As a little girl, I knew early that I wanted to grow up and be a wife and mother. Truth be told, I would have been content to just grow up and be a mother. I loved kids. Seventh grade found me attending church for three services: the first service was the worship service where I sang in the youth choir; the second service I attended Sunday School; and the third service, I served in the infant nursery every week until I graduated from high school. That volunteer project opened wide my young career: babysitting for fifty cents an hour. My first pair of contacts cost me 400 hours of babysitting. But I was good!
I loved the Lord and He had given me a love for kids. College was the means to hone my skills and to find my “prince-charming.” Fairy tales are just that – fairy tales. And the young dreamer had lots of growing up to do. Marriage came later and children came much later. In the meantime, teaching school and Sunday School temporarily filled the longing of my heart – to be a mother.
Young women grow up and soon discover that life is so much more exciting than fairy tales. Summer 1990 is marked as the season of first pregnancy. I could not believe a pink test or even a doctor’s confirmation; I needed the evidence of a heartbeat, a bulging belly, baby calisthenics, a black-and-white ultrasound picture.
Like Mary, an expectant mother ponders many things in her heart. If she listens closely, she will begin to “read” the personality of her unborn child.
My precious, longed-for, unborn child was extremely busy and demanded attention. She ran, hiccuped, punched, and prodded unceasingly. Sleep did not seem to be part of her lifestyle. At twenty-seven weeks, she demanded to “get the show on the road.” She tried for five weeks to be born. This precious infant was coddled and cajoled to relax and remain calm and wait. If I had just read the early signs, I would have known that Sarah, even before she was born, had places to go, people to see, and things to do.
Her stage entrance in the wee hours of January 1, 1991, were fast, hard, and furious. Labor lasted all of fifteen minutes and I met and knew my gift from heaven – a squealing, need I say demanding, six pound bundle of energy.
Toddling Sarah was tagged precocious, a PC word that means full of determination, passion, and strong-will. Scripture admonished me to “train up this child in the way she should go, and when she is old she will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). Adventure, fun, and discipline were extremely important in our home.
Days were full of new meaning as I learned to see the world through the eyes of a child. God opened my eyes to better understand His love for His children. A child needed me for unfailing love, protection, security, truth, meaning, discipline, so I sought to better understand the Father heart of God. By the time Sarah was two years old, I was pregnant again.
I began second pregnancy with confidence and experience. I had this “mother thing” down. To make room in my heart and home for another child, I learned all I could about this little one growing inside of me. I listened to understand her personality. This time, I discovered I was having another daughter; my heart soared. But Hannah was not Sarah. She did not move as much. She was more reserved and demanded little. Too often I would go to the doctor just to make sure she was alive. Hannah did not try to come early; she waited and waited and waited. Hannah would not even get into the right position to be born.
Amazingly when she was born, there was enough love, plenty of love, to lavish on another child. I began loving and nurturing Hannah in the same tried and true ways that I loved Sarah, but Hannah was her own person. I studied Psalm 139 to discover the secrets of Hannah. The mommy rituals with Hannah differed from Sarah because Hannah had a personality that required patience, time, and peace.
The toddler and pre-school years were ones of discovery – who is this child? How do I “train up” two precious daughters each created in the image of their heavenly Father yet carrying the sin nature of their two earthly parents? My “help comes from the Lord.”
Parents learn in the early years of parenting the paradox of love. We love fiercely and guide and direct, but our children make their own choices. The choices yield consequences, and they must learn that right choices yield good consequences and wrong choices yield bad ones. The more we love and invest our hearts, the more we hold tightly (“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”). Yet God whispers, “They are mine and not yours.” So I prayed, “God teach me to love them with all that I am, but help keep my hands unclenched as I seek to surrender them to You.”
The fun days of firsts too soon turned into the tumultuous teen years where drama took a seat at each of our meals. If I had not discovered the grand differences in Sarah and Hannah in the “first” years, I certainly knew now. Sarah always told you what she wanted and how she felt; Hannah smiled or sulked but you never quite knew where she stood.
By this point, I had married Doug and he had adopted Sarah and Hannah. Our bedroom turned into a conference chamber where we talked, argued, and prayed about how best to parent Sarah and Hannah. Our mantra to the girls became: When you begin getting your marching orders from God, then our parenting police posture ends. Allow God to guide ALL your decisions, and we will raise the white flag.
There are so many firsts that are my favorite: the first time they say “mommy;” the first step; the first time they can read; the first time they drive (God forgive all I thought and said); the first prom (Sarah in false eyelashes; Hannah in a duct-tape dress); the day they accept Christ as their Savior. I have cried tears of victory, tears of fear, and tears of hilarity. If asked which stage is my favorite, I always say “the one I am in;” the one exception would be some of the teen firsts. 😉
But the relationship changes eternally the day they choose to get their marching orders from God. It is the day parenting changes. It is a loss as you learn how to keep you mom-advice to a minimum.
But oh the joy!
It is the day they are fully God’s. It is the day the real adventure begins – so much grander than the little adventures I had planned throughout their lives. It involves new relationships outside the walls of your home. It involves your “child” stepping outside your own comfort zone. It involves dangers and hurts. It involves discovery and using their gifts in ways you could have never imagined. It involves moving out of the safety of your home. It involves giving their allegiance and obedience to a worthy Master rather than you. It involves becoming a friend to your daughter and a sister – not merely a parent. It involves watching God be glorified as your daughter says yes to God.
So when others ask how I feel about Sarah moving 8,276 miles (17 hours and 11 minutes by flight) away from home, I can honestly say I am thrilled. I know, she was never truly mine. I just had the privilege of watching her grow and become the woman God created her to be. And I know this life is all about God’s plan and adventure rather than my own. I will miss her and our daily check-ins, but the joy I experience as I watch God’s perfect plan unravel is much more exciting! I praise God that I can be a part of it all.
Like you, I am now part of His missionary plan in South Africa through our sister in Christ – Sarah. And if I never see Sarah again, I know that we will spend eternity together worshiping and celebrating the Author of this adventure – Jesus Christ Himself.
Could a mother ever want anything more?
-Kathy, Sarah’s mom