I longed for a baby for years.
I begged for just one and God gave me five. I loved their little years so much, and I often wish I could do it again...just one more time. I miss the baby smells and the chubby toddler hands, the kicks and giggles of diaper changes and the late night cuddles with a sleeping bundle of love on my chest. Those were sweet years.
Now I find myself looking ahead, figuring this teenage thing out as I go along. Babies never scared me. I had babysat from the age of 12 and I knew babies. Heck, I even knew toddlers and our toddler years, though exhausting, were wonderful. Oh, the stories I could tell! But I have to admit I have entered this new era of motherhood with trepidation. The world is so different than it was when my oldest was born. The pressures on teenagers are on a wholly different spectrum than the ones we faced in the eighties. The ability to protect our kids has been hampered greatly by social media and Hollywood and I grasp desperately to God's promises regarding my children as we learn to navigate these years.
Attitude, disrespect, dishonesty, anger....yeah, we've dealt with them all. I have failed epically already. There are times when my kids have seen me lose my temper, yell, stomp out of the room, cry, and generally suck at mothering. I have forgotten to pray, neglected the life offered in God's word, and tried to do it in my own strength. Yep, name the parenting mistake and I have probably made it.
But despite all of this, despite the fact that we have no idea how to raise teenagers yet we have one (almost two!) of them, despite the doubt and fear and failures...
God is raising up my babies into young men and women.
He is taking hold of them, shining through them.
When my son tickles his little sister, delighting in her laughter, God shines. When my daughter washes her sisters' hair and fixes them up like little princesses, God shines. When my little boy emulates his big brother because he thinks he is the coolest guy in the world, God shines. When my teenager plays with his mama's hair, affectionately placing his cheek against mine, God shines. When my daughter talks my ear off, God shines. When my son trusts me to take him for a major haircut and clearly believes me when I say he is devastatingly handsome, God shines.
When they are embarrased by my, um, comic abilities in front of their friends, God shines. When they join me in my favorite reading chair and climb onto my lap because they want to cuddle for a minute, God shines. When all five of them sit together, laughing at a movie and sharing popcorn, God shines. When my children pray for one another with sincere hearts, God shines.
It is all Him. At all times. There is nothing I can point to as far as my "awesome" abilities that can explain these kids. Regardless of the struggles they face, regardless of the hard days and the teen angst, God gently reminds me over and over they they are His. They always have been. It is not about me, it is about Him and His plans and purposes for their lives. They will struggle and suffer and grow and stretch because that is how God molds us into the image of Christ. Hard days are part of it. Ann Voskamp refers to the "hard Eucharisteo"...the trials and struggles for which we should and must be thankful...and I see the truth in her words. I want my sons to grow up to be strong men. I want my daughters to be strong women. If I successfully protect them from all harm, all the negative, they will not be strong. They will be overwhelmed by the flood of the world and drown. But if, through the power of the Holy Spirit, my children are taught to be light in the darkness and to stand when no one else is willing then they will be powerful in God's Kingdom.
My job is to pray, to trust, to love them, walk with them and gently (gently!) teach them how to navigate the rough waters. I cannot force their hands or hearts into obedience. My greatest tool in this phase (and truly, wasn't it my greatest tool in all phases?) of their lives is prayer.
This is where my faith as a mom grows feet.
When my children start to pull away and wrestle with who they are and Whose they are, my faith (or lack thereof) is made crystal clear. I have to wake up each morning determined to trust the One who placed these gifts in my arms and choose not to freak out when they sin just like every other human being in history. I have to believe the same Holy Spirit who brought me out of the pit is alive and well in my children and can be trusted.
Do I trust Him? Really?
Oh yes, Lord, I do! I believe!
Now...would You please help my unbelief?