My oldest daughter is preparing to go on a mission trip to Mexico this coming spring break. As she is preparing, she is supposed to write out her testimony of God’s work in her life. Through the discussion of God working in her life, she shared with me the time when God shifted from being my God, to being HER God. As we shared both of our sides, we were both astonished at the hand of God at work in our family. Tears streamed down both of our faces as we saw God’s handiwork on our relationship with each other and with him in a way we had not seen before.
After that, I started sharing with some of my mom-friends what came of that difficult situation with our family, and the response was overwhelming that it was so encouraging for moms with preteen daughters and I asked my 13 year old if she was comfortable with sharing on this blog both her side and my side of this testimony of God at work. We discussed the exposure possibilities in that, and she agreed, because she just wants to shine a light on any scale of what God has done for her. So here’s the first side of the testimony.
From the mother’s side:
My daughter is a type-A, list maker. She’s the good kid. She’s the kid you want to be friends and a good influence in your kid.
Our family went through some hard years. Her younger brother, 15 months younger than her, had been a colic-y baby. He was a high maintenance toddler. While she did everything right, prim and proper, reading books, helping others, he was destroying something, was dyslexic, and struggled to even sit still.
Around the time that Silje was 9 years old, our family was in a car accident. The kids were fine, with some minor medical follow ups. I was left with chronic pain. It was an invisible injury. Most people had no idea how much pain I had constantly. I had limited options with pain medicine. I feel like I asked for a lot of help, and I ended up being told by quite a few people that I just wasn’t trying hard enough, wasn’t organized enough, or I just needed to suck it up for my family.
This season of unmanaged, chronic, debilitating pain left some major gaps in our home, and started a cascade of panic attacks for me. At that point, my husband stepped up and almost put a fence around me and guarded me from many obligations and opinions so I had a chance to catch a breath and figure out how to manage this pain. But for those months with little help, and lots of judgment, my little Silje, my oldest child, took a lot on her little shoulders. She took on way more than a child her age should take on. She wanted to help. In all honesty, she was a huge help. She was amazing. She was an old soul.
When my pain started to get managed, 1-2 years after the accident, her younger brother’s health started to spiral. All of a sudden, there were psychologist appointments, pediatrician appointments, dermatology appointments, naturopathic appointments. He had to be put on a special diet that was all brand new to me. I was busy managing him, his doctors, and trying to collaborate efforts. In the mean time, he was a scary person to live with.
When all the diagnosis’s were in, and his health got under control and we started to see drastic improvements to his health, Silje started to falter. She was no longer “the good kid.” She had to share the “good job” compliments from her parents.
She started to be angry all the time. She started to lie, and cover up things that weren’t even worth covering up. She started acting scared, frustrated, and just plain mean.
The first thing I did was attempt to remove a lot of the jobs from her shoulders that should have never been hers. Instead of relief, she felt like it was a slap in the face. Had I not thought she had done well? Am I just saying that she’s a failure?
I read a lot of books. My 2 favorite were Parenting is Heart Work and Age of Opportunity, and I still recommend those 2 frequently. Older mothers advised me to pour lots of conversation with her, and I listened. We talked, and talked and talked. I used many of the techniques in the above mentioned books, and sometimes, it felt like she was really getting better. We’d stay up until midnight many times, just talking about who she is in Christ, and how much she is loved, and how grace also means rest. Rest is not a punishment.
But then the next day, she would be cruel again. Whenever her younger brother started to succeed in something, she would spit words at him that were like turning a knife in his autoimmune-dyslexic-ADHD-sensory processing wound. She hated him at every milestone he passed and would cry if he did a good job.
She was supposed to be the good one. She couldn’t stand him getting better. She knew that wasn’t right, and she would then turn the cruelty inward and beat herself up.
What’s a mother to do? This grew into her just despising all of her younger siblings. She hated sharing a room. She hated sharing me. I responded by giving her even more of my time. We were having these long, 2-4 hour conversations 4-5 times a week after everyone else went to bed. My husband was missing seeing me. I was all-in to reach her heart. We went on dates during the day. I would do things with her on the weekends. We did a little weekend trips together. I spent probably 1/2 my time as a mother with her, and the other 1/2 with my other 4 kids (at that time). I would ask some older women for advice and got “she’s probably jealous that you spend so much time with the younger kids” or “if you sent her to public school, she’ll get over this. She probably just needs space.” I struggled through all these thoughts.
The more time I gave to her, the more she felt entitled to. The more treats or dates I gave to her just upped what she expected to be the norm. She started getting angrier and angrier as I could not keep up, nor could my marriage handle me devoting my life to this one, very angry child.
We started doing a Bible study together. We started memorizing scripture together. We talked about how God wants us to love our neighbor, love our enemy. Every time we talked about loving others, she would get defensive and combative, like she wasn’t going to fall for it. Stand up for herself. That’s what she thought she had to do. Be #1. Somehow get to the top again. We started a journal of writing to each other back and forth of letters and feelings. I hoped that would control the time-sharing issue so I could spend time with my other kids. I tried absolutely everything to reach her heart, and I just couldn’t seem to touch it.
I started praying for her using the prayer system a friend of mine told me about. One morning, I told God in exhaustion in my heart that I can’t seem to be enough for her. I’m finite. I have a finite amount of time. I have many people I’m responsible for, not just her. I’m just not enough to go around.
“You’re not supposed to be enough for her.” Was the thought that came to me when I was praying. “If you were enough to heal your daughter’s heart, than she wouldn’t need me [God]. You’re not enough on purpose. It’s so that she can see that I’m enough.”
I went back to the tools that I learned after lots of counseling and saw that I had some bad boundaries with my daughter. I needed to back up and ask what God, in his Word, required of me to do. I needed to rest in the fact that I had planted the seeds that God had asked me to plant, and it was time to wait, step aside, and let him have his turn. I continued to have conversations with her, but I cut her off at 9pm, and told her to go to bed. I started spending more time with my other kids. I started writing less. I started spending more time with my husband.
I explained to her over and over again that I am not the person to fix her heart: God was. I started clearing her schedule so that she would have time alone in her room to spend with the Lord. Pretty soon, almost every time that she came to me with fire and anger in her eyes I would say, “I can relate to what you are feeling. I feel that way a lot myself. But I’m not the person to talk to about this. This is a problem for God. Go up to your room. Give it to God.”
“But MOM! I don’t feel like praying! I’m mad!!”
“Then tell God you’re mad. Yell at him even. He can take it. I promise you he can take it. He’s not asking for your prim and pretty prayers. He wants your gut-wrenching honest prayers. If you’re ready to get real with God, go pray about it.”
There was one argument in particular, when I opened my big, fat mouth and said probably too much. The conversation haunted me for a long time. I usually apologize quickly when I lose my temper, but I didn’t even know if what I said was right or wrong. I felt so lost. This is my first teenager; I have no idea what I’m doing. I told her I didn’t see any evidence of Jesus working in her life. With tears brimming in her eyes, she said “Do you think I’m not a Christian? Is that what you’re saying?”
I said, “I can’t see your heart, and that’s something that is between you and God. But I’ll tell you what. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and self-control. I haven’t seen that fruit in you in a long time, and whenever we study Scripture together you bristle and feel like you’re being manipulated, rather then fed the good bread of his Word. You take no joy or nourishment from it. Honestly, I’m scared. I’m really scared that you’re not just pushing me away, but you’re pushing God away. It’s like I can visibly see your heart hardening. Run to Jesus, Honey. Run into his arms; you are safe there. You are looking for me to fix your broken heart, but I’m not able to do that, only he can. You can’t get that from me, as much as I love you. You can trust his Word, Honey. You can trust it with your life.”
Then I told her to go to her room to read and pray about it.
I sent her to her room, over and over again over the next several weeks. Not as punishment, but as an opportunity to spend time in prayer and reading her Bible. Sometimes I would have her sit in my chair in my room where I prayed, and I would have her read my prayers for her. That always softened her at least temporarily. Sometimes I would pray with her, or for her, or over her. But taking it to God consistently was the new plan.
Sometimes she would say, “But Mom, aren’t you going to…?”
I would respond: “Well, I’ll tell you what, I’ll pray about it. If God wants me to get involved in that situation of yours, I’ll let you know.” Then I would address her problem in the next day or two. But I wouldn’t address it until she had brought her situation to God first.
Go to God. Give it to God. Talk to God. That problem is for God, not me. It’s too big for me.
This became my mantra. She hated me for it at first. She felt like I was pushing her away.
In a way, I was. I was pushing her to God. I could no longer be her god. I think there comes to a point in every child’s life when they have to transfer bringing everything to their parents, to bringing everything to God. Perhaps it can look more graceful than this, perhaps not.
When Silje started writing out her testimony, she pointed to this time of me pushing her towards God as when she really started seeing God work on her own heart. She remembered that haunting conversation, and how it was like a slap in the face, and at that point, she had no idea what to do other than pray to God about how much it hurt. She said it started slow. She said it was really gradual. But gradually, she started to see her family through the eyes of compassion. Gradually, she learned that she can make a mistake, and she’s still loved. Gradually, she learned to relax, and give grace to others. It was that daily, chipping away, time with God when her view of God wasn’t through my eyes, but through her own.
Mamas, when you feel like you aren’t enough, maybe it’s because you are trying to be too much. Maybe you are trying to play god instead of trusting God. Everything I was doing were “good things.” Good things done in fear can become bad things. Were those the things that God had called me to do? Was I fixing my eyes on Jesus? Well, eventually, I did.
God is enough. He is enough for us. He is enough for our kids. He makes our enough, enough.