At the Intersection of Faith and Fury {Light of the World}

I tucked our daughter into bed last night, paused for a moment, and then crawled in bed with her.  I curled my body around her, held on tight as her little body relaxed into sleep, enjoyed how good it felt to hold her close, and then thought about the sad events of the week.

In my hometown, a 10-year-old girl was abducted, and murdered by a teacher. There does not appear to be any connection between the child and the man who took her life.  I do not know this little girl or her family, but when something like this happens, especially close to home, it causes one to stop and consider the world in which we live, and to which our children are growing up.

As I held my daughter, tears started to well up in my eyes.  I found myself stuck at the intersection of faith and fury.  It is hard to comprehend where God is when horrible things happen.  I know He carries all of this junk of the world in His hands, and I believe He is the Redeemer of hope, but when life collides with confusion, it causes my soul to feel restless.  It pursues my anger, and catches hold of my desire for vengeance.

Sometimes, I look up to the Heavens and tell God that the view from down here is quite difficult to enjoy.  When violence and death happen, I sometimes wonder where He is.  In this spot where hope and heartbreak meet, I long for understanding.  Why, oh Lord, why did You not intervene?  Why did You allow this?  Why?  

And then, I remember that He is found at the cross-roads of love and loss.  He is near the intersection of revenge and justice.  He is our sail when the waters are rising, and land is in sight.  Our Father is the divider between misery and mercy.

As my daughter drifted her way to sleepy-town, I crept out of her room, and met my son in his bedroom.  He seemed fearful.  He asked for a flash light, and then, quietly said, “Mommy, will you lay down with me?”

I held him close while my mind continued to swirl.  I wondered,  “What kind of world am I raising my children in?  What kind of world corrupts a man’s heart to do such a heinous crime to a child?”  Once again, tears left my eyes and meandered their way to his robot-themed pillow case.  Such despair held within those tear drops; such innocence to which they soaked into.

Porch LightAfter I kissed my son goodnight, sat down at the computer and noticed that people I knew were posting pictures of their porch lights in memory of the little girl whose life came to an abrupt ending.  And then, one by one, folks from across the nation, and even other countries, showed their pictures of porch lights that were turned on.

The stark difference between the darkness that occurred with her death, and the lights that were shining caused my heart to stir a bit more, and perhaps, even soften to the hope that is found within the Light.

At the intersection of love and grief, hope and despair, anger and peace, vengeance and forgiveness, darkness and light, and faith and fury, the Savior I believe in is still found.  He is the vessel of love.  He is the carrier of hope. He is the portrait of peace.  His vengeance is great, and yet, He will always be the purest form of forgiveness.

Our mighty Redeemer is the faith to which I stand.

At the intersection of faith and fury, He is the light of this world.  

John 8:12 – When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Everyone is Lovable

Sitting around our slightly scuffed up and very used dinner table, my husband asked our son what he learned at school.  Scooping up a fork full of red beans and rice, our son said,

“We learned that everyone is lovable.”

My husband and I glanced at each other with both surprise and gratitude.  I took a bite of my cornbread, chewed as quickly as possible, and said to him,

“That is a great lesson.”

I thought about his statement throughout the night.  At what point do we start to not think this way?  When do we decide that some people are more lovable than others?  In our adult experience, why is it that we forget this lesson?  Why is it that children must teach it to us?  

As a Christian, I have found myself seeing others with blurred vision.  There are certainly people who I would never want to surround myself with, and yet, perhaps these people are the exact ones that Christ sought so desperately.

We teach our children to love without borders, to be kind without restrictions, and to give without expectation; yet, we often do not live up to the standard that we teach. And yet, it takes a simple elementary school lesson to stir my heart upon these things.

Since becoming a parent, I have felt drawn towards the refining messages and lessons learned from watching them grow up.  Our children teach us so much – just like we taught our parents, and so on.  I thank The Lord for these lessons, second chances at getting it right, and tender moments when you just know that the words coming from the lips of your child are totally meant for you.

I’ve been asked how I feel about certain political issues, social debates, and hot topics that make up our days.  If I want to live a life aligned with the heart of Christ, then, I choose to leave my answer at a place of love.  I’ve decided that nothing else matters except a heart that loves, a heart that forgives, and a heart that admits we are all in need of love.

I’m so thankful that my son walked away from school (public school, I might add), with the reminder that everyone is lovable…Everyone – rich, poor, clean, dirty, shameful, unashamed, popular, unpopular, black, white, Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, gay, straight, smart, not smart….the list goes on.

Thank you, Lord, for finding me lovable in the moments I’ve deserved it the least, the moments I’ve needed it the most, and in that incredible moment You drew a last painful breath on the Cross.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, – Galatians 5:22

I’m hungry!

Yesterday, I went with my family to a cafe inside an all-natural market so that I could eat some spicy Peruvian Chicken Soup in hopes it would clear my sinuses.  My husband had just fed the kids while I was out earlier in the day, so I decided that we could run up to the local market/cafe to get a few things, get the kids something to drink, and I could enjoy a quiet little meal.

A glass of whole milk, two lattes, one berry blue smoothie, and a cup of soup later, we were all sitting at a round table near the entrance.  It was a peaceful afternoon in the market.  People were shopping for their gluten-free, vegan, and homegrown goodies while my little brood was hanging out in the corner.

After a few moments of delightfully enjoying our outing, our peace turned to chaos.

My daughter decided that she was hungry and began to let us know.  At first, she started with a hum – loud, monotonous hum.  Next, she started a chant of sorts that went something like this,

“I’m hungry…hummmm…I’m hungry.”

At first her voice was quiet, and during this time, I reminded her that I just a bought a $5.00 smoothie (of which I could make at home much cheaper), that she needed to drink.  Again, the chant started back up, but this time it was little more escalated.

The twenty-something chic behind the cash register looked at us with concern.  I wondered, “Does she think we do not feed her?  We are at a whole-foods cafe, for heaven’s sake.  Does she think that I am the only one who eats in this family?”

During this time, I again acknowledged the barely touched smoothie sitting in front of my daughter, and reminded her that daddy had just fed her lunch before we left.  But, to no avail, my sweet child (who really needed a nap), decided to lunge towards the smoothie, and began to yell,

“I’m hungry!”

Over and over again.

My momma-like reflexes grabbed the luscious blue smoothie before her little hand could slap it down.  She threw her chair back, stood up, and began to holler about her hunger to anyone who would listen.

Here’s the deal.  I know my daughter.  I know that she was, indeed, not hungry.  I know that an order of food would have been a waste of money.  She literally just had a full lunch before we left.  She likes the idea of eating at a restaurant, even though, she seems to miss the point of eating.

In an instant, the peaceful flow of consumers looking for their locally grown veggies, organic pastas, and spices that I cannot even pronounce, all began to look at us.  I stood up next to my daughter, held her hand, and whispered in her ear, “Do you see that people are staring at you?  You are a big girl who is going to start kindergarten soon, and this is not how big girls act.  If you are still hungry, drink your smoothie.”

Silence…..“NOOOOO!”

I sat back down, guzzled-down my super spicy, tongue-burning Peruvian Chicken Soup, smiled at the staring mild-mannered lady by the cash register, handed our youngest a cup to play with, advised my oldest to drink his over-priced organic whole milk, and asked my husband to kindly escort our daughter to the van.

In a manner equivalent to a sports team, we sprang into action, he swooped her up just before she could overturn the napkin holder on the table, held her in his arms, and carried her to the van as she was wailing out.  I sat there for a minute, took one look around, and then finished off my spicy, but delicious, Peruvian Chicken soup.

I was so distracted by the irruption of our little outing that I had forgotten exactly what I went there to buy.  I walked around the market with my oldest and youngest, asked a random question about eucalyptus to some kid with wavy brown hair, debated on buying some locally grown coffee beans, and then headed out to the van to my much calmer daughter (who still had not finished off the bright blue expensive smoothie).

Today, while watching my daughter in her activities, and thinking about what had transpired yesterday, I was gently reminded that I have never been a perfect daughter.  I, too, have exclaimed, “I’m hungry!  I want more!”; even though, I have been surrounded by plenty.  I, too, have needed someone to hold my hand, and remind me of my own actions.  I, too, have had people stare and watch my actions with concern and question.

I was reminded today that the perfect thing about any of us, including our children, is that we are not perfect.  We are not perfect.  We mess up.  We embarrass ourselves, and others.  We disappoint our parents.  We worry our Heavenly Father.  We waste, we hurt, and we hunger.

We are works in progress.

Today, the Lord settled in my heart that in our imperfections there is the hope of something new.

Our little outing to the all-natural market turned out to be a test in patience for my husband and I.  It also served as a reminder that the most important task I have, and will ever have, is found in the raising of my children.  Nothing remotely compares to it.  And, in this task, I have the responsibility of influencing their walk with the Lord.

Just like I am not, and never will be, a perfect child, I should never expect my children to be.  There will still be moments when I will scream, “I’m hungry, Lord.  I’m hungry!”  

And, as He has always done, He will calmly take a hold of my hand, remind me of who I am in Him, carry me as I wail, and still see my imperfect beauty.

“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.” Matthew 5:6 The Message Bible

Happy Valentine’s Day

Hi friend,

Are you sitting here on Valentine’s Day staring at your computer screen and wondering if you will ever be blessed with the love of a child? Are you? Valentine’s is meant for lovers, but do you wonder if you will ever be able to make a Valentine’s box for a child, send pink roses to a daughter, or even, make cookies that spell out your children’s names? I wondered that too. I wondered if I could pass along the traditions of my own childhood that my mother lovingly passed on to me. 

Dear friend,

If you are sitting here at the computer wondering about your future Valentine’s Day, I hope you don’t give up. I hope you visualize a future staying up late so that the Valentine boxes are just perfect, rushing through the doors at school so that you make it to the Valentine party on time, and sharing in way too much chocolate with the little ones in your home. 

If you are sitting here staring at the computer, I want you to know something. The Lord is not through with you. He will not be through with you until you draw your last breath. YOU have captured His heart. YOU are His Love. YOU are the sweetest thing to Him. YOU are His child. 

Dear friend, Happy Valentine’s Day, and, Happy Future Valentine’s Day.

Romans 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Ten Years from Now {a letter for my daughter}

My daughter, I look at you and wonder where the years have gone.  You are getting taller, losing your baby fat, and seeking out things that intrigue you.  Ten years from now, I hope you will stumble upon this rambling of mine.

As a 5-year-old, you are bright-eyed, strong-willed, and quite the little drama queen. You organize my closet like no one’s business.  You worry about whether or not the pets have enough to eat, and you are already slightly obsessed with teenage musicals.

You push my buttons, and seem to enjoy it.  Yet, at the same time, you make my heart melt when I see your sweetness arise.  I watch you as you watch me.  You mimic my every move, and ask often, “When will I be old enough to….?” IMG_2616

My daughter, as we commemorate your adoption anniversary, I want you to know a few things.

Ten years from now when you are 15-years-old, life will look a little different from now. You will be sitting in a high school classroom possibly wondering if you are good enough.  You might look in the mirror and only see imperfections. You might even be hard on yourself, find things you want to correct, and maybe even wish you looked different. I did, too.

My daughter, ten years from now, I want you know that you are beautiful.  

Your beauty is beyond compare as there is no other girl in the world just like you. Your eyes, your hair, your skin tone, and your body are exactly what they are supposed to be.  They are pieces of the magnificent puzzle that make up who you are.

Your beauty is more than skin deep though.  Your beauty comes from the inner part of who you are.  It comes from that place where your deepest whispers of the heart are heard.  It bristles at your ideas.  It captures your dreams, and it carves out a spot in the universe just for you.

Ten years from now, your 15-year-old self is a person I cannot wait to meet.  I look forward to seeing where she wants to go in life, what captures her heart, and where her hidden talents are found.  I anticipate watching her try on fancy dresses for school dances, and listening to her giggle at the sound of a boy calling on the phone.

Ten years from now, please tell me if I am hovering just a bit too much.  Please let me know that I might just be getting on your nerves.  I already consider the trials you might face in high school, and wonder if you will see yourself with the same set of lenses that I see you.

I do not want you to feel the sting of rejection, or the intimidating glare of another girl at school.  I know though, that I cannot shield you from these things.  I can just build you up to be the confident girl that you deserve to be.

If someone tells you that you are not good enough, please say, “I am better.”  If someone tells you that you are not welcome, please tell him or her, “I’m sorry that you are missing out on a friendship.”

If you hear that you are too skinny or too fat, remind yourself that true beauty is not seen with the eyes. True beauty is experienced in those moments of tenderness between two friends.  It is felt when you are doing exactly what your heart wants you to do.  It hovers when you are showing kindness to those who need it the most.

True beauty does not have a physical image.

As I think about our adoption anniversary and scroll through the many pictures of you we have saved on our computer, I gaze with awe at how amazing you are.  You are exactly who you were created to be, and, we are exactly the family we were created to be.

I will never be able to replace your birth mother.  Your daddy will never be able to replace your birth father, but know this, you are deeply loved.  You were chosen.

Today, tomorrow, and ten years from now, I will always defend you, and stand with you.  I will always celebrate the day you came to me, and the moment I held you for the first time.

Ten years from now, I want you to know that…

You are beautiful.  You are hope fulfilled.  You are so worth it.  You are loved.

 

What’s up, beautiful?

What’s up, beautiful? When is the last time you heard that? 

I know first-hand that having a hysterectomy, and subsequent infertility/barrenness, can cause feelings of inadequacy, confusion, a feeling of being less of a female, and well, downright ugly. These thoughts are not the truth. Do your best to not allow these thoughts to make up your own sense of self.

That inner self that relies on the Lord despite the troubling heartbreak of infertility, is beautiful. Your inner self that still sees the beauty of a sunrise; although, the sun has set on your life’s plan, is beautiful. Your inner self that chooses to see a light at the end of the tunnel, and who clings onto the hope of a day without barrenness, is beautiful.

So, what’s up, beautiful?

1 Peter 3:3-4 New International Version (NIV)
Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.

Shut the Door!

DoorLately, I have found myself praying fervently for open doors in my life.  I have asked for open doors that will lead to both personal and professional opportunities.  What I have failed to do is pray for closed doors.  Yes, I said closed doors.

Maybe prayer should go something like this,

God, shut that green door of envy that I’ve been walking through lately.” 

“Shut that door of my temper that tends to crack open on those I love the most.” 

“Shut the door to my yearning for things to go my way, and not Yours.”  

“Close that far too comfortable door that is always ajar to the feelings of resentment towards the actions of others…even towards Your children.”  

“Father, shut that door that leads to impulsive decisions that end up causing regret.”

“God, close the ugly door of hypocrisy that is present in my life.” 

“Hammer that door of self-doubt shut.  Seal my worries, and sense of inferiority away.”  

“God, shut the door that opens up old wounds once healed over.  Close that door to my own vision of my imperfections.”

“God, please seal that door that leads me down a road in which I lean less on my faith in You.”  

“Loving Father, please, forever close that door where the pain of the past keeps creeping through.  You, Father, You are the healer of my past, present, and future. You are more than able to put away the things that tear me down.”

“Close that door that allows my own insecurities to persuade me into believing that I do not deserve anything better; especially forgiveness.”

I wonder how my life, and maybe yours, would be changed if we all started praying for shut doors, instead of open ones.  An unbeliever might think that Christians are supposed to be perfect, or that our lives are easy, or naive, or whatever one might think.  The truth is that all of us, Christian or not, struggle with choosing to walk into situations that negatively affect our lives.

As a Christian, I still struggle with self-doubt, a quick temper, envy, resentment, selfishness, regret, hypocrisy, painful memories, lack of true reliance on the One I believe in, and insecurities.  If I were to tell anyone otherwise, it would not be the truth.

So, my hope is that instead of praying for open doors to which my will would happen, I will start praying for the closing of doors that distract me from the faith to which I stand on.  How about you?

Psalm 62:6-7 (The Message) – He’s solid rock under my feet, breathing room for my soul, An impregnable castle: I’m set for life.7 My help and glory are in God.