Friday, August 22, 2014

When?

By now I think most people have heard of the situation in Ferguson, MO.

I do not tread this topic lightly.  Please know that.

My heart is broken.  A young man is dead.  Whether his death was justified or not (and that's yet to be decided), a life has tragically ended.  And before we start on a tangent of justification or not, let's remind ourselves that just as we don't want people to assume he was wrong because he was black, let's also remember we don't want to assume he was innocent just because he was unarmed.

I want you to take a moment and re-read the first 2 sentences in the above paragraph.

Did you notice that I did not say a black man is dead?

Because, that's where I'm having an issue with this.... this thing called race.

I keep seeing all kinds of articles pop up on my newsfeed.  Articles like "5 black people kill a white couple, but you'll never see that in the news."; "Dear White Mom"; "Black woman kills white boy with a blow torch."  "Unarmed white man killed by black police officer."; "White Privilege".

Will it ever end?

When?

When will this stop?

When are we going to stop making everything about race and instead just see people for people?

We're about to be finished with all of our requirements to adopt.  We're open to adopt a little boy of any race.  ANY.

And it makes me sick to my stomach that one day he's going to grow up in a world where there are potentially "his people" and "our people".

Hear me out.

There are no "your people" and "my people".  There are only people, sweet friends.

Am I naive to think that racism doesn't still exist.  No.  I'm sadly aware that it still does.  Yet I'm also not naive enough to think that reverse racism doesn't exist either.

Everyone is always pointing the finger.

I know that there are instances of abuse of power.  But that happens from all races.

Why are we trying to somehow justify what's going on in Ferguson by saying "Hey, look at this white kid killed by a black person"?

How does that even begin to help?

When is this nonsense going to stop?

The reality is that every single day there are murders and acts of violence perpetuated by all races against all races.

When can we drop the race card and just be Americans?

When can we stop rioting and perpetuating even more violence because we're sad and hurt and angry as if doing any of those things solves anything?

When?

When will we see each other as who we are instead of as what color we are?  When will we drop our arms, embrace each other and work towards a common goal?  When will we stop judging and condemning and instead reach out, hand in hand, and show the love of Christ to those in need?  When will "black churches" and "white churches" cease to exist and we all just stand in unison with hands raised in worship to the One who created us?

I didn't grow up with a lot of diversity.  And if we're being honest, it was basically near none.  Now that I'm older and have moved, that's changed.  I'm surrounded by diversity and it's a nice change.  My kids play with more black and hispanic kids than they do white ones.  And all I see is friendships.  My husband had the privilege of marrying my cousin and her husband.... a black man.  And all I see is a beautiful couple.  Their daughter is bi-racial.  Yet all I see is pure sweetness.  We have friends that have adopted children outside of their race, but I only see a loving, God-honoring family.

Why can't it be that way everywhere, with everyone?

Why do we have to say to "the white mom"?  Why can't we just be moms?  Why do we have to say that the man killed in Ferguson was killed because he was black simply because the officer is white (and I'll be the first to say that if this young man was killed because of his race and/or without just cause, that the officer should face the full extent of the law)?  Why do we have to say that a white couple was killed by a group of black people.  Aren't we all just people?  Aren't these crimes horrible regardless of who they happened to and who killed them?

My heart breaks because we're such a divided country.

When friends, when is it going to stop?

When are people just people and not white or black or brown or blue?

When?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Invincible

And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.  Hebrews 9:27
I remember being a teenager.  I thought I could drive 120 mph down the Holland straight-stretch and make it out alive.  Clearly that was true but very stupid.  Please don't ever try that.

I was naive.  I thought I was invincible.

I remember being late for school and traffic being backed up.  My sister took to the turning lane to pass multiple vehicles so we could get to class on time (sorry to rat on ya, Sis.)  :)

Invincible.

I remember letting a friend drive my car and her driving into the oncoming traffic lane for approximately 1/2 mile passing numerous vehicles in a row.  We laughed and laughed.

Invincible.  (Don't do the above either).

I remember going to hang out with my friend and finding myself at a keg party.  Everything imaginable was going on there.  People so drunk they were spilling their next drink they were attempting to mix.  They then got in to cars and drove themselves home.

Invincible.

I remember hanging out at the frat house, witnessing all kinds of godless living.

They felt invincible.

And maybe I just need a disclaimer: don't do any of these things.  It was stupid on my part.  I do realize that you can be at a party or frat/sorority house and not participate in what's going on.  I was one of those people.  I never drank, did drugs, or had sex.  But it wasn't wise.
Abstain from all appearances of evil.  I Thes. 5:22
Here lately, it seems that I can't check Facebook, text messages, or watch TV without being bombarded by devastating news.  Like the text that someones dad died of a heart attack.  Like waking up to find that just 30 minutes down the road 2 trains collided head on.  To scroll through FB and see that a young man fell asleep at the wheel, hit a tree, and was killed... this after his parents have already buried 2 children.  To see that Robin Williams committed suicide.  To read about the thousands of Christians being slaughtered by ISIS.  To see how Israel is being attacked while we sit idly by.  To get text message after text message from the newspaper telling me of 2 dead in a collision, truck overturned, house fire on such and such street.  To read about the ordeal in Ferguson, MO, the Ebola outbreak killing thousands, to hear of someone in my class tell of her 2 month old grandson dying of SIDS.

It seems it never ends.

Death.

It's real.  As one of my pastors used to say "Statistics show that 1 out of 1 die."

It's true you know.  Baring that Jesus doesn't come back soon (which seems closer than ever), we're all going to meet death, face to face.

Yet I'm willing to bet that none of us sit around thinking on that thought.  Each day I wake up, get my kids ready for school and send them off with hugs and kisses expecting that in 7 hours they'll be safely back in my arms.  Do you know how many children for which that hasn't been true?  School shootings, bus crashes, children being run over....

I get in my car, drive to the store, drive 14 hrs. to Texas, to church, to work, always expecting that I'll return safely.  Yet everything I see and hear and read flies in the face of this.

I get up each morning thinking that I'll be here to greet my husband at the door, cook dinner for my family.  But how many people never make it through the day?

How many people fall over dead of a sudden heart attack?  How many people die in car crashes?  How many people get a fatal diagnosis?  How many people are robbed and killed?  How many are dying in their sleep?

Thousands upon thousands each and every day.

Yet we live as if we're invincible.  We live as if that won't happen to us.  We're going to live until we're 92 and die peacefully in our sleep, hand in hand with our spouse, who also died peacefully in their sleep.  The Notebook, anyone?

It doesn't happen like that, at least not very often.

Each and every day we wake up could be our last.

Brain aneurysm.  Heart attack.  Car wreck.  Act of violence.  Blood clot.  SIDS.  Allergic reaction.  Tornado.  Straight line winds blowing a tree on your house.  Random person opening fire in a movie theater.  Plane crash.  Industrial accident where you or someone you love works.  Fire.

Do I need to go on?

Now, am I promoting that we walk around being morbid all the time?  Of course not.

But do I think we sometimes need a good dose of reality?  Yes.

And the reality is that death could be knocking at our door sooner than we realize.  No one wakes up and says "I think I'm going to die in a wreck today" but tragically, thousands do.

I remember sitting next to my husband at the computer, planning a trip to Disney World when I got the call that my grandma had died of a heart attack.  I remember riding to Wal-Mart with my mother-in-law when I got the call that they had found my grandpa  - dead of a heart attack.  I remember laying in bed as a 12 year old girl, hearing my dad say "She's dead?  You're sure?"  I remember being a 4 year old little girl sitting through my Granddad's funeral in the arms of my cousin, Mike.  I remember getting the call that my adopted Grandma had had a brain aneurysm and wouldn't make it much longer, sitting beside her in the hospital room and saying my goodbyes.  I remember getting the call and hearing the words "It appears you've had a miscarriage."  I remember laying on a table, waiting excitedly to see our sweet #4 and instead seeing a blank screen and a mass (our baby) in one of my tubes.  I remember standing beside my best friend as she buried her son.  Sitting in a funeral home watching our other friends bury their son.  I remember standing beside graveside after graveside of funerals my husband has preached.

Death is certain my friends.

And just as certain as death is, so is eternity.

I'm reminded that there are millions upon millions who don't know Jesus.  I'm reminded that there are millions who claim they do, but don't, and that one day they'll stand before the judgment throne and hear "Then I will tell them plainly, I never knew you.  Away from me, you evildoers!"  Matt. 7:23

And that scares me.  Makes me sick to my stomach.  Because there are family and friends and acquaintances and people I don't really like (let's just be honest, you have some of these people too) but still love enough to want their eternity in Christ sealed that fit into one of these categories.

So I guess the bigger question is: do you know?  Do you have a deep down, 100% assurance that if you were to die today that your eternity is sealed in Christ?

And please note: I did not ask if you prayed a prayer, walked an aisle, are on a church roster somewhere, or if you've been baptized.  None of those have ever saved anyone apart from repentance and belief in the completed work of Christ.

Given that death is a certainty, shouldn't you know?

Given that most deaths are sudden and unexpected, shouldn't you take Paul's advice and "Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith." II Cor. 13:5.

Because after all, I'm not invincible.

Neither are you.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Liar Liar

"You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies."  John 8:44

I've been struggling lately.  Things that are normal and routine seem difficult and labored.  Minor annoyances have grated on my last nerve.  I've been impatient and find myself going to my kids to apologize and ask for forgiveness.

I'm constantly bombarded with thoughts such as "You're such a failure."  "You'll never be any better."  "Why do you even bother?"

Our two older kids spent all of last week at their grandparents'.  I must say, it was a welcome break.  In 8 days I only did 2 loads of dishes and 1 load of laundry.  I soaked in one on one time with Emilee.  I relaxed.  I read.  I exercised.  I took it easy.

Then they came home.  And y'all, if you don't believe in Grandma Detox, let me send my kids to you next time when they return.  Mercy.  It's been rough.  And never mind that when they returned, Anna walked straight past me in a beeline for Emilee.  That's who she missed.

"See, I told you.  You're worthless."  "No one wants you, you're just what they got stuck with."

I'm struggling.  I'm trying and trying and trying, feeling like more of a failure each day.  And the thing about getting a break, is that for a moment you think you have it all together.  Then they come home and they remind you just how much you don't have it all together.  They remind you just how much more work is to be done.  They're a reminder of all your failures.

"I told you so."  "I mean, how many times do we have to have this conversation?  You really suck at this parenting thing."  "Truth be told, there's a lot you're not good at."  

For instance, ending that last sentence in a preposition.

But I digress.

I love my kids.  They are my world.  Yet there are times I feel like I've failed them.  There are times they're a mirror, reflecting all of my negative traits, reminding me of everything I don't like about myself.

"And you want to add another kid into the mix?  Hahahahahaha."  "You're a joke."

A joke....

It certainly feels like that at times.

Yet deep down, if I have my listening ears on, I can hear it.

"He's the father of lies.  He can't be trusted."

I've believed a lie.  Well, multiple lies if we're being honest.  Which if we're speaking about lies, honesty is kind of important, right?

I have believed that I'm a failure.  But you know what?

I have failed but I am not a failure.

Failures are those who refuse to get back up and try again.

I refuse.  Hear me out, I refuse to pack it up and give in.  I absolutely, positively refuse.

I have let these lies so affect me that they in turn have created more failures.  That's the thing about believing lies - they nearly always make things worse.  They fuel what you're already anxious about, seemingly confirming the very lie you've been told.

I'm tired of it and I'm breaking free.

I have believed that I'm beyond hope when the Giver of Hope resides in me.  IN ME!  He lives inside of me, every single day, beckoning me to go to Him for renewal and the right perspective.  

I have believed that who I am is tied up in a number on the scale, in the clothes I wear, the car I drive, or the house I live in instead of in Who has given me everything... Who is my everything.

I have believed that because I'm scared about adopting that it makes me unqualified.  Yet Christ has adopted me into His family.  His heart is with the widows and the orphans.  And how can I believe a lie when if He commands us to care for the widows and the orphans (which He does) then I have to believe that He will enable us to do it?

I'm tired of believing lies.

And you know what?  When I begin seeing them for what they are, I feel a resurgence rising up in me.  I feel like fighting back and karate chopping Satan in the throat.  The failures no longer define me, they only serve to fuel change.  The whispers of the enemy become inaudible.  And I find myself digging deep and doing this thing called life.

I don't know where you are in life right now, friends.  What I do know is that it's so easy to believe the lies of the enemy.  So whatever your situation is, let's call the father of lies out.

When you're starring at the scale and it mocks you, saying your worth is in a number....

Liar Liar

When you're tempted to buy a new outfit that's not in the budget because he's lied to you and told you that how you dress is what makes you beautiful....

Liar Liar

When your marriage is in shambles and you don't know how you can possibly make it another day, much less "til death do us part"....

Liar Liar

When your kids are acting out and you feel like you're a failure and it's hopeless....

Liar Liar

When God has asked you to step out in faith and do something out of your comfort zone and you're scared that you can't do what He's called you to do (and will subsequently enable you to do)....

Liar Liar

When your addicted to drugs, alcohol, pornography, gambling, and/or sex and he's told you you're beyond hope ....

Liar Liar

When you've been wronged and he's whispered that vengeance and bitterness are your best options....

Liar Liar

When your mom is on her deathbed, breathing her last and he whispers that God has abandoned you ....

Liar Liar

When you're chin deep in grief and feel alone, thinking He ignored all your petitions....

Liar Liar

When the car breaks down, the bank is running low, the refrigerator is empty and you're wondering where He is.....

Liar Liar

I don't know about you, but I'm choosing to believe the Truth.

Wherever you are in life right now, the answer is always and only rooted in The Truth.

Let's choose carefully.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Found Faithful

Next to him was Eleazar son of Dodai the Ahohite.  As one of the three mighty men, he was with David when they taunted the Philistines gathered at Pas Dammim for battle.  Then the men of Israel retreated, but he stood his ground and struck down the Philistines till his hand grew tired and froze to the sword.  The LORD brought about a great victory that day."  II Samuel 23:39

I don't know about you, but at the end of my life, I want to be found faithful.  I want to have lived my life with perseverance and dedication, running the race set before me.  I want to leave a legacy worth leaving.  I want to have honored Christ in all I do and it's that for which I wish to be remembered.

But if I'm being honest, there are any number of things or people or events that often threaten that from becoming a reality - because I often let them.

I love the verse above from II Samuel.  At first glance it doesn't seem like what we might deem as a "power verse" but it is so rich in truth and application.  Here, Eleazar was with King David while they were fighting the Philistines.  When the rest of the army retreated, "he stood his ground".  He was so dedicated, so faithful, so unwavering that he refused to give up in the face of adversity.  He was such a warrior that he fought until he hand grew so tired that it "froze to the sword".

Now that's a warrior.

I don't know about you, but I'm obviously not on the front lines of a full fledged, real life war.  Yet in small, often trivial ways, I feel like I am.

When I'm heartbroken for a friend;
When I'm left out;
When I'm cut off in traffic;
When my fears threaten to overtake me;
When one glance at the calendar overwhelms me;
When grief threatens to consume me;
When my patience has waned and my voice raised;
When every line at Wal-Mart is backed up;
When people are talking behind my back;
When the mailbox is empty, the phone silent, and I feel I've been forgotten;
When I've been asked the same question 86 times;
When I step on a Lego... again;
When the baby has a blow out;
When I'm laying in bed awake at night worrying;
When the kids are disobeying;
When I've had an argument with Mark;
When the cat jumps out and bites my calf and I step in his vomit on the dining room rug;
When someone hurts my feelings;
When the house is a mess and I feel like I can't do anything right;
When the trash *still* needs taken out;
When I feel like I've failed time and time again;
When a project doesn't work out;
When the baby has cried all day because she's teething;
When someone missed the toilet;
When the car breaks down;
When I break the garage door....again;
When the scale mocks me;
When the budget needs trimmed some more;
When I'm asked to do something I don't really want to do;
When the cat breaks one of my antique heirlooms;
When homework still needs to be done;
When we're running late and a certain someone is running particularly slow;
When I'm blamed for something that's not my fault;
When others judge based on things they don't know or understand;
When the phone rings and the voice on the other end says "Grandpa is dead.";
When I read the headlines of death and crime and war;
When the doctor doesn't have answers;
When I feel alone in the world ....

.... may I be found faithful.

May I be found determined and committed to standing my ground in the Word of God.
May I be found following His leadership.
May I give when giving is needed and stand firm when it's not.
May I remain calm and respond with grace.
May I be disciplined.
May I wear my Bible thin and come before the throne of God unceasingly.
May I lead well, follow well, live well.....

.... may I be found faithful..... may they say "she stood her ground" against adversity.  May I fight and run this battle so fiercely that I be found with my hand "frozen to the sword" and as a result, may they be able to say "the Lord brought about a great victory."

Sunday, July 13, 2014

To Our Son

To Our Son,

Although I haven't yet held you in my arms, I love you.  I don't yet know what color your skins is, what color eyes you'll have, or how old you'll be when you get to us, but I love you anyway.  I lay in bed at night wondering where you are.  If you're okay.  If you're being abused, neglected, or mistreated.  I wonder about your parents and although their mistakes are what will bring you to us, my heart aches for them.  Because our gain is their loss.

We're filling out paperwork.... and more paperwork.  We're taking classes and doing homework.  We're conforming our house to all the required standards.  We're childproofing and making plans for bunk beds and extra car seats, a double stroller, and another highchair.

We're waiting for you with such expectation that every time I think about it, my heart is overwhelmed with joy and anticipation.  You have a big sister, a big brother, and depending on how old you are, another (big or little??) sister who are beside themselves waiting for you to make it home... to our home.... your home.

And then there's us.  Mom and Dad.  I'm not naive enough to think you won't like us at first or that this is going to be a piece of cake.  I know you'll want your mom back or else your foster mom.  But I'm hoping that in time you'll know just how very loved you are.  That before we even got you, we were praying for you.  We pray for your safety.  We pray that wherever you are, that you're being loved and cared for.  We pray for your foster parents, because just like your birth parents will lose you, so will your foster parents.  We pray for them.  We pray that we will be good parents to you, that you will know and feel true love.  We pray that you will be our son and not the adopted kid.

We love you.

I sit in classes, watching a video for parents who've had their children removed and what they have to do to get them back.  And as they give a fake date to prove a point, my heart sinks.  January 5th.  They lost them on January 5th... our sweet #3's due date.  And the lump in my throat swells until I think I might start crying in the midst of strangers.... because I can't lose you.

They say we could change and do Foster to Adopt instead of just straight Adoption, but I can't.  I know that might mean we would solely raise you from the time you're removed but it also means that I will love you and they could take you away.  So I can't.

Instead, I will wait.  I will trust the Father with your life.  I will wait until all parental rights have been terminated and you are free for adoption.  And for that, I'm sorry.  I just can't take another loss.  I do hope one day you'll understand that.  But what I do know is that you're safe in the Master's hands.  He will bring you to us when the time is right.

And we so very much hope that time is soon.

We can't wait to see you.  I can't wait to hold you in my arms and shower you with all the love, hugs and kisses that you should've gotten over your short lifetime but haven't.  I can't wait to choose a song for you like I have all our other children.  I can't wait to see which animal Daddy will choose for you.  I can't wait to see how much Anna, Eli, and Emilee will love you.

So, you see, while we don't yet have you in our arms, you are still so very much loved.  Just like we prayed for our other children while I carried them in my womb, we pray for you.  And just like we pray for our children each and every night, we now pray for you too.

You are ours.

And you are so very loved.

XOXO,
Mommy