When You Are the Bad Parent: Learning to Give Grace

Recently, a 2 year old boy was lost in the woods. His grandmother had taken him and his older sister for a walk. Reportedly the older child ran ahead and the grandmother ran after the child. She turned around and the little boy was gone. Of course over the next few days the temperature was in the teens. The little boy died from hypothermia. For the full story, click here

My heart just breaks everytime I hear this story. I cringe with the thought of how scared that little boy must have been. I just cannot imagine. I can’t imagine the grief and guilt that grandmother must have felt. I can’t imagine the panic and worry the parents must have felt. I guess it really hits close to home because I have a 3 year old. It hits even closer to home because I take my children hiking on a semi-regular basis.  I understand how this little boy could have just wondered away.  I understand how someone might accidentally leave their child in the car. I understand how someone might be scared they could  hurt their child out of anger or depression. I understand how a three year old might end up in a busy intersection by himself. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uu1yKpt1muU).  I’m not justifying these things; I’m just asking that before you judge, you put your feet in the other person’s shoes.

Toddlers are known to be curious creatures. They see a butterfly and they chase it. They throw a rock over the edge; they run to see where it lands. They see a bug in the middle of the street and stop to study it. They have no concept of impending danger.  You have to be on your toes at all times! I could see my daughter getting curious and running off into the woods. Then in a blink of an eye, she’s lost.  Not knowing what to do, she probably cries and runs back to where she thinks I am.  Oh, the terror! My stomach lurches at the mere thought! How scared and cold and horribly confused that little boy must have been that his mommy couldn’t find him. The terror and the grief!

We all have our routines; any change messes with your head. I can see how you think, “I will just run into the store to get two things and then you get stuck behind the lady with 100 coupons, the slowest cashier, and slowest bagger known to eternity. The next thing you know, it has been 30 minutes or more. We have all heard of the horrifying facts of how fast a vehicle can become deathly hot. I have been in my car driving to work and made the turn to go to work instead of the daycare! I fortunately remembered before I arrived at work, but my point is that none of us are perfect, none of us are immune.

“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged. And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.” Matthew 7: 1-5

One day, we found my daughter outside with our dog. We did not know she was outside. We did not realize she could open the door by herself! Fortunately we figured it out quickly. Can you honestly tell me you have never made a mistake?

Remember when you were so exhausted taking care of your newborn? You were in a fog, ALL DAY LONG! When the baby starts crying and he won’t stop, sometimes you don’t know what to do. You can read all the books and articles you want and still have no clue.  I have literally been so frustrated and tired that I had to lay my  baby down and let him cry, for fear of hurting him. That is a sombering thought, one that I do NOT readily admit. Then on top of the huge responsibility of taking care of this completely dependent, vulnerable baby, your hormones are going crazy! With my first baby, I literally sweated more than I thought humanly possible. I also remember breaking down from the sheer exhaustion and stress of it all. I was completely inconsolable!

I would guess that more then one of you have had similiar thoughts. (I hope.)

We don’t like to talk about these things.  No one likes to admit that they would be capable of any of these horrid acts.

We are such a judgmental society (I am no exception). We think these stories can only happen to other people, to those parents. We gasp with disgust and turn our noses upward in disdain.

Before we judge, we ought to take a look in the mirror.  Let’s step back for a moment and then reach forward with arms wide open, sharing our hearts and giving each other grace. I don’t share these personal stories lightly, or to showcase how imperfect of a parent I am. I share them so you know you are not alone. You are not the only woman who has these “bad” parent thoughts. These thoughts don’t define you, they do not make you a bad parent. They only serve as reminders, that we can not go it alone. We need each other, and we need our heavenly Father. I ask you to be open to these thoughts, so that others may know they are not alone. We are on the same team.

What are some ways you can let others know you are on their team?

Perhaps you can call a new mom and offer to watch her baby so she can rest? Perhaps you can deliver a meal or have groceries delivered? Perhaps, just sharing your stories can help others know they are not alone? Let’s show compassion to each other and learn from each other. We all have lessons to give and to receive.

“You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate. Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven. Give and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full-pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. the amount you give will determine the amount you get back. ” Luke 6: 36-38

 

If you have been pregnant in the last 12 months and are having feelings of depression or you feel out of control, then please call a doctor and a friend. Post partum depression is real. Read HERE for more symptoms of Post partum Depression and what to do about it.

When You Share Your Umbrella

College was hard for me. Especially since I had no problems in high school. I was valedictorian and truth be told, I probably could have been much more challenged. That is not against my school or my parents, I just remember not really having to work that hard to get straight A’s. I only mention that to explain how much harder college was for me. My first semester, I received a B for the first time since elementary school. I was outraged! Especially, since it was in my best subject (English) and I did not think I deserved a B. I even approached my professor about it and requested a second opinion. How is that for brazen and arrogant? I still received a B. And then there was speech class, which was not my best subject. There is a reason I prefer writing to speaking. Then, I decided to obtain my degree in nursing. Now that was a challenge. Science had never been a favorite subject and I don’t think I realized how much science was involved in the nursing program (Bear in mind that I was very young and naïve; don’t judge me) . Then came the onslaught of organic chemistry, microbiology, anatomy and physiology, and pathophysiology.  Now, fortunately. I am great at memorizing things, which served me well in anatomy and physiology. (did I fully understand, no, but I got the answers right!) When it came to chemistry, micro, and pathophysiology… Well, let’s just say my eyes were opened and I had met my challenge. I managed to swing an A in micro or organic (I can’t remember which now) by busting my butt off and becoming antisocial. But I got a B in the other two subjects. I was more proud of those B’s then any grade I had ever received up to that point. I may have even received a C in pathophysiology as that teacher was challenging! I doubt if anybody got higher than a B. (though a few of my brilliant friends probably did).  I studied constantly, I worried constantly, I did not sleep. In short, at some point I reached my breaking point.

I don’t remember what semester the following story happened or what subject I was studying, but all I remember is sobbing and wanting to quit so much! I remember thinking I did not know what kind of mess I had put myself.

It was pouring rain this night, I had no umbrella, no rain jacket, but I had to walk., maybe I had a destination, maybe I just needed to clear my head. Either way, I was soaked to my very bones. Even more, my heart was soaked with worries and anxiety, and disappointment in myself.

As I was walking, all of a sudden, this girl appears out of nowhere. I had never met her, never seen her, never saw her again after that day to my recollection.  She extended kindness and offered to share her umbrella. What I left with was far more than an umbrella. She saw my tears, in spite of having just dried my eyes, and gave me comfort and encouragement when I had nothing left to give in response. I don’t remember her exact words, but I do remember leaving her presence and feeling renewed. I felt I could go on, could continue to press toward my goal and know that at least, at that moment, my calling was to become a nurse and to serve others as Jesus had served the sick and the lonely.  I knew in that moment that I could do this; I could do this college thing. I could become a nurse.  It would be hard and challenging, and I had other times when I wanted to quit, but  I could do it. Whoever that girl was, she was my rescuer.

I would like to think that she was an angel sent just for me. Maybe she was, or maybe she was just a friend in a brief moment God sent to encourage me and show me He loved me.

Wherever you are in your phase of life, just know that God is there and that you are not alone. Don’t give up.

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” Phlippians 3: 12-14

Maybe you are at the same point that I as in college, maybe you are raising young children like I am at the moment, battling tantrums, sleepless nights, and constant challenges. Perhaps you have lost a loved one or are struggling with health yourself. Just know that you are not alone. Perhaps God can use you be the person who shares an umbrella.  If you need prayers, I would love to pray for you. I ask that you continue to pray for me. That I will patiently learn the art of being a parent so that I may be able to guide my children to a  love that only God can bestow.

Thank you for reading!

WHY I HAVE TO PRAY TO SURVIVE PARENTING

Here my toddler lies on the floor right before the classic tantrum position. (I didn't get a picture of that)
Here my toddler lies on the floor right before the classic tantrum position. (I didn’t get a picture of that)

I honestly do not know how people parent without having a nervous breakdown if they don’t pray. For me, the task of parenting is so daunting and overwhelming, I have to pray, for fear of completely messing up my child. I’m not saying I pray everyday ( I am a work in progress), But sometimes, make that all the time, I feel like I have to pray to make it through my day, even if it is a simple ” Please God help me not kill my child today”. When I really start to think about what it means to be a parent, it truly does overwhelm me. I am completely responsible for this little being that God allowed me to bring into this world. If she becomes a burden on society or a blessing to society, it all comes back to the parents. I worry I don’t play with her enough, that I don’t let her play by herself enough. I don’t read enough, too many toys, not enough. The list goes on and on as I am sure many of you can relate. Then there is this task of  teaching her about God!  I don’t know anything about God, how on earth am I supposed to teach someone about God?! And you love these little beings so much, that it literally hurts.

I  start thinking about God and Jesus, father and son, and how Jesus was sacrificed for me and thus completely separated from his father. I don’t know if I could ever do that. I could sacrifice myself for my child, but to have my child die for others is unspeakable,. It is unfathomable. I guess that is where the necessity of the cross comes in to play, for my sinful heart. I have to pray, for fear that I will be swallowed up by my anxiety and panic. It calms me, and reminds me that I cannot control everything, that I have to trust God.  For however much you love your child, God loves them more. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)  John 10:10 states, “That they (we) may have life and have it abundantly.”

Isn’t’ that just it?, That we may have life and live it to the fullest? We don’t have to worry! God is enough!. There are so many different schools of thoughts on every topic, from breastfeeding to free range parents, to helicopter parents. You name it, you can find a book on it. (trust me, I have looked. ) Those things are of course important and I definitely have opinions on all the above.  But the thing I feel is most important is that we teach our children what it means to be loved and what it means to love. To love without condition. That in and of itself would be an anxiety producing task, if it wasn’t for our heavenly father being the perfect example.  “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three, but the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13

One of my favorite stories to read to my child is “God Gave Us You”, by Lisa Tawn Bergren. It is a beautiful story about how this bear cub was a gift from God. It reads:

” Every night, I prayed for you, my special child, I prayed that your bones would be straight and your heart would be strong. But most of all, I prayed that someday you would love God.” “I love God,” Little cub said proudly. “I know,” said Mama. “I do too.”. Mama lowered her voice. “And then we took you home. And it was just us. Our family. We just stared and stared, wondering at the miracle of incredible you.” “Because why?” “Because God had given us you. Then little Cub asks “Did you ever want a different baby?… “Never,” Mama said. “Never, ever, ever. Your papa and I wouldn’t trade you for the world….Because God gave us you. Because God gave us you”

The first time I ever read that story I had to hold back my tears to finish the story. Even now. two years later, I still have to hold my tears back. Perhaps that is how God feels; he has to hold his tears in check, because he chose us. Chose us to love , so much so that he was willing to give his only son to be sin for us. “…even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28) Imagine if your child was taken to prison and given the death penalty, for a crime he or she did not commit. I would be in anguish, infuriated!! Perhaps that is a  sliver of what God went through, except Jesus received the death penalty for thousands and thousands of crimes he did not commit.

I am no expert on parenting or things of God, but my prayer for you is the same as my prayer for my family:

Dear Father,

Please help us show your love to our children, in all our words and actions. When we make mistakes, turn our mourning into gladness, for you are merciful and good.

Amen

Matthew 5:16 (ESV): In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

We Made it Through Five Years of Marriage!

January 16th marked my husband and mine’s five-year anniversary. Yay! We made it!  Doesn’t sound like much, I know, but with the grim statistics that always seem to be reported, I am overjoyed at this feat. It has not been without struggles, but we continue to grow stronger together. I told myself that I was not allowed to give marriage advice until we had at least been married five years (and even then, just advice to those who have been married for less than 5 years). Now, I am not a marriage counselor, so this is by no means professional advice. I am continually being humbled and shown what it means to love. I would just like to share what has helped my husband and I through our first five years. Hopefully it can help you in your marriage or provide a renewal.  I would love for you to share your advice, especially those who have been married for ten plus years!  We are nothing if we are not humble enough to accept advice or constructive criticism.
1. COMPROMISE: You hear it all the time. But for a control freak like myself, it is a hard pill to swallow. But there are things you will not agree on, and you will have to find a compromise.

2. Be direct with what you need. Guys and girls are different. There are multiple books written on the subject, but just listening to marriage complaints among your friends or co workers is enough to make you see that you are different. Men and women talk about different things. Just listen, and you will see. (Of course there are always exceptions). Men are not mind readers and they are not thinking about folding that pile of laundry that has been sitting in your living room for a week, or giving the dog a bath, or how much the floors need to be cleaned. They just aren’t. (We, as women, could probably learn something from them on that note). It does not mean they are purposely trying to infuriate you, they just need you to tell them what you need.

3. Try not to talk about your husband or wife negatively to others. There are times, especially as women, we need to vent  It  needs to be to a trusted person, whom you know will be honest with you. It is so easy to get caught up in the comparison trap and the bashing talks. But nothing good can come from it. Just walk away.

4. Say thank you! And I appreciate you. And I love you. Say it often. Say it again and again. Say it for any little thing. Thank him for taking the trash out even when he always does it. Thank him for walking the dog. Thank him for letting you sleep or workout while he watches the kid(s). Thank him for going to the grocery story or picking up dinner (even if forgets something or picks up the wrong item). Just remember to say it!

5. Take time for just the two of you. Make a pre planned date. Even if it is just driving around town for an hour. Maybe it’s twice a month, once a month, once a week. Find what works for you.

6. Have a weekly or daily devotional or family time. It does not have to be a drawn out affair. Maybe even just 5 minutes. I can tell a huge difference in my husband and mine’s tension and communication when we don’t do this. It keeps you honest and focused.

7. Your spouse needs to be first priority (aside from God). Not your kids, not your siblings, not your parents or in-laws, but your spouse! I strongly believe to have a strong relationship with all the latter, you need to put your spouse first. I know (especially with children) that it seems counter intuitive. But your kids will be healthier and happier for it. They need to see that you value each other. Where do you think they are going to learn how to be a functional member of society or learn how to love?

As stated previously, I am by no means a marriage counselor or therapist. The above statements are what have worked for my family thus far and my personal opinions.  I am just an ordinary woman trying to find the extraordinary in my daily living.

Finally, I am going to share some of my favorite books on marriage and relationships. I would love your book recommendations and marital advice!

Sacred Marriage: by Gary Thomas

Captivating: by John and Stasi Eldredge

Wild at Heart: by John Eldredge

Couples Who Pray: by Rushnell Duart

The Five Love Languages: by Gary Chapman

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Our One Year Anniversary!
Our One Year Anniversary!