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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There’s More To Your Pain Than You Think

 

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When my littles were even littler, we had an epic car conversation about space.

“Mommy, name some of the planets!”

“Let’s see…there’s Earth, Saturn, Uranus, Venus…”

I’ll stop here. Because Eli didn’t hear the ‘V’ in Venus…he heard a ‘P’.

“Daddy’s (insert misheard word) is a planet?!!!”

Ummm…

It took a while to explain nothing on our bodies constitutes a planet. However, it’s pretty obvious we have trouble coming to grips the world doesn’t revolve around us.

A couple weeks ago, I wandered into our adoption journey with a woman I just met. Wide-eyed, she interrupted me, ‘Five years!?  How have you had the strength to go through all this and keep going?!’

I paused; I didn’t know a smidge about her faith, religion, or worldview. The beauty of a testimony is it belongs to its storyteller.

“God. It’s only through God. It’s the only answer I have. But, it’s the honest answer.”

I’ve no clue what she was thinking, but wheels where definitely running full speed behind her furrowed brow.

Sometimes, we forget our struggle doesn’t make us the center of the universe. At times, I’m too busy expecting everyone to revolve around me because I’m hurting.

What if…

The overwhelming amount of paper work,

Financial sacrifice,

Nights sobbing on the bathroom floor,

Naming and un-naming of children I thought were ours,

The ache of laying down my will in order to pick up God’s,

What if…all of it was to testify to this one woman…God is good. God is strong.

Would that be enough for me? Do I have the heart of Jesus to go after the one? These are questions I’m challenged with.

God’s heart is missional. He’s created me in His image to be on mission with him. Oh, how he loves us. Oh, how he wants all people to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:4)

Our lives aren’t just about us. They are ultimately about proclaiming His great name. Each trial, victory, tear of joy and wrenching heartache can be used to point someone we love to Jesus. New wine is only made through the crushing of grapes. What if the product of the pressing isn’t for us to enjoy alone?

Your friends are watching you.

Your children are listening to you.

You aren’t the only one in the midst of struggle.

Praise God in the pressing.

It may bring new life to someone standing next to you. There’s only room for ONE at the center of the universe.

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Corinthians 4:17)

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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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Real Faith is for Real Life

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Do you really have to mash it behind your head like that?!

Please! Don’t use the pillow as a food tray.

I beg you, don’t put the pillow between your legs. Fabrics absorb smells, sweetie!

Seriously…who thought it was OK to put a muddy cleat here?!

Why is Every. Single. Pillow. On the floor?!

I’m dying.

I’ve been drooling over extraordinary pillows for the past year. Yes, there is such a thing as ‘extraordinary pillows’. They live at Anthropologie, where it smells like a magical forest.

I want them. However, they’re a gazillion dollars. You can’t always get what you want.

Target came to the rescue with some adorable Anthro knock-offs.  So, for Mother’s Day, I pointed them out as, would be a great gift from the kiddos! (wink wink).

I see them enthroned on my 11-year-old, stained couch, and smile.

They’re pretty. It’s simple as that.

Or is it?

These lovely pillows have awakened some alternate Type A personality in me.

My poor family. Relaxing is no longer allowed. It might disturb the decorative pillows.

I’m being ridiculous. What’s the point of having pillows, if I’m worried they’ll be ruined at the slightest touch?

I’ve found myself asking the same question about my faith. What’s the point of claiming faith, if I’m too afraid it will fall apart when life leans hard against it?

Sometimes I view my faith as decorative. I can admire how lovely it sits on the throne of my existence, but when the big, dirty cleats of life tread on it, my shoulders tighten. Deep down, I question…will this destroy my faith? And if it does, what does that mean about God?

In the moments I’ve dared to pick up my faith, stomp on it, wrestle it, punch it with questions and bitterness, I’ve realized…

Real faith, is for real life.

And real life doesn’t smell like Anthropoligie. God doesn’t want us to be afraid to throw all our junk at it full force. The faith he gives is not a cheap knock off. It’s the real deal.

Paul tells us, ‘We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed’. (2 Corinthians 4:8-9)

If we’re taking our faith along for the ride, it will endure the same refining.

I’ve fallen face first into my faith and sobbed. I’ve thrown it powerfully against my closet doors and cursed it a liar. But the real lie is in thinking broken faith isn’t fixable.

I’ve lifted my faith up to the Lord, tattered, dirty, horribly misshapen with stuffing pouring out at every ripped seam. I’ve felt ashamed, like a little girl who ruined her new doll by leaving it in the rain.

Look what I’ve done to the gift you gave me, Father. I took it out in the storm with me. Look at this mess…

His eyes are on me.

Sweet girl, I knit you together in your mother’s womb.

I can knit your faith back together, too.

And he always does. His healing fabric is durable, his stitch, solidly perfect. He knew the whole time that the testing of my faith would produce perseverance in me. (James 1:3)

I am weak. My God is strong. When I offer Him my feeble faith, HE strengthens it.

Maybe there’s just a frayed corner that remains of your faith.

That’s OK. He just needs faith the size of a mustard seed to move mountains in your life. (Matthew 17:20)

We must approach God with our brokenness, so we experience him as Healer.

After the battle, our faith proves to be the comforting truth we rest our heart upon at the end of the day.

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No Surprise


“You will keep him in perfect peace,

Whose mind is stayed on You,

Because he trusts in You.”
 
Isaiah 26:3 


I’m sorry to say, but due to the ever-changing conditions in Ghana, the chances of bringing home an orphan anytime soon, are not looking good…

     Our social worker has such a sweet spirit, but her words were just too bitter to swallow this time. We sat on our couch and completed our Home Study update. It was hard not to think: What’s the point? We aren’t getting matched with our child soon…if ever. Having been in the international adoption process for three years now, I know better than to beat my brain with questions I will never have the answers to. Most importantly, I know not to challenge God in his wisdom. A part of me sunk when our social worker explained that a new person in power was holding all child cases back from being dispensed to waiting families. But one thing I heard above my clattering thoughts: 

Daughter, this is no surprise to me.

This was no surprise to God.

This was no surprise to God.

This was no surprise to God.

The ‘me’ two years ago, would’ve written a seemingly justified letter:

Dear God,

   DON’T YOU KNOW…

Conditions in Africa for orphans are bleak? Politics and pride are coming before the needs of children?  There are over 1 million orphans in Ghana?   We have been on the wait list for over a year now? 

All we want to do is your kingdom work…(Just in case you forgot).  

Love,

      A concerned citizen of the kingdom of God 

But not this time. Sometimes God gives us a little glimpse of how he has grown us. This was one of those gracious moments. Just the soft whisper in my spirit, ‘Daughter, this is no surprise to me’, was like an anointing of peace. It has been months since this conversation, and the peace hasn’t left me. In fact, he has allowed it to echo through my heart as new challenges have risen up. It feels like a crown he has placed on my head. It is not going anywhere. I am so in awe of this sweet gift. Peace in knowing, God is not surprised by anything, is a valuable shield against the enemy. God loves me. All his plans are for my good. All of his plans are to bring more people into his salvation kingdom. Not some of them, not most of them…ALL of them.

Every. Single. Detail. Every delay, every hitch in paperwork, every ‘roadblock’, every signature, every blessing, every trial, every person I speak to…he will use in my life for his good purposes. He will use it all to bring glory to his name. He will use it to shout of his love for the lost. Period. This is true whether I believe it or not.  

I believe it. I welcome it. I stand on it.

It is important that we read God’s word. It is imperative that we live it in our everyday circumstances.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
 
Romans 8:28 

My Life. My Gift.

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I have no gift to bring fit for King.  I never will.  So why even offer him anything?

This question has been playing on repeat in my mind lately.

I have been listening the song Little Drummer Boy on repeat too.( And if you must know, my Christmas tree is still up. Merry Valentine’s Day!)

We all have a drum. Question is: Are we playing it for our King? Are we playing our best for him? Or are we not even interested in dusting it off?

Lately I’ve felt that my ‘drum’ is sitting under a pile of dirty dishes, mountains of laundry, sick kiddos, an avalanche of adoption paperwork and pets I forget to feed. To be honest, trying to dig out that drum would take too much effort.  And even if I did, I guarantee, it may sound more like a War Drum then one of honor and praise.

I have no gift to bring fit for a King.

The fact that I can’t even make the effort to play a simple song of praise to him, is proof of that. But what is my ‘drum’?

My spiritual gifts? My talents? Maybe.

When we focus on the gifts God has given us, and consider using them for his Kingdom, it is easy to scrutinize the ‘gift’.  It is easy to point the finger back at God when we feel we have nothing of worth to give him. After all, HE made us. He could have given me a more beautiful voice, he could’ve given me the mind of Einstein or perhaps the leadership of Lincoln.

But no, he just gave me this drum.  This old, out of tune, imperfect drum, swallowed up by the mundane details of everyday life. It is easy to look at the ‘wise men’ around us who are bringing him their finest gifts, and feel defeated:

 I am just a Mom. I am sort of a writer. I am simply just not as ‘gifted’ as THAT person. So I’ll kind of play my drum…if it’s all God has given me.

But when we judge the drum, whatever it may look like in our life…we are judging God.

‘Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his…’ Psalm 100:3

When we think of our ability to bring a gift worthy of a King in terms of our talents, we will only half heartedly be able to play a song for him. And when we half heartedly play our drum for him, we miss Jesus.

‘As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury.  He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins.  “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” Luke 21:1-4

God will ask us to give out of our ‘poverty’ at some point in our lives. Maybe it will be sickness, a broken heart, exhaustion or literal financial strain. We will have moments where we could say to God, I’ve got nothing to offer you right now. Even if I did, it would be two small coins because that is all you have given me!.

We blame our King because we forget who our King is.

When we come to him among the rich and say, This is all I have…, our King says, That is all I want.

Are we like the widow who gives all we have?

Sometimes all we feel we have is bitterness and anger. We look at our drum of a life and think, You expect me to do wonders for your kingdom with this mess?!

No. But Jesus can do wonders for his kingdom with that mess.

We must start lifting that entire drum up to Him if we want the beat to change…’she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.’

When I was in college, I saved up to buy a set of Conga Drums. I had to save up because they were not cheap! There was a season that I played them every day…then every week…then….well, never. Sometimes I wonder if those drums were worth the cost?

The drum is not only our talents. The drum is our lives. We must recognize, they were bought at a great cost. They were bought with the blood of Christ.

‘But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.’

Was it really worth the sacrifice? Did God make a poor judgment call when he ransomed our lives?

The value of the drum is set by the price paid. We best not miss the crazy love that has been poured out for us.

When we sit on our drum, complain about it’s usefulness, and question it’s ability to make a beautiful sound, we are spitting on the cross.

God Almighty sacrificed His son because he saw enormous value in saving us for His orchestra.

If the creator of the universe sees value in the condition of our lives, we better start to change our perspective.

Will we remain silent and miss our purpose?

The drum is my life: The only gift worthy of a King. If that consists of fatigue, my marriage, my kid’s snotty noses and piles of paper work…then let me learn to put in my ‘two very small copper coins’ with a thankful heart. A THANKFUL heart…because I know my King.  My King saved me for a reason.

Let me have the courage to bring my little drum among the wise men and ask with a humble heart, Shall I play for you?

I guarantee the song I play to my King will not always be lovely.

But my King is lovely. My King is full of grace. He gave me this life.

He fashioned my drum. He is listening.

As long as I am playing my drum only for Him…

He is smiling…

Smiling at me and my drum.