Thursday, August 10

I Didn't Actually Lose Myself

I've been thinking for some time about what I would share in honor of National Foster Care Month. But, well, that was back in May when I started writing this post.

Foster Care Month or not, the words I share here are still true.

When we believed God was calling us to adopt in 2009 after the last of our first four kids were born, we did not believe God was asking us to foster adopt.

We prayed about it for nearly a year, asking Him to show us the path we should take. As we did so, we couldn't get past the sense that our child would come through a private adoption. Several months later, our first adoption came about by word-of-mouth, resulting in nine week-old Gabrielle joining our family.

At that point, we believed we were done having and receiving children. Five kids was a lot and we were swamped.

The end. This is us moving on with our lives, walking the road before us as a family of seven. God's number and all. The number of completion.

Two months after welcoming little tiny Gabi into our home, God impressed on my heart we had another child waiting in foster care. This baffled us. We weren't licensed to foster and we'd just brought a baby home. Plus, foster care was something we believed wasn't for us.

We had reason after reason why not. Most of which anyone would have agreed with.

Foster adoption felt too risky. Too dangerous. Too sad. Too everything.

Even though we were terrified, we stepped forward believing God instead of our fears. Fast forward ten more months and much more to the story, we welcomed nine month-old Levi. We were now foster parents and Levi was legally free to be adopted.

Okay, make that six kids. The end. Moving on now.

Now this little man, who turns seven next month, insists on kissing my cheek as he jumps out of the van for school or walks into Sunday school. He tells me how nice I look in a bathing suit too. Seriously. Every time. We could have missed that. We could have missed him. 

I won't tell the whole story here, but if you speed ahead a few years and add baby Emmalie who came to us the old-fashioned way, we'd say FOR SURE now that we'd never adopt again or give birth to another child. Being parents to seven kids was now over-the-top a lot. We were for SURE done.

Or so we thought.

But a phone call from a social worker in the village Levi was born in changed all that. She asked if we would consider Levi's big brother he'd never met. We were shaken to the core. Should we? Could we? Can we?

Serioiusly, God?

I was in such a hard place already with three in diapers. I was drowning in the middle of a difficult mothering season. Even so, God confirmed we should bring a sad, scared, and scarred six-year-old into our family. Jackson has been home now for three years.

Even though the risk factor had jumped up several notches, we decided it was more important to bring comfort to a child in need than coddle our own perceived need for comfort.

It is by far the hardest thing we've ever done. But it doesn't mean it wasn't for us. These children were for us.

Many times over the years I've lamented that I've lost myself. I've felt buried in kids, special needs, cooking, driving, correcting, showing love when exhausted, ministry, teaching, discipling, and lack of time to just be me.

Then it hit me.

Maybe it's not that I lost myself, maybe it's that I found myself by beginning to strip away the selfishness that had been built up by years of general ease.

Jesus said we would find ourselves by losing ourselves. I know what He meant now.

It says in Matthew 10, He gathered the Twelve to Himself to give them instructions before sending them out with the authority to drive out impure spirits and heal the sick. Near the end of His words to them, in Matthew 10:39 He said,

"Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."

The picture up at the top of the post is a picture of me losing myself. Not just my mind (oh, you know it's true), but my very self. These four kids are a representation of when my plans for my life became unimportant as I picked up God's plan for both their lives and mine, and that of the rest of our family.

I've been told more than once I'm a glutton for punishment for having eight children and for adopting. How kind, right? 

This reminds me of Rachel Lynde's warnings to Marilla about taking in an orphan in Anne of Green Gables. In that story, we all know Rachel is crazy, and that Anne is the best thing that could ever have happened to Green Gables and Avonlea at large. But that's what happens when people don't understand. They speak from their own fears instead of what's really best in the long run.

We can't use fear as the fuel in any of our decisions.
We can't internalize the fears someone else expresses either.

We are the only ones responsible for listening to and obeying God for our own lives.

As my friend Emily says in her book A Million Little Ways,

"Though fear is present, the spirit of fear does not live within you. The Spirit of God does."

The Spirit of God does.  

As much as I've fought fear and what felt like the losing of myself all these years, I've found another version of me in the process I wouldn't want to live without.

I like her. She's gritty, determined, and generally fearless. Let's not talk about the snakes I'm terrified of here in North Carolina. We just won't. 

Right before Jesus tells the disciples the part about losing their life for His sake, he says these words in Matthew 10:38,

"And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me." 

Jesus is asking us to die to our self-will, embrace God's will no matter what, and follow Him.

Losing ourselves in the process might be the very thing we need to truly know, depend on, and love God and others.

Thursday, May 18

Time is a Teacher

Recently I sat down with my journal after getting the young ones to bed and looked back at my entries from our first couple of months living in North Carolina. 

I don't write in this particular journal every day or even every week. I write in it when everything comes to a head and I just can't deal. I appropriately titled it my Things That Feel Too Hard journal. It's where I keep my big feelings. I write prayers. Lists of worries and hard things. I give myself pep talks and reminders from Scripture too. 

This is what I wrote last fall in the middle of some angst and question filled days:

What do I fear?
✔️ there will be no close friendships forged
✔️ I will be rejected here
✔️ we will mess up our teens
✔️ our kids won't have any friends
✔️ no other families will not want to be around us because we're too big, too weird, and we might not look like we need them

I wasn't in a bad place as a whole, but I sure had my questions. 

Looking back these several months later, I can see some of these fears have lessened. Some of them are still lingering, but that's only because these things take time. But it helps me to be able to see the real places I've been, and where I've landed just a few months later.  

Don't we just need a little perspective sometimes? To look back at our questions when we know differently now? I knew I needed to be patient. I knew in my heart none of it was true. But it sure felt true at the time. 

What do we do when false things feel true? What do we do when fear taunts us with possibilities that terrify?

We call fear a liar and put our hope and trust in the One who called us. He is present. He does see. He is working behind the scenes in ways we couldn't dream up. Let's give Him room to work without rushing the process. 

We just love to rush the process, don't we? 

Should I whip out some stats about waiting from the lives of some of our favorites from the Bible? Abraham? the Israelites? David? Elijah? Noah? Joseph? Some of them waited half their lives or more to see the promises of God to them come to pass. 

Why then do we think our timeline should be sped up? I'm preaching to myself here, but maybe it preaches to you as well.

"Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!" - Psalm 27:14

** You may or may not have noticed my monthly newsletter didn't come at the end of April! I decided writing quarterly newsletters would be best for me and my use of time, so I'll be back to writing another one near the end of summer! To sign-up to receive them, click HERE. If you get these posts in your inbox already, you're all signed up. ** 

Until then, let's keep up on Facebook or Instagram!

Saturday, March 11

If You Think Something Nice, Say It

I haven't been to an over-abundance of funerals in my life, but I've been to enough to notice a few things.

Each time I'm at a memorial service, as kind words are bravely spoken from the pulpit by loved ones, I always have one great hope as I manage the lump in my throat:

I hope this person heard these words before they passed. I pray they knew how beloved they were.

I picture the person being remembered sitting in a chair receiving the words. Eyes beaming. Tears streaming. But the problem is they aren't there to hear them and have it impact their life here on earth.

What if this wasn't the case?

What if our loved ones knew all the good things we thought of them when they were living?

Imagine how this would bless them. Imagine how beautiful our world would be if the good were praised and the criticisms hushed? Imagine the impact it could have it just one more person were encouraged and built up?

We hold back so much.

Maybe because we think if we tell our loved ones how much we appreciate the good in them, it will mean we accept the bad parts too? I get this.

I once heard Pastor Craig Groeschel say, "Never withold a blessing. If you think something nice about someone, say it." 

I've been so challenged by this.

If we think something nice, we ought to say it. Is there anything more simple yet so impactful?

Who might benefit from hearing your offering of kindness? The hearer? The hearer's family? You just never know what kind of waves a single act of kindness can make.

Gracious words are like a honeycomb,
    sweetness to the soul and health to the body. - Proverbs 16:24

Thursday, January 12

What 2016 Taught

Every once in a while, I like to stop and recount what I've learned after a long stretch of life, and the start of 2017 seemed like the perfect time to pause and look back. Here are my major takeaways from 2016.

1.  I don't always know the answers. My gut isn't always right. 

As hard as it is to swallow, 2016 showed me that my pride and assumptive abilities have no place in any area of my life, but especially not in decision-making. I sometimes assume the answer is whatever I'm "feeling" the most. Guilty. 2017 will be the year of me not always following my gut.

2.  You can never go wrong when you choose to serve others rather than self. 

I'm not talking about neglecting ourselves here, I'm talking about service. Real, genuine, uncoerced acts of love and service for the benefit of others. Too often we make sure we get what we want and do what we want, and forget the bigger picture. Jesus modeled this kind of others first living, and it's something I want more of.

3.  Yep, it will be hard, but it will also be worth it. 

2016 taught me to wait out the storm, take a big leap, and trust even when the way is foggy. Good things can be really, really hard and also absolutely worth it.

4.  My family needs and deserves my best. 

I don't have many words to share here because I've already said it all. My family, this gift from God, deserves more of me.

5.  Regardless of others' opinions, follow God's words to you. 

Sometimes following God's lead involves receiving some backlash from those you know. That's okay. Be gracious and keep on following Him.

6.  Unconditional love makes a difference in my heart and theirs. 

One of my top struggles as a human is the habit of temporarily withdrawing my affection from those who have wronged me when unconditional love is what's needed instead. This takes place mostly in the parenting realm. I want to be a steady mother who gives consequences for poor choices from a place of mercy and grace rather than bitterness and swinging emotions. This post I wrote over on The Masterpiece Mom speaks to this.

7.  Good skincare and well-fitting pants are important to me. 

Laugh if you will, but how many times have we neglected our skin and worn pants that are way too uncomfortable? Way too many times. I pledge that my skin will be cared for and my pants will not make me want to unbutton them. Amen.

Well, there you have it. 2016 in a nutshell. Speaking of 2016, Anne-Renee and I just released a new podcast episode where we talk about all our favorites from last year. Clothing, music, books, TV shows, mothering moments, etc. You can listen right here: Episode 58 - Best of 2016

Happy January! What did you learn last year?