Friday, May 25, 2018

#skunkversary

One year ago today, a skunk moseyed on into our house...okay fine, it was chased in by my dogs. Whatever.

One year ago today, I was not in a good place emotionally. It was a season in my life that I felt like one thing after another was just going wrong, and if not wrong - was just really hard. When our little suburb-woodland creature decided to wreak $13,000 worth of damage to our home with just the lift of his tail, I truly felt like it was a blow that I wasn't sure we could recover from. I remember repeatedly using the phrase - "It's all too much. I need something to lift. It's all too much." I shook my fist at the Lord, and began wondering if he thought this was all funny, or if he had just turned a blind eye. Why was life only piling on, instead of easing up? Little did I know, the skunk was one of the best things that could have happened to us in that season. Little did I know that God meant it when he said he would use all things, even skunks, for good. (Romans 8:28)

Man makes his plans, but the Lord directs his steps. Proverbs 16:9

Watch how the steps unfolded....

May of 2017, I quit my job with the plan to pursue school for Life Coaching. Skunky McSkunk visited us on my last day of work. (Which working at a spa, my odor was not entirely a welcomed one. Sorry G & C! ) As a result, I did not end up starting school in June as I had planned. Instead, I spent the next couple of months becoming a professional skunk odor eliminator. We needed to come up with $13,000. God provided $14,000 within three weeks. God lifted our financial burden through our incredibly generous community. Because I wasn't filling my time with school, I had the time to check in on some health stuff that I had been letting fester. Turns out I needed surgery. In that surgery, they realized I needed a much bigger surgery - one that would lift some of my physical burden. Because I was home recovering from surgery, I wasn't able to go back to work. Because I was home, we had the space and capacity in our life to say yes the day we received a call asking us to take in a newborn baby. Orphan and foster care has been close to my heart for years. But I had grown calloused and tired. God began lifting an emotional burden. Our family has been blessed beyond measure to have this precious child in our home for however long we do. And through our tiny human, my desire to find a career in the social welfare field has been re-kindled. So I'm planning to pursue that next year. (I use the word "plan" very lightly...see above verse.)

That maybe sounds like a weak story on paper, but only because I cannot find the words to re-tell the story of the hundreds of thousands of ways God worked day in and day out this year to bring our family, and my heart, to where it is today.

How many times do we say we don't have time for things? Or we don't have the energy or the capacity for things? How much energy do we put into what we think our lives should look like? I know I've invested a lot of time and energy into my plans, only to feel tired and burned out at the end of each day. That's another blog post for another day. "Margin" and "Time" have been on my mind a lot lately. But this past year, God has showed up in such huge and small and unique ways to remind me that HIS ways are not mine, and they are ALWAYS better. Don't get me wrong, I still struggle. I still feel like God is asking a lot of us, and I wouldn't mind him lifting a few more things. He's just changing my perspective on what that means. Slowly, but surely.

If the skunk had never come, the baby wouldn't have either. I really believe that. And oh, how I love this baby and his story in our family for however long we have him. (I would take a thousand more skunks if it meant we got to love this sweet child for this season!) This didn't happen because I created time or space - that was all God. And it was painful. Being stripped of our plans to make way for his generally is. But looking back over the course of the past year, I see God's faithfulness at every turn. And the story in its entirety was what I needed for anything to lift in this life that has felt like entirely too much. It's what I continue to need as I stumble through my days wishing for an easier life.

So friends, what is the hard God has you in right now? What is your attitude and spirit saying about it? Maybe pause and ask him to direct your steps in it, instead of lifting you out of it. You may just find the best story yet over your life. God really does write the best stories. And one day, I know you will be able to look back over the course of your days and see his faithful hand over all of it. Maybe you already can if you choose to piece together what has felt like mundane, random and really hard days. It's fun! Try it! Stop and ponder all the pieces that fell in step that had nothing to do with your plan. Then tell me the story! I can't wait to hear it! Sometimes looking back at all the ways God has been faithful is what we need to remember he will be tomorrow as well.


Sunday, May 13, 2018

Musings from a really tired mom on Mother's Day

Since becoming a mom, I've spent all the Mother's Days of old trying to twist them into what I think it should be for me as a mom, what I think I need it to be to feel loved and cherished by my family. I want it to be a day that feels easy to me, because gosh-darn-it....I've EARNED an easy day! I want to sleep in, I want everyone to do all the cooking and cleaning, bring me my slippers and coffee, give me the perfect gift (and for them to not care when I pout because it wasn't)...basically treat me like the princess I think I am. GULP. How is that for a confession? The bigger confession is I have been living my days, day-in and day-out, with this crummy attitude. I look around at the hard, the messy, the loud...and I think to myself - "they.are.driving.me.NUTS! THEY need to stop. I have earned the right for them to stop!". I'm not sure when this attitude dug it's heals in, but I fear it has been a while, and I didn't even realize it had happened.

The last few days I have been pondering how I wanted this years Mother's Day to be, and this ugliness I speak of was revealed to my heart and my mind. I felt a wave of conviction come over me that this year - I needed to shift my mindset. Mother's Day isn't a day for them to celebrate me (or at least I shouldn't expect that). Instead, Mother's Day is a day I should be celebrating them, and the reality that I get to be their mom! What a gift. One I have not been treating like a gift lately.

So today I woke up with a true desire to serve my children. I set my alarm (which I HATE doing). I planned to put a yummy pastry in the oven for breakfast. Agreed to the soccer game scheduled on MY day. Set my mind to letting the girls come to the flower store with me (when all I ever want is time alone to pick out my garden). Asked their input for where to go for dinner. And longed to recognize a million other moments that I knew I would have the opportunity to expect to be served, or choose to serve. 

This year though - for the first time ever, my family delivered me breakfast in bed (with coffee)...which is a good thing because I hit "snooze" on my alarm for 45 minutes!!! I was given a rose at the soccer game. The girls tagged along for the annual flower buying, but didn't really interrupt my garden planning by having all the opinions I feared they would...they apparently just wanted to be with me. They all pitched in their money and gave me the best gift ever - one I had not even directly asked for (an InstaPot!). And we went with the flow and found a yummy new dinner spot when my favorite restaurant that I have previously made them wait two hours for, delivered again a two hour wait time. (The new restaurant even gave us all free ice cream!)

Honestly, the most beautiful moment for me came when I was able to pause long enough to realize that this day carries heartache for three of my babes (two adopted, one foster). We are very intimately living within our very own family the reality that is blogged about, fought about, and highly guarded on social media as pain - and the reason this holiday should be treated with much caution. We had a small moment of acknowledging the mothers that have loved (or do love) HALF of my children. We lit a candle for each mama, reminded our children that it's okay to miss them, and to remember how much they are/were loved by another Mama. That was not a moment that I, in my flesh, would ever have come up with on my own. Instead it was a very sweet, and timely reminder from the Holy Spirit that this day is a day for me to celebrate my role in the lives of six tiny (and not-so-tiny) humans. It's a precious one that I won't always have. I know Mother's Day holds a great deal of pain for women all across the globe. It is a day that carries pain in our own family. I can only pray this was a healing moment in our family's story. It sure is humbling to remember that I was not the original plan for "Mama" in three of these children's lives - yet God has allowed me to be for as long as He sees fit. I needed to remember their pain today, as well as the pain of their mother's.

My prayer as this day comes to a close is that God will continue to uproot the selfishness that has set in. I have let my spirit (and body) grow tired, and weary. I have expected my children to stop being children, and instead be easy. I've grown frustrated when they haven't played along. And I've missed out on a lot of joy and beauty as a result. I don't think I'm unique in this struggle. So I know I'm also not unique in the sweet realization that tomorrow will start fresh, and I have a chance to decide again to serve them instead of expecting them to serve me. I don't need Mother's Day to know they love me. They haven't kicked me out yet, so that really does speak volumes! What a gift, these babes. One that I know does not belong to everyone. And it is one that I often take for granted. I don't want to live that way. In all the hard, and messy, and loud - may I grow in my understanding of this gift, and choose a servanthood that does not at all come natural to this tired mama. 

Today was a good day to be their mother. 


For Mama Ruth, Mama K, and an unknown Mama.





Friday, April 13, 2018

living life three minutes at a time.

Time now: 1:49 PM

When you have a little one....and by little, I mean a child between the ages of birth and 18 years old, you tend to get interrupted. A LOT.

I haven't sat through a church service in about 5 weeks. I get through about three minutes, only to have to loudly exit the room. A lot of churches now offer a cry room, which is all fine and good, until you realize the cry room doesn't actually mean a place to sit and listen quietly. Me? I've been pacing the hallways at church the last few weeks, catching a nugget here or there, but mostly mingling with other moms in the hallway doing the same thing. I've been tempted to ask why I bother going to church at all. After all, it's smack in the middle of nap time. I used to feel easily embittered by this phase. My husband is the pastor. He never has to miss the service. But it dawned on me this past Sunday that there is still great value in getting my kids out the door, and mingling in the hallway. There just is. So I will fight for that time.

Reading a book?? Who has time for that? I'm currently working on 3.5 books. I expect to finish them sometime before 2020. Or I will hope they release to film instead! Reading for bursts of three minutes at a time makes for a loooong read. I used to get angry watching my husband somehow have the ability to shut the world out and focus on all the reading he is always doing. I don't have that gift. My books aren't going anywhere though, and they add value to my life... so I will fight for that time.

I like to talk to my husband. We've been working on the same conversation for about five days, because three minute chunks lead to a lot of confusion and having to repeat what you've already said for the first minute and a half in order to remember where you are.  I used to get annoyed with the kids because they couldn't just let us have a conversation. I love him though, so I will fight for that time.

Showering? I'd forgotten there is an art to a three minute shower. I like to not stink, so I will fight for that time.

Meal time? Why is it that whenever you sit down to eat, someone needs something? I like food, so I will fight for that time.

My point is this, young mother - It often seems like we move through our days in three minute intervals. That's all the longer you feel you can give attention to something before someone needs your attention. It's tiring. You feel stretched thin. You long for more hours in the day. You feel you are falling behind in everything. You want to quit. Bitterness is taking root, and you wonder why you seem to carry all the burdens that come along with not enough time. So I offer you this....three minutes will stretch into years. I promise, it will. And you will even have long chunks of uninterrupted time to do all the things. I promise, you will. You will look back and realize the value in all the minutes combined. And you will feel a sense of accomplishment over all the things you didn't realize you had done.

I'm sure this feels like a weird and meaningless post to most of you. But being back in the trenches of having zero time to myself - I see things a little different this time around. My husband even apologized to me the other day, as I had to excuse myself AGAIN from being with friends so I could tend to the baby. He told me he felt bad I was missing out, and he didn't want me to grow bitter. Yikes. I guess he has the right to be worried about that with my track record! It was nice to realize I wasn't. I know this is a season. So I wanted to offer that to someone out there who I know needs to hear it....This is a season! Don't let it swallow you whole. Get creative with all the things you want to make time for, and forgive yourself for all the things you can't do. Make time for you when needed, that's important. But one day the time will just be there. It just will.... Until then, take your three minutes for whatever they are, then move on to whatever is next with joy in your heart...for YOU, Mama, are doing good work.

Times up. It's 1:52. Gotta go....




Thursday, March 15, 2018

To All the Moms of Littles

"You'll miss these days when they are gone!" .... Said most some mothers once their children were older.

I'm not most women.

I was one of those moms of littles who longed for the days ahead - the days they could sleep, the days they could eat, the days they could crawl, the days they could walk, the days they could talk, the days they could stop talking so much, the days they could dress themselves, wipe themselves, do all the things themselves. I cannot even begin to tell you how often I felt guilty about my desire to be done with the itty-bitty season! (Which for me, meant up to age five.) After all, the days are long but the years are longer....or something.

So here I am, 18 years of parenting under my belt (which I realize means very little). I have five children ages 10 to 18, and now....a baby...again! {{Yawn}} It is so incredibly strange parenting an infant alongside parenting teens. Who am I kidding, parenting teens is incredibly strange! Kidding. Sort of. Parenting babies requires so much physically. Parenting older children requires so much mentally and emotionally. Go ahead. Ask me how tired I am. Let me paint a small picture of our current reality: Tonight 4 of the 6 kids had somewhere different to be. The one child who drives had a thing and she couldn't help with transport. All this was taking place during babies bedtime. This is what is known as a conundrum. Everyone is now home and safely tucked in their beds (or watching Netflix on their phones). We made it.

I tell young moms who ask me how I survived, that each season comes with its own hard. I've always referred to parenting kids from birth to age five as the, "keep them alive phase". You know, you don't really interact much. You just sort of...keep them from drowning, choking, avoiding a mad swarm of wasps, falling down the stairs, starvation, dying kind of things. This phase is incredibly tiring physically. (Physically hard.) Then from five on, I call it the, "keep me alive phase". You know, because most days you find yourself thinking or feeling multiple times a day that you are probably not going to make it out of these years alive. These tiny versions of you are taking over your life, plotting how to slowly destroy you, and you just don't understand how you will live. This phase is incredibly tiring mentally and emotionally. (Emotionally hard.)

Going back to an infant after years and years of everyone wiping their own butts, and sleeping through the night, there's a few things that this current phase of parenting has taught me that I wish my younger mommy self had known. The biggest lesson being that there is no shame in longing for a new season! You can simultaneously long for a different season while enjoying the one you are in. You just can. Most mommy blogs will tell you otherwise - but I promise, it's true. The thing is, a lot of the blogs and books and articles out there like to tell us that if we don't soak up the early years, we will regret it one day. I've realized there is a reality that these articles are missing. A reality that I hope to offer freedom to for any of you who are like me. Some of us are wired to do all the things moms of itty-bittys do. And some of us are wired to engage with kids who we can have an actual conversation with. And every now and then, there is that freakish mom who does both really well and loves both seasons equally. (Honestly, she is probably who is writing the articles that make ALL of us feel guilty.) ((Kidding. If you are one of those moms, I adore you and want to be you when I grow up. Thank you for making the world spin.))

Aside from that giant lesson that I hope just offered freedom to some guilt-ridden young mom out there, I thought I would share a couple of other things I've noticed as I find myself navigating both phases of parenting (the keep them alive and keep me alive phases). The sheer fact that I SURVIVED the early years is exactly what has given me a new perspective. I think the reason why moms of littles who long for the next season feel the way they do is not because they don't like babies. It's because they aren't sure how they will survive. Same goes for moms who struggle with the teen years. They struggle not because they don't enjoy it, or want it to be over - it's because they aren't sure how they will survive. So there you have it. We are all just trying to survive. And here I just thought I was discontent.

So here it is... a few things I wish my mom-of-littles self had known. Not just known, but known that I would live to tell about. I realize these may be nothing new to anyone. But I can almost guarantee that if you struggle with the early years like I did, you don't KNOW these things. And I want you to KNOW them.

1) This too shall pass. You will sleep again. You will go on dates with your spouse again. You will have time to take a shower longer than three minutes again. You will go to the bathroom a lone again. The phase where baby only wants mom? It will pass. The phase where baby only wants dad (and you HATE him for it, because honestly - what has he done anyway???!!!) .... okay, that one might not pass until they are 15 year old girls. That's your only shot. The toys all over the floor, taking up every square inch of your home? Yup, it will pass. The laundry sitting on top of every toy taking up every square inch of your home? Okay, no - that one won't go away. But you CAN teach them to wash, fold, and put away their own laundry. Well, wash. Insert whatever struggle you had today here: ___________. It will pass!

2) Birth to five years is really not that long. You will have time to make friends again in the future. You will have time to be a friend again. You will have time to dream again. You will have time to take care of you again. Time will come, and it will go. Five years is not that long. Keeping your babies alive is good work. YOU, Mamma, are doing a very.good.work.

3) Ages five to ten, you will endure more poop jokes, knock-knock jokes, and made up jokes that you have to laugh at. And it will actually be funny, usually. (When I was a kid, I made up a joke. It's still hilarious. Wanna hear it? "How'd the clothes get on the hanger????? "     ....... "They walked up the wall! "   ..... See! I've always been funny.) And sometimes, you'll be tired of your kindergartner who is convinced they know more than you now that they are in school, and you'll start to dream of when they are 13.

4) Ages 13-18. Some people struggle with these years. I might be married to one of those someone's. I won't lie, they are hard. Seriously - do you remember you as a teenager? I bet you weren't a walk in the park. But there is a preciousness in teenagers. I'm one of those moms who loves the teen years, even if I'm convinced they are TRYING to kill me. Your baby will one day finish high school and you will look back over the years and realize - huh, 18 years really was not that long. Will you miss when they were two? Maybe. I don't. I really like my 18 year old.

5) One kid feels so hard. You wonder how mom's with multiples do it. You are convinced they have some super-power that you do not. Then you have a second child. And you realize you are capable of keeping two kids alive at the same time. Then maybe you have a third, and you begin to doubt yourself all over again. For real. Three kids is the hardest! You shift from man-to-man to zone defense. (I actually have no idea about anything sports, but Aaron explained that phrase to me and it made alot of sense. If I had to pick a sport based on that analogy, I would choose golf.) If you go beyond three kids, you realize you survived three, and now you are more of a referee anyway....so you keep going, and it's manageable again. The point is, the number of kids you have compared to the number of kids someone else has means nothing. Any number of children is just hard! (And for the record, having an 18 year old makes having a newborn way easier. But it's still REALLY hard. So do what you want with that reality.)

6) You will be annoyed some days. You will feel lonely, and tired. And then the years will pass and you won't be. You will look back with fond memories, and hope your children have fond memories because you are convinced your counseling fund is not nearly large enough. But they do have fond memories. And you'll talk about them together. It will be fond.

So moms. Give yourself some grace. You can lay your head on your pillow tonight and post that sweet picture of your baby doing whatever cute thing he/she did today with all the love in your heart, while saying all the curse words in the world to Daniel Tiger, and longing for the day you can watch Friends with your kids instead. You really can. Because you know what? You are going to wake up tomorrow (possibly at 2:00 AM), and you will slay it...AGAIN. You will love them fiercely, and dream of the days to come...All at the same time. Good job, mamma!

PS. I had a really great and funny blog planned in my head all day. I sat down a little bit ago with a glass of wine, the essential oils on (because you know, I can't have them on during the day with the baby), and the room nice and quite. But then one of my teens came home and turns on, "Friends". And well, I've been a little distracted. When I expressed that I had a great post in my head that she ruined with her T.V. watching, she asked me - "Is it about having five kids?" I said, "No. It's about having six kids!" Her reply? "Well, I just helped you then. You can put this in it." So I am. But now I just kicked her out, and am trying to make sense of this blog. Only I realized I haven't slept in seven months, and this is as good as it will get. It all was much more entertaining in my brain six hours ago.



Baby socks. These have been here, next to the bathtub, for about five days. Younger Jody would have been annoyed. But the past five days, I walk into this bathroom and just smile. Because really, baby socks are so stinking cute. And the baby who wears them is even cuter. 

Friday, February 16, 2018

2018 - The Year of Faithfulness

For the past several years, I have taken on the concept of choosing a "word" for the year. Not necessarily a New Years Resolution, but more a word that I feel will be good for my heart and mind to remember throughout the year. The past few years it has been interesting to watch my "word" unfold as the year progresses. I get to the end of each year and see a thread that has been woven through various circumstances. It has felt like a more intentional practice to me then a resolution. Not that getting to the gym or changing your diet isn't intentional, they are just a different kind of intentional. My hope with my "word" each year is to be intentional with my thoughts and heart.

In 2016, my word was - Be Still. (I know, I know...that's two words. I don't do math.)
In 2017, my word was - Wait.

When my 2017 word came to me, I must say - I felt a little annoyed. Wait felt an awful lot like, "be still". And being one who doesn't do well with stilling or waiting, I wanted a word that felt full of action and power! It didn't take long for me to decide that the two words are actually pretty different though. Be still was just that - still. But to wait? I realized that often in waiting, we are still free to pursue, dream, change, grow, cultivate. The kind of waiting I knew God was leading me into was not one that required inaction. Instead, it required a waiting NOT on circumstances, but on him. Psalm 27:14 ~ Wait on the Lord; be strong and take heart, and wait upon the Lord. I entered 2017 knowing that circumstances may or may not change - but Jesus was asking me to WAIT ON HIM. This is a very different task than waiting for life to change.

As we were rounding the finish line of 2017, a lot of life had come and gone. A LOT. Major transitions with our church plant. Two surgeries. Recovery from a major surgery. Skunk invasions. House remodels. Insurance issues. Chronic Illness. And a BABY...a baby that came attached with heartache, and a system that makes me seriously lose sleep.  I had a friend ask me toward the end of 2017 if I felt like "wait" was still a good word in the face of all we had on our plates that required serious action. I absolutely believe that was the perfect word for last year. Much of the hard we faced in 2017 required a lot of us physically, but it required more of my heart. It required a position before the Lord of waiting on whatever it was that he was working through all of it. I'm honestly still not sure on most of it. But it was a reminder I needed time and time again last year.

Here we are in 2018. I felt toward the end of 2017 that I had an idea of what my word would be, but I have been praying on it for a little while longer. Maybe I'm stuck in waiting. 😏 But after a conference I attended last week, I'm letting it ride.....

Faithful.

I have wrestled with the simplicity and the complexity of that word. I have wondered if God is asking me to be faithful, or wanting me to remember that he is faithful. Uh, hello!?!?! BOTH!

Here we are in mid-February, and I have already started this year with an intense wrestling. I look at last year, at the last six years, that have left me feeling pretty battered and bruised. Then I look to the future, and the many unknowns that God is still asking us to wait on him for....and I feel like 2018 is already exhausting. A dear friend told me the other day that we all face seasons that are hard, but that our season seems unseasonably long. I agreed.

As I process the season God has us in, I have found myself asking two big questions:

1) Do we lack the wisdom necessary to make the right decision in the face of free will? Because it's starting to feel like we invite hard into our lives, possibly by making poor choices -- except they never feel like a poor choice at the time, so this doesn't seem right.

OR.....

2) Are we doing exactly what God has asked of us? Have we stepped out in faith? (Or as I like to explain it - say yes now and figure out the details later.) In which case, I have had to stand face to face with great doubt...doubt that God has and will equip us. Doubt that he has a plan and a purpose for all the things. And a doubt that he will be faithful to carry us through it. This option feels gross.

So there you have it. Faithful. I obviously need to pray for more faith as I enter 2018. I've been a little a lot nervous about some of our current and soon to be life situations - wondering if it's all going to go in the direction I think it should, and so God is asking me to trust that he is faithful even when nothing makes sense. YIKES! But then I've thought about my lack of faith and have remembered how God has proven throughout history to be faithful - and it's MY faithfulness that needs to grow this year, because I am weak and frail and full of unbelief. (Mathew 6:30, Mathew 8:26, Mathew 16:8, Luke 12:28 ...at least I'm not alone!)

The truth is, it is going to be both - God continuing to show me his faithfulness, and my need to grow in mine. I saw God be faithful through all we walked through in 2017. I see it throughout scripture. I see it in my friends lives...in our life. As I've dreamed of the book I want to write one day, I've actually thought on it being on the topic of God's faithfulness. I even have thought up some super cheesy titles! But living it day in and day out...and knowing that he is continuing to ask me to wake up each day and continue to say YES, even in the face of unknowns and hard - that's different. That's where I need to grow. It's safe to say that I am walking (er...limping) into this year expectant. Expecting to see more of God's faithfulness, and expecting to come face to face with my lack of.

But you know what I love, love, love about God???!!!! His faithfulness remains regardless of what mine is doing.  He's strong enough to go to the mat with me on this subject. He can handle my doubts and fears. And more than that - he loves me despite it all!

Happy 2018.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Not Good With Words - Complete Randomness with a dash of Theology.

I have recently read through some of my old blog posts. I have Facebook Memories to thank for that. A post I shared years ago will pop up in my "memories", and so I decide to read it. Man, I used to write A LOT. And I loved it. It was truly a life-giving experience every time my fingers hit the keys. I even have benefited from reading some of my old musings. I'm a verbal processor, and my way of verbalizing my thoughts was in a blog post. I told a friend a few months ago that since taking a hiatus from the writing world, it felt like all my thoughts were trapped in my brain since I was no longer writing, and I wasn't doing well with figuring stuff out as a result. She asked me why I don't just write for my own benefit, you know - without feeling the need to hit "publish". Weird. Who does that??!! I realized almost immediately that it is through writing that I reach my conclusions. To me, it almost feels conversational. In other words - when I write, I write as if I were actually sharing my thoughts with a trusted friend. (Bet you didn't know you were my BFF for the day, did you?) See, there's that verbal processing part again. And it feels empty to leave a conversation hanging with no conclusion. So since no one else is actually involved in said conversation, I'm forced to bring my thoughts full circle on my own. (Perhaps that is some weird form of narcissism? Or loneliness, I don't know.) Writing a post means I reach a conclusion, can release those thoughts for the moment, and get on with my life. (Total random side note, I'm reading a book right now where the author states she is an internal processor, and writing is how she does that. Maybe the difference between her and I is that she actually thinks through her words before penning them. Not me. What I'm typing at any given moment is in fact what I'm thinking - out loud, unedited, rarely deleted from any given post.)

For all you internal processors who are thinking my lack of writing and sharing with the world sounds lovely and as it should be...or for all of you who have no clue what I'm talking about, and are ready to stop reading this post this very moment, I'll tie it up. Or not.

I love to write. I haven't been writing. Largely because my brain no longer works the way it used to, and we haven't quite figured each other out yet. I'm how we like to say in my house - Not.Good.With.Words. But also, because much of what I've been walking through the past couple of years feels {GASP} too private to enter into on a public forum. Yes people - I DO have a filter. It's called sanctification. So basically, I've resorted to making my husband and about 1.5 friends receive the brunt of all my verbal vomit...regularly. The vomit spills over to others who happen to be in my presence at any given moment. It can look like drama, or whining, or some sort of beautiful transparency depending on the delivery. Bottom line is this - I'm sorry, world. (Especially you, Aaron & Michelle.)

One of the biggest reasons I haven't felt I have much to say here, is because I can't make sense of a darn thing lately. There is no pretty bow to tie up my thoughts with. It all feels like a mess. When I have read some of my old posts, I remembered the feeling of walking closely with the Lord and feeling like I was truly growing and maturing. These days I'm learning more how to navigate the desert and survival mode. There, I said it. I have felt life to be rather desertish for oh...a long time. I have seen and felt pain and strife more than I have seen and felt the hand of Jesus in our lives lately. Admitting that makes me feel like not only a stellar Christian, but also a stellar Pastor's wife. 

One thing I can tell you that I have learned in the desert is this - God is there. I always heard that was true, but in my previous mini moments of like weeks worth of desert times, I never got that. I would quickly grow angry with the Lord for the dry season he had placed me in, trying to claw my way out of the desert, even if that meant settling for a mirage. But where he has me now...this season??? As dry as it has felt, as lonely as it has seemed, out here in the desert for the first time in forever (cue Frozen music) - I know I'm not alone.  Like for real, I'm actually okay in my desert. I know it won't last forever, and I'm hopeful there will be some valuable insights that come from this season. One of the biggest being my deep understanding that in every season, Jesus really will be there. (And yes, so you know there is a difference between me being hardened and me being okay - I do daily ask God to move me on from this Sahara.)

Aaron and I had to go through an intense assessment(s) the past year and a half during our attempts to join the Acts 29 Network. As I broke down, rather embarrassingly, in front of a panel of other pastors and their wives - I was asked to define my "theology of suffering". Um, first of all, that feels like a very theological question (seeing how theology was actually a word used) of which should be directed toward my husband - the Pastor. And second, I didn't even know suffering had a theology. But seeing how I was the one falling apart, I rolled up my sleeves and blurted out the words trapped in my head for a long time. I don't entirely remember all that I said, but I do remember saying something like this - Aside from the fact that my suffering is minimal compared to what countless others are enduring, not to mention the suffering endured for me on the cross ... Jesus is in the suffering with me. His mercies really are new every day. And I have no doubt he will be here with me in my suffering again tomorrow, and the next day and the next. Apparently I gave the wrong answer (or not the full answer at least) because one of the pastors responded with their concern about how they didn't hear this or that from me. (Insert some passage of scripture they quoted from somewhere in Isaiah that was certainly beautiful and true, but not my answer.) My reply to his concern was that having the hope that I will never have to walk through suffering alone is a very big deal to me. I haven't always lived there. I've lived more in doubt and fear that he will probably leave me or forsake me - even though he says he won't. So to be able to look to the uncertain future and know he is already there, and have the ability to rest in that...again, it's kind of a big deal to me.

So that's all. This is a very uneventful ending to this uneventful blog post. It feels a little icky to just stop here, because I don't really feel like I've made any sort of point worth sharing. But I guess maybe there is someone else out there who is also in the desert, and they need to know they can still love Jesus (and are deeply loved by Jesus) while feeling dry and parched and tired. Or maybe there is someone else out there who feels alone, like there aren't enough friends in the world to help you sift through the never ending words in your head. You could write it. (Apparently they let anyone write on these here interwebs.) Or you could know that Jesus is there, too. In your head. He knows the words.  Or maybe you're just a good friend, and you read this out of some feeling of obligation to me. Thanks. You're free to go now.

Maybe my friend was right. Maybe I should just write without clicking "publish". But really, where's the fun in that? I'm trying to get this figured out again...thanks to anyone willing to help me get there.

ps.... I just asked Aaron if interweb is one word or two. He laughed at me and told me it isn't actually a word. "So what", I said. "I get to use made up words on my blog if I want to!" But then I looked it up, and it actually is in the dictionary. Whatevs.



Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Houston, we have a problem.

Not having written since April of 2016, I'm not sure how to even fire this back up. A lot of life has happened, and my thoughts have piled up and are overflowing with nowhere to land. This could possibly be the worst case of writers block ever to have lived, but I long to put my thoughts back into some sort of shape again.

So where do I pick up at? Especially knowing this is going to be rusty. Very, very rusty. True story - I've tried to write a handful of posts and always delete them. I could talk about my seemingly never ending health issues. Or the skunk invasion of 2017. Or church planting. All that feels like old, tired news to me right now though...and probably to anyone who knows me. So I'll start with my heart today. It's been a heavy heart lately, so this could be interesting.

Now...before you start reading, I want to confess something, lest you start reading and decide you don't actually care what I'm about to talk about.

I've grown calloused, and I stopped caring. Or at least I buried the cares under a protective veil of I-don't-care.

There are many things fighting for our attention, our resources, our time, our care. If we are living life with our eyes actually open, we see the need for compassion and empathy all around us. We hear people sharing their stories, inviting us into the things they care about. But more often than not, unless we come face to face with a problem or a cause...until it becomes personal to us...we {fairly} easily turn a blind eye. The problems are too many, the resources are too few. We can't all care about this friend's non-profit, or that friend's ministry, this political issue, that health crisis, or Aunt Debbie's rescue dogs. Our hearts aren't meant to hold that much hurt. So when something does grab our attention for one reason or another, we run with it. We jump on the bandwagon and raise our voices in the fight to get others to care. Until we don't anymore.

When it gets too hard, when the spotlight shifts to someone or something else, or our cause stops being cool, compassion often runs its course. 

That's where I've lived the past few years. Compassion seemed to have dried up. Fighting for children used to be my thing...orphaned, foster, or trafficked children specifically. But I grew weary. (I also became sick and chose to navel gaze more often than realize others have it way worse than I do. So there's that...) I grew weary not only because I couldn't seem to rally any troops that made a substantial difference (in my mind), but because I personally was changed by the realities of how hard caring for the orphan can be. The problem seemed too big, and I am certainly too small. I didn't have the time, the resources, or the fight left. So my heart grew calloused. I didn't know how to continue to invite others into what I was clearly failing at.

The thing is, if we stop caring for and fighting for the things that actually matter to us, systems begin to crumble. And when systems begin to crumble, more and more people grow weary. And the ones left to pick up the pieces are the very ones we were trying to help to begin with. 

Now, as for life today....

At the end of September, we unexpectedly entered the world of Foster Care. It isn't technically foster care. We are what is called a, "Kinship Placement". While we have gone through the Colorado home study process in the past, we were not currently up to date on our home study, nor were we planning to re-enter this world...maybe ever. But, God had different plans.

The story of this sweet babe and the scenarios that landed him in our care is not my story to tell. But what I can say is that this has been one of the hardest things I've ever done. And I feel like I've done a lot of hard things! It's hard because we live in a broken world. I've been forced to stand face to face with a lot of brokenness, and it's left my mind spinning and my heart hurting. In this broken world, we have a broken governmental (foster care) system - left to care for those they were never designed to care for. The government, in my opinion, should not be the one deciding what is best for and how to care for our children. Don't worry. This isn't a political post, either. So I will leave that vague comment hanging there unexplained and undefended. It's mostly hard, though, because I have to watch a sweet, tiny human start his world in trauma, and continue to live it out until the government decides his fate.

What I do want to dive into and try to think more about are all the systems that are equally as broken (if not more so) which have led our government to have to be in the position they are today. I look around at the structures designed to keep us safe and instead, see them crumbling. I'm not casting stones here, as I am a guilty party myself. First and foremost, I believe the Church (notice the big C) has dropped the ball. We are to be the ones caring for families. Especially for the widow and the orphan, the poor, the homeless, the handicapped and ill (mentally and physically). The family structure is suffering and breaking. And the government system..well, I've already said that one. I'm not sure there are many systems not breaking down. Not to be Debbie Downer here, just saying what I observe. I'm also not saying that no one within these systems are doing it well, there are plenty doing it amazingly well. We need more of them! It's the system as a whole that I'm talking about.

I've had an up close view of human rights issues in third-world countries. And now I'm getting a closer glimpse of it right here on US soil that I had not paid much attention to...until it became personal.

(**Note: The following comments are not specifically about the story we are walking with the tiny human in our care. I've been doing a lot of reading and talking with others in similar places.**)

Children are stuck in a system that is supposed to be fighting for them, but they seem to actually be the ones paying the biggest price. The parents are facing financial strain beyond what is manageable, drug issues, being a product of abuse and neglect themselves, mental health issues, homelessness, and generally lacking a caring support system (or maybe neglecting their support system, which is a different problem). The Government steps in with limited resources, limited CARING employees, too many middle men, and more legal boxes to check than actual hearts for the people involved. The entire cycle ends up dehumanizing everyone, and that never will end well.

{Total bunny trail here, but maybe not. I've been looking at the correlation between those who grow up in a system and go on to repeat the cycle. I've also been looking at the homeless population, the children being born into homeless families, and the mental health crisis (and the connections between all of them). I recently listened to an audio book called, Crazy. I highly recommend it. He mentions at the beginning of the book that there are more mentally ill people housed in the Miami-Dade Prison alone than all of the mental institutions in the entire United States combined. That's disgusting. We've failed our mental health community. And this needs to change.}

I'm not even really sure where I'm going with this. I know my heart has been rattled, and I want to find my place in these human rights issue once again. I want to be a part of changing the broken systems, and picking up the pieces that our children are having to carry around. But, I don't know how. I do know it goes back to what I addressed at the beginning...Compassion.

Personally, I'm going to have to shave off my calloused heart and decide that my comfort is far less important than actually getting a little dirty and inconvenienced for the sake of helping someone else. Mostly though, I need to realize that I can't remain stuck in the enormity of the problem to the point of it causing paralysis. None of us are God. We can't fix everything. But I do believe that if we all chose to pursue what it is that pulls at our heart strings, giving just a little more than we think we have to give, and doing it consistently - we would begin to see the structures of our society mend. I really do actually believe that. (Um, I also feel the need to say we also need to stop deeming our cause more important than someone else's, or view others as less than if they aren't doing the things we are doing. That's just not helpful. There's plenty of hurt to go around for us all to pick a cause.

I want to hear what you are passionate about. What is the cause near and dear to your heart that you believe will make the United States, or the world at large, a better place? How did you land on that cause? How do you continue the fight without growing calloused or weary? Feel free to bring over some wine and chat in person if you prefer. I would more than welcome these conversations! And if you don't live near me, pick a few friends and talk about it with them!

If you don't have that cause - my plea to you is this...look at the needs right around you. Trust me. They are there. Don't wait for it to become personal. Make it personal.