a life Eternal

In her ninety’s and near death, Elizabeth was thin, frail, and completely unaware that I was with her in the room to which she had called home for many years.  I was in graduate school and chose to do my internship at a local Hospice agency. Elizabeth was one of many clients that I was asked to go visit, provide support to, offer counsel if necessary, or offer a hand to hold.  I nudged her hand, introduced myself, and whispered that I was there to sit with her a while.  She lay there, eyes shut, and not responsive to my presence.  I sat back in the chair next to her bed, looked around a bit, and watched her in silence.

Breath in…breath out…breath in….breath out…then…..Eyes open wide, arms reaching out to the Heavens, and with a strong voice, she declared,

“Oh, the trees.  The trees.  They are beautiful.  The streets.  They are golden…and the music.  The beautiful music….it’s the most beautiful music I’ve heard.  Yes…yes, I see her.  I don’t know her, but I will see her again.” 

I sat there frozen in my chair.  It is not that I did not move.  It is that I could not move.  I watched and listened to her as she spoke out loud.  I felt peaceful, and in that moment, I knew that I was witness to a celestial exchange.  I was partly in disbelief, but mostly in pure belief that I was allowed to hear a vision of Heaven.

As soon as she was through speaking, she went back to the slow, labored breathing to which I initially watched her do.  I too felt as though I could move around, and raised up in the chair, grabbed her hand, and just held it in silence for the remainder of the hour that I was there.  As my time with her drew to a close, I gently got up, leaned over her and said “I’m leaving for now.  Thank you for this time together.”  As I exited the room, I looked back once more at the frail woman lying in the bed to which her soul would escape to Heaven.

As I walked down the halls of the nursing home, I felt elation mixed with emotion and humility.  I kept hanging on to her words that described a Heaven to which my mind could only begin to imagine.  I also clung to the part of the conversation that seemed to include me.  I had never met Elizabeth before, and had never even stepped foot in that particular nursing home.  I did not even think she noticed me.  To my amazement, I realized that I was given a glimpse of the promise of eternal life.

I thought about this experience for many days after I visited her, and heard that she lasted about seventy-two hours after our visit, and died a peaceful death.  I never told anyone at the agency about my experience.  I don’t know why.  Perhaps, I was worried that they would try to apply a medical reason for her words.  Instead, I told those close to me.

While I had similar experiences with the elderly population I worked with, this experience definitely was different from the others.  I witnessed something not of this Earth.  My presence with her was not random.  I felt as though I had been invited into a private conversation between a dying Believer and the One True Mighty Father. 

It has been nearly thirteen years since this experience; still yet, here I am writing about it.  Thirteen years ago, I was barely clinging on to the faith of my childhood.  I had just started going back to church.  My heart was still compounded by confusion of past trauma, regrets, and an unknown future.  I was not yet married, not a parent, and not even sure of the path to which I would walk down.  Sitting here now, a mother to three children, a wife, a professional in child welfare, and a Believer in Jesus Christ, I am mightily aware and thankful for this experience with the sweet soul whose room I stumbled into as a graduate student.

It seems Eternity has been on my mind and heart lately.  Of all the things spoken of in Scripture, a life Eternal is by far the most incredible promise of all.  Perhaps it is the wailing of the world that is happening, or the yearning of my own heart to draw closer to the Lord, but as of late, my thoughts have been pressed on towards our Heavenly Home.

I believe that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, and through Him, we have salvation.  I am not ashamed or embarrassed to say this.  I am not less intelligent, naive, or intolerant.  I am a friend, daughter, sister, wife, mother, stranger, and acquaintance.

I am the person who messes up, or sometimes, gets it just right.  I am the one who overlooks others, or sometimes, bends down on knees for total strangers.  I have a temper, a sense of humor, a serious side, and a quiet side.  I am strong.  I am weak.  I am vulnerable at times, and completely unbreakable at others.  I am a Christian.

Through reading of the Word, and the blessed experience of the one described above, I fully believe in a life Eternal.

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.   -Revelation 22:1-5

At the Feet

IMG_2402I have been thinking about Jesus’s feet lately.  I know that sounds odd, but I keep thinking about His feet as He grew from infancy through the time of His death.  I visualize Him as a precious baby.  I see Mary as the doting mother who kisses them.  She must have washed them, played with His toes, and made sure he was wearing garments to protect them.  The pitter-patter His feet made when he was toddling around must have been sweet sounds to her ears.

Those tiny, and seemingly insignificant feet, were soft and beautiful in the sight of His Earthly parents.

They were the feet of an innocent babe.

As a young boy, His feet must have traversed mighty adventures.  They carried Him swiftly as He explored the terrain and discovered the world around Him.  Those feet were small, and seemingly insignificant, yet tough and capable of keeping up with a boy’s curious life.

They were the feet of a boy whose Earthly life was the fulfillment of a Promise.

As an adolescent and young man, those feet walked Him into places of worship. They carried Him throughout His time of learning.  Those feet were average, and seemingly insignificant, yet they carried a Savior who would soon declare Himself to the world.

They were the feet of a Sovereign and Wise young man.

As an adult, those feet; the ones who were kissed by His mother, whisked Him through times of play, and walked Him into places where His knowledge grew, were the same ones that held His tired body up as He achingly marched His way up to the hill where He bled out.

They were the feet of Sacrifice.

Those beautiful, torn, and weary feet were pierced and nailed to a tree.  They were ripped for us all.  They were witnesses to the most tragic, yet significant moment in time.

They were the feet of the Messiah.

Three days later, those same feet picked His body up, walked Him down a road, and held Him up as He fulfilled the promise of Resurrection.

Those eternal feet are the feet of the Risen Savior.

We are asked to be the feet of Jesus.  We are told to go to places where the least of these dwell.  We are directed to walk into the lands of strangers, and to carry our brothers who are fallen.  We are asked to walk in humility and service to others.

Yet, our feet will not be torn.  They will not be nailed.  They will not have redemptive blood trickling down them.  They will not witness the wail of a Savior’s cry, the tears of His mother, and the agony of pain felt.

Our feet will never leave the kind of print on the world that His did.  If we say we are the hands and feet of Jesus, what are we saying?  Do we fully understand the undertaking that is?

At the feet of Jesus, we find love that lasts, and grace that resonates deep within. Do others find that in us?

His feet.  His glorious and beautiful feet were nailed.  They were broken for us.  They paid it all.  

He paid it all.

His feet.  His weary and worn feet never lost sight of His vision.

His feet.  His glorious and broken feet walked Wisdom into this world.  They carried the breathing embodiment of  compassion that this world thirsts for.   

His feet took Him to strangers, met them where they were at, and impacted them in a miraculous way.

They were the feet of Salvation.

We are the feet of Jesus.  That is both an honor and a challenge.  Are we able to show compassion?  Do we desire to impact others in a way that feels miraculous to them?  

Will others find us at the feet of Jesus?

Related Post:  my scar, His Scars

I Pick the Cross

photo (56)Last Friday, we took our children to an amusement park not too far from where we live.  My parents came along to enjoy the day, and to help out with little ones.  My son was quite determined to find either a shark tooth or alligator tooth necklace, so naturally, his Papa assisted in finding and purchasing him one.

My 4-year-old daughter and I looked at a few of the charms for necklaces, and I kept pointing out the butterflies, hearts, guitars, etc…basically the ones I thought she would want.  She carefully picked up and inspected each one, thought long and hard about her choice, then picked up a yellow cross with small red dots on it and said “I pick the Cross”.  I have to admit that I was a little surprised by her choice.  I just didn’t guess that she would choose a cross for her necklace.  After all, there were far more shiny, decorative, and cute ones that little girls tend to find appealing.

I asked her again if it was what she wanted, and she said, “Yes, I pick the Cross”.  My heart was warmed by this.  Our daughter seems to have always been a child who embraces God.  She has reminded me time again that God lives in her heart.  She leads the prayer at dinner time, and if we get a in hurry to eat, she reminds us that we must pray first.  She wakes up nearly every day wondering if it is Sunday because she is excited to go to church.  She has asked time and again if she was a little baby in Heaven with God before she was in her birth mother’s belly.  I probably shouldn’t be too surprised that she picked the Cross for a necklace that her Papa bought her.

In thinking about this again today, I  thought of why Jesus reminds of being like a little child and having a child-like faith.  I know there have been and still are times when I do not pick the Cross.  Instead, I have picked the shiny, appealing, and popular things the world has to offer.  I still struggle with wanting more of the world’s charms, and find it a constant battle to focus on desiring the Lord over anything else.  If I told you otherwise, I would be a liar.  Even if I didn’t admit it out loud, God would still hear the words of my heart, and the longings of my desires that often sway me from Him.

The world tells us, “Pick me! Pick me!  Don’t do what you think God wants you to do.  Do what is best for you, what will put you ahead, and what will serve you.  Don’t listen to Him.  Don’t pick the Cross.”  In those times when I have listened to the world, I have missed out on the blessings that come from walking in His light.  On the contrary, in those times that I have ignored the world and focused my actions on His calling, I have been abundantly blessed with grace, insight, and strength.

I often learn wonderfully humbling things from my children, and am sure that I will continue to as I raise them.  I am also quite sure that I will walk the fine line of balancing my desire for the world with choosing to follow Christ throughout the rest of my life.  I know though, that living a life in faith and choosing to pick the Cross will never cause me to fail or lose.  I will have gained everything that is worthy of gaining by choosing the Cross, and by choosing Him.  After all, Jesus gave everything up, and carried the Cross for me.

Father, Thank you for using my daughter to teach me about You.  Thank you for instilling in her a heart that longs for You, and I pray for Divine protection over her.  Father, help me, and help us all to always pick the Cross, and our Lord and Savior over anything else in the world.

I’ll Play My Drum for You

photo (42)One of my favorite Christmas songs is “The Little Drummer Boy”.  There is something quite simplistic, yet deeply thoughtful (in my opinion) about this tune.  The lyrics tell the story of a boy whose only gift for the newborn King is the rhythmic tapping of his drum.

I remember watching the animated movie when I was younger.  The description of the movie is, “An orphan drummer boy who hated humanity finds his life changed forever when he meets three wise men on route to Bethlehem.” (www.imdb.com)  I would argue that his life changed more when he met the newborn King.  Much like those of us who claim Christ as our Savior, the people along the way certainly influenced our journey, but ultimately, meeting the Lord and reveling in His glory is what changed our lives.

The thought that our Savior was born in a lowly manger surrounded by very few people is quite humbling.  His worth values more than any riches.  He could have been born in the most glorious of places, and could have commanded the Earth to move.  And yet, the song of “The Little Drummer Boy” reminds me of the pureness of children and how their gifts, though small and often hand-made, carry far greater value than the store-bought gifts we often receive.  The words also speak of meeting the Lord where we are at; poor, with not much to offer.

I believe He doesn’t expect us to put out our finest wares for Him.  I believe He wants our gifts to be used and given in humility, kindness, and with sincere generosity.  I believe we are to use what we have been given to the best of our ability, and with the heart of a child.  These gifts of our time, service to others, loving acceptance, and consolation of each other are of value that will never fade.

What “drum” will you play to honor Him?  What will the rhythm of your life sound like?  The sounds may fade, and the act may be just one moment in time, but, the impact on others can be eternal.

Yes, Lord, I’ll play my drum for You.

Waiting on God

photo (32)I prayed today for concrete answers to multiple situations going on in my life of which I’m trying to keep my anxiety level to a minimal.  I asked told the Lord to let today be the day that I got ALL of the answers I needed to hear.  Quite selfish, I know, but I’ve been a little overwhelmed lately with all of the “stuff” going on in life.

The stuff I’m referring to consists of (1) wanting an answer for something I’ve been working on for years, and feeling so close to getting, and, (2) needing to hear with clarity what the Lord intends to do with a situation involving a family member.  In the middle of these things lies my normally busy life consisting of children, work, and a home to tend to.  If the truth were told, I would eliminate the work part and focus on the home and family; thus, leading me back to wanting answers!

Even as I write this, I’m daydreaming a little about it all.  As the day grew into evening, I did not receive that phone call or that email with an answer.  I did not receive a letter or phone call telling me what the next steps will be regarding a family member.  The Lord did not break through the clouds declaring the answers I am yearning to hear.  However, as the day went on, I started to realize that He has waited on me multiple times throughout my life, and will continue to as long as I am breathing Earthly air.

He’s waited on me to open the Word instead of opening my Facebook page. He’s waited on me to have a heart pursuing Him with the same passion that I have pursued others and things of this world.  He’s waited on me to write that check in full faith the He will use it for good; instead of writing a check for something temporary that I desired.

He’s waited on me to relinquish my fear of the unknown, and let Him lead my life. He’s waited on me to understand infertility as a part of my life story, so that He could unfold the script.  He’s waited on me to give the same amount of grace for the indiscretions of others that He’s given me.  He still waits on me to let His peace be the answer I need until He moves the mountain that seems insurmountable, or opens the door to the next step in my life.

Today I found myself thinking, “I’m just waiting on God for answers.”  In essence, though, the Lord answered my prayer today.  He answered it with the vision of those times where I’m sure He stood quietly waiting.  He answered it with the sobering remembrance of those moments in my life where I refused to listen.  He answered it with the knowledge that I know is true – He is the keeper of my past, the shepherd of my present, and the lantern for my future.

He answered it with, “Be still and know that I am God.”

My Life’s Song

Here we are in the last few days of November and the last week of National Adoption Month.  This past month I have posted something each day that I hope has inspired people to take care of children through adoption and foster care.  I’d like to share some insights I’ve learned as an adoptive parent.  Here’s the first one:

Through the adoption of my children I have learned that my life was planned and designed with great purpose.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that growing up I never really understood or appreciated the concept of a life planned in advance; especially if the plan included the heart-wrenching grief of infertility.  I did not comprehend how a loving God could or would allow infertility, even though barrenness is written about in Scripture.  I certainly never envisioned myself as a mother.  I just didn’t think it was “in the cards” for my life.

Seeking the Lord and the adoption of my children have both revealed to me that mothering was written into my life story.  My children were planned for me, and I was planned for them.  Despite the medical problem I had that resulted in being barren, I was still designed with the great purpose of motherhood by the God that created the Heavens and the Earth.

Some call it fate.  Some may say I lucked into being able to adopt.  I choose not to call it either of these things.  I call it the grace of the Lord and His Divine Plan.  I call it the presence of a living God whose works are ones of love.  I call it the pouring out of His blessings.  I call it a mission-filled and purposeful design.

Adoption really is my life’s song.  My children are the instruments.  Our experience together is the melody.  The Lord is the composer, and, from time to time, you just might catch me dancing to it.

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

Beautiful for God (quote from Mother Teresa)

“Do you want to do something beautiful for God? There is a person who needs you. This is your chance.”
-Mother Teresa

I find this quote from Mother Teresa to be simple, powerful, and truthful.  I think that if you substitute the word child for the word person, it makes this quote even more awesome.  I hope your day is one that shines beauty for the Lord’s sake!

Barren to Blessed (meaning behind the name)

The first night I started this blog, I had no idea really what the heck I was doing.  I just felt the urge to write.  It started when I began to journal about my hysterectomy a few years ago.  I guess I held so much in over the past 25+ years that once I started writing, there was not an end in sight.  I do not want to stop.  Writing is therapeutic, and each time I write, I learn from it.  I am pretty sure most bloggers can relate to this.

I know I am not the best writer and often make grammatical mistakes, but writing is not about perfection anyway (at least in my opinion).  Writing, like life, has moments of grit, sorrow, heroism, and laughter.  Writing has given voice to the imperfections of my life and to the yearning to be understood in the world.  Writing releases the words my heart wants to say.

I have to be honest, I really did not spend a lot of time coming up with my blog name.  Growing up knowing I would not be able to have biological children caused me to think of my barren self as being cursed.  I do not mean cursed in the witch-crafty, voodoo kind of way necessarily; although I wondered that from time to time soon after it happened. For whatever reason I felt that I was intentionally blocked from having a “normal” life.  Of course, now that I am an adult, I do not know of anyone who has had a “normal” life.

Adding children to my life has given me a taste of living a life outside of my own.  Parenting children continues to bring meaning and sense to life and the things that have happened.  But, the meaning behind my blog name is more than just about the children.  I walked a long and difficult road to see the Lord for who He is in my life.  I was void (barren) of listening to His will, reading His word, and leaning on His hope.  I did not see a purpose for what happened.  I could not see the light at the end of the tunnel…until I saw the Light that is Him.

The Lord was calling me back to Him long before I even gave a thought about becoming a foster/adoptive parent.  My blog name obviously represents the blessings that come from children.  If my life ended up without children, there would have been sadness of course.  I know that.  However, I also know that life in Christ is a life worth living and for that I am truly blessed.

Don’t Borrow Trouble

“Caroline, I learned raising you with all of your health problems that you can’t borrow trouble.” 

The quote above is from a conversation today with my mom about my son’s health.  A routine trip to the urgent care to make sure that bronchitis or pneumonia had not declared itself in my son’s lungs turned into a six-hour ordeal involving multiple breathing treatments and more doctor’s appointments and testing to come.  I’ll know more this week and am really trying to not borrow trouble, but I’m also really good at it.  If it was a salaried talent, I would be a “zillionairre” by now!

I admit there is hypocrisy with me in this area.  I just wrote a post about not allowing life’s distractions (Distractions, Distractions) to get in the way of keeping focus on the Lord, and here I am just a few days later getting distracted by the “what if’s”, “why now’s”, and tomorrow’s worries that may or may not even come to fruition.  I will suggest to others to not fret over what may or may not be a problem.  I’ll quote scripture and encourage others to pray, but often I do not take my own advice as well as I would like to admit.

I do not believe that the Lord wants us to fret over situations.  We are to cast all of our cares onto Him in good faith knowing that He has already declared the victories in our lives.  The walk on this Earth is hard.  Our money runs out, our relationships lay in ruins, and our bodies break-down; yet, He never changes.

HE.NEVER.CHANGES

While my mom told me not to borrow trouble, she also suggested to be prepared.  Learn about possible conditions, think through scenarios, and be open to the possibility that health matters can become serious.  She knows this first hand from raising me.  You can learn a little bit more about her in my post titled Mother’s Resilience that I wrote on Mother’s Day.  She has always told me to “trust my gut and intuition” when it comes to my children.  I feel that this gift is one the Lord has given to women.  That ability proved invaluable when she was raising me.  Her persistence and determination to get answers played a big role in saving my life during my illness.

So for now, I am going to walk in faith trusting the instinct the Lord has granted me with my children and trusting Him to work out the details.  I am going to put as much effort as I can to focus on the hope that comes from the Lord instead of the hap-hazards of being human.  Regardless of the outcome, I have comfort knowing that the Lord already has tomorrow’s troubles in His Heavenly Hands.

“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.”

– Jeremiah 29:11

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.