much has been given.

i think i’m getting back in the saddle again.

we’ve moved into our lovely home. i’m so blessed by its beauty and overcome by all the meaning it holds inside that i’m not sure i’ll ever be able to express my gratitude. God has seen fit to give us more than we need, He’s tapped into desires and comforts and personal preferences far beyond what we deserve or require or have earned ourselves, and i’m all the more motivated to glorify Him with these rooms and this refrigerator and that rocking chair as i wake up within these walls each day. 

ImageImage

ImageHe’s just so good.

these bedrooms beckon me to pull out our foster care application, to leave it out until the pages are filled with all there is to share, honest and willing and wanting and as ready as we know how to be. this living room coaxes me into opening up the laptop, tentatively clicking over to wordpress and letting the words come as they may. the kitchen asks for mouths to feed and the dining room sits ready to host and fulfill and cultivate relationship. i’ve never been so aware of what it is to be a vessel, to hold this home with hands & doors wide open, welcoming those on the outside into the fold. i’ve also never been so conscious of caring for those who dwell within the walls each day, recognizing this space as sacred and the container of so much that matters, a marriage, a child, three individuals and one inseparable union.

it’s a whirlwind of holy and common, floors to be swept and hearts to be cherished. 

and i’d say it’s the cry of many mothers’ hearts to love the unloved, to welcome inside, to protect the brood while teaching them to protect the unprotected, to value the valuable, to believe the seemingly unbelievable

it doesn’t take a beautiful, spacious home to do all of this. Lord knows we tried to give it our best within 700 square feet of seminary housing, and my memory lacks a night with dear friends that was crammed or uncomfortable, offering in its stead a drove of remembrances that speak of full and precious and together moments. yet now He’s seen fit to give us much, and i’ve never known so clearly that for everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required.

it’s a beautiful, humbling, life-giving much, and it is joy to explore within.

there’s so much i’m anxious to return to. there were books to read and social justice issues to discuss and if writing is therapy then i’ve been skipping some appointments. margin has found its way back into my life and i’m so eager to indulge its grace. i’ll be back soon, friends. i mean it this time.

a reactionary quartet.

i’m working on making my way back into this space. somehow, two weeks so all-encompassing and unexpected made the posts i wrote before that time seem months and miles away.

according to my [wonderful] neurologist, i have “complicated migraines.” this diagnosis evokes four simultaneous responses from me, a reactionary quartet seeking harmony despite the tension within.

1. curious.
“why’d ya have to go and make things so complicated?” [avril].  it tastes a bit like bitter irony to have a diagnosis that includes the word complicated. this word has the potential to trigger a lot of self-pity and questioning inside of me. why cancer at 22? why a high-risk pregnancy? why do we have to meet our medical deductible [and then some] every. single. year.? why does the straight and narrow have so many bleeping bumps in the road?

2. annoyed. 
ain’t nobody got time for this headache currently burrowing into my left temple, and for sure ain’t nobody got time for the two weeks i just spent completely out of commissioni’m a wife. i’m a mom. i’m a sister and a daughter and an employee.  i’m a potential foster parent and i’m a friend and i’m closing on a house in 12 days. i’m an independent soul who hates the ramifications my weaknesses have on everyone else. life is crazy enough without these never-ending curveballs. i’m human and prideful and i have things to do.

3. grateful.  
we were talking about multiple sclerosis. we were talking about lupus. we were talking about brain tumors and spinal leaks and what if there are no more babies and what if what i have is degenerative and we can’t become foster parents? for now, the Lord has seemingly seen fit to spare me from any of that and is walking me down a road that will only help me empathize with others more. thyroid problems a few years ago, migraines now. common, and commonly misunderstood. i love to learn and share and grow and discuss. i’m thankful for a manageable diagnosis, for family and friends who stood in the gap when i couldn’t stand at all and for the opportunity to relate more to others.

4. resolved.
this junk isn’t about to get the best of me. if God sees fit for trials to occur in my life [which, by the way, He promised they would], then that’s enough reason for me to endure with hope and patience. it’s also enough reason for me to praise His name in the suffering and praise His name in the relief and forge ahead when strength and ability are graciously bestowed on me again. i’m not going to spend my time wondering why the low point happened, or why the residual effects are happening now. i’m resolved to keep moving forward, resolved not to let any momentary affliction take me out of the game. His hope and strength and peace run deeper than my broken body or unrealized dreams or thwarted plans. life is short and He is good and i press on because He is the One who guides and protects, hemming me in behind and before, laying His hand upon me. i take heart, for He has overcome the world. He prays for me. He is an anchor amidst my tumult.

take heart
i hope to get back to regular posts in the next few weeks. i hope you’ll all stick around.

happy weekend.

the weakness & the lowly.

i’m just not sure what’s going on right now.

i’ve been in bed for 10 days. i can’t really lift Owen. i can’t really stand up long enough to make dinner or really even long enough to take a shower. i can’t really understand why this is happening.

i’m dizzy. i have high antibody levels. i’m nauseous and exhausted and my face is tingling. my entire left side is uncomfortable and when you tell a doctor something like that you get sent to the ER.  and then you have six vials of blood taken and a CT scan performed and they tell you nothing is wrong and you can’t decide if you’re happy or sad, because where are the answers?

amidst all this i had to take a steroid. i hate steroids, but i like the thought of feeling human again, so i tried it. marginal improvement, and it forced me to wean Owen. regardless of the fact that we were just nursing at bedtime and he doesn’t “need” it anymore, it was a heartbreaker for me. we’ve loved nursing. it’s been a gentle happiness amidst 13 months of circling and spiraling and, like i knew i would, i miss it very much [mamas – if you ever find yourself in this moment, this post was such a comfort & encouragement to me]. so here i am, missing my baby in every way and entrusting others to care of everyone and everything in my life and feeling completely leveled after trying to take a 10 minute walk around the backyard.

moments like these are so prosaic…so unoriginal, i’m not sure why that’s coming to mind right now or why it bothers me so much. like i didn’t pick up on the cycle repeating and i should have known this was coming. life was starting to level out, to be full and somewhat smooth and just spontaneous enough. then the rug is pulled out and the control is lost and nothing in life is ever actually normal, is it?

i know that He is good. i don’t have any poetic feelings or lovely thoughts about how i know that or how i am experiencing it right now, but i know that He is. and i’m really thankful for that, because all else is vague and disheartening today.

i don’t even know if this post makes sense. my head is spinning as i write it and i’m re-watching episodes of the newsroom because i feel too hazy to read a book so intelligent television seems like the next best bet. that and i already finished re-watching the entire series of parenthood.

i have an appointment with a neurologist on monday as well as two MRIs . maybe we’ll find some concrete answers, maybe we won’t. right now, i wouldn’t be surprised if there were no answers to be found, if maybe there’s more to be found in the weakness and the lowly than healing and solution.

whatever the case, He’ll still be good. we’ll still seek the joy of His presence. He’s the Healer of all things in His time, and He’s the strength i need to wait. goodness and mercy, all the days of my life. the house of the Lord forever. the storm rages on but the peace is perfect.

when all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope and stay.
[the solid rock]

love & grit & glory. [grace & truth series]

[just joining us? catch up with the grace & truth: social justice series here & here]

i’ve been sitting here staring out the window eating crackers with roasted garlic hummus [to God be the glory, right?] and trying to come up with a good illustration for the point i’d like to make. nothing is coming to mind, so here’s the point, delivered in a non prettied-up, non compelling way because that’s just what’s happening today.

love works hard.

graceandtruthloveworkshard

it just. works. hard. it pours out and it may not be filled back up and it makes hard decisions and is a life without love really life at all and when love is our life sometimes it’s just painful and anyone who says differently is selling something.

i’m so overwhelmed at times by the pain in the world that all i want to do is fix it. i’m feeling this right now as i just read this and i’m rolling my eyes because my life today is coffee and friends and there’s brick on our house and my baby is napping and i’m picking out paint colors.

and now i’m rolling my eyes again because i’m reminded that love works hard and you should feel guilty because you’re having a great day are not. the. same. thing.

loved already worked hard. love took on flesh and dwelt among us and we’ve seen His glory. the only Son. from the Father. grace & truth.

so when i say love works hard, the Spirit of God works that truth out inside me, and He reminds me that love works hard as a response, a reflection and not a repayment of what has been done for me. and i’m so much more motivated than i could have been otherwise because i get to love now. i get to work hard and i get to function out of the overflow of grace & truth and joy woven deep. it’s as simple and complex and clear and foggy as we love because He first loved us. it’s a love that:

creates
comes
intervenes
provides
sacrifices
bleeds
pours out
dies on behalf of another.

that’s the love that was shown to us. it’s the love we get to respond to.

this is not a call to be a self made martyr. it is a call to marvel and wonder and invest in discovering just how deeply we are loved by Love and how the calling of our heart to love Love and love loving is where the heart of this life is found.

love works hard.

it looks like selfless service and why is she doing that? it looks like discipleship and open hands and fear not and finances not clutched but given and all we have is His so what would He have us do with it? it looks like many members but one body and it looks like a people compelled and convinced, Christ-loved and Christlike. it looks like grit and commitment and all glory, honor, power is Yours, amen.

it looks like a life that won’t make sense to the world and we hear that all the time but why do i have to repeat it to myself over and over again? it looks like people who are convinced that thy Kingdom come is motivation enough for wherever the Spirit leads, and it looks like people who are confident that God gives wisdom and empowers us to move forward into the dark places.

it looks like the family of a dear friend of mine, parents five minutes into empty-nesting and mom and sister traveling abroad and Spirit pricking and souls saying our home should not yet be empty. paperwork and conversation and prayer and waiting and two children on a plane headed toward a forever home, a forever family. two sisters greeting a new brother and sister at the airport, overwhelmed with happiness that their siblings are here and a jet-lagged, exhilarated brother head-spinning and heart trying to catch up says, “it was not easy.” this is the truth.

love works hard. we are people loved by the greatest Love of all, and this is life is but a vapor, a moment in time and we get to love in a way that reflects God and have faith in a way that moves mountains. love works through us and in us and our hearts are softened by it and stronger for it. love calls us into battle and calls us into rest and that this God we serve brings all these seeming contradictions into synthesis is a manifestation of love itself.

love works hard. if you share that belief with me, grab a friend or a journal or a space in the comments section and ponder what that means for you. it means something, i’m sure of it. He is faithful to reveal.

orphan care: someone else’s words [#2]

welcome to a special, close-to-my-heart-i’m-so-proud-of-this-man edition of someone else’s words.

during jared’s last semester in seminary, he was chosen to speak in chapel as one of four senior preachers. the sermon that he was nominated for and then delivered in chapel was entitled the care of the orphan, and i’m excited to share it with you today. if you have a moment, let it play while you organize your inbox or wash your dishes, or even take twenty minutes to pretend you’re a seminary student sitting on campus. jared’s message is clear, compelling and Scriptural, and he gives excellent examples of how to understand and engage orphan care. also, enjoy the opening illustration. i find it hilarious.

gone quiet.

if there’s a burner behind the back burner, that’s where this blog has been sitting this week. to put it ineloquently, i’m full of tired (to illustrate: my eyes were crossing as i typed that sentence and i’m not really sure i can walk the five steps to the microwave to reheat my coffee for the third time this morning.).

life has been a bit of a collision these past few days. owen has been sick and is it just me or does everything else just go. out. the. window. when your baby is under the weather? it’s kind of wonderful despite the insanity, the cuddles and that little scent on their skin that only a mama could love. of course, this unexpected (i would like a genie to come grant me the wish of never expecting anything at anytime again, please.) escapade coincided with several work projects hitting crunch time at once, so last night was spent writing, emailing, editing and thank the Lord for husbands who love on early-rising littles while mamas drain all they can from those precious hours of sleep.

gone quiet

when weeks like this happen, i can’t help but think about how more likely they are to occur when we embark further on our foster care journey. i’m reflecting and praying and waiting and asking God to plant my roots more firmly, because plans and intentions and what i thought i wanted has been drifting further and further away from my grasp the more i pursue the Spirit’s call. He still gives wisdom, sometimes He lets me be part of forming what’s next, but sometimes the actual roads are so unlike the map i drew. and He says “it is very good.”.

so while the chaos and unexpected abound, in my heart i’ve gone quiet. pondering and waiting and knowing that it’s His best that surrounds and awaits me. i’m asking the Spirit to burrow deeper still, to remind and testify, to refresh and cultivate. may His goodness have great space to grow within me, for it is far greater than anything my mind can conceive or heart can hope. in the going quiet, i’m hearing much of Him. finding much of Him. and He is good.

orphan care: someone else’s words.

my brain is so consumed with this new journey God is unfolding in our life that i can hardly form a coherent sentence. in order to keep you all safe from the tangled web that is my attempt at reason, i’m going to share a lot of other people’s words. people who are years, miles, souls encountered down the road from where we are and who are living to tell the tale of orphan care in all its heartbreak and beauty. my mind and soul churn and weep and give thanks because of them.

i’m undone.

if your heart has been pricked by the plight of the orphan, beware. these sermons and posts and articles may just push you over the edge into a world of prayer and action and connection that you didn’t know existed. that’s where i’m finding myself right now, and i’m not sure i’ll ever find my way back. in the interest of full disclosure, i hope i don’t, and i hope you join me.

Sermons/Lectures from Together for Adoption*:
Relaxing in Trinitarian Love [Tim Chester]
The Mega Issues: Breaking Down People’s Perception of the Orphan [World Orphans]
The Church and the Foster Child [Robert Gelinas]
The Church as the Answer to Foster Care Challenge [Dave Gibbons]
Adoption and the Pursuit of Transracial Reconciliation [Scott Roley]
* these are just the messages i have listened to – i have a feeling the rest are excellent as well.

Blog Posts
I’m Not Done Yet [Jen Hatmaker]
The Truth about Adoption: Two Years Later [Jen Hatmaker]
Let Our Answer Be Jesus [Light Breaks Forth]
The Truth about Birth Order, Sensory Processing Disorder, and Family Trauma [Light Breaks Forth]
Grieving Together [Ashley Fishbach/Mercy Found Ministries]

Articles
Miracle in Possum Trot [Charisma Magazine]
More Foster Families Needed across Texas [CBS News]

this is a lot. i get that. i get that i’m a research nut/junkie/addict.

pick one message and listen? pick one post or article and read? it’s worth your while, i guarantee it.

trinity, justice & love. [grace & truth series]

last week, i kicked off the first round of the grace & truth series which will be focused on social justice. in that post, i stated six truths of social justice that i’ve learned, the first of which i’ll discuss today.

1. Loving God leads to loving others.
(talking normative Christian life here, folks. not trying to determine whether or not somebody is going to heaven based on what i see in their life. that’s another convo for another day…one that probably falls outside of the scope of this blog. thx & gig ’em.)

Grace & Truth: Loving

Every once in a while, I learn something new, or hear something in a different way, and all of the sudden I hear it everywhere. Over time I’ve come to realize that this is a way the Spirit testifies to me – repeating a truth, typically a truth of God’s character, over and over and over again as I seek to come to grips with it.

The past ten days or so, this has been happening with the truth of the Trinity.

I’ve believed in the Trinity for a long time. The Trinity is a fundamental doctrine of Christianity – that God is, has been and will always be existent as three in one; the co-eternal, co-existent Godhead.  However, in these recent days I’ve been struck by a new depth of this truth – the relational essence of God displayed with ungraspable beauty in the Trinity.  I know I’ve learned about this before, but I’m coming to see more and more that it’s just so very human of us to need time and repetition in order for truth to burrow itself deeply within us, so I’m letting myself learn this anew.

Some of the ways the Trinity has been working its way into my thoughts recently have been:

  • We are studying Genesis at church. While describing who God is, our pastor stated that God “has always been in relationship, because He is Trinity” citing John 1:1. “Before creation,” he told us, “the Trinity glorified one another” (see John 17:5).
  • On my way home from an out of town trip today, I listened to a sermon entitled “Relaxing in Trinitarian Love” presented by Tim Chester at the 2011 Together for Adoption Conference. He stated that God’s essence is love and relationship, because He has always been Father, He has always been communicating, He has always been loving. (cue tears of joy)
  • In both of the above sermons, the preachers implored their listeners to not view God as one who created out of a need for fellowship or out of any lack within Himself. God created out of fullness, as an overflow of His perfect union and fellowship within Himself through the members of the Trinity.

Anybody else need a glass of water (or a nap)? Stay with me!

I’m so thankful for all of this truth. I’m thankful that it’s going to take me a lifetime to even scratch the surface of understanding all of it, and even more thankful that my limited understanding has, by the power of the Spirit, incredible impact on my life now.

And that’s why we’re gathered here today, my friends.

God has always existed in love. In fellowship, relationship, friendship, unity, communication. He made us from that overflow. He loved us from that overflow. We sinned. We severed the communication, we broke the fellowship. He reached out, down, toward, through, and restored us to Himself by the shed of blood of His Son and we enter the kingdom through the power of the resurrection. While there are many, many more reasons we have to love one another – this is the basis. We love because He first loved us. 

And what does love do?

It moves. It enters in and splits the curtain and overcomes the wall. It doesn’t cower to fear or submit to insecurity. It thrives in the dark places because it can always find the light. It blossoms in the tough ground because it knows how to reach out for the water.

Love. never. fails.

We love because He first loved us. This is the heart of the first premise. Loving God leads to loving others. Care for our neighbor, of the stranger, of even our enemy is motivated by perfect love. The love that we know because it was shown to us in the plan of Father, Spirit, Son to bring man to God, to bridge the gap.

And it is our joy to mirror them.

Not to seek to become them. Not to earn their approval. But to reflect them. The Spirit guides and we look to the Son and we pray to the Father and may we be one as they are one.

Loving God leads to loving others. This is a fundamental truth of social justice, because when the going gets tough and the road is dark and dangerous we are loved by the One who enables us to love. We fight for the freedom of our fellow man because our ultimate freedom was purchased on a cross and cannot be stripped away. We raise our voices for the voiceless because Jesus Christ speaks on our behalf, mediating on the basis of His blood shed for us. We stand up for those who have been oppressed because Jesus Christ stood in the gap for us and He cannot. be. held. down.

There is so much more to discuss when it comes to social justice. There are ways and means and whys and hows and hope and sadness and wherever people are involved, there is great challenge. But for today I’m choosing to rest in this – the root of all hope and change and justice for mankind, is the love found in the man Jesus Christ that we are offered the opportunity to reflect. He is good. He is just. He is love.

grace & truth: entering in – social justice.

i’m fairly certain that about 4 seconds after i hit the “publish” button on the post introducing the grace & truth series, i was stripped of all knowledge, wisdom and insight i’ve ever had on any topic at any time. i don’t know anything anymore.

ok, probably not.

it’s perhaps more likely that i was simply stripped of the confidence to engage and wrestle and think, and maybe to be wrong (gasp). i’ve thought for 10 days now about what this initial post should discuss, how to phrase things in such a way that would compel you to get involved in the discussion and not just sit back and absorb (or repel) it, how to tackle a topic with some sort of originality, and to be honest, i haven’t gotten very far. i’m not sure i can propose anything new to any of you, but maybe the newness isn’t quite as important as the opportunity to re-engage. are we ever really finished thinking through something that matters after our first encounter with it? i know i’m not. so here’s to rehashing and hoping for progression of thought and belief. 

Grace & Truth: Social Justice
during our time at seminary, i was invited to a bible study that, cliche as it sounds, completely changed my life. the women there were fellow seminary wives with deep passion for the things of God, community, bearing one another’s burdens and building one another up. recognizing the intensity of four years alongside our ever-studying husbands, these traits were absolutely invaluable, especially when sickness, the tumultuous nature of all things motherhood, work hardships, sin struggles and even death touched our lives. we studied the Word together, convinced that the Spirit would guide and that there was great depth to be found, and i remember so clearly one night a few years in to the study, when some had graduated and left an indelible mark on our theology and lives and some had just begun their seminary journey, we were struck by the frequency and intensity of God’s call to care for “the least of these” throughout scripture. we were so floored and convicted that we made a Kiva micro-finance loan that night and signed up to volunteer at an apartment community for previously incarcerated women who were being reunited with their children. we were gripped. all in and head first we held high the banner of on earth as it is in heaven
. “social justice” became a real, living, breathing part of our lives, and i think back on that night, as well as those leading up to and following it, as an incredibly formative moment and season.

those nights and the actions we took because of them taught me:

1. Loving God leads to loving others.
2. Love works hard.
3. We are called to seek the welfare of the city.
4. It is not enough to speak the gospel with our mouths while living lives that extend no grace toward those who need it.
5. It is not enough to offer a cup of cold water in Jesus’ name but never open our mouths and speak the gospel.
6. We can’t do it all. But, God ordained, Jesus exemplified, Spirit guiding, we can do a lot.

i hope to use these six big ideas to open up a discussion on social justice in the coming weeks. join me?

what does “social justice” make you think of? feel?
does loving God lead to loving others? (
i’m not asking this as a question of salvation. i’m asking if the normative, active Christian life naturally leads to loving others.)
what place does social justice have in the theology and life of the Christian?
how do Christians engage the humanitarian, secular social justice movement?