God. You see, sometimes I think knowledge will help, especially during difficult seasons. There have been numerous times when trials or suffering left me craving an explanation.

  • “If I just knew why this was happening, I’d feel better.”
  • “God, just explain how all this is going to ‘work together for good’ (Romans 8:28) and then I’ll feel better.”
  • “So, Lord, what’s the purpose in this awfulness? Help me understand and it’ll be easier to endure.”

During challenging times it helps me to realize that knowledge isn’t what I need; I need God Himself. The answer to difficulties isn’t explanation but relationship. You see, even knowing the future good that will come “someday” isn’t all that comforting in the midst of sorrow, loneliness or disorienting circumstances. Knowing that “down the road” fruit will come from a dry and painful season doesn’t take today’s sadness and weariness away.

The only thing that makes today’s hardships lighten is the Father’s embrace.

Are you going through a tough time? Do you believe that having God sit down and explain why this is happening and the good things that will come from your pain will really help you? Consider Job. If he knew that his dead children would be “replaced” by future children, would he have said, “Oh, I get it. That makes me feel better.” No. Knowledge just begs new questions, not fresh peace.

When we Christians are hurting and craving explanations for tough times, what we need is to tangibly experience the nearness, comfort and warmth of God’s embrace. Hearts that crave knowledge bow to arms that feel welcomed and loved.

I pray you’ll find the strength to let go of the demand for explanation and knowledge and just run into your Father’s eager arms. You’ve missed Him, not answers.

A Consignment Sale Reminder

Yesterday I went to a consignment sale held in a huge room full of toys, clothes and baby items. The only things that are accepted in this wonderful sale are clean, gently used items in good condition that have all the pieces. It was fun to shop with my daughter, Janelle, who is expecting her first baby — my twelfth grandchild. I found a beautiful high chair to add to my collection for visiting grandchildren for a fraction of the cost of new!

As I picked up each item I was mostly impressed with the condition and prices. But once I found the items I was mainly looking for, I found myself noticing little things that didn’t point to necessarily gentle use.  Toward the end of my shopping time I realized that I was unfairly evaluating some of the items. They were, in fact, used!

When I left I found myself thinking about being “gently used” and “in good condition.” I smiled to myself as I was driving home. I’m grateful that I don’t typically feel like I have to clean myself up to make a good impression on people. Most of the people in my life are more than gracious to overlook the smudges, wrinkles and dings about me. Or to recognize that they, too, are flawed. But sometimes I’ve felt that my good condition just hasn’t been good enough for some. Have you?

As a Christian, it’s wonderful to know that God’s evaluation of me is through the lens of His Son’s perfect obedience. When Jesus Christ died on the cross He absorbed every sin and flaw about me and then granted to me His righteous life. Yes, I still sin. And ask anyone who knows me: I’m flawed!

While I care about what others think and want to live with them in mind (like Jesus did), I am incapable of never hurting or disappointing others. When I do, I want to take responsibility for messing up and ask forgiveness when appropriate. But even in my most flawed state when anger or bitterness or jealousy or lust or selfishness is knocking on the door of my heart and mind — and even when I give in and outright sin — Jesus stands eager to remind me that nothing can separate me from His love and His favor is never withdrawn from me. He loves repentant sinners, before and after we sin. How amazing.

He knows I’m gently used and because of His sacrifice on the cross and resurrection from the grave, I’m in good condition. What a thought!

If you, like me, struggle with craving the approval of others and wish people didn’t pick you up and notice your every flaw, consider Jesus. If you belong to Him your flaws and smudges are just reminders that you have the marks of being in a fallen world on your life.

But Jesus already paid the price to buy you for His very own. I would never have been clean enough to earn His love and favor.

Gently or not-so-gently used. In good or bad condition. Broken. Dented. Dirty. Tossed aside we come.

And He buys us anyway.

The Rusty Table

Today is tax day. And I’m thinking of owing people stuff.

Several years ago Benny and I borrowed a folding table from some friends. We really did mean to return it. Our friends asked about it several times and we said, “So sorry! We’ll get it back to you!”

Honestly, at one point when they asked I thought, “You live five minutes away. Can’t you just come by and pick it up?” But I didn’t say it. I just told them we would bring it back.

But we didn’t. We hunted around for it one day and couldn’t find it anywhere. Frankly, we assumed we had returned it and they must have loaned it to someone else. They said we hadn’t returned it…but they stopped asking.

A few years later we were packing to move. We found the table in a storage shed rusty and covered with junk. Our friends had moved out west and we couldn’t give it back. Besides, it was ruined.

I talked to my friend on the phone and apologized. Her words pierced my heart: “Oh, Sheree, it’s fine. When we loaned it to you we knew we may never get it back.” In response to my questions she explained that they had come to realize over the years that allowing people to borrow things required being willing to never get them back. “After repeatedly becoming resentful that borrowed things got lost or were never returned we realized we had two options: to stop loaning things to friends or be willing to let go of our stuff.”

Gulp.

Recently these friends came to mind as I mused over expecting love in return from someone. I had been loving and patient…and I expected those things to be returned to me. When they weren’t, I realized I hadn’t given anything away — but had only loaned my kindness.

Please understand I don’t feel badly for expecting to be loved back. The problem was I expected to be love in the exact way I had shown love. What if they person was being loving to me — just in different ways than I had shown love? Or should I say, loaned love?

Our friends asked for their table back a couple of times. But when we irresponsibly didn’t take it back they chose not to resent us. Rather, they focused on the ways our friendship was a blessing to them. An unreturned table didn’t mean as much to them as not getting frustrated and angry with us. By the time I called them many years later they had actually forgotten about it. What good friends.

Remembering the rusty table has been good for me recently. It’s helped me to realize that loaning love isn’t the way to live. It not only tempts me to withhold more love until what I loaned gets returned, but could also blind me to ways love is being shown to me in ways unlike how I show love. I want to be the kind of person who doesn’t insist that love to be returned to me in kind, and chooses not to punish the person with silence or resentment or angry attempts to wrestle “my kind of love” from them when maybe their way of showing love is just different.

Or perhaps they simply can’t find the love I’ve loaned them because they think they already gave it back.

Do you find yourself, like me, loaning love to people? A rusty table is reminding me that love is best given, not loaned.

When Pain Strikes

Nancy and David had a son named Matt and were joyfully expecting a baby girl.  This was before sonograms were routinely performed so they didn’t know there was a problem until her birth. The doctors were immediately concerned about Hope, and the next day a geneticist told her parents she had the metabolic disorder, Zellweger Syndrome. Imagine their heartache to learn that there were no survivors; no cure; just months of life ahead; no “hope.”

199 days later she died.

Because of the high risk of having another child with Zellwegers, David and Nancy made the very difficult decision to surgically prevent another pregnancy. Nancy started writing her book, Holding On To Hope, to bring comfort and hope to other grieving parents. As I came to page 44 last week, I read these shocking words:

“Evidently the procedure reversed itself , and today as I write, I find myself pregnant.”

Pregnant? Again? She and David hoped beyond hope that this baby, like their son Matt, would be okay. But a series of tests revealed the awful truth that their unborn son also had Zellwegers. They didn’t know Hope was sick until she was born. But from early on they knew their baby boy would have a very short and very hard life.

I finished the book yesterday. It was gripping. Nancy was painfully honest. She talked about unhelpful things people said and did during her years of suffering. She shared her despair; her why, God? questions; her frustrated desire to understand; and the reality that part of the hardness of going through difficulties is having to navigate the reactions and responses of friends and family.

Yesterday I also had the opportunity to hear Nancy speak at a conference here in Orlando on the topic of dealing with grief. I haven’t recently lost anyone close and have never held a dead baby in my arms. But I just wanted to listen to her. To benefit from her words and life. I’ve often heard “more is caught than taught” and I couldn’t miss the opportunity to catch something from a woman who has so beautifully allowed suffering and pain to produce the desire to embrace it without becoming a ball of bitterness and destructive anger.

I’m so glad I went.

Losing a baby isn’t the only way people suffer. We suffer when long held dreams or ambitions we really thought were “right” don’t look like they’ll ever happen. Children we’ve sacrificed our lives for break out hearts us with chronic ingratitude or disrespect. Co-workers gossip so they can get a leg up with the boss. Someone we’ve chosen to love forever betrays us through adultery, pornography or lust. Financial irresponsibility means we may always have to count pennies and have to give up thinking we’ll ever get ahead. Elderly parents need us to change their diapers even though they’ve forgotten who we are. The test results show the tumor got larger.

One man said, “It only takes living long enough for suffering to happen.” Hardships come to every person because we live in a broken, fallen world. Sadly, some Christians believe that real godliness and faith protects us from suffering. If we believe enough, we’ll have all the money and happiness we need because God wants to bless us, not hurt us.

But think about it. Look back on your life and think about the difficulties through which you’ve walked. Aren’t some of your greatest lessons and blessings the result of your deepest pain? That doesn’t mean you would ever want to repeat that horrific season of life and genuine faith doesn’t say, “Bring on more pain and suffering!” But the promise that “God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28) means that the disorienting perplexities of death, illness, rejection and pains of all kinds really do “work together” for good.

Our suffering isn’t meaningless or useless.

I can’t recommend Nancy’s book enough. But I have to warn you: this book is not for anyone who wants to marinade in your pain. Nancy’s solutions, forged in the fires of suffering unlike I’ve ever experienced, are full of both grace and truth. Using the life of Job in the Bible — a man who lost everything — she provides hard fought but life changing help to hurting people.

You can find Holding On To Hope here. And whether or not you ever read it, I trust that God will bring you your own special and personal hope in the midst of your suffering. If for any reason you would like to contact me personally, just leave your email in the comment section and I would be glad to reach out.

The Ultimate Blog Challenge: Day Ten

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30 Years Ago Yesterday

Aside

Not everyone likes a gushing mom so I know some of my readers will probably skip today’s post. But I just can’t help but introduce you to my son, Jesse.

Yesterday was his 30th birthday.

Jesse and his wife, Rebekah

Jesse and his wife, Rebekah

I won’t go into the details that only Mom, maybe a couple of patient sisters or a wife would actually care about. But I want you to know that whenever I’m discouraged and wondering if the future will be brighter than the present I often think of Jesse.

You see, Jesse came into our lives after two “easy” kids. We never said it out loud but Benny and I thought we were pretty good parents with Josh and Jaime. They were compliant, pleasant and did what they were asked without much fuss. Other than Josh giving his little sister a bath with toilet water (it was clean, thankfully), the two of them “cleaning” the living room furniture with baby powder and then “cleaning” the fireplace by making sure all the soot got onto themselves we had a pretty easy time parenting them.

Jesse's firstborn, Sam, recently showing off his missing tooth

Jesse’s firstborn, Sam, recently showing off his missing tooth

Then came Jesse. Before he turned two he was throwing violent temper tantrums that left us crying (literally!) out to God for wisdom to help him. God was good to give us this little guy who fell onto the floor screaming in public to deal with any vestiges of good-parent- thinking and left us full of compassion for parents whose kids acted out in public.

One day I was in tears on the side of the road, feeling desperate and alone as a mother. I had no more solutions. No more strength. No more hope. The tantrums had been continuing for nearly two years and I was exhausted. Plus, we already had another son and had just found out I was pregnant again. Five kids in 11 years was about to become the end of me.

But hope came. WIth tears streaming down my face in the van that day I sensed the still, small voice of God’s comfort in my head assuring me that He was at work in my son’s heart and that someday I would see the fruit of all He was doing.

And I have and do.

Issac (yes, it's spelled right) is Jesse's second and is Daddy's mini-me

Issac (yes, it’s spelled right) is Jesse’s second and is Daddy’s mini-me

By God’s grace, Jesse is a trophy of His faithfulness. He is a faithful husband and loving father to three adorable boys. Through family trials and wrestlings with the Lord, God grew him; protected him; gifted him; and saved him. He grew in self-control and learned to depend on God to change his heart from one of anger to gentleness. God gave him a heart to honor his parents after years of kicking, biting and resisting us. He has brought this mom joy by filling our home with music and embracing a call to preach. He works hard to support his family as an IT guy and I can depend on a warm hug whenever he sees me.

If you have children about whom you are concerned, pour out your heart to God. He hears. He answers. He is faithful. He takes the wandering heart and turns it toward Himself. He transforms anger and disrespect into tenderness and honor. He brings joy following sadness, replaces fear with faith and fulfills His promises even when it takes longer than we hoped.

Jesse's youngest, Josiah

Jesse’s youngest, Josiah

Happy Birthday, son. I loved you when you bit and fought me. When you’d come into our room at night and talk about your struggles and temptations and accomplishments. When you came home and played “My Cheeseburger” on the piano at midnight. When you hit that last second shot and made Cindy and I jump up and down for joy on the bleachers. When you told me you were in love and when we shared the dance at your wedding. When you cried at The Columbia when we told you about the PC and when God brought you back to Orlando to live closeby. I love you for giving me three grandsons and for working hard to train them in godliness.

But I mostly love you for teaching me that while good parenting is important, the One who is most responsible for growing a kids heart and character is God. You’ve taught me humility both when you threw a fit in the floor at Toys R Us as a toddler and when you shared your heart with me as a teen.

I love to watch you love your wife and sons. I learn from your preaching. I value your counsel. And I’m grateful that you’re not nearly as impressed with yourself as I thought you might be. Thirty years from now I will most likely be gone. But every year I get to watch you grow, admit your flaws and failures, love your family and serve God’s people will be a joy.

I’m glad God gave you to me, son. And I pray that your life will continue to be an example to me and others that the story is still being written. God completes what He begins…always.

My son and his sons

My son and his sons

The Ultimate Blog Challenge: Day Nine

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Did I Really Just Say That?

Yesterday I talked about the common challenge of being sometimes lost as a mother. The pressure to feel we have to always know what to do and then do it right plaques many mothers, including me. After all, if we get directions and plan things well, all should go smoothly, right?

sharonctdailyphoto.blogspot.com

sharonctdailyphoto.blogspot.com

But what about those moments for which you can’t prepare? Even if we could do it all right in the normal tasks of caring for, feeding, cleaning up after, training and teaching our kids, at points along the way things are going to take us off guard and we’ll be lost for how to respond. We (hopefully) aren’t surprised when our babies throw food out of the highchair, toddlers hit other kids or teens lie about getting homework done. But do we somehow expect that if we do all the “right” things along the way and make every imaginable sacrifice for our kids that they won’t make really bad decisions that leave us awake at night crying?  If we teach them not to throw food or hit others — and lovingly talk to them about our own temptations to lie so they won’t feel we don’t understand, while stressing the importance of honesty — are we thus protecting ourselves from the really hard things?

My oldest is about to turn 35. (I won’t bore you with the “how in the heck did that happen” comments.) But I encountered something recently I hadn’t experienced in all those years….

My husband is a pastor. Gratefully, while some of my kids went through tough spiritual seasons and made bad choices, they always willingly attended church on Sunday mornings with us. I’m sure there were times when they may have rather slept in. But unless they were sick or out of town we were together worshiping on Sundays.

A few months back I went to wake up one of our remaining at-home kids to hear they were too tired to go. Honestly, I didn’t know what was “right” to say. Some of my friends whose kids are uninvolved in a church have taken the road of not wanting to force their kids to go. Others take the “as long as you’re in this house you’ll go to church” posture and fight with their kids to comply because that’s what they think is best.

That morning I was stumped. How do I respond? I was surprised at the words that came out of my mouth.

“Hmm…well, honey, that might actually work out good. We still have a lot of packing to get done [we were moving soon] so let’s see…I’ll give you another 30 minutes and then you can get up and help me get started.”

“Huh? What? Mom, you’re not staying home.”

“Actually, yes I am.  If you stay home then I’ll stay home, too, and we’ll get a lot done together. See ya in a few minutes.”

I left the room wondering what in the world I had just done! A pastor’s wife (of a brand new and small church where everyone knows who is/isn’t there, mind you) just told her teenaged child we would both skip church to pack boxes? Was I letting my child manipulate me? While I hadn’t anticipated facing this specific parenting issue, if I had I certainly wouldn’t have come up with that response!

While back in by bedroom grabbing grubby clothes to change into I experienced the peace of God. I realized in that moment that my child knowing I wouldn’t react angrily or selfishly to them not wanting to go to church was important to me. And that prizing my relationship with them over forcing “church” (even their father’s church) down their throat was a genuine priority.

In that moment — a moment I hadn’t planned for — what needed to be said was “there.” Maybe it’s not what you would have said. And perhaps I’ll realize years from now that it really wasn’t the right thing to say.

But as I started to change my clothes I heard my kid’s shower start up….

As we drove away they told me I wouldn’t have really stayed home.

“Yes, I would. And I will stay home next week and the week after and the week after that if that’s what you decide.  I love you, and showing you that what we do we do together is more important than forcing you to get up and go to church.”

We’ve been going every Sunday since.

Maybe you wish your “I didn’t prepare for this moment” was a child not wanting to get out of bed for church. Perhaps your moment was finding a journal entry that talked about suicide or discovering internet porn on your teen’s computer or leaving a doctor’s visit reeling from bad news.

I’ve had similar moments, too. But I’ve found that trusting God to help me in the non-crisis moments prepares me for the big ones.

Desperate mothers, which is what this series is about, are desperate enough to believe that still, small voice that guides us. Sometimes what’s best for our kid isn’t what’s best for someone else’s. Often the wisdom we need is found in biblical principles rather than being spelled out in the black and white pages of the Bible.

And sometimes we even surprise ourselves.

P.S.  I’m participating in 30 days of blogging…this is day three.

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Lost and Scared: And No GPS

It was after midnight and I was lost. There was nothing in sight — and this was before cell phones or even pagers. I was on my way to a church youth retreat in rural Maryland with three teens. When I saw the Welcome to Pennsylvania sign I wanted to cry. Where was I and how in the world was I going to find an out-of-the-way retreat center that wasn’t even visible from the dark, country road leading to it? How did I get all the way to Pennsylvania from Virginia on my way to Maryland? And why hadn’t I packed some snacks for always-hungry teenagers?

It’s funny. I don’t even remember how I found it. I just remember my husband, Benny, pacing outdoors after 1 AM when I finally drove up. He’d been trying to find a way to call the police but the office was locked and he didn’t know how to locate the onsite tenant. The look on his face as he searched the darkness with my car headlights blinding him made me realize how frightened he had been.

Thank God for whoever invented GPS’s.

As a mother I have felt lost more times than I can count. Whether you are carrying your first child or have seven young adult children (like me) the desperation of motherhood has likely visited you on numerous occasions. Feeling lost is scary when you’re trying to find a retreat center in the dark, but not nearly as fretful as wondering if your kids are getting all they need to feel loved and well prepared to take their place in a sometimes dark world when they’re big.

I wasn’t supposed to get lost that night with three teens in my car. I should have made sure I was paying better attention as I searched for State Road whatever it was. And when the first stirrings of uncertainty bubbled into my mind I should have stopped to ask for help. Well, that is, if I could have found a gas station or a house that didn’t look haunted.

Likewise, aren’t mothers supposed to do what’s right every time? Aren’t we supposed to know what to do and when to do it? Good mothers don’t get distracted and lose their way, right? They think things through and prepare for the unexpected and don’t take wrong turns and always have a backup plan.

Typing that sounds as foolish to me as it probably does to you. When we’re sitting on the couch thinking rationally every mother knows she has and will make mistakes. Just like her mother and her mother before her. But when desperate motherhood strikes and life smacks us in the face in the form of a seriously ill or chronically moody or immoral or withdrawn child we too often rush to, “What did I miss and how did we get here?”

We do miss things. And sometimes negative patterns in our children point us to areas in which we need to change by providing more effective or focused encouragement, training, affection, discipline or instruction. I’ve had those times when God has used a child’s repeated misbehavior or failure to teach me about mothering deficiencies. But if having flawed children who make foolish, sinful or sometimes dangerous choices automatically points to mothering failures, then when a kid remains basically compliant, cooperative and respectful all the way to adulthood then do we also get to give ourselves self-congratulatory pats on the back?

Wise mothers don’t take the blame or the credit.

Yes, what we do matters. We are responsible to the God who loaned us our children to raise for His glory in desperate hope that they will take what they learned into the next generation. Our flaws — especially in the form of consistent anger, neglect or lack of biblical love — will likely leave our kids with adult issues to face in the future. Yet the One who is most responsible for and capable of making our kids who we long for them to be is the God who gave them to us in the first place.

And unlike Benny all those years ago, He’s not pacing and wondering if we’re okay. Rather, He “neither slumbers or sleeps” as He wisely, faithfully and tenderly watches and guides and protects us and our children from anything — even hard stuff — that won’t be used for good in our lives and theirs.

No mother is perfect. But because “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son” to die for us (John 3:16) we have hope that if the death of the innocent Christ was used for the greatest good ever, making a way for us to be reconciled to God, then He can be trusted to use all for good for kids who grow up with imperfect mothers.

One of the coolest and most helpful things that happened to me some years ago was admitting when I got lost as a mom. Doing so made moms around me feel safe admitting they missed a turn or two as well. And some of us soon felt understood enough to start admitting that what scared us most was not stuff with our kids but our own recurring anger and impatience. Selfishness and laziness. Putting on a good face when others were around and being the “real” us behind the closed doors of our homes. Harshness. Jealousy of other mothers. Desires to impress rather than commitment to keep it real. Feelings of failure. Exhaustion. Favoring the easy child over the challenging one.

Being lost in the hopelessness that we’re stuck in our own unhealthy patterns is the worst kind of lostness of all.

Have you felt lost as a mother? Are there times when mental hand wringing leaves you feeling desperate and inadequate? Do you sometimes look at your kids and wish there was someone who could help you figure out how to do this motherhood thing better?

I have good news.

There is Someone. He has helped me more times than I can count. And He has used every single mistake and missed turn on my part for good in my kid’s lives. He’s not a far off God but is named Emmanuel — God with us.

Being lost is scary, I know. But those times make the times when things are bright and the path seems clear really special.

More on that tomorrow.

Day Two

Day Two

30 Days of Blogging?

What was I thinking? I decided to accept the Ultimate Blog Challenge, at the invitation of my dear friend, Debi, over at her and Tom’s wonderful marriage blog, The Romantic Vineyard.  If you’ve never visited there, please do. Tom and Debi don’t just write about marriage, they have a wonderful marriage that is inspiring many.

footage.shutterstock.com

footage.shutterstock.com

it’s appropriate that Debi should challenge me to write more consistently. She’s been my encourager for over ten years. There was one time in particular when I was discouraged and feeling hopeless that the darkness would ever lift. She prayed for me and shared some edifying words that gave me strength to believe God was with me and would help me through that dark time.

She was right.

I’m in the middle of a blog series on Desperate Motherhood. If you’re just visiting you may want to take a look at last week’s posts — two were written by my daughter, Jaime. Her honesty about challenging seasons with sick newborns resulted in some heartfelt feedback. Over the next two weeks three other guests will share their experiences of God’s help through desperate times.

One woman told me last week that she finds comfort here at Faith Rising because the posts make her realize she’s not alone. Her struggles are common. Her temptations are shared. And God, though seemingly distant at times, is near.

She’s right, too.

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Day One of Thirty