All Just Souls

“All Just Souls” These words hit me while at the emergency room with my oldest son. A transgender woman entered the room and curled up on the chair. She sat there in physical and emotional torment. My son didn’t notice. He was too engrossed in his Ipad.

Soon, the family across from us began staring immensely at this person. “It’s a man”, I heard them whisper. Glaring again. Giggling. Whispering into each other’s ears.

She bent over in pain. My heart sunk. Soon, her name was called out. It was was a male name (meaning not a gender-neutral name). I knew the family would get a kick out of that and watched as they began all over again with the giggles, whispers, and stares. Not surprised. Sickened, though.

She came back and sat down near where I was. She was alone. Trembling. In pain. No one was there comforting here – unlike 99% of the others waiting in ER that evening. The internal battle in my mind started. “I can’t leave my son. What if she has something contagious? What can I do? What should I do? No. I’m going to mind my business…”

These thoughts coursed through me. Occasionally, I would look up and give a good glare at the family clearly enjoying their mockery. I looked again at my son. “Thank goodness he is oblivious to this.”

Before I had the courage to ask her if she needed someone to sit with, she was gone – whisked back to get the care she obviously needed. I sat there riding a wave of guilt over my lack-of-action and defiance to that inner voice that says, “Go.”

“Never again”, I thought.

My son was called back, checked out and (thankfully) able to leave the hospital that night. As we left, I thought about her. “Did anyone come up there? Is she okay? Does she have a family or anyone to support her anymore?”

For the next few days, my mind kept going back to that night at the ER. Yes, I am bothered that I didn’t get up when feeling nudged to do so. I missed an opportunity to try and love on someone who needed it. I’m also terribly troubled by the actions I witnessed.

The first moment I had with my kids actually paying attention to me (the struggle is real!), I said,

“Hey guys, you know that in life you will always be surrounded by people who look different than you, have different skin color, love differently, believe differently and make different choices, right? Well, it doesn’t matter how different a person is or if you don’t understand that person or don’t agree with their choices, what you are responsible for is always choosing to be kind. There is never, never any reason to be cruel.”

“Mom, you know I don’t act like that.” “Yeah, that is really mean.” Soon…their words in response to mine began to warm my heart.

I went on.

“Listen, guys. None of us are perfect or sinless. We have to remember that as we are sitting in judgment of others, God is watching us do that. We are being judged while we are judging others. Again, even if you don’t agree with someone, if they are different or you just don’t understand, there will never be a single reason to show cruelty or ridicule or laugh at someone – especially those who are hurting or in a bad situation. As Christians, we believe that each of us have souls. We need to start seeing each other not as people but as souls who want to be treated with kindness and understanding. We are all just souls. Does that make sense?”

“Yes, we know, Mom.”

It has been a few weeks since this occurred; yet, I keep thinking about the person…that soul….crumpled over in despair next to me.

It broke my heart – but in a good way – in a God way.

There are some who may think I’m leading my children astray by raising them as Christians but teaching them about acceptance and choosing compassion for those we don’t understand. We don’t just want to live by faith, we want to love by faith. That is the difference.

Gosh, when I visualize Jesus, I see him sitting next to those who are persecuted around us or walking right up to someone that others wouldn’t dare walk up to.

He loves those who are unloved by others. I can’t imagine believing so deeply in the love of Christ but not desiring to show that to others; to mock those who he gave his life for, to speak or act in cruelty towards the very ones he came to save.

“All Just Souls” Yes, we are. Let us always remember that.

Author’s Note: I could not leave this post without mentioning the high suicide rate in the LGBTQ community. It is absolutely heart-breaking. If you or someone you love needs helps, here is the suicide prevention hotline for the United States: (877) 565-8860 In Canada, here is the suicide prevention hotline specifically designed for the transgender community: (877) 330-6366 You are loved.

Worth It All

As November wrapped up and I was putting away our Thanksgiving decor, I thought about what an eventful month we had.  To be able to adopt a child in the month that is designated as National Adoption Month was a wonderful thing.  Recently, I was asked how I felt about adoption.  I’m not even sure I will ever find the words that truly describe how I feel about it.  My answer went something like this, “Adoption offered me the opportunity to parent my children, and in parenting, I am able to see glimpses of God’s grace and mercy.”

Maybe that is not the answer expected, or even understood, but it is one that I find myself returning to.  Of course, adoption means so many different things to me.  It has layers upon layers of meaning, but yet, I still come back to these two things:

GRACE and MERCY

Grace.  Parenting is grace in action.  It is a recipe made up of mistakes, successes, frustrations, celebrations, and growth for everyone involved.  Recently, I said to my daughter, “I’ve told you so many times not to do that.  Why are you still doing it?”  In the same breath after I said it, I felt a little jolt of the realization that I too have been told to not do things, and yet, I still do them.  Over and over.  Time after time.  Each day though, I wake up anew with the same thought that not only does my Heavenly Father love me, He also saturates my life with grace.

Mercy.  Adoption is mercy.  It is the collision of love, compassion, and the heart-felt yearning to devote one’s life to another.  It is the recognition that merciful love poured into all of our lives.  Merciful Love intervened.  It moved us to new places, and settled us into our places of belonging.  Through adoption, we are able to get a sweet taste of love that speaks, “Yes.  Yes, you.”

Our little boy with whom we adopted recently is thriving, happy, and very much-loved by all of us.  Since our son and daughter are also adopted, it was an awesome opportunity to teach them more about the process, and reasons behind it.  Throughout this experience, our children have learned that adoption, in many ways, involves sacrifice.  Our son and daughter both had to move to different rooms to accommodate for the baby. They both learned that mommy and daddy needed a little more time with the baby to meet his needs; which in turn, meant less time with them.

Big SisThey also learned that love was the motivator for helping out the baby who was in need. They knew that his birth parents were not able to take care of him, and that he needed somewhere to go.

In essence, they learned of grace and mercy.

I’m so thankful for this past year of our lives.  It has been a difficult one, but also one with enriching moments that included many valuable lessons.  Adoption has proven again that the Lord is truly faithful, especially during the times when I felt complete exhaustion and worry.BigBro

When asked my thoughts about adoption, I may continue to stumble over my words. Honestly, there are so many ways to describe it.

It is grace.  It is mercy.  It is love.  It is growth.  It is the notion that we are chosen.  It is sacrifice.  It is hard, and easy at the same time.  It is love.  It is incredible.  It is humbling.  It is redemptive.  It is compassion.

It is worth it all. 

Little Miracles

My little miracles!
Photograph Credit – http://sarahcarter.is/

“The child must know that he is a miracle, that since the beginning of the world there hasn’t been, and until the end of the world there will not be, another child like him.” – Pablo Casals

Children are miraculous indeed.  Through bringing in and caring for a new little one, I’ve been so incredibly blessed these past few weeks by rediscovering the innocent beauty of children.  Sometimes I think I take them for granted.  Other times I think I expect too much, or maybe too little.  Most of the time though, I continually try to figure them out.  I will never get all their quirks or  habits, or any of the things that make them human.  I will never be able to put my finger on what exactly makes them tick.  One thing I do know is that the knowledge of God’s love of children, and the mercy He shows us through them, makes my heart swell with contentment and peace.

Yes, I’ve been incredibly blessed these past few weeks to add another child into our home.  I don’t know any other way to handle it all except with the wisdom that our Father in Heaven has called us to be the hands and feet that meet the needs of this little one.  Welcome, little miracle, welcome.

When Good Things Happen to Bad People

Why does it seem that bad things always happen to good people?  I have often wondered this; even though, I believe the Lord holds all of us His hands, and that suffering is part of the walk here on Earth.

I have been thinking lately of “good” people versus “bad” people.  I can say that I probably have fit, or still fit, in both of these categories at various times in my life. As a believer in Christ, I know that I am not good enough for His redemption.  It is by grace and supreme forgiveness that I am saved.

Being in the field of social work, I hear the awful things that people do to children and see first hand what the years of poor choices have often lead to, but, I also get the “back story” to these people’s lives.  I learn that many of them were abused as children, grew up in extreme poverty, and had absent fathers & mothers.  Many have addictions that plague them starting in their early adolescence and on through adulthood.

I had a client tell me one time, “You’ve treated me better than my own family ever treated me.”  She was 20-years-old, addicted to meth, homeless, uneducated, and just lost her baby to the foster care system.  I was certainly not her friend.  I was the case manager for her and her infant son, and ended up being the one who recommended termination of her parental rights.  However, I was kind to her.  I tried to put myself in her shoes.  It is tragically sad that I treated her better than her family.

I have often thought, “By the grace of God go I”.  Basically, I didn’t grow up in these type of situations and give praise for the Lord’s grace in my life that I’m not living this way now.  There is great heartbreak in our own backyards; yet, so many of us are shielded from the turmoil.

I have had my share of bad things that have happened, but I have also had an incredible amount of good things and good people in my life.  I am left with the thought/question of, “What if good things happened to bad people?”  I mean, what if the world showed more mercy and kindness to those deemed “bad” by society?  What if you and I (you know…the “good” guys) decided to wake up each day with the notion that we are going to make a positive difference in the life of someone who otherwise might be overlooked or looked down upon?

What if goodness and kindness became a habit?

The best thing ever happened to all of us.  Our Lord and Savior chose us.  His love and mercy are incredibly good things that continue to bless us every day.

photo (23)I believe in the power of a redeeming God who loves everyone – “good” or “bad”.  I also believe in His calling for us to love one another.  Maybe it is time for us to show the goodness of His love to others.  I cannot help but hope and believe that if more good things happened to bad people, our world would be a kinder, softer, and more loving place.

What do you think?

Isaiah 1:17 – defending the cause

Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows. – Isaiah 1:17

Couldn’t be more clear!  I love this verse and hope that I will pass along these directives to my children through words and actions.  I fear believers in Christ sometimes judge the oppressed, forget the orphans, and disregard widows.  Doing so bleeds right into injustice and does not show the goodness that is found in a Christ-filled life.

In my opinion, this verse speaks the essence of Christianity and the belief in a loving Heavenly Father who will always be the Father to the fatherless.

Have a beautiful Sunday!

Forgiven

The picture on the right is of a ring I wear nearly every day.  Besides my wedding ring and a necklace with the names of my children engraved on it, this ring is about the only consistent piece of jewelry I wear.  The word forgiven is engraved into the ring and serves as a gentle reminder to me that nothing else matters really except for the forgiveness and life I have in Christ.

On the inside of the ring, Eph. 1:7 is engraved.

In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.  Ephesians 1:7

Sometimes, I think about things I have done in the past and the struggle even now to live a life that models Christ to others.  I get caught up in wondering whether or not I’m “good enough” for the Lord.  Truthfully, I’m not good enough for Him.  No one is.

Often, my human desires get in the way of keeping my eyes, mind, and heart focused on Heavenly intentions.  I set goals that will enhance my walk with the Lord, but then fall short of completing them.  I get up every day saying and praying that I would act in ways pleasing to Him and that the love of Christ would show through my actions.  Then….life happens.  I get upset about something, or make a snap judgement about a situation, or not offer the same amount of grace that the Lord has given me over and over again, and that feeling of failing the Lord sinks in.

During these moments, I look down at my ring and see FORGIVEN.  It serves as a quiet reminder to me that He has already chosen His grace over my flaws.  He loves me despite all the messes I have made and will make until the day my eyes look upon Him.  I am already forgiven for things of the past and the times I acted as if I did not know Him.  Nothing will change the mighty forgiveness of the Lord.

His love is unfailing, His blood is redeeming, His mercy is miraculous, and His forgiveness is forever.

Writing My Story

A few years ago I felt the urge to write.  It seemed as though the Lord was telling me to write my story down; although, I had no clue how to start the process.  The last writing class I took was in 1992 or so when I was in college.  My friend knew my desire, or perhaps the Lord’s calling on my heart, to start writing so she bought me some journals.  I carried them everywhere and would write down different thoughts or words that sparked my memories or pertained to my history.  I even used my iPhone to record thoughts that came to me when writing was not possible.  Gotta love technology!

I had no idea as to where this project was going or if there was really anything important to say.  The fact is that everyone has a story.  All of us have a uniquely designed existence that is of no greater matter or significance than the other.  We are all significant in the eyes of the Lord.  I personally feel that the most inspiring stories are those told from people who come from the most humble situations.

As I started writing, it felt as though my heart and my mind were pricked.  Suddenly, there was this release of all of the captive moments, long forgotten thoughts, and stifled persuasions that I had carried around for nearly my entire life; or at least, my life after age eleven.  Words were pouring out of me that brought me to tears.

Soon, I turned to my computer to start writing.  I craved it.  Early mornings and late evenings were often accompanied by the patter of my fingertips on the keyboard as I delved into my solitary world of infertility.  I had to reach out to others during this time for feedback, their memories of my story, and just plain old support.  However, for the most part, it was me, my computer, my memories, and the Lord’s prodding.

I finished the manuscript within a few months.  Once I started writing, I could not stop until I got it all out.  I grieved for the child I was who became so ill.  I fretted for the teenager who, despite seeming and acting like every other teen girl, held within her dark glimpses of despair.  I felt the anger of a young woman in her twenties who was torn between wondering if her future career would be her “baby” or if she was ever going to have a baby to call her own.  I celebrated the woman who ran to the Lord after years of ignoring Him.  Lastly, I shed tears of joy for the foster-mother whose life was impacted for the better by the humbling refinement that is foster care and adoption.

I still have the manuscript on my computer.  I do not know where it is going or what it is supposed to be.  That is okay though.  There is great cleansing in writing one’s life story even if no one reads it.  Writing my story down has brought about a desire to continue to bring to life the words my heart feels but often my lips cannot form.  Writing my story has also revealed the incredible essence of survival, faith, mercy, grace, and hope.

I would like to share an excerpt from it if you don’t mind.  I have already inserted a few lines  from the manuscript from time to time into previous blog posts.  Even though this is just a glimpse, I welcome any comments.  I may share more as I feel the need…

I do not remember much about the week I was in the hospital prior to the doctors discovering what was ravaging my body.  My memories are more like flashing images from a movie.  I do however remember waking up at one point with my dad and a doctor looking over me.  My dad simply and courageously stated “You can always make love, but you will never be able to have children.”  Or, did he say that?  I remember hearing it, but not sure if it was said to me or about me.  Nevertheless, in my hazy mind, I tried to comprehend what he was saying.  Make love?  What does that mean?  I had not even kissed a boy yet.  Have children? It really had not crossed my mind much.  But, I heard him loud and clear.  I knew something big had happened.  This event that occurred forever changed who I was and the path my life would take.  There was not a choice – it was either my life or my organs.  Oh, the agony my parents were feeling.  What irony really…the organs with which life begins had nearly destroyed mine.  I was eleven years old, I had never had a period, and now I was forever infertile.  I had just been thrust in to the world of infertility.  Trapped in a little girl’s body was a pre-menopausal woman.

valley of death, Mercy of Life

The picture above is me during my last week or so in the hospital following my hysterectomy in 1983. I had escaped out of the valley of death. That smile across my face gives no indication of what had just happened but speaks volumes to the God-given resilience of children.

This is the only time I have come close to death. I was in the dying process before the doctors and surgeons decided to perform exploratory surgery as an effort to find out what was happening to me. I learned of this detail about two to three years ago. I knew I was extremely ill but no one ever told me that I was literally dying.

Following this disclosure by the doctor who performed my surgery, I sat there quietly with tears rolling down my face. I was so close to death as a child and never knew it. I grieved at that moment for my parents, family, medical staff, and for myself. Yet, the tears that streamed down my face were not just of sadness, but also of joy over the revealing of His wisdom that flowed through the doctors’ hands and of His mercy that kept me alive.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. – Psalm 23

I was in a Christian youth singing group called “The Sweet Spirits” for the first few years following my hysterectomy. The musical director specifically picked my solo to be a rendition of Psalm 23. My mom and other familiar adults got tearful when I sang this song. How apropos this song was. I had truly just walked through the valley of the shadow of death just a year or so prior.

From time to time, this Psalm flows through my thoughts and I find myself reciting it for days. It is rather morbid to think about walking through the valley of the shadow of death. However, as a Christian, it is comforting to know that the valley of death precedes the glory of His Kingdom.

I have been thinking lately though that we are in some way always in the shadow of death. One wrong turn, one missed step, one random act, one diagnosis…the list goes on. I want to start living as though I am in the shadow of death, but I don’t want that to be my focus. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I do not want to take moments for granted. More importantly, I hope to live for His Kingdom and for the promise of eternal life in Christ.

There are many things that have died within me along this journey to Heaven. Old habits, lack of trust, thin faith, and disbelief…all of these have passed away so that I can truly have life in Him. The awesome thing about living a life of faith is that when things get difficult, or when the shadow of death seems to be getting closer, one can always look to the Lord and see His mercies through it all.

Lord, help me to see Your mercy not only when I am in the valley of death, but also when my cup runs over, when I am in front of my enemies, when the pastures are green and the water is still, and when my eyes are eternally fixed on You.

my scar, His Scars

Hey, scar on my belly, you do not represent me.  A doctor called you a “horror show” one time, but his words do not describe me.  You are long and just plain ugly, but you do not characterize me.

You are a visual reminder of the war waged on me in my youth, but you do not represent me.  You are simply flesh ripped apart and sewn back together by human hands.  You depict a battle for my life, but I won. You are just one part of my infertility, but not the most important.

You have been with me nearly as long as I can remember, but you do not define me.  I have been embarrassed of you.  I have wished you away.  You have reminded me of all of the pain I have been through, but you do not speak for me.

Your outward appearance does not hint to the inward conflict that has taken place physically, spiritually, and emotionally through the years.  You do not speak, you do not breathe, and you do not love.  You are just a symbol of a fateful moment in time long ago; a physical remnant of my life-changing event.

Hey, scars on His wrist, you represent me.  Hey, wounds on His feet, you are because of me.  The pain inflicted on Him should have been mine.  He was scoffed at, called names, and torn apart by a battle not of His own. I have wished Him away, not trusted Him, and raged at Him; but still, His heart welcomes me.

Hey, scars on His wrist, you embody the physical, emotional, and spiritual freeing of me.  His scars delineate a world not deserving of His grace.  The ugliness of His death portrays the beauty of His forgiveness.  His wounds speak of great passion, and His pain screams mercy.

He is the past, present, and future.  He is the most important moment in time.  His words were of compassion, and His breath of love.

His Love,

His Life,

His Scars,

His Sacrifice,

His Forgiveness,

His Resurrection,

my gain.

God deserves an Oscar

God deserves an Oscar!  The way He scripts, produces, and directs our lives  is better than just about any Hollywood version of the latest headline or novel.  He has written us with great richness.  His works are emotive.  His set (the world) is extraordinary, and his story-lines are filled with drama, passion, love, and loss.

I love the thought that adoption is a predestination set out by God Almighty.  It is truly awe-inspiring to know that while I was still being formed in the womb, He had already written the script of my life and my children were written into it.  Talk about having a purpose and a design!  It is almost unfathomable to think about it.  Yes, sad and tragic things had to happen in all of our lives so that we would be together, but God knew what He was doing.  The fact is that we all are together and that is good enough for my soul.

I am filled with wonder every time I think about my children and their lives.  How are their lives going to affect others?  Will they adopt or foster children?  Will they trudge through uncharted territories to reach the “unreachable”?  I hope so.  If their mission field is here at home or in a far-off corner of the world, I pray they grow up with the knowledge that God has designed them with a passion and the whole word in their runway.

For the most part, this aspect of my life – the medical/barren part – has always been something I’ve kept to myself. I’m learning though that the more I speak about it, the more I write about it, and the more I share it with others; the more God reveals to me…not just about myself but more importantly about Him. I used to wonder what my purpose was.  Why in the world would He allow me to lose the ability to have babies?  I don’t think that anymore.  I know now that my story – better yet – His story written for my life, is exactly what it is supposed to be.  My children are proof that God’s plan is perfect, His will intentional, and His mercy never-failing.  My God has truly blessed me through all of the suffering.