Written by Maralee Bradley
Photos by Rebecca Tredway

Some kids get really attached to a particular comfort animal. My oldest had a favorite monkey, my daughter has a treasured pig, but my baby Joel has an attachment to Teddy that words can’t describe. It’s wonderful to have an object that brings him such instant joy and peace, but what a black cloud descends over the house if Teddy can’t be found!

Recently Teddy has had to take some “baths” in the washing machine after nasty run-ins with diaper explosions or unexpected toilet baptisms. Joel will stand at the washing machine door (sadly, we have a front-loading washer with a clear door) and call, “Teddy, Teddy, Teddy” over and over while banging on the door for the entire 52 minute cycle. It is at once both heartbreaking and endearing.

We had been having a problem over the last few months where Joel could not settle down in the church nursery. Every week it would be the same routine—drop him off, try to get something out of the ten minutes I could listen to the sermon, then go retrieve my screaming baby. It was finally my six year-old Josh that said, “Why don’t you just bring Teddy?” That kid is a genius. The next Sunday we brought Teddy along and Joel was just fine to play in the nursery the entire duration of the sermon. Amazing.

joel_01_alt_finalI’m so glad I’ve outgrown needing a comfort object to make me happy. . . oh wait. . .

Somehow through the years I went from finding my comfort in teddy bears to finding it in Barbie dolls. From Barbie dolls to stylish clothes. After the clothes weren’t so stylish I started finding my comfort in a good education. Now I find my comfort in having a happy marriage, well-behaved, healthy kids and good friendships. And when those things are threatened, I find myself behaving about as maturely as my 14 month-old baby.

We all want to have a life of ease. I’ll even avoid risks to avoid the heartache risk can bring–no skydiving, icy-road driving, or raw cookie dough for this mama. I just want my comfortable life and everybody else can fend for themselves. But even locking my door, wearing my seatbelt, and giving my kids the organic vegetables can’t protect me from dealing with pain. Sometimes pain comes in the form of a husband’s shameful secret or a child’s unexpected behavior problems. Maybe it’s the moment you realize your “friends” are excluding you from things because of your hurtful or judgmental comments (not that that’s ever happened to me. . . ). It’s then I find myself standing in front of the washing machine, begging for my teddy bear. We want to undo those hurts and be back to when things seemed comfortable and right. We want our security back.

I am coming to learn in those moments when the rug has been pulled out from under me, that’s where God longs to meet me. I realize I’ve been crying for the wrong things. When times are smooth I can fool myself into thinking I’ve got God all figured out or even that dependency on God is a risk I don’t want to take. When the things that make my life feel easy are gone, that’s when I realize I am ALWAYS dependent on God, but sometimes he has to get my attention. I might never have noticed the ways my heart has been lead astray or the sins I’ve been choosing if it wasn’t for the hard consequences that come into my life. I can decide to repent and find my peace in God, or I can choose to run and try and find my peace in the temporary things that can’t truly fulfill.

joel_03_finalSome of the hardest times of my life—the infertility diagnosis, the miscarriages—have been the times when I’ve felt the presence of God most closely. During the good times I can now feel the hollowness of the things I chase after because I know my God is bigger than my comfort. He is longing for me to reach out and take risks that help others. I can deal with the risks and uncertainty inherent in being a foster parent because I know the consistent love and protection of my Father God. It isn’t a protection that means I won’t be hurt, it means I won’t suffer needlessly. In all things there will be a purpose, even if I can’t see it until heaven.

That’s what my Joel doesn’t quite understand yet. The bear has to get washed and Mama will be there to hold him while he’s sad about it. Our comfort has to be upset sometimes to be sure we’re clinging to the right things. Let’s be like Job who said, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Maralee Bradley

Maralee is a mom of six pretty incredible kids. Four were adopted (one internationally, three through foster care) and two were biological surprises. Prior to becoming parents, Maralee and her husband were houseparents at a children’s home and had the privilege of helping to raise 17 boys during their five year tenure. Maralee is passionate about caring for kids, foster parenting and adoption, making her family a fairly decent dinner every night, staying on top of the laundry, watching ridiculous documentaries and doing it all for God’s glory. Maralee can be heard on My Bridge Radio talking about motherhood and what won't fit in a 90 second radio segment ends up at www.amusingmaralee.com.