Big_Heart_of_Art_-_1000_Visual_Mashups

Reluctant Hospitality

Once upon a time, I was young.

I had all the degrees I wanted and a job with a good salary.

I was done travelling the world to find myself, and I was ready to put down roots.

So I bought a condo.

With two bedrooms and an “extra” sunroom, it felt just right.

I bought it from a couple with a toddler and another kid on the way.

And I thought at the time, “oh this will be perfect until I have two kids.”

I guess somewhere in the back of my mind, I imagined that I might do this in a more traditional way.

But really, I think I figured that meant, “it will be perfect forever.”

It’s hard to think ten years out when you are young.

Introvert that I am, I loved having my own space.  I still do.

But I knew when I bought it, that it wasn’t just for me.

It almost felt like a divine imperative.

Share with God’s people who are in need.  Practice hospitality.

(Romans 12:13)

My mom is the best hostess.  And my sister.

They are in their element with a crowd gathered around their table, chowing down on a delicious home-cooked meal.

I guess this is what I was imagining.

But I don’t really like to cook.

Or hang out in crowds at all.

And yet, in this season of affirmation, I am reminded of my own reluctant hospitality.

Over the past five years, my home has been “home” (for a few nights, a few weeks or forever) to five sweet babies that I love dearly.

It has been laid bare to countless resource home workers, children’s case workers, interns, CASA volunteers, transporters, lawyers, fire marshalls and health department inspectors.

I haven’t always welcomed this latter group with unabashed joy.

Really, I’m not sure that’s a thing.

Honestly, I’ve been surprised at how much it’s felt like an invasion of my privacy.

Maybe that’s the practice part of practicing hospitality.

But here’s what I know.

Five babies knew love and safety and songs about Jesus inside these walls.

And lots of other people got to see love walked out here.

Whether masquerading as snuggles or time-outs or a half-crazed mama insistent on the best for her babies, they got to see love.

I feel like I’m heading into a new season of life.

Maybe there will be potlucks.

Or maybe just conversation over a cup of decaf (I still don’t like crowds much).

But I want to keep practicing hospitality.

However that might look.

candle

Live it all

Do you want to know the truth?

I feel a little raw tonight.

Vigilant and guarded.

Words meant to reassure sound hollow, tinny.

There is a difference between the “me too” spoken in compassion and the one spoken to placate.

I am not a fool.

And yet

Here I sit.

Chairs pulled up close to the cross, souls huddled around the broken body, spilled blood.

Here we are the same.

Desperately needy people with one hope.

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called…

(Ephesians 4: 4)

We will hear again the story, the pictures of Love past, present, future.

We will linger at the table of remembering.  We will wash feet in the now.  We will celebrate in anticipation of the day when all is made new.

I feel an urgency inside.

I want to skip to the end.

Tonight.  And always.

The redemption ache beats loud in my chest and I long so hard for the day when we don’t have to choose between unborn and born, between blue and black.

And I know again that that’s not how it works.

Not in this moment.  Not in all the rest.

We don’t get to skip the remembering.

We don’t get to skip the hard work of stooping to serve.

Stooping to love, with Love.

Even when we are raw and guarded, when the redemption ache throbs.

Chairs pulled up close to the cross, souls huddled around the broken body, spilled blood.

Here we are the same.

Here we remember together.

Here we serve together.

Here we know Love together.

Here we must, we get to live it all.

bread

Eucharisteo

A few weeks ago, I was in my car, driving to be with dear ones who were hurting hard.

It was a cloudy day, dark and dreary.

In a rare moment without little ones chattering in the back seat, my thoughts, my words drifted to prayer.  Driving and praying, I half expected to see what my daughter calls a “soul rising”—a break in the clouds where the sun shines through.  I was prepared to take it as a glimmer of hope, enough Light to stand with these dear ones as they took the next step.

Jesus did me one better.

Reaching the top of a hill, my breath caught in my throat.  Not a break in the clouds, not a glimmer of hope, but a sky exploding in light.  Not a cloud to be seen.  Not just enough Light, more than enough.

After taking the cup, he gave thanks…

And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them.  (Luke 10)

Eucharisteo.

The Greek word means giving thanks.

But it’s not a formality, not a matter of manners.

It’s a sacred space, this Eucharisteo.

A remembering place.

Settled in my seat, ready to meet Jesus in the Eucharist, I’m reminded that it’s not a tidy place either, not a grown up, sanitary place.

The Little One behind me squeals with delight at the tiny cup of grape juice.

A bigger one without social inhibition asks questions that make his daddy cringe and try to shush him.

This too, is Eucharisteo.

All of us welcome here.  Together.  Sticky fingers, loud voices and all.

Again my breath catches in my throat (I seriously cannot take communion these days without bawling).

I see again a sky exploding in light.

A sacrifice, a Love, not just barely enough, but overwhelmingly, extravagantly too much.

I remember.

And I cannot help but give thanks.

Big_Heart_of_Art_-_1000_Visual_Mashups

The Exhale

We finalized Little One’s adoption this week.

It was, pretty much, the perfect day.

Except for the part when he was grumpy and yelled at everyone.

But whatever.

It was the day that changed nothing.

And everything.

The actual details of our life look pretty much the same as they did before.

Tomorrow, I will stroke his curls and change his diaper and strap him into his carseat and drop him off at daycare and feel sad that I will spend all day with other people’s children instead of my own.

And grateful for a daycare provider who loves him like her own.

And then we will come home and laugh over dinner and read “Brown Bear” one hundred times and get baths and sing songs and hope for the best in his big boy bed (with his crib as a back-up option because we are not ready to die on the hill of the big boy bed just yet).

It will look pretty much like most of the days we’ve lived together over the past two years.

Except I will be able to breathe.

I will not have to ask for permission to cut his hair or to post his pictures or to let him sleep somewhere other than his own room.

I will not have to have all of his medical and daycare paperwork signed by a social worker.

I will not miss work or lose sleep over court hearings and other official meetings that may or may not happen at the time and place I am told.

I will not record every single thing (no, really, every single thing) for fear that some or another professional assigned to his case (most well-intentioned, many overworked, some completely burnt out) will not and I will need that exact date and time and phone number somewhere down the line to prove that I followed all of the rules and parented him well.

I will not cancel stuff I want to do because of required visits with some or another person who needs to lay eyes on him by some arbitrary date (which, by the way, is tomorrow).

I will not fret about what would happen to him if, God forbid, something happens to me.  Because today, I get to make those decisions instead of the state.

I will not wake in a panic, sweating up until the last possible second that something could still go wrong, that he could disappear.

This week was the exhale.

The release of breath that I’d been holding for the last two and a half years.

My life looks the same

But I feel one thousand pounds lighter,

Like I am walking on air.

This, too, is adoption.

Big_Heart_of_Art_-_1000_Visual_Mashups

Treasured

I usually don’t remember my dreams.

But, every once in a while, I think God speaks to me there.

Not in a mysterious way, so much.

More in a really obvious way that I was too busy to catch in my waking life.

Like I dream that someone comes up to me and asks me to pray for them.

True story.

Don’t need the gift of interpretation to figure out what that one might mean.

Last night I had a dream that I can’t shake.

One that is for me, but maybe not for me alone.

We were in worship and the invitation was to paint, to create, to splash our identity on canvas.

I am not one to think on my feet.  To splash anything without careful forethought.

Except, I guess, in my dreams.

My first thought was “loved.”  And in that moment, I knew it was right, but also not quite right.

Treasured.

This is the word that came.

The idea splashed onto the canvas of my dreams.

Represented by a crown, a thing of great beauty, of great value.

A thing whose value comes from the one to whom it belongs.

Friends, this is me.

This is us.

A treasured possession. (Malachi 3:17)

Ones formed in the image of a beautiful Creator.

Ones beautiful because we are his.

People of great value.

Value that lies not in our appearance, our performance, our popularity.

Value that comes from the One to whom we belong.

Friend, you are beautiful.

You are valuable.

You are treasured.

You are his.

Big_Heart_of_Art_-_1000_Visual_Mashups

This.

If there’s one thing my journey through foster care is teaching me, it’s how desperately I need rescue.

It’s easy to “other” when you’ve never met.

But when you’ve held a dear one as her heart spills onto the hard tile floor of the courthouse lobby, things change.

You realize that you’re not so different after all.

The truth is I am a few bad choices and one giant social safety net away from disaster.

The very same kind of disaster that was so easy to “other” before.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…

I learned this verse once upon a time… mostly to beat other adolescents over the head with my Bible so they could escape hell and believe what I believed.

But this is not the end of the story.

Not the end of the sentence.

Nope.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

(Romans 3:23-24).

As my eyes flit over the familiar words, I am amazed at how well this one sentence sums up what I believe, what I want my life to be about.

Friends, we are a mess.  A much bigger mess than some of us who have grown up in church would like to believe.

We are broken.  We fall short.  We are in desperate need of rescue.

But this is not the end of the story.

The good news shows up right there in the same sentence as our mess.

Jesus.

Because of Jesus, we are redeemed, bought back.

Because of Jesus, we are justified, set right with a holy God.

Because of Jesus, we know grace, ridiculous love when we deserve condemnation.

This, friends.

This is the truth.

This is the good news.

This is what we desperately need our lives to be about.

Big_Heart_of_Art_-_1000_Visual_Mashups

Lament

Fifteen years ago, I was young and idealistic.

I was on mission for Jesus—literally.

I was in the orientation week before a year of full-time ministry.

My faith was real.  And it was strong.

It had already held me through loss and betrayal.

Though not yet through the grown-up anxiety that I’d meet the next year.

Fifteen years ago, innocence shattered.

The world as we knew it was changed.

And I was challenged to write a lament.

I tried.

Looking back, it feels simplistic.

Too chirpy and hopeful.

I had not yet wailed on my knees.

I had whined and fussed in my adolescent angst,

But I had not yet ugly cried over a little one gone too soon.

I had not yet stifled sobs over missing someone so hard that it physically hurt.

I had not yet screamed at Jesus in my car with hot, angry tears puddling in my lap.

Y’all, I feel like I could write a lament today.

Not for me.  Not for my babies.

But for dear ones that I have come to love.

Jesus, we don’t know how to do this.

And we are so far from knowing how to do this well.

This has been my prayer a lot lately.

To a God who isn’t scared of my ugly cries or my screaming.

To a God who is big enough to take them all.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses…

Our fumbling, inadequate words.

Our hard, honest questions.

Our big feelings.

But we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.

Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence

Honestly.  Boldly.  With all our mess.

So that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.  (Hebrews 4)

Not easy answers.  Not quick fixes.

But the presence and patience and grace of a God who sympathizes with our weaknesses.

A God who isn’t offended by our chirpy, hopeful prayers.

The ones that feel too simplistic in retrospect.

A God who isn’t scared of our ugly cries.  Our screaming.

A God who hears our laments.