Sometimes it’s gonna get messy
by Ginny Luedeman
"One of the hardest questions for me to answer," says Ginny Luedeman, "is 'How many children do you have?' “Attempt to construct a family tree with this birth-adoptive-foster-grand-and-great-grand-mother and you begin to understand why. Ginny and husband Craig have raised her son from a previous marriage, along with one birth and two adopted daughters of their own. They're currently bringing up two of their twelve grandchildren, whom they've also adopted. And, over the years, there have also been a number of foster children and "lots of kids who just found their way into our home for different periods of time," as Ginny puts it.
"For us, the worst assignment is when one of the kids comes home from school and says, 'Mom, I have to make a family tree,' " she says with a laugh. "It's really confusing when you try to put it all on a piece of paper."
What has helped to simplify things for Ginny is expanding her view of what it means to be a parent.
"For me, parenting is about recognizing and supporting the spiritual qualities of the children in our lives," relates Ginny, who, along with childrearing, also keeps busy helping others through prayer as a Christian Science practitioner. "Whether it's a neighbor, or a friend's child, or a child we call our own. It's always the same process-cherishing the spiritual qualities that God's expressing in that individual's life, and helping them to discover and cherish those qualities too."
She spoke with the Journal's Amy Brooke Baker from her home in Salem, Oregon.
You certainly have plenty of experience in being a
parent. Did you know what to expect when you started out?
I can't say that I entered into parenting knowing what I was in for. I just thought I would have kids and if I did everything right, there would be no problems. They would grow up, go to college, love me, and do everything they were supposed to do.
That's not how it happened, even though Craig and I did everything we thought we should as parents. We didn't let the kids watch violent TV shows, we prayed with them, we studied the Weekly Bible Lesson together. We were wonderful, we thought. But the things they came into contact with on a daily basis were way more than we could handle without some trials.
For a number of years there, we had four kids who were all having a difficult time growing up. Sex, drugs, and alcohol entered the picture. We'd get calls in the middle of the night saying that one of them was at a police station, or we'd find that somebody snuck out and took one of our cars. My husband spent many nights driving around looking for one of the kids.
How did you deal with that?
At first I thought there was something wrong either with me or with the kids. And I would get angry with them. But there's a story I heard that really helped me. It's about a man on a horse, who's riding through a field. The horse rears up and knocks the rider off. He gets up, grabs a stick, and starts to hit the horse. And then the snake that frightened the horse slithers away. The point is, the problem wasn't the horse's behavior. It was the snake that was causing the horse to misbehave. So that's what needed to be addressed.
That was a big eye-opener for me. To realize that when the kids were acting out, it meant there was something going on that they didn't know how to handle. Then my job as a parent became helping them to deal with whatever was causing them to act out. Not just to change the behavior, but to get to the bottom of what was hurting them.
I remember one time when my son was in first or second grade. He had a high fever. We'd already had a number of healings through prayer, so it was natural for me to turn to God for help. I was sitting on the side of my son's bed, praying for guidance. And all of the sudden, he started crying and told me that the mother of a boy at school had just died. And he asked, "Are you going to die?" I said, "No, honey. I'm not going to die." And then I talked to him about motherhood. I told him that motherhood is something that's always with him, that motherhood is love and he could always feel love. I explained that when I hugged him, I wasn't bringing love into his life, I was showing him how God's mother-love was always there holding and hugging him.
My son got two things out of that experience. First, it brought a complete physical healing. We got rid of his fear and within an hour, he jumped out of bed and was perfectly well.
He also learned something really important about motherhood. And he took that knowledge with him. He ended up having some tough experiences later in his life that actually sent him to prison for six years. And during that period of time, he was able to rely on the knowledge that there was something there with him-a Mother, a Love-that was going to take care of him. And he learned some really significant lessons through that experience.
So I began to see that parenting is really about giving kids the tools they need to work through this life.
And yet, for you as a parent, that's got to be hard-to
see your child going through a painful experience like prison and not
being able to deliver him from it.
Life isn't easy. And if we try to make it easy for our kids, they won't learn how to use the tools for overcoming difficult experiences in their lives. And those tools work. It works to know that God is your Father-Mother, that God is your life. Even if you're having tough experiences, God works.
The Bible is full of examples of people in prison, of people about to be stoned, of people in all kinds of situations where God's power and love is sufficient to parent and to save. And that's what my kids learned when I had to leave them in lock-up, or I had to say, "You know, that may hurt, but there's an answer right there for you, let's see what it is."
I knew that God would give them the answer. And I had to give them credit, that, as the children of God, they could recognize that answer.
What about being afraid for your children's safety? How
did you handle that?
There were two passages from the Bible that I really leaned on during the tougher years. One is from Job, and it says, "There is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding." 1 The other is from Psalms: "Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there." 2
Those ideas-that nobody can be separated from God's love and protecting care, or from the God-given understanding they need to handle any situation-were a great comfort to me. I had to trust that the true, divine Parent was going to guide and lead my children out of whatever would hurt them and into a fuller understanding of who they really are. And He did. He really did.
There was one period when one of our daughters kept running away. This was a girl with a wonderful spirituality. And I thought she was going to be a breeze to raise. But then she hit her teens and had some rough issues that she didn't know how to deal with. So she kept running away.
One time, she'd been gone for a few days and we didn't have a clue where she was. I called a practitioner to pray with me. And he talked about God being Tracy's source. And because God is Love, that meant that Tracy naturally loved me. That had a huge impact, because I'd felt that she was rebelling against me personally. And realizing that it was in her nature to love me brought this great feeling of peace.
Well, shortly afterward, the phone rang. So I picked it up, and Tracy was on the other end of the line. She said, "What are you doing calling me?" And I said, "What are you talking about? I don't even know where you are. I didn't call you." And she said, "Well, I didn't call you either. My phone rang." And I said, "Well, my phone rang."
It turned out she was at a drug house, just standing next to the phone when it rang. We were both flabbergasted. I started to cry. And she started to cry. And I said, "Well, obviously God wants us to be together." And she came home that day. We just felt so loved. Both of us. We could see that our relationship was in God's care, not our own. And, you know, that wasn't the end of her struggles. But it was the beginning of the end. And now I see that daughter every day. We are so close. We're best friends.
So at times like that, when I felt like my parenting skills weren't adequate, it seemed that where I left off, God took over.
What about those feelings of inadequacy? I think every
parent has them.
Yeah. Some of us think that if we don't act wonderfully and say everything in this loving voice, that somehow we're going to fall out of God's grace. Well, I wasn't perfect. I yelled. I cried. There were days when I felt I didn't even love my kids. So I've had to forgive myself for a lot of stuff.
But for me, blame doesn't get you anywhere. It's all a part of thinking that we're mortal. That it's somebody's fault when things go wrong. Instead, I try to get out of that whole thought process and see that none of us-not my kids, not me-can be separated from our divine Parent, from the good that is God.
I think parenting all comes down to God's love, to how much love God has for the mother, the father, and the child. That's what I've learned. I've learned to trust that love for my children-and for me. It wasn't just about their spiritual growth. I grew with every step they took.
Copyright (c) 2004 The Christian Science Publishing Society. All rights reserved. Reproduced with permission.
Copyright ï¿½ 2004 ginnyl.com. All rights reserved.