I’ve been watching her lately, really paying close attention.
She’s becoming more aware by the minute, it seems. Her perspective is shifting from an entirely “me” focused universe to grasping a world outside herself.
Tonight, she felt heavier in my arms. The weight and size of her frame has grown bigger in the past two days, and she’s napping longer and eating more to compensate for these changes.
It has happened…
Delaney is no longer a newborn. She is in the midst of her infancy; nevermore an entirely helpless new life but, now, ever-stronger each day, she’s becoming a little person.
I’ve come to realize these moments are precious. She is my third child, and quite possibly my last, so I have purposefully slowed down my pace to ensure I watch more closely; I cannot bear to miss this. . .
As I watch my sweet baby grow, so too are my eyes more aware of the changes taking place in my older daughters. Layla is nearly 7 – a spritely, sensitive, and charismatic young lady, she is hungry for attention, loves to read and solve math problems, and can dance very well to any music I throw her way. Jemma has learned her alphabet and I find her eager to write, and we spell together – I make the sound of the letter and she’s able to interpret this and write it; her thirst for knowledge is really evident these days. She loves to sing, have tickle fights, and paint her nails.
. . .
Watching them develop is a practice in trust. Contemplating their transformation from children to young adults to women, I find myself praying more often because I know, eventually, I’ll have to let them go.
One day, Delaney will walk out of my front door with her hand in her partner’s, and together they’ll set off to create a new life apart from me. Jemma will get a job after college and seek to find out who she is, and I’ll have to simply listen when she stumbles, falls down, and has a hard time getting back up. Layla will become a mother and, as she navigates this new life she’s made, I’ll look deeply into her eyes and wonder – where in the hell did the time go?
Stepping back, recently, I marvel at the way life goes. That I was blessed to have three amazing people call me mother. That me, simple old me, was given the distinct privilege to mother Layla, Jemma, and Delaney.
How did God know we’d be perfect for each other? Of all the amazing souls He could have chosen, it was fate that they are mine and I, well, I’ll belong to them, forever.
Motherhood forces you to examine yourself. To boldly face yourself in the mirror, naked and honest, because the weight of responsibility of this venture is mountainous. How could I ever fail them by being cavalier? Indifference or, worse, refusing to change – I can think of no greater disservice to my children than this.
They look to me to provide them with the framework for their womanhood. To help them grow into kind, patient, caring women someday so that they may give to the poor, be loyal to their principles, and know God and honor one another with love. From me, I bestow upon them a legacy of my actions, my choices, my beliefs, my failures, and my successes; whether you admit it to yourself or not, who you are, as a parent, at least somewhat directly influences who your children become.
My successes – perseverance one of the greatest; I try and show them that overcoming difficulty may not come when you desire it, but if you keep on going and will to change, you can surmount just about any obstacle. My failures are many and my daughters have seen me weep. I’ve shown them that it is okay to break down, to honor your emotions, and to work through hard feelings; if, from my mistakes they learn anything, let it be this: Forgiveness is impossible to experience unless one accepts it heartedly, but when you stumble, it’s the only thing that lets a broken man walk again.
How my beliefs influence them, well, that is something I just hope to show through my heart. Grace. Giving it and receiving it, with gratitude. My choices have made Layla and Jemma live in a different home apart from me for some of the time each month – I’d be a fool to assume this won’t affect them in some way growing up; but I validate their feelings, help them to know and love their father, and pray that we can make the best of it always. Finally, my actions – this is the part I’ve been observing lately as I watch them grow. . .
Actions reveal your spirit. A peaceful, content spirit does not get easily angered, is eager to contribute, and seeks to create harmony in the lives of others and within. This is what I’ve been trying to achieve, but Lord knows I have not yet mastered it. If my children learn anything from my actions, may it be that I was supportive and encouraging even when they stumble. That I am calm and level-headed when they disobey the rules and harm themselves or others. Please that I love them without judgment regardless of their choices, and accept with an open mouth and listening ears that we are different people, and at different points in our lives, we will diverge – this is okay.
Examining myself, I see so many flaws. I am lazy, moody, lack direction, and nit-pick at the little things. But, I am also fiercely intent on growing past these negative attributes, and I am especially aware of my intentions to change when I stop and really pay attention to my children.
I want them to become soft, loving women. Warm, welcoming wives. Nurturing, attentive mothers.
How special that I was given girls. My entire life, I desired sons. To raise young men, future husbands. I’ve mourned the loss of this dream but, at the same time, can absolutely thank God, wholeheartedly, that I was given girls.
Because, my greatest life’s work is not 350 pages of a best-selling novel. It won’t be how many babies I’ve delivered. The list could go on of the worldly contributions I may set out to make. . .
But these things won’t matter. Not really. Not as much as the time I stopped to watch Layla dance barefoot across the living room floor, her toes pointed and her face wistfully smiling. It won’t matter as much as hearing Jemma laugh when she makes up a silly song and sings it all the time. Not like holding my new baby girl, falling asleep getting heavier in my arms by the second as I rock her into peaceful dreams. . .
I may have taken a different road than most. To get here, now, I am actually grateful for the journey. Because I’ve learned to stop.
To appreciate this, entirely. To forgive myself the mistakes I’ve made, and still make, and just fiercely love my children. Fiercely devote my life to them, and help them grow safe and loved in their own skin.
It is, and will be, my life’s greatest work.
So often I choose this world over the providence that governs it. My wayward heart longs for comfort, understanding, and acceptance in this life, while I am breathing, and I forget the larger concept at work within me. That is, a purpose greater than the sum of my parts, working together for the glory of a perfect plan not orchestrated by anything I can do. I falter, almost too easily, and find myself struggling through the same fight time and again: The battle between the flesh and the spirit.
For all intents and purposes, my life is perhaps the best it has ever been. Right now, I sit in a beautiful home, surrounded by comfortable furnishings. The furnace blows warm air when my skin is chilled. The refrigerator keeps fresh eggs cold, and the food in the pantry is plentiful. My checking account is balanced and my budget secure. In beds about sleep two precious darlings, they are healthy, happy girls who know they are loved and safe here. In a town across Texas rests a man whom shares this home with us – he is working hard to ensure our life is maintained in the fashion we are most comfortable. We love each other imperfectly but with a certain harmony, honesty, and respect, and I miss him enough when he is away to make each home coming just that much more sweet.
From the outside, yes, things are nothing less than perfect. To portray anything different would do a great disservice to all we have worked for, and how long and winding this road has been to finally be here now. For appearances sake, I would argue no different.
However, stop me for a moment, look into my eyes. What would you see? Lately, I confess, one might peer within me – should they care enough to stop – and see a deep unrest looming just below the surface. Try as I may to mask it, and boy do I try, it would be apparent to the attentive notice that my soul has wandered too far from its divine purpose. Part of me has lost sight, perhaps the biggest part, of what and who I am in Christ.
Why? It would be no shock to remind the world that my life has been riddled with hardship. Some undue, some the direct result of my choices and my weakness. Therefore, the struggling that circles back is valid, understandable? What about forgiveness, one might ask? Would not the heart of forgiveness wash away this recurring unrest for good?
The base truth of the matter is that I stopped communing with my Father. And not because I am merely content with how things are going now, but because, as a strange dichotomy of trust and acceptance, I am paralyzed of how, and when, this beautiful portrait of my life will ultimately come crashing down. That has been my story thus far, after all, so would it not stand to reason that the same fate would occur again?
If I could harness that childlike wonder, that fervor for the Lord again… If I dove back into the Word and truly trusted God’s plan, then nothing would stand in my way, and peace would be a gift God gives the seeking heart. I know this, and yet, I fail. All. The. Time.
Fear cripples me. I am internally bedbound and weary under the cloak of my anxiety when nothing but my imagination creates the problems that cause me to tremble. I serve an amazing God who would love for me to shed this fear, but yet, my mind is a master at crafting this deception; I see that things are going so well and convince myself the beauty is the lie. I remind myself, almost daily, that I’ve thought things were going well before – in another time – but look what happened then. I did not deserve it and yet I lost everything I loved, including my mother. My children did not deserve it and yet my mistakes cost them their nuclear family and me the marriage vows. Again and again. As if the tapes no nothing but repeat, I replay why I am not worthy of a great life.
I am not ready to give myself to God because I am fearful He will take it away. I am not ready to commit to an amazing man because I am fearful of all the ways he has the power to hurt me if I give him a whole heart. I am not ready to forgive my mother because the hurt of her betrayal is what I have built my identity on for years. That I was the victim. . . I am not ready to forgive myself, for all of the things I have done “wrong”, because then that would mean I would finally have to admit that God still loves me, that I am still worthy, and it would mean the fear – this irrational, crippling fear that has been my best friend for eight years – would finally have to divorce my weary spirit.
What have I got if not this tendency to replay why I should be afraid? What would keep me company if not for what makes the most sense in my wounded broken heart?
I know that many people pray for me. They also worry. Because it may appear more evident than I admit in words that I am not trusting God. It appears to those in my circle that talk about God, and His presence in our lives, that my light has dimmed, and my passion for prayer and fellowship has taken a backseat to every lie I tell myself instead.
Where I went wrong, more than all of this, is that I lost the will to pray with the Lord, because I desire to stay comfortable, and to pray – and admit my shortcomings (as if He does not already know them) – to do that would mean I have to accept the version of me that He sees when He looks into my heart. It would mean I have to stop being so critical of my mistakes, but be thankful for them because they have worked as part of His big plan. It would mean I forgive others, and myself, because the beauty in our weakness is the ability to acknowledge the gift of the cross.
It is the hardest fight of my life to stay right in my relationship with Jesus. It is so hard because I desire so much fulfillment outside of myself, and apart from Him. I am selfish and want things now. I am needy and desire validation and assurance from others. I am angry and I want the whole entire world to work on my agenda, on my schedule… God knows this, and loves me anyway, and yet I tell myself HE could not possibly. That is not trust. That is not the kind of faith I want to model for my children, because that kind of relationship is selective, self-serving. It says, “Nah, I got this – unless I REALLY need you, then you better be there.” If a friend treated me that way, I am not sure I’d want to continue being friends. Yet, God does – He is that kind of friend to me, and all He ever wants in return is my obedience and attention.
This life takes discipline. But it is also the most liberating, amazing, freeing gift. My heart needn’t be hardened any longer, for when I really stop and examine what He has done in me even in just nearly 30 short years, I should be ecstatic, not fearful, of all the work He has yet to do. I could look at my life and exalt God, instead of dwell in all I perceive was wrong, and maybe my perspective on this life will shift. Along with my attitude. Along with my ability to trust Him.
After all. After ALL. Look where I am now. If God was not to be trusted, would I have survived this crazy ride? If I was not worthy, would He have led me to this amazing man, the most supportive, encouraging, and strong person who loves my children and me without condition? Would I have my health? Financial security? The ability to find peace if only I seek it?
Tyrone Wells wrote a song called, “More”. There are lyrics there that are the most impacting in a song I have heard, “This world may crumble into the ocean, it could all end tonight. I undermine you then try to find you, my only source of light. I’m breathing, I am breathing, I am alive, I don’t want to die, I don’t want to waste another day or night. I know there’s something more than what we’re living for, I see it in the stars I feel it on the shore. I know there’s something more.” Such poetic, honest lyrics. Such truth in that. It may seem almost too simple, but really, when examining the big picture, can anyone truly conclude there is not more at work here?
I sing that and tears never fail to come to my eyes. I just got to hear it live in Austin, on a night I needed to remember it particularly, because my heart was wavering, and my spirit was low. I don’t want to die in the spirit to please my worldly fears. I don’t want to shield myself from God, as if I could, and continue doing this on my own. It will take work, and dedication, time, and effort, but with all good things comes this good fight.
For too long I have been willingly dormant in my faith. It was easier. Took no work at all to forget my worth. Took no mind to replay the old tapes that say I am not worthy of love and forgiveness, and certainly not for grace.
I am ready to do the work that will eventually be like breathing. To honor God with the life I have lived that was hard, painful, and difficult to understand. To honor my spirit, made whole and clean by the living water that rushes through my veins. Harder to try, forcing myself to believe it until it is known to me like the air I breathe, that I am loved, and I am new. Worthy. Perfectly imperfect while I live exactly the life that was written for me before I ever knew the struggles of this world. I do not want to choose this world anymore, at least not when my soul depends on it. Right now, what matters most is the choice to honor where I am, and where I am going… Because that journey is beautiful, and I think it is time I start to notice it before it too becomes withered like yellowed paper in the pages of history.