Saturday, May 21, 2011

Lessons in Faith from a Five Year Old

Her little hand clutched in mine we lay on her bed. The house was still and quiet. As evening set in around us, she began to pray.

{we'll get to the prayer in a minute}

Perhaps one of the things that amazes me most about being a mother is how much God uses it to teach me. Motherhood has become my training ground for patience, kindness, truth, love, every imaginable skill (and some I never imagined I would need or learn) and faith. I come face to face with Jesus and the truths of God on a regular basis -- out of the mouths and hearts of our children.

A few  months ago we became aware of Isabel's love and passion for orphans (or as she calls them children who don't have any parents -- she does not like the term orphan. But that is conversation for another day.) In an attempt to nurture this godly spark our family set off on a new project -- read Whose Child Is She? and ...a Little Child Will Lead Them to learn more about what we're doing and how.

Last week God brought a new friendship into our lives that has the potential to change the shape, if not the course, of our very lives. And while it remains to be seen how this will all play out, I can tell you that next week our new (already dear) friends will be coming to dinner -- to tell us of Africa, orphans, the missionary life they are called to. And even more than that, they are coming to hear Isabel's heart, see her passion and her dresses and help fan the godly flame growing in her wee little heart. I don't know what God is going to use this for, but I can tell you whatever it is it is already changing us. Her. Me.

Back to her prayer. As I read Isabel James 1:27 {Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.} and talked to her about what she wants to do for the orphans I saw a different look in her eyes. One of sadness. An ache almost.

In her sadness she told me about how it makes her sad that they don't have parents. That they are missing the love they could have like our family. And before I could say a word, she smiled and said "they need Jesus. He's our family from God. We can help with that." Humbled. Tears pouring down my face I sat there on her bed and nodded. What more was there to say.

"My turn to pray," she chirped and grabbed my hand. "Dear God, thank you for my mom and dad. Thank you for our new friends that are coming to dinner next week. Thank you for helping us to do things that we don't even know are in the Bible. Thank you for Jesus. Help us give Jesus to the orphans. Amen."

Through tears I saw her little blonde hair fall over her tear soaked dimples. Where does that passion come from? With a deep sigh she turned her big blue eyes back to me. "I love you mommy." "I love you too baby girl." And there we laid hand in hand on the bed with Jesus. Trying to understand the truth of His love, of our place in this world, and the realities of children who don't have parents. It was one of the sweetest, heaviest, holiest moments I have ever been a part of.

These moments of motherhood are humbling and amazing in one breath. God is using Isabel to teach me and remind me that He is all we need. And He is what we are to give others -- in whatever form that, dresses, hugs, help, prayer, truth, light, joy, etc.

Will you join us in prayer? Pray for the children who don't have any parents. Pray for our family as we begin this new adventurous chapter. Pray for Isabel that she will be lifted up and encouraged to follow her heart. Pray for a mama who feels terribly under qualified and in awe of the baby girl she is raising. Pray that we find ways to give Jesus to the our the world.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Lost is Not Lost if You Know Where You Are

Six months ago I knew where I was, knew where I was headed, and knew where I had been.

Every thing was in its place.

In the past two months I have felt like I was at the center of a cosmic game of 52 card pick up. Only the cards were the pieces of my life that had been neatly ordered and set in a row.

I was lost.

Am lost. Still. Kind of.

I still have no idea where God is leading in this season of change and transition. Some days I weep for the emptiness of friends, serving and calling. When you pin labels to yourself in search of definition, meaning and worth what is left when the winds of change blow away the words that make up you? Is my calling a thing of the past now that my seat sits empty in a hall that doesn't miss me?

And yet! In the midst of uncertainty and insecurity. I find myself leaning into a great big God. I find joy in the bubble covered laughs ringing from the hallway bathroom. The sing-song echoes from under the green canopy out back chant of rain, wetness, a spring refreshed and alive. My husbands eyes are wild with love and a childish fire, so green and piercing it takes my breath away. The feel of sewing scissors in my hand as they carve a path through cheery fabric on a voyage in a young girl's dream makes me feel hopeful and capable. The delight of cooking, creating, growing and tending falls a new on a tired, recoiling soul.

Inside this great big God. Enveloped by His love and grace I am alive and whole. Not burdened or hurried.  Not beat down or wound up. I am me. I am what He has called me to be.

Somewhere in the heavenly whispers of love I find a moment so pure and beautiful it aches to be expressed. To be breathed and lived. Love. Hope. Grace. Mercy. Jesus. Me.

As I sit smack dab in the middle of days marked with a search for what is the new normal He has created for us, I begin to wonder how to live both. If these doors opening around us and opportunities laid in front of us are what our new callings, service and ministry look like. Is there a way to know before you know? A  way to try it on without stepping front of the mirror?

Probably not. And that's okay.

This time off has taught me that lost is not lost if you're lost in a big God. Where there is no beginning or end, just love and a holy fire. And, perhaps, our world was rocked so that we could stop doing for Him and remember what it is to be with Him. To breathe Him. To love Him. To sing with and for Him. To lean into Him.

So lost, is not lost. When you know where you are. Kind of like being a are always at home when you carry Home with you.

Father, thank you for the moments of uncertainty and the loss of all that seems familiar in safe. In the day in day out of this life it is easy to miss you and lose you and turn away from you. But when all is stripped away and there is no work or serve or do...just You. Life is sweeter. Slower. Pure. Help me to stay lost in You, even when I know where we're headed! Amen.

Friday, May 6, 2011

In the Warmth of Grace

I wish you could hear the peace of this place. The late afternoon calm that descends on our backyard like sun-kissed grace wrapping around us.

Alas, no video could make you feel the warmth of the sunshine or the kiss of the slow breeze across your bare shoulders. No recording could do justice to the song of the birds in the trees or the tinkling giggles of the windchimes.

And I realize as I sit here drinking in the afternoon that perhaps there is so much more in these moments to experience. Perhaps the grace of this life is so much sweeter for the days that have come before.

Tomorrow is birthmother's day and every year it brings a somber cloud into my world. The painful echoes  ushering in Mother's day. Celebrating what I have and reminding me of all that I gave up. I haven't known how to meet that. Deal with that. Live that. Reckon with that. Celebrate that.

But this year, as I sit in the afternoon peace I realize that perhaps I've missed the mark on Birthmother's Day. Perhaps instead of trying to find a way to celebrate its loss, emptiness and a wound forever open. Perhaps I should learn to honor it. Honor a choice. Honor your life. Honor life. Honor change. Honor an emptiness only God can understand and only Jesus can redeem.

So, I write to you this day, my sweet baby girls. I know you are so much more than baby girls now, you both stand on the threshold of womanhood and your futures are dawning on the horizons. What would I tell you if sipped iced tea with me here in the late afternoon sunshine?

 Learn to dream. To laugh. To accept the grace that God wants to pour into your life. To be comfortable in your own skin. To know that growth comes from rain and dark days redeemed by sunshine and the warmth of hope. To ask for help when you need it. To give help when you can. To jump in puddles, soak up the sun, touch the ocean and climb in the mountains. Fall in love. Share an ice cream cone with a puppy.  Serve your husband breakfast in bed. Carve a pumpkin. Grow a garden. Go sledding. Dance when you're asked. Sing in the shower, in the car or wherever the words and the mood strike you. Swim with dolphins. Howl at the moon. Take pictures, fill albums and cherish memories. Call your grandparents. Send a friend a card to lift her spirits. Study anything and everything that strikes your fancy, even after school is long over. Smile....

Most of all, I wish for you. Jesus.

I pray that someday you'll sit in a peaceful spot reflecting on the life you have, the days you've lived and the moments marked for celebration. And in those moments you'll come to understand that life is what it is because the Savior knew your name, your face, held your tears and knew the paths you would choose. He loved You anyway. He came for you. He stands with you. And He redeems your mistakes, missteps and dark moments and gives you sun-kissed moments of whispered love and grace to remind you that He will never leave.

I will never dry your tears or hold your hand. I'll never talk lay on your bed and talk about boys. Or help with homework. Or cook your favorite meal. Your mother does that. Will do that. Jesus chose her for you...and connected our hearts. Celebrate her! I do.

Tomorrow I will plant a tree. In honor. In honor of shoes never tied and giggles never heard. Of moments a birthmother misses. I'll remember your first cries, the look of your little hands in mine, your tiny toes and the moments you were mine. And each year as it grows and blooms it will symbolize hope. The hope for somedays and relationships yet to come.

Let me tell you, as I finish writing this with tears in my eyes, the sky has grown dark and there is a storm moving in. But the sun still shines over my shoulder and I can see to the other side of the is temporary. A rain that makes flowers grow and readies the ground for our tree.

Tomorrow, I'll plant our memories of hope.

joyously full and overwhelmingly empty in the same breath

The stretch marks across my belly are like a road map into the past.

My belly.

Despite my weight issues, I love it! I love the memories of the blessings my belly has held.

On Sunday, Mother's Day, I will celebrate with two of those little blessings. Being a wife and mother were dreams I didn't know how to dream and now they are dreams come true everyday.

But the day before Mother's Day there will be another celebration. One marked by quiet reflection, whispered memories and bittersweet tears. Saturday is Birthmother's day.

Just days after my first daughter was born (and placed with her adoptive parents) I laid in my bed. Hands on my deflated belly and cried myself to sleep. I didn't want to hear how noble my sacrifice was or how I did the right thing...I wanted to know if I'd ever stop crying. If life would ever feel normal again. If my deflated belly would ever not remind me of pregnancy, baby kicks, the sound of a newborn's cry, and just how empty my arms and heart are.

And truthfully, I am very much that same young day a year. 364 days a year I live a life full of laughter, princesses, army men, dogs, homeschooling, and love! I wouldn't trade it for anything else, but that doesn't mean I don't know what I am missing. Birthmother's Day echoes the emptiness my choices left me with.

What would it be to know the sound of laughter of my two daughters who don't call me mom?  Our table seats 6...I imagine their faces and tales of early teen life filling our dining room. What are their favorite meals? What would it be like to snuggle with them? Will they ever want to know me?

The truth of our lives is quite different and always will be. They have beautiful, strong, amazing women to call mom. Women that God hand picked and placed in my path. Funny, that I "chose" their parents. I looked at profile after profile searching for the women my babies would call mommy. For the women who would nurse their wounds, help them with their homework, teach them to love, and share the everyday things that bless a mother's heart.

I am blessed to be a mother. I am keenly aware of the fleeting moments with our small children. That they grow at the speed of life and before I know it our halls won't ring with giggles and we'll be remembering our todays as long ago yesterdays. I'm thankful for every moment.

And, I am blessed to be a birthmother. For with the ache and the emptiness comes the truth that the babies I once held in my belly and briefly in my arms are where God intended them to be...with their mothers. And I am thankful to two women who fought paperwork and legal battles. Who faced down infertility and circumstances they couldn't control. For on the other side of that painful mountain, I met them. They became mothers. And they became my friends...

So celebrate the mothers (and the birthmothers) in your life this weekend! For it is a true gift from God to be called to the sacrificial station of motherhood. Oh, and the blessing of being loved by your mother!!

Father, thank you for letting me play a part in the lives of four of your children. And while my roles for two of them are far different then the others I believe you will heal those scars and fill those empty places someday. As I live this life that is joyously full and overwhelmingly empty in the same breath, please walk with me. Remind me of the daily blessings you have given me and hold my heart when it beats a broken beat into the past.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

I Come to the Garden

With dirt under my finger nails and sweat dripping off my forhead I sit down. A moment's rest, earned and appreciated.

Tiny plants in the ground in front of me. It is planting time. 

Oh how I love this time of year. When the flowers are blooming, leaves are returning to the trees and it is time to begin the garden. Even for all the new growth, beauty and goodness springing up around me I realize that this time of year is my favorite...but this year the reason why is so clear. And so different from any other year.

The past few months have been emotionally draining and just plain tough.

And then came the garden. do I share with you what happens there?

Do you know the old hymn "In the Garden"?

Read the words...

I come to the garden alone
While the dew is still on the roses
And the voice I hear falling on my ear
The Son of God discloses.

And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

He speaks, and the sound of His voice,
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing,
And the melody that He gave to me
Within my heart is ringing.

I’d stay in the garden with Him
Though the night around me be falling,
But He bids me go; through the voice of woe
His voice to me is calling.

That's it! That's what happens to me. I am calmed by the presence of God in our garden. As I dig in the dirt, water the plants or dig new beds I find that it is in Him I am dwelling. Something that has been difficult for me lately. As the emotional toll of the last few months has been difficultly leaning into God.

So this spring, as I find every possible reason to be outside. Every possible reason to sit with my God in our garden. I am growing food for my family and rekindling a romance my Jesus. 

Where does God beckon you? Are there places where you feel closer to Jesus? Places you go to recharge?

Father, thank you for your gift of love. For the ever blooming flower of grace. I'll wait for you in the garden...