Love Does

With Every Breath that I am Able…

She walked up with a smile on her face as our paths crossed for the first time.  We each knew of the other, though we never met in real life.  It had to be surprising to see the swelling of tears in my eyes… but her gentle words comforted my reeling heart…  she hugged me and said, Good moms cry sometimes ~ you’re a good mom.

There is no way she could have known what my last hour had just held. Two tiny girls who mean the world to me fell apart in a pain that I will never fully comprehend.  It’s birthday week and their little hearts carry heavy burdens.  And often times this heart of mine bears the brunt of their breaking.

I have no words to comfort the depth of pain that questions how we all ended up in this place.  There’s no denying I wasn’t the mommy who brought them into this world… yet for some reason I’m the one who now leads them through these storms.  With each year their wonderings go deeper and the answers are hard to swallow.  They remember bits and pieces but it’s not enough to quench the ache they feel.  The hardest thing I’ve ever faced is holding my precious children and saying, It’s not supposed to be this way…

Oh don’t get me wrong, there is beauty and laughter and oh so much joy in our life… but some days the past rears its head like a jack-in-the-box whose handle has been turned one time too many… and we all fall down.

It’s what we do then that matters most.

I’ve heard it said, the place of deepest pain is the place of the greatest potential for transformation…  one might even hope healing.

As I hold these tiny hearts, wrapped in long legs and brown eyes, I fully own that I cannot fix what grieves them.  I will not paint a picture that glosses over their pain.  I can pull together every piece of my shattered heart and know that I have exactly what they need in this moment… to be present and know… it’s not about me.  I will sit and hold near, my arms have room for both the joy and the pain… and I remind them, it’s ok to be sad… I will never understand how hard this is for you… but when you are sad I want you to know I want to be sad with you.  You don’t have to take care of me… it’s not your fault. Please my sweet girl, let me be sad with you.  And when it feels so hard that you can’t even breathe….

Run to Jesus.

Jesus be near.

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It was the third day this week we’ve had to sit in a bath and wash our day away before dinner is even on the stove.  I’ve sat down countless times to try to write… but the truth is, this year has much more that I don’t want to remember than I do.  I’ve re-read my last blog, day, after day, after day for the last week.  There’s nothing like your own words to remind you of his goodness.

After it all settled down and my little loves bounced back, I walked out the front door to catch my breath.  It is there that I let my guard down… tucked in closely on another’s empty porch…the floodgate opens and my tears feel endless.

I grapple in my own heart with fully believing You are good, but dear Lord you do not feel kind…

I’m humbled by my own brokeness… the belief that his love should equal no pain.  The truth is his love endured the greatest pain, all for the sake of the glory on the other side.  He never promised surrender would be easy…

But maybe – just maybe – I can believe the work he is doing in and through us is worth more than the pain free days I long for.  Maybe, on the other side they will see clearly his faithfulness every step of the way. His pursuit. His redemption thread of grace upon grace.

I barely see through my fuzzy eyed contacts, ruined by the salt of tears.  But I watch my three little ladies fast asleep and believe tomorrow holds new mercies.  I have seen his kindness in the gentle hug of a new friend who spoke words that pierced my tender heart… as if God himself wanted to remind me, I am not alone.

Though I may not always have the words…

With every breath that I am able –  I will sing of the goodness of God.

Love Does, My Story, Uncategorized

In Pursuit of Glory… It’s not about me

…and it will come about, while My glory is passing by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by.         Ex 33:23

Moses is one of the most fascinating people in the Bible, from where I sit.

Think about it… the enemy so feared his birth –  a whole generation of males was murdered.  Yet he was protected.

He would later be called out of the desert to lead his people who were captives into one of the greatest stories ever told – of hope, rescue and restoration.

In the midst of it all, as he faced the doubts of who God says he is, he pursued a heavenly father with such confidence that he would settle for nothing less than standing in his very presence.  And he did.

Following a cloud by day and a fire by night, he declared, “I will not move from here unless your presence goes with me…” (Ex 33:15)

I can’t help but parallel my own story with his… I mean, let’s consider the similarities here.

Born to a people enslaved by a nation, death marked his birth, vengeance overcame him, he ran away and hid, a bush burst into flames and he heard the voice of God…

Ok – maybe I’m nothing like him.

Except… he questioned God.

“Who am I?”

This has been the echo of my voice for the past five years.  Who am I, that you called me into these deep waters?  Who am I, that you place tiny hearts in my hands?  Who am I, that your words flow out from me?  Who do you say I am?

And this is where Moses and Abby meet.  In the place of deepest doubt and undeserved grace rests a promise, I will be with you – every step of the way.

The past four months have been a collision course of sorts.  I have watched our family stumble into scenes that trigger pain of past lives, point to loss of innocence that I desperately wish I could preserve and stir questions of why us? why these precious girls? why God?   – where is your goodness?

As we navigate the day-to-day life that brings to the surface unexplainable fears, responses and behaviors, we fiercely pursue comfort, peace and healing.  In January we began to face the reality that our school was not a place that could provide the emotional safety that is vital to the journey we are on.  We prayerfully considered all options and made the decision to make a major move, not knowing how we would even afford it.

But God did.  We took the first step and he parted the waters before us.  His provision left me speechless and in awe of a God who sees me.

Our hope was that this significant move would provide a new level of safety for the hearts of our girls and bring a bit of relief to the emotional pressure that was a constant simmer in our home.  After a smooth transition I had hoped it would decrease our demanding need for therapy.  Lord knows, we can’t afford both.

Last week I was overwhelmed with the reality as our dear therapist painted a clear picture of the path ahead.  I’m sure she could see the fear in my eyes as I unpacked the reality that I have nothing left to give…  there is really nothing else to squeeze and make this happen.

I shared through tears the sense of hopelessness to my mom on the other end of the phone.  The grapple with the truth I believe of a good God versus the reality of what I see as a long, treacherous, and quite honestly, expensive path.  I considered what he could be asking me to do differently?  Maybe just two children in private school instead of three? After all, one seems a bit more stable than the others.  Should we sell the home we love and live life differently?  Is there a path we haven’t considered that could be good enough to get us by?

Slipping into the sleep of night, my prayers sounded a lot like my friend Moses – God, don’t forget, these are your children. You aren’t surprised by our needs. You have been abundantly faithful – show me your glory.  There’s nothing else I can do.  It’s really up to you.

I asked a question in a small group of fellow foster and adoptive parents.  What options do we have for the long road ahead? Someone please give me a glimpse of hope…

It came in a short text from a sweet friend that said,

Tell me more.

“Could you share briefly what your girls need and why?”  Well of course I can my dear, how many words do you need 🙂

And as I let the words go I never imagined what God was stirring in the heavenlies.  I couldn’t see the wind.  But it was blowing.

The next day in the middle of a heart-connecting encounter a simple message arrives in my inbox from a name I didn’t know- you don’t want to miss this.

We would like to cover the next few months of therapy and let us know if the need continues, which it sounds like it will.” and because God doesn’t just stop with provision, he goes on to show off a bit more… “And we would also like to cover six months of tuition as well.”

Chills flooded my being as I read the message over and again.  This is too much.  More than I could ask or even imagine.

Isn’t that just like God?

Exceedingly, abundantly more than I could ask or imagine.

I was slayed. Humbled. Overwhelmed by the goodness of others, advocating for us, revealing a Glory of a faithful father.

I stepped out of our meeting and onto a worn path, winding along a rugged fence, leading to a flowering meadow.  The rocks slipped beneath my shoes each step of the way.  I tried to soak it all in.  Taking deep breaths, small steps, looking at the spring flowers and hearing the sound of the river passing by.  The earth reveals His Glory.

What is it you want to say to me God?  You have my full attention. 

Like the spring wind, I sensed his quiet words say –

I see you.  You are my child and I love you.  I am so pleased with you. 

I stayed in this place on the path that leads to nowhere… knowing this would be a transformational shift in my life.  For the first time I could see, this was about me.  This is about a God that will move heaven and earth because of his love for me.  I have stepped into a part that he has for me to play, at times with fear and trepidation, not knowing how we will make it to the promise of resurrection, life and glory – but willing none-the-less.

My friend and I often refer to the journey as our “never-the-less” – like Jesus in the Garden, asking for this cup to pass by,  Nevertheless, your will be done.

Motherhood was not a cup I expected to drink from.  Fighting for the hearts of children my body didn’t bear, whose hearts bear wounds from a past they didn’t choose… at times feels like a cross I cannot carry.  In the darkest days I still find myself crying, who am I that you choose me?

This day the Lord answered so clearly that my heart connected with what my head had known, I am chosen for a purpose, I am not alone… and in the steps of obedience a favor follows.  Embrace it.  Live it. Breathe it. Share it.

It is humbling in a way that I cannot express.  It touches fear and doubt that I didn’t know existed.  I’ve been challenged to see that diminishing the favor robs the blessing.  Staying quiet stills the Glory.

It’s not about me.

But then it is.

It’s not because of anything I have done but because of who He is.  His love for me is overwhelming and his goodness knows no end.

The Lord descended in the cloud and stood there with him as he called upon the name of the Lord.  Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in loving-kindness and truth…                   (Ex 34:5-6)

It’s all about his Glory.

I teach in Reality 1 at the Battle for the Heart on this concept of glory which we are called to reveal.  It seems abstract, but it is simply his goodness to us and through us, his compassion, grace, loving-kindness and truth.

I dare you be so bold, as Moses was, to pray Show me your glory!

In my life I have found when I step into this boldness, it is often I find myself placed between a rock and a hard place…   “and it will come about, while My glory is passing by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by.”  (Ex 33:22)

Don’t be surprised when he shows up.    He longs to show up.

If I’m honest, it’s quite humbling to tell our story.  This is my issue, not yours.  I’m growing in owning that there is a story to tell, a glory to reveal and a part that was chosen for me to play.  I grapple with goodness, truly I do.  I love to see it poured out on you… it’s a bit harder to accept for me.  Deep down, I know how undeserving I am.  I see the hard places of my heart, the doubts, fears, anger and sometimes even longing for the cup to pass me by.

But then, I would miss out on the Glory.

…I’ve come too far to quit now.

With much love, from a humbled girl.

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Love Does, My Story

When Hope Doesn’t Float and the Tears Must Fall

It’s the sort of thing that wakes you up with tears in your eyes before they are even open.  It has nothing to do with the tiny human’s knees pressed tightly into my back.  She knows to come to daddy’s side, that’s the way of certainty to mommy.  Daddy doesn’t even know he let her in, but she cuddles closely to me.  My pillow must be cozier.

That’s not what woke me.  It’s the words and the story that has been percolating in my heart for weeks like a kettle on a stove, just before the whistle blows.  The words have swirled but I haven’t been able to make sense of them…. Until now.  At 3:45 am tears fall out of my unopened eyes, I realize the gentle pursuit of the Father who builds beautiful things from broken pieces.  The original artist.

As I sat in the waiting room of our therapist’s office a familiar song played, but the words felt so different in this season of life as she beautifully voiced,

This is what it means to be held – How it feels, when the sacred is torn from your life and you survive…

The verses name the unfairness of life, even as believers, leaving us to question his goodness.

In a season that surrounds me with pain, I shared this song with a few dear ones whom I know are navigating the darkest of nights, questioning where God is in the midst of it all.  In my own small story, I have felt an unearthing of deep places that were heavily fortified with protective strategies that beg you to believe…  I am worth loving, I am worth choosing, I am worth protecting, I am worth keeping… the core of my deepest longing that every action of my life one way or another points back to –  am I worth it?

I work hard to never put you in a position to have to say it directly, give no reason I could doubt my value in your life.  I will come through no matter what… I will love with everything within me… I will give all I have not just because I love you, but because I long to know you love me too….

It’s unsustainable… I am human as are you.  Life is hard and complex and filled with pain…  and one day I found myself in an unending flood of tears that reflect my deepest fear

… I am worth losing…

The old familiar voices: I didn’t love well.   I wasn’t understanding.  I was too honest.  I will never be enough…

And when my brokenness meets your brokenness the rough edges no longer fit – and I am left to believe, I am a loss worth taking.

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The words fell out of my mouth and took every bit of air with them… I had not understood the pain I was avoiding for so long.  It had been poked and prodded but anytime I got close, the fortified walls came up like the work of an engineer.

But something finally cracked this wall and like a dam… I broke…

I gave myself space to sit in the messiness of it all.  I owned the fears, I felt the pain, I repented of my unbelief and like a hurting child I sat in the presence of my kind heavenly father and asked,  what do you want to say to me right now? What do you want me to know is true??

Like a wave of peace, I heard the still small voice, You are worth EVERYTHING to me.  And he gently reminded me of specific times and places where he was echoing this truth through my life.  Through the ones who pursue me when I don’t want to be pursued. The ones who see me when I want to disappear.  The ones who hold me when everything I hoped has failed.  And the ones who sit with me in the pain of disappointment that I can’t make sense of….brokenmug

I long to be that echo of his voice too.  The jar of clay that reveals glory in the brokenness.

As I sat across the makeshift dining table with my salad that was fresh a mere three hours ago, inside I couldn’t help but wonder why I even have a place at this table.  There are obvious reasons that cause me to doubt if I should be here, but I realize one thing that connects us all is the transforming work of God to make beautiful things from dust.  That’s all we really are at this table, five broken people surrendering to a way of humility and trusting God for the part he has given us to play.

I’ve spent the greater part of my life avoiding pain at all costs, but I find myself in a place of facing what feels like the most tender places of my life.  As he shares bits of his story, I realize even my deepest pain cannot begin to compare to the road he has traveled.  Without even realizing it, I shift to deflective humor to ease the weight I feel – knowing I have nothing that compares.

He goes on to share how he is grappling with God… it’s evident to me this is a good thing, despite his reservation to even name it. What does it look like to live in authentic community and walk through hard things?  So much damage has been done by good people, who want to love well but in the face of pain cannot help but see through their lens of hope.

It’s human nature to believe each challenge is to be solved, we will reach the other side.  Our gospel story of rescue and redemption filters our view with a persistent hope – amid of which we have done a great disservice to one another in our places of deepest pain.

His words pierced through me so intensely I could feel my heart beating in my fingertips.  He was a real life, tangible picture of the pain I had caused.  For the first time I could clearly see the burden of my hope.  I began to crumble inside.  It was as if God painted a portrait and placed it right in front of me. My perspective had shifted, and I knew I would never be the same.

Hope is a beautiful thing.  I never want to live my life without it.  It truly is a gift.

However, when you enter into the sacred place of pain that forces you to face loss, grief, violation and broken dreams – there is a time that hope fails.

To be fully human is to own the pain, name the pain, feel the pain… and sometimes just accept that this pains you.

Don’t discount the pain. Don’t deny the pain; and as a friend, spouse, sister, mother – don’t discredit the pain with your quick draw of hope.

Hope that says this will all work out.  Hope that paints a better ending than the pit in which we sit.  Hope that speaks to your need for relief…

… in the dark place of the night, when the tears fall… lean in closely my friend… it’s ok to release the hope and allow yourself to feel the pain.

release

After all, even Jesus had to let things die.

And he wept.

This is what it is to be loved
and to know that the promise was
when everything fell, we’d be held.

It’s hard for me to reconcile pain and I often find myself grappling with how to justify or wrap it all up in a pretty bow.  I am growing to see that this speaks more to my discomfort of pain and less to the truth of redemption.  Sometimes the only bright side is heaven, and that’s ok.  We were made for so much more – our very hearts ache for it…

As my heart unravels and I feel my own brokenness and failures, I am reminded of that night, holding my long-legged baby as her tears streamed down her face and thank God that when everything fell, she could be held.

She said hurtful things – as is a pattern in our journey.  When she is in pain, she needs everyone around her to feel it too.  She goes for blood.  It’s an exhausting ride and a heartbreaking reality in which we live.  In the dark car ride of silence following her pain-filled words, I quietly reached my hand to the backseat to find hers.  I heard a muffle of sobs and just squeezed her hand a bit tighter.  When we reached home, she ran straight upstairs and hid in her cocoon of a swing.  I peaked my head in and saw her sobbing face, I just want to be alone!  I gently responded, If you want me to leave you alone, I will… but if you want me to hold you, I can do that too. 

She untangled herself from the swing, climbed into my arms and I held this seven year old baby girl as she cried alligator tears of pain, regret, disappointment and loss…   she can’t possibly reconcile the emotions that stir in her heart – and I can’t begin to undo it.

But I can sit and hold her forever. It was the most tender of moments as my heart longed to bring relief to what swirls in her.  I never held this child as a baby – she wasn’t mine to hold.  This holy moment was as healing for me as it was for her.  A glimpse of the heart of a father, who gives us people that will sit and hold the pain we carry, not bringing a solution not even promising hope… just being present.

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My dear friend, I do not know what places you have journeyed, what pain envelopes you today.  I repent for the way I may have viewed your pain through my lens of hope… not fully seeing the depth of your pierced heart.  I am so sorry.

I cannot help but ask, is there room in the pit for me?

I will not fix it and I will try not to relieve it… I just long for you to know you are not alone in the middle of it.

If I may be an echo of a still small voice, please hear me say,  You are worth EVERYTHING.

And when you’re ready, maybe we can find hope.

 

*Lyrics from the song “Held” by Natalie Grant