LOVE.

Last night I sat with two dozen cold hard-boiled eggs, a white crayon, and my Bible turned to Colossians. I scoured the pages looking for words that would mean something, or at least, make a little more sense to my son, age 7, and daughter, age 5. Finally, I settled on Colossians 3:12-17:

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And out of all these virtues, put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.  I then went on to find other words such as grace, sing, obey, and of course, our Savior’s name, Jesus.

photoEggs1Tonight, to my children’s surprise, the words appeared as they lifted the eggs out of the dye. My son exclaimed, “You did it again, Mommy! You wrote words on the eggs!” I tried this last year, and only one word showed up. (Although, a lesson was learned from that one word.) Thankfully, all of the words showed up this time.

After we dyed the eggs, I read the verses above and each time I came across a word they spotted on one of the eggs, we put the egg in a basket. It was a fun and meaningful activity.

I admit that I could have had a little more patience when color-drenched hands were grabbing at the eggs. I could have used more wisdom and compassion about the excitement that two young children show at dying Easter eggs. My attempt to finish the activity with reading about Jesus’s crucifixion seemed to be in vain as the children were too busy dancing around the table, singing songs, and chattering about the rest of our weekend plans.

As I cleaned up the table, put the eggs back in their cartons for overnight storage, and closed my Bible, the thought hit me that I am often too busy dancing around the many tables of responsibilities I have. Sometimes, I am too noisy with songs of my own rhythm, or simply talking too much to listen to the Word.

And then, I re-read the verse…

And out of all these virtues, put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity…

I’m still learning to use wisdom, compassion, gratitude, humility, gentleness, and patience as a parent. Aren’t we all?

Out of all of these, LOVE binds us together. LOVE.

On this incredible weekend as the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ resonates within us, let us not forget to love.

Let us not forget to love as He loves us.

Thank you, Jesus, for Your Love that led You to the Cross.

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

Dear (Foster) Momma of a Stranger’s Child (Letter #2)

Dear (Foster) Momma of a Stranger’s Child,

You are back there again, aren’t you?  You are back at that place of frustration.  Two steps forward; then, three, maybe even four steps back.  You are tired of being tired.  You are worn out from being worn out, and yet, you get up each day, put on the unseen mask of bravery, and enter the mission field that is within your own home.

Others say to you, “I could never do what you do.”  Sometimes, though, you wonder if what they mean is, “I would never do what you do.”  When you hear these words from others, you are not really sure how to respond.  A part of you feels the compliment; yet, another part of you feels a twinge of anger.  You may even wonder, “Why couldn’t you do what I do?  Why wouldn’t you?”

Dear (Foster) Momma of a Stranger’s Child, you are a non-celebrated soldier in a battle not of your own making.

When you started this journey, your lenses were colored with excitement, hope, and joy about the path to which you started on.  Now, after witnessing the distressing, painful, and tragic sickness that is child abuse, your lenses are dusty. You still believe in hope.  You still get excited.  You still have joy when celebrating the small, yet significant steps, that the children and birth parents are making.

Yet, you know that something has changed deep within you.  You know that there is no turning back to the person you once were.  The welfare of children, and the despair within our own backyards, is something that will stick to you for the rest of your days.

Dear (Foster) Momma of a Stranger’s Child, you are changing.  Your heart is turning to the things that breaks the heart of God.  

There are times when you wonder if you are really making a difference.  It seems like just when you finish cleaning up one mess, another one pops up.  You look at the beautiful, breathing, living mess in front of you, and you get angry.  You wonder what the little one in front of you would have been like if it had not been for the horror of abuse, the tragedy of neglect, and the pain of being invisible.

Your anger subsides, and you return to the thought that we were all beautiful, breathing, living messes.  You remember the days before you became a (Foster) Momma to a Stranger’s Child.  There were times when you took two steps forward, and then, three or four steps back.

There were times when you thought, “I could never do what they do.  I would never do that.”  You thought of the other soldiers and warriors in the battle against child abuse; yet, you may have never seen yourself on the front-line of this war.  You know that your Father in Heaven put your here, but…there are times when you question why He did.

Your faith has been challenged.  Your prayers have been heavier than usual.  Your cries to the Lord are filled with the salt of your tears.  Still though, you return to the belief that your actions may go unnoticed by those around you, but they are never unseen by the same God who created You, and the beautiful, breathing, living mess in front of you.

Dear (Foster) Momma of a Stranger’s Child, your faith is being stretched. Sometimes, it hurts.  Sometimes, it feels like He is not there.  Sometimes, you feel closer to Him than you have ever felt.

When you begin to wonder if you are really making a difference in this world, you start to question just how significant your role is, or you are grief-stricken time and again by the ashes of despair in front of you, you remember that great things come from the ashes. You know that your Savior chose to walk with those to whom are often ignored.

Dear (Foster) Momma of a Stranger’s Child,

Just when you feel like you cannot continue…

You see more steps taken than ever before.

You feel more brave than you ever have.

You witness the transformation of lives.

You have a breakthrough in challenging behaviors.

Your heart begins to heal.

Your soul recognizes this mission field to which you are called.

You remember that beauty can rise from the most broken pieces of life.

Dear (Foster) Momma of a Stranger’s Child, YOU are taking steps.  YOU are brave.  YOU are being transformed.  YOU are making breakthroughs.  YOU are healing.  YOU are a missionary.  And…

YOU are the beauty that is rising from the ashes.

Motherhood is a Gift

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What’s wrong, sweetie?”  I asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 It is not a subtitle, or secondary description.

Being an adoptive mother is profound.

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

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

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

Motherhood is a gift.

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

It’s Just Hair…

barrentoblessed:

I came home today feeling relaxed after some self-pampering. As I approached the top of the stairs, my husband stopped me, and said, “You are going to be mad.” Confused, I wandered into the living to see my daughter hiding her head in the couch pillows.

As her head peered out from the pillows, I saw what she did. This morning, I took her to get a cute hair cut. This afternoon, she decided to cut a good inch off…right off the forehead. Oh man, I was angry!

The first few times my daughter took the scissors to her head were kind-of cute. Now, at age five, after multiple times of cutting her hair, it is not so cute anymore. (Yes, we put the scissors up. And, yes, she is a sneaky, little climber.) I was so angry with her, but then I remembered a blog post that was written by a fellow mother, believer, blogger, and friend.

As I read her words for the second time, I realized that my dissatisfaction over my daughter’s choice to cut her hair matters less than the fact that my daughter has strength to climb for scissors, energy to hide in the pillows of the couch, and hair to cut.

Please, if you have ever been upset by your child cutting his or her hair, take a moment and read this post by Charity. After all, it’s just hair….

Originally posted on What Matters Most:

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Our baby girl took it upon herself to cut her own hair this past Saturday. Not going to lie- I cried. Over the years her hair had grown long with beautiful little curls that would bounce as she bounced. When her hair was damp they were the curliest. Dry, she still had such a pretty wave. I loved those curls. So finding them all about her feet broke my heart. “Why?!!” “Why?!!” I just kept asking and crying, “Why?!”

I called my hubby who repeated the words I needed to hear, “It’s just hair.” I repeated those words to myself over and over as I had to take on the unwanted task of cutting the rest of her hair.

And as those pieces fell I felt The Lord nudging at my heart- causing me to consider the children with no hair and their parents whose cries of, “Why?!” are far…

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Momma-in-Waiting (Part #3)

Pssst…Hey Momma-in-Waiting. Yes, you....

I saw you the other day.  I saw the longing in your eyes.  I recognized the deep searching that your heart is doing.  You are waiting for a soft place for your heart to land.  You are on a quest to end the night to which you have been waking up to.

You are a Momma without a child.  You are a Momma-in-Waiting. 

You see the images of the babes of others splattered all over social media.  You watch new mothers at the park.  You greet the new babies at church with love, but while you do, your heart feels as though it is being ripped from your chest.  You read the headlines about others who do not seem to care about the very thing that you long for.

You know there are Momma-less children in the world; and yet, you feel as though every door you try to open remains unlocked.  You also know that there are children-less Momma’s in the world; and yet, you feel completely alone.

You get angry.  You question.  You feel sorry for yourself.  You keep it to yourself.  You are a Momma without a child.  You are a Momma-in-Waiting.

Pssst…Hey Momma-in-Waiting. Yes, you…. 

You are backed into a corner where your faith and your frailness collide.  Still, in this waiting time, there is great beauty.  You…Momma-in-Waiting…You know full well the magnitude of the gift of life.  You know every measure of importance that children are to our lives, and to this world.  You…Momma-in-Waiting…You do not take anything or anyone for granted, anymore.

It may not feel like it now, but there is much to be gained while waiting.  There are moments that cut and sear your heart.  There are moments when doubt about your purpose, or better yet, His purpose seems to cling onto you.  There are times when you feel as though your heart will never recover, and your tears seem to flood any attempt to see life with clarity.

You question.  You seek.  You wonder.  You wait.  You are a Momma without a child.  You are a Momma-in-Waiting.

Pssst…Hey Momma-in-Waiting. Yes, you…. 

You have made a pledge to yourself.  You have promised that once you no longer are in waiting, you will be the best Momma around.  You are already visualizing the moment you see your child for the first time.  You are already thinking about parties, nursery decorations, and announcements.  You may have even, in anticipation, tucked away a picture or item you will use once your wait is over.

In this waiting period, although sorrowful at times, there is great beauty.  There is coloring of the memories to come, prayers for the child who will be joining you, and soul-deepening conversations with the One who hears the deepest, and often unspoken, hunger of your heart.

You pray.  You plead.  You visualize.  You cling.  You are a Momma without a child.  You are a Momma-in-Waiting.

Pssst…Hey Momma-in-Waiting. Yes, you…. 

You do not understand why you are waiting.  You wonder if you did something wrong, or perhaps, just perhaps, you are holding onto the promise of something incredible in store.  Your faith and strength is unwavering.  Did you hear that, Momma-in-Waiting?  YOUR FAITH AND YOUR STRENGTH IS UNWAVERING.  

No one knows how you walk each day with an armor of courage, shield of strength, and heart of hope.  No one fully understands how this life experience has shaped you, grieved you, changed you, and matured your heart to the calling of His voice. Only the other Momma’s-in-Waiting who share in this journey of walking through the wasteland, will ever understand it.

You have courage.  You are strong.  You do not lose hope.  You are a Momma without a child.  You are a Momma-in-Waiting.

Pssst…Hey Momma-in-Waiting. Yes, you…. 

I used to be a Momma-in-Waiting.  I used to greet the new babies at church with quiet happiness, while harboring the sadness in my heart.  I used to feel alone.  I once battled between my faith and my frailness.  Doubt seemed to wrap around me

I questioned if I deserved barrenness.  I wondered if there was a daybreak in sight to the endless night to which I had succumbed.  I fantasized about my babies.  I decorated their rooms in my head.  I clung onto the intense prayers to our Lord.

I look back now, and I recognize the incredible beauty of the wait.  I know that my armor of courage, shield of strength, and heart of hope kept me going each day.  My experience shaped me, grieved me, changed me, and matured my heart to Him.

Pssst…Hey Momma-in-Waiting. Yes, you….

My head was lifted, and so will yours.  My eyes were dried, and so will yours.

Soon, yes, soon….You will no longer be a momma-in-waiting.

Related Posts:

Momma-in-Waiting

Momma-in-Waiting (Part #2)

The Case for Kids

I have run across some Facebook statuses, blog posts, and other humorous social media updates that point to all of the benefits of choosing a life free of the “burden” of parenting.  While I understand where the authors of these posts are coming from, and even, the convenience in many ways of not having children, I have weighed the benefits of a life with children versus one without.

My husband and I had the choice to pursue parenthood.  There would be no “accidental” pregnancies in our lives.  I am infertile.  He knew that going into our marriage.  This is something that would not change.  We also had the choice to pursue a life without children.  We could have stayed in our quaint two bedroom cobblestone front home, and traveled the world.  We could have spent our lives on a seemingly perpetual date.

We did not choose this, though.  We pursued adoption because we wanted to share in the experience of parenting.  Because of this, I’ve come up with some simple, and yet relevant, reasons why life with children (however they come to you) is the best thing ever.

Once you become a parent, 

  1. you begin to value the simple things in life. 
  2. you are suddenly thrust into a world of humility.
  3. you learn that there is nothing more satisfying than self-sacrifice.   
  4. you are gifted with simplistic examples of love.  
  5. you are reminded that grace is a gift freely given, and one that you need to work on giving.
  6. your life is enhanced in ways that you never thought was possible.  
  7. the artwork on the refrigerator is the most priceless piece of work you have ever seen.
  8. your own health becomes more important.  
  9. you are given the gift of multiple second chances by the same little humans who love you, need you, and whose life is dependent on you.
  10. you work harder, sleep less, and do not regret either of these.
  11. your heart; the one that has led your decisions throughout your life, is now being led, moved, and persuaded by the little beating hearts walking right next to you.
  12. you are reminded that each day brings a new opportunity to start again, learn something new, correct a bad habit, and let your imagine soar.
  13. you are surrounded by the opportunity to remember and embrace those magical moments of your own childhood.
  14. you are reminded of how hard your parents must have worked to raise you, provide for you, and give you a life of opportunity.  Or, in some situations, you are reminded of how void your childhood was; thus, you are being the change needed in the next generation of children in your family.
  15. you gain a simplistic and innocent sense of humor.  (All it takes in the mispronunciation of one word by your child, and suddenly, you are giggling.)
  16.  you know that the most important job you have is being a parent.  You defend it.  You protect it.  You speak up for it, and, you are proud of it.
  17. you know you are the most important person to your children, and by this, you are nearly overwhelmed with unspeakable love.
  18. you are greeted with happiness, told that you are loved, and freely given tokens of love on a daily basis.
  19. every moment of life, from going through a car wash to traveling to an adventurous destination, is filled with excitement and exhilaration.
  20. you begin to see glimpses of your own future, and you fight for it.  You whisper hope into the ears of your children.  You teach them to love without judgment, and dream without borders.  You tell them that the world is open for them, and to seize their dreams.  You long for them to embrace their own sense of the world, and yet, you hope they do not forget where home is.  

I used to think, or at least give off the impression, that life would be okay without children.  Deep down, though, I knew I was missing out.  I grieved for something to which I did not even fully understand.  I just knew that I did not want to enter into my Heavenly home with missing the valuable experience of being a parent.

When I see the Facebook statuses, blog posts, and other humorous social media updates that depict why a life without children is better than a life with children, I find myself defending the plight of parents, the needs of all of those babies who have made their way to our lives, and the hope of our future.  I could go on and on about the importance, hardship, yet joy of life with children.

As a child, I was not promised parenthood.  I actually never visualized it.  Instead, I hoped for it.  I prayed for it.  And now, at the age of forty-two and thinking through the past thirty-one years of my life, I cannot imagine not fighting for parenthood.

My friend, if you are reading this wondering if you should get pregnant,  pursue IVF, become a foster parent, adopt, or, if you should choose a life without children, I want to tell you that there is nothing more challenging, yet, more incredibly rewarding than being a parent.

I will never stop challenging those who consider children as less important in our world.  Sure, movies may be easier to watch, going out to eat might be a little more quiet, traveling may be relaxing and exotic, and you may have more down time to sleep in, and embrace your own hobbies, but this blogger, this parent, and this child of God, will always support the case for kids.

IMG_2576Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him.  Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth.  Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate.  -Psalm 127: 3-5

Armor of Light

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

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

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

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

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

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

Candlelight Vigil
Photo Credit: Cory Stewart

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

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

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

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

I see light suffocating darkness.

I see the armor of light.

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

At the Intersection of Faith and Fury {Light of the World}

I tucked our daughter into bed last night, paused for a moment, and then crawled in bed with her.  I curled my body around her, held on tight as her little body relaxed into sleep, enjoyed how good it felt to hold her close, and then thought about the sad events of the week.

In my hometown, a 10-year-old girl was abducted, and murdered by a teacher. There does not appear to be any connection between the child and the man who took her life.  I do not know this little girl or her family, but when something like this happens, especially close to home, it causes one to stop and consider the world in which we live, and to which our children are growing up.

As I held my daughter, tears started to well up in my eyes.  I found myself stuck at the intersection of faith and fury.  It is hard to comprehend where God is when horrible things happen.  I know He carries all of this junk of the world in His hands, and I believe He is the Redeemer of hope, but when life collides with confusion, it causes my soul to feel restless.  It pursues my anger, and catches hold of my desire for vengeance.

Sometimes, I look up to the Heavens and tell God that the view from down here is quite difficult to enjoy.  When violence and death happen, I sometimes wonder where He is.  In this spot where hope and heartbreak meet, I long for understanding.  Why, oh Lord, why did You not intervene?  Why did You allow this?  Why?  

And then, I remember that He is found at the cross-roads of love and loss.  He is near the intersection of revenge and justice.  He is our sail when the waters are rising, and land is in sight.  Our Father is the divider between misery and mercy.

As my daughter drifted her way to sleepy-town, I crept out of her room, and met my son in his bedroom.  He seemed fearful.  He asked for a flash light, and then, quietly said, “Mommy, will you lay down with me?”

I held him close while my mind continued to swirl.  I wondered,  “What kind of world am I raising my children in?  What kind of world corrupts a man’s heart to do such a heinous crime to a child?”  Once again, tears left my eyes and meandered their way to his robot-themed pillow case.  Such despair held within those tear drops; such innocence to which they soaked into.

Porch LightAfter I kissed my son goodnight, sat down at the computer and noticed that people I knew were posting pictures of their porch lights in memory of the little girl whose life came to an abrupt ending.  And then, one by one, folks from across the nation, and even other countries, showed their pictures of porch lights that were turned on.

The stark difference between the darkness that occurred with her death, and the lights that were shining caused my heart to stir a bit more, and perhaps, even soften to the hope that is found within the Light.

At the intersection of love and grief, hope and despair, anger and peace, vengeance and forgiveness, darkness and light, and faith and fury, the Savior I believe in is still found.  He is the vessel of love.  He is the carrier of hope. He is the portrait of peace.  His vengeance is great, and yet, He will always be the purest form of forgiveness.

Our mighty Redeemer is the faith to which I stand.

At the intersection of faith and fury, He is the light of this world.  

John 8:12 – When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Everyone is Lovable

Sitting around our slightly scuffed up and very used dinner table, my husband asked our son what he learned at school.  Scooping up a fork full of red beans and rice, our son said,

“We learned that everyone is lovable.”

My husband and I glanced at each other with both surprise and gratitude.  I took a bite of my cornbread, chewed as quickly as possible, and said to him,

“That is a great lesson.”

I thought about his statement throughout the night.  At what point do we start to not think this way?  When do we decide that some people are more lovable than others?  In our adult experience, why is it that we forget this lesson?  Why is it that children must teach it to us?  

As a Christian, I have found myself seeing others with blurred vision.  There are certainly people who I would never want to surround myself with, and yet, perhaps these people are the exact ones that Christ sought so desperately.

We teach our children to love without borders, to be kind without restrictions, and to give without expectation; yet, we often do not live up to the standard that we teach. And yet, it takes a simple elementary school lesson to stir my heart upon these things.

Since becoming a parent, I have felt drawn towards the refining messages and lessons learned from watching them grow up.  Our children teach us so much – just like we taught our parents, and so on.  I thank The Lord for these lessons, second chances at getting it right, and tender moments when you just know that the words coming from the lips of your child are totally meant for you.

I’ve been asked how I feel about certain political issues, social debates, and hot topics that make up our days.  If I want to live a life aligned with the heart of Christ, then, I choose to leave my answer at a place of love.  I’ve decided that nothing else matters except a heart that loves, a heart that forgives, and a heart that admits we are all in need of love.

I’m so thankful that my son walked away from school (public school, I might add), with the reminder that everyone is lovable…Everyone – rich, poor, clean, dirty, shameful, unashamed, popular, unpopular, black, white, Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, gay, straight, smart, not smart….the list goes on.

Thank you, Lord, for finding me lovable in the moments I’ve deserved it the least, the moments I’ve needed it the most, and in that incredible moment You drew a last painful breath on the Cross.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, – Galatians 5:22