Monday, September 19, 2016

Love in the Trenches

I have a back-to-school tradition of hibernating...the twitchiness from tasks left undone that plagued the last month of Summer is addressed by manic sorting, organizing and purging. After three weeks and several carloads of garbage bags filled with donations, it finally feels as if I can reengage with the broader world.

 As the dust has begun to settle from Summer to Fall transition, I have been able to spend time in real conversation with a dozen different Mom friends--the kind where we aren't interrupted every couple of minutes by needs for ice cream, bottom wiping or to be an audience for the latest tumbling or diving board trick. The kind of conversations where we can have unbroken eye contact that sees, hears and feels enough to share what is really going on.

In doing so my heart has been moved by the heaviness that so many in my community carry. As most of my Mom friends are now parenting kids over the age of 12, I have a new understanding of the addage "little people, little problems...big people, big problems."

A friend and I were discussing the difference in our parenting topics now versus 8-10 years ago when she asked if I remembered the her son's trouble in pre-K. "My greatest parenting woe was how to effectively discipline him for sliding into circle time everyday. We had teacher conferences about his baseball slides!"

We laughed and admitted it had appropriately mattered then. It was an entrance into the world of teaching self control and respect for authority. Those same issues are relevant today--they just look so much different.

The coffees, walks, small group conversations, lunches and phone calls I have shared with tween and teen Mamas this month have covered the gamut:
- diagnoses of anxiety and depression and gut wrenching choices about the trade offs of medicating these issues
- behavioral disorders
- teenage dating and sex
- divorce, remarriage, blending kids
- sexting
- bullying and being left out
- hormonal teens that are being truly hurtful to their family
- experimenting with different identities and being heartbroken in the process

These aren't other people's kids. These are young adults whose baptisms I have attended and made pledges to love and help rear. They are the offspring of friends whose marriages I stood up in and committed to support. These are the struggles of families like mine raising people in the world I live in.

It makes my heart ache to hear the painful things so many of my friends are walking through. And this is just in the parenting realm! Add on the additional pressures of marriage, work, finances, extended family, health concerns and it could easily be a recipe for despair.

As a woman in my Bible Study announced succinctly last week: "It is hard to be human."

THIS IS WHY we must stay plugged into our friendships and our faith. This world is broken, but we are not alone.

We must each tap into the truth God has given us in His Word that His Grace is sufficient. His power is made perfect in weakness. He will not leave or forsake us. We need to engage in loving community that reminds each other of these truths when we are tired.

A wise friend told me that regret haunts us with "if only" and anxiety gets us stuck with "what if?"
I believe peace in the Lord asks "what now?"

Foster parenting has taught me much about loving where you are with whatever time you have--no guarantees for tomorrow, but responsibility for what is in front of you now.

“The only opportunity you will ever have to live by faith is in the circumstances you are provided this very day." Eugene Peterson

You are a parent, but the outcome is not all on you.
Your job is to show up faithfully and ask God to answer: "What does love require of me?"
Not tomorrow, not next week, but NOW--in this situation with what I know and what I have, what does LOVE require of me here?
Be present and teachable, one step at a time.
Do the next right thing.
Fueled not by the exhaustible resource of ourselves, but filled by the love of the Lord and the fruit of the Spirit.

I firmly believe God will meet you there, because He is doing it for me with my fosters and my biological children.

It is not a promise of the avoidance of pain, but there IS freedom here.


Wife Goes On said...

Your blog posts always speak to me so clearly. Thank you for sharing your heart.

Denise Ross said...

So well said, JMom. Life is messy, complicated, and just really hard sometimes, but Gid is with us in the midst of it all and provides us with moments of joy, peace and a strength that on,y He can give us. I'm learning the importance of going out and making friends and times to get together and be available for my friends. For a shy person that struggles to out myself out there, vulnerable and unsure of what to say, I was reminded not so long ago that Jesus was all about relationships and doing what needed to be done, not what He felt like doing or staying in a comfortable place. I'm getting here, nervous and excited too and with my eyes lifted to Him doing this in His strength, thank you for your posts, I learn from each of them. God bless you