Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Who I'm Meant To Be

Picture a dark, vacuous room with me sitting in a single chair in the middle and a lone light bulb hanging over my head. Before me, out of my vision, is a deep, accusing voice listing every wrong thing I've ever done. As the voice drones on, I am filled with the memory of every moment of every sin. This used to be what I saw when I thought of the judgment seat of Christ, but not anymore. 

Now I envision being presented with a picture of the person I was meant to be. Not a two-dimensional photo, but more of a real-time introduction to the actual woman, herself, with a complete and instantaneous knowledge of who she really is. In an instant, I will know how woefully I fall short. 

In the playback of my life, I believe there will be moments, glorious moments, where I got it right, if only for an instant. But I can tell you there will be so much waste and multiple degrees of ugliness overall. 

I look at people like that, sometimes. There is a nurse at work who, quite frankly, is just nasty and almost scary to approach. She even looks hateful. I admit to being completely intimidated by her, and yet, I feel unbelievable compassion for her, as well. What kind of pain has she experienced to treat people with such contempt? I find myself whispering under my breath when she's around, "This is not who you were meant to be." 

So much easier to see it in other people; so much harder to turn and examine myself. 

But I hear it, too. As I ignore a child in favor of a Facebook comment, or indulge in gossip on the job, or stuff my stress with my favorite dessert, deep in my soul I hear a whisper.

This is not who you were meant to be.

I want to be her, the woman I was meant to be.  I want to surrender and be saved, to die to myself, to take up my cross and follow Him. I want to walk on water, to soar to new heights, to put aside the trappings of this life. I want to set aside my selfishness and to let Him live through me. I want to love as He loves. 

This is not a life to be squandered. And it is short. When I come to the end of it, I want to hear, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant." I want there to be more glorious moments than waste on the replay, more good than evil, more right than erroneous wrong. 

I don't want to just end up, God help me.

I want to arrive.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Filthy Rags Meets Humble Pie

Ah, I see what you did there, God. I'm pretty sure you knew when I wrote that last post about embracing sinners that I meant those whose sins do not really offend me. 

You know, like sexual sins or financial sins...sins that don't directly affect me or step on my toes. 

I kind of forgot about sins like pride and selfishness that wave themselves right under my nose and take something from me or worse, from those I care about. I forgot about sinners that commit those types of sins. 

Am I so gracious with those sinners? 

Apparently not. 

And you knew that, didn't you?

In fact, you decided to grab ahold of the plank sticking out of my eye and yank it around a bit just to remind me that I have one, eh?

Did you enjoy watching me play the fool? Stomping around, waving my filthy rags of righteousness? Sharing my list of accomplishments in indignation that someone less worthy was receiving glory?

Ouch, Lord. 

It hurts to be humbled. No less so, by my own hand. That fall caused by pride is a doozy.

It's hard to offer grace when the sinner has caused injustice. It was easier for me when I could see them as victim, not perpetrator. But you don't see them as either, do you? Labels are stripped away with you and you see only their heart. 

Will you teach me to do that? To love like you? 

I'm sorry, God. Thank you for loving me enough to show me that big ol' plank still sticking out of this eye of mine, even though it hurts to know it's there.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Filthy Rags

Go and sin no more. (John 8:11)

It's fascinating to me how the religious like to gloss over the rest of the story in their haste to get to this, in their minds, the most critical part of the telling. 

Recently, people that I'm close to, people that I respect, have let me down in their response to sinners. I have been embarrassed by these people, angered by their audacity, frustrated by their callousness. Frankly, I want to walk over and grab them by the huge planks that are sticking out of their eyes and yank them around a bit, just to remind them that, indeed, they have huge planks in their eyes. (Matthew 7:3-5)

You may have noticed that the name of this blog is Remnant of Grace. As a reformed legalist, that name is packed with meaning for me as is the Scripture written under the title. I am that remnant, a rag, a leftover. Isaiah 64:6 resonates with me:
We are all infected and impure with sin. When we proudly display our righteous deeds, we find they are but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall. And our sins, like the wind, sweep us away.
My righteousness is like filthy rags. But I was chosen by grace. My works, my righteousness is not held against me. It is not the standard by which my worth is measured. It is no longer by works. That, my friends, is the gospel. 

So when I see Christians holding up others to another standard, I get a little angry. When I see them looking at someone's lifestyle, their works, to determine their worth, I get frustrated and I cry foul. Why in the world are we comparing rags?  

I love the story in John 8 that I referenced earlier. Trying to trap Him, the Pharisees bring a woman before Jesus and tell Him that she was caught in the act of adultery. The law says to stone her. What should they do? Jesus, of course, ignores them and scratches in the dirt for a bit until they just will not be ignored anymore. Then, He tells them to go ahead and stone her with this caveat: "But let those who have never sinned throw the first stones!" Then he returns to scratching in the dirt as, one by one, they slip away.

He became a shelter for this woman, a blatant sinner, caught in the very act. He shielded her from what she had coming to her, legally and morally. He saved her life. He was a sanctuary to her, not in spite of, but because of her sin. She would not have encountered Jesus had it not been for her sinfulness and she did not come to him voluntarily

Religion dragged her there. Religion put her sin on display. Religion made sure everyone knew she did not measure up. 

But Jesus responded to her by being a refuge, not a judge. When her accusers were gone, Jesus looked up and asked, "Didn't even one of them condemn you?" She told Him they hadn't. 

"Neither do I. Go and sin no more." 

He refused to condemn her. He didn't give her a lesson on why she shouldn't sin or on sexual immorality. Legalists like to look at the second part of that verse as an admonishment, a scolding. If you dwell too much on the first part of the story, they are quick to point out the last line, "Go and sin no more." Look at the mess you made. Stop doing that. See where it got you? Now beat it!

But I think we're missing the message if we look at it through that lens. How can we possibly believe that the Jesus who just protected her, and said himself that He would not condemn her, would now respond to her so harshly? "Go and sin no more" is not an admonishment; it's an invitation. There is a better way. You don't have to keep living like you're living. You don't have to wear those filthy rags anymore. Walk in freedom. Live in grace.

It is a statement of hope.

There are those who will unwillingly come to our attention because of sin. They may not be repentant. They may be content to remain in their sin. They may even be defiant. What will our response to those people be? 

Will we lead the charge, waving the list of wrongs, with Scriptures to back us up? Will we attack their character and stone them with our words? Will we abandon them and reject their presence in our lives? 

Or will we respond like Jesus, providing shelter and refuge, refusing to condemn, offering grace and hope?

The condition of my rags proves what my response should be. How about yours?

Thursday, October 24, 2013


I have this insatiable desire to see the end of something before it has even begun. At the beginning of a crisis I crane my neck to see over or around or strain my eyes to see through. I need to see the end. I need to see that there is an end, I suppose. 

I guess it gives me a sense of control, this knowledge of what I'm up against, like I can lick it if I just know the breadth of what it is. Researching every possible solution and scenario makes me feel prepared, knowledgeable, empowered.

What a crock.

The real power, the real peace, for that's really what I'm looking for in my thirst for understanding, comes only with surrender. Lying awake at night reviewing every possible outcome only serves to fuel anxiety. Almighty Google, with its pictures and links and definitions and rabbit trails only muddies the waters further. 

Clarity, peace, and rest come with surrender. 

I am not in control. There is a peace that goes beyond any understanding I could every hope to have when I simply share my worries with the One who is. 

So, goodnight, Google and Facebook and Blogger.

Hello, Jesus...

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Peanut Butter Swim

Sitting next to my husband, I squirmed in my seat as he told us that trust is one of the most important aspects of relationship. "When trust is low, everything in the relationship is harder. It's like swimming through peanut butter," he said. 

It was Saturday night church and, due to some snot-nosed kids, Shawn and I were treating it like date night while our oldest stayed home with the sickies. 

Shawn was squirming, too. We weren't uncomfortable with the trust level in our relationship. It has always been good and high. But, we both recognized that we have failed our kids in this area. We have said we'd do things that we've not done and trust is low.

We are swimming through peanut butter and it is all our fault.

Sometimes, it is simply because we hate to disappoint, so we say, "Yes," underestimating the time constraints we're already under. "Sure, Zak, we'll make muffins, tomorrow." But tomorrow brings an unexpected doctor's appointment and another child throwing up and all the laundry that goes with that. Our intentions are good, but good intentions with zero follow-through don't hold water with a disappointed six-year-old. 

I wish I could stop there. I wish that it all boiled down to over-commitment. And, with Shawn, that is the biggest issue. But with me, it mostly comes down to selfishness. I tell a kid I'll do something with or for them and then I get a better offer. I get involved in phone conversation or want to finish this chapter or veg out on Facebook. Whatever I want to do too often comes first. 

I'm pretty good with the big things. If I promise a zoo trip or the park, we'll go. But if I say I'll wade through a kid's recent one hundred drawings of jellyfish to choose my favorite, odds are good, something more pressing will come along. And it's sucking the life out of our family.

So now we're working hard to empty the pool of peanut butter and build trust. We're trying to say what we mean and mean what we say. It's tough, but that boils down to saying no upfront a lot more and dealing with the resultant disappointment (and often attitude), initially, instead of getting their hopes up and leading them on. It also means that I have to disentangle myself from whatever interests me, and take a teen to Target or put down the computer and read the promised book, instead. 

We didn't get into this mess overnight and it will take a long time to rebuild the trust levels in this family, but after just a few weeks, we are already seeing progress. I'm noticing less checking and re-checking from one of the younger ones who used to repeatedly ask, "Are we still going to ________?" And, when something was needed to be rescheduled last week, there was so much less drama associated with it, as well. 

Slowly, the peanut butter is thinning. And that is grace.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

My Husband, My Hero

He endures disapproving looks from those that think they understand the situation, their judgment hot on his neck on hard days. And then there are the favors people assume he has time for because "he doesn't have anything else to do." He knows no one else on the same journey and has watched friendships falter as common ground slipped away. 

And still he perseveres. 

Just over two years ago, his business tanked and I went back to work. That's the sanitized version we tell people, anyway. The truth is that I was spent. I had reached a point as a homeschooling mom where I was sliding into quicksand and could not reach the surface. I was failing. I couldn't breathe. I grabbed ahold of the opportunity to return to work like a drowning man wraps his whole body around a life preserver and I did not look back for an entire year. 

He rescued me by staying home and we both know it.

He spends his days wiping dirty bottoms and dripping noses, answering endless questions, refereeing countless fights, running load after load of laundry. He shuffles kids to doctor appointments, to therapy, to youth group, to practices, and to homeschool co-op. He unlocks the mysteries of quadratic equations and helps solve for mass while setting the timer for the next toddler potty session. He teaches long division and listens to yet another Bob book while filling the crock pot with what will be dinner.

It is a thankless job.

The days are punctuated by series of crises, one of which invariably involves painting with poop by someone of the youngest set. Sometimes the crisis requires the removal of a toilet to dislodge whatever toy was most recently flushed when someone forgot to shut the door behind them. Lately, it's been unexpected trips to the pediatrician who really should initiate a buy-10-visits-get-1-free-card like I'm always telling him. 

Groundhog day times infinity.

It's hard to remember amidst all that seems like daily chaos, that it matters. That what he is doing is more important than most. He is shaping lives. He is instilling vision and purpose. He is painting Jesus on their hearts and showing them how to love well. He is teaching them to resolve conflict. He is modeling work ethic, integrity, kindness, redemption, forgiveness, patience, and perseverance. And he is doing it while embracing people in our crappy neighborhood and teaching our kids about diversity. He is teaching them, by his very presence that people, that they, matter more than stuff.

The intangible is so difficult to see in the middle of the grind.

Work beckons. His part-time job must constantly be put in its place. Boundaries must stay firm. He has chosen family first, on purpose. These lives will only be here, under this roof, for such a short time. These minds will only be malleable, for just a moment. He knows, one day, they won't want Dad around, but for now, the young ones follow him from room to room and it is a gift, not to be taken lightly. I'm sure that the desire to find his fulfillment, his identity in the work of his hands or in the amount on his paycheck must be overwhelming at times, yet he never complains and rarely comments. 

The temptation to choose differently is great.

He let me dump it all in his lap that first year. I had no responsibility other than going to work. I did not cook a meal and I honestly don't remember even changing a diaper. As I emerged from the fog the second year, my contribution looked very much like criticism of everything he did, which, obviously was unhelpful to the situation. He seemed to have everything under control and I was feeling left out. We were in the process of adopting Bo and we were all feeling a bit undone. Then Bo came home and it was just chaos and too much for one person to handle alone. So we balanced the scales a bit and I reduced work hours and he added some work hours and we're figuring it out. Together. 

He let me find my way back.

When we first married, he left a job that he loved for one that he hated because it had better benefits, benefits that we needed. I knew then that he would do anything for this family. I was not wrong. He was then, and he continues to be, my hero. 

He loves us well.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

There Is Grace for That

When I am so overwhelmed, I can hardly breathe for the anxiety...

There is grace for that.

When I snap at a co-worker, or fail to return a phone call, or forget my password for what must be at least the thousandth time...

There is grace for that.

When I am unsure if my extreme emotions are my own or due solely to new medication...

There is grace even for that.

When the exuberance of my children sounds like clanging, the whining like grating, the silliness like more than I can bear...

Is there still grace for that?

When the fog is descending and the questions are coming so much faster than the answers ever could, when the speed of life seems to have increased just as my ability to cope seems to have vanished, when my breath is whooshing and my pulse sounds deafening, yet somehow sleep is beckoning all the livelong day...

Grace? Where is grace for that?

Sometimes the grace is found in the admitting. It's in the lying down with the two-year-old in the calm of the evening. 
"Are you sick, Mommy?" 
"No, baby. Mommy's just super crabby."
"We should pray for you. You do it."
"You're right, baby. We should. Jesus, I'm sorry that I'm crabby. Please forgive me for all the sins that I've done today while feeling like this. Please help me to be kind. Please help me not to feel super crabby anymore. Amen."

And there it is. There are snuggles. There are sweet kisses. There are whispers in the dark. 

And there is grace for that.

In the morning, when the fog descends again and the breathing becomes shallow, when day is looming and despair is threatening and tears start streaming...

Again, where is grace for that?

Maybe it's found in a simple invitation in between the sobs.
"I am a mess. I invite You into the middle of it. Do with it what you will." 

And the breathing slows, and the sun peeks through, and a smile beckons as He sits in the middle of my beautiful mess...

Because there is grace for that.

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV)

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Cause

The sermon, or "talk" as it's called in our new cool church, was about worship. He started by telling us what worship looks like, that it often presents as thinking about something or someone all the time, elevating it/them on a pedestal, letting it/them consume much of our mental energy or focus. 

He shared the story of meeting his wife and how he worshiped her those first months, thinking about her all the time, waiting for her outside her classes, wanting to be with her every second, etc. He talked about the first time he saw his idol, Michael Jordan, play the game and the feelings of awe it evoked. 

Then he went on to explain that we can...and do...worship anything. As he cited various examples, I could see a little of myself in each of them. But then he said, "You can worship a cause," and I felt as if a sword had descended...
...and sliced my soul in two. The Holy Spirit spoke to me and said, "That's you. That's what you do." 

I have a passion for the marginalized. I want so badly to be a voice for the weak, the oppressed, the exploited. I want to shine a light into the dark corners of our world where children are abandoned, women are enslaved, the disabled are caged. 

So I sit here typing this while wearing my "Love the Unloved" Sevenly shirt, and my abolitionist necklace, with James 1:27 tattooed on my arm, and I wonder when the shift began. 

When did I stop worshiping God and begin to worship that which He laid on my heart, instead?

He called me to this after I had been praying for awhile, "Please break my heart with what breaks Yours." I know that He gave me this heart for the least of these. He clearly opened my eyes and allowed me to see beyond my own nose to the world of suffering around me. 

As believers, we have a responsibility to set the captives free, to feed the hungry, to bring healing and hope to a lost world. There are around two thousand Scriptures that address the need and the response that God wants us to have. I am not denying that there is a war going on and the amount of casualties is staggering. We need to be fighting for change. 

But unless He is leading the charge, it is all for naught. Somewhere along the way, I left Him behind. The cause energized me. It gave me focus and greater purpose. It became enough.

But it's not.

Chagrined and convicted, I repented. May my life be about God, and Him only. May my heart be Him glorified above all else. May I worship God, and God alone.
But the time is coming and is already here when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for anyone who will worship Him that way. John 4:23 (NLT)
And when He looks for those that worship Him that way, may He see me.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Grace and Ice Cream

Sometimes I get it right. I actually listen to the still small voice, the gentle nudging of the Holy Spirit, and move with Him.

Today was a tough day for my oldest son. I've written about his early life here. While life is so normal with him now that I hardly remember those early days, sometimes the reminder is fierce. I don't know if he needed more sleep last night or what, but he was just a grump, yelling at everyone, especially me all morning. Every time I crossed him, no matter how calmly and directly I spoke, he screamed, "Why are you so mean?!?" And refused to listen to me. 

I tried talking him down, ignoring the outbursts, and sending him to his room. I let him lay on my bed to cry it out. Nothing seemed to work.

In the early afternoon an idea began to form. What if I did something radical? Something filled with grace? What if I loved Him like I have been loved?

After checking with my husband and receiving his blessing, I told Ben to grab his shoes. 

"Why?!? Where are we going? I don't want to go! I don't even know where my shoes are!"

I told him to get his shoes and he could stay in the car if he chose. Grumbling, he climbed into the backseat. 

In the car, praying under my breath, I asked him if he knew what a mulligan was. I explained that a mulligan is a do-over. If you swing wildly in golf and your ball flies in the wrong direction, you can have another turn...without penalty.

I asked him if that's how his day went, if he needed a mulligan. Relieved, he agreed that he did. He asked me how we were going to do it and I said that I can't think of any better way to recharge a day than with ice cream.

After we received our cones and parked ourselves on the tiny tables outside, I asked Ben if he felt like he deserved ice cream on this day. Sheepishly, he said he didn't. 

"That, my son, is what God does for us. It's grace. We don't deserve His forgiveness or His love, but He offers them freely. Grace is different from mercy. Mercy is when you deserve punishment, but you are spared. Like when we deserve death because of our sin, but Jesus already paid that price. Grace is when we get something good that we don't deserve...like forgiveness, or love, or peace, or..."

"Or ice cream?" piped in my cheeky boy. 


Thursday, July 18, 2013


You're wooing me, again, wanting me to draw near to You, to let You whisper to my heart. I can feel it with a gentle nudge to put down the remote, with the picture popping up in my mind of the last place I read Your Word, and with the gnawing sense of restlessness. 

As I reach for the remote anyway, I briefly wonder why it is that I push You away. 

Television doesn't satisfy and I can find nothing I want to watch. Checking my phone, I find no messages, no new Facebook notifications. 

The kids are finally asleep, the husband is at work, and it's quiet here...such a rare event. Yet, I still find myself reluctant to speak to You. By now there is growing unease deep inside me. I've ignored You for too long and now there's guilt. What happened to the daily plan I had to read Your Word? I have no follow-through. I'm forever inconsistent. And lazy.

But that's not really You talking, is it?

You are gentle and kind. You are happy to have me near, to listen to me as I yammer on about my excuses, my fears, my hopes...my hurts. 

Hurt is what kept me away this time. A scab was picked from a wound I thought long healed. Rather than run to You, I ruminated on it and medicated with my old foe, gluttony. I thought I'd licked that. Funny...thinking I could conquer a habitual sin without You. Of course temptation would swoop in when my resistance was low and vulnerability high. I nursed it by hiding from You.

So now there's sin, too. Hurt and sin and any number of emotions that go with both, keeping me from humbling myself and laying them at Your feet. 

I feel stuck. 

I reach for the remote again, to fill the silence, numb the ache...but something stops me. Is this what I want? More stuffing, more numbing, more uneasiness?

No, it's not. 

I want to be free. I want the weight lifted. I want the hurt healed. 
But if we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong. I John 1:9
I want You. 

I'm sorry I ran, sorry I hid, sorry I stuffed. I'm sorry I sinned. Please forgive me. My feelings were hurt and I ran around the mountain yet another time. 

But You were waiting, and You're here now, breathing new life into me and filling me with peace. You're reminding me:
"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." 2 Corinthians 12:9a
And it's only because of that grace that you so freely offer that I can raise my voice with the apostle Paul and echo:
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9b

Sunday, June 30, 2013


Sometimes, I want to be normal. 

I don't want to be the weird one with eight children. I don't want to have therapists and specialists on speed dial. I don't want to be questioned about adoption. I don't want to turn heads when I go somewhere with my family. I don't want to defend my life to the casual observer. 

I want to blend...to fly under the radar...to be anonymous, just another person in a sea of many. 

Sometimes, I want to sleep all night. I want to come home to quiet. I want to escape into fluff and forget about orphans and sex slaves and homeless. I want to post things on social networking about bacon and shoes like a normal person. I want the sense of justice that's buried somewhere inside to just. be. quiet. 

I want to shush this brain that it always thinking, wondering, planning, reacting. 

I want to just be without attracting attention.

It's in these moments that I realize I am far away from the One who called me to all of this. Somewhere along the way, I left Him behind. I continued talking about Him without actually talking to Him. 

The attention bothers me which tells me that it is all on me and not on Him. How can I reflect Him when I am nowhere near Him? How can I pour out His love when I haven't allowed Him to fill me with it?

Without Him, I am the crazy lady with eight kids! Without Him, I can't handle the decisions and the harried schedule that comes with special needs. Without Him, my sense of justice and loud voice simply sound grating to those who hear. 
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. I Corinthians 13:1
Without Him, there is no beauty or order in the tapestry that is my life. It is left in tatters with me hanging by a thread. 

But, with Him...oh, with Him there is grace! Somehow, it makes sense. The looks and the comments, they bounce off, deflected by His image. The attention feels different because He is getting noticed instead of me.
Your speech should always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer each person. Colossians 4:6
I know how to answer questions and feel no need to defend myself when I am living in His presence. In Him, there is no room for doubt. In Him, 
....his divine power gives us everything we need for living a godly life. He has called us to receive his own glory and goodness! 2 Peter 1:3
I have everything I need for life and godliness in Him. He is all I need. 

And I wonder how I wandered off in the first place.

Thursday, June 20, 2013


It's raising its head again, that ugly emotion of jealousy. I look to the right and to the left and I see women, other women, godly women living out their calling. And their calling looks so much cooler than mine. It looks more fulfilling, more exciting, more visible than mine. 

So my mind wanders and I ponder. What would it be like to sit in coffee shops and write until I had no words left inside? What would it be like to escape to my computer because I had a deadline and our livelihood depended on me writing, instead of staying up too late to get down just one more thought in the quiet of the night? What would it be like to play dress up and speak at conferences and encourage other women in their walk with God?

It sounds exciting and invigorating to me. It sounds more important than changing three poopy diapers on three different bottoms in a span of ten minutes. It sounds more interesting than playing yet another game of "what if" with a pesky six-year-old. (What if trees were made out of nickles and it got really windy and the nickles fell on your head when you were walking? What if everything in the grocery store was free everyday?) It sounds more glamorous than making old people exercise for a living.

Looking around. For me, that's how discontentment starts. Seeing only the surface of someone else's life. Choosing to view only what's attractive about it. 

The truth is I would love to be a writer and a speaker. I would love to exchange my scrubs for pretty shoes. The Bible says, "A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver." (Proverbs 25:11) Which means saying the right thing at the right time is pretty darn cool and feels really good to deliver. That feeling is a little bit of a high. It can be addictive. I love it when my words resonate in someone's heart. But I also like to be lauded. I like to be told that I've touched someone with my words. I like to be praised. 

That doesn't happen much in raising kids or teaching people how to use a sock aid after a hip replacement. And when I dwell on that fact, seeds of discontent start to sprout. 

It's time to keep my eyes on my own plate, to remember that being in the center of His will is always the right place to be, regardless of how invisible I may feel there. I only want to do that which is His idea. 
God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. James 4:6b
I need grace. Lord knows I need grace. I do not need the pride that comes with praise. I do not want to be resisted by my God. 

Oh, Lord, help me to walk in humility. Break down the barrier of foolish pride that I so often place between us. Please do not resist me. I need your grace. I cannot do this life without You. Help me find joy in the journey that You have given me. I'm Yours. My life is Yours. Forgive me for wishing it were different. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Sacrifice, Redemption, Amazing Grace

I've been thinking about redemption. It's hard not to with a physical, living, breathing, walking example of it living under my roof. In writing about Bogdan's adoption on my other blog, I am overwhelmed by the sense of deja vue. His story is similar to....something. But what?

The nagging feeling follows me as I go about my life. Why does his story seem so familiar? Why does it invoke such a depth of emotion in me? It's more than just being his mom, although there is a lot of emotion associated with that alone. 

In grappling with the idea of finding that which was lost, it finally hits me square between the eyes. 

His story is my story, too.

His was one of abandonment, rejection, neglect.
Mine was one of darkness, separation, death.

The ending of his story was rewritten. Mine was, too.

He was chosen. We searched for him and once we found him, moved heaven and earth to get to him, at great cost to ourselves and our family. 

I was chosen. Like the lone sheep separated from the flock, I was searched for and found. God moved heaven and earth and sacrificed His Son to get to me. 

And here's the thing: Being a three-year-old with a cognitive disability, Bogdan shows no gratitude for his new life. We wouldn't expect him to. In fact, I'm sure being ripped away from everything he knows and tossed into this family hardly feels like a gift, at this point. But we love him. Oh, how we love him! He is not, nor will he ever be, a perfect son...and we don't care. With all his self-stimming, hitting, throwing food, etc, we accept him as he is. He is ours and always will be.

Being a human with a sin nature, I show little gratitude for this life I have been given. In fact, I often complain about my circumstances and rail against the One who rescued me from death. I am not, nor will I ever be the perfect daughter, but I am accepted anyway. He loves me. Oh, how He loves me! I am His and always will be. 

I have an adoption certificate with an official seal from Serbia certifying that Bogdan will always be mine. Likewise, Scripture tells me that I am sealed in the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30) and that my name is written in the book of life because of my adoption by my Father God (Ephesians 1:5). 

Like Bogdan, I don't have to perform or have the right attitude or strive to be loved. I am just loved. 

My life is not pretty. I am not all the things I think I should be as a follower of Christ. I am prone to laziness, driven by distraction, scattered, and chronically impatient. I'm a mess.

But God thinks I am a beautiful mess. And He loves me. He knows me, all of me, and He loves me. 

When I am still and really ponder that idea, it takes my breath away. 

Sacrifice, redemption, amazing grace - the story of my life through the eyes of the One who knows me best...and loves me most.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Moment - an update

For those of you that read my last post, Hanging by a Thread, here's an update of sorts on my relationship with Bogdan. I think we've turned a corner and I'm grateful for your prayers! 

The Moment

(I know...it's ridiculous and confusing to have two blogs.)

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Hanging by a Thread

I brought this on myself. I know that now. I even anticipated much of it. I was informed, educated, and prepared. I counted the cost and made the leap...

...and landed without a parachute. 

I'm exhausted. No, not just exhausted...weary. I can see my self aging a little more every time I glance in the mirror. The fine lines are turning into deep crevices at an alarming rate. Not enough skin cream in the world to slow the decline. 

Mentally, I'm fuzzy all the blasted time. At work, I was helping a patient get out of bed and I put her shoes on the wrong feet. (Thankfully, she had a sense of humor.) I forget to show up for appointments, to return messages, what I was just talking about mid-sentence. 

My emotions are bubbling just below the surface. One sappy Hallmark commercial and I'm toast, brought to my knees with tears overflowing. One defiant child and I'm a raging monster, scaring the people I love the dearest. 

Adoption is hard. I'm not going to sugar-coat it. It's messy and exhausting. I was wrong when I said it's not weird. It is. It's very weird to take on a child with a lifestyle and a history foreign to your own. To parent a child whose smile either means, "You're funny and I like you" or, "You have exactly 2.3 seconds before I'm going to knock your glasses clean off your face," depending on... who knows what?

In the words of the late Derek Loux:
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. And when He redeems us, we can't even really appreciate or comprehend it...

So, once again, it's not really about me. It's not about how I feel or what I'm experiencing. 

It's about a little boy who was thought to have been abandoned, but in fact, had a great big God who was always with him and loved him so much He tugged on our hearts, six thousand miles away. 

And, mostly, it's about that God who loves us so much He gently pulled us from our comfortable, complacent life into the great adventure and is allowing us the privilege of sharing in His suffering, one sleepless night at a time. 

He ministers to my heart even now and gives me just enough for today. At this moment, He has blessed me with a quiet house with sleeping children (including the new kid!) in which to write these thoughts and allow my perspective to be changed. He's teaching me to love, really love, without return. He's skimming off the dross that keeps bubbling to the surface in all this heat. He's lending me His strength and tenderly ministering to me His grace. 

He is good. And He is greatly to be praised!

And I find myself refreshed.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Choosing Rest and Life

May has been a hard month. I went into more detail about the last week on my other blog, here. I have found myself repeatedly questioning the stupidity of choosing this month to deny myself the pleasure of indulging in eating out. 

I'm struggling with stress and I'm finding that the things that used to help alleviate it, albeit for a short time, are no longer working. A cup of good coffee, some time on facebook, a quick game of Scramble, or a favorite show are no longer filling the void. 

I was thinking it about it yesterday and realized, those things were never meant to bring me peace. I am supposed to rely on the grace of God. 

I say I do that and in crisis situations, I actually do, but in the day to day - the stress of real life - not so much. 

One of the reasons we have received the children that we have, including Bogdan, was because we realized that coming to the end of ourselves is a good thing. However, now that I have arrived at the point where I truly cannot handle this life on my own, I find myself frustrated that my former pacifiers don't work. 

I don't want to invest the time in cultivating a relationship with the One who brings me peace. It might take too long. Better to fritter away what little extra time I have on things that are quick and fleeting and don't actually help.

And so I wallow in a constant state of frustration and stress and irritability and it is no way to live.
This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live. Deuteronomy 30:19 (NIV) 
Choose life so that you may live. I can almost see God raising His hand saying, "Pick me! Pick me! Put away the cupcake, drive past the drive thru, put down the remote, silence your phone, turn off the laptop.

Pick up my Word, fall on your knees, lift up your hands. Call on Me!
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28
He will give me rest.

Rest sounds amazing. Rest sounds like the opposite of stress and frustration. Rest sounds like living.

I choose life.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Update on my Gluttony (Could I think of a less interesting title?)

Since my confession last week, I've started reading the book, 7:An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker. It is fascinating. The first chapter caused an interesting dialogue with my husband about our personal contribution to excess in this culture. My confession here weighed in a lot. We knew we could never maintain a restriction as severe as the author did in the book for an entire month, but we wanted to do something. 

We decided we would not eat out the entire month of May. 

To most people, that is probably not a big deal. To me, huge. When I started working full-time, I reveled in the freedom of stopping for Starbucks for my morning coffee, then lunching with my co-workers wherever we felt like going at least a few times a week. That morphed into driving through to get a big cookie or a brownie or a big slice of pizza at the end of a stressful day. 

At first, it was the freedom that I relished. As a stay-at-home-mom, I seldom (never) went anywhere without a child, aka witness, aka beggar. Driving thru was a hassle with all the "Can I haves" and "I wants" and then bragging to the siblings about their treat the moment we walked in the door and dealing with the resulting "How come I didn'ts."

I love coffee (seriously, love) and getting my favorite brew to enjoy in the quiet of my car was a dream come true. Having adult conversations with adults over food that someone else prepared and brought me while I sat with adults...priceless.

As with all things new, the excitement began to fade but by then I felt I needed those things. It was part of the "free me" I had become. 

So, to eliminate the possibility of any of that caused me to immediately feel suffocated. Which obviously proved that I needed this.

Here it is, day 5. I found $15 cash in my purse the first day and promptly decided that anything I bought with it didn't count since it was basically free money. Talk about the letter of the law and not the spirit. So I lasted until day 4 and bought a Happy Meal on my way home from work yesterday since I had been too busy to eat lunch. Plus, I knew my people weren't home to catch me in the act. (Integrity is just oozing out of me. Sigh.)

But it's a start. 

Last week was one of the most stressful we've had in awhile. I was so tempted to stop and use my secret cash stash for something chocolate. Instead, I prayed all the way home from work. I felt better by the time I arrived. I'm taking baby steps to rely on Him instead of artificial fillers. I'm spending more time in the Word, at least a little each day, and I'm making a point to stop and look my children in the eye when they speak to me if I'm on the computer. 

I've been a glutton for a long time. I have a long way to go. But His grace is sufficient for me and His strength is made perfect in my weakness. Denying self, even a little bit, is causing me to rely on that grace.

And that's a very good thing.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Confession Time

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. John 5:16b (NIV)
I have a confession to make. There is a sin that has bested me for years. I have tried to overcome it by sheer will power and grit, but it always overtakes me and I am left ashamed. 

I am a glutton.

I don't think I'm alone. While we always think of gluttony as eating too much food, I don't think that's all there is to it. Gluttony does manifest itself in food consumption with me sometimes, but it's just as easily some other vice taken to excess. 

This is not about a sudden need to lose weight or get in shape or fit into my favorite jeans. At 5' 6" and 150 lbs, I could certainly stand to lose some weight, but I am also pretty average by American standards. 

This is about my propensity to stuff my hurt, my boredom, or my disenchantment about life with food or facebook or computer games or television. 

There is a void in me that Jesus longs to fill.

But that takes too long, so instead I grab the nearest whatever that will release some endorphins and palliate the ache. Because that reprieve is only temporary, I want more, until I begin stuffing to the point of gorging and wind up with dulled senses or a stomach ache.

This is a problem on many levels, obviously. 

We tend to minimize the sin of gluttony. After all, most churches are filled with gluttons and it seems like a mild sin...one that only hurts oneself. At the end of most church potlucks, it is common to hear some groaning and comments like, "Man, I overdid it." What would fellowship look like if it didn't include some gluttony?

God takes it seriously, however.
and put a knife to your throat if you are given to gluttony. Proverbs 23:2 (NIV)
Ouch! Do you remember the story of Sodom and Gomorrah? God destroyed those cities because of their wickedness, sparing only Lot and his family. What was their awful sin? Maybe not what you might think.
Sodom's sins were pride, laziness, and gluttony, while the poor and needy suffered outside her door. Ezekial 16:49 (NLT)
Gluttony interferes with my ability and my willingness to minister to the poor and needy around me. If I am spending money on snacks from the drive-thru because I've had a hard day, there is little left to sponsor an orphan. If I am wasting time on computer games or facebook because I'm trying to fill a void, there is little left of me to give to the family with whom God has entrusted me...the needy outside my (bedroom) door.

This is one of those "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" kind of sins. The kind we are deceived into thinking we should be able to handle on our own - more of a character flaw than actual sin.

But it is a sin. 

And needs to be dealt with as such. So, here I am, confessing to you. There is power in public confession and I want to be set free from this. I want to be free to meet the needs around me. I want to let Jesus fill the void instead of stuffing it with a cupcake. 

Will you pray for me?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Ordinary, but Holy (Part 2)

(You can read part 1 of this post here.)

We drove around downtown for a bit before finally parking the 15-passenger kid mobile in front of a park. Shawn and I were nervous. It's one thing to charge out into the wild blue yonder on your own; it's a whole 'nother ballgame to lead eight children into it.

We headed for the nearest picnic table and passed out the Dixie cups and crackers. As I was filling them with juice, Shawn talked to the kids about communion and sacrifice. (Lest you think it was a solemn, sacred thing, Eon threw his cracker-he hates any cracker that isn't round-and Bo was gobbling his like Cookie Monster...crumbs flying. The middle kids missed the point and guzzled their juice and needed refills before we prayed, and I got on some tangent about the bread at the actual Last Supper resembling more chalupa shells from Taco Bell than Saltines from Aldi.) But, eventually, we blessed the bread and took it and blessed the cup and took it, too.

Just a family in a park, breaking bread together.

Ordinary, but holy.

There were some men nearby that looked to be homeless. Rather than overwhelm anyone with the sheer number of us, I opted to take our youngest with me while the others went off to play. I admit, I didn't do a very good job. Even though chatting people up is part of my job as a therapist, I was nervous. I sat on his bench without permission and instantly knew that was wrong...and rude. I asked for permission and he grunted. I took that as a yes and told him Happy Easter. I asked (see, I'm learning) if he'd like an Easter basket in a bag and showed it to him. He grunted again and reached for it. I stammered something stupid about candy and headed for the next guy, eager to escape my faux pas and crazy nerves.

More confident this time, I looked that man in the eye and told him Happy Easter and asked if I could sit. He agreed. I offered him a bag and he thanked me for it as he eyed the contents. I joked with him about everyone needing a Cadbury egg on Easter and he presented me with the hugest smile with the straightest yellow teeth I've ever seen. I relaxed. We chatted a bit about candy and about the beautiful weather. 

Two strangers sitting in the park making small talk.

Ordinary, but holy.

While we were chatting, my nine-year-old was pushing Bo in his stroller, around and around the fountain, very fast, delighting in his shrieks of joy. She laughed with this child who once was a stranger, abandoned, but now is her brother of only six weeks. She set him free from the confines of the stroller and stayed with him as he explored. 

A sister playing with her brother.

Ordinary, but holy.

On the other side of the fountain, Shawn spotted a man who might want a bag and asked seven-year-old Ben to go with him. I watched from a distance as Shawn, with humble posture, spoke to the man and they handed him a bag. 

Just a dad teaching his oldest son about life and love.

Ordinary, but holy.

The rest of the afternoon was filled with delivering our bags, posing and smiling,

playing and climbing,

and just being together. We made mistakes. We learned a lot. We stepped out of our comfort zone. (It is my firm belief that if we step out of it often enough, our comfort zone will expand.) And we had fun. All agreed that it was a great day...one of the best Easters remembered.

A family enjoying each other and the day.

Ordinary, but holy.

What made it holy? It certainly wasn't because the Lakes' family was there. We were the ordinary. Our efforts to love the unloved, to make a sacrifice, to teach our children a better way did not create holiness. 

Jesus was there. It was holy because we were there in His name, so He was there, too. 
For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them. Matthew 18:20
He showed up. It was holy only because Jesus was there.  I recognized him in the smiles of the homeless, in the laughter of my children, in the joy of a beautiful day. I don't know that anyone was impacted by our presence there that day, but we were impacted by His.

It is my prayer that we can recognize the holy in the ordinary not just on Easter, but today, tomorrow, and the next day. May we experience the holy so often that it becomes our normal, our ordinary, as well.
His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 2 Peter 1:3
Life and godliness....the ordinary and the holy. Because of Jesus, we have everything we need for all of it. May we live it well.