how I wonder…

School started this past week for my children.  My oldest son entered his second grade year with excitement.  He may not admit it all of the time, but he loves school. He grins from ear to ear when walking through the halls, and enjoys being around kids his own age.

My two-year-old seems to be exploding in his development.  Smiles, giggles, energy, and “Watch me, Mommy” all seem to captivate his world right now.  He is a happy, and healthy little boy.

My daughter started Kindergarten – she started Kindergarten!  Watching a little one grow into his or her own unique being, and enter into a new world of discovery, is both exciting and a little nerve-wracking.

The night before school started, I sat by my daughter’s bedside as she said, “I can’t go to sleep, Mommy.  My brain doesn’t want to.”  I know she was feeling anxious about the her first day at school, and tried to encourage her to get some sleep.

“Sing to me, Mommy.” she said. “Sing Twinkle,Twinkle Little Star….”

As I sat beside her singing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”, I looked around her slightly darkened pink and green room, and my eyes landed on her name spelled out in bright pink letters, a Cross hanging by her bed, and more than enough blankets to keep her feeling secure through the night.

As I softly sang to her, and gently rubbed her back, I thought about the mother’s around the world who are doing their best to sing their children to sleep. Under devastatingly tragic conditions, there are so many who are trying their best to soothe their children into a restful night’s sleep.

With the sound of gunfire, threat of violence, and hazards that make up the darkness of night, they might just be whispering….

“Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,

How I wonder what you are.

Up above the world so high,

Like a diamond in the sky.

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,

How I wonder what you are.”

As I sang this song to my daughter, I peered through her curtains into the night sky. I thought about the mother’s looking up into the Heavens and wondering when God will deliver them from despair.

My mind escaped to the mountaintops in Iraq where children, mothers, and fathers are clinging to a sliver of hope…to that glimmer of light in a darkened place.

And then, I turned to my daughter, half-asleep, snuggled into her warm bed, and I felt thankful and sorrowful at the same time.

In my home state, a terrible thing has happened.  A young African-American male was shot and killed by a police officer.  Honestly, I do not know all of the details of what happened.  It is still a tragic and heart-breaking situation, though.

The aftermath has been a week filled with incredible anger and riots. Confusion, chaos, and images of seemingly palpable rage have splattered social media, television, and any form of news outlets.

Behind it all is a mother and a father grieving for their son.  A mother and father who, under tremendously sad conditions, are crying woeful, and deeply afflicting sobs for their son to whom they will no longer feel his embrace, no longer visualize his future, and no longer hear his voice.

“Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,

How I wonder what you are.

Up above the world so high,

Like a diamond in the sky.

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,

How I wonder what you are.”

And then, I turn to my children, half-asleep, snuggled in their warm beds, and I feel thankful and sorrowful at the same time.

I’m thankful that some of my daily challenges as a mother include getting the kids out the door in time, deciding what they need to wear, assuring they are at least trying to use their manners, scheduling their extracurricular activities, and getting home in time to prepare dinner.

And, although it might sound odd, in some way, my heart is so incredibly sorrowful for too many who do not have the luxury of worrying about these things.

I feel guilty…I feel sadness…

My heart is heavy for the mothers whose daily challenges are keeping their babies alive, clothing them in whatever rags they can find, teaching them survival skills, visualizing (if only for a moment) a future for their children that does not include the threat of terror, having a home, a bed, and food, and burying their babies before they even have a chance at a life.  My heart is especially stricken with the thoughts of so many who are being persecuted for their faith or color of skin.

During this past week, I have celebrated my own children’s successes, fresh starts, and fun hobbies.  Not too far from these experiences have been my thoughts of the world to which we live in.

Although my daughter loves it when I sing, “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” to her as she drifts off to sleep, my heart is singing…

“Jesus, Jesus Savior Lord, 

How I wonder when You’ll come.

Up above this world so wrong, 

It is Your peace to which I long.

Jesus, Jesus Savior Lord,

How I wonder when You’ll come.”

 

“Jesus, Jesus Savior Lord.  

How I wonder when You’ll come.

Up above this world so torn,

We cry out; our hearts are worn.

Jesus, Jesus Savior Lord,

How I wonder when You’ll come.”

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” – John 14:1-3

Gift Ideas for Foster Care and Adoption

Do you know someone who has recently became a foster parent, or is going through the adoption process?  Do you need some ideas for gifts to give?  Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Gift cards to a variety of retail stores (Foster families often take children in a “moment’s notice”, and may need to run out and grab a car seat, clothing, and other essentials for taking care of children.)
  • Gender neutral items (Even though a family has a preference for gender, sometimes they are selected or called about a child of the opposite gender.)
  • Gift cards to restaurants, zoo passes, movie tickets, or other entertainment venues.  Sometimes, actually often, a two parent home with no children instantly turns into a two parent home with three children.  Eating out, going to the movies and other forms of family entertainment can get expensive with a large family.)
  • Picture frames and scrap-booking materials (Foster families are asked to keep a Lifebook for each child in their care.  A Lifebook is essentially a scrapbook of the child’s life before foster care and while in care.)
  • Children’s hygiene necessities (Often, families are bombarded with clothing, toys, and other nice gifts, but they may not have a supply of pediatric fever reducers, pain medicines, toothbrushes/toothpaste, or other hygiene products.)
  • Photography Packages (Professional photography can get expensive.  Consider going in with other friends/family members and purchasing a photography session.  It is a wonderful moment when newly adopted children become part of the family portraits, and is a “rite of passage” of sorts.)
  • Foster Care and Adoption resource books (Families may need to read and learn about a variety of challenges they might face.  Reading is a great way to learn from the experience of others.)

One of my favorite gifts after adopting my oldest son (our first adoption) is pictured below.  My co-workers purchased it for me.  It meant so much because they prayed for our journey as foster parents.  They prayed for our son’s “case”.  They prayed for our son.  Gifts like this one can mean so much for a family who is starting a family or expanding a family through foster care and adoption.

plaque

Do you have any other ideas?  If so, please share!

 

 

The Gift of Brokenness {His grace is sufficient}

It seems I’ve been bombarded by the difficulties of life these past few days.  Friends struggling with illnesses, Christians turning against each other, children suffering through sexual abuse, and children being passed around through the foster care system, all seem to be on the forefront of battles within my own small piece of this world to which I dwell.

I have worried with concern about what is going on in other parts of the world.  Although feeling sheltered and stowed away here in the middle of America, I still wonder if…when…the life that we know of might be taken off-course by the wavering pains of the world.

There are those moments when you say to God, “When is enough going to be enough?!?” 

“How can we ever expect to fix a broken world when it is full of broken people?” 

There are times when I wonder why in the world has the Lord not claimed His world back.  “How many more children have to suffer at the hands of their abusers…their soul-drainers?  How many more parents have to watch their babies…their own flesh-wrapped part of their hearts…lying in a sick-bed?”

 “Lord, how many wars are too many before You intervene?  And…why…why  don’t You intervene?”

Even in my own fears of raising babes in this world, succumbing to the frailty of my own mortal coil, and witnessing again and again the vileness of abuse and neglect of God’s children, I still find myself in total awe at the moments when He declares Himself.

Even in those times when my heart is breaking, I know that in my sorrow I am drawn even closer to what breaks our Father’s heart.  I know that when you, my friend, despair over the ways of this world and the battles of your own flesh, you are also despairing over what breaks our Father’s heart.

Lately, I’ve seen many statements that declare “Strong Is the New Skinny”.

Do you want to know what is really strong, my friend?  Do you want to know what declares true strength?

In our most vulnerable moments when we cry out to God, put ourselves right in the center of someone else’s pain, or experience those times when we feel our own weaknesses, we are the strongest we have ever been.

The gift of brokenness is one that holds great beauty, courage, and strength. 

  • It is felt when you are whole in your faith in our Divine Father.
  • It is witnessed when you sing songs of joy even though your body is failing.
  • It is heard in your prayers for those who persecute you.

And, it is settled in your own broken heart…the one that causes your tears to flow for others, your actions to fill love in the spaces left empty, and your willpower to put one foot in front of the other for the good of another soul…another child of God.

This morning, I got up early, went to the gym to work-out, and saw the most beautiful sunrise on my way home.  It was bright, colorful, and simply breath-taking.

Sonrise

I took a picture of it because it was worthy of being shared.  I don’t know about you, but when I witness sunrises like this one this morning, I am profoundly humbled by the promise of our Lord.

I am inspired to keep going because day after day, the Lord continues to paint skies like the one is this picture.

Despite our frailty, weaknesses, selfish desires, and failures to love the way He does, God still shows up each day and declares Himself to the world.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

 Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

for my fellow child welfare professionals and foster families

I watched out the window as one foster family loaded three little ones into their car, spent time talking to the other foster family, and eventually drove off.  I thought to myself, “I bet those children have no idea that the family who has tucked them in bed the last few months of their lives will no longer be tucking them in.”

I do not blame the foster family – life happens, situations lean themselves to not being a good match, often trauma is so intense that it does not create a safe situation, and after all, we are all just human.  Sometimes, foster families have to let go of children they are attached to.

I watched the foster-mother wipe away tears from behind her sunglasses, and made a mental note to check on her after the weekend.  I listened to the case worker cry in the lonely confines of the bathroom, and then checked on her after she planted herself at her desk.

During all of this, my mind escaped back to when I was a new soldier in the awfully disgusting, seemingly inhumane, and never-ending war of child abuse.

My first “case” was a six-year-old girl with brown eyes, blonde hair, tomboyish temperament, and an infinity to act older than her age.

I received her file, which happened to be a very thick binder, on my desk the very first week I started my job.  “Here’s your first case.  She’s disrupting from her adoptive home”, my supervisor said.  “You need to find her another foster home that might be interested in adopting.”

In situations like this, case workers are left to scramble and search for a new family to be found.  I remember calling county offices asking…essentially pleading for a new foster family for the little girl to whom I had not even met.

Shortly after my frantic calls, I drove to her foster home..the one that promised forever…introduced myself to her…stacked her belongings in my truck…buckled her in…and drove her to the next foster family.

I literally remember every moment of this experience.  I can see the pictures on the walls of the family who gave her up, and I remember the awkwardly silent ride to her next home.

I also remember reading her file, and the many others that crossed my desk through the years.

I recall the initial trauma I felt when learning about the extent of abuse that had occurred in the lives of the children who had just started their own walk in the world.

I got angry.  I cried.  I wondered where the heck God was while all of this was going on.  I became motivated.  I worked a little harder than I thought I would.  I became passionate about the field that chose me.  I prayed.

The little girl whom I bared the responsibility of finding a family did get adopted by her new family. Even after she became comfortable with her new family, she would run and hide when she saw my white truck pull in the driveway.

I’ve been reading about the impact of child welfare work on social worker’s lives. Poor sleep, stressed relationships, depression, nutritional issues, weight gain, nightmares, and secondary trauma all seem to creep up in the lives of workers in the front lines of child welfare.  And, let’s be honest…social workers do not make a lot of money…at all.

Having been in child welfare as a professional for thirteen years, and a former foster-mother (now mother through adoption), I find myself with the ability to tuck away the painful reality of it all into a corner that I very rarely enter anymore.

I do not know if it is possible to process all of the information of tragic life stories that I have read through the years.  Sure, there are the moments of grief and anger that are witnessed as they unfold in the lobby of the office before my very eyes.  I still cry from time to time about the very nature of what is truly going on in the underbelly of our seemingly idealistic and happy communities.

Although I am weathered by the years, it really does not get easier.  It just becomes less traumatic, more expected, and a seemingly natural part of life.

That seems awful, doesn’t it?  Why in the world would child abuse and neglect become a part of life?

To be honest, if I dwell too much on it all – the sounds of children asking why they can’t go home with mommy, babies crying from feeling stressed during visits, and mixed up, lonely children being bounced from home to home – I end up getting angry.

I get angry that God would allow any of this.  I am reminded and aware of freewill, but it does not make me less outraged, less saddened, and less frustrated.

There are many opinions about children’s protective social service workers.  If there is media attention, it is usually centered around the one case of hundreds where something went wrong.  Attention is very rarely spotlighted on the day-to-day choices that case workers, juvenile court officials, child welfare attorneys, and foster parents have it make.

It does not capture the tender moments of social workers picking out gifts (often from their own money) for “their kids”.  It does not show the hours of work spent by workers in the field.  

Attention does not get up in the middle of the night to answer the “on-call” phone, travel to a meth lab in the middle of the night to pick up children who are confused and weary from the unknowns, or visit with adults trying their best to turn their lives around.  

It does not celebrate when permanency is achieved through adoption, or when children, whom desperately love their parents, are able to return to them. 

It does not hold a raging or sobbing child who seeks comfort from the stranger who just took her in.  It also does not lend an ear to listen to older youth as they wonder about their future.

Media attention definitely does not highlight the words of encouragement case workers, juvenile court officials, child welfare attorneys, and foster parents speak to the families and children who find themselves caught up in the system.

I have listened as people (whom did not know that I work in child welfare) slam foster families, children service workers, and the system as a whole.  I have been shocked by their opinions of how easily this war could be fixed.  I have also found myself wondering, “What are you, opinionated one, doing about it?   When have you called a child welfare agency to offer your time and talent?  Have you taken the time to care enough to bring a child into your home, support a family who is struggling, or advocate for change?”

For my fellow child welfare professionals and foster families in this unending plague of child abuse, remember this, everything you do matters…a lot.

“Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” -Robert F. Kennedy

 

Equipped to Finish

It was a hot day in the saddle of my bike…strong headwind, Ozarkian hills, and the heat of summer.  I rode in a training ride for the upcoming MS 150.  The MS 150 is an annual charity ride to benefit the Multiple Sclerosis Society.  This is my fifth year riding in the event, and at age forty-two, three kids, a full-time job, a husband, and a household to maintain, I do my best to squeeze in training time when I can.

Today, as riders passed me by, I thought, “Why can’t I keep up with them?  I’m trying just has hard.  My legs are burning.  My heart rate is up, and I’m eager, just like them, to finish this ride with a personal best time.”  

photo (73)I get “lost” in my head sometimes when out riding my bike on long distance rides.  If you ever need time to clear your head a bit, get a bike, pick a route, and take off. On my bike, I am able to work through so many challenges; physical, emotional, and spiritual.

As other riders passed me by, I started to think about life outside of my journeys on two wheels in the country.  I thought about the times when I have wondered, “I work just as hard as this person does.  I have more experience, and more time spent in the field.  I have just as much passion about the work at hand. Why do I seem to be passed by?”

As the miles clicked on, I found myself alone on the road with the sweltering heat and the odometer on my bike declaring how many miles I had yet to finish.  And then, I recalled Scripture:

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” -2 Timothy 4:7

Now, I am not at all comparing the trials and imprisonment of Paul to my own traveling down the hilly roads on my bike.  Of course, not.

However, when out there today, on the road with the blazing hot sun glaring at me, and riders passing me by, I started to meditate and speak to God about life, and challenges both off and on the bike.  While doing this, I felt the Lord speaking back to me,

“I equipped you to finish the race…not best, not first, not fastest, and not necessarily with top honors.  I equipped you to finish it with faith, endurance, and courage.”

As the fifty mile training ride drew to a close, and I rode my weary body to my car, I continued to think on these things.  To finish the race; this race of life, with faith, endurance, and courage is by far, the most sacred of all finales as we make our way to our Home.

Whatever road you are traversing, hill you are climbing, or number of miles ahead of you, remember this,

God loves you.  Jesus died for you.  You have been equipped to finish the race; not first, not best, and possibly not with top honors.  Instead, you have been dressed in the fullness of faith, endurance, and courage.

…but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. -Isaiah 40:31

Adoption is Beautiful

I tortured myself recently.  I read a blog about a birthing story, and found myself crying with joy for the couple.  My tears also held within them a sadness for myself, husband, and parents. You can read the story by clicking on this link, Our Birth Story.  While reading the story, I found myself gasping for air, covering my mouth, and wiping away tears that were flowing down my cheeks.

The mother’s words seemed to punch me in the gut.  On the one hand I felt guilty for reading them, as if I had no business exploring her experience.  On the other, I knew that I needed to visit that part of life that has passed me by.

This is at least the second time I’ve done this.  I recently read a blog post, I want to be a doula, that also brought me to tears.  The words of these new mothers are poignant, and reminded me of what I have missed out on.  I do not know why this is…perhaps it is the knowledge that I was not the first person to hold my children.

Proverbs 30: 15-16

15 … There are three things that are never satisfied, yea, four things say not, It is enough:

16 The grave; and the barren womb; the earth that is not filled with water; and the fire that saith not, It is enough.

Sitting here on the second birthday of my youngest son, I find myself thinking about his entry into the world.  Honestly, I think about all of my children’s journey from the womb to the Earth, and then I get pissed.  Yep.  I said it.  I get angry that I was not the one to bring them into the world.

I did not labor in pain to birth the very beings who have captured my heart.  In the agony of pain, there are life-declaring moments when the hope of the future and a piece of oneself is born.  In the posts I’ve read, I have recognized the beauty I have missed out on…the moments between husband and wife holding their child…the minute grandparents first laid eyes on their grand-babies…and, the gasp of their breaths when realizing the glory of the child they created.

I did not see any of my babies in their first hour of life after-birth.  I did not hear their first audible exclamation to the world that they have arrived.  I did not hold them, feel their tiny bodies against mine, and gaze at the wonder before me.  So, yes.  I get angry about this.

I could never imagine having any different children than my children.  They are Majestically matched to fit our family.  I would not have it any other way…but…I sure wish that I would have been the one to carry them as they developed, pushed with the incredible God-given strength of a woman, and then rested with babe in arms.

Yes, I think about missing out on the beauty of it all.  I think about the laborious, yet incomparable moments of childbirth…the genesis of new life.

Although blessed to be a mother, I still get caught off guard by the pain of barrenness.

I also wonder if I’m a completely selfish person.  Is it not enough that I am experiencing, raising, and growing my children as they meander their way to the Lord’s purpose in their lives?  I mean…am I being completely self-centered to wish that I would have been the one to bring them into the world?

In barrenness, there is courage and resilience.  It may sound odd to say, but in the rawness of barrenness, there is beauty.  It seems to be carved out of the clinging onto prayers in the lost hours of the night.  Choosing to look into the future without infertility and barrenness requires strength beyond measure.  This is the very depiction of beauty.

But just when I start to become consumed by the loss of the human experience I will never have, I begin to think about my own (and many other’s) beauty after becoming a mom for the first time.  In barrenness and adoption, there is an incredible radiance that is found.  There is a courage like no other….courage to venture into waters where land is not seen.  Determination to seek out options that other’s may never have to consider.

There are also moments of grief…extraordinary grief that seems almost too big for any human to consume.  Gut wrenching.  Soul-darkening.  Pain that is impossible to put into words.  Stillness that seems to go against nature.

Then, there are moments of hope spliced into the loss, faith, and the reality of it all.

There are the times when you look upon your child and see that a piece of yourself has been born….perhaps, you will carry on through your children.  In these moments, you feel hope and peace about the future.

In adoption, there are immeasurable moments between husband and wife holding their child for the first time.  There are memory-searing images of grandparents first laying their eyes on their grand-babies…and, there is that gasp of breaths when the gavel falls and the glorious little one is declared forever a part of the family.

And let’s not forget about the birth mothers to whom our children come from.  Their courage to choose life despite hardship, plan adoption with a level of hope and selflessness that is rarely seen in this world, and carry within them the ability to let go when needed, is perhaps one of the most powerful declarations that life is worth it, hopeful, and beautiful.

The mighty truth is that I won’t miss my children’s birthdays, new friendships, discovery of talents, heartache, heartbreak, frustrations, accomplishments, and growth as children of a loving Father.

Although saddened and brought to a place of envy and anger, I’m thankful to have read the blog posts.  I appreciate glimpsing into the rawness of childbirth, the nude emotions of it, and the humanizing words of the mother’s whose agony of childbirth became stories of beauty.

For all of my sisters of the barren womb, and Mamma’s through adoption, your own birth stories are equally beautiful.

The birthing of your fortitude to seek motherhood, the labor of your endurance that clings to hope, characters of your unfolding life-script, humility to answer far too many questions, and the moment your breath is taken away by the gaze of the child to which your soul is settled by, are powerfully, and beautifully sculpted human experiences.

I will probably read more posts about childbirth, and I may cry at each one.  My tears will surely hold the loss that visits me from time to time, but will also carry the joy of my own birthing experience…one filled with courage, resilience, humility, endurance, and remembrance of the first time I looked upon my children.

Yes, in adoption, there is radiance, and many life-declaring moments.

Adoption is beautiful.

what are you waiting for?

What are you waiting for, my friend? Is it a love that has turned away from you, or a friendship that has become tarnished through the years?  Perhaps, it is a reconciliation long overdue, a wayward son, or a door that never seems to open.

My friend, are you waiting for a child to call your own? Are you dwelling in a place of despair? You know this place well, but others do not understand it at all. I suspect this might just be one of the most painful waits of your life.

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from Him. Psalm 62:5

Do you read that? Our hope is in Him. Our yearnings, grief, desires, and worries may be carried in silence, but in the silence we are met with the hope of the Lord.

Do you know that, my friend? I know the wait (whatever that looks like for you) can be exhausting, defeating, painful, and lonely. I know there are moments when you feel as though you are adrift in an ocean of despair, or wandering through the wasteland. I know this all too well.

What are you waiting for, my friend? May your wait be met with both a stillness found within His grace, and a steadfastness carried by His hope.

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from Him. Psalm 62:5

Everyone has a Story

“What’s a testimony without a test?”

This question is one that tends to be a mantra of sorts among the Christian community.  While I understand the meaning behind it, instead, I find myself asking,

“What’s a test without a testimony?”

Imagine for a moment, living in a world where we do not share our pain, disappointment, despair, and gut-wrenching experiences in life.

What if we just walked around holding it all in, always saying that we are fine, and never, for one moment, declaring out loud the things that twist our souls to the bottomless pit of pain?  Like emotionless robots, we encase our feelings in a tomb to which we never open.  What would it be like if we kept our stories imprisoned within our own mortal coils?

I am not even sure what kind of world it would be if we never shed our tears with or for others, or if the stark reality of the collapsing of others’ dreams, the dashing of their hopes, and the witness of their afflicted footsteps, did not affect us.

I have had people say to me,

“I had no idea you have gone through so much.”

What this tells me is that I have done an excellent job at tucking away the daggers of devastation and arrows of apathy that have, at times, pierced my walk in this life with doubt, sorrow, and anger.

Even during the time that I was reluctant to tell my story, I knew that it was meant to be told, and that behind the heartbreak of it all, lay hope in waiting, purpose with a passion, and ultimately, the glimpse of redemption through the mercy of our God.

So, what’s a test without a testimony?  What’s hardship without the harrowing details of survival?

What is more important…that we exclaim our victory?  Or, that we seek to tell the stories that encompass those moments in life where the only lifting of our heads is caused by the hint of something better?

I believe the latter is more important.  While I shout for joy at the victories of others, I celebrate with even more enthusiasm at the telling of overcoming mountains, the witness of evading addictions, and the declaration of holding tight to the life-thread of courage.

I believe that everyone has a story.  

I believe that all of our stories are important, and worthy of being told.  I believe that there is not one moment in a single life lived on Earth that does not matter, and that the Creator of the landscape to which we dwell is the same Creator that fills the spaces in-between our devastation, our tragedies, our heart-breaks, our disappointments, and our yearning for something better in life.

Yes, everyone has a story to be told.

 Share your story.

 Embrace your experience.

Wear it as a badge of endurance.  

You never know how your story can affect someone else going through what you have been through, or how the steps you have painstakingly taken can soften the path to which others are walking on.

Your life’s journey might just lead another soul right to the heart of God.

Your story matters.

Your story is unique.

The story of your life is the cadence to which you heart’s song is being composed.  

What a wonderful world it would be if we shared the stories of our lives, the tests that determined our testimonies, and the painful moments that launched our ministries.

Everyone has a story.  What’s yours?

Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for my soul.–Psalm 66:16

 

 

 

mercy has your name written on it

You sit there staring at the image reflected back at you in the mirror.  The mirror lies to you, and yet, you see that reflection as truth.  It exposes your blemishes, and your scars.  The image of your body is one that you would rather never reveal to anyone, except maybe…this vile mirror that has become the reflection of who you think you are.  The bruises, the fat, the lines…whatever errors that have affixed on your skin…shows up greater than anything else.  You wonder, “God, how can You forgive me?  How could anyone love me?  I deserve to be lonely, and to be treated like this.  I am worthless…deserve even worse.  How can there be mercy for someone like me?”

You lay there staring at the bottom of an empty bottle, and your anger is being stirred with a mixture of dependency and despair.  The bottle…the friend you have come to rely on…is empty, and you are left alone.   Alone.  Isolated with your regrets that seem to have burrowed themselves in your soul.  Deep down, you know that the empty bottle symbolizes how you feel about yourself.  Empty.  Broken.  Dry.  You tell yourself, “There is no way God will ever love me.  No one will.  The only friend I have is a bottle.”  You wonder, “God, how can You forgive me?  Is there a way out of this vicious cycle that has taken over?  How can there be mercy for someone like me?”

You stand there, sign in hand, while looking around at the concrete bed that you will be sleeping on tonight, and you think, “When will this ever change?  When will I feel human again?”  You are cold.  You are hungry.  You are confused.  Perhaps, just maybe, if your story of how you became like this was actually scripted onto those cardboard pleads of help, then maybe…just maybe, others might see you as a human being.  You might be valued.  As family filled cars pass you by, you wonder, “God, how can You forgive me?  When will my circumstances change?  I hope for something new each day, but the days seem to turn into months, which seem to turn into years.  How can there be mercy for someone like me?”

You sit there looking around at the empty house that was once filled with the sounds of the life of a family.  You stare at the living room, you glance at the spot where your wife once slept, and you dwell on the empty chairs at the dinner table.  You think about the life you once all danced to.  You remember the Christmas mornings, birthdays, nights spent around a ball game, or playing outdoors. You think, “I deserve this.  I deserted them.  I was selfish.  God, how can You forgive me?  How can there be mercy for someone like me?”

You are staring at the negative sign on the pregnancy test you just took.  As the sadness starts to fill up your heart, you begin to say the same mantra that you have said for years….“I deserve this.  God must think I would make a horrible mother.  This will never happen.  I will never be a mother.  I am worthless.”  As time goes on, you wait…wait…for your moment.  You endure the showers of others who are expecting the very thing you have desired for years now.   You wonder, “God, why would You spare me?  If it is Your will, then why won’t You give me a child?  How can there be mercy for someone like me?”

Well, dear friend, precious soul, battered one, addicted being, homeless shell, wayward son, and one filled with despair, there is no need to wonder.  When Jesus carried His weary body so that His feet could be nailed to the Cross, it was for you.  When He breathed His last breath, it was for you.  It was for all of us.

When He exclaimed, “It is finished”we were on His mind.  His salvation lasts forever.  It lasts through the hardship of life.  It conquers the poor choices, imperfections, addictions, broken relationships, concrete jungles, and empty nests.

His mercy is fluid.  It moves with you.  It wraps around you, and migrates with each step you take.  You wonder, “Am I worth it?  Why would He spare me?  Am I worthy of forgiveness?  Is there enough mercy left over for someone like me?” 

Yes, dear friend, precious soul, battered one, addicted being, homeless shell, wayward son, and one filled with despair, you are worth it.  You are a child of God.  Do you know that?  Your worth is so much more than you can ever fathom.  Mercy….

Mercy has your name written on it…

….and, praise Christ for that!

So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it. – Hebrews 4:16

I see the Lord’s redemption

This is a picture of my dad with the kiddos on Father’s Day. To you, it might just seem like a happy pic of a Grandfather with some of his Grandchildren; however, I sense an incredible ending to a story started so many years ago.Family

In 1983, when the sadness entered our lives during my illness, my dad held my hand almost day and night while in the hospital. He sat by my bed, gently rubbed my hand, and said over and over again, “If I could trade places with you, I would.” We had all just plunged into the torrential world of barrenness.

When I look at this picture, this is what I see: an incredible sense of HOPE for the future, an opportunity to pass along life-lessons learned through the years, and in so many ways, I see closure.

I see the Lord’s redemption. I see His promises of love, hope, and a future. I see bloodline disappear, and love take over.

I see a Grandpa who is completely enamored by his Grandchildren.

I know that while the Lord planned my life to include my children, He wrote the script of my parents’ lives to include them as well.

What a happy ending to the sorrow that started so many years ago…
What a way, Lord, to show Yourself in our lives…
What an amazing vision You have given us for our future…

What an incredible sense that after my dad and my mom have gone on to You, these children…these precious souls…will carry a piece of them as they grow into their own place in this world…

If one ever doubts the majesty of a loving Heavenly Father, please take a look at this picture. A Dad who watched his daughter dance on the edge of death, steer her way into the world with barrenness on her shoulders, step into the world of foster care and adoption without knowing what the next step would look like, and approach the courts three times over to prove herself, is the same Grandfather who is enjoying three children whose own lives were majestically penned to be in his.

What a happy ending to the sorrow that started so many years ago…
What a way, Lord, to show Yourself in our lives…
What an amazing vision You have given us for our future…

What an incredible sense that after my dad and my mom have gone on to You, these children…these precious souls…will carry a piece of them as they grow into their own place in this world…