Saturday, April 15, 2017

The D-Word: when life crumbles

For your Maker is your husband,
    the Lord of hosts is his name;
and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer,
the God of the whole earth he is called. (Isa 54:5)



I’ve been writing about broken families for years. Foster children scooped up barefoot in threadbare clothes, tossed into a car and taken to a stranger’s home. Severed hearts, torn lives. In an instant, all of life spinning dizzy. Tantrums, guttural sounds, anxiety. A heavy fog of grief emanating through the hallways of their foster home.
Now the guttural sounds are here, within my home.

And it’s not my adopted daughter, but my biological children.

We suck in air deep, and try to breathe this new life. It’s hard.

As a young girl, I twirled, I climbed, I ran. My legs pedaled fast on my banana-seat bike. I played hard in the dirt. My only worries were not missing the timing of the ice cream truck's melody as it circled our neighborhood.

I never thought of middle-age life delivering this.

This crazy dichotomy of deafening quiet mixed with ear-piercing chaos. The drumbeat of horse-hoofed children’s feet on hardwoods sandwiching the every-other-weekends of me sitting in a cavern of silence.

My breath the only sound bouncing off the walls.

My feet the only ones to walk hallways, soft.
Alone for a weekend.

Like wisps of my daughter’s ballerina tulle skirt twirling beauty ‘round her small frame, I’d always pictured my life would be like that sheer, gauzy dream of happiness.

Throughout the summers of my childhood, my bare toes clambered up the body of the magnolia near my grandmother’s home. Year after year, my cousins and I dodged evergreen waxy leaves to go even higher. Our fingertips and toes brushed the aged letters, hearts, and drawings we’d carved into the trunk with rusty pocket knives over the years. A random limb would split here and there as we went higher to the thinner, frail offshoots.

And now, I feel like that old tree.
Worn. Aged. Frail. Broken.

My soul carved deep. Scrawled with shame-words.

Worthless. Quitter. Not good enough.

And I’ve questioned…

How do I even begin to write again…about these frayed edges of my life?

How do I effectively write about divorce? With courage. With hope. With beauty.

Without sugar-coating or diminishing the pain?
Without cheapening the grace of God?

I shut down my blog over a year ago because I couldn’t write anymore. Nothing would flow. I questioned my life.

Somehow, I felt like a fraud because I was a Christian going through a divorce.

I’ve always been a staunch supporter of fighting for marriage at all cost. Christians who got divorced, in my mind, somehow didn’t try hard enough. Didn’t trust the Spirit enough. Gave up. Please understand, I’m referring to cases where there are biblical grounds for divorce.

My faulty mindset left no room for the fact that redemption often comes through the severing.

Love is often the hard choice of walking into the dark, holding the hands of four children. Entering the unknown. Naked, barefoot, the feeling of being beaten bloody. Trembling hands and raw feet treading along paths strewn with shrapnel. Land mines hidden along the way.

What in the world do we do when everything has been stripped away? How is a mama with four kids supposed to go on, alone?

I never thought I’d be the one staring through blood-stained tears, realizing there was nothing left to fight for. Nothing. The truth of our marriage was buried so far under places I didn’t even know existed.

Like an archaeological dig, I’ve chiseled through decades of caked-on falsehood. My hands ripped and clawed at the years of pretense … I really believed the glossy photos hanging on our walls were true. Our smiling faces, ethereal glow of sunlight, open field, holding hands, leaning in for a kiss. The reality of over 25-years began to seep from under the crust of my mind like magma. Slow at first and then a volcanic eruption to my soul.

In the midst of the explosion, I’ve often felt as if I were sitting in the lap of the Father. Him whispering, singing, rocking, holding me near. Zephaniah 3:17 and Hosea 2:14-15 have become the anchors which have held me still.

My brain can't comprehend it all. I only know that I’ve experienced Him like never before.

His chest has been the One I’ve lain my head against night after night. His breath the One to whisper truth above the lies. He’s my husband, my love, my Jesus. The One who’s held me all along.

As this is Holy Week, I've been particularly struck (again) of all the betrayals. Christ's dearest friends turning their backs, closing themselves off from Him. And, the Father turning His back on Christ's plea for rescue.

Because Jesus chose to be our Rescuer. Spill His blood for us.

Today, I was hanging out in the driveway with my second born, the sunlight burning hot on our faces. He was climbing the pear tree high. He gazed down and questioned, "Mama, will you climb the tree with me?"

My hands grabbed limbs scarred by holes from years of a woodpecker's search for a meal.

No matter how crushed and shattered I feel, He gets it. He understands. He was crushed for us.

How does a 44-year old climb a tree? Carefully. Slowly. Un-childlike. Messy. Awkwardly.

But, eventually, there I was beside him. Our legs swinging. My boy's head resting on my knee. The breeze rustling bright green leaves dappled with sunlight.

And, I saw it. One of many reminders of who I am, scrawled permanently across my foot. Beloved.

Indeed, there is constant beauty and love poured out over me. I am His and He is mine.

And, I am so very grateful that the tomb was empty. My Jesus is alive.

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Friday, September 25, 2015

An Unexpected Friend

I sat in a Writer’s Conference listening to a local magazine owner speak about their submission policy and the ins and outs of the magazine business. I was also concentrating on drumming up the courage to approach her after the session.

Inside my head, I was ordering the words I’d say to her.

As soon as she wrapped up her talk, I rose from my seat– the first to introduce myself. As I began to share part of our adoption story of one child, a raven-haired beauty with ringlets of hair falling past her shoulders, drew near and mentioned she had adopted five children.
Immediately, the magazine owner’s attention shifted to the other mother, who also mentioned her career as an attorney. My degree was in pre-law. Law school was my lifelong dream, which never came to fruition.

To add salt to the wound, the other mom had flawless skin and appeared to be in her early thirties — I was certain she moonlighted as a runway model when she wasn’t raising children or spending hours in the courtroom. She seemed so perfect with her radiant skin, career, and angel-sleeved, fuzzy white sweater. . . READ MORE HERE

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Liberty - part one

The roads of the small town would’ve been saturated with plump pumpkins, hay bales, and corn husk figures on that day in late October 2010– intersections and front yards plastered with signs advertising Fall Festivals for chili-cook offs, costume contests, and children’s inflatables, as the crisp air wafted cotton candy and caramel apples.

The woman was likely surrounded by her two young sons, their hearts bursting with excitement, as they awaited the birth of their infant sister. She probably labored in the conventional blue-dotted gown, her bottle-blonde hair perhaps pulled back loosely into a ponytail.

Life is ironic. No coincidences or accidents. All of it a grace– beautifully and redemptively planned. 

And so it was . . . that I inhaled my first breath, let out my first cry, in the same small Calhoun County hospital 37-years before my youngest daughter would be born. The 1973 landscape of my birth in the small town would’ve looked much differently than the October evening in 2010, when a woman I didn’t know, gave birth to my little fuzzyheaded daughter.

It’s ironic that I traveled the same roads and attended family gatherings just a few blocks from where her birth mama graduated high school.

Could we have passed each other on the two-lane roads as children? Or played together at the park as pig-tailed girls?  

Her birth mama and I are nearly the same age.

Yet, our lives took such different twists to end up here– her giving birth to a child who would later bear my last name, become mine forever.

Kevin and I weren’t at the hospital on the blessed day of our little bitty daughter's birth. We have no pictures and no baby album marking her first year milestones of growth and development.

We have no hospital band from her tiny wrist, no photos of that day, or of the sixteen months afterwards. 

I’m not sure if photos were even taken of her first year.

I do know . . . joy and wonder filled the room as the squalling nine pound, twelve ounce little one was handed to outstretched arms. The baby girl was and is dearly loved by her birth mama and brothers.

However, I wonder . . . if the room was also heavy with a melancholy ache, as she swaddled and doted over the fatherless babe tightly wrapped in a flannel blanket? Her fifth child.

And, I wonder . . . were she and the baby celebrated? Was there a pink wreath on the over-sized hospital door? Were there visitors, flowers, and gifts? Was there cheering when that baby girl with coils of jet-black hair sat up for the first time, took her first steps, or ate her first solid food?

Three names were in her heart for her child, and she decided upon them all, announcing her little one as Liberty Isabella Ecko

Merriam Webster defines Liberty as the quality or state of being free; the power to do as one pleases. 

She chose Ecko to represent an echo, a reverberation, of the first name. Because, most of all, she believed that freedom was a beautiful name repeated. 

In my brief conversations with the woman over a year ago, she never mentioned why she chose Isabella. 

So now, I’m left to wonder. 

The name is dear to my heart, as the Hebrew meaning of Isabella is devoted to God

The little bitty baby with the big long name also held a double meaning, for when the letters were placed together like wooden game tiles, her initials spelled lie

As she doted over the swaddled babe on the day she was born, she couldn’t have possibly known the significance of her child’s given name, nor that she’d soon lose custody of the spiral-haired wee one.

She would’ve had no immediate understanding that her choices, her brokenness, her life’s path would implode and ultimately cost her everything. For the freedoms she chose to live out would lead to her little sons left alone to care for their baby sister. 

The darkness and lies, which haunted her, would eventually sweep her away, costing her the freedom to be a mother. In the end, she’d forever lose her freedom to parent. The liberty to raise her baby girl would be whisked away by a judge’s decision. 

The heaviness of her brokenness would be weighed upon a scale, her life placed under a microscope in a courtroom. Ultimately, and rightly so, the safety of her children the intense focus. 

Despite her large birth weight, the baby would grow into a little bitty of a girl, her spiraled raven hair skimming her waistline as a toddler. 

For the little bitty girl with jet-black curls would become a member of our family . . . forever

We’ve since changed her name, removing Isabella. 

A new start. Freedom

Because truth rules over lies, and she’s a gift, reflecting beauty and truth . . . her name a token of her past and hope for her future.

{photo credit}