On Motherhood and the Word
Born to Mom
I was born to be a mother. Even as a toddler in small town Louisiana I'd put all sorts of things under my shirt and pretend to be pregnant. As a pre-teen, I daydreamed of having eight children. I had it all planned out: I’d have four boys and four girls (alternating boy, girl, boy, etc.) and they’d all have names that started with the letter H.
As I grew, I decided four was a more realistic number of kids. Fast forward to the present day and surprise, surprise – I’m the mother of four beautiful children: two girls and two boys, alternating girl, boy, girl, boy, and none of their names begin the letter H.
And now we're pursuing the adoption of a sibling group from Poland. Our current home-study states we’re approved to adopt a sibling group of up to four, so the number of children who call me mom could soon rise to eight! I've become convinced He never sends us down the quickest path to a destination, but I think He takes us the long way 'round to teach us things we’d never learn otherwise.
It’s just like the Israelites and their journey from Egypt into the Promised Land. What should have taken them a mere 11 days took them 40 years instead. True, the real reason it took them 40 years was because of a lack of unbelief on their part, but I think God also used that time to shape and mold the next generation for the battles ahead. They needed to be ready to fight for and conquer the land God had promised to their ancestors.
The Best and the Worst
As a 5-year-old child in a Christian family that went to church every time the doors were open, I accepted Jesus as my Savior and was baptized. I attended a Christian school before being home-schooled, and I even went to a Christian college. I’ve known Jesus for as long as I can remember, but I’ve only really known Him and learned to completely rely on Him since becoming a mother.
Motherhood brought out both the best and the worst in me. In my mind, being a mother meant I’d spend my days holding a precious baby and smelling their sweet little head while singing “Jesus Loves Me” as my innocent offspring smiled up lovingly at me. I was positive my children would “rise up and called me blessed” as it says in Proverbs 31. Sure, motherhood is a blessing and there are many days of laughter and fun, but it isn’t smiles and sweet-smelling babies all of the time. I’ve also discovered I don’t lean on Jesus quite as much when everything is going well. It seems as if He allows tough times to enter my life so I’ll keep running back to Him. The Apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:9-11, “And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
I went back to work six weeks after giving birth to my first child. I breastfed her for as long as I could, but something was messing with her tummy and I, a naive 23-year-old new mom before the age of Dr. Google, had no idea how to fix it. So, she went on formula. Soy formula. I remember early one morning I gave her a bottle, changed her diaper, and picked her up just in time for her to projectile vomit all over me, the floor, the couch, and herself. I was late for work several times due to her vomiting all over herself on the way to daycare.
There were long nights and early mornings, sickness, more sickness, crying (from both of us at times), and a baby who didn’t care whether or not I had eaten at all that day or had even showered in the past three days. She just wanted what she wanted and she wanted it right then. I’m sure I’d heard before that babies are selfish, but I guess I chose to ignore the fact because, of course my baby would be perfect. I didn’t realize I was a little selfish myself. I had to sacrifice my own wants and needs in order to care for and nurture this darling little creature my husband and I had created. But all along God was working on my heart, chipping away at the selfish desires and shaping me to be more like Him.
A few years later I had a baby, a toddler, and a kindergartner. I’d decided we would begin homeschooling that year as well. Boy, was that first year of homeschooling a complete disaster! I assumed I was supposed to recreate a “regular” school environment at home and my poor girl just wanted to play and learn in her own way. I required her to sit still at a little school desk and do the worksheets in a timely manner while she sat there bawling her eyes out and I ran and locked myself in the bathroom to pray. “What am I doing wrong, God? Why doesn’t she love school or respect me? Why is she pushing against everything I’m trying to teach her? Doesn’t she know I’m doing this for her own good and she’ll appreciate all of this some day?”
And I heard Him say to me, “Alison, look at it from my perspective. Aren’t you the same way with me? You’re my beloved daughter and everything I bring your way is meant to shape you into the woman I created you to be. Why do you push against me and try to do things your own way?” And just then I remembered Romans 5:20b “But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more.” Grace. I needed grace myself and I definitely needed to show my daughter some grace. I suppose it should have been a super obvious thing to me considering Grace is her middle name.
I was blown away. Had God told me I treat Him the way my children treat me? I realized then how parenthood parallels our relationship with Him. How could I expect my children to obey and respect me when I couldn’t even obey and respect my Heavenly Father? He delights in me, I needed to delight in my children. I’d like to say from that moment on I became a new mom, but it isn’t quite true. Because I’m hard headed God still had a lot of work to do in me.
When God doesn’t seem to listen
When our third child was not even a year old we discovered we were pregnant again. Excited, and surprised (since I was still breastfeeding and didn’t believe that could happen), we told everyone we knew. The following month our hearts broke as we discovered we'd lost the baby. A few months later the exact same thing happened and our hearts broke even more. I was positive God had abandoned us and was punishing us for some unknown reason. I became bitter and angry towards God and couldn’t bring myself to even show up to church. When friends told me they were praying for us I politely thanked them but my inner dialogue was constantly asking “Why? What good is it to pray when God doesn’t seem to listen?”
I asked some very hard questions from God during that time but finally concluded that because I knew Him to be good in the past, and because of what I believed about Him presently, I had to trust He could see what I couldn’t. I just had to believe. There was nothing I could do to bring back the babies I had lost, I had to let them go, and I had to decide to move on with life. I had to live for the children that were in my house and who required someone to shepherd and guide them.
It wasn’t long afterwards when God blessed us with another pregnancy. It wasn’t an easy one, in fact it was actually pretty scary the entire time, but God gave me peace and let me know He was in control. That was the scariest of my four births, but our baby boy arrived and was healthy.
Hiding in the bathroom
That baby boy, who today has my heart and is the best, sweetest help in the entire world, the boy who loves people and wants to finish school so he can get a job and make money, was an absolute nightmare of an infant. I never knew a kid could scream so much for no apparent reason, beginning at the same time each evening and lasting the same amount of time before abruptly stopping and becoming happy again. I spent a great deal of time hiding in the bathroom and begging God to just show up and do something. To give me supernatural eyes to see what in the world was wrong with my baby.
At the same time I was dealing with a colicky infant, I was also trying to raise three other kids. Quite often they got the short end of the stick because mom had such a short fuse and was frazzled to the point of losing it over a spilled cup of milk or half-eaten sandwich. But God showed up each day. During that time He consistently reminded me His mercies are new every morning and He is faithful.
In her new book, “Becoming MomStrong,” Heidi St. John says, “We don’t have to face the challenges and changes of motherhood on our own. We have the Creator Himself walking alongside us.” I couldn’t have made it through those first 14 months without knowing God was there, walking with me each and every day.
Every day God showed me there was a real battle going on for the minds and hearts of my children and I needed to lean on Him and put on my armor daily so I’d be ready to fight off the enemy at each attack. I’m not saying it’s the devil’s fault my baby boy had colic. (Although if someone has since figured out the root cause of it let me know because it may very well have been the devil.) But any time I forgot to put on my armor or I hadn’t spent time alone in the Word or with Jesus I noticed it didn’t take much of anything to set me off. Little by little every whimper, whine, argument, or mess would wear me down until I was but a shadow of the warrior mom I was called to be.
I learned during these early years of parenting that I needed to begin my day with Jesus even if it was just a quick prayer as I prepared breakfast or listening to worship music while I played with the kids. I’d read snippets of scripture throughout the day as time allowed and eventually God blessed those tiny efforts and allowed them to grow into a deep love for His Word. I discovered that each day I’d read a little more, learn a lot more, and feel His presence constantly.
Life went on. The kids grew and before I knew it I no longer had babies in my house. Instead I have a teenager, a preteen, and two elementary age kids. Sure, the kids changed, but the struggles changed, too. Who knew I’d look back on the baby and toddler years and wish it were still that easy to discipline and train them. Older kids and hormones bring completely different issues. Gone are the days of black and white issues which are easy to discipline, now there are grey areas. I had to learn to choose my battles and rely on God to teach me which battles were worth fighting and which ones to let go of. God is using these years to teach me Biblical discernment and wisdom.
The ones out there
When Ron and I felt the Lord leading us toward adoption the first thing we did was to take it back to the Lord and pray about it. We sought wise counsel from several Godly and trustworthy men. After months of praying and still feeling as if God desired for our family to grow in this way we officially began the process.
Adoption is nothing like a pregnancy. Not to me, anyway. I would say pregnancy is much easier than the adoption process. But for us, we knew we weren’t in it just because we wanted more children, we were in it because God gave us a heart for those children without the love of a father or mother. Children who didn’t have parents to tuck them into bed at night or to kiss their bumps and bruises when they were hurt. Children who didn’t have someone in their life to teach them that God made them for a specific purpose and plan and that He loves them so much that He sent His own son to die for them.
As I began to think about these children, the ones out there who I had yet to meet but God had chosen specifically for our family, I began to feel anxious. I wanted nothing more than to go get them and bring them home immediately. I didn’t want to have to wait a year or two or three, I wanted to do it now, but tons of paperwork and even more money stood in the way of my end goal: bringing my children home.
Ron and I prayed and sought the Lord. We told Him there was no way on earth we could come up with the massive amount of money needed to accomplish this task. We told Him we believed the saying, “where God guides, He provides” and since He was guiding us to a sibling group in Poland we trusted Him to provide the funds necessary to do that.
It was about then when I was reading through the Old Testament and God led me to this story in 2 Chronicles 20. King Jehoshaphat of Judah was informed of many armies which were headed their way to fight and destroy them. He called for a fast and prayed to God for guidance and verse 17 says, “You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf o Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the Lord will be with you.” Early the next morning they went out and began singing and praising the Lord. As soon as they began, the Lord set an ambush on the enemies and they all destroyed one another as Judah stood still and watched. That's my very favorite story in the Old Testament. God specifically told me we wouldn’t have to fight this battle ourselves, He would do it and all we’d have to do was watch how He worked and give Him the glory for it.
Another verse God used in my life during this time was Psalm 46:10a “Be still and know that I am God.” Do you see the pattern in my two favorite OT verses? Stand still and be still. When we get out of the way and let God work, we will see so many mighty things He can do. God doesn’t need my help, but He does allow me to watch and He even occasionally allows me to do a little something, but it’s never because He needs something from me. It’s more to grow my faith and trust in Him.
In Matthew 19:26, Jesus says, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.” Humanly speaking, adopting four more children from a foreign country on one income and a house full of four growing children already seems impossible. But with God, even that isn’t a drop in the bucket. I can’t wait to see Him work and I can’t wait to see what else He does in my life and how my faith will be strengthened during the process.
Being a mom is the most rewarding and challenging job I’ve ever attempted. I’m honored that God saw fit to bless me with the four (and more some day soon) beautiful souls that are my children. As I seek to show them the Word and how much God loves us it strengthens my faith. As they challenge me, I’m shown the areas of my own life where I challenge God.
My kids are little sanctifiers, that’s for sure. If it weren’t for them, I’d probably be the most self-centered brat of a woman ever to walk the face of the earth. God’s Word is living and active and sharper than any double-edged sword. If I’m going to be a warrior for God then I need my sword — His Word. If I don’t know how to use it, the enemy will bring me down. I can’t fight for my children and give them what they need if I don’t have it myself. The Word is where wisdom is found.
Becoming MomStrong is a new book by Heidi St John to be released on September 19, 2017. I was given an early release copy to read and found so much inspiration and encouragement from it. In it she offers biblical wisdom and practical advice on how to tackle motherhood — with God’s strength and not your own. You can pre-order it from any of the major retailers or directly from Heidi.