Sunday, 11 March 2018

A Life Remembered: Loving Well

Many times I don't post what I write. So many times. And this is good because sometimes my writing, at least to me, can feel like venting. And who, in this world needs one more person venting on them? It happens all the time, with many a scroll or click, I feel the weight of someone else's anger. Usually, it does nothing to help any given situation. Usually, it's all misunderstood and thus only pushes us farther apart. Only further and further apart.

After the shootings in Florida and some scrolling of my own via Facebook. I was ready to write. And so I did. But I didn't post. Y'all don't need me venting on you. My intention is to always encourage, even if it is through some tough words of truth. Venting isn't encouraging. It isn't uplifting. It isn't kind. It reeks of frustration, snark and anger. It doesn't build up or seek the good of others.  There is a fine line between lamenting (which is good and right) and venting. Often times when the line blurs, I won't post. You're welcome.

My focus changed soon after those terrifying shootings because someone that I and so many others held dear, passed away into Glory. The Bible calls this "sleeping" because it isn't really death for those that are in Christ. And it's a weird reality not to feel the weightiness of death for someone who's words of encouragement still ring true in my heart. It's weird to have joy, hope and freedom when thinking about someone that I held so dear dying. Part of this happiness was because in this death my Nannie was finally released from the strangle hold that Dementia grasped onto her until her very last days. She is now fully who she was always meant to be. It's an amazing revelation to think about.

Death is a sensitive subject and certainly, I know that even when believers die, this is often met with great and worthy sadness. I would never pretend to know or tell someone else how they need to grieve. At this particular funeral, remembering whom we have lost was indeed extremely sad, but remembering what she gained was even of greater comfort.

And so, I'm not downplaying death. I want to always point you to the Author and finisher of our faith and in Him is where my Nannie found her strength.  Often we think of strength in terms of physical strength. Or even emotional strength that some seem to easily possess. Nannie certainly did not possess physical strength in a way that would be admired greatly by others. I'm not sure she even weighed more than 100 pounds most of her life. Her strength was not physical, or emotional even, it was in the way that Christ enabled her to love people so well. It was love that made her a force to reckon with. It was her love that she extended to every person she met. Every person. And from the first time she met me, she loved me well, which is saying a lot.

This could not have been easy. Sure I was sweet most of the time, but looking at this (often scantily clad young lady hanging on her grandson) it would have been easy for her to snub her Christian nose downcast at me and make me feel unwanted. But she never did. Ever. She never asked me to be something that I wasn't. I did not have to pretend to be something I wasn't to get her to approve of me.  Certainly, there were things she didn't approve of, but she didn't ask me to rid myself of them (or even make me feel like I should) before she could start loving me. She just did. Always.

Every person at her humble funeral said the same thing in so many words; "She loved me so well." Over and over again. It was like her life mantra. A drumbeat. No, a heartbeat.  That theme of loving well and praying often easily flowed off the lips of those that came to celebrate her life. It was such a triumphant reminder of what really matters in a day in age where all the venting often leaves me feeling parched and at the same time like I'm drowning in the Deep Sea of Darkness. It was like catching a buoy of truth that I had forgotten. I cannot solve all the worlds problems. I cannot have all the answers and try to fix every single thing. I cannot get people to actually listen to each other and realize we have more in common than not especially via social media. But I can, by the grace of God, love those around me well.

As the world rightly celebrated and morned with the Graham family at the death of their beloved, my Nannie was in the same category it's just she didn't have crowds flocking to hear her speak. No, she didn't have one single microphone but what she did have was a faith that splashed onto every single person she met in a way that was winsome and wise. She had a tongue that always encouraged, but never flattered and spoke truth. She had ears that listened before she spoke and hands that hugged, served and loved. She could be silly and loved to laughed. She always said that when we left she wouldn't let our PawPaw wipe the kids' handprints off the sliding glass door. She would tell him, "Just one more day, PawPaw!"

You see, she always knew what really mattered.





Sunday, 4 February 2018

I Wish Social Media Would Somehow Disappear.

A dear friend recently said to me, "I wish social media would somehow disappear." Honestly, I tend to agree. Except it's not. So I have to learn to meander my way through it in a way that is honoring to the Lord. This, friends, is hard. And here is why...

1) It's fake. You are seeing (depending on how much a person posts) maybe 10% of a person's life. So many people don't know how to be authentic. I had to quit following a gal who has chosen to move into a not-so desirable part of town to minister to people. I admire this. I really do and I actually really like her as a person. On more than one occasion she has said that she doesn't show the really hard parts because that would further the stereotypes that already exist about the poor. While, I agree, some people, sadly, would use that as an excuse to further marginalize others, but it also does not paint a complete picture of just how hard it is to live where she lives. As authentic as she wants it to be, it isn't. I want the whole, ugly picture. Not part of it. At least if it's supposed to be.

2) People that are authentic are often times torn apart by other's opinions. I only follow people who are willing to say that life is hard. That the rooms don't stay clean and their kids don't always obey. This helps us relate to one another instead up prop each other up. Sadly, though it's these people, the ones to really open up and let others in that get the rudest comments of all.

3) Because most of us don't know how to be authentic and we end up comparing ourselves to the picture instead of the reality. So yeah, I see the picture that lady has a beautiful home school room with children working on a sculpture of the Leaning Tower of Pisa while she reads aloud from The Story of the World and I think, "Whaaaaaaat???? Whyyyyy can't my house look like that? Why don't my kids like to build towers like that?? They just like to build guns!! They're for sure going to grow up and want to kill someone!" What this gal doesn't say is that this is a "moment" in her life. Her kids are just like your kids. Rotten. A lot of the time, anyway. And right after she took that picture the tower fell apart because someone didn't want to share the environmentally safe glue.

4) Words don't matter any more and we are cowards. This is possibly one of the saddest parts of all. And this isn't just the kids is it? There is something about the anonymity of the Internet that makes us ok with being jerks with our words. Grown up folks just acting a fool. I mean, really. Ok, so I know that people have always been jerks. There is nothing new here. The difference is that I'm not looking at a person (whom hopefully, I could have compassion for even if we disagree). I'm looking at a screen. I'm certain that half of what people say to complete strangers online, would never be said aloud to an actual person. I had a women recently tell me via Instagram that I should "worry about the environment more because all those kids you're raising aren't going to have a planet to live on." Yes, I've had people say this to my face too, but still this lady doesn't know me from Adam. And at least those people said it to my face.

5) Our self importance has become greater than ever and we have forgotten that it's ok for someone to have another opinion that might not line up with our own. We get on a soapbox about every.single.little.itty.bitty.tiny.thing. All the things. We have an opinion them all. The lady mentioned above was chastising another women for nursing too long. It had zero to do with environmental problems. This lady? Doesn't have a kid. Not a single.one. 'Nuf said. I think I proved my point.

6) We don't even know truth from opinion. Because we live in a post modern society, where whatever floats your boat is truth leaves us without a compass so we feel like things that are mere opinion, like how long a mother chooses to nurse an infant, is Gospel. And it's not. It's just not. Mothers and women can be the worst. There are certain things that I feel very strongly are best, whether it is just a simple matter of life, motherhood, wifeing, working or whatever, but I have learned that humility goes a long way towards encouragement and most people are just don't the best with what they have. That mom doesn't need to hear about how she is being selfish by continuing to nurse. She just doesn't. Of course, there is a way in which to say ones opinion humbly without making it sound like the other person (remember we are people?) is stupid. Sometimes, presenting another view is just what is needed. But mostly, we would all do well to talk (or type rather) a lot less and encourage more in areas that aren't even close to being the Gospel. My new Insa. profile says, "Get of your soap box. Your opinion doesn't matter as much as you think it does. ~me" Yes, I realize that is a very "soap boxy" statement. I love irony. :)

7) It's hard to remember what really matters. We fill our faces with our phones. We carry them around like we would a child. Again, this isn't going to change any time soon is it? They do make life easier. A lot easier. And so, our eyes are fixed, literally, on our screens. So I need to remember what really matters. I need to be salt and light to a dying world. Fixing my eyes on Christ is what is most important. This is a lot easier said than done, I know. You can start this by reading His Words. Even when you don't want to (preaching to myself here) or when other things that are also important seem to push it out of the way. Just read it. Without any expectations. He will meet you there, though you may not feel like He is. Then tell someone about what you're reading. Maybe do it over coffee or tea or whatever. Just do it face to face. And don't answer any pings (unless, of course it's your husband telling you that your daughter threw up...again.) You should answer that one.

Nope, social media isn't going away is it? I pray that you and I continue to fight for truth in a way that is honorable to the high calling in which we are called....that we will see people as people that mostly, need us to lift them up...in prayer and encouragement. I pray that you and I would fix our eyes on Jesus as we scroll....













Thursday, 25 January 2018

Plan B

I'm sitting here at my desk facing yet another New Year, thinking what in the world happened to the last one. And honestly, I'm staring at the screen like I have nothing to say except all of what I want to say is complicated and would take up the hundred or so pages of a book that I don't have time to write.

It's been a long while since writing last, I know but I just keep thinking, it can't possibly be that this wispy life has wisped past me once more. It can't be possible that in the middle of all of the chaos that is my life, somehow, another year blew by me. Another year. Made up by small moments. Some beautiful, others heartbreaking and still some very much both. It has been a year full of pain, hurt, fear, wonder, excitement, and celebration. Like yours, very probably, this 2017 has been a mixed bag.

A New Year is like a clean slate, freshly fallen snow, a cleaned out closet. It's exciting. Kind of like the beginnings of a new relationship. We feel invincible. We can! We will (we convince ourselves most emphatically): eat clean, loose the 15 that's hanging around, laugh more, see the beauty in the mess of children around us, walk slower, write more, maybe start a podcast with a dear friend, enjoy more, do less. We are hopeful. We are resolute. We are also looking back at all of things we do not want to repeat from the year before essentially marking out failure in our lives with a bright red pen.

But you know what? We probably will. Fail, I mean. A lot. We will struggle. We will repeat what we don't want to. A lot. It's what we do as forgetters but doesn't have to define us.

Nope it doesn't have to.

It's our Plan B that is most important...that counts the most.

Here's what I mean: doughnuts are a necessary part of life but not very "clean" (and if they are considered such you should back away slowly), that 15 lbs. might just turn into 20 or maybe you might hack away 7 or 10 or a mere 2 of them, those "laugh lines" might be more frustration lines than anything else and when you walk into your house, you probably will see a mess, not beauty. At least I'm speaking for myself here. Sounds encouraging right?! It really should be. Stay with me, pretty please.

Things don't just magically come together because it's a "New year, New You!" and you feel more resolute. They don't come together because you have a solid, no-fail plan A. Because you know what? All plans fail in some way. Life, at least mine, doesn't happen the way I think that it should so much of the time.

Am I alone in this?

So I propose this question to you, dear reader: Do you have a Plan B?

You really, really should. I have a suggestion friend: this New Year, cut yourself some slack. We are a people who forget aren't we? I think maybe, partly that is why God gives us His Word.  In it he daily reminds us that perfection isn't the point, at least in the worldly since that things have to look a certain way for my life to really be stellar. It never has been. What we put into our bodies is important, but not so important you can't ever have a doughnut...or two. Buy a new pair of pants (that fit) and believe the mirror that is telling you that you look the best b/c you know what, sister, you and I need to hear this:

You are beautiful. Let it go.

Not in the Frozen sort of way. But in a way that gives you the grace to know that the woman you are becoming isn't the woman that you once were and you know what?! This is good. No, not just good. It's amazing! That wearing away of the "old man" that makes you feel like the woman you glimpse at in the mirror is just plain old, is really the marks of wisdom and beauty that comes with the work of the Spirit in our lives. It's the eroding away of that old man. Wisdom comes with stretch marks, cellulite and a grey hair. Some of us can outrun those dreaded things longer than others, but most of us will get them earlier than we ever wanted.

Even more importantly than all of that is to have a Plan B for when you New Year plans fail b/c maybe, like me, you can't get your act together and they already have because you didn't write them down and now you can't even remember what they were. But for sure I have something. Yup, a Plan B.

Wanna know mine? My Plan B, I mean.

Kari's Plan B: 1) If it is sin confess, and run to Jesus begging for forgiveness from the Father. Also, confess it aloud to someone else that will hold me accountable. This includes, when appropriate, my children. 2) If it is not sin (like eating too much sugar in a day). Be kind to myself. Resolve to do better next time by praying about it. A lot.

I want to live this life of humble repentance. I don't want to live this life full of fear that I have a disappointed Father in heaven because I'm getting upset at myself about things that (which might be important on some level) they aren't the most important things.

A new dad, and friend from long ago, recently wrote on Instagram that his new baby girl would learn to love the Lord by his and his wife's godly example. And that is partly true. God certainly will use godly examples, especially those of parents, in the lives of our children. However, success isn't the only thing he wants or can choose to use. He wants to use it all. He can and will also use our failures in the lives of our children because when we fail we are in great need. That need is an opportunity to show our dependence on Christ alone...a chance to show them what it means to lean hard into the Savior of the world.

I had another friend, who's children are grown and have children of their own, tell me recently that on separate occasions his children contacted him and told him that the thing that impacted them the greatest in their lives was when he would openly confess to them his shortcomings, and sin (especially when directed their way) and ask for forgiveness in front of them or from them. I was surprised. And I wasn't at the very same time.

Even on our very best days we are needy.
At least I am.
Your kids need to know that.
Mine do too.

This song has been stuck in my head for days. It's mulling around in there and comforting me especially on days where things just plain stink and I've come up so short. God's amazing love isn't impressed with you on your best days and certainly isn't disappointed with you on your crummy ones. His love is constant and unchanging. It endures forever. It pierces our hearts through the Word so we desire to live a holy life. It is the most magnificent love one can ever, ever know.

Listen and read along, friends with the lyrics and let the truth wash over you.


Lean
Trying and tripping and torn
Reaching for more, but coming up less
Why are my memories of
You as the judge, me as the mess
I want the medal, don't want to settle
I want the victory lap, you in the stands
Why is it hard to believe
You just want me just as I am

I could stand, I could fall
You want all of me
I could run, I could crawl
You will always be
You're not impressed with all of my best
Not disappointed when I don't land on my feet
In everything, you are asking me to lean

When did we learn to perform
To need the encore, to know who we are
When did we forget our place
Is not on a stage, but safe in your arms
When will I let go, be still and just know
When will I see, when will I just believe

I could stand, I could fall
You want all of me
I could run, I could crawl
You will always be
You're not impressed with all of my best
Not disappointed when I don't land on my feet
In everything, you are asking me to lean

You ask me to trust
When You say I was enough
You made me lean

I could stand, I could fall
You want all of me
I could run, I could crawl
You will always be
You're not impressed with all of my best
Not disappointed when I don't land on my feet
In everything, you are asking me to lean

Writer(s): Nichole Nordeman, David Hodges
Lyrics powered by www.musixmatch.com



Tuesday, 1 August 2017

The Gift of No.

Dearest Lovely Momma,

I see you. I see you extend yourself beyond what you thought you could ever do. I'm not even talking about your belly during pregnancy. The fight to lay yourself low is a daily battle. The fight, I know that you know, is worth it. It just doesn't always feel that way does it? The bending low. It's hard. It's not what you expected and I know you are quite certain that sometimes while every child around you, squeals for you to, "Watch me, watch me, Momma!" that you left quite unseen. By anyone unless you have "failed" in the eyes of those that you serve. It is easy to feel unappreciated, undervalued, left to the side, unloved even. It is easy to give in to doubt and fear. It is easy to believe that it all, yes ALL of it rests on your tiny shoulders.

Yes, I know that you know that God sees you. I know that you know that it is He that will give you the grace, moment by moment to mother the children in your home. I know that you have to tell yourself, time and again, that those in your home that you serve aren't trying to be ungrateful or unloving. That they too are learning, as you teach them with words and deeds, to die to themselves. 

You also know that what God has called, "good," the world sees as a waste of time or talent or whatever. Except you're not. You're right where you need to be, momma. You know that you could be doing something else, somewhere else and you probably wouldn't end your day with your teeth unbrushed (again) and sticky floors right after you mopped. 

I just wonder though, if some of this weight comes from all of the good things you're trying to do outside of what you have piled on top of yourself at home. I just wonder if it's all too much and that maybe, just maybe it's not going to crash atop you, leaving you wondering if maybe the world is right. I just wonder if you need another momma to tell you that being a mom to your kids is enough. That it is enough to just be a mom right now. If you are a momma who has more children than she does hands (or your hands are constantly occupied carrying a baby) and most of those said children cannot buckle themselves, are not 100% potty trained, and cannot carry a gallon of milk into your home for you, then what you are doing is enough. I just is. From one mom to another. It is. I promise.

Butttt....you say...

                               what about

                                                    ....church...outreach...poor people...racial injustice...social injustice...abortion...foster children....the refugee crisis....President Trump (kidding, (kind of)...you need to laugh at yourself, momma)....

The list of butts (insert my hysterical laughing kids here) could go on forever, but those littles (and bigs) in front of you only have one mom. Just you.

So please put down, Don't Waste Your Life, Crazy Love, or whatever Matt Chandler book you happen to be reading now because if you are raising your children faithfully, you are not wasting a single day of your life. You are exhibiting the kind of love daily, that God has for you. You love the unlovely every single day of your life. You are going against what society has said is a waste of time, and you have said is valuable because God says it's valuable. That is crazy love. That's motherhood.

There will be, Lord willing, a day when you can pick up those books again. But for right now, momma, read the Word together, memorize it together, pray for them and with them, look at your kids when they squeal for you to, play, read, laugh, sing, cry, say you're sorry when you sin and make forgiveness real in your home. Hug them often, tell them that Jesus loves them in spite of their sin, that they need him MOST of all in their little lives, that no matter what they do or who they become that you will love them always and always and forever. 

Pretty, pretty please today think about all you have to do that is a choice (outreach, serving etc.) and ask yourself why you are doing them. Ask yourself if you are doing them because you feel like you have to. Ask yourself if you're doing them because you want people to think well of you (ouch!). Ask yourself if you're doing something because you believe that no one else will do it. Think and pray through all of your outside commitments and ask yourself how that effects your children (your husband too) personally. Are they constantly cranky because you're out of the house when they should be at home napping? You might have to give yourself the gift of no. Give others the opportunity to serve. 

I'm not saying don't serve. I'm not saying don't care (obviously you do.) I'm not saying, don't go when the Lord clearly is leading. I think you know what I'm saying. At least I hope you do....

Because here is the ugly truth that the world will never in a gajillion years admit: you can't do it all, momma. You just can't.

We have only one Savior. And it's not you. His name is Jesus. Let Him do the saving. You don't have to, thankfully. You just be a faithful momma. There is a time for all things. Right now your time is to be a mom. 

And that is enough.

in HIM,

kari pope (who might have written this letter to herself. just saying')

PS: if you are struggling here. A great resource on Mothering is Mom Enough. You can buy the book here at Amazon if you enjoy holding a book or download it for free here. They are excellent, encouraging, quick blog posts compiled into a book on motherhood by godly women whom I admire. 




Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Right Where You Are

For those that have trained as an athlete before, you know that the work can be grueling physically, mentally, and emotionally. The lines and lines I ran during basketball are unnumbered, as in I couldn't even begin to count how many I ran and ran and ran.  There were so many times I wanted to quit, but couldn't have looked myself in the mirror if I would have. I thought that all those lines meant that I would one day play for big time team that would make it to the NCAA Final Four. And I did for awhile, though we didn't make it to the Final Four.

God's plan for my life was different. He was going to use the mistakes I made along the way to bring me to the road that I will travel for the rest of my days. Those days of never giving up or giving in, of pressing into a peserverence that only few know were going to be needed to raise 8 children. Of course, I didn't know this at the time, but looking back I am so, very thankful for all those lines because they helped prepare me to be a mother. Yes, a mother.

This does not mean, contrary to the many comments I have received over the years, that God must have saw something in me that was really tough, so he gave me 8 children. He must have saw someone that could be a really great mother, so he gave me lots of kids. Actually it's quite the opposite.

I'll tell you what he saw.

Something that he sees in you, dear reader: A very broken person, who thought (and still thinks sometimes) that she's pretty tough, is capable of taking on the world on her own and to be needy means weakness. He saw a young person that would need to be broken again and again to see her greatest need: Himself.



And even when He got me there...even when I understood the grace it took to save me, still I think I'm not very needy. In fact, I mostly struggle thinking how things could possibly go on with out me.

My life is spent doing the very hardest job on earth: mothering.

If you are a mother, of even one child, you know exactly what I'm talking about. There was no soul on earth that could have told me at the time how humiliating being a mother would be. First, we are put under a microscope, in which every move your child makes, every thing you child eats, every fit your child throws in public, wherever your child sleeps, if your child is breast fed or not, is a giant neon sign pointing right at you, mom. We are expected to have children that say please and thank you, share, sleep through the night, and grow up to go to a good college and contribute to this crazy fallen world in some positive way. Our life's work and worth hinges on society's view of whether or not they are "successful."

No, God did not see something good and helpful in me that would somehow take these little people and change them into decent humans. He decided to use me where I was at despite of who I am. It's easy to see my family, or that family that moves to Uganda to be a missionaries, or the family that moves to the wrong side of the tracks to serve, or the family that sponsors 10 Compassion children, or the family who adopts out of foster care or from some other country and think that God saw something in them that makes them special and really great but that just isn't true. What really is true is that I needed to be humbled. In fact I need to be humbled daily and this is the family God has given me to do just that. God doesn't make it his habit to make really great people even better. In his crazy, upside down love, he takes detestable people and changes them from the inside of out, using whatever means possible.

No, we aren't robots. Yes, we have made choices, but I firmly believe that we choose the steps and God directs our paths. Actually I believe that is Biblical. Don't ask me how that works. I just know it does. He has used the personality that he created me to have, used my experiences along the way (and yes, even my sin) to get me to the place that he would have me be. Right here. Not over there. Or somewhere else, but right here.  That, of course, could change in the next second, but right now this is where he has me. Right here.

It's easy, when you are living counter culture (which every believer does right?), to believe that what you are doing is the "right" thing. So those of us that have lives that look very much different from the "normal" of those around us can get put on a very, very high pedestal and are given an even louder soap box to blog and write books about. Usually, this seems like what is promoted is that "they" should live or choose to live just like "us." It also may mean an exorbitant amount of time spent making sure others feel the weight of all we have had to leave behind on our humble quest to fix the world of wrong (please catch the sarcasm here.) Sadly, so many Christian women are so discouraged, floundering, asking themselves what exactly they are doing for the Lord when they read what is spewed out all over the Christian blogosphere (or read in many books) by other well meaning Christian women.

Again, God has not given me my life so that I can tell "my" story very loudly to everyone else and in the process making them feel very, very small and quite unimportant. He gave me the life I have, and I would argue the life you have (no matter how ordinary and unimportant you may feel that might be), to share His Story with the world...with your ordinary neighbor, friends and family. Those living right next to you. The ones your life intersects with regularly as you live and work alongside each other.

This is the point of your life, and mine. And it starts right at home, momma. Before you go looking at the blog (or read that book), take stock of how things are going in your own home. How are your own children doing? What are they facing that you are missing because you are looking at all that you "could be doing?" Whatever is going on inside your own home is just as important as whatever you think is more important that someone else may be doing.


This is not an excuse to only take stock at home and do nothing else. Though there are many days that teaching all my children feels like quite enough. And it is on those days. If you know me, and my heart, you know that I'm not advocating a spirit of uninterest in the world around us. Actually, quite the opposite; I so want you to see the value of serving those in your home right where you are and how it is not more valuable to be doing something else that seems bigger or more sacrificial. Yes, we speak up for the poor and marginalized. Yes, we serve with in reason. Yes, we look at the lives that other's are living around us and we Praise the Good Lord for what they're doing by his grace. Yes, we pray for missionary families and support them monetarily when we are able. Yes, to it all and more. But mostly, yes to what God has for you right now in your own home, right where you are.

It's like we, as mothers, have these beautiful pebbles in our hands. You may have 1, 2, 3 or more. I have 8. The number isn't what is important. They are all different sizes, shapes and colors. We are standing at the shore, all lined up. One by one we throw our pebbles into the deep, bluest of oceans. Some of our pebbles fall close, some in-between, some farther away than we would ever want them to be. They all have one thing in common: they all permeate ringed ripples. The ripples are close and small in the beginning, but those ripples they just keep get bigger and bigger...wider and wider.  Some of those ripples touch other pebble's ripples. They intersect. It's quite amazing actually.



What you do right now, right where you are will greatly effect whatever comes after you are long
gone because of the work that Christ has done and continues to do in you. 
Nothing is more important than that, Momma. 

Press on...right where you are.  


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." 

Amazing. 

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.