A Reminder

A few nights ago, I walked out of my house with a dog and a heavy burden.  My day had begun with 4:45 am wake ups and ended with feelings of exhausted failure.  As my faithful dog and I plodded through the streets of my neighborhood, all I could think of was what I did wrong—what I could have done better—where I failed and where I didn’t do my best.

Then I looked at the beautiful clouds in front of me and realized: those thoughts are not from Him.

God doesn’t love me because I am a good parent.

He loves me because I am His.

In fact, God wouldn’t love me any less if I was a horrible parent.  Even if I was a deliberately neglectful or unashamedly self-centered parent, He would still love me the same.  His love for me is not based on my performance or goodness, but on His.

Parenting feels really important and IS really important, but it’s not all there is to me, and it’s not all up to me.  At the end of the day, He holds my kids and He holds me.  Nothing I do (good or bad) is as important as what He has already done.  And anything good I have done is Him, anyway.

The Holy Spirit is here to help me and encourage me, to coach and guide me and give me wisdom—not to burden me with shame and not to make me walk around with a pile of guilt weighing me down.

The Lord gives lightness.  Purpose.  Direction.  Wisdom.  Insight.  Energy.  Grace.  Love.  Rest.  Yes, He convicts—but always through the stream of those other things.  Anything else isn’t Him.

I just wanted to share these reminders with anyone who may need them.  And remind me too, ok?

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(image source)

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Before and…Um, After?

I mentioned about a month ago that I had recently ordered some “powerful” undereye cream.  It was expensive and I usually don’t do expensive, but the haggard look was starting to get old.  I faithfully applied it twice per day and had hoped to post some really dramatic results, but let’s be real: I have two kids under two and a half.  Thus, here is my before:

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and here is my after:

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(Did things get worse?!! Don’t answer that.)

I will continue putting it on every morning and night, because it smells good and something on me should smell good.  But I might retire my hopes that a .5 mL bottle can overpower 46 pounds of 24/7 crazy…

The Waiting and the Harvest

Waiting for something is hard.  Every single day, you look to see if it’s time.IMG_4329But even if you’re ready, it doesn’t mean it’s time.  IMG_4332This is a lesson I’ve been teaching my daughter through gardening.  It’s a lesson I think she’ll be learning for a long time, if she’s anything like her mama.  When it looks like THAT, then it’s time.  Not before.  IMG_4333In the meantime, I tell her, we don’t just sit around.  We prepare. IMG_4337We put in the work.  We pray for God’s blessing.IMG_4338Then one day, it’s time.  And, bedhead and all, we are ready.  IMG_4362 IMG_4363 IMG_4364 IMG_4366 IMG_4367 IMG_4368 IMG_4369Waiting isn’t fun.  But harvest time is sweet.

On Love

I haven’t written anything about our failed adoption in a long time, and as much as I would like to say that my heart is all healed, it’s still something I think about often.  It’s so weird to me that the baby that was almost ours is now 15 months old.  I wonder if she looks like Zoe did at 15 months.  I wonder if she has Zoe’s spunk and zest for life, if she says as many words as Zoe did.  I wonder if she is being cared for in any minimally appropriate way.  I think about her, and I wonder, and I have no answers.

At the same time, I look at my second beautiful daughter—the one I wouldn’t trade for anything—and rejoice.  I rejoice and I marvel and I realize that I couldn’t possibly have the answers.  I only see a hands-breadth in front of me.

Trusting God to work purpose through my pain and entrusting God with someone I love are among the hardest things I have ever had to do.  Yet that is what we are called to do everyday as Christians and as parents and as life-livers.  The things we grasp tightest didn’t originate with us.  Loosening our hands and lifting them up with thanksgiving and trust is the only response that will free us to truly enjoy them.  You can’t own or earn grace.  You just live in it.

The same is true for answers.  You can’t own or earn them either.  Sometimes, you are given them, and sometimes you just live in the mystery—and that is still grace, although not always in ways you appreciate.

With that perspective, it feels trite to try to understand: “if it hadn’t been for Brianna, we would have never been in the adoption process and we would have never gotten Riley!” because really? If God wanted us to have them both, He would have made a way (thankfully for my sanity, He did not make this happen).  I’ve found that adoption makes you wonder what God really intends as plan A and plan B and I am increasingly hesitant to speak for God on these matters.

But what I do know is this: despite the pain, loving Zoe, Brianna, Riley, and their birthparents has been a gift and a privilege.

We are meeting Riley’s biological family this week for lunch and I am so excited to look into her birthparents’ eyes, give them warm hugs, and hear—really hear—how they are doing.  I am thrilled to show them how our child is growing and developing and how she claps to “If You’re Happy and You Know It.”  I am nervous to see my parenting reflected through their eyes; I am hopeful they think we’re doing it well.  I am not new to this, so I know there will be some awkward moments and some lulls in the conversation where we don’t know what to say next. But I also know there is a gift of grace that binds us all together.

Glennon Dolyle Melton writes about her conversation with her young son after the death of his favorite fish:

“When he asked me, “why, mom? Why does God send us here where things hurt so much? Why does he make us love things that he knows we’re going to lose?” I told him that we don’t love people and animals because we will have them forever; we love them because loving them changes us, makes us better, healthier, kinder, realer.  Loving people and animals makes us stronger in the right ways and weaker in the right ways.  Even if people and animals leave, even if they die, they leave us better.  So we keep loving, even though we might lose, because loving teaches us and changes us.  And that’s what we’re here to do.”
–“On Fish and Heaven,” from Carry On, Warrior: Thoughts On Life Unarmed

I am thankful to have had the chance to love and to learn about love from these people.  It has made me stronger and weaker in the right ways and I am better for it.

Mother’s Day Thoughts

Every Mother’s Day weekend, I get a little weepy about the amazing blessing of being a mom. I’m beginning to realize that the hard work might not ever go away and that there might always be parts of my day as a mom that are mundane and duty-driven instead of fun, but still, my overwhelming feeling is that being a mom is a a get-to, not a have-to—and that being a mother is one of the most amazing journeys I’ve ever been on.

Here’s one example.

A few nights ago, Riley began wailing around 1 am.  I rolled over, looked at the time, and foggily prayed, “Holy Spirit, comfort her and help her go to sleep.”  Immediately, I felt a rush of energy and heard inside myself, get up.  She needs your comfort to fall asleep.  The voice reminded me that she had rejected her 6 pm bottle after eating a minimal dinner, and instructed me, She’s hungry.  Go feed her.  Then she’ll fall asleep. 

I made a bottle, walked into her room, and was greeted with delighted baby sounds as I picked her up, changed her diaper, and sat down to rock and feed her.  She guzzled the bottle, then lay in my arms as she cooed her baby words of thanks and gratitude.

I couldn’t put her right back to bed.  The moment was too sweet.

And as I sat there rocking her, I was struck with this realization: I had asked the Holy Spirit to put her to sleep, meaning do it for me so I can keep lying here.  I’m so tired.  

But the Holy Spirit wants something better for me then a good night’s sleep.

The Holy Spirit hears every prayer I pray.

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The prayers for my daughters to have a secure bond with us and for them to know how much they are loved.

The prayers for the ability to lay myself down and serve my children with humility, sacrificial love, and willingness.

The prayers for parenting wisdom.

For me to know how to meet and serve my husband’s needs.

For insight into my children’s needs.

For growth and maturity in my faith.

For the ability to find joy and purpose in even the mundane moments of life.

To help me submit to God’s plans for my moments, days, and life.

The Holy Spirit weaves all of these prayers together with the needs and prayers of others, and then gives me opportunities to live out what I asked for—to have that insight and wisdom, to sacrifice, to show love, to submit to God’s plan for my 1 am (and 5:40 am, and…)IMG_4404
I can choose to roll over and ignore the opportunity, making my prayers meaningless and my growth non-existent.  Or I can choose to embrace the opportunity, and be given abilities and insight and wisdom beyond my own.  (Not to mention that my actions can also be used in ways I don’t even understand by God! Who knows what He does on a cosmic level with my daughters’ sense of self when they realize “I call and someone answers,” “I don’t understand my own emotions but my mommy can help me,” or “I can be forgiven even when I had a morning full of bad choices.”) 

Gloria Furman writes that motherhood is full of “calls to worship,” adding “if we have ears to hear these invitations, then we have opportunities to worship the Lord, who is nearer to us than we often realize.”

I would add that the “calls to worship” of motherhood have opened my eyes to the inadequacy of self-sufficiency…and my ears to the One who says, “let me help you.”

Yes, motherhood is full of challenges.  But i do not want an easy life.

I want a meaningful life—a life of growth and adventure, passion and purpose, joy and peace, maturity and authenticity, love and humility.  These do not spring up overnight or through exclusive pursuit of my own self-interest; they are cultivated over time through joyful surrender to the processes and paths that the Lord desires for me.IMG_4406

C.S. Lewis writes, “We are, not metaphorically but in very truth, a Divine work of art, something that God is making, and therefore something with which He will not be satisfied until it has a certain character. Here again we come up against what I have called the ‘intolerable compliment.’ Over a sketch made idly to amuse a child, an artist may not take much trouble: he may be content to let it go even though it is not exactly as he meant it to be.

But over the great picture of his life—the work which he loves, though in a different fashion, as intensely as a man loves a woman or a mother a child—he will take endless trouble—and would doubtless, thereby give endless trouble to the picture if it were sentient. One can imagine a sentient picture, after being rubbed and scraped and re-commenced for the tenth time, wishing that it were only a thumb-nail sketch whose making was over in a minute. In the same way, it is natural for us to wish that God had designed for us a less glorious and less arduous destiny; but then we are wishing not for more love but for less.”  (The Problem of Pain)

Admittedly, as I was writing this post this afternoon, Riley woke up from her nap earlier than expected and I said in my nicest voice to her sweet nine-month-old face, “I guess you kids just don’t want me to have any hobbies or complete a thought ever again!!” As my embarrassing sarcasm reveals, it is so hard to surrender all the time (it’s even hard when you’re writing a blog post about why surrendering is ultimately good!)

But I put the laptop away and tickled her and played with her anyway.

Because I choose to respond to the call to worship.

Because that is the kind of person God is making me to be.

Because every “interruption” is actually part of the best get-to of my life.

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Musings on Church

There was a boy who came to youth group, just because a girl invited him.  He had nothing else to do that night, and she invited him, so he came.  The leaders were friendly and the kids were friendly and over the night, his tentativeness turned into laughter and his hesitance into participation.

And when the night was over, the leaders and some of the kids said “are we going to see you next week?” and he said, “this happens every week? Is it here? Same time? Yeah, I think I’ll be back!”

And he was.

That night, the youth group was focused on planning “Youth Sunday.”

So a week later, he helped the youth group lead the congregation in worship.  He hadn’t been to church in a long time and didn’t understood much of what was going on, but it was “Youth Sunday”—and he was a youth.  He stood with the other teens and sang with the congregation.  He wore a Youth Sunday t-shirt.  He passed out bulletins.

He was back the next week.  That week, he signed up to lead a middle school mission week later in the summer.

That night, the girl that invited him asked me, “do you think it would be okay if I bought him a Bible? He’s asking a lot of questions and I don’t know how to answer them all. Oh, and did you know he signed up for our high school discipleship trip this summer?”

And I smiled.

In high school, I attended a church where you couldn’t sign up for summer trips without providing the trip leader with your written statement of faith.  Youth Sunday was the work of a small group of teens with polished testimonies and sterling reputations.  When I tried to make friends in the youth group, I was gossiped about for being “too popular” and having “too many friends at school,” with the dramatic punchline “and most of them aren’t even Christians!”

I’m glad I’m at this church now, with these Christians, with these non-Christians.

I’m glad I serve a God who is big enough to be glorified by the worship of a kid with no clue about His magnitude—only that he feels something and wants to know more.

God welcomes us extravagantly to the table that is set for all.  And although I did not set the table, it is my joy to pull out chairs for others and tell them I hope they stay for dessert.