Where are you?

A school-aged child from trauma who was temporarily living in my home once made a complete wreck of my stack of origami and Washi paper (some of which I was still hoarding from when we lived in Japan)- cutting up, ripping, and sometimes properly folding at least 100 pieces, many of them beautiful, gold trimmed, irreplaceable.

It was the end of a long day of frustrations with that child and mostly with the circumstances- and I hate to share the following part of the story because I am a jerk.  Although as a young foster mom reminded me today, we often do these things because they are the right and needful things to do, not because we instantly fall in love with little strangers.  No matter how cute they are, it is not always endearing to have even children you know and love and have raised pick their noses and wipe it on you, cough into your food, chew with their mouths open while trying to tell you a story that isn’t particularly interesting or well-told.  To be honest, children are often gross. They can be tiresome.  They can be annoying.  They can ask the same question far more times than you can even count and they will forget to wipe their feet and they will run their dirty hands along the wall as they go up and downstairs and they forget to flush and don’t wash their hands or don’t turn off the water when they do, and leave foul smears of you don’t wish to know what on the soap.  If they are not your own children or close friends, but are newly in your home, then you also have strange smells (as in unfamiliar, not necessarily weird), habits out of sync with your household, and you add to these things the symptoms of their trauma, their own shakiness and uncertainty.  Of course, they are only children and it’s not their fault and they are innocent and helpless and scared and have no control.  But you, the adult (I mean me)- are also only human.  Their trauma is not my fault, and sometimes I feel helpless and scared and have no control, or less than I would like to have because as you quickly learn with any child, you are not fully in control of anything anymore, except possibly, just barely, your own self.

On the day that this child waded into my origami supplies like a gremlin who had been fed after dark, I had also had several frustrating interactions with the adult who was the reason the child was with me and not at home, an adult I’d been trying unsuccessfully to help for the length of said child’s life.

I discovered the mess, the depredations, at bedtime. Child explained, “I am making presents for ….so they will be happy.” In the ellipses insert the name of the person who had caused pretty much all the trauma in that child’s life and was the reason child was in my home and not child’s own place, the person who had been calling me all day and saying things that made me want to pick the child and run far, far, away so no more damage could be inflicted, the person who had been making impossible demands and strange claims all day, all week, all the time I had known them.

Those words- this victimized child attempting to make their victimizer happy.  Are you touched? Grieved? Broken? Sad? Deeply moved?
Possibly I was, too, but because I am a jerk and Mad is my bodyguard for Sad, I came oh, so very, very shamefully and perilously close to just screaming, “STOP TRYING TO EARN THEIR LOVE THEY ARE EMPTY AND HAVE NOTHING FOR YOU IT WILL NEVER WORK GIVE UP THEY ARE NOT WORTH IT AT ALL.”

I did not say any of those things.  But I am telling you that torrent of words came very near to bursting out of my mouth.  Like, I am pretty sure I said, “When are you going to… ” and then stopped myself just barely before finishing with the all caps message above. 

I don’t know how I finished it.  It might have been ‘learn to stop making bigger messes than you can clean up?’  Or maybe “Ask me before you use up all my stuff?”  I hope it was just, “Never mind.  Let’s finish getting ready for bed.”

I don’t know.  This is what I do know.  We were doing what we were called to do when that child was in my house.  Not because we are superhuman amazing and wonderful people.  We are normal human beings and at least one of us is a jerk and both of us married idiots.  But there was a child who needed a place to stay and there we were and we did not have a solid reason to say no and we felt like we were supposed to do what we did as best we could.

Not too long ago a friend of mine was telling me about for a year her family had been picking up a lady who did not leave nearby to take her to church and then bring her home again.  I was so impressed.  How inconvenient that was- They couldn’t make plans for after or before church because then they didn’t have time to get her.  I was impressed and wondered aloud how they could do that.  My friend told me it wasn’t a choice, it was part of being a Christian and you were either in or you were out I’m paraphrasing badly- but I think really it came down to the same thing. She was doing what she was called to do.  She wonders, OTOH, how on earth we could go to the Philippines for two years and consider going back.  I can’t see myself going half an hour out of my way to pick somebody up for church week after week after week after week after week.   But when it comes to the Philippines, I wonder how could we not?
A couple of my now adult kids are involved in a mentoring program for adult males who are in a drug rehab program.  This involves going out of their way to pick the guys up on Sunday and bring them to church and then home for the afternoon and then back to their rehab facility, week after week.  I am amazed and astonished and wonder how they do this.  They are doing what they are called to do here and now and where they are- not because it’s easy and they don’t ever wish to do something else, but because that’s the field in front of them at the moment.
A week ago I was in a Missionary clothing closet in another city several hours away. It was purely by ‘accident.’ I was in the building for something else and didn’t know the missionary closet was also there.  As it happened I had an event to attend and the clothes I planned to wear were *not* working.  I packed them without checking, I hadn’t worn them much since returning to the U.S. but had pulled them out of winter storage. I had been asked not to wear dark or dreary colours, so I had a blue skirt.  That skirt did not fit at all when I got to town where my event was.  Like- at all.  It wasn’t loose.  It simply fell off no matter what.  So I grabbed another skirt I had brought to wear to travel in.  It was gray.   There was a hole, a coffee stain, and the skirt also didn’t fit anymore because of the weight I lost when I was sick- although it did mostly stay on, but would slyly slip down by increments so I had to keep hitching up my skirt or trip on it.
Also, my feet were cold.  Very cold.  I haven’t had a new pair of winter boots in over ten years and the shoes I had brought were not nearly warm enough. My feet were so cold I wanted to cry just driving up in a heated car.
  Inside the missionary clothing closet was an absolutely perfect skirt that matched the shirt I already had on, and it was just the right style for my event and it was neither dark nor dreary. It was funky and fun.  Also, there was a brand new pair of ankle boots with fleece lining, sturdy, water-proof, warm and toasty in my size and they matched the clothes I was now wearing.  I was delighted (my feet were warm the entire drive back and while standing outside and while walking through snow to get across a parking lot. I love my new boots).
A lady volunteering there  was excited with me, and then she said sadly, “I wish I could do what you’ve done, but I just can’t imagine myself moving overseas at all.  I can’t.  So I do the things I can do here.” and then she gave me more dresses.  She seemed down.
  I had tried to express just how amazed, blessed, and delighted I was by the skirt and shoes I already had found, and just how nearly bordering a miracle it was for me to find them then and there at that specific time- so for me, one of those things she seemed to feel was second best was absolutely, positively, outstandingly a ginormous blessing at a time I really could use one.  The event I was attending shortly was a memorial service for a dear friend gone much too soon, and I hated to have to show up in stained, ill fitting clothes, or a gray skirt when I’d been specifically asked not to wear black or dreary.  I had been wracking my brains trying to figure out how I could squeeze in a visit to a Walmart, but there simply wasn’t time between the stuff we had to get done in her building and the time we needed to be at the memorial service where my husband was one of those speaking.  It had really been bothering me.

I was delighted when I saw the clothing closet there in the building where we had to be for some other official stuff.  The moment I saw the skirt I knew it was there for me, bespoke, intended for nobody but me, in fact.  So I was immensely grateful that my new friend was there at the missionary clothing store, helping to run it, donating things, keeping it in good order, and there to make sure I did not leave empty handed. I kept trying to tell her, but I felt like it was coming across as a poor me story and not the exciting triumph of Providence that it really was and she was hearing, “Missionaries have dreary hard lives” and then thinking ” I feel guilty because I’m not going overseas like she did.”

I remembered something I had seen on facebook, posted by another missionary friend, and I shared it with her.

“It doesn’t matter whether you go or stay.  It matters that you are where God wants you to be.”

Her face lit up.  We hugged.  I left laden with blessings.  My feet are still warm.

Going? Staying? Fostering? Working to help moms parent their kids?  Something else?

Is it where God wants you to be?

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  1. Sheila
    Posted February 13, 2019 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

    At 52, I am finally learning to ask this. I’m definitely a slow learner!

  2. Cindy
    Posted February 13, 2019 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

    Mostly I’m just at home, mothering my children. The Lord doesn’t seem to trust me with much else right now. Lol. Would love to start blogging again someday, but keep hearing a great, big “NOPE!” in answer that particular prayer. I’m glad to see you posting frequently. You were missed. Also glad you’ve gotten through your illness and are mending. I recommend a ketogenic way of eating if you want to keep losing without resorting to more tummy bugs. Think paleo, but without the starchy vegetables. I started by just cutting out grains, potatoes, and sweets. You asked in an earlier post how to keep that weight off, and I was going to comment then, but I seldom have enough time to finish a comment. I’ve lost 47 pounds, and I look about 15 years younger than I did, and 10 years younger than I am. Feeling better than I think I ever have! Try it!

  3. Cindy
    Posted February 13, 2019 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

    I should add that about 20 of those pounds I probably would have lost anyway, since it was baby weight. But it’s that last 25 that never, ever went away after any baby, no matter what I did, that matters.

  4. Lisa Beth W.
    Posted February 13, 2019 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

    That was a delightful and encouraging thing to read, DHM!

  5. Lisa Beth W.
    Posted February 13, 2019 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

    Well, I mean the last part was delightful, but all of it was encouraging. 🙂

  6. Stephanie
    Posted February 15, 2019 at 5:48 am | Permalink

    What a wonderful, encouraging story.

  7. Posted February 16, 2019 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    I love this so much.

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