Becoming a Better Parent (when walking singleness and infertility)

When I was a child I used to write books.... more precisely I wrote a great deal of chapter ones.  Inevitably almost every story involved a "mystery someone" (me), 10 children, and 25 animals.  It was my dream.  What I wanted when I grew up (though I never verbalized it as culturally it was not an acceptable dream).  Needless to say I definitely did not expect to end up on the other side of 25 single, infertile, and animal-less.

That first year after THE doctor's visit I could not bring myself to be around babies, children, or families.  I would last about 5 minutes before bolting out and weeping for hours.  Naturally my first job involved me working with babies, children, and families all day every day.  The first 3 months were hard.  My company's Mother's Day Event arrived and I was starting to crack.  I tried to blend into the wall as the children ran around the gym trying to find the perfect flower for their mom.  All of a sudden I see one of my toddlers running towards me.  I kneel down and he presses the flower into me then turns to his mom and says "Sorry mom she needed this!"  I look to his mom mortified that her son just gave me his Mother's Day flower instead of her.  She walks straight towards me and wraps her arms around me in a knowing embrace.  That moment bonded us.  Over the next several weeks we connected in our brokenness.  Me in a future seemingly empty of a family and her in the inability to have any more children.

I then recalled the wise words someone shared with me in college.  She told me that if I wanted to learn how to parent, family, and relationship "normally" then I should spend as much time as possible around families who excelled at those things.  In my attempt to alleviate pain by avoiding children and families I was missing out on valuable learning opportunities.  I may not be in a season of parenting now, but I believe that one day I will be so in the meantime there are things I can do to prepare.

1.  Deal with Brokenness Head-on: Chances are if you are human you have some brokenness to deal with.  In order to be emotional healthy you are going to have to deal with it one day.  Do it now! If you have the opportunity go see a counselor GO (if the first counselor you visit doesn't seem like a good fit try another!).  And of course the Holy Spirit is the best counselor of them all. 

2. Stand with Experts: I heard Jo Saxton speak about discipleship recently and she said "You need to stand at someone's shoulder to learn to navigate the world."  Find people who you want to be like and see if you can spend time with them as they live out the mundane.  I've learned more about parenting washing dishes at someone else's sink then I have anywhere else.  I work with 3 toddlers and every day I find myself (without thinking) saying and doing the things that I have seen modeled by others!

3. Read. Read. Read.  I take time now to read parenting books and blogs because I have seen (see 2) how busy life is with children in the mix (and I like to prepare).  Just today I read this post by one of my favorite blogger's Natasha Metzler.  I love what her family is doing so I filed the post away and maybe one day I will use it's wisdom.  My favorite book right now is Safe House: How Emotional Safety is the Key to Raising Kids Who Live Love and Lead Well.  So much good information!

Now I know that I will never be fully prepared, but I hope that by pursuing growth in this season I will have a stronger foundation on which to build the next season.  And many days it is hard.  And many days I still question why, but I know there is hope and truth in him.

Enlarging My Tent

"Enlarge the place of your tent, and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out; 
do not hold back; lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes."  
Isaiah 54:2

I am entering into a season of enlarging my tent.  And it is s c a r y.  Isaiah 54 was spoken into my heart many years ago.  In my mind I mapped out this elaborate specific plan of what this would look like in my life.  However I am coming to find out that while I can make plans it is God who determines my steps (and the timing!).  This dream is one that I always believed I would walk out with someone else, but for now he is asking me to walk it out alone.  Have I mentioned it is scary?  This week as I sent out the first round of forms I recalled this quote from the movie Field of Dreams:

"If you build it, he will come"

In faith I am hunting for a larger apartment.  In faith I am seeking a new job.  In faith I will stretch out lengthening my cords and strengthening my stakes.

This post was written as part of the Grove over at Velvet Ashes!

The Appendix Epihpany

Community is not my strong suit.  We have a long dysfunctional love hate relationship.  Strangely enough my biggest struggle with community is when I am in America.  It is a lot easier for me to form community when I am living overseas. 

Two years ago I moved back to America for a season and have lived in my current community for a year and a half.  During this time I have made a grand total of zero friends.  I don't know anyone's story and no one knows mine.  Did I mention I am really bad at community?

Sometimes when I am being extremely mature and productive (*note sarcasm*) I argue with the word of God.  The past couple of years it has been about the body of Christ, specifically 1 Corinthians 12:12-31. When I am struggling finding or fitting into community I always shoot back with "Well the body doesn't need the appendix.  It serves no purpose.  It is not needed."  This past Friday night I volunteered for an event at church and just barely made it through without dissolving into a puddle of tears on the floor.  That night and into the next day I gave God my usual argument when he gave me an epiphany.

The body can survive without the appendix. 


The appendix can NOT survive without the body. 

The body of Christ will adjust if I am not there.  It can keep moving, but I will die.  I am not meant to live alone.  No one is.  Even people who do not believe in God know this.  Just look at the recent rise of Sunday Assemblies (church without God).  We need one another.  Whether I like it or not I need other people.  I can keep trying to do it all myself, but eventually I will fail.  For without the body there is no life.

Maybe the issue is less about the body of Christ needing me and more about me needing the body of Christ.

"And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,  not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near."  
Hebrews 10:24-25

1436 Days

I stared at the pages in front of me and with the grandest of intentions I wrote:

1. that the girls call me Lera

It was December of 2011.  The fog of the past 3 months had slowly started to lift, though I wasn't sure my soul would ever recover.  During this time I heard about a blogger, Ann Voskamp, who was encouraging people to write down 1000 things for which they were thankful.  

I thought it would take me a year... 

1,436 days later I wrote: 1000.  1000 gifts

4 years.  4 years of rewriting my soul.  As I get older I am beginning to realize that deep long lasting change often happens with slow consistency. 

"Thanksgiving must be wrought into the life as a habit—before it can become a fixed and permanent quality. An occasional burst of praise, in the midst of years of complaining, is not what is required. Songs on rare, sunshiny days; and no songs when skies are cloudy—will not make a life of gratitude. The heart must learn to sing always. This lesson is learned only when it becomes a habit which nothing can weaken. We must persist in being thankful. When we can see no reason for praise—we must believe in the divine love and goodness, and sing in the darkness."
J.R. Miller, 1912 

This quote by J.R. Miller is on the first page of my journal.  Many days I have struggled to find something to write down.  Each time I am struggling inevitably I flip back to that first page and read this quote over and over allowing the words to seep into my soul.  Discovering that there is power in writing and in reading. 

"We have a natural tendency to remember what we should forget and forget what we should remember."
Mark Batterson

The rewriting of my soul is not over yet.  My heart is still learning to sing.  Each time my pen touches the paper thanksgiving is being etched into my soul.  So what does one do when they have reached 1000 gifts?

1001. ....