Recently I had the opportunity to speak at a MOPS program. Now, just for the record, although I'm a public speaker, I'm not a teacher. I just speak on my own life experiences. This is my joy; to share my story with others about what God has done for me.
It was an amazing experience. Looking out at all those beautiful moms with their babies and foster children, well it didn't feel like it had been all that long ago that I was in their place. Does anyone else think raising kids is the fastest slowest thing that can happen to a person? :)
Being a parent of young kids is a strange phase in life. I was hardly away from my own past hardships when I was raising babies of my own. It can be very weird to reconcile a painful childhood with raising your own children. My experiences made me determined to teach my kids how much I loved them and how valuable they are.
But, despite my best effort, I was constantly being hit with guilt, almost like a background “voice” that accused me of things I was failing at. It constantly pointed out how I could have done things better.
It wasn't until years later that I recognized the "voice" was the same disappointed one of my moms. I don't say that as a slight against her, but to show that those feelings of failure and "not measuring up" are often not from ourselves, but "ghosts" from accusations in our past.
I remember one particularly difficult day, when the kids were grumpy and fighting, and the house was a disaster. My hair was in a sloppy bun on the top of my head and I still wore the t-shirt from the day before. My husband was on his way home and I was trying to fix dinner as I tripped over toys and the dog. Two kids pushed past me squabbling over something. Another child screamed my name over and over in frustration over a broken toy, and the fourth upended a box of Costco size cheerios all over the floor.
I felt like I was drowning in chaos. I ran to my room nearly in tears and started to pray. What came out of my mouth was, "I can't do this. I can't get it together. I'm going to ruin these kids." I was so overwhelmed.
After a minute, I felt like I heard God tell me that my job wasn't to be my kid's perfect parent. Because if I was, why would they need Him? But my job as a parent was to show them unconditional love, and they learned to show it back as they loved me. My job was also to teach forgiveness as we all forgave each other. This thought birthed our family motto--We aren’t the perfect family, we are the forgiving one. And it gave me my first taste of freedom that my job wasn't to be the perfect mom, even though I continued to give it my best effort.
It was soon after that I began using the "Mad bed" which is a ridiculous name but one the kids understood well. If they felt mad, guilty, or frustrated they could ask to talk with me on the mad bed. This was my bed. As we walked into my room it gave me a few moments to get myself into gear to just listen to what they had to say. The kids knew they could share what they wanted without me responding. I'd just listen. The cool thing about this was even if the child was really frustrated, being able to have that space and security to be heard was enough for them to begin to sort out whatever it was they were struggling with.
It wasn't always easy for me to stay quiet, but it helped as I saw the fruit of that in their lives.
The Mad Bed was good for me, too. I realized I had that same freedom with God. To just share whatever was on my heart and not worry about angering Him. That He cared and wanted to hear what I was feeling and just wanted me to be Me, real and transparent with Him.
This was a new thing for me since I didn't experience that kind of unconditional love growing up. It was a safety that took some time to grow in.
Through raising kids, and my own heart as a parent, I saw how God cares about us so much. God gets that raising kids is a challenging time. He sees all of our worries and fears, and ways we feel like we fail. He sees our places we are starting to feel weary. He’s not disappointed in us when we struggle.
Maybe someone needs to hear it today— It’s going to be okay. He loves you. You are good enough. God has a plan, He’s going to get you through this. He gets how hard it is, and will help you to continue. He loves you as a parent. He loves your children. He will never lose you, never not listen, never tire of you, never forsake you, always fight for you.
He stands with you in every battle you are in. He will never let go of your hand. Even when life looks messy, when life looks the opposite of what you expected, God will bring beauty from those ashes.
He's brought beauty from mine. I don't have all the answers and I definitely don't have it all together. But I have this-- I know what Love is, and it's because of Him. So for the rest of my life, I will point to that love.
((((((((((Big hug to anyone who needs it))))))))))))))