My precious daughter wore a pair of hand-me-down Hello Kitty tennis shoes today. She practiced wearing them all night. On and off. With these socks or those socks. Trying to find the combination that hurt the least. And I got teary watching her.
It seems like such a small thing. Tennis shoes. But to my girl with her tactile sensory issues, it’s like she climbed Everest today. She did it.
Just after my daughter started four-year pre-K, I sat, sobbing on the phone with a dear friend. My sweet girl was miserable. Every day. She cried going to school and coming home from school. Clothing was a battle, shoes were a battle, enjoying time on the playground was a battle. With the exception of being at home, quietly reading or playing with me, she lived her life in a constant state of misery.
And I did not understand why.
I knew other four-year olds. They were happy, not-a-care-in-the-world, playful kids. Even the most sensitive among them was generally content. My mommy friends dressed their little girls up in whatever cute outfits they wanted. The kids didn’t care. It was clothing. They climbed and explored and made friends easily. School was exciting. Maybe challenging but mostly just plain fun.
My daughter seemed to be unable to experience fun.
That night on the phone, the house was incredibly quiet. I remember having the TV on but muted. My husband was at school working, exactly where he was almost every night of the week. My baby boy and my preschool daughter were tucked in bed, zonked out for the night. And I called my friend simply because I needed another momma to hear my heart.
But not just any momma.
My friend I called that night had traveled the infertile hallway both alongside me and on her own. We knew the fear of never having a child and the joy of delicious newborn babies. Through each experience, we’d learned we needed each other.
In the hallways, authentic, trustworthy, Godly relationships form. Hard. We carried each other’s burdens there. We prayed and encouraged and celebrated together. They became a treasured tribe.
So as I sat there, crying, I said, out loud, the one thing my heart needed to release.
“Jen, I think God had it right to start with. I should not be a mother. I am not made for this. I’m doing it all wrong, every day, and my miracle daughter is suffering.”
And she did exactly what I needed her to do.
Validate my voice.
She heard me. She understood my feelings came from a place of hurt. She recognized my need for guidance. And, most importantly, she knew I needed Godly wisdom and prayer.
The rest of the details of that conversation are hazy. Lots more tears. More frustrations voiced. A discussion about possible counseling for both me and my daughter. Maybe a therapist could offer some insight. And a promise to pray with me and for me and for my daughter as we sought some answers.
The next day, miraculously, was a wonderful day for my daughter. I fondly remember her being as joyful as I had seen her in months. The day found me raw and ashamed but God knew exactly what I needed.
It was like God reached right down and hugged me.
He whispered that day, You can do this. You were made to be her mother. I chose her. I chose you. Abide in me. And rest.
It was the first moment in a long line of moments God would encourage me in my new identity as a mother. Should it have been the first? No. Did God try to reach me before? Oh, likely. But as He had done in the hallway of infertility, He called me when I had reached the end of myself. The point I knew I was out of strength, answers, striving.
And He covered the margin.
From then on, I decided to figure whatever this was out. That process changed me in ways I was not expecting. In the same way infertility changed me as a Jesus-follower, rocking my entire world view and my faith, this journey of becoming the mother my daughter needed altered my entire identity, not to mention my assumptions and expectations of motherhood and children.
Something about my daughter was different from the other kids. I didn’t know what that something was but I began studying to find out. And it took a while. Some trial and error. Kinda throwing things at the wall to see what stuck. But eventually, with prayer and study and research and God-given friends, my daughter and me, well, we figured it out.
Now, her days are more good than bad. Today, she sets a goal to wear some silly pair of shoes and regardless of how they felt physically, she finds a way to accomplish her task. Which for today was wearing Hello Kitty tennis shoes.
And I cried in her victory.
Have you ever found yourself in that same situation? Staring down the realization of a miraculous, God-ordained gift and finding you have zero clue how to steward it? Wondering if God made a mistake? Maybe He needs a do-over here because I am just ill-equipped?
Can I offer you the same validation my friend offered me?
I hear you. I understand the fear. I feel the anguish and urgency flowing from your heart. You want so much to shepherd God’s gift faithfully and humbly. You want to see whatever it is in yourself God saw that would make Him trust you with this. You need a break and a moment to just cry and be still.
Now, let’s get to work.
1. Find your Burden Bearers.
Say all of it. Every fear, every worry, every hurt. Tell your burden bearers. Out loud. You know exactly who they are. You can trust them with the deepest parts of your heart. Those who will hear your pain and sit with you in it. They will hold your hand and listen and pray with you for guidance and perseverance and strength.
And, almost as importantly, you know who is not a burden bearer in your life. You recognize the friends who will sit around the fire with you and encourage you to run from God with this. To blame Him for giving you this pain. To curse Him and seek a solution in both your own and their wisdom. They read an article this one time and here’s what it says to do. But it’s not. Because they are not giving you Godly advice. They are seeking to eliminate your fears with worldly solutions.
You’ve gone to your burden bearers. You’ve heard their counsel. You’ve allowed them to pray for you and with you.
Make a snack. A good one. Something yummy and filling. There’s no shame here.
3. Chose to seek.
Now, make the absolute conscious decision to Abide in Him. Tell your Father. Invite Him in.
Y’all. We all memorized the verse in Sunday School at five years old. We simply do not do it enough.
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock, and the door with be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. ~ Matthew 7:7-8
Ask, y’all. Seek. Knock. And God will reveal.
It’s not a contingent offer. You don’t have to come to Him with the answers. Or even a single answer. You don’t have to get clean or even wash the tears from your face. God instructs us to just come. Invite Him, ask Him, come to Him with our needs. There’s no other stipulation.
4. Expectantly, faithfully, prayerfully find.
If you ask, it will be given to you.
Will it happen overnight? Maybe. Will God send you a text message with the exact website with your answers? Probably not. But if you seek, you will find.
Ask God for answers. For me, I had to observe my kid. Ask her specific questions. I knocked on the door of her heart, her soul and asked God to open the door for me. I needed to have a better understanding of how He knit her together. And He opened the door.
Even now, I am on alert to learn something new about her.
Be expectant for the answers. You’ve asked, now anticipate an answer. Remove all your own assumptions about what those answers will be and simply, wait. Look for doors opening. Maybe you’ll have six doors open with a single answer behind each one. Or maybe sixty. Only God knows.
Pray and seek. Pray and knock. Pray and open doors.
5. Give yourself grace.
Maybe doors and revelation and answers start arriving like manna from heaven. Immediately.
Or maybe, it will take time.
Hard days will still come. So will good. Sometimes you might think you’ve found an answer but with more prayer and seeking, you find you’ve managed to eliminate a potential solution instead.
This is a hallway. A space between the realization you need answers and opening that door to those answers. It’s absolutely not a place to live. No one makes a permanent campsite in the hallway. But God is there. And He will walk with you each step of the way.
Give yourself grace in this hallway.
6. Repeat as needed.
Talk with your burden bearers. Take a good nap in the middle of the day. Be intentional about your prayer time. Ask, seek and knock. Expect to receive, find and open. Approach your journey with healthy amounts of grace.
Friend, you were created for this. None of this is a surprise to God. He does not need a do-over. Trust in the One who, knowing the entirety of the world over all of history and time, saw a need for you in this world. A need for you right now, in this moment, in this situation, in this hallway.
Learning about my daughter and becoming the mother she needs, it’s a process I will never complete. Never outgrow. Never finish seeking.
She will never stop growing either.
This motherhood gig is a lifetime commitment. Not sure I fully understood the magnitude of that until God gave me a daughter who wasn’t at all what I was expecting.
Because she is better.