bloglove: best of the year

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Christmas is busy for everyone, myself included, thus the bit of silence here. Just when I thought my last scheduled event had passed on Saturday, I found out there’s another this next Saturday. Sigh. At least the next few days are pretty clear. Maybe you also have some extra time over the next few days to read some blog posts. It’s been quite awhile since I’ve shared some favorites, so here’s my best of the year posts. Sit with your computer or tablet or phone or whatever you like – just make sure you have a hot drink – and enjoy! (and as always, click through for the whole post and show some fellow bloggers some love)

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Several weeks ago in my bible study with my precious mama-friends, we had to pick one word to describe God. Like if we could only use one word to describe God to a friend who knew nothing about Him, which word would we pick? With no question or hesitation, I will always, always pick Love. All the other attributes of God, in my opinion, can be traced back to these three words: God is Love. And so, I give you these two posts that tell the same story in different ways, and both of them are my absolute favorite posts of the entire year. This is the Jesus I know. This is the Jesus I want my kids to know. This is the Jesus that I want you to know too.
On my beautiful, remarkable, redemptive, all-knowing Jesus Love:
Seen and Known - Jonathan Martin for SheLovesMagazine.com

“This kind of story has the power to transform a city: the story that says, ‘My past has been messy, and so is my present. But I met a man who knows all about it … and still I am fully loved.’”

Finding God in the Ambiguity - Jonathan Martin

“The real God revealed to us in Jesus of Nazareth is the God who is real enough to touch us in our own ambiguity.  When I’m clear or when I’m cloudy, He is no less real, because He does not exist simply to prop up my own limited understanding of how the world is ordered.”


On motherhood and calling:
What my Mother Taught Me - Shauna Niequist

“And the last thing my mom teaches me, through her words and her actions, is that if you live a life of radical and honest prayer, if you allow yourself to be led by God’s spirit, no matter how far from home and familiarity it takes you, you won’t have to worry about what you want to be when you grow up. You’ll be too busy living a life of passion and daring.”

The Beautiful Collision of Family and Calling - Jennie Allen and Rebekah Lyons

"In order to have a calling, you must have a Caller. Calling is rooted in the voice and the whisper of God."


On adoption and all that:
FAQ: About Adoption - The Stanley Clan

“Adam and I have discovered a surprising comfortability with living right there in the tension between ours and not-ours. Often, we will engage in conversations with people about how we want to foster. Typically, the person we’re talking to will say something like oh I’ve always wanted to foster, but I just wouldn’t ever be able to give the babies back. That’s too hard. And because I am a people pleaser/conflict-avoider of epic proportions, I typically nod my head in understanding and murmur something along the lines of oh yes that would be entirely too hard.
But here’s the take-a-deep-breath truth: Just because something’s hard, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it.”

When There is Still Hope - The Stanley Clan

“And so we measure our success not with statistics or growth charts, but with love. And we hold our ground, refusing to be moved by what the world tells us we should be doing. Even when we trip over disappointment and set-backs, we regain our footing in the sure and ever-present promise of hope in Jesus. Because the darkness will not win, and success neither belongs to us nor can be measured by us anyways. Don’t we follow and chase after a God who delights in turning things on their head anyways? Where the first are last, and to find your life you lose it? We hold our ground, standing in solidarity with our neighbors, in an unexpected and beautiful kinship with those around us.”

Live While You're Alive - Christina Gibson

“Wake up and embrace a dangerous path, because we know who we are and we know the One who gives strength.”

Forgotten Fridays: Love is Not Wasted - Maralee Brady for The Forgotten Initiative

“Foster moms aren’t magical. We don’t have unbreakable hearts or a different kind of love that protects us from pain. We love and grieve and then love again. We do it because we know that love is not divided. Love is not wasted.”


On parenting:
What I Won't Tell You about My Ballet Dancing Son - Ashleigh Baker for A Deeper Story

“When you ask my dancing son about this passion he carries and you catch my eye, slightly uncertain how to proceed, I won’t try to convince you this was all his idea or give ten examples of his father’s unwavering pride or waste breath assuring you that my second grader isn’t gay. I’ll simply tell you what he said to us after his first Nutcracker performance last winter: ‘Mama, it feels like my heart is flying when I’m dancing. I think God made ballet because he knew I’d love it.’”

On Being a Locksmith - Nish Weiseth

“I told her that finding the key is hard - it's small and obscure and each key looks totally different for each kid. But that's not even the hardest part. The worst thing about it is after finding a key that works for a while, something inside his little brain changes the lock, then you have to go find a new key.”


Do you have some favorite posts from this past year? Link them up in the comments!

 

[image: Death to the Stock Photo]

the not-yet miracles

Friday, December 20, 2013

'winter' photo (c) 2003, Seth Anderson - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

I wish that Christmas-time was all wonders and miracles and joy all the time. It’s just that we live this broken, painful world where bad things happen. Maybe you’re struggling with the idea of miracles this season.

Maybe you don’t believe that a miracle will occur with your life, in your marriage, with your children or job or friends or family.

See, Christmas is filled with all the expectation of fullness of joy and happy family memories and life is just like the J. Crew commercial, yet for most of us, it doesn’t end up quite like that. The things I’m hoping for, believing for, praying for miracles for…those things haven’t quite come to pass yet.

A sweet boy that we loved as our own is now in a precarious living situation with seemingly no hope for a bright future.

A friend is in a marriage that just isn’t working, stuck in an unhappy place.

A new friend has lost literally everything. All of her belongings, her old home, and the man she loves. She’s starting over and is full of fear and regret.

Our sweet baby girl has an uncertain future.

Our youngest two children are longing to understand why they can’t be with their first mama.

Maybe, like me, you’re grieving a change within a treasured friendship or you’re hurting with a friend whose life and marriage are full of pain or you’re hurting on behalf of your children. Maybe you are up against a truly impossible situation. Maybe you are full of pain and heartache, and you are consumed by fear.

I hear you. I’ve been there, and I’m there with you still. Sometimes the pit seems too deep to claw out of. Yet I know Someone who’ll give you a lifeline. I’m borrowing some challenges from my husband’s sermon on Sunday – first: tell the One who can work the miracles. Trust Him to do it for you. And secondly: tell someone else. We are given one another for a reason. Tell a friend who can hold you up when you feel like falling. Tell someone who can trust God on your behalf when you feel like you have no trust left to give.

Even when this season brings no joy: You are not alone.

the baby miracle

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

My last little Christmas miracle to share this season is brief, because most of her story and our part of it isn’t ours to share right now. But the tiny baby who we brought home from her little corner of the NICU when she was one day shy of two months old continues to surprise and amaze us every day. She has the sweetest, most laidback disposition, but make no mistake, she is a fighter. Surviving an emergency delivery at 30 weeks, arriving into this world at less than three pounds, then sailing along to become this fourteen pound, medically healthy, developmentally maturing beautiful seven and half month old baby – that’s the work of a warrior.

‘Though she be but little, she is fierce.’ – Shakespeare

We get to parent two children who did not have a good start to life. We know what it’s like when you’ve missed out on months and years of healthy attachment and normal brain development. We know first-hand what happens to a child down the road when they haven’t known the nurturing love of a family. We have this tragic knowledge now built into our family’s DNA, and thus the whole family knows this thing we’re doing for one precious baby is more important than most people realize.

When she sits on our laps on the loveseat under our enraptured gazes and IMG_1452encouraging smiles and looks from mama to papa and back again, she knows she is loved and adored. She trusts that everything we do is for her best interests. She feels safe and secure. Given that she’s in foster care for a reason, it’s not a huge stretch or a violation of anyone’s privacy to say that she would not have received this if she had gone home right away with her mom. No matter what happens in her future, this knowledge will be permanently built into her brain development. She will always know what it feels like to be part of a family with two parents and multiple siblings who would do anything for her. We don’t know what her story holds; we only know that God put her in our family for a reason. The fact that she survived with the deck stacked so against her to end up here, right now, healthy and loved: that’s not chance. That’s a miracle.

the fire miracle

Saturday, December 14, 2013

In my mom’s kitchen, for almost all of my childhood and adult years, there sat a kerosene heater. When you grow up in a house built during the Civil War, you need some supplementary heating during the winter. Many a child has learned how to be safe around a very hot heater in a fairly small space, and mine have been no exception.

In the winter after Brenden and Raniah came to live with us, we were in the middle of some of the ugliest and hardest parts of their foster care case. Things were not going well, and I had so much fear for their future. We were sitting in the kitchen one winter morning, Brenden was warming his hands towards the heater, and I was trying to keep a careful eye on him during our conversation. His hands were getting too close, and both my mama and I cautioned him about his safety. She reached over to turn the heater off just as a precaution, and the minute she touched the knob, he laid his little three-year-old hands flat on the top of the metal kerosene heater.

I don’t know if you’re familiar with this type of heater, but they get blazing hot. This happened to be one of the older types without a protective grate on the top of it. His hands lay directly on the metal that been just a few inches over the open flame.

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Amid our choruses of ‘no, no, no’, Brenden immediately began crying. I jumped up from the rocking chair, picked him up and carried him to the sink to begin running cool water over his hands. My mom went to get some other supplies. I left his hands under the water a good long while, then we sat down on the chair, my hands on his head, terror in my heart, and my mama turned his hands over and began to put vitamin E oil on them. As she gently rubbed his bright red hands with the oil, I began to whisper prayers over him, calming him and us down together.

We were looking at each other in some confusion when we realized his hands were not burned. I was cautious, assuming that maybe the burns would show up later or some such nonsense. Not believing. I saw him place his whole palms straight on the top of the heater. No amount of actual visible evidence was convincing me that he was not seriously injured. Yet he wasn’t.

“…Are you sick? Call the church leaders together to pray and anoint you with oil in the name of the Master. Believing-prayer will heal you, and Jesus will put you on your feet.”
James 5:13-14

My mama knew right away. She believed it was a sign for us, for our family, for Brenden that God was with him. That He was going to take care of him. That no matter what Brenden’s future held, and we just didn’t know what was going to happen at that point, God had His hand of protection on our sweet boy. She wanted to tell people, asked me to share about it the next Sunday at church. I just couldn’t. I couldn’t go to that place. I was so oppressed by the fear and the deep, dark places that we were sitting in alongside our son, that I couldn’t even talk about it. The most obvious of miracles, with the most unexplainable happening, and I just couldn’t accept it.

Today, finally, after three years, I can’t even write this without crying. Both for the miracle that happened to my precious boy and for the doubt that kept me from it for so long. The God that protected Brenden from horrific burns is the same God who sheltered him during that miraculous meeting regarding his future. The God who plucked Brenden and his sisters from the hell they were living in is the same God who gave them new names, placed them in families that are helping them heal today.

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.
Isaiah 43:1-2

That’s the kind of miraculous Fire God that we serve. The God who can ignite a dripping wet altar with fire from heaven is the same God who loves us with a passion that we cannot even comprehend. This furious love – this is the love that can beat death and sickness and injury and trauma and abuse and neglect and loneliness and rejection and shame. Christmas reminds us that while that Love came in the most vulnerable of forms, it blazes bright like fire with glory and light, and we will not be overcome.

The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness; the darkness couldn’t put it out.
John 1:5

the conference room miracle

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

'DSCF3958' photo (c) 2008, Joe Loong - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

While I continue to write about foster care and our journey through the system while we’re still in the midst of it, there is so much that I can’t share for confidentiality reasons during the process. Not only that, but there is a lot that we don’t even know until after the whole thing is over. This is one of those things…

 

We were at the end of our children’s foster care case. Surrounding most foster care cases, at least in our county, there is a team of people who are working different angles of the case. (I explained some of the team members here.) This team typically meets monthly, although in this case, it all led up to one big scheduled meeting where we were going to hash out the different opinions on our children’s future. There were differing opinions on whether our two children would remain in our home or whether they would be reunited with their older sister in a brand new adoptive home. The reasons for or against aren’t particularly important to this story, except to say that we obviously felt it best and healthiest for our children’s future for them to remain in our home.

We were told this meeting would not be a decision-making meeting. Even so, we felt like this particular meeting was the most important thing that would ever happen in our children’s case. Looking back, I’m not sure why. No one told us that. If we knew then what we know now, we probably wouldn’t even have believed it mattered at all, but somehow it settled in our spirits as something of supreme importance. So much so that I fasted the entire day before. For non-religious people, fasting probably sounds like the most ridiculous thing ever. For more-religious-than-me people, you’re probably wondering why I feel like this was important to mention, but here’s the thing about me and fasting: I suck at it. No really. I’m terrible at it. I believe it’s of great value, but self-discipline is not my strongest character quality. Thus, it’s pretty important for my part of this story that you know that. I fasted, and it wasn’t even hard.

I prayed that day like I have never prayed before or since. Face to the ground, great groaning prayers because I was all out of words to even say. I struggle with praying bold prayers, but this time. This time, even in the middle of fear and trembling, I poured my heart out for my children.

The next morning, we dropped the kids with my mom and headed out to the agency. The urge to vomit didn’t lessen the whole way there. I had sent copies of my notes from the whole case to the CASA worker, and they had been distributed. I had pled our case to anyone who would listen, and I knew this was beyond us. Before we went in, we broke our fast with some grape juice and bread there in the parking lot. (Perhaps we should’ve used the real stuff to calm the nerves…)

When we walked in that room, we were two of fourteen people sitting around that huge conference table. People from different agencies, different departments. People who knew our children personally and people who were just reading a case file. All of them there for just three small children. According to several of the people in attendance, to their knowledge there had never been this kind of meeting before in our county. According to someone in the agency I spoke with recently, there hasn’t really been one since either.

The longer it’s been, the more specifics I forget, but the atmosphere in that room is burned into my head. It was a divine moment. If there had been an angel choir singing audibly, I would not have been surprised. It was that kind of holy. Sometimes we just get a glimpse of the unseen, and I have only a handful of times experienced it like I did on that day. Probably none of those people in attendance felt that the same way we did, but for that many people from that many different disciplines to all care enough about three children to take a couple hours out of their day for a meeting that most of them weren’t required to attend…that was miraculous.

When we walked out of that room, we were no more informed on our children’s future than when we walked in. When we got back to the car though, the relief just washed over me. Both Wendell and I knew that what had just happened was sacred. No matter what the decision was going to be, we knew the best had been done. There was no more to do than what we had just experienced. We were at peace with that.

What we know now: before that meeting, the major players in our team had pretty much already made up their minds. Our children were going to be moved. Even just typing that makes me feel a little nauseated inside still. I’m glad we didn’t know at that point – I’m not sure I had the capability of coping with that kind of knowledge then. At that point, I really believed they were still conflicted on what decision to make. Now, I don’t believe they were conflicted as much as they were delaying the inevitable of informing us of their real opinions.

What we know now: that meeting, and one man’s voice in particular – a man who had no stakes in the outcome of this case, a man who had no compelling reason to attend this meeting other than his sincere care for children, made up the mind of one of the team members as to what the best future looked like for these kids. After the meeting, the agency department heads stuck around and asked that team member their opinion. After the opinion was given, we are told that team member was asked, “You know what you just did, don’t you?” (The implication being that that specific voice carried the weight which swayed the decision.)

What we know now that we also knew then: that meeting changed the course of our children’s future. I don’t know how I knew that back then, but everything we’ve learned since then has proven our instincts to be true.

So…miracles. I believe they exist. I believe this was one. One that might be explained by lots of logical answers and reasoning, one that we might chalk up to emotions and coincidences and ordinary happenings. Does that make it any less a miracle? I say no. I claim this for my children. The battle for my children’s future in that room is just a glimpse of the battle fought for our souls every day. The passion displayed by those who cared even the slightest amount for these three kids is just a taste of the furious love our Savior has for us. Heaven breaks through, supernatural made plain, and there are three children who have safe and happy families and a brighter future because of it. Three children who are healing day by day and who are beginning to build a redemptive future together as siblings, even if they don’t live in the same house. Miraculous. Without a doubt.

fire God

Monday, December 9, 2013

'fire' photo (c) 2007, matthew venn - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

It’s Christmastime, and I’ve been thinking about miracles and fire and a God who blazes bright with the unexplainable. God as a small baby – I find it incomprehensible to think about it as history, and even more ridiculous to think about what it would be like if that happened today. A baby? We talk a lot in Christian circles about Jesus’s return to the earth. We think we have a handle on the plans. But what if it isn’t like that at all? What if he came as a baby again? The most unlikely of places, the most unlikely of forms. Would I believe?

I find myself pondering my own acceptance of this burning hot God who can ignite even the dampest of spirits. When we think miracles, we mostly think of raising the dead, healing diseases with just a word, turning the impossible into possible. We think of things that we believe just don’t happen everyday, or if we’re honest – ever. The converse is true too. We say miraculous when we really mean fortuitous. I would venture a guess that this is probably the more common usage for most of us. I have a pair of plaid shoes that I call my Christmas Miracle shoes. I found them on clearance a few Decembers ago for a couple of dollars. Is that a miracle? Really?

Truth is, I’ve seen some miracles myself. Both the kind that could be explained away by circumstance and one pretty spectacular one that can’t. But I wrestle still. There’s something in me that has a hard time bringing myself to believe in a God that burns so fiercely that He can subvert natural law. In my head, yes, oh yes, that’s the kind of God I want to serve. The mystery of this brilliant God I love? Well, the mystery is usually my favorite part. Until it comes to actually and truly believing. Trusting God to do the impossible? Not just what we call impossible, which is often just the improbable, but the truly impossible? Eh. Sometimes I’m just not so sure.

For the next few posts, I’ll be sharing about my own experience with the miraculous.  Divine encounters, impressive coincidences, unexplainable supernatural events – doubt and belief and fear and wonder set ablaze by a God who sends fire from heaven, with a God who controls angel armies, yet still just longs to ignite our hearts with His love.

what I was into–october/november edition

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

what I read:

I’m not sure what took me so long to start reading Divergent – well, I am sure. It’s the fact that it’s a dystopian society young adult novel – but I loved the first two books. I think the story is better than The Hunger Games, but the writing definitely leaves a little to be desired. I’m done with books 1 and 2. I’ve heard very mixed reviews of the last book, but I’m eager to finish the series.

I read two Sophie Hannah books: Kind of Cruel and Little Face. I very much enjoyed both of them. They’re very similar, and I found them to be the perfect sort of reading when what I want to be is entertained.

I am just about through Deep & Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attend by Andy Stanley. Andy Stanley writes highly practical books for those involved in church ministry. We attend different kinds of churches, but I think there’s a lot of useful information there to be used in any type of church.

also read: Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro, Tapestry of Fortunes – Elizabeth Berg, Multiply – Francis Chan, Self-Inflicted Wounds: Heartwarming Tales of Epic Humiliation – Aisha Tyler

 

what I listened to:

The Heist - Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – I love this album, and the content is good enough that I’m going to purchase it for my eldest. Clean version, of course.

The Glorious Unfolding – Steven Curtis Chapman. I just can’t help myself. Even my semi-post-evangelical, slightly-hipsterish, cynical-about-all-the-KLove self. I love me some SCC.

 

what I watched:

Funnily enough, most of the new stuff I like this year has come in the form of sitcoms. I am VERY picky about my sitcom watching, but I really enjoyed even the more traditional ones from this year. Namely, Brooklyn Nine Nine (the hub’s fav), The Michael J. Fox Show, and Trophy Wife. I know, I know. Trophy Wife has the most horrendous name and terrible premise. But it’s hilarious. I promise.

In the drama portion, we are loving The Blacklist. We’ve missed Alias immensely, and this totally fills that void. I hang my head in shame to tell you that I also love Reign. Admittedly, I began watching because I have an emotional attachment to the show. (Anne of Green Gables!) I just found myself sucked in. To another CW show. Shame shame shame.

 

My list is a bit sparse. My fall has been a little crazy, but I’m glad to finally be getting this done today. And as always, I’m linking up with Leigh! She’s celebrating one year of link-ups and hosting a giveaway. Write your list and join the fun!

 

never once

Monday, November 25, 2013

In the middle of an overwhelmingly emotional week of foster care, I’m reminded through a thousand little ways that God loves these kids so much more than I do. Whether it’s an emotional, awkward yet still precious conversation with Sweet M’s mom or a reminder about the possibility that an impending court date will have an important impact in the life of Baby D, prayers that we didn’t even know were being prayed for a child who we didn’t even know needed them, or just the sweet encouragement of friends who understand what we’re dealing with, a reminder that we’re not doing this alone, I am resting in the fact that I am not the rescuer. I am not in control of all of this. I may not know what the future holds, but I know that we can continue to be faithful where we at. That what we’re doing isn’t wasted.

falling on grace

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

I spent last Saturday in a room full of twenty-some women, adoptive moms and grandmas and adoptees alike. Grace ran deep, and you will find no more tangible representation of the heart of God than in a room full of women who have parented children whose stories are being redeemed from the worst kinds of trauma and hell. It was messy and painful and heavy and beautiful.

Given the ways our hearts all beat for the same things, I was caught a little off-guard to overhear some of the conversation at dinner. Foster care, even in the world of adoption, still kind of gets a bad rap. At the risk of overgeneralization, most people just don’t get it. Even other adoptive moms.

“You really have to have a different mindset to do that.”
”I just couldn’t give a child back.”

Today, I have to be the very first in line to say that I am struggling with the mental and emotional fortitude that this journey requires. This particular case is requiring a depth of emotion that I wasn’t prepared for. I’ve struggled with fear in a way that I haven’t in a very long time. I’ve struggled with guilt over my feelings. I spend every drive to the visits fighting back nausea and every evening when I snuggle her to sleep fighting back tears. Different mindset indeed.

I’m intimately acquainted with what it takes to ‘give a child back.’ The grief and pain that accompany even the best of those situations is intense. You do it anyway. It’s a mistake to assume that truly loving a child so much means that you would never be able to give that child back to his or her parents. The opposite is true. It takes MORE love to let a child go than to grasp them close. Real love wants the best for someone, even if that best comes at your own expense.

Foster care is complex and conflicted, and sometimes I wish that I were called to do something far easier. I want to believe that I am really making a difference, but that becomes difficult when we receive calls to take back children that are re-entering care after having been reunified with their parents. It becomes difficult when we become familiar with the look of trauma in a child’s eyes, and then we see that exact look in a facebook-posted picture of a little boy that we loved and prayed for and sent back to his family full of hopes for the future. I know what that look means, and it makes me doubt everything we’re doing. It makes me doubt if anyone truly cares for all these kids. It makes me doubt if it’s worth it.

And that’s where I have to break from the whole doubtful, painful mindset thing. IT might not be worth it. But the sweet baby asleep upstairs in her crib IS worth it. She’s worth everything. She’s worth the pain it causes me and our family. She’s worth the doubt and fear and disrupted schedule. She’s worth every single moment we can give her. We might not see the fruition of this time she spends in our home. We might not be the ones who benefit from the healthy attachment and brain development that we’re helping her to build. Is that really what it’s about? How I feel? Whether I have the right mindset? Whether or not I feel like I want to ‘give her back’?

That’s just not what it’s about at all. This is her story, not mine. Ultimately, it’s God’s story we’re all just a part of anyway. He loves each of those kids that have entered and left my home more than I ever could. Do I really believe that? Do I truly believe that each life is God-designed? That each person is worthy?

This is the kind of story I want to be living: the one that tells every tiny person we get to share our home with that they are worthy. That they are created special. That they have a purpose. I am honored to be a part of that. I am blessed beyond measure to get to be, in most cases, the very first person that has ever whispered those truths into their little ears.

Even when the pain is real and the deep threatens to pull us under, we keep our eyes up. Focused on the One who calls us, for He is faithful. We stand on the promises, and when we can’t, we’re falling on grace. This is a story worth telling.

weekend update

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

IMG_2094Last weekend, we had the opportunity to take our kids on a trip. All five of them. On an airplane. In an incredible act of bravery/stupidity, we decided all-in. So we packed up our four suitcases, 2 diaper bags, 4 backpacks, car seats, and tote bag for the random things that didn’t fit anywhere else, and because someone needed to drive us to the airport (and our vehicle only seats 7), we stuck the oldest on the floor in between the seats and headed out.

Things went…

SO well.

I know. I didn’t see that coming either.

They had us sitting 2-2-2. We successfully got one of the people next to us to switch so Maggie could be moved near the parents, but the other person refused. He ‘paid extra for a window seat’. (He watched TV the whole time, but whatevs.) Thus my eldest sat alone. The guy beside him was extremely kind, said he’d help Ben and keep an eye on him, but then when the snack cart came through, he ordered wine. I feel you, man.

The less than considerate individual who refused to switch ended up in the window seat. Row in front of him: Wendell and the two girls. Row he was in: me, Sweet M, Brenden. Row behind us: a mom and grandma with a two-year-old who kicked the ENTIRE flight and a baby who cried. Glad you paid for that window seat dude. I offered you a seat with adults. Joke is on you.

Apart from our daughters loudly yelling “WHOA!” every time the plane changed altitude or turned like we were on some kind of roller coaster, everything was quiet. We don’t get out much, clearly. It was the nicest plane I’ve ever flown on, mostly because it was new, so that helped. Individual televisions, roomy seats, and fortunately American still gives free drinks.

Our weekend was truly lovely. Good food, good friends, beautiful weather, and lots of children to entertain one another. My husband is never more relaxed than when we visit these particular friends, and it does my heart good to see him acting more like himself than he has in months. We breakfasted with friends from our old church on Sunday and then went to service together. Even though it’s been twelve years since we attended there, it still felt like home. I remembered all of the reasons why I loved it even though it’s changed size and location and membership quite a bit.

I would move back to Texas in a second if we felt we were called back there. We came into our own there. We built our marriage, established our values, grew into our faith, had our first child - all within the loving embrace of that area and the people we were surrounded with. I miss it. Right now, our life is a lot of pouring out. That time in our lives was a precious time during which we were poured into. We miss our friends there. Not that we don’t have friends now – we do, and we love them immensely…but there was something unique about the way we connected with those couples we grew to love there. We had many mentors there, older couples who spent their time and money on us, helping us, teaching us, loving us. I miss all of that so very much.

Nostalgia. It’s such a interesting emotion. Sweet. Some bitter. Full, but with pain. It’s definitely not regret. I love where we live. I love our lives. I know we are exactly where we’re supposed to be. In truth, I wouldn’t move back to Texas in a second because we have the most amazing little baby who belongs here right now. We have two other children who had to born here. Our family couldn’t have been the same if we’d stayed, and it won’t be the same if we move back. Texas, as I remember it, wouldn’t be the same if we moved back either.

So.

Vacation is nice.

I loved it. I loved it a lot.

Real life is better. Even with a crying baby who has determined that given her experience this past weekend, it is absolutely inappropriate for her to ever be put down to play on her own again. Where are the myriads of people who held her and loved her and talked to her and put her to sleep and never left her alone?? She wants to live there too.

Back to the beautifully broken lives we’re living here and now. For all of us.

take heart

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

I sat down to write a different post full of the books I’ve read, the TV I’m watching, and the music I’m listening to, but I just don’t have it in me right now. I find that I don’t have much in me right now at all. After a month-long decline into thyroid craziness again, and the recent week and a half of trying to climb back out, I physically don’t have much reserve. After ten weeks of nothing progressing on our current foster care case, and then the past two weeks of resumed visits, I emotionally don’t have much reserve. Looking forward to the next month where I have an already full schedule for the entire month, I mentally don’t have much reserve either.

There’s just this:

“From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”
Psalm 61:2

I know too many people whose hearts are faint right now. Friends who have lost daughters, husbands, pastors, nephews, friends. Friends and family who are battling physical and mental disease. Parents who are saying goodbye to children they’ve loved as their own for months and months. Others who are just overwhelmed to the brink of exhaustion. My story is not unique nor is my life harder than everyone else’s. We are in the middle of hard stuff, friends. It’s ok to say so. Life is hard. This world is broken. Today there is pain and suffering and brokenness and death. I don’t have answers; I just know what direction to head in.

Right now? Tomorrow? Every day after that. I’m heading to Jesus.

Take heart.

 

 

Oh friends: Love wins.

the glory of it all

Monday, October 21, 2013

Four and a half years, seven different children, and some days I feel old hat at this whole foster care thing. We know pretty much how things generally work. We’ve spent our fair share of time at home visits, in team meetings, waiting rooms at the agency, that hallway outside the courtroom, learning to know the whole system by name. We know enough to know you can’t ever count on anything for sure. It’s a far cry from our first placement where their three months with us felt like an eternity. Now, we’re four months into this whole thing with Sweet M, and I feel like we’ve barely even begun.

Ten weeks without visits can lull you into a sense of complacency. Normality. You forget you’re not a regular family. You forget that she doesn’t really belong to you at all.

Then someone hits a restart button, and you’re dropping her off at visits again. Handing her over to a stranger, but a stranger who knows her in more intimate ways than you ever can. Heart in the throat, willing the tears to wait until the car, telling this sweet baby’s mama about her likes and dislikes, her schedule and medical issues.

It’s not sunshine and roses for anyone. Sweet M is unsettled and angry at being left with a stranger, her mama is upset and brokenhearted at this tiny baby who doesn’t know her at all, and I’m stuck in the middle. The everyday mama to this precious life, the only one she really knows, yet really not her mama at all. I am. I’m not. No matter how many times we do this, no matter how many children I give my heart to, the pain always rises. It’s a piece of your heart every time, and there are days when I wonder how much more I can give away. How many times I can say goodbye. How much longer I can give my everything to a child who deserves every single bit of me and yet still hang on.

I am swallowed by worries and hurt, and even as I sink to my knees, I know it’s into an ocean of grace. I know there’s strength for the road ahead. I know it’ll find me even when I can’t see through the fog. God is faithful, again and again, and hope is more powerful than fear. So I sit in our minivan in the visitors’ parking lot, a Love Wins sticker decorating our dirty back window, and I sing truth out – grace like an ocean - I’m sinking with hands raised, tears flowing, because I know I’m at the intersection of holy. Heaven meets earth, and in the dirt, there’s glory.

isn’t it ironic (and by that, I mean it’s interesting. Ironic is a largely mis-used word.)

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

1

In case I ever thought God didn’t have a sense of humor, He continues to prove me wrong.

I say I’m too scared and introverted to do new things, and He says, “here’s this conference you can go to. Alone.”

I say no more babies, He says, “here’s the smallest, tiniest one ever.”

I say being on screen makes me so uncomfortable that I want to throw up, and He says, “hey! you know what would be awesome? Doing another video.” At least this time it was for a fancy-schmancy fundraising event that I can’t afford to go to, so I’m unlikely to see the results.

I happen to mention that I am uncomfortable with public platforms, and I am consulted about attending two different multi-agency conferences to make presentations.

I talk about how much I hate clichés, and God says, “You want to hear me laugh? Tell me your plans.”

The joke’s on me, I guess.

 

 

2

I wrote a whole post on shame and behavior issues in school and how it’s kind of a new thing for us, and then the very next day my eldest daughter came home in tears because she got in trouble at the end of the day and was going to have to move her name to yellow on the following school day. Turns out a little boy kept calling her names, wouldn’t stop, and so eventually, out of extreme anger and desperation, she takes off running towards him. Fortunately, we were snuggling side by side when she told me her story, so she could not see my struggles to maintain appropriate concern and composure. I’m not sure what her plans were, but I can promise you this: that little boy is extremely fortunate that my Maggie did not catch him before the teacher intervened. Extremely fortunate. I’ve seen that girl angry, and I’m pretty sure he didn’t stand a chance.

*as a side note, the next day, the teacher talked to her about the situation and agreed to keep her ‘green’ color record pure since she was unfairly provoked. Thank you, Jesus, for teachers who can keep the broader picture in mind. Especially since she didn’t catch the little boy. I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t have been willing to forgive whatever Maggie had planned for that poor kid.

 

 

3

In our mama’s small group this past week, one of them laughed at my prayer request, saying, “Only in this kind of group are you going to hear prayers that ask God to help our babies poop.”

Good news. God does answer prayer – even poop prayers (yep. it’s a thing), and the third type of juice we’ve tried appears to be the charm when it comes to regular baby bowel movements. It’s apple, if you’re curious.

 

 

4

On Monday nights, I lead a high school girls’ small group. We’re talking about using our words well and speaking love to others. This past week, I learned that there aren’t many physical fights at the high school anymore. This seems foreign to me since physical altercations were the stuff of legends during my high school days. One such fight resulting in a girl’s earring being literally ripped from her ear through the earlobe. Or cartilage? I can’t remember; it’s been awhile. (but not too long. A respectable amount of time has passed since I was in high school) Apparently, the thing now is “twitter-fights”. What the heck. I don’t even know what that means. At least the fighting is all 140 characters or less.

 

 

 

5

I really have nothing much more to say here, but I tend to be OCD about certain things. One of them happens to be even and odd numbers, and I just couldn’t end the list with only 4 things. So this is 5. All is well.

shame shame

Thursday, October 3, 2013

In every classroom that my children have been a part of, at least through the 3rd grade, they use the same disciplinary system. It involves color coded cards, displayed prominently on the whiteboard. Some of their teachers have had separate color cards for every kid in the classroom, and some have had separate color areas that each kid’s name gets moved to throughout the day. Every kid starts out every morning on green which is synonymous with good behavior. Most of the teachers have allowed several warnings and behavior reminders while the kids still stay on green. Yellow usually is for continued non-compliance or physically hurting someone, and in some classrooms, this involves a time-out of some kind. Red is for the very serious infractions, and blue sends them straight to the office. If you have to move your card or your name, it is visible to everyone in the classroom.

I don’t know that I thought much about this system until this year. My oldest two kids aren’t the get-in-trouble-at-school types, and they would sooner die than have their names moved or their colors changed. This year is a bit different. Now I’m parenting a child who isn’t as confident. He’s not a trouble-maker, but he does have trouble regulating if put into a situation where there is little adult supervision and lots of potentially invasive kid-on-kid interactions. I’ve never seen him initiate any sort of aggression (apart from with his older siblings), but his moral compass swings hard towards justice. If someone hits him, he is unlikely to take it for very long without retaliation. And if something happens in the course of what he deems a competitive sport of some type, he is not likely to feel like he has done anything wrong at all. It’s just the game, you know?

As a result, there’s been some days when his agenda doesn’t come home colored green. I know it immediately when he gets off the bus. He wears his shame like a heavy coat. Shoulders slumped, face downcast. He doesn’t make eye contact; he doesn’t use appropriate vocal tones when he speaks with me. After awhile, when he feels the safety of home kick in, he’ll share. And he cries. Which may not seem significant to anyone but us, but this is a kid who doesn’t cry from vulnerability. Ever. He cries from anger and frustration, but expressing vulnerable emotions is not in his wheelhouse. From the moment he moved in, he has fought any notion of vulnerability that we’ve attempted to extract from him or introduce to him.

'Shame' photo (c) 2008, Anthony Easton - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

When we look at that discipline board, we may see 20 kids who stayed on green for that day and 5 who had some behaviors, so they’re on yellow. When my son looks at that same board, he sees 20 good kids and 5 bad kids. It’s how he describes it to us every day. Exactly how many kids are good kids. Exactly how many kids are sort of bad. Exactly how many kids are really bad. And when his card isn’t registering green? He doesn’t think, “I did something bad today.” He thinks, “I am bad.” He internalizes that shame like nothing I’ve ever seen. So much so that his tears this last time resulted in a final fearful vulnerable moment where he shared that he was just so afraid that he would have to go back to live at his previous abusive home. Because of a COLOR-CODED CARD.

I respect teachers’ rights to have a disciplinary system. This one seems to be particularly motivating for my son, so I imagine the whole system seems to be really working. He yearns to stay on green every day. Just not for the right reasons. Our objectives should be to elicit right choices from the kids, yes, but not at the expense of their self-esteem and emotional health.

I feel really strongly about the negative aspects of shame in our society, in our families, in our churches, but I don’t have answers on how to eradicate it. I think shame is the most insidious of negative emotions, a lie from a pit of hell. Not the shame that allows us to feel when we’ve done something wrong – I would call that guilt anyway, but that deep, deep shame that tells us that at our most basic level, we are not worthy. It tells us we are bad people, and no one would love us if they saw who we really were. That’s the shame that destroys. Brave and honest research is being done on the topic (thanks in large part to Brené Brown), but we have a long way to go.

I hesitated to share any part of this story because I typically don’t share things are quite so personal to him. I try to be more vague, less specific. I don’t want to betray him in any way, but I also think it’s something we need to be talking about. I think someday he will want to think that the things he struggled with are not in vain. That, while protecting his privacy as much as possible, we used pieces of his story to make a difference.

Today, I’m left with more questions than answers.

How do we raise our children to be free of shame?
How do we structure our schools, our churches, our society differently to teach people to live in freedom and walk in grace?
How do we balance the need for discipline with the need to protect and nurture children?

One thing I do know – it starts at home. It starts with me. For right now, all I can do is continually combat the voices from other places that tell my son that he’s a bad kid. That he’s not good enough. That he’s not worthy. That’s he’s still just one wrong choice away from being sent back.

At home, in our family, we can tell him he’s loved. When he proudly tells us he stayed on green, we can praise him with condition – always, always adding that we love him just as much no matter what color his card is on at school. Reassuring him that he will never, never have to leave our family. Continually pounding it into his little head that he is not a bad kid. He is good. He is good no matter how he behaves. He is worthy because he EXISTS not because he behaves in a certain way.

I don’t have to look very far to see what happens when kids are raised in a shame-based culture and home. It’s not pretty. Grown adults fight these same voices, but the older we get, the longer those voices have had to worm their way into our very being. It’s my job right now, with this particular child, to work my very hardest to make sure that doesn’t happen to him.

So when I hold him tight each day, I whisper those same things to him that we’ve whispered from the beginning, each time with a catch in my throat and a prayer in my heart that this time, maybe THIS time, it’ll stick.

You are safe.
You are worthy.
You are loved.

May it be so.

 

 

*this post has a couple of minor edits  to include a more precise definition of the kind of shame I’m referring to, for clarity’s sake.

what I’m into: September edition

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

what I read:

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander was the best book I read all month. Actually, it was the best book I’ve read in several months. I’m still processing much of it, but it is eye-opening. It’s an unflinching indictment on our nation, and for me, it left me in a place of repentance for my attitudes about the whole issue of race in the justice system. Not that I didn’t believe racism existed in our justice system, but I think I was still clinging to a misguided sense of what that actually meant. I definitely didn’t realize the extent of the problem until I read this book and started researching it for myself. This should be required reading for every high school history and government class, and those of us out of school would do well to investigate it for ourselves and our children.

The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold was just as good as I remembered it. A very worthwhile re-read.

I didn’t expect to love Decoded by Jay-Z as much as I did. This was an utterly fascinating read.

I had some assigned reading from my kids’ doctor:  Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems – Richard Ferber and The Challenging Child – Stanley Greenspan. They were nothing ground-breaking; I’m pretty sure he doesn’t realize how many books I’ve read on adoptive parenting, parenting traumatized children, sensory processing disorder, etc.

Red Letter Revolution – Shane Claiborne and Tony Campolo was an enjoyable and interesting read. I think I’m just so familiar with both of them and their stances on various topics, however, that I wasn’t particularly challenged. I’m glad to own the book anyway, and if you are unfamiliar with either of them, you may very well find this book challenging and potentially life-changing.

 

what I listened to:

This was a GREAT month for music. I can’t remember the last time there was this much good music out. My typical listening patterns are podcasts in the car, music at home, but this month it’s been music all the time, no matter where I am. I can’t listen to these albums enough.

Inland – Jars of Clay. Love, love, love this one. It was worth the wait. I’ve been playing it constantly.

I always buy a sophomore release with trepidation, especially if I absolutely loved the first album, but Heart by The City Harmonic is just as good as their first – maybe better, even. Is every day too much to listen to an album? I particularly like The City Harmonic for worship services. Not all bands are suited to all congregations, but this one suits ours. If you’re also a worship leader, they are worth a listen. These first two albums of theirs are taking worship music in a new direction – they don’t feel compelled to go your standard Chris Tomlin/Hillsong/Jesus Culture route that everyone else is emulating right now. We’ve already worked up one of the songs for Sunday mornings, and I’m sure several more are not far behind.

I Am Mountain by Gungor just came out last week, so I’ve added that one to my daily rotation as well. It’s crazy good, as always.

I’ve been streaming Dustin Kensrue’s new music, The Water & The Blood, for a little while now, and the album just came out yesterday. It is flat out amazing. Seriously. There would be no question that this would be my most recommended album…except for the previous three. I recommend all of them. I cannot choose.

Other really great albums I’ve been listening to: Your Grace Finds Me – Matt Redman, I Was Wrong, I'm Sorry & I Love You – Derek Webb, Fortunate Fall – Audrey Assad

 

what I watched:

Friday Night Lights – It’s fall, and thus it’s football season. I could write pages upon pages about how terrific this series is. I’ll spare you my assessments, except to say this: this is a nearly perfect television series. There are a couple missteps, sure, but it is beautifully written, beautifully acted, and beautifully filmed. The last ten minutes of this series are by far the best moments of television I’ve ever seen. Put it in your Netflix queue, and enjoy.

I’ve started several of the new fall tv offerings. I usually try to watch at least the pilot of most of the shows that interest me, and then I whittle down from there. I’m pretty excited about several of the new series, so I’ll give it a bit and see how attached I am after a month.

 

What were you into during September? Tell me below, or write your own post and link up with Leigh!

What I'm Into at HopefulLeigh

guard the good deposit

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

This year, the year of my yes, has nearly undone me in ways that’s hard for me to express. I’ll take the easy way out and quote Amber Haines (and if you have time to read a blog, you should be reading hers, not mine) from earlier this week:

“This has been a season of unravelling from myself, and though I knew the unravelling was good, I was terrified. It’s hard to let go when you don’t know what you’re becoming.”

Saying yes has stretched and broken me, and fear and trembling have become part of my daily vocabulary. Calling and authenticity and authority and opportunity crashing together in ways that I hadn’t anticipated, yet longed for all the same. Breathing in, I feel settled and full; jagged breath out leaves me terrified and still every breath is grace.

With a vulnerability that I didn’t exactly anticipate feeling, I share a small piece of my yes with you today. I was and am reluctant to share this anywhere at all. Anything that smacks of self-promotion, whether it’s me or others, makes me slightly nauseated, and even though this isn’t that and I know in my head the feeling is unjustified, it still feels a tiny bit distasteful. In spite of this small internet space where I share sometimes too much and sometimes the wrong thing, public platforms also make me uncomfortable…and yet this is all a part of the yes. I’ve been entrusted with a message, and hiding behind shame and pride that I’d prefer to spin as ‘humility’ isn’t the way I keep faith with my calling. Today, I’m taking the verses that I have taped to my desk, the ones I look at every single day, to heart. By faith, and all of it grace.

…But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me…by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.
2 Timothy 1:12

 

Foster (short) from Jon Morton on Vimeo.

come thou fount

Saturday, September 14, 2013

If there was just one song I could listen to for the rest of my life, it would be this song and this version of it. This is my heart's cry, and it never gets old.

all you need is love

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

IMG_1452Tonight, for the first time since she moved in, our sweet M is asleep upstairs in her bed, and I am downstairs with no children. The in-her-bed sleeping thing is only a week old at this point. I am grateful to move on from the carseat/mama’s chest/papa’s chest/carseat rotation we were stuck on. I think we’ve turned a corner into a more routine, less demanding sleep cycle, but I don’t regret these past ten weeks. Not the dirty house nor the endless tv watching nor the indentation in my couch cushions because I sat there the bulk of every day. Not that it doesn’t cause extreme exhaustion. Not that there weren’t plenty of frustrated tears. Not that I don’t feel that all-too-familiar pressure to schedule this baby, to make her sleep all night, and the pressure doesn’t end there, does it? Then it’s the pressure to put my littlest in preschool, to ease up on the nurturing care because ‘isn’t he too old for that kind of thing?’, to allow more freedoms, less freedoms, different discipline…pressures from this world to achieve visible success with your children are unrelenting. I feel all those things and more, but there is no regret.

“And so we measure our success not with statistics or growth charts, but with love. And we hold our ground, refusing to be moved by what the world tells us we should be doing. Even when we trip over disappointment and set-backs, we regain our footing in the sure and ever-present promise of hope in Jesus. Because the darkness will not win, and success neither belongs to us nor can be measured by us anyways.”
-Rebecca Stanley

I read those words today and it rings so true in my heart tonight. I know so much of what we do cannot be measured. We may never see results. Not from this foster care thing, not from the years we’ve spent pouring into the lives of teenagers, maybe not even from the hours upon hours upon hours that we spend nurturing and training our own children. But I still have hope.

Some days, on days like today, I see that hope realized. I have children who continue to look for the marginalized in their classes, who continue to give their whole hearts to whatever child we bring into our family even when they know it might end in extreme pain. I have a littlest who will pray with all the sincerity and innocence that her three-year-old heart can muster that this sweet baby will be in our family forever, and alternatively, I have a youngest son who prays with the same amount of fervor that this baby will someday be reunited with her mom.

And then there are those magical days when I get to look at the growth chart of this tiny born-too-soon life and see the scientific evidence that proves this whole thing. I can watch the doctor and nurses’ wonder over the growth chart, over a baby that has grown steadily and gradually from birth, the whole time she was in the NICU until she moved in with us. Just a steady increase at about a 5-10% incline.

Then: love.

She moves into a home. With a family. The line takes a sharp turn upwards – about a 50-60% angle increase. The medical professionals took visible pleasure in that increase, showing me the results on a couple different charts. I don’t know their medical conclusions, but I know mine: love wins. It wins every time. Sometimes we don’t get to see the victory, but that just makes me more grateful for the moments when we do. Sometimes we get the actual scientific proof that everything that we’re doing is important. That these past ten weeks of newborn craziness and family adjustments and tears and joy really do matter. We are literally changing a life.

Whenever we pick her up and soothe her crying, we teach her that mamas and papas are here to take care of you.
When you cry, you are heard.
When you’re uncomfortable, we will ease your pain.
When you’re hungry, we will feed you. Enough. Every time.
When you need to hear a heart beat, we will hold you close.
When you hurt, we hurt too, and we will work our hardest to help you feel better.
When you are lonely, we will be there to hug you tight and shower kisses over your sweet head.
We are here.
You are loved.
And oh sweet girl, whatever the coming darkness may be, there is no darkness in this world strong enough to overcome this hope we have in Jesus.

Love wins.

500 miles

Saturday, September 7, 2013

If you follow the same crowds I do on Twitter and in various blogs, then you’ve probably already seen this posted several times in the past week. If not, you’re in for a treat.

friday link love

Friday, September 6, 2013

Some link love from these past couple weeks. All three of these are things I wish I’d written, things I could’ve written if I were a better writer because all three are my heart. In different ways, but still my heart. I am daily grateful for this online space that allows me to read and breathe in beautiful words of truth.

 

The Truth about Adoption: Two Years Later - Jen Hatmaker
”Parenting wounded kids is terribly challenging, which you know in your head going into adoption, but starting your second year, you really know it in your life. It’s hard, like maybe forever hard, and you feel that because you are a human, not a robot, and that’s just true.”

 

The Ministry of Funfetti - D.L. Mayfield
The older I get, I realize now that the ministries I once thought so trivial I know think are the most radical. I spent the last year being stripped of anything that would make me feel lovely to God and I came out a different person. Because I discovered that he always loved me anyways.

I’m not Joan of Arc, it turns out. I’m just somebody who likes to bake cakes.

If I had said that at the beginning of this post, it would mean almost nothing. But because I am writing out of a place where I know that God loves me, my ministry of Funfetti is different. It’s radical. Anything that asks us to walk in our belovedness and extend that to other people is the best kind of madness there is.

 

In the Time That's Left - John Blase
I want to live Lazarus-like, resurrected in the sudden poetry of autumn, perfecting what the old-timers called
the trick of quiet.

prayers for Syria

Monday, September 2, 2013

https://storageuk21.transferbigfiles.com/files/preview/6cb8af11-d02c-4c43-99c2-a4e4250bbc54?ft=imageIf your heart is also broken for the people of Syria, then you are also likely to be confused as to what the best response is. I’m not naïve to the needs of governments to use force when necessary, and as a human, I want someone to be held accountable for the destruction of innocent life. I cannot bear to look at those pictures and think that nothing will be done. I also understand why not intervening causes a world-wide political issue. All of that. BUT as a Christ-follower, I am committed to Jesus’ way of non-violence as a primary response, at least for myself. I can’t speak for governments, but I definitely can speak to government and ask that we explore every non-violent, humanitarian course of action possible.

Here’s some aggregated resources in case you’re interested in joining me in the best response we, as believers, currently have – concerted prayer for the country and people of Syria, for our country and her leaders as they decide whether to intervene, and for the body of Christ as we seek to respond with the love of Jesus.

My own denomination’s response for the Middle East Crisis: this accumulation of resources is first-rate. I am immensely proud and grateful to see Mennonite Central Committee taking an important role in the Church’s response to this crisis. I have seen their resources cited on a number of different sites and in various articles throughout the online Christian world.

…We ask that people who have been driven apart by violence may come back to each other in love, tolerance, cooperation, and wisdom. We pray that changes in the region respect principles of justice, freedom, and human dignity…

Prayers for Peace and Justice from Holy Trinity Episcopal Church

For Peace Among the Nations
Almighty God our heavenly Father, guide the nations of the world into the way of justice and truth, and establish among them that peace which is the fruit of righteousness, that they may become the kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Sign up here for SheLoves 25 Days of Prayer for Syria. Daily prayer emails will be sent to your inbox, and you can join with others in united prayer for this nation and region.

Transformer Jesus, make my heart break to be more like you,
make my eyes see others as you would,
make my feet walk softly on the earth,
make me a wind of change in my lifetime.
Make me a channel of your peace.

Join with the body of Christ worldwide on September 7th for a day of fasting and prayer as called for by Pope Francis.

"The world needs to see gestures of peace and hear words of hope and of peace.”

 

Lord, have mercy.

what I’m into: the rest of the summer edition

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Probably best to start this whole thing with what I did do during July and August. Fed the baby. Changed the baby. Changed my clothes after the baby threw up on me. Showered. (who am I kidding? regular showers have become laughable). Played Song Pop while I fed and burped the baby. Took the baby to visits – both medical and parental. Yep. Summer of the newborn. Thus, even my two month list is looking a little sparse. Fortunately, I think the fog is finally lifting, and I have some serious reading goals for the fall.

what I read:

I managed to read a few books, but none of them struck me at all. Probably due to my unfocused state but also I might just have a hit a string of unremarkable (at least to me) books.

Unbroken – Laura Hillenbrand
Where’d You Go Bernadette – Maria Semple
Love Walked In – Marisa de los Santos
Unfinished - Richard Stearn
Glorious Mess – Mike Howerton

 

what I listened to:

The Civil Wars. Obviously. I’m a white, 30-something who wears Toms and enjoys local produce. Whatever. We must do what we must do. (It’s terrific, and I think it’s better than their first. Even if it makes you want to drive off a bridge after awhile.)

Top 40. I haven’t yet reconciled my love of the raunchy party song with my obligations to feminism and motherhood. This year’s hits are like a whole playlist of early JT music, and I love me some JT. SexyBack anyone? Conclusion: 2013 summer music is fun, y’all.

 

what I watched:

Parks and Rec: I quit this series the first series because my TV docket was full, and it wasn’t all that funny. I should’ve stuck with it, because it gets progressively funnier every season. Also, one episode is the perfect length for me to time how long to hold the baby upright after her feedings (minimizing reflux around here).

Orange is the New Black: The MA label is no joke, but this show is exceptionally well-done. I loved every minute of it even if I did have to shut my eyes for a few scenes.

The Bridge: This FX murder mystery/cop show takes place in El Paso/Juarez, and it’s really quite good. It might not be the most exceptional show out there, and perhaps the ‘detective with some mental issues’ thing is overplayed, but it’s an enjoyable series that explores some important territory of which most Americans STILL seem to be unaware.

USA shows. The summer line-up for USA is fun. We love Covert Affairs, and Graceland is becoming a new favorite as well. Burn Notice is past its prime, but I feel compelled to finish out the series since this is the last season. I love USA’s sunshiny approach to TV shows. They feel happy and light and completely unlike the dark, brooding shows I’m watching a lot of in other places.

Breaking Bad is back. For the end. I have SO MANY THOUGHTS about what is going to happen. If you love it like I do, then you’ll enjoy these links:
Hank and Marie react to Miley Cyrus at the VMAs
Breaking Bad Easter Eggs That Will Blow Your Mind

As always, we’re in love with Fox Summer Reality TV: Masterchef and So You Think You Can Dance are perennial favorites in our house.

So there it is, in all of its non-intellectual glory. I hate that I watched so much more TV than I read, but in the past two weeks that has already been changing. I think we’re on our way out of the newborn stage. Finally. While I wouldn’t trade this time for anything, I look forward to the return of time to read a good book, the ability to take a walk and listen to some great music, and most of all, watching less TV in the middle of the night because I’ll actually be sleeping. Good times are ahead.

What were you into over the rest of the summer? Share in the comments or link up with Leigh below!

What I'm Into at HopefulLeigh

dear return of the school year: you’re not going to win

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

On the heels of one of the better summers that we’ve ever experienced, in spite of adding a newborn to the mix, has come one of the roughest returns to school that we have ever experienced. Transition time this year has been…intense.

Part of the issue is the failure of our district’s levy (again). As a result, they cut high-school bussing, which means that K-8 all ride the bus together. Which wouldn’t be that big of a deal, except that our district recently went to grade-level schools. My kids go to three different schools, yet all get on and off the bus together. There’s a complicated transportation shuttle system involved, but the end result is that they are getting on the bus well over an hour before school starts. Early wake-up time with summer daylight hours and weather is not making for very happy children. Or parents.

We’re going to persevere. I might want to quit. Hunker down, circle the wagons, and such, but I won’t. Hormones and attitudes and rough adjustments are not going to get the better of us. We’re working on better sleep patterns. We’re figuring out new chore assignments to make things go smoother. We’re helping our littles through a really rough adjustment period, both in school and out. We’re making hard medical decisions, dealing with an increasingly complicated foster care situation, and we’re doing it all with as much grace as we can. One day at a time.

the beauty in risk

Monday, August 26, 2013

My sweet boy packed his brand new backpack and tried it on so I could adjust the straps. Try as I might, there isn’t a growing up moment in this little man’s life that I do not cry over. I am reminded day after day how strong he is, how far he’s come, what a beautiful story he is living right now.

He put himself to bed early out of sheer excitement. He told me he needs to get lots of rest because he goes to school on the bus tomorrow. He took his shower, brushed his teeth, kissed me goodnight, and I could barely breathe. He’s had half the time of our other children to prepare for this day. We’ve known him for only half as long as we knew our two biggest. It feels too quick, too soon, like we’re all not quite ready.

He got on the bus anyway, following his big brother and sister, snack bag securely tucked into his backpack, stuffed animal secreted in the front pocket, a small blue star clipped to the zipper. Wendell and I have matching ones on our briefcase and diaper bag, respectively. Ours bear his name written in Sharpie, his has our names per his request…in case he forgets us during the day. On the front side, it reads ‘Stand Strong’, a remnant from vacation bible school this year where we learned about how God’s love and prayer, family and friends help us to be brave, to make good choices, to never feel alone. We’ve done our very best to set him up for success.

It’s been our job for the past three years to protect him with everything we had, to help heal the brokenness his little life had to endure before he joined our family. We’ve done so fiercely. We’ve worked hard. He’s worked hard. The sheer strength it takes to be vulnerable enough to trust, to give yourself to another in abandoned love – it’s incredible. The sacrifice has been enormous for both of us. It’s paid off. He’s secure. He loves. He trusts. He’s fearful and anxious about school but eager to try. He recognizes some of his weaknesses and has asked for help to handle those big feelings and insecurities. That’s a hard-won victory, and I am intensely proud.

So through tears and with my heart in my throat, I hugged him, we prayed blessings over his sweet head, and promised to be waiting when he gets off the bus this afternoon. I told him how proud I was, how much I loved him, how much I will miss him while he’s gone, and how I will always be here for him. It’s a risk, this school thing. I won’t sugarcoat that part for him or for us. But this home, this family: we’re his safe place to come back to no matter where he goes, no matter how far he roams, no matter what decisions, successes, and failures he makes along the way. No matter what.

This morning, in the early morning haze of the late summer heat, our son got on the school bus. His little face was anxious, the stress blinking in full force, but he got on anyway, brave and pushing forward through the fear because he knows in his heart of hearts that he’s not alone. Beauty rises.

it’s worth it

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Yesterday, I dropped off Sweet M for a visit with her mom, then we drove across town to a park where we spent an hour or so with Baby D. It’s been around four months since we’ve seen him. I know his family shows him our pictures and talks about us still. I knew we wouldn’t be complete strangers, but I didn’t really expect that he would remember us. Yet he did.

IMG_1611We came in two vehicles since Wendell was coming over just for his lunch break, so the kids and I arrived and got our reintroductions out of the way first. When Baby D, who is very much NOT a baby anymore, heard Wendell’s voice as he got out of the truck a while later, his little face perked up and his eyes sparkled. If there were ever any doubt whom he loved best (there wasn’t), this erased all question. The whole visit was sweet and too short, and boy, do we miss that little guy. The opportunity to see him again is just such a blessing. The benefits to ongoing relationships in the foster care system are numerous, and the value of letting a child you cared for know that you’re still around, that you didn’t abandon him, that you are on his side for his future is inestimable. It’s worth the pain of saying goodbye to a child you loved as your own.

When we drove off from the park, the kids were emotional, and I told them how proud I was of them. How what they did and continue to do is so very important. There aren’t many kids out there who are doing the kind of hard things that those four children in the back of my van do, and I’d be willing to bet there are even fewer who are doing them with the kind of grace and compassion and full-out commitment that my children exhibit. (well, for the most part. they are still normal kids, so grace and compassion are apparently mostly reserved for others, not their parents and permanent siblings) I am honored to be their mama, and I am humbled by their sacrificial spirits.

We left that park with an equal combination of joy and sadness, knowing that that sacred moment makes this whole foster care thing worth it. Then we drove across town to pick Sweet M up, her story yet being told, what’s happening in her life and in her family yet to be determined. Will it feel ‘worth it’ for her? Even if we don’t leave her case with these same bittersweet feelings of having done meaningful work, does that make it any less important? That part is still unwritten. I’m hanging on to this moment with Baby D with everything I have – it’s what I needed to keep moving forward.

from this valley

Saturday, August 3, 2013

This song has long been my favorite of The Civil Wars catalog, and now there’s this pretty, pretty video to match. Plus, this recording is the best they’ve done of this particular song.

I’ve been streaming the new album all week, and I love the whole thing. I think it’s better than their first, but fair warning: you will want to shoot yourself in the head before it’s over. It is dark. The new album comes out on Tuesday, so grab yourself some hard liquor and cigarettes so you can cry into your glass all night long. Or if that cliché isn’t up your alley, follow my lead and put your cranberry juice/Diet Sprite spritzer in a wine glass because at least you’ll feel fancy while you cry because the baby spit up on you three times in the past four hours and you haven’t showered in two days and you only slept for four hours of the past 36.

No worries right now – this is a happy song.

five things I learned this week

Friday, July 26, 2013

1) Newborns are exhausting. Also, preemies are newborns for a long, long time.

2) When mamas and papas are super exhausted, they don’t talk about stuff that matters. Then they fight. Even if they’re not really mad at each other, there’s yelling and crying and fighting, but it’s just because we’re all. so. tired.

3) We always give meals to first-time moms. You know who really needs meals? Older parents who already have piles of children. A friend of mine offered to buy us pizza this week, and I literally wept with relief. I’m so tired of Hamburger Helper. (That’s one thing my Maggie can make.)

4) Preemies also have terrible trouble with reflux for a variety of reasons including high-calorie formulas, constipation, and just a general lack of GI tract development. There are tons of tricks to help, but they all require more work. Feed baby at angle. Keep back perfectly straight. Sleep baby at 30 degree angle. Keep baby immobile and upright for 20-30 minutes after each feeding. Fortunately our doctor gave us permission to let her sleep on her side. Two nights in, it seems to be working fairly well. Fingers crossed. (did I mention I’m tired?)

5) Song Pop is my best friend. Middle of the night feedings have become a lot more musical. For reference, I’m terrible at Punk and surprisingly good at 90s Slow Jams.

Did you learn anything this week? In spite of my best efforts, everything around me is baby-related right now. Except my Netflix viewing, which is not exactly children-friendly at the moment. Any Netflix recommendations for me? Lots of sitting time during feedings = lots of TV watching.

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