I think it is safe to say after my last several posts here, adding Nora to our family has been a challenge beyond what we could have ever imagined on our own. She has stretched me to places I didn't want to be stretched to and, quite frankly, never want to see again. I eluded to some physical chaos my body has been going through over the past year and a half and I'm so, so hopeful we may have the right medications in play now to bring me back to a place of sanity again. In a nutshell, my thyroid was not working as it should and we believe my estrogen was being an overachiever while my progesterone was quietly begging, "Umm...hey, remember me??? I'm the sense of calm you are really, really, really missing right now." The stress of life...the stress of adding in new life to life...can really take its toll on our physical body. I urge you to go have a check-up if you are definitely "not feeling like yourself" because chances are something is going on in there different than your normal. It's probably not JUST that you are not handling the changes well. Okay, off soapbox now and onto today's good stuff...
There are many things I do and think as I parent Nora that makes me second guess if I really was the best mom for this job. I debate if another woman would really be a better mom to her than I am. Yep, I said that. That is the lie Satan likes to stick to me every day and, man, does he know how to reinforce it. Do you know how? Other moms. Other people. Other friends. Other strangers. Basically, anyone who dotes on Nora, tells me how cute she is, how fun she is, how they just can't get enough of her, how sorry and hurt they are that she has had to endure so much in her young life already, and how blessed I must feel to be the one who gets to mother her. Satan uses their completely innocent lines as a constant reminder of what I don't say or don't think in my head. At the end, I feel like a completely unloving and compassionate-less mother. Certainly they would all be a better mom to Nora than I have been or ever will be.
In those moments, I try hard to remind myself that they don't live with her day-in and day-out. That the "Nora" she is in public can be very different than the "Nora" she is at home. That they don't get the tantrums, the questioning, the stubborn attitude, the constant need for attention, the eyes always watching, the constant stream of words, the messy, anxiety-filled every-moment-of-every-day-life I get with her. BUT, you know what? Even those self-reflections/self-pep-talks do not take away the impact of the lie Satan has spoken. I still often feel like a failure as her mother at the end of the day. I don't have all the answers to this, but one answer that stands out today for me is that I still believe the lie because all of my "comebacks" are still about me. They are about everything I deal with from her instead of everything God has equipped me with to give to her. Hmm.
All He has equipped me with to give her...can I be honest with you? In this present moment, that is not much. As I mentioned above, I am a recovering hormonally-unbalanced woman. I am tired. I am worn. I am trying to recover from being frustrated, bitter, angry, sad, and guilty 95% of every month. Sure, I can make meals, do hair, clean the house, and keep a schedule for her, but that's about all I have most days. And that is where Satan loves to play. His lie that "someone else could extend a better mama-love to Nora than I could" get these type of lies slathered on top... "See!?! See, I told you you aren't good at this thing. You can't even extend love to her like you thought you would or even like you want to. You make lunch...seriously? Everyone can make lunch. That is nothing special. That isn't showing Nora love. That's giving her food. Even the orphanage did that. If you really loved her, you would be so overwhelmed with compassion for her that you would hold her and sing over her and rock her and kiss her sweet cheeks and just cry happy tears that God had blessed you with this amazing gift of a girl in your arms after such a long-fought battle to get her home. Her disobedience and selfish actions would not bring out yelling words from you, but instead this heart-felt desire to calmly let her know there is nothing she could do to not make you love her. But you don't do that. Do you really think the things to do for her are expressions of love. Right. Not so much." Those lies on top of the other make me feel like a complete and utter failure as her mom. Lunch just isn't enough. Doing her hair just isn't enough. I am just not enough.
The Truth is, however, the twist in Satan's lie is not that what I am doing isn't enough to be showing Nora my love, but that I can actually love her the way she needs and deserves to be loved. Satan LOVES to keep us in a self-sufficient mode. It's his way of keeping us away from God. The Truth is, I can't. I can not. I can't. I CAN NOT love Nora that well. I will never be able to show Nora the amount of love she needs and deserves. I just don't have that in me and I've been trying for a year and a half to drum it up somehow out of me when it wasn't ever there to begin with. The Truth is, no other woman would have that amount of love in her for Nora either. It's not just my problem. God is the only one who has the ability to love her completely and if I'm not consistently, moment-by-moment giving all of this up to Him to work through, it is just not going to work...with me, or with any other woman out there willing to have her be their daughter. The love she needs will only come when God loves her through an empty me. An empty mom.
Now, hear me out, this is a concept that many have said to me throughout the past year and a half so don't think this was completely new to me. My counselor said it over and over and over, some of my dear friends have said it, I've seen it plastered over other blogs of adoptive mamas, but it was not sinking in yet because I was not at the end of myself. I was not empty enough to let it in. I was still too full of the believe that if God had called me to this, I must be able to do this! Surely He had equipped me to do the task He laid in front of me and stirred in my heart to pursue. No. Sorry, friend. The Truth is, He didn't really. He called me to this, yes, but He didn't think that I could do this all on my own then. He most definitely called me to something beyond what I could handle so that I would eventually empty myself of everything good I thought I brought to the table and realize that ONLY HE is good and sufficient and willing and able. I believe I had to be at a point where I had given my ALL and it just wasn't enough.
I finally had to realize there is honestly not a hope in the world that will make this mothering relationship with Nora work well...not a hope in the world. Only a hope that is not from this world. Only a hope in a God that surpasses anything this world has to offer. This weekend contained a very practical moment when as I sat at a women's retreat very much at the end of myself and I heard God speak to my empty self. I heard it because I finally had room enough for the message being spoken all along to finally find enough room to settle. The message was simple, as God's messages ALWAYS are: "Lift your eyes UP, Angie. Accept my help."
***This, friends, is where I'm going to break the rules of blogging as I normally do. Blog posts are supposed to be short and sweet and contained into the length of time you will actually sit down and read this. I'm pretty sure I've already went past that mark. I just can't work within those silly blogging rules. I'm a wordy girl. I've owned that at this point in life. So, if I was a true blogger, this is where I would end the "Part 1" of this post and then continue with "Part 2" tomorrow...or a week from now, but instead I will just continue. I have been known to say I am a "rule follower". My husband looked at me once and said the truth..."You are a rule follower until it's a rule you want to break and then you break it." Ha! He's right on. Seriously. So...with that, I continue on in my too-wordy-for-a-blog-post post. If you simply HAVE to take a break to pee or get more coffee or attend to your children or what have you, please promise to come back to this moment. The Goodstuff is about to be had...
I'm a practical person. Reality based. Have question, need answer. This gets me in trouble when it comes to God because He's not always practical. However, I believe He knows me intimately because, quite frankly, He made me, so He knows I need practicality when it comes to me actually understanding what He is asking of me. This time is no different. After recognizing that it truly will be the "less of me/more of Him" approach that will give Nora the love she needs, I needed to know how that looks for everyday living. I was still stumped (never said I was a fast learner). I began asking God questions like this: "So, you want me to step out of the way and love Nora with Your love, but how do I do that? In moments when I feel my human Angie-nature rising and I want to scream, how do I hold that back or dissipate it and do what You would do instead? How do I hear the Holy Spirit speaking to me at home, in my sweatpants, with two kids who are constantly begging for my attention?" For a while now, I have had no answers. I've continued to ask though faithfully believing that one of these days He would reveal something. This weekend I got my first practical answer to that question.
I mentioned above that one of the things Nora does all.day.long (seriously, every second I'm in her presence) is that she watches me...like a hawk. She has a specific stare in her basket of looks that I know all too well. It's a look reserved just for me. It's this stare that says many things all at once. "Are you watching me, Mom? Am I doing something you will like? Are you going to be happy I'm doing this? Or should I not be doing this? Are you mad I'm doing this? Are you going to tell me to stop doing this? Can I keep doing this or should I stop? If it is making you happy do I want to keep doing it? If it is making you mad do I want to keep doing it? What are you thinking, Mom? What should I do or not do, Mom?" ANXIETY!!!!!! She is filled with it, friends. My counselor once told me that everything (yes, everything means everything) Nora does, she does out of a background of attention or anxiety issues. Very true. Even her looks come from these two places. So, this anxiety-filled look comes at me all day long with everything she is doing. It's exhausting to see because that look means that I am on constant watch. Her constant look of anxiety towards me has literally filled me with anxiety in return so I often haven't responded well to it. Instead of reassuring her, I have often created more anxiety. Remember...hormonally unbalanced, relying full-of-herself Mom is what was responding. Not a great combo.
Micah (bless him) has told me I just need to stop watching her. That my constant stare back has just caused more anxiety than less. It's true. I watch her back like a hawk. I'm constantly monitoring her every move, every decision, every everything. It's just as exhausting as it sounds. I allow myself to do this because I think she needs to be taught what is okay and what is not okay. What will be beneficial to her and what could hurt her. I'm just being a mom, right?!? Wrong. I'm being a tyrant. I'm being untrusting. I'm being her god and that's not my role. Quite honestly, I suck at it. If, instead, I would chose to work out of my empty self in those constant moments throughout the day when I'm being looked to for direction and show her that I am going to allow God to reveal to her what she should or shouldn't be doing, then and only then am I truly being the mama I can be.
In order for me to do this, I needed the practical tool in my belt. He spoke that tool to me in the form of a worship song at the very end of my retreat. The song depicts the words of Psalm 121...
"I lift up my eyes to the mountains--where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip--he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD watches over you--
the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all harm--
he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming
and going both now and forevermore."
I will lift my eyes up. Literally. So simple. Why do we make things so complicated??? Another blog perhaps. In those moments when Nora's specific, anxiety-full look comes my way, instead of shooting a look back to her, I heard God ask me to literally LOOK UP instead. Take my gaze away from Nora and onto
So, it has only been a day since I have had this "lightbulb moment" with the Lord and I can already testify to several moments where I have gazed up instead of back at her. It has been great! Yes, it feels a bit weird. Yes, I wonder what she is doing as I stare at the ceiling for a few moments. Yes, I find myself saying a bit of a prayer while I do it like "Okay, God, I'm looking up. I'm choosing You. When I bring my look back down, please help me reflect You better to her if she is still staring at me and if she is not staring at me, help me trust that You were with her in that moment and gave her confidence instead of anxiety." Yes, so far in its limited trial run, this is working...for both of us. I even find myself being able to look at her with less anxiety and more loving acceptance of where she is at and who she is being because I am actively taking moments captive to doing the will of God instead of relying on myself to figure it out. It is refreshing for sure!
I understand, to some, this may seem like a cop-out maneuver to not parent her well, but for others in my shoes, you will understand the importance of this step and this way of thinking. Believing that God can and WILL parent her well when I choose to step back and NOT use my own best efforts that are miserably failing anyway. By doing such practical applications of Scripture, God will start to regain ground Satan has stolen from Nora AND from me. It's exciting me to no end to have a way of bringing my God into my daily life in such a beautifully simple way. As Psalm 121 states, He will watch over our lives both now and forevermore. He will. His eyes will watch. I don't have to. I don't have to for Nora. He will. So, I will continue to trust Him at his Word. I will lift my eyes up (literally) and accept His help (because I NEED it).
I hope, wherever you are in life today, you will see the places where perhaps you also need to lift your eyes up for your help because relying on yourself just isn't cutting it. Trust Him, friends, to give you the help you need when you choose to empty yourselves and look to Him for fulfillment instead.
Oh, and after coming home from my retreat and telling Micah the words the Lord gave me, he smiled and said he sang that song to Nora while rocking her for her nap that day. Of course he did. That's how detailed God is.