Monday, October 27, 2014

Even Jesus uses Craigslist

This past week I set out to encourage others.  I decided I would write letters to some fabulous ladies and just tell them they were appreciated.  I didn't know the week would end with me on the receiving end of a huge encouragement myself.

The week was tough for me.  Our kid's bathroom has been torn apart since the beginning of September.  We had a leak in our plumbing behind the wall so we had to tear out all of the old tile and wall and replace all of the plumbing.  The plumbing itself wiped us out financially so we have been patiently waiting to be able to drywall and replace the tile or put in one of those tub surrounds. So for about 7 weeks now all 7 of us have been using our bathroom that is the size of a coat closet.   I've been okay with it.  Really.  I mean we have a bathroom with running water and we've all worked around it and it's been fine.  I've been to places where this bathroom would certainly be a luxury. We can do this.  Then the toilet in the good bathroom cracked.  I don't even know how but as I'm cleaning it I notice a huge crack that is going to be a real problem if it grows anymore.  It's fine, I tell myself.

Well after a 4 day unrelenting headache, nothing seemed fine.  I was worried about when and how we would be able to fix the bathroom.  Worried about the toilet.  Worried about finances. God has ALWAYS provided for us, ALWAYS.  I struggled the entire week with just lifting the burden to God and trusting Him to provide.  I kept handing it over to him and picking it back up.  Then on Saturday the dryer broke.  Wouldn't do anything.  Dead.  We had wet clothes hanging all over the house and the back deck.  Worry crept back in.  I kept checking the list in my head of all the things that need to be fixed around here.....the toilet, the shower, van needs tires, the roof, the carpet replaced, our tv is still broken, and now the dryer!!!  Everything else we can manage with out but this dryer thing in a family of 7 presents an urgency.  I honestly didn't give it much thought though because I couldn't.  It was one of those times that denial is a coping mechanism and I would just sit and cry if I gave it another thought.  I text my parents and asked them to pray for my attitude and for God to provide. They say when it rains, it pours, but this is straight up monsoon season.

On Sunday, the sunshine was bright and the birds were chirping.  The kids were all filthy from playing hard all day in the beautiful weather on the last day of Fall Break and our water heater broke. So now, the one working shower we have is a cold shower.   I raised my hands in a you've-got-to-be-flipping-kidding-me-frustration and cried. I thought about texting my parents and saying their prayers stink;)  I felt angry and ganged up on and tired of it all.  I was trying to give it all to God but instead He got my attitude.  It was one of those moments you just think what does He want from us?!! Why does it always have to be something?!!  The rest of the weekend I spent cruising Craigslist and garage sale sights for a dryer that would work for our family and we could afford.  My husband watched youtube videos to figure out the water heater.


This morning I woke and tried again to leave it at God's feet.  I emailed the craigslist ad we were interested in and asked if they would accept $50 less.   I was determined to find joy in my day. I prayed about it all again and got the kids ready for school.  The morning had the devil working overtime to deter me. Our oldest text me from school because the update I had done on her school issued Ipad had resulted in her losing her project that she was supposed to be presenting the next hour.  The devil loves for us to feel defeated and robbed of joy. He loves for us to keep tallying up all of the things going wrong.

I pulled in to work a few minutes early and checked my email.  This is what I found:

RE: GE washer and dryer

Yes, they are both electric.  I have to admit I caught your blog address and find you a fellow writer and journier with Jesus as well..... If it would help you, I'd like to give the washer/dryer to you.  My 4 children and I have been blessed beyond words since my divorce 2 years ago and our move to Carmel first then to Noblesville has been one of ups and downs but I can't imagine how money could exchange hands when God brings us what we need.  Let me know when you'd like to come pick them up .....

Tears.  Massive tears roll down my face and ruin my ready for work mascara'd eyes.  The words fell over my soul like the laughter of my children.  How good is our God?  How absolutely amazing is He?  Do you even understand how much He loves us?  He is so much bigger than we can ever imagine.  So much greater.  He loves us immensely.  That He, the King of Kings, would care about my dryer.  He is that good.  That of all the people on Craigslist....that answering an almost one month old ad...that the seller would click on my blog link that I have forgotten is part of my automatic signature....that the seller would answer yes to God's nudge....

Blinking through my tears I respond:

You have no idea how your words have encouraged me today.  God loves to humor me;) I usually handle things pretty good but this weekend has been a hard one for me with financial worries and I kept handing it over to Him and picking it back up.  He always provides and is always good.  Thank you so very much.  I pray your generosity comes back to you tenfold.

After work she responds:

Trust me, I do know.  God has always been faithful to me and I can't imagine not being a part of His "God winks" to others.  We are blessed because we hold loosely to the things that don't matter and tightly to the things that do.  Don't forget that.  God has you in the palm of His hand and hasn't forgotten what you need.

God uses Craigslist.  God uses a stranger on Craigslist to love on me, to meet our needs and to speak words of truth to my heart that only He can know I need to hear.  He is good all the time.  He always provides.  Even more than the working dryer.....He knew I needed the words she shared with me...He knew I needed the encouragement.  He knew I needed today.
 
I tucked the kids in tonight and we prayed prayers of thanks for how much God loves us....for providing for us...and we prayed for the Craigslist seller...that she was willing to be used by God and that He would provide opportunities for us to be a part of His "winks"  in the same way and that we would answer those nudges with a yes.

I share this lengthy poor me story to encourage you.  Our God loves us.  Love us more than our earthly minds can fathom.  He loves you the same.  I needed that reminder today.  I needed to feel that love.  I needed to remember that in the big and the small, our God cares.  I needed to remember that He is with us.  Always.  I needed to be reminded of how He uses the body of believers to encourage and lift one another up.  I am so thankful for Who He is, for who we are in Him.  I am so thankful Jesus uses Craigslist.




Saturday, October 11, 2014

4 years forever home....Forever family.

In November of 2005 and December of 2006 my children were born to their first mom. Too much of life happened to them between then and the time they were placed in to our hands in May of 2009.  It wouldn't be until October 12th, 2010, that the courts finally caught up with our hearts and they were forever home.  I had to look up the year the adoption was finalized because I couldn't believe it had just been 4 years.  There are ways it seems so much longer and life before P & L is hard to remember. In another way it was a bit refreshing to think it's only been 4 years and that we've come a long way in a short time.  It's no wonder some of the struggles we have gone through in the past year and I am once again reminded of the pain and grief that the redemptive story of adoption is birthed from.

There is not a single thing I would change.  I read back over the blog and the emotions gurgle to the surface of the back of my throat and my eyes sting with tears.  I am reminded how hard we fought for their momma to be their momma.  I am reminded how sad it made me that she felt she couldn't and how angry it made me that she didn't have the skills to be. I am reminded how deeply it hurt that the system had failed yet another. I am reminded how much I loved and respected her and how it conflicted directly with my all too human judgement's at times.  I remember my inability to understand that her life experiences could have only led her here. I will always be thankful she chose life for them and selflessly broke the cycle.  I am reminded how small P & L were, how brave, how open and willing to accept our love. I am reminded how scared and mad and filled with an intense sadness they were that it seemed to seep from their souls. I am reminded how immediately I loved them as my own.  How much the originals welcomed them in and protected and embraced and hurt for them.  I am reminded how very much in love I was watching my husband father the fatherless.

Becoming a mother to two grieving children is the hardest thing I've ever done.  Stepping in to the place of a mother they loved....they still love.  Truthfully, sharing their love with her has been hard.  I often tell them they have enough love in their hearts for both of us and they do but it's only honest to say that their are moments that has stung a little.  The juggling of emotions that comes with this journey never ceases to surprise me.  One moment I can be crushed by the weight of the burdens they've carried and yet others felt normal frustrations at the fallout that creates in their lives.  This journey has brought me the greatest moments of joy and taken me to the bottom of a cavernous pit I didn't know was there.  Our adoption story has made me feel utterly alone at times and others surrounded by God's love for us, often shown by the amazing friends and family in our lives.  It has left me questioning the brokenness of this world and in amazement at it's beauty and grace.  It has given my children a family at the loss of their first mom.  It has given me more than I could ever measure.

I had no idea what to expect then.  I still don't.  I have a sign that hangs in the kitchen that states "never a dull moment" and it's obnoxiously true.  Each stage of development greets grief differently. But at the same time, each new day is one more day they know the security of a family, the gentleness a father should bring.  The hard has been so so hard but the alternative isn't an option. She was their first mom but I am their last.  Lord, help me be the mother these children need me to be. I am incomprehensibly thankful that we gave our yes to God...that when it made no earthly sense at all...when the finances weren't there....when we already had a full house with 3...when we were in the middle of facing a layoff... that we just trusted God to have us.  I am so thankful that this time I didn't blow it and let my fears win or my intellect or my feelings of self doubt.  I am so thankful for stepping out in faith, for giving Him our whole yes and for jumping feet first in to the craziest ride of our lives. Happy Forever Family Day, Family.  

What an honor it is to be their mom. All 5 of them.


Friday, August 22, 2014

Blessed are the Peacemakers...thoughts on Michael Brown

I watch the news clips. I read the tweets. I sift through blog after blog. Some reactions make me want to clap along and shout Amen and others rise up an anger in me that I've never met before. Still others have me jaw dropped open and the stain of tears down my face. Several times I've commented on some FB post or gone to respond to a tweet and decided to erase it because I don't want to be part of the fuel to this already out of control fire. Part of me knows that social issues of this magnitude will not be solved on social media. Part of me knows that people hear what they want to hear and believe what they wish to believe....no matter what truth is presented. Part of me says speak up or you're part of the problem. Speak up for those that have not had a voice for too long. Speak up for my children, your children and our children's children.  

In the case of Michael Brown, it is true not all facts have been presented. It is true not all police officers are unfair in the treatment of African Americans.It is true that looting and aggression towards police officers is a harmful and disgraceful response. It is also true that he was unarmed. It is also true that this happens too often. I do not know Officer Darren Wilson and I will not pretend to know the situation he found himself in or the reasons he did what he did but this child was unarmed. I think being a police officer and the split second choices that they have to make would be a stress few could handle. It is beyond difficult. I think that is one of the reasons why it is imperative for us as a nation to take a step back and examine some deep seated stereotypes that we may hold on to. 

Black men are often seen in our media, entertainment, print, and even our history as imposing, scary, mean, rough, criminal. They are depicted as strong and intimidating, aggressive and arrogant, out of control and lawless. I can count on one hand images of black men in those mediums that are wise and educated, soft spoken and calm. I don't see the black men that I know represented that are managers and doctors, hard working and ethical, responsible, moral and humble men. We argue how all of those mediums have given women an unattainable allusion of beauty. We point to how all of those avenues can make children hyper or violent or how they impact our society in various ways but we don't believe all of those channels shape our view of the unknown black man? We think that if Robin William's suicide is talked about in media and print that others will follow suit or it would motivate them to seek help.We think seeing celebrities and their perfect bodies, pinterest and blogs of perfect moms affect our view of ourselves but we don't think that these things will change the way we view another? We can raise tens of millions of dollars by circulating videos of dumping ice water on our heads but we do not think that the video of an unarmed black teen laying in the street dead will elicit a response. All of these things, affect us. They impact us. They motivate us and they form and develop our beliefs. We don't want to admit it but it is why a 30 second ad in last year's Super Bowl went for 4 million dollars.

Can you, just for a minute, believe that just maybe the officer in this instance, and too many other officers at other times, have felt scared, threatened and reacted too quickly because of deep seated images that are just hard to shake? For many it is easier to imagine he felt threatened because of what he's seen in his career or the danger he is in daily. I've heard you in defense of Officer Wilson.  Can you, just for a minute, believe that maybe Michael Brown was scared too? For some of us that is easier to imagine. Can you imagine that maybe Michael Brown had seen his friends before him get roughed up by the police in a routine traffic stop. Maybe he heard the stories of John Crawford who just a few weeks before was shot dead in a Walmart holding a toy gun that he was purchasing there. Maybe he heard of Eric Garner who was taken down with an illegal choke hold and killed at the hands of police because he was selling cigarettes. Just maybe he knew of Trayvon Martin,  Amadou Diallo, Ernesto Duenez, Jonathan Ferrell and dozens of others. Maybe he knew that in his town last year,  even though blacks make up a little less than two-thirds of the driving-age population in Ferguson,  they accounted for 86 percent of all stops. They searched 12.1 percent of black drivers they stopped, compared to 6.9 percent for whites even though contraband was found 22 percent of the time when the driver was black and 34 percent when the driver was white.  And just maybe he was scared if he did a dumb thing that he wouldn't get a second chance because where he comes from people go to jail not rehab. Maybe he has lived a life where if you look like he looks you get punished more harshly for the same offense, even in school. Maybe Michael Brown was scared because he didn't have a gun and Officer Wilson did. 

Could you just for a moment understand that your experience in this life is not everyone's experience in this life.  Could you just for a moment step outside of yourself. Can you question if the men above may still be alive had the image of the menacing black man not been embedded into the psyche of their killer. Even if we give both gentleman involved in these encounters the benefit of the doubt...even if we think they were both scared...In America, even if you are a suspect in a crime, you are taken in to custody and read your rights. You are questioned and have access to an attorney. You are not shot in the street. Even if you are a 6 foot 4 inch black man. Even if you are scared and reacting in a split second but you harm another person, you are held accountable.  Even if you didn't set out to kill them or harm them, because as I teach my children, actions have consequences. Proportionate consequences. Jay walking shouldn't result in death and killing an unarmed young man shouldn't result in paid leave. 

Officer Wilson, I do not know you, but you were wrong. You may not have had any ill intentions that day. You may be being judged in the shadows of prejudiced and malicious images of police in movies or past offenses in history. I do not know. You may be hurting and remorseful.  I'm trying not to assume otherwise. Many of us have questions that may never be answered but I know enough to believe you were wrong. All I can do is pray that in your heart of hearts you know this too. It is my prayer that you can say being a police officer is one of the hardest jobs in the world and I made a mistake that took a young man's life and for that I am truly sorry. Maybe you can admit that race played a role. Not because you're racist and evil but because we all hold biases.... preconceptions of what someone is or isn't. If we cannot admit this I have little hope. It is human nature to have them. It isn't wrong to have them. It is wrong not to address them and move past them. It is wrong to keep repeating the same injustices because we are too prideful to admit our limitations and weaknesses. It is neglectful when we do it at the expense of other's lives. 

It is time for each of us to examine ourselves and the assumptions we have and reflect how they affected the way we treat others. How can we make changes in our own lives to refute them and learn a new way? How can we be a catalyst for change? How can we denounce unjustified actions without vilifying those responsible? How can we stop hurtling accusations and spend our time, energy and resources healing a nation that hurts? How can we reach out to neighbors that are unlike us to make the unknown less scary, less intimidating, less other? 

At the news of Michael Brown, it was my first instinct to lash out in anger. Blame, curse, name call. It was followed with an overwhelming sense of sadness...a deep grief...and the weight of the responsibility for preparing my children for this broken world. I couldn't write. It was too angry, too sad, too divisive. I've wrestled with my emotions and prayed for the people of Ferguson and  I just kept hearing Matthew 5:9  "blessed are the peacemakers." I had to let the magnitude of this resonate in my soul. I asked Jesus to help me see it from both sides with His eyes. I asked Jesus to help me be a peacemaker. I hope you can too.  

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Some days are tougher than others.

Some days are tougher than others.  It holds true for all of us.  In the adoptive mom, mothering 5 children world, it sometimes feels more like some weeks/months/years are tougher than others.  This past year nearly did me in.  I started a part time job in the school so I would be on the kids same schedule.  It was the first time all 5 of our children were participating in something at one time.  We found out my son had a rare heart arrythmia and required surgery.  We found out our daughter has a connective tissue disease that appears to be genetic so there may be others that follow.  So to say we were at the doctor often is an understatement.  We met our family deductible in March.  We found out another son has some educational special needs and had the opportunity to handle all of the frustrations and behaviors that come from that with him.  I had to advocate for him at school to get him the resources he needs, fight with insurance to cover needed therapies, not to mention the extra time required for anything school work related.  The husband was working hard for all of us but that unfortunately included almost every weekend and the challenge of staying connected as spouses in the midst of our crazy.  We were walking closely down the road with a dear friend of finding herself without the burden of abuse of her pasts.  Another child was struggling with her asthma almost daily as I tried to hold down my new job.  Our basement that had never gotten wet flooded twice.  It was a lot. Too much. I don't say any of this in a poor me way....just to set the scenery...  We all know how well I respond to feeling overwhelmed;)  Some years are tougher than others. It was a tough one.

As we emerge from the fog, I reflect back on the choices I made.  Some choices are prettier than others.  I would spend days totally trusting God's plan for my life.  I would be prayed up and faithful and accepting what was to come.  I would belt out my worship songs in the morning and raise my hands to God.  I would smile through the day and dinner would be on the table and appointments remembered and everyone tucked in neatly at night.  Other days, not so much.  I would literally lay in bed feeling so overwhelmed and the rolodex of issues we were facing would circle through my mind like the ferris wheel at the county fair...heart test, will my son survive this, surgery or no surgery, genetic testing, marfans or not marfans, will it be life altering or just a nuisance, how much will this and that cost, where will the money come from, will i ever see my husband again or will his job just open up its jaws and swallow him whole, how do i get the resources my child needs, how do i best mother him, make sure no one gets lost in the shuffle, shower and brush your teeth, whats for dinner, who is taking so and so to practice and who is picking them up and will i keep my job since i've missed so many days....worry...worry...worry...what if...research online...more research...there were entire days i didn't ask God one single thing about it because I just couldn't bare what He might say and other days that my world was spinning so fast that there was no way to slow it down enough to hear Him.  We ate ramens too many times and my house often looked liked maybe it's inhabitants just moved at a moments notice and left everything everywhere. 

I'm not proud to say it because I have never been much to compare myself to others but I would sit and wonder how one family could carry so much and other mom's were on their 3rd vacation of the year and it appeared the most stressful decision they'd made lately was the color 'problem-free purple' or 'spoiled sienna' at the nail salon.  In case you couldn't hear from my tone, it created some bitterness and bitterness ain't pretty.  On anyone. Even if you just got your hair did.  

It really was a perfect storm.  Busy.  Worried.  Disconnected.  Burdened.  

I started to worry about what the issues my son has would mean for him in school, what would his grades be, how would he be judged, what he would not be able to do...but then I remembered who he is....his gifts and talents and the things he can do better than anyone else and it helped me to direct his energy there.  He is amazeballs.  I would get daily phone calls from his teacher praising him for what he did right in the day and brainstorming new ways to reach him.  She is amazeballs.  

I can't tell you how many people prayed for our son's heart.  God even placed his teacher in his life, that of course, used to be an RN on the cardiac unit.   So far it's been corrective.  My husband and  I held on to the promise that this too shall pass and worked through the impossible to find time for each other and our marriage.  The money never works out on paper.  Never.  But we made it.  Things don't always work out perfectly packaged with a bow on top.  But life is messy and it's okay.  Real faith comes in the holding on through the stink.  It doesn't promise stink won't come.  In each moment of our difficulties there were blessings to focus on...there was good in each day. 

This is what I know.  Even on the days I was weighted down and cataloging everything going wrong in our lives, God was with me.  I'm sure he wanted to flick me on my forehead but he never left me. On the days I was able to give my burdens to Him, my family and I operated better.  We just did.  Because unlike many that think we are not given more than we can handle, I often am.  I believe we are.   Life is too much sometimes.  We weren't designed to handle it alone though.  God walks with us. Welcomes it, in fact. We are designed to do life with Him.  And others.  In community with others.   I know that when I'm able to focus my ferris wheel thinking on the blessings from God and the steps we've made I am a much better person.  I don't want to show my children that nothing hard ever happens in life.  I want to show them that when the hard comes you hunker down, hold on to God and each other, find a way to find the blessings no matter how small and maybe even laugh a little.  

The other thing I know is that when I focus on my own issues, my world gets small and when I am able to turn my focus outward, it always gets better.  There is always someone else that needs prayer.  There is always someone else that needs your advocacy, voice, encouragment.  When we focus on others, our problems don't go away but they sure do feel not as big.  

In my reflecting upon one of the most difficult seasons of our life, I was able to see that  I have a son that hugs me tight that didn't know how to hug when he walked through my door. I can feel the love pour out of him.  I have a son that works hard and jumped 6 reading levels in a semester.  I have a son that in a different set of circumstances would have been written off long ago but instead is surrounded by the resources and encouragement he needs.   I have a son who's heart could be corrected.  I have a son that prays for kid's hearts that cannot be.  I have a marriage that is ALL in and works hard to be the security and foundation our family needs.  The blessings abound.  As the kids would say, #blessed.  

Life sure can throw things at us....big scary ugly things.  Don't let them steal your focus. God is continually blessing us.   They are there.  Celebrate your victories, no matter how small.  Focus on the good your spouse does....the characteristics in your child that build them up...the positives about your job...and even in the stink....the big scary ugly stink....even in the years/months/weeks and days that are tougher, find the blessings.  It's the way a tough day turns in to a less tough one.   



Sunday, April 13, 2014

Springing In To Me

I was invited to be a part of Glennon Melton's Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project.  This essay written last year at this time is my truth.  My messy beautiful truth.

Every Spring I spend the last few weeks of March climbing out of a hole.  Call it seasonal affective disorder, depression, the blues, a funk, whatever it is when Fall turns into winter I seem to literally fall into another me.  A me that I don't really like honestly.  A me that is less patient and kind, less fun and friendly, less than who I know myself to be.  Nothing too dark, not crying in the corner by myself me but just not me.  Every March I climb back out of it.  I can feel it happening.  I can feel the irritability start to fade away with every ounce of sunshine that soaks into my skin.  I can feel my laugh come easier.  I can feel it happening.  Usually by May I'm back.  Found myself again.




This year I was going to stave off the hole.  I was prepared.  I was ready and waiting like a lion for the pounce and it came anyway.  It hit me again.  I felt shame in it.  I felt loss in it.  And that just makes the hole bigger.   I felt the irritability rise as the temperature outside decreased.   Energy for five kids seemed harder.  Typically outgoing me, turns inward.  The mundane everyday occurrences of life were enough to freeze me in an overwhelmed state some days.  Subtle things mostly.

This year I learned from it all.  I learned we all need grace.  Sometimes, big huge double portions of grace.  We usually need the grace when people feel least like giving it to us.

I learned that people get nervous when you just say you're blah, maybe even depressed, fighting the blues.  I realized how heavy the stigma of mental health feels.  I think it's because people don't know what to do.  I can hear about your influenza because I understand how that is transmitted.  I know you need rest and fluids to help you feel better and I know that in about a week you'll be back to normal.  Mental health isn't quite as neatly packaged.  There isn't any of that in-a-week-to-10-days you'll be all better proclamation.

I learned that partly that stigma comes from others questioning your faith.  There are people out there that don't get it.  They do not understand the whole hormone, chemical imbalance, psychological aspect that comes into play.  So they think you can pray it away or if you were in the word more or had a better relationship with Christ, then the darkness wouldn't come.  I want to smack those people.  In the less of me times and the happy Spring/Summer/Fall me times, I want to smack them.  They make me feel less than and shame on me for giving them that power.   It is in those times I depend on Him even more.  You can long to feel close to Him and still feel far away.  Even when you seek His face.  Even when you sit at His feet.  That is where the faith comes in.  You trust He is there.  You know that this is part of that less than you you and that your feelings are just feelings and the TRUTH is He is right there with you.  In the Fall and the Climb.  He is with you always and you read the truth and you rest in it and wait for your feelings to match up.  Those people that don't understand, that's their issue.  Not yours.  Let them carry that.

I learned that there are so many others out there like me that don't feel like they can tell anyone because of the judgements, the looks, the stigma.  One in five adults suffer from some form of mental health issues but no one ever talks about it.  (I could now go on a rant about the state of mental health in our country and the school shootings and the divorce rate, homelessness, etc but this is just to say, reach out.)  Be the kind of friend that someone can call and say I'm struggling lately.  And you don't judge.  You listen and you support and encourage.  Be the kind of friend that lets people in.  That lives authentically and shares your life with others, even the not so you you.  Be the friend that steps out in trust and says, I'm hurting and could use your prayers.  I'm in a hole.  My marriage is in a hole.  I feel like a loser mom lately.   Be the friend that can say that and the friend that can hear that without judgement.  Offer grace and prayer and maybe cook a meal or take them out for coffee or a nice long walk.



I know we like everything to be okay.  I know it is most comfortable for everyone to think that life is without struggle.  I know we want to believe that everything is as cheery as our instagram pictures make it look.  I know we want to read through Facebook posts like a copy of US weekly and see how great everyone is doing.  We want it to all be okay.  So does the person in the hole.  And sometimes there is no real reason that they feel that way other than they do.  And that is okay.  I know the hole is scary and you don't want to get too close but it is okay to hang over the hole and reach out a hand.  It is okay to just say I don't know how to help but I'm praying for you.  It is okay to just say the ridiculous to get a laugh or to drop off their favorite Starbucks just to say you aren't alone there in the hole,  I see you struggling and am here.

I learned that comparing ourselves to others is almost always a recipe for disaster.  Do not let your contentment in parenting, marriage, what you're wearing, your walk with Jesus,  how much you're making, your weight, any of that depend on how others are doing it.  You are fabulous even in the hole.  Usually you haven't really changed, just your circumstances have and your fabulousness is still there it's just harder for you to see at the moment.  But it is there.  And so is HE.

I learned almost all of us have been there.  Few choose to admit it.

I learned I feel like I have to explain this all away by saying it's not that bad and my family is still great and we are happy and I do count my blessings and I am appreciative of all I have.  I feel like I need to say most days are fine and it really is good.  That is the fear of the judgements I guess but then I'm back to the people that just don't get it and well, I didn't write this for them.  I wrote it for you, the one in the hole.  The one that has just climbed out and the one that is clinging to the ledge. I see you.   I know.  I don't know what got you in there.  It doesn't matter.  Maybe it's a seasonal thing, or a life's curve thrown at you.  Maybe it's from poor choices you've made or injustices done to you.  Maybe it's genetic, hormonal, chemical imbalance.  I don't know what got you in there and it doesn't matter.  What matters is you are not alone. I've been there.  I see you.

I learned that I put that shame of the stigma on myself and I won't do it anymore.  I learned that I am that kind of friend that can say it and hear it.  I learned that it is something I will most likely struggle with for the rest of my life and no matter how prepared I feel, it will come.  I learned to not let that make the hole wider and deeper.  I learned that I crave sunshine like my husband craves his momma's cooking.  I learned that my God is greater and that feelings are fleeting but Truth just is.  I learned that we do not extend grace ever enough and that there is nothing more lovely or humbling than receiving it.    I learned that for me,  I can not exercise it away or take enough supplements and herbal remedies or pray or study His word or cling to my faith enough to make this go away for me. I learned that it is okay to need help with it.  Whether that is medication or counseling or whatever that looks like for you.  I learned that I expect others to be okay with it but wasn't okay with it myself.  I'm over that.  Do I struggle sometimes?  Yes I do.  Is my life still beautiful?  Absolutely.  Is God ever present?  Indeed He is.  Always with me.   I have an enormous tapestry of blessings in my life to be thankful for.  I'm not about to let a little hole ruin that.   Somedays, when the sun is shining and the wind is gently blowing through my open windows, I can barely see it anyway.   And I have 3 seasons to prepare for the next round!
~My Messy Beautiful

Is 46:4 "I am He, who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you. I will sustain you and rescue you."

This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project .  It was originally published last year on this blog— To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Joseph and Mary's boy

This year will be our 3rd Christmas without my Papaw.  Boy I miss that man.



I come from farmers.  I grew up on a pig farm.  My aunts and uncles farm.  My papaw farmed.  Some of my favorite memories as a child were spent on his farm....learning to fish, feeding hogs, riding the 4 wheeler, hanging out with cousins and aunts and uncles and he and my mamaw.  After a particularly hard year for farmers in 1985, before our Christmas meal, my aunt said she had a song she'd like to share with all of us. And by all of us, I mean close to 40 of us then....which now looks more like 90 of us.  No exaggeration. A large, loud, loving, German, Catholic, farming family.  We were all quiet and she pressed the button on her tape deck.  This is what we heard.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bTWMbevPek0

And in a room full of strong farming men and even stronger women, tears fell.  When it ended, my Papaw with tears in his eyes simply said Amen and laughed his deep chuckle that only he can do and our family all filed in to share our meal together.  The next year we all sang along with it and every year after that. It is one of my greatest childhood memories.

There is no other song that makes me feel Christmas quite like this one.  There is no other song that so fully fills my heart with the love of family as this one.  There is no other song that still makes me cry.  Every single time I hear it.  There are beautiful traditional Christmas songs that I love.  There are many contemoporary Christian Christmas songs that find me in a place of awe over the baby Jesus but this one....this is the spirit of Christmas all wrapped up in 4 minutes.  The appreciation, the celebration, the simplicity, the fact that in the midst of pain and struggle this day brings with it hope, a miraculous display of love. For us.  This song does all of that for me.  If you had been there, if you had known my Papaw, I think it would do the same for you.

May this Christmas be filled with wonderful memories with your family and a true appreciation for the miracle the Christ child is.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Our family's experience with child sponsorship.



In the fall of 2009, I went with WRCC to Nairobi, Kenya and served in the Mathare slums.  We spent several days running a vacation bible school in what we’ve now come to know as Area 2,  where our church has gone on to build a school.  It was less than an hour at the school when I noticed one set of eyes following me everywhere I went.  This little girl would look at me much like your own child does during a sporting event or performance to make sure you are watching them.  Her eyes were as big as her face and her smile even bigger.  One of our first projects was to make name tags and I then formally met Mercy.  She and I were fast friends and it was often I would look down and find her by my side or feel her little hand in mine.  This beautiful girl completely stole my heart.  One of the highlights of my trip was getting to wash her feet like Jesus did his disciples and place on her feet her first pair of new socks and shoes.  I will never forget the pride in her face. 

A few days later, the teachers and social workers were telling us about the new children at the school and how many still did not have sponsors but explained they could not turn them away.  Mercy was one of them.  I couldn’t sign my name fast enough to sponsor her through CMFi.  It is, admittedly, an easy choice when you can smell the raw sewage, see the dust covering her feet and hear the sounds of the slum she calls home.  Saying goodbye to her sweet face was so hard for me.  Through a translator I told her I would come back someday.  I wasn’t sure when but I promised that I would be back.  I told her how much Jesus loved her and how much I did and assured her that our family would be praying for her and her family daily.  I left her with a picture of all of us.

Over the next two years we sent letters and received them from her.  We sent care packages, pictures and Christmas presents.  She shared with us some of her fears and her prayer requests and her accomplishments and dreams.  Our entire family fell in love too.  We think of ourselves as a family of 8 with one us of living half a world away.  The kids were just sad she couldn’t come to live with us but I explained she has two living parents that love her very much but that where they live the unemployment rate is very high and there are simply no jobs.  I explained that some families will relinquish their child because they cannot afford to feed them or send them to school.  We are an adoptive family and the thought of parents having to place their child for adoption because of finances breaks my heart to it’s core.  It breaks God’s heart.  I explained this is something small we can do to make a very big difference for this family and for our Mercy. 

In 2011, I returned to Mathare.  As I came around the corner I saw her sitting and talking with friends and as her face met mine, I could tell she knew.  A smile spread across her face and I went up to her and asked if she knew who I was and she said quietly, “Yes, you are Jen.”  Tears welled up in my eyes and I hugged that little girl and told her I kept my promise to come back.  We spent time together and acted silly and sang songs and it is in those moments with Mercy that I know God uses us.  He used a broken vessel like me to bring hope to this child.  She asked about all of the kids and as I showed her pictures she commented that they looked like they had grown.  She was always fascinated with Grace much like a younger sister is with an older one.  She thought she was so pretty and asked what she was like.

On that trip I had a difficult time leaving Mathare each night to return to our hotel.  It hurt my heart that she stayed.  It hurt that I couldn’t do more.  Before we came I had asked if it would be possible to meet with Mercy’s family.  I was told their would not be enough time.  On the morning of our last day there, I was so heavy hearted to say good bye to this girl I love, to leave her behind…

And then, I walked in to the school and out of close to 800,000 residents in Mathare, God had brought Catherine, Mercy’s mother to me.  She sat there holding a baby on her lap and I knew right away it was her.  She looks just like Mercy.  I was able to speak with her through an interpreter and show her pictures of our family and tell her how much we pray for them.  She was warm and loving and slightly shy like Mercy.  She thanked me for what we are doing for Mercy.  It was incredibly humbling.  She had on the cross necklace I had given to Mercy just a few days before.  The cross now hung around her neck and it was such a God moment.  It felt in my spirit as if God were saying, Mercy is okay.  Her family is okay.  I am with them and I love you all so much.  I love you enough to give you the gift of this meeting and the peace I know it will bring to your heart.


Fast forward two years later and just this past October, my husband, Trevor, and our oldest, Grace,  went on the mission trip to Kenya and were able to meet Mercy.  Grace declares it the best part of the trip.  It was wonderful for Grace to walk in to her classroom and she could see the recognition Mercy had for her.  She looked at her just like she had looked at me.  She KNEW her.  She had that relationship established.  Trevor and Grace were able to meet with her and give her gifts we had handpicked just for her.  Yes, we've been able to, for five years now, provide schooling, food, medical access, school uniforms and immunizations to Mercy, but even more lasting, she has learned about the love of Jesus.  I can only imagine what this young girl from the slums of Nairobi thought when for the 3rd time our family came to visit her.  I can only imagine how much she felt loved, believed in, worthy…...
                                       

And Mercy has given to us, taught us.  She is our family.  She has taught me that our attitude isn’t in our circumstances but that our joy is in Jesus.  She has given as much love as she’s received.  Sponsoring her has taught our family about sacrificial giving and praying for other’s needs besides our own.  She has helped us focus on a global-God-view of the world instead of a closed focus of our own surroundings.  This sponsorship has helped us to be grateful for our blessings and to not take our privileges of a home, food, and access to healthcare for granted.  This beautiful child, our Mercy, has given us a relationship…a connection thousands of miles away and it feels amazing to know we are making a difference in her life.

Andy Stanley has a quote I love, “Do for ONE what you wish you could do for everyone.”  One sweet Mercy at a time.  To God be the Glory for the things He has done.