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!

Distractions, Distractions

Wow!  I have been really distracted this week.  My daughter has been a real pistol lately (okay she’s almost four, so I’ll give her a break), my son’s allergies appear to be creeping him closer to bronchitis despite the medications and various attempts to keep him healthy, a situation involving an extended family member has filled me with concern, my job is busy, my husband’s job is busy (he too works in child welfare), and, well, the toaster caught on fire.  I’m talking flames shooting out of it heading right towards our cabinets.  What does the toaster catching on fire have to do with all of this?  We were distracted!

Here’s a picture of the toaster that got a little toasted itself this week!

While toasting taco shells for dinner, we got busy talking and stopped paying attention to the toaster oven.  One of the shells fell to the bottom somehow and caught on fire.  I frantically opened the toaster door which added air to the fire which then caused the flames to shoot up over it right towards our cabinets.  Clearly, the training I have had in how to put out fires did not even register!  My husband quickly grabbed the oven, ran outside, threw it on the ground, and poured water over it.  Within a few seconds, the smoke alarm was going off, my children were screaming, and the kitchen and hearth room were full of smoke….which of course, has added to the challenge of keeping my son’s bronchial issues minimal this time of year.

It was not a major fire or anything like that, but that brief moment of not paying attention could have turned into something far worse.  The smell of thick smoke stayed with us throughout the evening despite our attempts at clearing out the air in the house.  Since this happened, I have been thinking about the variety of distractions I have in life that often cause me to lose sight at times of my relationship with the Lord.

Work, laundry, children, parents, husband, more laundry, errands, and of course, laundry – these are all components that fill up my days, my thoughts, and my responsibilities.  I usually do not even realize how distracted I have become until I am at church and focus only on Him.  It is like an “ahh” and “aha” moment every Sunday morning.  I sit there thinking only of my faith in the Lord, my hope in Him, my walk with Him, and that Glorious Day when He returns.  But then, as the sun sets on Sunday, the laundry basket starts looking more like a laundry tower, the kids start yearning for me as they know the weekend is coming to an end, and I start thinking about all that will be required of me throughout the work week.

I do not want to sound like I am complaining.  I feel 100% blessed to have the opportunity and ability to work, to have a home to clean, to have children to bathe, to have a husband, and to have errands to run.  I see all of these things as gifts and do not want to take them for granted.  Life is just busy.

However, I still keep thinking about the fire in the toaster.  How many times have I come close to stepping into a fiery situation because of taking my eyes off of the Lord?  How close have I come to being burned because of my distractions?  Like the smell of smoke that lingered, how has the residue of sin lingered in my life?

The Scripture verse I am drawn to when thinking about this is Matthew 6:25-34.  The lessons I take from these verses is not to worry.  However, as I think further, I realize that distractions in life can sometimes be based on worry.

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

I take away from this the reminder that the Lord is never so distracted that He fails to meet our needs.  He keeps His eyes on us all of the time.  He will never be too sidetracked by our busy schedules, or overflowing laundry baskets, or screaming children, to meet us where we are.  He will provide for us even though we are frantically trying to provide for ourselves.

I think it is funny how the Lord used a burning toaster and some very over-cooked taco shells to bring me back to thoughts of Him.  Thank you Lord for your sense of humor!  I pray the only real distractions I have are ones that always point me right back to Christ.

Any questions?

After my son’s adoption in 2008, a neighbor asked me, “Are you concerned that you didn’t connect with him since you did not carry him?”  I was only briefly stunned by her question.  I knew that I needed to think quick and give her an answer.  After all, she asked me in front of a group of neighbors during our block party and I did not want to be standing in the middle of an awkward moment of silence.  I replied, “No, not at all.  Loving him is very natural…as if I gave birth to him.”  All she responded with was “Oh”.

When I told my husband about the conversation, he said, “She didn’t carry or birth her husband.  Does that mean she is not bonded or connected to him?”  (Good point honey, good point)  He has always had a great way of simplifying things.

Her question has stuck in my mind through the years.  I really cannot blame her for her lack of knowledge about adoption.  After all, she had only given birth to children.  She had never experienced the incredible richness of becoming a mom through adoption.  I am still not sure what she meant by the word connect.  Perhaps she meant to say “Are you worried that you have not bonded with him because you did not give birth to him?”.

Looking back on our short conversation, I wished I would have said to her the things that have been revealed since becoming a mother through adoption.  I have realized that my expecting was not in months, but years.  My labor was not in hours, but years as well.  I did not carry my children in my body.  I carried them in my imagination, my prayers, my hopes, and my dreams.

I carried them in that quiet space where it is just myself and the Lord.

Foster and adoptive families usually get asked all kinds of random and often insensitive questions.  When we were going through the licensing process to become foster parents, someone said to me, “You are not going to take one of those meth babies, are you?”  Was that a question or a directive?  I was not quite sure.  The truth is that many newborns who come into protective services in the state I live in have been exposed to prenatal drug and/or alcohol usage.  To call them “meth babies” though felt very cold and calloused to me.

Here are some more questions that I have been asked:

  • Are your kids “real” siblings?
  • Are you scared that their “real” parents are going to take them back?
  • Are you sure it is okay to tell them that they are adopted?
  • Do you plan on having your “own” child in the future?
  • Do you know their “real” parents?

I answered the first two questions with a “no” and a “yes”.  No, I am not scared their “real” parents are going to take them back….that would be considered kidnapping.  Taking them back is not an option.  Adoption is legally binding and permanent.

Yes, I am absolutely sure it is okay to tell them they are adopted.  It is a travesty for children to not know their history and to be lied to.  It damages every ounce of trust and relationship built through the years.  It also gives glimpses of the thought that adoption is something that should be kept secret, as if it is shameful.

As far as the kids are concerned, they are real siblings.  Trust me, if you spend any amount of time in our home, you will notice that they fight like cats and dogs, yet are inseparable.  There is nothing fake about their relationship as a brother and a sister.

The last two questions can be answered by this fabulous quote I found.

“Natural Child: Any child who is not artificial.  Real Parent: Any parent who is not imaginary.  Your Own Child: Any child who is not someone else’s child.  Adopted Child: A natural child, with a real parent, who is all your own.”  -Rita Laws, PhD

 Any questions?

Voice of Truth

The song titled, The Voice of Truth, by Christian band Casting Crowns is one of my favorites.  I love this song.  Each time it comes on the radio, I crank it up.  The words of the chorus are quite simple:

But the voice of truth tells me a different story.  The voice of truth says, “Do not be afraid.”  And the voice of truth says, “This is for my glory.” Out of all the voices calling out to me.  I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth.

-Casting Crowns

There was a time in my life when I did not know what truth was.  I heard many “voices” but none of them were comforting.  I guess what I’m trying to say is that there were moments in my growing years that whispers of darkness, cruel thoughts, and hurtful words were a part of my psyche.

I remember wondering after my hysterectomy if I had done something awful to cause it to happen.  I thought that perhaps I should have been born a boy…yes…being a boy would have been much better than a girl who could not have babies.  I also thought God surely knew I would make a terrible mother.  He must have wanted to spare a child my mothering.  Or, perhaps I was a child killer in a past life…even though I did not think past lives even existed.

As an adult, I wish I could say that these notions faded, but they did not.  I found myself thinking that God did not want me to be a parent.  If He wanted it, then it would have happened miraculously, quickly, and without any additional strife.  I do not know if anyone who reads this believes in spiritual warfare, but I do.  The fact that these horrific, cruel, depraved thoughts lingered in my mind as a child and an adult prove to me that spiritual warfare does exist.  Not one adult ever said these things to me.  Not one child, no one.  Yet, I “heard” them.

Back in 2000, I started going to church again.  As I began to do so, those hurtful words and  notions took a backseat to the Truth that is found in the voice of God.  The written Word became magnified.  In Him, I began to hear “You are beautiful”, “You have purpose”, “Your life was worth saving”.  Even more awesome though was the clarity I received from worship and reading the Word.  I was able to recognize that the voices bringing me down were not of Him. They were flaming arrows of the enemy and I was the target.

His Word and the hope I found in Christ became my shield.  The following verses spoke to me in ways that drowned out the cursed thoughts I once carried:

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Psalms 139:16 “Your eyes saw my unformed body.  All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be.”

Psalm 139:14 “I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

Romans 5:2-5 “Through him we have also obtained  access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the  glory of God.  More than that, we rejoice in hope of the  glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that  suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character  produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been  poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to  us.

Silence and suffering comes along with infertility.  It can dishearten the strongest of believers.  It can eat at the core of one’s relationship with the Lord.  The enemy whispers “you don’t deserve to be a parent”, “you must have done something wrong”, “it must not be God’s will for you”….and many more things.

I can tell you that when in the pit of despair over barrenness, it is hard sometimes to hear anything but the words of the enemy.  It is hard to see outside of the strife and beyond the pain.  It is hard to hear the voice of Truth calling out.  IT. IS. HARD.  

However, as the song says, THE VOICE OF TRUTH TELLS ME A DIFFERENT STORY.     

The stories of those of us who have struggled or are currently being challenged with the spiritual confusion of infertility are not written by the enemy or anyone else for that matter.  Our stories have been written by the One whose voice is true; the One whose love is everlasting; the One whose shield is strong; the One who breathes life into the most destitute of situations; the One whose grace saves; the One who created us; the One who set our limits; and the One who has declared our future.

What’s the voice of truth telling you?  

For those of you who are battling your way to parenthood, stay strong in your faith.  Know that you are loved by a God who is bigger than your doubts.  Know that He is not done with you yet.  Know that your story is just unfolding.   Take delight in the hope of His promises and the mystery of what He has in store. 

Listen to His Voice of Truth.  Be Blessed.

Unashamed

It was a challenge growing up after having a hysterectomy so young. I never really knew how to handle it.  I felt ashamed of it, and I really don’t know why I felt this way.  It was not my fault.  I was gravely ill and the surgery had to happen in order to save my life, but for some reason, I really didn’t want many people to find out about it.  I internalized a sense of guilt or embarassment because I was different than my peers.  Due to my young age, I did not fully grasp how my surgery would play out in my life over and over again.

As an adult, it has taken me many, many years to say out loud “I HAD A HYSTERECTOMY”.  Even now, when asked about my medical history at doctor’s visits, I always get a little tense and just a bit nervous.  Perhaps it is because the response is usually “You had a hysterectomy at age eleven?!?”…followed by an awkward moment of silence…then followed by “May I ask why?”  One of these days I may just say “No, no you may not ask why…” just to see how they respond!

Sometimes, I let medical professionals off the hook early and just go right into all the details of it.  I sense at times they are a little overwhelmed. Or at least, the women are.  They usually give me a slightly pitiful look, but most of the time they express sadness about it.  Men on the other hand just sort of skip right over, as if there’s “nothing to talk about here”…move along.

Often, they will stare at me briefly as if they expect me to say more, or break down sobbing, or something. The truth is even if I felt like crying, I would hold it in until I left the appointment anyway. This is not as much of an issue for me now that my emptiness has been filled with children, and I have come to a place of fully embracing who I am, but throughout my life, there was a tremendous amount of despair mixed in with a sliver of shame over it.

One thing that I habitually do time after time is quickly follow up my revelation of being infertile with an “It’s okay though. I’ve adopted children, and I wouldn’t trade them for the world”.  Before I adopted, I found myself saying things like “Oh, it’s okay.  I might be able to adopt” even if I did not believe my own words.  It is as if I have always felt the need to apologize for my lot in life.

Perhaps in my earlier years,  I was still trying to figure it all out.  I didn’t want or need anyone to explain things to me.  I also never wanted to be pitied for it.  This was my experience to navigate on my own – no one else’s.  Some things in life are just too big to wrap our heads around until we are fully ready to do so.  Giving simplistic and quick explanations to medical staff or anyone else who wanted to know what happened to me did nothing to help me understand my own circumstance.  I often felt I was fulfilling their curiosity at my own expense.

I’ve always wondered, yet never quite figured out what it is about infertility and hysterectomies that cause the feelings of shame, embarrassment, or whatever else it can be called. I just sometimes think that the rest of the world (all the fertile myrtles) don’t fully grasp the complexity of infertility.  Perhaps this is why those of us (non-fertile myrtles) feel isolated out in the “real” world.  There is nothing to be shameful of!  We didn’t cause this.  We didn’t set out in the world thinking “I’m going to do whatever I can to make having a family extremely difficult.”  Barrenness has been around forever; yet, there is so much restraint when talking about it out loud.

While pondering this issue, I thought “God has used barren women to do mighty things.”  Several women in the Bible, who were considered barren, ended up giving birth to children who went on to do noteworthy things.  I know the incredible ending of their barrenness was the birth of children, but I find it equally incredible that their struggle with it was written down.  Their stories were compelling.  They were often mocked for it.  Yet, their faith ran deep.

I choose to believe that barrenness is close to God’s heart.  I know that He does not want us to be ashamed.  I believe that there is no reason anyone should ever feel the need to apologize for not being able to have children.  My life is not desolate. I feel totally fruitful; quite the opposite of barren really.

The world may think, or even expect me to be angry, bitter, and even resentful about infertility, but I choose not to follow the world.  I am not listening to it; my ears, my eyes, and my heart are captured by the whispers of God.  Through Him, and only through Him, I am beautiful, purposeful, and redeemed.

I am unashamed.