The other day I ran across an Ann Voskamp quote that instantly made me a bit weepy.
“Please hear me, girl: The world has enough women who know how to do their hair. It needs women who know how to do hard and holy things.”
It was, at the moment, pretty much exactly what I needed to hear. A quick reassurance, from out of the blue, that what I was doing that day—attempting to parent three little ones—was, in fact, a very worthy cause. My hair didn’t look like I knew how to do it, and big deal. The quote helped me to refocus after a grumpy spell, and those words have been playing in my mind since.
I stumbled into motherhood not as most women do. There were no positive pregnancy tests, no nine months of pregnancy to prepare my heart and nursery. There was no nursery. No baby showers or buying of strollers, bottles, or Freshly Picked moccasins (which I discovered too late but would have loved to have known about when the girls’ feet were little enough). But mostly there was no chance to bond with my kids while in the womb. Because it wasn’t my womb.
When one enters motherhood through the foster parent door, it’s more like trial by fire. We didn’t know who our first placement would be—no clue about exact ages, gender, or even number. So preparation began, by and large, after the children entered our home. My goodness, can you even imagine? The creation of one family only because of the dysfunction, brokenness, trauma, and neglect of another. When it is all said and done, may our story truly be one of beauty from ashes. But that transformation does not happen among humans, unfortunately, without resentment, unkind words, frustration, and countless other sinful thoughts and actions at times. Sometimes it feels like we’re much more in the ashes than the beauty part of it all. I have repented more in the past three years of my life than I ever did in the first 32.
Also, though, over the past three years, I have had conversations in mom circles with many moms—both through biology and foster-adopt situations. I have come to realize that my family’s issues are, actually, in so many ways, simply family issues. Living with other personalities and temperaments—regardless of the why behind them—can just be really hard. Parenting of any kind can just be really hard. Before becoming a mom, I was under the impression that I had the fruit of the Spirit growing quite nicely within me. I am now daily humbled to see that I don’t have it together as much as I thought. I am grateful for God’s grace as never before.
Since that vital mother-child bonding in utero and during the infancy months didn’t occur with my adopted kids— and, so sadly, didn’t occur with their birth mother either—I know we need to make up for those lost months and years. How fascinating, I am learning, that the science of brain chemistry today reinforces God’s greatest commandment of love. What are some of the ways experts say to improve the neurochemical impact of early deprivation and abuse? Things such as:
• Helping children to feel safe
• Giving them our focus by playing with them
• Encouraging the positive
• Making eye contact
• Modeling respect, gentleness, and kindness
• Honoring their emotions
All parents striving to build connection with their children are bound to see progress when coming from a place of love, I believe, because how could it be otherwise? We believe that God is love—we know that to be true about Him. Christ is victorious over sin and death. Christ wins. Love wins! And when we fail to love as purely and patiently as we thought by this point we should have been able to do, we can take some comfort from Paul’s words about a future glory:
“The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:26–28).
I suspect I am not the only parent who wants to build a stronger connection with my children. The Holy Spirit knows our kids’ hearts and hurts and needs better than we do. When we know Him, He will help us pray for the healing that must happen.
Remember, the world needs women who know how to do hard and holy things.