Just a Handful of Rocks {love pursues love}

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Just a handful of rocks and an old ring, right?  Well, not quite.

The week before Christmas, my daughter withdrew $100 out of her savings account so that she could purchase items for the homeless in our community.  You can read about her experience with this by clicking on this link: 7BillionOnes

Yesterday, I received a message that the gentleman my daughter met at a homeless camp had a gift for her.  He told our mutual friend, a photographer, that he wanted her to pick out some things from his collection as a thank you for her gifts to him.

I told my daughter that we had an errand to run and needed to stop by the studio before she went to gymnastics.  She was excited to go back to the photography studio as she just loves walking around it and looking at the incredible images on the walls.

When we got there, our friend took her to the office and told her that “D” had picked a few special pieces out for her and wanted her to look through the trinkets and rocks.  She was thrilled.

As I watched her little fingers meander their way through the bag, I couldn’t help but feel so humbled by it.  With an impending winter storm heading our way, and a recent event that affected “D”, his generosity and appreciation for what my daughter did for him a few weeks ago pressed right into my heart.

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To some, this handful of rocks and an old ring might seem like junk.

To my daughter, they are priceless. 

To some, this handful of rocks and an old ring might seem trivial.

To my daughter, they are meaningful.

To me, they are a powerful reminder that giving breeds giving. 

LOVE PURSUES LOVE.

Let us all stop minimizing what acts of kindness can do for each other.  I know my daughter’s experience interacting with our homeless friends has changed her and, oh my, it has changed me.

Friends, would you say a prayer tonight for “D” and all of our homeless friends?  Would you consider giving what you can to help change the life of a person who is homeless?

I promise your life will be changed because of it.

The Gift of Brokenness {His grace is sufficient}

It seems I’ve been bombarded by the difficulties of life these past few days.  Friends struggling with illnesses, Christians turning against each other, children suffering through sexual abuse, and children being passed around through the foster care system, all seem to be on the forefront of battles within my own small piece of this world to which I dwell.

I have worried with concern about what is going on in other parts of the world.  Although feeling sheltered and stowed away here in the middle of America, I still wonder if…when…the life that we know of might be taken off-course by the wavering pains of the world.

There are those moments when you say to God, “When is enough going to be enough?!?” 

“How can we ever expect to fix a broken world when it is full of broken people?” 

There are times when I wonder why in the world has the Lord not claimed His world back.  “How many more children have to suffer at the hands of their abusers…their soul-drainers?  How many more parents have to watch their babies…their own flesh-wrapped part of their hearts…lying in a sick-bed?”

 “Lord, how many wars are too many before You intervene?  And…why…why  don’t You intervene?”

Even in my own fears of raising babes in this world, succumbing to the frailty of my own mortal coil, and witnessing again and again the vileness of abuse and neglect of God’s children, I still find myself in total awe at the moments when He declares Himself.

Even in those times when my heart is breaking, I know that in my sorrow I am drawn even closer to what breaks our Father’s heart.  I know that when you, my friend, despair over the ways of this world and the battles of your own flesh, you are also despairing over what breaks our Father’s heart.

Lately, I’ve seen many statements that declare “Strong Is the New Skinny”.

Do you want to know what is really strong, my friend?  Do you want to know what declares true strength?

In our most vulnerable moments when we cry out to God, put ourselves right in the center of someone else’s pain, or experience those times when we feel our own weaknesses, we are the strongest we have ever been.

The gift of brokenness is one that holds great beauty, courage, and strength. 

  • It is felt when you are whole in your faith in our Divine Father.
  • It is witnessed when you sing songs of joy even though your body is failing.
  • It is heard in your prayers for those who persecute you.

And, it is settled in your own broken heart…the one that causes your tears to flow for others, your actions to fill love in the spaces left empty, and your willpower to put one foot in front of the other for the good of another soul…another child of God.

This morning, I got up early, went to the gym to work-out, and saw the most beautiful sunrise on my way home.  It was bright, colorful, and simply breath-taking.

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I took a picture of it because it was worthy of being shared.  I don’t know about you, but when I witness sunrises like this one this morning, I am profoundly humbled by the promise of our Lord.

I am inspired to keep going because day after day, the Lord continues to paint skies like the one is this picture.

Despite our frailty, weaknesses, selfish desires, and failures to love the way He does, God still shows up each day and declares Himself to the world.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

 Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Motherhood is a Gift

Over the past year or so, we have played the “I’m sorry” and “I’m thankful” game around the dinner table at meal times.  We take turns telling what we are thankful for, and apologizing for the things we have done during the week that might have hurt someone’s feelings, or broken a rule.

The great thing about this game is that we get to hear our children admit wrongdoings, even when we were not fully aware of them.  It is also nice to hear them say they are sorry.  Perhaps, though, the best lesson of all is that we can fully admit when we have done something wrong, made a bad choice, or have not been as patient as we should have been with our children, and each other.  This lesson is valuable for our children, and more importantly, it is humbling for us.

Recently during dinner, my daughter started the game, and we all went around and said sorry for the little things we did during the week that may have hurt each other’s feelings, or perhaps, caused more stress on our family unit.  After this, we went around and spoke about the things we were thankful for.

My son: “I’m thankful for my family and the food we have.”

The baby:  “…..some nodding of his head….” 

My husband: “I’m thankful that we have each other.”

Myself:  “I’m thankful that in this cold weather, we have a warm home to live in.”

My daughter:  “I’m thankful….(starts to tear up)….I’m thankful for mommy and daddy.” 

DtrI took another turn and said, “I’m thankful for having a daughter, and for this moment right now.” 

After I said this, my daughter took off running to her bedroom.  I left her alone in her room for a minute, and then decided to check on her.  I found her lying in her bed with tears rolling down her cheeks.

“What’s wrong, sweetie?”  I asked.

“A long, long time ago when I was in my birth mom’s belly, I heard (our son) tell you that he will miss you if you die.”

As the tears came barreling down her cheeks, she said, “I will miss you if you die, and you are the best parents ever.”

My daughter has talked often about knowing us while in her birth mother’s belly.  I cannot even begin to comprehend what runs through an adopted child’s mind, or heart.

On the one side, it gives me great joy to think about the opportunities in life that are present and available when children are placed into families whose deepest desires are to bring in a child to love wholly, celebrate, and give life-changing open doors to.  On the other, and with a twinge of protective sadness, I think about just how much an adopted child wonders about their birth families, what life would have been like in their families of origin, and if they were loved by birth parents.

I do not have all of the answers, and will never have them.  Like most parents, I want the best for my children.  I want my children to be understood, nurtured by those around them, to passionately seek out the things in life that give laughter to their souls, and to be able to look back on life with a full measure of contentment.

As an adoptive parent, though, I recognize that there might always be an unfulfilled space where questions linger and thoughts go unrecognized.  In other words, I know that there could be an empty place in my children’s lives that can only be filled with answers to which I may never be able to give them.

Adoptive parenting is both joy and loss, and sweetness and sorrow at the same time.

I have seen that some people who are parents through adoption have revolted (if you want to call it that) against the word adoptive being in front of the word parent.  I get it.  To my children, I am not “Adoptive Mommy”,  I’m “Mommy”.  I am not “Adoptive Tear-Drier, Adoptive Cheerleader, and Adoptive Caretaker.”  I am tear-drier, cheerleader, and caretaker.

But, the truth is, my babies grew in another’s body.  The fact that they grew in another mother’s womb, and are being cared for by me as their mother, does not fall lightly in my thoughts.

I think it is a privilege and incredible honor to call myself an adoptive mother.

 It is not a subtitle, or secondary description.

Being an adoptive mother is profound.

It is the unique experience that lends one’s heart to the belief that our children were chosen for us, and we were chosen for them.

Today, while thinking about my children, I whispered this to the Lord,

“Thank you for these moments right now of being a parent.”

Motherhood is a gift.

Adoptive motherhood is even more of a gift, and for that, I am thankful.

Armor of Light

I have to be honest.  I’ve had a bit of writer’s block lately.  I’ve started blog posts, deleted them, started again, and then stepped away from my computer wondering if a creative idea, emotive words, or inspiration will ever enter my mind again.

How could I write about anything else?  What is more important, in our current affairs of the world, than the way we treat children?  I simply could not find the words to write.  My thoughts took me to a place of guilt for even thinking about writing about other issues that seem less important.

It seems hard to write after what has happened in my community.  The smallish,seemingly safe city that I grew up in entered into a darkness these past few weeks.  The shocking abduction of a young girl in front of her neighbors, the search for her, and the grim discovery of her body seemed to freeze our little spot on this spinning, blue planet, in grief.

It is not that my hometown is free of violence or despair.  Our growing city of just over 162,000 has seen its share of events that mimic the often depraved nature of our culture. Child abuse statistics are some of the highest in the state.  Drugs have invaded the city.  Domestic violence shelters seem to be full most of the time.  And, there are plenty of children and families who go to bed hungry each night.

However, this act of violence was quite different from the ones we’ve experienced. This little girl became all of our daughters, and our sons.  Because of her death, we all have hovered a little more, kept a watchful eye, and hugged an extra time or two.  We have all clung onto the stark reminder that our children are the most valuable gifts we have ever been given.

A little over a week ago, my city held a candlelight vigil for the girl and her family. Over 10,000 people showed up; 10,000 lights lit up our little corner of the world.

Candlelight Vigil
Photo Credit: Cory Stewart

Ten thousand personal moments of silence.  Ten thousands prayers said, and songs sang.  Thousands of tears shed.  Thousands of whispers of love, grief, and hope, found their way to Heaven that night.

Faith is the strength by which a shattered world shall emerge into the light.   -Helen Keller

When I first saw this image, my breath escaped me.  In this image I see sadness, loss, and anger.  What I also see is light, love, strength, and hope.  I see unity.  I see a community raising their candles and speaking out loud that children matter.

I see confirmation that kindness still exists, and that one of the most powerful God-given emotions is that of love.  

I see light suffocating darkness.

I see the armor of light.

The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. – Romans 13:12

The Blessing Jar {Part 2}

A little less than a year ago, we started a family project called “The Blessing Jar”. The idea behind it came from my oldest son’s desire to give change to people without money.  We decided to get a jar, start collecting change, and then give it away.  You can read my initial post about this by clicking on this link, The Blessing Jar.

Throughout the year, I didn’t put any pressure on the kids to donate to the jar.  If they found, earned, or were given money, I asked them, “What do you want to do with it?”  I was surprised how often they wanted to throw it in the jar.

Blessing 1Last weekend, we decided it was time to take our jar of change, get it counted up, and donate it.  The jar was not full, but it seemed appropriate for us to do something like this the weekend before we celebrate Thanksgiving.

After all, our family has so much to be thankful for.

We have a warm home, food to eat, and each other.  What more could we ask for?

I started talking to my kids the week before about what to do with the money.  We talked about different options, and they both kept going back to giving money to people who do not have any food.  As a matter of fact, earlier in the week during an outing to the local mall, my daughter grabbed a handful of change and started sprinting towards the guy ringing the Salvation Army Bell.  She said, “Mommy, he’s ringing the bell.  That means he’s hungry.”  She quickly put money in the kettle.  I later explained that the young man was helping others who are hungry by ringing the bell.

We decided that the money would go to a local group called “The Gathering Tree”. This group, started by a doctor and his wife, feeds the homeless in our community, and is a very grass-roots effort with volunteers cooking the food, serving it, and offering support to those who show up.  A  friend of mine is very involved with the group, and has witnessed the heart-breaking stories of many of the souls who walk through the doors.

Thankfully, there are lots of organizations in our community that help out the homeless and down-trodden.  We decided on this group because it is solely a volunteer-based organization.  I have also heard that the volunteers do not ask questions, or judge whoever walks in needing a warm meal.  There are not any qualifying or conditional factors like a lot of programs.  They offer support and resources, and always say Grace before each meal.

Since my husband and I are both involved in social work, I understand the need for rules and policies for social programs.  At the end of the day though, there are still people who are starving, cold, and in need of companionship.  There are still people who just need a kind word, a non-judgmental look, the touch of another human, and a feeling of belonging somewhere….anywhere.  This is one of the reasons why I suggested the group to my children.

From what I have heard, they are people who simply love other people and want or need or feel compelled, whatever you want to call it, to bring a little comfort to the forgotten, desperate, or needy.

Pure. Simple. Love.

I told the kids that when we got there, they would see people who do not have homes.  They might even see children there, too.  When we walked in, we were greeted by my friend who went to get the founders of the group.  Both of my kids stood there for a while, taking it all in.  My son kept staring at all of the people huddled around eating food.

Soon, a red-headed, freckled face little boy with an over-sized coat and a little girl with a dirty face, came right up next to our family.  Both of my kids just stood there quietly.  Every once in a while, they would head into the children’s area and play with a few toys, but mostly, they stayed close to us.

The founders of the group greeted us and I explained the Blessing Jar to them.  Soon, the wife got down on my children’s level, and with tears in her eyes, graciously thanked them for the $32.00 dollars they donated.  She explained what can be done with the money, and how it can help.

Blessing Jar 2Thirty-two dollars from two little ones who had no idea the gravity of the gift they gave.

Thirty-two dollars given with the innocent hope that goodness will come out of it.

After a few tears, and hugs, we left the building and escaped back to our car and warm home.  As I was tucking my son into bed, he said, “Mom, she had a rip in her clothes, and that boy’s jacket was way too big.”  I just listened.  He then went on to ask, “What if that boy doesn’t have a mommy and daddy?  What will happen to him?”  I said, “If he didn’t have a mommy or daddy, the people there helping out would make sure that he was somewhere he would be taken care of by a mommy and daddy.”

My son thought for a moment, and then said, “Like a foster home?  Kinda like what we did for baby…?”  I said, “Yes, kind of, but that little boy does have a mommy, and the coat may be too big, but at least he has a coat.”  As he was snuggling into his warm bed, I asked him if he wanted to save money in the Blessing Jar again. He said, “Yes.”  I kissed him goodnight, and my heart swelled.

The next day as we were getting into the car, he spotted a quarter that had fallen down in-between the seats.  He quickly pointed out that it needed to go in the Blessing Jar!  Our jar is empty now with the exception of a couple of quarters the children have already added, but hopefully it will start to fill up as the year goes on.

I have learned as a parent that it does not take a lot of effort to teach children about grace, generosity, giving, and loving others. Sometimes, children can teach these things better than any adult on any given day.  We just need to stop long enough to hear their hearts speak through their actions, concerns, and musings of life.Blessing Jar3

Our little Blessing Jar has blessed us in return.

There is great joy that comes when generosity and life-lessons collide.

Indeed.

“In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” – Acts 20:35

Love that is Far from Barren

During this month of celebrating adoption, I’ve been meandering my way through pictures of my kids.  The one above happens to be one of my favorites.  It was taken by a local photographer a few years ago.

When I look at this picture, I see children whose future is wide open, and who matter more to their parents than they may ever fully realize.  I see children who found their way home.  

When I look at the image above, I don’t see barrenness.  I don’t feel desolation.  I don’t find myself speaking the “what if’s”, and “why’s”.  I don’t recall the place I used to dwell in; that wasteland of broken dreams.

I don’t see infertility.

When I set my eyes on the picture above, I know that things happen for a reason.  I feel the restoration of broken lives, the healing of scarred remains, and the mercy-filled grace that I am now living.

When I look at this image of my oldest son and daughter, I am thankful.  I am genuinely thankful for the path I walked to become their mother.  I am truly grateful for others whose hands touched our lives, and molded our family.

Ultimately, though, I am humbled by the acts of my Heavenly Father who shook me out of my barrenness, and said, “MY plan for you is better than this.  MY plan for you will unfold.  MY plan for you is one that diminishes the scars of your youth, and wipes away the tears of your adulthood.  MY plan for you is far from barren.”

When I look at the sweet image of my son and daughter, I see love.

Love fulfilled. 

Love that changed lives.

Love that intervened at just the right time.

Love that brought life into the wasteland.

Love that is far from barren.

That my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!

Psalm 30:12

Feisty and Five {Happy Birthday, Daughter}

Daughter, my sweet and feisty daughter, you turned five today.  Do you want to know something?  I always wanted a daughter.  In my vision of a future family (as limited and skeptical as that was at times), I pictured a daughter.  I imagined a little girl who was dainty, a little on the shy side, and a Princess in the making.

photo (54)Do you want to know something else?  You are not dainty, you are mighty.  You are not shy, you are feisty (although you do get embarrassed sometimes), and you once told me, “I am not a Princess” (except when it comes to your Papa).

There is not a single thread of doubt in my soul that you were meant to be my daughter.

My mighty, mysterious, smart, and beautiful daughter, I love you.

You, my girl, are a God-orchestrated, God-created, and God-filling vessel of love. You are a walking miracle.  Your value is worth more than anything, and your life is one of opportunity.

I caught you looking up to the sky one day last spring.  As big and fluffy snowflakes made their way to the ground, you looked up to the Heavens with the biggest smile, as if you and the Lord Himself were agreeing that snow in the springtime is the best thing ever.

Keep looking to the Heavens, my girl.  

Keep looking up with the hope that is found in the gracious love of God.Snow

My hope for you, little one, is that you never forget how deeply cherished you are. We love you so much, but Mommy and Daddy could never love you as deeply as your Father in Heaven does. You are His.  We are just charged with bringing you up in the crazy, mixed-up; yet, incredible world.

My mighty, mysterious, smart, and beautiful daughter, I love you.

Happy 5th Birthday, Daughter.  You are one of the most strong-willed, independent, and outspoken little girls I think I have ever known.  But, do you want to know something?  You are also loving and protective of the ones you love.  You became an instant big sister to a little one that came into our lives suddenly.  Yet, you took it all in stride.

You quickly learned that babies need lots of attention.  They cry a lot, eat a lot, and learn to giggle pretty quickly.  You have thoroughly enjoyed watching him grow, change, and become one with our family.

SisI caught you crying softly one night.  When asked why, you simply and sweetly stated, “I miss him as a baby.”  You were referring to the fact that your new little brother is walking, growing, and getting bigger right in front of your eyes.

You are wonderful big sister.

Simply wonderful.

You are a blessing to the babe who found his way to our home.

You also give away your gifts and items freely to others.  You comfort your big brother when he’s having a bad day.  You check on your Daddy when he’s not feeling so well, and you tell me that I’m beautiful.

My daughter, beauty shines from you when I witness the softness of your touch, the care you give for others, and the simple, yet sweet, acts of generosity.

Five years have gone by so quickly, and yet, I look to many more years of watching you grow into a strong, beautiful woman.  I hope you stay feisty, stay mighty, and stay yourself.  Stay the girl who prefers blue jeans and t-shirts over frilly dresses, or would rather be outside playing “camp out”, digging up bugs, and chasing her big brother around the yard.

I hope you never lose the thought that it is perfectly fine to wear a mask and cape a good majority of places that you go.BatgirlAfter all, the world could use a few superheroes.

You are a mighty, mysterious, smart, and beautiful daughter.  You are a wonderfully made daughter.  

In this month of Thanksgiving, I am thankful for you.  I am thankful for the unique little girl that you are.

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I am thankful that you are feisty, and five.

I am thankful that YOU are my daughter.  

Happy 5th birthday.  Love You, Forever.