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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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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Don’t Cry Mom

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Don’t cry Mom.

I know you and Dad saw a piece of our early childhood bruised and lonely. The owners neglected it like a stray cat. Its ribs poking out, its rosy complexion, pale and lifeless. Your nostalgic ‘drive by’ led you to the ugliest house on the block. The cushy grass you trampled to scoop us after a fall, is crunchy and brown. The sidewalk where Dad chased close behind as I learned to ride my bike, is cracked and uneven. Not a trace of tender attention you’d poured into it was reflected in the rear-view mirror.

Don’t be sad.

That house wasn’t built to last. The space where your grandchildren gather to giggle and bake, won’t last either. The olive tree in the front that every neighborhood kid triumphantly climbed, has already passed away. The gaping hole where it once reached to the sky, reminds me, life is a breath.

Houses of wood and stone and brick crumble. The branches of epic climbing trees rot away.

I want you and Dad to know one thing…

You’ve built a house for me more gorgeous than any Zillow listing; 

A house built on Christ, the solid rock.

When you prayed over dinner, over sickness or at the foot of my bed as I drifted off…

 A strong foundation was poured-

Prayer wasn’t only for hard times.

Prayer was for all times.

Prayer was for everything in my life.

When you brought us to spend long afternoons piecing together puzzles with widows like ‘Grandma Myrtle’, I didn’t understand…

 A thoughtful frame was being pieced together-

Love is patient & kind.

Everyone is worthy.

 I was worthy.

When you’d order bags of extra hamburgers at Burger King to hand out to the homeless man after church, I was unsure of the filthy, life-worn hands grabbing at the food…

Strong walls were being raised in my life-

God sees everyone.

God loves everyone.

God sees and loves me.

When I woke up exhausted the morning of my baptism burdened with bad dreams, you helped me get dressed. You rolled down my ruffled sock whispering, ‘There’s an enemy. He doesn’t want you to get baptized. You cannot let him win’…

The roof of my spiritual house was secured-

I would experience fierce battles in my life.

My God was stronger and fiercer.

God made me strong and fierce.

Now that I’m a Mommy, I want my precious kiddos to dwell in a solid spiritual house like the one you created for me.  I thought of this as I baptized my children, your grandchildren, in the very pool you’ve generously opened up to friends and neighbors for the past 32 years. I felt God beaming with pride as Aaron and I dipped their precious heads back into the water.

The Great Commission starts in the home. I learned this from you. I’m aware God will equip us to build a spiritual house with a unique rhythm and calling.

But it’s not a new house.

We’re expanding the construction you’ve started. Just as you added a fresh wing to what your parents crafted for you.

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock”. Matthew 7:24-25

Mom and Dad, the rain has fallen, the floods have come, winds have blown and beaten on the house…but it has not fallen. It never will.

One day, we’ll dwell in the house of the Lord together, forever.  The grass will never turn a dusty brown and paint will never peel. There will be more than one olive tree for your grandchildren, and their great grandchildren to climb. I imagine we’d have tears of joy…if tears were allowed. But they’re not. So don’t cry Mom.

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Mamma Crossroads & Pinterest Fails

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The night before Micah’s class party, I noticed an unread message in my Inbox.  The Class Mom was thanking me for volunteering to bring the Carrot & Celery Turkey Cups…

Turkey Cups?! UGH! I thought I’d signed up for carrot and celery sticks.

Apparently, I didn’t scroll down to the bottom of her previous email. I’d missed the Pinterest example she’d attached. How could I make such a rookie mistake?!

If having elementary school kiddos has taught me anything, it’s ALWAYS scroll to the END of email messages. For real. Read. The. Whole. Thing.

If you don’t, you’ll miss crucial sentences:

  • Please have your child dress like his/her favorite super hero
  • RSVP yesterday or your kids won’t get a party favor
  • Shhhhh! It’s a surprise!!

It was too late to make a frantic Michael’s run. A crazy-lady-mental- inventory would have to suffice:

Plastic cups.

Brown paper.

I THINK I have orange paper.

But those eyes…no way I was cutting teensy-tiny circles this late.

I’m pretty sure I have sticky googly eyes in the closet. Although, I’m not sure why…

Ah, yes…I had googly eyes. But not one was the same size!

I was at a Mamma crossroads: Do I use what I have, or just throw in the towel?

Isn’t life like that? We don’t have the ‘perfect’ thing to offer, so we’re tempted to offer nothing.

If it’s not mismatched googly eyes, it’s a house that’s too small for gatherings, only an hour a week to write or lasagna that’s not as good as mom’s.

So why help in the classroom?

Why invite people over?

Why write a blog?

It’s hard to give from areas we feel less than. The enemy hisses in these shallow spaces, God can’t use this, don’t even bother.

Really, Satan?!!

 Because, I remember a boy who offered five small loaves and two small fish. Jesus used it to feed multitudes. (John 6:9)

I know a story about a widow who offered a little oil and a handful flour. God never allowed her jars to run dry. (1 Kings 17:7-16)

There once was a man slow of speech and tongue. He was hesitant to offer his voice. God used him to stand against Pharaoh and set his people free. (Exodus 4:10)

As a Mamma, sometimes all I can offer is a pile of dirty dishes, never-ending laundry, sick kiddos and pets I forget to feed. We all have moments like Moses saying to God,  Are you sure you want this? I don’t have much to offer you.

Offer it anyway.

He sees every scrap of bread, shaky insecurity, dirty sock and mismatched googly eye we raise up to him.  He’ll use it! He delights in making small things significant.

God gives us joy when we give from our shortage, rather than our supply.

This creates space for God to show up, not only in our lives, but in the lives of others. Jesus fed hungry masses in response to a boy’s meager offering. He provided security for the widow’s child when she presented a handful of flour. Moses set people free, laying bare his shortcomings, trusting God to use them.

The kiddos and I giggled up late finishing those silly cups.  Life isn’t always dramatic. Those awful turkeys didn’t set any captives free, but God handed us back layers of laughter that overflowed into the classroom the next morning.

We used what we had. It was enough for God to turn into joy.

A Marked Life:

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