My mother was an angry woman, understandably so. My birth father was, in her words, an “evil” man; he never had a job, self-medicated in more ways than one and abused her both physically and emotionally.
They were married for 13 years before I was born, but divorced when I was three after he was incarcerated for a crime I’ve chosen not to investigate.
Trying to pick up the pieces, my mother remarried when I was four. But the damage had been done, and the world didn’t hesitate to keep knocking her down, blow after devastating blow. For example, just shy of her fortieth birthday, my mother endured two back-to-back armed robberies while working as the manager of a bank, which resulted in her suffering from PTSD for the rest of her life.
At the age of fifty-three, my mother was diagnosed with lung cancer. She fought that battle for a long time but, in the end, the cancer had crept into every bone in her body, killing her slowly over the course of nine years.
My mother was a fighter, but she was never a lover.
I have very few, if any, fond memories of my childhood. My sister’s chronic medical condition absorbed most of my mother’s time and attention. And when she wasn’t caring for my sister, she was busy building into her new marriage, not her second daughter.
My mother was broken and needed a savior.
I do not have a single memory of her reading me a bedtime story, or even tucking me in at night. I vaguely remember her telling me she loved me on special occasions but, when times were especially tough and her anger got the best of her, she’d also tell me, “You’re just like your father.”
Her words were like daggers to my soul.
When she found out she was dying of cancer, her heart suddenly softened and we worked to repair our relationship. But, when I was a child, she could have told me she loved me a million times a day and it wouldn’t have been enough to override all the hurtful things she said when she was angry.
Her words were etched onto my heart like a bad tattoo.
From what I’ve been told, my mother’s mother was an angry woman too. And my birth father’s mother was as well, so much so she abandoned him and his sister at an early age. Both of my parents’ mothers were broken, which caused both my mother and my birth father to be broken too. My stepfather’s story was no different.
And I am collateral damage.
My biggest fear as a mother is that all my family’s brokenness will rub off on my children.
Fortunately, I began exploring a relationship with God back in 2011 and, ever since, He’s been putting the pieces of my family’s fractured past back together like a finely crafted, albeit million-piece, puzzle.
But I still struggle.
I’m working to overcome the addictions I developed while trying to self-medicate against the depression and anxiety that grew out of my life experiences. So today I pray on all occasions and make a conscious effort to do things for my children that I wish my mother had done for me: I tuck them into bed each night, read them picture books and stories from the Bible, and speak words of affirmation over them in hopes of filling their souls with love and peace.
But I am still broken.
More times than I care to admit, I’ve had so much anger inside of me I can’t contain it. Sometimes it creeps up on me slowly like a snake stalking its prey, and sometimes it spews out of me quickly, like steam escaping from a pressure cooker.
In the aftermath of those moments, I have to remind myself I am human; I will make mistakes. I am a piece of clay on the Potter’s wheel – a work in progress – and I should celebrate that progress rather than striving for perfection.
Without recognizing my weaknesses, and then praying God gives me the strength to overcome them, I would remain unchanged. And I want to change. I need to change.
Rachel Macy Stafford’s third book, Only Love Today: Reminders to Breathe More, Stress Less and Choose Love has been an answer to my prayers, giving me the grace I’ve needed to persevere through tough times and continue fighting the good fight.
It is the book I wish my mother had read.
And it is the book I wish every mother would read.
Our children are gifts from God. When they were born, they were given a clean slate, like a freshly fallen blanket of snow, unaware of our family’s sordid pasts and the generational curses that have plagued them for years. While children are often victims of our familial afflictions, they deserve a future full of peace, patience and, ultimately, protection.
We can be the ones to break the cycle and crush the curses.
We can build into our children, raising them up into the beings they were born to become instead of pulling them down into the depths of our pain.
Prior to reading Only Love Today, my go-to phrase in times of utter frustration and desperation was “anger is the enemy.” I would recite those words over and over again as soon as I felt anger approaching but now, after a significant amount of reflection and reorientation, I’m eager to enter into a new chapter of life where “only love today” can replace, or at least work in tandem with, “anger is the enemy.”
In the New Testament, Luke 1:17 explains John the Baptist as a man dedicated to “turning the hearts of parents towards their children.” From my perspective, Rachael’s words have been written to accomplish the same goal; they are truly heaven-sent and a must read for all parents, regardless of whether they’re dealing with anger issues or not.
- In the event that I do lose my temper in front of my children, I apologize to them as quickly as possible, and then ask for their forgiveness. Once they’ve given it to me, I thank them for it, saying “When you forgive me on earth, God forgives me in Heaven.” At the end of the day, all everyone wants is to know they’ve been forgiven for the things they’ve done wrong, here on earth but also in heaven.
- When tucking my children into bed at night, I make an intentional effort to speak words of affirmation over them, reminding them they are good children who do good things. Sometimes I struggle to find the right words however, so I’ll ask myself, “What would Mary say?” It’s kind of like the old saying, “What would Jesus do?” but for some reason I struggle with the former. I think it’s because I am not, nor will I ever be, perfect like He was. I am human, and I am a woman, just like Mary, meaning I will make mistakes. But this phrase – “What would Mary say?” – reminds me I have an obligation to raise my children respectfully, just as God has raised me. They too are His children and, as their mother, He’s entrusted me to tell them who they are, which is fearfully and wonderfully made. He expects me to model love and, more importantly, His character, which is patient and kind, as much as humanly possible.
If you’re in need of daily reminders to breath more, stress less and choose love, I highly recommend Rachel’s third book, Only Love Today. It is the book I wish my mother had read, and it is the book my children will be glad I did.
It holds the words I wish all women would read.
If you’re still struggling to access love because you’ve been shrouded in anger for as long as you can remember, I completely understand. I was too. And some days I still am, even though I don’t want to be. See, anger has a way of growing roots inside us. And those roots run deep, far deeper than you could ever imagine. Even when you think you’ve plucked them all out, it’s not uncommon to realize some may have been missed. But that doesn’t mean you should give up trying to pull them all out; it just means you need to get out your toolbox and try again.
Only Love Today is one of the most important tools you’ll ever put in your toolbox.
During a recent interview with Michelle Duncan-Wilson, I explained how my experiences with anger were making it impossible for me to access love and the many steps I’ve taken since to acknowledge my issues, and then address them. Perhaps listening to our conversation would help? You can access it here.
Just remember friends, anger is the enemy. I pray you choose #OnlyLoveToday.
Beth Nowak is a believer, dreamer, wife and mother, former Kindergarten teacher, and founder of GivingFamilies.com where she helps parents and children (ages 4+) “make memories while making a difference.” She’s also a mental health activist, TEDx presenter and inspirational speaker promoting civic engagement as a holistic approach to healing. For more information on the many topics she presents on, please click here.