This Daughter and The Fiery Trial

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I dropped my daughter at her friend’s house and blew her a kiss goodbye. “I’ll be without you for eight hours,” I said.

“It’s like a day of school,” she said, nonchalantly closing the car door behind her.

As I watched her walk away, I thought, eight hours without her on this Saturday wasn’t like any other school day.

In 2012, on Mother’s Day my gift from her: the decision to live with her father and visit me when she pleased like her nineteen-year-old sister did. Then I was crushed, eight months later, I’m still reeling from her decision, my mother’s day gift.

Despite the signed divorce stipulation, joint custody, five days on five days off, every other weekend visits my daughter, fifteen, doesn’t visit. Her father said, “He wants to keep the peace, he doesn’t want to be the bad guy.” Her sister said, “I can’t tell her what to do.”  My best friend said, “A daughter needs her mother.”

I wept.

I couldn’t understand her reasoning, and when I asked she had no explanation.

Six months prior to her choice, this daughter did not contest living in two places when I moved out of the martial home. She showed no remorse saying, “I knew in the third grade you and Dad would divorce.” She added, “Mom, I plan to have enough clothes at both homes so I have less to pack.”

And by May, she did.

This daughter did not hid in closets or walk away when she heard her parents argue. She stood in the doorway watching and listening to us bark at each other exchanging harsh words we couldn’t take back. This daughter told me the things her father said in my absence.

I wept.

Simultaneously, this daughter was the one who believed her father did not love her. I remember our daily discourse. “Your father loves you, he just has a lot on his plate.”  “Your father doesn’t like the house messy.” “Go show your father, he will like it.” “Pray for him, God hears the prayers of children.”

I’ll never forget the Sunday morning this daughter refused to go to church. “If Daddy doesn’t go, why should I?”

My only response, “Because I said so.”

Before her decision to live with her father, my daughter and I did not have a disagreement or a fight. Our habits were the same: in the mornings no talking, while reading a book no talking. We played scrabble on Sundays, which we’d been playing since she was three. After church, we went to breakfast, and sometimes a friend tagged along, in which I let them roam the stores in the mall, while I graded papers in the coffee shop.

One day while playing a card game this daughter said, “Mom, when I get friends, I’m not staying home with you.”

“That’s what teenagers do,” I said.

Three months after her decision to live with her father, God showed some relationships are worth fighting for. Despite a lack of visits, I met her at the bus stop on Tuesdays or Thursdays. We went to the pizza parlor. Another time after pizza a visit to the library or shopping for knickknacks. On Columbus Day we shopped in New York City. Although we were making great strides, she did not answer my question: “Why don’t you want to live with me?” (I don’t ask that question anymore.)

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So, on this Saturday, she had been with me for a week. The last thing I wanted: eight hours without her on a Saturday knowing our only time together hereafter would be one or two hours on a Tuesday or Thursday or a shopping trip to the mall.

For some reason my suffering for Christ’s glory became a fiery trial I didn’t want to bear any longer. Yet I could understand even better Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane asking God to let the cup pass knowing God’s will be done.

As much as this relationship pains me, knowing my daughter doesn’t want to live with me, I try to absorb the words of Os Hillman, founder of Marketplace Leaders and Today God is First devotional, “When we go through a trial of adversity, we need to understand that God is performing radical surgery on our life. …not to destroy us, but to give us a new heart. God is making a fundamental change in who we are and who we will be. And, He will always reveal treasures from these secret places if we are willing to walk through the process patiently.”

Faithwalk: A Child’s Journey. A Mother’s Prayer.

From Alex’s sketchbook.

Over the years I’ve listened to parents say they cried through boxes of tissues as their children– first, second or third– head off to college for the first, second or third time. I listened with intent, waiting for the day to weep with joy as my child too, set off on the collegiate adventure. Well, that time has come. On Monday, I took my daughter, Alex, shopping for kitchen, bathroom, laundry, and bedroom supplies. The day was all about her. I did my best not to interject what I thought best reminding myself, she’s a young adult.  I let her share freely without being judgmental remembering at 19 she had her own journey. The first year, despite three college scholarships, Alex chose to attend the local community college. I prayed she would change her mind. A semester later, I realized my perspective was not reality. Again wise parents spoke, “It’s better she knows that she’s not ready then for her to leave, be unhappy or return home.” I accepted those words of wisdom, not quickly or easily. So on Monday, I asked Alex if she had all girl roommates. “Yes,” she said. “Good. I prayed you wouldn’t room with boys.” Her good friend, a male, was also attending the same college, and their hope: to be roommates, not mine. “You need to stop prayer blocking.” She laughed. “It’s a all a mother can do,” I said.  Prayer blocking. Good term. Ironically, my mother also prayer blocked. A few weeks ago, I told my mother I accepted the part-time position  that I didn’t really want. My fall goal was to write full-time. She said, “I’m happy. I’ve been praying that you would take that position. It’s a guaranteed paycheck no matter how small.” I huffed. Yet, she was right. Saturday morning I woke up and prayed, Lord give me all the right words to encourage Alex. Then, I wrote a prayer list, in my journal, to share on our seven-hour car ride. When I write things down, I remember easily. I didn’t bring the list with me. I didn’t say everything all at once, a little at a time. You know children don’t listen to parents when they lecture or make them feel bad about their choice. I’m speaking from experience, my mother stayed with me first for three months, then left, and returned for another three months. And there were moments I tuned her out. So between dancing, singing, eating, bathroom breaks, moving in, decorating, and shopping here  are my prayerful words of encouragement: (I’m sure I said so much more.)

  1. When you wake up in the morning, before you get out of bed ask the Lord to order your steps. And if you forget, say it while brushing your teeth.
  2.  Prayer doesn’t simply mean your eyes are closed, you’re on your knees, our your head is bowed, prayer is just talking to God. Do that all the time.
  3.  Go on a solo adventure. Do something exciting by yourself without friends. Just do it.
  4.  God gave you an amazing gift. Use it. Play the piano, bow the cello, draw, draw, draw.
  5.  When God sends you an awesome mentor to help you excel, listen, do, listen, and do more.
  6.  In the words, of Maya Angelou at 80 years old: remember that you have already been raised. You don’t need parents. You’re a young adult coming into your own.
  7.  If you decide not to come home, it’s okay. I will come visit. Make the best life you can with what you have.
  8.  Have fun. Have fun. Have more fun.
  9.  Learn to tell your parents to stay out of your business. We can be nosy parkers. (I have to admit I think she learned this one already.)
  10.  Sometimes God will place you in the desert. You will be alone. God wants your attention. Jesus was in the desert. Moses was in the desert.  They listened and obeyed. They were victorious.
  11.  Find a place to worship, don’t become spiritually homeless.

And when we she dropped me at the train station the next morning, I looked into her eyes and said, “You are beautiful. When someone tells you, you are beautiful, smile and say thank you. Don’t act like it’s the first time you’ve heard it.” We hugged. “Mom, I love you.”