Thursday, August 6, 2015

When hair day feels less like bonding and more like bondage.....

I'm about to write a story that will encourage some and offend many more. Such is the story of my life.

All my life I have had stick straight hair. Very boring. It gets oily when I LOOK at conditioner. I used to (and still do) envy women with beautiful curly hair. Beach waves?? Swoon. I would get perms as a child, and the lovely curls would be gone in a week with my hair mocking me all the while. I curl my hair with a pound of hairspray and all that happens is a new tiny hole in the ozone layer appears. My hair is still straight. And I still try buy the newest $100 curling iron that the guy at the mall can stop me with to convince me that THIS is the one that will work for me!

I'm gonna be of my biggest hurdles when adopting an African girl was hair. Have you seen my hair? No? Oh, that's because it is generally in a ponytail. I get ponytail. That's all I got. I had been around enough adoptive families of African girls to know that there would need to be more knowledge of hair care than a twistie and a brush, if you can find it.

So now I'm gonna be REAL honest. If you know me in real life, this isn't a secret. But for anyone else....well, here goes.

Things with my Ugandan Sweetie haven't been all that....well....sweet. She has been home almost 4 years and I can't say it has been all rainbows and unicorns. I don't need to go into detail of her story, or the many dynamics of our story right now...but there is one particular subject that has been a source of major contention in our relationship.


When I committed to raising an African daughter, I dove into every blog and YouTube tutorial I could find to figure out what to do with her hair. (I kid you not, my bio daughters have asked me why I spend so much time figuring out what to do with their sisters hair, but can't even learn how to french braid.. Fail.) And it doesn't take much digging into the world wide web to read time and time again about the importance of African hair and the proper care of it.

Here are a few key things that I have read and grown to believe to be true about my daughters hair.

1) In Africa, hair is more than hair. It's a culture. It's a story. It has history. It demands proper attention and care. Hair care is a time of BONDING.
2) If my African daughter desires to have straight hair, it is because she does not see the beauty of her natural hair and probably deep down wishes she was white.
3) If I do not care for my daughters hair properly, I will be frowned upon by the entire African American community.
4) It is my responsibility as an adoptive mom to teach my daughter about proper hair care, and until I can teach her, I must do everything I can to give her gorgeous locks.

So here is the deal. My DD ("dear daughter" is what that means, Mom) had hair in Africa that her birth mother, and probably sister, and who knows who else once cared for. I have pictures. So I know this is true. Upon entering the orphanage, sadly, her hair was shaved. I understand this is a disgrace to young girls everywhere. But that moment triggered something DEEP in my DD.

Since she has been home, I have tried everything I can think of, not to mention everything in my limited ability, just as the blogs tell me to. (Have you seen the "Pinterest Fail" photos??? I have an entire scrapbook of "Hair Fail" photos. It just never looks the same when I do it! Where's my twistie???!!!)

So here is what the first few years looked like:
*I tried every style I thought was within the realm of my abilities to do. (Yarn extensions?? Hilarious! She did look a little better than the presents under my tree at Christmas, but that's about it....Two strand twists? Um, no comment. Bantu knots? Apparently those are painful to sleep in. Puffs? Where's the Kleenex?)
*I took her to several different salons that specialize in African Hair care. I don't really want to go into this story....but I will just say that it was obvious that I was not welcome. My daughter was, but I as her mom was not.
*I have had women stop me in public places (even one who stopped me while pulling out of a parking lot by pounding on my window) to tell me I was doing it all wrong.  (Which I wouldn't mind so much had they offered an actual solution.) I left these places in tears calling my AA girlfriends pleading with them to tell me what I was doing wrong and how I just don't get it! (My bio daughters have walked around with Raven's birthing youngens in their hair and not one person has ever said a thing.)
*Relaxers are for white moms who don't know how to care for their African child's hair. (I for real read that on a review of a relaxant.)

But the worst story to tell is the tension that arises daily with my actual daughter over the care of her hair. That one is the hardest. I can put on my big girl panties for the rest of them.

So a year ago I decided to go the route of locs. (Or maybe dreadlocs? Or locks? I don't know...I've also been scolded by other adoptive moms for wording that wrong...) I chose that it would be better to take out the daily hair struggle with a low(er) maintenance style - micro locs. I really believed this to be the answer to the drama in my home surrounding hair. AND...I thought they were super cute. Win!

A couple of months ago, I decided it was time to begin to teach my 10 year old how to take a bit more ownership of the care of her beautiful locs. She was heading off to camp for a week soon and wouldn't have me there for daily care. Here is where another issue enters in. She does not much appreciate it when I instruct her in anything - how to fold clothes, how to do the dishes, how to swim, how to do math, how to write, how to sing, how to dance, but mostly - how to do hair. So to avoid this getting more awkward for you, the reader, I will just say that me instructing her on how to care for her own hair went south rather quickly.

Within a month of being in her care, her year long locs began to fall apart. Unravel. Frizz. Fall out. Smell. Turn yellow (seriously). I was so confused. Once I figured out what was going on, Aaron and I realized it was time to come up with a new plan. Ultimately, she was unable to care for them on her own, and me continuing to care for them was not an option either. The hair stress meter had reached its limit. But what was I to do? Her hair had been locked for a year! Aaron brought up the idea of cutting off the locs. Remember the traumatic orphanage story I mentioned earlier??? Yeah...that was triggered at the mention of cutting off the locs. Did you know it was possible for a 10 year old to not talk to their parents for two days? Yup. Totally possible.

I would beg and plead with her to find out what she wanted done with her hair. I thought I had come up with a happy solution with these cute little locs. One day though, she informed me that she wanted hair like her sisters - her white sisters, with stick straight hair just like .... Moms. WARNING WARNING! I'd read about this! We're now supposed to up our game about how much she should embrace her beautiful black hair!!! Right???!!!


See here's the deal....when you have a strained relationship with your child, maybe pushing into what you have read to be true about what they should believe isn't a great time to actually force it. I needed to listen to HER. I HAD to listen to her. It was made harder by the fact that she wouldn't give me ANYTHING to go on...but I had to find SOMETHING that she desired or didn't desire and show her that I cared about her heart in this. Whatever was driving the heart, I don't know...but I cared about it. Hair needed to become a drama free zone, and the only thing she was offering me other than wanting her white sisters hair was that she did NOT want us to cut her hair.

So I turned to YouTube...again.  I found ways to try and revive the locs. But she was not in favor. WHAT ARE YOU IN FAVOR OF LITTLE ONE?!?!?!?! And why can't you tell me????!!!!!!

So then I found that apparently you can UN-loc locs. So I said to Aaron and our Ugandan Princess that the since the only thing I was hearing from our DD was that she did not really want the locs, and did not want her hair cut - I had to try. So for 28 hours (really more like 56 hours since there was almost always 2-3 people at a time working on the loc removal) - I tried. And we did it. We got all 317 locs unlocked. (And WOW! Talk about a protective style!!! Her hair had grown almost 4 inches in a year! It had only grown 2-3 inches total in the 3 years prior!)

And then I did it....I used a relaxer. Which thanks to the movie, "Good Hair" with Chris Rock, I lost sleep over this option. But I had to. She wanted long hair that could be brushed like her sisters. And maybe that is me allowing her to neglect her heritage. Or maybe it has something to do with the fact that she would peak around the corner and watch longingly while I would brush, flat iron and pull into a hair tie (because remember, I'm an expert at that) her white sisters hair. Pain free...on many, MANY levels. It was time for pain free (or at least less pain) and drama free.

So for the foreseeable future, I will continue to try and put curls in my hair while removing them from my daughters. (Seriously, girls are so weird.)

And you know what? These pics of her smiling???? It's the first time I've done anything that made her smile in a really, really, really long time. I caught her in the bathroom earlier staring in the mirror running her fingers through her hair with a big smile on her face. She laughed when she noticed I was watching. So I don't know, I'm sure I am doing her hair all wrong.....but today? Well, today, her heart found joy. And in the world she and I live in??? Her joy??? That was a crown of glory.

(ps....A lot of you adoptive mama's have been following our journey on FB and Instagram because you either are in process of locs or are thinking about it....I still LOVE the look of micro locs, and the ease. It really was the most care-free style we had tried. But ultimately, other issues come into play with a 10 year old girl....she needs to own the hygiene of it a bit. If your daughter can't do that, maybe wait. If she can...go for it! They are fun and free and beautiful! Feel free to email or IM me if you want to talk in further detail about my little story vs. your story. Bottom line thought? Don't worry about what all the other adoptive moms are doing...just do what you and YOUR DD need done!)

Big sister SAVED me with her helping hand!

As did some amazing friends!

We liked this look. She did not. But she's still smiling!

Now we know what she will look like as an old lady!

The feeling of a brush going effortlessly through her hair for the first time..... 

Seriously! This girl had NO hair just less than 4 years ago!!

I got to use my hair tie on her. I got this. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

It's my birfday! (I'm not too old to say birfday)

Today is my birthday. Not a number of significance, just one more year in the books. I do always think it's funny that anniversaries and birthdays seem to be made a big deal of on certain numbers only - 15, 20, 25, 30, etc..... Aaron and I enjoy celebrating our anniversary on odd numbers only. We plan to renew our vows and have a huge party on our 19th wedding anniversary. He just doesn't know it yet.

But anyway....

I've always considered myself to be an "old soul", so maybe that has something to do with my feelings about aging. But as for now - I enjoy getting older. I really, really do! I don't fear it. I don't want to deny it. I don't dread the BIG numbers to come. Maybe I will feel different in 30 or 40 more years, but for now - I guess I just feel like with every day older, I'm one day closer to Glory. I have more wisdom to speak of (I hope), more memories to hold, more lives to impact. That can't be all bad, right?

My friend posted a picture of us from 17 years ago. (Sorry Amy - you posted it, now it's on my blog!) I'm weird I think. I look at old photos of me and don't think I look much different. I look in the mirror and don't notice the lines forming. The gray hairs don't bother me (I color my hair for the change, not to cover gray...I actually can't wait to have a skunk stripe! When I have that much gray, I plan to let it be!!) I don't FEEL old, other than the before mentioned "old soul" that I've always felt abides in me. I endure my teenage daughters music with the same distaste as some of the music my husband still listens to from when we were teens (ie: Greenday). My spirit doesn't feel any older than 17 years ago. Is that strange?

Sure I've aged. My body has changed. My joints take a little more TLC. I have to watch my diet more. Gravity works against me just like anyone else. But I when I look at pictures of myself, I still see the Jody that laughs so loud and hard that I get the same squinty eyes as 17 years ago (and the full teeth and gum shot that I've never really loved...but at least I'm smiling). I see the girl who has struggled. I see the girl who can hold much strength. I see the passion and the apathy. I see the sorrows and the joys. I just see me.

17 years ago. When I only dreamed of living in Colorado.

Recent photo

I will admit that there is a HUGE fear I have of getting older, one that I am beginning to understand why it's easy to do....I don't want to grow so old that all I can do is sit and wait for eternity....numb, tired and joyless. I never want the sorrows or struggles of this world to take such a hold of me that I'm left with no hope, no mission, no passion. I don't want to grow so cynical of this life and world that I fail to see the beauty in all things new and different and old and rusty. I don't want to "retire" from all that God has for me. When my mind goes (if it hasn't gone already), and my body fails entirely - I want my heart to be fully alive and renewed with each passing day in Christ Jesus, just as he promises me it will be. I realize I am still too young to even begin to think I know the secret to aging gracefully, but for now - I'm going with that.

I love that God didn't leave us to this life without a glimpse into His heart on aging. If He says it's a good thing and that he is in it, who am I to think any different?

So happy birthday to me. My prayer this year, and every year?? Come, Lord Jesus. Come! But until you do...remind me you aren't finished with me just yet.         (And may blogger be around for 40 more years in case I need to read this one day.)

2 Corinthians 4:16 ESV 
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.

Proverbs 20:29 ESV 
The glory of young men is their strength, but the splendor of old men is their gray hair.

Isaiah 46:3-4 ESV 
“Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been borne by me from before your birth, carried from the womb; even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.

Psalm 92:12-14 ESV
The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. They are planted in the house of the Lord; they flourish in the courts of our God. They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green,

Philippians 3:20-21 ESV 
But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

Proverbs 16:31 ESV
Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life.

Psalm 103:1-5 ESV 
Of David. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.

Ecclesiastes 2:24 ESV 
There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God,

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Word - 2015

Happy 2015.

I can't say that I am sad to see 2014 go.

I like New Years. I understand that behavior and circumstances didn't just miraculously change from December 31, 2014 to January 1, takes effort to grow into who we want to be (or shrink as goes the case with most people's Resolutions), not just the flip of a Calendar page. But I still like the feel of a clean slate. I think of Marilla Cuthbert (from Anne Of Green Gables) saying, "Tomorrow is always fresh with no mistakes in it." Then I think of Anne breaking the slate over Gilbert's head because I just used the phrase clean slate......

Where was I.....

The past few years I have gone the route of choosing a word for the year. It just seems healthier to me than a list of Resolutions, that according to my Myers-Briggs Personality Type I will break in 2-4 days anyway.

This year I chose three (well, fourish) words. Call me an overachiever if you want, but really, I just needed three (or four) words. 2014 was a year, more than any other year I can ever remember, that I allowed myself to believe lies...not just believe them, but be crushed by them. Feelings of not being enough - good enough, smart enough, business minded enough, holy enough, healthy enough, motherly enough, wifely enough, friendly enough....I just never measured up last year it seemed (well, so it seemed to me). Living in this robs one of much joy, and is incredibly exhausting. So for 2015, I will pray for, and Lord willing return to what I know is true and live out of these three to four words instead:

TRUTH - "and you will know the TRUTH, and the TRUTH will set you free." John 8:32

STRENGTH and REST "In returning and REST you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your STRENGTH." Isaiah 30:15

JOY - "Let me hear JOY and gladness, let the bones you have broken REJOICE .... Restore to me the JOY of my salvation and uphold with me a willing spirit." Psalm 51:8-11

So how do I do this? I sit at the feet of Jesus and let His word remind me that because HE is enough, I am enough. I turn off social media MUCH MUCH more, so as to not compare my imperfect self to the perfect pictures and status updates that we all post. I choose to be present, instead of wishing I was somewhere else. (This one will be a very tricky one, and has been a goal for as long as I can remember....thankfully I'm still here, which means sanctification isn't over yet and I get to keep working on it!) I can laugh at myself, mistakes, and failures instead of allowing them to crush me - and in doing so will hopefully allow them to mold me in a healthy way instead of destroying me. Instead of complaining about the things that hinder my health (no running, no crossfitting, physical pain, weight, etc....), I continue to thank God for the resources I have to be able to treat my body as a temple of the Holy Spirit. No more, no less. This list is starting to sound very resolutiony. The point is this: truth, strength, rest and joy have nothing to do with me and my efforts - and everything to do with Jesus and his efforts which have already been accomplished. Time to remember this truth - not only remember it, but live in it.

I bought a book sometime in the last year or two and read only part of it, as is normal for me. I resolve to finish it this time. (Better get it done in 2 - 4 days, I suppose!) It's called, "One Way Love - Inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World", by Tullian Tchividjian. First chapter in and I came across this gem....

"Jesus came to liberate us from the weight of having to make it on our own, from the demand to measure up. He came to emancipate us from the burden to get it all right, from the obligation to fix ourselves, find ourselves, and free ourselves. JESUS CAME TO RELEASE US FROM THE SLAVISH NEED TO BE RIGHT, REWARDED, REGARDED, AND RESPECTED. Because Jesus came to set the captives free, life does not have to be a tireless effort to establish ourselves, justify ourselves, and validate ourselves."

Thanks be to God, I have hope for today, tomorrow, and all of 2015.

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Preparing....for the Prince of Peace

Every year at Christmas, I find myself deeply longing to feel some kind of Christmas Spirit. I dig out the Advent Calendars and books. I read the Gospel accounts of the birth of Jesus. Usually I make it to about day 5 before realizing that the Spirit of Christmas is something lost on me. Sure it's Jesus' birthday, I get that. But most December days don't feel any different than any other day of the year. I generally beat myself up over this and chalk it up to being a bad Christian. Well, this year - I've made it to day 8 of Advent and I have no intention of stopping. God has shown up in a very unique way for me this year.

Advent. (Noun) the arrival of a notable person, thing or event.

The past three years have held more despair and hopelessness then I ever thought I would face. After the adoption of our last child, I've been stretched in ways I never imagined - as a mom, as a wife, as a friend, as a Daughter of Christ. Not one aspect of my life has gone untouched from our "new normal". Over the past year, I have grown increasingly .... well .... hopeless. I have doubted God's ability to redeem the hard and broken. Scratch that - I have not doubted his ability to do so, I have doubted that He will do so. In adoption there are many wounds, much betrayal, hurts that run deep, anger, resentment and frustrations. And I'm not just talking about the child. In the words of Dan Allender, "Betrayal begets betrayal". Or more fittingly, hurt begets hurt. In other words - a vicious cycle full of sorrow and bitterness can quickly become the norm when parenting a child that has been taken from Plan A.

Plan A? You won't ever hear me say the words that God planned for my adopted children to be mine. At least not in the sense that those words at face value would mean. Adoption was never plan A. Our children who have come to us from another mother should not be with me. They just shouldn't. Their world's were broken. And in typical God fashion, He is redeeming the brokenness through adoption. But redemption comes with a cost. It comes with pain, loss, sorrow and much effort.

What does any of this have to do with Advent?

This year, the book I picked up in my effort to "get it right" was, Good News of Great Joy - Daily Readings for Advent, by John Piper. It has been like water to my dry soul the past 8 days.

For starters, on Day 1 - I was challenged to prepare. Piper writes, "...engage in sober self-examination. Advent is to Christmas what Lent is to Easter. "Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!" (Psalm 139:23-24) Let every heart prepare him cleaning house." He goes on to write, "Is not my word like fire, says the Lord! (Jeremiah 23:29) Gather 'round the fire this Advent season. ..... It is healing for a thousand hurts. It is light for dark nights."  I LOVE that picture!

(By the way, I'm writing outside by the fire at this very moment. I'm freezing. Oh, but the fire....)

In all my years of going through Advent readings and candle lighting's, I don't recall a year that the single word - Prepare - has actually hit home for me. Prepare for what? I'm not an Israelite. He already came. Am I supposed to be preparing for his second coming? What do I, as a 21st Century Christian, prepare for during the month of December?

A few days later, I was hit with this fantastic truth: "Do not think, because you experience adversity, that the hand of the Lord is shortened. It is not our prosperity but our holiness that he seeks with all his heart. And to that end, he rules the whole world."

In a season of feeling such failure and hopelessness - these words held much healing.

I could write you tidbits from each day that have been especially meaningful - but you should just download the (FREE) book for yourself.

You're probably wondering how these two worlds collide - the world of our growing family and the hardships that have come over the past three years and Christmas.

Allow me to tie it up with a pretty red bow.

Every year, the day after Thanksgiving comes and I am determined to "get it" this Advent season. I want to really get it! You know....Jesus is the reason for the season and all that jazz. But every year, my heart goes basically unchanged. Glittery things, yummy foods, party and presents all take over. Oh forgive me, Lord. This year, however, I entered December broken. Not just because of the hardships we face with a child, but because of many areas...remember all those areas that have not gone untouched? Yeah. Them. In this particularly hard season, I chose on December 1 to prepare him room. It's hard to prepare room for someone when you don't really think they will show up - but my hearts desire is for Him to show up, so I made the bed and vacuumed the floor. And guess what? He showed up.

In the past week, I have had a couple of moments with our daughter that I have longed for since the day she came into my care. Hard moments, but needed and good moments. And then it hit me. God came down to this very broken hers and my very broken world... to offer hope. Most years during Christmas, I haven't let myself reach broken. The problem with this is that Jesus didn't come to redeem the glitter and the gifts. He came to redeem the broken. He came to give us peace, and hope, and joy everlasting. But to see the areas of our heart that need such a savior doesn't feel good. And I want to feel good during December. So I'll just say the right words, go to the appropriate amount of church events and call it good. How backwards. I shudder to think that had I not prepared the way, this year would have passed like any other. And on December 26, I would feel just as lost and hopeless. But in my state of longing for redemption, of longing for a Savior....He showed me today in such a unique way that he indeed is redeeming all that I am walking through. It's what he came for. It's what he does.

He offers redemption. He offers hope. He offers peace. He offers joy. To the willing heart, he IS Advent....the arrival of a notable person, thing or event.

So this Christmas season I ask you - what are the broken and hopeless areas of your life? Where have you given up? Where do you NOT see his hand? Where are you waiting for the Messiah to come? Where do you need peace? Go there. Because these are the moments that Jesus came to redeem. I urge you, prepare Him the way!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Ghost of Christmas Past....and Present

I am often asked about how things are going with the new Church, how can people be praying, etc.... It has been a hard question for me to answer more often than not, but I do have something that has been on my mind lately that I wouldn't mind inviting you into.

The Holidays.

For the past 15 years, my children have lovingly been referred to by anyone who ever grew up in the church as, "Church Rats". What that has meant during the Christmas season specifically, is that our family traditions look very different than most. During the month of December, it sometimes has felt like we are at church more then not. Well, I guess the honest truth would be that it has felt like Aaron was at church more than he was home. There were various Christmas concerts to be planned and executed, other ministries that required his services (or mine), Town Holiday Parades, Caroling, Staff Christmas Parties, Worship Team Parties, Small group parties, and obviously - the infamous Christmas Eve Service (not to mention the Sunday before and after Christmas Eve). It was A LOT. Somewhere throughout the years I began to call Aaron, Scrooge. He would tire quickly of Christmas music and anything else remotely "festive" that was required of him during the month of December. All the meanwhile, I love the idea of tradition and all things Christmas, and have tried so hard to make our December's meaningful to our kids despite our weird schedule. I did not want them to look back on the Ghost of Christmas Past with disdain for the church.

December has always been an exhausting month. For the first few years at our last church, there was a family that had the sweetest gesture - they would bring us a Honey Baked Ham on Christmas Eve. Most years, I struggled with the gesture, as I had not expected the gift and had already purchased all the food for the next day. One year we had a particularly busy December, and I was so looking forward to our Christmas Ham...knowing that I at least got off the hook for the fancy Christmas dinner. The ham didn't come that year. I was so sad. We went out for dinner to Dave and Busters that Christmas Day. I cried. The kids loved it.

That story had nothing to do with anything..... sorry....

Now, lest you think I'm bragging to the World Wide Web about all we had to do and how amazing of a mom I am to make it special for our children, let me just tell you - I did not do it well. I would complain and sulk and huff over the hours that Aaron was away from us. As for the day of Christmas Eve itself, which most years required a 10 hour day for Aaron, myself AND our children - it took a lot of effort to go into that with joy. As long as I could sing my favorite carol, "Oh Holy Night" - I would find a way to settle down. (You think I'm kidding. My poor husband has had to deal with me for 15 years. I'm not kidding.) It took even more effort to get our kids to go into it with joy (admittedly so because of the expectations I had put on the season). . Every year they would moan (just like their mother) about how they just wanted to go look at Christmas lights and eat our Christmas Eve chili at 6 pm instead of 9 pm. Turns out, letting them have the run of the church, letting them eat the food I would bring for all the other volunteers, be a part of the band, and dress up as Nativity Scene creatures did the trick.

Our Little Church Rats

She's with the Band

Oh night....Deeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeevvvvvvvviiiiiiiinnnnnnnnnne.

I'm sure he was singing some Christ Tomlin song in this picture...or Barenaked Ladies.

This year, for various reasons, there is no Christmas Eve Service, programs or concerts for us. (Except for our 6 month anniversary/Christmas Party.....but that's just super cool.)  We will just be a normal family this December. Two weeks ago, my kids began to realize that this year would be different. We would not be at church all of December, but mostly all day on Christmas Eve....and they were not okay with this. They truly have come to view our 10 hour "work day" as tradition, and while we all complained about it every year to some degree - they loved it....who am I kidding ..... we loved it. We are all feeling the weight of our new normal, because the last 15 years is what we have known. It's what WE did. It has become tradition. I say weight because traditions don't come quick, nor do they come easy. This year we have to get to start over.

So there was my really long story about how you can pray for us. There has been an increasingly growing amount of "new norms" for us during this season....and I'm not always doing well with it. Whether it is because I miss the people, miss the places, or miss the traditions and am not sure how to start again....I don't know. Probably some of each. But it just doesn't feel like "Christmas" this year. And I don't like that. So pray we develop new traditions, pray we enjoy being with each other this December, pray our kids (and me) do not grow weary with the many changes, and I suppose same as before - pray they do not look back on the Ghost of Christmas Past with disdain for the church.

One special little gift I have from season's past was when Aaron and I had a band with some very dear friends. We made a little 3 song Christmas Album to gift to our church that year. Take a listen. And feel free to mock us.

Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel
 Glory to God
 Jesus Came to Save

And if you get nothing else from this blog post, know that your Pastor, Minister, Reverend, Father, going above and beyond this Christmas season....and his wife just may welcome a nice ham to take at least one pressure off. Me?? We'll be at Dave and Busters.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Old men, dope dealers and Pastors

When I was a kid, I remember the Pastor at our church being gifted a Cadillac. The only reason I know it was gifted to him is because he stood up in front of the church one Sunday morning in defense of his new, sweet ride. As I remember it, the rumor mill had begun about how in the world could the Pastor afford a new, luxury vehicle (Gasp!) - and he felt the need to defend himself. 1) It was a gift. 2) Even if it wasn't, how was anyone to judge how he spent his money. Sadly, I've come to understand over the years his need for such a defense.

A month and a half ago, Aaron's car (which had been basically gifted to us four years ago) died. So we've spent the last several weeks trying to find something that would fit into our budget. Unfortunately, our budget for a new vehicle is currently non existent. As I was perusing Craigslist the other day, I asked Aaron why he couldn't have been a Dr. or something. To which my cheeky son turned to me in reply and said - "Why couldn't YOU have been a Dr., Mom?" Touche.

When I told my parents that Aaron needed a new car, they offered to give us my dad's old, dying (a slow death) Buick. Um, thanks Dad - we're good. My mom brought up that childhood story about our Pastor and said that maybe someone would give us a Cadillac like Pastor Bob got. Haha. Very funny.

A good friend -a young woman at our church who also happens to live off the support of others - told us that she was praying for someone to gift us a car. Um. Right. Who does that? Outside of our close friend who gifted us her vehicle four years one really just gives someone a car, right? Well, my friend started spreading the word that people should pray for us to be gifted a car. Even Aaron and I joined in her prayers. Every day I sang in worship - "Oh Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz!"

Philippians 4:19
And my God will meet all your needs according to the 
riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.

Mathew 7:11
If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts
to your children, how much more will your
Father in Heaven give good gifts
to those who ask him?

This week some friends contacted us telling us that their Grandfather was needing to get rid of his vehicle. It only had 130,000 miles on it, he was the original owner and has taken great care of the vehicle. They would like for us to have it. What?!?!? Really God? WOW! You are really answering our prayers with this ....... you all see what is coming, right? A Cadillac. Not just any Cadillac. A 1989 Cadillac Seville. In the words of our friend who offered it to us, "it is the vehicle preferred by old men in their 80's and dope dealers". Well....apparently the Cadillac is now for old men in their 80's, dope dealers, and Pastors.

Isn't she a beauty???!!! (this pic is for you Angie O.)

That was a pretty story, huh? Just perfect! Isn't it so great how God meets our needs?

Yeah....let me tell you the rest of the story. Wanna know what is NOT pretty?

My heart.

When our friends first told us about this car, I texted my friend and asked why she couldn't have been a little more specific with what kind of car to gift us. Maybe a pretty Volvo Wagon? A sharp Honda Accord? A Mercedes? I told her I blamed her for the fact that we would be the new owners of a 1989 Cadillac Seville.

I have cried about having to receive this gift...and not tears of joy. I have begged Aaron to let me drain our accounts to purchase ANYTHING but this vehicle. A Princess doesn't drive an old man, dope dealing Cadi. Why does it have to be this car? I'm tired of being a charity case. I always feel like a charity case. Why is this our life?

Yes, that really was my response to God's gift. I looked him right in the face and spat on him. I denied his goodness. I wanted to deny his gift. I wanted better. Don't I deserve better? It took him all of about 5 seconds to give me a big fat spanking in the form of conviction. He longs to give us good gifts, and he had just given us one. A safe, reliable, FREE vehicle. Pay no attention to the aesthetics.

Into my heart he brought a wave of reassurance that in his love and provision for me, he gets to do it His way. And his ways are always best. God actually had different plans for the measly $500 we had set aside for that car, and I'm so in awe of how he orchestrated the entire thing. Once I saw the actual purpose for that $500 that he had, I couldn't help but stand in awe and give him all Glory. Now I'm moved to tears of joy and thankfulness.

There are a few things in my life that have been lingering for several years that I have been begging for God's provision, his gifts, for his hand to intercede. I wonder how many times I miss his gifts to me because in my Princess mentality - I don't see them as good enough. So I keep moping around, asking for him to provide, telling him that what He's doing just isn't good enough. All the meanwhile I'm missing the beauty of the bigger picture of how he is orchestrating everything. Oh what a wretched (wo)man I am.

So I repent. And I say thank you. I may never will never love this incredibly ugly, old vehicle - but I will love what my God has done through it. And every time I look at it or (shudder) have to drive it - may I be reminded that He is the giver of all things good. In His time. In His way.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Out of joint

There never seems to be a shortage of running or gardening metaphors when it comes to our spiritual lives. I like that.

As a runner (I hesitate to call myself a runner anymore, but I'm going with it for now) - some verses and analogies just make my heart a little clearer to me at times.

I was reading in Hebrews 12 today. (And all the other Runners are rolling their eyes right now...)

Heb 12:1 (ESV - emphasis mine)
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us

Some translations would say - "let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles or ensnares us".

So that verse is kinda obvious, right? As I kept going though, another piece of chapter 12 stood out to me that never has before.

Heb 12:12-13
Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.

I've been in and out of this sport I've come to love for the past 2 years now due to some bad knees and shins. I've recently taken to Crossfit with the hopes that some muscle balance and strengthening will help me heal up enough to get back to running. So how very practical to read - "strengthen your weak that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed".

But then I started taking this running and joint metaphor and using it as a lens into my heart. I had originally been meditating on the first part of Hebrews 12...thinking through those pesky sins that cling so closely. So when I got to verses 12 and 13, I took pause. How does one, in light of the sin that entangles us, strengthen what is weak so that it may be healed? Training of course. Just a different kind of training.

I can't keep running to strengthen my weak knees. That just doesn't make sense. (Although I've known and read about many runners who do try that...) So in the case of sin, to go on sinning in the areas we know are sin obviously does not lead to healing. There's this thing called muscle memory, where our muscles find a way they want to be (or have been trained to be), and settle in a certain way....even if it isn't the way they are supposed to settle. This can cause all sorts of pain (and things being "put of of joint") if the muscle isn't healed and retrained. Our hearts are no different.

We have a choice: to lean into sin, or strengthen what is weak. I can act out of anger, or choose to overlook a wrong. I can grow bitter or I can forgive. I can despair or I can hope. I can cling to my "vices", or I can come broken to the feet of Jesus. 

It's a choice. And as with everything, the Bible generally has the answers to my silly little questions. So how do I make straight paths for my feet? What is the Crossfit for my soul?

Proverbs 3:5-8
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.

And in all of this, I'm ever so grateful that it is in repentance and rest that my salvation is found, and that quietness and trust is my strength (Isaiah 30:15), because I cannot say I've been strengthening these weak knees or lifting these drooping hands very well at all.

Clinging to new mercies today.