Monday, September 29, 2014

Letting Go Of Birds From the Nest

motherhood mistakes


Today is my oldest daughter’s 29th birthday. It’s been a day of reflection for me as I have looked at pictures and remembered her babyhood, childhood and the blur of her escape from teen years into adulthood. When our children start to sprout wings and fly away, parents and especially moms often struggle. There is such joy and pride when our kids reach adulthood. We have such hopes and dreams for them. I think it's especially difficult for moms to let our daughters go and be who God designed them to be, go where God calls them to go and do the mission He calls them to do; the mission He has planned for them since before the foundation of the earth. Sometimes the temptation to hold on even tighter when we should be letting go is very strong.  It can be especially strong when they don’t embrace the beliefs, values and morals we do because we truly want what is best for them and it hurts to see the consequences of their choices when they aren’t healthy ones.


I had dreams for my kids that I didn’t even realize existed until they didn’t come to pass and I had to struggle with disappointment. I always thought we would live near each other, get together for holidays, have them over for dinner regularly and be invited to their homes for dinner too. It hasn’t exactly worked out that way so I found that I had a choice to make. I could be hurt over that, or I could admit that those were my own expectations and not rights, and let those expectations go. I realized early on that I don’t have the right to control their lives and that I could either be thankful for the time we do have together, or hurt all the time that we don’t have more time together. As hard as it is to face this fact, the truth is that it’s not about me. It’s about what God has planned for their lives separately from the plan He has for ours. Ultimately they aren’t here to serve us or fulfill us. They are here to serve God and fulfill His plan for their lives. I am not here to be served and fulfilled on this earth. I am here to serve God and fulfill His plan for my life and sometimes that means that things don’t look as rosy as our dreams. The older I get, the more I am aware that this life is not meant to fulfill. Only Christ can fulfill us. We aren’t meant for this earth. We are meant for eternity. This life is but a blip on the radar screen and will be over before we know it. What kind of legacy do I want to leave? A legacy of selfishness and whining over unmet expectations, or a legacy of love and sacrifice out of service to God?


 


For the majority of my life I was cruising down the winding Whiner Road, freaking out over every unexpected and unplanned twist and turn in my life. Every hill and valley were unpleasant experiences and the tearful traveling was taking a toll on me. I grew to despise myself, my total weakness and the bitterness that had planted deep roots in my heart. At that point, I cried out to God and I began to grasp the ugliness of my sinfulness and the gratefulness for the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross for my sin became even more beautiful to me than ever before. At that point I began to see how much God in His Sovereignty can be trusted and depended upon and at that point I began to realize that I was a control freak who was spinning out of control. I needed to apply the wisdom of God’s Word to my life every day. I needed to saturate my mind with the truths of the scriptures and look to God for direction. Proverbs 3:5-7 became my daily focus. I became fully aware that I have no rights with my friends or family and that means my kids too.


Proverbs 3 5 6


We tend to view them as "My kids," forgetting they aren't really. I mean, they are our kids, but they are God's kids, ultimately and it's especially difficult to let go of the "right" to speak into their lives. But unless they ask for it....once they are adults, the best way we can love them is to let them go and pray for them, trusting them to God and trusting Him for the outcome.


It was a time of conflicted feelings and insecurity for me, when my older daughters ventured out on their own, got married and our roles changed. Trying to figure out what that relationship was supposed to look like created such an uncertainty in my mind and heart. I quickly learned that God can be trusted and that He had a whole new journey for me as well as for them. It was an exciting time, once I realized that.


 


Parent/child relationships don’t all look the same and while your good friend may have kids who live next door and they do everything together, another friend may have kids in the military or on the mission field, or living in another town, state, or country. Still another person may have kids living in the same town, yet they rarely see each other. It’s important not to compare our families/kids to the lives of others or dream of having what they have because that is not the life you are called to necessarily and may not fit the plan God has ordained for you or your kids.


 Some kids grow up with strong independent streaks. Even if you find yourself navigating rough waters with your adult kids, they are still your kids. Even if they rebel....they're still your kids and even if they fight it tooth and nail, there is still a bond there that is deep and strong and God ordained. Nothing can change that. Even if the worst case scenario comes true and they choose to never speak to you again, deep within their hearts is a bond they cannot break.


 God uses this bond to drive us to Him because sometimes it’s pain that brings us to the realization that we need help and that help can really only be found in Him. Once we realize that our kids are not an extension of us, but are separate individuals who have a different mission/purpose in life than ours, it’s amazing what can happen. When I realized that I was expecting to be fulfilled by my kids…by motherhood, I also had to admit that this was a huge idol in my heart that needed to be taken down. Rebellion in one of my kids was the vehicle God used to make this clear to me. I had visualized a perfect life here on earth and she was part of that life. She was part of my fulfillment. My world came crashing down when she was fourteen and she began to rebel. God never intended us to be fulfilled here on earth or by other human beings. Only HE can bring that fulfillment. I had to let her go and trust her to God and let Him work on me, changing me and it has been tough. Yet so very good.


mother daughter forever


Throughout their childhoods our kids have looked to us for approval and support. As adults, they need our approval and support more than ever, but they may not even realize it themselves. They need to know that when they don’t ask for advice and when they make important decisions without us…good or bad, that we support them and that if they mess up, we are there to encourage them.


If they are secure that you support them in their new freedom as adults who make their own decisions, and they know you understand that their loyalty is still there, but different than it was when they were kids; If they see you step back, and encourage them to be that person God has called them to be, fulfilling the mission He has for them, a new relationship will be formed that is different, stronger than ever and precious. If they know you are willing to let them go and encourage them in the process and if they see that you believe they are able "do life" without your approval, advice and constant hovering, as a general rule they will appreciate and respect you more than ever.


 


When our kids reach adulthood, it is such a bittersweet time for moms. We have entered a brand new phase of life and it's tough at first. There is a grieving process as we say good-bye to a mission we have been called to since our children were born and embrace a new mission that we are not sure of just yet. My two grown daughters have been out of the home for nine years now, and we still have five kids at home. I have not done everything right with my grown kids....and we have had communication breakdowns and have navigated very rough waters....in fact I'm still sailing through some rough waters with one of them, but God is the one doing the navigating now. Not me. He can be trusted completely. Keeping my eyes on Him and trusting my kids to Him is key. It is tough. It is painful. It is necessary and He is faithful. He has put a guard over my mouth and my heart. As time marches on it gets easier to let them go and trust Him.


Most importantly, if your child is married, moms….it’s time to back off completely and let them come to you. You have entered a whole new dimension in your role as mom. Now your role is as a support system, rather than a daily guide. Allow them to grow as adults, bonding with their spouse, without worrying about what you think or about hurting your feelings, or disappointing you. It’s time to back off and give them space. The best gift you can give them is to pray for them and embrace the brand new, beautiful relationship you can now have with them on an adult level. It’s truly a beautiful thing.


 

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