Especially when you are fighting a fight. A cancer battle. A depressed teen battle. A job loss, a marriage, a special needs child. We can get mired down in the details and stuck in the hard moments of our story.
I was sitting in church on the 22nd of September when this song, The God of Every Story by Laura Story was debuted. It was two days after I learned about 3 children. They needed a family. Tears fell down my face as Tony and I looked at one another. "We're going to do this aren't we?" he asked. The first step.
The God of Every Story, by Laura Story
Suddenly, the music stops. The dance is over. We pause for breath and find we have moved along in the journey. The fight is not over but there is a break while the smoke clears. Change, progress has been made. Small battles won.
Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have the opportunity, le us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
Our Christmas this year has felt like one long series of backwards steps. Sick kids. Sick mom. Sick dad. More sick kids. Endless neediness. Tantrums. Anxiety. Lectures. Arguments. Broken furnace in below zero temps. Steps backward.
Some days I remembered to say to myself, "don't get weary." Some days I remembered that I was fighting for these little ones' hearts. Aiming for healing. Straining for those two steps forward.
Other days I was just tired. I could not see the fight for the smoke. All I noticed was the laundry, the noise, the 104* temperature, and the dissension. Steps backward.
All of these steps backward seemed to overwhelm our intentions to celebrate Advent. The plans of relishing in the Spirit of Christ take a backseat to breaking up fights, stopping dives from top bunks or table tops, and temper tantrums.
This all makes me think of another journey. Joseph. The adoptive father of Jesus. He's picked the perfect bride. Good family. Sweet girl. And then he discovers her indiscretion. He's a nice guy so he's going to quietly back out of the engagement. But there's this angel. Already this marriage journey is not what he had expected. Steps backward.
So he'll marry the girl. But then he's got to take this pregnant girl who's expecting THE CHILD OF GOD on an 80 mile walk to his hometown. There's no evidence in the Bible of a donkey, just a guess that he may have owned one. That journey must have looked like a million miles! Steps backward.
Then. In a barn. In a manger. A feed trough of all things. This beautiful baby. Pause in the fight. Shepherds, angel, wise men, gift. Suddenly they can look back and see where they've come. See the dance of two steps forward, one step back. See where they've landed.
"Take the child and go to Egypt. They want to come kill him." Really? That's like a million steps backward!
I'm wishing an angel would come give me some guidance. Tell me clearly where to step. Because I'm failing most days. I'm yelling where soft words would have been better. Too quick to correct when a hug was what was needed. Telling them to control their mouths when I was not. Many steps backward.
I. Was. Going. Backwards.
So we went out to eat. Now to most of you that's not a very big deal but this was the first time we'd gone out as a family to a restaurant. If you've had newly placed older foster or adoptive kids, you get this. Each new experience is anxiety filled and has the potential for disaster! But we'd survived the first trips as a family to Walmart and this was the 2nd day with no hot water, no stove or oven, and no heat. We were just coming out of all the sickness. We were cold, stinky, and grouchy.
IHOP. Before we left Tony gave the obligatory "behavior we expect in a restaurant" lecture. Off we went. Upon arrival we took up the entire bench in the waiting area then walked in a long line (yes our kids walk like ducks everywhere...Tony has them well-trained!) all the way to the back of the restaurant. I noticed lots of raised eyebrows and smiles as our crew in their tasseled winter hats walked by.
The looks on the faces of the patrons at the tables around where we sat was priceless. They ranged from shock to rolled eyes to grins. As we're being seated the hostess asks, "Are these kids all yours?" "Wow!" when we respond yes.
After strategically arranging who could and couldn't sit together to prevent fights, food and otherwise, I spent the next few minutes getting food choices, explaining why they didn't need the largest adult meal on the menu at age 5, reminding the same child 5 times to get back in their chair, and stopping arguments over crayons (why give only 2 per kid but not the same 2 colors? Why?).
Drinks come, "Are these kids all yours?" Tony and I both look at each other with raised eyebrows. "Yup."
When our food comes, the waitress asks again, "These kids are really all yours?" I'm tempted to say something obnoxious like, "well we kidnapped those 2 from down the street, those 2 are his from his girl friend, this one we found roaming around the parking lot, thinking that one's an alien,..." When we just nodded she said, "how in the world do you get them to behave so well?"
I'm sure my mouth fell open! I'm not sure what answer I stammered out but suddenly I looked back and noticed that the teenager was chatting quietly with one sister. The boys were playing tic tac toe. One girls was leaning on my arm while she colored while the other two talked animatedly about their pictures.
The smoke cleared. I could see our forward progress. See some of the success of our journey. Two steps forward, one step back.
Two steps forward, one step back.
I remembered how in our first week I had to chase the same child down and wrestle her into the car-seat screaming every morning for school. And the second week.
Another child would kick the back of my seat with the force of a mac truck when angry. Still does, just not as often. Today they'd hopped in and out of the car with smiling faces and even were singing in the car.
I remember thinking we'd never to in public again. Bless that waitress's heart, I gave her the biggest tip I could!
Two months ago if we told a certain child she had to sit in time out or told her no, that set off a major meltdown and we were on the floor holding her for 30 minutes trying to not get bitten. Today that same little darlin' stomped over to the time out chair and SAT THERE crying! Two steps forward.
Today Miss Priss said, "Mommy, I'm feeling all funny because everything is changed around." We'd rearranged the living room. Remember EVERYTHING new is stressful to kids who've experienced trauma. But his same child a year ago could not handle going to her 6 person discipleship class without Tony going with her. More steps forward.
I actually remained completely calm and remembered most things I've read in the 4,000 parenting books, articles, and blogs I've read as one child laid on the floor in Walmart screaming because I wouldn't pick her up while I unloaded the cart. Steps forward for sure!!
Praying you have more steps forward than backwards and that we all remember that God is directing the steps of our story for His purposes.