Thursday, January 22, 2015

Go. Be a Peacock Lil. Part 2

I could not have known how this sweet baby would completely change my view on my mothering.  People always tell you never to compare your children but for this young mother of two very easy boys, it was hard not to.

They were both excellent sleepers.  She was not.  They both were content to stay in bed in the morning and look at books until I was ready to go in to them. She was not.  They were both fantastic eaters.  She was not.  They were both snugglers.  She was not.  They were both Mama's boys. She was not.  They were very needy.  She was not.  And the differences only seemed to intensify as she grew.

For the first three years, she rocked my world.  Everything I knew with my boys, she did the opposite.  Everything that worked so well with the boys, did not work with her.  Things my boys got in trouble for, they only got in trouble for it once.  Things my Lillie got in trouble for, she got in trouble for it again and again and again.

 And again.

Truth be told. I had gotten prideful.  I figured the obedience in my boys was a direct reflection of my great parenting.  Before our salvation in Christ, I had also struggled with Logan.  He did not listen at all.  Some of it was his age, but I was going down the road of reasoning.  With an 18 month old.  I often left friends' houses in tears because I found myself reasoning with him to help his friends clean up or to get his shoes on.  Or to leave.  I was reading a book called, Positive Discipline.  The premise was to tell the child only things they COULD do and never to say NO.  The little sinner in him loved that I felt very out of control and that only gave him more.  Once we were saved and I began to grow in God's way of raising children and after many older women coming alongside, we began to teach and train Logan God's Way.  Amazing.  It was the first time I had stepped out in obedience to God's Word and I watched the blessings flow.  Once Cole came along, we had it down pat and both boys responded so well to God's Way of teaching and training.  Two very sweet and obedient boys in tow, I had begun to think it was me.  How great my parenting was and I had forgotten to give God the glory for the wisdom.  I often joke, that's when He decided I was to have a Lillie.

We moved away from our church in Beaufort shortly after her first birthday.  And it was shortly after that, that her little personality truly began to bloom.  She was a runner.  A runner away~er.  From me.  She never knew a stranger and would go to anyone who had a heartbeat.  We half-joked that we would one day find her picture on a milk carton.  I just remember always looking for her.  I looked for her at home, at church, in stores, in the park.  Always looking.  Always asking her brothers, "Where's Lillie??"  We'd always find her.  Usually with a person and very content.  She also loved to be alone.  By herself.  She could entertain herself for hours.  Our "I love you"s were followed by, "OK" or "I know."  She seemed to be in another world even when she looked at you.  And eventually that "world" was dubbed, Lillie Land, and I didn't like it.  She didn't eat well.  She didn't stay at the table for meals.  She always stood on her chair and had to be reminded to sit.  She always took things that didn't belong to her.  She pestered the boys.  She was always in the ER.  We made trips for busted lips, busted chins, and more busted lips.  Walking into the ER one night, the check in nurse saw her and said, "Lillie!  Good to see you again.  How old are you now?"  To which Lillie proudly replied with dried blood all over her Ariel Wedding dress up dress and her fancy click-clicks, "Free!"  The nurse laughed and said, "Wow.  You made it to 3."  She never slept past 6am and she rarely took a nap longer than 45 minutes.  She ran around the room at ballet when all of the other dainties were clinging quietly to their mothers' hands.  She wouldn't let me fix her hair and rarely did she let me pick out her clothes.  She always seemed to be a mess and I just couldn't let it go.  When she pushed, I pushed back.  She came into a room and left a room the same way…with a wake behind her.  She always seemed to be in trouble for something and she always seemed to be "meeting me in the bathroom."  {Code for a spanking}  Where the boys were very remorseful for what they were being disciplined for, Lillie just seemed stone cold.  Where the boys obediently submitted to receive their punishment, she ran around the bathroom crying and clinging to her bottom.  Where the boys needed hugs and reassuring afterwards, Lillie just wanted down.  Everyday felt more and more like a battle and everyday I lost a little more joy in my mothering and in this girl I had prayed for.  I was embarrassed and didn't know where to turn.  To admit that I was at a loss to any of the new mothers in our new city was not an option.  Instead of drawing near to the One Who made her, I chose to go at it alone.

God never let ME go though.  I knew what He said and I knew she needed to come under our authority.  I knew her struggle with her Dad and I at a young age would only lead to even more difficult struggles at an older age.  I plowed ahead.  Doing the things I had done with the boys and continuing to struggle with this daughter I had prayed so diligently for.  I knew that He had answered a prayer, that He had a plan for her and I thought all I had to do was fit her into my mold and image of what she should look like and it would all work out.  I used words like quiet, gentle, and little lady.  I forced her to do hair, to wear matching clothes, to stay in her bed in the mornings, to hold my hand while we walked, and to be still.  I would force her to be the daughter I thought she should be.  A chicken.

By God's Grace, we received orders back to Beaufort, SC and back to the church where we had first heard the Gospel, had first seen how great marriages could be, and had first been taught God's Word.  These women knew how to raise babies and they loved it.  They found joy.  Just being back with them and under their teaching, encouragement and love, gave me a renewed resolve to press on with teaching and training Lillie.  By this time, our fourth child had come along and she was everything I thought that Lillie was going to be.  She was an easy baby, very loving, very needy, and such a joy.  So Lillie still baffled me.  She still pushed my buttons and she still caused me such great frustration.  One particular hard spell with Lillie, I was listening to Mothering From the Heart on the radio.  Our pastor's wife was doing her weekly question and answer show and I broke.  I wanted to know. I needed direction.  I wanted someone to know.  I needed help.  Practical help.  I called.  I still remember how nervous I was to ask my question live, so I dictated it to the person on the phone, hung up, and waited for her to answer.  Because I didn't give too much information, her answer was pretty vague and a million, "But what if….?"went through my mind.  I had to talk to her in person.  I don't remember how I actually got that time alone with her, probably cornered her after church one day, somewhere, but I got that time.  I was able to ask her my "What ifs…?" and she listened.  She asked questions, she listened some more, she probed my heart, she gave me practical tips and options I had not tried and she encouraged.  There were tears in my eyes as we talked because of the conviction in my heart.  The draining conviction of three years of carrying a burden for a little girl who I was trying to change.  She gave me such practical advice that day but what stands out in my mind and in my heart more than anything were the words, "First, you need to be on your knees for this little girl.  This little girl that God created.  He can give you wisdom to raise her; He created her.  He created her this way and you need to first be praying that you do not change her…." I don't remember much else after that.

My heart wept.

Pray you do not change her. 

God made her this way.

It was like I had been kicked in the gut and hugged all in the same moment.  I had been trying to change her.  I had been trying to fit her little square personality into a round hole. I was not embracing her joy for life.  I was not noticing her creative mind.  I was missing moments to dance.  I was stomping out her little spark.   I had been trying to "fix" all of the things that I didn't understand.  I had been trying to make her not Lillie Grace instead of trying to understand a Lillie Grace.  The words, "God made her this way," broke through my hard and prideful heart.  He was the One Who had answered the very prayer for her and yet, I did not go to Him for the wisdom once she came.  He was the One Who knew her every thought, her rising up and her sitting down and was intimately acquainted with all her ways, and yet, I never went to Him for wisdom.  I never sought His help.

From that moment of clarity, I never looked at my Lillie Grace the same. I knew she needed to be taught and trained to come under our authority so eventually she would see her need to come under God's supreme authority and her need for a Savior, but now, I would seek to know her and how that teaching and training looked for her.  I saw and embraced her joy.  I treasured her sweet spirit.  She's made it to 11.  I would love to tell the ER nurse from so long ago, "…and in style!"  I am in awe of how she sees life.  She has learned to become more loving and tell her family she loves them.  She gives hugs more than ever.  I am more deliberate in my words with her and I know now to step back sometimes and let her go.  She smiles with a joy that fills my heart.  She dances like no one else is looking.  She makes us laugh and she makes herself happy.  She can be totally content to be alone in a crowd and we lovingly admire her time in Lillie Land.  With age, she has gained that self control of the Holy Spirit and in time He has shown me ways to let her go or reel her in.  Teaching, training, raising, and loving her still feels sometimes as if I am putting together a 1000 piece puzzle without having the box top to look at.  But I know the One Who holds her box top.  I will look to Him in my mothering of a Lillie Grace. He has been very faithful in my mothering of a Lillie Grace.  Sometimes she is the very person I wish I could be.  She is not a chicken.  She never has been.  And I'm sorry Lillie Belle.  So sorry for missing that.  Go.  Be a peacock Lil.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Go. Be a Peacock Lil. Part 1

Secret Keepers tell a story on their tour this year….

There once was a beautiful, colorful peacock who thought she was a chicken who happened to live with a brood of plain chickens behind a chain fence. Although the only one in the brood who was a peacock, she didn't see herself as any different and everyday she spent trying to act like the other chickens.

Day after day she would try her best to act more and more like a chicken.  The more and more she tried to act like a chicken the more she didn't fit in.  The more she didn't fit in the more she tried to act like the plain chickens around her.  She had a very miserable life trying to fit in to a group she was never intended to fit in with.

One day a beautiful bird in the distance flew gracefully down and began to slowly walk around.  As this bird walked, its tail feathers began to spread into the most beautiful, colorful fan of color.  The peacock was mesmerized by this beautiful bird.  She watched it for hours and couldn't take her eyes off of it.  As she watched this magnificent creature, she pulled away from the plain brood of chickens behind her.  Eventually, it was her alone by the fence.

"You know you are a just like that bird right?"

"What do you mean?" asked the peacock who thought she was a chicken.  As she looked to her side, it was the oldest chicken in the brood that had sidled up beside her and was looking in the distance too at this amazing creature.

"That's a peacock.  My dear.  You are a peacock."

"I. Am.??" The thought baffled the peacock who thought she was a chicken and she had to know more.

"You are just as beautiful.  You are just as unique.  No one has ever told you to go.  Go. Be a peacock."

"But this fence…?"  The thought of joining up with that amazing bird was unfathomable.

"You can fly.  You are a peacock. For all this time you have been trying to be something you are not.  You are not like the others.  You are not a chicken.  You are a peacock.  Go. Be a Peacock."

With a deep breath and a quick pause, the peacock spread her beautiful wings, flew over the fence and gracefully landed a few feet from the other peacock.  As she landed the beautiful bird in front of her, slowly and steadily spread the most beautiful tail feathers she had ever seen.  Something inside of her began to tingle and before the peacock knew it, she had a fan of feathers surrounding her body that she had never seen before.  She was a peacock.  She was not a chicken.  She would spend the rest of her life being the peacock God had created her to be.

September 2004

Every run began the same way.  I would begin my run clearing my head and turning my thoughts to God.  I would pray.  I would thank God for Who He was, what He was doing, and what He had done. I had been a Christian for about 4 years and I was growing.  God was blessing us with our third child and I was due in January.  Everyday I had started praying specifically for a little girl.  Although I couldn't imagine having a girl, I knew that was a desire of my heart; to have a baby daughter.

I had very much enjoyed my times as a boy mommy to the two that God had blessed us with, but the what if….always stayed with me.  What if we had a girl?  What if the baby inside was a girl?  The more I prayed the stronger my desire became and at times it felt wrong.  I had come to want a girl more than anything I could think of.  I kept praying that God would give me a little girl.  I knew Hannah had prayed specifically for a boy, so I was sure my specific prayer for a girl was not wrong, but I couldn't shake the guilt my request was becoming somewhat of an idol.

One day standing in line to check out at Walmart with my two sweet boys, There was a teenage girl and a mother in front of me having a very heated discussion.  Not wanting to eavesdrop I kept my boys engaged in conversations about things around us and in our buggy.  Lots of eye rolling and a few, "Watch your mouth"s, I knew things were not good.

"I'm going to wait in the car.  You can do this by yourself!" and with that the teenage girl stomped away.  Very disrespectfully.  The mother caught my eye and with a look of apology, she just timidly shrugged her shoulders and began unloading the overloaded cart by herself.  Big tears began to spill down her cheeks.  Slowly, I walked over and began to help her unload.

"Do you know what you are having?"  she asked as if to smooth over the awkwardness.

"I don't.  We already have two boys, so I guess in a way I am assuming a third boy."

"You can only hope.  Whatever you do, pray you don't have a girl like mine."  And with that the clerk told her the amount, she paid, and was walking out before her comment had time to sink in.  That was it.  That's what my prayer had been missing.  The peace I felt from that moment was like a direct encouragement from God.

The next morning on my run, not much changed, except my heart for this growing baby inside of me and my prayer.

"Dear God.  You know my desire is to have a baby girl.  I pray for a little baby girl but only if she would grow to honor and love you all the days of her life.  I pray for a little baby girl who loves You.  If that is Your will, I will teach her to love and serve you.  If not, then I will thank you forever for the sweet boy you bless me with.  Amen"

The amazing thing was the peace I felt.  I was suddenly ok with whatever God choose to bless our family with.  I knew He knew better.  He would only give me a daughter if she did not have a rebellious heart and He would give me a boy if He knew that is what we needed.  The gender would be perfect for our family and I was full of the peace I had been wanting.

In October, we went for our 6 month ultrasound and we were excited to find out what the gender would be.  In my heart, I believed it would be a boy.  I just knew from the peace and change of heart over the past month.  That strong desire for a girl only at any cost was gone so my heart was content with the thought of a third boy.  I truly believed God had taken away the desire for a girl, because only He could know.

As the tech pushed the sensor over my belly, he said, "Do you want to know?"

Immediately Patrick asked if he could guess.  After looking at the screen, he went behind my head and said, "I will hold up one for a boy and two for a girl."  Instantly, the tech looked up at his fingers and said, "Nope."  My heart smiled although I had a thought of loss for just a moment.  You see, Patrick had said the entire time that we were having a girl so I assumed he had held up two fingers.  As the tech and Patrick looked intently at the screen, I had a moment to myself.  I remember saying a quick prayer, "Thank you God for this baby.  Thank you that you will give me a child who will honor you, not one who will have a rebellious heart."  And with that I was ready to welcome baby boy #3 to our family.

The tech called the head ultrasound tech in to confirm what he had seen and his comment was, "That's girl country right there!"

What.  What??  What?!?  Big tears of joy rolled down my face as I sat up to see the evidence of the desire of my heart that God had given me.  I was in shock.  He knew my heart.  He knew my desire had been a child I could raise for His glory.  He gave me a daughter.  A baby girl.

Thoughts of a shy, quiet girl sitting still beside me with a beautiful pink dress and her hand in mine came to mind.  But this is not what God's thoughts were.  That was not the girl He had created for me.  He created a Lillie.  And she would rock my world.

to be continued…..