I can’t believe I’m doing it – I’m joining the frenzy and blogging about what everyone is talking about this week. No, not that one; I mean Mother’s Day! It’s so…conformist of me and for some reason I typically avoid conforming in this kind of way. I much prefer to leave my conforming to things like being on time, not causing a scene in public, and volunteering for the socially-acceptable amount of things at church and my daughter’s school.
Daughter…that brings me back to Mother’s Day. I actually have two daughters; well, one and a half. First there’s our beautiful, brilliant, very creative and extremely willful Emily, who will turn 11 in July. We met Emily in a very God-like way (which is a story for another time) not quite 5 years ago. Her adoption of us was final December 19, 2008. She’s the one.
My other daughter is Emily’s almost 3 year old half sister who is still our foster child. We nicknamed her Izzy and we don’t yet know if we get to keep her. We have loved Izzy since the moment we received the call saying she was born, we met her for the first time about 10 weeks later, and she has lived with us since she was 7 months old. I call her my “half” daughter not because I only love her a little, but because despite the fact that in my heart and hers we are mother and daughter she is not legally mine.
The story of me finally becoming a mother at 45 is complicated and full of so many God-incidences that it needs to be told at another time. What is on my heart to share now is what I have been thinking about this week as I approach my 5th Mother’s Day since Emily came to live with us.
Every time I try to write about this it gets too complicated and it ends up sounding like I’m just venting about my mom and dad’s weaknesses and failures as parents. But some of the “negative” is important to tell because it provides a perspective on what I really want to talk about, so I will state here loud and clear: I love both my parents very much. They gave me the best of what they had to give, and I forgive them for not being able to provide many things that are critical for a child to grow up well-adjusted, healthy and equipped for this broken world. I understand that many of their shortcomings are because their parents fell short in providing for them as well. In other words, it’s generational. Probably back to Adam and Eve…
So to keep it simple, I arrived at adulthood fully equipped as follows:
|Completely disconnected from the world around me:||Check|
Of course, my parents also gave me some extremely useful tools for my bag: loyalty, perseverance, fairness, passionate conviction, a strong work ethic; all of which saved me from a life even more painful than the one that I ended up creating.
Fast forward, if you will, through a lot of missteps, bumps, bruises, broken bones and almost destroying my marriage, as well as past our deciding that since we could not have children of our own and because private adoption is so expensive, we’d just live our lives loving on other people’s kids.
Then God said, and I quote, “Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!” Actually, what he said was, “Alana, stop being so selfish, I have something for you to do.” And so it was, about a year after dropping out of foster parent orientation because I couldn’t handle the thought of falling in love with a child only to see them returned home (no matter what the circumstances), God made me a mom in a way so miraculous that it would even give an atheist reason to pause.
What is even more astonishing and wonderful to me is how God took a very broken little girl (me), and answered her lifelong prayer to be part of something really, truly important, by bringing into her life three other very broken little girls (Emily, Izzy and bio-mom). And that important thing, much to my surprise (I’d imagined some combination of Mother Teresa and Celine Dion), was the most precious of all things on earth; a family.
And as if that were not enough, God has shown me that His vision of my future is one far beyond what I would dream or hope for. It includes healing for me, for my girls, for bio-mom, for my parents, and for many others that I may never even know about. And all it will cost me is my agenda and a lot of obedience. A swell deal, don’t you agree?
So now I want to get down to what this is really all about. It is about is me acknowledging and praising God for the work He is doing in and through me. It is about gratitude for the Holy Spirit living inside me, calling, nudging and urging me forward every day of my life. And it is about me accepting and confessing that God has made me something I never believed I could be: whole. Not perfect (fortunately God is not done with me yet), whole.
As an illustration I’ll share a little story. It was last summer and I was sitting around a table with some other moms. Our daughters were all in art camp together and the last day we decided to take the afternoon off before picking up the girls and have lunch together. I sat there listening and watching and felt totally out of place. You see, I had nothing from my childhood to relate it to. There had been no play dates, no after school activities, no mommy groups, no sleepovers. Everything I knew about family and a “typical” middle-class childhood was from outside observation.
And as I sat there, listening to these genuinely nice and friendly women chit chat and laugh I thought, “They don’t understand that I don’t belong here.” And they didn’t, because, you see, I did belong there. I’ve earned my mommy badge, I’ve “paid my dues”, I’m not just a waste of space. Not because of anything that I have done, but just because I am God’s precious and deeply loved child.
It’s like the day when I was sitting in a training class listening to other foster parents talk about all the kids that had passed through their home or that they had adopted. I was thinking I wasn’t good enough, that what I was doing was unimportant because at that time we were only fostering Emily. Then “that” voice inside me said, in a way that even I could not argue with, “Emily would think what you’re doing is important.”
“I thank you Lord for your faithfulness throughout my life even when I did not know or recognize you, even when I turned away from you. My whole life you placed in my heart desires that were right and good, and though I often looked for love in all the wrong places you never gave up on me.
I am amazed and humbled by the changes I see in myself, changes that can only be your hand. I know this because of how many years I tried to fix myself, to make myself the loving, nurturing, caring and generous person my heart ached to be.
You and I both know the results of my efforts. I love how you do not wave my failures in my face, but rather you beckon me to come closer, because your ways are the ways of life and peace and unspeakable joy. And I love that you are doing all of this for your purposes, your glory, and because you love me.
And I thank you for being a God who invites us all to join you in the work you are doing all around, and for asking us to sacrifice everything for your glory just as you sacrificed everything for us. Your love is truly amazing.”
Okay, now to comment on the other subject everyone is talking about.
- Human solution: Kill the wretch and gloat.
- God’s solution: Redeem the wretch, celebrate his return and invite everyone, then send him back out to do Kingdom work.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go looking for one of those parties.