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THE PARENTING DARE
Love the Real
Several years ago, in early 2014, I was on the Struggle Bus with some of the personalities in my home.
Yep, I was overwhelmed with my kids. One in particular lied to me constantly, on a daily basis. It was difficult. I didn’t know how to handle the challenges. My “normal” of being Queen Mom didn’t stop the bad behavior.
The pain in the home escalated. The lying and behaviors got worse. I became fiercely negative. It.was.not.pretty.
On Good Friday of that year (just like we do every year), our family was silent from noon until 3 as we respected the hours that Jesus was on the Cross. We each just pulled back from life and spent time in reflection.
And I wrote this in my spiritual journal,
“Jesus, I am able to see and feel myself and my cold heart.”
Now, I knew the reasons why I had such a cold heart, I knew the circumstances that had made me so guarded, but I didn’t want to live with a cold, shriveled up heart.
I prayed, “Please, I ask You, Savior, hanging upon the Cross, look upon me and heal my brokenness. I trust that You can. I desire a whole heart. Not a crabby, broken, impatient, judgmental and controlling heart. I desire to be delight, patience, compassion, true joy, kindness and encouragement. Please change me. Thank You.”
Then, the next day, on Holy Saturday, right outside of church, my daughter Malaysia, OUT OF THE CLEAR BLUE, asked if I would ever have another baby.
Okay. Here’s where my story gets crazy. I had been thinking I might be pregnant. My varicose veins were doing their thing, throbbing and aching. That told me there was a baby on board.
But. I was also 47 years old. So I simply told her, “Probably not.”
Then I paused and asked, “But if I did, would you like a brother or sister?”
And she easily replied, “A sister.”
The next day I took a pregnancy test.
I.was.with.child. And my daughter Malaysia was a prophet.
My emotions were all over the place. I went from disbelief to joy to fear and back again.
I took a of couple weeks to process the idea of being pregnant again. If you’ve ever had an unexpected pregnancy, you know the roller coaster of emotions.
Then. I started doing something interesting. I stopped being so negative with my children. I stopped looking at all of the bad happening in my home and I started looking for easy wins. I started looking for ways to praise and be more positive.
As the feeling in the home began to improve, I sat back and praised God the Father for His GOODNESS. I realized the GIFT that my little baby was giving me.
Why the changes? Well, I knew, in my heart of hearts, that I could not add another child into the nasty, joyless house that we had slid into.
My anger and angst had been a wall and for whatever reason, it had been protecting me and serving me.
But it had to go.
I knew I had to demolish it in order to survive the addition of another child.
I told my Jesus to knock it down and I asked The Holy Spirit to be my Teacher.
I declared, “I’m a student. You are my teacher. I am enrolled in Your Class of Love.”
I took my seat and I waited expectantly for Him to guide and teach me. He did not disappoint.
I wrote this during that time:
“Love encompasses all.
Love replaces self.
Love is incredibly generous and exceedingly kind.
Love delights in the moments.
Love is soft yet I can still be me….I can become me.”
I read this in a book and felt like it was Him speaking to me,
“Serve. Jesus served the lowest, the smallest. Be used. Be used by all. How best can you serve? Let that be your daily seeking, not how best can you be served.
"Look around. Do the aims and ambitions that man strives for bring peace, or do the world’s awards bring heart-rest and happiness? No! Those awarded with worldly honor and wealth are weary and disappointed. Trust Me Absolutely.” ~God Calling
As I learned about Love, this interesting thing began to happen in my home. I started having benign feelings towards the challenges. It was like they were there, but I didn’t get sucked into the drama of the high seas. I just handled it and went on my way.
My heart and mind kept repeating, “If I am going to be pregnant, then I want to do this well!”
Grace and goodwill continued to increase. I felt a quiet wonder towards my kids.
When I felt the fear of being pregnant and giving up my body for another, I clung to sayings like this, “Christ’s life given up for others is the centerpiece of our faith. Our lives given up for others is the centerpiece of our faithfulness.” ~ Fit to Bust.
Fulton Sheen wrote that we have a civil war going on in us, between our higher and lower selves. If we don’t engage in combat to kill our lower selves, we will engage in combat with others.
I could see how I had become lazy. I wasn’t praying for my children, I was not suffering for them or serving them. I had just become annoyed by them.
Dang that Archbishop Fulton Sheen. I had not engaged in combat with my “lower self.” If I let myself drift like that, being annoyed by the tides, then of course I would react in fear and anger to all of the things my kids were doing. If I didn’t engage with my own sin, of course I would engage in “combat” with my own kids.
That was huge for me. I wrote this in my journal:
“Yes, the struggles we’ve had with lying and hoarding have gotten me down. But finding out on Easter that there is a child within has given me much pause. It has made me stop fighting my kids and it helped me begin killing the negative parts of myself.”
I began trusting that there was a bigger plan, better than I could imagine. From my journal, “Lord, I love You and will accept this gift. Teach me daily. Thank You for new life. Guide me. Sustain me. You know my fears.”
As I clung to my Jesus, I knew that internal peace was totally possible, no matter the circumstance.
I named my child.
I began to speak to her. And I began to learn about JOY. Adding that little baby to our family, even though she was the size of a piece of rice, made me so much better. Almost instantly, I rose up.
I kept learning about Love.
“Teach me, Jesus. I trust in You.”
Thursday, May 15, 2014. I knew I needed to get seen by a doctor. The only issue, my beloved ob/gyn, Dr. Doug Douthit, had tragically died in December 2013. I needed a new doctor.
I called Dr. Douthit’s office and was referred to Dr. Christman.
People. I was given a doctor who was named CHRIST~MAN. Of course.
I made an appointment and met Dr. Christman. He was a godly, kind man and he didn’t make me feel stupid or uneducated for becoming pregnant past my prime. He treated me with deep respect.
We saw my baby on the monitor. The heartbeat was super slow and Dr. Christman gently explained that my baby was dying. He asked me to come back on that Monday.
On Monday we looked again. The heartbeat was gone.
Now, I’m not going to lie and say that was easy. It was heart-wrenching. I had a D&C the next day.
The good parts of that day: my husband was incredibly supportive. And I know this might seem weird, but I loved and appreciated that THAT DAY, my daughter Rachel had “Jeremiah 1:5” tattooed on her side. ("Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.”)
Over the next few weeks, I had to take some time to process everything and this is what came of it:
My little Dani helped me find and reconnect to my parental joy. I was able to see my family at a higher level instead of being pulled into the thick of it all.
Most of all, I was given the gift of How to Love. See, I had been stuck on an ideal in my head.
That ideal shaped my expectations.
When my children acted out, I was disappointed. Having another child within helped me connect with the REAL children that I had in my home, and helped me let go of the IDEAL children I had conjured up in my head.
Jesus kept teaching me. I could see that when I was regulated, forward-focused, funny and light, then so were my children.
When I lived in joy, my children responded.
Simple as that. Crazy as that.
From my journal, July 9, 2014,
“I can see how I was at a complete loss of how to handle the tumultuous emotions in my home. Baby Dani was a gift. I confronted deep fears and was able to cross bridges with my hardest child. Many changes have happened and I am grateful. Embracing the possibility of another child, experiencing all that intense potential, and then having it disappear was intense, yes, but it opened up my life.”
Why am I sharing this today? Well, in the past week, I was experiencing some of those old emotions. I was struggling.
I didn’t like some of the choices my kids were making. And it got to this point: I didn’t like how some of them chewed their food.
I know that the Coronavirus Quarantine is a huge part of it. Times are weird. We are many people, confined to our house. Day in and day out.
I wanted the ideal, of them and me. We all came up short.
So, I went to confession (we have a creative and committed priest!) and I received much grace.
Afterwards, I sat in the empty church and opened up the “random” journal that I had happened to grab as I went out the door.
And I read about my last pregnancy.
My baby, in her short life, helped me disengage with the emotional battles. She helped me get perspective. She helped me see that I had the POWER to change the atmosphere in my home, not by gonging my kids over the head with a hammer, but with love.
As I read that journal, something shifted in me. And I cried. I realized, again, that I had become the Hammer Wielder. (Just call me Mama Thor.)
But I didn’t have to accept that as my “lot in life.” I have tremendous influence in my home. It is up to me to get filled with all of the heavenly gifts. They are always available.
I am, was and never will be alone.
And most importantly, I learned, once more, that each one of my children was given to me on purpose.
Each of their personalities, weighed and measured.
I was chosen to be their mother. God knew how they would stretch me in just the right ways. Every detail has been looked after. Nothing and I mean NOTHING has been “random chance.”
So I share my story with you, dearest mother, perhaps selfishly. I want you to know about my littlest one. I want to acknowledge her and the tremendous gifts and insights I received from her life in mine.
I pay her tribute with this post, yes, but hopefully, more importantly, with my life.
It’s a pretty tremendous understanding. As mothers, we have incredible power.
Your children are looking to you to set the tone in your home, especially now, in this trying time. They need you regulated. They need you to be sane. They need you full of love.
If you are engaged in any emotional battles, simply step out of the ring. Get perspective. (Or get pregnant. Joking. Not joking.)
You were chosen to be their mother. You are not alone. Tap into the Power that is YOURS for the Taking.
Put everything into HIS hands. He knows exactly what you need. Trust. He chose your children for YOU.
Get rid of the ideal.
Learn to love the real.
Do everything in your power to help your children, with the same joy that you’d have if you were serving a great guest. Pray for them. Suffer for them. Let them see Jesus in your face, in your eyes, in your hands, in your heart.
God the Father is guiding every single detail of your life. Every.single.detail. Trust.
P.S. After that miscarriage, I began to invest more intentionally into my family. I created a course on deepening your relationship with your daughters. Find out more here: A Free Course for You!
4/20/2020 08:50:18 pm
Thank you so much for this post! I am that person and can't believe someone wrote my feelings so perfectly. I know God is using you. I pray He will change me for the better, with my help of course. As a mom of 8 as well, and older than your 47, I hope I don't have to get pregnant to learn how! Thank you for your amazing blog. I am always touched.
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I'm Lori Doerneman
Wife. Mom. Catholic.
Idealist with 8 kids,
keeping it real.
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