I have long felt that my mission in life is to be a mother. I was never really interested in having a career; in college I followed my interests, but I never new what I wanted to do with that education. I felt destined to be a mother. That’s what my heart really longed for.
When Ben and I began the journey toward parenthood, it wasn’t easy. The first three pregnancies ended in miscarriage, and I wondered if I would ever have the opportunity to carry a pregnancy to term and give birth to our children. I felt a little desperate because that is what I felt God had given me a passion for. I vividly remember thinking that if I could just know what was ahead, if I could have a glimpse, I could feel better about our losses. If I knew I would have to endure ten miscarriages before having a healthy pregnancy, I felt I could face that pain, knowing it would end with a baby in my arms. But the uncertainty, the wondering if it was all in vain – that was hard. And I knew that God is good, and I knew there was a purpose to the pain. I also knew that he put that passion inside of me. I did not believe that he would leave that unfulfilled, but I didn’t know how he would choose to fulfill it. What if this was not his plan for us? To be honest, I didn’t know if I could be okay with that.
God is so faithful and so generous. It was in those years that I really began to learn what it means to trust him and to wholeheartedly believe that his plan, his timing, is far superior to my own. He has blessed me so greatly. I am so undeserving, yet he takes pleasure in pouring out such beautiful gifts in my life. It is easy in hindsight to see God’s hand, and now I know that I really needed those times in order to understand more about his character and his love for me – for it to become personal. I have struggled all my life believing that God’s grace is for me, that he truly loves me, though I always believed it without question for others. Because of what I have seen him do thus far, I am confident in his trustworthiness and his working in my life and the life of my family. I don’t have to be anxious (though sometimes I am) because he is a good God who, for some inexplicable reason, loves me.
I have had a great reminder of these truths in recent months, as once again I have been filled with doubt over the direction of our family, and once again God, through our family trials and his guiding hand, has gently reminded me not to fear. The summer and fall were a bit rough for Jonas and therefore, for me. As Jonas turned three, we were met with some challenging behavior. I tried to take it in stride, remembering that we had recently moved and he had a new baby sister. Those are huge things for little kids. He needed to learn how to fit into the changes in our family, and I was sure that it was normal for him to act out his anxious feelings. His behavior was unacceptable, but at least it made sense in context. As time went on, I didn’t feel that anything we did made any improvement. I grew frustrated, discouraged, and sometimes angry. Conversations with my mom made me fearful, as she was very adamant that he was acting this way because of something we were not doing, and if I didn’t fix the behavior problems with a firmer (i.e. more punitive) hand, he would be completely out of control down the road.
As I was mothering a new baby and trying to work through this rough period with my toddler, I felt I was completely losing my focus. I started ignoring some of my parental instincts in hopes of getting my toddler “under control,” I was forgetting what I knew about child development and what I knew about my particular child, and, worst of all, I was trying to fix it myself. I felt like our home was turning into a battleground, and I felt bad about how I was dealing with the situation. My own resources were failing me. And I grew anxious. This thing that I so longed for, that I wanted more than anything – motherhood – I felt like I was failing. I felt I wasn’t cut out for it. I began worrying that I was going to ruin my children. What was God thinking giving me these precious kids?
I am often amazed at how slow to learn I am. It took me this long to truly, with every fiber of my being, get on my knees over my children. That desperate seeking, when all else fails. Why is it not the first place I go? I need these constant reminders to drive me there – these realizations that I can’t do this on my own – a denouncement of my independent streak. And without fail I am given the sweet reminder that he is in control and that he is faithful. I do not need to fear. I do not need to be anxious. He has proven himself to me over and over, and yet I am so slow to trust, so slow to go to him, so slow to believe that everything really will be okay. I try to do it on my own. I can’t.
In recent weeks, he has provided me with words of wisdom and encouragement from people in my life, he has rekindled my joy in my family, he has helped me to see things more clearly, and he has been working changes in both my and Jonas’ hearts. Things have been a lot more peaceful at our house lately, though I recognize that could all change tomorrow. We are certainly guaranteed a host of parenting challenges in the coming months and years. But what I know, and what I do not want to forget, is that God is for me and for my family, and he is faithful to his covenant people. He hears my prayers, my fears and uncertainties. He hears, and he lovingly responds. He loves my children far more than I ever could, and I believe that he is working in their hearts. I am merely his (very imperfect) instrument, and the fact that he has entrusted them to me, sinful and incompetent as I am, is humbling and proof to me of his great, great love and his awesome power.
All this is not to say that all of a sudden we have a perfectly angelic three year old. Of course not. But I feel like our family is right again, and I feel renewed in my work to mother my children. What a gift I feel God has given me these last few weeks. By calming the storm in our home, he has clearly shown me, he is in control, and I do not need to fear over my children. These little parenting trials seem so momentous and daunting when you are in the midst of them, and you can’t see what is ahead, and you want nothing more than for your child’s heart to be soft and open to God’s teachings. But just like before, I am learning that I can trust him in all things and that he is working even when we can’t see his hand in the moment. Little by little, I am learning to give up my control – so hard, despite the fact that it’s an illusion to begin with. The last half a year is a reminder to me that I should be praying earnestly over my children in all circumstances, not just when things are rough. It has been a purposeful time that has drawn me closer to him, which is the whole point of this life, anyway. No doubt there will be larger parenting trials in the future, but I’m thankful that he’s getting me there with baby steps.