needing a miracle

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Praying for my friends today. After two years (for the oldest child. one year for the youngest) with their current foster placements, it looks like they will be moved. This is my least favorite part of fostering. The part where if Children's Services were diligent and truly followed the law as written, the children would have already found permanency. Of course, every case is more complicated than simple common sense or following the law. But still. my heart is heavy today. No matter what's right and how it happens, two little children will be losing the only family they really know. Nothing makes that better. My friends will be losing their children. Nothing makes that better. Most people won't even acknowledge what happens to these children or to this couple as a loss. It's virtually the same as a death, but people probably won't send sympathy cards. They probably won't bring meals. They'll probably say, "Well, you knew this might happen." As if that makes it better. So my heart is very, very heavy.

I am not overcome by despair. My God is a God who can work miracles. That's what I'm praying for tonight. A miracle for this family. Amen.

restoring homes

Monday, March 28, 2011

At the very moment last week when I was praying over and writing about Baby R being an instrument of redemption in her family someday, my brother-in-law was experiencing that in his very own family. This is not my story to tell, but as briefly as I can tell it, he met his brother and sister this past week. They were adopted at birth. Now that they're both adults, the family is learning to know one another. The miraculous events of this past week have been humbling and awe-inspiring. For me, they have been such a beautiful picture of what can be, even in our own children's lives. We still don't know what the future holds for Mr. B and Baby R's position in our family, but to see the beginning of a redemptive end in another family touched by adoption...well, I have few words. I hope to someday share some more of this incredible story. God is a God of redemption and restoration. It's amazing. He's amazing.

My prayer for our own family is something I saw fulfilled this week in another. What an incredible God we serve.
Isaiah 58:12 - Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities. Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls and a restorer of homes.
Truly, thankfully, filled with wonder - counting the gifts this week:

132. tender goodbyes
133. plenty of cameras
134. genetic heritage - so plainly evident. Learning stories and traits for the littlest's future.
135. my youngest sister
136. new haircuts
137. school photographers who call my daughter, "Pinky" and the other little girl "Beautiful" and "all the other girls in the class had names that weren't their real names, but they were all pretty!"
138. families in the middle of redemption
139. restored homes



and my heart bwoke

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Disclaimer: For anyone who reads Lisa's blog, this is going to sound like a post she wrote. I'm really not trying to copy at all.
This is not a story that I would choose to take for my own.
So here's my disclaimer that this actually did happen to me this very morning. Unfortunately.

This morning, I was irritated. It was not a peaceful morning. The littlest woke up early with a sopping wet diaper, jammies, and bed. Picture day is today, and I have grave concerns over my kindergartner's ability to keep her hair nice until picture time. The husband woke up irritated about something, and then I was short and irritated with him, which surprise! did not help the situation at all. The dog would not stop barking, in spite of his new bark collar. And Mr. B decided that this is the morning that he would not get up and actually go to the bathroom, instead he would cry LOUDLY from his room about needing to go to the bathroom. And I lost it. A lot of anger and harsh words. Not enough tenderness.

Later, when everyone was calmer, I talked with Mr. B about it. I apologized for losing my temper and for yelling at him. I said, "Did you feel mad at me?" He says, "Yeah. And my heart bwoke."

Geez. Not my favorite mothering moment.
Glad for grace this morning. In the face of a little boy whose heart was bwoke, who still asked to be held and squeezed me tight, who sang a lullaby with me while our hearts healed together.

goodbyes

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I'm thinking about goodbyes today. Love, freedom, choices, pain, hell, redemption. All of these concepts wrapped up in this blanket of grief. The littlest had a goodbye visit with her dad last night. His rights were terminated while he was in prison. She hadn't seen him since she was about two months old, so he is definitely a stranger to her at this point. I knew this visit wasn't going to change anything, but it meant so much that I felt tense and sick and just all around anxious all day long. I wasn't sure how I would react, but it ended up being a much more intense experience than I imagined.

This was by far the most difficult thing that we've done with Baby R. It was such a blessing and a pleasure to meet her dad - one that I didn't think we would ever get. We made him a photo book of her time with us and gave him one of her one-year photos. He brought some photos of him and Baby R's older sister. Just to see her with her dad was so lovely. Seeing that they have the same ears, that he also has a gap in his teeth (poor child has it from both sides now), their faces are similar. He remarked on the ways she behaved that were similar to him. He was clearly scared and a little unsure on how to interact with her. She took awhile to warm up, but I had been praying since we found out the visit was occur that she would not hate him. She tends to be particular about men, and I didn't want it to suck for him any more than it had to.

It was just so emotional and painful, and I barely have the words to write about it even now. The value of the pictures and video we have are immeasurable. Not to mention the memories that W and I now have to share with her someday, the stories from his childhood, the regret he expressed, the responsibility he owned up to, all of that is priceless. It was just such a powerful picture of how our choices shape our lives. In ways we don't recognize or even intend. Love is such a powerful emotion, but also a decision. While I believe with all my heart that his love for her is real and sincere, the truth is that he didn't recognize that that love should shape some of his decisions. Heaven and hell are obviously concepts that are being argued and discussed at length right now, but this experience, to me, was just an example of how our choices aren't just for that mysterious after-death point of time.  Our choices matter right now. We can choose ways that bring us life, freedom, love, the glory of God's presence - that bring God's Kingdom to earth right here, right now. Or we can choose hell. Separation, pain, death, destruction - all of those things of hell are very real to Baby R's dad (and to us) today. We grieve for him. We grieve with him.

This is not the end though - we do not grieve as those without hope. We hope for redemption, both in his life and in Baby R's. Baby R's redemption has already begun in our family. We hope that she can someday be an instrument of healing and redemption in her dad's life as well. We have his address, hope to keep him updates, and would really like him to have some contact with her growing up. This is much larger than just two little children who are finding a home in our family. This is a whole great big story, and it's all about God. We are just so humbled and blessed to be a part of it right now.

in tribute to my oldest son

Monday, March 21, 2011

This week, I've been praying humility over my children. That they would not only have a correct view of themselves, but also a correct view of others. Always, always putting others ahead of themselves. That's what Jesus calls us to. That upside-down kind of life, the kind that brings heaven to earth, that shows the Kingdom of God is already here among us. (Side note: for some reason, this particular theology is quite controversial of late, for reasons that I definitely don't understand because Jesus Himself said it.)

My son already has this spiritual characteristic in spades. His humility humbles me. He takes any opportunity to serve others, and he has for his whole life. I don't see it every time, but I hear about it - from his teachers, from his coaches, from people at church, from even the parents of another player on his ball team! I tend to be hard on him because he's the oldest, because I know his potential, because I get frustrated when he just acts like a kid. I've been trying to encourage more than criticize with him because I've really been convicted that this is an area of growth for me and one where I can really speak life into him. To crush his spirit through my constant criticism when he doesn't 'measure up' would be a grievous sin on my part.

Ben has a special calling on his life, one that has been prophesied over him by more than one person since before he was even born. I tend to hold this a little close to my chest because of how special and private it is for me and for Ben. As a result, however, I have been guilty of forgetting just how special he is. (This is not to the detriment of my other children at all, just God working on my relationship with Ben specifically at this particular point in time) Really, those prophecies were given to me, not to Ben - he was too little to know or understand. So it's my job to continue to grow his spirit towards Christ, to teach him to love and obey, to encourage him to fulfill his true potential. He has a huge part to play in this great big God Story, and I need to help him grow towards it. Not to put huge expectations on him that he has to live up to, but to grow and encourage what is already there in him. I'm just newly aware and in awe of all the ways that Ben's heart looks like Jesus.

Ben, although I listed him last week instead of this week, is just one way that God is loving on me this week. Join me in counting the ways He's loving you...


120. the heritage and legacy of my community of faith

121. twenty-five declarations of love a day. for three days straight.
122. a canceled visit
123. new growth of green grass
124. open sunroofs
125. healing hands
126. years of prayers from a godly woman on behalf of my children
127. a free gift of healing - physical and emotional - TIME
128. the lost: found
129. God who knows what I need and provides before I ask or even know myself
130. the Word of God - living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword
131. the littlest comforting a crying, hurting older sister with a hug




ugh

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Today my daughter arrived home from school and announced that she has a boyfriend. The following conversation ensued:
Me: Umm, what?
Ben: It's Tyler K.
Maggie: I didn't even know he made me his girlfriend. He just did it, and I didn't know. He has two. He really loves girls.
Me: Umm, what?
Maggie: He just loves so many people.
Me: You can't have a boyfriend. You're not allowed.
Maggie: Why?
Me: Because you're a little girl.
Ben: Don't worry, Maggie. She won't even let me have one, and I'm in third grade.
Maggie: Who do you want?
Ben: I'm not telling.
Maggie: Is it a boyfriend or a girlfriend?
Ben: Boys don't marry boys.
Maggie: Why not?
Me: No one is having boyfriends or girlfriends. The end.

I feel like it's too young to introduce the gay marriage debate. I feel like it's too young for boyfriends and girlfriends. This is said a little tongue in cheek since my first 'boyfriend' was in the third grade. Joey Ryman...or Joey Cook. He had two last names. I'm not sure what his legal name status was during our brief tenure as a couple. He bought me a little bear tin at the Medway Festival with his tickets. My mom still puts it out at Valentine's Day. I don't think she knows its origin.

all's grace

Monday, March 14, 2011

Ann Voskamp often signs her blog, as well as both the email and personal correspondence I received from her, with this: All's grace.

Because it is. All of it. Even the past week where I felt angry, disappointed, doubtful, and so very dark - all's grace. I wrote more gifts this past week than I maybe ever had in seven days time. Were there just more gifts this week? Or is it the dark that made me better able to see?

All's grace...

104. opportunity to run out my frustrations at the gym
105. my son's outreach to his friends
106. a little girl, no church or bible training, still willing to pray aloud in public to a God she's just beginning to know
107. a listening, caring CASA worker
108. the littlest's father, who cares and loves enough to want to say goodbye
109. the warmth of sunshine
110. my husband's patience
111. sweet snuggles from a sick baby
112. gracious forgiveness for a mama's harsh words
113. the pudgy not-quite-baby, yet not-quite-yet-little-boy hand smoothing back my hair during tender bedtime moments
114. my adoption into the family of God
115. exercising creativity too-long dormant
116. the Christ-like-ness of the son God first gave me to love
117. gap-toothed smiles of my girls
118. my 3-year-old, still without a permanent home, who knows somewhere in his spirit exactly who his family is. And he's thankful for them.
119. God-given, scary, impossible, undiscovered, and yet-to-be-fleshed-out dreams



music that moves me

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Here, on this sunny Saturday, we're talking music that moves me. I'll start out with my upcoming concert season. 3 concerts in a month. Which is really something considering I attended one concert all of last year.


1) The Decemberists. Seeing them on April 23rd with my sisters and brother-in-law. They'll play amazing music. They'll use big words. I'll be happy.




2) The Civil Wars. Seeing them on March 31st, again with my sisters. Beyond happy about this, since I adore them. I literally took forever to decide which video to link to here. I stuck with an original - probably the most famous track of their album, even though it has an appallingly low number of hits, in my opinion. I will say though - their covers are just indescribably spectacular and compelling. Check out You Are My Sunshine, I Want You Back, or my personal favorite Billie Jean on YouTube.




3. John Mark McMillan - Seeing him on April 8th. My Valentine's Day present from my husband. This song moves me like none other. Resurrection, rolling the gravestones, adoring the Son of Glory drenched in love - the song is brilliantly written, and I have not felt so stirred in worship by a song for a very long time.


John Mark McMillan - Skeleton Bones from john mark mcmillan on Vimeo.


4. Here's an oldie, but worth the time - and my children can sing this song so loudly you can't hear yourself think. They ask to listen to it nearly every time we get in the car. You should hear them on the last chorus. Wait, if we've driven within a 2-mile range of your house, you probably have heard them on the last chorus. It's hilarious.




5. Finally, some of the smooth, smooth voice of a Mr. Adam Levine. Definitely not children's music. I did try to pick a live performance video - they tend to be safer than music videos. Mmm. Adam Levine. He makes me smile. And that's all I'm going to say about that.

sunshine, anger, earthquakes and Third Day

Friday, March 11, 2011

Today there is sunshine. It's fantastic. I am not a great lover of sunshine. When I moved to Texas, it was the hottest summer on record in many, many years, and the sunshine made me crazy. I used to pull my curtains and make the blinds as dark as possible in the afternoon. I know, I have issues. I actually love a rainy day. Unless it's been two consecutive weeks of rainy days. In that case, I love me some sunshine. Also, the children can go outside when it's not raining. Yes, sunshine is where it's at.

The sunshine is also helping to boost my mood just a little. Appointment Week did not go well. Not only did appointment week not go well, but we had to reschedule visitation for next week, so Appointment Week is stretched out to Appointment Week and a Half. Yesterday, I was so angry that I could barely speak. Or I spoke too much. I'm pretty sure both happened depending on who I was with. I still feel quite a bit of that anger today, but this morning I started out with a phone call from one of the team members. I felt a little better after that. At the very least, a little calmer.

I spent most of this morning watching earthquake/tsunami coverage. (Which mostly consisted of this same stupid shot of waves lapping the shore in Hawaii. Thanks for the riveting coverage, CNN.) I'm feeling grieved, as is everyone, over what's occurred and the depth of the devastation. However, I am really thankful I don't live somewhere where this could happen. The little earthquakes we have in Ohio are about the extent of anything I want to experience like that. The ocean coming up and covering up the land and washing away the houses - I don't even want to talk about it. Like I'm not scared enough of the ocean the way it is.

Finally, Third Day. I will have to go on record as saying that I am not a fan of Third Day right now or for many years. I liked early Third Day, but I have a lot of negative opinions about the K-Love factor on Christian music. That's probably a story for another time. That said, I don't even know how new this song is. Could be years old for all I know since I haven't heard a Third Day album I really liked since, umm, 2003. And that one was a worship album. Last regular album I really liked? Time. I'm pretty sure that was circa 2000.

I love this song a lot, but I also had a pretty negative reaction to this video when I first started watching it. I didn't really understand what they were doing. It seemed exploitative on a whole lot of levels, and frankly, it might be. You might not have that reaction, but if you do, stick with it. It gets good.


Third Day - Children of God (Director's Cut) from The Cox Brothers on Vimeo.

one hundred gifts

Monday, March 7, 2011

This week I reached one hundred gifts! It is daunting to think about one thousand, but there's no way I could stop now even if I tried. I catch myself watching something, hearing something, and thinking, "Eucharisteo." In a huge personal victory yesterday, I actually used this spiritual practice in the middle of a fairly tough situation with the family. I'm humbled to see how this has changed me. I'm blessed to feel the grace. In Chapter 9 of One Thousand Gifts, Ann talks about 'going low'. This is something that I feel is just not taught well in Christianity today. I been a member (or regular participant) of a number of different denominations/streams of Christianity, and none of them taught this well. Mennonites definitely have a corner on the market, but even there, it can very quickly cross that line into 'pride' of our humility.
Ann gives a quote from F.B. Meyer: "I used to think that God's gifts were on shelves one above the other, and that the taller we grew in Christian character the easier we should reach them. I find now that God's gifts are on shelves one beneath the other, and that it is not a question of growing taller but of stooping lower, and that we have to go down, always down, to get His best gifts."

We are definitely given the impression, if not outright taught, that the way to get God's gifts is to grow towards Him, to do the things He tells us, to fulfill our obligations, so to speak. I've actually never heard anyone teach this completely - the way to God's gifts is less of us. Not more of us towards God, not more of us in obedience - less of us. I've really been thinking about this in connection with Lent. Yesterday, Len Sweet tweeted this: We have made Lent less about denying ourselves than denying something TO ourselves. Isn't that so true of us as believers? We spend so much time denying stuff to ourselves, then filling it up with what we imagine God wants us to be full of. In denying ourselves, we are emptied to be filled by Christ. Filled with Him. Not the stuff we think is God's stuff. Not the thoughts we think are His thoughts. Not the deeds we think are the ones He wants us to do. Christ Himself. Humility. Denial of self. Thankfulness - Eucharisteo precedes the miracle! (...the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory - Colossians 1:26)

Today, with humility, with thanksgiving, with grace, with GREAT joy, I count one hundred gifts.
96. my oldest so willing to help when his mama is feeling ill
97. a fast fix to further car trouble
98. the changing of the seasons
99. being so in love with my Maggie

100. broken, yet still carried to the table
101. my husband's sweet forgiveness
102. faster and newer technology, making my life easier
103. a week and half of nearly normal family life, with much less trauma than usual



Book Love: A Million Miles in a Thousand Years

The paperback is out. Now there's no excuse not to buy it. I loved this book more than, well, maybe even more than Blue Like Jazz. You can link through to Amazon in my little widget over on the side of the page - see how easy I've made it for you? Seriously. It's worth the money. Everyone could use the reminder that you're living in a story and it's not about you.

Take Job, for instance:
"Job found contentment and even joy, outside the context of comfort, health, or stability. He understood the story was not about him, and he cared more about the story than he did about himself."
Our stories are what define us. I want to live one that ends well, that points to the One who started this whole Story in the first place.
"We live in a world where bad stories are told, stories that teach us life doesn't mean anything and that humanity has no great purpose. It's a good calling, then, to speak a better story. How brightly a better story shines. How easily the world looks to it in wonder. How grateful we are to hear these stories, and how happy it makes us to repeat them."


What story are you telling? from Rhetorik Creative on Vimeo.

quotes from A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, Donald Miller, 2009, Thomas Nelson

Appointment Week

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Today and tomorrow I am gearing up for Appointment Week. I can almost forget that we're not a 'normal' family when it's not appointment week. I can't decide if having everything scheduled all at once is of benefit or makes things harder. There is something to be said for getting all the crappy stuff out of the way all at once. Monday will start us off with a therapy appointment. Which would normally be OK, but since we'll likely be talking about visitation on Tuesday, it'll just start the downward spiral. Then Tuesday morning, Baby R has a well-child check. I plan to use this opportunity to push them pretty hard about this rash that they're calling eczema. I'm just not convinced, but I don't feel like I can trust my instincts because I've never had brown skin nor parented a child with brown skin. However, do I really feel like the twenty-five year old white, childless nurse practitioner is infallible in her diagnosis? Not so much.

Then, Tuesday night, we'll have the visit. Hooray. I am exceedingly grateful that this was spread out a month from last time. The last week and a half have seemed positively normal. If we're going to have to do this, then a month apart is much preferable to every week. I plan to thank the caseworker for that this next week...and then I plan to ask her again to stop the visits entirely. She comes on Wednesday. I expect it to be like every other visit. No news.

Thursday is our team meeting. I'm really failing to see the point of these at this point. There's really nothing new. We 'gossip' about what people have heard about the birth family. We talk about how terrible visits are. We talk about our own lives. Nothing gets decided for the kids. I'm so eager for this to be over. It's such a dilemma right now because we know that this is absolutely the end, and yet, the end never comes. I'm starting to feel like even if they decide to remove Mr. B and Baby R from our home, I just want it to happen already. Of course, I don't really want that to happen, but I just want something to happen. I want to know something. Supposedly, the only obligation that we have left is a psychiatric eval on both kids, which we were told would happen at the beginning of January. Still haven't received a call.

I also expect to get a call from the CASA worker tomorrow morning asking when he can come out this week. He usually calls around this time. He usually leads with this kind of thing, "I'm not going to tell you what happened; I'm gonna let the caseworker tell you. But it's gonna blow your mind!" Then I'm left in a panic for the next hours/days until we find out what he's talking about. It's almost never bad, but it's just the way he says stuff. I love him. But I find this particular quirk to be slightly annoying.

So, that's appointment week. It will suck. It will suck big time, but then it will be done for another month, probably. Will we know something more after this week? After the past 11 months with this particular case, I can say with 99% certainty, absolutely not. We will be frustrated. We will hate the system. We will talk ourselves out of hating the system. We will feel crazy, especially once Tuesday hits and Mr. B starts the crazy fear/anxiety trauma stuff. We will cry and yell and laugh and yell and cry some more. It happens every time. But. It's worth it. Every bit of it. When Mr. B looks up at me from reading The Little Engine That Could and smiles (that book reads like this: choo, choo. choo, choo. Choo, Choo. CHOO. CHOO. CHOO. CHOO. It's pretty exciting)...when Baby R runs to get her jammies and binky because she just loves her bed, when she hugs me goodnight and calls me Mama...when Mr. B tells Maggie he loves her...when I see hope and kindness and depth of character developing in all of us, it's worth it. I hang onto that during appointment week. I need it. I need to remember that in spite of what the state says, in spite of the political correctness that we need to stick with, in spite of the law not being on our side (yet. we hope.), that God has made us a family. We're all in it together, one long week at a time.
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