Becoming

A friend of mine put up a quote on Facebook recently, which really spoke to my heart:

God doesn’t give you the people you want. Instead, he gives you the people you need – to teach you, to hurt you, to love you, and to make you exactly the way you’re meant to be.

As a foster carer people often tell me that I’m doing an amazing job. They watch me hold, love and let go of children that I long to keep. And in one sense, they are right. I am doing an amazing job; it’s an amazing privilege to step into a child’s life and form part of their story. But I am not amazing.

We have just come to the end of a three month placement. E, age 6, and B, age 2, came to us last November, a week after our first little love went home. They had had a life full of trauma. E told us things so nonchalantly. Things that a 6 year old should never even know about, let alone experience. B was terrified of simple sounds, and she spent the first night screaming for hours, not knowing why she had suddenly been taken from everything she knew and put with strangers.

The first week was a big adjustment, but we took it in our stride. As time went on the girls began to relax. They began to feel safe. They began to open up, and this is where it got really hard. After three weeks E began to show us just how much damage the trauma had done to her. She became everything we had been told to expect during our foster training, but experiencing it in real life is something different. We began to have daily meltdowns over nothing, where E would scream, kick, hit, throw, pinch, spit, bite, and generally try to destroy everything. These meltdowns could last up to two hours, and could happen several times a day, especially during weekends and holidays. She just couldn’t process all the awful, awful things that she had experienced, and she was letting us know the only way she knew how.

‘Theraputic parenting’ is the term we use to describe our way of dealing with foster children. PACE – Playfulness, Acceptance, Curiosity and Empathy: these are the tools we use, built on a foundation of love, firm boundaries and total acceptance. There were many times when I was being scratched and hit that I was able to respond with deep empathy. When I could look in E’s eyes and tell her that I knew she was hurting so badly, and that’s why she felt like she needed to hurt me too, and that was okay. There were times I could respond to spiteful words with humour and diffuse the situation. There were times when, yes, I was doing an amazing job.

But that’s only half of the story. There were many times when I did not want to deal with another meltdown, and wished the school day was longer. Many times when E’s deliberate attempts to hurt and provoke me, succeeded. Many times when patience was not a virtue I possessed. Many time when despite knowing it was not her fault, I felt like it was. There were times when, no, I was definitely not amazing.

Guilt. I am not the perfect foster parent that I want to be. Confusion. I truly believe God called me to this job, and that He has equipped me for it – so why can’t I do it better?

This morning I listened to a podcast by a very dear friend of mine, who was talking about why he believes ‘just be who you are’ is a message which means well, but does people a disservice. It stunts our growth and stalls us in our current place of imperfection rather than helping us move into who we are meant to be. No one is perfect. And although we are all created unique and wonderful in our own ways, we are not yet the best version of ourselves. God put people and situations in our path not only so we can help them, but so we can grow.

The difference between a master and an amateur, they say, is that a master has made many more mistakes. As we wait for the next broken lives to come live with us, my prayer is that I will have learnt from my mistakes. That next time I will be more of who God has called me out to be. That I will love better, and be a truer reflection of God’s grace and mercy.

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Dating, marriage and lists

Recently I’ve had some conversations with single friends about how to choose someone to marry. Of course, it’s not so simple as ‘choosing’, as we all know. But even so, we agreed that within one’s own mind, there should be some set ideas about what qualities we feel are important when thinking about who to date and, eventually, marry.

I am so blessed to have been married for over eleven years to my very best friend. Before we dated, though, I had written out a list of things I believed were important in a man. I knew from experience it was all too easy to get caught up in the dating trap (going on dates without the goal of potential marriage) with just anyone I felt attracted to. Being single can be lonely, and it’s tempting to let go of ideals in the desire for intimate companionship. But after reading I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris, I decided to write out a list to help me keep my focus when tempted by pointless dates with people who I knew, ultimately, I would never want to marry. (By the way, I definitely recommend this book to all teens. I disdainful of it when my Mom gave it to me, but after reading it I completely changed my mind! The next boy I dated after reading it was my husband 🙂 )

So what was on my list? Well, here it is:

Qualities of My Perfect Man

He shall…

  •   Be worthy of respectTitus 2:2
  •   Have a strong faith in God1st Corinthians 16:13
  •   Be able to rule his house wiselyEphesians 5:23
  •   Have a happy disposition1st Thessalonians 5:16
  •   Be romantic!
  •   Love me as himselfEphesians 5:28
  •   Be willing first to listen, then to talkJames 1:19
  •   Be good at communicating
  •   Commit his heart, life and soul to GodMatthew 22:37
  •   Understand me
  •   Be able to pray with meJames 5:16
  •   Be thoughtfulProverbs 21:29
  •   Be considerate1st Peter 3:37
  •   Love my family as his own
  •   Fear GodProverbs 1:7
  •   Be a zealous Christian – Romans 12:11
So glad I've got this man in my life.

So glad I’ve got this man in my life.

Obviously this is a personal list. But that was the point. I had this printed out and kept in my Bible, where I could be reminded of it often, pray about it, and use it to keep my focus.

One thing I didn’t write on my list was that he should be my best friend. In hindsight, I can see that this is one of the major reasons that our relationship has stood firm through the trials we have gone through in marriage. Our solid foundation of friendship has made commitment, forgiveness and perseverance so much easier when they were called for. And believe me, they are called for in every marriage.

Writing a list may seem picky, idealistic or closed-minded to some. I beg you to think differently. Rather, it is freeing, helpful and keeps you focused on things of importance. If you are single, please consider the value of writing out your own list of qualities you’d like to see in your future spouse.

And yes – I did find someone with all of the qualities on my list.  And yes, I do know how blessed I am.

Guest Post: He is with me

With thanks to my sweet friend Leigh Roberts for writing today’s encouraging Guest Post.

He is With Me

One thing I’ve learned from being a mom is that Quiet Time with God comes in different shapes and sizes. Sometimes finding quiet moments alone with Him can be rare, especially when you have two kids under two. I found making time for Him especially tough after my son was born trying to adapt to new schedules and lack of sleep. And frankly, I failed a lot. Some days – okay, most days – I chose sleep over Quiet Time with Him (and when I did stop to talk to Him, my prayers consisted of a one-sided, five-second imploring: “Please help me not to pull out all my hair today.”) But I do believe in the importance of journaling, especially as mothers – storing moments in our hearts like Mary to remember forgotten blessings and answered prayers. One day I finally found an uninterrupted moment to write – so many blessings that I needed to record – and noticed my last entry had been in October, right after my son’s birth.

And it was December.

I was also behind in my daily devotional readings, but I found amazing grace in the passage that day. A passage from a book I found on my grandmother’s bookshelf, Streams in the Desert. A passage meant for October that touched me in December…

God’s timing is like that.

"He is always waiting, even when I am hiding. I always find Him there. His patience with me on days when I feel inadequate. On days when I fall short."

“He is always waiting, even when I am hiding. I always find Him there. His patience with me on days when I feel inadequate. On days when I fall short.”

I found hope in these following words: “There is an inarticulate fellowship, more sweet than words. The little child can sit all day long beside its busy mother and, although few words spoken on either side, and both are busy, the one at his absorbing play, the other at her engrossing work, yet both are in perfect fellowship. He knows that she is there, and she knows that he is all right. So the saint and the Savior can go on for hours in the silent fellowship of love, and he be busy about the most common things, and yet conscious that every little thing he does is touched with the complexion of His presence, and the sense of His approval and blessing.” (C.E. Cowman)

So my goal this year has been to look for Him in the Ordinary Moments of Motherhood. Not just in certain places or postures but In the Chaos and Cleft of the Rock. He is always waiting, even when I am hiding. I always find Him there. His patience with me on days when I feel inadequate. On days when I fall short.

On days when everything is a battle and my kitchen counter looks like Armageddon, when my son needs my bosom and I need Christ’s…

Like a weaned child is my soul within me….as a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you.

On days when I cannot measure up to that oh-so-annoying Proverbs 31 woman who awoke every morning before the crack of dawn…

He surrounds me with other moms’ stories of failures and kind words of support.

On days when I am drowning in guilt. And dirty diapers. On days when I fail…

He reminds me that I tried and that His mercies are new every morning. 

On days when I don’t have enough hands and I envy every girl that lives within a 60 mile radius of their mother…

He surrounds me with surrogate mothers and grandmothers who pour out love and help and strength for me and my children.

And I hear lyrics I usually ignore…my daughter singing along to the song on the radio…”He is with us, He is with us, Always, Always”…comfort and truth from the mouth of babes.

And when I lay my head on my pillow at night and feel like my biggest accomplishment that day was the slam dunk I made with a dirty diaper from ten feet away…He reminds me that I fed and cultivated souls that day. And that He is with me. Always. In spoken prayers and written words. In simple reminders from my daughter to pray. In the sweet, innocent smile on my newborn’s face. Like Brother Lawrence searching for God’s presence in the most menial of moments, I find treasures of grace and love in dirty dishes, dirty laundry, dirty diapers, and dirty little faces.

From the moment I feed them their daily manna to the moment when I tuck them in bed…He is with me.

And I am touched daily by this beautiful prayer: “Commune with me through ordinary work and duty. Be my companion when I take the common journey. Let the humble life be transfigured by Thy presence.”

He is with me.

Dedication

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about myself in the thirty (eek!) years I’ve been alive, it’s that I go through phases. Not necessarily like the phases in the Leadership Education post previous to this, but rather phases as in “Now I will Learn Italian”, “It’s Time to Focus on Writing” or “Keeping the House Clean”.

WordPress kindly offered me a glimpse of my blogging “achievements” in 2013. They displayed pretty fireworks and then told me I’d written a grand total of… seven posts in the whole year. Out of interest, I compared this to my 2012 report, and was not too surprised to find in that year I had written fifty-four posts. PHASES.

It could be called the ‘phase-eeze’, and I’m relieved to say I come by it naturally. My mother has it. My grandmother has it. Even my great-grandmother had it. (What hope does my daughter have, you ask? None, I predict.) In actual fact I don’t think phase-eeze is necessarily a bad thing. It is often an attack of the phase-eeze which kick-starts a new interest or develops an old skill. I find that working with it, instead of fighting it, means I can pour myself into one project at a time and take advantage of the energy which comes from motivation for that particular topic.

Four generations of phase-eeze girls :)

Four generations of phase-eeze girls 🙂

However.

I feel the need to balance my phase-eeze with some longer-term dedication. You may or may not be a regular reader of my blog. (I use the term ‘regular’ loosely, because there is nothing ‘regular’ about fifty-four posts one year vs. seven the next.) You may or may not be interested in becoming a more regular reader of my blog. But I have decided to commit to TRYING to become a more regular blogger. The reasons for this are numerous, but a few are:

  • To exercise self-discipline
  • To provide a creative, consistent way for me to share my faith, thoughts, and life with others
  • To develop my writing skills
  • To set an example for my children
  • To remind me to think through and develop my opinions on important life matters
  • To record family life for the future
  • To (I hope and pray) inspire others to live for God with every moment they are given

And so, as we move through 2014 I hope you enjoy my attempts at blogging more often! Feel free to give me a metaphorical nudge if you think I’m slacking. And feel free to stop reading if you think I’m boring!

May God bless us all as we live for Him.

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