Redeeming My Deep Daughter Desire, Part 2

I have always wanted a daughter. To be honest, I hoped for two. I didn't have a sister growing up and I thought it would be a neat experience to be a firsthand part of a sister-dynamic. But I didn't get sisters, I got 3 boys. And I love those boys in heart-spasm, overloading-kisses, embarassing-mom kind of way. I can't even believe they are mine, and so cute and funny and endearing and wild and nuts, and I get to have them. This desire for a daughter has nothing to do with them.

I believe that my desire for a daughter is a beautiful thing. There's no shame in it. The desire to mother a little sweet pea up into womanhood isn't wrong. But I let it get really ugly.

I treasured the idea of a daughter. I loved that desire so much that when I found out I was having a third boy, and would probably never get my daughter, I got possessive about it. I decided to put it in a little closet in my heart, tucked away from the light of the Gospel. I didn't want God's sovereignty to touch it. Then I visited my desire--a lot. I sat in that windowless closet with my beloved dreams and refused God's light.

I know that God is sovereign. I know that He is good. And I know that He loves me. But I just didn't want to know those things about being daughterless. Because I thought that if let the light of the Gospel into that dark little closet, God might try to make me be ok with my loss, and I didn't want to be ok.

I was wrong about the whole closet thing though. There are no closets in our hearts. We don't get to push the Gospel out of one area and keep it everywhere else. The Holy Spirit permeates us. If we start pushing him out of one place where we don't want to be healed, we start losing his fruit everywhere else.

When I wrote that post about giving up my daughter desire for Lent, it was because I knew I HAD to do something. I had pushed the Gospel away and my heart had gotten dark. I couldn't live like that anymore, because I knew the goodness of a Gospel-drenched life.

So I gave it up, mentally kicking and screaming, but unable to resist the siren-call of the Holy Spirit any longer. Now a year later, I'm so glad God refused to leave me in that darkness.

I still long for a daughter. Honestly, there are usually tears once-a-month, occasionally a full waterfall tear-fest, but more often a few drops during worship. I'm not even a crier, but this is a deep grief for me. But now when the tears come, I'm not alone. I once scoured the internet for women who would understand me, but I was avoiding the God who searches and knows everything in me. I pushed him out when all He longed to do was swoop me into his arms and comfort my sorrow. Through the good news of the Gospel--that Jesus came to bind up the brokenhearted and set the captives free, that can make my old pain into a new creation--my grief has a purpose. 

Now when I cry over the loss of my dream, the Holy Spirit groans before God on my behalf and Jesus intercedes at his right hand. They aren't petitioning for me to receive my daughter, but that I would receive more of God through my loss. Because a daughter doesn't give me life, Jesus already did that. Because a daughter isn't the only way God can fulfill my calling to minister to women. Because a daughter won't guarantee that I'll never feel lonely or left out. Because not having a daughter doesn't mean I won't have a best friend. Because the purpose of my life isn't motherhood. And because my desire for a daughter can still serve a purpose, even if I never get one. Not having a daughter keeps me pursuing more of God, and that is the best gift my soul can receive.

So I may always be sad, but I won't ever be alone. This grief doesn't have to be meaningless. May it serve its slow sanctification, for my good and for his glory.

"Sovereign" by Chris Tomlin

In your everlasting arms
All the pieces of my life
From beginning to the end
I can trust you

In your never failing love
You work everything for good
God whatever comes my way
I will trust you

Why is being a mom so HARD?

It's been one of those really rough weeks. We've been sick for two weeks, none of us are down and out anymore, but everyone is holding on to a little of something. I want to blame the yuck of this week on the sickness, but I know that's not really it. There's just something about sickness that brings out our sinness. Sickness strips down our patched-up exteriors until the sin shines through a little brighter and bolder than an average day.

Motherhood does the same thing. It’s the combination of the physical, mental, and emotional needs of my children that gets to me. The day-in, day-out grind of Mom Life that leaves me stripped down to the base of who I am. I'll be honest, the base of who I am is so ugly. This week I haven't been any semblance of the mom I want to be. The pressure of my children's needs has pushed open the cracks I constantly patch over.

The real problem isn't that I've been angry mom, that I've yelled at my kids, that I've retreated into a book when I should have played, that I've ignored, that I've complained, that I've been lazy, or that I've been anxious. Those are all bad and those are all sins. But if I work at those, I'm just putting a small patch over the broken gaping hole. The real problem is what Brad Bigney calls "the sin beneath the sin." It's the idol that I've set up on the throne of my life.

It boils down to this: I do what I do (like all those ugly sins mentioned above) because I want what I want (my idol).

I've idolized all kinds of things in my life, but lately my biggest idol is EASE. I've always valued safety and boundaries and quiet space. Those are good, life-giving things. But I don't get much of them as a mom. Over these past few weeks, the systems I have set in place to give me those things has been completely destroyed. Everything is uncomfortable, complicated, and difficult when I want it to be easy and simple! I want motherhood to be manageable by my own strength and with minimal effort, but it never is. Mothering littles is grueling physically, emotionally, and mentally. This makes me crave ease and comfort to the extent that I look to them for my salvation. I cling to the hope that once motherhood gets a little easier my life will be better. I put my trust in physical comfort instead of the true source of rest. That's the sin beneath the sin, the idol of my heart.

So many elements of the mothering process are difficult, but it's really the spiritual stripping down that makes life feel like a battle. It's impossible keep idols hidden and sins in check in the challenges of motherhood. As we try to put out fires by our own strength, they burn away all the pretense and pretend, leaving us hanging on to what we really worship. Then our sins pour forth, as we fight and kick to hold onto the last bits of our idol burning up in the fires of life.  But if we toss the idols to the side, if we give up those worthless hopes for momentary salvation and cling to Jesus, the Author of Hope and the Giver of Salvation, the fire may surround us, but we will not be consumed by it. Our strength will be renewed in Christ, the unshakeable foundation. When Christ sits at our center, the impossible days or rough seasons still come, but as our simple jars of clay crack, our Hope spills out in gospel grace. 

Paul David Tripp explains that we don't just suffer the difficulties life throws our way, we all suffer how we experience them. It's not just hard to be a mom because of the unending needs of our children. It's hard to be a mom because we suffer the ugliness of our exposed idols. Motherhood is downright impossible alone. That's why I'm heading into my weekend giving up the battle over all my little sins and resting in Christ's power to win the war for the throne of my heart.  

When I think I can't Manage Motherhood

I am not equipped to manage my life. I think it all the time. Like when I make a trip to Target for 5 things with all 3 of my kids, then it ends up with one kiddo in tears and one throwing a fit and me wanting to just leave my kids in the car for the day when I finally make it home. Like the time my mom and I were sure it would be no problem for the two of us to manage my 3 kids and their cousin (ages: 5,4, 2, and 1) for a couple hours at the zoo. Then the baby refuses to sleep and cries for the last half of the trail while the thirty-pound two-year-old refuses to walk or ride in the stroller, so the only way to make progress toward the car is for me to carry him. 

My boys are so close together, which makes for so many situations I can't manage on my own. I can't manage a trip to the neighborhood park. I can hardly manage to take all three outside to our own yard on my own. I know, it's ridiculous. But it's just that they are just a physical handful. And an emotional handful too! I know I'm not alone here. At some point, we all feel deep down in our gut that our children are more than we can manage. 

Today was a particularly tough day. We have been at the cabin (sans Daddy, but with Grandma and Grandpa) for five days. The first few days were great, but my two youngest have not been sleeping well, and the cumulative effect of a few missed hours of sleep every day has taken its toll on all of us. I spent an hour trying unsuccessfully to get my oldest to take a nap. He never naps, but I thought that maybe he was just tired enough to make it work. He wasn't. When I finally gave up, I learned that my one-year-old had been awake playing in bed for the past half hour. He had only slept about 15 minutes. My energy was gone. I could not manage this final hardship. I went back and tried desperately for almost an hour to get him back to sleep, and nothing was working. He needed sleep and I needed him to sleep. I left him awake and crying in his crib, went to my own room, laid down and cried myself. I was finished. 

I threw up my hands at God. Don't you know I am finished? Don't you know I have nothing left to give these needy children? 

"I have given you everything you need for life and godliness." He gently prodded my heart. I didn't want to hear it. I didn't believe Him. He has given me more than I can manage. He doesn't know what it's like to deal with the chaos I have rolled up in the small bodies of my energetic boys. 

Begrudgingly I opened my bible to James. Just because it is my favorite. I skimmed the beginning. I couldn't stomach that count it all joy stuff. I really started at verse 3: "
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him." Yes God, please, give me wisdom on how to parent these boys through their young years. 
But the next verses really convicted me: 

"But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 
For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord;" 

I was doubting. There was no excusing it. 

Every time I repeat my old familiar line, I cannot manage my own children, I am doubting God. Every time I refuse to believe that he has given me everything I need not only to do my life, but to do it with godliness, I doubt him. I fail to trust. I fail to have faith. When I step out in calm waters, its easy to believe that God can give me the wisdom I need to shepherd my children toward his heart. But when the waves of sleepless children and disobedient hearts shake me, I doubt God's plan. I doubt his goodness. I doubt that every small task in my life is a kindness meant to guide my soul closer to his.

This morning I went out skiing. I was busy with my boys when my dad popped in and told me the lake was glass. I peeked out the window and confirmed it for myself. Since turning 30, I have decided that the physical work of skiing is only worth it if the water is going to be perfect. But by the time I got in my swimming suit and wet suit, the boys in life jackets, the ski and rope and gloves secured, the glassy water had turned to ripples.

"We'll find smooth water." my dad assured me. I didn't feel confident, but I since I had already done the work of getting out there, I was going. We drove through the ripples, and I decided it wasn't so bad. It wasn't perfect, but it wasn't waves. Then we hit some boat wakes, and my confidence dropped. Would this tired, broken body of mine hold up? As silly as it sounds, I was afraid. Afraid that I would lose control, afraid I would fall in front of my kids. As I started to bounce, I made my way back inside the wake. The waves bounced around me, but in the safety of the wake, my way was smooth. The beauty of the boat is that it slices through the rough water, leaving a smooth path behind for a tired, scared skier like me. I focused on the strength of the boat and it didn't fail to pull me through the rough to the smooth glassy water on the other side of the waves. 

The beauty of trusting in God is that when the troublesome waters of everyday life start to roll, He goes before us. His promises can make the most dangerous waters glassy smooth under our feet. But this wisdom is not granted when we aren't trusting in Him. God is bountiful with his promises and goodness, but we have to receive them. 

Open up your heart dear friend, God's promises are waiting to guide you through your turbulent waters. God has wisdom waiting for any situation, but you must trust in Him to receive it. He can make the water beneath your feet peaceful and smooth even as the waves rage around you. 

In Mark 9, an overwhelmed father brings his demon possessed son to Jesus for healing. May his honest words be the battle cry of every parent who finds their beautiful children to be more than they can manage:

"I believe; help my unbelief!"

Pray it daily. Whisper it in the moments you cannot manage to trust in God's promises through your own power. Shout it when you need to know God hears you. Then be still and know that He is God.