Christmas Hope For A Mommy’s Soul

The months from October-January have always been my favorite. The fall weather that descends through precious holidays ending with a brand new start and year – usually with a thick, gorgeous first snow tucked in somewhere. I just love it. So many of my favorite things all packed into 4 beautiful months.

A few years ago, I started to dread these months. The holidays. The traditions and “memory making” moments. These times are especially precious when there are children in your home, but my children HATED the holidays. Four years ago we experienced what we like to refer to as “the angry Christmas.” From the day the Christmas tree was set up there was anger. Tears, tantrums, fits, hateful words, nightmares, and battles we hadn’t dealt with in months. She. Was. Angry. In utter exhaustion we took the tree down on Christmas Day as soon as the children were tucked into bed.

The next years weren’t much easier. The holidays weren’t full of magic for my children no matter how hard I tried to sprinkle everything with the kind of loving, overflowing, Merry Christmas, sparkly fun that I had grown up with.  The beauty of these glorious days just made them more painful to their hurting and confused little hearts. And I grew weary. I grew tired. Both mentally and physically. I began to grow bitter in my confusion and pain.

Why do children have to suffer like this? It isn’t fair.
Why do my babies who are so loved still have to feel this brokenness and pain? I don’t understand.
Why did God call me to be a mother to children with hurts I cannot kiss away? I feel so helpless.

Last year it all came to a head. We were enjoying Thanksgiving together with some extended family and I was given a priceless gift. One that I was anything but thankful for.

I was given additional pictures. Pictures of a past. Pictures of babies alone. Naked. Filthy. Malnourished. Afraid. Crying. Abused.

These were my babies. My babies just a few months before I met them for the first time.

As much as I knew that one day I would be inexplicably grateful for this knowledge of those days and the insight that knowledge would give, all I could do was cry as the weight in my heart that had been building reached a full crescendo.

Once again I was helpless. My arms physically ached with the desire to reach into those photos and wrap my arms around those babies. Or to simply erase those memories! Replacing them with warmth, with love, with food, with cuddles, with sweet clothes and blankets. Replacing them with the knowledge of unconditional love. Only love.

It was as if a dark cloud had settled over me. The weight I had been called to bear was just too much.
I was a Mommy who couldn’t take the pain from her babies.
I was a Mommy who could see, but couldn’t help.
I was a Mommy forced to watch from afar.
I was a Mommy with hands that couldn’t hold.
I was a Mommy with love that couldn’t erase.
My heart felt completely engulfed in pain.

It was only a few weeks later, standing there in church when the background picture of a song we were singing caught my attention.

A baby.
Naked. In a filthy stable. Crying. In extreme danger.
And then my mind flashed forward to another image.
A man.
Naked. Alone. Hungry. Abused. Filthy.

I began to sob as I realized that my heart had reached it’s breaking point just in time.

Just in time for Christmas.

Just in time for the weeks dedicated to remembering a baby.
A God who became man.
Incarnate.
A Savior who walked the earth in human form and who experienced the utter brokenness of this fallen world.
A baby who grew to be a man who gives us hope beyond our painful reality.
A tiny, helpless human who was handed down by His Father God to brand-new human parents.
A baby destined to feel pain.
A baby to breathe peace and understanding into my babies’ stories.
And a Father.
With a sovereign plan.
Destined to watch His only Son suffer excruciating humiliation and pain.
A Father forced to turn His face away.
A plan that was beyond human understanding to make us right before Him.
In the fullness of time the plan was and will be complete.
And hope was brought to a hurting mama’s heart.

Just in time for Christmas.

I finished that season with a quiet hope.
Not with understanding. (That I will not have until everything is made right again.)
But with hope. With peace. With the knowledge that I was known and understood. And my babies were known and understood.

The gospel became so much more precious to me that  year. It became even more personal. Just as Jesus came to earth and took on flesh, somehow the story did the same for me. It took on flesh and form and feet. And it walked in real life. In my life. In the lives of my babies. And it literally felt like I was wrapped in the arms of a real and living God.

The magic to the season was brought back for me. I approached these wonderful months with a kind of settled excitement.
I was ready for the loving, the gift-buying, the Thanksgiving preparations, the tree-trimming. I reveled in the little moments. The memories made. Real life love and magic to be created.
And I was ready for the other moments. The anger. The hurt. The dismay. The confusion. The chaos. I knew they were coming. I knew they were real.
And it was ok. Because my Savior was real. My God was real. The story is real. The hope is real.

Christmas came to earth. And with it came hope and help. Personal and real.

Christmas hope for this Mommy’s soul.

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
~ John 1:14

 

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A Story: When Seven Became Eight

It was a brand new year. We had just completed the holidays as a family of seven. We had five children, aged 6 and under. We were full. Not a stuffed and bloated kind of full. A satisfied, hearts brimming, happy kind of full.
Our house was full.
Our van was full.
Our lives were full.

Then…my phone rang…

It was a Monday morning. It was the first day back at school for the oldest two and my schedule had just righted itself again.

The caller ID said “DCS”…

She apologized as soon as I had finished my greeting. She knew that what she was calling about was something we had not considered. Ever. She was desperate. And she was making calls.

“…seven different children…no homes…would you be willing to at least listen to their situations and consider?”

Yes. My answer was “yes.” How could it have been “no?”

As she began to speak, my heart began to sink. There were so many needs. So many children. I was listening to situations that we literally could not facilitate. Siblings that needed their own rooms. A teenage mother with her two young toddlers. They would need their own space as well. She needed to learn to be a mother. A special needs child who’s special care could not be conducted in our two story, quirky old home.

Tears were forming in my eyes as I listened. Why was it there were no homes? She was calling us. Our family. Technically, the courts had already decided our home was full enough. Five children was the limit. Plus we had enough little, little ones, I knew they were hesitant to place with us again just yet.

Seven children…with no home for this new year.

I tuned back in as she began describing the last situation. I remember every sentence that she said to me. A life described in 30 seconds. 30 seconds that completely captured my heart. But, even as my heart was captured, I tried to guard it. We had decided not to interrupt birth order. Our oldest was to be our oldest. This child was 9. I knew our family’s stance on this was strong. We had thought long and hard and already made our decision. In addition to that, she was describing some definite potential problems. This wouldn’t be an easy transition for our family. But her last sentence completely destroyed the guard I was busy setting up.

“We technically made the removal after he had already left for school. When he gets out of school this afternoon, we have no place for him to go.”

I stayed very formal on the phone. I told her what she already knew – that these were situations we had already agreed we weren’t prepared for – but said that I would double check with my husband. She thanked me for listening and said she understood if our answer was “no.”

I didn’t call my husband right away. That was a first. Usually I immediately dialed his number, eager to hear him say the “yes” I knew was waiting there. This time I was expecting a “no.” It was what we had decided. We had very good reasons. I wasn’t upset, but my heart was compromised. I turned around and knelt at the dining room chair I had just been sitting on. I cried. I poured out my heart. I prayed individually for each of the precious lives I had just heard about. And, I gave them all to Him. The One with whom they would be the most secure.

Hubby was coming home for lunch that day, so I didn’t call him. I waited. My heart was still being tugged and I wanted to be able to fully communicate that – while that was true – I was still happily willing to stay with the plan we had already formed.

He came home.
I shared the phone call.
I waited.

He didn’t say “no.”

I think he was just as surprised as I was! Both of our hearts were undeniably tugged in the same direction. Pulled in the direction of a really scary “yes.”

We called the caseworker back. We gathered more information. We called a few others who had entered similar situations with other children before us. Wise and bold believers who passionately lived out their faith. We prayed together.

Then.

We said “yes.”

Just a few hours later, my husband walked in the door with his hand protectively on the shoulder of one of the cutest boys I had ever seen. All fear and worry disappeared and my heart completely melted. Looking at my husband’s face, I knew he was experiencing the same thing.

We walked through the plan we had set up:
We sat down on the couch with him to briefly explain our home and the people in it.
Then my husband took him on a tour while I sobbed in the kitchen. (The tears that he had rapidly blinked away while we talked had completely broken my heart.) 
We ate dinner together as a family for the first time.
Then my husband took him on a trip to Walmart for clothes to wear the next day and some other basics. They also came home with a lot of really cool “boy” toys since our house still hadn’t recovered from the pink and purple explosion that beginning with three daughters had caused.
They worked through his homework together.
They went over the next day’s schedule.

Basically, we kept him up until he was exhausted. We knew there would be no chance of sleep any other way.

Then, my husband started a routine that would last for the next several months. He sat on the end of the newly made bed and turned to the first page of the Jesus Storybook Bible. And he began to read. I hid around the corner and listened to the whole story. I listened to my husband pray. He turned off the lights, closed the door, and then we sat there in the hallway and listened as the sobbing tears began. Tears that had been held inside all evening. Tears from a heart that was broken and confused.

We cried, we prayed, and we didn’t really sleep that night. Our lives had just radically been changed. We knew that, even aware as we were of the changes, we truly didn’t know the half of what was yet to come. But the changes we saw were in store for us paled in comparison to the changes that young life had experienced in the span of a single school day.

We knew we were called. We knew God would provide. We knew we were as ready as we could be.

And so we rested, on a mattress in a room that wasn’t really a room yet. Exhausted and yet fulfilled. Minds full with the wonder of the day we had just experienced.

The day that seven became eight.

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A Story: Poop

“Mommy, will there be poop in Heaven?”

It was just a typical Tuesday. There was a doctor’s appointment about an hour away and two little traveling companions needed to go along with mommy. Mommy wasn’t thrilled, but armed herself with Twizzlers (a time-consuming, but not too sticky, snack) and special juice bottles, and they started off.
The appointment went well. The littles snacked on their treats, charmed all the nurses, and behaved just as a mother would hope. They, as always, prompted many questions about the family because they were so close in age.
One of the nurses followed them out to the lobby to share again just how blessed she was to hear about the family and to give Mommy a hug. She asked a few more questions and they chatted a little bit.

Suddenly, from the front seat of the stroller came one of the loudest farts Mommy had EVER heard (and she’s heard ALOT). The cheeky grin on the face of the little man responsible suddenly turned to panic and everyone instantly knew that he had severely underestimated what was behind that fart. Mommy wasn’t frazzled. She pulled the change of clothes out of her purse (isn’t she a well-prepared Mommy!?) and they headed to the bathroom. Even though the pants weren’t too badly damaged, Mommy went ahead and wrapped them up with the undies, because, you know, she was prepared.

As it so happens, this particular Tuesday was destined to be a bit more chaotic than originally planned and as they headed back home, Mommy got a call that informed her she needed to take baby in for another checkup on an old infection that just would not go away.

“Would 2:20 work?”

She sighed as she recognized her time at home had been whisked away, but was still cheerful.
They picked up child #3 from preschool, ate a fastfood lunch (rather late), and headed to the new appointment. Both littles had slept nearly the entire ride home and she had grand visions dancing in her head of how well-behaved they would all be at this next appointment.

However, when she parked the van and opened the side door, an unmistakable smell assured her that at least some things had not gone as planned. Same child. This time the clothes were completely unsalvagable. As was the coat. And the blanket that had been snuggled. As she tried to clean up the bulk of the mess with wet wipes and what was left of the blanket, she began to regret her treatment of the pants from earlier. They probably would’ve wiped up ok at the time…

“Oh, well, I guess we will make do.”

And so, with little brothers pants ending somewhere far above his shoes, no socks, and a jacket but no shirt, the unfortunate child was placed in the stroller with big sister to ride into the appointment for baby. However, after Mommy had carried baby on her hip into the building, through the hallways, up the elevator, and all throughout check-in…upon putting him down in the waiting room she realized that what had looked like a water bottle spill on the front of his shirt was all over the back of his pants…and up his back…and…not water. And then, looking down, realized that much of the mess had already been soaked up…by her shirt.

And so, begging the forgiveness of the nurse who had just called their name, she bypassed the scale and went directly to the room where she began to clean up with wipes what definitely should’ve been cleaned in the bathtub. This child was eventually re-dressed in a t-shirt, no coat (oh yes, another coat had fallen victim), no pants (because…brother…), no socks, and…winter boots.
Oh, and Mommy hadn’t remembered to pack herself a change of clothes, so poop stains and a distinct smell became her fashion of the day.
They ran out of the appointment to the car where she, with profuse apologies, put the littles back in the carseats that had fallen victim and promised baths at home. Late pickups for the rest of the kids, then home. Carseats seats set by the wash machine for later sanitation. Littles finally in the tub. Mommy breathes a sigh of relief while enjoying the splashing and giggles.

“Whew! We made it.”

She reveled in the cuteness as she towel-dried two little heads and then carried one in each arm downstairs where they were dressed in warm, clean pajamas. She placed the older in his highchair for a snack and turned around to find…that his baby brother had wandered into the other room where he was curled up in one of the unsanitary carseats happily sucking his thumb while snuggling the unwashed blanket.
Another bath for baby. More clean pajamas. Doors to the other rooms closed. Baby placed in highchair for a snack. (Question: can  you still call it a “snack” when it’s nearly 5pm? Inquiring minds want to know.) Move to the left to check on brother only to notice a very distinct smell.

“Please God, please let that smell still be coming from my shirt.”

Nope. Another poopy mess. One that surpassed the bounds of the pull-up Mommy had insisted on (much to the chagrin of the newly potty-trained young man) and completely saturated the favorite undies “on top” (as per the terms of their compromise). Oh, and the pajamas. Those too.

Another bath for another boy. Mommy placed the undies in the toilet  to soak while she frantically searched for the wet wipes to calm some of the chaos. Oh yes, in the other room. She returned to find her poop-covered little boy staring in disbelief at the toilet where his undies…his very favorite “fish” undies…had just disappeared from view. Oh yes. He flushed them.
Mommy begins to laugh uncontrollably while wondering if she should call hubby dearest now or just wait to see if the toilet still worked later on. She finishes bath number 4 still laughing.

An older child stands in the doorway…

“Mommy? Will there be poop in Heaven?”

Mommy smiles through her laughter and begins her thankful count. Clean shirt. Washing machine. Fresh smelling baby hair. Snuggles with clean blankets. Unseasonably warm weather (you know…because toting half naked babies out of the doctor’s office is not as frowned upon when it’s 60 out). A house full of blessings. A toilet that still flushes.

And.

To answer your question, dear older child:

“No. No, I do not think there will be poop in Heaven.”

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