I’m not a fan of stuffed animals. I don’t really have a good reason other than that they seem to always be in the way. I’ve even been known to pass them off to other kids when my own children weren’t looking (don’t judge, I know you have done it too.) So you can imagine everyone’s surprise when I brought home a giant teddy bear. You know, the kind you see in movies, that is as big as a person. What would posses me to go against this uncalled for dislike of stuffed animals? My child needed it. And like any mom, we will do anything to help our children. When Isabella came to our home 4 and half years ago she rarely cried. If she was scared, hurt or upset, she would retreat into a little shell of a person showing no emotion and not moving for hours on end. I longed for the day that she would cry and tell us what was wrong. Months and months later, when those tears and anger came, I would wish for the silence again because boy can she cry… for hours. And then the anger began less frequent but more extreme. Little scratches on her face, pinching her legs, banging her head. It was hard to watch. And so, the giant bear was introduced and given the original name of “Feelings Bear.” He was placed on a mat in her room where she was free to express her anger. He is great at taking the beating. Isabella would sit in his lap and rage until she was ready to do her deep breathing exercises. Sometimes after hearing crying for two consistent hours, I wondered if this “phase” would ever end or if we would hear fits for the rest of her life. But yesterday, she asked if she could give Feelings Bear away. The time has come that she doesn’t rage as often, although we still see tears a little more frequently than most 7 year olds. She no longer needs to hit something to get her anger out, or pull the bear’s fur. Isabella always expresses her emotions loudly. She laughs big, she hugs hard, she cries with her bottom lip sticking out and she wants everyone to know when she is angry. This may never change. I am not sure we want it to. It’s part of who she is. But just as God continues to mold me, as her mother, He is molding her into his character. He is using us to teach her appropriate times for anger and good ways to express this. Correction is never an easy process and we never seem to learn quickly but progress is so sweet when the journey has seemed long.
Tonight I was reminded of a couple things. The first is that life is precious and fleeting. We had to go to an accident scene and retrieve passport information for the embassy for a lady as well as see if we could identify the husband that was in the morgue. Really not a fun night. At the same time, I am thankful that we were able to help the family of this husband and wife. The second is that God called us here as family. This is harder than most people realize at times but I am assured that my kids are growing in ways they would not otherwise grow. When we were called to go to the hospital (and later the morgue), it meant leaving dinner partially cooked and the kids on there own for a while. One kid had lice that needed to be treated, another was in tears over homework and the third was trying to handle it all while finishing dinner. It is always hard to leave my kids in such a mess. And yet, these are the times when I see the person God is molding them to be and that I assured WE are in this together. The crying child, Emma, who feels everything deeply, asked how the man was and hung her head when I had to tell her that neither he nor his wife made it. He was a stranger to her and yet she hurt for his family. Tyler, the child that was trying to hold it all together, who was sending me SOS texts but in reality, had it under control and was ready to help clean up the kitchen after everyone was in bed. And of course, God didn’t just leave us here by ourselves. A good friend responded to the SOS messages and went to help after we had been gone awhile. I guess all this to say, sometimes I feel that we neglect our kids when times of crisis come up but tonight I saw how times of crisis grows us all. Sometimes being a missionary family means we minister along side each other, and sometimes it means my kids growing up a little faster than they should. Just my little thoughts from our ordeal tonight. And yes, one kid still has lice that I didn’t get to treat but there are worse things that could happen.
I sat across from a young man this week that said, “I am supposedly a Christian and look what I did.” There is no “supposedly.” Hear me now, fellow child of God: We are not Christians because we are perfect. We are Christians because we know we are not perfect and we have a savior who cleans us. Thank God for this! As someone who grew up in church, I can tell you that this is hard to believe. We are taught that we should be full of love, joy, peace, patience, kind, good and well you get the idea. And yes, we should. But this doesn’t make us a Christian. It is a reflection of our time with Father. Our judgement of Christians young in their faith (regardless of their age) does nothing but speak against the gospel. The entire gospel story is not what you do or how you act but what Christ has done. May we remember this when our fellow brother stumbles. And may we remember it when we stumble. And then remember it as you stumble into the Father’s arms.
As mature Christians, this is precisely the time that we come alongside our little brother and sister and catch them as they stumble. This is the time that we hug them and clean their wounds and lead them back to the Father who is so patient with our failures. This is not the time that we cast judgement, or gossip or lecture. We were once a young child too and am thankful for those who helped me grow in my faith through their encouragement and love. I am thankful that my status as a believer is not dependent on my behavior but on my heart; on my desire to please God. I am beyond thankful for a Father who forgives over and over and over. Who has lead you through this path? Who are you thankful for?
You may or may not have noticed that in recent years that my blogs have been less about our journey and struggles here and more about the people we get to serve. This is mostly because I am so very proud of those I get to work alongside and I so want you to fall in love with the beautiful people of this country. Another reason though was that I received some flak for my openness to my struggles living overseas. Because of that I have guarded my words a bit more as well as my struggles. I am not sure this was such a good thing though. We all have struggles, regardless of where we live. What matters more is our reaction to our situations and to those around us. In light of that, I’d like to share a struggle in my life that I think many of you may face as well.
Please understand this though: I love the people I work with. I love my friends. I love my students. I love this country. But there are times living overseas… well, I suppose, living anywhere… that life takes it’s toll and it feels lonely. I feel alone. Overwhelmed. Unproductive. It is in those times that God uses my precious students to help me realize this is a lie from Satan meant to derail me. A sweet 11th grader telling me the mural she spent days painting is a gift for me. The quirky boy who pops his head up in the window just to say hi (even though he should be paying attention.) The young man wanting to do a bible study at lunch and grow in his faith. The chubby-faced kindergartener who yells my name when she sees me regardless of what she is supposed to be doing. The group of boys who spent 30 minutes moving book shelves just because I asked for their help. The young lady who readily takes over my class when I get called out. The group of girls who fought over who got to play with my hair. These little things might seem insignificant but added up, they are a reminder of God’s love but also of the love of those I get to serve with each day. I know life gets hard. It does for all of us and it’s easy to overlook the little reminders God has placed in our lives. But how blessed we are to serve a God who knows our feelings and responds to them. One last thought: perhaps if we were a bit more open about our struggles then we would realize we are not alone in this.