Sunday, July 8, 2012

My Daughter, My Friend

Somewhere along the way, my daughter became my friend. 

It wasn’t always that way.  Goodness knows, it wasn’t.  Our journey has been a crazy, beautiful, dramatic, heart-wrenching ride.  My firstborn child, Hannah Beth became my entire life when she was born to me in a small Army hospital in Germany some 22 years ago.  

I often tell the story of when we took her to her three-month, well-baby checkup and the doctor was concerned that she wasn’t lifting her head well when he lay her on her tummy.  Looking concerned, he asked me, “Do you put her down on her tummy and let her play a lot?”  Dumbfounded, I said, “You mean you’re supposed to put them down???”  I was a new mama, alone in a foreign country, with no one but her daddy to tell me how to parent, and he was as clueless as me.   I just held her everywhere I went and for every household chore I did.  Needless to say, I forced myself to put her down more after that and she turned out just fine. 

She was five years old when her daddy and I divorced.  She took it very hard.  One day, not long after we had divorced, Hannah came into the kitchen where I was cooking, dragging her bulging suitcase behind her.  When I asked her where she was going, she broke down sobbing, saying, “I’m going to live with Daddy. I miss him so much.”  I knelt down and held her and we cried together.  All these years later, it absolutely breaks my heart to think about that moment.  

Not too long ago, when packing up some of her things to take to her new house, I found an old diary of hers.  She was fifteen years old, some ten years after the divorce, when she had made this entry: “Of all the things I wish for, I wish for Mama and Daddy to be married again.”   

What an awful, painful toll divorce takes on our children, no matter what their age.

That divorce affected many things, not the least of which were her teenage years here with me and her stepdad.  Always having a way out, another parent to run to, made disciplining her a tough assignment for us.  It didn’t stop us from trying, and it didn’t stop her from resisting.  Affection from her was non-existent.  Never a cuddle-bug to begin with, she pulled away even more.  We use to tease her: 'If you wanted a hug from Hannah, she had to pencil you into her planner.'  

I spent countless nights crying myself to sleep over Hannah and the ways I felt like I had failed her.  I thought if my own flesh and blood could spew such hatred from her lips at me, that surely I had failed.   My faith was all that kept me going.  I knew God had her in His grip and that she, too, was leaning on Him even when she wasn’t leaning on me.   And even through the tough stuff, she would often confide in me about the serious issues in her life, and that gave me some hope that one day things would be okay.

After graduating from high school, she made a few really dumb decisions (don’t we all at age 18?) and took some wrong turns.  At that point, though, I had stopped preaching at her about every little thing and I had decided that enough rope to hang her herself may be what she needed in order to learn the hard lessons.  I refused to be the devil’s advocate and berate her for her choices, as my own mother had done to me, so I just listened a lot and prayed even harder.  I never stopped loving her and I know she knew that.  When she finally hit rock bottom and realized she needed to change,  she called for help and Michael and I immediately responded.  We met her where she was and wrapped our love around her.

That was a turning point in our relationship.  

Gradually she began to speak to me with a different level of respect, with a different tone in her voice, and with a contrite heart.  A couple of years later, she met a wonderful man and they started a beautiful family together.   As she continued to mature, she started commenting on her younger brother’s disrespect for me. She started telling him to stop resisting the boundaries at our house and to just accept them as what was best.   I had heard rumors that one day your children may admit that you were right about your parenting, and it happened! It really happened!! 

And, oh my goodness, you should see how much she loves that little baby boy of hers!  No scheduling of affection needed for him.  She liberally showers him with hugs and kisses and takes joy in everything he does!  It is so awesome to watch.  She is making sure that he knows who his Savior is and I know she will raise him in the church and make sure he has a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.   As someone who never thought I would even live long enough to see my grandchildren, I really cannot adequately express how happy that makes me. 

I love being friends with Hannah. She is truly one of the best listeners I know.  She never acts like she is thinking of her response before I finish talking. She is listening. And that makes a beautiful friend and that makes a friend beautiful.  

In my own life, I know God the Father anguished over my rebellion, too. As I started a downward cycle of sin, I ran as far away from him as I could, thinking I knew what was best.  Leaving the church, resisting His word, drowning out His voice and pushing away His love—I just wanted to make my own choices and desires and forget about others. I was numb and lost.  

Running  straight through His boundaries for me,  I hit rock bottom.  But like the good Father He is, He met me right in the middle of my ugly mess and brought me out of that deep, miry clay and wrapped His love around me. It took me a little while to fully understand the depth of mercy He bestowed on me, or to recognize all that He truly saved me from, but I learned to know (that I know that I know that I know) His ways were lovely and His truth set me free.  

Oh, and by the way, He and I became pretty good friends along the way, too. 

“Did ever saint find this Friend forsake him?
  No, not one! no, not one!
Or sinner find that He would not take him?
  No, not one! no, not one!”  [There’s Not a Friend Like the Lowly Jesus]

1 comment:

  1. Oh, April, this is your bestest yet! I love the photo of you holding HB and looking in the mirror-she always loved looking at herself in that mirror! So cute :D.
    I don't think there is a caring parent alive who regrets a thousand things, or fears what they will one day regret, not having a manual! I love that y'all are friends, that you respect and care about each other - and I LOVE that you 2 have been there for her, every time she needed you. It's nice to make up to our kids what we didn't necessarily experience as children ourselves...And I'm glad you put her down, eventually! LOL, that's great!
    All my Love,


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