On Feeling Known

I spent this weekend at an Empowered to Connect conference (sponsored by Show Hope).

Let me just say if you are a foster or adoptive parent, you have to go to one of these.

Seriously.

Find one.  Register.  Do it.

I had grand plans of writing about each of the sessions and what I learned.

Alas, I am an introvert and being with people all day (even the most wonderful people in the world) exhausts me.  So I went back to my hotel room, brewed a cup of decaf and flipped through mindless magazines.  I breathed deeply.  I rested.

But this is what I know.

For two days, surrounded by 700 of my closest friends,

I felt known.

Together we laughed.  We cried.  We shared stuff that only our nearest and dearest know.  We joked about stuff that if anybody else went there, we would be on the defensive so fast it’s not even funny.

Because when we did, heads nodded.  Amens resounded.  For the love of all that is good, someone got it.  Someone understood.  Someone could yell from the rafters, “me too.”

I have a tiny pocket like this in my real life.  Mostly people who are relentlessly loyal to me and my daughter and my foster babies and who have worked really hard to understand.  To get it.

I have a slightly bigger pocket online—foster and adoptive mama bloggers whose words resonate in my soul because, deep down, they could be mine.

But to sit in a (really big) room, surrounded by real, live flesh and blood people with big hearts and thick skin, with fierce devotion to their kids and a very real understanding that, despite what everyone else seems to think, love is not enough?

That’s powerful.

Like crazy powerful, people.

All this to say

Friends, you are not alone.

Find your people.

Be known.

And sign up for an Empowered to Connect conference.

For real.

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Dear person who called my daughter spoiled,

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I did not lose my mind in your face because I am (sometimes) a nice person.

And also because for you, I think, this was just a fleeting thought among many others.

And also because my daughter is not a victim and I am not a hero and when I go all mama-bear, the conversation usually starts heading in that direction.

But, the truth is, you do not know the half of it.

Can a person be spoiled if they spend the first years of their existence uncertain about everything?  I’m talking about an uncertainty that is powerful and terrifying and all-consuming.  I’ve never known this kind of uncertainty, and as an adult it strikes fear in my heart.  Try to imagine processing it as a little kid.

Can a person be spoiled if, as a preschooler, they can cook a full meal and take care of a handful of babies and toddlers and charm their way out of virtually any misdeed?  These are skills, you see.  Maladaptive skills, but skills that once seemed crucial for survival.

You have no idea.

You have no idea how hard we fight for trust.  For unlearning.  For healing.

You have no idea of the hard, hard emotional and psychological and spiritual work we have done.  The progress we have made (that, to the uninitiated, sometimes looks like un-progress—what parent wants to take an independent kid and make them dependent?)

In the same breath, you tell me that I am brave and strong, but these words ring hollow in my ears.  You cannot praise my character and denigrate my parenting.  They are both essential parts, undividable parts of who I am.

I hope you mean well.  I do.  But I dare you to go where I have gone.

I dare you to stare down the demons.  To tend the giant, gaping soul-wounds.  To spend very literal blood and sweat and tears in the fight for healing.  I dare you to do this.  And then we’ll talk.

I know I can be plenty judgmental myself.  I’m sorry.  Sorrier now than usual because I am reminded that I don’t know the whole story.

I believe that you are a good person.

Just, please, don’t go there with this crazy mama-bear again.

Ok?  Thanks.

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On helplessness and shameless audacity

Lord, teach us to pray, they ask.

And he does.

In Luke 11, Jesus’ response to his disciples’ request begins and ends with the Father.

Our Father.

The one who pursues us and lavishes us with good gifts.

The one before whom we are helpless.

Dependent.

I am here today.

Raw.  Forced into honesty by two friends—one old, one new—who don’t believe me when I tell them that I am fine.  (Thank you, friends.)

It’s not that I’ve abandoned prayer lately.

It’s just that the words come so, so hard.

Only a few at a time.  Sometimes only one.

Help.

Hold.

No, no, no.  I can’t do this.

And, in my stronger moments, Jesus.

Just Jesus.

I’m content to camp out here.  To hear the word that my helplessness, my dependence is ok.  Not weakness, not lack of faith.  Just honesty.

But my Father is not done just yet.

You see, there is this matter of persistence.  Of boldness.  Of shameless audacity.

Of banging on doors at midnight.

The truth is, I am tired.

I am tired of asking and seeking and knocking.

I am tired of seeing through a glass darkly.

I am tired of asking and pleading and working for God’s kingdom to come on earth and seeing mess.

Mess, mess, mess.

And yet.

This matter of shameless audacity won’t leave me alone.

And so, once more, I pray for healing.  For deliverance.  For light to invade darkness.

I speak names of real, actual people.  Names I have spoken to Jesus a thousand times before.

Because I know who I am.  Helpless.  Dependent.

And I know who my Father is.  Powerful.  Patient.  Full of grace.

Lord, I believe.

Help my unbelief.

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Lullaby

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I cried when it came on the radio again tonight.

I wonder if I always will.

It was the anthem of our time together, Little One, the drum-beat that I hope somehow made its way deep into your bones.  Deep into your heart.

How he loves us.  Oh, how he loves us.  Oh, how he loves.

Day and night, rocking and walking and snuggling, I sang you all kinds of songs about Jesus, but always this one.  It was ours.

I chose this one on purpose, Little One, not because it is my favorite song of all time, but because if there is one thing I want you to know, one thing I want you to remember, it is this.

He loves you.

I miss you, Little One.  The way you rubbed your face back and forth against my body when you were tired.  The way you quieted in my arms– your heartbeat, your breath synching with my own.

I love you, Little One.  I fell hard and fast the moment that I met you, the moment that I first held you—tentative because you were so, so tiny, the moment that I kissed your head and it all felt like pretend.

In my mind, our time together was too short, but my mama-heart knows that for your mama, it was so very long.  And for you, Little One, it was just a blink that, if all goes well, your conscious mind will never even remember.

I hope I helped you learn that the world is safe.

I hope I helped you learn that someone comes when you cry.

I hope I helped you learn that mamas can be trusted.

I hope I helped you learn what it feels like to be loved, treasured, cherished.

You were never mine, Little One, in the same way that even my own daughter isn’t mine.

You were made for Him.

You are His.

Know this, Little One, if you remember nothing else.

As much as I love you, as much as your mama loves you, he loves you more.

How he loves you.  Oh, how he loves you.  Oh, how he loves.

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On perspective

I am a little bit of a perfectionist.

Ok, if you know me, you might be laughing right now.

The truth is, I spend a fair amount of time and energy trying to order and control just about everything (and everyone) in my life.

I like things done well.  I like to see projects through from beginning to end.

I like data.  Quantifiable results.  Measurable success.

Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty, I sing.

Echoes of Revelation.

My heart is captured, full of longing for that day when I will join my song with all of creation.

The great cloud of witnesses that has gone before.

The great cloud of witnesses that will follow.

Blessing and honor, strength and glory and power be to You

I imagine looking around at this great cloud of witnesses, the faithful throughout history, and suddenly I feel small.  Very small.

Not insignificant, for I am confident of my place here.

When I catch my Father’s eye, I know that he values my song, my story.

But I know too that my song is not an end unto itself.

Today this is freeing.  So freeing.

In that moment, that song of eternity for which I am made, my data doesn’t matter.

My quantifiable results, my measurable successes (or lack thereof) are forgotten.  Insignificant.

In that moment, it is my heart, my love, my voice that matter.

And not mine alone.

It is our hearts, our love, our voices that matter, friends.

Joined with the ones who have gone before.  Joined with the ones who will follow.

In this moment, this song of eternity for which we are made.

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Jesus-song

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I’ve mentioned before that you should make your kids memorize Bible verses.

Seriously, do it.

All of my adult life, the verses I memorized when I was a little girl have come back to me when I need them.  These past few weeks, they have been flying at me fast and furiously.

I’ve known this one forever.  And, honestly, it’s never really resonated with me that much.

But then I fell in love with a tiny human.  And lived goodbye.

And in response to all of the whys, I only know a few things.

This was not a mistake.  I did it because it was right.

When I pleaded with Jesus to be excused from this assignment, or at least to get some more details, the very clear words of instruction were “one thing.”

Mary chose the one thing that was necessary.  Sitting at Jesus’ feet.

For me, sitting at Jesus’ feet meant living hello and maybe and I love you and goodbye.

The darkness is big in goodbye.

Time slows down.  Sleep is elusive.  No words fit.

The redemption ache throbs loudly, so very loudly.

And then silence.

Waiting.

But, at last, a word.  A picture.  An assurance that hope was not misplaced, that all may still be well.  Permission to exhale.

I am driving home and I hear it.  Not with my ears, but with my heart.  My own personal Jesus-song.  It tells me that faithfulness is not wasted.  Obedience is not ignored.

He sees.  He delights.  He sings.

Friends, this is true when we hear it and when we don’t.

If you have chosen the one thing that is necessary, if you are sitting at his feet, he sees.

Your faithfulness is not wasted.  Your obedience is not ignored.

He delights in you.

He is singing over you.

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On Making Room

Carried to the table.

Seated here, with family.

Just moments ago, a stranger.

Broken.  Crippled.  Rejected.

But now sought after.  Chosen.

Not just invited, but compelled.

Because of kindness.  Because of mercy.

Always, he says.  Always you will eat here.

With family.  At the table.

***

We sit around the table too.

Eating the bread.  Drinking the cup.

Sometimes we see ourselves in his eyes.

Broken.  Crippled.  Rejected.

Carried here.  Welcome here.

But often, too often, we think we’ve gotten it together.

We guard our seat at the table, feeling entitled.

Forgetting the kindness.  Shrugging off the mercy.

We look around and see him in our neighbor’s eyes.

Broken.  Crippled.  Rejected.

Our eyes narrow in judgment.

A stranger, we mutter.  Not family.

Who invited him?

And then our gaze shifts to the head of the table.

Eyes blazing with kindness.  Arms full of mercy.

The King reminds that we were all carried here.

Invited.  Compelled.  Welcome.

Let’s make room.

***

Read more about the story of Mephibosheth in this guest post by my beautiful sister.

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