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." 


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...