Monday, April 5, 2010

MY KIDS AND ME - Chapter 1

“I Don’t Think I Can Do This!”

I had been married for about three months, when my doctor husband returned home from the hospital with the news that normally the expectant mother gives to the expectant father: “We’re going to have a baby.” I had been experiencing suspicious symptoms, so Tom took my…well, you know…to the hospital lab to be tested, and sure enough…there was a baby in there!...not really, but you know what I mean.

My husband, Tom, was finishing his General Practice residency in Lafayette, Louisiana. Those were the days when life holds all your dreams: we were passionately-in-love newlyweds; we were excited about leaving for the mission field of Mexico in a few months, and now the joy of looking forward to having a baby. Life didn’t get better than this…

…until that fatal day…

Always the planner, I had decided to be not only the world’s best mother with the world’s best children, but I also planned to have the perfect delivery. I was young and healthy. I was married to a physician. And I was also a scaredy cat…with a very low pain tolerance level.

Upon my insistence, my doctor husband brought home an armload of little pamphlets that he would give to his mommies-to-be. I was so excited I could hardly breathe and couldn’t wait until I got my hands on them: my guide to perfection.

And then I saw the explicit illustrations and drawings of a child actually coming into the world. It was with horror that I announced to my husband when he came in for lunch that day: “I don’t think I can do this.”

“Of course, you can,” he said simply, as he usually expressed everything he said. I was the “embellisher,” as he called me. He was the “simplifier,” so he added, “Millions of women all over the world have had babies, down through the centuries, and so can you. And besides, you don’t have an option.”

Well, thanks a lot for the encouragement!

That was exactly forty years ago. And as I look back over all those years of mothering eight children, I still remember times, much more challenging than labor of childbirth. It’s those days when you feel like you did everything wrong. The “why did I do that?...why didn’t I do that?” The feeling of having sped through my day, and running right past my children. The tears shed over things I’d said to them…or things I didn’t say.

Neglect…thoughtlessness…cruelty…abandonment…failure…these aren’t the confessions of a physically abusive mom. They’re the devastating thoughts of a mother who adored her children, and wouldn’t for anything in the world have done anything to hurt them.

Why this feeling of total inadequacies? You’re reading this, and you’re feeling this with me. Yes you are. This describes you perfectly, doesn’t it? You’re about ready to throw in the towel, and you’re not too particular whose head it lands on. You just want out! Or maybe you want help.

Looking back over those years when my children were still at home, I believe those feelings came to me, as they do to you because of several things:

I was looking inward, and not upward. I read my Bible faithfully every single morning…or at least at some point during the day. When my oldest child was four months old, I started reading the Bible through, and I’ve just finished reading it through for the 39th time. I faithfully had Bible reading with my children every morning. But somehow, that Bible-glow gets dimmer and dimmer as the day grows to an end. The challenge becomes the obstacle, the ever-present hill to be climbed. One tends to think of self more at the end of the day, instead of being happy with one’s role in life, and God’s plan for him or her. Funny, it was always at the end of the day when I would get those feelings. The devil attacks us when we are most vulnerable: when we’ve had it with our children…when we’re tired…when a little one is sick, or doesn’t understand a math problem. It’s at that point that the devil shows us how utterly incapable we are as mothers. And we are, but for the Lord’s grace and strength. Don’t ever say or think you are incapable of doing something that God has called you to do. Your role as mother is as much a ministry as the role of your Pastor’s ministry. You are the best mother God could have chosen for your children. You are tailor-made for them. Even if your little ones are adopted, God put them under your care for a purpose. He allowed you to choose them. There was something about that little one that reached out and touched your motherless heart, and said, “She’s the one,” or “Pick him.” There is a confidence that must come in doing anything for the Lord. But it’s not confidence in one’s own ability. It comes from knowing that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. So the next time you have those desperately unfit mom feelings, look to the One who gave you these little ones. You’re not unfit. You’re tailor-made. Take your eyes off yourself, and your failures and shortcomings, and look to Him for your strength.
I was looking outward, and not upward. If you think I was nuts for studying how to have a baby, you should have seen my library once I actually had a baby! I read everything I could get my hands on about mothering. Just like you! You’re reading this book, because you think I have it altogether. I’ve raised eight children, and you want to know how I survived. This book is not about child raising. It’s a book written to encourage parents, and especially mothers and grandmothers. I would read those books, and about half way through the first chapter, I would already be discouraged. I didn’t have children like this typical suburban housewife. I would daydream about her, and fantasize about being like her. I would lovingly discipline, and I would be a nurturer. I would never get angry or upset. But in reality, in real life, I wasn’t that way, and I couldn’t handle the pressures. What I didn’t know is that most of those mom-authors couldn’t either. I believe those books must surely be written by mothers who have their standards so high, that not even Susannah Wesley herself could have attained to such high goals. Then one day, I closed all my books, and realized my limitations. I turned to the Lord, and I said, “Lord, you know I want to be a good mother. I’d even love to be perfect, just like You. But I can’t. So will You please take all my imperfections, knowing me like You know me, turn them around and use them to help me raise these children? I can’t do it in my strength, so I ask for Yours. I look to Your Word for guidance.”
I was comparing myself to others, instead of to the Lord. You know what I’m talking about, don’t you? I “hear” that smile. I had two friends whom I thought had to be model moms. They were everything I was not. Their children always were immaculately dressed, had impeccable manners, and always had their shoes on. In the area of academics, theirs far excelled mine. We were all home schooling, missionary moms, and they were always talking about the wonderful grades their children made. Their houses were much nicer than mine, and they never had one single dirty dish in the sink. Funny how when you start comparing “apples to apples,” oranges start to appear, too. We’re talking children here, not houses. But even their clothes, their vehicles, their ministries…oops!...their husbands seemed to have it altogether. I say this from experience, and with authority: this is a work of the devil. Don’t ever, ever compare yourself, your children, your house, your church to those of others. This will only accomplish one of two results: you will be puffy with pride, or you will be desperately discouraged. God made you on purpose. He made you inside out. He gave you your husband, your children, your church. He made your body like He wanted it to be. He knows your weaknesses, but He also knows your strengths. Stop “accentuating the negative,” and start “accentuating the positive.” Take what you have, where you are. Accept who you are, and stop comparing. Only when I compare myself to the Lord, and strive to become like Him, will I ever become who He wants me to be. He doesn’t want you to be like me. He didn’t want me to be like Ginny or Sandy. He didn’t want them to be like me. Only when I accept who I am, can He make me to be like Him. Accept your husband. Accept your children, and thank God for the way He made them. Don’t try to change them. Train your children for the Lord. Don’t train them to be preachers, or missionaries, or doctors, or businessmen. Train them for the Lord, for Him to do with them as He wills. Get your eyes off others, and back on the Lord.

Some mothers look at child rearing like some people look at Salvation. Salvation is by grace. And so is childrearing. Did you know if there were something good you could do to take you to Heaven, there would be the corresponding something bad to condemn you to hell? Salvation is by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ. I witness to people all the time who don’t like this. They want to think there is surely something they can do to take them to Heaven. That’s why you’re ready to throw in the towel. You’re saved, but some of the things you do give the devil opportunity to make you think you’ve “lost” your Salvation, or you haven’t been good enough. There is nothing good enough you can do to take you to Heaven. If you are going to Heaven, it is all by grace, and through faith in Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.

That’s the way it is with mothering. Just as there is an element of pride of wanting to “do something on my own” that will merit Heaven for me, there is a pride element in thinking, “I don’t think I can do this,” when it comes to mothering. Of course, you can’t. Of course I couldn’t. It is all through grace that our children grow up to love and serve the Lord. It doesn’t all depend on you. I didn’t have little Joel’s destiny in my hands. I didn’t do all the blotching in his life. Stop being so proud that you can’t admit that you CAN raise that child to serve the Lord, you CAN be a good mother, you ARE the best mother that child could possibly have. If you’re drunk, or if you’re a druggie, I don’t know why you would be reading this book. But if you are, God didn’t mean for you to mess up your life. But neither did He kill you, so He must surely have a purpose for leaving you here. If you still have little ones at home, get up! Pour all your alcoholic beverages, and your drugs down the toilet. If you don’t know anyone who can show you how to get saved, and be a good mother, just tell the Lord, “Lord, I’m lost. I’m a sinner. I’m on my way to hell. Save me from my sins, from my drugs, and from everything bad in my life. Forgive me for hurting You. I believe your Son, Jesus died on the cross for my sins. I accept Him, and ask Him to make me to be everything You would have me to be. Help me to raise these children to love You and serve You all the days of their lives. I take You into my heart, into my life, and into my home. In Jesus’ name. Amen.” If you pray that prayer, and mean it with all your heart, He’ll hear you, and He’ll give you grace to be the kind of mother your children need you to be. The Holy Spirit lives in you, and He will direct you as you lovingly raise your children.

Don’t think you can do this? Well, you can’t. I had no more power over not having a baby than you have over training yours in the ways of the Lord. Just as my body performed its natural function in childbirth, so you must let the Holy Spirit direct your thoughts, your desires, your goals, your actions to “bring forth” children who love and serve the Lord. This should be your ultimate goal: producing and rearing children who mature spiritually, sufficiently to love and serve the Lord in whatever capacity He wants to use them.

I think you can do this!


Jolene said...

Wonderful first chapter, Mom.... So encouraging! I'm already looking forward to the 2nd chapter!

Raylinda said...

This was a blessing to me already. Can't wait to read more. Thanks Mrs. Sloan! ~Raylinda Flores

Ruth said...

What an encouragement it was to my heart to read this chapter this morning. I love you, Mom. Thank you for being honest, and for letting me know that even I, with all my imperfections, can raise my precious children for the Lord.

Anonymous said...

Mom, What an encouragement it was to read this chapter this morning. Thank you for your honesty, and for letting me know that in spite of my imperfections, I can raise my children for the Lord. I love you! ~Ruthie

Ruth said...

Sorry about the double post, Mom. I'm still learning how to leave a comment :) See just how imperfect I am? :)