It’s hard to believe we are sitting on the cusp of a brand new year. I’d like to say that I’m a good resolution keeper, but I have fallen short each and every year.
This year, I intend to align my goals with what I suspect the Lord desires for me. I want to prioritize my relationship with him above my need for measurable success.
To be present, to be patient and to be pliable clay in my master’s hand, this is my goal for 2018.
Happy New Year, brothers and sisters!
Another year has passed and here we are at Christmas, the first of our holy days as Christians followed by Good Friday and Easter Sunday. December 25th, a holy day of celebrating the Prince of Peace’s entry into this fallen world as a pure and sinless babe, is precluded by all sorts of celebratory rituals.
But, what happens when the holy days are holey days? What are we to do when we are wholly consumed with loss-related grief? How do we wade through the fun and fanfare when our feet are encased in the cement of profound sadness?
In three short lines, poet W.S Merwin exquisitely gives voice to the saturation this kind of sorrow brings in his work, Separation.
Your absence has gone through me
Like thread through a needle.
Everything I do is stitched with its color.
And so it is on these holidays. Attempted merriment is colored by thick threads of loss. Our hearts are threadbare and frayed at the seams. The tapestry of our lives is rent. Our vision is clouded by tears. Our holiday is hollow. We are riddled with holes.
This year, our fake fir stood in the corner for days, completely unadorned. It mirrored my feelings regarding the upcoming holiday. I, too, felt stripped of anything celebratory; bare of anything resembling peace, joy and good tidings. Imitation me, just like my tree. If it wasn’t for a visit from our grandbabies, I would have left the bare tree in the corner as a symbol of my emptiness. Perhaps, a self-indulgent homage to my distress.
Even when it came time to hang the ornaments and light up the branches, I wasn’t ready for the flood of emotions that came when my grands brought me ornament after ornament with questions about the history of each one. We were hanging poignant reminders of better times on garland adorned branches. Uninvited grief during holidays is just like the Grinch, it can steal our Christmas joy. No matter how many times I turned up the volume on the Christmas carols, I was unable to drown out the song of sorrow in my soul.
No matter who or what is absent. No matter who or what is lost, holidays are poignant reminders of what was or what should have been. Memories usher in a longing, and the gathering of families and friends can bring a sharp and painful focus on the holes in our lives. Even if you haven’t experienced some kind of loss, these days of “celebrations” are filled with expectations that many times go unmet causing all sorts of heartache. Sometimes, it’s simply the effort of getting along with the prickly pears in our circles can rob us of the joy we desire to experience at Christmas.
How do we turn our hole-ness into wholeness? How do we recapture some of that childlike awe that the birth of our savior should bring? How do we go from moving through the motions to experiencing true joy in the midst of gaping holes?
Maybe, we can look at the Christmas story from a little different angle. Let’s depart from the Mary and Joseph scene and take a look at what Jesus’ birth meant to his Father, our Father. The day that teenager gave birth to our Lord and Savior was the beginning of a life lived solely to suffer and die on our behalf. Every Christmas Day was one year closer to his betrayal, suffering, and tortuous death. Every Christmas Day marked the moment at which God gave him up to be sacrificed…for you, for me.
I think our father knows Christmas grief.
I think our father knows the heartache of the empty chair, the empty arms, the empty house, the empty bank account, the health gone bad, the hardness of a holey holiday. He simply knows.
He doesn’t ask us to revel in his knowing, but he does ask us to rest in that. Don’t let this be cliché:
Come to me, all who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest.
Peace can be painful and joy can be muted, and that is simply okay. Christmas can be laced with blue threads instead of gold and that is okay, too. If this season’s tears outweigh its laughter, let it be. He knows.
You Yourself have recorded my wanderings. Put my tears in Your bottle. Are they not in Your records?
We will experience wholeness when we rest in his knowing and give our grief to Him. Our surrendered suffering will bring glory to Him and peace to us. Thankfully, we don’t have to figure out how that happens. He’s got this! When allowed, His presence begins to seep into every hole to the point of overflowing!
We must be careful to not measure joy by the world’s standards. Painful, productive peace is not promoted in this be-happy-at-all cost society. For Christ followers, tears and laughter commingle, joy and pain join hands, grief and God meet… in blessed ways the world can not know JUST as it did for our Lord that first Christmas morn. Let that be your Christmas awe.
So, dear one, hold on. Cry out to The Healer to fill your holes and rest well in His knowing this Christmas season. I leave you with this:
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Battle-weary from warring with worry, dazed and confused from the hard fall after the rug got pulled from beneath your planted feet, and insulated in isolation from the human interaction you desperately need, you find yourself staring at that familiar image in the mirror. If only you could sneak in a 5-minute date with the tub. A little too familiar? A few too many no-shower days?
When life is providing challenges, it’s easy to fall into a few of Satan’s well-hidden traps. If we learn to become vigilant and become skilled at recognizing and disarming them, we stay steady on our journey, and the no-shower days don’t hold as much power as they otherwise would.
Let’s visit a few of the deceiver’s favorite go-to snares otherwise known as lies.
This is where you imagine the worst of outcomes. Your inner Buzz Lightyear is screaming, “This will last to infinity and beyond!” This present affliction has to be the absolute biggest and baddest of all big and bad things. In this place, convincing yourself that this difficult day is destined to be repeated for the next 365 comes easy. Words like “never” and “forever” and “always” ricochet in your brain space, piercing any positivity you might cling to. You obsess over the current cause of your hygiene hiatus and believe you will never again shower. Each of us have our own bait-lines that when swallowed, pull us into the abyss of despondency. What are yours?
In an article titled “Rethinking Rumination” in Perspectives in Social Science, the authors give an excellent definition for rumination…
If your thoughts have become the equivalent of a bad vine on YouTube, identify them now.
Keeping track of your woes? Adding up insults? Tabulating troubles? Multiplying misery? How often do we count our burdens when we should be counting our blessings? Becoming an accountant for the adversary is nothing but nonproductive. It’s easy on the sans-bath days to start a lengthy list of all you do for the others in your life. What are you logging into your mind’s ledger?
Sweeping generalizations, the labeling of all of life. One terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day does not mean they all will be. Even if the present circumstance does permeate more time than we would choose, it will get better. It will get easier. We become healthy when we accept, adjust, and adapt. Have you painted over a brilliant fine line of promise with a wide brush stroke of generalization today?
It is far too easy to adopt a victim mentality on the hard days. Human nature seeks to place blame on someone or something tangible. We step right into the snares called “If only” and “why can’t”. Here’s the deal; bad things happen, people fail us, not everything comes with a labeled reason. No matter what the source of your pain is, you get to choose whether you will live as a victim or victor. Taking control of your thought life is the first step in becoming the latter. Who do you tend to “blame” for your no-shower days?
The Solution: Spirit-filled mindfulness.
Mindfulness, apart from spirituality, is defined by Psychology Today as: “a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.”
Mindfulness tells Buzz Lightyear that he’s overly dramatic. When truly mindful, we can be aware that this no-shower day is actually a no-shower hour because we are simply in the moment, hour, day. It grounds us in this truth:
Therefore, don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Matthew 6:34
See, even the Father instructs us to stay in the present!
With spiritual mindfulness, we can purposely list our blessings, identify joy in mundane moments, cultivate a garden of gratitude as children of a loving God who holds the future we fear.
Rejoice always! Pray constantly. Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1Thessalonians 5:16-18 (HCSB)
Here’s the best part! As Christ-followers, we have an abundance of help. We are empowered by the Holy Spirit to be discerning of our thoughts and motives. He is waiting to gently and graciously expose those destructive thought patterns which make us so vulnerable to Satan’s lies.
But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit – the Father will send Him in My name – will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you. Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Your heart must not be troubled or fearful. John 14:26 (HCSB)
When we allow The Spirit to control our thought live vs. dialing him up for damage control, our no-shower days aren’t so distressing and the image we see as we pass the mirror is not that of a worried and worn-out woman, but that of a gentle and quiet spirit who just happens to be tired. Big difference, my friends.
In the same way the Spirit also joins to help in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings. And He who searches the hearts knows the Spirit’s mind-set, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Romans 8:26-27 (HCSB)
So, you there with the greasy hair and the baggy sweats, know first that you are loved fiercely by your Father God. Become obsessed with that. Ruminate on that. Count the ways He loves you.
BE MINDFUL OF HIM WHO LONGS TO FILL YOUR MIND!
For I am persuaded that not even death or life, angels or rulers, things present or things to come, hostile powers, height or depth , or any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39 (HCSB)
Make a plan for your next no-shower day. Right now!!! Here’s your have-ready list:
- Scripture verses that hold great meaning to you personally.
- A positive statement in BIG letters for a prominent place. i.e. “This too shall pass” or “I am loved by the King” or “He knows”.
- A dry erase marker for your bathroom mirror. Draw a happy face every time you visit that room. Don’t forget to smile back at it.
- Start a blessings list now and add to it ON your rough days.
- A play-list of your favorite inspirational music.
Blessings my friends!
The World of White Parents with Black Children
At that moment, when nothing I’ve done or will do matters more than the fact I’m White, I stand completely unable to defend that which they can’t see beyond, my color and my privilege.
Those were my words after a painful encounter where as the only white in a group of black women, I was given a firm admonition (I’m being tactful) regarding my perceived inability to understand my Black child. A well-meaning Black sister told my daughter she wished she could take her in, as if MY child I’ve had since infancy needed to be taken from my whiteness. As I recalled the previous day’s conversation and the raw emotions it produced, the tears were as willing and hot as they had been the day before.
I am white. I have children who share my skin color, and I have children who do not. Some were born of my womb, some of my heart. If you were to line us up, we create a landscape from the palest of creams to the richest of browns. Eyes from bright sky blue to a dark chocolate so bottomless you can lose yourself.
A black woman recently asked me why we decided to adopt Black kids. My answer is 21 years old now…because I didn’t specify my first babies outward appearances and I’m not placing an order this time either. We simply wanted to grow our family by His divine intent and by His good will.
A white woman has poured praises over me for taking in children who were not our own and “giving them a good life”. On the contrary, they were blessings we received not the other way around. From the moment we first laid eyes on each of them, they were entirely ours for always and in all ways.
There is so much beauty in our story, so much of the Master’s redemptive plan for each and every human is revealed through adoption. The ability to sit back and watch God work out a vast array of details and seemingly insurmountable circumstances to place a specific child into a specific family is just one way He has of fulfilling His plan and purpose in our lives. The ability of a man and woman to accept and fully embrace a child not conceived by them as their own is the same as God accepting and fully embracing us as His own despite our birth into sin. I believe every Christ-follower has the capacity to love another in this way through the power of the Holy Spirit living within us. What would seem unnatural to the world is innate to believers; a no-brainer, so to speak.
Beautiful and ordained, yes…simple, no. And so, I drift between the world I know of White privilege and the world my children know. I’ll call their world Skin First. I have the privilege of being known for many things before my descriptive race while they most often, are known first by the color of their skin. What’s worse is when that is all they are known by. I live in a zone between a White world unwilling to admit there is such a thing as privilege and a Black world unwilling to see their own racial prejudices. I row my little boat between these two land masses on a sea of angst while bitter voices scream at each other from the shores. I want my children to be a part of both worlds but neither land has a friendly port for our interracial crew. We sail on, to No Man’s Land.
Back to my experience as the minority. I sobbed on the way home. My daughter, upon seeing and hearing how the encounter had made me feel, grieved with me. She was able to tell me that hearing me share how vulnerable I felt solely by the color of my skin made her think I was truly understanding her struggles as a black child in a white community and school for the first time. Over and over she assured me, I am HER mom, the only one she knows, the only one she wants.
This isn’t the first such encounter and it won’t be the last, so what’s the goal in this writing? I guess I hope to reach my sisters and brothers from both races with this message:
- Adopted children are God’s children first. He defines them, not their race. Only when we teach them the value of who they are in Christ, will they be able to withstand the icy winds of racial divides.
- Adoption happens once. Do we call ourselves children of God or adopted children of God? I AM a child of God, its a done deal. Let us live that way. We are aware our color differences point out that an adoption took place but we really like to forgo the intrusive questions.
- Transracial families are both Black and White. Do not make them choose.
- Skin color does not a mother (or father) make. We can all agree Southern White children who were raised by Black “help” were well, well loved and cared for. Can we be tolerant when that scenario is flipped in our present times?
- Society is bound by the chains of our History. Racism as well as reverse racism is alive and well and both our our cultures feed it. This is a burden each race owns and must first recognize; second, reveal; and third, revolt against.
- Children do need healthy relationships with people of their own race, but those relationships must always honor the parents’ place in that child’s life. If you are mentoring, never assume the white momma doesn’t get it. She may not have personally lived it, but it is her beloved child….believe me, she gets it.
- I find certain cultural trends in both races unhealthy and denigrating. Rejecting some form of cultural expression from the Black culture does not equate with me rejecting a Black brother or sister. Unwrap it.
- There is a disproportionate number of Black foster and adoptive homes compared to White homes. Step it up Black friends!
- White friends, you ARE privileged. Until you have spent quality time with a Black man or woman and listened to their experiences, do not even pretend to think you can speak to this.
- We have to lay the fear down. It is my belief that we have become so fearful of each other, we build fences instead of bridges. Emotionally, physically, socially, etc.
- I touched on it earlier but want to reiterate. As White parents we oppose our Black children being viewed as mission projects or attention-getting tokens. This devalues them as it suggests they were obtained for our psychological gain vs. them being truly desired by parents who were creating a family.
It is time for the church to take the lead on this. These relationships need to be born and nurtured within the safety of a community of believers. This is a call-out. What can you do in your corner of the world? Have a discussion with your church leaders about creating a safe place for Transracial families to connect with fellow believers of other races who would be willing to embrace them as a family. Mentoring relationships will naturally spring from this. If you’ve been part of such a community, please share with the rest of us what has made your experience successful!
This Sunday is Sanctity of Life Sunday. A date which is poignantly special since it would have been so “convenient” for three birth mothers to end our children’s lives. I would like to end by honoring the bravery and sacrifice of these women and the countless others like them. For them, I am so grateful.
Living With Mental Illness
2016 was the year of secrecy.
When my husband and I first met our daughter at six weeks of age, we knew her prenatal drug and alcohol exposure was already wreaking havoc in her pitiful little body. As the years unfolded, despite stellar early services, the remnants of her early, undeserved chaos showed itself in mental illness, the severity of which became realized in heart-wrenching ways over the last year. As her parents, we worked hard to keep things under wraps as we hoped we could find our way to some normalcy; the kind of normalcy others don’t question. Some may call it naive to hope she could somehow walk away from the seriousness of her mental illness and begin to function as a typical teen, but I call it hope. It is with hope, that I become brave. It is with hope for her future, my future, and the future of others who are tormented by minds that betray them that I come out in 2017. I think there are four good reasons to go public.
- To be a voice. Our loved ones need their chaos explained through coherent words. Speak what those scars across her arm really say. Speak what was behind his seemingly cruel and hurtful behavior. Describe to those who care to be involved what it feels like to be the one suffering from the specific illness(es) you are well-versed in. Yes, its okay to confirm acceptance is not the same as understanding. If anyone should understand the mind of my mentally ill child, wouldn’t it be me, her mother? Yet, there are things that I will never fully comprehend. I can, however, accept her as she is and do my best to explain her in a way that honors her humanity.
- To remove stigma. Stigma is defined as a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person. Mental illness is not a chosen path no more than cancer would be. Genetics are not chosen. Early-life trauma is not chosen. Continuing to hide our challenges only serves to multiply the stigma as it screams “be ashamed”, “be guilty”. Look, we are all fallen people, and any of us are but one step away from a diagnosis that would be our mark of disgrace. Strip stigma of its power!
- To advocate. When we advocate, we are a champion, a spokesperson (the voice), and a crusader. When we are the advocate, we are one who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy. Both of these take some education on our part; training, so to speak. Advocating for our loved one runs the whole gamut from teaching other family members all the way to petitioning our legislating bodies. It is impossible to do this well without becoming experts ourselves. It is our responsibility to further the causes that bring hope and help to those fighting the myriad of mental illnesses.
- To receive support. After months of expending enormous amounts of energy I didn’t have trying to carefully guard our secret, I had come to a place of isolation, loneliness, and fatigue. After a recent crisis, it became apparent I no longer had the strength or desire to continue battling with no backup. Quite honestly, our life looks very different from those who have typical teens, and there is nothing to be gained by hiding that. Is it hard? Yes! Worth it? Without a doubt. Self care? At its finest!
Welcome 2017! May we meet your challenges with renewed strength, goals, and the bravery to be bold.
My journey of conviction in a year of fear.
Our eyes met briefly before she ducked her head. She in her hijab, me in my gaudy elf hat. She, fresh from Syria. Me, fresh from Fear. She, needing protective winter coats for her family. Me, needing to shed the armored cloak I’d wrapped around my heart. She, fleeing from a war zone. Me, with a son who served in one.
Our church is very intentional about ministering to the marginalized in our community and we have both the blessing and responsibility of reaching our refugee community. I’ve served at a couple of events now where I was in direct contact with refugees of other faiths, and I have a hard time finding words to describe the blessings I’ve received each time.
Having said that, I must give full disclosure. I’m scared. Each time, I’ve experienced fear. I’ll even be transparent enough to tell you, I played through the scenario of a radical Islamic terrorist coming in to our serve event and blowing us all away. And yet, we both found ourselves there. She, fleeing that. Me, fearing that. All we have to do is watch a news segment or read an article flashing across our social media, and we start cultivating the ground in which Satan is ready to seed the thorny thistle, Fear.
Months ago, I engaged in a debate with fellow believers regarding the wisdom in accepting certain refugees or immigrants. I took a hard stance against it. As time passed, the Holy Spirit just wouldn’t stop stirring my pot. He’s been holding up a mirror, and I’m ashamed of what I see. There is validity to both sides of the argument, and balancing intellectual arguments with spiritual admonitions is difficult at best.
It’s the head verses heart problem.
Or, is it the them verses me problem?
My comfort. My safety. My beliefs. My opinions. My politics.
The days immediately following my encounter, we watched Aleppo’s torment continue with unspeakable acts of deadly violence against thousands of men, women and children who were created in the image of God. They were known to Him from conception regardless of their current spiritual state. No pagan God created these fragile human beings, MY God spoke them into being just as he did me. This week, I saw her in my TV screen. I saw her losing all she had and all she had ever known. I saw her losing her babies, her husband, her parents, her siblings. I saw her eyes meet mine and this time, they held the gaze. I saw her, and I wept.
I have so fortified my heart against fear, pounding in crucifying nails and drilling holes in biblical teaching, that I have not heard the still, small voice of God. So bound was my heart, it could not appropriately break in sync with my Lord’s surely rent heart.
This is how we’ve come to understand and experience love: Christ sacrificed his life for us. This is why we ought to live sacrificially for our fellow believers, and not just be out for ourselves. If you see some brother or sister in need and have the means to do something about it but turn a cold shoulder and do nothing, what happens to God’s love? It disappears. And you made it disappear. 1 John 3:16-17 (The Message)
The question isn’t what have I done. The question is what have I not done! The question isn’t what do we need to legislate or how do we screen, I think the question is simply this….what does God’s word mandate? He makes it so easy!
“Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest?”
He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.” Matthew 22:36-40 (HCSB)
How do we do this? Your mandate will look different from mine. Prayer will show you yours. Of this I am certain, the pile of Christmas gifts under our tree is an affront to the needs of people fleeing from terror if all I do is watch the suffering on high def under the twinkling lights. Join me in praying for Peace on Earth. Join me for praying for how we, in our cozy comfort, can be the hands and feet of Jesus to the survivors of atrocity both collectively and individually.
I wish I had a legitimately vetted list of organizations to add to this blog. I will suggest Samaritan’s Purse, and please feel free to add suggestions in the comments.
I want to leave you with this.
Jesus drives out demons. People drive out Jesus.
Can you make any sense of it? I can’t and of course, we can easily condemn the actions of our ancestors in scripture given we have the script in our hands. Really, what was wrong with these people?
Let’s recap the situation. There is this demon-possessed man who had run naked and lived among the tombs and hills where he didn’t sleep, wailed day and night and cut himself with stones for what the Bible says was a “long time”. He was so violent, so maniacal that he repeatedly tore off the irons and chains that the people placed on him. Imagine this uncontrollable savage whose eyes would have revealed the demonic torment raging within. Obviously, no one was safe to travel the path that ran past these tombs of terror. No Hollywood special effects needed, this was the real deal. Demons. Not one, not two, but thousands. The Legion. You can read the story for yourself in Matthew 8, Mark 5 and Luke 8.
So, Jesus, fresh from terrifying the disciples by calming the storm with three words, had just arrived to the region of the Gadarenes when this tortured man starts screaming at Jesus. Remember, “even the demons believe and tremble in terror”. (James 2:19). They, the demons, beg Jesus not to send them to the abyss but ask instead to be sent into a herd of pigs grazing on the hillside. So, with his permission, the evil spirits exited the man and entered the approximately 2,000 pigs who then promptly drown themselves.
At this point, the horrified hog handlers book it and they broadcast to fellow farmers and townsmen alike what they just witnessed with their very own eyes. There was no choice between the fight or flight response. Unadulterated, adrenaline-laced fear fueled them as the fled the scene of deliverance.
Out come the people to see for themselves, and there he is! The crazed man is totally coherent. He is sane. He is clothed. He is sitting at the feet of Jesus hanging on every word. Here’s where the story takes a twist. The reaction of the people is not what we would expect. No praise. No worship. No gratitude. No falling on their knees in the presence of the healer. Just dead pigs in the lake, leftover excrement, and fear. Fear. So much fear that they begged Jesus to leave their region. What? Send Jesus away? But, I don’t understand! He just performed a miracle of gigantic proportion! The whole community benefited from this.
Oh, the fear factor. I have an intimate knowledge of fear and the sin that springs from it. I believe it is one of Satan’s favorite tools.
The translation of this particular “fear” from the Greek ephobethesan, is “to be struck with fear, to be seized with alarm” and in this case, “of those startled by strange sites or occurrences”. (Strongs). Let’s look at a couple other instances where this definition of fear is written about.
- The disciples were seized by it just prior to this scene when Jesus calmed the storm. (Mark 4).
- In John 6, it overtook them after Jesus walked to them on water and caused their boat to instantly time travel to the shore.
- The shepherds were hit hard when the angel appeared announcing Jesus’ birth. (Luke 2)
- Peter, James and John were brought to their knees at the transformation of Jesus where our Savior’s face glowed, his clothes became dazzling white, Moses and Elijah appeared, a bright cloud covered them all and God audibly spoke. (Matthew 17 and Luke 9)
Are there any words to describe the terror which strikes at the frail human heart when brought face to face with the supernatural acts of our sovereign Christ? No, for it is at that moment that we become engulfed by our finite and frail humanity and yes, the flames of spontaneous, sinful fear send us fleeing or, as in this case, begging the Savior to leave our territory.
There they were, sending away the solution as they stood ankle deep in pig poop, the disgusting waste of Satan’s evil army. No pigs, no demons, just the leftovers. What is it that made them fear the Sovereign Solution over the remnants of years of torment? What is it that made them fear the Supreme over the damned? Why did they not want more of what Jesus had to offer?
It has been suggested that money drove their fear. Two thousand hogs was a costly loss, and what else was this Jesus going to do; however, I don’t think it was that when we look at the other scriptures where the Greek “ephobethesan” is used.
I think the pure power that pours from our Lord and Savior frightens us in ways we aren’t always aware of. Why?
Maybe because we are always trying to be the ones in control.
Maybe because we are more comfortable with the status quo than we are with being moved out of our comfort zone.
Maybe because when we see how unfathomably great our God is, we realize how small we really are.
Maybe because we don’t believe we are worth delivering.
Maybe because we are actually afraid of what He may ask of us.
Maybe, just maybe, its because we don’t truly know the totality of who it is we worship and serve and because of that, faith gives way to fear.
Sit with this question:
Are you standing ankle-deep in your leftover mess while sending away the solution? Why? What are you afraid of?
Lord, forgive us for sending you, our Sovereign Solution, away. Forgive us for not falling to our knees in worshipful respect and awe at your power. Forgive us for not calling on you to exercise it in our daily lives. In Jesus precious name, Amen.
What foster/adoptive (FA) parent hasn’t heard the “Oh, it’s so good of you to do that”? Or, may this one, “Oh, she/he/they are so lucky to have been placed with you”? It kind of makes me cringe and shiver just typing it. Here’s the deal, if you are an FA parent and you don’t cringe or shiver at that, check your motives because it has nothing to do with you being a super hero but everything to do with us having a super God, right?! It is only through the Lord’s supernatural intervention that broken pots like you and me are able to be anything more than a hotel for these kids.
If you are a friend or support person for an adoptive parent, let me clear up a few things.
#1) Some of you are not called by God to raise children not born of your own flesh; BUT, you are absolutely called to support those who do. Please let the family you are helping dictate what is most helpful to them. Ask for an honest answer to the question, “What would speak love and support to you as tackle FA parenting?”
#2) Know that you may get a “good feeling” by helping out an FA family, but please know it may not be a “good time”. We cannot predict our child’s behavior. Please supervise them at all times.
#3) Know that the stories of the wild child with the downright demonic behavior we have described to you will probably never be seen by you. Please NEVER question that it truly happens. The kids tend to save that for us. We are the ones they want to attach to. That means we are the ones in the relationship with them that must be sabotaged. Don’t bond, don’t bond, don’t bond. It won’t last, it won’t last, it won’t last. But maybe, maybe maybe. No! NO! NO! You get the picture.
#4) Know that no matter how early in life our children come to us, they are damaged. Sound harsh? Yes, it is. I won’t bore you with the scientific details of the damage done to the amygdala at the loss of a birth mom, let alone early childhood separation, abuse and neglect. Please, just trust us. Please, don’t judge us.
#5) Never, ever ask us which ones are “ours” when we have our whole crew together. They all are for whatever time God gives them to us.
#6) When we experience the loss of a tough kid, and we do, we may look horrible, be exhausted, cranky and battle weary. Please don’t say, “you must be relieved” or “its probably for the best”. No, it is never, ever a relief to have a failed placement or to return a child to a dangerous situation. Even if it is in our best interest, it is a loss and we shoulder heavy guilt over the decision to call it quits.
If Foster/Adoptive Month makes you contemplate becoming an FA parent, know this:
#1) Some of us were called by God to raise children not born of our own flesh. It’s a calling, not a playdate. There are days when there is absolutely not one “good” feeling you can scratch out of the crusty mud left from the deluge of raging emotions. There are days when, despite your very best efforts, you can’t summon up the strength to find any “good” in your decision to heed the call. You fail. The child fails. The system fails. The school fails. Callings aren’t easy. They never are.
#2) This is not for the questioning heart. This must be a hard-core, extensively prayed-over, sold-out, WELL-EDUCATED decision. Talk, talk, talk to FA families. Sit in their homes. Spend time listening to their hearts, not the process.
#3) It will take a toll on your birth children. Do not doubt for a minute that your “unexposed kids” will be unaffected by the “exposed children” you bring into your home. Spending time with FA families will educate you on the challenges you may face in your home and with your children.
#3) Outcomes for children in care are pretty poor, and you may feel as if you didn’t make a difference but God still reigns. We have known that one of ours aged out in a detention facility ravaged by the same mental illness her mother had. Holding each other, crying, my husband and I walked down the long dark halls of the mental health facility we left her in, well knowing she would never come back to our home, but God was still on his throne. Fostering, especially, leaves questions unanswered on this side of heaven. Know that some can’t be saved by you.
#4) Mommas, hear me….you will not be enough for this child. Ouch! You, as a mother with all your momma heart, momma love, and momma skills will not be “enough”. I don’t care at what age this child enters your heart and home. While you need to claim your place in this child’s life, you also need to be prepared to search out others to fill in the gaps left by trauma, separation, abuse, loss of birth parent, racial differences, etc. You will need to find mentors, professionals, service providers, respite providers who can augment your momma love and devotion. It is okay that you’re not enough because the truth is….only Christ is.
#5) You will age quickly. You will look for hoarded food in bed sheets. You will wipe poop from places poop shouldn’t be. You will learn from the professionals how to take down and restrain a child. You will shrug off the destruction to your property after a child’s rage. You will lock children in their rooms at night for safety reasons. You will gain weight because you hide the chocolate treats in your bedroom closet where only you can get to them. You will loose weight because you are worried sick. You will cry. You will swear. You will fall on your knees in submission to God who gives you the strength to get up and do it again tomorrow. And then, one precious day, this will come:
“Thank you! And you had a hand in my up bringing, you were very good to us through it all. You were there when it all began to unfold. You loved and supported me and helped me heal, I’m so thankful that God lead you and dad to be foster parents, I can’t imagine not having you in my life! I love you so much!”
And, you will hear God whispering, “And the King will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’ Matthew 25:40.
So, if you are considering FA parenting, is it worth it? Absolutely it is.
Chronic illness of any kind deals painful blows to our self-worth, none of which are deserving. The longer I live, the more I realize how I have stacked pallets of guilt on pallets of shame and allowed them to sit heavy on the decaying foundation of my self-worth. How many times have I let an employer, friend or loved one down? How many times have I been a burden? How many times have I let my health overshadow the joys in life?
How many times have I allowed the cancer of guilt to invade my healthy mind?
Regrets are real and have a healthy place when they are used to mend relationships fractured by the weight of our illness and the selfishness that sometimes occurs with such. Let’s admit it, we get selfish when we are sick. It is necessary to seek forgiveness from both others and ourselves in order to move forward. Chronic illness often prevents us from performing as we would like. Our minds desire to do what our bodies refuse. Now that my children are grown and I’m more reflectfull, (not a typo….I’m full of reflection at my age), it is so easy to become regretful over the amount of activities my illness and anxiety prevented me from. I’m acutely aware my struggles overshadowed family times that should have been great fun, and for that, I am regretful; however, I can not invite Regret to make a home in my heart. Obsessing over Regret will open the door to Shame, and Shame ushers Guilt right on in.
Without realizing what has happened, Guilt, unchecked, can become our primary diagnosis. Guilt has the ability to incapacitate us in emotional, relational and physical ways, and she is a sneaky, silent killer.
I felt the sting of Guilt’s nasty right hook just this morning when the side effects from a seizure medication change meant I was unable to get out of bed to make sure my special needs daughter did her therapeutic exercises. Hubby had to be both Mom and Dad, again. Score one for Guilt.
An unexpected jab hit when my husband wanted to pop into a restaurant for a quick bite to eat. Key words here are “pop into” because you know how we anxious CIBS (chronic illness buddies) hate to not have had the time to plan for every possible disastrous, yet highly unlikely scenario. Really? C’mon, we need the time to worry, or it just can’t happen. Can I get an Amen?! So, I stated in my irritated, flat voice that there was no way I could handle the sensory overload that was in that place. Guilt sat in my lap as we ate our drive-through meal.
A couple of days later, Guilt left me bruised and in tears as I had to leave a reception after my sweet grand babies’ dance recital. The lighting and sounds were firing up my brain waves resulting in a nice healthy aura, the kind that sends you fleeing in some kind of hyper state of flight or fight.
You know what I’m saying. You hear the edge in your own voice. You hear the cutting irritation directed at loved ones. You make the same excuse for the millionth time, and you feel the sting of shame. Score another for Guilt.
If you have a story like mine, many of you do, you went years with no answers but plenty of symptoms. Like me, you may have been misdiagnosed…a few times. That in and of itself leads to great anxiety, depression and dysfunction. Perhaps, even NO function, as in bed, covers over head for days at a time. As if those aren’t enough, we start to heap on shame as we weasel out of social events, responsibilities and commitments. We are masters at disguising the fact we really are in no physical and/or mental shape to show up anyway. This all too familiar scenario sets us up perfectly for Guilt to wage war on that eroding foundation of self-worth. Hence, Guilt slides into number one spot as she eats away at us like acid on flesh. She really is that destructive. Guilt becomes the disease.
I intend to rob Guilt of the power she has stolen from me.
Let’s break it down and choose to claim forgiveness for what has been, acceptance of what is and hope for what will be.
Guilt robs us of a few things.
- The ability to see the positive. We are oh, so much more than our illnesses. Let’s count the good moments and take them back from the hard grasp of Guilt. Is Guilt stealing your joy?
- The ability to see our potential. God created us to do great things! While it may look different from peers, it doesn’t mean our contributions to this world are any less valuable than our healthy counterparts.
- The ability to perceive truth. We can easily transfer our own shameful view of ourselves to others. We can easily tell ourselves we are failures when others do not see us in that light at all. We can easily see ourselves as incapable when in fact, we are entirely able. Are you seeing yourself as incapacitated?
- The ability to live in the present. Guilt is the rock WE shackle to our ankles. It drags us under the surface of this moment into the abyss of the past. WE hold the key, Truth, to unlock the chains. WE choose whether or not to swim to the surface of the here and now.
Let’s choose to kick the curable disease of Guilt. Let’s choose to burn those pallets of regret and shame. Let’s choose to use the key of Truth to unlock these chains. I leave you with this:
…I broke the bars of your yoke and enabled you to live in FREEDOM! Leviticus 26:13b (HCSB)