Samples for Jesus

the joy of my little boy
         www.sarahcarterphoto.com

A few Sundays ago, my almost six-year-old son asked me “Do you take samples for Jesus?”  I had no idea what he was talking about.  Samples for Jesus?  I asked him again what he said to make sure I did not misunderstand him.  “Do you take samples for Jesus?”  I finally told him that I had no idea what he was talking about.  In frustration, he said, “You know…those pieces that Mr. Richard passes out in that plate.”  Aha!  He was talking about communion!  After laughing for quite a bit at the joy of my little boy, I explained that, yes, mommy takes “samples” for Jesus.

As what seems to be commonplace lately in my life, the Lord used my son to deliver a message that provoked my thoughts about my life as a Christian.  Do I fully live out a life that is reflecting of Christ in me?  Or, am I just sampling the Christian life?  What can I do to show my children and others around me that my walk with Christ is more than showing up to church, saying Amen, and taking communion?

I want my children to see that being a believer requires full attention.  One cannot just pick and choose pieces of it as if sampling the foods at a local deli.  It is the choice between living as if this is the only destination or choosing to live with the full belief that there is life beyond this world.  It is the notion that everything and everyone matters to God.  It is the hope that only comes from salvation.  It is the faith of the glory of Jesus Christ.

Once again, I love that the Lord delivers quick, simplistic, and innocent messages through the words of my children.  I hope that their eyes and their hearts see their mommy as a faith-leaning, Christ-believing, and people-loving Christian.  I pray that my life reflects to them that their mommy is more than just a “sample-taster”.

Moments Like This

I watched my first baby walk through the doors of Kindergarten today.  His backpack was nearly as big as him and even though he has grown so much over the years, he still seems too small to release into the big, new world of the school system.  I have written before in my post Motherhood Dreams about certain things that I worried missing out on if I never became a mother.  Well, sending a child to Kindergarten is one of those things.  It is one of my so-called Bucket List Items that I can now check off as having completed.

As someone who is barren, I truly never thought this day would come.  Now, as my mind is racing with a hint of sadness, nervousness, excitement, pride, and appreciation, I cannot help but think about the first time I saw him.  As his (former) foster mother, I did not know for sure if I would even have him long enough to celebrate his first birthday so thinking about sending him off to his first day of Kindergarten was just a dream.  Today, this dream came true.

I know sending a child to Kindergarten is not exactly the kind of action-packed, adrenaline-laced bucket list item that most people aspire to do.  I get that.  I too have wishes of high-flying adventures tucked away that I would like to experience in my lifetime.  But, at the end of my life, I want to be able to look back at moments like this and remember them.  I want to hear them, smell them, and feel them.  I want them to be the moments that leave my heart happy and that remind of the gift of life.

His birth mother came to my mind a lot today as well.  Another moment in time of great relevance has passed her by.  I am so glad that I was the one to kiss him goodbye and take one last glance over my shoulder as I walked out the door of his classroom.  Yet, at the same time, my heart felt a twinge of sadness that she was not able to.  In my post, I thought of you today birth mother, I wrote down my feelings about her on the day he graduated from preschool.  Today was no different.  I suspect every milestone in his life and in mine will remind me of who she is, what she is missing, and the grace that has covered the both of us.

Today was more than just sending my first baby off to Kindergarten.  It is one day that I am so thankful to have to cherish.  I get another chance in a few years with my daughter, but for right now, I am going to soak up this moment as much as I can.

This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Psalm 118:24

Love You Bigger Than Outer Space

(Okay, okay….so I know the picture of my children above is not necessarily related to the post, but I just had to include it!  It is one of my favorites…)

Since the time my son was old enough to carry on a conversation, he and I have engaged in an ongoing “debate” over which one of us loves each other more.  The conversation goes something like this:

Me:  “I love you so much.  Do you know how much mommy loves you?”

My son: “How much?”

Me:  “Bigger than our house.”

My son: “Well I love you bigger than our city”

Me:  “I love you bigger than all the oceans”

My son:  “I love you bigger than the whole Earth”

Me:  “I love you bigger than all the planets”

My son:  “I love you bigger than outer space”

He loves this game with me.  The smile on his face reflects the joy he gets when we are talking about how big our love is for each other.  Children just have such a way of truthfully speaking their hearts to us.  Good or bad – if it is on their minds, they will speak it.

My 3-year-old daughter whispers “You are beautiful” in my ear on a pretty regular basis.  I do not know where she got this from, but it so sweet and touching.  These three simple words from her instantly give me a sense of gravity.  It is not so much about whether she truly believes that I am beautiful.  It is more than that.  She seeks out opportunities to tell me her thoughts and to examine my reaction.  It also reminds me of the greater need to let her know just how unique and beautiful she is.

My parenting journey started around six years ago, and even still I am amazed how the Lord has worked everything out for my life.  Adoption has brought so much goodness and love.  Each day brings on new challenges and discoveries.  Every day I am reminded of my Lord’s provision in my life and His answering of my prayers.

The sweetest words I have ever heard are “I love you mommy”.  These words are engraved and resonate in my heart.  Each time I hear them is if it is the first time.  I despaired over these words for so long that I do not take them for granted now.  I never really thought I would ever hear a child say this to me.  I love hearing them profess their feelings towards me.  I don’t expect it, but it sure makes me feel good!

My children may say the words “love you bigger than outer space” or “you are beautiful”, but, the Lord too says these things to me.  In Him, I am beautiful, and so are my children.  It humbles and blesses me to know that God’s love for my His children is far greater and bigger than outer space.

My Children, My Teachers

“While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about” – Angela Schwindt

The quote above came across my vision today while reading an email from a professional contact. It caused me to stop a while and think about the meaning.  It is not that I have never recognized the life-lessons that parenting gives me. I suppose I have not stopped too often to truly think about the daily things my children do that I learn from.

Almost immediately upon becoming a parent, I was hit with the reality of the grand importance that children are to this world and how incredibly important it is to protect them, show them love, and nurture them along the way.  It is not just important; it is vital to our existence as human beings.  It pains me greatly to know that there are many children throughout the world who do not have anyone to teach them about life.  It is also tragic that some children do not have parents they can teach what life is about to.  Too many children do not have anyone significant in their lives that will listen to their stories, hang their art on the fridge, or encourage their imaginations.

My children show me on a daily basis what life is, or at least, should be about.  They are masters of forgiving and forgetting.  They say they are sorry when they do something wrong (intentional or not).  Even better, they accept apologies and move on as if they have not been wronged.  We adults struggle with this, although we know better.

They notice things like the color of the sky, the shape of clouds, and the little sounds that can be heard on any given day if stopped long enough to hear.  Sometimes I forget to pay attention to these things until I am gently reminded by them to look up, or listen to the birds chirping outside the window.  They ask questions about why things work they way they do.  They are eager to learn from the adults around them.  If they do not know what something is, they will try to investigate it as much as they can and as age appropriate.  Again, sometimes I find myself wanting to move through the day without anything “new” happening.

There is freshness and vibrancy to their thoughts and intentions.  They do not set limits on how things can be fixed or how people can be helped.  They absolutely believe that they can make things better and are creative in ways they can do this.  They believe that their sweet cards or pictures are the best gifts they can give.  My kids love telling their family how much they love them, and they end each day wanting “just one more hug and kiss”.  All of these things are really just a few examples of what my children show me, and what I continue to learn from.

My 3-year-old daughter recently told me that when she was a baby in Heaven, Jesus taught her all she needs to know about being here.  Her comment stopped me in my tracks.  It was one of those moments where I absolutely believed she knew and meant every word she was saying.  There was so much truth to what she said.  Christ has told us and continues to tell us how our lives should be led.

Like children, we should work on renewing ourselves each day.  We should forgive and forget.  We should approach those we have wronged with genuine sincerity in asking for forgiveness.  We should take time each day to take in the incredible creation that is around us all of the time.

We need to seek daily how we can impact those around us for the better.  Our words should be of love.  I hope that I never stop learning from my children and my Lord.  I may work hard at teaching them about life, but I know deep down that they will probably always be teaching me what life is really all about.

Fearfully & Wonderfully Made

It is hard being a kid these days.  Their actions are usually fairly age appropriate, and yet, they are told to work on their “behaviors” on a pretty consistent basis.  I really do not recall as a child being reminded to “make good choices” or being told “you need to work on that behavior”.  I was disciplined and taught the correct way to interact with others, but it was done from the perspective that children will be children.  My actions as a child were not taken so seriously and certainly were not thought to be truly indicative of the adult I would end up becoming.

My son is precious, but boy he is a pistol!  High energy, fearless, creative, smart, and strong-willed are a few of the words that define him.  Let’s just say he has had his fair share of “behavior management” in preschool.  I often wonder how his perception of himself has been shaped by the continual reminders in the preschool setting to make good choices, earn rewards, “stay in the green pocket”, or any other motivational system put into place to keep kids in line.  I’m NOT saying that I disagree with these things as I know they have their place in helping children.  I just feel we expect children to be little adults far too often.  My son told me one time that he gets stressed out about school…seriously.  He’s not even in Kindergarten yet and has already felt stressed by the expectations of the academic setting.

Back in 2010 when he was close to four years old, we were painting together at the table.  He had been having a difficult time socially, didn’t mesh with the teacher, and was actually asked to leave the preschool.  In an effort to comfort him, I said “You know mommy loves you very much.” He said, “I know”.  Then it hit me.  I told my kids all the time how much I loved them, but far too often I failed to tell them why I loved them and what makes them unique.

In that moment, I grabbed the paintbrush, piece of construction paper, and started to paint a flag for him.  When he asked me what it was, I said “It is your flag.”  He giggled as he was not really sure what to make of it.  After I was done, I explained the meaning of it to him.  The blue represented his favorite color.  The middle letter in the flag is the first letter of his first name.  Above his name is a pink stick figure which represented the fact that he is a good big brother to his little sister.  The cross in the corner was because he loves going to church and singing about Jesus.  The orange dog symbolized how much he cares for our pets.  The bike below the dog was there because he loves riding his big wheel and really anything that has wheels.

The music note was for his love of singing and enjoying music.  The happy face was because he makes so many people smile and laugh.  The star represented the fact that he loves outer space.  And, the heart, well, it was not only because of how much he loves his family, but because of how much love he has brought to our home and to our hearts.

After explaining this, my curly, blonde-haired cutie could not stop grinning from ear to ear.  He grabbed it, ran to his daddy, and said “Daddy!  Look at my flag!”.  I know I am not the best artist and the flag is quite elementary, but it did so much in that moment to lift the spirits of my child and show him the reasons why he is loved so much.  Afterward, we went to his bedroom and hung the flag on his bulletin board.

Two years later, the flag is still there.  It still serves as a reminder to him of the unique factors that make him who he is.  I am not a perfect parent and I certainly fall short many times on having the best words at the right moment with my kids.  But, there are those times when the right opportunities come along to make an impression on my kids that will not be about their “behaviors” but, more importantly, about their beings.

That simplistic paper flag that is tacked to my son’s bulletin board holds a deeper meaning than it appears.  It reminds my son of the time his mommy painted his flag.  But, most importantly, it serves as a visual reminder for me to show through my words and my actions that they are fearfully and wonderfully made.

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

Give You the World

My children, if I could give you the world, I would. I would grab hold of the Earth, squeeze out the sourness, cruelty, hatred and pain, and then wrap it up in a tight bow and hand it to you. I would take an extra measure to carefully hand pick all the beauty and wonder that makes up the land we call home.

I would make sure the leaves of the trees are so fresh and green that you could smell them. The flowers would always be in bloom and the ocean would be filled with lavish fish that reflect the colors of the rainbows. The mountains would stand real high for you and the valleys would invite you to come explore them.

The sands of the desert would spell your names when you walk by. The tall grass of the plains would blow just enough in the wind to make you think they are whispering to you. The snowy and icy parts of this world would be comprised of the perfect snowman-making kind of snow. The jungles would be ripe with magnificent flowers made up of all your favorite colors. The animals would fill your eyes with splendor.

If I could go ahead of you each step of your lives to clear the path, I would. I would make it to where you never had to feel the sting of pain, the loss of love, and the agony of despair. Or if you did, it would only be the kind of pain that stretches and grows you into more whole beings. Your good dreams, the ones that leave you breathless with joy in the morning, would come to life and every spark of imagination would light a fire in you to create, live, and be anything you want to be.

You would find friendships in all places. Kindness would be the only word used to describe your interactions with others. Everyone would greet you with a smile and tell you how much you mean to this world.  Empathy would be common-place and you would always have a shoulder to cry on. You would never struggle with addictions or anything else that diminishes who you really are. Faith, hope, and love would wrap around your bodies, encompass your hearts, and defend your minds.

I suppose I’m just like most mothers. I want to believe that I will always be just one step ahead of you leading and loving you along the way. I hope that the fond smells of home and the love you feel will never be far from you. I pray that visions of you dancing, laughing, and playing will always reflect in my eyes.

My children, if I could give you the world, I would.

The Wonder of You

Look at you, my precious girl, with your eyes of blue.  It looks like God Himself dipped His paint brush into the sky when coloring your eyes.  And you, my son, with your brown eyes and wavy blonde hair.  I swear angels spun your hair out of butter.  Sometimes, when admiring you both, I think to myself “the wonder of you”.  You truly are wonderful.  You challenge me.  You cause me to get up early on the weekends.  You leave food and toys and just about anything your hands touch strewn all over the floor.  But still, I’m amazed by the wonder of you.

I had no idea how truly incredible you would be.  Whoever said blood is thicker than water surely never experienced the supreme delight of adoption.  At one time, I could not imagine ever having you in my life, and now I cannot imagine my life without you.  My children.  My sweets.  My love.  You have captured my heart.

You are not second best.  You are not statistics.  You mean more to this world, your family, and your Heavenly Father than you will ever fathom.  You may have been born into a world of chaos and less than desirable circumstances, but you will leave this world a better place.  You have inherited the fullness of God’s mercy and love.  He loves you both as if you are His only children.

For you my son, your entry into our home was sudden.  We had just a few hours to prepare.  But, the moment my eyes focused on you, everything came to a screeching halt.  I was in awe.  You took my breath away.  There you were, so small and vulnerable, and yet, so significant.

And you, my daughter, you literally arrived on our doorstep by the first angel who took you in.  One look at you caused me to realize how incredibly blessed I was.  You were more than an abandonment.  You were more than a legal status.  You were purposefully, wonderfully, and intentionally made.

Fostering you both was humbling, heart-wrenching at times, joyful, and full of so many life lessons.  Actually, raising you is full of these things as well.  Your imaginations inspire me.  Your silliness tickles me.  And, your love of all things new creates in me an excitement to explore the world with you.  You both have colored my world with shades of goodness, lightness, and love.

You are both more than I could ever imagine.  Adoption completed us.  I am mightily aware of the blessed responsibility bestowed onto me.  I would never go back to life before you.  I don’t think I could.  I thank the Lord daily for filling my life with the wonder of you.

I thought of you today, birth mother

http://www.sarahcarterphoto.com

I thought of you today, birth mother.  I watched him graduate from preschool.  You would have been so proud.  His name was called and he was handed his first diploma of sorts.  The years have swept away from the three of us since the last visit we had together.  Four years ago tomorrow, your child became forever mine.  You did not choose to give him to me.  He was taken from you.  I know in the rhythm of my heart that you never imagined not raising your son.

I owe you nothing; and yet, I owe you everything.

Our lives are woven together by poor choices, heartache, legalities and love.  Just like the energy that is poured out of a quilt maker’s hands into the quilt, our lives are sewn and patched by the hardship of the years.  Surely, God knew when He created this precious child in your womb that you would labor to bring him into this world, and I would labor bringing him up in it.

I see you in him. birth mother.  He smiles your smile.  His left eye is just a little lazy like yours.  Your love of family poured into him.  He is rarely at a loss of words…just like you.  I wonder if you long for him when you watch children play.  I wonder if you feel haunted by this child you will never raise.  The loss you have suffered must be felt from every cell in your body.  The hollowness you feel at times must resonate deep down.  Sure, we send pictures to you, but pictures don’t breathe.  Pictures don’t smell.  They don’t bleed, hug, speak, cry, or do any of those things that remind us of our humanity.

I owe you nothing; and yet, I owe you everything.

I too have felt that sorrowful ache.  I have cried thick tears.  I have longed for a child.  Barrenness created a stale world for me; a hollowness that never ceased.  I felt haunted by a child I would never have.  What at one time seemed pointless, lifeless, and void of purpose has been replaced by immeasurable significance.

The selfishness I feel from time to time benefiting from your great and terrible sadness overwhelms me.  To be honest, all of it overwhelms me.  God’s blessing of your child has given me more than the mommy experience.  It has refreshed the staleness, filled the hollowness, and brought to life the child I thought I would never have.

I owe you nothing; and yet, I owe you everything.

I thought of you today, birth mother.  Truthfully, I think of you nearly every day.  Perhaps, the world might expect me to not care for you so much.  I wonder, “Is it really possible to separate you from the goodness and richness of this child?”  I don’t think so.  There is goodness in you, although others may not see it.  You are a part of him and he is a part of you.

I delight in his quirks.  I fret in his worries.  I am challenged by his willful spirit; yet, I love him with every pore of my being.  I hear him say “I love you, Mommy” and it stirs my soul.  I know you would feel the same way.

The hug I gave him was for you today, birth mother.  I imagined your arms wrapped around him….how good that would feel for you to touch him.

I thought of you today,  birth mother.  I said a prayer for you today, birth mother.  Your son is mine, and my son is yours.

I owe you nothing; and yet, I will not forget that I owe you everything.