we're not safe

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

About a month ago, I sat in a hotel ballroom listening to a panel of adoptive and foster siblings, from 17 to 40 years old, talk about their experiences growing up in homes that weren't exactly traditional in their family structure. They didn't mince words about the trauma they'd experienced, about the fear they'd experienced, about the pain and grief that goes along with being part of a foster and adoptive family. Yet, to a person, they are all either already fostering and adopting or for those too young, they plan to.

That was a breath of fresh air for a mama who was struggling through some previously unknown (at least to us) trauma that one of my children was processing through. I was honestly a little afraid to sit in that room. I didn't necessarily want to hear from kids who've grown up this way, because I still battle some insecurities and some American-ism on how families should be and how they should operate. Fenced yards, closed doors, isolated living, family vacations, and all that. That's not what our home looks like, for sure. Sometimes I still wonder if that makes me a bad parent.

Last Sunday, I sat in my parents' living room, taping a video segment that we plan to use at church. They talked through their married lives, my childhood, and I sat and listened to their stories of countless strangers in and out of their lives and home, racial and ethnic diversity in a white-centric community, little regard for personal and property safety in the face of people who needed love, who needed a family. Am I worried about myself and my siblings? Not even a bit. We became Jesus followers, every last one of us. We became service oriented, every last one of us. They weren't bad parents, although I'm sure they faced the same criticisms. Our home wasn't 'normal' by any stretch of the imagination, and it made us better people.

I used to get really defensive when people would question the impact of our lifestyle on our children. Of course my children are safe, I would angrily retort in my head. You really think I would put my kids in danger willingly?

The thing is, that was a boldfaced lie. One I was trying to spin around my life even while I knew it to be untrue. Not to deceive myself, but to make myself look better to others. More acceptable. More conscientious. More "Christian". On the surface, I intended the lie to make other people feel better, but in the meantime, I used it as a way to make myself appear better. I wanted to look normal. I wanted people to think I'm smart and good at what I do. I wanted to be liked and admired.

Maybe it's the season that I just came out of. Maybe it's just that I'm getting older. Maybe I'm no longer so scared of what other people think. Maybe I no longer feel the need to conform to the culture around me, not even if that culture is the Christian culture. I used to long to be normal. I used to pray for the day that my life would be normal again, but as I learned from another woman a little further along than me this past month - I can't go back. Even if all my circumstances changed to be what my white American dream of a life used look like in my head, I couldn't go there because I am changed. My eyes are open, my heart is broken, and I could never enjoy nor be content with that picture of normal.

I don't need to look better anymore. I don't have to defend how we live to others. I don't have to pretend to be someone I'm not for the sake of other people's comfort.

Last week, my eldest son offered to give up the room that he's been long awaiting to share with his little brother so we could bring someone else into our home to stay. Our eldest daughter offered to sleep on a couch so we have space for another set of bunk beds. Our children voluntarily offer themselves up to the pain and grief that they are no strangers to, that they know is for sure at the end of the journey, over and over and over because they are changed.

Our kids are at risk from people and circumstances that we bring into our home.
Their risk has made them brave.

Our kids have experienced pain and trauma, violence and destruction in their own home and family.
Their scars have made them tender.

Our kids have given up their rooms, their belongings, and their activities to others.
Their willing sacrifices have made them generous.

Our kids have loved, and still love, undocumented immigrants, criminals (both in and out of jail), the mentally ill, drug addicts, drug dealers, the homeless, the elderly, people who smell bad, people who look dirty, people who are mean and hateful...and not only that, but they've sat at a dinner table with many of them.
Their love has made them beautiful.

I believe

Friday, March 10, 2017

This past weekend found me in a familiar place with some familiar people and some all-too familiar chaos surrounding me. Every year for the past five years, I've gone to a conference for foster and adoptive mamas in Georgia. Every year for the past five years, some kind of 'big' emotional, potentially life-changing event surrounding our involvement with foster care or our adoptions has come up. This year, no different. I found myself in a rental car with a friend in the middle of Kentucky, fielding decisions about placements and our future. Fortunately for our sanity, one of those possibilities didn't pan out, so now we're just left with some processing to do in our family and some waiting to do until we get some answers.

I talked with another friend once we arrived, and she mentioned the same sort of thing happens to her. Every year seems like an Ebenezer of sorts. In my case, I literally take home a rock every year to commemorate. Each rock reminding me of whatever milestone we happened to be dealing with that particular year, and the mound of those rocks on my nightstand reminding me daily of God's faithfulness.

Usually I come home with a thousand ideas and thoughts, and my mind races with all the possibilities for our future. This particular year, even though there was still Big Things to learn and decide on and think about, I just found myself quiet and content. I spent hours on some rocks beside the lake. Thinking of basically nothing. Not processing, not begging for anything, not crying, just sitting and being present.

One thing I am more sure of than ever is that God is with me. He is faithful. He is on my side. He is going to carry this story - HIS story - to completion. Not just until it ends, but until it is complete. I don't know what that looks like right now. I do know that the parts we're living through currently don't look like what I imagine redemption to be, but I believe that God is going to work it out anyway. I have to.

I started this post a couple days ago, and in the middle of writing, I spent some time listening to a sermon from Jen Hatmaker (yes, she preaches too - as if all the other stuff she does isn't enough) that just wrecked me. I'm bawling in the Sonic drive-thru waiting on my Diet Coke, thinking about a couple huge messes of situations that our family is in the middle of, thinking about how I'd rather not have ever known that life could be this painful, thinking about every hard thing that we're doing. Jen's message to me that day - every bit of brokenness is an invitation for conversion. Conversion - changing from one method of belief to another.

THAT'S the truth of my life. All of this brokenness, every sharp edge of it - it cuts like a sword, but it's the point where I get to decide what this life is all about it. Do I stick with my old ways of thinking or doing or do I change to be more like Jesus? Do I give it to Him? Do I obey even when it seems crazy? Do I keep on even when I am rejected? Do I follow even when no one else gets it or likes it or supports it?

In the middle of these broken pieces of life, I get to decide if His presence is worth it.
I get to decide if I really trust in resurrection.
I get to decide whether or not I'm going to continue to lay down my life and give myself away even if I don't see where this is all going or if it's going to end well.
I get to decide if I truly believe.
I get to do the thing right in front of me - obedient with even the very small steps - because I believe He is faithful.
I believe redemption is coming.
I believe He's working this to completion.
I believe it's all worth it.
I believe He is with me.
I believe.

hiatus interruptus

Monday, February 27, 2017

It's been my goal to write here more for the past 6 months, but instead, I found myself strangely quieted during the past 6-8 months. Partly grief-induced, partly illness-induced, partly God-induced. I've been doing more heart work, and for the first time in my life, I haven't felt free to verbally process much of it with anyone, much less here, in semi-public. 

The things I've hidden away in my heart during these past months have been painful and hard. Truths about myself, about my family, about the world. I've been in a posture of discovery for longer than feels comfortable to me. What I can say is that 2016 did bring me to my knees in a lot of ways - in repentance, in praise, in pleas for mercy. I cried 'uncle' more than once during the past year, and honestly, those prayers weren't answered. Glimpses of grace, yes. But relief? Not so much, in spite of my begging.

I spent a lot of time feeling angry and resentful that I had to deal with big-ticket identity problems as an individual and as a family at the same time as big-ticket circumstantial problems. As if the world should stop, and I shouldn't need to think or parent anymore just because our life was complicated.

I spent a lot of time encouraged and empowered by new thoughts and ideas, and then simultaneously fearful and reluctant because of what they might mean for my life.

I spent a lot of time reading. Praying. Writing a bit. However, I would say the thing that most characterized my last 6-8 months is listening. Listening to God, listening to my children, listening to other voices that I have not truly heard before. The more I learn, the more I realize I don't know. As much as I wish I had been called to something sexy like activism or teaching about these things I'm learning or writing books to educate and encourage, at this very moment, I'm not sure I'm released from that sole posture of listening. I know, as do most women of my age and nationality, exactly what it feels like to be disregarded, to have your feelings diminished, to have your voice silenced, to not be listened to. I am determined to not make that mistake with others, particularly my children.

I'm hopeful for the year ahead. The current quote in our mudroom/entryway is a gem from Zora Neale Hurston: 
"There are years that ask questions and years that answer."

I have done the years of questions at this point. I'm ready for the a year that answers. May this be that year, and may I be faithful to tell about it when it happens.

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