Guest Blogger Maressa Mortimer
It happens every year. I take my children somewhere, and somebody in the shop or restaurant will ask them, “So, have you been good this year? Do you think Santa will give you presents?”
My children react differently to that question. My youngest will frown, and explain that St Nicholas was a real person who lived a very long time ago, and… My oldest will smile politely but cringe inwardly. My children are adopted, and like most children adopted from foster care, come from a background of trauma. Some children in care have been abused, some have been neglected. It tends to present the same kinds of behaviours and feelings. One of them is the ‘never good enough’ feeling. After all, if you were worthy of love, your parents would have taken care of you, fed you, clothed you, got rid of bad habits for you, wouldn’t they?
Nothing in life is certain, we all agree with that. Apart from, we trust in a lot of things. We trust gravity, we trust that when we turn the tap on, water will come gushing out. When we talk about early years trauma and attachment issues and a lack of trust, these words mean more than you think. For many years my older children would be amazed that the glass they dropped shattered on the floor. “How was I supposed to know that!” Well, how many times have you seen a glass hit the ceiling? They didn’t trust gravity, so why would they trust me, their new mum?
We love little mantras in our house, for verbal processing is a skill many adopted children lack. A short sentence repeated ad nauseam helps. Every year, when their faces go tight, their eyes wide and dark, and their behaviour spirals out of control, we repeat endlessly (whilst wishing it was January already!), “We give you presents because we love you for who you are, not for what you do or don’t do.”
So when somebody on the streets says, “I hope you have been good this year!” my daughter looks scared. She knows she hasn’t been good all year. Her head knows that she gets presents, they always do, because they’re always loved. But her heart whispers, “What if…” What if I have been too bad, and they don’t love me anymore. What if they forget about me? What if I get the wrong present, and they see my disappointment?
Adoption told me so much about God and who we are in Christ Jesus. I find myself wondering the same thing. “What if I sin, will He take my blessings away? Will I lose God’s love?” But God’s gifts and salvation is a free gift, not of works, lest anyone should boast, Ephesians 2. So this Advent, have a think. Do you feel you have to earn your Heavenly Father’s blessings and gifts? Have you been good this year?
My name is Maressa Mortimer, and I’m Dutch. I live in the beautiful Cotswolds, England, with my husband who is a pastor. We have four (adopted) children. My debut novel, Sapphire Beach, was published December 2019. I’m a homeschool mum, so my writing has to be done in the evening, when peace and quiet descends on our house once more. I love exploring questions of faith using novels, as it helps me to see what faith looks like in daily life. My latest novel, Walled City, was launched on December 5th.
Visit my website www.vicarioushome.com to buy a signed copy from the shop.
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Thought provoking read. As a parent it is hard to help your kids understand love is not performance based. Even harder if you haven’t figured that out for yourself with God’s love. Definitely a recurring struggle
Peck struggles with this. I have to remind him that our love and God’s love is not based on what he does, but who he is.
It’s such a good reminder that it’s not about being good. Christ died for us while we were yet sinners. We didn’t deserve it. I will be more direct in telling my children that we give them gifts because we love them and it’s about who they are, not what they do.