Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Rooted




Rooted - established deeply and firmly

I strolled the streets of downtown Homewood a few weeks ago while my car was having some work done nearby.

One storefront always catches my eye-- the bright lighting and retro furniture.

Among brightly colored fiberglass shell chairs, vintage depression glass, and modern furniture was an exact replica of my great-grandparent's metal glider.

I could picture that white frame house and concrete front porch, screen door propped open to allow a breeze to swirl into the unairconditioned interior.

Over the decades, gallons of sweet tea, homemade cake, and stories flowed as steady as the that rusted green rocker.
 

My great-grandparents never turned a visitor away.

Those were the days when folks would just stop by to hang out on the front porch for hours, swatting at flies, and laughing until the sun set low-- a hazy golden glow settling over the vegetable garden.

I recall my great-grandfather always wiping beads of sweat from his brow with a folded handkerchief from his pocket.

He smelled of hard work and earth-- a self-made man who lived off the land and survived the Great Depression.

Raised on cornbread, the ripest pick from the garden, and lukewarm milk direct from the udder.

As a young girl, we collected vegetables from rows of twisted vines and stalks, hung clothes on the frayed clothesline outside the back screen door, and collected fallen pecans from the large shade trees that edged the border of their backyard.

My great-grandmother was spunky and sharp-witted until she died in her early nineties.   Forever adorned in handmade calico dresses with her long gray hair pulled high in a bun.

My great-grandparents also loved Jesus deeply.  Firm roots.

When they were moved to a nursing home, I was in my early twenties.  I drove north to help clean out their home so it could be put on the market.

Most of their belongings would be sold at an estate sale to help with their expenses, but we each could choose something special for ourselves.

I wasn't a Christian yet, but I knew the first thing I would ask for-- a weathered angel in their front rock garden.

My mind holds a faded memory of me in white leather sandals and a baby doll dress as I balanced on the rocks in their front rock garden.  Two white concrete angels watching me.

It may have been Easter or a reunion, but  I couldn't have been more than three or four-years old.

I wanted one of their angels.

She still occupies a very sentimental place in my heart and home.


I spent my childhood riding up and down winding two-lane country roads to visit my family-- all only living a few miles apart.

Lots of family reunions-- cornbread dressing, congealed salads, fresh cakes, pies, and deviled eggs.

Most of my cousins were nearby as well.  Time lulled by as we ran barefooted with full bellies playing tag in their spacious backyard.

My heart was wrecked a year or so ago when we took my kids by the place-- their home run-down, a trampoline in the yard.

How quickly the things of this life fade and waste away.  A reminder that this is not our forever home.  

Family stories are gone if someone is not intentional about writing them down.

This week Little Bitty was perched comfortably in my lap, gazing down at her outstretched legs and declared, Jesus filled my life with brown.

I said, Yes baby girl, He did.

I considered how my family roots and those of Little Bitty have merged.


Oddly, she and I were born in the exact same small-town hospital.  Nearly forty-years apart.

Her birth mama and I are almost the same  age-- birth mom spent some time overseas and finally came to rest in the same Alabama county where I was born.

She graduated from the tiny high school just a block from my grandmother's house.

We passed that high school every time our family traveled the narrow back-roads of that small town in North Alabama.

I wonder what birth mama's life was like growing up?

I have a foggy picture of a life filled with deep sorrow and brokenness.

Life has weathered and broken her like salty wind bends and twists trees in a hurricane.

I wish I'd known that girl back then.  In that place where both our roots sprouted.

Because I love her children deeply.

This week, Little Bitty held tightly to an iron railing as her tiny feet stood on a splintered wooden bridge.

Watching and waiting.

It had been three months since she'd seen them.  Her brothers.

I didn't tell her who was coming.

The reaction was priceless.


The roots go deep for these kiddos.

Their hearts deeply bound.

Survivors of their own storms of life.

Family.

It feels so heavy and broken when I think about her brothers.

I want so much for them.

I can't fix it.

I grieve and beg the Father to provide a mama and daddy.

When I'm looking at their lives in my finite way, it seems hopeless.

The Father's passion for the fatherless is relentless, firm.

I remember an ancient promise, rooted in truth:  He executes justice for the fatherless... (Deu 10:18).

When my eyes are not focused on Him, I despair.

I still desperately pray for a forever family for the boys.

A mama and daddy to give them what they've never had.

A family to be the hands and feet of Christ.  A home rich in love, hope, and promise.

For all the children of my home and heart to have a fuller understanding of His redemptive story in their lives.

A firm knowing of a Father who will never abandon them.

For that is the only way for true life-- to be firmly rooted in Him.








{photo credit:   www.theceruleangallery.com} wording added by me
{photo credit:  www.leemalerich.com}


Friday, September 19, 2014

Forgotten Fridays (guest post)

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



Honored to share today on 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/


Friday, September 12, 2014

The Sparrow Fund (guest post)

http://sparrow-fund.org/dream 



Honored to share part of our story on The Sparrow Fund's blog today.  Please check out this amazing ministry for adoptive families!








Ready



The challenge from Kate's blog is to write for 5 minutes flat with no editing.  The word today is READY.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
 

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven (Ecc 3:1)


I am not always ready to follow His call.

His word.

I read Psalm 62 this morning.

I think of a fortress surrounding my mind.  To keep the evil out.  The lies.

I am ready for a new path to be forged through my mind.  For Him to protect my thinking.  Renew my mind.

Isaiah speaks of Him doing a new thing.  It springs up.  I am ready.  For change.  An unfurling.  Even though it is often so slow.

Change is scary to me.  I'm ready to let barriers fall.  Wrong thinking corrected.  A new life begun.  New mercies each day.

I am ready for a whole-hearted living.  Mind and spirit connected to Him.  His word.

Ready for transformation.  Ready for trust...ready for him to sweep the cobwebs of my mind and insert His truth.

Ready to take the next step of faith.  

Little steps of courage.  I'm ready.








Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Battle





Shadowed trail, blackened wood
Trees surround like velvet hood
In the dark, it's darker still
On this path against my will

Talons sharp, rip and claw
Darkness deep into I fall
Ripping flesh, the lies they simmer
Sinking deep, flooding dank river

Enfolding wings, blaze of fire
Battle ensues, somewhere higher
White light enters and captures black
Clanking metal, no holding back

It's fierce love that fights for me
Truth is brighter-- evil flees
My advocate, who calls me friend
It's over, finished, I know the end

For in the dark, the Great I AM
Never alone, He held me still
Even on the path, against my will
Love was there, forever to stay

In light or dark, this girl He shepherds
In wilderness, rocky, or the desert
The One I'll never fully understand
He's always there, tight grasp on my hand









{photo credit:  inkhammer.wordpress.com}

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Baby Steps



Our children were harmed in and through relationships...and they will heal in and through relationships.  ~Dr. Karyn Purvis



It is 6:30 AM.

I stare at my worn face in the mirror. 

No makeup.  No mask.

The house is quiet.  All are asleep.

Little Bitty's ringlet-headed self is still fast asleep in her pink tip-top loft bed.

I ponder her struggles with self-protection and trust.

My face reflects back a similar girl.

The line becomes blurred between who I am and who she is.

Little Bitty's effort to claw and grasp any sense of control in every part of her little world.

My personal struggle with faith, hope, and control.

Trusting my Father and His plan.

Wanting to control my life.

Last week, a painful orthodontic appointment for my nine-year old, along with the other children who had money blazing a hole in their pockets, I found myself pushing a buggy in the toy aisle of Target.

While the other kids were picking out Legos and Barbies, Little Bitty's eyes wandered across to the baby aisle like the shelves were dripping with candy.

I think how ironic that she devotes most days stomping her tiny feet declaring loudly that she's a big girl, like our other kids.

Inside Target, near the baby section, she reverts to an infantile state.

You see, on the inside of her soul, something is missing from those crucial developmental years of babyhood.  Her first 16-months were not full of nurturing attachment.

Maybe she didn't have much eye contact as a wee little one, possibly she went for long stretches of time without being fed, having her diaper changed, or being picked up.  What Karyn  Purvis calls Birthright Preciousness was lacking in those first 16-months.

This gift was poured into her little soul consistently for two years afterwards by an amazing foster family.

God's design is for children to digest their history through play.  Their brains develop and grow new neurons through loving interaction and attachment. 

God's plan was for her to be moved to our home near her three-year old birthday.  The transition was handled carefully and slowly, with much care given to her spirit and grief.

However, with any move to a new home, a child's trust is shaken.

The shock wave that hit her last month-- that she wouldn't live with her brothers-- added another layer of intense grief and lack of trust.

As she's attaching to us, she longs to be a baby again-- from the depths of her being.  Her brain's attempt to recover lost time from early days.

As I stroll through the toy aisle with the big kids, Little Bitty shouts and points, There's the baby section!

I ask, Would you like to go pick out something like last time?

Yes yes yes!, she wholeheartedly squeals, her arms raised in tiny fists like she's cheering at a football game.

She remembers a few weeks prior when she excitedly played with a friend's baby.  Strapped on his infant seat, was the type of dangling toy that when pulling it, it would stretch out long.  Upon release, the plush animal would rattle and vibrate, shrinking back to normal size.

Little Bitty searches the baby section and discovers a similar soft monkey.

She cuddles it all the way to the check-out line-- giggles, vibrations, and rattle sounds marking our steps to the front of the store.
 
You can bet the first thing we did when we got to the car was strap that toy onto Little Bitty's big girl car seat.

She may be going on four-years old, but at the heart of her being, she is a wee baby longing to inhabit the space of baby in our family.

Longing to be the infant she never got to be.

We will purchase as many infant items her heart desires.

We will forge the route necessary to re-build the foundation that is cracked.

Just as Christ does for us-- taking our broken, shattered lives and inserting Himself as the sure and strong foundation-- our strength, our cornerstone.

So, when she struggles to trust that we will provide for her, we will again and again and again faithfully pour into her  little bitty body.

Into her little bitty ears.

Into her little bitty soul. 

That she is wanted.

That she is precious.

That she is fiercely loved. 

That she was longed for and prayed for before she even came into our home.

And on the days when I'm frustrated at that little bitty girl and her older siblings, I pray the Father would remind me over and over and over again how much MY broken life needs rescue.

How many times I daily need to be reminded of my firm foundation in Christ.

Because I am fearful.

And I mistrust.

And I am faithless.

And I desperately long for the love only my Father can give.

It feels like such a small thing, taking baby steps, to purchase an infant car seat toy.

But it's really a larger thing-- doing the small things for Little Bitty-- re-creating her babyhood-- is really so much more.  

By God's grace, we are giving her a firm footing to ultimately trust the One and Only Father to the fatherless.

May we cling to him as well.

On our darkest days.

In our brightest joys.

He is always, tremendously, unswervingly, without fail, perfectly loving us.

Delighting in us.

There is nothing, nothing, that can separate us from His love.

Praise be to God!


 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

It's Not Fair




Blowing up an orange balloon and tossing it throughout the room, Little Bitty has an idea.

She asks for my car keys and I comply.

We knew it was coming, but we all jump when the pop echos off the walls.

The balloon's demise is sprinkled in distorted pieces around the room.

We clean up the mess.

She has her snack and drink. 

We blow a cotton ball across the floor, taking turns using our breaths to make it reach the wall.

We build a house and pretend to sleep.  Little Bitty opens a door to allow light to shine in the darkness of our fort.

She curls up in a ball with her lovey near her face, as we rock her side to side in a well-worn tan blanket.

As we sway, we sing a song about her.

This is all part of our routine in play therapy.

All was going smoothly today until Little Bitty, determined to jump on a pile of pillows by herself, toppled over and hit her head on the wall.

A trigger.

Playfulness and peace lay in scattered pieces encircling us.

Laughter sucked from the room, along with my oxygen level.

A shift in atmosphere-- the room now inflated with sadness, anger, and mistrust.

We discovered today that pain can quickly become a trigger of fear, which spirals to control.

After I hold her and rock, she retreats to the wall.  Alone.

Standing with her back to us.

Quiet.  Reflective.

I move to comfort her.  In a flash, she is suddenly busy-- tiny hands grabbing every pillow in the room.

Angry face and a firm stance she shouts, I'm building my house all by myself!  I don't need anyone to protect me or keep me safe!

Self protection.  Lack of trust.

She sandwiches her small frame under pillows.

Quiet.

Pulling off the top layer, she looks at me and screams, Get out of my front yard!   You're destroying my grass! 

More silence.

She unfolds the pillow again.  Eyes flashing, she yells, I don't want you here!  Get out!

I don't want mommy protecting me.  I don't want daddy keeping me safe!

I will take care of myself!

The session declined from there-- a speeding runaway mine-car in a downward spin.

No compromises could be worked out.

No talking her out of what she wanted.

The session ran fifteen minutes longer that the usual hour.

It was past time to go.

I pushed flailing feet into her shiny kitten shoes.

I carried her out kicking and screaming.

Whispering down into wild hair and feet, I know you like to be in control.  I know you are angry.

Cradling her like an infant, I braved the steep concrete stairs, trying to keep my balance in my wedge sandals.

It surely was a death sentence-- an out of control toddler, wedges, and steep concrete stairs with iron railing.

Halfway down the decline, she shouts, It's not fair!  It's not fair!

A steady flow of these same words all the way to the car.

I uncover a tiny ear and acknowledge, I know, it's not fair.  You are angry.  You wanted to put your shoes on all by yourself.

Car door open, I set her little body down.

I squat to her level on the steamy Alabama asphalt in ninety-degree temperature.

Our eyes meet.  Her demeanor a jumble of vulnerable and furious.

We're both a hot mess.  Truly.

She's still uncontrollably wailing, It's not fair!

I press my lips to tousled hair in the direction of an ear and repeat again,  No sweetie, it's not fair.  It's not fair.  It's NOT fair.

My hands press gently under her mocha chin to lift her face to mine.

I don't know words to say, but these come out:  You didn't get to choose where to live.  You really wanted to live with your brothers.  And it's not fair.  It's not fair.  I know.

The words hit her.

The crying stops.

A connection made.

Fuzzy head and crazy mama embrace on the hot asphalt.

Her head rests on my shoulder.

Her body still.

She releases a big sigh. (so do I)

I strap her into her car seat, my heart a strange mix of sorrow and hope.

My dear boy rattles all the way home about Legos, causing Little Bitty to giggle her contagious laugh.

Sunshine beams through the glass.

Puffed cottony clouds float through the sky.

I take a deep breath and gaze up to the rear view mirror to soak up the giggles of a little girl and her brother.

Light in the darkness.











Monday, September 1, 2014

Living. For Real.






What does it mean to live?  Like for real? 

I thought the picture above beautifully captures authentic living.

Soldiers of war...experiencing the worst atrocities with courage and strength.

Fighting bravely through war.

Battling courageously to tell their stories.

To me, that is living real life.

Owning who they fully are.

Battle scars and all.

Authenticity seems to be a buzz word these days.  Honestly, it can be misused to harm others.  Speaking everything without time in prayer and self-control is often not wise.  I know I've been guilty of spouting hurtful words under the guise of authenticity.

Speaking the truth in love is a whole other topic-- it is done after prayer, time in the word, and wise counsel.  This type of authenticity is sometimes necessary to love well and call others to more.  For the sake of this blog post, I'm speaking more about our own personal authentic living.  Personally looking within.

I know I have lived a life of masks and shame-- caught up in sins against me.  Pretending I'm not hurt.  Pretending I'm fine.  

I can also easily wrap myself up in my own wrongs and offenses against others.  Weighted down in shame.  Afraid of rejection.  Fearful to ask for forgiveness. 

We are all fallen.  All broken.  All desperately need rescue.  Relationships are messy.  Living authentically is hard. 

So, what does it really mean to live authentically?

Living an authentic life is resting in the truth of who we are as fallen creatures.  Embracing our stories fully-- scars and all.  Admitting our failures-- looking for the plank in our own eye.  

Megan Hill puts together five things she sees as necessary for authentic living:

1) Authenticity proclaims the reality of the Bible
2) Authenticity doesn't excuse sin (pride is not authentic living...look to the plank in our own eye first)
3)  Authenticity seeks the good of the Body - looking to the good of others first, not ourselves
4) Authenticity honors wisdom - God's wisdom, not our own
5) Authenticity points ahead to a perfected future - recognizing the fallenness of this world-- it is not our home.
 
Living authentically also includes asking the Father what dream He has for us to follow.  What path He's asking us to walk.  It's often through heartache that we find our calling.



when we bury our stories
dig holes deep into soil
we toss away the glory
of what He wants to be told

the messy and rotten
become beautiful golden threads
woven by the One 
written by His hand

if secret places are hidden
we are never known
daylight into darkness
never fully shown

facade proudly worn
truth never seen
masked and alone
down to the grave we go

embrace it all, don't let it go
each of us given a dream
live each moment fully alive
cherish even the hard

for in the furnace He shapes
and molds, beauty through fire
glorious picture He alone creates
a plan that's not ours 
~MS









{photo credit:  historybyzim.com