Friday, February 1, 2013

Filtering advice...and make-up choices.

I am pretty sure the packaging on the sample of make-up I received at the store is false. I'm not completely certain, of course, and I hate to accuse them of lying but....well, let's suffice it to say I have worn it for more than a week now and not one person has commented that I look like a divine goddess. And really, if the product worked as it clearly states it does, don't you think someone would have noticed by now??

And yet, I keep applying it. Every. Single. Morning.

As women, we receive a wagon-load of messages every single day: We should look this way; dress like that; cook meals that people will post about on Pinterest; and raise our kids in such a way that each Christmas we have to send a novel of accomplishments rather than a short missive. (And apparently, we should buy make-up that ensures we look like a divine goddess.)


I confess, that before I had children I was cocky. I thought -- really truly believed -- that raising good, Godly children simply required me to do x, y and z. Piece of cake. And if, like my make-up sample, x, y and z didn't seem to be giving the desired results, I would just work harder at it and keep trying until it did work. And if I am completely honest, I didn't even linger over prolonged thoughts that it would not work. I was that confident.

And um, well, I was wrong.

The past couple of weeks a lovely woman has graciously spoken to my Bible Study. Her children are grown and successful with precious families. She speaks with the confidence of one who knows she did a good job. She gave wisdom, and encouragement to a lot of women -- and I took notes.

But almost 16 years into this parenting thing, I also felt a bit discouraged. Please don't misunderstand. I am not doubting her wisdom at all. Nor do I wish to seem ungrateful for her willingness to share. But rather, I know today even the best advice and parenting books have to be processed through the special filter that is my family -- two boys with Cerebral Palsy, two girls without Cerebral Palsy. You know, the things that make us unique, different, a challenge (and I mean that in the best possible way).

God prepared me for that early in my pregnancy when the prenatal books only offered two pages in the last appendix in reference to multiple births. I had no idea what kind of check-list to write; how to prepare; or what my day-to-day as a Mom to triplets would look like. I had to put all the books, all the advice, all the well-meaning words of wisdom aside and wing it. More than once since giving birth to my trio have I flung a high-reaching frantic prayer that went something like this, "Lord, please please help me, I have no idea what I am doing!"

For a few months, I actually thought that once I got the hang of parenting times three, I would be off to the races. But when we added Cerebral Palsy to the mix, I knew my frantic prayers would be necessary for the rest of my life.

Susan was our first Occupational Therapist. She had given birth to her first son the day the triplets were born. She loved my three and was the best "guide-to-special-motherhood" I could have imagined. She would be teaching the boys to reach for the beads she was holding over her head and I would ask what this exercise was for. As she explained how we needed to help them teach their muscles to do tasks that our bodies automatically do, I would cry. And dear Susan, would cry with me. Then she would hand me a Kleenex and we would get to work helping them.

Little Benjamin doing physical therapy...because I don't have digital photos of occupational therapy! :)

Little Mason learning to walk...

One of the early moments when I realized God was in the details!

But even dear wonderful Susan did not have all the answers. She could help and she did prepare me but she could not predict what the future would look like for the little bitty boys who were her patients.

We have made decisions over the last 16 years that required more confidence than even I possessed pre-motherhood. We have chosen to put aside the laborious efforts to use a walker and let Benjamin use a wheelchair. We have elected to do big painful surgeries on both boys to give them the most optimal health down the road. We have pulled them out of public school to homeschool when the education path was affecting their quality of life. We have chosen career direction for Wade based on the best place for the children to live.

And I have to tell you that all along the way, my prayer coupled with "Lord, help me I have no idea what I am doing..." has been "Father God, please stand in the gap. When my ignorance gets in the way, fill the void, stand in the gap between my lack of knowledge and my child's best interest. Please, please. please."

From the tube stations in London....I see this in my mind with every prayer!

And friends, that paragraph right there may be the sum total of my parenting wisdom. Oh, I can talk about consistency in discipline -- but man would my experiences with four completely differently-wired children confuse you to all get-out; or I could talk about positive reinforcement but then I'd have to say that sometimes I forget that and raise my voice. Ugh. I can speak to early bedtimes and the importance of them but then I would have to confess that Cate came along and I threw that out the window. 

See, I am not speaking with the confidence of one who can look back and see the fruits of my labor -- oh, I am still laboring -- but I can look at my children and know we are doing ok. There can be angst. I have THREE 15-year-olds after all, and a 7-year-old who doesn't understand she is NOT 15. But there is far more joy, delight and absolute gratitude that I am the woman that gets to be their Mom.

So, the bottom line is this: We should learn from each other; we should glean wisdom when it is offered and store it for help when needed. We should read the books that encourage us. We should listen to the speakers that inspire us. And we should find the blogs that make us sigh in understanding.

But then, oh, then, my friends, we should take our particular family before the throne. We should humbly ask the ONE who knew the plan for each of our little ones before time began how and why and please! Because, special needs or not, we all come with our own particular filter. Each family has its own needs, issues and personality. And we serve an awesome God who cares about each detail of our home, our kids, our mothering.

And the best blessing? Unlike my promise-to-make-me-glow make-up...God's word is true.

"Your righteousness is righteous forever, and your law is true. With my whole heart I cry; answer me, O Lord! I will keep your statutes." Psalm 119:142, 145 (ESV)


Always a Southern Girl said...

Carol, I love it! You inspire me!


Lauren said...

Amen, Carol. That prayer you prayed - it was my prayer, too. It must be the official prayer of every mother. From a distance, I look over at you and your kids and I think, "Yep, they're doing great. She's gonna be okay. Thank you, Lord, and please help her through this day, too."
Love and hugs, Lauren

Shasta said...

Thank you so much for this. I, too, seem to struggle repeatedly with thinking there is a "right" way to do things. Life in the special needs world is convincing me over and over again that there really truly is no right way ...and it scares the crap out of me. It's nice to hear from someone who's walked through the darkness.

K said...

Your words are beautiful. Thank you for sharing.