On Falling Short

As I’ve mentioned before, I like lists.

Lists are neat and tidy.

I like neat and tidy.

A lot.

So this morning as I listen to the commandments given under the old covenant, my mind switches into list mode.

Lists carved by the finger of God onto stone tablets.

I am not new here.

I know that looking back through the lens of the new covenant this list is less about measuring up and more about realizing that we never can.

Oh, but I love the list.

Surely there is merit in the list.

Surely the old covenant’s “do not murder” translates into the new covenant as “be a life-giver” or something inspirational like that, right?

Something to put on the list.

Harder to quantify, but still something to do.

Something to check off.

And yet

Even those of us who are really good at lists, really good at following rules

Fall short.

We struggle and strive and do all the right things and still fall desperately, pathetically short.

And this, I know (again) is the point.

Friends, we are not made for lists.  For rules.

We are made for relationship.

We cannot stand before a holy God in our own competence.

None.  Of.  Us.

When we stand, messy, wild-eyed,

Lists long abandoned or clenched tightly until they are ripped from our grasp.

We stand in a competence, a righteousness, that is not our own.

We stand because of grace.

We stand because of relationship.

We stand because of Christ alone.

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When the answer is no

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DSS called again this week.

First, I felt my cell phone vibrate in my pocket.

Then, our diligent secretary hunted me down during my lunch time.  I pleaded for mercy and asked her to send the call to my voicemail.

Another call.  Another sad story.  Another little one who will haunt my dreams.

Another tally mark in the “things I never expected when I signed up for this” category.

I’ve always thought of myself as a pretty strong person.

But every call, every story, every little one who needs mama-love is like a knife to my heart.

I want to buy a house with a million bedrooms.

Or (even better) recruit a million foster families.

Or (better yet) plead with Jesus to just come back already and make it all new.

Friends, I want to say yes to every single one.

It is not ok with me that any child would need for a family, a home.

This is not ok.

And so I text my sister.  And one of my dearest friends.

Secretly hoping that one of them will text back

Oh my goodness, yes!  or

Oh my goodness, no!

Of course they are too wise to do any such thing.

And so my mind shifts into overdrive.  How can I rearrange my home, my life, my daughter’s life to make this work?

And then I am reminded of the words of another wise friend.

You have good instincts.  Don’t overthink it.  Just go with your gut.

So I summon my courage.  I ask my social worker to keep looking.

And I feel good about it for a minute (ok, honestly about 4 hours).

Until I start second- and third- and sixty four thousandth- guessing myself.

I reason that saying no to this call means saying yes to pouring into my daughter at a really important time.

I reason that saying no to this opportunity means saying yes to other ways of living and giving generously.

I reason that saying no to something that I’m not sure about could mean that this little one will find a home, a family that is a better fit.

Or, if not, that I will get another call and hear a different answer next time.

And still, my heart is in upheaval for what might have been.

The need is great, friends.

The stories, and the little lives that they represent, are many.

The harvest is plentiful.

The workers are few.  (And we are tired, y’all.  Weary.  Worn-out.  Spent.)

I’m barely sure what all of this means for me today.

One car seat in the back of my Honda.

An empty bed.

Remembering, loving, pleading with Jesus for the little ones I’ve held for a moment.

And leaving space to feel the stories that might have been.

I certainly don’t know what all of this means for you today.

But, whatever you do, don’t plug your ears to the stories of the little ones.

Don’t shield your eyes from their faces.

They need you, friends.

They need us.

Even when the answer is no.

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Unlikely hero

You.

The Father says, pointing his finger at an unlikely hero.

Cowardly.  Deceitful.  Broken.

Follow me, and I will bless you.

I will make you a blessing.

(Genesis 12: 1,2)

Abram hardly seems the example of obedience.

Leave your family, the Father says.

Abram brings them along.

Trust me for your child, the Father says.

Abram tries to help God along by having a baby with his wife’s servant.

And yet.

Abram believed God.

He believed in the promise of redemption.

And from this childless man, a nation.

And from this nation, a Messiah.

And from this Messiah, a hope, our hope, that all will be set right again.

The world has changed since Abram’s time.

The Father has not.

He is still calling unlikely heroes.

He is still using cowardly, deceitful, broken people to build his kingdom.

He is still bringing beauty from barrenness, hope from despair.

He is still whispering promises of redemption,

If we are quiet enough, still enough

To listen.

And to believe.

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All is well.

A few weeks ago, I was at the pumpkin patch with my daughter when my phone needed some pastoral counseling.

I accidentally dialed my pastor (y’all have your pastor on speed dial, right?).

He accidentally hung up on me.

And then I got two urgent texts full of profuse apology and genuine concern.

No, no, I texted back.

No emergency.  All is well.

Friends, it’s true.

All is well.

Yes, there are those moments when we sing Little One’s lullaby right there in church followed by a whole sermon on the redemption ache and then closed out with a little Laura Story.

And, yes, right at that moment I am a mess.  A hot, bawling mess.

But I think folks expect me to be a basket case at all times.

And I’m not.

I’m really not.

And here’s why…

I know with unwavering certainty that all is well.

It’s a wellness that has just about nothing to do with me.  Or my circumstances.  Or the messy, broken world that I am called to love.

Nope.

It’s a wellness that rests squarely on my belief that my God is big enough, powerful enough to handle it all.  The cries of the little ones.  The stories of their mamas and daddies.  The voices of the overworked, underpaid social workers who are doing the best they can.  The heart of my baby as she continues to learn lessons of trust and love and family.

As I reread that last paragraph, I realize that it might sound trite.  Simplistic.  Naïve.

I hope, if you know me, you will hear my heart, my life, beyond the words.

Because I will still have my moments.

My hot, bawling mess moments.

But I want you to know tonight that I have no doubt.

Today may be dark.  Heavy.

Or not.

But ultimately?

Ultimately

All is well.

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Do you like it?

Little One has come and gone again from our home since I’ve written last.

Amidst a whirlwind of frantic phone calls, sick social workers, misplaced information and procedural demands, I held a miracle.

It did my heart good to hold him, even though I knew it was most likely only for a short time.

I know you’ll think I’m crazy, but I swear he smiled twice when I started to sing about His love.

Twice.  People, I’m telling you he did this on two separate occasions.

In any case, while we were out and about this weekend, I ran into an acquaintance.

So, you’re fostering again?

Yes.

Do you like it?

In retrospect, this seems like kind of a strange question to ask.

In the moment, the answer came so quickly that it took me aback.

No.  I heard myself say.  No, I don’t.

It’s true.

I don’t like any of the reasons that children come into foster care.

I don’t like that it’s the little people who are caught in the crossfire.

I don’t like knowing nothing.

I don’t like wondering whether I should buy more formula, more diapers.

I don’t like waiting hours, days for a return phone call when I am expected to respond to requests immediately.

I don’t like feeling like somebody’s job.  A case.  A resource.

I don’t like having to drop everything to comply with absurd demands.  I teach kindergarten, for goodness’ sake.  I cannot just tell the five year old to watch themselves for an hour.

I don’t like wondering if all will be well after we say goodbye.

I don’t like having my heart torn out and stomped on.  Again.  And again.

I (really, really, really) don’t like that my daughter cried herself to sleep last night because of the choices that I am making for our family.

I don’t like any of it.  Truthfully, it sucks.

And yet.

When I get the call asking if Little One can come stay for a few days, the answer comes so quickly, so confidently.  Without hesitation, without reservation.

Yes.  Yes, of course.

This is why I do it, friends.

I do it for this one.

This one.

I do it for the miracles.

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Hi, friends!

You might be interested in checking out my guest post (and all of the other cool things happening) over at the Sparrow Fund blog today.

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Falling Into Step

Walking along, their faces were downcast (Luke 24).

Their conversation was full of questions.  Sadness.  Unfulfilled hope.

On the way, a stranger falls into step with them.

He comes near.  He walks with.  He listens.

Haven’t you heard? they ask.

There was this one—a man, like us.

A prophet.

He talked about the kingdom of God.

He talked about redemption.

He spoke with power and we dared to hope.

We dared to hope.

The stranger listened still.

Deliberately matching their footsteps,

Letting them tell their story, letting them process it all.

But something went wrong.

He did not topple our political structures in a blaze of glory.

His story didn’t end the way we expected.

This redemption he spoke about—it didn’t look right at all.

And now he’s gone.

Still, the stranger walked.

***

Truth would speak.  Revelation would come.

The story would be shared.

But first?  First Grace fell into step with them.

First Grace came near.  Walked with.  Listened.

And, friends, it still does.

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