Tuesday, December 17, 2013

THE UNFAMILIAR WAITING

I've seriously thought about deleting my Facebook account instead of deleting people, and it's not for the reasons you would think.  I want to hit the delete button, at least for a little while, because it hurts too much to look.  It hurts this time of year when I want to be close to the people on that page that have moved on without me so close by.  It really disappoints me that I cannot be in my hometown in the church I love so very much and am missing all that is going on, all the exciting end of the year things that make Revolution the church that held my heart like Jesus in the manger.  And finally, it is hard to see the children that I have adored since birth growing up or all grown up without me.

I know...it's selfish...and I have to accept that life changes.  But must everything change? every relationship? every friendship? every place? every memory?

It's a snowy Tuesday here on the East Side of the state, the suburbs of Detroit where I live now.  I drove from the doctor's office this morning, wondering if this baby I am waiting to make an appearance will even know all the things that have made me who I am, will even recognize the friends that I thought would be aunts to him or her, will see my hometown as a home-away-from-home.  I wonder if my child will gravitate toward Detroit, the place I despised as a child, but now live shoulder to shoulder with.  This baby will have his or her own hometown to grow up in, and it won't be St. Louis and then Port Huron like Daddy or Grand Rapids like Mommy.  I wait to see what my child will embrace as home (beyond the physical location, but that feeling you get when the only home you know is all you want to know).

My mind during this time of year misses the familiar.  Christmas was a warm familiar place for me even some years ago when love surrounded me, where I was surrounded by family and friends.  I wish that I could combine my life now with my life then.  I wish I could show my husband the world that swirls in my memories but it feels so long gone now.  I gaze at the pictures and read the stories and live vicariously through all those I miss and then I want to hit the delete button and forget about them.  I want to not see how I don't fit there anymore.  But I can't hit the delete button for my mind's instant recall.  So I find myself waiting to be okay with not being as involved with the lives that were so fully intertwined with mine.

We started going to church in Troy.  We still attend like visitors and  lately, with all the sadness at not being at my old church, I haven't wanted to go.  This is horrible to admit - that I have had to convince myself that I will one day fight past the feeling that I only fit in in one place.  It's ridiculous and I know my husband thinks I am just being silly, but the right church for you is hard to replicate somewhere else and I've never been able to do it.  I have never been able to not miss the love I felt at my old church.  I cannot just switch that feeling over.  And I find myself waiting for the sadness to pass and acceptance to walk through the sanctuary doors with me.

This Advent season feels so much more like waiting - more than any other year.  I feel like I am waiting for  the next season to begin, an unfamiliar place that smells and tastes and feels like change - a change I am learning to be ready for.  In this season, I think a lot about the kind of wife I must be, the kind of mother I will be, the kind of daughter I have to be.  I know these places by mind but not by heart and I realize that some things within those places cannot be planned for because I have never been there before.

And in the middle of all this waiting that seems to be endless, I find myself waiting for the God of change to change me.  The Christ in Christmas has to be my focus so that when change comes I won't grieve yesterday and miss today.  Life has to be lived for today.  It has to be embraced right now.  And I am learning that, even in this place that is so unfamiliar.


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Best Friend

One of life's greatest joys is a tiny dog loving you no matter what.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

ALL SETTLED IN....AND THE DOGS ARE TOO...

I took some time off from the blog to get used to our new house, and I have to say that we are all settled in.  We are all used to the unique facets of this new house.  We are trying to figure out ways to enjoy every area of our new blessing.

All of us are.

Even the two little black dogs that think they should have the run of the whole house...whether I happen to think so or not.





I had this thought: they would understand that they have to be confined to the upstairs until after the honeymoon period of the new home has worn off.  I assumed they would understand that they are not allowed to go downstairs to the beautifully finished basement with the creme colored carpet until I say they are allowed to go.  I assumed they knew the same rules apply at the new house as they did at the old apartment.  I assumed my cute little monsters would sit obediently at the top of the basement stairs and wait for us to come back up.

Well, first off I had that wrong.

When you have two little chihuahuas, you cannot assume anything about their perspective on life.  You cannot think they will just understand when their human daddy is heading down to his crazy shower with the wall spigots that THEY CANNOT GO, TOO.  You cannot assume that they understand how they need to wait until YOU THINK they are ready.

They will not ask, "Hey, Human Mommy, am I ready, yet?"

They will not obey your yelling as they wind their little bodies past his, dashing through his legs, as he makes his way down the stairs.

They WILL take off knowing you cannot just push your husband out the way to save your carpet.

They WILL christen the creme colored carpet with their little sausage turds and then take off running while you are screaming for their punishment.

The fat one will hunch low and shoot out like a missile for the opposite side of the basement to hide.  The skinny one will take off for the upstairs when he sees his girl get in trouble, deciding to leave his own tiny remnants in the bathroom you thought was fit for a queen and in no way appropriate for a 4 pound terror to do his business.

This will happen - while you are assuming they will act right and consider your feelings about their disobedience.

This is how we have settled in.  I am realizing that I can't banish them to the pound because they are the most hard-headed creatures on the planet (besides me, obviously).  They have to get used to this new home.  And they don't care if the carpet is creme.  I may have a hissy fit while I am re-cleaning the carpet and screaming bloody murder, but they will just stare at me with big brown eyes and think I am crazy.

We are home.

And so are they.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

MOVING, MOVING, MOVING

So we are moving in three days....moving from the first apartment we shared as husband and wife, and now, we are moving into the home we have been waiting for.  We both are excited about the prospect of NEVER MOVING AGAIN.  But for me, and I suspect for Mr., this move signifies that we are moving into a new phase of marriage.  We are really in it and I love being IN IT.

Every time we walk into the house and soften our hearts to match the beauty of hard wood floors and a stone fire place and soothing colors on the walls that make me want to paint pictures to enhance even more, we know we are home.  We feel like we belong there, that we have found that place that will hold so many of our memories.  I could see it from the first time that I walked in the door.  And in three days we will call this place our home.

There is a huge difference between living in a house and living in a home.

As a little girl, the one thing I longed for more than anything else was a home.  We lived in a lot of apartments, many of which didn't have much green space.  My grandparents house was a home, and when my grandfather passed away my grandmother moved to a new home that became a refuge for all of us at some point or another.  One thing I always said was I wanted my children to never know what it was like to live in a home that wasn't theirs.  It is still very important to me that they grow up in the a house of their own, that will be a generational blessing to them should they decide to keep it long after their father and I are gone to be with the Lord.

It's not about owning a piece of the American Dream, per se.  That's a nice thought.  For me, it's about having a place to belong, a place to raise my children, a place to watch them grow up in those bedrooms that will likely be painted new colors and be decorated with toys and books and little clothes.  My mom wanted  wanted to give me these things when I was a little girl, but because of her injury on the job three decades ago she was denied the chance.  I believe that she will have it again for herself, but I also believe that she will have a home soon too.  I am living her dream too, which makes this all the more sweeter in my eyes...that my mom is here to see me live out that aspiration too.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

When Destiny Doesn't Make Sense

I turned 36 a few days ago and one of my Facebook posts stated that I am 36 but I feel 26.  Some of my oh-so-kind Facebook friends said that I look anywhere between 18 and 26.  Truthfully, I do feel much younger than my birth certificate says I am and that is a wonderful thing.  The reality is God has graced me to be more vibrant and full of life than I have ever been.  Perhaps as I am getting older, I am actually "mounting up with wings as eagles" and "running and not growing weary, walking and not fainting".  My husband says that when I reach 40 I will feel my age; the joints will start creaking and things will start hurting and I won't move as fast.  What he doesn't know is that I am praying that he will actually feel like I do instead of me feeling like he does.  I want him to have vitality and strength and health.

We have a beautiful home to move into in a few weeks, and there is so much more to life than creaking through it, hoping for Heaven.  I definitely don't want us to live out the rest of our earthbound days with that mentality.  Why should we?  I don't believe that is God's best for anybody.

This morning, I turned on my computer at home and began finishing up another chapter in my next book.  It has taken me some time to begin writing about Esther and the process she went through to live out her greatest destiny.  This Bible character is my favorite person to study in biblical history.  The Old Testament book that was named for her is so significant in my life, dating back to age 17 when someone mysteriously wrote the name on a t-shirt at a camp, describing me.  I never found out who wrote it, but even then I had long held the suspicion that she was someone that had lived a life that I was born to live too.  Even back then, I knew that my name might as well had been Esther for the significant journey my life was destined to take.

So this morning, I sat at my dining room table with my laptop, tapping away.  And the thought came to me that while she may not have known the direction her life was going when it was falling apart, God had a plan for her...not just for her people using her, but a plan for her.  Of course, there is always a big-picture scenario in everyone's life.  We all have a role to play in the whole scheme of things. But privately, individually, separately we also have plans for our own lives.  God has something planned on the horizon. And it's not just for someone else.  It's for you and me too.

Esther was raised as an adopted daughter to her cousin when her parents died.  She ultimately had a heritage that was salvaged.  But she could have ended up as a beggar in the street.  She could have ended up without a place to call home.  God had a better plan for her - a plan that not only included adoption, but also included a home in a palace and a role as a queen over 127 provinces.  Her life had value and that value was much bigger than she may have realized.  That is what I believe God wants for all of us: to finish the process and live our best life, destiny on purpose.  We may not understand why our paths have to go the directions they go or why we have to overcome so much pain and loss at times, but there is more to fulfillment than we even know.  We don't have to have all the answers.

We just need to develop trust in God - more and more everyday.  Sometimes He asks us to trust Him in the craziest ways and through the craziest times in our lives, when everything seems to be falling apart.  Two years ago when I thought I had lost love for good, God had a greater plan and today, I am married to a king and moving into a palace.  God knew my destiny even when I didn't...especially when I didn't know it or where I would end up.  But I have learned, if nothing else, that that is the point of the process for each of us.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Home

It has taken me a while to write a new blog post, which is really not abnormal for me.  Sometimes I wait.  It isn't for lack of things to write about.  Believe me...I am always writing (even if it is in my head and not down on paper or typed on a computer screen).

At any case, it has taken some time to write because there is the sense that once I tell this story, the story of my life with Mr. now, I won't be able to stop.  But now, it's really a matter of using this venue to "brag on God".  At some point in all our lives, we have to give honor where honor is due.  What's more, we have to realize that the One that created us has a definite plan for our lives and it is up to us individually to obey the course of those plans - even when those same plans make little to no sense whatsoever.

My husband and I spent the last few months searching for a home, walking in crazy faith to find that home that would be the place where our children (and perhaps other children that need a safe place and the love we can give) can call home.  That home was out there.  I knew it, and I wanted my husband to believe with me.  It was hard sometimes to get him to see that God had the perfect home for us.  It didn't matter if in the natural sense there was no possible way that all the elements would line up, if we had very little to spend on a house, if we had made some mistakes individually and collectively before.  There was a home for us, specifically for us, and that house is part of the plan for our lives.

How do you live in the realm of faith?  How do you exist in that place where all odds are against you and the truth is hard to see because the facts don't line up?  How do you believe God's command to move forward when it makes more sense to stand still and put down tent pegs where you are?

This move toward a home, a territory, a place for us, a generational blessing for these children that are waiting to be born here was not my idea.  I was scared to death to step out here.  It felt right in my spirit but wrong to my flesh, to my finite mind.  It didn't make sense.

But I have learned that few things in life ever do...the things worth stepping out in faith for don't ever make a whole lot of sense.

The day Mr. signed the last line on the documents sealing the deal, the Unites States Government went into shut-down mode.  And then everything began to make sense.  And then the topic of this first blog post for October 2013 came to mind.

The shutdown that we are not existing in, no matter whose fault it is or for how long, caused many families to be placed in the position of having to wait for the homes that they were seeking government-backed mortgages for.  There is no possible way I could have known that.  All I knew, all I insisted on when Mr. and I debated back and forth about the wisdom of finding a home RIGHT NOW, is that God said move NOW.  The words I kept returning to in my duct-taped Bible were the stories of Abraham moving in faith toward a home he had not seen and did not have a clear picture of and the offspring of Abraham going in to possess the land generations later.  There was no such thing as renting the promise land; there was ownership.

The urgency was much bigger than even our parents realized.  They wanted to be supportive but did not understand why we were "moving so fast".  They wondered if we would bite off more than we could chew in buying a house when our marriage wasn't even a year old.

All I knew was the process of moving forward, and my husband made the decision to do what needed to be done.  I have never been more in awe of him than when he finally trusted that God had spoken to me about the next move for our family - even when it didn't make sense.  My husband trusted God, but he also trusted me like the husband trusted his wife in Proverbs 31.

God knew that this was shutdown was going to happen.  He knew it all the way up until the date of October 1.  And the same day that others were shut out of their dreams (even if on a momentary basis), we were able to advance in faith.  Our God knows the times and the seasons of this earth; it is up to us that love and believe Him to trust that He can lead us into a goodly land, that He can lead us home.



There is a gray house with blue shutters on a quiet street where we will live.  Our children's school is behind the woods that border our property.  They will walk to school and have friends in that neighborhood.  These children will have the home I wasn't able to have physically, but did have spiritually.  Our children are in line for a generational blessing.  And really, it isn't about the house at all.  It's about the blessing that has traveled down both my husband's and my bloodlines.

But this home is not just for our birth children.  There are others that will be impacted by the little gray house with blue shutters and the love emanating from the very walls.  There are lives that will be touched by the books written in that house and the pictures painted in that house and the music composed in that house.  There are relationships with the God that led us to that house which will be built there.  My babies will learn about God in that house, like I learned about God in my grandparents' house 35 years ago.

And to me...that is what the faith was for.  That is what the pressing forward toward a dream was for.  That is what the true blessing is for.


Thursday, August 22, 2013

I AM PART OF ROYALTY

Last week Thursday, I spent some time at a week-long summer camp experience for children.  Forty children ages 6 to 12 (except for two "littles" that were not quite 6, but needed to be there anyway) listened to how love can find them and hold them despite difficult beginnings and situations outside of what their small hands could control.  They learned how the Jesus I love so much could be their foundation for life.  They sang songs with exuberant adults, clapped and moved energetically, and become so enmeshed in the moments, I am sure the last day of camp was harder than any of us could comprehend.

Royal Family Kids Camp has satellite, independent summer camps for kids in foster care all over the world, but also in my neck of the woods.  The children that participated were part of a family for a week; they were invited to be part of an eternal family no matter where in the world they might end up after the actual camp experience was over.

And me?

I was honored to be there.  I was honored to see them swimming and sliding down soapy tarps on hillsides and loving their Camp Buddies.  I was honored to see the children be allowed to let "the kids hidden inside" come out - romping and playing and being celebrated.

But more, I was proud to be part of the Royal Family behind Royal Family Kids' Camp.  The camp is hosted by others that believe in Christ's mission to save, believe that God has a place for everyone because of what Christ did 2000 years ago.  The underlying tone of the camp, which on the surface looks similar to other summer camps with all the activities, is the mission to love these kids with the love God has shown to us all.

My belief is that children deserve to be loved like God intended.  That doesn't mean you preach it more than you show it, more than you give people permission to be who they were born to be.  You embrace and give significance to others by paying homage to who they are as humans on this earth, by loving them simply because they are here.  Then you remind them that their existence is not by happenstance and is not a mistake.  No such thing.

Last week those kids knew this.  It was repeated over and over in loving action, so much so that the children responded.  Souls that had been stifled by adult circumstances outside the camp's fun and peace were able to say, "Yes!  I am here!  And I matter!"

If that isn't the real Gospel in action, I don't know what it is.

The sun (Son) was shining a week ago at a camp.

And kids that have little to laugh about threw their heads back and laughed like Heaven just touched earth.  (Truth is, it did - through the hands and feet and love flowing like living water.)

Every child was given a surprise birthday party and Heaven touched earth again when these babies realized their lives were indeed worth celebrating everyday.

I could feel the Presence of God, the warmth of Him on my skin, because Heaven touched earth.  We were loving His babies, and the fullness of His Presence wrapped us all up.  The King wrapped us in His Royal Garments (love).

And a week later, I am still wrapped.  I hope these children went back to the world where they were "just" foster kids, knowing they are so much more - knowing that God has them in His arms no matter what happens.  They are royal.


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

WHEN THE WORST THING COMES...

I held her hand, clasped in both of my own, and because it is still too raw (the hearts still bleed), I cannot and will not go into the details of the deluge of pain that changed everything for her.  But this one thing I remember, as I sat there gazing into questioning and wondering eyes, are her words.  The words were not phrased in a question, thank God, because I had no answers.  I still don't.

"The very thing I feared the most," that mama said, tearful, "has already happened.  Nothing else can be worse than this."

And the next morning, my heart still haunted by it all, I sat at my writing desk and wrote the following words:

"Will I still believe?"

And then...words not written by my hand landed hard on my heart.

"Will you still love Me?"

That whisper belonged to the One that made me, as if He was continuing the thoughts of that same heart - letting me know that He was with me in the silence.  I can hear His Spirit whisper when I can't hear anything else...when the wind is ripping at the world outside, the deluge is pouring down, the earth is trembling, and I, like Elijah the prophet in the Old Testament, stand at the edge of the cave where I have hidden my heart from the pain of life.  He whispers...just like He did then, documented in those pages.  He whispers still.

He even whispers when I hold the hands of the hurting.

In the face of the unfair, will we still believe that He is who He says He is?

Some questions, you answer in a whisper, down deep in the blood and bones because verbalizing the words just aren't enough

And just now, as I think of all this, I read words written by Ann Voskamp (one of the hearers of the God-whisper).  Please read the full post at her blog at www.aholyexperience.com, under the title "When You Just Want God to Show Up and Answer Your Prayers".

"Faith is this unwavering trust in the heart of God in the hurt of here."

We don't always get our prayers answered the way we think we should, but the trying of faith is right there, Ann relays in her poetic way (I summarize).  That is where we learn to believe Him, when there really is no reason to.  Even if He doesn't answer, even if the worst fear comes and gnaws our hearts into a myriad of pieces, will we still believe?  Or will we know that the worst can happen and sometimes does, but God will always be right there in the midst of it?

Will we still love Him and believe in His love, to the very end, after the worst has happened?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Thoughts of the Baby Prince

We who live in the United States are so far removed from the world of the United Kingdom, of England, of the celebrations in the streets over a baby few of the countrymen will ever be privileged to see - more or less, hold in loving arms.  And yet, on the world news, the world around this monarchy stopped when the news came that Prince William and Princess Kate had a baby boy, finally.

"A Prince is Born!" the headlines shout.

Millions of champagne bottles were purchased.  Visitors filled neighborhood pubs to toast in the arrival.  People took off from work to stand in front of the hospital where the 8-pound-6-ounce baby boy burst forth from his mother's body into the awaiting universe.

I sat and watched momentarily awed at the semblance of honor and prestige - much as I had done two years ago.  Funny that two years ago, when this baby's parents wed in a ceremony witnessed round the world with much fanfare, I sat much as I did when their son entered the world.  Awed and aching with love for a relationship, for a family to be built.

And then I had the thought this morning after: this baby boy had been anticipated by his parents and the world.  I wondered if everyone wondered about this child that had been carried for over half a year, who he would be and the lives he would touch and if he would ever be king one day.  If nothing else, he was born into a royal lineage and that would be enough.  He was a born prince, loved by a whole nation and a monarchy.

My thoughts turned to my own child to be or already being carried in my womb and most certainly in my heart.  Who would this child be?  Would the world he was destined to be born into be ultimately glad regarding his arrival?  Would he like a prince in a Kingdom, be a world-changer?  Who was this child to be?

As his mother, I already know he is meant to be great or else he would never have come this way.  Just as Prince William and Princess Kate took precious time with their son, the baby prince, my husband and I will be honored to love him and raise him and prepare him for a world that needs him one day.

Another thought crossed my mind, as I considered the thousands of other children sharing the baby prince's birthday but not his lineage.  A whole nation celebrated the arrival of the British baby born into a long-standing monarchy.  But who celebrated when these others were born?  Who cheered and toasted and kissed the cheeks of others at the thought of their arrivals?  Who loved them?

And finally, it occurred to me that this is the response that every baby deserves to have.  Every child deserves to have his or her presence heralded and appreciated.  But this is not always the case.  If it were, there would be no need for me to be an advocate for so many.  I wonder, though, if we have the chance every day to love children like a whole nation today loves a baby prince today.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

THE BLOOD OF A CHILD

It has taken me some time to write anything concerning the Trayvon Martin murder trial and the resulting decision regarding it, although I have posted a few comments on my Facebook about it.  The truth is I love children and teens of all races, nationalities, and backgrounds, desiring to advocate for as many as humanly possible (most especially those in foster care or living in poverty), and this case has ripped my heart from my chest.  It has grieved my heart so.  It has taken my breath from me.

I am in shock.

In the midst of all the media attention turning the trial away from Trayvon's life so quickly snuffed out and toward the right of a grown man to "defend himself", I want to return our attention to the overlooked reality. The real question posed to the jury from day one wasn't whether George Zimmerman had a right to defend himself and his neighborhood from a supposed threat in the embodiment of a 17-year-old.  The question, the bottom line, was this and will always be this:

Did George Zimmerman have the right to kill a child?

Did George Zimmerman have the right to shoot a child in the heart and leave him bleeding on the ground because Trayvon, for all intents and purposes, confronted and fought back against him (the perpetrator)?

Did George have that right - to kill a black boy walking through his neighborhood (not once considering that the boy had a right to be there all along)?

Again, did he have the right to kill...A CHILD?

I work in what is endearingly described as "the system."  I work as an advocate to protect the lives of children from infancy through age 17.  I have been an advocate for this population group for many years, long before I became a social worker in the Child Protection division of Department of Human Services.  My eyes have locked eyes with boys that remind me of Trayvon: my words have ministered to and taught boys that wear hoodies, boys that talk on cell phones to girls, and boys that drink Arizona Iced Tea and eat Skittles.  I adore two boys named Davon and Anthony that are around the same age as this boy.  And I would give my life to protect them all.

So, from the moment that I heard about this boy...this boy shot in the heart...I have been heartbroken.  How could anyone pretend like this boy deserved the result that he got?  How could anyone act like the victim was the one that victimized a man that stalked him?  How could the 6 women on that jury forget that the man sitting in the defendant's chair had killed a child?

It was hard to stomach, as I saw boys I knew and had known in the face and demeanor of Trayvon Martin; it was unbelievable that some people had the audacity to think because he wore gold fronts in his mouth and stuck his middle fingers up on Facebook pictures that he was a thug, a delinquent, deserving of death because he fought back.  How many times have I seen teenagers in this generation wearing those?  (Heck, Jill Scott, who is part of my generation, wore them at a concert recently.  Is she, singer extraordinaire, a thug too?)  How many times have I seen pictures of my nieces with middle fingers up to the sky?

Is that the reason Trayvon was dehumanized?

Is that the reason some in our society think George Zimmerman was protected under the law, standing his ground against a CHILD?  While some may think Trayvon was more man than child, I beg to differ.  The laws that I am required to abide by as a sworn-in protector of children clearly state that childhood ends at 18, not 17.  Children can be placed in foster care as a means of protection, even at age 17.  So at what point did a 17-year-old child become public enemy number one?  When did he become a man?  When did he become a man pummeling another man, instead of what he really was - a child fighting back against an unknown assailant, like good parents have taught their children to do when a stranger accosts them?

My hope is that we all learn a lesson from this, even as further litigation against George Zimmerman looms in the near future.  We all have to remember who truly deserves protection in this world.

The children in this generation are worth us taking a second look.  Sometimes the ones we have to protect sag their pants.  Sometimes, they wear gold fronts in their mouths.  Sometimes, they take pictures with their middle fingers up to the world.  Sometimes, they say things that are derogatory or shocking.  Sometimes, they defy logic.  They even fight back when they feel threatened...even in the face of death.

But there is one thing I can say, as a lover of this generation's children.  We as adults have a responsibility to love and protect them.  We have to care about them no matter what they look like, no matter what race they are, no matter what.

People can disagree with me.  That's fine.  But this is my platform and I am using it.

George Zimmerman killed a 17-year-old CHILD (not a man, but a child) in cold blood.  The job of holding him responsible was poorly handled by the 6 women on that jury and I am disappointed in them (these wives, mothers, aunts, women).

They knew he was guilty of murder.  Even now, the news comes out that there was division on the jury - between the ones that knew he was guilty and the ones that didn't want him to be.  The ones that were more concerned about his right to stand his ground after stalking a child forgot about and overlooked that child's right to live - to be a child that enjoyed iced tea and skittles, to be a high school student, to be the pride and joy of his mother and father, to study aeronautics after high school graduation (not to steal or sell dope or end up in prison like Mr. Zimmerman obviously thought).  And yet, at the end of the day, I think we all would have preferred a hung jury rather than the one we ended up with.  (Harsh to say, I know, but truth nonetheless.)

And now, we who live in shock as a result look to governmental leadership that have the authority to pay attention to the blood spilled on the ground and not ignore it.

The spilled blood was the blood of a child.


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

BEFORE YOU GO (My Words to My Nephew at His Graduation Celebration)

 This is to you, the first little boy to ever become a nephew/son of mine.  You have decided, after receiving my begrudged permission, to grow up and become a man.  You have made the step from being one of “my babies” to being a man of your own.  I decided to relinquish my right to protest, namely because I had no other choice but to accept it.  Protesting would do no good.
And these are my words to you…words of love, advice, thoughts to chew on over and over when you are the inhabitant of a dorm room in a few months…

(1)    You are never alone.  The lonely times in life, the times of indecision, and the times of wishful thinking are ones spent with a Creative God, Who will give you the comfort, the wisdom, and the ability to make wishful thinking turn into dreams-come-true.  Lean so hard on Him that you recognize is the the need for His embrace at all times, and you miss it when you aren’t close enough to Him.  He made you and He knows you…better than any of us ever thought we did.  There is so much more to you than meets the eye, but in His eyesight He sees all of you and loves you so very much.
(2)    You have a brilliant, unique mind.  Use it…over and over…every day…to touch a world that seems to have lost its mind.  Exercise the brilliance so others are blinded by it and come stumbling out of darkness and into light.  Shine forth the brilliance that God placed in you before you were born.  “Can’t nobody shine like you.”  Only you can be you.  Celebrate the uniqueness of your presence on this earth and dare to be the unique individual God designed you to be.
(3)    Do not ever sell yourself short.  When you were a baby, I remember thinking how successful my nephew would be one day – all grown up, walking out the lessons you had learned, shaking off the labels atypical to a Black boy growing up in the home of a single mother.  And I knew that your parenting village would never let you grow up hearing that you could only go so far because of it.  I was part of that village; I am sure that I was not alone in saying that you and your brother would never end up in prison or “slanging dope” or trying to figure out how to parent as a teen father.  And I know we never, ever wanted you to see yourself as anything less than the success you were born to be. 
(4)    Be adventurous; don’t let fear control your life.  Go see the world.  Go meet your life connections.  Go learn that language.  Go shake the hands of presidents, kings, and emperors. Go…go…go…but just make sure you bring us back some souvenirs.   And don’t let fear chase you back to what is comfortable.  Faith puts you in places you’ve never been so you can be the man you never realized you could be.
(5)    Love like you were taught to, like today is all you have.  Love will keep you when everything else is gone, when life takes you on a roller-coaster ride.  Your love is all other people will remember when you have moved on, as well.
(6)    Live with passion.  While making a living is something we all have to do, living with passion is something few people have learned to do.  Whatever you find yourself thinking about most, the activity you enjoy doing more than anything else, it is most likely the source of your greatest passion.  Don’t abandon it or neglect it.  You’ll be sorry when you get older that you ignored the passion and chose to just “grind”.

These are my words of wisdom to you as you enter the halls of college education and beyond.  You will learn so much about yourself, life, and God that you will forever be changed by the education.  But one thing I want you to remember…don’t let anyone change the real you into a false representation of somebody else.  Be the man you were born to be.  Love God.  Love your mama and your little brother.  Love family.  Love true friends.  And everything else will fall into place, as it should.

I am proud of you,
Auntie-Mom  (Auntie Mya)


Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Opportunity

I have to admit that I have been jealous.

I have been jealous for what the six women at work with swollen bellies filled with babies feel.  I have been jealous because sometimes I don't know if my body can hold a baby, carry a baby for 9 months.  I thought it would have been easier than it is to become a mom and going to work in the face of due dates and birth plans and baby shower invitations has seemed like too much.  I don't want to consider if I deserve to be a mom more than anyone else, because that is what jealousy really equates to: the thought that you deserve what someone else has more than they do.

I do not want to consider the disappointment and avoid any talk of which one of the 6 moms-to-be are going to see her baby boy or girl before I see mine.  They all will.  Mine only exists, I pray, in the heart of God and in my imagination.  I do not want to admit that tears fill my eyes in ways I never thought they would.  This should have been easier.

The problem with thinking you deserve something other than pain is that God never promised a life void of it.  We get so wrapped up in our grandiose ideas about what being human really should be that we forget that we do not shape our own destinies.  We do not necessarily get to define our own journeys, although we have free will to make our own choices.  If we leave life in God's hands, we might have to hurt a little bit, cry a little bit, pray a little more.  And at the end of the day, we realize that the focus should be on helping others - which really does lessen our own pained experiences.  It gets the focus off what we are going through.

I was jealous.

But then, yesterday, I looked into the eyes of two little children whose foster mother no longer wanted to care for them and their parents aren't currently ready to.  They were "tinies", little ones, babies really that had no place else to go but should have.  I played with them and fumed inside.

At first...

I have to admit I was so angry that these beautiful ones had no one to call mommy at bedtime at night but my body couldn't give me beautiful ones to call me mommy at all.  I felt the tears surge below the surface when I considered the ache in my arms and heart as I watched these little ones run and laugh and play with me.  I felt the "mommy ache" in my soul.

And I was jealous of the parents of these children.  The parents that have their own pained journeys...the parents that will not be tucking their children in tonight...the parents that are not able to parent right now for whatever reason.  They could have had these "tinies" at home with them, but instead, I was standing with their foster care worker trying to find a placement for them because yet another foster home could not love them how they deserved to be loved.  I wondered how I could be beneficial in an already flawed system.  What is worse?  For these to be with their parents or to be shuffled around until someone could love them like children should be loved?

The two sides of my jealousy - the desire to be pregnant like the women surrounding me at work and the desire to love children like these - played games with my heart.  And then...as I am wont to do when I feel overwhelmed and sad, I quieted my soul down.  I let go of the feelings of angst and consternation over what I didn't have in that moment.

The truth is I did have something no one else had in that moment.  I had an opportunity to love those babies right in front of me, in a split second of decision-making.  I could love them and laugh with them and chase them around and let them be kids for just a few moments of their lives.  I could be a safe place, a welcome embrace, a smiling face.  I could be what they missed before showing up in my office with their worker.

I could love them like a mommy.  Even if it was just for five minutes.

Four years ago, a little girl that messed my head up with her blue eyes and blond hair called me "Mommy."  I tried to correct her for obvious reasons, and she wisely told me in her 5-year-old rationale: "But you're like a mommy."

And that has stayed with me ever since.

I am like a mommy because I am a mommy to a million children that don't have one.  I can love in milli-seconds "like a mommy" for those little lives that need me.  I won't make the mistake again thinking that because I didn't birth a child that I can't love that child.  That child is a part of me in that moment.  Those eyes and those smiles and those growing minds are part of my life, and I can touch them.  I can love them.

That's what Jesus did.  That's what I can do.  Right here and right now.

God graced me with a moment in time that I could have wasted with my own selfish feelings and desires - as honorable as they may be.  I could have missed the defining moment in a difficult day in the lives of children whom had crossed my path.  I could have complained my way through about having to stay late at work.  I could have missed my opportunity to be "like a mommy" again.

But I decided that living inside grace for the moment is better than being jealous for a lifetime...

Thursday, May 30, 2013

In Study

So, as is my usual position here at the Department of Human Services, I am actively writing another Home Study for a potential foster family.  I have taken the time to get to know them, in general (because in deep, who is really known all that well?  I am still getting to know myself, soooo....).  But this is my job to write the life story of saints.

Yes, saints....

Because who else would open their doors wide and let strangers inside - strangers that are prying and peeking in cupboards, under beds, in buried pasts and pulling apart the intricate layers of the lives that have been lived?

Who else would let the world all up in their house and place their lives under a microscope?

Who else would be okay with someone with a badge coming into their lives with rules and laws and regulations just so they can take care of children that are orphaned for one reason or another?

Who?

People who in retrospect and in vision have nothing to hide.  People that understand that perhaps their hard beginnings can help little disrupted lives have a better future.  People who don't see themselves as saints, at all.

I am typing the stories of two people who have been through their own private hells.  They have shared with me the reality that they are far from perfect but a perfect love in Christ has brought them near.  Yes, I know I am supposed to act like I don't share their faith when I walk through the DHS doors.  I understand that faith and politics and government intertwined is messy.  But, I think people are messy.  Lives are messy.  And having faith in God is something that can clean my mess up...not all at once, but in time.

I am writing the story so the people that give approval for this family to care for children can know the family.  How hard is that?  How can I introduce two people that are messy in some ways like me?  How can I tell their stories and say that they have the potential to be great foster parents?  How can I say this, knowing that they might make mistakes or have huge opinions about where the children come from or rub some the wrong way - including the parents that birthed the children to the point where they are?  And in the reverse, how can I write fully about the ways their lives have been shaped into more positive influences, despite where they have been and where their journeys have taken them?

As a writer at heart, a scribe, I am simply writing down the souls of the people so others can read them.  I am telling their truths, being honest that they will get tired and make mistakes and wonder if they were crazy some days.  I am writing down how willing they are to swim in the muck and the mire of life with other messy people.  I am writing down how they are willing to be changed by the very children they hope to impact.

Their hearts, these two that I am writing about, are open to the possibilities.

Every Home Study I write makes me wonder and dig deeper and even revisit whether any of us really know what we are getting into.  When you love these children, THESE CHILDREN, it is never easy.  We sign on to be challenged and have our hearts thrown into tailspins and have our lives opened up for the whole world to see.  We sign on to be raised on crosses and crucified in the courtrooms of public opinions.

We sign on to be Christ in the flesh...hands and feet and hearts and minds...willing to lay all that we are and ever were down.

I am writing the story of a family that understands this.  This is part of their story too....the laying down and dying to self.  This is being written and read of men....

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

GRADUATION...FOR MY NEPHEW-SON AND ME...

I am still awed by the journey and praising God for the love.

When I think about the last 18 years of the boy's life, I can only imagine what the next 18 years (God willing) will bring.  I watched him in his cap and gown on Friday night, tears filling my eyes as I realized that the baby whose diaper I changed and whose love for God I loved and whose innocence drew me closer to God myself is now no longer a high-schooler.  He is now a young man heading off to college and beyond.  He is joining his two older sisters in the world of adult decisions, and I am nervous.  Nervous but not scared.

I know what his mother, his father, his grandparents, his Auntie Boo, and I have put in him.  I know, most of all an inkling of what God has put inside him to impact this world.  And I love what I see shining out of his eyes as he looks at the world around him, knowing that he has a place there.

I love that while he may be questioning a long-term career, he is not questioning his self-worth.

I love that God graced me to love a child I did not physically birth but loved like he was my own.

I love that because of God's Presence in his life he can question the world but he doesn't have to question his own reality...because he is who God made him to be.  His future is bright.  And even when he does things that make us all wonder if he heard us guide with wisdom but didn't listen, I know that he will be all right.  The decisions ahead are his to make, but we will always be here loving him no matter what.

His mom and I talked about my place in his life all these years, as his father's sister, as his doting aunt, but also as a member of his parenting village.  I acknowledged as she looked into my eyes with mirror tears that I wasn't just here, hanging out with nothing better to do.  The love I had for this boy-turned-man was the real lesson for me.


This boy is not the only one who graduated this past Friday.

I did too.

I accepted the honor of being his Auntie Mom.  I graduated from one who did not realize how important I was to his development to one who cried a parent's tears at his graduation...tears of pride because I know where he came from and I know where he is going.

He has grown up.

And so have I.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

RESTORATION AND BLESSING: HOW TO LOVE ORPHANED CHILDREN INTO A BLESSED FUTURE

This morning the Lord had me read 2 Samuel 4:4, introducing Mephibosheth - the lame son of Jonathan whom was rescued by his nurse after the death of his father and grandfather.  In that very moment, he had become an orphan, and this woman stood in the gap attempting to rescue him, though her methods caused more distress and brokeness.  Some years after he was taken away and kept safe in a different family and home (foster care), King David found about him (after asking if there was anyone left in King Saul's family that he could bless).

The generational blessing intended for him through his father and his grandfather was restored to him, once King David found out that he even existed.  King David gave him inheritance from his father's line and heritage.  Mephibosheth was not only restored to that lineage; he was also adopted into the King's family as one of King David's sons.  How powerful is that?

How powerful would this lesson be in the lives of any child in foster care or adoptive care - the lesson and reality that the good things, the beneficial bloodline gifts and the adopted gifts and inheritance from a new family are true for each one? 

Despite the crippled result of being taken from his biological family that Mephibosheth endured for the rest of his life, he was later treated like royalty because generationally and by adoption, he was royalty.  He was an adult, not a little orphan boy any more (at least not physically).  Yet, King David gave him what he had always needed - what had been forfeited from the night his nurse took him into "care" to the point where he lived with a different family to the point where he was restored to his rightful place in the Kingdom of David (as an adopted son).  King David restored his identity by this one act of kindness in 2 Samuel 9.

This man started out as an orphan after losing his family, after death and loss entered in, but his story wasn't over.  That is the powerful thing that must be translated through this story to children and youth today.  The crippled orphan's story wasn't over.  God is still writing it with the pen in His hand.

Although Mephibosheth entered life as a prince with royal blood, but because of certain dangerous and even selfish decisions made by his grandfather (which affected his father), he ended up in foster care (separated from his family but kept safe in "the house of Machir, the son of Ammiel, in Lo-debar").  The way the Bible describes the location where Mephibosheth was found indicates that he was always looked at as simply a member of the household but not part of the family.  While he was kept safe and even given the chance to move on with his life, despite the losses of his childhood, there was always a sense of identity missing.  The family he lived with never gave him an identity within their family's lineage nor did they celebrate him being King Saul's grandson.

But King David did.  He did not treat Mephibosheth as the descendent of a king that disobeyed God.  He reminded him that he did come from a royal line; he did come from a place of majesty.  And not, only that, he accepted him as a King's kid.

For me, this is what foster parents and adoptive parents have to do for children that may be crippled by the foster care system.  They have to restore their identities and also give them a future.  This doesn't mean the process will be easy.  It will take some convincing.  King David even had to convince Mephibosheth that he was being placed in his rightful place simply because of who he was.  How do we do this for children and youth that really have had their identities stripped due to circumstances and situations outside themselves?

I have to say, as a substitute parent, aunt, and former foster care worker that each time we do this, it is an individual work.  Each child must have someone see them for who they are and love them simply because of who they are - not primarily because of who they are biologically related to, though I believe every family has a good inheritance (even if it has been forfeited).  This is of supreme importance to the next generation - particularly those living in Lo-debar.  This is what the call to care really means.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

New Direction, New Season, Renewed Passion

The mode for my life, my writing, my heart for ministry has again shifted.  I have decided after much thought that the main goal of this blog is bring attention to orphan care, foster care, and adoption, as well as my love for writing and my love for family.  It has taken some time to focus in on what I should be writing about, what my goal is for this platform, and today, after some serious thought, I realized that the main focus has to be more than me and my ideas and beliefs (although they may be in there somewhere).

I work as a foster home licensing worker (as my day job and heart beat/ministry).  I know people say that you shouldn't make your job your life in today's economy but one thing I had to ask myself was:  "What would I be doing if I wasn't doing this?"  And my answer is:  "This."  If I wasn't getting an income from this would I still feel this ache in my chest for the orphans (children in foster care, children that are displaced, children in need of families)? 

Unabashedly, yes.  Unashamedly, yes. 

I would find a way to reach children and youth that are on the edge of society, that are living in the marginalized areas of our world, even if that world is around the corner or down the street.  I was doing this work before I got to my position in the agency I work for and will be doing it long after my tenure is up.

That is what real ministry is.  That  is what real love is.  That is real passion.  If I wasn't in the location I am in, would I still care?

Today, at lunch time, I thought about how all roads in my life have led here.  As sunshine kissed my face and I wrote in my journal, I thought about how the family issues and the path I have traveled in such a seemingly round about way have led right here.  I even considered how this uncanny love for laws and policies and regulations have led here, because how can you right wrongs when you don't know the laws of the land?

Some years ago when I completed college in Grand Rapids, I thought I would travel far from the place where I am now sitting.  I never wanted to work in child welfare because quite frankly, I didn't think the ideals I stood for could mesh with the ideals child wefare agencies sometimes stand for.

But no one could have told me that my niece's journey through foster care would have opened up this desire within me to advocate for children and youth, to question even my own selfish motives and plans, to restructure everything so that my life would not be so hypocritical.  But here I am...and now I am deciding to let my writing be shaped by this call and passion for finding loving homes for children that are not able to remain with their biological families.

So, I believe because I say yes everyday, God finds a way to put my money where my mouth is, challenging me even beyond what a job description demands...because I would still be doing this, if there was no job description boxing me into the beaurecratic structure of things in child welfare.  There is indeed room for laws, but there is equal room for passion and faith and love and prayer.

So the focus, at least for right now, is this call and where it takes me and the way lives all around me are being changed.  I read a lot of blogs that have a focus and a pivotal point upon which all the posts are based. 

This is mine.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Oh the Places You'll Go...

In a few short weeks, the oldest of my nephews will be walking across a stage, handed a diploma, well on his way to the next season.  It's supposed to happen this way - him as man, him as no longer boy, him as no longer baby.  He hasn't been a baby in quite some time, but it was easier to ignore when he was slinging a backpack across his shoulders and heading out the door to the high school down the street.  It was easier to ignore the man emerging from boy, as the thin mustache and curls sprouting from his chin masqueraded as a beard that wasn't quite...beard.  It was easier to hear him call me "Auntie Mom" in his softly masculine voice, caring about things and thinking about life and observing everything before making decisions that could affect the rest of his life.

But...this boy turned man overnight, it seems...like he went down for one of his long naps like the baby he was to me and woke up the man he is.  On Easter Sunday this year, he went to church with Mr. and I, soaking in the knowledge and awareness of what Christ had done for all of us sitting in the sanctuary.  I cried at the enormous love God has for us.  And then he cried his own private tears.

Afterwards, I made it my intention to take him to shake the hand of the pastor that used to hold him on his lap as a tinie.  The look on Pastor Glenn's face was something that stays with me still - the look that spoke volumes.  He turned to me with wide eyes, holding this man's hand, with surprise and shock that time really does pass, and men that used to be babies actually do grow up and conquer the world.

I nodded with tears in eyes and a smile on my face - saying silently that, yes, this was the very nephew he mentored before the boy knew what mentorship was.  Yes, this was him all grown up.  Yes, the boy-turned-man was indeed eye to eye with him, smiling and full of life experiences and some wisdom.  Yes, this was him...still with me, in that moment.

"He is graduating from high school this year, next month," I said softly.

And the pastor hugged the boy-turned-man, whom embraced back...happy.

And now, here we are in May, a few short weeks away, and he will don a cap and gown with his grown-man swagger.  He will walk with purpose and passion as my tears stream down.  I am sure I will embarrass my family, but they know how much I love this boy-turned-man with the adoration of an auntie-mom.  They know I have sacrificed much for love; the miracle was expected.  I knew this would happen when I would rock him to sleep all those years ago.  He is successful already - not because of money or fame or acclaim, but because his spirit is in tact.

Last week, I read Dr. Seuss' story book Oh, The Places You'll Go to my husband as we sat in Barnes and Noble, enjoying tea and magazines.  I want to read this book to my nephew, my boy-turned-man.  I choked back tears even then, even though I still had time before we would read it together.

All I could see as my husband listened and watched the story unfold, much like a little boy himself was how time does bring about changes.  I'm not always ready for changes like this one; right now in view of what is about to happen, I feel a lot like Ann Voskamp in the blog post she wrote yesterday ("4 Steps to Take When You're Not Ready for Change").  She wrote about the very same thing in relation to her son.  (If you have a chance, please read it here:  http://www.aholyexperience.com/2013/05/4-steps-to-take-when-youre-not-ready-for-change/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+HolyExperience+%28Holy+Experience%29)

Anyone that knows me, knows that I am a very passionate person, especially when it comes to the boy-turned-man and his siblings.  They have enamored me, held my heart in their hands, frustrated me, drove me crazy, loved me back.  I want them to be just as passionate about family and life and dreams and goals and GOD, most of all.  I want them to feel fire burning deep within when they talk about these passions like I do...when I talk about them.

This boy-turned-man looked me in my eye and told me that his trip this past spring break to our home would be one of the last.  "Soon, I'll be in college, Auntie-Mom, and won't be able to visit as much."

Of course, I wanted to say, you will be gone to the wide world out there with the intent to make an impact.  Of course, Nephew, you will be in college, learning and growing.

But, instead, I smiled through my tears, and thought..."You will go so many places, but I hope you won't forget where you've been.  The biggest impact is the one you've already made...right here."



Thursday, May 2, 2013

Elijah Moments, Part Deux

On Tuesday this week, my supervisor and I attended one of my historical moments.  Yes, one of MY historical moments when I came face to face with the passion and vision I thought no one else shared.  The people in the "Michigan Foster Care and Adoption: Faith-Based Summit" made me glad that day, just a little bit more, that Jesus is the Lord of Life, and  His Redemptive Work is still impacting lives everywhere -- and not just in my backyard and not just in my head.  The people in that room made history for me.

There was the bishop from Brownsville, Texas (Bishop Aaron Blake) that challenged whole churches and communities not to turn a blind eye to the plight of orphans living right there. 

There was Mary Hiatt, whom was herself abandoned in Korea as a baby but later adopted by a loving couple that is loving her from Heaven, watching her establish a foster care and adoption support network of other families. 

There was Trooper Sanders who remembered the family that cared for him when his parents couldn't, and now, because of their support, he is slogging away in political seats in Washington, making history in his own way as the founder of Wise Whisper.

There was Ta'sheema Jones-Murray, whom had lived through far more pain and misery than I could ever imagine in foster and adoptive care, but whom also has grabbed her future by the horns and held on - riding right into the next phase of life with her graduation from Ferris State University this month. 

There was Pastor Christopher Brooks with his wife, adopting three children and never having their own, and now, encouraging his ministry to love the fatherless and motherless.

There was Beth Harris, choking back tears at how the North Ridge Church body of members has made Foster Care and Adoption ministry a mainstay at their church.

There was Tennison Barry of Foster Hope, giving feedback about what churches and faith communities can do for the children and families that need them so desperately.

There was the President and Chief Executive Officer of Foster Care and Adoption Navigators, Michigan Adoption Resource Exchange, and the Heart Gallery - doing great work but most of all loving a girl named Ta'Sheema, whom will be walking across the Ferris State stage to receive her diploma...her family is his family.

All these people reminding me, like God reminded Elijah, that the vision is always much bigger than the problem.  It is always much bigger than any of us.  And thank God for that...that He works on a grander scale...

Friday, April 26, 2013

Elijah Moments

God is good...at deflating the air out of my spiritual balloon.

I have learned that in the last four months, these beginning moments of 2013. All the time I thought I had my plans and opinions, He was demonstrating the spread of His great intentions into the lives and environments in a nondescript region. There is no place on this earth His Kingdom cannot reach; a community that looks like it is dead to growth and faith always has a remnant of people that believe.

And I have met them...and I have met the purposes of God for the children, families, and community that appeared to have missed their moment.

St. Clair County Michigan has one of the highest rates of unemployment in the state. Statistics say that the community has high poverty rates and this may be one of the contributing factors to substance abuse, domestic violence, child abuse and neglect, and any number of societal ills that make it a difficult place to live and thrive.  But as I have had the privilege to learn many times in my life, that is a ripe opportunity for God to show Himself strong on behalf of those that believe in Him.

And I have met these people.  I am not the only one.  I am not the only one that believes God can heal  children, families, communities, cities, nations, this world.  And in the mindset of Elijah in 1Kings 19, I honestly thought I was all alone.

I've met these ones hidden in plain sight, infiltrating the hard places.  They live in the neighborhoods. They work and live and thrive in the places where the statisticians must have overlooked.  God has blessed them and then placed Kingdom ministry in their hearts.  These ones are opening hearts, lives, doors, homes to reach the brokenhearted, the abandoned, the abused, the neglected, the orphans, the widows.

And I have cried more than once at the awesome power of God, working right under the nose of the enemy of our souls - under the nose of the one whom has tried to bring the doomsday predictions to life in this region where I have been placed to make a difference.  I am awestruck and wonder struck. I have realized not only the error of my ways - believing that a city is not worth saving (like Jonah believed about Nineveh) - but the beautiful ways of redemption at work.

The Elijah Moments I have had in the last few months has taught me much about how the plans of God are never interrupted by circumstances.  He is not in the business of depending wholly on one person to save a city; He is the Great All in All and the Great I Am.  He works through relationship with others that take Him at His Word and dare to believe that they have purpose within that relationship.  Their purpose is fully wrapped up inside His.  So God forbid we think that we are ever the "only ones".

I stand corrected...and I stand amazed...

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Change of Habit

Seven years ago, I developed a great habit of running away.

It was a wonderful feeling to be escaping in my car toward time with God and writing just as Spring time was erupting over the gray horizon of Winter with it's cold and apparent inconsiderate snow and ice and wind.  I would pack for a few days and go one of two places that I lived the whole preceding year for.  Some years I would go to both places, feeling doubly blessed.

The first escape was to the Calvin College Festival of Faith and Writing held bi-annually on the school's beautiful campus in Grand Rapids.  For three days, I would be surrounded by writers and artists and readers...loving the atmosphere and feeling entirely happy being with so many word-lovers and bookworms.  The first time I went in 2004 I thought I was in Heaven on earth - the very best place I could be.

The second mode of escapism was to the Revolution Christian Ministries' Annual Retreat, re-named every year to signify the spiritual season that the time of worship and praise of God, teaching, and fellowship away from the distractions, craziness, and monotony of life represented.  I longed for that environment all year long.

Those events have been my habits...my good and nurturing habits that feed the writer and worshipper of God that I strive to be, that truly I have always been.

But this year...so much has changed...and these habits have followed suit.  My new life as a married woman has been a new blessing and joy.  The life I had before definitely led to this moment - those times of attending a Book Festival and a Church Retreat led to this.

But, I didn't bargain for how some things change that you really don't want to.

The Festival is next year....no escape this year.

The Retreat is for members of the Church I called home until this year, when I had to find a new Church to attend with my husband.  So, no escape there either.

My post today is not a complaint; it is more an acknowledgment that I need a new place to escape to and this time with the man God blessed me to love.  Life does bring changes and with those changes, new habits.  One thing I am realizing about marriage, which is something I have truly longed for, is the development of new traditions and good habits that make each union unique.  So basically, as my life is changing I am wondering how God will establish us together, find new places for us to escape to, because unlike what some believe, retreat is actually a good thing in some instances.

Leaving distraction and tiredness and trying environments with equally trying people are the winds of change that give your wings the motivation to soar to a place closer to the throne of God.  And that is what this time of year needs to be for us now.  My prayer is that God will give us the place of rest we can physically escape to.

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Teachers That Helped Make Me


This morning for my devotional reading in the "Names of God: Exploring God's Character" book, the theme was God as Teacher.  He is called a "Teacher" several times in the Old and New Testament.  Sometimes when we read the Bible, we read it as a distant observer, but this morning as I contemplated what the word "teacher" means, I thought about the teachers I have had throughout my life.  I thought about these teachers that have made the greatest impact on me, why they mattered, why I remember them even years later, and how their positions in my life can compare to God's role in my life today.

The first teacher that came to mind was my fourth grade teacher, Miss Gail.  Her name was actually Gail Battaglia, and in my eyes, as tough as she was on me and the other students in my class, she was an amazing teacher.  She made my experience at Southeast Academic Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan as a fourth grader something that stayed with me.  Even today, if I was able to teach as a career, I would pattern my teaching style after hers.  Miss Gail was the type of teacher that desired for her students to be proud of themselves, no matter what environment they came from.

She saw the importance of challenging our young minds, even when we would rather be lazy.  One of the main reasons she made an impact on my life is that she encouraged us to read by reading good books to us.  My favorite memory of her class was her reading "Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry" by Mildred Taylor out loud.  I would gaze out the window and listen to Cassie's story in this book, knowing that the fictional tale paid homage to the world my grandparents had grown up in down South.

The next teacher that crossed my mind was my fifth grade teacher at Robert Burns Elementary School in Detroit, Michigan.  During this season in my life, my family life was in uproar, and in fact, we lived in a foreign environment, as I had never been to Detroit.  Yet, we found ourselves living on Hubbell Street in the midst of chaos and confusion.  Despite these elements in my life, Mrs. Burns (no relation to the man whose name the school bore) gave me a place of refuge and escape in her classroom.  She loved me and saw me as a student with promise - a student very different from some others in her class that would rather play than learn.

(Last weekend, my husband, nephew, and I drove right by the house where I had lived and the same elementary school, and I thought of her - the bright light in my otherwise dismal world.  I always wondered what happened to her, always questioned if she wondered what had happened to me.  I never forgot how she saw me for who I was and gave me a place to use my voice in her classroom.)

I went to two elementary schools in my fifth grade year.  The next teacher after Mrs. Burns was Mr. Vander (although, if my recollection is correct, his full last name was Mr. VanderLee).  He worked at Hillcrest Elementary in Grand Rapids.  My family had moved back there after a series of unfortunate incidents that were really answered prayer.  So, I found myself in his class halfway through the fifth grade year, playing catch-up.  Despite the transition, he picked up where Mrs. Burns left off and paid attention to my love of writing and art.  He paid for me to attend the Young Authors Festival that takes place at Calvin College the following Spring.  He took me to this event with two other students and even then, I realized how much it meant to be chosen because of my love affair with books and art.  This was one of the greatest experiences of my life as little girl.

These teachers represented certain aspects of God in my life that I recognize now as I look back in retrospect.  Miss Gail represented how God challenges us to learn, to grow, to appreciate the lives we have been blessed with.  When she read to us, this was representative of how God has never failed to use words to teach me - His life-giving Word - so I can effectively use it as I encounter more of life.  The written word anchors us to a certain time, place, and season.  God birthed in man the ability to write so the message of life could be conveyed in a way that transcends time and space.  Some things never fail to have an impact - most especially when written down and treasured.

Mrs. Burns exemplified how God never forgets about us; He still sees us in the most dismal of circumstances and that acknowledgment gives us permission to live.  That is what she did in the short time that I crossed her path and she crossed mine.  She was an amazing teacher, not because of what she taught in the fifth grade curriculum, but because she let me know I mattered to her.  That is just what God does when we are at our wits end, and we struggle with being able to see our way out of tough times.  He lets us know that we matter more than we realize.  He reminds us that He placed us on this earth, at a certain location, in specific circumstances and situations for a reason - to give Him glory.

Mr. Vander was the voice and action of God in my life.  He not only sees us, sees our potential, but invested Christ so that we could experience life more abundantly - the fullest extent.  This is no small thing.  The Blood of Christ was the greatest price paid; when He shed that blood for us, it solidified our worth.  The  other thing that Mr. Vander showed me by caring about my talents and passions was that I was born to stand out.  I was chosen to attend a young writer's program with two other students out of the other 30 children in his class.  This is not to say that there weren't others with talent, but he felt that my attendance would benefit me and the path that I was born to follow.

God does this too.  He selects us to follow a certain destiny, even when we have a hard time believing in ourselves.  I struggle with this even today, but God still places me in positions to flow in the passions He placed within and it is at these points that I see myself as He does.  When I am placed in an environment that bears witness with who I was born to be, I shine.  When I shine, this brings even greater glory and praise to God.

When I read that God is a Teacher this morning, it meant more when I was able to see the role these influential teachers played in my life.  They had characteristics that are reminiscent of the character of God.  That is why they made the impact they did in my life.  Impact is only made when God's Presence and Character shines through the lives of individuals in the world around us.


Friday, March 29, 2013

Remembrance...of HIM (Yeshua)

I cried this morning on my way to work as I watched the sunrise from car windows giving me a glimpse of the world speeding toward full morning.  These are what tears of joy and gratefulness and remembrance look like, when I think of HIM, this Jesus that the world dares not to believe in.

I thought of all the ways I believe in HIM, and this is the day that I am more aware of HIS Presence, because of what HE did for me.  Who knew that I would need a Savior, that grace is the bread torn representing HIS BODY and the wine poured is HIS BLOOD shed.  The very thought that I could be in the car this morning, driving my safe life to an office building, hoping to make a difference in the lives of HIS babies, was amazing.  HE, who died, gave me life and I am living it and at the time of a sunrise on Good Friday, I am more grateful than I have ever been before.  I am grateful that I can see the sun one more day on this earth, but I am also grateful one day I will gave into HIS face for eternity.

HE will shine on me, and all the pain of this world will no longer matter.  I believe we will remember this journey to grace as a distant memory as love enshrouds us.

I have told others "Thank you" for a variety of gifts and hugs and moments that my life was made easier by something they had done for me.  But, saying "Thank You" to the GOD that created me, that has never once thought me insignificant and in fact, gave my life value when HE laid HIS SON (HIMSELF) down for me...it was almost too much to consider as the tears streamed down and my heart melted.  How can I not be in love with HIM when HE is so clearly in love with me?

HE doesn't care about all the times I lost faith.  HE restored it.

HE doesn't care about all the times I yelled and screamed and fought, acting far less like one of HIS and more like one of those that nailed HIM.  HE quieted me with HIS songs of love and deliverance.

HE doesn't care about the times I made mistake after mistake or just called them mistakes, when I knew good and well that I was doing my dirt on purpose.  HE told me to sin no more and then proceeded to show me how a little bit more everyday.

HE doesn't care that others hate me or mistreat me because HE doesn't measure how HE loves me against how others don't.  HE shows me how to treat them with love as they are because HE does the same for me - never giving up on that love to do the work that physical intervention never could.

HE never once asked those critical ones if loving me enough to die for me was worth it.  HE didn't need their opinion since the GOD that created me thought of me before anyone on this earth ever laid eyes on me.

HE never once judged me according to man's standards; instead, HE held a higher standard up to me and said "I came to give you life, life more abundantly."

So this morning, yes...I cried like a baby when I felt HIM nearer than ever.  I thanked HIM profusely as I considered even in my limited thinking and finite mind how miraculous it was that I even could form the word in my mouth.  HE made this mouth.  And I was so glad that this day ever happened, though it breaks my heart that it had to.  I am still so glad that HE did give up HIS life for me because I don't even think I could give up my life for me, more less anyone else.

This is Good Friday.  A Good God Day, as one of my foster mothers that care for the babies that need love told me once, a day of deep remembrance, the day I was on HIS mind thousands of years ago.  We have a GOOD GOD and if CHRIST hadn't died today, I wouldn't be alive to know it.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

AND THIS IS WHY I GOT MARRIED...

He listens to me rant and rave about the unfair complexities of the world and he agrees with most of it.  I scream "Not fair!" and he listens to me.  That is why I got married.

Not because I now have someone that will agree with me when I am offended, but to have someone challenge me to grow beyond it.

"Be the one that takes away pain from people, not the one that imposes it on them."

I stop short, wonder what he means, and then when he explains, I think that maybe God has sent me someone that sees my heart and doesn't misconstrue my passion for obsessive compulsion.  He sees me as "Care Bear", the name that he has given me - the husband renaming his wife with something more than a last name change.  It made me smile the first time he called me that, when I unveiled my big ol' heart that I want so desperately to hide sometimes because being this passionate about anything can be embarrassing.

"Be the one that takes pain from people, not the one that imposes it on them."

I am not perfect.  He sees that and reminds me that it is okay to not be.  He reminds me that I do not have to live up to other people's standards of living.  The only Person I have to please is God, so it's fine if I need a Savior sometimes.  Everyday.  All the time.  It's okay if I have enemies so long as Jesus is my Friend.  Life wouldn't be worth living if I didn't have someone that used to love me, treat me like Judas treated Jesus.  I'm not Jesus but betrayal is a painful part of being human.

How will I respond? my husband basically asked when he sent me this statement via text today.  Will I be the same passionate person that has the Care Bear heart or will I retaliate with anger or pain or rejection of other people.  He knows that even though I want to put the Care Bear on the shelf, I can't.  Not when my heart aches at the pains of the world at the end of the day.

This is why God sent me him.

Because he, though he proclaims that he is not sensitive, is teaching me that being sensitive is the only way I can survive all that I see and experience on a daily basis.  And my little world is better the more I operate in my lane, the more I shine my Care Bear stare on the world around me.

"Be the one that takes pain from people, not the one that imposes it on them."

Words to live by.   And I thank God for him for reminding me of who I am.


                                                                        "Care Bear Stare!"








Tuesday, March 5, 2013

This Morning...Six Years Later...

This morning I drove in - gray clouds on one side of my car windows' view and a pink rising sun-sky on the other, reminding me of yesterday and today all in one look.  I am singing with all my might to the God that created that sky and that morning and me, all over again but definitely not the same.  I am thinking of this day as it was 6 years ago today, but also what it means today, with my world so upside-down and never conceived of in my mind those many sunrises ago when I could never imagine being or remotely living without my "dad".

I don't want to think of the sad way my heart beat those years back, when there was no brightness to my day awaiting me.  I think instead that he is not so much gone as he is somewhere else, somewhere I'm not physically.  But I am most spiritually aware that when I sing as loud as I am, my voice is reaching up to where he is, where they all are, all the people that ever mattered to me and knew Jesus as Savior before they breathed their last.  He is where my song is flung.  And not only that, he is where my children are now existing in the heart of our Creator.  My "dad" will see my son and daughter before I do, and that gives me so much peace, as I drive in today.

It may sound weird to others that do not believe in God or what He does or what He will always do.  But just like I know the man that went home to be with Him six years ago today is very much alive, my son and daughter not yet manifested physically on this earth exist with God in a place my eyes cannot see.  My body is preparing for their arrival before conception has even taken place.  They live in God's mind and heart, just like I did before I was born.  God knew me before I was ever formed in my mother's womb.  He thought of me then just he thinks of my and Mr.'s children now.

I think of these little ones that will spend time here on earth making an impact and being that seed that will continue to help bruise the enemy's head.  They will live here and be everything God ever intended.  They have parents and grandparents that are praying for them already, and how powerful is that?  How powerful is it to have people praying for your arrival before you are even aware that you have somewhere to be?

Today, I thought of all this, as I sang and thought and prayed.  My destination was not so much an office building, but a place of worship where I could touch those who were here and have gone on, then touch those who have never been here but will be soon.  It didn't matter what I would face today.  Everyday life is not really what we realize anyway.  We live physically but the eternal is all that matters.  And to me that is all that really has my attention.

I thought of a smile that I miss desperately, but feel all the time, like the sunshine I crave for now because winter has lasted too long.  I thought of smiles I have never seen but one day will.  And I sang louder....


Friday, February 15, 2013

I GET TO....

Spend my afternoon eating really amazing food with a really amazing man, saying I love you over and over (without speaking a single word, because love warrants that you don't have to)...

Spend my life with a person that can annoy me into loving him just a little bit more everyday....

Consider that one day there will be a baby that looks like him - the perfect smile, full lips, beautiful eyes, chiseled nose....

Consider that he chose me just like I chose him and we both don't regret our choices (not today, not ever).....

Hold hands, fingers intertwined, walking through the mall where for once I get to pick him out something to wear....

Hold him in my arms, hugged close, heart to heart...

Forget that Valentine's Day is not just about him catering to me....

Forget the times when Valentine's weekend was just another time period on a calendar dating back to yesteryear, when it was never acknowledged as having anything to do with my life or as a moment to celebrate....

Know that no matter what we aren't the same as we were yesterday or last year or ten years ago......

Know that we are...right where we are...supposed to be....no longer separate individuals journeying through life but together...