Sunday, July 31, 2011

How a Mop Handle Can Lead to Humbling Life Change

The heat from my burning cheeks was inching down my neck and over my ears. My embarrassment was showing, for sure. So was my frustration and anger. As I bent over to pick up the magazines I could feel the stares of the grocery store patrons and hear the snickers.

Like knocking over a magazine rack (yep, a rack) isn't embarrassing enough, only minutes before I had taken out a couple of boxes of brownie mix and five or six packages of tp. The mop handle sticking out of my cart was destined for home and making my life easier, but right now it was a giant pain and rapidly becoming a cause of public humiliation.

There I stood. Frustrated. Angry. Embarrassed. 

And a breath before I could move my cart and knock another item down, images flashed across my memory. Suddenly the heart wrenching truth of the famine in East Africa (view the graphic images here) hit me. In the air-conditioned, shiny, cool grocery store with a cart full of groceries I thought I would throw up. As quickly as the red drained from my face every selfish emotion drained from my body.

With tears in my eyes I fumbled through checkout. Hoping to contain my emotions long enough to prevent further embarrassment. Putting my groceries in the back of my silver grocery-getter littered with kiddo toys, blankets, and the sandy remnants of vacation, I lost it.

I sobbed all the way home.

I'll never understand the grace of God. How it is that this girl who loses her temper...a lot; who turns to food instead of God; who curses the laundry and other daily tasks that await a stay-at-home mom; who can go days without reading the Bible; and who let's foul words escape my mouth more often then I care to admit can be blessed beyond measure by a God whose ways I cannot fathom, I'll never know.

As I ponder the mothers whose babies are starving. The women who rock sick children to sleep begging for one more night and rescue in the daylight. Those who look to the clouds and pray that today they'll open up...that relief will come in drips and drops, in downpours, and soggy new life. I begin the pray, I beg for food, aid, peace, rain, Him. I don't understand the gap, my abundance and their losses, but I do understand that there is  God in heaven who loves each mama, each baby, each community more than we can wrap our small questioning minds around.

I am not sure I can make a difference in East Africa. I can't make it rain, I can't cut through bureaucratic red tape or send aid to so many, but I can use my voice, my space, my life to pray, to speak, to point to the One who loves us all.

Consider joining me:
- pray -- for rain, for aid, for God, for the people on the front lines, for peace
- raise your voice, use your space - spread the word -- blog, facebook, twitter, in Bible study wherever you can ask others to get involved
- sponsor a child -- visit Compassion International today to find out how you can invest in the life of a child in  Africa (all over the world, really) helping to feed their bodies and their souls 

Father, thank you for changing my heart, for helping me to realize that I am so much smaller than my ego believes and MUCH more blessed than I often remember. Help me to find ways to shine your light here in my own community and across the world. Father, kiss the foreheads of your daughters that go to bed lost, scared, or disheartened tonight. I pray that even in the midst of great challenges and great sadness they are able to feel your warmth and peace. Amen.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Have I ever Jumped for Joy?

Her golden hair nearly sparkled in the sun. The blue-green water rushed to greet her shrieks of delight and kiss her wiggling toes. The joy of vacation, of the beach, of life bubbled out of her.

And then, she began leaping. Jumping for joy, if you will.

Joy. That is unfettered joy.

And as I watched her leap, splash and play I wondered if I have ever jumped for joy. Literally, jumped.

This is not to say I haven't been joyful, but have I been so caught up in the the joy that my body left the surface of the earth? Have I surrendered myself to the moments of God-filled delight to the point of abandoned?

I don't think so. And if it did happen I'm sure I was knee-high to a grasshopper.

Folding the warm sheets in the dingy basement laundry room I sighed. And sighed again. Laundry. Need I say more? As I silently lamented the curse of the ongoing laundry battle, two little people came rushing into the laundry room.

Full of laughter and life they chatted away. Pointing to this and that. Asking. Laughing. Curious and cute. The unfinished walls, cement floor and dark corners seemed to light up with their energy. The piles (and piles and piles) of laundry didn't phase them. 

"Mom, can we help with the laundry?"

I nodded a slow, tired nod.

"Yay!!" they both shouted as they danced on and over the heaps of dirty clothes.

We began loading the washing machine together. Jump up. Throw the towel. Giggle. Run back. Hop. Skip. Twirl. Toss the wash cloth. Climb in and out of the laundry bag. Laugh. Throw. Repeat. As I closed the lid, I realized I was laughing. There was joy in these moments I had been lamenting only a breath ago. 

How often have I lamented the moments that hold the potential for joy? As I trudge through the everydayness why do I choose not to look for the chances to leap, twirl, giggle and skip? When do we loose that? Can we get it back?

I am firmly convinced one of the reasons God chose to give me children was to get me out of my own head. To remind me of what childhood looks like.

Today, I am going to find a reason to jump for joy...even if it is only laundry!! Care to join me?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Their Story is My Story

Piles of construction paper. Glue. Stickers. Scissors. Bits and pieces of paper. As though the craft bin exploded in the living room. It overwhelmed me...overwhelms me. And in all honesty part of it still sits on the living room floor.  The aftermath cast a shadow over the project. Over the impact. Over the reasons. Over The reason.

...whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me...

As I walk up the stairs today their pictures hit me anew. I remember when I first hung them there, it was a daily reminder to pray. I wonder now as I touch their cheeks and pause to pray, how often do I walk by them, do I forget to remember them, do I let the distance between our worlds beckon me from standing in the gap for them?

Today as I look at their pictures and glance over my shoulder at the pile in the living room I'm moved nearly to tears. Really? A pile of construction paper and craft materials is enough to derail me? When she sleeps in a house with dirt floors and he awaits our letter for a glimpse of Jesus?

I pick up the homemade folders stuffed to the brim with glued-on, cut-out, colored-in grace, and sit on the couch. What will she feel as she holds this? Will he know our love? Will she see we are rooting for her? Will she understand that Jesus is so much bigger than the poverty she faces? Can we love him bigger than the reality of his circumstances? I ponder that.

When we began sponsoring children with Compassion it was for our kids. How desperately we wanted to expand their worlds. And, while their worlds are still rooted in princesses, trucks and backyards swings whose to know if we will succeed in giving them a God-sized vision for helping those we can. But while we wait for their outcome it is changing mine.

I worry for her sister who always seems to be ill.
I wonder if his parents know Jesus.
I ask the Lord to help us find away to visit, to understand, to look into their eyes, to give them a Jesus-filled hug, to tell others their stories, to be more than a check.

I've come to understand that their story is my story. That God placed these precious babies in the path our family so we could share what He is blessing us with (monetarily, emotionally and spiritually) and so that we can become a family that cares. That understands our knees will take us farther than any vehicle in the journey toward these children; for petitioning the Throne of Grace on their behalf is an awesome responsibility.  That sending letters lets them, their parents, and others know we care. He cares. That the job of a sponsor is much larger than a check or automatic deduction. It is hope, sealed in envelopes stuffed with Scripture, joy and crayon drawn love. It is prayer and belief. It is a faith in my God that says the least of these are His and their mine.

As I pick up the pile of crafts on the floor I will count each scrap of paper and each blessing. I will pray for the translators that go through our envelopes, the people that will deliver them, the folks that help the kids write and read the letters, the parents of the children as they bring them home to share with the family, and the future. A future safe in Christ. That their love, faith and strength is a force to be reckoned that changes the world.

Father, bless these little children. Help us to shower your love on them. Place others in their paths that will point them straight to You. Help me, Father, to be patient with my children and to find ways to help their worlds expand to include all your children, and their future to be full of visions and passion to change their world for You. Amen.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

She is Grace Exhaled

Scrap of paper between us. Words scribbled in haste a link between hearts. God's grace and meager thanks laid upon the table cloth.

It was a moment in time. For her, one more face in a long line of excited strangers. For me a moment that will forever live in my heart and one more piece of my life rebuilt.

"There's something different about her," several women would comment about her later. "But what is it?"

I knew it when I read her book. I knew it when I heard her speak. I knew it when she accepted my tear-filled, scrap paper thanks with love, hugs and tears.

She. This farmer's wife with a gift for word pictures and God pictures. She is grace exhaled.

People began filing out around us. Snifles and music filled the air. Ann VosKamp's words were now but echoes in our memories and God's kisses for our souls. I couldn't move. The tears just streamed down my face.

Urged by a new friend to write my thanks to Ann for what her book has done in my life, my heart, my home. I found inadequate words and pushed the pen across the paper. Not nearly enough, but more than I could say.

As I slid the note across the table cloth and choked out a tear-filled explanation her eyes looked into my soul. With acceptance and deep as the blue of her eyes she hugged me. I was touched. Broken. Grateful. Overwhelmed. Humbled. This woman who poured her life unto page so that it might speak of Him of was sweetly listening and in my story with me.

With grace she accepted my thanks and the sliver of my story that I offered to her. Her blue eyes deep with understanding and love. Her very being radiating Christ.

Ann Voskamp's words, speech and tales are beautiful and memorable. Her gentle spirit is grace exhaled to a broken world in need of thanksgiving, light and beauty.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Hidden Gems of She Speaks

I love to hide things where people will find them and be blessed. Love notes for my hubby taped to the mirror or in his coat pocket (or the year I put valentines in his boots and he didn't know it...wore 'em all day and ground the little notes into lint!). Little surprises for my an out of the blue snack on the breakfast table sweet, delicious and just waiting for their little fingers. I am even know to hide cookies from the dogs now and then...just so they can find a yummy lil surprise.

I realized today, that God does that too. 

I have been blessed to be part of the She Speaks facebook group for this year's attendees. It is great seeing the advice, prayer, support and laughter that is being dispensed from keyboards around the country. What added bonus that group has been.

And yet, as I read the posts about nerves, worries, frenzied preparation and more it excites me to think of how much more is in store for these women. To know that God has tucked lil gems in the nooks and crannies of the upcoming weekend specially hidden for His daughters to stumble upon and delight in.

In the large banquet room there will be delivious meals peppered with lively conversation. The room is a buzz with energy and passion. There will be messages that empower, bringing us to our feet with energy and gusto. Messages that bring snorting laughter that reminds you just how much sweet tea you had at dinner. And the personal stories and messages that God uses to massage a weary soul; that bring you to your knees in a humbling, emptying moment...only for Him to fill you up again.

The small conference rooms are just large fire hose hook ups I think. You go and get hit with so much information that it is like drinking from those fire hoses. You hope you get some of it in, and that the rest just covers you over and soaks in as you dry out. (um, CDs....a She Speak-ers best friend) The wisdom, character and charm of the presenters astounds me every year. The caliber of professional people willing to help others follow hard after Jesus is a thing that only God (and Queen LeAnn) can orchestrate.

And those moments are amazing. Trust me. All of them.

But sprinkled throughout every moment, every hallway, every room you'll find other moments our Great Big God of little details has laid just so. There are friendships hidden in the elevators, bathrooms, buffet lines, airport shuttles and roommates assignments. Accountability partners that pop up in speaking eval groups, writers groups and even just around the dinner table. There are books that were written for your moments...seemingly for you. The prayer room is holy ground where Jesus leans in as prayers are whispered and where you find a reminder of who God is to you and for you. The worship is sweet and maybe a small glimpse of what Heaven will be where 600 sisters raise their voices to a God who hovers just a breath away.

She Speaks is an amazing conference, for a million reasons. And probably my million would be different from others, again it is God in the details that makes it amazing.

So as I pack my bags this year. I am asking God to open my eyes, to help me see the gems He's hidden. To breathe in the moments He's created to draw me into His lap. 

Today as I write I'm a weary momma who wonders how she'll get it all done before heading to Charlotte this week, but I know next week I'll write as a re-energized daughter of the King back from a weekend of treasure hunting with her Daddy.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Truth that Met Me in the Fast Lane

It was as if the words hung in the air. The song played on, but the line sat there in front of me. As though written on the windshield I had to look through the words to see the truth of my life...past and present.

As a birthmother I have heard a lot about how noble my sacfrice was. What a gift I've given the girls and their families. And I have wanted to believe that, but it felt like there should be more to it. That moments wrapped up in pain, joy, the scent of a baby and a tidal wave of hormones have to be for something more than praise from strangers, an empty belly and movie-of-the-week memories. But what?

I have grappled with that question for over a decade. With every picture, letter, and phone call I have known there is something deeper to this birthmother thing then grief and longing. 

And then there it was. A random afternoon. A random song on the radio. And God's truth meets me face-to-face in the fast lane and changes my life forever. 

I'm not one to say God spoke to me. I've never heard His voice, but I've felt His presence. I know His hand in my life. And I know when my heart meets Truth. And in those moments I know what God is saying. Louder than the voices in my head and heart I can hear Him.

For weeks I have been in love with this song. It seems to minister to me in the midst of difficult moments and in the everydayness of life. 

Play the video. Listen. Close your eyes. Let the beautiful music and soothing truth wash over you in whatever your circumstance is....let's worship together for a moment and then I'll tell you how this song changed my perspective on my life.

(Laura Story - Blessings)

"Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things."

Becoming a birthmother wasn't (just) about giving my girls all they needed and deserved that I didn't have. God worked that plan for me too. He loves me way too much to give me lesser things. He knew that every step I took in healing and growth as a birthmother would bring me closer to Him. That in comforting others, sharing my story, loving my girls, grieving our lost moments, praying, laughing, doting on my babies I got to parent, and the million other things I do as a woman who gave up her children would make me a bit more like His Son. That I would draw closer to Him.

And God's best is what it is all about. 

If you have read any of my other adoption posts, you'll know that I don't like to open the "what if" door to my past. And often when I do I want to write. I want to reach out. I want something to feel real and concrete and whole for just a breath or two. And yet, tonight as I write I don't want to open a door to past that never was. I want to look back and remember those moments. Those are my moments. 

Before time began God knew the tears of a young woman in a dim and silent hospital room. He knew that my tears would wet the pink cheeks of my daughter. Think of that...He knew me tears. He knew my pain. He knew that His hand would be the only thing that would save me from myself that night and many nights after that as I began to wish for death and live recklessly.

He knew my tears were not in vain. That my suffering was not pointless. That my breaking heart He would bind. He knew that His love was...and is...greater than my pain.

That is the truth that met me in the fast lane this week. That God didn't use my decisions and circumstances to only bless fact, perhaps I received the greatest of the blessings in the adoption process. I grew a little more like my Savior...

Father, sometimes it is so difficult to feel the blessings in the midst of the storms. I am grateful that You never give up teaching me, showing me, helping me to redeem my past and see it in Your light. Thank you for loving me enough to make me a birthmother. Thank you for memories of infant girls, and for memories yet made with young women. Help us all to find you in the fast lane of life, Father. Change our view -- past and present. Help us become more like your precious Son. Amen.