My Story

To See is to Love

I wrestled with whether or not we should go… we had been gone all weekend, we would certainly be late.  The greater risk of staying out past bedtime threatened my already fragile sanity.  I wasn’t dressed to impress, the girls were mini-hot-messes themselves and I had every reason in the book why it would be easier to just stay home.

But I’m married to this extrovert and we are raising little social butterflies who would sell their sister out if it meant going to party with friends – especially on a school night. oh my.

“We can go for thirty minutes” I said – knowing it would be at least an hour.  Everyone promised to be on their best behavior, there would be no fights when it was time to leave or crawl in to bed. Promise!

Of course, it was everything they hoped for, kids running, music playing, a fruit table with whipped cream, endless juice boxes, adults relaxed and enjoying each other’s company –  why had I even thought to resist this?  I’ve prayed for community for years and God has literally dropped it right outside my door.

Why do I fight what my heart has longed for?  I know you’ve read it before, and it is a daily battle with this underlying fear I carry… we are too much.    If you really knew…

I quickly relaxed, sank in to a comfy seat and was catching up with real live adults, knowing the fenced in yard could at least contain the little people that were not within eye-range.  Plus, there were lots of parents and an unspoken code that we’ll all work together to keep these tiny people alive.  Just breathe.

But then it went off and quite frankly scared the crap out of me.  Children screamed and we saw the shining burst of fireworks that were not quite expected but sure to be fun.

Except… we carry a different story…

…and fireworks sound a lot like gunshots.

There’s no doubt you could see the fear in my eyes. I even felt the burning sting of tears. Then Daniel came around the corner and said… “the girls are good. it’s ok. they are screaming but they just want to know what that was.”

And as I fought to to bring myself back down, the friend next to me looked me in my tear-filled eyes and said, “I knowI know your story, I know what’s going through your mind right now.”  and all of a sudden, what I so often fear is too much, was gently held, tenderly covered and in ways even celebrated – because look how far we have come.

We didn’t fall apart.  And it would have been ok even if we did.  But the shrills of excitement from my girls who have not been secure enough to see fireworks allowed me to see the redemptive thread that is being woven through our lives.  We have fought for healing, we have held closely, loved deeply and when we were thrown a surprise test … we passed!

I learned a lot that night.  Our girls are resilient and they are healing.  I may get discouraged in the little things, but we’ve come a long way.  There’s a growing realization that what I try to hold together, guard and protect others from seeing in our lives is the very thing that God uses to see and speak into my life.  Words that say, you are seen, you are loved and you are not too much.

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Friends, we all need places that are safe to bring our stories.  We need people that know how to hold our hearts, our pains and deepest fears, our hope, our joys and our deepest desires… we need to be echoes of truth reminding one another, you are not too much.  Not only that, but you are worth it.  You are worth knowing, you are worth loving and you are not alone.

Sometimes we don’t have those places.  Maybe the people aren’t near.  Maybe the story is too painful to be spoken.  Maybe your heart can’t bear to risk…

I find in those moments, Jesus himself draws near… and his tender words say, “I know.  I know your story.  I have seen your pain.  I know the fear you carry that feels like weights holding you down. I gave everything that you would know… you are worth it.  You are deeply loved and you are not alone.”  

I absolutely love to be an echo of God’s voice to someone else.  Just like the friend who spoke to me, I know your story, was just as if Jesus said to me I see you.. you don’t have to hide.  Your yoga pants and messy hair are just fine.

Just this morning as another shared her struggle with fear, the unknown and quite honestly a bit of unbelief… I turned to the story of the father in scripture who longed for his child’s healing and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” {Mark 9:24}  And God gently reminds us, He sees.  He can handle our doubts, lean in, he is the perfecter of faith.  Your tears are ok.  Your doubts are understood.  He is gentle.  He is kind. And he longs for you to see his goodness.

Friends, you love me well.  You have been a safe place to bring my story, my fears, my pain and my joy.   You speak life into doubts.  You share love when I feel so undeserving.  You are my village – and I’m thankful the Lord continues to grow it.  I pray that these words today bring you hope, give you a glimpse of a Father that loves you deeply.  So much so, he will set off fireworks just that you may know.

 

Love Does

Not My Child

My heart is breaking as I try not to imagine the unbearable pain so many parents and families are feeling today as they wake up to the nightmare of yesterday’s school shooting.  It’s every parent’s greatest fear, but today it is reality for 17 parents.  I almost can’t breathe.

But this isn’t about me.  Despite the feelings manifesting themselves in my inner being, the trembles that I seek to control and the simple knowing, that was not my child – I cannot help but feel.  So many feelings.  I want to curl up in a ball and hide from this broken world; gather my little chicks and create a safe place where I can protect and control who comes in.

Jesus save us.

As I try to wrap my head around the news – in the same breath I try to avoid the news. I don’t want to feel. I won’t ever understand what drives one to such a crime. But as I sat with Daniel last night and questioned, how does this even happen?  We wondered together, where were his parents?  Then it hit me like a wrecking ball…

Please don’t tell me he was a foster child.

Please, for the love of all things tell me a different story.  Please don’t let this hit so close to home.

But it does.  As I read this morning what barely surfaced last night, this young shooter was adopted, [I can’t confirm] from foster care.  His adoptive father died a few years ago and his adoptive mother passed away in November.  An orphan again.   And just like that, all my tender places are pierced, fears triggered and thoughts… that could have been my child – except for Jesus.

I’m not here to paint a picture or stigmatize children in foster care.  My heart is simply to shine a light on a crisis we face that goes beyond the cries for gun control.

Church, we have a problem and it starts with the family.

Our nation is in crisis and it’s bigger than just a national budget, gun control and gender issues.  Satan has attacked us at the core. He is relentless.  He is taking aim at marriages, families and the most vulnerable of people – our children.

What is the cost? We don’t always see it as clearly, but today we see – one child, through his own pain, intentionally took the lives of 17 more.  We will never be the same.  Something has to change.

I can sit on the outside looking in, hopefully through a lens of grace, and consider that this one child acted out of his own pain and broken story.  I can’t ask the parents of the seventeen others to share that same grace.

I can pray for an overwhelming peace to comfort the hearts of those who mourn, heal the pain of trauma, loss and violation.  I will search for a redemptive thread of grace that one day will surface but today, right now, I will let my tears fall.  I will give one extra squeeze when I say good-bye.  I will say yes to one more piece of candy.  I will commit ever-more-so to fight for the hearts of families, to stand in the gap for children and to be a voice for the ones that are choosing to enter into the hard places of foster care.

We are too much

You see, when I really stop to consider what tender places have been pierced, I have to be brutally honest.  Deep down I question, is our pain too much?  Are we too much? Will what happened in the past dictate our future?  Or can I believe that the incredible grace that built our family is enough to change our story?

Sometimes I look at our girls in their big brown eyes and think, if you only knew… I can’t wait to tell you all he has done for you.  Your story, sweet child, is one for the books.  He has big things in store for you.  You will change the world. 

But sometimes, in the midst of front-yard tantrums and mid-night meltdowns that point back to a season of pain, a loss, an experience or trauma – a lack of development or skills that still need to be refined… I wonder, will we ever be whole?  Will I ever stop trying to protect the world from us?  Will I believe we’re really worth it?  In all our glory 🙂

I must choose to believe our story will be different.  Not because I get it right, not because we’ve built a bubble, simply because I carry a hope that God’s heart is good.  No matter what we walk through, what pain we experience, I can trust his promises are good.  We are fighting for the hearts of our children, we are surrounded by people who love us deeply and walk with us through every battle.

Recently I experienced a mommy meltdown that brought to the surface those deep fears that we are too much or we will cause pain – a dear sweet friend looked me in the eyes and said “that is not your girls.  Your girls are kind and {a little bit crazy} but their hearts are good.  You have good girls.”

Her words brought healing to my mommy heart.  Her words give me courage to see the beauty that grows out of the pain.  I am reminded that I don’t walk this road alone.  Friends, we need each other.  There’s a battle for our families… and there’s a lot at stake.  Today, we mourn with those who mourn but don’t let this loss be in vain.  Rise up. Something has to change.   What’s your part?

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photo credit:: littlemisscreative
Love Does, My Story, Uncategorized

Overwhelming, Reckless Love

I felt it stirring… it started last week and had been building.  I was sharing pieces of our story in different places, with different people yet the same awestruck reactions… he has literally moved heaven and earth to build what we now know as our family.  It is overwhelming.

As I was sharing and in my own reflection I couldn’t help but realize the most significant thread in the entire story is His Pursuit.

Ours is a story of rescue, redemption, hope and dreams.  It is stunning in each of its pieces, painful in the making, breathtaking in its entirety, humbling to be a part of and inspiring to watch unfold.

Then came Sunday – quiet, cold, a bit dreary and unassuming.  I stepped into my favorite church, led in worship by my favorite leader, holding the hands of my sweet girls and one on my hip… the lights fell and he began to sing a song I had never heard before…

Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine
I couldn’t earn it
I don’t deserve it
Still You give yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God

**************************************
There’s no shadow You won’t light up
Mountain You won’t climb up
Coming after me
There’s no wall You won’t kick down
No lie You won’t tear down
Coming after me

Nothing moves my heart like a song that cries the words I have lived.  As the choir joined the song and he reached the bridge I could feel myself holding my breath.  Then in all of creativity he begins singing He loves us, oh how he loves us, oh how he loves us…. oh how he loves.

I.am.undone.     Tears streaming down my face, I can no longer sit.    Heaven reached down, gently kissed this girl and I have been overwhelmed ever since.

Those words are the ones I sang over my sweet girls in moments of darkness, in the battle of the night when I couldn’t understand what they were fighting.  I couldn’t fix the pain but I could proclaim, he loves us – oh how he loves us… and that has been a song we cling to – no matter what may come – we can rest in knowing his love.

I live with a constant awareness of God’s goodness in my life.  I long to see his glory. I crave it more than coffee.  My prayer for years has been, show me your glory… and he has.  But there’s something about this week that has touched the deepest place in my heart, put to death lies I have believed and gently spoken the question I’ve asked my entire life –  am I worth it? 

It is easy for me to believe that my girls are worth every single thing God has done.  On our adoption day, as we faced the judge and she asked why do you want to adopt these children, my undeniable response was because they are worth it – they are worth loving – they are worth fighting for – and they are worth protecting. 

I have found that often what drives us comes from our own deep desires.  I came from a wonderful home, raised by incredible parents, in a safe place with the best siblings a girl could ask for.  Yet somehow, in my own brokeness, the enemy had woven a lie that I will never be enough, I don’t have what it takes and I’m not really worth keeping.  I have lived striving to hear I’m worth it.   Am I worth protecting? Am I worth rescuing? Am I worth investing in? Am I worth the risk of love?

I was overwhelmed with grattitude this week as I reflected on the work God has done in my life.  Thanksgiving three years ago I was fresh into motherhood with 3 littles under 3 and faced with the question, would we consider adoption?  I couldn’t breathe.

Two years ago at Thanksgiving my heart’s cry was for our adoption to finalize, for the uncertainty to disappear, for this chapter to end.  Thankfulness was a choice, not a feeling.

Last year at Thanksgiving we were without a home, trying to create stability in a stressful season of building, trying to believe we would see his faithfulness in that step of our journey… longing to be settled.  Thankfulness was hanging by a thread.

This year, I look back and cannot find the words to capture the depths of my thanksgiving. Over the past month I have had dreams that brought to the surface feelings I didn’t even know I carried and as I awoke one day with tears falling out from my closed eyes, I heard the Lord say, you are worth it.  Every grace I have given to you has been worth it –  not because of who you are but because of who I am.  I have pursued you endlessly, poured out lavishly, loved unconditionally, sacrificed unreservedly and equipped you for the part I have given you.  

He’s all about the pursuit. It’s a larger love story.  That’s the gospel friends. He leaves no stone unturned, no mountain unmoved, no enemy unscathed.  He uses grand gestures, gentle whispers, unending mercies and relentless love.

Today I sit, resting in the goodness and recognizing that I am not the same as I once was.  I have much to be thankful for, much to be hopeful for and I choose to trust him for his faithful pursuit of the ones I love.  No story is the same.

Sweet friend, take a moment this week, ask him to show you his love for you.  Sometimes it comes in crazy unexpected ways… like 3 kids that bring you to the feet of Jesus, every.day.  Maybe that’s what it took –  something I could never do on my own, no way I could prove my worth – surrender to the path that led me to see his great love in ways I couldn’t see before.

If you have a minute, or ten, sit down and hear the song of my heart.  It just might move you too.

With a thankful heart and much love to you…  Happy Thanksgiving!

Uncategorized

The beauty in the pain

“I’m just sad.”  said the little voice in the backseat.
“What makes you sad sweet girl?” 
“I’m sad about the thorns.  Why did they put thorns on him?”

It was almost a week past that Good Friday yet she was still questioning the thorns. She just can’t wrap her 3-year-old mind around a crown of thorns.

In all my theological awareness I fumbled to answer her question.  “It was all part of the plan…. I don’t understand why there were thorns, but I know it was part of God’s plan.”

“Well, that was a bad choice.” 

I hear you.  I don’t disagree with you.  We might not ever understand the sovereignty of God, but we can trust that his plan – that Larger Story – is good.  After that crown of thorns, the cross, and the grave, we see the beauty of the resurrection, life, and glory.

But this innocent three-year-old is sitting in the pain of the thorns.

I’m not like that.  I’ve never been like that.  As a matter of fact, I have spent my whole life the majority of my life trying to avoid pain – at all costs.  I never sat and questioned the pain of the cross or the thorns… I pretty much skip over Friday and jump to celebrating Sunday.  Can you truly celebrate the restoration without embracing the pain?

The past three years have been the most pain-filled years I can remember.  And as I near my 35th I am beginning to see the beauty of pain.  As a young child, I realized I didn’t want to have children because it seemed painful and hard.  As a young adult, I thought my younger self was wise beyond her years.  🙂  Then God began to call us into this place that forced us to face pain, and some days it feels as though we are swimming in the uncertainty of it all.

Y’all, we have some of the best times.  Our lives are full of laughter, cuteness, pink and purple.  Our garage looks like the Frozen movie exploded.  We play hard, we laugh hard, we love hard. We can’t go anywhere without drawing attention to our circus. But some days it’s just hard to even walk outside.  Some days I feel the need to protect the world from the pain we carry and every day I wish I could protect my girls from the pain that follows them.  And just like a 3 yr old I sit and ask,

“Why must life have thorns?  Where were you when [that] happened?  Why must they bear the scars of pain that I can’t even imagine?” 

I live with a keen awareness that in the lives of my girls, I am Option B.  I shared with another adoptive mom last week, through my own tears, I know that I am not the first choice….you might call me God’s back-up plan.  And truthfully, I’m not even sure if I was option B, C, D or even E….  (not that it really matters).  As much as many of us wish we could undo the pain of option A, I get to choose how I live out option B.  I do not take lightly the inspiration found in Sheryl Sandberg’s story of grief:

“Option A is not available. So let’s just kick the $#!% out of Option B.”

Recently I wrote about The tears of the broken and a hard season that we seem to be wandering through.  I wish I could say everything eased after that post, but it was almost as if the game went into overtime.  One evening after navigating an epic meltdown that left me trying to find my balance again, I sensed the Lord speaking, do not lose heart.  In the weeks of elevated emotions, tantrums that were sucking life from me and leaving our family reeling, I was tempted to shut-down – avoid the pain.

But that’s not what I am called to.  When I gain perspective of what is at stake in my life and the life of our girls…. the healing I long for them to know… the peace I long for us to experience as a family… I remember that invitation to play my part in Option B.  I will not lose heart.

I don’t pretend to understand the pain, or why God in his goodness still allows us to experience it.  Pain comes in all shapes and sizes.  Your pain is likely very different than ours –  or it may be somewhat the same – either way, I hope you find courage in the midst of it.

A wise woman recently spoke at our church and her words struck me deeply, “sometimes you have to feel the pain in order to heal the pain.”  This reminds me that it will be worth it…  these hard days will one day bear fruits of life, love and hopefully some functioning adults.  In the meantime… if you see us crying, screaming, or pulled over on the side of the road…. say a little prayer… our thorns are showing 😉

(In case you’re interested in hearing Lysa Terkeurst’s sharing on pain and disappointment, click here.
I’ve also ordered Sheryl Sandberg’s book Option B and look forward to reading stories of others that have faced adversity and pain, and lived to tell about it.)