Love, from a Mom

You may have noticed that Pastor with a Purse has been pretty quiet this year. I’ve been spending a lot of what used to be my creative writing time praying, resting, and scooping up fresh motivation.

But life has also fundamentally changed. The good news is that I’ve accepted my first foster care placement. Those of you who have been with me for years know that I began this adventure back in 2008. There’s been a lot of discerning and waiting and praying and preparing to turn the dream of fostering into a real person who now shares my home and life. You can read more about how and why I got here in Mother One Day and Today is the Day. Now, I can say with profound gratitude and a dash of trepidation–the wait is over.

Almost four weeks ago, on an ordinary Wednesday, I got a call about a young girl in need of a new home. We met on Friday and she told her social worker that she wanted to live with me for two reasons: I’m nice, and she wanted to go to church. She visited my home on Sunday and she moved in on Monday. Two days later we had her registered at her new school.

The past month has been a flurry of phone calls, appointments, social worker visits, emergency team check-ins, back-to-school night, emailing teachers, finding new healthcare providers, and adjusting to our new normal.

I’d love to chronicle all the new experiences, struggles, joys, and fears, but one challenge of being part of a foster care story is that I can’t legally share any details about her on the internet and social media. There’s a chance that one day she may legally be my daughter, but there’s also a likelihood that she will be a temporary daughter. Only God knows that bit–the big, uncertain future–but I’m content to live each day simply focusing on her needs here and now.

Rather than fret about things I can’t control, I’m focusing on the fundamentals like her knowing I will always feed her and provide her with clothes and school supplies. Academic “success” in the pressure cooker of Silicon Valley? That doesn’t even make my list of top 25 priorities.

I’m tossing aside conventional parenting expectations to meet the most basic and important human needs: to feel safe, to be loved unconditionally, to build trust, to care for our bodies and our hearts, to know what to do with the nasty emotions that make sneak attacks and leave us reeling, to be free to be a kid after your childhood is stolen from you, event by painful event. If I had to do a 30 day review, I’d say we are doing pretty darn well.

There are so many feelings and so much exhaustion. Here’s what I posted to my Facebook wall last night as I lay curled up in bed, limp and weary but wired:

This is the most significant thing I’ve done with my life to date. I’m mostly living hour by hour, flexing my life around the ever-changing and delicate needs of this precious human that has taken over my house and my time and will likely take over my heart. I sink into my beloved mattress at my new bedtime of 10pm and gulp in the stillness and quiet, and take lots of deep breaths and think–this is so big, and good, and scary, and fun, and motivating.

I’m doing ok, good even. We’re alive and safe and functioning well (despite a head cold for her and a virus for me and a wicked heat wave all over the holiday weekend). We are laughing over board games and our hundredth game of Uno, learning to let loose as we lip sync to Selena Gomez, taking bike rides and shopping trips, braiding hair and negotiating what clothes are age appropriate, and tackling homework to mixed reviews. There are so many thoughts and feelings and appointments that my brain is now constantly leaking details, but what is most important in this life is not being forgotten.

Each day feels a bit like standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon–you know, the parts of the park where there is not a guard rail or even a frayed rope between you and the sheer cliff? It’s wildly beautiful, awe-inspiring, and terrifying all at the same time, but that’s life.

So now it’s 42 minutes past my bedtime and my eyes are telling me I’m too old and too parental to be up this late. So, off I go to the wonderland I call sleep. 6am comes too soon, but there’s never been a better reason to get up early.

Before I became a parent, I worried that I would feel constantly watched and judged by other people’s expectations of my child or their expectations of me as a parent. I also worried about whether I would feel like I was constantly failing. I so often see Facebook statuses and blog posts and articles about family life where moms are tossing about “mom fail” jokes, which I suspect often cover insecurity.

What has surprised me most in this new, wild place is that I feel nothing but satisfied with my efforts. I’m far from perfect. I don’t know nearly as much as I could to help this child thrive. But I’m giving her and myself heaping amounts of grace. There’s freedom to learn, and wide columns for mistakes. There’s open range to ask questions so we can both do better next time. I’m often shaking before some of these new challenges, but I keep looking back at all I’ve overcome in my life and remembering all I’ve seen God accomplish through my simple obediences, and then I’m able to move my trembling feet forward.

I guess I’m being brave. In case you didn’t know, that’s not just for children.

Half the time I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m texting friends and professionals a lot for perspective and advice. I’m asking for prayer regularly. I’m asking for practical help more. But at the end of the day it’s me and her and the Holy Spirit in our little home now packed with a second life’s worth of goods and baggage. So I’m telling myself every day–this is important. You are doing well. She is safe. Build from there. That is good. That is enough.

So Pastor with a Purse may have gone quiet, but there’s a whole lot of good going on under the surface. Hopefully I’ll be back soon to share with you more victories and more of what I’m discovering.

Until then my friends, be brave. Be obedient to your call even when it seems crazy and outlandish, and even when people you love discourage you with their concerns. Give yourself an embarrassing overabundance of grace in new and wild places. Never forget what is most important.

Love,
Corrie, the new mom/mum/mama

 

To my mom-friends

By the time a woman reaches my age, most of her friends are moms. I’ve been thinking of my mom-friends a lot lately, probably because it was Christmas which is about the birth of a baby to a family and you were posting a billion pictures of your family and snow and your family in snow. It makes me miss you because, let’s face it, we live way too far apart. I wish I lived closer so I could cuddle with your baby or help the older ones with those crafts that always make your kitchen table look like a Kandinsky painting. I even miss risking permanent pain and dislocation on those days when I’ve not had enough coffee and agree to wrestle with your boys. But as much as I love and miss your children, I dearly miss you.

Your kids have changed the fabric of our friendship, but let me say loud and clear that I don’t wish things were different. These little people you’ve made give me a lot of joy. Though I sometimes miss our spontaneous meetings for coffee or one-on-one time with unbridled and uninterrupted conversations where I don’t have to spell words like C-O-O-K-I-E and S-T-U-P-I-D, or window shopping sans stroller, backpack, sippy cups and multiple potty breaks – I promise – it’s only an occasional pang of sadness. I realize that all change, even good change, comes with some loss.

These people named Sera, Chase, Landon, Willa and Seth, they burst into your lives and our friendship with all of the boom and sparkle of fourth of July fireworks. I knew then that everything would be different and it is, but what we have now is so, so good.

Because you are a mom, I have learned to love you in new ways. I get to watch you discover new depths of yourself as you figure out how to survive years of sleep deprivation and how to pick up the pieces after the great stomach flu of 2010 that knocked you all down like a wave rushing over a sand castle. With grit and wisdom you circle, plot and conquer the complex problems that are your daily life. Sure, you make mistakes as a parent but I admire you even more because you reflect and learn from them. I observe this like a fan at a sporting event. I’ve set my fraying vinyl lawn chair along the green field of your life and I’m whooping and fist-pumping the air, yelling, “You go girl!”

Do you remember that blog post or article that bounced around Facebook a few years ago – it was a mom’s response to a single, childless friend who didn’t understand what the mom did all day? The non-mom clearly resented the time the children took away from her friendships. I believe that non-mom’s perspective is either a result of blindness or she is using cluelessness to cover over her pain. I think the subtext of that whole exchange is the non-mom missing her mom-friend. And it seems to me that the sparking point of her pain is her love.

Let me be a non-mom who puts it out there – sometimes I’m jealous. Mostly, I’m jealous of your time. Because you are a mom and that affects our friendship, there is a selfish part of me that wants to hoard your time, love and attention like I do gourmet caramel. Those months you spent nesting and setting up a nursery, when I helped you paint and shop and organize all the pastel and polka dot loot from your showers, I was also grieving the great impending change in our relationship. But don’t worry, this jealously is usually fleeting and it is always outweighed by happiness for you. The mature me knows that you are so precious that I would be a fool not to share you with others. No one should miss out on a love like yours.

While I’m being open I’ll also admit that I envy you. Not all women love kids and want to be mothers, but I do. Those precious weeks you spent nesting and then cradling and nurturing your infants were times I was doing my best to swallow past the super-sized golf ball in my throat. Even though you let me cradle your babies and you call me Aunt Coco and have me over for family movie night and show me in a hundred ways that you love me as much as ever, being a part of your motherhood is a reminder that I may not experience my own.

Our lives are constantly being shaped and reshaped, sometimes by circumstances beyond our control and sometimes by our own choices. We will never stop adapting and changing to new realities. I may have children one day and I’ll be bemoaning the teenage years while most of my mom-friends will be glorying in the freedom of an empty nest. We may never again be in the same place as women or as moms, but we will always have the opportunity to nurture each other. And when I think of my friendships fifteen years from now, I realize I have a significant choice right now.

This friendship between us is a beautiful thing and I am thankful to God that I have you in my life. Despite my moments of jealousy, envy and grief, because of you I also have profound joy and appreciation. And because you are a mom our friendship is stronger. We’ve had to figure out how to carry on this important relationship amid all of the necessities that make up your life as a mom and my life as a non-mom. When it comes down to it, maintaining our relationship is a choice for both of us. I deeply value your presence in my life. I can never say that loud or often enough. I understand that you have these little people who literally need you to sleep, eat, dress and learn about the basics of life like how and why we wash our hands and why love is the most powerful force on earth. Your motherhood is a significant thing and I hope that I can find ways to build you up. I want the friendship that I offer you to be one of the essential nutrients that makes you a better you, and a better mom.

It’s a new year and you are already well on your way to learning a hundred new things about life because you are a mom. I won’t presume that I have much to teach you about motherhood, but I do have something to say that as a friend I hope you can hear and absorb.

It seems that everywhere I go – no matter what state or restaurant, blog or Facebook page I visit – moms everywhere are being critical of themselves. You have a baby growing in your womb pushing out the wall of your stomach because there is nowhere else to grow and you call yourself fat. Your body is a different shape after bearing, birthing and feeding three children and you are constantly berating yourself for not fitting into you pre-pregnancy jeans. Your house is full of toys to stimulate fun and imagination and learning but what you see is a shameful mess you have to hide from visitors. Your child misbehaves in the nursery or at school and somehow it is a cosmic judgment on your skill as a parent rather than a symptom of the emotional and spiritual journey of your child. You are balancing motherhood and marriage and work outside the home and you reflect on all of the ways you feel like you are failing without building a list of all the ways you are flourishing. I am mystified and very sad that you cannot see and dwell on all the good that you are and all of the good that you offer your children, spouse, workplace and relationships.

I don’t know the cause of all of this self-judgment and even if I knew the cause it’s probably too big for me to dismantle alone. But I have a significant gift to offer that I think could help battle this terrible beast you face every day.

Picture me standing right in front of you close enough to pull you in for a hug. I can easily see the shadows you’ve tried to hide under concealer and the hints of gray shining in your roots. I see your tiredness, your sense of failure, your splintering last nerve, your fear of losing yourself, your desire for a break, your secrets and your pain. I see all that and you know what I think?

This woman is my friend and I’m so lucky. I love her. She’s brave and funny and tough. She makes me happy even when we just sit together in silence. She is such a part of me that all she has to do is twitch an eyebrow or quirk the right side of her mouth and she’s read me a chapter of her thoughts. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without baking a thousand cookies with her or sharing a bottle of red in a Roman piazza with her or without her shoulder to sop up my tears. And I probably wouldn’t like the person I am today without her affirmation, her laughter and her courage to call me on my crap.

To me, dear friend you are lovely. Your motherhood, as difficult and tiring as you may find it, expands my ability to love you. Are you perfect? Are you a ‘cool’ mom, the best mom on the block? When was the last time you washed your kitchen floor? How often do you give in and give them one more C-O-O-K-I-E just to stop the whining? Did you remember my birthday? I don’t care about the answer to any of these questions. I care about you seeing yourself and loving yourself…like I see and love you – and let’s kick it up ten million notches to the Nth degree – like God sees and loves you.

The complexity of your life is stretching and transforming you into a beauty that no pageant or plastic surgery, no Disney cartoonist, Insanity workout or one hundred-dollar dye job could ever produce! I like you because of who you are, not because of what you or your house look like or could look like. I wish that you felt the same.

This is my prayer for my mom-friends, that you would see yourself as you are and be deeply satisfied.

I think if you do this, then the answers to those questions I asked above would fade into oblivion and the questions themselves would cease to have power over you, because love is the most powerful force on earth.

I hope you realize that the word friend is as significant as the word mom. Our lives are very different, but that just gives us more ways and opportunities to love. We have so much to offer each other – laughter and listening and accountability – and hundreds of memories yet to frame and hang on our walls, even if we live thousands of miles apart. I hope that we continue making room in our lives and choosing to nurture each other for decades to come.

You are awesome and I love you. I’m blessed to be your friend.