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  • Writer's pictureJodi Dauses

When Your Heart Breaks for Your Child

Mom and Daughter heart hands

This month’s blog is written to all mothers with hurting children for Mother’s Day by our guest blogger, Jodi Dauses.

“She watches over the activities of her household and is never idle. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also praises her: “Many women have done noble deeds, but you surpass them all!”” ‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭31‬:‭27‬-‭29‬ ‭CSB‬‬

When our daughter Lacey was nine, she had a very difficult year. An injured ankle kept her sidelined through soccer and basketball seasons, and she felt left out and left behind. A natural introvert, we saw our middle daughter slip into herself and sort of disappear socially, a scary thing to witness. But Lacey had one constant joy, her love of animals.


Years ago we adopted a white golden doodle named Biscuit, and he was glued to Lacey’s side as her ankle healed. Lacey dreamed of raising puppies and poured all of her free time into reading and researching and scheming on how to get a female dog and start her puppy breeding business. 


For her 10th birthday, our family surprised Lacey with a scavenger hunt of clues leading us on a day trip across the state of Maryland. We took Polaroid snapshots at each stop, ending at our final surprise destination - a golden doodle breeder where Lacey would select her new female puppy. Lacey was on cloud nine choosing an apricot pup with a big white patch on her chest and white paws. She named her Sunny. After a rough season of struggling, we watched our little girl light up as she tenderly raised Sunny. As the puppy grew, so did Lacey’s attachment to her. Lacey did chores to raise money to buy supplies for her puppy business. 


Sunny was just weeks away from being old enough to have puppies, and it was all Lacey talked about.  When she went to school, Lacey would leave me detailed notes (addressed to “Sunny’s Grandmother”) on how to care for her beloved pup when she was away. Lacey would rush home and spend her entire time until bedtime with her dog. 


Experiencing Heartbreak for Your Child

And then an unthinkable accident happened. Unbeknownst to my husband, Sunny climbed under his vehicle to find shade one hot summer afternoon. D.J. pulled out of the driveway, crushing her body under his back tire. 


When I raced to the vet, I was surprised to find that Sunny was still alive, but she couldn’t stand. Her internal injuries were tremendous, but the vet thought maybe because she was strong and young she might make a full recovery. Lacey was at a day camp as I held that dog in my lap and begged God for a miracle to save Lacey’s beloved dog. I asked God for wisdom on how to share this news with our brown-eyed girl. Amazingly, Sunny survived the afternoon but had to be transferred to a specialized vet clinic. 


When I picked up Lacey that afternoon I wrapped her in my arms and told her what happened. She sobbed and sobbed. I will never forget Lacey falling to her knees and her cries to God, asking that He might save her beloved dog. And then the clincher came when she said, “Mama, if I lose her, I will have no reason to get up in the morning. I will be lost without her.” 


Hours later our family huddled together and wept when the vet called to tell us Sunny had taken a turn for the worse and passed. Lacey’s grief was unbearable. To say she was devastated would be an understatement. For days, my cool and calm and drama free kid didn’t just cry, she wailed. She ate little, and didn’t want to go to school. Lacey became withdrawn.


The part that hurt me the worst was this girl who always had such a deep faith, started to doubt that God was for her. She felt betrayed by Him and was confused why He would give her such a special gift and then take it away. “If God is love Mama, then why did He hurt me like this?” My heart was wrecked too. I remember scratching out in my prayer journal, “God what you are doing to my daughter feels cruel, and I don’t know how to take this pain away for her.” 


girl with dog
God what you are doing to my daughter feels cruel, and I don’t know how to take this pain away for her.”  ~Jodi Dauses

Learning to Heal from a Broken Heart

Through intense prayer, God showed me that if I was willing, what I saw as being unfair and callous, He could use as an opportunity. He was inviting me to be a part of it.  You see, Sunny’s death wasn’t really about Sunny’s death. It was about my daughter’s heart. God was inviting me to minister to my daughter through her pain. Jesus wanted to become her source of comfort and strength. He wanted to become her reason to live. 


Nearly every night for the next two months, I sat on the edge of Lacey’s bed and spoke the Holy Scriptures over her. We talked about God’s protection and His faithfulness. We unpacked the story of sin and how Jesus Christ has redeemed the fallen and how God’s mercy is offered to everyone. We studied verses of how Jesus is our ultimate comforter and how He bleeds right alongside of us when we are suffering. I would catch Lacey’s eye at random moments in the day when we were unloading dishes or driving in the van and whisper God’s love over her. 


Some nights I just held Lacey as she wept and confided in me all of her hurt and disappointment that God had allowed this to happen to her. I spoke boldly into her and over her, reminding me that her dignity comes from being God’s beloved daughter and that if she were willing, God was going to use this in a mighty way. Psalm 91:1-2 says, "Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust."

"Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust." Psalm 91:1-2 NIV

Lacey and I learned together how to bring our grief before the Lord and find blessing in it. We leaned into God’s Truth that He promises to be near to the broken hearted. We also purposefully began the habit of counting blessings. Yes, she had lost her beloved puppy, but God supplied so many other gifts. We began to list them together and gratitude shifted our perspective. Together, we learned that true joy is only found in gratitude. 


These truths paraphrased from Psalm 18:18-19 became our mantra, “The Lord became my protector. He brought me out to a place of freedom. He saved me because He delighted in me. The Lord is my STAY.” And little by little, Lacey’s heart started to soften. God grew a tenderness in her that did not exist before. She now reaches out to those who are ill or in pain with mercy and compassion.


Four girls in field with heart hands
“...but the LORD was my stay. “He brought me forth into a broad place; he delivered me, because he delighted in me.” Psalm‬ ‭18‬:‭18‬-19 ‭RSV‬‬

Just recently, as Lacey cuddled our newest fur-ball addition, Penny, she prayed, “Jesus, thank you for what you taught me through those trials of losing Sunny. And thank you so much that Mama and I are so close because of it. Mama trusted you and now I trust you. I know you are for me God. And I love you with all of my heart.” 


We Can't Avoid Heartbreak

That thing you are most afraid of happening to your child? That fear you keep hidden close to your chest…the one that takes your breath away, that you just plead with God all of the time to not let happen because it might devastate your child and maybe even turn him away from God? 


Stop running from it and invite Jesus into it. 

  • That learning disability your child has? 

  • That stubborn toddler who refuses to be potty trained?  

  • That (immature) woman your son insists on marrying?  

  • That stack of college applications your daughter is crying over?

  • That acne your middle schooler is so determined to hide? 

  • That very thing you most fear for you child may just be the very thing that God will use to capture your child’s heart.


Something miraculous happens in our mothering hearts when we shift our prayer from, “God, please I beg you do not let this happen…” to “God, I trust that whatever you allow to happen to my child will be to draw him into deeper dependence and intimacy with You Lord.” 


Author Laura Phelps, knows the excruciating pain of watching one of her adult children battle addiction,  “Here’s the thing. We will all have a season, or two or three (but who’s counting), when life falls apart. The only thing more painful than your own falling apart is watching your loved one fall apart. And sure, we can try to jump in and do the saving ourselves. We can pretend that our love is enough and we are sufficient. We can throw out the safety net and cushion our loved one’s fall as many times as we’d like. But remember, Jesus fell three times on His way to Calvary, and not once did His mother try to prevent the crucifixion from happening. Instead, she followed Him, she kept her eyes on Him, and she stood with Him. And then, she waited for Him to rise. I have to believe we were left with this model for good reason.” [1] 


When we as mothers surrender our plans to God’s, we become free to love our children in a new way. We become witnesses and ambassadors of their life journey, not prison guards aimed at protecting them from our every fear. This requires one thing: we have to be available. 


Of all of the principles of mothering I have the privilege to speak about to women around the country, I am most convicted about this one. Proverbs 31: 27 says that a woman to be praised, “watches over the activities of her household.” Ladies, that means we need to be physically, mentally, and spiritually present with our children to know what is going on! We need to daily ask God to help us be open and ready to how He wants to use us. 

“She watches over the activities of her household and is never idle.” ‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭31‬:‭27‬ ‭CSB‬‬
Women hugging in meadow

Those mundane moments, on the most ordinary of days, are sometimes the sacred moments in disguise when we can most reach our children’s hearts. 


I’ve learned that my most sacred mothering opportunities to love my children can not be scripted, I must be available. God uses many of our most frustrating parenting struggles as tenderizing moments for our own hearts. Mothering helps us grow in humility. Humble, confessing mothers encourage their children to be humble and confessing too. It gives us opportunities to talk about the rescuing love of Jesus and why we so desperately need it.


Show your children you are available to them. Talk to your children about your struggle with sin, sadness, and pain. Share about the forgiveness you have experienced from a merciful Jesus. The degree of softness and availability of our own mothering hearts will create an environment where our children have teachable hearts too. And that, my friend, always God to use us as mothers in an irreplaceable way. 

 

[1] “Laura Phelps: “You Are Not Enough, ” Walking With Purpose (blog), September 22, 2020.

 
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Want to read more? Order Jodi’s debut book here: Amazon.com


Jodi Dauses is a former print and television journalist turned mother, writer, and national speaker. Jodi passionately shares the story of God's rescuing love with audiences around the country. Her popular blog JodiDauses.com inspires women to joyfully embrace their irreplaceable callings. Jodi and her husband D.J. live on a small homestead on the Chesapeake Bay with their four children.

 

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