5000 Miles

There’s a little girl called Sissy who lives about 5,000 miles away from me.

Right now, while I type these words and sip my coffee…she is halfway through her day in Bulgaria.  Is she taking a nap in daycare?  Is she playing? Is she coloring?

I think about her about a million times a day and I just find the whole thing so amazing.

We love her.

We have ever since we were told this could happen.  Since we were told that we could do this.  We could be a family for this very little girl who has no idea that she even needs us.

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We know her name.

We’ve seen her face.

And we can not wait to hold her.

Being a part of this story has already been so filled with God and wonder that it defies description.

He has been in the details.

And certainly there are stressors and concerns.

For creative, flaky people like us, deadlines and paperwork that must be done at the right time and in the right way…whew.  That part is hard.

Fundraising creatively and in a (hopefully) non annoying way is equal parts fun and difficult!

I keep saying this:  “Adoption is a full time job!”

Several well meaning friends have said this, “But what if her special needs are more severe than you realized when you get her home?”

And I respectfully reply.  “What if they are?”  Please understand that I don’t mean to be a smarty pants, I don’t mean to be rude…but it is my answer.   If her needs are more than I expect…doesn’t she still have them?  Aren’t they part of her story, whether or not we bring her home to us or not?

She is who she is.  Just as she is.  And she can have her medical issues in Bulgaria where there are such limited resources and no real future for her…or she can have those issues here in America, close to us, with unlimited opportunity.

I think back to tiny little Nora, born crazy early and would we have just chosen not to parent her if she had residual issues?  (I don’t think coloring on EVERYTHING and throwing tantrums count.)

I think about a couple of my kids who struggle with anxiety, one with dyslexia…one with wheat intolerance…I think about other kids I love who have special needs and I just have to say…

“So what if her needs are more severe?”

I guess we’ll just have to figure that out.

Because it bottom lines to these two things.

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“My friends, adoption is redemption.  It’s costly, exhausting, expensive and outrageous.  Buying back lives costs so much.  When God set out to redeem us, it killed him.”

We will pay the ransom (with a LOT of help from our village) and we will rescue our daughter.  Because we have been rescued and redeemed.  We didn’t have to meet any criteria to be redeemed.  And it cost our sweet Jesus.

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“I always questioned if I was ready to adopt, and then I realized no child was ready to be an orphan.”

Oh this statement stops my heart.

Surely Sissy’s first mother, the one who gave her life and a name…surely her heart’s desire for this beautiful girl was not that she would be an orphan.  Surely the foster mom, Sissy’s second mother, who is with her every day and has been for most of her life, surely this sweet mother who has sustained her for all this time and who prepares herself to say good bye…surely her heart’s desire is not that Sissy would live her life as an orphan.  And we look at her picture and we watch her videos and we listen to our six live life fully…and we just know that our desire is not that Sissy would live out the rest of her life an orphan.

This child, fearfully and wonderfully made, she deserves a mom and a dad and host of sisters and even one brother.  She deserves all these grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins.  She deserves to be welcomed in.

Weren’t we welcomed in to the courts of a King?

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Be a part of her story here:

To give:  http://www.gofundme.com/sylviagrace

Buy a t-shirt:  http://www.bonfirefunds.com/sylviagrace

Commission art:  cartestersonink@gmail.com

Buy a bracelet:  cartestersonink@gmail.com

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Apparent Project Bracelets $8
$4 goes to the moms and dads in Haiti that make them, $4 goes to our adoption fund.

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We are keeping a record of every single person who has participated in this story. On the wall, by Sissy’s bed, when she comes home, there will be a great big painting.  A painting of a tree.  And on that tree will be leaves and each leaf will have a name.  The name of every single person who believed she was worth rescuing.  The name of every single person who fought and gave and sacrificed to pay her ransom.

Loving Much

I’m not even supposed to be posting until March.  John and my friend Kerry and I are working on a new look and a new format for this old blog and my plan was not to blog again until we launched it.

And for that matter, I’m not even supposed to be sitting in this chair on my laptop.  My house is a MESS.  And not a cute little mess, either, where there’s just a few toys on the floor and maybe a couple of pairs of kids’ shoes in the hall.  I’m talking college frat boy level mess.  Dirty dishes, dirty laundry, book bag contents, spilled and then dried coffee, toys, toys, toys, shoes, muddy tracks in the hall from the feet of kids, grown ups and a great big dog.  Monday and Tuesday are busy daycare days and Wednesday was wall to wall appointments and it doesn’t take long for a house filled with kids and animals and a bunch of inherently messy adults to wreck the place.  We’ve done a bang up job.

But everyone knows I hate cleaning and besides I think I’ve arrived at an epiphanal (It’s possible that “epiphanal” is not a real word but I’m gong with it) truth and I’ve got to share it with you.  Even if you  might not like it.  Or maybe you will.  I don’t know but it doesn’t much matter.

I’m always talking love, gratitude and restoration.   And lately at Grace Church, we’ve been talking about discipleship.  And lately, in counseling, I talk with my therapist about Receiving Love.  Being Loved.

And I’ve figured out that learning to Be Loved is the key to the whole thing.  Learning to Be Loved and then sharing that Love.

So, I was thinking about all this today as I was driving back to preschool with Claire’s lunch box that I did not place in her bookbag this morning…

I was thinking about the lady I met in the waiting room at Claire’s opthamologist’s appointment.  She had four boys and upon hearing that I had five daughters and only one son, she said this:  “I’m so glad I didn’t have girls.”  And actually did a little fake shudder, horror at the thought of having a daughter.

And immediately, offense rose up in me.  This is a hot button issue for me because I just don’t think boys or girls are better than the other.  One is not harder than the other, one is not easier…frankly, parenting is hard.  One kids, two kids, thirteen kids, all boys, all girls, some of each, it’s hard.  And anyway, you can’t paint one whole gender with such a broad brush.  You can’t.  My five girls are all different from one another, some hard at times, others not as much…they all have their own quirks, they all have their own strangths and you know what?  It really pisses me off when people act like one gender is preferable  to the other.

See?  This stuff makes me stabby.

And all of that was running through my head so loud that I almost didn’t hear the still, small voice gently pulling me out of offense and selfishness and into compassion.

“Hear her in this.”

Because here is what she said next.  “I just know any girl I would’ve had would’ve turned out like me.”  And she said it and laughed but because God opened my eyes…I saw the hurt in her words.

How do I know her story?  Where that misogyny was born?  Who spoke ugliness about daughters over her?  How do I know that she isn’t bitterly disappointed about not having a daughter and covering it over with jokes and bravado?  How dare I take offense?  I don’t know her story.

And she went on to talk about her divorce and raising four boys by herself and I listened and we chatted and then it was time for Claire to go see the eye doctor.

She has stayed on my mind and I am praying for her and our paths may never cross again and that’s fine.  But I almost missed an opportunity to  love because I was so quick to take offense.

And that got me thinking about the modern church and how we are so quick to boycott, so quick to take offense, so quick to picket and protest and pray for people to stop sinning and get their life together.  Our ministry is not to meet needs and share this Great Love that we’ve been given, this Great Grace and Redemption and Deliverance…but no, our ministry has turned into “helping people change” or “calling people out of sin” or “standing against (insert sin du jour here)”.  Is this really His plan for us?  His desire for us?

How can it be?

Is it love that goes first and foremost out of us?  Is it grace?  Is it peace?  Who have you ever heard of who came to a closer relationship or a relationship at all with Jesus because of a boycott or a protest or from being “held accountable” by someone who was not invited to their life to hold them accountable?  But how many have felt the love of Jesus from a kind word, a listening ear, a hot meal, a paid bill, some babysitting, a visit?

We need to be reminded:

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We need to be reminded:

Matthew 22-37,40

We need to be reminded:

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And you know what else?  Let’s stop acting like our sin isn’t equal to the sin we’re always making such a fuss about.  We are ALL sinners and we have ALL fallen short of the glory of God.  And every single sin, the ones that Christians find “acceptable” and the ones we don’t are all the same and are all the nails in His hands and the thorns in His forehead, the sword in His side.  Every drop of His blood that was spilled was for EVERY sin and that is what makes them equal in His eyes.

How His heart must break when we are so busy calling out sin and not pouring out love.

I want my heart to break over that too.

Matthew 25:31-46

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

This is His heart.  That we stop making it our ministry to change people and start making it our ministry to love people into the kingdom.  He wants to lavish His love on His people, all of us, no matter what our favorite sins are.  His love and forgiveness and His sacrifice was for us all.  For the annoying, for the addicted, for those who can not or will not help themselves, for those who’ve got it all together and for those who are just a big mess, for the weirdo and the non-weirdo alike, for the awkward and the confident.  We all hold the same value.

Jesus died for every sin and every wound and every single soul that His father made.

I want to lead with love.  I want the love of Jesus to fill me up so much that it sloshes out on everyone I meet.  I want to be known by love and not judgement, to be known by grace and not condemnation, to be known by mercy and not self righteousness, to be known by acceptance and not by pride.  I want to see my fellow man, woman and child through the eyes of Christ and offer the love He’s given me to them.

Because…

Luke 7:38-50

38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”

40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”

“Tell me, teacher,” he said.

41 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii,[a]and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”

“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

49 The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”

50 Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

 This woman was a sinner, just like we all are, but she was an unacceptable kind of sinner.  She was weird and she was awkward and she just pushed her way into a respected male home and she pushed way under the table and poured out tears and perfume all over his feet.  Picture that.

Just picture it.

It’s dinner time and Jesus is at someone’s house, eating.  And this woman, (a known prostitute or adulteress?  I’m not sure, ask John Carter, he’s the theologian around here), she is weeping in the presence of this Jesus who has covered her with grace.  Her love is so great, it is falling from her eyes and she must pour it out at his feet.  

And this woman is me.  This woman is you.  This woman is all of us who profess to love Him.  We have all been forgiven much, we have been bought at such a high cost.  How are we not pouring out our love on everyone we see?  Loving much, because we’ve been forgiven much.

But the thing I really want us to SEE here is how Jesus received her.  He did not call out her sin, it was there between them and He knew about it and she knew about it.  But what He saw was her love and what He gave was His love.

This is our Jesus.  Leading with love.  Waving a banner of love.  Grace.  Redemption.  Peace.  Joy.

So, that’s where I’m at today.  That letting Him love me and in turn sharing that love is the key to it all.  To making disciples, to evangelism, to being a good friend, to honoring others, to being a good mom…it’s the key to it all.

My prayer for you and my prayer for me….”Beloved, be loved.”

The Slow Journey

 

When Julia was born, I was just a young girl of nineteen and I had no idea what motherhood even meant.  I knew it would be diapers and crying and sleepless nights…but I didn’t anticipate the wonder.

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I can remember watching Saturday Night Live in our tiny apartment and I would get her out of bed just to let her sleep on my chest.  I loved every second of motherhood in those early days.  She was an easy, laid back baby and I felt love and contentment I’d never, ever known before.  Yes, there were diapers and crying and sleepless nights and I’m sure the passage of time has made me remember it all through rose colored glasses but I knew I’d been given a good gift.

And what’s funny about it is that finding out I was pregnant…it had been a shock and a point of stress.  I’d been living the wild life for a while and my mom and some members of our church had gathered together to pray.  The prayer was:  “Whatever it takes, whatever it takes to get her to stop living this wild life and get back to what she knows.”

Within a week, I was telling my mom some pretty crazy news.  She was forty, just like I am today.

I worried.  I worried that I wouldn’t be good at being a mom, that I wouldn’t make my parents proud, that I wouldn’t ever get to do anything that I wanted to do.

And then, this thing I’d been worried about and frightened of happened and I counted it joy.  Because it was.  Julia was.  Mothering her gave me purpose and confidence and made me want to be better and I started the slow journey to being better.

Slow journey.

But that’s how it works.  We don’t just wake up one day fully healed and fully actualized and fully walking upright with Jesus, sinning no more.

I screwed up lots.  I made mistakes lots.  I did the wrong thing, lots.  But my heart was open to Him in a new way and that part has not changed in 20 years.

I had two more babies and while the day to day got more harried and busy and messy, I still loved it all.  I loved my babies, loved motherhood, loved Jesus.  And I kept trying to be better.  Sometimes I did well and sometimes I failed so loud and so hard that my whole world shook.

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And the truth is…that hasn’t changed.  I still fall down, I still fail and I still love my babies.  And God is still faithful.

Because God knows how to love well.  He knows that sometimes He has to let me feel consequences and sometimes He has to offer grace unmerited.  He knows that I will turn my back on Him and act like a selfish brat and sometimes I get too cozy with Poor Me and Discouragement and that whole crowd.  He knows that sometimes I don’t believe I have what it takes and sometimes I believe I can do anything.  He knows that sometimes I’m going to try too hard on my own and sometimes I’m going to try and fix things and that He’s going to need to be there to pick up the pieces.

He knows that sometimes, He’s going to offer me something amazing and I’m going to balk.

And I know that He is never anywhere but right beside me, within me, before me and behind me.

We all know Jeremiah 29:11 and we quote it so much that the words lose their meaning.  But it’s truth.

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.

Not disaster, but good.

And then there’s Romans 8:28, another one we can all quote and know and still not know.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

All things…my failures, my mistakes, my sins…He redeems.

And so I’m thinking on all of that this morning as I’m looking down at my sweet Nora, as I get Lila and Claire ready for the day.  I think of how God has taught me more and more about love with each one of these precious six.  How He has shown His hand on my life and on theirs.  How He is teaching me how safe it is to trust Him and love Him.  How He has shown me what Love looks like.

He has plans for me, plans for good things, for a hope and a future.  And He will work all things together for my good, and He will guide me to His purpose and plans for my life.  Because I am His.

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Battleworn

Last night I stood in my bathroom after my shower, scrubbing at graying remnants of surgical tape from my most recent hospital stay.  I thought about scars and how some scars you can see and some you can’t.

I have scars.  Surgical scars.  Scars from the sheath that went into my femoral artery.  Scars from my central line.  I have scars you can’t see too.  Scars from almost losing my life.  Scars from hearing the ones who love me talk about the pain of almost losing me.  Scars from fear after fear.  Scars from bearing a tiny 2lb. 14oz. baby, eleven weeks early.  Scars from being away from my family most of the last month.  Scars from near constant pain since November 18…

And I think about Jesus and I think about restoration and how He loves to redeem.  I don’t want to go through this hard, hard thing and not learn.  I don’t want to go through this surreal season and not change.  I don’t want to miss the refinement that He is sure to do if I remain open and shun bitterness.

And I do!  I don’t want bitterness.  I’m not angry, I’m not what iffy.  I’m raw and I’m emotional but I’m in love with my life and my people and God has stood with me again in the center of the flame.  And this was a big flame.

I don’t want to waste the opportunity for God to use this for good.  He will, His word says He will.  But I think we shut Him down sometimes.  We get angry and bitter at our circumstances and we miss the good He has to offer.

This morning I wake thankful.  Thankful for the daughter that has taken on responsibilities beyond what a twenty year old should have to take on.  Thankful for her happy heart as she serves her family.  Thankful for a second daughter, who laughs with me and does her fair share too.  Thankful for the sister that could run the world, given the chance.  Thankful for my husband who understands what loving his wife and children like  Christ loved the church means.  Thankful for my three little girls, Lila, Claire and Nora.  Thankful for reading stories to my little ones and watching the lights on the Christmas tree flicker and coffee with my sister and Julia and every other good gift that My Beloved bestows on me.

I’m so thankful.

And so, I shuffle because I have pain and I’m tired and run down with anemia from all the blood transfusions.  I get nauseated easily.  I fall asleep at odd times.  I cry almost all day.  (The good kind, usually.)  I’m fragile and battle worn but I. Am. Here.  I am loved.  I am blessed.  I am thankful.  And I am changed.

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The Blank Page

The silence of this house is settling all around and I wish I was the sort of person who fell asleep easily and in odd places.  But I’m the sort of person who needs to be in her own bed, with the fans blowing and that’s all there is to that.  I sip my coffee and stare at this blank page, this blank text box.

No inspiration comes and I wonder if maybe I’ve written all the posts I have in me?

This past week, whenever I’ve sat down to write, something inside me  reminds me of my failures.  Failures as an awkward, immature teen.  Failures as a young woman, failures in the recent past.  I find I am plagued and thinking ill of me.  I’ve spent many a morning staring at this blank screen…waiting for the words to come….secretly believing that I have no good words to offer and that the well has run dry.

I just see this lifetime of sin and not loving well and know that I have to do better…but why all these memories?  Why now?  Why feel the sting of rejection, failure, inadequacy, judgement, ugliness again now?  I know that there is no condemnation in Him.  (Romans 8:1)  And I know it hasn’t come from Him.  I know it doesn’t come from Him.  Not now, not then, not ever.

He remembers my sin no more.  (Hebrews 8:12)

Why can’t I be that way too?

I’ve spent a lot of years trying to become comfortable in my own skin and I’m better now than I was before.  But still I struggle.  Overthinking, worrying, analyzing my words and deeds.  It’s easy for me to convince myself that I have nothing good to offer.  But I know this isn’t true.

Each one has his own gifts from God.  I have my own gifts from God.  And I am one He died for.

Discouragement let herself in the back door and whispered these things to me.  Whispered my failures, my inadequacies and my mistakes.  She is so sneaky.  She is the one who’s been saying that I have nothing of value to offer.  She is the one who points to my life’s work and only can see the bad.  She can’t see the good because there is no good in her.

But I know Truth.  Truth will set you free.

The Truth is, I am redeemed.  I am made in His image.  I have good gifts to offer.  Good for the kingdom.  And the Truth is that I will see His goodness in the land of the living and I will spend eternity with Him.

This morning, I see all of that so clearly.  I see how Discouragement has tricked me and twisted my life story to suit her purposes.  I reject what she offers and instead, I choose thankfulness…I choose meditation of Scripture…I choose the peace of Christ.  I am grateful for this quiet morning and sleeping house.  I am grateful for the memories of all my sin and failures…becuase I can see God in them.  I can see how He picked me up and turned me around.  I can see how He healed me in the aftermath.  I can see how far I’ve come, how far I still have to come, yes…but how far I’ve come.

In this house of glorious chaos, the silence is blessed.  It’s rare.  It’s a moment to look into the face of God and see myself.  To know that He loves me deep and full like no other.

To know that He remembers my sin no more, but is capable of healing the damage it left behind.  He is the one who brings restoration.