It might be easy to look back on 2016 and think that things can only be better after having what seemed to be my worse year of my life. What if your last year was your best year in your worst year ever? Think about that for a moment. Your best year came through the worst circumstances EVER!! So how can we begin to think that 2017 will be better?
I did not know that my light could shine in the deepest darkness I have ever faced. Yet in this tunnel of hurt God has shown himself to me in ways I have never known. God has taken my heartache and pain and has used it to show me more of his love and grace for me. Tenderly opening my heart through more tears than four oceans could hold and showing me Himself. Showing me through others that He truly has a deep love and care for me. More people,in this past year, have come up to me and told me what a joy and light I am in this world. Strangers, check out ladies at the store. "There is something about you that just shines." "You have brightened my day." "What is it about you that makes you smile?" It's hard to think and wrap my brain around so I will try to dissect a bit more.
You ARE my Family!! Family is very important to me. Not only those in my immediate family, but those who walk through my front door of my home or business are considered part of the family. I appreciate my mom. As a kid she welcomed EVERYONE in her space with conversation and sweetness. With five kids there have been 100's of kids through my home. Their parents, their teachers and playgroups and mom groups. My home always open. I am not one who stressed over unexpected company. I am not one who quickly swept the floors and stuffed dirty laundry in closets. What you see is what you get. And God, knowing my heart for family, has given me family through friends over the past 50 years. Yes 50 years. As I sip from a mug of encouragement. A coffee mug sent from a dear friend, Angie, who I have known since 2nd grade. Encouraging me through this hard season by sending me a mug. When family was divided up and taken away, God surrounds me with HIS family. And there is joy at that dinner table.
I have had to learn in this hard season that in aligning my heart with God my identify is to be in HIM alone. I walked this faith since I was six years old. I have had things given and taken away. But my kids, really God? Life steps in with the hardest circumstances. Circumstances that are not from and of God. Circumstances born out of anger, fear and confusion. None of which are from God. Oh but friends what do we know of God. He makes all things beautiful in his time. Taking my hardest year of my family, my kids taken from me and what does God up and do. He pours family back into me through my hardest year.
I am one of those kids who was taken from her own home as a young girl. Put into the foster care system, brought into a wonderful family, and decided when I was young that no one person would ever feel left out, alone or without family. And here I was, a judges order. He had to follow the "letter of the law". Geography before this messy stuff. I understood it and the law is the law. It was not my parenting, or mothering, but no matter the law family was upset, changed and taken. Over the steps of my life I have poured into and given with a heart of joy, love and care as best as I can in hard circumstances. Given because that is how God wired me. And then the most important little people that I have given to are taken from me. My three boys. A decision a judge had to make. "Status Quo". The judge had to rule on the letter of the law. And my heart breaking. Hardest year of my life. Perhaps in looking back my best year. How is that possible?
Today it is Thursday January 26th, 2017. And guess what HE is making all things beautiful to me today. the God of the universe cares for me. I am still without two of my children. Today with a sweet visit from a friend God speaks to me so loudly that I am sitting here writing. Identity and purpose.Confidence in who I am. Confidence in my identity in a God who knew all this. He's been here before. I am not HIS only daughter to cry over the loss of little people.Twenty-Nine years of being a mom. Waking up to little sillies.
It felt like my identity was raped from me. My identity as a mom. Mom to my kids. Mom to the friends of my kids. A loving mother's heart to every kid God brings into my space. The very heart of my purpose in life taken like a thief in the night. Apart from God this might seem like a weird and strange blog post. So let me explain it this way. What gives you purpose? What esteems who you are? What wakes you up every morning and puts a smile on your face? What separates you from the rest of the crowd? Your purpose. The cause of living that God designed in you, guided in you and made you to build your life passions around. My purpose for 29 years. Mothering.
The first day I found out I was pregnant with Elliot I vowed to God that I would be the best mother I could be. With the next four children I vowed the same. I vowed that I would never compromise my mothering for other things. I would not grow my kids up in daycare. I would would be present. I would see that they had music lessons. ( A void I felt as a young girl who loved music) I vowed that I would listen to the heartbeat of their interests and build life around being a mother and nurture each child individually with their interests. Creatively seek out opportunities to grow each child up with a balance of spiritual, intellectual, physical, social and emotional growth and development. It's my calling and God provided in ways for me to be that present mom.
I worked hard at keeping my kids in the middle of my work. I had this creative side to me that was bursting. So I took my skills into retail and started my own business. My kids telling stories of growing up in the middle of that store. A store that afforded help, so I could continue to be present in my kids lives before and after school. I have appreciated all that I have had in being a mom. It has not always been easy. Even able to sit on a floor for hours and teach my deaf child to speak and articulate words. Seeing his personality and driving force to never be left out of this hearing world I was going to see that he could function. My mothering gave me purpose. With all the challenges we face as mothers I can say that I have always had absolute joy in mothering. Biblical parenting and embracing God's word in teaching my children in the ways they should go. My purpose.
Then one day a court decision took my children from me. I was no longer planning meals, making lunches, teaching my kids to cook, play-dates, looking into backpacks for uneaten lunches, and important papers scrunched up, and homework folders to review and sign. I was no longer trying to figure out math homework, or rereading reports. I was no longer listening to the sweet voices of my children reading. I was no longer faced with mountains of laundry or mismatched socks or wondering how one family can go through so many towels in one week. I was no longer checking my watch for that time school got out and I would put a sign on my shop door to dash out to pick kids up. I was no longer met with kids who walked from school to my store after school. I have a snack drawer still full because no kids are in my shop needing after school snacks. No more text messages from other moms checking to see if their kids are with my kids or scheduling plate-dates. Many friends over the years allowing their own children to have play-dates in a kids shop which they loved. Missing sounds of their chatter, their laughter or boys fighting over who sits in the front seat. Or boys freaking out because someone farted, or someone is breathing to loud. There was no longer those daily deep profound conversation with my kids. Helping shape their own opinions, desires and dreams. No play-dates to schedule. No special one on one mom dates at random. Sitting quietly. All is quiet. The evenings quiet. The drives are quiet. My brain of being organized and ready for what was next, the unexpected that happens with kids was no more. My purpose yanked by one decision. My family taken with one court decision.
For the first time in 29 years as a mother I have faced a pain that is UN-explainable. I could not have imagined the impact this would have on my life. I have said that it's strange. Tears just start falling out of my face when I am alone doing things I have ALWAYS done with my kids. Simple things like grocery shopping. Or handing Emerson the keys to pen the mailbox. Or Eric and I planning dinner and all the kids cooking together. I have faced a host of hurt over the years. Our hards may not look the same but we all face them and this IS hard. Nothing in life has ever had tears pouring out of my face daily. Nothing has ever fought so hard to rob me of my joy than to have my purpose and identity taken. A mother. My calling. The calling to be a mom. the calling God put on me to be present in raising my children.
And then in 2016 God wraps his arms of love around me through friends in ways I have never known. It was my turn to accept. It was a my turn to be given to. It was God's time to show me the best year of my life, 2016. The best year in understanding HIS family. The family of God, the family of friends, the family of hearts who care, the family of doing and helping. The family of life that expands all the way back to being born. Every single day of this journey God has provided someone to speak into me. To remind me of who I am in HIM. God showing me and reminding me that my joy and identity are in HIM. Not being a mother. Not being a business owner. In Him alone. In my worst year ever my eyes have been opened wider to the divine love God has for me and for my family. I thought I was doing what I was suppose to be doing. In all of my doing, I found success on many levels of my life. Yet alone and by myself my time with God was in fact the best year of my life. My greatest success is walking with a God who knows. Writing in my journal, sometimes 2-3 times a day of how HE showed up through family, friends and strangers to care for me and to care for my boys. This long season of being quiet and listening. A very long period. And anyone who has just one child knows the unending noise and chatter. All is silent.
It may have been one of my hardest years, but in my walk with God it has been one of my best years.
When we face the hardest moments in life it's easy to be bitter, angry and mad. But each day I wake up and I have had to say, "Okay God, today show me." Show me how to keep loving those who have hurt me. Show me how to smile and be joyful. Show me how to wake up and serve others that this season would not be wasted. Show what is next. Show me how to grieve. Show me how to be quiet. Show me how to understand your Word. Show me what to read in your Word. Show me how to accept the love and care others have to give me. Show me how to be humble. Show me how to ask. Show me how to walk close to you through the hardest year of my life. Show me how to walk this out with grace. Show me how to walk this out with honor and integrity. I don't know what God might show me and I have to admit I did not always know how to pray, but just to empty the thoughts from my head at HIS feet. And what happens.
God shows me. God shows me what family looks like when my family is taken away. God shows me how to pour into my children an example of love when others are hurting us. God shows me how to accept that laughing and joy are OKAY when we are hurting. God shows me how to serve others by dropping me smack dab in the middle of a family that I could love and serve. Oh he not only showed me but HE showed up. He gave me a season of quiet. And the words of the Bible, God's word have been my prayers. My writing out scripture when I have no thoughts of my own to pray. And God has shown me what true love is all about. What true love looks like and it has nothing to do with candy hearts and chocolates. It has everything to do with family and friends crossing over every part of my life showing up to come alongside. And it brought me to a place of humility to accept the love and care. God has given me a heart of grace. Praying for those who have hurt me. Accepting this season and if 2016 was not my best year than I do not know what to say.
The story, my story is still being written. And as God shows up through each of you, you have become part of a story that God already knew about. He has included YOU in giving me the best year of my life 2016.
"I know that my Father knows, and I am going to watch and see how He unravels this."
Not sure of who wrote that quote, but I have it written on a piece of paper at my desk.