Song after battle

“Well, My love is over, it’s underneath.
It’s inside, it’s in between…
I’m there through your heartache.
I’m there in the storm…
I don’t care where you fall, where you have been.
I’ll never forsake you, My love never ends.
It never ends.”

~Over and Underneath, Tenth Avenue North


She’s in her world, sprinting circles through the house. Runthroughkitchen-intolivingroom-turnonlight-crashintochair-racethroughdiningroom-intokitchenagain. It’s one of her patterns, and if you try to block her or break the cycle, you will go down. Because, in her mind, the course simply must be completed.

“Rhema lost her pants, Mommy!” Hope belly-laughs as a bare bottom whizzes past us.

I gather her clothes and call to her “Pants on.” I make several attempts – in vain –  to stop her in the kitchen. She would gladly sacrifice an arm  – pulled right out of the socket – rather than break the pattern. After many laps around the house, my frustration grows. She doesn’t listen to a word I say.

The next time around I catch her and we struggle on the floor in the kitchen. To say she is strong is an understatement. My in-shape, airborne Army husband has a very hard time “containing” Rhema. And when she is determined, distressed or afraid, her strength increases.

She wraps her legs around my legs and trips me. She blocks my hands with her hands and drives her head into my stomach. It’s WrestleMania in my kitchen, and my 7-year-old is whipping me. “Pants on, pants on,” I say over and over. Fifteen minutes of striving – it’s a battle for control now – and finally I am able to work the pants up her legs. She is red hot and angry. She instantly yanks off her clothes and blindly rushes to the living room to run her pattern.

It takes all of my physical strength and energy to get her upstairs to her room, and she fights me the whole way. She curls into a rigid ball on the floor and weeps. I close her door and sit on the other side, broken-hearted and wounded, I catch my breath, blink back hot tears of my own.

What do I do? About the non-compliance, the obsessive-compulsive behavior? The fact that she’s getting bigger, stronger – I’m losing my ability to control her.  Her pants lay at the bottom of the stairs, testifying to my failure. My deepest fear looms large in front of me — that I won’t be able to keep her with me, that she’ll have to go to residential program because I can’t take care of her.

God, you gave her to me. Help me. Please help me know how to love her and reach her and parent her. Please!

I remember how Jacob wrestled with God. Jacob fought, held on all night, and said “I will not let go until you bless me.” (Gen. 32:26)

Just don’t let go. No matter how long it takes, just don’t let go.

And suddenly I know what to do.

I rub calm into her back, the child I was just wrestling. She’s so tight, so lost and afraid.

Rhema, Rhema. Mommy loves you, Rhema.

Rhema, Rhema. Daddy  loves you, Rhema.

Rhema, Rhema. Jesus loves you, Rhema.

It’s the made-up song I sang when she was running circles in my womb, hoping she’d settle. I’d sing her that, and ‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus.’ I like to think she remembers me singing those words to her before she was born.

I imagine God singing over me as I sing over her, quieting us with His love. Only His song is how He never lets go. How we  run our desperate patterns, away, away from Him, refusing to hear, and yet He pursues us. How we thrash, flail and fight Him and He loves us anyway. I’ve come to know that place – on my face, tears on the floor – is the best place to be. Because there His song of grace reaches me.

Her crying turns to babbling; she’s telling me all about it.

Finally she sits up, crawls over to one of the many puzzles on her floor. Feverishly she works the pieces, grunting, sniffling, humming, singing now, too. I come close, and slowly, gently she lets me in. I hand her a puzzle piece – she already knows without looking where it goes. I realize that she has built a stack of puzzles, each one completed on top of another. My foot knocks a few pieces out of place, and she calmly puts them back, not so frantic anymore.

When she’s done, I raise my hand for a high five. She never smacks a high five.

Instead she lays her hand against mine.

Thank you, Lord.

She looks down, but a secret smile fills her face.

There. There’s my girl.

Pants on, Rhema?

She stands above me and as I hold out the pants near her feet, she rests her hands on my head. She does it for balance, I’m sure, but it feels like she’s blessing me.

27 thoughts on “Song after battle

  1. I have been reading your posts for a while but have never left you a reply.
    This was the saddest and yet sweetest thing I have read. Your heartache and fear for your child is heard so clearly but above all your deep and endless love and care for her shouts louder. I am sorry for your pain and I am sorry for Rema’s pain. I am so thankful that your trust in Jesus makes all those tears and fears something you can face and overcome. Rema is so blessed to have you as a mother and I am sure in her heart she remembers your beautiful song you sang to her as a baby.
    You are so gracious and so humble and you deserve all the blessings that come your way especially the one of love you feel through your precious daughter’s hands.

  2. I started to have rogue thoughts about residential placement last year as well. The fear and sorrow of that reality stops me from thinking too much about it. Wyatt is just so strong and when he is afraid or angry there is little room left over by his emotions for self control. I try to put the fear out of my mind and embrace, love and cherish the boy he is right now. And as with Rhema, there are so many every day miracles to be seen.

  3. Your fear is my fear. Your joy is my joy. Our babies grow bigger. Control ebbs away. Oh for grace to trust Him more.

  4. I love you. Your ability to share your darkest moments with us and always seem to find His hand gives us hope to be as strong as you.

  5. I can only echo what others have said here. I can feel the pain and the love in every word you write. Sharing this will helps so many others feel less alone in their house.

  6. Just beautifully poignant, as always. You write all of our stories so clearly. I’ve been in the corner, frustrated, sad, angry, without patience. Thank you for letting that be ok enough to write, and for showing the world how we come back for our kids time and time again. Rhema and Hope are lucky, lucky girls.

  7. J, thank you for sharing your world. Your writing brings me to tears as I can feel, really feel the pain and the hot tears, and the deep, deep love for your girl. Hugs mama.

  8. Your writing is beautiful and heart-breaking. So much love. I agree that she is blessing you. Though we aren’t physically touched, I feel like Rhema is blessing us all. ((Hugs)). May there one day be more songs than battles.

  9. Oh, Jeneil, such a beautiful, bittersweet post. I think you have expressed what so many of us feel or think in those dark and frightening moments. The love and grace you bring forth are such wonderful gifts and lessons for all of us.

    Hoping today is a brighter, more peaceful day for you and your sweet girls.

  10. She IS blessing you…in ALL her ways.

    May God continue to guide you, leaning on his strength everyday.

    And know you have mommies hear on Earth to comfort you at times like this. HE gives us each other to know we are not along.


  11. Your writing is beautiful – your words powerful, sad, filled with love and with hope. Thank you for sharing. I learn so much from others who share a similar path – and am grateful you allow us a glimpse of your journey.

  12. so many synchronized thoughts; praying the Lord will give you His strategy and a prayer team; the Spirit of love is key which is what you appropriated eventually–never mind the pants; i’ve learned this past year to address “it” in the spiritual (rather than the physical) realm; you have power girl in covenant with Brandon to deliver her in Jesus’ name!

  13. I know. You put what I feel into words so beautifully. I worry, I pray, I yell and I get angry.

    I’m trying to remember that sometimes what is best for BW isn’t necessarily going to be what would make me happiest.

    Love you girl!


  14. Thank you for your honest beautiful words. When I read your words I know that I am not alone. I too have the same fears with my little guy and then then the hope. So I just say thank you for your words…your writing…thank you!

  15. The struggles tear at us physically AND so much emotionally. It is hard to know which tires us more. Your Rhema has moved along this journey and made such progress on her path. The path is challenging. You have a skillful team- work with them – use the resources you have to address the work to be done. You & Brandon have fought for where she is, there is more fight to come, but you can win- you can get her through. Hugs to you as you work so hard for each high five.

  16. that was totally inspirational. in my “sitting at the door, crying” moments i usually call on my husband to help me finish whatever task i tried to complete and then i cry some more. now i see that if i just take a minute, breathe and try it a different way i might get results. thank you.

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