Most things that I learned about mothering, I learned from my children.
I remember the day I discovered I was pregnant with my first born son. I was so amazed at the fact that for the next nine months, I was never going to be alone!
Being a people person, I thought that was just great! Little did I know that 25 years and four kids later, I would crave some time alone!
Raising four kids and especially homeschooling for the better part of 20 years, I quickly learned that I actually like being alone. I like the cohesive thoughts that have a beginning and an end, with no outside interruptions. I have also learned many other lessons from my kids that have helped me to mature as a wife, mother and simply as a woman of faith.
When I found out that I was pregnant, with each of my kids, I asked the Lord for a scripture that would give me insight into who they were, or at least give me insight as to how to pray for the unborn child within my womb.
We found out that we were having a boy about 5 months into my first pregnancy. So we decided to name our son right from the womb. We called him David because we wanted him to grow up to be as King David; “a man after Godʼs own heart.” The scripture I prayed over David in my womb was Matthew 5: 1-12; The Beatitudes. Each day I would pray the beatitudes over my son, asking God to fill him with these attitudes.
While I have witnessed the fruits of the beatitudes in Davidʼs life many times over the past 25 years, the one that I see the most is mercy. “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy”(Mt.5:7). Mercy is defined as compassion which flows from the ability to see life or a situation from another personʼs perspective.
David is always expanding my commitment to be merciful and compassionate towards others. While he sees truth, he is also able to understand how others may view that truth differently than him or me. My son has the ability to walk into a room and see the person in that room who most needs to be shown mercy and compassion. As a little boy, it was a charming characteristic. But I will never forget the time I first saw it manifested within him as a young man.
My youngest daughter, Johanna was lying in a coma because of bleeding in her brain. It was the first time the kids were coming into the ICU to see her in this state. David hugged me and then immediately went over to his little sister and took a seat on the bed and held her cold, lifeless hand in his. Then he leaned close to her ear and sang her lullaby. Though seemingly unresponsive at the time, Johanna woke from the coma weeks later and talked to us about the the lullaby David sang in her ear.
I am a more merciful person because of my son.
Two years after David, I was pregnant with my second child. The Lord clearly gave me this verse; “Joy and gladness shall be heard in her, thanksgiving and the sound of song” (Isaiah 51:3).
Nine months later I gave birth to a beautiful little girl and we named her Anna for the prophetess in the temple, at the presentation of Jesus who was “worshipping the Lord night and day with fasting and prayer” (Luke 2:37).
To this day, Anna exudes a joyful disposition and an attitude of gratitude. When Anna is home from college, there is always something fun cooking for dinner or dessert. She lights up a room with her cheerful smile and her great ideas. If Johanna is not feeling well, or I need a break, I know we can count on Anna to toss Jo in the car and turn up the radio so they can sing at the top of their lungs.
I have learned to live joyfully from my daughter Anna.
MaryAngela was conceived shortly after we moved into our first house. We were so excited for all the new beginnings ahead of us. The scripture I prayed over her for nine months was Jeremiah 1:4-9: the call of Jeremiah. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you” (vs.4-5).
From her grand entrance at birth on Thanksgiving day to her energetic feats in raising puppies for CCI, MaryAngela exudes the qualities of a gifted leader. She speaks the truth in love. Oftentimes that truth is confirmed in a phone call as MaryAngela shares with me an insight she has had that is something the Lord was speaking to my heart too.
MaryAngela has taught me to speak truth in love and to lead by example.
Johannaʼs reading was so simple. It was the conception of John the Baptist, “who would be filled with the Holy Spirit from his motherʼs womb and turn many hearts to the Lord their God” (Luke 1:15-16).
Within three months of Johannaʼs birth I witnessed the unfolding of this scripture being made manifest in her life. As we prepared for the first of many brain surgeries, Stony Brook pediatric ICU was packed with visitors in and around Johannaʼs room, wanting to pray. There were prayer vigils in churches and the hospital chapel. So many people turned their hearts to the Lord.
Johanna, named for John the Baptist, has taught me how to turn my heart to the Lord in ways and times I have never thought possible. She is always reminding me that this life is not all there is and that heaven is our true home.
Just a few weeks ago, we were taking a rest and Johanna whispered to me, “Mommy, I really thirst.” As I thought of getting her water, she said, “ I thirst for souls who do not
￼know God. I really want them to know God. So I am going to take all of the pain in my head and my struggles and offer it up as a prayer for each soul to come to know the love God has for them.”
Johanna oftentimes leaves me speechless. Through her I have learned to turn my heart to the Lord and keep my eyes on heaven, my true home.
As mothers we are called to teach our children well to grow up to be loving adults. But at least half the time we spend teaching, we are really learning. Motherhood is a lifetime of curriculum that is filled with lessons in love.
“ A little child shall lead them” (Isaiah 11:6).
Eileen Benthal has a B.A. in theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville. She is a writer, speaker and wellness coach at 40DaysToFocus.com and NOFO Wellness Center. She works with clients locally and around the U.S. who are excited about balancing their health in body, mind and spirit.
Eileen and her husband Steve live in Jamesport and have four young adult children. Their youngest, 16-year-old Johanna, is a teenager with special needs. Eileen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org andfacebook.com/40DaysToFocus.