New Patterns of Grace

Mother’s Day. An opportunity to remember the effort, love, and sacrifices my own mom made for me. A chance to be thankful for the brave birth mothers who helped make me a mother. A day to look on my children with love and awe and marvel at the reasons I am allowed to partake in this day.

me and the girls

Looking upon the year leading up to this day, reflecting on the changes, the growth, the disappointments, the trials, and the joy; my heart feels both heavy and lighter at the same time.

A day to reflect. How am I doing as a mother? The most important role I will ever fill. Am I still stuck in some of the patterns of the year before? Or, am I moving toward what the Lord has for me? Am I pushing past old destructive ways? Am I looking for patterns which lead to life for my family?

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These questions fill my mind and to be honest, they’ve been keeping me awake at night.

As moms, we are so hard on ourselves. Second guessing decisions. Replaying scenarios in our minds. Beating ourselves up for our shortcomings. Allowing guilt and sometimes even condemnation to steal our days. Comparing ourselves to others or to some ideal we hold in our mind. Seeing our children’s behavior as a reflection of our own failures.

These are patterns which lead to death for ourselves and our families.

The Lord is revealing a different way to me.

It begins with grace.

Grace: Favor or goodwill. A manifestation of favor. Mercy. Pardon. Unmerited favor and love of God. The influence or Spirit of God operating in humans to regenerate or strengthen them.

Ahh..Just reading the word grace, followed by the definition is like a deep breath. My body loosens. My shoulders drop. My breathing slows.

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,  not of works, lest anyone should boast.  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2: 4-10

Oh those words, the Lord’s words to us, well up in me like an everlasting flowing river. A river of grace and mercy. His love for me was alive and well when I was dead in my trespasses. 

On your worst day. He loved you.

On my worst day. He loved me.

Am I loving that way? Am I loving my family when they behave well? Am I loving them when they are acting in an undesirable way?

Are my facial expressions conveying love and grace?

Is my tone showing love despite their behavior?

Are my words leading to life for my family regardless of how they are acting?

Through His grace and love pouring into me, He is showing me how to extend grace to my family. He is reminding me to be patient with myself. He is showing me when I just need to breathe. He is showing me how to love my children and care deeply for them, while still separating myself from their choices. He is opening my eyes to what a heartfelt apology can bring to my loved ones. He is lowering my shoulders and filling me with His breath, His grace, His love.

3 grace-filled statements for mom’s this Mother’s day, taken right from the Ephesians 2 verses above:

  1. We are no longer dead to our sin. We are made alive by Christ. I can breathe easier and become unstuck because He has freed me from my sin.
  2. We are saved by faith, not by our works. I am not saved based on anything I have done or anything I will do. I am saved based on who He is and what He has already done on the cross.
  3. We were created by God to the good works He prepared for us to do. No longer do I need to strive in my own power, my own wisdom and knowledge. He has gone before me and prepared the way.

This good, good news of the cross and His love and grace over me, frees me to rest. Rest in Him.

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Dear momma, find your rest in  Him. Allow Him to reveal His grace to you. Be filled with His unconditional love. Rest in His everlasting river of mercy. He loves you so much. This year, begin your new patterns of grace.

Finding Unity in the Trials

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4: 30-32

 

In Raising Your Spirited Child, author Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, writes, “Throw out messages that divide you such as, she’s manipulating me, she’s testing me, she’s being defiant, she’s out of control.” 

I am guilty of listening to and focusing on my inner voice say these types of statements whenever my children are acting out.

Kurcinka discusses the importance of not pitting yourselves against each other in your mind. Act as a team. The divisive self-talk, criticizing my children in my mind causes bitterness. The underlying root of this negativity is bitterness.

This behavior, my acting out this negativity,  is grieving the Holy Spirit.

When I look at my child, listen to my child with the intent to listen, understand and sympathize, then I am acting as Christ does toward me with kindness, a tender heart and forgiveness. No longer am I grieving the Spirit, but rather I am teaming with the Spirit. The Spirit as the lead and me following. I am also teaming with my child, not working against her or viewing us as working against each other. We are partnering.

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With this renewed mind, I am filled with peace. No longer does my child’s behavior or my behavior feel out of control. And since out of control equates to hopeless, no longer does our situation feel hopeless.

No longer do I view our parent/child interactions as being apart from God.

I see His hand in our interactions.

I see Him allowing trials for our benefit.

The heightened emotions, the lacking skills, the quick outbursts, the rapidly shifting moods, the intensity, the exact temperament of my children…all part of God’s purpose and design to refine me.

Whether your children are adopted, as mine are, or they entered your family naturally, the Lord placed them there. His plan was for you to be their parent and them to be your child. You may experience a great mismatch in temperament, personality, style, and habits, but unity comes when we stop grieving the Spirit.

Oh, Lord, forgive me for my bitterness, anger, clamor, evil-speaking. Forgive me for grieving your Spirit. Thank you for your kindness, tender heart, and forgiveness. Lord, continue to soften our hearts to the refinement that comes from the trials you allow. Please bring refinement so we can better love one another, the way you love us. Amen.

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Good Good Father

The guitar notes strummed on as our pastor sang the last words of the worship song, “Good, good father”. My heart was centered on the goodness of my Heavenly Father…His love, care, guidance, protection, sacrifice…all of what makes a good, good father.

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“How could he just leave me?” My teary eyed 9 year old comes to me in deep sorrow. “Did he ever even kiss me?” This rare display of serious, heart wrenching emotion catches me off guard. She notices my confusion and clears up my thinking by saying, “My birth dad, mom, how could he just leave?”

My heart dropped to the floor and that same weighty emotion floods my soul. I reach for her, pull her close to me and cry with her. What, Lord? What do I say to this? How do I explain this unjustness to my precious child? Our hearts and minds are connecting in this deep sadness. “He doesn’t know what he’s missing, Sweet Abby. He has no idea what he’s missing in not knowing you. He has a hard heart and is closed off to knowing your sweetness.”

This provides no comfort, “But, mom, how could he just leave me? Without ever even kissing me?”

I hold her and we cry silent tears together, sharing in the pain.

She catches a glimpse of her dad in the back of the room, and I breathe a quiet, thank you, Lord. 

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“Sweet Abby, the Lord provided a dad for you that kisses you everyday and has never left you.” Always quick to move on from serious emotions, she can’t help but smile. The tears stop and she’s ready for me to walk her to her class upstairs at church.

This is not my first experience with that kind of sorrow. Our older daughter, Mikayla, had years of deep heartache around the loss of her birth mom. Writing letters that we could never send, pouring over pictures from a photo album, creating memories in her mind of the time she had with her in the hospital as a newborn. When the sadness hit, she became like a sieve. I’d pour into her all the love I could muster, but it just ran right through. She was empty and I was trying to fill her with what I had to offer, which was never enough.

I remember one night, when the grief was like a never ending beast and my words were falling on her deaf ears, I just walked  out of her room and said, “There’s nothing I can do.” I finally heard my own words…there’s nothing I can do. There’s nothing I can do.

I handed her a pink, leather book. A book full of promises. A love letter from our Creator. “Here’s your Bible. This is all I have to offer you. This is where I find my hope.” I walked out, defeated.

Dropping to my knees next to my bed, I yelled out to God. “Lord, help. Take this away. Take her pain. Take this loss. Heal the hole in her heart.” Those words ran through my mind until I finally gave in to sleep. Fighting  the urge to go to her, to see if I could finally have the words to say to bring relief.

Bounding down the stairs the next morning, was a new girl. I stared at her with unbelief. Wasn’t she angry at me? I had failed her. I had left her in her pit of sorrow.

“Mom, last night I read Psalms! I turned to Psalm 71 and God comforted me, mom.”

“Really?” In desperation the night before, I had thrust God’s word at her, with the smallest amount of faith. Had she immediately picked it up? Or had she persisted in her crying until finally giving in to my suggestion. Does it matter? She had experienced the power of scripture coming to life, rescuing her in her time of need.

Psalm 71
1 In you, Lord, I have taken refuge;
let me never be put to shame.
2 In your righteousness, rescue me and deliver me;
turn your ear to me and save me.
3 Be my rock of refuge,
to which I can always go;
give the command to save me,
for you are my rock and my fortress.
4 Deliver me, my God, from the hand of the wicked,
from the grasp of those who are evil and cruel.
5 For you have been my hope, Sovereign Lord,
my confidence since my youth.
6 From birth I have relied on you;
you brought me forth from my mother’s womb.
I will ever praise you.
7 I have become a sign to many;
you are my strong refuge.
8 My mouth is filled with your praise,
declaring your splendor all day long.

This night signaled a beginning to healing. The beginning of my realization that I cannot fill the emptiness my adopted daughters share. I cannot be and will never be enough.

My girls are on loan. They belong to their Heavenly Father. He has entrusted them to me. My role is to guide, love them, point them in the right direction…lead them right to their Heavenly Father.

About a year after that dark night with Mikayla, we were just finishing a walk together. We had talked about what we would have for dinner, our plans for the weekend, if I thought we would EVER be able to get a dog, and then the subject turned, “I wonder how my birth mom is doing?”

“You know, I think of her so often. Have you prayed for her lately?” I ask, hesitantly.

“No. I really should. I hope she’s okay. And, if she’s not alive anymore, I really hope she’s with Jesus.” Not a tear. Not even one out of control emotion. Round the corner she went, into our driveway.

“Wow, Mikayla. I don’t notice that empty hole in your heart anymore. Do you?”

“Yeah, it’s still kind of there. It’s just so much smaller. I think about her still, I just don’t feel as sad. I can see how God has a purpose for me here, in my family.”

I don’t know when Abby’s healing will come. But, what I do know is that I will stay out of the way. I will not try to fill a hole only the Almighty can fill. I will teach her about her Good Good Father and He will fill her.

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Warrior

Breathless, she approached us after our first church service in Mexico. The beautiful blond hair, blue eyed, young woman was on a mission to reach us. “The Lord gave me a word for your daughter,

WARRIOR.

I see a FIERCENESS in her that I can’t explain.”

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Warrior: a person who shows or has shown great vigor, courage, or aggressiveness. A person engaged or experienced in warfare, soldier.

“Your daughter! She is such a leader,” a preschool mom proclaimed as I walked in to pick up my 3 year old daughter.

“She seems to enjoy telling the other children at her table what to do,” the kindergarten teacher stated.

The 3rd grade teacher, “Wow, today we were almost taken back by the powerful leadership tone she took.”

Not one time, did a comment like this surprise me or catch me off guard.

We saw Mikayla 5 hours after she was born. 3 days later, we brought her home.

She has exuded strength from the moment we laid eyes on her. As mother over my newborn baby, I remember telling people, she’s just so strong. “Oh really?” they’d comment. “Yes, it’s not just her cry conveying her strength. It’s a message right from the Lord, ‘I made this one strong!'”

Mikayla would cry on and on as a newborn, making it very clear when something displeased her. But, she would also become overwhelmed with excitement when she was pleased. She would not nap. She loved to be out and about, especially out in nature. By age 1, she could already say close to 50 words. Even as a baby, she brought energy, purpose, and life wherever she went. She is and always has been, a force to be reckoned with.

I think about her beginning in this world. If I could, I would ask her birth mom, “Did you feel that force, that energy when she was in the womb? Did you sense God telling you, this girl has a purpose?”

When other young women have been in her position, they have made other decisions. Did she hear the Lord’s voice telling her, “This one is a fighter”?

Oh, how I wish her birth mom could see what her decision to choose life has meant for Mikayla.

Never did I see her purpose more clearly than when she was recovering from double foot surgery. Mikayla was born with hip dysplasia as well pes cavus (extremely high arches). The hip dysplasia was corrected by wearing a harness for the first couple months of her life. But, the high arches caused her to begin walking up on her toes and thus needed extensive surgery to lower her arches.

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The recovery time included 2 months in a wheelchair, as well as numerous appointments to the Orthopedic clinic at Children’s Hospital in Seattle.

Mikayla demonstrated her strength and purpose while singing worship songs to the little 18 month old boy next to us in the hospital recovering from surgery to remove a tumor. When the kids at school didn’t know how to handle her being different and in a wheelchair, she learned tricks to do on the playground in her wheelchair. When going to follow-up appointments, Mikayla would make her way around the waiting room at Children’s greeting all the other children in wheelchairs. And, when the surgeon lost his cool with her and acted unprofessionally, she extended a hug to him along with words of forgiveness.

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I don’t know what the future holds for Mikayla. But, I am clinging to and already witnessing God’s promise in Jeremiah 29:11-13, which says, For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.

Teacher’s Kids

The other day I heard it again. The comment that makes my skin crawl,“Teachers kids are the worst.”

I don’t know how people expect a mom who is a teacher to handle a comment like that. (And, for the record, all of my teacher friends have wonderful, kind, articulate, caring children. So, I am not sure why teacher’s kids get a bad rap.)

Did this person make the comment because she saw my children doing cartwheels through the parking lot? Did she hear them singing at the top of their lungs in my car? Oh, she didn’t notice the way they struggle to listen to adults talk without always voicing their thoughts? Was it all the times they need to get up and move around during a church service?

My girls did not grow in my womb. They do not have any of my same DNA, nor my husband’s. My girls are loud. I am quiet. My girls have brown eyes. I have green eyes. My girls are active. I am calm. My girls are extroverts. I am an introvert. My girls are spontaneous. I have a plan. 

Loud, feisty, strong, creative, impulsive, high energy…none of these personality traits describe me. Yet, God chose my girls for me. While talking about essential oils the other day, one mom and I decided I need peppermint oil and my girls need lavender oil and then we may come closer to a middle ground. Yet, God chose me to be their mom. When I am feeling guilty that I don’t have the energy or personality to keep up with my girls, God whispers to me, it’s okay…this was all part of My plan. When I desperately need quiet, and my girls are acting as though they just drank a Red Bull, God shows me how to find my quiet.img_8151

The Creator put us together. Not by chance, but by divine design. Apparently my girls needed a calm, quiet, mom and I know I need my spirited, loud, active girls.

I will walk into a room with my loud, energetic, personality plus girls and know that I am living God’s plan for my family. Thank you, God. What do you know? The God who makes all the planets in the solar system sync together, also cares about syncing my family together.

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained, What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him? Psalm 8:3-4