Friday, August 29, 2014

The Run



I saunter a steady flow of lazy.

Or is it weariness that's led me here?

Sea foam licks my toes.

I wander along hard-packed sand.

Apricot glow shimmers upon the ripples.

Gulls and crashing sea-- a comfort to my soul.

Orange orb submerges below curve of globe.

Magenta brush strokes stretch across pale blue.

Splintered white crescent emerges, a sideways smile.

Canvas transforms to overhead carpet of gray.

I'm engulfed by dark surround.

I pick up speed, legs extending long.

Surf splashes as I sprint, wild.

Taste of salty drips down.

My sweat.  The sea.  Tears.

An intermingling of labor, creation, and heartache.

Isn't that the stream where grace flows?

A trickle of grief and gratefulness upon my cheeks.

An overflow of my heart out on the shore.

My heart meeting His.

Shallow breath draws me to my knees.

Water lapping warm 'round my waist.

Ebb and flow.

I sink low into salty tide.

Tears flow.

Arms raise.

I long for my home.








{photo credit:  fineartamerica.com}

Monday, August 25, 2014

Make a Difference Monday (Guest Post)

http://www.theforgotteninitiative.org/blog/2014/08/make-a-difference-monday-somethings-breaking/


Humbled and honored to share part of our foster care story on the blog of one of my favorite ministries, The Forgotten Initiative.  Please read my guest post and also click the links on TFI's site to find out ways to plug-in to the foster care community in your area to serve the least of these.


http://www.theforgotteninitiative.org/blog/2014/08/make-a-difference-monday-somethings-breaking/


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Belong



You say in failures I will learn
In weakness you are strong
In pain the more I yearn
Lonely, I find where I belong

Through fire comes the gold
Deep waters I know you more
The desert's where you mold
When drowning, you're the shore

In dying, I truly live
My hope is through the scars
The worst you forgive
East to west is how far

You still love me when I doubt
When my feet run far away
You forge a different route
Back where I want to stay






{photo credit: http://simplystamps.com/}

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Life in the Fast Lane



I know many mamas (and daddies) can relate to our life.

Even though we homeschool, the extracurricular activities, along with four children at three different schools, results in a lot of time in the car.

Being stuck together with no escape is comical and stressful.

I am daily assaulted by questions.

And talking.

Lots of stories.

Pure preciousness blended with total chaos.

I embrace these moments and cringe at the same time.  What a dichotomy as a mom.

I love their little (and big) voices.

In my mind, I envision composing a letter to GMC requesting an addition to their SUV that includes an escape hatch.

I could parachute out and remote control the car to its next destination.

I don't have a song in my step and googly heart-shaped eyes for my children every single second.  That doesn't mean I'm a bad mom or that I don't absolutely adore them.  It means I'm a fallen creature wrestling on the slippery slope of loving my children well in the midst of real life.

As moms, our days are full of machine-gun-rapid-fire-talking from children wanting our full attention.

I have four kids vying for my response all at once.

Here is a small sampling of a day in our car:
~~~~~~~~~

Mom, is Antartica connected to the North Pole?

Hey, what causes the Northern  Lights?

My dog, Kiki, went into the woods in the prickles and thorns to find a bone and got eaten by a giraffe and a bear.

Oops, I just lost my Lego piece.  Can we pull over and let me look for it?

Hey, hey!  Guys let me tell my story!

Turn up the music.  I like this song.

I was about to tell my story.  Stop it!

Ugh, I hate this song.  Turn it down.

Oopsy, I dropped my snack.

Mom, do you think the song Ring Around the Rosie is a happy or sad song?  This is what it's really about [insert a historical account behind the song].

Can we watch 'Winter Soldier' this week?

MOM!  You are driving off the road!

This is my story...my shu shu dog ran away into the woods. He stays at a castle.  Him so cute and cuddly.  And I lost her. She was so cute and soft.  [never mind the shift of pronoun in the middle of the story...grammar will come]

Mama can I play slapjack with everybody?

Mama, I'm hungry and thirsty.

Mom, mom...you are SO speeding.  Are you paying attention?

Mom!  You're not supposed to park there!

Oh my gosh, you just hit that trash can!

What's that key for?  Wow, your keys are so different from daddy's.

Hey, was the DVD player already in the car when we got it?  How is it wired?  Along here?  Connected to what?

Mom do you like my Lego set?

Mom, are you trying to hit our mailbox?

Hey, what's this hole down here by my feet?  Is that how the air conditioning comes out?

Mom, can we watch 'Winter Soldier' this week?

Will I die if the air bags come out?

Hey, I have a story.  I'm a little pirate.  A little Lego person.

Stop touching me!

Mama...

Maybe we can go to Chuck E Cheese again when we pick up the big kids.

Mama I went bowling one time.

Wow, it's creepy riding so close to that huge 18-wheeler...

What happens if your brakes go out while you're driving? Do you just crash?

Mom, my lunch bag is leaking water.   All over the car.

Hey Mom, what's your favorite movie 'The Hobbit', 'Lord of the Rings', or 'Avengers'?

I'm a cat.  MEOW meow MEEEEOWWW!

Bees get spankings.....

Did you know Elijah Wood was in 'Back to the Future 2'?

Our cat was eaten by a tiger.  Ah yes, I miss that buddy.

I burped.

Gross...

Stop singing!

Turn off the radio.

What does that thing on the dashboard do?

Eww, a dead opossum...

Whenever daddy gets home, we will all play together.  Play slapjack together.

The sun is in my eyes.

One time a bear chased me into the woods... Stop it!  I'm telling my story...

I've got a bandaid on my knee.

Hey next time we go camping...

Remember the time I caught a fish?....

MEOW, MEOW!

Shhh!

We need to rent an RV next time with top and bottom beds...

MEOW...

Stop!

Can we watch 'Winter Soldier' this week?

 ~~~~~~~~~

{Deep breath}

Maybe, just maybe, all of these situations are really life lessons.

I know they are surely sanctification for this mama!

But maybe they are also more.  A sense of belonging.
Being part of a family.  Learning to take turns when we speak.  Learning to listen.  And, certainly, discovering that life is messy and chaotic.

These trips often end (or begin) with me losing it.

It's easy for me to drive down the highway of shame.  With myself or my children.

In those moments when I'm screaming for everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, to shut their mouths, may He give me more grace to repent and forgive.

May He transform ugly moments to beauty, where all our eyes peer up to One who is bigger.

Where true peace and rest is found.  The only true escape hatch.

The only One who can redemptively invade the space of our SUV.

With four wild children and a crazy mama.








{photo credit: www.ajugglingmom.com}


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Building Houses




When I'm living under the illusion that life is under my perfect control, Tuesdays are the days I'm completely shaken loose.

Those are the days we go to play therapy.

For the past month or so, Little Bitty has led the playtime hour by arranging all the pillows in the room to build a house.

She places a blanket over our heads for protection.

It's the roof to cover us.

From the bad guys.  Or the monster.

Because something bad will happen if people see us.

So we hide under the covers and blow bubbles and play with play dough.

We probably look pretty comical.

Two grown women (the therapist and I) barefoot and squished in pretzel shapes between tiny pillows with Little Bitty in the middle.  The blanket over our heads.

Our shoes in heaps around us, along with the counselor's bag of toys.

The last few appointments, walls of the house have been literally falling away.

A window has opened and now a door.

We are no longer playing inside, but outside the house on the floor of the playroom.

I always feel like I'm teetering on the edge of light-hearted games and something heavier.

Waiting for the meltdown or bomb to drop.

My heart thumping in anticipation of an explosion.

Today, as Little Bitty curved her fingers deep into play dough, stretching and breaking the swirled colors into pretend bowls for the festival in China (remember this is a three-year old leading our play...I just nod and go along), I marinated for a few minutes in the words she off-offhandedly spoke.

Deep words:  there is only one Melanie, one mommy.

The therapist and I locked eyes over Little Bitty's spiraled ebony hair and grinned at each other.  A precious moment to savor.

But, like the bubbles that temporarily drift through the air during playtime, the heaven-moment suddenly popped by the sharpness of her next words:

Sometimes mommies and daddies get spankings....

Tiny brown fingers kneading and turning the dough round and round.  Flattening and sorting pieces into containers.  Humming to herself she says:

Building houses breaks hearts... 

Building houses breaks Jesus's heart.

The explosion.

The flesh coming loose in my own heart.

An internal silent gasp at the raw truth of her words.

In a very profound way, her three-year old heart was saying that moving to a new home breaks her heart.  That the brokenness of this world breaks Jesus's heart.

Her way of saying that the tearing away from deep relationships is painful.

That losing family is gut-wrenching.

That building a new home is hard. 

I am undone on many days.

Weary as I lay my head on my pillow at night.

But on Tuesday mornings I am always crying out for rescue.

From my selfish heart.

For the children around the world needing homes.

For little ones without family.

For those waiting.

May they know the ultimate, One and Only Rescuer of their souls.

And may He daily give me the strength and grace to love well where He has placed me.







{photo credit:  www.littleheartsbooks.com}




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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Parenting By Heart

 Above all else, guard your heart, 
for everything you do flows from it. (Prov 4:23)


Adoption and foster care people who follow Karyn Purvis probably know the statistics.

Scientists say that when dealing with children from hard places, it takes four-hundred repetitions of a new behavior to change the chemistry and wiring of the brain from old patterns.

Four-hundred, people.

Four zero zero.

I think I might die.

Truly this fact makes my heart race and sweat pool under my armpits.

For me, it's a 911 run-out-into-the-middle-of-the-street panic attack if I'm only focused on science and numbers.

Putting the numbers on the back burner, what does this really look like in real life?

It's like this ... my day beginning with answering Little Bitty's first request of the day.  As the sun rises and the rooster crows, she daily makes bizarre breakfast requests.  Currently it is popcorn and cookies.  So, I yawn and give her a choice of two acceptable breakfast items:  you may chose either yogurt or waffles.

Okay, I know this seems so simple, but doing this every.single.day. can be maddening.

Really?

Because when I'm without coffee or kindness, I want to say, HELLO it's the same every day!  You can't have the cookies now!

Days also include other repetitions, with eye contact, that she is to ask Mommy or Daddy for a drink or snack or to put her clothes on or to go outside (on and on...) instead of asking her big brothers or sister. 

When she runs to the other kids (or a random person) when she's hurt, I obviously have to step in again.

Reminding her I'm the mom.

It also involves pulling her aside at the grocery store, playground, our driveway, and everywhere else... to refresh her memory that she must ask permission before speaking to strangers.

Because she thinks everyone is a friend.  And girlfriend is extra friendly.

An outing involves me intentionally guiding her back to my lap, my eyes, my arms, rather than those of strangers or even friends.

Our days are still infused with questions and confusion about her past and future.

And a regular assault of moments that need affirmation and coming up with answers to hard questions that sometimes don't have answers.

Has it gotten easier?

No.  Because new circumstances have picked the scab of her expectations of what her future may look like.

There's a regular oozing of raw wounds, exposed and throbbing with more discussions and loud expressions of anger.

And I wonder how in the world am I going to handle four-hundred repetitions?

The purposeful involvement of meeting her needs and building trust?

Many days I handle it completely wrong.

Frustrated to be repeating myself for the hundredth time (this applies to all my kids).

With all our sin issues stirred into the mix, this is a recipe for disaster.

Sin swelling above the rafters of our home.

It's often too much to handle.  And I want to climb in a boat without paddles and float down the the streets overflowing with our sin...never to return.

My repetitive parenting style seems to be frustration and messing up.  Yet, there lies the beauty.  The truth is, I can't handle it on my own.  And I'll never get it exactly right.

But, He will.

I had a shift in thinking this weekend.

A parenting conference with Paul Tripp challenged us on many issues.  (Side note:  yes, I was a complete stalker and followed him out so I could talk to him first and get a picture.  Total groupie.)

I was particularly convicted how I view parenting as a set number of hours in a day.  And Dr. Tripp reminded us that it is not to be done on our time-table or at our convenience.

All the little moments should be viewed instead with awe at the Creator, who is giving us the privilege of showing our children how much they need rescue.  A Savior.

All my heart issues can lead to a dismissive approach-- a quick snapping of fingers and sending them to their rooms, while never addressing their heart or mine.

So, as I lose it for the five-millionth time.  Or roll my eyes because one child is still needling me way past their bedtime, my heart is the issue.  And often, depending on the situation, their heart is the issue as well.

Instead of screaming or throwing up my hands, my prayer should be for MY Rescuer to come quickly to change my heart in that space.

To equip me to parent with an open heart and untightened fists.

With soft eyes and a tender heart...whether it is the repetitive nature of Little Bitty's needs or the whiny child in the backseat.

Dr. Tripp's exhortation was to see each little conflict as a ministry opportunity-- all divine appointments by a God who orders our days.

I'll be honest, the idea of four-hundred repetitions still totally undoes me.

Sends me into a spiral of unbelief and despair when I'm not looking to Him.

By His grace, I can cling to Him.

My repetitive parenting style of blowing it over and over again is not the same as my Father's.  He dances to a rhythm of grace which forgives and equips over and over.  

He is the only place I can take my children for heart change.

My days are often too much for me to bear.  But He can bear the weight.

Because He's here in this home.  In my heart.  In this space.

And He's not leaving.

So I say, BRING IT!

Four-hundred times, four-thousand times, four million times.

My Savior can handle it.


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 {photo credit:  www.shift.is.com}












Saturday, August 16, 2014

All of Me




I often think I should have named this blog Running from the Father.

In my new heart, I don't want to run away, but I still do.  

He desperately longs to have all of me
With dust spiraling behind, I run fast--the barefoot runaway-- down pathways of temporary pleasures.  The insanity is God's heart towards me is still good.  His love still pursues this runaway girl.  He brings me back to where I want to be all along.

I've been overwhelmed with kindness of friends from my past-- the friends from the simple elementary days filled with memories of the smell of fresh school supplies and metal playground equipment; the awkward middle school years-- knobby knees, plaid skirts, polyester white knee socks, and saddle oxfords; and others have reached out from my wild girl high school and college days.  Coworkers from my past and old neighbors.  Truly a gift to have this love.  His love poured through people.

Just as encouraging, are the friends in my present spurring me on.  Some are new friends through the virtual world and then my dear friends who do life with me-- the foster mamas, homeschoolers, neighbors, church goers.

All have significantly pressed love and courage into this fearful girl as I've taken up this blog.

I am tremendously grateful for the notes of support. 

Because I want to quit almost every day-- just shut it down and give up writing publicly.

It's freeing, but also exposing.

I wonder what in the world I'm going to talk about next.

Because sometimes I have nothing to say.

But then I wake up.

A new day starts.

A day full of new mercies, struggles, joy, love, kindness, sin. 

Daily living.  Messiness. 

He shows up.  Just as that baby boy entered the mess of an animal stall-- radiating light, grace, and new life.  

He propels Himself slap dab in the middle of a fight at our kitchen table, in the car of a sibling battle, in the carpool line as I'm yelling at the kids...

He comes full of resurrection power.

And I think, how did I forget again?  I have a Redeemer, a Rescuer.

And so I write again.  More to process.

I've flash backed to my English professor's scrawled red writing in the corner of one of my college papers:  You should consider becoming a writer!

I was embarrassed, but also had a deep knowing in my soul that I'd discovered one of my passions.

Sometimes I wonder if I say too much on my blog.

But, really, if you only knew the things I don't tell-- if you knew all of me, it would be earth-shattering.

Think about it-- if we had a recording of the past few months of our thought life, the things we say, the outpouring of what's really in our hearts, we'd be shocked by each others' crap. 

The spaces within us that we want to stay hidden.  The places we may not fully consider or recognize.

Many times we don't want to see.

Denial is real and destructive-- a desolate trail full of potholes and darkness.  It blocks the pathway to a full life-- like a boulder in the path to more.  Vulnerability is freedom-- opening a new route that unfolds to azure skies, cotton fluffed clouds, and flower-specked rolling hills.  This is the way to being known and knowing others fully.  A way to beauty.

If you know Christ, then we're in the same camp.

You and me. 

Whether you believe it or not. 

We are needy.  Broken.

We all need someone bigger.

Being transformed by the length and width, height and depth of God's love (Eph 3:18), should leave us in absolute awe.

Most of my life I lived blind to this love and I want to shout it loud!

Not just for myself, but for all of you who need to be reminded as well.

If I don't write, I forget who I am.  WHOSE I am.

So, thank you for reaching out...loving me and propelling me on in my fight to believe truth.

In the battle to put my heart into words.

I am grateful.   

Because there is only One who knows us fully.  

Praise Him!
 







{photo credit:  www.loudr.fm}

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The King



Along the hardwoods a soft padding approaches

A breath on my cheek, I push away with strong force

I open one eye and see him as he crouches

The bed shakes as his full weight hits like a horse


Even when I want him to leave, he always stays

My arm runs red, punctured deep by sharp claws

He licks my wounds, I bury hands in his thick mane

Eyes glow golden, as he nuzzles near with huge paws


He frightens me, but there's also a surge of peace

To drift off asleep encircled by power in this place

Gentle as a dove, yet a wild untamed beast

Warmth fills, rest comes, always near his face








Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A Call to His People


(This post also featured on The Forgotten Initiative)
  

Awake, sleeper,
And arise from the dead,
And Christ will shine on you. 
(Eph 5:14)





Droplets splatter from a space that's deep

Rising and falling chest, purple cheek

Voices rise louder, they huddle down

Into a blanket, hoping they're not found

Broken bottles and trash litter the floor

Noises all night, creaking screen door

Safe in their spot until day dawns

The big one peeks out and gives a yawn

Makes a bottle, changes a diaper

He’s the oldest, more like a father

In a position he should never hold

Protecting the others, not very old

A burden he carries, a place he fills

Mama and daddy can't pay the bills

Alone all day, fighting returns at dusk

Taking care of themselves, they must

It's only His grace that can bury and seep

Into little hearts, His mercy cutting deep

Through love from His people, a call to meet 

Healing can come to the least of these







You don't have to be a full-time foster parent to meet needs of neglected and abused children!  Find out ways to serve and get involved.


{photo credit:  www.glogster.com}