December 29, 2012

When fear is all you have...


A few nights ago I fell asleep with a sob in my throat, tasting the salty tears that would not stop coming. I had just screamed “I don’t trust you with my children!” and collapsed onto the pillow in despair. No, I was not talking to my husband. I was talking to God Almighty himself. I half expected to be struck by lightning right then and there for my blasphemy but instead I found myself lulled by a gentle sleep, almost as if an invisible hand was stroking my hair and whispering “there, there, go to sleep now” ever so soothingly.

I have been struggling with some theological truths that don’t seem to match the reality of this world. On one hand I know from scripture that God is good, that He loves us, and that He works in all things for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose. You know these concepts, too, I’m sure. On the other hand I see the news, the kidnappings of children, the abuse, the evil that befalls innocent ones all over the world. How to reconcile the two? Isn’t this the age old question that keeps so many people from trusting fully in a God they know to be all-powerful, but who often seems to simply not interfere in the most atrocious situations? If God is good, then...

The truth is that this has been an ongoing battle for me since my best friend Sara was murdered by a stranger a decade ago. On and off since then God and I have fought this fight. On and off He has had to teach and re-teach these lessons to my stubborn, wounded heart. Over and over I have had to rely on his promise that there is enough grace in Him to continue, patiently and lovingly, to remind me as many times as needed of what I need to get through these crises of faith.

This time the crisis came as a result of a trip we are going to take, just Matt and I. I do most of my stinking-thinking at night and I had begun to think about what would happen to my children if Matt and I were not on this earth to take care of them. Images of all kinds of tragedies and painful trials came to my mind and built and built until I lost all means of rational thought. If God allows all the horrendous things I see happening every day around the world, who is to say He would not allow my children to suffer? Worse yet, who is to say He would not allow them to walk away from him destroying in the process all hope I have of ever spending eternity with them? If I was not here to protect them from harm, who would? Clearly not a God who allowed my sweet friend to be murdered in the sanctity of her own home. Hence the outburst of my lack of trust and the sobbing that ensued.

I wish I could tell you that when these dark moments of doubt come, God answers all my questions in neat, packaged replies that I can take to my friends and solve their own issues with trust and good vs. evil. He does not. What He does do each. and. every. time. is remind me of a few promises and truths I allow the routine of my life and the state of our world to bury so deep I almost forget them.

God loves my children more than I do. In my most wonderful day as a parent I cannot begin to scratch the surface of the love their Creator has for them. He loves them so much He sent his son. He loves them so much He knows each and every hair of their head. And if I, who don’t have that kind of love, work tirelessly for their good, how much more is the One who is love itself working every day for them, for their good, for their sake.

God placed my children into our family. In other words, He trusted me, flawed, sinful, and a little on the crazy side me with them. I didn’t even have a part in their creation yet He trusted me with them. Yet I have difficulty trusting the Perfect Parent back? This one humbled me.

God placed my children into a loving extended family so that Matt and I are not their end-all, be-all. No one can replace your parents, true. But if something were to happen to the both of us, my children have loving grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. who will take care of them and raise them in the faith we are trying to instill in them. In that way God has already provided protection for them.

I am not God. Bad things happen to children even when their parents are around, carefully watching. People walk away from God in their own accord, even when their parents are around to pray for them and model godliness for them. In other words, my presence in their life is not what will save them. Only God can do that. And I’m not him.

God is always working to redeem them, to draw them to him, and to point his will to them. I may not understand this. I may not see his handiwork in their lives all the time but He is working in their lives constantly. Always. I asked in despair: “What about all the children who have or are suffering? What about them?” and He gently reminded me that I don’t know what He is doing in their lives. I don’t know it all and I don’t know how God works around the world every day.

I know I am only aware of a fraction of the evil that happens daily in the world. A tiny fraction. While God, omnipresent, omniscient God is aware of ALL the hurt and violence that happens every minute of every day. “How?” I asked him, “How do you stand to see it all?!” and I was confronted with the understanding that, while God does see all the evil in the world, He is also witness to all the goodness, all the love, all the compassion, mercy and grace of which we are capable as a people. There is hope in this world as long as there are people who love God and love their neighbors as themselves.

 It is my worst enemy this fear. It brings with it worry, doubt, and mistrust. I know I will forget and I know I will cry out in despair again and again when fear grips me. That is my nature. And He will still be there, again and again, to answer me when I call in frustration and hopelessness. That is His nature. I don't know why bad things happen in this world. We could talk about free will, about sin, about choices people make, but those are empty words to hurting people. I may never know in this life the answer to that question no matter how eagerly I ask. I won't pretend to. I also don't know what the future will bring for my children. But I know who holds their future and I believe they are in pretty good hands. 

November 19, 2012

Growing Pains


On and off for the last year Isabel has been complaining of pain on her legs. It wakes her up at night. It is worse after she has had an active day. It is overall uncomfortable for her. Worried mom, I took her to the pediatrician who smiled reassuringly, patted my arm and explained that Isabel is suffering from growing pains. I told her I thought that was an old-wives tale but she assured me they are very real, especially in children of elementary school age.

And these growing pains are a good thing, she said. They mean her bones are stretching, doing their job to make her taller and stronger. Doing what bones were created to do. But, to the suffering little girl, this is only partially good news. Because the bad news is that there is not much to do but let them pass. She can take some pain killers to ease the pain temporarily, but these growing pains are part of the life of a child who is following the natural progression of growth, just the way God intended it. The pain she is going through means a more mature Isabel by next summer, both physically and emotionally.

Lately, I’ve been having growing pains as well. The spiritual kind. The kind that comes after a fruitful season of praying and seeking the Holy Spirit’s movement in my life. Be careful what you ask for, they say. For when I open myself to growth, Jesus begins to prune. And the pruning process is painful. Growth hurts. With each stretch of my spiritual bones and muscles I am uncomfortable. And at first, I protest, try to get away, raise my voice in indignation. Yet these pains are good news. The pains mean I am going through the natural progression of growth, just the way God intended it. The pain I’m going through means a more mature Gaby by next season, both spiritually and emotionally.

Isabel’s growing pains are deep inside her leg, beyond the muscles, right into the bone. My growing pains come from the outside. From dealing with difficult people and keeping a humble attitude. From silencing my pride when it has been injured because someone has stepped on my toes. From apologizing when I am not to blame, for the sake of a relationship. From allowing Him to teach me that my rights, my wants, my comfort are not as important as the greater good of his Body and his Kingdom. From admitting when I am wrong and changing my way or my perspective. None of this comes easy to me. Yet his grace is sufficient to show me just how to get it done. But it hurts. And stings. And keeps me up at night.

Unlike Isabel I have a choice to go through this process or not. I can tell God to forget it, that I really did not mean that I wanted to grow closer to him, that I was fine and comfortable just the way I was, thank you very much. And He would let me be. But just like a child who fails to grow, I would become stunted, underdeveloped, useless for the purposes that He intended for a more mature, strong, healthy me. So all I can do is let this season of growth run its intended course. But I wait actively, abiding in him as I learn from this pruning. Bringing my frustrations to him and letting him comfort me like I do Isabel in the middle of the night when she wakes up hurting.

Growing pains are not enjoyable. Yet like refining fire that purifies and cleanses, this scraping of my rough edges, of my resistance to be molded to his image, is what I need to do just what the Lord requires of me: to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with my Lord. 

**Joining with Jen and the sisters of Soli Deo Gloria ***

October 19, 2012

Look!


Joining today with Lisa-Jo for her 5 Minutes Friday. Topic: Look. You have five minutes to write...GO!

Look again.

Look hard.

Please look.

Don't turn away.

Don't pretend you don't notice.

Don't be "color blind."

Don't be blind to the beauty God created in our family.


Don't say "color blind."

It may sound correct to you but it undermines who we are. We are many colors and we want you to know. We want you to see it. Because we are proud. Our family is a tapestry of God. A microcosm of what He's done in the world.

Don't think "color blind."

To think color blind misses what we celebrate every day. Our color is much more than skin deep. It is part of who we are, our culture, our history, our background. We come from Germany, from Ecuador, from Spain, from the African plains, from the first inhabitants of this land. Our color reminds us where we've been and where we want to go. It reminds us everyday that God's grace transcends many barriers. It reminds us everyday of his healing love that is extended to all. He created us in his image.

All of us.

 He chose for each of us a color.

 And we praise Him for that!

Because we are fearfully and wonderfully made.

Don't act "color blind."

See the colors, embrace the colors, celebrate the colors.

Be color conscious, be color loving, be color grateful...

Be color-full. 


September 16, 2012

Not destiny or magical thinking...but still God.

A while back there was an article in the New York Times' blog that quickly became a hot potato in the adoption world. It’s called “Adoption, Destiny and Magical Thinking”. In it the author discusses the phenomenon that many adoptive parents feel their child was “destined” to be theirs. Adoptive Families Magazine posed this question on Facebook as a result: do you feel your child was brought to you by fate, destined to be yours? 

The answers given left me deflated and broke my heart.

The majority of people that answered the question felt their child was “meant” to be theirs. Most of those people also stated that it was God who brought their child to them and many went as far as to imply that the only reason that child was created was because God wanted them to be parents. I was appalled at the lack of compassion and kindness these answers showed.

Several people understandably cried out over the idea that a loving god would ordain and even create the painful situations that often lead to birthparents placing their children for adoption: poverty, loss, rape, brokenness. This comes across as a manipulative god who uses people as baby-making machines, then tears their family painfully apart (adoption is painful, people) to make those other people happy parents. It does not make sense, they said. 

And I agree.

Yet, I believe strongly that God had a big hand on our adoption of Isabel and Noah. If you’ve read this blog before, you know that very well. Except, the God I serve and love does not work the way those “destiny,” “meant to be,” “all about my happiness” people say He does and I believe when Christians use clich├ęs like those in response to people’s pain and tragedy, we are dragging His name through the mud and hurting our witness. But that’s a post for another day.

I feel compelled however, even in my little space that does not speak very loudly, to make amends, to apologize to those who have been hurt by those comments made by adoptive parents and to explain how the God I know played a role in our adoption, just as He plays a role in every other decision I make. 

I believe in a God that gives people free will. This means people have the ability to make choices and live with the consequences, good and bad, of those choices. Everyone is making choices every day; we are not puppets in the hands of a manipulative god.

In adoption everyone makes choices as well. On one hand you have a woman who, by her own choices or the choices made by others in some awful cases, finds herself pregnant. She has three choices then. She can abort, she can parent, or she can place her child for adoption. When my children’s birthmother found herself pregnant, she made the choice to place them with an agency for adoption. She chose a closed adoption. She made use of her free will and chose what to do about her situation.

On the other side of this adoption you have two people deciding how to become parents. When we found out we could not conceive naturally we were faced with choices of how to expand our family. We could use reproductive technologies, we could use a surrogate, we could adopt, etc.

Here is where God comes in, at least in our story.

Because we are believers in God, we try to live according to the Bible’s teachings. We believe in making our decisions prayerfully and seeking the Bible as our guide. So when we are faced with choices, we go to God. Not so that He will force us to do this or that, not so He will manipulate us like puppets, but so that He will give us wisdom and insight in how to proceed.

We decided to pursue the most natural and least invasive process of reproductive help that was available, and twice it was unsuccessful. Then, prayerfully, we decided to go no further with reproductive assistance. The Bible teaches us that we are in this world to take care of one another and to be family to those who have no family, so the decision to adopt had been a part of our marriage’s DNA even before we knew it would be our only option. To stop spending money on medical assistance and instead use that money to adopt was not a hard decision for us, because we felt God directing.  

Because we are believers, we chose to go with an agency that has the same Christian values. I cannot speak for the way my kids’ birthmother made her choices because, unfortunately, we don’t know her. But for whatever reason she called this particular agency for both of her placements. Both of the kids had already been placed by the time we received the call to ask if we would adopt them. Both times we sought God’s wisdom in deciding, both times we accepted and we have never looked back. 

We don’t believe God orchestrated S. getting pregnant so WE could be parents. To think so is arrogant and unloving towards a woman whose decision was painful and difficult. But we believe God took all of our choices, hers to place, ours to adopt, and directed us to find these particular children to become part of our family. We believe He led us to that particular agency because S. went to that particular agency and He knew our two kids would need us. When we adopted Isabel, we were the only couple that agency had that would take children of color. Noah, being biologically related, was placed with us automatically and now they are together.

In that sense, our adoption was miraculous. Not in the magical sense. Not in the manipulative sense. Only in the sense of a loving God who can take the painful situations we experience by our choices or the choices others make, and finds ways to create beauty (families, loving open-adoption relationships with birth parents, true orphans who find a home) through people who seek him and allow themselves to be led and used for his loving purposes.

I realize this probably makes no sense to someone who is not a believer. And I get that. To expect you to share, agree or even understand my way of life is not fair to you and it only creates more division and separation between us. I also know that there are Christians out there who do believe God pre-determines all of our choices. Clearly, that is not my theology and it is not a theological debate I seek here. 

But if you ask me if God played a part in the adoption of my children, carefully, tactfully, but definitely I will tell you YES! I just hope you give me the chance to explain before you assume I am a “destiny and magical thinking” kind of mom. 

September 13, 2012

More than you ever wanted to know about me.


This is just a fun post to get to know some of my "invisible" friends and some of my "not invisible" friends who blog. 

My sweet friend Dolly at Soul Stops gave me this award:


What is the Liebster Award? The  award is given to upcoming bloggers who have less than 200 followers.  The meaning: Liebster is German and means sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing and welcome.
I will list 11 facts about me, answer Dolly's 11 questions, then I will nominate 11 bloggers, and give them 11 questions to answer.
11 Random Facts About Me:
1. I hate shopping and malls. They make me tired and grouchy.
2. Anytime I have opened my mouth to say "I will never do that!" God has laughed and started scheming.
3. I could not leave my house for days and it would not bother me one bit.
4. I don't get Pinterest or Twitter or Google Plus. 
5. I am very organized, keep a clean house, live by routines, but some of my favorite people are completely the opposite and I love them for that. 
6. Cold weather makes me blue. Like depressed blue. I'm a child of the sun.
7. I believe in "a little less conversation and a lot more action" when it comes to showing people Jesus' love. Stop talking and get loving. But I don't always live it.
8. I never thought I would say this but I love homeschooling, being a stay-at-home mom and learning to be a very poor version of Martha Stewart (see #2!)
9. When I get a good book in my hands I turn rudely anti-social and neglect everything else. It's a little like an addiction, I hate to say. 
10. I have terrible, terrible, terrible memory. It annoys my husband. 
11. I really do believe I'm married to the best man in the world, but I guess that is the way it should be.
These are Dolly's questions:
1. Are you a morning person, or a night owl? Or neither?
I am a morning person. As long as there is coffee. I prefer to get up early and get started because by 10:00 pm I am useless.
2. Who has had the biggest positive influence in your life?
Oh, I have been blessed to have lots of people who have had great influence on me. My mom taught me about hard work and goal setting. My friend Diana brought me to Christ and discipled me during my early walk. My in-laws have taught me about Christ-like love and service. My husband teaches me daily how to be a better person overall. And many, many women who have sharpened me like iron sharpens iron.
3. Why? if you answered Question #2
See question #2 :)
4. What is something God is teaching you lately?
To be slow to speak and quick to listen and slow to anger. And that I don't have to give my opinion or my advice. Just listen. It does more good to others than anything I can say.
5. What do you know now that you wish you knew 5 years ago?
Oh, wow. Five years ago I went through the hardest year of my life so that is a loaded question.  I wish I had known that straying from God's path, turning my back on his laws and going down the path of my will is disastrous and dangerous and very, very, painful. But sadly, I learn from personal experience. I once read a quote that says: "Smart people learn from their experiences, smarter people learn from the experiences of others." I am learning to be smart-er.
6. What makes your heart sing for joy?
Jesus. And my family. Listening to my husband play with my children, laugh with them and have "deep" conversations about God gives my heart wings.
7. What are your favorite foods?
Steak. That's all. I could eat meat all day, every day.
8. What do you look for in a friend? 
A gentle spirit, a sense of humor that does not hurt others, and an open mind to keep growing.
9. How did you come to have a love relationship with God based on faith?
Through valleys and mountains. God has been so faithful to me and I have seen him move in my life in such amazing ways that it is hard not to fall in love. He has wooed me.
10. What do you most want me to know about you? 
Ha! That even though I am not writing as often as I would like, I am reading y'alls posts and trying to keep connected commenting and that I have found a great network of support and encouragement in this blog-world.
11. How can I pray for you today?

That I continue to become the mom, wife, friend, follower of Christ that God wants me to be and that our Haiti adoption moves forward. 

The 11 bloggers I hope will answer my questions (either here in the comments, or on their blog if they accept the Liebster award) are:

Heather at Everyday Evans

Cherith at I, Hope

Jennifer at jenniferdavis.com (truth is I have NO idea how many followers she has, but since it's not posted and I want her to do this...I cheated a little)

Kathleen at Kath Ink

Kendal at A Spacious Place

Karrie at Life From Here

Kristina at Momma's Banter

Christy at One Fun Mom (same story as with Jennifer)

Mary Jo at Seeds of Peace

Mariah at Thee Fire Wife 


I'm borrowing some of the questions Dolly had to answer because they are very good:
1. Do you prefer the sea or the mountains?
2. What is your greatest fear?
3. Why do you blog?
4. How would you describe yourself in a sentence or two?
5. What are your passions?
6. Do you prefer sweet or salty?
7. What does your average day look like?
8. What is the most risky thing you've ever done?
9. Did you learn anything from that risk?
10. What's your favorite book?
11. What is the attribute of God that you cherish the most? 
Rules for receiving this award1. Each person must post 11 things about themselves. 2. Then answer the questions the tagger sent for them, plus create 11 questions for the people they’ve tagged to answer. 3. Choose 11 people and link them in your post. 4. Notify the people you have tagged. 5. No tag backs.
(If you prefer, feel free to just answer my questions as a comment below. I would love to get to know you better!)





September 5, 2012

I am simply not...


I love Wednesday nights…

Dinner at church with the people from the congregation my husband pastors, the Body of Christ to which I belong, my community, sharing the best meals you’ve ever had while we laugh and catch up is the highlight of my week.

After dinner I lead a women’s Bible study. Time with these sisters fills my heart.  They hone me week after week; they are my iron that sharpens this iron. Hearing their stories, celebrating their successes and grieving over their trials with them is my privilege. Sharing the Word with them, discussing it, pulling it apart and devouring it together is a delight to my soul.

Afterwards I get to play the piano for our worship team and sing with them. The practices are mini-worship services that prepare me to worship in community on Sunday.

And yet…I hate Wednesday nights... 


Lovely Jen Ferguson invited me to post at her place as part of her Break the Tape series. Would you come over and finish reading this over here? You just may find a new community to join...



August 17, 2012

Sometimes when you are five...


Sometimes when you are five your hands are just not big enough to spread across the ebony and ivory keys of a piano but your sister’s were when she was five, and so she was playing songs very quickly and you can barely put all five fingers on the keys at the same time. So you feel small and young and a little behind.

Sometimes when you are five you have a friend named Brownie who gets to do all the bad things you really want to do and your parents won’t let you, and he calls your sister names you don’t dare say like “crybaby” and he hides her toys, and you blame it on him but you get a consequence anyway even though it was the bear’s fault. So you feel adventurous and rebellious and proud to be friends with such a bad bear. 

Sometimes when you are five and you are very shy people ask you your name and you just don’t want to say it but your mom makes you so it comes out very thin, and you are asked to please say it louder but you still don’t want to and then you get scolded by your mom for being rude. So you feel frustrated because really, you are just shy.

Sometimes when you are five you like to put your Legos back in their box according to colors but that takes a while and your family is running late so you get told to hurry up and just put away those Legos already, and you have to throw them in the box willy-nilly. So you feel anxious because nobody understands just how important it is for you to put your Legos away by color.

Sometimes when you are five you want to play all by yourself for a few minutes but your sister is sociable so she wants to play with you all the time but she wants you to play her way because she is bossy, and you tell her to go away and then you get in trouble for not sharing. So you feel annoyed because all you want is some time alone and she is always there.

Sometimes when you are five and you have a bad dream your mom and dad come running to your bedroom in the middle of the night to hug you and sing to you and pray with you and maybe even take you to their bed to sleep. So you feel loved and cherished and safe.

Sometimes when you are five you get to go out with your daddy all by yourself and you go to the barbershop and then you go get ice cream together. So you feel manly and especial and you know you want to be just like him.

Sometimes when you are five you race everyone in your family down the grassy path and, one by one, they stop running because no one has as much energy as a five year old boy, not even your bossy six year old sister. So you feel fast and confident and like you just won all the medals in the world.

Sometimes when you are five and it’s your birthday your mom makes you a cake and you get to invite your best friends and you play with cars all afternoon and then you get to open presents. So you feel important and bigger.

And you decide that even though you are smaller, weaker, less accomplished, and less powerful than everyone else in the world, sometimes being five is not bad. Not bad at all.

Happy birthday, buddy!



**Friends, I have not fallen off the planet but lately it seems I have had more pressings things to take care of like celebrating summer birthdays as you can see.  I’ll be back. In the meantime, may God bless you and keep you**

June 5, 2012

Infertility, You Lost Again

There was a time when I used to think about infertility a lot. Every month, in fact. Each time the stick was negative, each time I was injected with horrible hormones that made me crazy, each time my friends would announce yet another pregnancy, I would remember. Time after time. Year after year.

One day we decided infertility would no longer define us and we turned our hearts to adoption. Quickly came Isabel and soon after, Noah. In the busy-ness of parenting, infertility became an old nightmare that no longer occupied my thoughts or my heart.

And yet this last year I have been reminded that no matter how long I’ve been a parent, no matter how many children I have, no matter how much I look, sound, and act like any other mom, when it comes to growing my family I am still just that: infertile. If I want another child I have two choices: expensive medical procedures that have no guarantee to work or a very complicated, intrusive, prolonged adoption process. And the frustrations of each choice again remind me:

You. Are. Infertile.

So, we chose to adopt again. We sent the paperwork and we opened ourselves to being scrutinized in ways no biological parent ever is. We have to prove we are good parents. We have to show we have the finances necessary. We have to convince that our marriage is strong in every way. We even have to submit to psychological evaluations to make sure we are of sound mind. Despite the fact that we already have two well-adjusted children at home. Despite the fact that the same agency that twice trusted us is now handling this adoption. And the complexity of this process insists:

You. Are. Infertile

We joyfully announced our decision to the world. And our motives were questioned. We were met with doubt. We were asked about our choice to adopt internationally rather than “take care of the children right here in our land.” We were asked about our discontent with having a family of four. We want three children, not twenty and we have saved, we have prayed, we have made this decision carefully. 


We were questioned even as we celebrated the baby-shower of a 16-year old who is keeping her baby and whose family, after the initial shock and disappointment, joyfully awaits the new life that will come to brighten their clan. And the lack of support for us, seasoned and equipped parents, whispers loudly:

You. Are. Infertile

But, infertility, you will not define me yet. You have forced me to take a different path than the one I anticipated. You have brought me down a journey I did not ask to take. But you have met a bigger foe. You have met the One who still works for the good of those who are called according to his purpose. You have met the One who took my inability to conceive and turned it into full arms and joy and laughter. You are battling against the One who called us to search and reach for a child we have not yet met,  but whose name is already written in our story. You will never win against the One whose plans for us are meant for hope and a future.  You have given ashes to the One who knows how to exchange them for beauty. 

You lost the battle, infertility, because I am the mother of three. 


**Linking up with Jen for SDG this week, and with Ann for Pages in Our Heritage of Faith** 

May 21, 2012

Letting go...

Helmets on they climb their scooters and take off. Wind beating their cheeks, giggles of excitement erupting from their throats, they race.




"Don't get too far ahead of me!" I shout as I walk behind them. All I can see is their backs but I know they are smiling as one foot makes contact with the pavement, propelling them forward faster than I can catch them and faster than my mother's heart can bear. And I feel the separation almost physically. 

I want to reach out and grab her by the arm pulling her back to me, to the protection of my embrace, away from the road, away from any danger. But she is already too far ahead. He can't even hear me any more when I shout his name. 

And I love watching them. Their growing muscles extending, finding the balance to master the small scooter, the thrill of speed all over their screams and laughter. 

They are headed for the street and my heart skips a beat. But I have given them instructions as to how fast they need to go and exactly where they need to stop and I have to trust that they will. I have to trust that the work I've put before this moment, the practice rounds, the conversations about danger will do their job. 

I have to trust them.

They are old enough to do this. I know that in my head but my heart cries out "not yet! it's too soon!" Time flies and does not stop for me. I'm not ready. But they are. 

And this will be the dance of our lives. The constant struggle towards independence as I let them go a little at the time, asking the Lord for wisdom to know how far, how fast, and when. Feeling the pain of separation breaking my heart but keeping a smile of my face as I cheer them on. Because this is what they were meant to do: to grow and leave, to spread their wings and fly. 

And I am left to trust.

To trust that the years we had with them were rich enough in wisdom and knowledge to make their own decisions when I'm no longer there to shout their names or remind them of my instructions. I have to let go and have faith that the God who brought them to my life in the first place will continue to walk with them as they are forging theirs. 

And to pray.

To pray that they will never cease to seek, as they make their own choices, the wisdom of the same God whose help I sought in raising them. Because they know, now in their own adult hearts, that He is the only one who can be trusted to tell them exactly how fast to go and exactly where to stop. 



May 7, 2012

You Said What???

We were sitting with our small group at church discussing the way the world tells us to respond to different situations. You know, like if someone says something nasty to you, you should say something nasty back. Or how you are the most important person in your world, etc. 

“Society tells us that marriage is disposable, that if your spouse does something seemingly unforgivable like cheat, or simply no longer makes you happy and fulfilled, you should just leave him.” 

Is what I wanted to say. 

What came out, however, was this: “you should just dump his sorry butt.” 

Except I did not say *butt*. I used the real word that completes the quote. All three letters of it. 

Immediately my face was some shade of ripe tomato, my hand flew to my mouth and the whole class burst out laughing. It was a few weeks before they let me live that one down. 

It may not be a big deal to most people. You may use far worse expletives in your daily life without problems, and know lots worse words to pepper your speech. Personally, I think a word is only made into a “bad” word by the way we use it. I can call you a fluffy bunny with such venom in my voice that would make calling you something far uglier a much less demeaning name. 

But there are two reasons why this was such an embarrassing moment for me. 

First, I am the pastor’s wife. My husband, the pastor, was sitting next to me in that class and you just don’t expect the pastor’s wife to use an expletive…in small group…in front of the pastor. But that’s actually not that big of a deal to me. Our people are very forgiving and gracious and have a healthy sense of humor. They know “pastor’s wife” is just a fancy name for that girl who sits in the front row. 

The big reason is that I simply don’t cuss. I never really have. I tried it in high school because it was the cool thing to do but it just did not fit who I was or who I was trying to become. By the time I got to college I decided I don’t use that kind of language. Period. It’s a personal conviction of mine and people who know me know this about me. It is my own interpretation of Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Ephesians 4:29)

I know it offends some people. And while some of my beliefs offend people and I have no intention of changing them, I find no reason why I should use such language if it will make someone else uncomfortable. You know Paul’s idea: I have a right to do anything, but not everything is beneficial and all that jazz. So why do it? 

But that’s just my take. And the one I’ll pass on to my kiddies. With them, since they don’t yet know any cuss words that we know of, we talk in terms of being kind. We tell them God made their mouth to say things that are good and uplifting and encouraging and beautiful, and not things to tear down, hurt, or destroy others. We teach them what James taught: “Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! (3:11-13). 

Bitter water from a mouth is much more than a cuss word, I know. Bitter water can be complaints, criticism, name-calling, spiteful and angry words and so much more. And I also know that what comes out of the mouth is what the heart is full of so the teaching begins much deeper than “watch what you say.” And we are. We are instructing them beyond just controlling their tongue to guarding their hearts. 

In the meantime, I have to watch how I respond to frustration. Not because I’m the pastor’s wife. Not because of what others may think (gasp!). Not even because using a cuss word is “bad.” But simply because I am called to be different in ways the world may not understand. To show there is a better way, another way to handle life than what we may see around us every day. To reflect in my actions and speech the gentle, humble ways of my Lord. 

That’s why the slip-up embarrassed me so. It was out of character. It was unexpected. And it was a reminder that the work in me is not yet completed

But my friends’ reaction to it was encouraging

When an ugly word out of my mouth shocks them, then I know I’m allowing the Holy Spirit to do its job in my every day relationships. When hurtful and offensive speech coming out of this girl’s lips ceases to surprise those around me, then I’ll know I’ve strayed too far from what I know to be true. 

Or maybe I can just say the devil made me do it, y’all!

May 3, 2012

Thank you!


Dear friends,

I wanted to say THANK YOU. I am overwhelmed by your responses and the kindness you showed in taking a few minutes to help me see this space from your side of the screen. I really appreciate your encouraging words. What I gleamed from this all, and my husband will tell you he said it all along, is to simply keep doing what I’m doing.

I have to be honest with you. I wanted to know if I should change directions. Find a specific area to focus on. Should I write exclusively about adoption? Should I focus on parenting? Should this be a spiritually-centered blog? I was not sure what direction God wanted me to take and why, or if any change was needed at all.

So I reached out to you and you responded. And here is what I think I hear you saying: 

Keep writing stories of all that you are: a pastor’s wife, a mother, an adoptive mother, a Christian, a foreigner living in a borrowed country.

Keep writing with honesty about your struggles and the lessons you are learning because we may identify.

Keep writing from your heart and in your own style.

And I’m so glad because I don’t think I know how to do anything else. And because my husband said if I tried to do something I don’t know how to do I would wither and die (not literally, but maybe?).

I am so thankful for you. I don’t often ask questions of you or write with the “you” much, but I want you to know that your comments, your e-mails, and your responses mean the world to me. I don’t write to be heard, I write to know I am not alone. 

And you help me to know that no matter what crazy thing is happening in my world, it has happened in yours. Or you know it will happen in yours. Or you may totally see how it could happen in yours. Or you simply just get it. And the burdens are a little easier when shared in community, right?

So, thank you, gracias, merci, and danke. With renewed understanding and deeper commitment, Life in a Glass House will remain what it is. 

April 30, 2012

Help Wanted!



Last Saturday I had the privilege of meeting face to face with seven other Christian women bloggers. One of them, the owner of the home, I had been following for a while, and the other six I had never met but are now the newest addition to my favorite blogs.

And. We. Had. A. Blast.  

There was Amy, who is passionate about making a difference in small and big ways.

There was Katrina, who will teach you to eat real food cheaply, while helping you draw closer to the God who created it all.

There was Mariah, who will captivate you with her humor and smarts.

There was Kendal, who is honest and real about her struggles. You may just identity.

There was Karrie, who writes about being a mom, a teacher, a child of God and wife to a farmer in poetic style.

There was Rachel, who writes about food, especially desserts, but who is model-thin and model-beautiful.

There was Corina, who does not yet have a blog but I know will blow you away when she does. Stay tuned.

It was fun. And it was inspiring. And it left me with some pondering to do. And here is where you come in:

One of the things we talked about were the strengths and weaknesses of our blogs and the reasons we blog. The discussion that ensued around the table gave me a lot of food for thought. I was challenged to take a look at my motivations, my passions, and my sphere of influence. I’ve been blogging for almost two years now and I think it’s time to re-evaluate some things.

So I decided to enlist your help, sweet friends.

If you don’t mind, if you could help me, take a minute and tell me:

What keeps you coming back to this space?

I would really love to hear from you, whether you usually comment or you mostly lurk, through Facebook or via e-mail, please help me to see Life in A Glass House from your side of the computer.

Thank you, thank you, thank you! 

April 16, 2012

Isabel, the tooth, and the widow's mite.

A few days ago Isabel lost a tooth. After her daddy pulled it out and after the tears were dried her first words were: “The Toothfairy is coming tonight!” Then carefully, so so carefully, Isabel put the miniscule tooth into a red, Chinese box with a mirror that probably used to contain a fancy lipstick once upon a while. She snapped it sealed and placed it under her pillow. She fell asleep with her whole torso over that pillow, protecting her treasure fiercely.

And the Toothfairy came. This sneaky fairy tip-toed into Isabel’s room a few hours past the kids’ bedtime to do the job only the Toothfairy can do (or the little white mouse, if you live south of the Texas-Mexico border): to buy the long-wiggled, expectantly-yanked-every-few-days tooth. The exchange rate these days at our house is one crisp dollar bill for one white and tiny pearl. The Toothfairy had to pull and prod and, being careful not to wake her up, take out the little red box, and make the exchange. 

The next morning she ran, hopped, and skipped to our bedroom at a ridiculously early hour, a memory of Christmas morning all over again, with her little red box and more money inside it than a six year old knows what to do with. “Mami! It’s gone! My tooth is gone! And I got a dollar! I got a dollar!” Precious booty to a little girl who does not yet get an allowance and whose parents don’t tend to buy toys beyond Christmas and birthdays. 

Last year I bought her a three-piece piggy bank. It’s shaped like the letters A, B, and C connected, and each letter is a compartment. The A is for giving. This is the money she takes to church each week for Jesus. The B is for saving for bigger items she may want to buy. The C is for spending and this one is usually empty as the concept of “now” trumps the concept of “later” almost every time. 

As we sat at breakfast in the kitchen the morning after she became richer by a dollar I asked her to put her dollar into one of the three compartments so she would not lose it. Without hesitation she said she wanted to put it into the “Jesus” one. Eyes wide I asked: “The WHOLE dollar?” She nodded earnestly and happily. Because I am logical, thrifty, and practical, I offered to exchange her dollar for four quarters. “That way you can put a little into each box,” I suggested. Because she is generous, trusting, and much more obedient than I, she declined. “I want to give the whole dollar to Jesus!” she said. And pride and tenderness spilled out of my eyes. And just a few days before we had discussed our character trait for the month of April and its accompanying verse: generosity as found in 2 Corinthians 9:7


“God loves a cheerful giver”

And she embodies it. Like the little widow who put all she had into the coffers of the temple, so this child gave not from what was left after she bought her new toy, but the whole of her prize, everything she owned. She gave believing she would not lack and out of gratitude for the blessing itself rather than for what the blessing would bring her.  

And I don’t give like that. Ever. I tell myself I give sacrificially as I rationalize how little to give, as I add and subtract, re-arrange the numbers one more time, and frown over pennies and nickels. And when Jesus calls me to give just a little more of my money, my time, my energy, my resources, I grumble and complain and ask “Don’t I give enough already?” 

My children bring me great happiness every day. But every day they also teach me. And they partner with God to point out to me where my faith is lacking, where it’s little. I am the one who chooses the trait of the month for Isabel and Noah to learn to live out. I am the one who chooses the scripture that accompanies it. I am the one who explains it to them. 

Yet they are the ones who model it for me.

April 7, 2012

On teenagers...

In ten years we will be living with a sixteen year old and a fourteen year old. I have heard this should strike fear in the heart of the most courageous parent. Often I hear people say things like “Oooo, just wait until she becomes a teenager!” and “Oh, the teen years are horrible; just wait and see…” or “Your kids may be good now but they won’t be for long. When they hit adolescence…” and “Oh, nothing you do now will change the fact that teens are horrible!”

Sigh.

I don’t have a crystal ball. I cannot predict what the future will bring and neither do any of these naysayers. I have no idea what our life like with two teens will be. And more importantly, I will not be one of those parents who are blind and confidently say: “My child will never…”   

But I do know a couple of things.

While they are small and in these formative years I have two choices as we prepare for adolescence. I can either parent reactively, dealing with the stages of life as they come, inching ill-equipped towards adolescence and hoping for the best while bracing myself for the worst.

Or…

I can parent proactively. I can read all I can, learn all I can, listen to experts all I can, ask for advice all I can and, above all, pray all I can. 

I can work hard at parenting them these early years knowing that what I do now may not be the cure-all for adolescence problems later on but it is what the Lord has commanded me to do: to love them, to do my best at raising them in his ways, and to leave the rest to him.

I think of my children as vegetables. I can ensure a poor crop if I plant them and leave their successful growth to chance. Or I can plant them and water them with life instruction, and fertilize them with the Word of God, and tenderly care for them with boundaries and structure. I may still not get the produce I want, but I know the second approach gives me the better odds.

I also know that I will quit expecting the worst and begin praying for the best for my children. I don’t want to spend the next ten years in fear of their teens. I would rather spend this time laying a good foundation, enjoying their changes, and preparing the soil.

I plan to reap a good harvest. I know many teens that are a delight to their parents and I plan for my children to be that kind of teen. I am not being unrealistic, I’m being hopeful. I am not being delusional, I’m trusting that God will honor the hard labor Matt and I are doing today.

Yes, my children have choices. Yes, they may make poor decisions. Yes, they may be awful teenagers because they are, like all of us, sinful people with free will. They may, against all we have taught them, walk away from their faith. They may become defiant and disobedient. They may do all kinds of things we pray they won’t do. They may.

But…

I refuse to contribute to this by creating self-fulfilling prophecies for them. I will not let them hear me say that adolescents are horrible, even today. I will speak positive and encouraging words to them as they reach that confusing, hormonal, difficult time of their lives. I want them to know I delight in them no matter what they’re going through because I delight in the gift of who they are, whatever their behavior. I want them to know that even while they feel out of control with their emotions and their bodies their parents will be a rock for them.

I know this seems impossible and in reality, it is. But, just like we do in any other difficult time of our life, Matt and I lean on the broader, stronger shoulders of Christ. We can be a rock for our children only because we are standing on the Rock of Ages. We can extend impossible grace to them only because of the impossible grace we’ve been given.

Maybe if their parents embrace adolescence Isabel and Noah will face it with a more positive outlook. They don’t know any different right now. What if all they ever hear from me is how much I look forward to their teen years? How would that change their perspective? How will it change mine?

And can I ask something of you?

I don’t want any more warnings about the teen years. I’m not afraid. I choose to wait for them expectantly and joyfully come what may. It is a time of wonder when kids are becoming adults and finding their own way. Instead, please pray for our family, if you will. 

Rebellious teenagers are miserable teenagers. 

So rather than expect Isabel and Noah’s misery, please pray that they will break the mold and be happy-ish teens. If I’m wrong, I hope you lift us up in prayer while the storm passes by and help us with your advice and wisdom. If I’m right, I hope you rejoice with us. But the fact remains that only time will tell and I choose hope

Parents of delightful teenagers, speak up! What is one thing you did when they were small that you feel made a difference during their adolescence? And if your children became difficult teenagers, tell what you would do differently for those of us who are just beginning!