So, how are you really doing?

Today my foster baby left my home.

This is the goal of foster care.

And the reason that most people who consider becoming foster parents decide not to do it.

So many of you have stepped in and asked me how I am doing, and I am grateful for every single one of you—even if I cannot bare my soul at the exact moment that you ask.

The truth is, this is hard.

Ridiculously, unimaginably hard.

So, how am I?

Today, I am not ok.

I will be ok again.

And that is good enough.

Today, no matter how hard I try, I cannot be the strong one.

I will be strong again.  Stronger, maybe.

In the meantime, I will be honest.

And that is good enough.

Today, I can only cry (and cry and cry).

Another day I will think and write about the gift of loving this little one.

And that is good enough.

Today, I cannot pray with words.

I have rallied the troops, the ones who have words when I do not.

They have whispered those words into my ears, written them down for me to read later, and spoken them in secret to the One who hears.

And that is good enough.

Today, I cannot bear to hold your baby (sorry!) or fawn over the picture of your swollen belly (sorry!) or even “like” your clever online pregnancy announcement (sorry!).

I will be happy for you.  One day soon, I will hold and fawn and like.  I will.

And that is good enough.

Today, I stomp my feet and shout that I am done.

Done with the uncertainty.  Done with the heartache.

Done with this whole business of mothering into another mama’s arms.

(D-O-N-E! Do you hear me?)

I know that this may well be true.  Or it might not.

And that is good enough.

Today, I am hurting and hopeful.

I am broken and held.

I know that I have loved well.  I know that I am loved well.

And, today, friends, that is good enough.

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Thoughts on Freedom

I grew up knowing the truth about Jesus.  I was a church baby… my daddy was a pastor, for goodness sake!  I was a serious child, so when I made a personal profession of faith around the age of 7, it was after all of the thoughtful consideration a child can reasonably be expected to make.  It was real.  I loved Jesus, and I knew I needed him to take away my sin and help me live fully in this life and make it into heaven in the next.

Fast forward to my sophomore year of high school and my life was falling apart in the way only adolescent lives can.  My safe place, the church, had become a place of hurt and isolation.  My teenage emotions had been manipulated.  People who had told me for years that they loved me and my family were dropping out of our lives.  And I was mad.  Church was supposed to be different.  Christians were supposed to be different.  How dare they hurt me like this?  I was foolish to believe them all along, to let them get close.

Months passed and I let myself sink further and further into my anger and isolation.  I locked myself in my bedroom, writing furiously, vowing never to let myself get close enough to be hurt by Christians again.  During this year, anger gradually took the place of church in my life.  Anger became my default, my safe place.  Anger felt good, it felt right, it took over.

And then I had another encounter with Jesus.  I can’t say it was an audible voice, but I heard it just as surely as I’ve ever heard anything in my life.

Yes, you’ve been hurt.  But you’ve got to make a choice.  Now.

Stop threatening and walk away.  Quit this Christianity thing once and for all.

Or run to me.  Let me set you free from the anger.  Let me set you free to abundant life.

Knees on my bedroom floor, face buried in my hands, I knew my answer instantly.

Lord, you have the words of life.  Where else can I go?

I wish this was the end of the story.  The truth is that, because they are sinful, broken people (just like me), the ones who were supposed to be safe, who were supposed to be different, would let me down again.  My anger came back with a vengeance.

Not just, “How dare they hurt me?”

But also, “How dare I let them?  I should have known better.  Never again.  Never again.”

This time the anger was easier.  It felt safe.  I knew how to do angry.  But this time I knew the eventuality too.  I knew that I couldn’t walk away.  I knew that though the chains of anger were familiar, they were also heavy.  And I knew that I couldn’t break them alone.  This anger was powerful.  I couldn’t wish it away or reason it away or work it away.

Run to me, Jesus was saying again.

Let me set you free from the anger.  Let me set you free to abundant life.

Back to my knees I went, and again I met Jesus as my deliverer.

I love the truth that Jesus made me new once and for all when I confessed him as a child.  But he is also making me new every day as I choose to live in his freedom.  Freedom from the anger that still crashes into my life with one word or thought or memory.  Freedom into relationship and vulnerability and trust and grace.  Abundant, extravagant grace.  Enough grace for the past.  Enough grace for the ones who claim Jesus but don’t always live like him.  Enough grace to confront my criticism and judgment.  Enough grace, after all, for me.

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On Generosity

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She sits on the dusty ground, her strong fingers separating tiny grains of rice from pebbles and bits of trash.

She is scanning the horizon and her face lights with joy when her little girl appears in the distance. Her little girl, all arms and legs and beautiful heart trailed by us—a couple of blan on mission for Jesus.

Come, come she invites, and we join her on the dusty ground.

We are welcome here and yet so tentative, so unsure of ourselves (I am, at least).  And so we reach into our overstuffed bags and pull out a few gifts.

It’s nothing much, we say.

Nothing much.

A bracelet, a sheet of stickers and (most treasured) the photo of a smiling family.

A family that knows her daughter’s name.  A family that sends their love all these miles in the overstuffed bags of the blan.

Wait, she says.  I have something for you too.

No, no, no we protest.

Being here is enough.

Blowing bubbles with your little girl is enough.

But our wise translator shushes us and translates simply

Thank you.

A son is dispatched.  A tree is scaled.  A machete is wielded.

And we blan walk back to join our team with arms full of coconuts.

We struggle to open them (where is that son with the machete when we need him?), then drink in their euphoric sweetness.

The sweetness of beautiful Haitian coconuts.

The sweetness of being welcome here.

The sweetness of a gift reciprocated, of human dignity acknowledged.

It is a gift forever wrapped up in the heart of this blan.

A gift that evokes strong emotion these years and years later.

A gift that I pray I will never forget, and might one day have the opportunity to reciprocate.

The sweet gift of absolute, honest generosity.

***

In 2011, I visited Haiti with Food for the Hungry.  If you want to learn more about what they do (or sponsor a child), you can check them out here.

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On Value

What do we value in people?

Physical appearance?  Wealth?  Intelligence?

What they can do for us?

In Luke 15, a group of tax collectors and sinners gather around Jesus.

They are men and women not esteemed, not valued in their society.

But Jesus is different.

Different from the Pharisees, the teachers of the law.

Different from the ones looking down their noses, calculating value.

He tells them a story.

A woman has ten coins, and loses one.

She still has nine.  Surely nine is plenty.

How much value does that one measly coin have anyway?

And yet.

The lamp is lit.  The house is swept.  The search is made.

And when that coin—the one that others might have ignored and forgotten—          is found,

The neighbors are called.  The rejoicing is loud.

Are we the Pharisees, the teachers of the law?

Are we the ones looking down our noses, calculating value?

Do we allow a few measly coins to stay ignored and forgotten?

Or are we lighting lamps and sweeping edges, searching high and low for ones who are valuable simply because they bear the image of God?

Simply because they are human.

Simply because they are.

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Forgiven Much

Compassion is tricky for me.

For a lot of years, I’d shrug and flippantly remark that it was simply

“not my gift.”

But the truth is more complicated than that.

Jesus looked into a crowd and felt compassion (Matthew 9:36).

He saw.  He felt.

I like to try to wrangle compassion with my mind.

I like to rationalize, to extend grace to the innocents, to the ones who I feel deserve it.

She kneels at his feet, anointing them with her expensive perfume

And her tears.

She is not an innocent.

I hear myself in the disciples’ voices as they protest.

But Jesus, if you really knew…

He knows.

He sees her.  He feels with her.

And his words of life to her are words of challenge to his disciples.

Words of challenge to me.

She loves much because she has been forgiven much.

The truth is, I am not an innocent either.

I don’t deserve this lavish grace.

I too have been forgiven much.

Today, I am praying for compassion that can’t be wrangled with my mind.

For eyes to see.  For a heart to feel with.

For grace to love not just the innocents,

But the ones like me.

Guilty.  Undeserving.

And forgiven much.

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When Jesus Leaves

We are good at compartmentalizing.

Too good, I think.

In sociology, we call it code-switching.

We call it adaptive behavior.

In education, we call it learning hidden rules.

We call it another skill to be mastered.

And then we wonder why we feel so fractured, so disconnected, so unsure of ourselves.

In Luke 4 and 5, Jesus spends a day with Peter.

They start out in the synagogue.

This is where we expect to find Jesus, right?

At church.  On Sunday morning.

He’s allowed here.  Expected, even.

So far, so good.

And then Jesus leaves.

He walks right on out of the synagogue and right on into Peter’s house.

Later he shows up in Peter’s boat, his place of employment.

And not just sitting around blending in with the crowd, either.

He shows up doing Jesus-y things.

Healing.  Casting out demons.  Speaking truth powerfully.  Providing in crazy, over-the-top ways.

It’s quite a spectacle, really.

The truth is, I’m not a big fan of spectacles.

And yet,

There is something about this kind of integrity that feels so very, very right.

Integrity.

Being one.

Because, friends, the truth is we did not leave Jesus at church this morning (or twenty years ago, whatever the case may be).

When we left, Jesus left.

He walked right on into our homes.

He walked right on into our places of employment.

And, if we’ll give him the space, I believe, he’s ready to do all sorts of Jesus-y things.

Let’s not pretend like we left him at church this week.

Let’s not shush him, pleading with him to just blend in with the crowd.

This week, let’s do life with a little less compartmentalizing

And a little more integrity.

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To the ones who feel invisible today

We are online in droves today.

Posting cute pictures of us with our dads.

Telling the world how wonderful our dads are.

Smiling dads.  Present dads.  Godly dads.

I am here.

I keep scrolling and I see you too.

Mostly silent today.

Feeling, perhaps, invisible.

To the ones grieving dads taken too soon and too violently,

I see you.

To the ones who enjoyed their dads for many years and yet miss them terribly today—one year, five years, twenty years later,

I see you.

To the ones putting on a brave face to celebrate with dads whose minds or bodies are being stolen by terrible diseases,

I see you.

To the ones estranged—the ones who cringe at the image of God as a father,

I see you.

To the little ones who ask, “Why don’t I have a daddy?” and the mamas who fumble for words,

I see you.

To the daddies with empty arms and aching hearts because their babies are in heaven.  Or in orphanages halfway around the world.  Or both,

I see you.

To the step dads and foster dads and granddads and uncles and friends who fill the shoes of daddy but feel a little like a fraud today,

I see you (and thank you).

To the ones who feel invisible today, the ones who remain silent,

You are not alone.  You matter.

You are seen.

You are loved.

Today.

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