As my oldest’s 18th birthday fast approaches, I find myself laying in bed wide awake more and more reflecting on my parenting over her life. Did I hug her enough? Did I yell too much? Did I encourage her enough? Was I as forgiving with my words and actions as much I was with my heart? Does she know what unconditional love is? Does she go to bed knowing I love her, I am proud of her?
As all these questions roll through my mind I see the times when I failed. The times I yelled because of my bad day and not her behavior. The times I didn’t listen, because I was tired and needed to find $450 to fix the furnace, only to find out days later that I missed an afternoon program at school because of it.
When was I a good enough parent? Those rocky teenage years were less like rocks for her and more like cliffs and mountains. As she tried to find her way and her identity, the world seemed to pull out every resource to knock her down. It seemed every week, almost every day, I had to reach down and pick her up. The blood dripped down her scrapped knees like when she was 4, only this time it was life that had knocked her down and not her tripping over her own feet. Somedays felt like I was watching her ride away on her proverbial bicycle through traffic and all I was allowed to do was watch and pray.
That was the key though. I had to pray. Nothing held me together more than God’s words and knowing that I was obeying Him. I was doing the best I could. He told me to show her unconditional love. Once when she was in 5th grade she came to me and asked if I could ever forgive her for disobeying me. I cried. Not because she thought that I possessed the power to not forgive her, my baby, but because I remembered asking God the same thing. Why else did Jesus come? Why else would be have died? Why else did he put forth the effort to overcome death and Hades? He did it for me, for you, for her. So who was I to not forgive my child just as God had forgiven me. The problem was how do I make sure she remembers this. I had Jesus, the words in the Bible, the Holy Spirit reminding me, but she was still a child who needed something she could see to remind her. Not just the words in a book, but something else. So I asked her; Where is the sun? On the other side of the world. And will we ever see it again? In the morning. Then as long as the sun comes up in the morning, I will always forgive you. I am your mama.
This stuck. Although I had to remind her several times in her teenage years, it stuck. I would always choose to forgive her. I choose to forgive many people in my life and still struggle with others, but choosing to forgive my children was easy.
When I was 16, I was told I had a disorder that would prevent me from ever having children. Now I am pregnant with my 6th child, but have gone through 8 miscarriages. I have Hasimoto’s, an auto-immune thyroid condition. They can not fix it. It causes many issues in my life, but the hardest is loosing babies.
After finding out I was pregnant with my oldest, someone asked me if I was going to ‘have the baby’. It was a valid question in the culture I was in. I was a single woman, 19, homeless, drug free for only 2 months and an alcoholic. To me the question didn’t come as a shock until I realized it was said to me. The girl who was never supposed to have children and now God had given me a chance to be a better mother than my own. Someone had asked my mother the same question, her mother. My grandmother had suggested I not be born. Now someone was suggesting the same for my daughter. But I chose to have her.
I chose to be a mother. Not the kind of mother I had. Not the kind mother who never wanted children and whose daughter knew it. Not the kind of mother who bought alcohol and cigarettes instead of clothes for their daughter. Not the mother kind of mother who demanded respect, but never showed what it was like to be respected. Not the kind of mother who lied and manipulated men to get what she wanted. Not that kind of mother.
I chose to be a mother who taught love, forgiveness, integrity. This was hard because I had never known what this actually looked liked and therefore got it wrong many times. So as I wonder if it was too many times, God reminds me that I chose. Everyday I choose to be a good mother. I choose to look to the Bible for my image of a good mother and not the world around me. It’s not just enough to choose life, you must also choose to love. Love that is unconditional. Love that is not based on my daughter’s behavior. It is not based on her words that have told me she hates me more than once in a fit of anger. It is not based on whether she chooses to live with me or her dad. It is unconditional. This is love that always loves. Love that is patient and kind, that does not envy or boast, not arrogant or rude. Love that does not insist everything will be done my way or the highway. It isn’t me being irritable or resentful. Unconditional love does not rejoice at the times my child does something wrong, but rejoices when they tell the truth about what they did wrong. 1 Corinthians 13 say this and continues in describing this love; Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends…
That’s the love I choose to give my daughter. I choose to be a mother of as many children as God needs me to mother of. I choose.
I chose to not settle for a man that would not choose the same love. Love is not a feeling on your body. It is not your blood pressure rising and a tingly feeling inside. It is not getting warm all over when you see them enter the room. Love is never defined as an act between people that the world calls making love. The only thing you are making is a possibility to choose to be a parent.
I choose real love. I choose to really love my children and my husband. I choose to be the kind of wife who honors her husband and gives him the respect he deserves, not demands. I choose to take care of him and love him. I choose to forgive him when he fails, but he also chose to love me. He loved me when I failed everyday. He loved me when my mouth dishonored him not by what I said about him, but what I gossiped and said when I overreacted about others. He chose to be my husband. I choose to be a wife.
I choose real love. I choose to really love my children and my husband, and I will announce it, I choose to love my self. In the same unconditional love I give to my children and my husband I choose to love myself. Really love myself.
I haven’t always. It was a choice I had to make. Just as I could have ended the life of my oldest child before she was even born, I could have listened to what others told me, what I told myself and ended mine. I have the scars on the outside where I tried, but the scars on the inside from the world beating me up are far more. There may be a scar that runs down the inside of my wrist, but the one that runs through my heart because of the parent my father chose to be is far bigger. It cut me so deep I found no reason to live. Just when I would think that I was going to be okay and I would make a difference in the world. That same world came and ripped it back open. It wasn’t just what my mother taught me about manipulating men, or what my father taught me about being controlled, it was the continuous reinforcing of it all that the world showed me when I was being ridiculed, pushed aside, looked down on. It wasn’t so much the beatings or the rapes, but the words that hurt me. Sticks and stones would have been easier. The world does not forgive. It does not love! It shows you what not to do.
So I choose. I choose to not be like this world because God has called me to a better place. God has chosen me. My parents did not choose me. They chose to let me live, but not to love beyond what the world had taught then love was. Not unconditional love. God chose to go to this orphanage called the world and pick me out. He picked me up when I didn’t smile. I was an addict and could offer Him nothing. He chose me! He chose to be my parent and give me unconditional love that forgives more than I forgive myself. His forgiveness will come everyday even after the sun no longer rises. He loves me more than I could ever love myself or my own children. He chooses to love me.
So do I. I will fail sometimes, but I choose to be the best mother I can. I choose to forgive. I choose to not gossip though its so easy. I choose to be sober, everyday forever. I choose to Love. I choose to love my children. I choose to love my husband. I choose to love myself. I choose to love the world who does not love me back.
What do you choose?
Do you choose to be angry at everyone because your parents didn’t love? Do you choose to think all men are scum because you haven’t felt the love of one? Do you choose to hide in addictions? Do you choose to ignore God because you can’t see how He loves you? You are here! You are alive! Does it feel as though you have been abandoned by the world and dropped off in some orphanage just wishing someone would choose to love you? He does! God does love you. I know it’s hard to see when you learned more about sex before you left grade school because of some twisted adult. I know it’s hard when you were beat by your parents because you were the one standing there. I know it’s hard to see when everyone has abandoned you. That’s why I’m here. I’m here to tell you to stop kicking and screaming and let God pick you up. He is choosing to adopt you. He is choosing to love you unconditionally. Even when you are mad and tell him you hate Him, He is choosing to always love you. He is choosing to forgive you every day the sun rises and even when it stops rising He will keep forgiving. He is choosing to always love. I know it’s hard to see, but He keeps telling me to tell you. He chooses you!
So all I can ask, all I can say is that you must choose. You must choose what you will do. It is the greatest responsibility in the world, to choose. Choose to live. Choose to love. Choose to be adopted. You choose. And if your choice it to let God pick you up of the dirt floor of the orphanage called the world, life won’t be perfect. There will still be hard times and bullies. There will still be mothers who are not proud of who you have become. There will still be more bills than paycheck, but there will be Love. Love. Unconditional Love. Now choose.