Working in child welfare for any amount of time forces the rude awakening of the troubles we have in our society and the daily struggles that too many children have in the United States. There are children who are fatherless, motherless, or both. Many are taking care of their baby siblings even though they are babies themselves. Some can tell you how to prepare a crack pipe because they have witnessed it in their home. Others do not understand boundaries or safety because they have never been kept safe. Infants are born with the addictions of their mothers; or at least, the exposure of poor choices made while in the womb. If you do not believe or understand this, then I encourage you to spend a day with a child abuse and neglect investigator.
It is deeply troubling when I hear people dismiss children as if they carry no purpose. I have written about this before in my post Where is Your Treasure?
ALL children are vital to this world. ALL children are precious in the eyes of the Lord. He loves each one as if he or she is His only child.
They teach us to forgive quickly, to slow down, to laugh, and to dream. They see things through the lens of innocence. They have great purpose in this world. Not to sound cliché, but they are the future and the potential fulfillment of all things good in this world.
When I took this picture of my daughter above at a family get together, I could not help but think about what the life of a child should be made of. Their lives should be filled with love, silliness, warmth, and parents. Their lives should be enveloped in family, memories, shelter, encouragement, and safety. They deserve days filled with the warmth of sunshine, the laughter of playmates, and the sweetness of ice cream cones.
A few years ago I felt the urge to write. It seemed as though the Lord was telling me to write my story down; although, I had no clue how to start the process. The last writing class I took was in 1992 or so when I was in college. My friend knew my desire, or perhaps the Lord’s calling on my heart, to start writing so she bought me some journals. I carried them everywhere and would write down different thoughts or words that sparked my memories or pertained to my history. I even used my iPhone to record thoughts that came to me when writing was not possible. Gotta love technology!
I had no idea as to where this project was going or if there was really anything important to say. The fact is that everyone has a story. All of us have a uniquely designed existence that is of no greater matter or significance than the other. We are all significant in the eyes of the Lord. I personally feel that the most inspiring stories are those told from people who come from the most humble situations.
As I started writing, it felt as though my heart and my mind were pricked. Suddenly, there was this release of all of the captive moments, long forgotten thoughts, and stifled persuasions that I had carried around for nearly my entire life; or at least, my life after age eleven. Words were pouring out of me that brought me to tears.
Soon, I turned to my computer to start writing. I craved it. Early mornings and late evenings were often accompanied by the patter of my fingertips on the keyboard as I delved into my solitary world of infertility. I had to reach out to others during this time for feedback, their memories of my story, and just plain old support. However, for the most part, it was me, my computer, my memories, and the Lord’s prodding.
I finished the manuscript within a few months. Once I started writing, I could not stop until I got it all out. I grieved for the child I was who became so ill. I fretted for the teenager who, despite seeming and acting like every other teen girl, held within her dark glimpses of despair. I felt the anger of a young woman in her twenties who was torn between wondering if her future career would be her “baby” or if she was ever going to have a baby to call her own. I celebrated the woman who ran to the Lord after years of ignoring Him. Lastly, I shed tears of joy for the foster-mother whose life was impacted for the better by the humbling refinement that is foster care and adoption.
I still have the manuscript on my computer. I do not know where it is going or what it is supposed to be. That is okay though. There is great cleansing in writing one’s life story even if no one reads it. Writing my story down has brought about a desire to continue to bring to life the words my heart feels but often my lips cannot form. Writing my story has also revealed the incredible essence of survival, faith, mercy, grace, and hope.
I would like to share an excerpt from it if you don’t mind. I have already inserted a few lines from the manuscript from time to time into previous blog posts. Even though this is just a glimpse, I welcome any comments. I may share more as I feel the need…
I do not remember much about the week I was in the hospital prior to the doctors discovering what was ravaging my body. My memories are more like flashing images from a movie. I do however remember waking up at one point with my dad and a doctor looking over me. My dad simply and courageously stated “You can always make love, but you will never be able to have children.” Or, did he say that? I remember hearing it, but not sure if it was said to me or about me. Nevertheless, in my hazy mind, I tried to comprehend what he was saying. Make love? What does that mean? I had not even kissed a boy yet. Have children? It really had not crossed my mind much. But, I heard him loud and clear. I knew something big had happened. This event that occurred forever changed who I was and the path my life would take. There was not a choice – it was either my life or my organs. Oh, the agony my parents were feeling. What irony really…the organs with which life begins had nearly destroyed mine. I was eleven years old, I had never had a period, and now I was forever infertile. I had just been thrust in to the world of infertility. Trapped in a little girl’s body was a pre-menopausal woman.
(photograph by Sarah Carter – http://www.sarahcarterphoto.com)
My daughter and I were setting up a room in a local church where I was scheduled to train foster parents on grief and loss. The room is mostly used for youth so the decorations were different from the usual church auditorium. Coming out of the stage and across the ceiling was a gigantic sculpted tree that was grey in color. I could see where a child might find it a little frightening; although, I know that was not the intent of the designer.
My daughter said to me, “I’m scared. That tree is scary.” I comforted her and told her that there was no need to be afraid as mommy was with her. Again she said, “Mommy, that tree is scary.” This time I told her that mommy and God were in the room with her so she did not need to be afraid. When I told her that God was in the room she said, “No, He isn’t.” I gently said, “Oh yes He is. God is with you wherever you go so there is no reason to be afraid.”
By now, I could tell she was quite agitated with me for saying that God was in the room. She put her hands out in an exaggerated manner and shook them while she said, “No He is not.” I asked her “Where is God then?” She looked up at me with her gorgeous blue eyes and sweet expression and said “God is in my heart.”
At that moment, the hustle and bustle of trying to get the room set up while tending to a clinging, somewhat argumentative 3 and 1/2-year-old melted away and I was reminded of how pure child-like faith is.
Do I walk around as if God lives in my heart? Do I remember on a daily basis the implication of accepting Christ in my life? Do I treat others in a way that truly reflects the love of Christ? I love that God uses children to declare His truth and to gently humble us in ways that are so unexpected.
Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. Psalm 8:2 (NIV)
daughter of mine, Child of His
Life as a girl can be difficult sometimes. The mirror reflects what you see but not what the world expects you to be. My hope for you is that you will only see how your Heavenly Father views you. Your blue eyes were made just for you. He designed you from the tips of your toes to the ends of your hair. That ever-so-slight dimple in your chin was carefully placed exactly where He wanted it to be.
daughter of mine, Child of His. You are beautiful.
There may be times in your life when you may not recognize who He created you to be. You may not always hear Him calling for you, or answering your prayers. Sometimes, you may feel as though you are trying to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders, but you are not. Your Heavenly Father will always be calling for His child. He will always listen intently and mercifully to your pleadings. He is carrying both you and the world in His hands.
I want you to get dirty, jump in puddles, grow flowers, dance until your feet hurt, sing at the top of your lungs, have childhood crushes, laugh yourself silly, and dress in a way that shows your creativity and personality. I want you to say no and mean it. I hope you never believe that you are not good enough for anything less than happy, loving relationships.
daughter of mine, Child of His. You are good.
I hope your friendships have depth, your love has width, and your aspirations have height. I pray your faith will be a well of peace and solitude. Be who you are, not who others wish you would be. Find what makes you happy and run with it. Let your passions become your joy. May you wander the world, but never forget where home is.
The Lord gifted me with you and all the things that make up who you are. You are delightfully stubborn, sensitively sweet, and tomboyish tough all at the same time. I want you to never be afraid of showing your colors to the world.
daughter of mine, Child of His. You are colorful.