Be Kind to Yourself

It’s been a long week.

I started strong on Monday, with ambition and the best of intentions.

But along came Tuesday,

Wednesday,

and then Thursday;

trampling tenacity and smothering resolve.

In came sore throats and hot little fevered bodies.  Tears, tantrums, countless night time wakings and bone aching weariness.

The lists get longer, the interruptions more frequent and the laundry pile larger.

By mid afternoon I’m feeling like I want to crawl under the blankets in a dark room for a long, long time.

My throat feels raw, my voice is hoarse and my eyes are gritty from lack of sleep while the fevered chills come and go.

But it’s my soul that feels most defeated.

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I feel I’m at my worst.

It’s not the physical sickness.

It’s all the impatient words I spoke, rolling over and over through my mind like a song on repeat.

It’s all the times I sighed and pushed them away;

ignored their hands reaching for me.

It’s all the missed opportunities to nurture, knowing it’s in those moments I had so much opportunity to deliver the message,

I will take care of you.

Instead, it came out more like,

I’m way too tired and busy for you.

It’s the looking at tomorrow and thinking,

“I don’t want to get up and be the mom anymore.”

I dump it out with hoarse sobs and hot tears on my husband’s kind shoulders.

And the words come.

Be kind to yourself.

He folds me in his arms and kisses my hair.

His calm reassurance brings Truth to this space.

His love is indifferent to my scathing self-reviews.

I hunt down the song on YouTube and let my soul rest in it as I play it over and over again.

You can’t expect to be perfect
It’s a fight you’ve gotta forfeit
You belong to me whatever you do
So lay down your weapon, darling
Take a deep breath and believe that I love you

Be kind to yourself.

I can see it, watching the tender exchange on video between father and daughter as they sing the words.

I love you just the way that you are.
I love the way He made your precious heart.                                                                          Be kind to yourself.

What if I could pass this on to my own daughter, so tender and vulnerable as she unfolds into womanhood before my eyes?

I know it’s hard to hear it when that anger in your spirit
Is pointed like an arrow at your chest
When the voices in your mind are anything but kind

What if I could really embrace it,

the knowledge of all the ways I fall short.

Embrace that love isn’t something to be earned.

Maybe I could carry that grace to others, too.

Well how does it end when the war that you’re in
Is just you against you against you?

Be kind to yourself.

I let the words reshape my reflection.

I look at my daughters as I kiss them goodnight, stroking the freckled cheeks affectionately, and think…

It’s the best way to love them; to show them what Grace is.

When I let failure be my teacher, humility and kindness will settle around my tensed shoulders and I can offer kindness to them too.

Teach them how to handle their own fragile souls delicately.

Be kind to yourself.

Will they see it?

Will they carry it in their own hearts as they look in the mirror each day,

take in the words of the world around them,

try and fail at life.

Be kind to yourself.

I say it as I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror pulling old clothes over an ordinary, blemished body.

I say it as I stare at the to do list and tuck it under the stack of papers where I can’t see it.

I say it as I fall onto the couch for a nap in the quiet of the afternoon while the dishes litter the kitchen counter and harden into crusty layers.

I say it as I scroll through my social media feed, taking in a narration of a thousand best moments of other people’s today.

I say it as I look at the dirty floors, the Kraft Dinner on the table, the children lounging on the couch in front of a screen.

I say it as I glimpse my Bible unopened in the basket by the window.

I say it as I step on the scale that disappoints, look at the grocery receipt that’s too high, and the toddlers eating lunch in their pajamas.

Be kind to yourself.

The words we tell ourselves become the words we tell others.

The disappointment,

the expectations,

the fear,

the anger,

or the kindness.

Live like you are loved.

Live like you are a child of God.

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“That you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

-Ephesians 3:17-19

“Be Kind to Yourself” by Andrew Peterson

~AF

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little O

We have a new little face in our home again.

Two year old Little O came to stay with us last week.

As a foster family we never know when the phone might ring with a social worker on the other end asking if we are willing to care for a child.

Wednesday it was just going on lunch time when I grabbed the phone and saw the word “Unknown” flash up on my screen.  During school hours this means one of two things; the school or Children’s Aid.

As it is Christmas Break I had little doubt who it would be.

I smiled and took a deep breath before answering.

My heart sank when I heard his name.

I felt like crying as I listened to her explain what was once again occurring in Little O’s life.

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I pictured his face and the way he constantly asked for Grandma and “blankie” the last time he was with us.

I remembered the happy chattering but also the anxious tears.

We had said goodbye to him after one short week, hopeful that home could be a safe place for him with the extra supports and supervision put in place.

I had packed extra clothes, my phone number and my best wishes to his family, hoping we could support in whatever way necessary but I hadn’t heard from them.

Would we take him?

Poor little O.

Yes, of course we’d take him.

We’d love to take him.

I closed my eyes a brief moment, whispering gratitude that just a short week ago I had called our social worker to tell her we’d like to be available over Christmas.

There was no doubt in my mind the strong urge I’d felt then, was due to this very situation.

It is so much better when a reoccurring placement can happen in the same home.

After talking to the social worker to confirm that Little O was, indeed, coming today I spent the next few hours tidying up the house, preparing a bed, making a list of questions to ask the social worker and throwing in some laundry.

I have learned to do these things (when there’s time) so that I can spend the next couple days focusing on settling in the child without worrying about cleaning, laundry, etc.

It’s not essential, it just makes it easier for me to relax and focus on what’s important.

If I was preparing for a baby I’d also try to squeeze in a shower and nap.

By 3pm they are walking in the front door, and there is Little O.

Deja vu.

He is cuddled up close against his social worker’s shoulder and holding on to a blanket, though not one I recognize.

In a clear plastic garbage bag in the social worker’s hand I spy the precious “blankie” I remember from last time.

I get a hint of a smile from him as I kneel down in front of him and say hello.

When his questions become fixated on the special blankie the social worker quietly tells me it needs to be washed, thus the isolation in the plastic bag.

I take the bag in hand and tell him we’ll do that first so that blankie will be clean and dry by bedtime.

Reaching out for his small hand we go back the hall together to the laundry room while the social worker dashes out to get his belongings from the car.

She apologizes when she returns with just one small armload of belongings.

He’s come with almost nothing but the clothes on his back; a pair of green, fuzzy footed pajamas.

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I assure her we’ll be fine, as the last time he was here he and my son had worn the same clothes interchangeably.  I was quite sure they could do the same thing again.

She stayed for a few minutes; going over paperwork, giving me her contact information and settling him in.

While she was there my husband and children came bursting through the door, smiling and exclaiming excitedly.

Little O smiled and shied away briefly, but soon my daughter’s animated chatter was more than he could resist.

He took her hand and trotted off toward the toy room.

His social worker took the opportunity to slip away after a quick goodbye to Little O, who didn’t react , and then it was just us…the newly expanded version of our family.

Little O has settled in remarkably well.

He remembers us from a few months ago and has slipped easily back into routines.

He is sleeping well and slowly starting to eat; the first night he refused to eat any dinner or snacks which is not real uncommon for a child settling into a new home.

There have been some minor growing pains for us all as we adjust to a noisy, high energy two-year-old in our home, but its really been quite easy so far.

Mostly it’s doubling things I’m already doing with Karter.

Double the diaper changes,

naptimes,

snacks,

hugs.

My children often need extra attention when a new child enters our home, so it takes extra patience and grace for all…including myself.

A week in I am reminding myself to be patient with some chaos as we all adjust,

take extra time to pull my daughters close,

snuggle Karter when I get the chance,

and bump a few things off my to do list.

I am reminding myself that it’s ok to feel frustrated when things don’t run as smoothly as normal and not to panic when I get sneaking feelings of regret at our normal being disrupted once again.

I am slowly adjusting to a new volume level in our home.

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Little O is full of energy that comes pouring out in singing, laughter, and yelling across the house!

We had family Christmas celebrations with my parents and siblings on the weekend so Little O of course came with us.

I am so thankful for family who buys extra presents, sets an extra place at the table and finds extra room in their hearts for one more little boy.

Little O loved every moment of Christmas and was absolutely thrilled with his present.

He won us all over with his ecstatic cries of,

“Open presents!  Open presents!”

We don’t know how long Little O will be with us but we are praying we will love him the best that we can for as long as he is here with us.

We are praying we can be a part of healing for his family and that the social workers involved in Little O’s case will have wisdom to know what is best for him and his family.

We invite you to join us in praying for Little O and his family.

I love to pray the verses from Jeremiah 29:11 over the children in my care, particularly when I don’t know all the circumstances of their lives or what is all going on.

It helps my heart rest when I remember that God has good plans for them; plans for good and not for evil, plans to prosper and not to harm, plans to give a future and a hope.

These things I pray confidently, knowing that no matter what life may bring God has the ability to redeem brokenness and pain into something good.

We love you Little O!

XO

~AF