On Being Human

I’m thinking about Jesus the man tonight.

The man whose feet got dirty and needed washing.

The man who reclined at the table with his disciples because he loved them and because he was hungry.

The man who withdrew from the crowds and fell asleep on choppy waters.

This humanity is resonating hard with me, I think, because I am so aware right now of my own humanity.

I feel, in a lot of ways, that I’ve been pushed to the edge of myself here lately.

So out of my element.

So unable to handle things.

Y’all, I am a handler.

I want to love, to serve, to minister out of those places where I feel strong, where I feel like I have it all together.

This is not often how it works for me.

Instead, I’m trying to wrap my arms around shards of brokenness while I feel my own heart rubbed raw.

This binding up the brokenhearted is not for punks.

Hebrews says that we don’t have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses (Heb. 4:15).

I know that this is true.

Because here in my humanity, knowing the really-real mess that I am, I know him.

His presence is steadfast.  Undeniable.

He is here in the high-ceilinged courthouse where futures are decided.

He is here in my living room visited by so many strangers who make me feel like I am on display.

He is here in the sacred moments when words fail and still something comes.

He is here when I am out of my element, pushed to the very edge of myself.

This God-Man who sympathizes with my weaknesses

And chooses to love me anyway.

He is here.

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Chill Out and Eat Some Turkey


Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  For me, it’s all the family-ness and festivity of Christmas without the frenzy, excessive packaging and Santa drama.  (Yes, I love Jesus and I’m happy that he was born, but I am just as happy about this on a random Tuesday morning as I am on December 25.)  Thanksgiving is gratitude and turkey and tractor rides and relatives passing around your baby so you don’t have to supervise for one entire blissful day.  And, in our family, a piñata.  Because, of course.

I know some adoptive parents get all worked up this time of year.  We don’t like when people tell our kids that they are lucky to be adopted.  We don’t like when our kids are expected to be any more grateful for a family than any other kid.  It’s true.  They are not lucky.  They don’t need to be extra grateful.  And also, it’s ok to chill out and eat some turkey.

Here’s what I know on my fifth Thanksgiving as a mom by adoption:

Not every moment is an education moment.

Adoption education and adoption advocacy are great.  I do both of them like they are my job.  Because, in fact, they are.  But not every moment is an education moment.  Most of the crazy stuff that I hear about adoption comes from strangers.  And sometimes, I just smile and nod.  Or, you know, avert my gaze and walk on.  Because not every battle is mine to fight.  And sometimes a quick whisper to my babies of, “you know I’m the lucky one, right?” is honestly the best choice.

The people who matter know what’s what.

Parenthood has narrowed my world considerably.  I’ve never been much for small talk, and with two busy little people buzzing around, you have to really love me to get a moment of my time.  I know this will not always be the case, but right now it is.  And it’s ok.  These are the folks who are there when the rubber meets the road.  They are my people.  And they don’t say stupid stuff because they love me and my babies and have worked hard to learn about and respect their stories.  I am infinitely grateful for this safe place.

It’s ok to feel how you feel.

The first Thanksgiving that my daughter and I spent together was also my first Thanksgiving without my Pop Pop.  I still grieve that he never got to meet the great-granddaughter for whom he prayed for almost exactly one year before he went to heaven.  That Thanksgiving was also the first one that my daughter remembered without other important people in her life.  There is no one right way to grieve the loss of your roots.  It’s ok to feel how you feel.  And to let your kids feel how they feel.  Let go of the expectation that it has to be happy (or you’re letting other people down).  And also the expectation that it has to be sad (or you’re “betraying” the loved ones that you lost).  Do what feels right.  Eat pumpkin pie and laugh at silly board games.  Or go cry in the car.  Or both.  It’s all ok.  For real.

I’m doing a good job.

When I watch my daughter respond to adoption-ignorant comments with grace beyond her years, my heart swells.  She is smart.  She is articulate.  She is courageous enough to speak her mind.  To me, parenting feels like one thousand judgment calls a day.  Adoption adds an extra layer of complexity and questions.  I don’t get it all right.  Some days I feel like I am failing miserably.  I’m not.  And, I’m pretty sure, neither are you.  We’re doing the best we can.  And our kids will be all right.

Most of all, as I tuck my babies into bed, I know that I am exceedingly blessed.  Tired, disheveled and sometimes grumpy, but also overwhelmed by the beauty in these moments that fly by too quickly.  Overwhelmed by the beauty in these two who call me Mama.

And so, this week, I’m going to watch Little One get passed from relative to relative.  I’m going to cheer my big girl on as she bashes a piñata with all her might.  And I’m going to chill out and eat some turkey.


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On Rescue


(Photo by Photography for a Greater Good)

After months of crickets chirping, there’s been some movement in Little One’s case these past few weeks.

A change of social workers (have I mentioned that foster care is a high burn-out field?).

Meetings and miscommunication.

The frantic anticipation of court.

The seeming nonchalance of a room full of professionals about the future of another human being.  Maybe I look nonchalant too in my high heels and privilege.  Who knows?

A ruling and the slow exhale of breath that I didn’t know I was holding.

And then more requests, more things deemed my “responsibility.”

I put up a fight, enough to be told that I have a real skill in advocating for myself and my family.

But we all know the truth.

If I’m pushed hard enough, I will give in.  Because my love for this tiny human is bigger than my dislike of this ridiculous process, bigger than my desire to be right, bigger than my own self-protective instincts.

I hate this.

But it is true.

There is a perception, I think, that foster parents and adoptive parents are rescuers.

Taking children from bad situations and whisking them away into happily-ever-after.

But there is one thing I know, friends.

Can’t nobody rescue but Jesus.

Eye to eye with Little One’s mom outside the courtroom, her heart spilling onto the cold tile floor, I am so far out of my element.  It is one of life’s hardest moments.  And it is sacred.

Toe to toe with a young professional eager to prove herself, I back down.  I bite my tongue.  It feels like giving up my shirt to someone who has already taken my coat (Luke 6).  And I don’t like it a bit.

Loving in uncertainty for myself is one thing, but it is heavy knowing that this leaves my family no choice but to do the same.  Especially my strong, big-hearted girl who can’t help but feel echoes of her own story here.

Perhaps this crazy journey is a good match for someone’s skill set.

It’s not mine.

I am not here to rescue.

I can’t.

I know, this week again, I am only here because I have been rescued.

There is no other way that I could live this and not despair.

There is no other way I could feel the darkness, the humanity, the hopelessness poured out on cold, tile floors and not give in to it all.

I am here because once upon a time Jesus snatched up my eager childlike heart.

And once upon a time he snatched up my angsty adolescent heart.

And this Monday, he snatched up my needy, cynical grown-up heart.

And he’ll do it one hundred, one thousand, one million times more.

I am mixed up in the broken mess of foster care though I have pleaded more than once to just be done for this reason.

I am here because I know the Rescuer.

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It is not this way among you.

My daughter is a student of human behavior.

She doesn’t miss a trick.

And so it is that this week I find myself telling her this:

Yes, baby.  There are lots of people who say that they love Jesus and don’t live like they do.


She comes with her two boys.  (Matthew 20:20-28)

Her babies.

Asking Jesus for a favor.

One on your right, one on your left.

The other disciples are outraged, but Jesus’ response is gentler, more compassionate.

I know the ones who don’t follow scramble and fight for position.

They wield their power harshly.

It is not this way among you.

You—the followers of the Way—are different.


It is not our words that set us apart, I tell my daughter.

It’s our lives.

Not because we are perfect.

Not because we try harder.

Not because we are different in any fundamental way.

But because we—the followers of the Way—know who we are.

We are beloved children.

Sons and daughters of the God of the universe.

One who made it all, who rules it all, who doesn’t need us.

Not even a little bit.

But One who chose to serve, chose to ransom, chose to redeem.

One who chose to draw us close.  To speak our names with tenderness.

One who catches our tears and frees us from the need to scramble and fight.

One who frees us to serve, frees us to love.

Because he did it first.

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Let’s Go Over

Give me faith to trust what you say

That you’re good and your love is great.

I stroke Little One’s curls and drink in the lingering aroma of babyhood.

I may be weak, but your Spirit is strong in me.

My flesh may fail.  My God you never will.

It’s not our normal lullaby.

That one is all about Love.

But these are the words that come on the harder nights.

When teeth are coming in or dreams are scary

Or who-knows-what-else makes sleep elusive.

I sing it for Little One.

Because, friends, even the “best” foster care stories come with loss.

Big, scary loss.

And, my eyes suddenly cloudy, my voice cracking,

I realize that I sing it for myself too.

I talk a good game.

I do.

And I am scared.

Scared of loving and losing.

Scared of not being enough to raise two little humans from hard places.


Let’s go over to the other side, Jesus says to his disciples after a long day of loving people well (Mark 4:35-41).

The disciples’ obedience is tangible.

Jesus invites them over.  They hop onto the boat.

You know the rest of the story.

A furious squall.

A sleeping Jesus.

A word that calms the storm.

But I’m stopped in my tracks by the reality this morning that the disciples were right where Jesus asked them to be.

Their faith wasn’t tested because they were being disobedient.

If they had stayed on shore, they may well have missed the furious squall altogether.

But they didn’t.

Because they followed Jesus onto the boat.


My “call” to foster care was inescapable.

I pleaded to be done.

Jesus told me “one thing.”

And here I am holding another Little One who will only quiet to my song.

Let this be a heart exhale, friends.

If you too are scared.

If you are facing a furious squall.

It doesn’t mean you’re in the wrong place.

It may well be because you followed Jesus onto the boat.

Let’s go over together.

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On Perspective

I leave the bread on the grocery store counter knowing that I have another loaf in my stuffed freezer at home and plenty of room in my budget to buy as much bread as I want.  But also knowing that if I were in another situation, my baby would have no bread this week.

This is a post I’ve been putting off writing.

But it’s important.

It’s something I need to share.

Here’s the background:

I am a single mama.  Even with two dependents, though, I don’t come vaguely close to falling below any official poverty line.

I am a college-educated, white-collar professional.  And yes, I’m gonna go there.

I’m also white.

In other words, I’m not used to anybody scrutinizing my every move.

Here’s the rest of the background:

All kids in foster care qualify for certain government benefits automatically.

No matter the socio-economic class of their foster families, they are still technically in the state’s custody.

And so they get free meals at school.  Free medical care.  Stuff like that.

Until they are five (and in school to get those free meals), they get a certain amount of food per month through a government subsidy program.

When Little One was going through ridiculous amounts of formula, this benefit actually saved me a good deal of cash.  Now that we get “big people” food, the actual monetary savings is not that much.

More than once, I’ve thought about forgetting the whole thing.

But Little One deserves that food as much as anybody.  Right?

And so I try to contain my mortification as I go in search of the exact items specified on the paper check (seriously, who uses paper checks anymore?  Is this a purposeful othering, or is it just my paranoia?)

I’ve scouted out the stores that indicate approved food on their shelves because locating the exact items allowed requires more mental energy than my masters-educated brain can muster with a toddler in tow.

I find myself avoiding eye contact with strangers as I locate the specified items.  I never shop at the grocery store near my work.  Or the one where I do my “normal” weekly shopping.

Only once have I run into someone that I know on one of these trips.  Do you want to know the truth?  I tried to scoot into another aisle to avoid any interaction with her while holding the folder with the subsidy information.

Do you want to know the rest of the truth?  She is a very nice person and I am quite certain (in retrospect) that she would not think badly of me at all.  And she might even drop off a bag of groceries anonymously at my door if she thought I needed them.

Which I don’t.  But still…

Then there is the dreadful checkout process.

All items must be sorted by what is indicated on each check.  This means that if I buy diapers or something else that is not covered, one trip can require four separate transactions.

What makes my face flush as customer after customer behind me chooses a different line because we are taking so long?

The withering glares are not just in my head, right?  I’m pretty sure they are not.

One fellow customer even comes up to me in the parking lot afterwards, telling me all of the reasons that she was in a hurry and had to switch lines.  What do you even do with that?

I’ve done these shopping trips at lots of different stores.  And I’ve finally decided that I will only go back to one of them.

Because the truth is I’ve had unpleasant interactions with store staff at all of the other ones.

Including today.

Today the cashier tells me that the bread I’ve chosen is not the right brand.

Oh, I smile.  It’s Saturday and Little One is well rested and none of us are hungry, so I am feeling less annoyed with the whole process than usual.

I let her know that I double checked the item against the tag that indicated that it was allowed.  I kindly suggest that she have someone take down the tag so that others don’t have this same problem.

I am really, truly trying to be kind.

She says nothing.  She will not even make eye contact.

No worries, I say, still trying to muster cordiality.  Little ears are listening.  Always.

I leave the bread on the grocery store counter.

I go home and feed my babies plenty.

I take a loaf of bread out of the freezer to thaw for tomorrow’s breakfast.

I go online and give my (strongly worded) opinion which my receipt indicates that this company values.

I write a blog post about the unfairness of it all.

All of this gives me pause.

It reminds me that if I had been born into a different situation, if I had made different choices, my life could have turned out so much differently.

My babies could be hungry tonight.

There is no neat way to wrap this post up.

There is no tidy resolution.

Just maybe the resolve to be a little kinder, a little more willing to see the good in other people, a little slower to judge.

So friends, if you can, do me a favor.  Don’t rush by.  Just make eye contact.  And smile.  And wait the extra two minutes in line.


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What Are These?


Forty years they wandered and every morning there was enough

What is it?

They asked of this bread from heaven.


It is enough.

Exhausted from a long day of ministry, Jesus looked on the crowd and felt compassion.

A little boy with his humble offering

Five barley loaves.  Two fish.

Here it is, his disciple said

But what are these for so many people? (John 6:9)

What are these?

They asked this Bread from heaven.

Manna went bad after just one day.

But today there are leftovers.  Twelve baskets of leftovers.


No, more than enough.

I’ve felt it this week.  Maybe you have too.

I’ve walked into situations where the need is too great.

My offering is too small.

Not enough, I mumble, eyes downcast.

It’s just not enough.

I’m right, you know.

I could parcel and divide my five loaves a thousand different ways and it would never be enough.

What are these measly gifts in the face of such need?

What are these?

I ask the Bread of heaven.

Holding out my outrageously insufficient offering.

They are not enough.

This I know.

But this Manna from heaven?

He is enough.

No, more than enough.

So much more than enough.

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