July 29, 2011

Be still...

“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10a

Be still…
Don’t panic.
Don’t fear.
Don’t fret.
Don’t worry.
Don’t try to find your own solution.
Don’t manipulate the situation.
Don’t take matters into your own hands.
Don’t believe that God helps those who help themselves.
Don’t give in to the temptation of making the problem go away yourself.
And know…
And trust.
And have faith.
And never forget.
And realize.
And be certain.
And be assured.
And grasp.
And understand.
That I am God…
I am your creator.
I am the owner of the cattle of a thousand hills.
I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.
I am the King of kings and the Lord of lords.
I am the maker of the universe.
I am the keeper of your heart.
I am your redeemer.
Be still and know that I am God.
And pray.
And trust.
And wait.
And listen.
And obey.
And follow.
And seek.
And beseech.
Be still.
Linking with Lisa-Jo for Five-Minute Fridays. You have five minutes to write. No more, no less. This week's prompt: Still...

July 27, 2011

I have not fallen off the face of the earth (yet).

I have been MIA for a couple of weeks now (ok, more than a couple). I'd like to say it is because I have been oh, so busy with my very important life that I have not had time to write. And that is partially true (not the very important life part). I'd like to say that my presence has been required in many other places and I have had to prioritize. And that is partially true as well. I had a deadline to submit a post for Adoptive Families Circle by this week and since they are paying me... (well, does a free subscription for a year count as payment? Can I call myself a professional blogger for such a fee? Let's pretend and say yes, ok?).
But the real, honest-to-goodness reason I have not posted lately is because I simply have had nothing to say. 
No, really.
My kids are still doing cutesy things worth telling but not interesting enough for a blog post (I need some more interesting children. Anybody want to trade?). There have been adoption questions, funny stories, strong opinions, and spiritual awakenings, but nothing has grabbed me. Nothing has said, Blog me, blog me, I need to be a blog! Know what I mean?
 I follow some amazing writers who write to hone their skills, who can take the mundane of a daily moment and transform it into a post that will move you to tears, to laughter, to action. I read people who want to be (or are) professional writers, who should be published today, who have built a following because of their amazing power to reach your heart with words.
Me? I have no great aspirations here. I don't write every day. I don't even write every week (obviously!). I write when something happens and I think: Whoa! I have to blog about that.  And so far these last few weeks, nada, zilch, nothing. Lots of ideas floating in my head, none that have materialized to anything worth your eyes.
I want to write posts of substance that will encourage you, help you, interest you, maybe even convict you. Anything. But definitely not waste the precious few minutes I know some of you steal to read a blog here and there. So I remain committed to myself to writing only when I feel moved to do so, even if a few weeks go by. Please bear with me when I disappear. I promise when I do find something blog-worthy, it will be because I feel strongly that I need to share it.

Don't you find it ironic that I'm posting a non-substantial post about only writing posts of substance? Just a little bit.
For the time being, I will continue to read your wonderful stories and leave you a comment or two to let you know you have touched my life. In the meantime, will you please stop by AFC and read my latest post on our little family? They have "hired" me to talk about the bilingual nature of our family so there it is.
I'll be back. Stay tuned.

July 5, 2011

Even the words that are left unsaid...

The room was packed. It was the mid-morning step class with a popular instructor at the gym. I got there early to get a good spot and not be relegated to the back where it is impossible to see what the teacher is doing. She had gotten there even earlier and, as usual, was waiting in the front row for the class to start.
You know the type: full-on 80’s make-up, big, teased hair, very tight top, and incredibly short shorts neither one of which are very flattering with her pear-shaped body type, but that she wears as proudly as a runway model would. The kind of girl that would make good southerners say: “oh, honey” and “bless her heart.”
I had seen her often around the gym because, while I’m not the most consistent of members, she is always there. Always. And for some reason I cannot explain, I just did not like her. She rubbed me the wrong way and I had never even spoken a word to the girl. I don’t know her name, I don’t know her story, and she had never even acknowledged my presence so I had no real reason to dislike her. Other than the shorts. And the make-up. And the hair. Irrationally her appearance annoyed me.
So this particular morning as we began to step to the music, following the instructor’s directions, I started  watching her from behind and thinking about her lack of rhythm and those shorts riding up. And then there was a gentle voice, like a whisper at the top of a mountain, that simply asked in my ear:
-          Why are you being so catty? You don’t even know this girl.
There was no condemnation in that gentle voice, only deep sadness. But my heart was convicted right away. I had no answer so I just listened, ashamed, and willing to hear the rest of the rebuke.
-    How would you feel if someone was saying these ugly things about your daughter?
This gripped my soul with pain for the little girl with the sensitive heart that breaks when a friend is mean to her or when someone laughs in her face. I thought about the times I have held her while she shed tears of embarrassment or hurt over another little girl’s nasty comment. And then came the most difficult words of the whole conversation:
-          That, right there, is my daughter.
And I was found guilty.
And in response to the gentle voice that does not accuse but definitely convicts, with tender tones and loving reminders, all I could do was repent. And express deep regret and apology. I had been ugly and I had been hurtful.
That the girl never heard my words is irrelevant.
Just as hate is like murder and lust is like adultery, so is judging like insulting.
What is hidden in our heart is to God the fountain out of which our thoughts, our words, and our actions flow. My nastiness towards that girl came out of a bitter heart, so the work would begin right there, at the core.  I thanked God for his faithful guidance and for the Holy Spirit’s convicting work and went back to the prayer of David, with whom I always identify:
“May the words of my mouth AND the meditation of my heart, be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” Psalm 19:14 (emphasis mine)

July 3, 2011

To Sara With Love

Sara died ten years ago this June.

She was barely 23 and she was newly pregnant. She was killed in her own apartment by a man whose name she never knew, and who was arrested 24 hours later for the murder of another woman a few months before. Sara’s husband found her. Her mother called me.
Sara was my best friend. We met as 16-year-olds. I was new to this country, I knew nobody, and spoke little English. I sat confused and alone in a math class that first day of our junior year of high school. This little blonde sitting in front of me turned around and said: “Hi, my name is Sara. Here is my phone number.” And that was that. We became inseparable. We had sleepovers, dated best friends, and shared secrets. I lived with her and her mom for a summer after high school and we stood by each other as we married our sweethearts. The last time I talked to Sara was a couple of weeks before she died. We talked about our marriages and the possibilities of children in the near future. She told me she was sure next month would be THE month. Her baby would have been nine-years-old this year.
After Sara died I went through a period of spiritual darkness that threatened to destroy my faith. But Sara loved Jesus and the hope of seeing her again was monumental in pushing me forward. Over the years I have dedicated to her all the milestones I have experienced that should have also been hers to enjoy. Holding my children for the first time, turning 30, wedding anniversaries, Christmases and new gray hairs. There is not a big moment of my life that I don’t feel her absence and that I am not painfully aware that Sara will not live through it as well.
As I stood before her casket the hot afternoon of her burial, unable to walk away, her brother took a rose off the spray that sat above the box and handed it to me. It was a simple gesture he has probably forgotten but I have kept that rose all these years. It is not much, but it is all I have this side of heaven.
I miss my friend.

I miss her goofy sense of humor, her beautiful singing voice, and her gentle heart. That we will see each other again is a great comfort and I praise God for that. But oh, what I would give to spend one more afternoon sharing giggles and comparing struggles with the girl who befriended me just when I needed it the most.

Who do you miss every day?

July 1, 2011

A Proper Welcome!

Linking up with Lisa-Jo for her Five Minutes Friday.
How do you welcome a dream? How do you express the long wait, the deep longing, the desperation of thinking this day would never come? How do you show the deep gratitude and appreciation for the gift you were just given and the way it changed your life?
With the help of your friends and with seven different baby showers, of course!
The phone rang on a Tuesday. She was two months old, healthy, and in need of a family. Were we ready? We asked for a day to seek His wisdom; He said Of Course! We said Yes, yes, yes!
But we had nothing. We were ready but not prepared. So the community of our loved ones and friends rallied around us. They had been walking this journey with us. They had been praying and hoping and waiting just as long. They had been expecting this call with us and, when it finally  came, they rejoiced and celebrated with us. But they did more than just declare Congratulations!
They moved to action. So…
Baby shower #1: from my work.
Baby shower #2: from my students
Baby shower #3: from my department
Baby shower #4: from another group of students
Baby shower #5: from our church
Baby shower #6: from my family
Baby shower #7: from Matt’s family
By the time we were done our house looked like this:

This was everyone’s baby. Impatiently expected by a mob, dearly loved by a crowd, warmly welcomed by a community.

It really does take a village to raise and to welcome a child. And we never forgot the blessings of this homecoming that surrounded us with such generosity.