Today is my Bethany’s birthday.
We’ve thoroughly enjoyed celebrating her birthday, with a slumber party on Friday night and a “Mother-daughter Dinner Date” tonight at Olive Garden. I think she’s had a great birthday.
She turned 13 today, officially turning the total of teenagers in my household to four. Four teens.
I am so proud of the young men and women that my crew are becoming. As I sit here, Tim and Mark are laughing hysterically about something in the kitchen. Bethany is updating her blog. And Keli is at work at Men’s WearHouse. And I’m taking a few moments to catch my breath and reflect on parenting.
It’s amazing to think that 13 years ago tonight, I cradled a new born in my arms after nearly 24 hours of intense, non-medicated labor. She was perfect, just like her brothers and sisters at home. There is much joy tonight.
There is grief tonight, though, as well. There is grief because even in the midst of the fun, the laughter, the chaos and the business of raising my crew, there is intense loneliness alongside heartache for what my crew is missing, in not having a father to help raise them. This grief weighs heavy on my soul. It does not in any way overshadow the joy I feel in my crew or in the tremendous gift God has given me by allowing me to be their mother. But it does lurk in the corner of my mind, threatening to undo me at times. Threatening to undo me tonight.
God’s design for marriage is perfect. He did not design parenting to be done alone. I miss having someone to help. I miss having someone to hash out parenting issues with. I miss having someone to pick up a gallon of milk when needed. Or pick up a child from school. Or face parent-teacher conferences together. I miss the companionship of being able to discuss the joys and the trials of parenting. I miss having someone to help make the decisions-both the small and the immense.
But, life on this earth is not perfect. It is a fallen world. And thousands upon thousands of parents find themselves facing parenting alone. And I will be honest with you. It is hard. It is exhausting. The needs of my children seem to overcome me. The responsibility as the sole financial provider is daunting.
But I can also tell you that God is faithful. And that God provides the grace needed to parent alone. He truly does. But I have to do my part. I have to spend time with Him. Daily. I have to learn and learn and relearn to rely on Him; to trust Him even when I can not sense His presence overtly.
Ask my children: I fail so often. I forget to sign important papers for school. I miss sign-up deadlines for sports teams. I feed them yet another meal of macaroni and cheese. I don’t listen as attentively as their story from their school day deserves. I don’t take pictures or video-tape their performances. I don’t discipline as consistently as I should.
But, by the grace of God, I love my crew with all my heart and soul. He gives me, unfailingly, what I need to parent each child that He has given me. And each child is different, requiring differences in parenting techniques. Without God, the job would be too much. Without God, I would fail permanently.
Sometimes–oftentimes–I am so weak. Fear of my children’s future weakens me. Fear of making a wrong decision in parenting weakens me. The sheer energy it takes to parent the four of them weakens me. But God strengthens me. For that, I am tremendously grateful. Tremendously so.
John Piper shared a verse today that I had never seen before, and what has prompted my writing of this post. It is found in Daniel 10:19:
19 And he said, “O man greatly loved, fear not, peace be with you; be strong and of good courage.” And as he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, “Let my lord speak, for you have strengthened me.”
And I can honestly say that I can relate to Daniel’s experience here. Because my God speaks to me through scripture, and I am strengthened. He tells me that I am greatly loved. He tells me to fear not. He tells me “peace be with you”. He tells me to be strong and to be of good courage. And my soul responds back “Speak Lord, for you have strengthened me.” He has strengthened me.
Tonight I am celebrating my crew. Tonight I am mourning the loss of my marriage. Tonight I am reminding myself to not neglect time with my God, to allow Him to strengthen me in order that I may continue to face this tremendous responsibility of parenting these amazing four teenagers that He has blessed me with.
Parenting is not for cowards. My courage can only come from the God of my salvation. The same God that strengthened Daniel, will renew my strength tonight as well, to wake up and face another privileged day of parenting tomorrow.