Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Day

Today is Mother's Day. I usually have lots of different emotions and expectations. Seems silly and maybe a little petty, but that's usually the case. I guess the biggest emotional difficulty is the reminder that I lost baby #2 around this time 6 years ago. We were right at 12 weeks along and just feeling like we were in the safe zone when I started to miscarry. The emotional implications that spiraled as a result are for another day, but I usually spend a little time thinking about what that baby would be like and what our lives would be like if we hadn't lost our 2nd child. And then there is the juggling of the weekend. I always want to spend some alone time with my mom for Mother's Day, but don't want to neglect my mother-in-law. I end up feeling pulled in a zillion different directions and spend mother's day with a forced smile feeling like someone is getting left out.

But this Mother's Day is a little different. Maybe my priorities have shifted. The beginning of my planning for this weekend started with thinking of possible fundraising opportunities for my trip to Haiti. That's never been a part of the equation. And then I started thinking about how we haven't hung out with our boys at the foster home in a while, so there was another twist. So this year, we hung out with my in-laws last night after picking blueberries yesterday morning (which will be used to sell more jam!), and I will finally watch Hunger Games with my mom this afternoon after eating lunch at the foster home. I think this will be the perfect Mother's Day weekend. And honestly, this is the first time I've thought about our 2nd child who we never got to meet. A small part of me feels a little guilty about this, but God's been teaching me a few things lately. I'm learning that our pain and disappointments are just a blip on the screen of life compared to the bliss of eternity with Him. I'm learning that it's not quite so important that I pick out the right card and spend the perfect brunch or dinner with my mom or mother-in-law on Mother's Day; it's more important how I love them all year long. And I'm learning that it's not the least bit important whether or not my children appreciate me as their mother, rather that I mother them well (oh, that one is still emotional, though).

Now, I definitely don't live out these lessons perfectly. I have my emotional crazy lady moments when  life feels too hard or I get some bad news about something. I'm still learning to make prayer my first response to problems. But prayer and peace comes faster these days. And the days of deciding my parenting based on what I didn't like about my and my husband's parents are slowly making their way to the past. Sure it's good to learn from others' mistakes. I definitely hope and pray that my children will be better parents than my husband and I are. But I would dwell on the mistakes of our parents, which distanced me from my family. I have slowly realized over the past almost 11 years how very much my mother loves me and my siblings. I have these sweet memories of laying on my mom's lap while she stroked my hair when I was a little girl, but my most vivid memories begin when I was around 8 or so. I have a ten year old who is a carbon copy of me, and boy do we have our moments. I've been thinking about how incredibly patient my mom was with me. I had the same know-it-all attitude that my son has, but she did not loose her cool nearly as much as I do. Sure, she wasn't perfect, but she would listen to my drama about my friends and boyfriends and she would hold in the frustrations when I took things out on her. She sacrificed so much to give us a consistent, loving childhood. And she didn't have the life partner that I do. My dad had his strengths and weaknesses, but the hard thing was that they just didn't see things eye to eye. I knew that their marriage was strained growing up, but she never belittled my dad to us. Sure, they argued and we could tell when mom was mad, but it stopped there. It's funny how you don't realize what someone else has walked through until you've experienced some of it yourself. There is so much that I will never completely understand about the difficulties my mom had, but I understand how much she had to die to herself to give us everything she could - safety, love, character, a sense of responsibility, a burden for others, compassion, and empathy. She was such a great model for us. I just hate that I didn't appreciate it as much when I was younger. And this realization helps me to know that I might not be appreciated very much right now either. Like I said, my 10 year old is a carbon copy of me. We butt heads all day long most days. I absolutely cherish the days when we don't have to have twenty conversations about respect and honor and obedience. I love when he can have a whole week without being put on restrictions. But, his hard-headed little self still needs molding. And molding is hard. So, when he doesn't appreciate me and my molding (which sometimes I don't do very well) then that's ok. I just stop and pray that God will take over with the molding and trust that He is creating a beautiful vase. And I do still have my littles who adore their mama. Sure, they might give me mini-strokes throughout the day, but they are the best cuddlers. Now, this has all very slowly translated into a deep appreciation for my mother-in-law. That relationship is a little harder. Not on the surface. She is a super sweet person and very easy to talk with. But, it's been hard to have that deeper trusting relationship with her. See, now as an adult, I can see my mom in me. I can understand why she would get upset about the food being left out or the sibling rivalry with my sister. She was concerned about my character and the woman I would become. But, I don't always understand why my in-laws want to spoil my children or why they get so paranoid about my kids' safety.  That's not really a part of me. But it is a part of my husband.
 And as I get to know them more and get to see the layers peel back, I get to see where that all comes from too. I get to see the unconditional love they have for my husband and my children and (I'm pretty sure) me. I get to see how they want to protect and nurture - even when the hard lessons might be what's best. I get to see how it pains them to see anyone they love in pain and how they, like my mom and now like me and my husband, have sacrificed so much to give us everything they can - coming to a new country, learning a new language while trying to learn how to be a good mom, and providing love, safety, and security to her boys while staying at home with them when they were young, but then working a very hard, demanding job as they got older (which she still works at today!).

So, now, this Mother's Day, I just want to enjoy being a mom. That's it - no more trying to please everyone or wanting some sort of appreciation. I look at the woman my mother is and figure that this molding I am a doing is also molding me. I love the person I'm becoming because of the sacrifices I've made. And honestly, they feel more like blessings than sacrifices. I get to have my hands in raising 3 men! And, maybe more importantly, I get to do it with the love and help and support of my sweet, amazing mom and mother-in-law. I am truly blessed!

Find out about the 1000 Moms Project and how you can bless other moms today!

Monday, May 7, 2012

A lamp for my feet.

"How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path. Your word is a lamp for my feet, and a light on my path. I have taken an oath and confirmed it, that I will follow your righteous laws."  - Psalm 119:103-106. These words have been the theme of this season in my life. It started with learning to love God's words. I am so grateful that I decided to dive into His word because now, I daily depend on it to light my path.

See, He lights my path at my feet - with a lamp. I don't get to see very far ahead. So, I depend on that light. I squint and try to see further, but right now, I can't. And that is so hard. It is so very tempting to get anxious and frustrated or to feel inadequate. I wish I could come up with some master plan that would guarantee our family's safety and well-being. But there is no plan. My husband's job is very uncertain right now. We have to take things day by day, week by week. There is never a guarantee that he will even get a paycheck at the end of the week, but there is always a guarantee that our bank account will be close to 0 by the end of the week. I've been looking for a part time job to try to help build some savings, but I haven't had a ton of luck. See, I have been a stay at home mom for almost 5 years. That, evidently, is even a hindrance when trying to work at Starbucks. To add to that, I am not planning on changing my stay at home, homeschooling status, so that greatly limits the type of job I can get. I think I found a job at a restaurant - waiting tables a couple of nights a week. I wouldn't usually be thrilled to get back into the restaurant business, but the thought of money in savings makes me ecstatic.

Now, the really difficult side of this financial uncertainty is that our adoption process has come to a screeching halt. We have not done our home-study yet, but wouldn't pass it if we had. We cannot show that we are able to financially provide for another child at this point. I read blogs and articles and look at websites about the needs in this world. There are children being taken from their homes in Africa, there are 14 year olds in China who are getting put out on the streets because they age out of the system that young. There are babies getting herded into mental hospitals in Russia. There are children in America going from foster home to foster home, never knowing what it's like to be loved unconditionally. And I have felt for at least a year now that we have a child somewhere in one of these circumstances. We have a home and we have love and we have support and we will always figure out a way to meet all of our children's needs, but our hands are tied because things are too up in the air. I understand the system and the reasons why we need to know where our next paycheck will come from, but that doesn't make my heart break any less. I absolutely get sick thinking of one of my children - maybe my little girl, or another son who desperately needs to have a dad teach him about becoming a man, or a child whose soul is dying - living in some horrible condition. And all I can do is pray. I pray for their conditions and their caretakers and their hearts. I pray that they will know that they are loved because they are a son or daughter of a great King who has laid down His life for them. And then I pray that my next step will be one closer to stability so that the step after that will be closer to our child(ren).

Yes, it is hard to squint hard and see nothing. It is hard to trust and have faith. But this season is giving me just that. Faith in a loving, nurturing God. Faith in my Father who has plans for me and my children " plans to prosper us and not to harm us, plans to give us hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11) It is giving me a faith that is deeper and stronger than I have ever had. And it's all because I have no choice but to take the next step with Christ and to cling to Him rather than to map out my own plan and do it on my own. I guess I could choose to fret and worry and get frustrated, but that would change nothing. So I cover the worry with prayers and cling to my faith in Christ. And that is a beautiful (and difficult) thing.