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. 😘

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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. 

 

Tonsils. Who Needs Them??

Update: The New Kid has to have his tonsils removed. This is new territory for me. #1) I’ve never had a foster kiddo who had to have surgery and #2) I’ve never had a kid that had to have a tonsillectomy. So.

I’m not really nervous about the surgery itself. A quick google search told me that just over half a million of these procedures are done each year. The doctor who will be performing the procedure seems very qualified. The New Kid will be in and out within 30 minutes. No biggie, right??

What I’m worried about is the week following his surgery. This kid is going to need A LOT of extra care. And although he is hilarious and we are really growing to love him, he is still just a few weeks post “complete-stranger” status. It’s a little intimidating to know that I’ll be responsible for this child as he goes through what will quite possibly be the most excruciating few days of his short little life and we are still just getting to know one another.

This reminds me of a few years ago when my then-foster-child-now-son had a stomach bug. I had a vicious case of the “am I doing it rights?” and second guessed myself in a bad way. Turns out, I was doing just fine all along. Re-reading my own words reminds me that I can do this!!

Prayers and good vibes appreciated for The New Kid. 

1/22/13

No one likes to be sick. It’s the pits. You’re weak and achy and tired. You don’t feel like eating or reading or even really talking. Even worse than being sick though is having a sick kiddo. It’s heartbreaking. You wish you could be sick in their place; somehow take the illness away from them. They’re so fragile. They’re weak and achy and tired. They don’t feel like eating or reading or even really talking. But what seems almost universally soothing to pretty much every sick child is snuggling. That wild, energetic ball of energy who rarely slows down for a quick hug seems to want nothing more than to climb in to your lap, cuddle up under a blanket, and just be. Comfort. I get a guilty satisfaction for being the giver of this comfort. I genuinely don’t want my sweet one to feel bad but I will SOAK THIS UP!!!!! This is a momma’s time to shine: to nurture and care for and to….mother. I mean, I still want MY mom when I’m sick. Which makes me wonder, does our little addition want his mom right now even more than normal? Does his weak, fragile state cause him to recall how her lap felt, how she rubbed his back or touched his face? Did she feed him 7-Up and crackers or popsicles or broth to soothe his sick belly? AM I DOING IT RIGHT?!?! Or does it really matter? Soup or 7-Up, back rub or back scratch…as long as it’s done with love I’ve found that he will gratefully accept my attempts to help and he even seems to be comforted by them. Apparently my lap snuggles just fine.

Minutes Matter

Minutes are weird. Every single one is made the same way. Sixty seconds. No single minute is longer or shorter than another. However, some minutes seem to fly by while others drag on for what seems like forever. 

My goal for the year is to be better at being still. It’s an art form that, frankly, I suck at. I’m a go-er and a do-er. I can multi-task like a boss. I can do a lot of things well. The challenge for me is in being still and quiet. 

Because my family is precious and supports me in my goals (translation: I said, “hey guys, we are doing this new thing, ok?”), we are working on this “be still” thing together. In the evening-time we practice being still. We call it Quiet Time (brilliant, huh?).  

In January, we would be still and quiet for 30 seconds each evening. In February, we increased it to one minute nightly. The plan is to increase it by 30 second intervals each month. No rules during quiet time except, you know, be quiet. You can pray or think about your day or sing a song in your head. 

I know, I know. It sounds cheesy and kind of weird. For the record, it also FEELS cheesy and kind of weird. I’m pretty sure that’s because we aren’t good at it yet. 

You guys, a minute lasts FOREVER. I bet I peek at the timer a dozen times during that minute, convinced that the battery has finally, really died this time. I feel like, in that single minute, I could plan my grocery list, fold a load of clothes, scrub a toilet or two, and paint my toenails. Maybe even solve global hunger. Who knows?? 

Fun fact about me: I am less than punctual. As in ALWAYS late. I generally wake up late and that just sets the tone for the day. I no longer get frazzled by it, it’s just my life. I’ve noticed though, that those pesky minutes seem to zoom by when I’m running late. I run out the door and blink and all of a sudden it’s time for the appointment/job/pick up time. Like, wait. What?! Where the heck did THOSE minutes go???

Whether I’m racing the clock or watching it tick slowly by, I’m learning that the minutes matter. The fast, speedy ones and the slow, crawly ones. Every single one matters. They all mush and glob together and turn into hours and those hours melt into days that turn into weeks and then months and then years. And then you’re sitting there, almost 35 years old, thinking, “crap, I’ve wasted so many minutes.”

I’m trying to make my minutes matter. Being still in some and being calm and kind in others. Being passionate. Being angry when I need to. Just being deliberate and mindful that although minutes seem to be somewhat insignificant, they’re actually what it’s all about. 

Minutes matter. Let’s make them count. 

Hi, I’m the new kid

When The New Kid came to us, I was the only one home. My husband was at work and the big kids were at school. The case worker and I chatted a bit, then she left, and it was just him and me. I gave him a tour of the house. I showed him where the bathrooms are. We checked out the toy box together and a Lightening McQueen computer caught his eye. He asked who it belonged to. I told him that it is Caleb’s but that many kids have played with it over the years. He opened the red laptop, turned it on, and said, “Hi, I’m the new kid.” Since we cannot identify our bonus kiddos by their name on social media, I’ll be referring to our latest addition as The New Kid from now on. Seems fitting. 

The New Kid is almost 4. Just about the same age as our Caleb when we first met him. They have striking similarities. It sometimes feels like deja vu. The New Kid is often quiet, seemingly in his own world. He is, in fact, taking it ALL in. I remember Caleb acting the same way. You’d talk to him and think he wasn’t listening but when you’d question, he knew exactly what was going on. 

In an effort to gain some insight as to what might be going on inside The New Kid’s mind, I recently asked Caleb what he remembers from when he first came to live with us. He said, “I remember thinking, ‘Who are these people? That is not my mom and that is not my dad.’ And I was afraid.” His words made me lose my breath and my eyes got misty. We meet these kids when their lives are absolutely upside down. Intellectually, I know that it must be scary to be uprooted and basically dumped into a new family, but to hear those words from my own precious son’s mouth made me almost sick. It was a painful reminder. One that I needed. I think this foster journey is hard on me???? Reality check!

Caleb and The New Kid have much in common. They love Lightening McQueen and Transformers. They fib about brushing their teeth. They love to build things and to play outside. They’ve both experienced their lives being flipped upside down and inside out. They’ve both felt confused and afraid. And they’ve both been loved and prayed for more than they could comprehend or imagine by people who were virtual strangers. Strangers who became family.  

Welcome to the family, New Kid. 

Wear Confidence

I had lunch with a friend recently. The purpose of our meeting was to discuss some heavy stuff: our calling, God’s plan for our lives, service. Big stuff. However, we are a couple of girls so the conversation began with less weighty matters. We talked about clothes. And hair. And about how it isn’t fair that it seems for every decade older we get, we pack on another 10 pounds or so. She said that she thinks it’s all about picking the right clothes for the body you’ve got. I agreed…I’ve not mastered it, but it’s true. Accentuate what you like, camouflage what you don’t.

The conversation quickly took a more serious turn. My friend and I have both adopted. We’ve grafted precious littles into our families. We talked about our unique adoption processes, because just like birth experiences that usually end with the same outcome, the journey there is different for everyone. We celebrated our special families and talked about some of the unique challenges. Adoption is hard, no doubt about it. But adoption is beautiful.

When you’re on the adoption journey, there are SO many unknowns. Your whole world feels fragile, like it could come crumbling down at any minute. You spend most of your days nervous, anxious, worried. But, like a veil hanging over it all, there is such JOY!!! And peace. It is almost unbelievable that you can harbor both worry and peace inside the same person, but I promise you can. You worry in the minutes but you have peace about the plan. When you’re on that difficult, scary, hard journey you KNOW that you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing. Deep in your bones you just know that God is pleased and you lean on that so hard that you know without God you’d just crash.

On both of our unique journeys, the ending was beautiful. We snuggled our sweet boys into our families and breathed a sigh of relief that the legal process was over and we could get on with the business of living our lives. The days melt into weeks and then months pass and we’ve both felt sort of an uneasiness. A restlessness. What on earth?? We’d just held God’s hand through a really difficult leg of the race and he helped us to the finish line and there we sit feeling…..weird. What happened?

It’s hard to go from a place of complete dependence on God, where you know that without Him you’d be a mess, to a place where you’re able to stand on your own again. Don’t get me wrong, I know I always NEED God, but sometimes I know it intellectually and sometimes I feel it, viscerally. I want to feel it that way all the time. I get hooked on the feeling but I struggle with how to find it. I want to know that I’m doing His plan in my everyday life with the same confidence that I knew I was doing His will on our adoption journey. How?

I’ve pondered this quite a bit in the last couple of weeks, since my lunch date with my friend. We opened our hearts that day and laid a lot on the table. We wrestled, figuratively, with the logistics of living God’s plan in our everyday lives. But at the end of our time I think we both walked away with more questions than answers.

I think the answer to our dilemma about God’s calling might have something to do with the conversation we had about fashion. Seems strange, but hear me out. We aren’t always exactly where we want to be. Our heart might be in missions but our children might just need the stability of being here. Our desire might be to fund a shelter for battered women but our bank account doesn’t reflect that. Our yearning might be to spend our days volunteering with needy children but our career path hasn’t led us there. I think the secret might be in picking the service for the life you’ve got right now. Today. Where are you right now and what can you be doing to share the love of Jesus? Ask yourself that question and then do it, with confidence.

It’ll look different for all of us. Some might answer it in big ways, making a huge life change. Most will answer it in small ways, little moments of kindness throughout the day. It really doesn’t matter how big or small it is because God doesn’t measure it that way. We can’t get caught up in the next big thing or we will be chasing air. I have done big things and I want to do more of them because they’re big and important and feel good. But those small kindnesses? They are just as big and important to God. I forget that often. If we’re running from big to bigger to biggest, we’ll end up exhausted.

It’s easy to find God when I need Him in that visceral way. But if I can’t slow down and quiet myself to find Him when life is calm and almost boring, that’s on me. He is always there. The challenge is sometimes in the mundane. I get discouraged, which is ridiculous because there are so many ways to serve. It’s like I’m standing in front of my closet full of clothes complaining that I have nothing to wear. The opportunities are there, they might not be flashy or trendy or glamorous but they might be just exactly right for me.

If you’re being called to something big then by all means, attack that big thing with tenacity and ambition. Own that big thing! If you’re being called to be kind to the lady in the check out line, OWN THAT TOO!! Be confident in where God has put you RIGHT NOW. It is no accident.

Hot Salsa and Hair Ties

The strangest thing happened this weekend.

I took Emma and Caleb to visit grandparents. Grandpa has been sick, so before we left they made him a card. They got out some construction paper and carefully folded it in half. Caleb determined what he wanted it to say and Emma helped him spell the hard words. They used markers and tape and pictures. It was cheesy and cute.

When we arrived, Caleb ran right in like he owned the place. He proudly presented the card and then he and Emma played with the puppy while I chatted with Grandpa about baseball and his garden. Then Grandma got home from the grocery store and we all met her outside and helped her carry in her bags. We visited in the kitchen and she told me about her pretty new wall hanging.

It didn’t take long for Caleb to start showing off. He does a pretty cool trick where he walks on his hands. Impressive, yes; but not for inside. So, we moved the group out to the front yard. Caleb showed off until his audience got bored and then the kids played volleyball with cousins.

It is August and although it wasn’t as hot as it has been, it only took a few minutes of running around for Emma to get hot. She came over to me, fanning her face and asking for a hair tie to put her hair up. I checked my pockets and had nothing for her. Aunt B offered one off her wrist and I helped Em wrangle her hair into a sweaty pony tail.

Caleb quickly tired of their structured play (he is much more of a free play kinda guy) and wound up on the porch swing with Grandma. We all sat out there for quite a while, talking about school and teachers and the Olympics and family and church and life.

When it was time to go, Grandpa sent us with 2 jars of his fresh, homemade salsa.

Seems completely normal, right? That is what makes this scenario strange and wonderful.

The strange part is how very normal it was. The strange part is how I came to be a part of this family. I wasn’t born into it. I didn’t marry into it. I was (kind of) adopted into it. This is Caleb’s birth family and they have embraced all of us in a pretty incredible way. They have been kind and patient and understanding.

We adopted one of theirs and they adopted all of us.

Strange. Unique. And really, really beautiful.