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I had a dream last night. It felt very real, even after I woke up and realized it wasn’t.

I dreamed they took my foster son away from me and gave him to a family who could do a better job. I didn’t know it was going to happen, in the dream. It just up and happened and away he went and the worst part, maybe, was I thought they could do a better job, too.

It haunts me still this morning as I breakfast him and send him to school, and as I drink my coffee and mix the muffins and as I sit and write these words.

It haunts me because somehow that dream found me and knew me. The weak-kneed me, with the fear and the wondering and the you-are-not-good-enough feelings.

Not a good enough wife or mom or believer or writer or…

I can tell myself the true words. I can tell myself I’m grace-living and all of that – these are the true words I know and cling to – but now and then the underbelly surfaces, in a dream or a vulnerable moment, and I lose my breath.

It’s a breathless way to live when I’m chasing after being good enough, and I think I’ve left that race far behind. I think I’ve let all those running people pass me a long time ago until a dream knocks me to my knees.

It’s funny though, because that’s exactly where I need to be. On my knees, and I breathe him in and I breathe him out and my heart settles.

Because he is enough and he makes me enough and whew, I can breathe again.

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Sometimes good things are a quick surprise. Sudden joy without effort. Sometimes.

Often though, good things take a while.

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You know this. Green grows before it blooms. Cake bakes before it tastes. Wakening before day. There’s an order and a space and time – patience, right? – and then sometimes, after all the growing or stirring or whatever, it happens.

I tuck him in his bed, like I’ve done since he came. Toes covered by Scooby Doo blanket, quilt snuggled under chin, glasses on shelf. I reach down for the hug – I remember the first few, his arms straight like sticks and how I had to teach him the curving into that makes hugging real – and I kiss his cheek and whisper I love you into his ear.

I leave the room and as I’m closing the door behind me a small voice reaches my ear.

Sometimes it takes a hundred nights to hear I love you, too.

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The fourth day of Christmas, dedicated to the Holy Innocents as they’ve been named, those slaughtered at the command of an evil king afraid for his throne, and it’s more than a mother’s heart can bear. It really is, but it’s history and so it’s the second-hand kind of sorrow that only filters in if I let it.

Tragedies are not all history, though, and as I sit in the morning of this day, this Childermas day, I think of the innocents of my time. Of today and tomorrow, when children will be sold into slavery or taken from mother’s wombs or hungered to death or killed in their classrooms.

It’s more than a mother’s heart can bear, but still I’m protected by distance and comfort and the ability to put it out of my mind. To be thankful for the health and safety of mine, and to forget of the lack of theirs. Those mothers, those families, those children who live without.

This week, friends of mine will be building a school in Mexico.

Next week, my parents and some of their friends will be building a home in Mexico for the family of a friend they met there last year.

I have friends who are heart-heavy involved with The Exodus Road, a nonprofit dedicated to fighting human trafficking and child slavery.

I have friends who have adopted or fostered or just plain loved the children in their paths who needed them.

These are a few of the beautiful things happening in my little circle of what’s going on in the world. You know of other groups, other people, who are helping as they can, where they can.

Today I’ll donate some of my money to some of these causes, in the name and memory of the innocents.

But more than that, I’ll see my own, really see them today, and I’ll know in my heart of the blessing of children. Those of my womb, and those of my heart.

I’ll make their favourite foods and I’ll laugh at their jokes, and I’ll miss the one who is missing, and I’ll heap prayers upon prayers for them, and for them all.

O Lord, hear my prayer.

And let my cry come unto Thee.

O Lord Jesus Christ, once Thou embraced and placed Thy hands upon the little children who came to Thee, and said: “Suffer the little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven, and their angels always see the face of my Father!” Look now with fatherly eyes on the innocence of these children and their parents’ devotion, and bless them this day through our prayers.

In Thy grace and goodness let them advance continually, longing for Thee, loving Thee, fearing Thee, keeping Thy commandments. Then they will surely come to their destined home, through Thee, Savior of the world. Who lives and reigns forever and ever.

Amen.

common prayer of blessing on the fourth day of Christmas

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You know that, right?

Because, if I was any good at it (life? parenting? everything?) I wouldn’t make so many mistakes.

Like getting a few kilometres down the highway on my way to Monday’s Remembrance Day service, only to have the vehicle begin her I’m-almost-out-of-fuel convulsions, requiring me to turn around and hiccup my way home on fumes and prayer.

Like forgetting my sister’s birthday, that time she was visiting me for a few days, and only remembering after she’d left.

Like losing the pre-bought Christmas presents – because I’m so organized (heavy sarcasm) and bought them early and hid them somewhere really good – only to find them the next May while I was spring cleaning.

Like booking three events on the same weekend and forgetting about them all.

Like inviting company to come for dinner and forgetting to turn on the oven.

Like losing my temper with my children or my husband or the teller at the bank.

Like not getting the laundry done, requiring my son to go commando to church. (Not that he minded, but I was sure people would find out our dark laundry secret.)

Like going months without really reading scripture or praying. And doubting. And faking.

Lately I’ve had some you’re so wonderful comments because of what I write in this little space, day after day. And, to be honest, I’ve had some negative ones, too. Some, you think you’re so great but I know you’re really not that special kinds of insinuations, and some you’re wrong, wrong, wrong emails, and some quit being so this or that messages.

That’s how it goes when you write stuff and put it on the internet and people read it.

Truth is, I y’am who I y’am (thanks for that, Popeye) and for the most part, I’ve learned to be content.

We are all different, and we love and share and rage and cry and create, each in our own ways. Cooking, painting, writing, parenting. There’s art in it all.

You are wonderful. Really, you are. You do some things well and some not so well, and you have a bunch of stuff you think you should be better at, and maybe you wish your legs were longer or you nose was shorter or your hair was thicker.

Maybe you think you’re not a good friend or a good mom or a good Christian. Maybe you think everyone else does it better. Maybe you’re in a sad place or a bad place or a hard place or maybe your place is pretty darn good right now.

I don’t know your place, but I do know your journey. Because we’re all on one, and the truth is, no place is permanent. Life is movement. It’s entering and being and leaving, always, over and over. Until you’re dead.

So the next time I write about my awesome kids or my wonderful husband or my beautiful life… know that sometimes – lots of times – it isn’t.

Grace.

I’m washing my kitchen floor, down on hands and knees, submitting to the chore. Posture of prayer, I think. I think it, but in a bitter kind of way. I wash away a sticky mess of something spilled, syrup from the early pancakes, maybe? I scrub off dirt and a squashed bug and some dried oatmeal, and another spot that might be blood, and the job gets under my skin and into my heart.

I begin, annoyed. How does it all get so dirty, so fast? Do we live in a barn? Why do I bother, it’ll just be a mess again tomorrow. And no one will notice, anyway.

Moving across the floor, rag and bucket and growing ache in my back, and all the dirty bits of our lives are enhanced, like viewing the bottom of a swamp through a microscope. The cruddy globs of hair and dust, stuck to the bottoms of the table and chair legs, and the toast crumbs in the corners. The splashes of kitchen spit on the baseboard, unseen from the lofty height of my normal two-legged position.

I make the humble pilgrimage around the kitchen floor, bent to the task, and it’s a cleansing prayer. A journey of renewal, from bitterness to thankfulness.

For who has such a clean floor as this, in such a sweet kitchen, full of such precious people, on such a bit of glory land, as I?

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I’m sick, head in the toilet sick, and it’s Halloween (costumes to finish and can you find this and I can’t find that) and then the basement floods. A pressure valve thingee that got stuck and blew the top of the pump and water gushing everywhere. Which wouldn’t be so bad if the laundry mountain hadn’t been covering the drain hole.

I wake from restless morning napping to a strange sound and when I venture downstairs to check, it’s like stepping into a swimming pool. Call for the boys and frantically phone the husband. And if I’m being honest, I may have said dammit within hearing distance of my kids. Maybe twice.

It’s all a blur of turning valves and flicking switches until the water stops running and what’s left is the mopping up.

I sit on the stairs and I just want to cry. It’s such a mess and I’m so sick and I’ve been shouting get this and do that at the boys and I honestly think I might not make the day. It all feels like one giant mom fail. Not gracious at all.

It’s a small prayer, an SOS really.

Redeem this, Father. Help me.

I tell the boys to do their best with the shop vac and the towels, and I go up to my bed.

By evening I’ve turned the corner. I’m thinking I’ll get up and make pancakes for supper, and I’m thinking about the whole thing. The mess of the day.

I remember my prayer and I know there are many others with so much more to bear. Women all over the world with the weight of family on their shoulders. Some for whom just putting food on the table is a constant concern. Some battling daily with struggles of illness or finances or marriage. Some who just this spring dealt with flooding and displacement and worry about what to do next. My day’s troubles pale in the light of his answer. He does redeem.

My redeemed day looks different.

It’s a teenaged boy who willing helps his foster brother get his breakfast and catch his bus, packing lunch and homework and Halloween costume. And who then brings me tea.

It’s two boys who work hard all day to empty and dry a basement. Who say, we’ve got this Mom, when I tell them I have to go to bed.

It’s a friend who picks up my son to go trick-or-treating in town, so he won’t miss the fun. And two boys who take a ten-year-old treating after they’ve worked hard all day. And a husband who comes home and heads straight to the basement to fix the water problem.

It’s family, making their own lunches and bringing the sick mom ginger ale. And sitting together after supper. And graciously saying, I don’t even remember, when I apologize for the shouting.

Maybe it wasn’t a mom fail day after all?

Maybe, on second glance, it was a mom win.

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I’m the last person in the world who is even remotely qualified to talk about Miley Cyrus. I have boys, folks. And really, popular culture is not my thing. I’ve never seen a Hannah Montana episode, and I had to google VMA awards to find out what the heck everyone was talking about.

VMA awards? The Grammy’s and the Oscar’s, these are the things I know about awards shows. Apparently, there are a bunch more of them now. Apparently, Miley Cyrus recently made a spectacle of herself on one of them. And now you can’t  turn around without bumping into something that has been written about it.

(The VMA awards are MTV’s Video Music Awards. You’re welcome.)

People are talking about her, that’s for sure. And maybe that’s what she hoped for.

I haven’t read everything I’ve seen in print about the girl, but I’ve noodled around enough to understand she’s stirred something up in people. Some are pointing and laughing. Some are analyzing her motives or discussing potential fallout.

Some of the more reflective folk are praying, even weeping for her. And for the culture that has produced her.

The word is burning on my tongue. Can I just say it? Hogwash.

Because that’s easy. I mean sure, pray and weep a little. It’s sad to see a young woman doing what she is doing. But it’s also far far away.

It’s easy because I don’t know her. She lives in someone else’s world of influence, and feeling bad for her is like feeling bad for orphans or child slaves or children living in poverty.

It only matters if I do something about it.

I might think I don’t know Miley Cyrus, but really, she lives next door. She’s the teenage girl at church, and the young woman posting sexy selfies on Facebook, and the precious face of my friend’s daughter.

She’s every young woman out there who just wants to be seen.

I can bemoan the world I live in. I can take shelter and pray. I can feel sad and write commentary. But at some point, if saying I’m a Christian means anything at all to me, I have to look up.

Look up, see, touch, hug, talk…

There’s a Miley Cyrus in your world. I know there is. Can you see her?