Kingdom Moments

It is a minor miracle that we are here this morning.

Fully clothed and (more or less) in our right minds.

You see, this is the season when storm clouds linger ominously on the horizon every day.

The twinkling lights that signal joy in other places put us on high alert.

We struggle to name the Forbidden Things.

To let ourselves feel the Big Feelings.

Before it all explodes into splinters of white hot rage.

Some days we can tiptoe past the storm clouds,

Treading lightly, lightly.

Today is not one of those days.

Blessed are the poor in spirit (Matthew 5:3)

The empty ones,

The ones aware of their complete dependence on God.

Hand up.  We’re here.

Another day my prayer would be “make me empty.”

Today I cannot imagine needing Jesus more than I do at this exact moment.

for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Really?

I almost scoff (at the Word of God—I know!).

And then I live the rest of this day.

Empty.

Helpless.

Completely dependent.

And in between the now and the not yet of the kingdom, I hear the echoes.

In the warmth of a fleece blanket.

And a moment of silence when everyone is at rest.

In enough food to last a few more days when it becomes apparent that grocery shopping is not happening.

And real, genuine giggles before bedtime.

In apologies and second chances.

And sacred words whispered through the darkness.

These are kingdom moments.

Weary ones, empty ones.

You are blessed.

We do not see it all just yet.

Storm clouds may linger on the horizon.

But today we can breathe deeply.

And savor these kingdom moments.

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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.

Chill Out and Eat Some Turkey

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.

On Rescue

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(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.

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.