It's me again. Going over old ground again, I think.
New school year and new emotions for me as I say goodbye to both my daughters in a morning and leave them in their classrooms instead of bringing one back home with me, or dropping her at a warm and fuzzy nursery for a couple of hours now and then. It's different. I'm still acclimatising. I'm still hesitating and turning round at the door and waving (again) and blowing kisses and looking for any glimmer of tears in those big eyes that might trigger a quandary - should I scuttle back for more hugs and kisses or should I set my shoulders and walk away...
I miss them.
Actually Katy is doing pretty well. I'm doing magnificently, all things considered (and by that I mean that I'm doing OK within certain parameters, namely that my youngest daughter has just started school and in the last two weeks I have been a strange and unpredictable hormonal mess that snaps and cries a lot. Aside from that I'm doing just fine.)
It's Elizabeth who's struggling and I'm asking you to make it better. Please, Lord, make it better.
As I'm sure you'll remember, not least because I've moaned on about it before, the Powers That Be split Lizzie's class in two last year and her friends were all in the other class. Elizabeth now sees them at playtimes but lunchtime is different as each class is called in to eat at a different time and the anxiety of not having anyone to sit with to eat her dinner and play with after they've eaten is keeping my six year old daughter awake at night and reducing her to tears on several occasions.
Father God, find a friend for my little girl. Find her a girlfriend who is kind and encouraging and makes her feel happy; at least most of the time. Not a friend who criticises the clothes she wears or makes her self conscious about her height, or calls her names, or throws her woolly hat in a puddle. We did all that last year. Please find her a friend who makes her more herself, not less. Someone with whom she flourishes and grows and becomes more sure of her worth and uniqueness. As term started I knelt down with Lizzie and told her that she was never ever on her own, because you were with her all the time. She later told me that she'd remembered what I said, and it helped, but she needs someone she can skip with and whisper with and run with and eat with as well as a heavenly Friend that she's learning to trust. Don't we all?
'Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labour
If either of them fall down, one can help the other up.'
Lord, in my life you have surrounded me with some very special people; and I consider myself blessed beyond measure by your gift of one wonderful friend in particular. I know someone who loves me, understands me and accepts me as I am, even when I'm not nice, or when I'm irrational or angry. Someone who has cried with me and laughed with me, prayed with me, held me in her arms as I've fallen apart and then helped to rebuild me. She walks alongside me with faithfulness and honesty and inspiration and we help each other.
'A friend loves at all times, and a brother was born for adversity.'
That'll be sisters too, I imagine. She is not afraid to tell me when I'm wrong and yet does so with gentleness and love. She is there when I need help even if she is weighed down herself. She is full of your Spirit and I learn so much from her. She makes me want to be better than I am; she inspires me, encourages me and shows me another way to think when I've reached a dead end. Our lives are not easy and we cling to each other but we have fun as well. She brings colour to my world when I'm seeing life in black and white. We have often remarked on how sure we are that our friendship was a gift from you because our lives have so often reflected each other's; the pattern of my unfolding world is quite often so similar as to be indistinguishable from hers. It's amazing, uplifting, reassuring, comforting and a source of great joy to me. I would love to see my girls blessed like this.
As I was growing up I made mistake after mistake with friendships around me. I had some good friends throughout all those years, some of which are still active and valuable to me now; but there are some terrible memories of times when I misplaced trust, when people were just plain mean; when I tried to be someone I wasn't in order to hang onto a friendship that was doing me no good at all, and when I was wounded repeatedly but didn't have the perception or courage to walk away. It's taken me until my forties to understand the damage that early non-friendships did to my confidence and self esteem and to start to tear down the strongholds of wrong beliefs that resulted from some of these experiences.
Please don't let that happen to my girls.
I see Lizzie so needy and desperate to be liked. I see her longing to be accepted and it breaks my heart that she isn't comfortable in her own skin. Have I done that to her because of my own beliefs or behaviour? I tell her that she's special and loved and beautiful... but then criticise too much? Are my standards too high? Do I expect perfection? I don't know.
Maybe you'll help me with these demons, Lord, and soon. But today I'm asking you, please, find a friend for my little one. For both of them.
On her open day before the summer Katy recognised another girl that she'd met at a nursery she attended briefly when she was tiny. Let's call her Annie, though I know that you know who she is. For two visits the two of them ran round hand in hand and it was wonderful to see. All summer Annie was in Katy's mind and she was anxious to see her on her first day. Then...nothing. She wasn't mentioned at all. Today I asked if she got to play with Annie at all and Katy said, 'It's very sad, Mummy. Annie has another friend and doesn't want me.'
That one hurt my heart. She was pretty matter of fact; indeed she told me about another two friends, both little boys, that she had fun with. It was just that she'd been so sure that she and Annie would be inseparable and it had not happened. She was disappointed. I said all the right things, that people could have lots of friends, not just one, that she could play with different people, that she was lovely...
So Lizzie cries at night and worries about who to sit with. Although I don't know the circumstances it seems that Katy has already taken her first knock. Father of all, hedge them in with your protection. Protect them against all the hurts that might take root in their heads and hearts and grow into damaging perceptions of themselves. Every night I pray for them as I watch them sleep - I pray that anything that has happened today that might become A Thing for them would melt away and be forgotten. If they are hurt or worried or frightened that you would take care of it. Please keep them intact. Show my wonderful girls how gorgeous they are, how special, how unique, how they are designed to be themselves and no-one else.
Help me to show them those things and not just show them their flaws (as perceived by an impatient and overtired mother with perfectionist tendencies).
Send them a friend, Lord. A little girl who will make them happy, who can be made happy by them. Teach the two of them how to be a friend, so that they can give as well as receive. They're warm little creatures, Father; you know how charming and funny and innovative and exciting and imaginative and creative they can be. Please please let there be someone in each of their classes who might come to meet them. Sit next to them in the dinner hall. Run next to them in the playground. Share with them. Build them up. Have fun with them. Someone that they can face life alongside.
I know they all have their fallings-out - I know quite well how little girls can be. Make them resilient and secure so that the knocks don't flatten them. Help them bounce back. But please don't make them wait until they're grown up before they experience true friendship. It is so special and I so want it for them. Life is so much more beautiful with a friend. Family is one thing - a wonderful thing - but friendship is different. Friendship is a different colour and the most beautiful tapestry is lacking without this shade. A husband - well, I'm sure I'll come to that in time, but they're six and four. Before they find their men they need to find their friends. Please, Lord. A friend for Lizzie and one for Katy. Maybe two - but I mustn't be greedy.
Here are my daughters, Lord. I love them so, so much. I want so much for them. I have this special thing and I know what it's worth and nothing can buy it for them. It's a blessing and I pray that you'll give it to my girls. I can't protect them the pain of rejection and other stuff like this but I would if I could. I'd give out application forms and hold interviews and do research and select the best friends I could find for them out of the ranks of small girls available but I'd probably get it wrong. You know who might fit, Lord. I trust you.
Don't let them be lonely at playtime, Father. Be there, yes. But will you stand in the playground and introduce them to another small person who might say, 'Will you be my friend?'