How to keep being mama when you are paralyzed by fear

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I saw her daddy’s bike pulling down the driveway and, from kitchen window, caught a glimpse of his tears. No one behind him. My heart sunk deep down, and my body and soul sprung into action with that thing that only a mama knows. My blood pumped hard and I was washed over with it. That gut-deep truth that I would do anything for this child. There’s a truth of a mama’s heart that comes to the light when your child needs you. Not a skinned-knee kind of need. But those moments when terror sets in and the weight of your desperation to see your child safe, it falls right down on your shoulders, and there is no rest until you know.

It had felt like any other morning. A little “big-kid time” – a little extra freedom – for our Girl with too much love, and a heart full of wonder.

A cheerful “goodbye,’ and a reminder of boundaries, as she ventured off for a little walk with the neighbor friend.

Like any other morning, with middle ones in the backyard, and baby nursing long.  As a few small waves of “it’s been a while” worry came, I let them wash right off of me, and I took my time getting up the street to take a peek.

The eerie emptiness of the street felt a bit like someone had poked a hole in my heart.  And my spirit leaked a little with the uncertainty.

But I returned home with a calm confidence that all that lay ahead was a quick reunion and a casual chat about some minor breach of boundaries. That’s when I sent her daddy out on his bike.

My pulse had quickened, but I assured siblings that daddy would be right back with their sister. When he returned alone, too many minutes later, the tone shifted and a battle began…

Suddenly all the things were possible. All the horrors.

The thought of a long search, and a fight to get her back – they pale in comparison to the need to hold her again. We would fight to the death if we had to. Suddenly I’m the shepherd with the lost sheep, and that thing about leaving the ninety-nine for the one takes over me fast. In that instant, her siblings’ comfort fades out of my vision. I grab a friend to stay as I fly out the door to find my precious lost one.

Few words exchanged, I take the car and her daddy takes off running through the woods. Both determined not to return without her.

I’m counting up the minutes, and I think it’s already been well over an hour since she left the house for her “little walk.” Lord only knows how far she could be if that dreaded thing happened, and someone had taken her away.

Most mamas reading this have felt the terror of losing sight of a child, be it for a moment, for minutes, hours or days… I can’t save my heart from knowing the depth of my love, and the terror of loss.

And I’m reminded of other times this mother’s heart of mine came into the light. When the depth of love for which the world has no words – it came right out of me and spilled all over the place.

I think of the newborn with the fever, with the long hospital stay and no answers. The nights down begging on my knees.

I think of the day in the ER when my head failed to convince my heart that a pinky finger is a little thing.  How, in my mama’s heart, the shattered dreams of a perfect daughter with her perfect hand holding junior prom corsage or engagement ring…felt like everything. And how the hopes and dreams fell in a heap along with my massive failure to protect my Girl with the pocket full of sunshine.

I think of nights watching a little one struggle to breathe, and numbers on monitors rising and falling, with finger hovering over the nurse call button.

I think of the scary sonogram and the solemn look on the doctor’s face when they thought something was wrong with my baby boy.

I think of all of my mama friends who didn’t get the good news that everything would be ok.

I think of the hundreds of “close calls,” and the images that flash of how life could have changed in an instant if I had been looking the other way.

That day their daddy came home on the bike alone…it did have a happy ending. Some 30 minutes later, there was a joyful (be it tearful) reunion. And, aside from some difficult lessons, and a visit with a kindly police officer, all was well and returned to normal minutes later.

And yet, my mama’s heart feels and knows as deeply and truly as ever, that it is not always so. It’s all too real that the story could have gone another way, and there is another mama out there who has lived the other scenario.

The moments I’ve lived the trauma – or my friends have – they sit down heavy on me. When you heard a crash and they were not fine. When they got sick or something went wrong, and you lived out your fear. Times like this, the burden of being a mother can feel so very heavy. We mamas can be faced not only with a painful memory, but also a new sense of reality. Our carnality, our children’s fragility – they are in-your-face real.

The things you feel for your child when the danger is real, or when you watch them really hurt…these are the raw things of being alive.

I don’t know about you, but I get to where I don’t think I can do it tomorrow. I get confused about my responsibility to protect my children, and my utter inability to succeed. I know that God is the only one who can truly protect them, but I wonder about the moments when He seemed to be asleep at the wheel for my children, or for the children of dear friends.

The fear can be paralyzing.  But somehow we have to go on.

I have five extensions of my heart running around raw and vulnerable to all the dangers of the world. Statistics are against me on avoiding the ER for the next 18 or so years. And yet, somehow I have to let them run and jump and climb and be alive, and in being alive, be at risk of injury and death. And to try to stop them from this living would be to steal life from them in advance. So, what to do about this mother’s heart of mine?

I think the kind of love that I have felt for my children in the most terrible moments is perhaps –in some strange way – a place to live from. To hover over the crib and feel the weighty rawness of how much I love my baby. To face the fear that tragedy could strike, but determine it’s worth staying in this moment, in it’s fullness.  To just receive today – this moment – as a gift.  To cast off the hustle of the morning and greet my children with the joyful side of the same intense love that I would feel if they didn’t get out of bed to greet me. To let it scare me how much I love them, and to open my hands to the Almighty with it.

I cannot pretend that I am not desperate for my children to be okay. But I can bring my desperation to the throne of grace, before a God who knows how it feels.

I cannot take away the dangers of the world. But I can choose to bring my needs before the Great Protector, and I can make a glorious trade.  I can hand over the images that haunt me and the fears that plague me, and receive the peace that passes understanding, in exchange .

I cannot protect my heart from the devastation that would come if my children were taken from me. And if I try, I might just miss the joy of being their mama. But I can open my hand that was so tightly clenched around the safety of my children, and I can choose to trust the only One with the power to grant me another day with them.

My mother’s heart has been beating inside of me since the day I learned I was pregnant with my first child, roughly 8 years ago. But when our kids hurt, when they are lost or in danger…that mother’s heart beats deep, like the drums of war.   I know actually and fully and in the flesh that I would die for them— that I would do anything for them to be okay.

But there really is only one thing to do.  So I’ll wear down my knees in praying to the only One who is able. To the One who loves them even more than my mother’s heart.

I’ll hand over my fear.  I’ll let them live lives of joy and adventure. I’ll receive His peace.  And I’ll be mama another day.

Eyes for the Unseen

I don’t know about you, but some days, there is just too much to look at in my house. Too many toys. Too many dishes. Too many piles of clothes. Too many sibling squabbles. Too many messy diapers. And before I know it, I feel buried under what I can see with these two eyes of mine. And sometimes the “seen” that surrounds me outside the four walls of our home – the terrorism and the pornography, the kidnappings, and the playground bullies – they just pile on top. And the weight of being responsible for my children – the weight of my role to keep them safe and teach them to have a mind of their own, to walk in faith – it all weighs heavy.  With my eyes, I can see that I’m raising my children in a world in which 12-year-old girls are feeling pressured to send nude pictures to boys at school. I can see that the 24/7 connection to social media is putting an incredible pressure on this next generation. I can see that there are real dangers in every adventure my children take. I can look at my child’s behavior and see symptoms of ADHD and learning or personality challenges, and I can project what curses it could mean for their future. I can see how I have wounded them, when I have spoken out of anger or exhaustion. I can see their anxiety when we lead them through a major life change, like a move or a new baby. The “seen” that we walk in day-by-day can weigh so very heavy. And when I walk in these seen places, I can easily become bound up in worry, and forget the joy.

But, when I lift my eyes… Oh, when I lift my eyes. I see that God gave me this job knowing that I couldn’t do it all. He gave it to me knowing that it would lead me into constant dependence on Him, the only One who is able to hem my children in. God gave it to me with 24 hours in a day, and only two eyes, two hands, two feet, one mouth. He gave it to me knowing that He would be weaving together a tapestry of grace and redemption for each of my children, made up partly of the worn and discolored threads that I give them. God gave me this job of mother, and not the job of Savior.  That role has been filled, and the job completed. That Great High Priest has already sat down at the right hand of the Father, after a job well done. Hallelujah.

And so, I’m learning that my days are transformed when I take my eyes off of all of the “seen” things there are to fear, and fix my eyes instead on the Deliverer. When I take my eyes off of what I can see with my eyes and I walk instead in the unseen places, I find peace and freedom. I’m trying a little experiment in my days, and I invite you to join me. When you are inclined to worry or fear, about physical harm to your children, about wounding them emotionally, about not living up, or something else…take just a moment, in rhythm with your breath, to ask the Lord to show you what He 
sees. Breathe in the unseen and breathe out the seen. Breathe in the truth about this moment, and breathe out the lies. He doesn’t see a world full of uncontrollable dangers. He sees legions of angels within his grasp, and ready at his beck and call. God doesn’t see a child who can’t control his temper. He sees a little warrior, full of passion, who He intends to use for mighty purposes. God doesn’t see a broken mother doomed to a broken relationship with her children. He sees a daughter of the King, armed with all the power of the heavenlies through Christ, and called uniquely to raise her little army, in full dependence on her Father in heaven. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a job I want.