It had been a particularly trying night. My sons had been fighting with me, and each other, and I’d been doing everything in my power not to yell back. The last thing I wanted was to add to the chorus of ‘stop it’ and ‘don’t’ and ‘aarghhh!!!’
My job is to be the calm one, right?
Calm, yet firm. In control, aware of my emotions, centred… The parent, not the oldest child. Yes, the parent – not the pushover.
I was trying – and failing, fast.
The minutes were racing towards their designated bedtime and my heart was pounding with either excitement at the prospect of ‘me time’ or the adrenaline of trying to wrangle two argumentative boys. Don’t know which. Either way, we were nearly there.
My nine-year-old was ramping it up more than usual, pushing back on my every request, pushing his brother, pushing every boundary.
“Maybe you need to get to bed earlier tonight,” I said. “You seem very tired…”
“No! I’m fine!” he yelled, before knocking over several toys in his path.
“What’s going on with you, Tom?” I said.“You seem really angry.”
At that point he started crying; sobbing…
“I don’t know what’s wrong with me,” he said. “I can’t stop this attitude. I keep having this attitude, and I don’t know how to stop…”
It’s a rare moment when a child confesses to an attitude problem.
As he continued to tell me about his ‘issues below the tip of the iceberg’, which included some mild bullying at school, and a general feeling of ‘not fitting in’, it made me think about my own ‘stuff’. Often my behaviours stem from deeper concerns too, and I don’t always take the time to address them.
Recently, I said goodbye to a church I’d been part of for over six years, and it was hard. I also changed workplaces after being at the same publishing company for close to 15 years.
Change is hard. Really hard.
And I think all of it has affected my emotional responses to my family, in subtle ways.
We all have worries and concerns that are simmering under the surface, and we tend to react by either melting down or shutting down. But the best thing we can do for ourselves when our behaviours take us by surprise, is to stop and question them. To do a bit of digging. And engage in a bit of raw honesty.
Sometimes we need to admit that ‘our attitude’ may be connected to something else… something deeper. Something which needs the hand of God on it, and the Spirit’s gentle guidance as we go to the Word and ask for fresh insight.
For me, working through all the changes in my life over the last 12 months has meant creating dedicated time with God where I talk freely and openly about how I’m feeling and what I’m struggling with. And he’s been gently leading me back to Scripture, where I’ve found refreshment and nourishment for the road ahead.
I’ve been able to admit my weariness and entrust my fears and concerns to him as I’ve spoken out loud – or written down in my journal – the words of God and allowed them to minister to my tired heart.
What are some of the areas of your life that need a bit more ‘digging’ with the help of a ‘gardener’ who knows you through and through?
John 15 says:
"He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful…I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing."
We depend on Jesus for everything, starting with our very lives – “for in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). Only Jesus can bring the healing and wholeness that we long for. Only Jesus can help us live fruitful lives for His glory.
Let’s pray that we’d have eyes to read between the lines of our lives and see what God needs us to see and faith to trust Him in the times and places that require pruning.
Lord, help us not to carry our ‘stuff’ alone. Help us to have the wisdom to take it to you; to engage in Scripture; and allow you to direct our thinking so that our attitude and actions are transformed. Help us to receive your grace for each new day, as we dig up all those things ‘under the surface’ and bring them into your glorious light. Help us to abide in you each and every day and be willing to serve you with our whole selves.
In Jesus’ name I pray,
They were bickering over something. I can't even remember what. It wasn't even a full-scale argument, just a difference of opinion, but on this particular day, it just felt like too much. I could feel myself reaching breaking point. I wanted to scream all manner of things; instead I abruptly sent them to their rooms with no explanation. I'd have to later explain it wasn't because of anything that they'd done (I have one daughter who is devastated at the mere thought of making a mistake and upsetting someone); it was because of me. It was to protect them from me.
I did not have the reserves that day to speak with wisdom or grace; to be sensitive to their own struggles in the midst of all our transitions. At that moment, I was definitely not the epitome of a Proverbs 31 woman!
The Proverbs 31 woman. Sometimes we read of her and find freedom in the many and varied tasks she engaged in; in how industrious she was both inside her home and in the marketplace. Other times? Well, let's just say we wish she hadn't been quite so talented at balancing it all so virtuously!
A few years back, I was invited to be part of a series a Women's Ministry was doing on the Proverbs 31 woman. I was assigned verse 26 and it was loosely titled wisdom. I was excited - that is until I actually read the verse and realised that it was about the tongue! It says:
She opens her mouth in [skillful and godly] wisdom, And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue [giving counsel and instruction].
When I read these words I think I literally sighed. The Message paraphrase summarises it saying: "When she speaks she has something worthwhile to say, and she always says it kindly."
Can I be honest and say that this is not always what comes out of my mouth?
You've probably gathered by now that I am a words girl. I love words. I love to read them, write them and if you've ever met me, then you'll know I'm seldom short on them in conversation either! But what is my strength is also an area of weakness for me. And I know, that when I can't control my tongue; when I'm lashing out or not opening my mouth in wisdom, that it's an indication of something deeper. It's an indication of how healthy my heart is.
In Luke's gospel, Jesus said this:
A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.
The mouth speaks what the heart is full of.
One of the biggest things I've realised as a Mum, is that more than managing a household, I am managing an economy of hearts. And each of these hearts is indelibly tied to the health of my own heart.
When my heart is tired, impatient words spill over.
When my heart is disappointed, cynical words squash expectation.
When my heart is holding on to hurts, bitter words poison the air.
Healthy words and healthy connections require a healthy heart. I love how the NLT translates this verse, it says: A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart.
My heart is a treasury. It is worth taking care of.
Over the years I've learnt the importance of doing things that bring me joy; of nurturing my soul and practicing self care. But the biggest thing I've come to realise that my heart needs to be healthy is truth. God's truth. I don't want the world's wisdom or its ever-fluctuating truth. I want His.
Sometimes storing up His truth in my heart is hard - not merely because life is busy, but because sometimes His truth is confronting. It asks me to surrender. It asks me to obey. It asks me to trust.
But only God's truth can refresh my weary soul and renew my strength.
Only God's truth can speak to my disappointment, reviving faith and restoring hope.
And only God's truth has the power to wash me clean; to heal and redeem my hurting, broken places.
So I store it up in my heart. Some days I snack on it - grazing where I can. Other days I sit and feast, savouring each morsel. I let it sustain me. And with every deposit, His wisdom shapes my life.
What are you storing up in your heart? Allow His truth to reveal the treasure that lies in your heart today.
October is Pregnancy Loss Awareness Month. This is my story...
I always envisaged a big family for myself. Growing up the eldest of four, anything less seemed, well, too neat and tidy - now that I actually have children of my own, I realise that there is nothing neat and tidy about being a parent full stop. Whether you have one or ten, raising children will challenge you to your very core!
I am grateful to say that a big family has become our reality. But if you had told me just how this would be realised, the young girl dreaming of babies and white picket fences would have laughed at you. God has not built my family how I imagined. I am a step-mother; I was a foster-mother to my nephew for several years; I have given birth to three healthy babies. I have also lost one of my babies. I am the one in four.
One in four. When I went for my three month scan, after two healthy and uneventful pregnancies, I wasn't expecting anything but to see my child for the first time. Instead I heard the words that were meant to bring me comfort; meant to make me feel like I wasn't alone in this journey. That this experience was somewhat normal because it happens in one in four pregnancies.
But those words felt just like they really are. Cold, hard, statistics. Just numbers. And none of our stories are just a number to God. We are intimately seen, known and loved.
From the outset, this pregnancy had been different. Each of our kids have been planned and wanted, but this pregnancy was a desire fulfilled. We began fostering our nephew when Isabelle - daughter number 3 - was 15 months old. We'd been talking about when to try for another baby when we got the call from CYFS to attend the family conference about his care. I'd never met him but we put our hand up to have him come live with us. Within six weeks a just-turned 3 year old was flown up to Auckland to join our family and I was about to experience the chaos that is three pre-schoolers! I say it in jest, but truthfully, I was ill-prepared for just how hard and heart-breaking it can be to parent a child who has been neglected and abused.
I went into the journey thinking that my baby plans were just being delayed but it soon became apparent to me that barring a miracle in my nephews life, there would be no more babies in the Walker household. I began to grieve the child I thought I would now never have.
It's hard to explain the grief that you can carry for someone you have never met - someone who is as yet, just an idea. But every day for a year I had to surrender this child I thought would never be to the Lord. I gave away every item of clothing, every toy, that I had kept for the 'next' baby and when I could bear it no more, I asked a girlfriend to pray with me for God to take the desire for another baby away. I knew that I needed to accept the shape that our family had taken and fully embrace the children that were in my home right now. Graciously God did.
After nearly two and a half years of raising my nephew, the journey came to an end. It was our decision but it is not a decision that I would wish upon anyone. My heart felt torn and battered. The grief began again - this time not for a child I wished for, but for a child I had held in my arms. A child I had fought for. A child who had called me his mum.
When people asked me how many children we had, I never knew how to answer. Who knew such a simple question could cut so deeply? I stopped mentioning him and would only talk about the girls. About eighteen months after our nephew had left, two women who didn't really know me asked me if I was sure that our family was finished. "Yes" I had replied, adding that, "God has shut that door."
But God began to whisper to my heart, did I shut that door Aimee, or did you? You see, I had always said thirty was my cut-off for having children. It was afterall when my Mum had her last, so I had always figured that was when I should be done by too! Isn't it funny some of the things we absorb and decide as children?! So here I was, in my early thirties beginning to wonder if the door had really been fully shut on adding to our family. Rather than excited though, I was terrified by the reawakening of a desire that I thought had died, but had really only ever been dormant.
The preceding years had been hard for a multitude of reasons and re-opening this door brought all my hurts and fears up to the surface. For six months I wrestled with God over the disappointments of the past. In that time, God did some intensive heart surgery and hope - the confident expectation of His goodness for my life - began to rise within me once again. I came to realise that while God was proud of my perseverance and the depth of trust that our trials had forged in me, that it wasn't His ultimate goal for me. Hope was.
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.
When we found out that I was pregnant, this child felt like the symbol of the new thing that God was doing in my heart and life.
And then those words. The one in four...
I'm not really sure how I made it out of the room and back to the car. How I made the call to my husband and then my midwife. It all felt like a bad dream that I hoped I would awaken from.
But I didn't. The next day my body began to naturally miscarry. It would take five full days. Grief was once again my companion. But this time, so was hope. As I made my way down our hallway in the middle of the night, in agonising pain, I heard the gentle whisper of God, Aimee, I know that this is a HUGE disappointment, but know that I love you.
God's love held me not just in that moment, but in the days, weeks and months that followed.
His love was in the friends who sat with me and cared for me as I miscarried my longed-for child
It was in the meals that turned up on our doorstep
It was in the many people who picked up and dropped off my kids when I was to weak to get up from the couch - who kept life normal for them while I grieved.
It was in the flowers people sent and the words of encouragement that they spoke
It was in His Word and in His sweet presence
The hope that had been forged in my heart in the preceding months had opened my eyes to see that His goodness and His love is always at work. Yes, in this world, we will encounter disappointment (sometimes that word doesn't quite seem adequate), but we do not have to live disappointed because we are ALWAYS loved. ALWAYS seen. ALWAYS valuable.
And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.
There were many other losses that year that God's goodness carried us through. He is not the author of our suffering but He is skilled at weaving it in such a way that it will work for good if we will allow Him too. He is the God who gives beauty for ashes.
We named our precious baby Jordan. It was a statement of faith that we would not let our grief take us back to the wilderness, but that we would trust that God was, and would always be, good to our family no matter what the journey looked like.
And He has been. In August 2015, I gave birth to Lucas. His name means bringer of light. I wanted to call him Lewis which means renowned warrior - Lucas was Dave's choice and believe me I fought him on it! But a few weeks before he was due, our daughter Misha came and sat next to me on a park bench and said, "Mum, we don't need a warrior, we need a bringer of light." Fittingly, he timed his entrance into this world with the sunrise.
There is a time to fight and to contend. But there is also a time to allow God to shine His light; to let the hope of who He is bring healing to our lives; to let His comfort penetrate our brokeness.
I have my moments where the tears still flow for the children I no longer hold in my arms. Where my heart aches for what might have been. But hope anchors me. The hope of what God has planned for my nephew's life; the hope that one day I will behold Jordan and see her in all her beauty. The hope that God has and always will be good to me.
You are not a number. Your grief - whatever the cause - is not a statistic. And my prayer for you today is that as you walk the path to healing, that hope, the confident expectation of His goodness, would indeed anchor your soul and awaken your heart to see His love towards you as it has done mine.
P.S. My nephew's story has had its own beautifully messy ending. After leaving our home, he had two further failed placements but he now has a home for life with an incredible couple who married later in life and were unable to have children of their own. He is their desire fulfilled; an answer to their prayers and the fulfilment of words spoken over their lives. God specialises in writing beautiful endings even if they don't come the way we thought they would. Can I encourage you today that your story isn't finished yet either xx
One of my favourite pass-times as a kid was writing. I used to make my own books and write poetry on our old type-writer. Thankfully both my writing and technology have come a long way!
It is my prayer that these posts from both myself and guest contributors encourage you to embrace the season that you are in and to live it with purpose for God's glory.
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