It all started when I told Oksana that she'd lost the privilege of going sledding with her brothers, Speedy and Alexander, shortly after lunch. She had disobeyed on the way out the door, and I knew that, as hard as it was to deny her the fun she longed for, I had to do it.
What followed was an introduction to a side of Oksana that she hadn't yet showed us in her ten weeks in our family. She threw herself on the floor and when I tried to intervene, she then proceeded to kick and hit and scratch and bite me. Despite parenting 12 children, this was new territory.
I knew that overpowering her to stop the angry protestations would only result in damage to our relationship and potentially damage to her physically (or perhaps both of us!). When I moved away from Oksana, the thrashing stopped. Thus I knew that she wasn't in any danger of hurting herself or anyone else. She just sat there in a furious funk.
I've made so many mistakes in my parenting over the years, but God keeps giving me additional opportunities to learn. One of my recent lessons is that I don't have to solve the issue that's arisen immediately, as long as no one will get hurt. In fact, taking the time to gather my wits, to pray and to read my Bible is probably the best insurance against the child getting hurt where the hurt is hardest to heal--in the heart. I've learned the hard way that a wounded soul mends oh-so slowly--if at all.
So today, with Oksana in a huff in the same room, I grabbed my Bible and sat down to seek my Saviour.
I opened to Mark just in time to hear the blind beggar, Bartimaeus, cry out as Jesus passed by in a large crowd, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" I heard the crowd scoff at this outcast and scornfully insist that he hush. I heard Bartimeaus cry out that much louder and more desperately, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" I then watched as Jesus called this blind nobody to him and with just a word heal him of his blindness. (Mark 10:46-52)
At that moment I felt blind. I could not see how to move forward with my enraged child. I could not see how to restore her confidence that I had her long-term best interests in mind, even though that meant the short-term pain of not getting to sled. Like the beggar, I sat on the ground and cried out, "Jesus, have mercy on me! I am blind! Help me to see! Help me to see what to do now with this broken child I hardly know."
As I sat there releasing my frustration and confusion to Jesus, the thought came to me that I needed to tell her that I loved her. At first I hesitated, thinking that she wouldn't even let me near her, and the battle would begin all over again.
But feeling that I needed to obey the urge after just begging for wisdom, I sidled up next to her and gently lifted her into my lap. She didn't resist. She laid her head on my shoulder, giving me the opportunity to whisper words of reassurance to her. She was so calm by this time that I went on to tell her, "I love you even when you're naughty. I love you even when you kick me. I love you even when you hit me. I love you even when you scratch me. I love you even when you bite me. I will always love you no matter what. I will love you forever. I'm glad you're my daughter. You are a gift from God, a precious, beautiful gift. I love your dark-chocolate brown eyes. I love the unusual shape of your eyes. I love your slender fingers. I love your long, brown hair."
By the time we'd gone through this litany, I sensed that she was again willing to let me be her mama, in every sense of the word. She told me she was sorry, and then, to test the waters, I asked her to follow a few commands from me, like sitting down and standing up repeatedly. Sure enough, she was happy to obey.
The two of us entered into a battle that I would have handled so differently in the past. In years gone by, I would have built up irritation and exasperation. I would have said things that damaged my child's sense of security with both my tone and my words. I would have built a wall of bitterness on both sides of the confrontation.
This time I simply cried out to Jesus and waited. His solution brought peace to our home and sweetness between me and my precious new daughter. Christ's nudges to me to be gentle, humble and patient with Oksana changed everything in our early afternoon drama.
As we left my bedroom, some of her sisters grabbed the toys needed for one of Oksana's favorite past times--a "tea party" with her giant bear and her dolls. Oksana's sisters called me to come and watch as she happily set up and began to play. I came running, camera in hand.
In the video below, Oksana tries a couple of times to say grace before her friends eat, but she gets frustrated each time when she mixes up her English and her Russian. She finishes the prayer with a long pronounced, "Amen!" Oksana then goes on to tell her friends that she has food for them and then lovingly urges her bear to eat up.
Her next step is to get out toys (eegrushkee) for all of them to have at the table. After distributing the toys, she pulls out a baby bottle and gives each of them a quick drink.
Getting the chance to capture this scene with my camera was an especially sweet gift from the Lord after a battle that initially look unwinable. Like blind Bartimaeus, I, too, experienced Christ's mercy, and healing was the result.
(Before watching the clip, we suggest you mute the music on the right side of our blog.)