Fantastic Foul Up

Ever made a mistake? A real whopper? A magnificent mess? I have. More often than I care to admit. But there’s one in particular that haunts me. It is hard to admit and has, sadly, hindered me from doing some good stuff. I dropped the ball and it backfired epically. And I’m going to tell you about it.

About two years ago I was volunteering at a local homeless hang out and met a family who tugged at my heart. Mom, dad, a sweet 2 year old boy, and his baby sister. I reached out and they accepted my offer to help. I bought diapers. I met them at the hospital when mom had a health scare and needed someone to watch the kids. I bought birthday gifts.

Before long, mom and dad lost custody of the kids, due in part to their unsuitable living situation. The state requires certain standards of living for its children and homelessness doesn’t meet the criteria. I still don’t know how the state got involved. Doesn’t really matter, except that it wasn’t me who involved them. I was FOR THIS FAMILY. I wanted them to succeed.

It was a strange relationship. I wanted to help, obviously. But I didn’t understand their lifestyle, clearly. I was pretty fuzzy on what “helping” them looked like. So, when they told me that all they lacked to get their kids back was a deposit on an apartment I (after consulting with my husband) wrote a check. And I petitioned my friends for donations to help them set up their new home. And we helped them move. And bought them groceries. And then I patted myself on the back and walked out of their lives.

What a nice, happy ending.

Nope.

Mom had/has a serious drug addiction.

At a chance encounter last Christmas season I ran into the kids, along with a new baby, at an event for kids in foster care. Mom and dad were both in jail and the kids were being adopted. Their time in their new apartment was short lived. And probably not amazing.

In a really jacked up effort to help, I had really REALLY mucked things up. I had great intentions but missed the mark on what this family really needed. Friendship. Not a hero, just a friend. Someone to stick with them for the long haul, to be close enough to recognize that something was majorly amiss, to intervene on behalf of the kids involved. I dropped the ball. A big freaking ball.

And so, I’ve been gun-shy. I have a lot of irons in the fire right now and I just can’t be the kind of friend that I should be. Thus, I’ve given myself permission to do very little. If I can’t be ALL IN, why bother?

Because. Every little bit I can offer matters, if done properly.

I cannot pretend to come alongside someone and make their whole life better. But I can try to make this day better.

I cannot/should not buy houses and furnish them. But I can buy water and coffee and offer them.

I cannot appreciate enough the folks who are dedicating their lives to befriending the local homeless population. They are my heroes. They are doing it right.

I cannot allow a fantastic foul up to keep me from doing the good that I know I can do. And neither should you. Don’t allow your past mistakes to keep you from doing the good that you can do right now! Don’t be afraid to do something just because you might not get it exactly right. Don’t allow yourself to be frozen in fear because of your own fantastic foul up.

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I’m Pretty Sure I Can’t Do This

After The New Kid left us we had a couple of months to regroup. We needed the time. As much as we loved him, The New Kid had given us a run for our money and we were tired. We weren’t sure we were going to continue to foster. His story had been a success, the first and only kiddo we have fostered who was able to be reunified with his parent. He was a challenge but in the end we felt good about where he ended up and thought maybe we would end our foster care career on that high note.

And then we got a call.

The phone rang at 4:00am. A two year old girl had been taken into care and needed a place to stay. I said no. I had to be at work in a couple of hours and couldn’t make childcare arrangements on such short notice. After I hung up the phone my husband reminded me that it was my day off. I quickly called the number back and they excitedly told me that someone would be bringing her to us in about an hour.

She entered our home quietly. She was beautiful and bewildered and exhausted. She spoke very little for quite some time, but what she lacked in verbal communication she more than made up for in attitude. She had sass and spunk and a personality that quickly came to light. Miss Moxie seemed a fitting nickname.

She has lived with us for almost 9 months and we are hopeful that she might just get to live with us forever. Yep, we are on the road to adoption. Again. We weren’t expecting to be here. Again. We are terrified. Again. We are excited. Again. It’s familiar and different all at once.

I’m trying to do less worrying this time around. Less fretting and more faith. I cannot really do anything to change the outcome, our fate rests in the hands of lawyers and judges at this point. I can only trust that God knows what is in store and He will reveal it to me when the time is right and help me navigate whatever waters he puts me in.

Besides all that, I’ve already done plenty of fretting. When faced with the decision to adopt, we had to take a good long hard look at ourselves and our life. Could we start over with a toddler? Could we fit another person into our home, our family, our life? Could we  muster the energy to keep up? Could our kids handle it? Could our marriage handle it? COULD WE DO IT? The answer was and is ….. no. We can’t.

There isn’t enough of us to go around. We can’t meet all the needs and wipe all the noses and dry all the tears. We can’t be present with all the people all the time. We can’t give our kids/each other/ourselves all of the attention. We can’t do it. And that’s when a familiar calm washed over me. I can’t, but God can. And there it was. The peace that I needed. It is the best place to be, leaning hard on God. It is a familiar calm amid a storm of unknowns.

We are currently enjoying our time with Miss Moxie, knowing that there is a chance she might not be with us forever. We are reminding ourselves that we don’t need to build walls around our hearts fearing the “what if”. We are ALL IN knowing that if things don’t end with MM with us permanently that we have poured all the love that we could into her in the time we were given. And that if our hearts shatter in the end, God will be there to patch us up.

Yeah, About That Awkward Text Message….

There’s a good chance that at some point you’ve gotten a random, out of the blue, moderately awkward text message, Facebook message, or phone call from me. It might have started something like this: “I know this might seem weird” or: “I’m not very good at this, but……..” or “I know I’m not going to get this right but I guess I think it’s better to say it wrong than say nothing at all” or even this: “I know we haven’t seen much of each other over the years, you know, since you were my KINDERGARTEN TEACHER”. Like I said, awkward.

From there, I likely went on to explain that you’ve been on my mind, on my heart, and that I’m praying for you or grateful for you or glad you’re in my life. Or all of those. You probably wondered why in the world I was reaching out at such a random time in such a weird way.

I guess I feel like I owe you a bit of an explanation.

I don’t feel as if these communications are completely random. It might sound strange and a bit far fetched, but I sincerely believe that I’m being compelled to reach out. A “God nudge”, I like to think of it. Kinda like maybe God is looking out on mankind and thinks, “That gal over there needs to hear a certain truth. That she is loved. She is valued. She is important. She is special. That the work she is doing matters. She is not alone.” And since He can’t just thunder those words down from heaven (I mean, He could, he IS God, but I think He recognizes that a thunder from heaven might be sorta scary), He uses us to do it.

And here’s why I think that. More often than not, when I reach out in a weird, random, awkward way, the response isn’t “you friggin’ weird-o, leave me alone!” but something altogether more tender, like “how did you know I needed to hear that?” or “I really needed that encouragement today!” And since I’m a rather dense gal, I KNOW it wasn’t ME that recognized the need for those words at that time, it was God working through me. And it feels really good to pass along messages of love. And because I think it’s really cool to be used by God in this way, I just keep doing it.

Also, I really love being on the other end of a “God nudge” too.

Three years ago a high school freshman wrote a paper for English class. In it, she talked about me. For whatever reason, she was inspired by some things I’d done in my life. The words she wrote were flattering and kind and encouraging. And for three years she didn’t share them with me. She waited. She waited until she felt the time was right and then she emailed me the paper. Her email was short (and not the least bit awkward) and she explained that she’d been given this assignment years ago and recently came across it and thought I should read it.

What she didn’t know is that I’ve been going through a season of self doubt. I’ve been asking myself questions like “Why am I doing these hard things? Am I really making a difference? Is it worth it?” Yeah, I’ve been a real treat to live with the last few days. I’ve been questioning, wondering, obsessing about why I do what I do. And then, out of nowhere, I get an email from a high school senior who tells me that at a very important time in her life she looked at me as an example. She saw what I was doing and felt like it was important. That it mattered. That I was making a difference.

I cried (and I don’t cry often). I cried happy tears. Tears of reassurance. I thanked God for the reminders that I needed to hear. And I thanked my young friend for reaching out. She too had felt a “God nudge” and although it would have been awfully easy for her to shrug it off or ignore it, she didn’t. She acted on the nudge and spoke words of life to me. At a moment that I REALLY needed to hear them. She didn’t know that I was in a funk, but God did. I think maybe He looked down on mankind and saw me and thought, “Abbie is getting discouraged, she is believing lies, she is questioning the calling I have given her. She needs truth.” And then he picked an unsuspecting teen to speak to me.

So the next time you’re thinking of someone for no apparent reason or a particular situation is weighing heavy on your heart, don’t ignore it. Consider that maybe you’re being “nudged” to reach out. It might feel like random timing or just completely awkward, but take a chance. And the next time you receive a random, awkward text from someone who is just thinking about you, know how loved and valued you are!!!

Sometimes awkward=awesome.

Confessions of a reluctant sports mom

When I was in labor for the first time I experienced the magic of an epidural. Let me tell you, it was amazing. I was able watch the monitor and I see the little line rise up to indicate I was having a contraction but I couldn’t feel a thing. I was blissfully numb. It wasn’t a bad way to labor. Until it was time to push. I had zero sensation, but the doctor said it was time, so I put my chin down and pretended to know what I was doing. I felt like an actress playing the part of a woman in labor. I asked the nurse, very quietly, if I was doing it right. She assured me I was and a few minutes later my beautiful, squealing baby girl arrived on the scene.

Fast forward 11 years. Summertime. Baseball season. All three (THREE) of my kids are playing summer ball. My husband is in hog heaven. He is a natural athlete, very competitive, and loves the thrill of the game. Me? Meh.

I watch the other parents at the games. They are PUMPED. They cheer and yell and get thouroughly, genuinely excited watching their kiddos. Me? I’m internally searching the crevices of my brain for appropriate encouraging words. I say things like: “Swing if it’s there. Get ready. Way to watch. Swing at strikes. Watch the ball.” It feels like I’m on a game show called “Let’s State The Obvious!!!”

I’ve become fluent in baseball vocabulary mostly by mimicking my husband but also from faint memories from my childhood of my dad listening to baseball games on the radio on our way home from church. 

I mutter to my husband, “Am I doing it right?” I feel like an actress playing a mom watching her kids play ball. I don’t get it. But they love it and I love them so I’ll just keep playing the part. 

The Rimmatoop

Five years ago today I met my son. He was four years old at the time. Like most kids, he loves to hear the story of how he came into our family. 

His entrance to our world is a different sort of tale than that of our other kids, but it’s sweet and special and one we all recall fondly. Here’s how it goes….

One day, in the middle of July, I got a call at work from Children’s Division. A four year old boy had come into care. His name was Caleb. That was all I knew about my boy when I left work a few minutes early to meet him. 

I first laid eyes on him at a McDonald’s Play Place. He was accompanied by his case worker. He had eyes as brown as chocolate and the cutest, chubbiest cheeks. He didn’t speak. 

I said goodbye to the case worker and loaded Caleb into my car. I peeked into the backseat a million times to see his sweet face. He would smile but the silence hung heavy. I began to talk. About nothing and everything just to fill the quiet. I told him about our home and our other kids. I talked about the cows we drove past. I told him we had chickens at our house. And a pool. 

Then, out of nowhere, he began talking!! I was thrilled, but I couldn’t understand what he was saying. He repeated himself over and over again, growing increasingly frantic. “I need my rimmatoop! My rimmatoop. I NEED MY RIMMATOOP!”

Bless his little heart. I asked him to repeat himself a hundred times. I tried repeating what I was hearing and he assured me I wasn’t understanding him correctly. He was frustrated, I was beside myself. I needed to know what it was that this boy needed. I needed to understand him. 

My cousin is a speech therapist. A brilliant one, in my opinion. I figured if anyone could distinguish his jibberish, it would be her. When we arrived home I texted her: “this kid needs his Rimmatoop. What the heck is a Rimmatoop?! Help!!” 

Time passed. I introduced him to the dog and the chickens. He met the kids and my husband. He discovered some toys and was quickly entertained. He had seemingly forgotten about the Rimmatoop he had so desperately needed. 

A while later I received a short message from my cousin. It simply said: swimming suit?  I asked, “Caleb, do you need your SWIMMING SUIT?” His smile told the answer. Of course that was it. He had begun *needing* it as soon as I mentioned me had a pool. And of course we promptly got him one. 

Our story doesn’t take place in a hospital. No doctors or epidurals. No newborn photos or bitty baby inky footprints. But it’s one of my very most favorite stories to tell. And one of his very most favorites to hear. 

Made To Rejoice And Mourn

Last Friday my dear friend had a biopsy. A CT scan had revealed an abnormality and the “C” word was tossed out. A biopsy was the only way to know for sure, so she scheduled it and set about praying. She maintained a positive attitude and we all prayed fervently along with her. We fretted and worried and didn’t breathe easy until yesterday when we heard the results: NO CANCER!! We are thrilled! God heard our prayers! God is good. 

The very same day, another friend was having a biopsy done. She had an abnormality in her breast and the “C” word was tossed around. A biopsy was the only way to know for sure. So she had scheduled it and had set about praying. She shared beautiful words of strength and faith. Friends and family flooded her with encouragement, prayer chains were initiated. Her results came back: CANCER. We are crushed. But God is still good. He heard our prayers. 

I don’t get it. This side of heaven I will never understand. God’s plans are beyond my comprehension. I can’t reconcile it, can’t figure it out. But I can rejoice with those who rejoice. And I can mourn with those who mourn. And I can trust that He is in complete and total control. Where there is complete trust there is peace that passes understanding!!! 

God is good, all the time. 

All the time, God is good. 
*shared with permission from both of my sweet, strong, faithful friends who happen to be two of the strongest ladies that I know. 😘

Church, what in the actual hell is going on?

For years I’ve been fascinated and devastated by the mass exodus of people leaving the church. Statistics show a dramatic decline in Americans who say they attend church regularly and/or identify themselves as Christians. I’ve read blog posts and news articles on the topic. A quick search on the world wide web will net you a plethora of results. Research has been done and studies have been held. People have been polled and numbers have been crunched. In a nutshell, it’s not good.

Preachers and pastors and professors have theories about why this is happening. Some fault church leadership. Others note that church has become “boring”. Hypocrisy is often mentioned as a cause. It’s not that I don’t believe preachers and pastors and professors. I do. But because I live in Missouri (the Show-Me state) I like to do my own digging.

About a year ago I drafted a list of questions about church and asked my friends to answer them. I am not a scientist or a theologian. I am just a girl asking questions. Thirty people sent me their responses. The folks who participated come from various religious backgrounds, live in different parts of the country, are of different sexual orientations, in different seasons of life, and each carry their own church celebrations and hurts.

I’ve read through the responses a number of times over the last several months. I’ve prayed about how to share their words and feelings in an authentic way. I have felt very overwhelmed by the prospect and piled the responses up into a neat stack and placed them in the bottom drawer of my nightstand.

Last weekend my precious, tender hearted 11 year old daughter made the decision to give her life to Christ. She was baptized in a small, simple ceremony surrounded by close friends and family. It was beautiful. It made me dig out those survey responses and read them with renewed purpose.

Guys, my church is GOOD. It is filled with jacked up people who aren’t afraid to admit their faults. They love one another and they love God and they love ME. This church steps up when there is a need, in the church or in the community. I leave a service feeling edified and convicted and like I have really worshipped my Creator. Our church family has prayed for us and fed us and babysat for us and supported us.

I’m not the only one with positive church experiences. Every single person who responded to my survey had at least one positive thing to say about the church. Many of their responses are similar to my own experiences. “A sense of community. Relationships. Support. Opportunities to serve. Feeling included. Acceptance.” Good stuff there. I want my girl to have this as she grows up.

On the other hand, there are just as many negative experiences. Here are a few. “Disagreements over trivial things. Cliques. Lack of commitment. Apathetic attitude. Arguing over traditions. Fakeness. Legalism. Selfishness over selflessness. ‘I’m right, you’re wrong’ attitude. Preaching hate.” I don’t want these to be my daughter’s words in another ten years.

I’m convinced that Satan LOVES the current state of the church. Folks are hurting. In church. Because of church. It’s heart breaking and gut wrenching. I imagine the devil is scheming and planning and stirring up frustrations. He’s celebrating hurt feelings and division. HOW DO WE STOP THE BLEEDING???? How do we create a church culture that our children can grow up in, feeling safe and loved?

I want to have a magic formula. I want there to be an obvious, fool proof method to fix it. A ten step plan. With bullet points. Maybe an acronym (like S.A.V.E or F.I.X). But guys, it’s too big. Too hard for me to figure out. 

Or is it?

I’m becoming increasingly convinced that Satan is rubbing his hands together in smug satisfaction, confident that he has fooled us into believing this problem is too big, too hard. If we assume we can’t do anything to fix it, isn’t Satan winning? 

I believe we CAN do something. 

Here’s the deal. All those people who have been hurt by the church? They were hurt by people, individuals. Folks just like me (and you?) who claim to be Christians but get all twisted up in rules and rights and wrongs. People who think they’re doing the right thing by fighting for good but who might have forgotten that the most important thing is to love. 

So here’s what I’m going to do. Or try really, really hard to do. I’m going to try to treat all the souls I meet the way I want my daughter to be treated. With dignity, with respect, and with love. It sounds simple, because it is. It’s not a program or a plan, it’s not complicated at all. Satan would like me to think that I need to spend hours and weeks and years figuring it out when all I think I really need to do is treat people like I want my daughter to be treated. Like their precious, tender hearts are as important as my own child’s. Because to God, they are. And if I’m to be worthy of the name Christian, they should matter that much to me too. 

Don’t feel overwhelmed like I have felt. Don’t let the enemy convince us it’s too hard. 

Let’s stop the bleeding. 

Let’s cultivate a church culture that will hold our kids up, and embolden them to love fearlessly and be loved completely. 

It starts with us. 

You and me. 

I really think it’s that simple.