Friday, 28 April 2017

Simply Amazing

He was told, with the very best intentions, by his first dad at his last "visit" that, "When you're 18, you can look me up, find me and see me again." When his social worker told me, through a wide smile, how great he thought that was, my heart sank a little. Ok that's a lie. My heart sank to the depths of the unknown waters that flow through the very heart of every mother. 

I knew, as his mother, what the social worker didn't: that every birthday would now become a countdown instead of a celebration. In fact, the very day he turned 8, right after blowing out those 8 candles, he muttered softly under his breath, "Only 10 more years." It was like a sigh of relief. Only I heard him. 

For weeks and weeks after that, our oldest adoptive son clung to the promise of 18. We had intense discussions about there isn't a certain age of maturity about anything especially something like this and that we would cross that bridge when we came to it, that our hearts need to mend together and bond without clinging to the past. That is hard for grown adults to do. Asking a child is like asking him to climb Everest. Alone. In the dark without any gear. There was and will probably always be this flicker of hope of what will be come his 18th birthday. I'm ok with that now.  

It's hard to understand at any age that sometimes, many times,
the most painful events in our lives
are the very ones most necessary for us to flourish.

Twice taken out of his first home from a traumatizing life starting at the age of 3. He's lived in 4 different foster families (counting ours) and numerous other homes with his first family. In fact there were so many, many homes that he started naming the ones he can still remember: The flea house. The trailer house. The house KI Sawyer house. The house with the snake in the basement. The list is long. And sad for the most part, except for the times he was in homes where the adults had the ability to love well. 

His memories are blurry now and I can see a new, revived urgency to remember especially people he loved so dearly. This too is sad because I know it wounds him not to have those memories. It's like his heart doesn't know how to hold them all dear and close when his mind can't remember clearly. 

When I first met him, there was this wild, defiant look in his eyes like he was a soldier home from war who was always assessing a situation. If you didn't know already, many children in foster care suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. They come from homes that, much like a war zone, are loud, violent and unpredictable. Those intensely, bright blue eyes would look right through you as if you were not even a person but a thing in his way, preventing him from getting what he wanted or always looking for what's next....what's out of his control. Trauma does this to your brain when you are a child. It actually changes the physical brain. 

Hugs were out of the question for people he didn't know or even knew but were not very familiar with. It took almost 2 years before he would hug his counselor goodbye for the very first time whom he saw biweekly.

The boy that came into foster care for the second time when he was a meager 4 years old was more like an unruly animal than a person. That may sound harsh, but ask my dear friend, Cari, who fostered him before we did for almost 8 months about how he used to stay up crying and scratching himself after visits. And how she had to squeeze him and roll a ball over him to calm him down. And how every single thing was a fight to the end. Simple things like putting on shoes and brushing teeth was WWIII in her home. 

If ever I forget that there is a God of immeasurable grace...a God who can raise the dead...I have to look no further than our son, Xander. He's been 10 for several weeks now.  Six years since he was rescued and placed in a forever home to be loved and cherished the way all children should be but many times aren't. 

And in just six years the blue-eyed boy, my blue-eyed boy that stands (or usually wiggles) before me always wanting to put his little, dirty, dry hand in mine, is almost unrecognizable when thinking about that wild-eyed boy I met all those years ago. Those eyes are clear and steady. They see people for who they are as people and not just to be used for getting what he wants. He can accept the situation that he is in for what it is without almost any reservation. He loves, I mean loves, his family. If he's in a really good mood, he'll even give any one of us a tight squeeze especially his biggest sister. 

He hugged his Auntie Caroline, who he's only been around a few times, before we said goodbye the last time we saw her at Christmas. I cried. Those once hollow eyes can now see. His heart has begun to learn to bond and love. 

It is such a gift. 

I found his baby book and life book sitting quietly on my couch recently. He had been flipping through, looking at the pictures and drawing our home here. My heart is always heavy when I flip through either of them and try to grasp what he may be feeling. I wondered if this birthday is just another countdown birthday but when I asked what the best part about turning 10 was, he smiled, looked at me with this intense blue eyes and said, "Well, it's been almost 3 years since I've been a Pope." 


There will be a part of Xander that will always be broken at the loss of his first family. Just like there are parts of all of us that are wounded and very much broken even if we do not experience what he has in our lives. There will always be the battle against worry and the fight to trust and love. And if you read nothing else, please read and believe but this: my Love and I did not do this. It was not our love or our boundaries or our parental methods that changed him. It was none other than the Love of Christ. His work in us.

And so, Xander knows that no matter what happens in his life, that he can trust in the Creator-God who knows him and loves him and sent his Son to die in his place. He doesn't have to try to be in control because he can trust in the Sovereign God who knows all things and is in control of all things even when life seems crazy and out of control. His heart is at rest in these things alone and not to the fleeting promise of 18. He knows who he is.

It is an amazing thing to witness and an honor to be a small part of.

Simply amazing. 

Saturday, 4 February 2017

The Broken Beautiful

If you have read any of my blog posts or even just one ever, you will probably find penned here a wispy journey of sorts. It begins and ends with a faith that has been gifted to me through Christ. I have written a lot about the kind of faith that is not easy. I hope that the things I say here are gracious and kind because some of them, I realize are very hard to read. Life is hard. Faith in Christ does not make for an easier life but it creates in me a space to have a kind of hope that knows, no matter what is going on around me or inside of me, that I know the end of the story. I know that Christ has won and will win again. So no matter how that story unfolds before me, I can trust in the One who's scars testify of the saving grace that I now own.

There is just one truth in all of this writing, or teaching, and lets just add in here for fun because I can, parenting, that I have been painfully reminded of lately: it is a lot harder to walk what you say with your words that you believe. It is easy to say that faith is hard...that taking up your cross means bowing low, than it is to actually do it. It is easy to say to others to have open hands to what God has for them, even if it is suffering, than to actually walk the road of suffering yourself. These are easy truths to know, but what if God asks me to walk that road? What do I do with my hands? Do I walk the narrow way, filled with pain and heartache because God has lead me to it or do I dig in my heals, close my hands, and clench my teeth in anger?

I would like to believe that in love for my Savior, I would choose the former. But so many times I don't. And here is why: I don't want to be broken. I don't want to admit my need. I want to be seen as strong.  I want to be able to do it all. I have bought into the lie that brokenness and need are shameful. In fact, to be a productive woman I shouldn't need anything from anyone and should only depend on myself for everything. At least that is what I hear the world shoving in my face. But what if there is no other way than to be broken? Again and again, I am forced low. I came broken and needy to the cross and broken still I am. Could it be that in my weakness, Christ is made strong? I may have read that somewhere a time or two.

There are two roads crossing ahead. On the one side there is a tropical paradise. The other is rocky and uphill. In fact it looks a lot like the place I just hiked today filled with tall, brownish yellow grass and everything within your view is basically dead. You are asked to take the rocky hill with the promise of a guide, a sturdy walking stick, and paradise far, far ahead. But the tropical is, well, so very tropical. It is appealing to your eyes. You could have paradise now. Even thinking about the warm sun on your face makes you feel all kinds of happy. You know if you take the rocky road, you are sure to fall again and again. Really, a guide and a walking stick? That's it? And just how far do I have to walk this rocky hill? Is there any reprieve?

Daily, this is my choice as a believer. So many times, I fail. So many, many times I choose the easy way out. I choose what I think is going to make me feel happy instead of choosing Who will make me happy. So many times I look up and simply say "no." And in His sovereign, loving way, he picks me up and asks again to take the broken, humble road that leads to life.

The broken beautiful. It might just be the only way home.


Sunday, 29 January 2017

A Sweet Reminder

"Where is God's grace most evident in your life?" my pastor looks into my eyes and asks. 
"Other than every moment every day, from the time I wake up?" I joke with him.
"The most obvious way that God's grace is evident in my life is through His body, the church," I say. I'm not joking this time.

It is the one place that has picked me up when I have fallen. It has held me close when I long to walk away. It has taught me the very best about that Good Book; who I am in light of it and who God says He is in-spite of who I think He may be. It has seen me at my worst and not judged. It has brought meals, laughed hard, loved for real and helped me learn everything from cooking to quilting. It has asked hard questions and challenged my sin and held my hand and prayed fervently.

I say it, but I should say they because it isn't really and it is it? It is the people in all the places, in all those little churches and communities that we have lived over the last 15 years where God's grace has dripped and poured into our lived. We would not be the same people with out it. I dare say we would be lost with out it. It is those very people who have taken the time to share with us the Gospel in word and deed with us.

It is a very sad thing, but I do believe that this is a unique experience for many. I know loved ones who have been wounded so deep and so long and so wide by the very people that are supposed to know better. I have wept with and for them. There are no words for that kind of sadness though many have been penned.

And yet, there is this broken, cracked beauty that I will ever be forever grateful for. It is a gift. It is precious. And I have recently been reminded, once again, how in desperate need of these faithful people I am. And you know what? They showed up. Again. And again. It blows me away every time; the love that these people show us because of how loved they are by our Father in Heaven.

It has nothing to do with us, really. It's not because we are of the same demographic, race, or economic status. Some of them are as different from us as the sun is from the moon. Christ is sometimes our only commonality. And he is enough. It's amazing.

No people are not perfect, neither is any church. How could it be when filled with a bunch of self-proclaimed sinners? This, however, is not my point.  Perfection is not nor ever should be the point or expectation. His grace is. To say that I'm grateful for it would be like trying to fit the ocean into a cup. Heaven will be a glorious place, filled with all these people God has graced us with praising Him together.

I cannot wait...

Friday, 23 December 2016

Birthdays, Christmas and being #blessed in the middle

Hi Friends!

So much to share these days and I'm not certain what order to say them in. Time is of the essence as I really should be packing and cleaning, but I don't want to. Is that a good reason not to do something? I'm not sure it is. But if I have anything, friends, it's honesty (and Jesus...well, that's where the honesty comes in here very probably) and that's just the truth.

I'll put first things first:

1. I have a for real life 12 year old now. Seriously people. His shoe size is as big as mine. For reals. Not even joking. It was a proud day for him. It won't be long until he catches that 14 year old of mine in height and she will never live it down (because she will be looking up at him....haaaaaaa). If I could describe him in one word it would be: tender. He has the most tender heart. This is a wonderfully, delicious big part of his soul. I pray fervently that it stays this way. That he doesn't become jaded and angry at a world filled with people who cannot for the life of themselves disagree with out defriending you on Facebook. I pray that he is so filled with love for the his Savior that he loves others well, especially those who disagree with him and call him all kinds of hateful names. I pray he is faithful and kind and has a hero's heart and a disgust for injustice and a longing to be in his for real home with his Father. That his eyes would be so focused on there that it effects what he is doing here on earth. I would say it is a joy to mother him, but that would not even touch the base of the mountain of joy that describes how much it is an honor just to know him. Such a daily grace (even when he leaves his socks on the dinning room table....even then.)

Moving on...

2.  This has been a weird Christmas. I'm not even sure how to process it other than: it's been weird, man. I so know that this season is supposed to be about the small and unnoticed things in our world but it's so busy and loud around me all the time. Really Loud. I wrote a couple years about giving Good Gifts. I know all of this enough to put it in writing. And very probably I know a lot less about it than I think that I do. And then there is all the "shoulding" that I do on myself all the time. Who really cares if a certain tradition doesn't get done. Is everyone alive? Is everyone fed? Did everyone put on clean undies this morning? Yes! Then it is a good day. Especially, if the undies part happens. Christ was still born and laid in a dirty, stinky manger and we are still fighting for our lives to honor Him during this time. And it's a fight isn't it? A fight not to compare. A fight to assume the best in others (especially family members) during this time of year. A fight not to get sucked into tit-for-tats that don't really matter to begin with. A fight to see Christ for who he really is as Lord who pulled on flesh only to die 30 or so years later and rise again. It is constant. It is heavy. It is a joy. Press on, Friends!


3.  I love to give Good Gifts. Really, there is nothing like it. There is nothing like giving a gift that points a person to the Person of Christ. Here is where I've been stuck this year: I like to give gifts period. I like to give my kids gifts that they will love. It makes me giddy to find that box of Star Wars figurines on sale and stick them in their stocking knowing they will freak out on Christmas morning because of it. And there is a big part of me that thinks that this is very shallow.  Or at least it feels that way as I scroll down and read about how dear friends give their kids one gift on Christmas and my insides do this flip-flop and I start comparing. Again. I am desperate to figure out how to live and be #blessed in the middle without feeling like I have to be ashamed or shallow at the very least. I want to give Good Gifts. I want my kids to see where their blessings come from and most of all I want to believe it and live it myself. I want to walk into a store, knowing that one kiddo doesn't need those $5 slippers but grab them anyway b/c she has been talking about them for a year now and when she sees them sticking out of their stocking, well she will want to sleep with them on her feet she will be so excited. And that makes me happy but isn't my happiness. Did you hear me? Or read that, I mean? I think that is the secret of being #blessed and in the middle. Or at least a part of the secret. Knowing that every good gift is from above and so that car, that house, that whatever you own (or rent or lease) is in fact a blessing, given only by God Himself. And to know this is not saying that others are not blessed because they may not have those things. The secret is: knowing that our happiness is not in the physical things that we are blessed with but rather we are blessed in the Person of Christ. It is ok to bless others with a gift that they probably don't need. It is not ok to gain our happiness as children of God because of it. That is the difference and the thin line I am considering in this ever so weird Christmas season this year.

Merry Christmas, friends.
From my very large, loud, silly family to yours.
And a Happy New Year too.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Finding Christ in the Middle

Ya'll I'm tired. Like the kind of tired where your body feels like a weight jacket that you are carrying around and the only way out of this tiredness is to go to sleep and never wake. I can walk around doing my own life and then WHAM! real life gets in the way: I actually read the news or log on to Facebook to see what my friends are walking through. That is no joke people. It's amazing what people will share on Facebook. I pick up a book about Sequoyah and read it to the kids on a whim  right after deciding to finally prime the devil red out of my bathroom for 4 hours all the while forgetting about a coffee date with a sweet soul sister. Call me crazy because that is exactly what I am. So here I am, really tired with so much to say and not really having the words to say it but I'm going to try anyway because I think it's something no one else is saying and you very probably need to hear it. I know I need to hear myself say it aloud.

I'm sitting here in front of my big ol' screened TV, that my oldest son is watching, my bum is on my new carpet in the "play room" of our new to us home. My heart is weary and tired. I feel like I have fought a long battle and I am waving the white flag at the expectations of others. What I read on the blogosphere these days makes my heart sink in the oddest ways. Things that used to make it pitter patter now, I find, garner resentment, anger even. I'm sure in many ways, it's my own sin that is the problem. I am forever assuming things about others and being easily offended. This is the reason (and lack of time) that I don't spend a lot of time reading blogs. And yet, there seems to be this movement of women out there with a very large microphone proclaiming to all of us in the "middle" that Jesus is only found richly among the poor...when you are serving and living among them...when we choose to live physically among them.

And we just bought a big ol' house on the West Side.


My days are now filled with wifing, mothering, homeschooling, running errands, serving at church, volunteering, running children to different social events and sports, and fixing up said neglected big ol' house that had been a rental for many years. And my flag is flying high. In fact, if my HOA would allow it, I would fly it right outside my garage.

Every woman wants to feel like her life's work is important. That it means something. We want to know that whatever we are pouring our lives into is meaningful. We want to give life and be life to others. We do not for a moment, want to believe that all we have done is for not. And if there is "more Jesus" over there...then we want to desperately move there because as believers, we want more Jesus. This has been the struggle of a life time for me and very probably, for you also. I couldn't have been called to live a peaceable and quiet middle class life could I?  Or maybe I am.

Maybe, just maybe my neighbors are just as broken. Maybe they just have the financial means to cover it all up. Maybe they aren't buying drugs on street corners, they are just getting them in the form of prescriptions from their doctor. Maybe their husband is a drunk and abusive. Maybe said husband is an elder at a church. Maybe their sin just isn't on display because of their ability to cover it up with their money. And maybe, this is worse in some ways. And harder in other ways. And frightening to try to figure out because the people I live around are on their guard 100% of the time and will not, for a million years, let you in to see their very real selves. They hardly let you in to see their fake selves. And if they do, they make sure it's all nice and tidy and Pintrest worthy.

Sin is no respecter of people. We find it in all classes of people. It is the great equalizer. Every person walking the face of this earth, rich or poor or smack dab in the middle has what the Prophet Jerimiah calls a, "wicked" heart and will one day have to account for that heart. Sin manifests itself differently among the different classes and there life of the poor is incomparably harder in many ways than the life I now live but I'm here to tell you, fellow middle classers, that every person needs the Gospel. We all do. People from the jungles of South America to the middle classers living right beside you here in America. Jesus did not just spend his time with one class of people--he chose 12 from all walks of life. They were a sinful lot of men from every station. A few better off than others, but spiritually speaking they were all bankrupt. This should speak balms of encouragement to your soul.

Yes, you who wonders if you are "doing enough"
doing the right thing
 if there is "more" that you are missing out on because of all the stuff you are not doing
if the stuff that you are doing really isn't important at all because it doesn't have you in the throes of living among the poor.

See why we're exhausted?

If there is one thing I could tell my younger self it would be: "CHILL out girl!" I spent so much of my life worrying that I was not doing enough to save the world, that I was totally discontented with my life for many years and in fact missed out on enjoying parts of my older children's younger years because I was so distracted by "what I should be doing." It's a regret that lingers heavy still.

Yes, pray for open doors, for opportunities, about that soul of yours that seems to be restless where you are at and wanting for more and you don't know what to do about it. Yes, share the Gospel. Wives, talk to your husband. Many times they are the great equalizers and keep us in check. Have hard conversations with your spouse. Do that. Yes, read the Word because you know where "more" Jesus is found? Right there, in that living and breathing Book that you own. Open it up and turn to 1 Thessalonians. Read about the good life God has for you...a quiet and peaceable life no matter the neighborhood.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Raising Pretenders

Meandering the choppy waters of parenting a teen is new and confounding at times. It humbles and shakes up my days. It is also a blessing. Yes! I just said blessing and teen together. I had hoped and hoped and prayed that our teens would know that we are on their side, that we are not their advisory. It is such a scary, scary time in parenting isn't it? These children figure out they have brains of their own and they want to use them to do things like think and have their own opinion. It's so very hard to know when to push and when to let it slide. It might be more like parenting a toddler than we would like to admit most of the time. And yet, there is something very sweet here.

I realize that this is not every ones experience. It will not be ours with every child. Of that I am almost certain. I'm not saying this to brag or put anyone else into what I like to call, "a fog of comparison."

It is not some formula like a chemistry experiment so please, PLEASE don't ask me how. I just want to share with you what I want for my kids and what I really, REALLY don't want.

I think, if you love the Lord Jesus as I do, then it will be a reflection of your own heart. I want you to know that there are mothers standing firm with you and pressing on hand in hand along side you. Right there. Together.

It is easy, on days that aren't so great, to lapse into despair. You know the those days. In the toddler years, I often think, "This child will NEVER be potty trained. NEVER<EVER<EVER<EVER!!" In the teen years it's more like, "Why does he/she think that EVERYTHING is my faultttt????!!!!" {insert crying emoji face here} And, "SERIOUSLY??!! Have you lost your ever loving mind with that tone and that eye roll and that....don't pretend you don't know what I'm talking about...." And we so often let hope slip through our fingers and take the boat load of joy with it. BOOM! Gone.


We forget that what we want is for our kids to love the Lord with all their hearts, minds and souls and love their neighbor as themselves. We forget that we want them to know God and make Him be known. And we forget where we came from and who he has made us into because we are suffering through the same thing that Christ suffers through with each one of us daily. I mean really, if you can't tell me that you aren't exactly like at least 12 of the 12 disciples then you have lost your ever lovin' mind right alongside your teen. We forget that we don't want to raise a bunch of pretenders.

Yes, there I said it. Right there friend, read it again: we DO NOT want to raise a bunch of rule following, I know all the right Sunday School, Jesus Freak answers but can't for the life me sacrifice anything for anyone ever sort of kids. Yes, it is easy to get kids to follow the rules. And some how {but I think we know how} that our kids get this idea that Christianity is actually a rule book that looks a lot like this:

1. don't drink
2. don't smoke
3. don't do drugs
4. don't have sex before you're married {or even think about having sex before you're married for heaven sake!}
5. don't cuss. ever!
6. pick good friends.
7. don't pick friends that do ANY of the aforementioned don'ts.
8. listen to "good" music. read "good" books.
9. don't lie
10. don't steal
11. be modest
12. obey your parents. always.

There are a lot of others but I don't have the time....and neither do you, I'm guessing.

Pay attention friends to what I am not saying. I am not saying that any of these rules are bad. Rules and boundaries are a blessing. I know that. You know that. Obviously anarchy is never a good idea. Neither is socialism but that's another post that I will never write. At least I don't think I will. {insert silly face emoji and don't be so easily offended...ha!}

It's not the rules. It's the reason. Did you read that? Read it again! It's the reason behind the rules that is important. And WHO is the reason? We tend to use the rules as the driving force as the reason behind why we do what we do or have the rules that we have instead of making it about Christ don't we? I know I do.

One day folks, one day, sooner than you think, these kids are going to grow up and take their beautiful brains and bodies out of your house. They are going to be challenged in ways that we never were as young people and you know what: if they do not know why they are following those rules in the first place, they WILL NOT follow them. They will walk away because there was not a reason. There was no real grace. There was no Jesus.

Jesus is beautiful. Jesus is my all in all. He is everything. I love Him. I want to obey him. I want to serve and sacrifice. I see my sin, daily and I hate it. His yoke is light but it would not be if I didn't actually know him. The weight of the law and all the rules is a burden that cannot be kept and will only produce despair or pride in our children. The law...the rules are merely to point our children towards Christ. They cannot obey the rules perfectly and we do not want them to pretend that they can. And as a side, we do not want them to believe that we can obey them perfectly either.

I looked at my teen today and said this exact thing: "I will love you no matter what kind of music you choose to listen to. I may think it unwise. I may even have to ban a certain song, though I hope it wouldn't come to that, but I want to know what you are listening to and why you like it." I do not want her to not like a song, because she thinks I will disapprove. Part of growing in her relationship with the Lord is her realization that what she listens to is what she puts directly into her heart. That has to be important to her, not just to me. I don't want a show. I don't want pretenders. I pray for the real deal: children that know the Lord and want to make Him known to the world. I know you do too.

Friday, 16 September 2016

The Post with a Cute Picture but Really No Depth. At all.

Hi my name is Kari Jo. Well, really it's Karrie Jo. But since it's pronounced the same way either way it's spelt, I won't bore you with that silly story.

Wait, yes I will.

On my birth certificate my dear mother spelt my name Karrie. Then she taught me to spell it Kari. She says it's b/c she wanted me to be called Kari Jo and well, Karrie Jo was just too long. I say it's b/c she thought it was too long for me to learn to spell. Silly, I know.

Now you know where I get it.

Seriously. Weirdness runs in the family.

And I like to stay up late. Right now it's exactly 11:43 and by the time I'm done rereading this post for the gajillionth (I may also be a bit of a drama queen) time, it will be close to midnight. I really do heart staying up late. It's a problem.

'Specially since I have 8 kids.

Yes, 8.

Don't worry, it's not a competition. But if it was....

kidding, it's Soooo not.

There are so many things I want to write about at the moment but I'm not going to just yet. Mostly because of the aforementioned 8 children who will want to do things like eat breakfast at 7 am promptly and I will want to roll over and pretend I am still kidless (wait, was I ever kidless?) in the morning if I don't go to bed really, very soon.

 I just wanted to share this picture with you because it captures my heart.

And that is all. 

My Love and my littlest love. 


My heart might burst open.