Keep the Advice…I’ll Take the Sucker

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Sometimes Mamma’s need help. But all the time, they need grace.

Once upon a time, at Trader Joes, I allowed my three angels to push their own mini-carts. So…they decided to play bumper carts down the aisle of wine bottles. Smack in the middle of the horrific scene, another mom sauntered by, her two children peacefully pushing one cart and said,

“You know, it’s really not the best idea to let each of your children have a cart.”

I don’t remember what I said. But I did not say,

“Wow, that’s such wonderful advice. You’ve helped me feel like a non-idiot. You clearly care about me and the six shattered Merlots I’m about to pay for.”

Yeah. I did not say that.

Moments later, a heroic Trader Joe’s worker, rushed to my side as I confiscated the horrid mini-carts. I was attempting to balance all three on top of my big one.  She gently offered the kiddos a sucker while I completed my mission.

I look back on this day and ask myself- Which character in this embarrassing story do I want to be? Our words and actions, even well intended, are pathways.

Here are key questions I’m learning to consider:

  • Is what I say or do, leading someone down a hallway to God’s love? Or, is it a route to my own self-validation?
  • Will this help them feel better, or me feel better?
  • Which corridor am I nudging people towards when I come to their aid?

I don’t think the mamma at Trader Joe’s had a heart to help me.  She wanted to make it clear, she knew more about this parenting thing than me. I’m super guilty of behaving this way, too. We all struggle with insecurities when we seek validation outside of God’s love.

Once I shamed a mamma for packing her daughter marshmallows as a ‘healthy snack.’ Not my finest moment. But advising her how not to feed her children, validated the way I chose to feed mine.  It was vain. God’s word makes it clear, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)

Holding my tongue is just as hard as the Bible says. God’s shown me, sometimes I don’t really want to help, I want to be heard. If being heard by others becomes more important than loving them, we’ve missed the mark big time. This is true in our friendships, marriages and everyday encounters.

Jesus didn’t say, the greatest commandment is, “Love the Lord your God with your heart…And the second is to give judgmental advice to all the tired moms on your street.”

Nope. He said, “‘Love the Lord your God…  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Matthew 22:37-39)

How did you feel loved when you were in this bleary-eyed stage? Consider those things…and then do them for others. Next time you see a crazy mamma balancing mini-carts in Trader Joe’s, help her get the third one up with a smile.  She doesn’t need your advice, she needs your grace.

 

 

 

 

 

Identity Torn

 

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There’s power in a name. Too often, we hand that power over to others.

My name is Arabic in origin, literally meaning, ‘small bird.’ I think it’s cute. But last year, when a small bird built its nest in our front door wreath…I wasn’t so sure. Every time we opened the door, it whizzed into our house and repeatedly rammed into our fireplace. My youngest laughed, my daughter screamed and my oldest lurched with a determined broom to guide her outside. Hmmm.  Am I a small bird?!

In 2018, I surely let circumstances label me – Slight, Insignificant and Weak.

All false names given by false friends.

We’ve all allowed false names to banner over us. Names like: Alone, Failure or Liar.

Instead of asking God for a word to live by this year, I asked Him for a new name. This year was straight up hard. 70 percent of the time, I felt 100 percent inadequate. I mean, face-down on a rug, sobbing, I-don’t-think-I’ll-ever-stand-up-again kind of inadequate.  Maybe God had a new name for me; something awesome, like Phoenix?! A name to inspire rising up fierce from the heartache. But after failing to persuade my hubby that Phoenix is a super cool name for his wife… God dismantled my view.

In the book of Acts, Peter heals a lame beggar. Onlookers are astonished and,

” When Peter saw this, he said to them: “Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? … By faith in the name of Jesus,this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.” (Acts 3:12, 16, emphasis mine)

God didn’t have a new name for me; but a new understanding…

My name isn’t the one that matters.

This year, there were times I felt like this lame beggar – that I’d never stand again – miraculously, I did.  And it had nothing to do with my name.

There were moments I felt I’d suffocate from unmet expectations – but I didn’t.  And it had nothing to do with my name.

God works through the mire to birth His magnificence. I’ve lived this truth. If you have too, you’ve known no miracle on earth like it. When we’re not strong enough to stand – but still do – we’re face to face with our true identity.

“That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (1 Corinthians 12:10)

When this small bird felt she’d never soar – she found herself wielding swords and charging into battle…because of a name. God uses the meek to bring forth the meaningful. This year, I’ll allow the weakness in me to lead to the wonderment of Him. I’ll be less concerned with the meaning of my own name, and seek to understand more the meaning of His.

For it’s in the purposes of Him that I find the purpose of me.

We don’t require a special new name to label us; we need to allow The Name Above All Names to live in us…

Jesus.

Because there’s power in a name. 

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Don’t Hoard “What Could’ve Been”

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I have papers filed, stuffed, and strategically tucked away…much like the grief attached to them.

I have official binders of completed Home Studies, one for Ghana, one for Domestic. Another folder filled with the remnants of our Ethiopia dossier. Love letters addressed, “To Our baby from Africa, From Big Sister Ciana,” randomly skydive out of shelves when I tug at a book. It’s routine for me to tenderly tuck them back in the crevice they escaped. It’s routine for me to cry as I do it.

God pressed my heart yesterday,

Why are you keeping all these papers?

Papers have no power.

I struggle releasing the hope that the International Adoption Program in Ghana will re-open. What if it did?! Even if I made gazillion copies of these documents…they’re all expired.

Yet, there’s no expiration date on hope.

When God calls the Israelites to enter the Promise land, He tells them…

“You have stayed long enough at this mountain.” (Deuteronomy 1:6)

It was time to move forward to the new place God had prepared; A land of hope. If you’re familiar with the story, they had major trouble trusting in God’s promise.  They’d rather be literal SLAVES in Egypt then to trust God’s call to move forward.

We all do this. We make ourselves slaves to the past. We’re terrified God doesn’t have a better way. So we remain on timed-out mountain-tops and needlessly wander the wilderness.

His word reminds us, “As for God, his way is perfect” (Psalm 18:30)

Don’t hoard what could’ve been.  It devours valuable soul space.

Stop asking, Lord, what-if…

Start asking,  Lord, what- now?

If we don’t, we may miss the new thing God has for us.

“ See, I am doing a new thing!
   Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:19) 

Snapshots of the past 5 years have indeed, looked like a spiritual trudge through wasteland. I want to perceive new things God’s springing up in my life. Physical things can clutter the halls of our spiritual house. I’m making room. But it’s not easy.

I couldn’t bring myself to throw all the papers away. I’m constantly handing my heart over for God to complete his work in me. However, I did consolidate them and move them into a garage space. Now they can’t ambush my peace. I’ll only revisit them if God calls me to.

God’s faithfully held me as I’ve mourned on this mountain for a season. But  I’ve been here long enough. It’s time to follow Him to new territory.

Honestly, there’s still sorrow in the descent.

Honestly,  I have no clear vision of where He’s leading.

I know it’s a land of hope.

I know in order for him to make a “new way”…He’s asked me to move all the papers off the path.

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I’ve Seen Worse

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“The mini-van sliding door of shame.” It’s a thing. You know,  when you drop your kids at school, all humanity is watching, the door slides open, and two McDonald’s cups, a gazillion goldfish crackers and one muddy soccer cleat avalanche before an audience of teachers and students. Yeah. It’s a bummer.

When this happened a few years ago, Eli’s precious teacher made a valiant effort to catch the miscellaneous items rolling between her legs. I was mortified.  I had to put my car in park, resulting in a drop-off line clog up, insisting, “You really don’t need to help me find a trash can!”

“My car’s been way worse!” she giggled.

My ears were scorching with embarrassment. However, I was able to laugh after I danced the humiliation-hustle back into the driver’s seat.  What a gift to be met with grace, and not disdain. Had her car really been worse?! Probably not. But, I chose to believe her. I imagined some mini-van, somewhere in the world, where maybe three McDonald’s cups slipped out.  Thinking of that Mamma made me smile. I wish I could meet her and whisper, ‘I’ve seen way worse…in my own backseat!’

Let’s be honest, we’re all in the same mini-van. Let’s give grace as a free gift to each other. We have the power to turn someone’s shame into relieved acceptance by simply acknowledging -we’re actually human, too!

The beauty of freely given grace, is it doesn’t put the recipient on trial before deciding if they’re worthy. I fully admit, I’m clean-car challenged. But that specific season of life was Crazy Town. Eli’s teacher didn’t know what I was straining to juggle. She didn’t need to. She didn’t need any other reason to love me like Jesus…but to know she was first loved by Him. “We love because he first loved us”.(1 John 4:19-21)

As we enter into a new school season, be the first to encourage another Mamma if she’s having a, “trash-just-rolled-out-of-my-car,” kind of day.  She may be hitting some speed bumps you’re unaware of.

Sit with her in the space she feels “less-than”.

Refrain from judgement.

Give grace freely. It costs you nothing.  

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

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The Strength We Sometimes Forget

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When I was a kid, some lady bundled me in winter clothes and threw me into a swimming pool. I think she was my swim teacher…or an escaped mental patient. Either way, the struggle was real.

I don’t recall having any legal representation or signing a waiver.  I just heard the zip of a puffy jacket, felt my feet lift off, and everything went silent as my head sunk under water. I tried to kick, but the snow boots cemented to my feet were SOO-AAA-HEAVY. Luckily, I had freakishly strong arms.

I fixed my eyes on the side of the pool. My muscles were burning. My mom was cheering. She saw an ability in me I didn’t know I had. If I wanted to make it to that edge, I had to forget about the weight on my feet and focus on my strength.

I’ve never been able to shake the memory of this day. Not because it was mildly horrifying, but because I made it to the edge of that pool. Even though I’d been thrown into an unknown circumstance, bearing the weight of unwanted burdens…

I did it.

I knew I could do it again.

How many times has it felt like God has thrown you into a cold pool with a Patagonia jacket and a pair of UGGS?

How many times has it felt he’s standing on the side watching you struggle for air?!

It can feel cruel.

Feelings lie.

God sees the strength in us we forget to claim. He sees HIS spirit in us, the same spirit that raised Jesus from the dead. (Romans 6:10-11) He wants us to see this truth, too!

He won’t allow the world to throw us in a pool and watch us drown.

He knows this…but he needs US to know this. We can’t fathom how the power of God can propel us through the waves, unless we’ve endured numerous storms.

It has nothing to do with our freakishly strong arms, but everything to do with our fiercely strong God. When we are weak, He is strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-11) How can we claim this, if we haven’t lived this?

I’ve experienced God’s supernatural ability to carry me through some goopy gunk. I know on a profoundly personal level, “those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)

We all find ourselves floating in unknown circumstances, bearing the weight of unwanted burdens.

We all have a choice.

We can focus on the weight pulling us down, or focus on our strength– Christ in us.

Focus on Him, and we claim our holy ability to endure and press on.

We begin to trust we can survive deeper waters, swim a little farther, stay in the fight a bit longer. We begin to believe God keeps his promise to never leave us nor forsake us. He will always deliver us to His perfect will…even if it takes wearing soggy snow boots to get us there.

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Something on the Brink of Death is Stuck Under My Oven

 

 

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I’m on all fours, straining to flick out the blue, wriggling tail that’s slide under my oven.

I need something long, but not sharp.

 Alexa…Will a butter knife cut a beta fish?

Alexa…how long, can this thing live out of water?

Goodness, my daughter is crying. She begged to help me transfer the fish into his clean water bowl. She didn’t want to help, she wanted to do it herself.

I knew it was a bad idea. We’ve had London two years now. I’ve made it clear to him,

If you jump out and fall on the floor, I’m not picking you up. You’ll die there, buddy.

However, when the tragedy unfolded, I couldn’t let him die, undignified, on a sticky kitchen floor.

No. I’d save his life! And I did. He was softer than I’d imagined. Gross…but soft.

I kinda, sorta, totally love him.

I imagine we’ve all pleaded with God to give us something. Unlike me, he’s a perfect parent. My fuzzy feelings for London the fish, are nothing compared to the love God has for the desires of my heart.

He knows when we’re ready.

He knows when we’re not.

We may drop the responsibility on the floor, shrink behind a stool and cry. Not because we don’t want to please God, but because we aren’t equipped yet for the call.

For years, I’ve asked God,

Why have you allowed so many trials in our pursuit of adoption?

I’ve begged and begged…

Just let us do this Lord!!

He’s answered on several occasions the same way,

I’m making you stronger.

I don’t know all the reasons we’re asked to wait. However, I do know there is perfectly holy reason for every situation. Sometimes he waits because I haven’t allowed him to shape my desires to his perfect will.

Desires of the heart aren’t docile and tame. More often, hope slips out of our hands and wedges itself in a hot, messy crevice. When it does, we can’t flip out and pronounce it dead. We need to be ready to get on our knees and breathe life into it through arduous prayer.

The third time the door shut on adoption; I swear the rupture in my heart was audible.

But I remembered, Jesus was, “a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.” (Isaiah 53:3)

I also know he pushed through, “For the joy set before him he endured the cross.” (Hebrews 12:2)

There was a joy our Savior didn’t reach until he endured great suffering. He knew the suffering was worth it because there was incomprehensible joy on the other end.

God cherishes the desires of our hearts so immensely, he won’t hand them over until our hands are perfectly aligned with his for safe transfer. Then, we must allow his hands to cup our own and lead us in the right direction.

So many times, I’ve pulled away from his will and forged the journey on my own.  He’s super patient. He’s watched countless ‘fish’ splat on my life’s floor.

Every so often, by his grace, my hold stays in perfect unison with his. This doesn’t mean things move forward without a hitch. I can’t flawlessly love and persevere like Jesus. But when something on the brink of death is stuck under my oven, I don’t freak out like I used to.

I understand desires of our hearts require constant care and dedication.  We need to love them as much as God does. Sometimes, it’s necessary to face things that once grossed us out; like picking up a fish or seeing the corrupt underbelly of adoption institutions.

Whatever God places in my little hands, is something he totally adores. He doesn’t give it to me to watch it suffocate. He has to make me brave enough to stretch into the unknown and fight for its life when things get shaky.

God withholds, until we’re prepared to take holy-hold of the things he loves.

 

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. “

Ecclesiastes 3:11

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Tending to Hope Among the Decay

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She’s waiting.

I’m worried.

If one more soccer ball crashes against our disintegrating patio cover, it might collapse. At our house, that’s every 2 minutes.  I’ve learned not to judge other mammas. But, seriously. Why did this sweetie choose such a precarious place to nest her egg?!

We named her Penelope. She’s the best little mamma, tirelessly tending to the hope beneath her. She wants to be ready when life breaks through. Her delicate frame flutters about, eyes watching for the slightest movement. She rests, but not for long.

Her focus is constant.

My focus has changed.

Instead of wishing we’d tear down our patio cover and replace it with beautiful wood, I’m praying it stays up. I’m rooting for the budding life, cupped in splintered hands. My eyes go straight to the nest now.

I no longer look at the defective, but at the life I’ve detected.  I love sitting under my creaky shade, cup of coffee in hand, watching for new life with my feathered soul sister.

We’re so eager to tear down things that aren’t perfectly lovely in our life. We don’t want to look at rickety boards and chipped paint. We don’t want to have awkward conversations and squint to see potential. Nurturing hope is intentional work. The world doesn’t have patience for this. It preaches,

If your marriage is struggling, tear it down.

If your friend betrays you, close the door.

If your dream shreds easily, throw it out.

If your ministry doesn’t grow, give up.

STOP.

This is the world’s way. It is not God’s way.

Don’t bring in the demolition crew so quickly. Look for life. Even if the promise is huddled in a fragile shell.

When the Lord brought Ezekiel to a valley of dry bones, he asked, “Son of man, can these bones live?” Ezekiel answered, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.” (Ezekiel 37:3)

And God did know.

He spoke to the bones, “I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’” (Ezekiel 37:6b)

Ezekiel saw dry bones. God saw an opportunity for a miracle. Anyone can bring death to a situation. Only God can bring life.

Walking away from a valley of dry bones is not God’s way.

Breathing life into them is God’s way.

Raising the dead is His way.

Letting a baby bird hatch in a termite palace, is His way.

Hover over these truths. Be patient. Keep praying. Ask for God’s spirit to breathe into every situation.

Try not to focus on broken boards framing the circumstances…choose to find the nesting egg, the dry bones that God can bring to life.

Always tend to the hope among the decay.

If you do, you’ll be ready to welcome new life like Penelope.

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” (Romans 12:12)

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