Monday, December 31, 2012

I Resolve...

I don't usually make resolutions. I can't handle the guilt. 

But, I sense something stirring in my heart. I think God has some resolutions for me. I think He wants to further change my paradigm. I think He's going to rock our world yet again.

Foolishly, I thought adopting "B" was our big thing for God. Kind of like paying our dues and then we're done. As if God needs our "big thing" and as if we're ever done serving Him. 

I see now that He's been slowly changing our perspective and our view of Him and our role in His Kingdom. Adoption is just the beginning. 

So, for 2013, I resolve to go with His flow. I resolve to seek Him, to serve Him, and to surrender to Him. I resolve to get out of His way and let Him move in me and through me.

Bring. it. on.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Morality Will Not Save You

This response to the horrific tragedy in Newport, CT has me reeling, yet, given the white, middle class, American church's propensity for blaming the victim, I'm not surprised. 

School shooting? Shouldn't have taken God out of public schools. (Pretty sure the Amish allow Him in their schools, and yet...?)

People feel the need to categorize. If we can find a reason that excludes us, then we can breathe easy that it won't happen here. I understand that, but when Christians are not just falling into that trap, but rather leading the charge, I'm nauseated. How did we get to this place that, instead of simply weeping with those who weep, we feel the need to point the finger? They must have done something wrong.

Because in our current theology, only those who do "wrong" things are subject to tragedy. Morality saves us. We are a group who have elevated morality so high that we equate it with righteousness. We are so focused on living a moral, good life, or appearing to anyway, that we ignore the hurt around us. It's exhausting to worry about yourself and your behavior all the time.

We have convinced ourselves that by living a "pure" life, we have separated ourselves from the world and will win people over by our goodness. 

No one will ever be saved because you picketed an abortion clinic or refused to have a beer on a Saturday night! It is simply unhelpful to the lost if you have your radio set to the Christian station and refuse to sit through an r-rated movie. 

What if being separate means we care for those no one else will care for? What if it means putting aside our own comfort or future or wants in order to pour into the world around us?

The only way people will be saved is if we get our hands dirty and our hearts broken. If we jump in with those stuck in the mire and begin to lift them out. If we open our homes to the orphan, if we financially support the pregnant teen, if we provide respite to the parents of a child with mental illness, if we look beyond our noses to the wounded world around us. 

Someone I know reposted this article, which I love, on facebook and rebutted it, stating that God is a jealous God and that He is just and that He rebuked leaders and didn't worry about "offending." 

I would respond that the leaders He rebuked were religious leaders, who were too busy pointing fingers to lend a hand. He is a jealous God. I believe He is jealous that, in our pride, we have exalted our own goodness and morality and placed them on the throne next to Him. 

I suspect that it makes Him angry that in a time of unspeakable tragedy, there are those who would sit back in His name and say, "Tsk, tsk. Too bad for you that you brought this on yourself." 

Our pride is sickening. But worse, it negates the gospel. If I can be good enough to find favor with God, then why do I need Jesus?

The Bible clearly states that it rains on the just and the unjust. (Matthew 5:45) Jesus said that in the world we will have trouble. (John 16:33) The Apostle Paul was shipwrecked multiple times and imprisoned. The early Christians were burned alive and mauled in coliseums. The cold reality is that this life will, at times, seem unbearable, no matter how "good" we are. 

Instead of pointing fingers or pontificating on the "why", can we not just weep and grieve with those whose world has just collapsed? Can we not empathize to the point of gut wrenching sobs? Can we not be vulnerable and humble enough to admit that the only thing that saved our own children was location?

And can we not look beyond our noses and reach out to the broken hearted around us? Instead of invoking the name of Jesus while pointing a finger, can we not just whisper His name while lending a hand?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Birthday

Sometimes, it's easy to see glimpses of a person's life and erroneously assume that they have it all together. Given that I'm pretty much an open book, I doubt anyone believes that of me, but, in the spirit of humility, I thought I'd post about our birthday celebration for the youngest member of our family. Keturah Joy, affectionately known as KJ, turned two-years-old this week. It is a birthday she shares with her oldest sister, Michaela, who turned sixteen. 

My sister happened to come and visit us for the weekend, so we did what any good hosts would do and ditched her with the other kids so we could take the birthday girls out to celebrate. We had a nice dinner at TGIFridays. 

Afterward, Michaela went off to meet up with her cousin elsewhere in the mall and we took KJ for her first experience at Build-a-Bear. As we stood there, gawking at the seeming hundreds of animals to choose from, I sniffed something. I tried to ignore it, but as she held and then discarded the eighth or ninth bear, I could barely breathe for the stench. 

Knowing we could not subject the workers and other shoppers to the noxious fumes, I told Shawn I needed to change her and confidently reached for the diaper in my purse. 

It wasn't there.

No problem. We'll just run back to the kid mobile and retrieve a diaper and wipes from the emergency supply

Oh, wait. We didn't drive the kid mobile because we only had two of them with us!

Starting to panic a little, I looked to Shawn to magically pull a diaper out of his jacket or something. He didn't.

This is our SEVENTH 2-year-old and we didn't think to bring a diaper and wipes?!?

"Hmmmm. Maybe it's solid and I can just dump it in the toilet and refasten the diaper," I reasoned. "I can use paper towels for wipes." See? I can be adaptable. Clearly, this isn't my first rodeo. So we made tracks to the nearest bathroom.

I walked into the bathroom, paused a bit when I only saw hand dryers on the walls and then actually gasped when there was no paper towel dispenser, and ducked into the nearest stall to rethink my game plan. 

I couldn't exactly march her back into the sink area to the diaper changing table without a diaper. But I was loathe to lay my child on the floor of a public bathroom. Ew. 

Still hoping for a solid, I lowered her pants and peeked inside the diaper.

Definitely NOT a solid. 

Without viable options, I wrapped toilet paper around my hand and wiped the floor as best I could. Then I laid her on it and told her not to move. I unfastened her diaper and wiped as much of the smelly mess off her bum as I could with it

There was a lot of stink left on that bum, so I took toilet paper and began wiping, only the toilet paper stuck to the mess and balled up until she was now covered in tiny, smelly poop balls.

In an act of total desperation, and after flushing it a dozen or so times, I may have actually dipped some toilet paper into the toilet to wet it and scrub off the bulk of the stink. The details are fuzzy as I think I blacked out a little when I realized I had nothing with which to cover her except her little jeans. (Where in the world was my back-up maxi pad?!? And why did they only sell TAMPONS in the machine?!?

Poor kid was going commando to Build-a-Bear. 

As she sat on the commode singing her potty song, I realized that never had the words mattered more than they did at that moment: (To the tune of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star")
Tinkle, tinkle little KJ
In the potty where it goes
If you go in your panties
It will run between your knees
Tinkle, tinkle little KJ
In the potty where it goes 
Hoping against hope that she took the song to heart, we raced back to Build-a-Bear and rushed her through the choosing of a monkey skin.

We filled the silly thing, rushed the worker through the whole rubbing the heart on every possible spot on your body to make sure you got a nice, funny, loving, kind, responsible, capable, ironic, sensible animal with good athletic abilities, skipped the bath, named the thing for her ("Jumpy"), printed off the stupid birth certificate only to get stuck in a never ending line. 

They don't have to have a speedy check out. They know they have you trapped. You are completely at their mercy. You both know you aren't going anywhere without that stuffed animal your kid so lovingly "created." Might as well sit back and scroll through facebook. They are going to take their own sweet time.

Except we were in line with a ticking time bomb. Any second now she could blow and bodily fluids could come oozing out with nothing to contain them but a pair of size 2T jeans.

I tried to distract her. We walked around and looked at all the clothing and accessories that we could've purchased for her monkey, knowing full well they'd be lost before we even got home. 

Suddenly, she gasped and her legs went wide. "Noooo!" I whispered loudly as I pushed her legs together so most of it would be absorbed by the jeans. We stood there for a minute until I let her take a tentative step forward. Strangely, her pants didn't really look wet, although there may have been a tiny drop of wet on the floor that I quickly mopped up with an old tissue from my pocket.

Huh. Maybe she was able to stop it.

Finally, they let us leave we checked out and headed for the exit. Noticing that KJ was walking a bit awkwardly, Shawn took her into a bathroom on the way out of the mall. There he found that her pants were remarkably dry...but her shoes were squishy, squeaky, and filled with pee. He threw her socks in the trash, rinsed out her little pink tennis shoes in the sink and dried them with the hand dryer, and then lined her jeans with paper towels. (Really?!? That bathroom had paper towels?!? Go figure.)

We don't appear to be getting any better at this parenting thing. Maybe practice really doesn't make perfect. But we sure do love these kids...and we're pretty good at making memories. Never-mind that they're memories nobody wants to remember...




Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A Godly Man

When I was 18-years-old, I packed up and moved to Los Angeles, California to attend Bible college. It was less about wanting to learn more of the Wordand more about trying to find a preacher husband like my daddy. I had been praying for a godly husband for as long as I could remember and I figured that was a good place to find one.

I came home after a year, without a husband. It's amazing just how badly you can do in college when you're not actually there to learn anything.

A few years later, while in school to become an occupational therapist, I met and fell in love with Shawn...decidedly not a preacher, but a really good Christian guy who is very much like my daddy.

While I had obviously moved on from my desire to be a preacher's wife, I still had some hang-ups and ideas about what constituted a godly man. He must be at church every time the doors opened, raise his hands in worship, rise early in the morning to read the Bible, witness to his co-workers, listen exclusively to Christian music, etc. I decided my husband was lacking in these areas, so I set about to change encourage him.

I set the radio in our shared car to Christian music. I removed his magazines from the bathroom and replaced them with a Bible. I bought him family devotionals. If he chose to miss church, I feigned my best martyr smile and set about readying the children until he guiltily agreed to go. I was so subtle in my nagging encouragement. 

If you haven't figured it out, Shawn has mastered the long-suffering fruit of the Spirit.  And, he loves me. So, he put up with all my nonsense and did his best to live up to my ridiculous standards of spirituality to make me happy.

And then something happened. After the birth of our fourth child, I suffered from severe postpartum depression. I found myself in an angry fog that I could not escape. I was unable to function. I was miserable and, I'm sure, miserable to live with, as well.

My husband saw us through. While continuing to work full-time, he cooked meals for us, changed diapers, bathed and dressed children, and generally ran the house. Beyond that, though, he took care of me. I remember him running hot baths for me to soak in and handing me my Bible and journal and shooing me out the door to the nearest coffee shop. When I'd walk by him, he'd scoop me into his lap and pray for me and let me cry.

During my depression, he became the hands and feet of Jesus for me. He loved me as Christ loved the church and gave himself for me. He sacrificed his own comfort, time, and desires and kept the "in sickness" part of his marriage vows. Finally, when it looked as if I may never return to "normal", he gently sent me to my doctor.

After a six-month course of medication, I did return to my old self, but our marriage was never the same, thankfully. I finally realized that God had sent me that godly man I had prayed for. I'd been married to him all along.  It was not out of character for him to serve us. He's been doing stuff like that our whole marriage. I was just too thick-headed to see it.

This is what godliness is supposed to look like. How did I get it so wrong?

"The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." I Samuel 16:7b

Now, seven years later, this man is traveling half-way around the world to become Daddy to a child he's never even seen. He is sacrificing his plans, his security, and his future to care for one of the least of these. He has no idea what awaits us when we get there, and he hates to fly, but he's leading us there anyway because he's good and brave and his heart is broken for children with no one. He is determined to right a grave injustice.

It takes my breath away when I think about it and he is absolutely my hero.....and one of the most godly men I know.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Hair and Faith

Recently I wanted a change and began researching hairstyles. I finally decided on a sleek, smooth, classic bob, slightly longer in the front. Excitedly, I took several pictures to my stylist.

She started cutting and realistically decided I had too much curl underneath for that to work. Instead, I came home with a layered, curly, "sassy" 'do that works with my hair's natural bent.

My husband liked it, as did my kids, and the "sassy" comment came from one of my co-workers who were all very complimentary, as well.

Still, I spent one very frustrating hour with a blow dryer, flat iron, round brush, and product trying to mold it into the sleek bob I had envisioned.

I would get one part of my hair smooth, only to have another section spring up and refuse to lay flat. My efforts were in vain and I was beyond irritated until, very clearly, the Lord opened my eyes to a spiritual truth.

For the past year, I have been working full-time while my wonderful husband stays home with the kids. Prior to this, I was a homeschooling mom juggling a large family and some hugely unrealistic expectations for myself.

I'm not sure where the expectations came from....possibly my peers, my church, homeschooling magazines and conventions, blogs, books, I can't say for sure. All I know is that, somewhere along the way, I got this picture in my mind of what a homeschooling mom of many was supposed to look like. And it wasn't me.

I never even questioned the validity of the picture, I simply tried to become it.

Organized, efficient, methodical, frugal, focused, quiet, calm, industrious.

Baking bread from grains I ground myself, cooking delicious and nutritious meals on a meager budget - from scratch, packing lunches with homemade snacks and fixing crockpot dinners for co-op days, decorating my home in the latest crafty style (ala Pinterest) and keeping it immaculate, creating lesson plans for all the ages designed to seamlessly learn together, organizing everything alphabetically for easy use, ....

You get the idea. All that was missing from my mythical picture was the proverbial denim jumper.

I was under the impression that this is who God wanted me to be. I begged Him to turn me into her. I went to conferences and prayer groups, did personal and group Bible studies, had friends and my husband pray for me all in an effort to become this mythical person.

Don't get me wrong. I know enough to know that no one is perfect, but I really did believe I should strive for the ideal, and I really believed that this was it.

I was becoming discouraged and eventually became depressed. I struggled with my faith. It's difficult to continuously beg God for something that never happens. I would "get it together" in the area of meal planning, only to fall hopelessly behind in housekeeping or laundry. I would feel like I was doing better in scheduling only to completely space a therapy appointment. I would stick to my budget for two weeks, only to forget to turn on the crockpot and blow my weekly food allowance on one meal from a fast food restaurant.

I was exhausted, overwhelmed, deeply depressed, and hopeless.

It's taken me a year to get some perspective, but God really opened my eyes in that one futile hairstyling session. I was trying to turn my hair into something opposed to it's natural flow.

I spent years trying to turn myself into something I was never created to be.

Trying to smooth one area of my life only to watch my inadequacy pop up in another area. Focusing only on my weaknesses and refusing to play to my strengths until my strengths became weaknesses to me.

There is nothing wrong with the woman I described. Those are wonderful ideals to live up to....if that's who God created you to be.

But it wasn't me.

And that's okay.

God created me with certain giftings and then He gave me this huge, wonderful family...that I will never be able to organize. But, instead, he gave me the ability to be interrupted. I used to be so frustrated at my lack of focus (surely a godly skill and necessary to accomplish acceptable tasks like cleaning a closet or scrubbing a sink) instead of rejoicing in my flexibility. With seven children, interruptions are constant, much like Chinese water torture if one were prone to be task focused. Thankfully, my ADD allows me to roll with interruptions and to deal with the problem at hand. I may not have accomplished much toward home management at the end of the day, but my children felt heard.

My spontaneous nature allows me to change direction in the middle of the day and my kids might suddenly find themselves schooling in the park. Did it really matter that some of them might have been wearing yesterday's shirts or mismatched shoes? 

God gave me a soft heart toward those in need and an ability to move people with words, but I allowed others to convince me that organizing my closet was a holier pursuit than time at my computer. After all, "God is a God of order." (To be clear, I didn't actually abandon my computer in favor of organizing, but I sure felt guilty about it.)

There are other examples, I'm sure, that I'm just now uncovering...or rather, that God is just now revealing, but you get the idea.

I'm free to be me, now, and I'm working to stay that way. I'm discovering deeper waters of grace and I'm careful about the influences with which I surround myself. Mostly, I'm staying close to Jesus, an example of flexibility who received interruptions as divine appointments and used His soft heart and persuasive words to bring glory to His Father.

I want to be like Him.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The American Dream

I write this post out of complete and utter conviction that I have been striving for easy and comfortable for far too long. Complacency and contentment have stolen years of the life that God has chosen for me to live. Call it a midlife crisis, a wake-up call, or God just rattling my cage. Just know, if this post sounds preachy, I'm preaching to myself.

I've been thinking lately about what it means that I am an American. For what purpose was I born into the land of freedom, prosperity, and opportunity?

While I am deciding which restaurant I want to dine in, somewhere far away is a mother watching her children starve... to death.

While I fill a glass of filtered water from my refrigerator, in Afghanistan, a 7-year-old girl is lugging a bucket of filthy water from the river to her family for the third time today.

While my 12-year-old daughter is enjoying dance camp, a girl of the same age in Cambodia is barely surviving the sex slave trade.

While I pop an Advil for a slight headache, another woman is watching her husband shrivel from AIDS, not because there is no medicine available for the dreaded disease, but because there is no medicine available for him.

Why were we born here? Of all the places in the world, why here?

I don't think it's so we can live easy lives. I don't think it's so we can be comfortable and relax. I don't think it's because God loves us more. I don't believe that the great American dream is the abundant life Jesus talked about.

There is a purpose in our being here.

God had a reason to drop us in a place where mere survival is easy; where we have expendable time with no reason to worry about our next meal; where we sleep comfortably in safety; where basic healthcare, though expensive, is readily available.

Our purpose, as Christians is to glorify the One who saved us.

How are you doing that with the resources (time, energy, money, freedom, knowledge) that He has so readily entrusted to you?

There is no reason to feel guilty for what you have been given, just as there is no reason to feel superior to those that have not. But is it enough to just feel grateful? Are you fulfilling your God-given, American-born purpose by being a good neighbor, living a moral life, and hoping that people will be won over to the Kingdom by noticing your niceness?

God rarely fills us with something without the expectation that we will pour it out for Him.

Pray that He will give you passion. Pray that He will reveal His purpose for you. Pray that He will break your heart with what breaks His. And then pray that He will fill your heart with love and open your eyes to see beyond the nose on your face!

God has so graciously put people in my life who inspire me to see beyond my nose:

My friend Nickole, through her Better Way Imports business, sells items that women who have escaped the sex slave trade make to support themselves. She also uses her shows to raise awareness about the women and children who have not escaped.

My young friend, Emily, instead of presents for her 21st birthday, is asking people to celebrate by donating money to help build much needed wells in areas without access to clean water. Click on her name to see a video for more info.

Another friend, Caroline, is building support preparing to move her family back to Afghanistan to provide aid to the people they have come to love.

Several of my friends have opened their homes and hearts and adopted children with special needs from other countries, who otherwise would languish in institutions.

God put you here, in this place at this time, for a reason. What are you going to do about it?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

A Home

For the last four years (maybe even longer), I would say that our house was just that, a house....not really a home. It was perpetually messy, even dirty, but more than that, it lacked all the extras that make a building homey

When Eon was born, we suddenly had six children, four of whom were aged five and under, and we were plunged into the world of special-needs-parenting. Prior to his birth, I was (obviously) pregnant, a state that leaves me exhausted, queasy, and crabby...and doing the barest of bare minimum. After his birth, even though he was generally healthy, we had appointment after appointment, one always leading to another, plus two hospitalizations and one heart surgery. 

We had little (read "needy" and "messy") children who seemed bent on  destroying every knick-knack, throw pillow, and window covering in sight. A relaxed housekeeper in the best of times, I couldn't even pretend to keep up. My ADD, with it's trademark ability to hyper-focus on select things and not at all on other things, allowed me to immerse myself in the world of Down syndrome, but accomplish little else. 

After the first year, the appointments slowed and I thought I could get my bearings, only to find myself unexpectedly pregnant with KJ. Another 9 months of the barest of bare minimum, a kidney stone, and a scary delivery later and we now had seven children, five of them under six-years-old. Then I had a revisit of the kidney stone with stents, infections, hospitalizations, and surgery. 

Things at home continued to deteriorate.

Last summer, I found myself depressed, overwhelmed, and without hope and, what's more, I think I'd felt that way for a very long time. I couldn't cut this stay-at-home, homeschool mom thing any more. We, or rather I, discussed sending the kids to public school, but the kids seemed to be doing fine. I was the one struggling...with the dingy environment, the overwhelming clutter, and my inability to affect change. 

When the opportunity to escape for three months and work full-time presented itself, I was almost giddy with anticipation. With Shawn home, I knew things would change in rapid order. 

The first few months flew by and I agreed to stay on permanently. Things did not really change much with the house, but I didn't really care. It was no longer my responsibility and I just felt free, honestly.

It took Shawn until very recently to get his bearings. After all, he wasn't presented with a handy job description for his new role like I was. But, slowly, things with the house were changing. New paint, less clutter, window coverings, throw pillows, etc and, suddenly, I realized I am comfortable in my house. It feels...well, homey.

I am so blessed that God is allowing this change in circumstances to bring restoration to our entire family in so many different ways. I am grateful and I am humbled. I am glad to come home.