Sheltered Children

Sheltered Children

After birth, leaving the hospital with my first was extremely nerve wracking. I recall looking into the nurse’s eyes as she went over discharge papers with us and feeling a sudden wave of fear and anxiety.

Is she really letting this baby come home with us?

The reality of bringing home a straight-out-of-the-womb newborn began to sink in, and I secretly hoped she could read my mind to hear what I could not bring myself to say.

We are NOT qualified. We don’t know what we’re doing. Can we just stay here where it’s safe?

Bringing the nurse home with us was not an option either, so we were immediately thrown into the deep end of this thing called parenting. That first month was grueling of course, and I felt discouraged thinking this was just the beginning. Then I started hearing crazy things like parenting only gets harder. With a smile, seasoned parents would assure me that the easy part was now.

Well that’s a cruel thing to say to a puffy eyed, sleep deprived, hormonally imbalanced new mom, I thought. But six years later, I now realize that what they were saying was true.

Today, I have three children, and while the oldest is now already six, I still sometimes find myself feeling just as unsure as the day we first brought him home. I sometimes wish he could still be in my womb where he was safe and warm or even be that newborn I held all those sleepless nights. He is growing faster than I can keep up with and there are always more questions than I have answers.

And what if the ways I am parenting my children and the decisions I am making are not actually good for them?

When I was a little girl, I almost killed my pets so many times, all with good intentions. Like my fish that almost died in just a few days when I tried to clean its tank out. Without the slightest clue as to what I was doing, I very carefully grabbed the fish with my slippery, tight fists and then ever so gently placed it down on the dry, fuzzy carpet beside me. I thought surely it would be safe on the nice soft ground.

And so, there it flipped and flopped through all the lint and dust while I spent the next half hour or so diligently scrubbing its tank. In my mind, I was hoping to do something good for the fish, but by the time I was done and finally looked down, I found it half dead.

A little extreme I know, but this is one of my fears. That even when doing my best, I inadvertently harm my children or scar them in some way without knowing it. That even in my best efforts and greatest intentions, I would somehow mess them up and one day they will walk away from me hurt, bitter, and/or disappointed.

This past year, this has been on my mind constantly as our family has been trying to make some big decisions. For example, the question of whether to homeschool our children or not has been a hot topic. I know the idea of homeschooling raises a lot of eyebrows, but I personally love the idea for many reasons. Even still, is that the right path for our family or am I just afraid, and will our kids be too “sheltered”?

Then on the flip side, I also wonder if I’m not sheltering my children enough because this was also one of our main concerns while contemplating orphan care and having other kids stay at our home. How will our own children fare? Will they grow to hate us for allowing a stranger into our home? Will they feel jipped of the time and energy and love they would have to share? Will they see and learn too much at too young a age?

Within just the first hosting alone, we already had to talk to our two-, four-, and six-year-olds about messy divorces, scary jails, bloody suicides, and broken families that sometimes fall apart. I remember the terror in my kids’ eyes as he described the details of some of the horrific things he went through. It shocked us all, but this was the reality that the little boy in our home dealt with and shared with us on a regular basis. We also saw the product of such trauma in the form of physical aggression, angry outbursts, and emotional instability starting from the second or third night when he lashed out at me with teeth, spit, and nails.

All this and more our kids were exposed to, and I could see their minds and their eyes widen in seeing this other world they never knew existed before. My motherly instincts of course kicked in many times, and I wanted to quickly assure them that such things would never happen to them. Nope, not in our family. I wanted to tell them that they were safe and we would be fine. There was nothing to worry about.

I could never really come to say those words, however.

No, as my children’s worlds collided with that of this little boy’s, we were all stripped of any false, flowery, fluffy illusions of safety. This was the reality of not just this kid’s life, but of life, period, in a fallen world. I could no longer fall back on empty promises of a life free of pain or suffering or even that mommies and daddies would always be there for them and protect them. That would all be a lie.

Yet what the beautiful part about these intense and raw interactions was the amazing truth that still remained. Whenever these moments occurred and we really had nothing left to say or do, we held each other close and huddled together in prayer.

We prayed to the only one who is pure, and good, and righteous, and just, and sovereign–Jesus Christ–and we thank God we had access to Him in every single moment of need. As a parent, I have never felt more vulnerable than in these times where I could not promise my children good in their life, but I also felt all the freedom in the world to know and to be able to tell them that the Lord God who has overcome this world is for us and with us.

And again, I saw their eyes light up and twinkle and mature as they witnessed our prayers being answered. They saw for themselves not only the darkness in this boy’s life, but they saw his life being transformed in Christ. They experienced God’s faithfulness in the midst of tragedy and they clearly saw that although mommies and daddies are not perfect and do not have all the answers, healing, provision, restoration, and the like, all come from God.

We prayed and He answered.

Now I see a greater confidence in my children than I’ve seen before. Little by little, their faith is growing, and I realize more and more this is my greatest job. Not to try to protect them myself from the elements of this life, but to simply lead them straight through all the clouds and rain to the God who is the only true shelter from the storm. This is the way I want my children sheltered…in His grace.

We still don’t have all the answers like if homeschooling will be in the cards for us or what our next placement will be like. But together, we are learning to trust God in all things.

When we ask our children now if they would like to have another kid come into our home, they immediately jump up and scream yes! They are excited, and so am I, to be on this adventure and journey of faith together.

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Waiting For Birth 

Waiting For Birth 

This past weekend, I attended another birth as a doula, and once again, it was nothing short of the most amazing experience of my life. I always knew I loved being at births, but I now finally realized a little better why.

When I arrived at the hospital on Friday evening to join the laboring, soon-to-be mommy and her husband, it was already around 9pm, an hour before my bedtime. I warmly greeted them both, then rubbing away any sleepiness that may tempt me, I quietly began unpacking my bags in the corner of the room. I got out my massage oil, a warm compress, and some other comfort tools that have come to be my go-to items.

Then gently, I knelt beside mom, who was closing her eyes and slowly rocking back and forth while breathing deeply through her contractions in the dimly lit room. The only thing that could be heard was the soft music playing from her bedside and her soft, rhythmic moans and groans. On the outside, she looked like she was in perfect peace, but I knew this took great effort to remain calm through the intense waves taking over her body.

As the contractions grew in intensity and strength, the clock on the wall tick-tocked faithfully with us through the night. I massaged soothing oils into her body from head to toe, I spooned ice chips into her dry mouth, I gave her sweet honey for nourishment, and I gently wiped away drips of sweat with a cool wash cloth across her brow. Anytime she needed to change position, I was there to offer my hands, my arms, my body to support her. Sometimes I sang softly to her, and all throughout, I was praying for her. I gave her my all.

It is no wonder the word ‘doula’ comes from the Greek word meaning female servant. Together, we labored hard and after hours of tremendous work, we saw the sun come up together. Then we labored some more.

It wasn’t until noon the next day when the sun was high up in the sky and blazing warm and bright for its first day of autumn that it suddenly became time to push. Although no one could say when exactly this time would come, just like that, it was time.

By this point, I felt just as invested in this birth as the mother, and I, too, had great anticipation to see this baby. I had also been in her shoes three times before with my own births, and I could just imagine what she was feeling.

Suddenly, the time had come to see and behold the birth, the baby she had been waiting and hoping for all this time.

You see, when this mother found out she was pregnant nine months before this moment, she was thrilled. She took multiple pregnancy tests–maybe 3 or 4 or 10–just to be sure. And even though they all said positive, there was still some level of doubt.

Could it really be true?

But then she saw her belly growing, and she couldn’t believe it! The first visible sign of her baby. She knew she would probably be getting stretch marks soon, but that didn’t even matter because she was going to have a baby. Then other signs came popping up. She felt strange things like cravings, nausea, hormonal imbalances, and little kicks to her rib cage.

Soon, her whole life began to revolve around this child she had not yet met, but only knew from all these signs of life within her.

There was no doubt, really. Of course this baby was real, and one day soon, the baby would be here, outside, and in her arms.

Yet as much as she thought she now knew and believed that this baby was there and coming, it was still only in part. She could not possibly fathom what it would really feel like to finally SEE and know and behold this baby in the flesh.

That is, until this very moment–the moment of truth.

She was now in position, and holding breath after breath, she began to push with all her might. And for awhile, nothing seemed to have changed much. Baby was still inside, and all you could see was still the great effort on the mother’s part.

But then suddenly, it happened. The once unthinkable, the once unbelievable, the thing once merely an object of hope… began to appear.

Baby.

We saw a glimpse of her hair, and it was all we needed to explode. That is when everyone in the room came alive. Whether moments ago weary or ever in doubt, we were all now jolted into amazement and belief. And though mom had hardly anything left within her, this glimpse was all she needed to gather herself the strength to push once more through the sweat now mixed with tears. 

And before we all knew it, this baby, a REAL. LIFE. BABY… came out and was ACTUALLY in the room with us.  

BABY

This baby whom we saw and knew only in part through the listening of heartbeats, the sonograms, and all the other signs was finally now fully before us. And more than anything imaginable, this baby was absolutely beautiful, bursting with life, and perfect! Better than perfect, in fact. 

There is nothing like a newborn baby taking its first breath of air, letting out its first unique and sweet cry into the universe, and beginning the first few seconds of its new life. You feel like the world and the heavens actually pause for a moment along with everyone else in the room to simply marvel at the sight. 

Then I had a thought. This is how our Savior also came into this world! But how much more anticipation and fulfillment came with the sight of His birth? I can only imagine the thrill of Mary, Joseph, the wise men, and the shepherd after they finally saw the boy Jesus who was promised to them.

And now we only have to wait for His return.

And in the same way, this is how I imagine waiting for Jesus’ second coming along with the manifestation of the fullness of heaven on earth.

We see some of it now. We may even feel like we see a lot of it now. We see great signs of Jesus all around us, and we KNOW and BELIEVE both Him and His words are real.

But it is all still largely only in part.

Only when He returns will we understand, and see, and know Him in full, and how glorious will that day be!

Even now, He is sooooo good to us, and we think we know Him pretty good already. Can you imagine the FULLNESS? Face to face, no more tears, no more pain, but only pure and unadulterated love and glory in His magnificent and beautiful and perfect presence.

For those who have been seeing evidences of Jesus now. For those who have been waiting, rocking back and forth on your knees in prayer, groaning with longing for the time to come and for this pain stricken world to pass. Jesus is coming again. The promise will be birthed. And it is going to be nothing short of THE MOST AMAZING MOMENT IN ALL OF CREATION.

I can’t wait to be thrust into that completeness of joy in knowing, breathing, beholding the FULLNESS of Jesus and heaven.

For those who wonder how or why I can love being a doula, now you know. And for this reason, I always leave births a bit spent but as wide-eyed and in awe as ever. I love being a doula and waiting on a birth.

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

Romans 8:22-25