Literally, it took a while to find the computer under the heap of papers on the desk! And in a lot of other ways our life is a mess right now. I think this every time I sweep the floor and marvel at how much mess little people can make in the 20 minutes since I swept it last! And every time I look at my kitchen counters with barely an inch of space visible and cringe. But more than the physical mess, this year has been messy all around.
Don’t misunderstand, it was a good year, it was so full of blessings and I absolutely have SO much to be grateful for. It was a year when we added not one but two children (for now) to our family. In February we welcomed J who was then 17 months old but not yet crawling or standing. (She has come so far and is now running after her brothers!) And in September her brand new little brother came to live with us just 4 days old. They are so fun, beautiful children who we are so grateful for the time we get with them. But 5 kids, Nathaniel (6), Samuel (3), Bella (2), J (2) and Tiny (3 months) brought a lot of challenges and is wonderful and hard. And foster care is wonderful and hard. And the ups and downs and worry (I know I’m not supposed to worry, I’m a work in progress) was a lot to handle. Just navigating time with the kids birth parents and answering all the kids questions and trying to help them work through it is hard. Sometimes, they just cry, because it’s a very hard thing. It’s a mess really. I know in those moments most of all, when I’m trying to explain how a mother can’t care for her child, that the world is such a mess. When my child cries himself to sleep because he misses his sister or because he’s worried about his foster sister leaving, it’s obvious we have made quite a mess out of this world. We know in the core of our being that we weren’t meant for this.
Last week I was too late catching one of the girls banging this poor angel on the table, and I couldn’t help but think it was a pretty good visual of how I’ve been feeling, and maybe how a lot of us feel around this time of year.
I even wrote a blog post that I never posted about the reason to be joyful at Christmas. But this month I was painfully reminded how little control I have over our life and how powerless I am to protect our foster children. After a phone call with the social worker I was feeling so fearful and sad and Nathaniel who didn't know what was going on was jamming to Christmas music all day. I found it so difficult to be joyful with that music playing so opposite what I was feeling in my heart. Christmas seems to be all about joy and hope and that can almost make it worse when you feel so differently. I was reminded how even though the birth of a baby is a beautiful thing, there was a lot weighing down the heart of our holy mother back then too. As I held this 3 month old precious baby boy in my arms that night and wondered what his life might be, what hardships he might face that I may not be able to protect him from, I realized Mary could have held Jesus and wondered the same. And I realized that God didn’t have to wonder, he knew (HE KNEW!!) and he handed him over still.
I think the saints mastered feeling joyful even in the absolute worst life had to offer. I know sometimes I can do this and sometimes I'm not there yet, but I know that no matter how we're feeling at Christmas time, no matter what mess our lives have become that God who is perfect, loves us enough to enter into the imperfect and the hurt with us. If being born in a barn, literally right into our manure, isn’t proof enough that there’s no where he wouldn’t go to be with us, I don’t know what is. Mary knew this, that even though she was facing something so hard, this baby was here because God hadn't forgotten about us, he came to save us from our mess.
So my life is a mess. I have more children than you can count on your fingers, and most aren’t living. One lives with her birth mom and I get to see her every few weeks on the weekend. 5 live with us, one of those has down syndrome and parenting her as a toddler has been harder than I expected, one of those refuses to use the toilet every other day, one of those is determined to break me by asking to play the iPad every 3 minutes, and two of those I have cared for as my own but I sit in the back of courtrooms while lawyers make decisions about them. I can count the number of adults I talk to in a typical week on one hand. Must-socialize-always-me, now is a hermit. I miss my church family where I used to practically live and now I visit for just an hour on Sundays. I miss the staff and the residents at the nursing home where I used to work that I’m never able to visit anymore. I miss friends I used to have and wonder if people think I forgot about them. I haven’t, I think about you often, but that’s all I have time for between diaper changes and late night feedings, home school lessons and meal after meal after meal (did I even leave the kitchen today?) Sometimes Dan and I dance in the kitchen, and sometimes we realize all we’ve said to each other that day is “can you pick up milk from the store? Where did you hide toys X, Y and Z? Did you pay the rural water bill (No is usually the answer, why is that so hard for me to remember!) and my personal favorite, “Can you watch the kids, I need to walk to the mailbox. And yes, I know you already got the mail.”
But Thank You God, that you came to be with me right here in this mess. Because at supper Nathaniel was making silly faces at J and she was laughing so hard she almost fell off her chair. And because Samuel and I ran from alligators and were safe on our pretend boat and Bella loved her sled ride. Because Tiny smiles and my heart can hardly contain it. This is Emmanuel, God with us. "Whoever receives one child such as this receives me." Mt 18:5 This is how he comes to us, in these people, in these children. How silly are we to think we might find joy in any thing else? And even if we've made it a mess, even if we continue to mess it up daily (just ask my kids how many times I lose it a day), there is He is, right in our mess, right there with us.
I hope you know even though we didn't have time to send out a card this year, that we are so thankful for you and the way you bring God to us. We could never do any of this without Him and without you. Your constant outpouring of support as we follow where He's leading us on the crazy adventure is priceless to us.
Praying you find Him this Christmas season and this year in your good times and especially in your mess.