New Year’s Day Lessons

Sometimes I feel apprehensive walking into church. I know if I don’t have things right in my life and between God and me, He’s going to have the pastor speak directly to me. You ever have that happen? You sit there sweating the proverbial bullets because you know he’s preaching right at you and you think everyone else knows it. That, my friend, is a good thing. It means your heart is tender and receptive to what God wants to tell you. I’ve made it a habit to ask God to speak to me through the message and He does. Sometimes I don’t like what God’s asking me because I don’t feel ready to do what He’s requesting, or I’m not ready to make the changes that I know need to happen. The cool thing about my Father is that He speaks to me in such a loving manner that I find myself drawn to Him and eventually wanting to do exactly what He asks of me. I just need a bit of time to get used to things. He’s patient. I think He nudges me and then lets me think about things because He knows my heart and my desire to do everything for Him and according to His will.

Sunday was one of those days where I felt I was being preached to. I know it was the Holy Spirit and not Pastor Randy because he doesn’t know anything about me, other than I’m sick and I have a quiver full of children. The message was about being a good steward with the gifts God has given us. Who could really sit in a message like that and not consider how they are spending their time, money, talents, etc.? But God took it down to a very personal and succinct level. While the pastor was speaking about what being a good steward means and the mandate that we tithe, God was weaving His words of love in and out of my heart…and I’ll tell you what He said.

It isn’t enough.

Yup. That’s what He told me. When we were asked to consider what gifts God gave us, of course the first thought in my mind was my children, and as that thought surfaced, God told me I’m not doing enough. That was a bitter pill to swallow because I have so many days where I cry out to Him that I can’t do any more. I end most every day exhausted and often frustrated that I can’t do what they need, can’t give them all that they require. After all, I am one and they are legion seven. It feels that way sometimes, you know. Seven. Seven mouths to feed. Seven bodies to clothe. Seven people to taxi around. Seven broken and mending hearts. Seven completely different individuals to know on a profoundly intimate level. And I’m one. One person to juggle the finances. One person to remember to pay the bills. One person to cook, make sure the chores get done, do the laundry, run the errands, work with eight different schedules, make the critical decisions…

You get the point, I think.

I’m not a weak person, but I have limits like everyone else. Lately I’ve felt as if I’ve hit a wall and can’t progress any further with my kids. The problems and burdens we all carry seem insurmountable at times, especially during the holidays when old memories surface and haunt us mercilessly. My 14-year-old, Vader, hasn’t a clue how to handle his feelings and I watch as his heart is torn apart and he battles to overcome his past. He tried so hard to mirror his father in everything because he so desperately wanted the man’s love and approval. Now he’s slowly finding himself but he’s unsure of what is okay. Vader doesn’t realize yet that his family loves him no matter what, and at the end of the day, no matter what has transpired, his mother still loves him more than life. He’s begun to put away his tough guy persona – just a bit – and he shows me a gentle and tender side that not many other people are privileged to see. He’s making positive strides. He’s moving forward…slowly…but as long as there’s movement, that’s what counts. Vader is the child I struggle with the most. He is the one I’m most often on my knees praying for. Because I see that he, more than the others, balances on a dangerous precipice…it won’t take much to send him tumbling into an abyss of rage, pain, and suffering he may never emerge from, so I pray earnestly that Creator will keep that balance, and keep my boy’s heart focused where it should be: on God.

My 17-year-old son, Art,  recently decided he wanted to write to his father in prison, only to discover that the court has forbidden contact. He is not ready yet to attempt a relationship with a master manipulator, and I’m thankful our family court did the right thing and ruled to keep these innocents away from their abuser, but I’m hurt for my son who so desperately wants his father and can have nothing but painful memories and unanswered questions. My boy wrestles with what is familiar over what is right. He’s a person that doesn’t like change and he’s really floundering now because our life is nothing but one change after another. That’s normal when a family is healing from the kind of abuse we suffered. The changes are positive, but my son wants what was comfortable to him, not necessarily what is better. It’s tough leading Artie because he digs in his heals and resists everything. Lately, I’ve been throwing my hands in the air quite a bit because I feel so exasperated trying to relate to him or get him to understand reality. In all honesty, I’d basically given up because his bad attitude and disrespect were wearing me down. I began thinking that he has less than a year until he’s 18 and then he can move out and I won’t have to deal with his passive-aggressive behavior anymore. But Sunday God made sure I knew that I was NOT to give up because my son needs me now more than ever. I’m not sure yet how to help Art through this rough patch, but I trust God to give me the wisdom. That’s all I have to do…trust, then do what He tells me.

Enter Melody, my 21-year-old daughter. People on the outside see a lovely young woman, full of life and light. She brings beauty wherever she goes and I’ve never talked with anyone who wasn’t charmed by her in some fashion. She’s a college student. She has an active social life. She works. She’s learning to drive. She’s a gifted musician. Patient, loyal, loving, forgiving. Under all this grace is a hurting little girl yearning for her daddy. Melody’s never known the love of a father and clings to the relationship with her heavenly Father. When she was able to finally trust a man and look to him as a father-figure, he was taken away from her and so was her ability to ever want to be close to a man who could be a mentor or father-figure. I’m afraid she’ll spend her life looking for something she won’t ever find and possibly making poor choices because of that. Mel has suffered greatly in her life and I pray often that God will give her guidance and keep close to her and fill the void her father left when he died. I can do nothing to take that pain away from her. It’s the worse thing there is, I think, to know my child hurts so deeply and I can do nothing but trust that God is in control and that He has a plan. So I’m waiting on Him.

Some people play the game and some people watch. My 13-year-old is a spectator. Jedi doesn’t know what he likes, what he wants, or what he can really do. So he watches everyone else and sometimes joins in. He enjoys the activities he participates in with other people but he hasn’t developed a passion for anything yet. He doesn’t say much and can disappear without anybody realizing he’s gone. I’m trying to figure out what I can do to help him ascertain what he likes and wants – and at what he excels. I never realized it would be so difficult. I have discovered that Jedi loves reading as much as I do so I encourage that and buy him books when he asks. So there is my start. I don’t know where to go with it, other than buying him more and more books, but I’m hoping inspiration will strike either him or me…and soon.

My green-eyed wonder is 6. This kid is amazing! Sprout is smarter than the average bear and he’s just discovered his sense of humor. He’s also learning the joys of irony and sarcasm, so he fits well into our home. He’s sometimes lost in the shuffle of this large family and that often means either he disappears and I’m asking where he’s gone, or he’s fighting to make himself heard. I see Sprout muscling his way in so that he’s not completely overlooked by his older siblings. There is no way I could explain the concept of a 15 year prison sentence to him, so I haven’t tried. I’ve explained that dad lives far away and isn’t allowed to visit us because he hurt us. For a while he told people his father was dead. I’m not sure where that idea came from, but maybe it was an easier concept for his 6 year old brain than the uncertainty of a man he greatly fears lurking out there in Neverland. It took me a long time to help him feel secure after we escaped from his father. Sprout was terrified that his dad would find him and kidnap him. That’s a heavy burden for a then-5-year-old to carry. I think he’s adjusting well, and a large part of that is due to his close relationship with his older sister, Melody. They have a bond that is rare and I know they both treasure it.

That leaves me with the Minions, who are 2 and 3 but behave like twins. They always choose to be together. What one does, the other must do. They have special names for each other and are unhappy when they are not together. When my 3-year-old is at school, my usually outgoing 2-year-old, does not leave my side or my lap. They are very happy children who kiss me when I leave and celebrate my return. I’ve never before had a child rejoice to see me as they do. It does something wonderful and funny to my heart every time I walk into my house and hear them shout, “Mommy’s home!” There’s just nothing better. I worry about how it will affect them later that they don’t have a father and will grow up not knowing what a daddy is or what a daddy’s love feels like. They look to my oldest son for that daddy-security and he has begun to resent it. I understand why he feels that way but I can do nothing to change it – toddlers really can’t be reasoned with on that level.  Again, this is where faith comes in…believing that God’s plan will bring a good and positive outcome.

I pray ceaselessly for the LORD to cover me with His grace as I try to raise these 7 kids in His will and show them each His abundant love for them. As a mom it is difficult, almost impossible, not to worry over the decisions each child makes, but as a child of God I need to place that worry at the feet of Jesus and leave it there. Then I can have complete trust in the path my Father is leading us through.

In realistically viewing the road set before me, I am daunted by the monumental task of bringing up 7 children with all the baggage we carry…and doing it as a single parent. I know every day that I fail. Sometimes everyone needs me to carry them through and it’s staggering to bear that burden alone. My children see Warrior Mom…Mama Bear. They rarely see me crying out my pain and fear late at night after I’m sure they’ve all gone to sleep. Yes, lots of fear. I rarely feel like I get it right. Most days I send my kids off to bed feeling like I’ve somehow messed them up more. I know they go to bed with needs unmet and feelings they keep to themselves because it’s safer…and because they worry that I can’t handle any more.

All of this to say that hearing God declare that it isn’t enough gave me pause. I wasn’t sure what He was asking of me. I was feeling empty, frustrated, and emotionally spent. Where was I supposed to go with that? How was I supposed to give more when I knew that what I was already doing was consuming me and leaving me exhausted and discontent because I always feel as though I’m fighting an uphill battle…huge amounts of energy and very little gain. My ever-faithful Father was quick to help me see how short tempered and impatient I’ve been lately. I’ve been demanding much and not giving back what my kids so desperately need…my time, my patience, and my undivided attention when they need to talk. When I realized what God was asking of me, I was a bit stunned. Because for once this was an easy thing! Time, patience, and attention. I can do that. I’m good at that! Well, maybe not the patience, but I’m tenacious enough to make myself be patient since God is asking it of me.

Last night I sat with my three oldest boys and we talked about what is going on with them and how they’re feeling about life in general and certain specific issues they are having. I wanted to make sure they know that no matter what is going on, or who comes into our lives, they always come first. Everyone else can wait. The rewards and blessings were immediate. Vader acknowledged that he’s always felt that I make them first. Last year, no matter how much I worked to find him help, he was yelling at me that I didn’t care about him and that I wouldn’t help him through his problems. I wouldn’t have heard it if I hadn’t taken the time and given him the attention he needed.

Art and I butted heads for quite a while last night, which has been our norm, but when I sat down with all three boys and expressed the desire for honest communication without the attitude, he thought things over then admitted he doesn’t know who he really is. I’ve been trying to get him to see that for quite a while because he was believing he was farther along than he is, and in essence acting too big for his britches. I can work with this. I can find the patience because I love this child more than life.

Jedi was silent, as always, but he observed. He didn’t have anything to say, but he knows Mom is here and he knows he is important to me. When I told them I love them more than any other kids in the world, he beamed. He just needed to have it reinforced.

I don’t expect miracles to occur because my boys and I had a heart-to-heart last night, but I have faith that it set us back on the course God has mapped out for us. All I had to do was listen and obey. God has renewed my spirit and given me the desire to help lead these kids into the lives He is preparing for them. All it took was time…patience…attention.

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2 thoughts on “New Year’s Day Lessons

  1. Heidi says:

    I needed to read this right now!

  2. I know this is truly boring and you are skipping to the next comment, but I just wanted to throw you a big thanks – you cleared up some things for me!

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