Friday, December 5, 2014

it's not the same

Another post to answer a question I get all the time. The question is simple. But the answer is so complicated that I think I'll give up butcher it just trying to get the idea across. My own answer... and I'm not sure that words can adequately describe what I feel. 

"Do you feel like she's yours?" 
"Is it the same... like do you love her just like your other kids?" 
"I just don't think I could love another child the same as I love my own." 

Not everyone I know in the foster/adopt world had biological children before welcoming waiting kids into their homes, so maybe the answer isn't the same for us all. Maybe there isn't a "right" answer. Here's the best one I've got for now though- 

No, I don't feel like she's mine (yet), but 
I feel in every way like I'm her mom. 

Imagine that you're at home with your spouse, about to climb into bed after a long day of work and caring for your family. Then imagine that same night someone hands you a stranger's child. Imagine that you parent that child for a few days, get into a new groove as a family, try to navigate the newness of it all, then people start asking you, "Do you feel like that child is yours?"or "Do you love him the same as you love your other kids?" Your answer would probably be, "uhhh, no, it's not quite the same.... it doesn't feel the same....because this is a stranger's child." 

Here's the thing, though-- everyone wants to hear us say that it's the exact same. When they ask you can almost feel the eager desire they have to hear that it's the same coming over you like a mist. And because people are searching to hear that everything feels the same, we feel icky admitting that it feels different. See, foster parents are literally reminded every day in about 3,296 ways that these children are NOT ours. We can't raise them however we please. We can't nurse them, snuggle and sleep with them, homeschool them, or even care for their health the same as we do for our biological children. There are rules upon rules that keep us from behaving like these children are ours, and the reality of that is only a reminder that they aren't ours. 

No, I don't feel like she's mine (yet), but 
I feel in every way like I'm her mom.

So, while I don't feel like she's "mine," I do feel exactly like I'm her mom. I feel the same amount of "momminess" toward her that I do toward my three little clones. I feel like I'm the one who knows her most deeply. I feel like I'm the one who cares for her every need all day long and mothers her. I feel like she needs me. I feel like she looks for me when strangers hold her. I feel like she picks my voice out of a crowd and turns her head to find me. I feel like I know her little secrets, like how to keep her bottle just right so she doesn't break her latch and swallow a bunch of air, and how she arches back and turns to the side when she's tired, and how to get a real giggle out of her. She's a hard sell on a giggle. You gotta really work for it. 

See, I am her mom. Today. Today, in every way except the I-grew-her-in-my-body-and-birthed-her kind of way, I AM her mom. So, I don't feel like she's "mine," but I do feel like I'm her mom. I hope that doesn't sound as crazy as it feels. 

The question sometimes takes a more pointed, harder to answer turn though. "Do you love her just like your other kids? Like, is the love the same?" 

Do we love them? Oh, heavens yes! Is the love "the same?" I'm not sure. That's the part that I have a hard time expressing. 

But, if I can be real for a moment, and we can be raw with each other for the sake of growth in our understanding... I don't know that any mother would say her love for each of her children is "the same." The amount of love? Sure. No one kid trumps another. No one kid is more loved than another. But, isn't the love different? Unique in wonderful and sometimes challenging ways with each child individually? It's always the same sacrificial, unconditional, always-and-forever love that mothers have for their children, but our emotions, affections, and connections with each child develop over time based on who they are, who we are from year to year, and how our relationships grow and blossom.

My love for my children FEELS different. There. I said it. 

When Owen was born I thought I would feel this amazing connection, this mushy-gushy-over-the-top kind of ooey gooey love for him. He was my first baby, after all. But at first I didn't. I had the baby blues pretty badly. I didn't feel much besides the uncontrollable urge to cry constantly for two weeks straight. Everything felt overwhelming. I felt like I'd failed in about 27 different ways because his birth didn't go like I'd hoped, I wasn't able to nurse him right away like I'd hoped, and he wasn't the kind of person I'd imagined. I'd never met a baby like Owen. He wasn't snuggly and he didn't seem to need me on a mommy level. He was ridiculously alert, and not at all newbornish. He was the most analytical newborn I think the world has ever seen. He wasn't looking at us with emotion or wonder or contentment behind his eyes... but with precise questions. He had questions, and he wanted answers. He knew he could do things before he was able to do things. All of this "knowing" in him led to sheer frustration in the tiniest baby. I didn't get it then, though. I asked doctors for answers. They said he was fine, and some babies just aren't happy babies. What...? I didn't know who he was. I just thought I was a terrible mom, which led me to feel even less like I was connected to him. 

[all the time you guys, all.the.time]

I had a friend who'd parented 20-something kids (foster, and bio) at that point look at me one day and say, "Kate... he cries a lot. Like, a LOT. He's not an easy baby." I'm pretty sure I cried on the spot. I'm pretty sure she'll never know how liberating her words were. She'd parented a bajillion kids... so coming from her I felt like it was a legitimate claim. Another friend who'd spent a lot of time with Owen said, "I feel like he's not actually crying, but like he's yelling. Like he's just frustrated." She was right. That's how we all felt. Until he spoke perfect sentences at 13months old to tell us just how frustrated he was about everything around him. I'm not kidding. He was a tiny talking baby and it was alarming.

As he got older and we all learned that he's not a touchy feely kid, but an in-his-head kind of kid, we all grew more in love with him because our understanding of who he was grew. We quit being confused, and started being astounded. At the risk of sounding like an annoyingly braggy mom, he's brilliant. Like, kind of scary-smart. When we realized he was a brainy baby things started making some sense and we fell more in love with him. We loved him from the start, don't get me wrong. Please don't miss that! I loved my child before he was born. I would have traded my life for his in an instant. My world changed when he came into it. But, the love didn't feel like I'd expected it to, because I didn't understand him. As I grew in understanding and appreciation, and relationship with him as a person, the way I felt love toward him grew too. 

Then there were my other two bio-babies. I didn't struggle with baby blues when they were born. My pregnancies, deliveries, and early days with them were easier. They weren't frustrated little balls of babies, but your average I-just-want-to-be-snuggled-and-fed kind of babies. The way things felt with them was really different. Even the way I love Hadden is different simply because he's my last [born-to-me] baby and not my first. I was eager to see Owen grow and I encouraged him. I find myself babying Hadden because I cling to every last day that he will be little knowing that he's definitely in all likelihood my last bio-baby. And Eliza-- I'm way more mushy and tender with her than with the boys, because that's who she is! You look at her cross-eyed and she turns into a puddle of tears. Sweet child needs to be loved differently or she'd be an absolute wreck all the time. My relationship with each child is different, so the way that we feel and express our love is different as well.

Because I had different starts with them, I have a different love story with each of them. I connect with them differently because [guess what?!] they're different people. I show them my affection differently, and had to learn how to communicate that to each of them in ways that they wanted to receive it. And they each love me differently, in their own ways. But I'm the same mom to all of them. 

So, if we can be real with each other, I think we could admit that we all LOVE differently. We love deeply, wholly, as fully as we know how, without reservation, and with all of our hearts... but it doesn't always feel or look the same. That's the thing about love, though. To love, truly love, you have to be all in, but that doesn't mean that things feel the same with every person you go all in for. When I met my hubby I didn't love him like I do today. I grow more in love with him as I learn more about who he is and see more of who he's becoming. I loved each of my kids from the moments they were born, but OH how my love for them has grown! 

Just when you think your heart might BURST from the immensity of the love you feel for these people, it just gets bigger and deeper and wider and fuller and heavier and more and more and more. 
And so it is with this sweet, brown, little baby. 

Someone handed me a stranger's baby. 
I loved her from the moment she was placed in my arms
... but I love her more, and differently, and more uniquely, and deeper as she grows. As we grow together.

I didn't have the usual 9 months of loving her before I met her. Feeling those kicks. Hearing her heartbeat. Choosing her name. Knowing that she would have a certain combination of my familiar features and my handsome man's features. I didn't get that. Someone handed me a stranger's baby. 

Every adoptive parent I know says that things feel different when adoptions are finalized. Not because they had guarded hearts, or didn't want to love fully while they were fostering, but because it's reality. To feel like she's mine, not just like I'm her mom, but like she's mine wouldn't be based in reality. It would be fantasy. She's not biologically mine. She's not legally mine. She doesn't belong to me in any kind of official way, today.  But my heart isn't guarded. I WANT to love her in every good, tender, caring way I know how. I pour into her just like I pour into my older three, but it still feels different. 

It feels different because it is different, and I don't think that's bad. I just think it's different, and different scares people. People want to hear it's the same. But, "same" isn't what we're doing here. What we're doing is different. We're chasing after Jesus through this. I'm told that the way that I love this baby is the way that I love Jesus. 
“Then [they] will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’  -Matthew 25.37-40

Who is more "the least of these" than children who have been abused, neglected, or abandoned and have no safe place to go or safe person to care for them? This isn't "the same." This is the business of God fixing broken things. Where He restores people to each other. Where He, in His unimaginable goodness, authors new endings to stories of hurting generations. He is doing hard work, and it's not "the same" as the work He's done through us and the children born to us. It's different, and it feels different, and that's okay. 

I think when Baby Girl can talk... if she's still here... she'll likely tell you that things feel different to her. We don't treat her any differently [except the skin and hair routines... it's DIFFERENT y'all!], extend or express our love any differently, care for her any differently [outside of following the rules we're bound to right now], but I bet you that her experience as a child in our family will feel different to her than to our older three. 

Friends-- you CAN love a child who's not born to you. It isn't "the same," but it's just as wonderful as loving your biological children. It's different, but amazing, and sanctifying, and grows you in ways you can't imagine. 

People want to hear that it's the same. 
But it's different. 
Different isn't bad. 
It's just different. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

"i could never do it"


This is my second post [and I'm sure not my last] about the things I hear almost daily as a foster parent. #1 on that list is "I could never do what you're doing." I understand why most people say it, but I wonder if they do-- if deep down they feel the weight of their words. Hear me-- I'm not judging. I don't do anything perfectly, and I'm an absolute mess of a person, so I'm not judging. I'm just here to offer some perspective, and to ask some hard questions from this side of the table.

Let's not be afraid of the hard, messy, uncomfortable questions. Let's look them in the eyes and try to see what they really reveal. Maybe they reveal the very answers that are quick on our lips... or maybe, when we sit and let them sink right down deep into us, we'll find that they settle on answers that aren't so simple. Let's be brave and see?

Haven't we all experienced loss or heartbreak? 

Has someone you loved died? Have you stood by a grave and felt the hollow place where that someone used to be in your life? Have you sat in a funeral service and cried tears of deep sadness, knowing that you can't call that person anymore and hear even a "hello" on the other end of the line? You can't hug them tight around the neck and inhale in the smell of peppermints, a pipe, perfume, gardening soil, or whatever it was that undoubtedly marked that special person for you. They won't see your children grow up. You have questions you wished you'd asked that will be unanswered this side of Glory. You would give quite a lot to sit with them for just one more coffee, right?

But would you give it all up because the loss is too much? All of the love? Would any of us say that the pain of loss isn't worth the joy of doing life with those we've loved? Give up the things you learned? How that person helped you grow? Would you undo the whole experience if you could, just so that one person could be a stranger to you and your heart wouldn't be scarred by the suffering of their loss?

I hope not. Because there's value in suffering. We like to think that suffering is some unimaginable evil to be avoided at all costs, because happiness is what we're after as Americans... but friends, that's a shame. That's not real living. Love is risky, and sometimes it leaves marks.

Haven't we all said goodbye to a dream or an idea we cherished?

Didn't we all once have a dream that we hoped with all of our hearts would become reality? Maybe you loved someone and thought you'd never part, only to break up and realize it never would have worked. Maybe you wanted to pursue a career only to sacrifice it because it wasn't realistic, or other things took priority. Maybe you'd built a wonderful life for yourself and it fell crumbling into the temporary bits that it was, but in your heart you'd staked forever upon it.

But, did it crush you? Are you still going? Oh, it probably left all kinds of scars and wounds, and maybe you're still healing from those times... but did it undo everything about you? You might have stopped for a time, spent time in mourning that relationship, that dream. Maybe. But you're still here.

There's value in suffering.

Not some "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" kind of pacifying notion, either. But that IN the suffering, in the depths of drippy sorrow, in the wrenching pain of heartbreak we find truth, love, encouragement, perspective, growth, and even comfort that we never would've known without it.

For me, my faith plays a huge part in my view of suffering, sadness, loss, and grief. I think Tim Keller says it wonderfully when he says:
“Christianity teaches that, contra fatalism, suffering is overwhelming; contra Buddhism, suffering is real; contra karma, suffering is often unfair; but contra secularism, suffering is meaningful. There is a purpose to it, and if faced rightly, it can drive us like a nail deep into the love of God and into more stability and spiritual power than you can imagine.”   
-Walking with God through Pain and Suffering 

So, will it hurt if Baby Girl leaves our home? Unimaginably, yes. I'm sure I'll be a mess for days, weeks, months even. I don't know how it will look... but I know it will rip up my heart if it happens.

But it won't be the first time that my heart has been hurt. And it surely won't be the last.

My faith isn't in my own ability to weather the storm should it blow our way though, because I'm absolutely weak. I'm an emotional mess even on a good day where nothing goes wrong [crying is a gift of mine, like I'm an expert]. But fortunately I have a God who I've leaned on in seasons of suffering and He's never been anything less than tender and faithful to deliver me through it all. My weakness only affirms for me that He is able to not only sustain me, but to refine and grow me through painful situations.

If you have faith too, then don't you believe that He's big enough, kind enough, loving enough, and faithful enough to enter into your grief and grow you out of it?  
If you've said, "I just couldn't do it," are you really saying, "I don't believe that The Healer could heal my wounded heart?"  
If you've said, "I just couldn't do it," are you really saying, "I don't believe that The Redeemer could redeem a broken situation?"  
If you've said, "I just couldn't do it," are you really saying, "I don't believe that The Restorer could restore me to wholeness after I've been broken?"  
If you don't have faith in God, and you've said, "I just couldn't do it," are you discounting, forgetting, or dismissing that you've endured loss, hurt, and pain before and grew through it to where you are today? 

Bottom line, folks-- We're grown ups. Adults. Bigger and stronger than these precious, vulnerable children whose lives are battlefields. Many of these kids enter into foster care with diagnoses like PTSD [post traumatic stress disorder]. You know who gets diagnosed with that? Soldiers. Men and women who are in war. Who watch people die. Who are surrounded by tragedy. Oh... also children. Children. Can you imagine? What must they have endured, suffered, seen, and felt to end up with PTSD? Children. 

You're a big person who's lived a lot of life, but chances are you haven't lived anything near what these little people have.

Here's the hardest question:
[did you think it had already been asked?]

Does protecting your grown-up heart take priority over helping vulnerable and hurting children who live right under our noses? 

Fostering isn't for everyone. I don't think everyone who says no to fostering is motivated by fear or selfishness. Truly. But, "I just couldn't handle it if they went home" can't be our #1 reason, right? Maybe fostering doesn't work for your family for a number of very real reasons, and that's okay.  

It's okay. 

But if the questions above reveal that your hesitation is, at its core, just fear of a potentially broken heart, afraid of saying goodbye when we all say goodbye to those we love... maybe dig a little deeper? Maybe look those questions in the eyes and see if you might be braver and stronger than you think? These precious children are having to be far more brave & strong than any child should have to be. 

PS- if you're afraid you might not be able to love a stranger's child... stay tuned. That's a post for another day.

Friday, November 21, 2014

they're not lucky

"She's so lucky to be with you!"

"She's blessed to be in your family."

"That's one lucky baby."

Every one of those phrases, and many more like them, were said to James and myself when we welcomed Baby Girl into our home. People have great intentions. What I think they mean when they say these things, if I can be so bold as to decode their words to reflect what I'm assuming are their thoughts, is something more like:

"You have a great family, and I'm sure she'll be safe & well-loved with you all."

But every time someone says one of these well-wishing, congratulatory phrases my heart cringes because of the words.

Children in foster care are far from "lucky." 

Are they lucky that their moms and dads couldn't or wouldn't care for them properly? Are they lucky to come from generational cycles of abuse or slavery to addictions? Are they lucky that they have been ripped away from their loved ones [however many bad choices their parents make, they are still their parents, and children love their parents]? Are they lucky to have had their worlds turned upside down by a government agency that they don't understand? Are they lucky to be dropped off at a stranger's house, by a different stranger, where they are told they will live now for an indeterminate amount of time?

They're not.

Foster children really don't feel lucky, or blessed, or even better off to be shuffled into even the best of foster homes.

They feel small.
Without control or voice.
Out of place.
Like they're forced to live with strangers.... because they ARE.

We know that these situations are safer, healthier places-- but they don't. Being fed a vegetable for the first time in their lives might be horrific and awful for them. Sleeping in a bed ALONE [which is a CPS requirement] might feel lonely and terrifying for children who normally sleep in a bed with their parents. Your dog might scare the dickens out of a child who grew up in a home without one.

It's foreign. It's traumatic. It's uncomfortable. It's not their choice.

It wasn't too frustrating to hear this first time through though, because this baby doesn't know any better. I wasn't angry or upset that people said it, because I didn't have to be.... this time. Baby Girl came to our home straight from a hospital, in one of the heavy, striped, ubiquitous swaddling blankets we all know so well, with little plastic bracelets still on her ankles. She never really knew much besides us, and she was too young to register the words being said around her.

I praise God that she was spared from the experiences that her biological siblings endured before they were removed and her family was offered help. Coming to our home probably wasn't much different than what all babies experience when they leave the hospital and head home for the first time. She was sleepy, strapped in a car seat, likely told goodbye by her young Mama who bent her sore-from-having-a-baby body over her to give her one last kiss, then she later awoke in our home to the sounds of paperwork shuffling and the blurry figure of a bearded white guy changing her diaper on our kitchen table at 2:30am.

So really, the words weren't wounding for us or for her. But they did make me want to rant a little cringe.

If you greet or try to encourage a foster or adoptive family in the future, especially if the child is present, please choose different words. Don't say they're "lucky" or "blessed." They're not.
Children whose parents love and care for them by making healthy, responsible, and safe choices are lucky and blessed. 
Foster children are smack dab in the middle of a world of brokenness and hurt. Instead, ask the foster parents how you can help. Welcome the child with a smile, learn his or her name, pray for that child, and think about how this strange new life must feel to them.

For now, we're the lucky ones. The blessed ones. Lucky and blessed to get to squeeze and love this juicy little baby for today.

we're foster parents

** written June 27th, 2014 **

Last February James and I began the process of becoming licensed foster parents. It's something we'd talked about since before we were married, I worked with a foster/adopt ministry for just over 4yrs, and it actually wasn't the first stroll we'd taken down the path of getting licensed [but that's another story for another day].

After a lot of classes, paperwork, appointments, childproofing, and otherwise prepping our hearts and home, we did our home study. After doing our home study there were a few more things to fill out and a few more changes to make to our home.... then we waited.

Today we got the call from our agency, Covenant Kids, and we were told that we are officially foster parents now in the state of Texas. It's been months of work, and classes, and babysitters, and nerves, and prayers, and it all culminated in one really uneventful moment on the phone. I at least felt like there should have been a balloon drop, or some confetti.

I was immediately relieved [you're basically waiting to get a pass/fail on your life as parents, so it's a little unsettling], and filled with hope and joy. Something we've prayed about, worked hard to accomplish, and felt called to do was finally happening!

Then it hit me. I'm a horrible person. I mean, I'm over here partying in my heart because I was just told that I'm a foster parent... but the only reason anyone is ever a foster parent is because of tragedy. This isn't the Dickensian era of orphans anymore. This isn't that both parents contracted some form of influenza and died, and there are no living relatives, and the kids just need parents now, but they've otherwise been well loved and cared for until then.

In all likelihood, these kids technically have parents. Their parents are statistically likely to be enslaved by some illegal or abused substance, have a criminal record, and possibly even have been in foster or kinship care at some point in their own childhoods. These are orphans, but their parents are quite alive, and usually quite aware of their existence.

We live in a time of horribly broken families, and the parents of these children are broken as well. They are hurting, trapped, undervalued, addicted, depressed, unnoticed, marginalized... without help. Children shouldn't suffer the consequences of their parents' poor choices, so the State intervenes and places them in safe homes, with stable families, until a safe place is found or created for them with their biological families, or until those options have been exhausted and they are placed for adoption.

We shouldn't HAVE to do this. We shouldn't BE foster parents. Those children should never be put in those positions to begin with. Those parents should never be in those positions. People should all be loved and valued, cherished and cared for, encouraged, helped and uplifted, supported and understood, nurtured and guarded, protected and guided.

All people.


Every. Single. Human.

Today, I'm excited to officially be called a foster parent, but devastated by the very necessity of the role.  The dichotomy of emotions isn't something I think I can really convey.

I can't imagine how my heart will both break and soar when we welcome a child into our home. Today we begin to pray for that child, whoever he or she might be. Pray with us?

Monday, October 17, 2011

if you don't have anything nice to say...

I used to really struggle with what I refer to as "word vomiting." I actually used to be proud of how I always said what I thought and believed. Now, that isn't to say that now I say things that I don't believe... because that's called lying and a lack of integrity, but I don't "word vomit" quite like I used to. I realize that it's a deeply ingrained part of my nature and I'm still a pretty forward and transparent person, but I also recognize that I was awful for ever being proud of that part of my nature. That part of my nature is often hurtful, or insulting, or even simply discouraging.

We've all heard it:

If you don't have anything nice to say,
don't say anything at all.

I began there [as an adult, because apparently I didn't pay close enough attention during Bambi as a child], but I think I've found that it's not enough.

People aren't stupid. Yes, we should all exercise self-control, but when someone tells you they've decided to name their child "Herbert Magellan III" and all you respond with is silence because you don't want to say something rude.... it's awkward and it clearly communicates to that [eccentric] parent that you don't have anything nice to say and you are doing your best to literally bite your tongue despite the vision of the future you're seeing in your head of sweet little Herbie the Third getting shoved into a locker and having his lunch money stolen.

So, what should we say? Well, we shouldn't lie. That's bad. But, can't we just not be awkward and FAKE nice? Can't we be REAL nice? Maybe we simply try to understand the other person better. Maybe they don't need our approval or opinions, but need us to care. So, maybe we say, "Those are different names than most people choose, what led you to pick them?" Maybe they'll tell all about their great-granddad who left some incredible legacy and they want to honor his memory and preserve that story by passing on his name. BAM. Right there, you've got something nice to say now. Something like, "Oh, wow! He sounds like he was an incredible man, that's a great namesakes for your baby!"

Maybe someone you know gets a tattoo that looks like a Lisa Frank sticker. You don't have to say that you like their tattoo, but you can still be nice. "You toughed your way through getting a tattoo!? You're a stud!" See... you thought it'd be a girl, huh? Maybe not. Maybe we also need to work on being presumptuous? Or something like, "Man, they really captured the vividness of the spectrum of that rainbow." Either way, maybe that friend is waffling now in the wake of the decision to get that rainbow and kitten tattooed forever upon flesh and an encouraging word from you might be uplifting, but even an awkward silence can be discouraging.

When we actually care about people... who they are, what they're like, how they work... being nice can be much easier!

Now, we've all heard this one too:

So in everything, do to others as you'd have them do to you...

This takes us a step farther. We can't just not be rude... we need to be nice. Encouraging. Loving. Caring. Honestly interested. Uplifting.

So, let's quit just biting our tongues awkwardly and actually become people who have nice things to say. Let's quit rolling our eyes when people aren't looking [or when they are] and become people who are genuinely interested in others. Let's quit thinking we know what people are saying and actually listen to them... and when we don't understand... make an effort to instead of brushing them off.

Let's be spirit filled and let what our mouths speak
be the overflow of our hearts.

Do we get that? If we have nastiness in our hearts then we'll have to be biting our tongues because we won't have nice things to say. If we are filled with love, and joy, and peace, and kindness, and gentleness, and goodness then that's what will naturally flow out of our mouths and this struggle to not "word vomit" [or awkwardly bite our tongues] will become MUCH easier.

I say this recognizing that there are some people and some situations in which truth needs to be upheld and it won't feel good, or situations in which criticism can be good, like a teacher grading a paper... but generally, c'mon. I'm working on this... or rather it's being worked on in me... and I'm ashamed of not just my behavior and words in the past but my heart, too. Will you stop just not being rude with me?

Monday, September 26, 2011

what's mine is yours, and what's yours is yours

When O was just a bitty baby, we were spending time with some good friends and my eyes were opened to parenting gold. My friend's little boy didn't want to share his cozy-coupe [which, for the record, was pretty awesome and painted like a police car] with his friend. He was struggling, and seriously distressed at the thought of letting another kid, even his good friend, have complete control of something that was so precious to him. His Momma stopped him, and simply asked, "Hey Buddy, who does that car belong to?" He hesitated a bit, looked up with his killer super-sad-eyes, and said,

"It belongs to God."

His Momma said, "That's right. If it belongs to God, then why do you have it?" He blinked his ridiculously long eyelashes a couple times and softly said,

"Because He's chosen to bless me with it."

His Momma said, "That's right. And what does that mean that you can do with it?" He twisted the toe of his shoe in the dirt and said, "Bless others as God has blessed me."

His Momma said, "That's right. So what are you going to choose to do right now?" He said,

"I'm going to bless my friend by sharing,
like God has shared with me."

BAM. That kid has a more mature perspective already [at the ripe old age of 4] than most adults I know. I resolved then and there to impart the same wisdom to my kids as best as I could.

Now, I want my kids to grasp that truth because it'll make them better people, and they'll be nicer and selfless and all of those great things... but more than that, WAY more than that, I want them to grasp that truth so that as they grow up and hopefully choose to be in relationship with the Lord, they won't struggle so much with idols as most of us do.

When we grow up understanding that nothing is truly ours, we don't cling to "our" things like that kitten in that motivational [or is it?] poster who's dangling from that rope. We can give, and let go, freely.

Right now James and I are studying the book of Jeremiah with our homegroup. Over and over again, we see God saving the Israelites, creating opportunities for relationship with them, and being rejected by them and replaced with idols. Our group leader, keeps asking us, "What are your idols?" What are we clinging to, relying on, replacing God with, and upholding as more important than Him?

James and I have always understood that what's ours isn't ours. Our money, our home, even our kids. It's not always fun to think about, but when I remember God's promises, and His goodness, I'm assured that He can do much more, and much better things, with "my" things, kids, money than I can. I rest in that.


I never considered my time. It's like a newfound dimension for me in terms of what isn't mine. I've always [for the past 10 years] understood that my every breath, each day, my life in general was His and not mine... but somehow that didn't translate into my every moment. It hit me like a brick [I'm assuming here because I've never really been hit with a brick].

Time. Is. An. Idol.

God isn't limited by time. It's something that we deal with that He just doesn't. He works within time, He reaches into it, it's all His... but it's a created thing that He isn't bound by. He numbered my days before I existed [psalm 139.16 & psalm 39]. My time isn't mine. Just like our money, our things, our kids, our bodies. Every moment I have belongs to Him and, how little attention I pay to how He might want me to use it! I do what I want, consider my time to be mine, and am generally frustrated when it gets "taken" from me.

Spending three hours on the phone two weeks ago with AT&T trying to get our internet turned back on, and our account set right was frustrating. Waiting for my pitiful PC to do it's job compared to my Mac is like torture. Not getting to spend time with my husband because of his work, school, etc. feels like robbery.

The hard truth is though, I'm the robber.

Truly abiding in the Lord, being in His presence every moment, is what He asks us to do with our time. How much less frustrated would I be if I quit viewing time as mine, and instead saw it as God's? Would being put on hold be frustrating? Would waiting an hour at the doctor's office really matter? Would sitting through a red light twice make my blood pressure rise? Those moments aren't mine, but are a gift to me and a responsibility I'm entrusted to handle with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control [which means NOT cursing at my pitifully slow PC or throwing it at the wall].

Truly abiding in the Lord, sitting in, loving His presence every moment, is what He asks us to do with our time. When we do that, He guides our steps and makes our time...His time... count.

Monday, September 19, 2011

AT&T doesn't service the afterlife

Sometimes I sit down after putting my kids in their beds for nap, and I just sit. It's incredible. You people with hobbies, and out-of-the-home jobs, and regular uninterrupted bathroom breaks probably think that sounds crazy... but I sit.

Sometimes I pray. Sometimes I doze for a few. Sometimes I make lists in my head. Sometimes something monumental hits me and it hijacks my peaceful sitting. Today was one of those days.

I looked around at the pictures of my family and I was both comforted and terrified at the same time. I saw the wonderful, magazine-like, unrealistically beautiful photos of my kids and my husband and myself that are plastered all over my home thanks to Matt & Ivy Photography [who we totally lucked out in befriending before they were the best photographers ever in the whole world].

[[see? they're the best.]]

It made me grateful for what I've been blessed with, and made me regret how much I'm letting slide. I'm not talking about birthday parties, or zoo trips, or even general responsibilities. I can let that stuff slide without a second thought... which probably isn't a good thing. I'm talking about memories.

Not a day goes by that I don't miss my mom. I lost her to cancer when I was 14. Being a mom has made me miss my mom on a whole new level. I get the urge to call her. Call her. She's dead. AT&T doesn't service that area of reality. I want to show her outfits I'm working on for my kids. I want to ask her how she felt when I did the things my kids do now.

[[my mom holding a screaming me at my christening]]

The good thing is, my missing her has made me determined to be more intentional about a lot of things for my kids. The thought of losing my kids is just as terrifying for me as I'm sure it is for any mom, but I'm gonna bet the idea of having to leave my kids behind is very different for me than it is for you who didn't lose your parents until you were adults, or those who still have them [call them... now. stop reading this and tell them you love them, even if it's hard because they're crummy parents or something. ask a question you've never asked them before. ask for a new photo of them. do it now and thank me later.]. I'm afraid to leave my kids, not just because I'll miss out on their lives, but because I know how they'll miss me being in theirs. So, I'm determined to do some things that take a little extra work. Things like...

  • take pictures of myself -even when I look awful...
[[like this one taken right after the first time Eliza took a shower instead of a bath.
I'm not doing myself any favors here, but she's so excited!]]
  • be IN our home videos [not always behind the camera]
  • not be afraid to talk when I'm holding the video camera even though it's loud and awkward [I miss my mom's voice and have one home video where she speaks for like 3.7 seconds]
  • back up photos and videos and store them outside of the house [safety deposit box, aunt-so-in-so's house, etc.]
  • talk to my kids about what I think, believe, value, etc. so they know and don't wonder [I don't know much about what my mom really believed about a lot of things, or how she felt about certain things because we just never went there together when I was young]
  • say things to them over and over that they'll remember came from me
  • make things for them [we all keep our kids' flimsy mother's day presents to us, handprints, etc. but do we need them? it's less likely that those things will be around longer than them than it is that I'll be around longer than my gifts to them-- read that again if it didn't sink in]
  • write down things about them, and experiences they'll forget [not a baby book of their weight, words, etc. but more like how I felt about them at times. what I wanted for them. where their nicknames can from, even awkward things like how long I nursed each of them because they may want to know some day]
Really, I think I'm doing a pretty poor job of all of those things, but I know that even the littlest bit of them will bring loads of comfort, answers, peace, etc. in the event that I'm not an old lady who gets to be a doting Gran someday.

Have you felt that loss? Has it sparked something in you? How are you leaving yourself behind for your family?