Becoming a mom turned me into a silly creature. I was scared about everything. I read a gazillion baby books, referenced them when Adela cried, and asked my sister about each new noise and symptom.
If you are still a "new" mother, I want to assure you that it will get better. God is just training you to worry less, so when they start eating bugs or talking about boys, you will remember to take it Him in prayer first.
One of my silliest sins was the way I interacted with my amazing mother-in-law.
Now I've loved Nelia, "Mamá", since before I even married into this family. She has treated me as a true daughter for over a decade. We cook together, laugh together, have long conversations on the phone, and hold each other when we cry. But, when Adela was born it took time for our relationship to adjust.
Knowing that I would need a lot of extra help, we flew Mamá down to Argentina for Adela's birth and she stayed with us for the first four weeks. I pictured her stay filled with quiet moments holding a sleepy newborn, eating meals together, and savoring the first appearance of our next Armendariz generation.
Like I said, I was new at this.
Newborns are not all sleepy sighs and adorable onesies. Newborns are stressful little balls of work and worry. Adela cried--no, screamed--had trouble eating, and didn't sleep as much as I thought she would. Instead of accepting that this was when Mamá was going to help me, I resented each and every little bit of advice she gave, especially if it went against my precious books. In my head I felt she saw me as a failing mother who wasn't doing anything right.
Those first few days everyone was miserable.
It was about the third night when Mamá came up to me with some oils and gently informed me that she was going to give me a massage. Adela was finally sleeping. I didn't know what to do with myself. Having no will to argue, I plopped down in front of her. I tensed up. I expected the massage to come with a lecture. She had lured me in with oils and now would give me an ear-full.
But she didn't.
She spent the next half hour working out the kinks in my shoulders while she told me what a great mom I was and how proud she was of me. She told me all about how it had been when my husband was born, her own first child, and how difficult it had been.
I secretly wiped away the tears. I had been so wrong about her. I had been wrong about her words. They hadn't ever been meant to condemn, they were only there to help, encourage, and love me.
Our relationship grew dramatically from that moment on.
People will always be coming alongside us "new" mommies and offering us advice. And we are all new in some ways. If we aren't new to motherhood itself, we a new to a stage or phase or problem. And, when those people offer their comments we can choose to become defensive or to thank God that there are other's around us so we don't have to do this alone.
Mamá gives me lots of advice. It never ceases. And, each time I choose to recognize that she is speaking out of love, I feel loved by her. If I become defensive then we are both hurt. I wish I was perfect now as a mother, but I'm not. None of us are. That is why God gives us people like Mamá.
Being a parent is not for the timid and it usually takes more than just a biological mother and father to raise a child. Thank God for sweet words of love so that we have the strength to keep going.
Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.
Adela and I spent thirty minutes pretending to take a nap. This involved lots of giggling, fake snoring, and whispering to each other to go to sleep. I loved watching her little nose wrinkle with her giggles.
She is such a child.
Is is weird that I forget that? I look at her and I see her future. I look at her and I see the woman I hope she will become. I see the learning that must take place, the training up the road, the hard work of parenting. But today, as we laughed beneath a fuzzy blue blanket, my heart was full of joy because she was nothing more than a child.
Yikes, Lora! Just like everything else, you are only given whatever today holds. Not a drop more. And of course it is the same with your children. I have only the child that is mine today, not the grown-daughter of a distant tomorrow. Am I trusting God with my child's future? Or am I robbing joy from parenting my sweet, innocent, chocolate-faced preschooler? Am I trusting God to equip me enough to parent this child now so that the woman she will be come will be ready to face the world?
When "nap-time" was finished, Adela bounced to our box of learning activities. She grinned at me. "School time, Mama." And, as Micaela snoozed in her bedroom upstairs, Adela and I read books, pretended to be different animals, and practiced holding crayons and pencils correctly. She rainbow-colored four hens and wrote out the number 4 with wobbly lines. And I told myself not to fret. She was happy. She was learning.
She is, right now, only my child of today.
And Lord knows that I love her.
God, thank you for pressing this truth upon my heart. It was far too much to try to keep hold of my little girls' future. I'll let you have that. Today I hold a giggling four year-old in my arms. And that is the joy of my heart.
You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.
I had a deep flaw and as the days went on I could see it shining through every corner of my life. It was shameful and it trapped me. I had no idea how to shake it off. I was addicted to the approval of others, of everyone, of anyone and it was an addiction coming in ahead of my love for my God.
I hated it. The addiction had started when I was very young and grew slowly. The only thing I could think to be thankful of was that I had become aware of my unhealthy condition and perhaps with God's help, I could battle it away.
Last year, I was deep in the fight when I attended a Christian writers conference. It was a huge leap forward for me to be there. I felt awkward and unsure of myself. Hesitantly I wondered if I even fit in there among dozens of other writers and ministry leaders. Being out of my element made it even harder to focus my attention on God's plans instead of my own desire to be approved of by others. That is when I met Linette Crelly.
Linette came and sat by me the first day because there was an empty seat at my table. I couldn't believe she was a grandmother. She was so young at heart and beautiful. I thought to myself that I would love to be like that, so joyful and full of God's spirit. And, I knew that I needed to truly battle my addiction to people-approval if I had a chance.
And, guess what the little girl in me prayed? "God, I wish I had a bracelet, just something simple, that would remind me that Your love is enough. That Your love is sufficient."
In my mind that would do it, a reminder on my wrist that I already had all I needed.
It was the last few hours of the conference. We all sat down around tables to listen to the key-note speaker and enjoy a banquet. We joined in prayer at the end of the meal and I felt someone slip something over my hand. I looked down to see that Linette had placed a silver bracelet with little stone hearts around my wrist. With tears in her eyes she said, "I just wanted to give this to you."
A sob triggered through my chest. God had answered me.
His love was more than sufficient, it had even overflowed into the heart of my new Christian sister to make sure I received a bracelet. And with it I realized with wide eyes that my family was so much bigger than that of the ties of blood and man-made-laws. God has place around me His children. My sisters and brothers in faith.
Without the pain of childbirth, the fun of weddings, or the paperwork of adoption, my family keeps growing. God refuses that I ever feel alone and He keeps bringing to me new Christian sisters and brothers to love and be loved by. Isn't that amazing? But it made it somewhat hard to leave the Christian writers conference this weekend. Some of my new family I won't get to see for a year or even more and they have become very dear to me.
I am new to these sort of relationships. Honestly, I never thought of how strong a faith-based connect is until I met my sister, Linette, last year. The way she touched my heart made me realize how closed-up I had become to letting others into my life.
Is your family growing? Sometimes this is hard for we Christians. Our lives are busy and our hearts are already full. To make room for new loved ones because of a shared faith seems unnecessary or unreasonable. Oh, but it so very worth it.
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
Last year, hours before Winter Storm Goliath hit, our home caught on fire. Yep. Sure did. But before my loved ones start to worry, I just want to reassure you...it wasn't that bad. Fire is a funny thing. It can be so helpful, so comfortable. We like a fireplace. We like the way the wood crackles as it burns. We love the glow of it as it warms the house.
But when there were live flames licking at the rafters last December, I can tell you no warm and fuzzy feelings entered my mind. It was my first 911 call ever. And it was so hard not to cry in front of the wide eyes of my daughters and nephew as we waited for the fire truck and watched my husband battle the fire with the garden hose.
I can tell you, too, that I was angry at first. I had plans for the day. I had supper prepped and it was nap time for the kids. A huge snowstorm was on the way. I wanted to snuggle down in my own home as the snowflakes began to fall. But God had other plans and He used a fire to smoke us out.
We are glad he did. It turns out that because the little electrical fire started in the middle of the day, before the snow hit, while we were all awake, with the wind at the right angle to keep the flames from growing, the House volunteer fire department on the way, and my husband home to keep it from spreading--well, the perfect timing of it all saved the house and our lives. And the days spent snuggled in at my dad's house during during winter storm Goliath was fun and memory-building.
Fire is a beautiful thing. I think fire has meaning for those of us who long to grow, who long to change.
Fire can burn away the things we cling to. Fire can demolish old habits. Fire can make room for something new, something better, something we give over to God and let him show us His amazing will for our lives.
Fire also warms us. It moves us. It bites and blisters. We can all use that kind of discipline,
I look over my life and wonder what I could throw into the flames. Selfish attitudes? My need to snack when I'm anxious? My refusal to slow down and give God five minutes when my day is hectic?
There are a lot of things I wouldn't mind tossing into the furnace. But it is rather hard, isn't it? Some of our habits are our anchors. Some of our attitudes we feel belong to our personality and are perhaps not available for burning.
Fire is scary.
Yet what do we sacrifice by holding on? We already know what life is like with our current conditions. And we know there is better. We just need to find it. We need to make room for God to do His good work in our lives.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
So, tell me. What are you going to throw into the flames?
I know with deep shame the cracks that fall into place with who I am, how I love, and how I serve others. And perhaps that is why, when people tell me they are amazed at my dedication to mothering my girls, especially little Micaela who needs so much, I feel confused. I look at the day spent, the hair-breaths I was from losing my cool with all the little things, the way my heart rebelled against the constant demands, and the way my mind kept trying to slip away into a daydream so I could forget it all for a moment.
The honest truth is that what my girls need from me and what my husband deserves are far beyond what I am capable of. If I wasn't doing this with Jesus, I wouldn't be doing this at all.
Today we started week two of Micaela's weaning from the G-tube. She was cranky and on strike. I kept her hydrated but the 2 & 1/2 meals she got from the machine was significantly less than what she wanted. The mom in me tried to rebel, you truly hate to see your kid hungry when a simple syringe of food would fix it. But, God helped me stick to my guns. God kept my heart from delving into worry and coming up with at hundred excuses to abandon our fight to help Micaela eat on her own. Oh, if I wasn't doing this with Jesus I wouldn't even be attempting such a heart-wounding challenge.
Adela's speech has started to explode into our lives. Our quiet little girl is quiet no longer. In her Spanish/English jargon she asks a thousand questions and tells a hundred stories. On and on the dialogue goes. About midday today, with my nerves stained to breaking, I turned to my little girl and started to tell her she needed to be quiet for a little while so I could think. Mid-sentence my voice stilled because I felt that nudge, God's Spirit, telling me to look at my child with my heart instead of my pounding head. I pulled her confused face into a hug and asked her if she would like to read a book. The next half-hour soothed me more than a bubble bath with her little warm body squeezed next to me and her fly-away hair tickling my cheeks as we read story after story. Oh, if I wasn't dong this with Jesus I would never have got those moments.
Motherhood is hard. I am too battered and jumbled to do this on my own. A little pressure and I can feel myself breaking. A sudden storm and I know I will be blown away in the wind and hail. God not only ensures that I am anchored and given armor to weather the pressure, He guides my hands and my words and sees that my family and I arrive safely to the end of each day. I would be such a mess without Jesus.
Sometimes the lives of my two girls that I have been entrusted with feels like too big a task for me to ever be part of. But, then I watch Micaela learn something new or watch Adela's gentle hands pet the head of a sick lamb, and I remember the wonders of Our God. The God that parted waters, the God that quieted the storm, the God who defeated death--that God, my God, is right beside me.
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"...and God was already there with me."