Sometimes as mothers we experience the brokenness of the world in very unique ways. God calls us to many things with our children that do not get much in return. We spend evenings catching up on house cleaning, only to have children wake up and drag their toys and paper through the house. We change our babies diaper and it’s dirty again the second we get the last strap on. Toddlers fight us and refuse to give us rest. We care for the ones who get the stomach flu, and once they are healthy, we start throwing up. We bathe them regularly when we haven’t had a decent shower in days. We search for their shirts and pants while we still feel stuck in our pajamas and yesterday’s makeup.
The calling comes with tools that are also affected by the fall; ovens that burn our pizzas, refrigerators that give out the day after grocery day, showers that run out of hot water, sinks that leak and spill out into the kitchen, yesterday’s dinner that hardens and sticks to the plates, vacuums that putter out when our floor is filthy. We could go on forever couldn’t we? In all this work that’s mixed with difficulties, maybe you’ve said similar to what I’ve said before: I just feel like half of a person.
Now there’s nothing wrong with a little humor to take the edge off of motherhood right? We compare ourselves to zombies, the schizophrenic Gollum from the Lord of the Rings, the wrinkly old witch from Snow White, it can be funny. Motherhood is funny sometimes. But when it comes to the thought of fullness, there’s a hidden lie behind the feeling of being half of a person. It’s a humorous line, but it’s one that the Enemy pockets for later use. It’s fuel he can use when we’re at our lowest. Well, am I even whole? He strokes us to think. And we spiral from this point as we sit there, with our children running around the living room. Where do we run to?
For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority.
Dear Mothers, in Christ we are whole. We have been brought to fullness. We must remind ourselves of this truth. When our kids aren’t responding to us, and we’ve lost the keys for the 36th time this week and we’re late again, we are whole. When we have started our drive to the store and we realize our shirt is inside out and the baby is screaming in the back seat, we are whole. When we have struggled with anger all day and we stand in the kitchen at 6pm clueless of what to make for dinner, we are whole.
Jesus does not bring you to fullness in him only to temporarily make you feel like half a person while you’re in the trenches of motherhood. No, his fullness is for your mothering too. We are his, we are alive in him. We are experiencing the fullness of Christ even in our child’s tenth tantrum of the day. We are a person with a soul that is healed and made whole, even when we’ve gotten all the cereal bowls ready and there’s no milk left, or coffee, and we still need a shower.
Raise your mugs of lukewarm coffee with me and embrace the fullness of Christ in whatever trenches we walk through with Him today.
It was the quickest decision I’d ever made in a grocery aisle. My husband, Ernie, saw me answer my phone as he carted around our ten month old son and tried to figure out who I was talking to.
“Yes. Y…yes. Okay, 8 months?” I darted my eyes towards Ernie, who was still curious. “When will we need to be ready? Okay, so tomorrow.” Ernie quickly rolled towards me, feeling complete freedom to interrupt with, “So, who is this?”
The next morning we picked up our daughter from a children’s group home. Can I just describe her to you for a moment? She was like a ripe, juicy, chubby baby, just waiting to be squeezed to pieces. She had the most perfect, milk chocolate skin, and wispy curls just trying to push through on top of her head, though just the very top. She reached for Ernie like he was the love of her life she’d been waiting for, and just melted into his strong, safe arms. She was absolutely changed after that first hug from a father who wanted to love her forever.
We fed her sweet potatoes and sang to her, tried to get our son and her to be her new best friend. We took her to the park and rocked her to sleep at night. She was enjoying every bit of affection we could give.
I got another phone call. This little girl had a brother and he needed a placement as soon as possible too. They’d been separated a week and a half prior to her joining our home. We prayed for wisdom and walked into another group home, we picked up a giggly, grinning little boy who had a head full of curls, and the same perfect, milk chocolate skin. He walked with me to the car and we had his sister waiting outside. I can’t describe to you what it was like for them to reunite, but what I can say is, though her brother had a significant speech delay, his eyes sang “I found you” and he touched her shoulder. It was beautiful to be able to bring them together.
It didn’t take long before our daughter, whom we later named her T, and our son, whom we later named J, showed significant challenges. The road before us looked a lot longer as a few years later, and challenges rose rapidly. As the mother, especially, I quickly felt deeply inadequate and began to fear the battles that would come. Tantrums would explode that I couldn’t explain, distant and cold eyes would not be able to look into mine, hands and feet would become physically combative where I’d have to find a safe place for them. And I clearly felt my own anger rise like never before and wanted to keep them safe even from my own words. What was (still is) going on?
What is happening when you cannot help your daughter who is pushing away and her eyes tell us she’s currently away from you emotionally? What do we do when we physically cannot control our son who has suddenly been struck with anger and he cannot come back to a calm and peaceful state?
What is going on when your child’s sibling accidentally brush against their shoulder and in the blink of an eye your child is hissing at everyone in the family and throwing punches at anyone who might come near?
For the children from difficult places that come to our homes, it’s likely they have never experienced the goodness of a mother or father reaching for them when they were crying out as a newborn, or immediately soothed after a big fall. It’s possible they’ve never felt the comfort of an outside person bringing them down to a level of peace.
Parents are like external emotional control panels. Babies do not yet know how to feel comforted and safe on their own. They need to be picked up when fearful or hungry and have someone bring their emotions back down as they hear “Shhh,” or “I’m here, it’s okay”. Babies cry, parents arrive. They cry out again, parents give the same care. The cycle happens so many times for a child that they understand some idea of regulation and trust that they will be cared for. It’s their beginning experiences of a God who says, “I am with you and I will never forsake you.” Perhaps these children can hear the gospel one day and understand in a unique way because their parents showed them a small picture of God in their early days. And we have the same opportunity for the children from difficult places.
The children who have come to us are asking us to show them a God who will never forsake them. They need this, not just in words, but in our healthy touch, our immediate arrival upon cries, our endless amount of reminders of our love for them, our willingness to start over no matter how many tantrums or time they take from us.
Whether their experience was fearful neglect, horrific abuse, or anything in between, the effects on these children is clear. Life for them had to be an “all about me” perspective. When you see your caregivers on auto-pilot most of the time, then yes, it had to be “how to take care of me”.
Now they are in your home. You know they have been brought to safety, but they don’t know that yet. As you teach them to not take their anger out on your children, or break the T.V, remember they are in an immense need of healing that is beyond a few lectures or consistent time-outs. You’ve been called into redeeming work. Your child does not know they are made in the image of a good and faithful God, who saw them in their need. They do not know about the joy of being God’s workmanship; that our hands, and words and feet have purpose that they haven’t ever imagined before. Ellie Holcomb, one of my favorite artists, sings a beautiful line that makes me think of the hope I have for my children, “I need a rescue, I need a reckoning, from all the things I’ve done and have been done to me.” And the cross is that rescue and reckoning for what have been done to these little image bearers.
I can see it in my son’s eyes sometimes when we talk about God creating us, he has some pain there that he still does not understand or cannot communicate. We, perhaps, have a journey to walk with him still as he considers what it means to be an image bearer when he was knitted into a womb that he wouldn’t stay forever connected with. Thanks be to God, he has a rescuer and one who has, at the cross, reckoned what’s been done, and that rescuer is also his true Father who will never leave him or forsake him.
I will be spending some more weeks on this topic as I’m smack dab in the middle of crying out for wisdom for my children; how to love them and how to be tool used by God for healing when there’s also my sin that is so evident. If you’re walking through this like me, I hope you feel encouraged that you are not alone!
Today I plan on getting my four year old up on the counter with me to learn how to make cupcakes. We will haul out the butter and flour, she will sneak bites of the batter when I’m not looking. I’ll be teaching her to do this on Haddon’s birthday because not too many years from now I’ll ask her to make the cupcakes we learned together so mommy can go visit his grave and remember him. But that will be later down the road, today we celebrate 6 years of having him as their brother and our son. Six years of treasured conversation about heaven and what it would be like to be before Jesus, and how neat that someone so connected to us sees him face to face. Our kids have had many years now of seeing mommy and daddy aching to see their brother, yet full of hope, and beginning to understand how getting to live in both of those realities only comes from knowing Jesus. Our kids have a very special connection to the future hope of the resurrection, and so do Ernie and I. I long to see him, but I know I’m one year closer. We will have eternity to embrace one another over and over again, and that embrace will also be when Jesus finally (oh, finally!) wipes away every tear from my eyes.
Tension grew in my hallway as I walked the cold tile to the bathroom. One conflict between siblings grew to a wrestling war and I needed to step in, as I notified the other sibling that she needed to wait on the toilet. One brother broke away in anger, leaving the other in tears and I leaped into the air, grabbing him in time before he was out of reach. While simultaneously trying to comfort one and instruct the other, my peripheral vision was alerting me to their sister splashing in puddles of pee, making it known that she had never actually made it to the toilet in the first place. I wondered how to best juggle the crying, the pee and the disobeying when my other daughter, last but not least, whispered “here, mommy” as she handed me an open carton of 18 count eggs she had climbed to get from the fridge. My one free hand caught the egg carton and I released my son, leaving the wild scene for a second because I felt like the loss of moral due to slimy yolks everywhere would be a little too much. We made it to nap time, somehow, by God’s mercy, you guys
That afternoon seemed like a good representation of what life is like around here sometimes, and I wanted to welcome you to this blog with that little story about us. Around here we also know the Jesus offers grace that is greater than our sin. We love adoption and all the ways the Lord is growing us through it. We love our first born, Haddon, who is in heaven with Jesus. We have a really good Daddy and husband who loves the Lord. We drink a lot of coffee, mostly me, mom.
Here is where I love to encourage others in what the Lord is teaching me, whether it’s through deep valleys or peaks of joy.