So I'm getting close to the end of this year and I don't have all the answers to the questions I asked in January. In fact I asked them over and over intermittently all year, but I'm still quite a way from knowing what's what.
But that's ok.
I have some ideas. I have learned so much this year and I am definitely in a different place from when I started out nearly a year ago. It's been a roller coaster ride indeed.
I went to see the girls' nativity play yesterday. It was lovely. A really ambitious play involving every member of the school in costume of some sort, lots of songs, narration, speaking parts, dancing and choreography. My Katy shone brightly as a candle; she took the role very seriously indeed and the earnest look on her face as she sang was wonderful. Elizabeth sat on a bench with the other narrators with her legs elegantly crossed and a faraway look on her face - so faraway that she needed a prompt when it was her turn to scramble up onto the bench and announce the arrival of Jesus. Despite this inauspicious beginning the show went on and she was loud and clear. They both sang and danced the stable hoedown with the rest of the company and it was a bit of a tearjerker and no mistake. I was very proud.
Bearing in mind that the youngest of the children are only just four and the oldest just seven years old it was a masterpiece. so much work had gone into it and the audience were more than appreciative. We were positively doting. There were some truly priceless moments - among them when a rogue ponytail knocked Katy's candle flame hat off her head and she rounded on the culprit with a mutinous expression and bared teeth; when a tiny but very energetic angel's skirts fell down mid-dance and when Mary carelessly dropped the newborn baby Jesus into the manger being just a few. It was lovely.
One song stood out for me. They were all lovely - the stable hoedown, following the star, the prickly hay song - but the best was a song called, 'If you think you're not important'.
If you think you're not important
All the little things you do
Just remember God above
Is very proud of you.
(Out of the Ark Ltd)
I talked about this with my girls at bedtime because they were so very tired at bedtime last night and Elizabeth especially was full of anxiety. She said she didn't feel special and tears rolled down her face. We talked about this song (and she corrected my memory of the lyrics) and it was easy to reassure her that she was indeed special. How special are my daughters? They are beautiful and interesting and clever and funny and touching and inspirational and witty... and so much else before we even touch on frustrating or tiring or any of those less positive words.
I can sit on the edge of their beds at night and reassure them with absolute confidence that they are special and unique and precious and wonderful. I will keep on doing it because I long for them to believe it. It will make such a difference in their lives as they grow up if they get a glimpse of how you see them, Lord. Not the mean girl in the playground who will be their friend on a Monday but not on Tuesday. Not the teacher who assesses their academic ability. Not the person who gives out the medals at the swimming gala. The God of the Universe who made each of them with care and love and doesn't make mistakes.
It's just hard to believe that about me, sometimes.
I remember when I was at school one of the nuns once told us that 'God made us and he doesn't make trash.' I didn't really follow for two reasons - one because it came out of the blue, no context, and was delivered without any warmth or real belief, and the other because this same lady was known for her sharp tongue, her shouting and her impatient attitude. If she was trying to tell us that we were special (and I think she was - it must have been on the syllabus somewhere) then it wasn't a lesson that hit home.
But we are. I can tell the kids that over and over again but it's only this year that I've started to believe it about me.
'Just remember God above
is very proud of you.'
I thought of this again today when I opened my email from Rick Warren (The Daily Hope) and today he was saying that each of us has a unique job to do.
'Think you're too ordinary? You are the one God wants to use.'
I have learned this year that even if I don't have the answers, you can use me. I know that you are shaping me into a different, better version of me; not a different person because you made me this way for a reason, but an upgrade. A me that's better able to do the job that you want me to do.
'If God created you for a mission, why would you think you are too ordinary to fulfil it?'
Why indeed? Do I know better than you? You don't make mistakes.
Maybe there's something specific you want me to do, Lord, or maybe you just want me to be me, here, now, in the place that you've put me, with my family, my friends, my church, my neighbours, the mums at the school gates, the people who visit the church coffee shop, the people in the supermarket and so on. I don't know. I do know that I'll carry on learning how to listen to you, how to see you around me and writing down what I see and hear and all the ways I'm learning. Even if it takes me the rest of my life I want to carry on.
Like the wise men. Following a star to the baby Jesus. It was a long, long way (and on Thursday at school Melchior took a wrong turn by the serving hatch and ended up with his camel among the candles) but it was worth the journey.
Look what wonder was at the end of it.