Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Love of a Parent

Today's guest blogger has authored four novels, including Daisy Chain and A Slow Burn. But she has also written a devotional for moms, two parenting books, and her memoir, Thin Places, released yesterday.

Please welcome Mary DeMuth!

Like all parents, I have struggled with feeling inadequate, particularly wondering whether my kids knew if I loved them. I grew up in a home where I didn’t truly know or understand parental love, so I’ve worried that I’d duplicate that in my home. Sometimes the struggle for me has been titanic. I've let the worries absorb me like the waves of an icy sea. But the Lord saw fit to send me many, many life preservers along the way, encouraging me to love my children well. (For a more detailed account of my childhood and the surprising ways God rescued and healed me, check out my latest book, Thin Places.)

One piece of parental encouragement came through my friend Heidi. She visited us for a week when we lived in Palestine, Texas. At the end of the week, she looked directly at me and said, "Mary, your children know that you love them." It was one of those gifts of rare friendship, the words that spilled from her mouth. I leaned into the words, battling to accept them. I have longed my entire mothering career to know that my children understand and know my love. Heidi's words, coming from an outsider looking in, confirmed my hope. My children know that I love them.

A year or so later, on January 20, 2001 at 9:40 PM, I sat on the couch, knees tucked to my chest, listening to the heartbeat of God. He interrupted my thoughts and whispered, "Mary, I want you to say you are a good mother. Out loud." Really? Right now? Here?
I took a deep breath and said, "I am a good mother" out loud. The moment the words left my mouth, I wept. The fears and worries I had held close to my heart that I’d duplicate my childhood home seeped out, replaced with the peace that only comes from God. I've had a deeper confidence since that moment.

My mom has written kind words to me about my mothering, words I deeply appreciate. My mother-in-law has written similar encouraging words. Yesterday, my grandparents wrote, "You are a wonderful mother." My husband's voice is a constant, joyful stream of cheering for me as I mother.

Mother's Day 2004, the day after Patrick graduated from seminary, my friend John, who had been my stepfather from six to fourteen, stood next to me in church. We had just reconnected after years and years of separation. We sang worship songs. During one, he leaned over to me and said, "Mary, you're a terrific mother." His words salved my heart.

And a little bit ago, my friend Kathy sent me an ecard that deeply built into my motherhood, sharing how she liked how I parented my children and appreciated the authenticity.

I suppose it would be heroic to say I conquered fears of parenthood without cheerleaders, but it would be an untrue statement. I have needed the cheerleading of friends, family members and the Lord in this holy endeavor of loving my kids well. I would not be where I am today in terms of joy and peace and hope had it not been for those cheerleaders.

Parenting is a lifelong journey, full of valleys and mountain tops, diapers and car keys, discipline and affection. As I hugged my three children this morning, my heart nearly burst with joy for the gift they are to me. Thank You Jesus for them, for Your words, for the words of encouragers.

Because of You, because of how You have loved me, healed me, rejuvenated me, I can honestly say I am a frail, but good parent. I have loved my kids well

D'Ann here: So glad to have Mary guest post today! So what about you? Do you have insecurities as a parent because of your upbringing? How has the Lord "parented" you that has taught you to better parent your children?


  1. Mary,
    Welcome to Inkwell!

    As I read through your post I relived my own experiences as a young mother and my determination to get it right, with God's help.

    I didn't really understand how fearful I was of making a mistake as parent, of failing my kids in the ways I had been failed in my childhood, until a woman at church pulled me away from the crowds at church one Sunday morning and said to me, "Wenda, you are a great mother!" I was stunned. And deeply shaken.

    That woman, a mother of teens at the time, blessed me that day and several times in following three years we lived in that community. Her example with her kids showed me a different way to parent and from time to time her gentle words of encouragement came when I needed them most to sooth my own fears. She taught me how to pray for my kids and how to pray with them.

    Most profoundly, she gently rebuked me when I told her how I wasn't looking forward to my kids' being teens, thinking of the war zone my childhood home had been through my siblings' turbulent teens. She said to me, "Wenda, speak life into your kids' life. You should look forward to having teenagers, it is the best parenting years you'll have."

    And so we did heed her advice and she's so right.

    Thank you for your thought-provoking heart-stirring post.

  2. Thanks for being with us today Mary!

    I constantly critique my parenting skills. And I usually find myself lacking. But I'm also finding that my kids are resilient and forgiving. I apologize to them when I've failed once more. And I know that they know I love them, and I know they love me. We're not perfect but by golly we're in it together.

  3. One of the hardest things I've had to deal with as a mother was letting go. When my son (my only child) moved across the country 4 years ago it tore out my heart.

    And then the questioning began, kind of like you, Mary: Was I a good enough mother? Will he call me, or will he be glad to be away from me and let months and months go by before I hear from him?

    I am so blessed. He keeps in touch with me often, and we have a great relationship. At times it seems like he's only living down the street...except when I want to hug him, of course.

    Thank you for visiting with us today, Mary.

  4. Hey Mary, welcome to the Inkwell.

    Because I was physically and emotionally abused as a child, I was worried I would treat my kids the same way. My husband had no concept of what I'd gone through. When he did something wrong at home and his mom said, 'Come here' he'd run to the park or a friend's place. He said the incident would be forgotten by the time he got back a couple hours later. I couldn't imagine even trying to run!

    I truly believe if I bring my kids up according to God's Word, then I'm doing the best job I possibly can. We go to church as a family, we eat most of our meals together, we play together and pray together. My kids hug me in public when they're heading off to youth retreat or camp - yes even 14 yr old Nick - and they hug their dad in public, too. They don't mind walking through the mall with us, although I wish they'd slow down sometimes. :)

    I think the biggest thing for me has been the mentality that I try to treat them the way I wanted to be treated at their age. When they ask me if they can go out, I weigh all the issues including the biggie - I put myself in their shoes - before I answer. If the answer is negative, I explain why. So far, this has worked well because they know I'm not making snap decisions 'just because'.

    I don't know why God put me in the childhood situation I was in, but if it means my children have become confident, loving teenagers because of it, then hey, it's okay. I gave my heart to Christ as a child and gave him permission to use me as He saw fit. I accept that.

    I think my kids are wonderful.

  5. This is an amazing and powerful story. I loved the line, "I sat on the couch, knees tucked to my chest, listening to the heartbeat of God." Not only is it poetically written, but I find it is so true that in intimacy with God, He can best teach us whatever we need to learn.

    I came from a strong family with Christian parents, so my experience is very different than some of yours. It's funny, because I am a pretty good mom in spiritual and emotional ways, but sometimes a crummy mom in practical physical ways like baths and laundry and teeth brushing. I just figure, oh well, teeth are a lot easier to fix than hearts.

  6. Mary, so good to have you visiting our Inkwell! What poignant stories are zipping through time and space to touch hearts!


  7. A speaker in a parenting class said, "Your job as a parent is to teach and to train your children to leave."

    Once that sank in, I realized as a mom, my God-given role was to teach my children how to depend more on God than to depend on me and to train my children to manage their finances, wash their clothes, clean house, share with others, live simply, care deeply, and love exorbiantly.

    One of the best things I've done as a parent is to forgive my own parents for what I viewed as their failures. As long as I'm in bondage to how I was raised, I'm never going to raise my children how God desires me to.

    Excellent post, Mary!

  8. Thanks, all, for your amazing comments. It's interesting to know I've hit on a nerve here, for mommies battling inadequacy. May Jesus be your strength!


  9. Mary, what a lovely post. Thank you so much for visiting the Inkwell today and sharing with us.

    It blessed me to know I'm not alone in my feelings of inadequacy and failure as a mom. I understand that I'm going to make numerous mistakes, but I'm also honest with my kids and ask forgiveness when I blow it.

    Gina, you're right about preparing our kids for life. Not an easy task. Equipping them takes a willingness to dig in with our kids, but even more, a trust in the Lord to care for our babies.

  10. Thank you so much for sharing with us Mary! Growing up, my family never said the words, "I love You." I was determined to change that in our household with our two boys. I say "I Love you" all day: when they get up in the morning, when they get out of the car, when I kiss them good night. I ask them occasionally if they know that I love them. They assure me they do. My oldest will stand at the drop off at school and blow me kisses and call out, "I love you mommy" as I drive off. Maybe we say it too much, but maybe there is never too many times. Through my kid's attitudes and there securities in the family, I'm assured that they feel loved.

  11. My mother was very strict when I was coming up but that is a good thing. I stayed home with my 4 and brought them up in church and the best that I knew how to do. They have never been into any trouble and all make a good living, and have families of their own.
    But I have one son, that has not had anything to do with us in 9 years, he don't come, call or really care. Don't know what I did wrong there, but something happened. I raised 3 sons and 1 daughter, my son-in-law loves us and would do anything for us, but the daughter=in-in laws are another story. There is an old saying "you have your daughter the rest of your life, but you have your son until he takes a wife" now that is true with us. But I still love all of them with all my heart.


  12. I love that no matter what kind of family we grow up in, God gives us children so that we learn to trust Him more fully! My children have been the catalyst for the Lord's work in my own life. After many years of great insecurity in the parenting department, I can at least say now that I love being a mom and I love my kids, even if neither of us does it perfectly! It took a while to get there even though I was raised in a loving, God-fearing home.

    And I'm so glad the Lord uses us to encourage each other, too!

  13. enjoyed this posting....and all of the comments...blessings to all.


  14. Mary, I too grew up in a household where the words I love you were never used. Much coarser language dotted the landscape of my childhood. When my first son was two a lady in a restaurant came up to and said to me, you are a terrific mother. I never forgot that day. It was also my birthday. I always felt that was from the Lord.


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