Some say there’s no God, no hope, no love, nothing we can do to bring change.
But, I’ve seen the images.
When I look into my brother and sisters eyes, the eyes of my children and foster daughter,
The eyes of my neighbor, no matter the color, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, or social status…
I see images.
The images of God.
And images have power.
Power to pray. Power to protest. Power to preach. Power to love. Power to plead.
I admit it’s a hard time to navigate. Liking a Facebook post won’t bring change. I am inadequate to speak any authority over the situation because I have SO very much to learn. But as I cried for my foster daughter’s future, her precious mama and father, I prayed God would show me what to do. Here’s what he pressed on my heart-
We have a God-given, Spirit-led power to raise an anti-racist generation.
Have the hard talk and holy talk in your home tonight, with your friends, your husband, your children.
Not just once. But over and over.
We are living, breathing images. Let’s bring change.
“God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Genesis 1:27 NIV
“In Christ’s family there can be no division into Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us you are all equal. That is, we are all in a common relationship with Jesus Christ.” Galatians 3:28-29 MSG
I turned to Aaron last night and said, “If she goes home in April, I don’t think I’ll survive it, baby.”
Taking my hand, he said, “We’ll get through it.”
The depths of human emotion are astounding. As soon as you reach the bottom of the well, your soul strikes a geyser, emotions rush to the surface, shattering the limitations of how you thought you could ever feel, or give.
The number one comment I’ve received after becoming a foster mom is, “I could never do that. I could never love a child and then give them back. It would be too hard.”
I know some of you’ve said those very words to me. You know the first person to say this to me?
About a gazillion times before you opened your mouth, so don’t sweat it. I’m pretty sure my head will pop off like a Barbie doll when/if she isn’t with us anymore. So…there’s that.
I try not to think of that.
Oh, yes, sweet friends. You’re right, it’s hard.
Loving a child like they’re yours, but they aren’t is like trying to settle untamed land. I’m unsure which attachments to let grow wild and where it’d be wise to put up some fences.
Is she supposed to call me, mommy? I’m not her mommy.
What do I say when someone says, “Congratulations”? She’s not adopted. In fact, she’s with us because of traumatic circumstances.
Knowing we’ll probably only have her for a season; the knowledge breaks and heals, gives and takes away. I don’t know how to feel, so I feel everything. It’s fascinating and difficult. Please, pray for me.
Some days lunge at me like a ginormous octopus. Emotional tentacles are yanking my gut, trying to reach a new understanding of what God’s love is really about. How can it spread in so many directions at the same time, with the same purpose? Is it even possible for me to love like him?
I promise I’m trying. I’m finding I don’t know how to successfully love my foster daughter, her birth mama, her birth daddy, her paternal grandma, the two social workers, three investigators, three lawyers, and the judge equally.
Somewhere down the line, I’ve come to believe that if I love one too much, it will interfere with my love for the other. What if I love too hard, will the wells eventually dry up? I don’t want to find myself cracked and parched, unable to love brave again.
The word tells us, “For God loved the world, that he gave his only son,”(John 3:16)
In other words:
He loved, so he did a very hard thing;
He loved, so he gave what was most precious to him;
He loved, so he endured.
He loved, so he hung, his lips cracked, his mouth parched.
The veil was torn. His body was buried. But it wasn’t the bottom of the well.
When the world thought Jesus hit rock bottom, a bigger rock rolled away, and the fierce love of God rose up.
I’m learning we can’t put boundaries and borders upon God’s love. We’re the ones slapping labels on His callings: Too Hard. Not Worth It. I. Just. Can’t.
Of course, we can’t! Love wouldn’t be holy if we could accomplish it on our own. Only through Jesus, “For in him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28)
After our last failed adoption, I was convinced a piece of me would never feel again. I was wrong. The death in that experience gave birth to a new depth in me I didn’t know existed. Under the surface of that suffering was an understanding that God’s designed us for more. More perseverance, more strength, more wisdom, more hope, more fight, more courage, and abundant love.
He “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” (Ephesians 3:20)
We’re made in the image of God. So our love story on earth should look a bit like his.
Because he loves, we’ll do hard things. And because he’s with us, we’ll get through it.
I was a cheerleader. Not the cool kind. When a routine called for the splits, I’d lower my skirt to hide the fact I was several inches away from nailing it. I couldn’t do a toe-touch. I’d routinely jaunt across the quad with my skirt unknowingly tucked up under my backpack. Yeah.
One of our important cheerleading jobs was painting the “run-thru” for the Friday night football game. This was serious stuff. We had to make life-altering decisions like: What should it say?! What colors should we use?! If we use too much paint, will it be too hard to tear?
A stampede of sweaty teenagers ran through this thing before they’d compete. It signaled the battle of Friday Night Lights had begun; they were ready to face their opponents and build a legacy.
God asks us to do the same thing at times. He’ll require we charge towards a stronghold before announcing, “You’re ready to step on the field.”
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…A time to tear down and time to build” (Ecclesiastes 3:1,3b).
Sometimes we must tear down before we can build up. The Hebrew word for ‘tear down’ in this verse is parats. In the tense used it means, to break or burst out (from womb or enclosure). So another way to understand this is, there’s a time to burst out from whatever you’re stuck inside of.
We’ve got to break-through in order to build.
I found the same Hebrew word used nine other times in the context of increasing blessing or territory.
“The little you had before I came has increased (parats, break or burst out) greatly, and the LORD has blessed you wherever I have been” (Genesis 30:30a)
There’s a blessing when we press past our comfort zones into new territory.
What’s stopping us from making that phone call, having the hard conversation, going to the adoption seminar, applying for that job, taking the first step towards healing our marriage? Maybe we’re too busy staring at the daunting banner in front of us, forgetting we have a banner over us. Moses declared, “The LORD is my Banner” (Exodus 17:15). We are to lift up His name and bravely march forward.
Perhaps we’re too prideful thinking we can run through the banner by ourselves? Listen, it took a herd of sweaty young men to burst through our epic signs. Call the counselor or friend. Get in a small support group or Bible study. If you have a stronghold or complacent spot in your life, gather some people around you and address it. Life is moving forward with or without your participation.
Maybe we’re unwilling to put effort into breaking through our fears, selfishness, insecurities or haunting grief.
It’s a shame really.
Because there’s an epic battle going on among us, and we weren’t made to stand on the sidelines. God can heal and equip, and he passionately desires to do so.
Let’s do the hard work of identifying the banners holding us back. Let’s be brave and learn to run full force at them, knowing on the other side is where we’re called to be living our lives. On the field, with our brothers and sisters, co-laboring with Christ to build things that are “true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse” (Philippians 4:8-9 The Message)
We’ve got one life on this earth. One. Get in the good fight for the kingdom. Ask God to show you which areas you need to have a breakthrough and CHARGE!!
The Southern California rain surprised all humanity this year, giving my kiddos a false sense of hope, “Mommy, do you think they’ll close the schools because it’s raining?!”
Um, no. That’s not a thing.
The brown hills by our house have exploded into yellow flowers. They press on their tippy-toes waving hello. Maybe California should cancel school, offering a day to admire the new life with neighbors. Because when it comes to new life, we really go out of our way to celebrate it don’t we? If we desire the company of new life, we’ll find she always brings a guest.
Life and death sit side by side. So often we shoo the experience of grieving to the “obligatory guest” table. No one wants him at the party…but sooner or later, he shows up. I photographed weddings for years, and I promise you, there’s always a wacky relative in attendance (psssst… it’s your uncle). One wedding reception, the exuberant uncle was on the dance floor, flat on his back, pretending to look up the bride’s dress. Yeah. Sometimes grief acts like that guy. Meaning- he has no sense of social awareness. We find ourselves asking, who invited him anyways?!
But it’s not his fault. When we shove the process of grieving far into the burrow of our lives; he’s forced to rear his head at the most inconvenient times. Can you relate? The checker at Vons asks if you have bags and you burst into tears because you left them in the car. If grief wants your attention, he’s ruthlessly successful. I’m finding that depriving him the attention he craves, only makes him fervently jump up and down.
let your grief take a seat
I’ve decided it’s best to offer him a space to be heard.
Learning to set a place for grief at our table is a grueling and powerful act of faith. But it needs to be done. Joy is painfully birthed out of sorrow. When we pull the chair out from under him and ask him to leave, we’re telling him he’s not important to our story; that he has nothing of value to add to the conversation. When in reality, God often uses our grief to scoot our chair closer to joy. God wants to speak to each of us through our sufferings.
Many believers experience guilt over admitting they’re sad. The idea of feeling guilty for grieving is not biblical! We’re taught we should rejoice in our sufferings, to always be happy because we have Jesus. There’s truth here. However, the rejoicing does not negate the suffering- it accompanies it.
allow your grief to usher in joy
God has filled me with inexplicable joy over our new journey to be foster parents. But honestly, it’s the grief of failed adoptions that brought us here. It’s impossible for me to separate my new joy from my concurrent grief. They’re powerfully intertwined. Have we forgotten that Jesus wept three times in scripture? Each time, coupled with an occurrence of great joy: before the resurrection of Lazarus (John 11:35); right after the triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Luke 19:41); and in the garden before his own death and resurrection leading to the salvation of mankind (Hebrews 5:7).
It is possible to sit next to joy and grief at the same time. It’s healthy to look grief the face and “talk it out” or “cry it out” or slap him in the face. Whatever you need to do to acknowledge they’re times he’s going to come to dinner and you can’t ignore him. We’ve got to deal. But we’re not alone. God’s table is big. It may mean we pull up more chairs for counselors or sisters in Christ to help us mediate the conversation. Or, maybe we need to excuse ourselves for a “prayer break,” or take a moment to wash our wounds in The Word.
As we become more intentional in setting a place for grief, we can’t lose sight that where God allows sorrow, he assigns great joy. “Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5b)
p.s. If the voice of your grief is consistently louder than the voice of your loving Father, you may be experiencing depression. They are not the same thing. Please feel free to message me and I would be honored to help you find a counselor.
I have baby onesies with no pudgy legs to fill them. I have space where I hung dresses for a job I didn’t get.
Having empty space in our lives, doesn’t mean we’re called to endure emptiness. Once a woman wept outside an empty tomb and was met by the hope of the world.
Remember Mary, the shamed woman whose heart was seen by Jesus? In Him, she was most likely cherished for the first time. Then she witnessed the desire of her heart mocked, beaten, and nailed to a cross.
Mary’s new identity was mercilessly pinned to a piece of wood. Her hope was in Jesus. And now it hung lifeless for the whole world to see.
Our desires may be holy and epic! For me, wanting to adopt is that one desire I feel I’ve been watching die a gruesome death. It’s out of my hands. All I can do is stand aside and feel the fool for believing. Have you ever felt this way; that God entrusted you with a longing but it seems it’s a no-go?
I’m guessing Mary may have felt this way. She proclaimed the hope of the world had come, and the next day they rolled a stone sealing His grave.
Still, she knelt outside the tomb, where her unmet expectations lay buried and dead.
Dying to self is a true death. And it’s OK to treat it that way. As long as we don’t forget: We worship a God of resurrection!
Mary went to Jesus’ tomb, terrified and confused to find it hollow. She pleaded with the angels, asking where they’d taken him. (John 20:11-18). It’s not that she wanted Jesus to be dead, but it’s what she expected.
Sometimes, we’re so busy focusing on the hollowness of a situation…we miss the hallelujah!
We’re so much like Mary. If we’ve watched a desire of our heart be abused and buried, we visit the grave expecting it to stay that way forever.
We forget what hope looks like. When this happens, we can miss it staring us in the face.
Hope looks like Jesus.
Hope is Jesus.
Mary didn’t even recognize Him when he appeared to her outside the tomb. She mistakes him for the gardener! (John 20:15) She was seized by the fact things didn’t remain irredeemable. The world was whispering, “What’s the point? What you hoped for is still dead.”
But the world lies. There’s always a resurrection! Whatever’s lifeless, looks different after revival.
Jesus looked different. He was glorified. (Philippians 2:20-21) I think it’s why Mary didn’t recognize Him right away.
It’s the same with the desires of our hearts. It’s not that they aren’t lovely, but God has something planned to take our breath away! Something we haven’t considered. Something impossible.
This. Is. Faith. Standing outside a graveyard and believing resurrection will come.
We’re completing our Foster Certification. Something mind you, we said we’d NEVER do. God, through the past five years of loss and frustration, has been tirelessly crafting our powdered dreams into something completely different than what we expected to see. The idea of becoming Foster Parents was our equivalent of Mary mistaking Jesus for the gardener. We initially flipped out, “Where have you taken our dead dream?!!” I just wanted to remain face down, ugly crying like Mary.
Sometimes, it’s easier to sit in disappointment then to step into the unknown. This is a big unknown for us! But I know the sweet face of hope. I refuse to mistake Him.
We’re approaching a desolate space and expecting the impossible to happen.
We’re expecting God to resurrect all that was lost.
We’re expecting desires to look different.
Standing right in front of us, could be the glorified, holy, resurrected will for our lives.
Once, I swung open the front door of my mini-van, jumped inside, heard a growl, peeked over my shoulder and found myself face to face with two black dogs.
Seriously, who the heck put their stinkin’ dogs in my mini-van?!
Um. Yeah. Not my mini-van.
It’s a bit terrifying how long it took to realize my mistake.
No one in the van was happy…and somebody definitely peed a little.
Here’s the deal: Don’t climb into someone else’s mini-van uninvited. It doesn’t matter how much it looks like yours. Same goes for our lives. Someone may appear to have a similar life, outlook, circumstance, parenting triumph or woe – but until you’ve entered in, you’ve no clue what’s really going on inside.
Never assume. It’s a waste of time. And don’t barge in. It’s too risky.
Wait to be invited.
This can be so tricky. Especially if the door of their life appears wide open. Dusty goldfish are pouring out, the leaking juice box under the backpack has puddled next to a runaway credit card. You just want to offering a suggestion…right?! Stop. There could be some snarling teeth in there. Someone’s going to get hurt.
I can’t tell you how many friendships in my life have been strained because we’ve felt judged by one another. It makes all of us shut down and pull away. Ask yourself two questions:
Have I established mutual trust with this person?
If you haven’t known this person long, and you get all up in their business, it can feel like judgement. It may not be your heart! But remember, they don’t trust you yet. It’s not fair to expect them to know your intentions. Be wise and hold your tongue. But love them like crazy. Be a constant in their life.
Has this person indicated they want your opinion?
I have friends who I know don’t want my opinion- even though they love and trust me. Bummer is, I’m still prone to give it. We’ve got to know our audience y’all. It’s hard for this Italian/Irish girl to shut it down! I’m learning at the speed of molasses – I need to discipline myself in this area.
Does your friend let her kids watch rated R movies at the age of nine…guess what?!
That’s not your mini-van!
Or maybe a friend doesn’t believe in vaccinations, or home-school, or private school, or public school, or any school!!
Yeah. That’s not your mini-van either. Get out girl!
It’s hard to be a mom these days. Everyone and every book out there hisses, “You’re doing it wrong” or, “You can do it better.” Our generation has trouble trusting God can equip us properly.
We turn to the next, “How to…” book, before we turn to God’s book.
We ask Siri before we ask the Spirit.
I believe the enemy’s in this; undermining our God-given instincts to parent our children well. He uses social media, articles and most aggressively- he baits us to tear each other down. We don’t need to be another blasting horn of judgement towards our sisters! God’s heart is for us to, “Encourage one another and build each other up.”(1 Thessalonians 5:11)
Don’t know how to do this? I think it starts with less worrying about getting into someone else’s life, and inviting them authentically into your own. Living out grace is a powerful witness and gift; loving people regardless of their parenting choices. If a friend does ask your opinion, it’s a safe place to practice honesty. Any fiery pups in her mini-van should know you well enough not to snap.
“Let’s baby wrestle! I’ll get on my knees and put one hand behind my back. You can fight normal…but don’t tell Mom.”
My poor big brother; he desperately wished I was a boy. So I agreed, on several occasions, to “baby wrestle.”
Why did I entertain this sibling wackiness?! I’m sure a therapist would say it’s some quirky way of bonding. Whatever. Reality was, I knew- even though he was stronger than me, he wouldn’t hurt me. He couldn’t, or I would tell Mom. It was my chance to “bring it” full force.
God welcomes our desire to wrestle, too. He wants us to run full force into his arms when we’re frustrated. Of course He’s stronger, but He won’t crush us. We can’t hesitate to step onto the mat; where unmet expectations lay sprawled out on the sweaty, sticky floor, and “bring it”.
Listen loves, there’s no form of battle more intimate then wrestling…
It’s grabbing hold; skin to skin, breath to breath, strength against strength.
Reaching out and seizing God – is seizing all that is good. But we’ll never know if we don’t engage in the communion.
Do you want to know God? You must be willing to honestly approach Him. Get in His face. It’s beautiful, steadfast & glorious.
Do you want to know who you are? Accept wrestling with God is part of your refining. Jacob wrestled with God, and afterwards, God gave him a new name. (Genesis 32:22-32 & Hosea 12:4) It was in the wrestling God clarified Jacob’s identity. We could be missing a defining moment if we abandon the arena of connection with our Father in Heaven.
Three reasons we walk away:
We’re full of pride. Deep down we think, whatever God’s purposes are, it’s not valid enough for us. Therefore, we’ve no desire to hear what he has to say. We’re over it. We’re over him. We love ourselves and our plan for life more than we love God. We truly think: he’s not worth the sweat; the conversation isn’t worth our time. Simple as that.
We’re full of misconceptions about God’s character. God’s always good. But if one smidgen of our heart suspects he’s a bit evil…we’re not going to challenge him. We know he’s stronger and suspect he’ll pin us down and punch us in the face. Maybe, we’ve misunderstood what it means to “fear God”? Maybe, we’ve confused loving discipline with punishment? But, somewhere along our journey, we’ve believed the lie, “God isn’t always good.”
We think it’s a sin to bring our questions to God. Nowhere, I can find, is it a sin to communicate freely with God. However, it’s a matter of the heart. God sent his son, tearing down the veil separating us from direct communication with Him. He wants authentic relationship. He formed us in His image…the image that presses in and fights for intimacy. The image so consumed with the desire to be known, he’s moved space, time and history in order to touch us. Believe me: He wants to talk to you.
The majority of “faith heroes” in the Bible, in some manner, pushed back at God when they didn’t understand his plan. Two elements of their wrestling are routinely evident:
They were humble enough to be honest. If you’re reading this thinking, I never question God in my heart, I always accept His plan without a struggle, I suspect you’re lying to God and yourself. If that was true, you’d have perfect faith. You’re not Jesus, sister. And even in His perfect faith, he asked God if he’d be willing to change His plan…three times! (Matthew 26:36-44)
They trusted God’s goodness. They knew God’s love was permanent. Even in their unbelief, anger and sorrow-God’s plan wasn’t to walk away. Instead of pinning them down in His strength, God firmly cradled them until they understood he was not only God, but also loving Father.
If you receive anything from this read, hear this: It’s better to run to God with your frustrations, then to run from Him in frustration. Take the first step onto the mat.
I’ve put together a list of helpful Bible verses to showcase you’re not alone in your wrestling with God’s ways. FREE DOWNLOAD:God’s Word — Marked by Love
I’m writing you these truths because I’ve found myself huddled, in several seasons, in one of the “Three Reasons We Walk Away” camps listed. It’s too much to break down in a simple blog post. I have a heavy burden on my heart for you if you’re in one of these spaces right now. Please message me.
We call it, “The Dark Hole of our Marriage.” I was thirty and had birthed three kids in 2 ½ years. Everyone around me was a total jerk. Everyone. Other mammas, my mirror, the mailman, and especially that speed-walker dude on Kellogg. Trust me – but don’t trust me. I hadn’t slept and each day was a blur of diapers, feedings and potty accidents. It wasn’t until I was thirty-three that I began to feel a bit human again. Kids were sleeping more; playing in the toilet less. I finally understood; maybe everyone around me wasn’t really a jerk. Maybe the honking lady in the Sprouts parking lot truly cared my baby was rolling away with my shopping cart. Maybe.
Perhaps, they were just offering an oxygen mask to a suffocating girl.
Life’s truly a canvas of mountains and valleys. One of the greatest dangers for extreme mountain climbers is lack of oxygen to the brain. When this happens, they get disoriented and can’t think clearly (Hello, motherhood!). They become incapable of ascending or descending the mountain alone. A fellow climber must place their own oxygen mask over the climber’s mouth and physically help them down.
This is how God designed fellowship to work. Because we all have ‘mountains’ to climb, dear ones!
On some mountains, you’ll be stronger than me. Your faith won’t falter. You’ll have a week when all the kiddos are healthy, and you’ve had bunches of quiet time with Jesus. Your oxygen tank will be 100% full with a backup in the mini-van.
On other climbs, I might be honking at your kiddo in a runaway shopping cart.
But what is our spiritual oxygen tank filled with? Encouragement? Wise words? Dinner on the doorstep?
All of these are precious and certainly loving. But we’re talking about our sisters SUFFOCATING!!! I don’t care how epic your baked pasta dish is, it’s not going to cut it.
Two things are made from the breath of God in the Bible: Mankind (Genesis 2:7), and God’s word (1 Timothy 3:16).
This is no coincidence. When our spirits are gasping for air, we need the breath of God’s word poured into us. But what happens when we’re too worn out to lift relief to our lips? You’re not the only gal who struggles to find time to read God’s word. But you don’t need to collapse on the trail and declare it hopeless.
Look around for other climbers – other believers. Use what’s left in your lungs to cry out, “Someone, please speak the word of God over my life right now!”
This is not shameful. This is brave.
Your life, your children, your marriage, your sanity, in some way, depend on your ability to recognize, you’re too exhausted to ascend higher by yourself. Some days, we’ll need a sister to hoist us up, press the word of God upon our lips and carry us straight to Jesus.
And if this isn’t you right now, get ready for a search and rescue season! I guarantee there’s someone with an empty oxygen tank on your trail. Scoop them up, speak God’s truth into their life and take them to the King.
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.
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.