Nothing hits your heart harder than hearing your eight year old son say out loud, “I know what it’s like to be abandoned.”
This simple yet profound statement coming from the mouth of my child should have left me in shambles. A natural thought process after hearing this should have been, “Is my greatest fear starting to manifest?” I should have played those words over and over again in my head to the point of exhaustion. I should have had the tortured thoughts of how my dumb mistakes in the past are wrecking his future. I should have realized that my innocent son was beginning to believe that he was not good enough for his biological father to want to be in his life. We’ve all heard the stories. A child is abandoned at a young age and every aspect of their life afterward is a picture of how badly someone broke them.
That’s how I should have processed his statement, but I failed to mention one little thing. Context. The context in which my son made this statement is absolutely key when understanding how I chose to process this information. The entire conversation went something like this:
Elijah: “Mom, Dad, we need to make more of those bags for the homeless people because we gave out our last one today.”
Me: “Yes buddy, we do. And we will. It makes God so happy that you like to give to people and help them.”
Elijah: “Yeah, I know. And I can help them a lot because they got left and I know what it’s like to be abandoned.”
This is why context matters so much. Context allows us to see something for what it really is. His statement reveals so much truth. Has he been abandoned? Yes, his biological dad did choose to step out of his life. He knows in his heart that someone who was supposed to love and care for him decided not to. He also knows that God will never leave him. He knows in his heart there are other people who are dealing with similar pains. He also knows that God wants to use him to help them. He knows that his biological dad isn’t around and may never be. He also knows that God brought Zach into his life to be everything he needs. He knows that his heart is sad. He also knows he can go to God, and us, and share his heart.
I remember one journal entry I wrote a couple of years ago while praying specifically about Elijah and his life. God spoke so clearly to me about this exact issue. He comforted me in a way that only He could. “Elijah will be a rock for many people because of the difficulty he has faced at such a young age.” The context of our conversation proves that this word from God is already coming to pass in his life.
So, how do we handle this? We pray for his dad. We talk about how unfair life can be. We allow him to be confused and upset and angry at times because those are all normal emotions. We tell him it is okay to love his dad and want to see him. We are honest with him when he asks us the hard questions and we do our best to share Gods love for him while he is processing his pain. I believe context revealed that what the enemy meant for destruction, God is redeeming.
At eight years old my son understands that his pain has a purpose and his purpose is bigger than himself.
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Probably one of the most, if not THE most, difficult responsibility I have ever been handed in my life thus far. I started on the parenting journey at the ripe young age of 18 when I got pregnant just after graduating High School. Besides all of the drama and conflict I have went through the last 8.5 years of my life concerning the consequences of getting pregnant unwed and with a boy who had no concern for anyone other than himself… it hasn’t been easy in any way. Let’s just say there have been a lot of ups and downs and twists and turns to navigate. If you’re a parent, you know what I mean.
One of the hardest things for me on this journey so far was my need to make sure everything was taken care of and that my son wouldn’t live a hard life because of my mistakes. I had taken on a lot of guilt and shame for placing him into a not so ideal situation. I knew that because of my sin, he would also suffer the consequences of it. He would have to live in the world I created for him. That guilt and shame wrecked and controlled me for a very long time.
Not only did I put his life into some crazy whirlwind of uncertainty, but there were a lot of times when his safety was 100% out of my control. These times were definitely the hardest because I really had to trust that God was taking care of him and protecting him. I had no control over where he would be taken to or who he would be left with and there is a very scary element to that. I did find out later some things that happened to him while he was not under my care and it is possibly the worst feeling I have ever felt on this journey so far. It gave the enemy another chance to bring tall of that shame and guilt back to me once again. To tell me it was all my fault and that now my son would be even more screwed up. I thought it was bad before but now it would be worse. But then, God.
God spoke to me very specifically about my child and the calling and destiny He had placed on his life and how he would turn so many hearts to God. He told me that yes, I did create a different world for him to live in but that He could still use me and he would still use Elijah. He told me He would begin using him even now at his very young age. “The things he has seen and went through will give him strength. He will be like a rock for many people who are hurting. His troubles will build him a firm foundation of trust and reliance on Me, and he will be okay. I have more love for him than you do. Do you not know this?”
SO, I guess I had to start trusting God that he could take my mess, take my son, and fix what I thought I had screwed up.
That’s what is so cool about God. God sees everything as fixable. We see our circumstances and our situations and can’t see past the emotion of it most of the time. It seems overwhelming and exhausting and God just sees a canvas. He sees a page with lines going every direction, scribbles, and things marked out and He thinks “Hmmm, what beautiful thing can I create out of this?”. There is always an eraser in one of God’s hands and a pencil in the other. It’s all fixable.
God isn’t scared of our huge failures and He isn’t worried about the final outcome. He already knows it and He already has our way out planned. He has actually already FIXED all of it. The creator knows exactly what to do to fix something that has been broken or damaged, which is why we contact a company when we have an issue with our washing machine or our heater goes out. We may not know what to do, but someone else does. And I don’t know about you but any time I have tried to fix something that I already knew I wasn’t prepared to fix, I just messed it up even more! It’s all fixable.
Not only did God help me with dealing with guilt and shame and give me a hope for Elijah’s future, but He has helped me so much in all of the practical ways. Which that’s what we need on the daily. Parenting isn’t always a super spiritual moment where your child asks you deep theological questions and is wanting to know the answers to life. No, sometimes parenting is getting through the day without losing your patience and yelling. Sometimes it is slowing down enough to notice you’ve been nodding your head yes and no while staring at your iPhone, not truly listening to a word your child is saying. (GUILTY!)
God cares about the day to day practical struggles we face as parents and He wants to be with us as we are dealing with them. We have to look for him.
When Elijah was having a terrible time at school with behavior and I was at my wits end with him, God showed me a deeper level of grace and understanding. He led me to books about positive parenting and how to communicate better with my son. I felt led to read “The 5 Love Languages of Children” which truly helped me understand my sons need for quality time and physical touch. I poured time into my child, intentionally. I made sure to hug him or hold his hand more often. I began looking him in the eyes more often when we were talking. Even when he seemed annoyed, I asked him specific questions about his day at school. I have always been interested in my child, but I wasn’t showing him I was in a way he understood. His issues at school, fixable.
I hate not being on time. If I am not 15 minutes early I feel like I’m late and anyone else who is like this and has kids knows how frustrating it can be because most kids have no sense of time and couldn’t care less about getting somewhere in a timely manner (unless it involves nerf guns and ice cream). This was a huge problem for us, especially in the morning. I wanted Elijah to have some responsibilities to encourage his executive skills so we set up a system of chores in the morning for him to do which was a great idea besides the fact that this would take extra time in our daily routine. I set a timer for breakfast. I made a list of his chores (breakfast, get dressed, make bed, feed dogs, brush teeth). He was to check mark them off as he finished and he set a stop watch to time himself for each chore, trying to beat his time every morning. For every chore he finished he would receive a popsicle stick to store in a cup we keep in our laundry room.
I also created a rewards page with extra ways to earn the sticks. Kind words, extra reading time, a good day at school being nice to the dogs, etc. There is also however a side of consequences. Being mean to the dogs, yelling in the house, talking with disrespect, complaining, etc. For each one of these offenses, depending on the severity, we take away sticks.
This gave him the motivation to work hard at changing his behavior with a reward but also realizing that when he chooses badly, he would receive a consequence. He gets to turn in sticks for rewards like extra iPad time, staying up later on a weekend, playing a family game, choosing a toy out of the toy bin I filled. Your Childs behavior at home? Fixable.
Do not fear. Do not worry. Seek God and ask him for guidance in the big moments, and in the small ones. He is there beside you and He knows what your child needs. He knows what you need, and He wants to show it to you. It’s all fixable.
“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
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A while back I heard a song that really spoke to me. I am super into music and lyrically this song spoke straight to my soul. Do you have a song like that? Sometimes a song will take us back to a moment in life or make us dream of a future moment. It really is neat to me how when words and melodies are combined they can tell us a story or provoke a certain feeling in us. When I heard this song it immediately took me straight to the throne of Jesus. It took me to a new place of surrender.
I have this problem where I really feel anxious when I am unsure of what is to come. I never realized how much I struggled with needing to feel like I was in control of my life. When I think about it, it is actually pretty funny because the longer I live the more I also realize that I don’t have much control at all.
Don’t get me wrong, I know I make choices and those choices determine a lot of things. What career to have, who to marry, where to live? All of these are decisions that I get to make, things that I can control. But then there are some decisions that really aren’t up to me. Sometimes other peoples decisions decide for us what our circumstances look like. THIS part of life I know a lot about. A ton of things in my life for the last 8 years have been so unknown to me because they dealt directly on waiting on another person to make a decision. And whatever their decision was would in turn direct my next steps. Their decision would begin the words to the next chapter in my story.
When I think about it I am pretty sure that’s when my issue for needing control all began. I sat anxiously waiting for someone else to determine what they felt would be best for them and then work my life around it. The scary part of that was the fact that this person was selfish. In it for himself. This person didn’t care a lick about my life or what happened to me or how I felt. He was not trustworthy.
Im here to say that when I heard this song for the first time I realized not only was I okay with walking into unknown places but I was truly desiring it. It sounded thrilling and exhilarating. A great adventure! So what was the difference? The difference was who was calling me into the unknown.
God vs. Man.
_MAN had proven to be selfish, needy, greedy, prideful, deceitful, and dangerous.
_GOD had proven to be just, faithful, loving, gracious, selfless, forgiving, and safe.
I can hear the words of this song and be filled with peace instead of anxiety. I can be filled with hopeful expectation instead of dread of the future. I can listen with excited ears instead of apathetic ears. Who knew that walking into a wilderness that you have never ventured into before could leave you feeling an overwhelming sense of harmony? This is what happens when you decide to let the perfect God be your guidance into the unknown. His voice as your arrow.
You will walk into the unknown places in perfect peace and then in the most perfect timing you will see the light break through.
“My forever in Your heart, Your steps I will follow. I put my trust in who You are, Your voice is my arrow. And I will walk into the dark to see how the light breaks through. I will run into Your arms, I will hold on to You. I will lift my eyes to things unseen to the promise in Your victory and I will build my life on the mystery of where You call me, and I will go into the unknown. I can’t be shaken with Your words hidden in my heart. I can’t contain what I have seen, light rising from the dark. I will lift my eyes to things unseen, to the promise in Your victory. And I will build my life on the mystery of where You call me, and I will go into the unknown.”
–Unknown, Mosaic MSC
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