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This is my story too.

I’m sitting in a room full of people who love Jesus.

Mamas and daddies whose lives have been touched by adoption.

My people.

And still it’s hard for me to drop my guard.

We circle up with practical strangers and we are supposed to pray.

At another time, in another place, I would know exactly how to do this “right.”

Today, I’ve got nothing.

So he tells his story.

A real-life story of rescue.

Of calling out to Jesus at what he truly believed to be his last moments on this earth.

And finding himself suddenly on dry land.

Snatched from the greedy hands of death.  Saved by the merciful hands of Grace.

It resonates hard.

This is my story too.

The perfect metaphor for a life surrendered to Jesus.

Snatched from the greedy hands of death.  Saved by the merciful hands of Grace.

Sometimes I like to pretend like my story is different.

Like I’ve got this parenting thing.  This foster care thing.  This adoption thing.  This life thing.

I try too hard to look good… to have it all together not just so you think I’m great, but so you think foster care is great.  So you think adoption is great.

Apart from me, you can do nothing.  (John 15:5)

I don’t like it, but I know it is true.

Abide, he calls.

Settle down here.  Lean in close.

Rest.

And remember.

That great story of rescue?

It’s my story too.

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One Hope

They snatch me up in the lobby, two sweet friends, and just come out with it.

How can we pray for you today as a white mama of non-white babies?

I don’t know the answer, exactly.

But I do know that this, this right here, is church.

Asking the brave question, the question that sometimes feels like an elephant in a room full of ostriches.

And praying, standing with, even when the only words that seem right are

Help, Jesus.

It’s hard enough for me to grapple with recent events as a follower of One who I see ever sweeping the edges, ever championing the underdogs, ever acknowledging great value in the ones marginalized by society.

But when it comes to my babies.  The babies that I love, unquestionably, more than life itself.

Oh.  Dear.  Goodness.

I lose all rationality.

And also my mind.  In your face.  If you spew some foolishness that rings hollow in my mama-ears.

One hope.

I settle into my chair after having church in the lobby.

I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while.

And here it is again.

…you were called to one hope when you were called… (Ephesians 4: 4)

The calling is simple.

Not easy, mind you.  Sometimes very hard.

Love God.  Love people.

The hope is real.

Not fully realized.  Not always see-with-your-eyes-able.

But real.

Friends, I have no hope for the violence and hatred and ignorance and division I see.

Except one.

Jesus.

Not love or unity or some inherent goodness of humanity.

Not gun control.  Or mental health services.  Or public policy of any kind.

Just Jesus.

Jesus is my one hope.

And so I will go on loving my babies.  And trying also to tell them the truth.

And struggling with all of it.

And blessing the ones who ask the hard questions right there in the lobby.

The ones who pray without having the answers, without having the words at all.

The ones who know what it means to be church.

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Perfect Peace

After finally getting my air conditioning fixed this week, my washing machine broke today.

It’s not a huge deal.  A first world problem, really.

But coupled with the seven hundred things I need to do before the end of the school year and two looming court dates it had me flustered.  Annoyed.

My babies don’t relax much.

From the moment their feet hit the floor in the morning, they are busy.

Even as an infant, Little One was never much for snuggling—preferring to be held out facing the world than in facing me.

And so it took me off guard a little.

Stirring from an afternoon nap, Little One calls for me.

Held in my arms, he is still. Quiet.

Not in a rush to be off to the next thing.

In this moment, just perfectly content and relaxed.

I feel his complete trust in me.  His absolute confidence that he is safe here.  In my arms.

In this moment, I am grateful for the weight of parenthood.

And the even greater weight of foster care.

And in this moment I know what it means–

Perfect peace.

You keep in perfect peace the one whose mind is stayed on you because they trust in you.

(Isaiah 26:3)

Isaiah sees God as a strong city, fortified against its enemies.

A rock.

I see him here.  As a worn brown couch, a well-loved crocheted blanket, a safe embrace and a moment of still.

My washing machine is still broken.

I still have seven hundred things to do in the next week.

And also I have a rock.  A strong city.

A safe embrace where I can relax for a moment and know perfect peace.

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Grace Running

Let your grace run free

we sing.

It makes me wonder if we are the ones that trip grace up sometimes.

We church people with our unspoken rules and our haughty glances.

We church people struggling to be known by our love instead of our political persuasion, instead of (gasp) our imposition of a standard of morality.

I think about how I’ve seen God work, and it rings true.

Grace running.

Not accepting our offer to work off the money that we squandered.  Not entertaining our apologies and excuses.  Not even waiting for them.

But spotting us a long way off.

And running.

Embracing.  Celebrating.

(Luke 15:11-31)

This is the gospel.

This is the good news.

It makes me wonder if this grace trips us up sometimes.

We church people who grumble like the brother in the background.

We church people who want our good choices, our noble deeds to count for something.

Grace running feels too easy somehow.

It’s not.

In fact, it cost everything.

This too is the gospel, the good news.

For all of us.

Let’s not trip grace up.

And let’s not trip up on it.

Let’s let grace run free.

 

 

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When Love Wins

You guys, I watched love win this week.

It’s not something we get to see often in this business of foster care,

But this week I got a glimpse of it.

I entered the tiny room, thick with despair

And emboldened by the prayers of the faithful,

I watched love crumble defenses, expose truth and bring hope.

They were sacred moments.  Life-filled moments.

Hard to wrap words around.

I left that room a little breathless.

We were all taken aback with the immensity of it.

That was beautiful, I heard in the lobby, it says a lot about you.

But, friends, it doesn’t.

Not so much.

It says a lot about the Love I know.

***

Bread and cup in hand, I am reminded of another day when Love won.

I am, again, overcome with emotion to think of it.

A perfect, sinless sacrifice becoming sin.  Conquering death.

For us.

For me.

I know again, in these moments, my ravenous need for this body and blood.

My desperateness, my utter dependence on a Deliverer.

I know again that I am not here to rescue.

I am here because I’ve been rescued.

Here in these sacred moments, hard to wrap words around.

Here in these life-filled moments

When Love wins.

The bravest thing

Once upon a time when I was young,

When everything felt more absolute and less messy,

I would have argued with you about the fine line between praying in faith and singing lies right in church.

I would have argued that if I didn’t see it right now with my very own eyes, it couldn’t be true.

Now I am older.

Life and faith feel messy and honestly, some days, too hard.

I know some things to be true with my heart that my younger mind could never hold, could never handle.

I’m thinking about Elijah this morning.

Elijah was a man just like us (James 5:17)

Elijah in all the messiness of his humanity.

Bold and terrified.

Calling down fire from heaven and running for his life.

Collapsing under a tree, under the weight of it all, asking God to make it end.

(1 Kings 19)

Elijah, the man living in between the now and the not yet.

Knowing God in the quiet whisper on the mountain but waiting on the promise of redemption in the flesh.

A promise he would never see with his own eyes.

Elijah was a man just like us.

A man whose prayer was powerful and effective because of a righteousness not his own.

And so I stand right up.

And I pray the words, right out loud.

Through it all, through it all, my eyes are on you.

And it is well with me.

Because I am not the first one to live in between the now and the not yet.

Because just because I don’t see it with my very own eyes at this very moment doesn’t mean that it isn’t true.

Because I believe in prayer.  Powerful, effective prayer rooted in a righteousness not my own.

Because right now, in this moment,

Doing the thing that my younger self would have mocked, would have argued about, is the hardest, truest, bravest thing I can do.

Six Things Foster Care Has Helped Me Learn About Teaching

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I’ve been a teacher for a long time.  I’ve been a foster parent for a shorter time (though on many days it’s hard for me to remember my life before foster care).  While professional development certainly has its place, some of my biggest lessons as a teacher come from living with my eyes open.  And if there’s one thing that foster care does, it’s open eyes.  Here are a few ways I’ve grown as a teacher because of my experience as a foster mom.

Safety first

Absolutely nothing else is going to get done until you can convince little people that they are in a safe place.  Nothing.  This is critical and non-negotiable.  I must be honest and reliable.  This classroom must be a place where we take care of each other.  We can never tear each other down.  Never.

Give the babies voice

Everyone has a story.  Even the tiniest learners have lived a lot and want to share their experiences.  It is so important for them to know that they are heard.  We live in a world where it’s ok to shush and dismiss children.  Our classrooms cannot be like this.  Listen to the stories.  Ask about their weekend.  Remember that they have soccer on Wednesdays (write it down if you must, but for goodness’ sake, remember it) and ask about it on Thursday morning.  This is important for all kids.  It’s double and triple important for the kids that try hard to fade into the background.  And it’s quadruple important for the kids who yell and throw stuff.

They’re having hard time

When kids are melting down, it’s not about you.  Their behavior may be challenging, but they are children.  They are not out to get you.  It’s super helpful for me to remember in those moments that they are not giving me a hard time, they are having a hard time.  I even say this to them, “I see you’re having a hard time right now, what can I do to help?”  Sometimes this works to resolve the problem.  Sometimes it doesn’t.  But it always sends the message that I am big and safe enough to handle your emotions and behaviors and we are on the same team.

Don’t say things that aren’t always true like they are

Things like, “Don’t worry, mommies always come back.”  Or, “Hurry up or we are going to leave without you.”  Mommies don’t always come back.  Teachers don’t leave students behind.  Say what you mean.  Your words matter.

I love them, but they’re not all mine

Since I’ve started teaching kindergarten, I’ve become more maternal with my students than I ever was before.  Something about their cuteness and their eagerness to learn makes them super endearing to me.  We spend lots of time together, my students and I.  We learn and laugh and sometimes cry.  I feed them breakfast and bandage their skinned knees.  I help them negotiate peer relationships and cheer when they finally learn to tie their shoes.  I love them, there is no doubt about this.  I think about them when we are apart.  Sometimes I even lose sleep trying to figure out a way to move them to the next level in guided reading.  But they are not mine.  The year ends.  I send them on.  I cannot be everything for them.  And this is not my job.  God has sent me two babies for whom I must give it all.  The rest of them I love and let go.  I don’t say stuff like, “I feel like they’re all my kids.”  Or “I’d adopt them all if I could.”  Because it’s just not true.

It’s not that serious

Almost all of the time, whatever feels like a gigantic problem today won’t feel like that in a year.  Sometimes, not even tomorrow.  We all have personalities… even when we are little.  Sometimes we click and sometimes we don’t.  It doesn’t matter.  We all have bad days.  We all throw temper tantrums (some of us are just quieter and more eloquent than others).  Everyone deserves a blank slate and it’s my job to make that happen for my students every single day.  Yesterday was great or terrible.  Today is a new day.  We’ve got this.  Let’s make it happen!

Whatcha think?  How has life made you a better teacher?  Or foster parent?  Or person?