Friday, February 26, 2016

Mamaw

My mamaw had 8 children. Her first were twins. One, my aunt Doris, born with hydrocephaly, had significant special needs until she died at the age of 16. It shaped her life. The other was my momma. My mamaw raised all of her children on a farm in Southern Indiana. She was selfless, generous, no-nonsense and kind. She could play cards  or pray the rosary with the best of them. She laughed; really let herself laugh.  She showed me who I wanted to be.



A few friday nights ago,  I walked in to her hospital room where 25 other family members stood. They made a path for me to the side of her bed. I made it. She had seen all 7 of her living children and their spouses during this long day. All 26 of her grandchildren had either visited in person or thankfully for those far away, through Facetime. The first born of her 31, soon to be 38 great grandchildren, my daughter, got to kiss her face.  I felt that kind of sadness that feels like it’s physically pulling the pit of your stomach out through your chest. The sadness that gurgles out of you in sounds you don't recognize as your own and your body shakes....the kind of sadness that some people spend a lifetime protecting themselves from. But I let it come. I feel the intense wave of  grief and it brings with it that peace you can only get from knowing you’ve loved with all you have. I could not love this lady more. I could not be more thankful to her for the selfless example she gave. I could not have been more undeserving and privileged to have this Mamaw as my very own.  I wanted to see her again before she meets Jesus, we all did…not because of things left unsaid but out of sheer longing to be with her as long as we can be on this earth.

She holds on to my hand with the grip of a toddler to a cheerio and focuses in on me with the one eye that will cooperate enough to open. I can see the recognition. I feel the squeeze of my hand and the squeeze squeeze when I show her Trevor and Grace are here too. She knows. Her breathing is labored and she is exhausted from the work it requires. I kiss her face and run my fingers across her thin skin and the wedding band she still wears. I tell her it is okay. I thank her for her selflessness, her example. I express how excited I think Jesus will be to meet her. I imagine her meeting up with my Papaw and them swinging together on their porch again.  I think of my aunt Doris waiting all this time for her momma. I look up from her face and see my family standing in that room. I see their stories like one of those flipograms in my mind. Triumphs and struggles, flaws and friendships, loyalty and love. I see all of us together. Always. This family of mine, half dysfunction half delight. Together. That’s the key. This woman whose bed we are surrounding knew that. She is why we all stand here. She is why we all stand together.


People often say they wish they had a family like ours. I get it, believe me. They sometimes say it like I’m lucky though. It’s not luck.  That family is work. This togetherness, this unity, this love is not easy. Every single one of those people in that circle have done something the person standing next to them could be mad about. That circle could just as easily have held bitterness and anger, deceit and dread, tension and tired excuses.  But it did not. It won’t. Mamaw has taught us all it’s not worth it. Do we agree 100% with everything everyone does all the time. No. Does being mad about it change anything but your relationship? Nope. It’s not worth it. The only thing worthy of our energy is our relationships. It is why several of the people standing in that room drove for hours with no guarantee they would make it. It’s because of that relationship. It is worth everything. A four hour drive. Worth it. The hard work of forgiveness. Worth it. A last hug, a laugh. Worth it. The pain of letting go of pride. Worth it.  Setting aside winning the argument so you can hold on to peace. Worth it. Not bringing up that mistake you made that one time every time you make another. Worth it. Loving others well is rarely convenient but it is always worth it. That circle hasn’t been free of drama or struggle or wrongs done, it’s just known love was more important. Always. Mamaw made sure of it.  For that I will forever be grateful.




    

We buried my mamaw this past weekend. As I watched the little children run in the meadow next to the cemetery, and my aunts make sure each of their sisters had a flower from the arrangement on the casket...as I saw the pat on the back from one uncle to the other and a chuckle from one about something the other said...
even as I felt the aching for her in my chest...
I was reminded that life for all of us continues.  Together. 




Originally posted for Every Child on Wednesday, October 21, 2015


Forever Family

The Every Child conference will encompass foster care, hosting, and adoption. How 
is God calling you to be a part of His plan? Are you ready to hear Him? The following 
is an account of just one family stepping out in faith to love the most vulnerable. 


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 of 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 can't believe it has just been 5 years.  There are ways it seems so much 
longer and life before those two is hard to remember.In another way it is a bit refreshing to 
think it's only been 5 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 a journal I kept at the time and 

theemotions gurgle to the surface 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-to-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 they were, just 2 and 3 years old. I remember how brave, how open and willing to 
accept our love these little children were. I am reminded how scared and angry and filled 
with an intense sadness they were that it seemed to seep from their  souls. I am reminded how
immediately I loved them. I am in awe of how much our 3 other children 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. 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 but 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. They are loving, kind, compassionate children that know Jesus. 
They are worthy. They are valued. The hard has been hard but the alternative isn't an option. She 
was their first mom but I am their last. She is the mother that gave them life but I, I am their mom
for life. 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...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 your mom. 


I'm Listening





originally posted on www.fourwardwrcc.org

I’M LISTENING.


I have loved and believed in Jesus my whole life. It wasn’t until I was in my 20’s
 that I actually started listening to him.
self
I got married, had 3 children in 5 years and Grandpa moved in. Life got loud
and the whispering of Jesus’ calling on my life got quieter. It became clear for 
me to be a disciple, not just a believer, I was going to have to be very intentional
in my choices. I didn’t just want to focus on the what-not-to-do’s but things I
could do in my life to bring Glory to God. With this wreck of a heart I have,
it sure wasn’t easy. It still isn’t. At times, it is difficult to hear God through the
busyness of my life so I just started to study His life and the truth is, I found
most of the answers right there in the Bible. I used that as an example. Do 
what He did. In the doing, it will become clear.
I started small and concentrated on the nudges I felt in my Spirit. When a
memory of a long time friend came to mind and I’d actually follow through 
to let them know I was thinking of them. Often times it was at that exact 
moment that my friend needed encouragement. I would see the homeless 
guy on the corner and before I could hear the news story echo in my mind
about the scam this can be, I’d allow myself to feel the tug on my heart from
God to give. The new mom across the street seemed overwhelmed at times 
so I’d offer dinner and a few hours of babysitting. Those sweet little nudges
are where I started. Taking the next big step with God’s lead changed my life.
In early 2009, I began to pray 3 specific prayers. 1.) Open my eyes to the
needs of others around me. 2.) Break my heart for what breaks yours and give 
me the courage to act. 3.) What ever you ask, I will do.
Be careful what you ask for.
My husband and I after years of talking, gave God our yes in a mighty way.
We began the process to adopt. It would take two years to complete so we
had plenty of time to get our finances in order and prepare our home and family.
Like most things, I gave him my qualifications. We would adopt from another
country so we would not have the ‘messiness’ of dealing with a birth mother. 
We could adopt one child, a boy, because we had room with our son. And if He
wanted this from us, He was going to have to fund it. We did not have a single
dime in savings. It was already tight raising a family of 5 on one income. What 
would it be like with one more? We prayed for a much talked about promotion to
happen for my husband. With our prerequisites in tow, we took the leap of faith.
God has a way of ensuring I depend on Him instead of my own accord so it should
be no surprise to me that it didn’t take two years. An amazing couple donated the
money for our home study. Within a month, through a series of events only God 
could arrange, our son arrived on our doorstep. And so did his sister. Yes, not one,
but two toddlers. They were not from another country. They were from right here. 
I sat across from their momma and dove head first into the messiness of loving her, 
encouraging and empowering her to be their mother for a over a year. My husband 
didn’t get the promotion. He got a month’s lay off. It was the scariest, most difficult 
moments of our lives. It was filled with our new children’s grief and rough
transitions and at times, downright ugliness. It was also filled with beauty, grace 
and the most wonderful outpouring of support and love from the body of Christ
I’ve ever witnessed. I got to see my children welcome their new siblings with 
open arms and understanding and to share their life, their space and their parents.
Watching my husband love our children, blessed me. Watching him love
someone else’s child, blew me away. It grew us and stretched us. It still does, to be
honest. But stepping out in faith, taking that risk in His name, gave me the most
incredible view of God’s love for us. It was the Gospel in action.
fam
Taking that next step in your faith is beyond scary. Following those little nudges,
taking those big leaps…all scary. Giving God our yes? Tough stuff. He rarely calls
us to easy. But what He calls us to, He equips us for. It’s important to trust His
sovereignty and remember He can see the big picture. Getting to know and love my
children’s birth mom was a gift. Being able to look in their faces and tell them how
hard I fought for their family brings me a peace I didn’t know I’d need. That experience
 also brought me a career calling and planted the seeds for me to fight for other families.
Our budget? It hasn’t made sense on paper in almost a decade but we have always had
what we need. That lay off of my husband’s gave him this opportunity of intense bonding
time with our two new babies. It gave our family of 7 the chance to spend a month of
quality time together and eased our transition immensely. It allowed this new mom of 5,
 ages 2, 3, 3, 6 and 8 to keep her sanity.
What we experienced during that time, was a series of God opening doors and us
walking through them. It was affirmed again and again through others generosity,
miraculous moments and timing only God could orchestrate, that we were indeed
smack in the middle of His will for our life. Allowing God to use you, is the greatest
feeling you will ever know.
If I hadn’t become very intentional about listening to God in the little moment’s of my
day, I’m not sure I would have gone for His big ask when He brought it to me. I want
to encourage you. When you sit in church and the video about the next mission trip makes
 you cry, that isn’t a coincidence or because you’re emotional. That is the spirit of God
whispering. When you read about the food pantry and feel that little nudge in your heart,
don’t be so quick to dismiss it. God is speaking to you. When you are walking past that
older lady in the grocery parking lot loading her full cart in to her trunk and your feet
hesitate and your mind quickly tells you that you are in a hurry to pick up the kids, that
hesitation is the whisper of your spirit; God’s spirit in you. God will take your actions,
when they are aligned with His and He will knock your socks off with blessings and
opportunities.
There are books by famous theologians and great Christian leaders written on taking that
 next step of faith. I am just me. However, I think we’ve been programmed to believe
that God wants big grand gestures from us. He wants us to move to China and give
away all of our belongings. He expects us to save all of the orphans, bring clean water
to the entire world. I think we picture obvious signs and this audible voice telling us what
His purpose is for us. I think, most of the time, it is simpler than that. It may seem too
simple, but for me, it is about learning to attune our heart to His. It is about learning to
listen for those internal whispers. It is about studying who God is so I can reflect His life
in mine. As we learn more about Him and His love for us, our love for Him grows. The
fruit follows. The spirit of God is in each of us. We have to practice listening to it. It’s
like putting on noise canceling headphones, blocking out the world and tuning in to the
Holy Spirit. It is about obeying that voice and exercising that obedience in the little
moments of our day, and before we know it, those little moments have added up to a
 life that reflects His; a life of worship.