Y is for You #AtoZChallenge

A to Z Letter YToday is a shout out to those who carried us through this adoption journey, who prayed diligently for us, who prayed for our birth mom, who generously provided references, who encouraged us through the rough patches, who rejoiced with us when we were matched, who grieved with us when matches fell through, who counseled us, who reminded us of God’s tender mercies and perfect timing, and who ultimately praised the Lord with us when we brought our sweet son home.

You are appreciated.

You are valued.

You are important.

You are reflections of grace.

You are sources of strength.

You are cherished.

You are LOVED.

You-are-Loved

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I is for Inner Circle #AtoZChallenge

A to Z Letter IFrom the beginning of our adoption journey, we had a small group of friends with whom we shared the details of what was going on.  These were close friends, people we knew we could trust completely, who would rejoice with us and grieve with us through the ups and downs, and who would faithfully pray for us throughout.  Several of these dear friends honored us by providing references.  What an act of love that was to us, and as much as I love language, I can’t find adequate words to express how grateful we are to them.

We needed this group.  I needed this group, especially.  I needed some pals who knew, intimately, what I was going through.  I needed friends to confide in when I needed to talk…share…vent, and I did all of those things.

venting sessions

What I (we) also needed was a group of friends who, while they knew all the details of our experience, shared many other things in common with us, so that we could go out together, have play dates with our kids, laugh, cry, and talk…all without ever discussing our adoption.  We talked about it when we needed to, and the rest of the time we lived life with these friends.

This was not a large group of friends.  Sure, most everyone who has known us during the past 10 years knows we were somewhere in the process of adoption, but most did not know the details.  We didn’t talk about it a lot, not even between the two of us.  Our biological son knew that we wanted to adopt a child, and he prayed diligently for a sibling, but he didn’t know about the sadness we felt over not being matched the first time around; he didn’t know about the matches that fell through; and he didn’t really know about his baby brother until it was a foregone conclusion.  We wanted to protect him from the ups and downs of the journey, and we proverbs 4 23felt we needed to protect him from the disappointment of the disruptions.  He didn’t need to have that heaviness on his heart at age eight, not when he needed to focus his attention on school, and friends, and play.  We also didn’t want him to start feeling as though God was disappointing him by not answering his prayers.  We knew that wasn’t the case, but it’s sometimes hard to convince myself, and I’m a lot older than eight.

Frankly, we wanted to protect ourselves, too.  We didn’t want every conversation to start with answering adoption questions and giving adoption updates.  There were so many months when nothing happened, so there was nothing to tell anyway, so we intentionally stayed quiet about it.  Especially with the matches that fell through, because worse than dealing with it between the two of us (and sending an update to our inner circle), was to have to address it over and over and over with everyone we knew.  So we didn’t share much of what happened with many.

Now that it’s all over…and with a happy outcome…I want to share our story.  First and foremost, I want to have it written down for us, and especially for our adopted son to one day read.  However, I also want to share it publicly, so that those who know us and are curious about our story can read it, and those who are considering adoption can get a glimpse of what it is like.

silly girlfriendsWe still have the inner circle, and we (I especially) still need it from time to time.  Things come up, and they are not only cherished friends in whom we can confide, they are riotously fun friends that laugh and enjoy our quirky silliness, and they are praying friends who lift us up to the Lord regularly.  There are no better friends than that, and I am grateful for them.

Red Ink is Mean, and Other Random Thoughts

red inkYes, you read the title right.  Apparently, red ink is too mean, and teachers can no longer use it to grade students’ work.  Well, so says the administration at Mounts Bay Academy near Penzance, Cornwall, England.  Here is the news article.  If you think this is an isolated case, think again.  I’ve heard these stories for years, and this is just another step in the utter wussification of the current generation.  But no worries, it’s just a first world problem.  Carry on…

Feeding the political junkie that is me requires a lot of reading.  It’s fortunate I love both…politics & reading.  The thing is, there comes a point where personal sanity is at stake.  Seriously, there are days when I have to laugh at the absurdity of our current political situation, otherwise I would cry.

In the interest of seeing the absurdity in action, watch this:

I feel the same way about the increasing hostility toward all things Christian.  It’s not all things religious, because the vitriol does not spew toward Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Druidism, Wiccan, Agnosticism, Atheism, and any number of others the way it spews towardwar on christianity anything Christian.  I do not get it.  In the United States, the only country in the world that has religious freedom codified into its Constitution, Christianity is becoming the unpopular, ugly stepchild that is fun to pick on because those of us who believe in Christ are not as “enlightened” or “cool” as those who don’t.  If I didn’t laugh (somewhat bitterly), I would cry.

Lest you think the above is exaggeration, I direct you to this blog post outline the lawsuit filed by Mike S. Adams against University of North Carolina – Wilmingtion, accusing them of violating his First Amendment rights by denying him promotion to full professor because of his religious and political beliefs.  Next, read this column by Mike S. Adams himself.  Finally, note here, herehere, and here that he won his trial, and UNC-W was found to have violated his First Amendment rights by denying him this promotion.  A judgment for damages is still pending, and yes <sigh>, UNC-W is considering an appeal.

Oh, and then there’s Bill Maher, and this “giraffe crap.”  To his credit, he did the obligatory jab at the world’s religions, but his ugliest words were for Christians.

Speaking of Christians, don’t you find it ironic that someone who is a staunch believer in Jesus Christ can also be a harsh and completely unforgiving person?  The acknowledging and receiving of the most profound and unselfish example of forgiveness simply does not translate into grace and mercy when dealing with other people, and there is no opportunity for redemption of the relationship once it has failed.  I find it the starkest – and saddest – illustration of irony I have ever seen, not to mention one of the things that continually tarnishes Christians.  Striving to follow Jesus while simultaneously rejecting anyone who has failed you.  Irony, thy name is <insert name here>.

a to z badgeI’m contemplating another go at the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.  You can read about it here.  I participated in 2012, and it was great fun, but terribly time consuming.  In 2013 I was all set to do it again, but I got sick and life got b-u-s-y.  I missed it.  So here we are again…I haven’t planned ahead this year, and I haven’t signed up…and the start date is rapidly approaching.  I’m wondering if any of my blogging friends are considering it (again for some).  Woman Never Sleeps, have you thought about jumping in again?  What about you, Good Food: Savories, Sweets & Stories?  I know you did the challenge in 2013…how did you like it?  What about you, Joy in LifeLiving Loving Breathing BoysA Homemaker in Training?

Dexter

Dexter

For the first time in 21 years, my pets do not include cats.  I’m a little sad about that.  I love cats, and I’ve had several really great cats over my lifetime.  However, our family has entered the season of young boys and dogs, and after watching our sweet new pup Dexter follow our 8yo son around today, plus seeing the look of sheer delight on our 6mo son’s face when Dexter licks his face/hands/arms/feet/legs/whatever part he can reach, I can’t say I’m disappointed.  It’ll be a new experience for me, and I’m embracing it.

And with that, I’m tapped out for now.

The Mirror Moment

Or What I Need (and Want) to Do, but Have Not Yet Succeeded in Doing

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Matthew 18:35:  So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

Mark 11:25:  And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”

Luke 6:37:  “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven;

Luke 17:3-4:  Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”

1 John 1:9:  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

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cs-lewis on forgiveness

C.S. Lewis talks at length about forgiveness, and what it means to really forgive.  It is a task much more significant and difficult than simply uttering the words “I forgive you.”  It is a radical action, like love, that when done with the same desire and fervency that God has shown, wholly reconciles the relationship.  It is not forgetting, but putting it in the past and leaving it there.

I had a mirror held up to my face heart over the holidays, and realized that I have become that which I hate most.  I seek forgiveness from Christ for the most inexcusable in me, yet I have not done this for others.  I seek reconciliation and redemption from Christ, but I have not offered this to others.  I ask for God’s mercy and grace in my life, but I am reluctant unwilling to spare even a measure of it for others, even those who have granted me an undue portion.

cs lewis obeying godWhat do you do when you realize that all the navel-gazing in the world…that which you thought would give you a release from the bitterness, anger and frustration that has plagued you for so long…does so only minimally, but has the very real consequence of hurting others more than helping yourself?  When the mirror was held up and I saw SAW, I realized the bill of goods that I’d been sold…and believed.  In the effort to make others see, really SEE, I failed to see for myself.  And what I see…finally…is this:  I can not claim forgiveness for myself until I am willing to forgive trespasses against me.  I can not be reconciled to Christ unless I am willing to be reconciled with those in my earthly life.  With my family and friends.

forgive others

And it is HARD.  I have had this crutch, this safety net of anger & pain, for so long that to try and break it down is unbelievably daunting.  Tim Keller talks in Counterfeit Gods about how we don’t realize what becomes a false god to us until we recognize that we have made it more important than God Himself.  Why can’t I trust God to protect my heart?  I know He will.  Why can’t I rely on God to show me the way to redemption?  He always does.  Why can’t I lay at His feet the shackles of hostility, bitterness, pain, grief, anger, frustration, worry…and know that He is bigger than all of those barriers, that He is more than enough, and that He has only been waiting for me to cast aside my counterfeit god and truly rest in Him?

I hate being vulnerable.  I hate being in a position to be attacked, vilified, and ridiculed.  I hate feeling as though knowledge about me constitutes ammunition that can be used on me later.  There is a sense of protection in putting things out into the world in writing, so that I can say what I need want to say without immediate repercussion.  So I have taken the easy road.  I have written about the litany of hurts and slights in my life.  I have wallowed.  And I have hurt others.  I have made targets of people in a manner that allowed (I thought) for as little consequence as possible.  Except that now it is out there, and the bell can not be un-rung.

no-new-years-resolutionsI stopped making New Year’s Resolutions many years ago.  What was the point?  We all start the new year with expectations that it will be different from last year, and from the year before that.  2013 was no different for me…I started the year with no list of things to do better, no list of changes to make, no list of goals to meet (other than to try for the gazillionth time to read at least 100 books).  Then came the mirror moment that reflected how empty my soul has become, because I keep digging at the bottom instead of turning around and letting God fill me up.  I am tired.  I am tired of only partially trusting God, and in still thinking that I have to do the heavy lifting in my life.  I am tired of propping myself up with grudges and grievances.  rather than laying them down at His feet and moving on.  I am tired of what so much navel-gazing has rendered in me…which is nothing.  I am tired of being empty.

Here are my resolutions for 2013…a very different lot than had I made them 17 days ago:

  • Make God the biggest part of my life, rather than the grudges I have held onto for so long.
  • Think of others before myself, care for others before myself, serve others before myself.
  • FORGIVE.  My single, biggest impediment to quieting the personal demons, and to reconciling relationships that have been hurt by my inability unwillingness to forgive.
  • Understand that forgiveness is both an action and a process.  Do it daily, sincerely, and continuously.
  • Read my Bible every day.  Let it infuse me, and change me.
  • Stop making excuses.
  • Be joyful always.  In fact, do just as 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 tells us:  16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

be silentPractically speaking, this means the blog will change.  A number of posts will go private, and I will not publish them again.  I have hurt and angered others by writing them, and that stops now.  I will not publish new posts airing grievances against others.  If I can’t find a way to focus my thoughts in an uplifting way that points no fingers, it will not go live.  I want to do something better with my time and my passion.

reconciliation-lizbydesignDoes it seem strange to look at this chain of events and thank God for the crushing blow of clarity?  Sometimes – MANY times – it takes exactly that to get it.  How many times do I need the mirror to be held up before I realize my brokenness is by my own hand, and I am crushed by the weight of my own sin?  I don’t know…I’ll let you know…this year…as I let Him help me out of this spiritual, mental & emotional pit I have dug for myself.

I believe, Lord.  I truly believe.  Please help me to take it to heart and live it out.

Regina Brett’s 45 life lessons and 5 to grow on | cleveland.com

To celebrate growing older, I once wrote the 45 lessons life taught me.

It is the most-requested column I’ve ever written. My odometer rolls over to 50 this week, so here’s an update:

1. Life isn’t fair, but it’s still good.

2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.

3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.

4. Don’t take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

5. Pay off your credit cards every month.

6. You don’t have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.

7. Cry with someone. It’s more healing than crying alone.

8. It’s OK to get angry with God. He can take it.

9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.

10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.

11. Make peace with your past so it won’t screw up the present.

12. It’s OK to let your children see you cry.

13. Don’t compare your life to others’. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn’t be in it.

15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don’t worry; God never blinks.

16. Life is too short for long pity parties. Get busy living, or get busy dying.

17. You can get through anything if you stay put in today.

18. A writer writes. If you want to be a writer, write.

19. It’s never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.

20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don’t take no for an answer.

21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don’t save it for a special occasion. Today is special.

22. Overprepare, then go with the flow.

23. Be eccentric now. Don’t wait for old age to wear purple.

24. The most important sex organ is the brain.

25. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.

26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words: “In five years, will this matter?”

27. Always choose life.

28. Forgive everyone everything.

29. What other people think of you is none of your business.

30. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.

31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.

32. Your job won’t take care of you when you are sick. Your friends will. Stay in touch.

33. Believe in miracles.

34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn’t do.

35. Whatever doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger.

36. Growing old beats the alternative – dying young.

37. Your children get only one childhood. Make it memorable.

38. Read the Psalms. They cover every human emotion.

39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.

40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.

41. Don’t audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.

42. Get rid of anything that isn’t useful, beautiful or joyful.

43. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.

44. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.

45. The best is yet to come.

46. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.

47. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.

48. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

49. Yield.

50. Life isn’t tied with a bow, but it’s still a gift.

To reach this Plain Dealer columnist:

rbrett@plaind.com, 216-999-6328

via Regina Brett’s 45 life lessons and 5 to grow on | cleveland.com.

Radical Hospitality

“When we share our home, our table, our lives, things happen that play into all dimensions. I am inspired by the connections between the ordinary and the sacred. As we welcome others into a safe place, things we can’t necessarily see or touch, lap at the spiritual, connecting hearts and minds in ways that tell of God’s love for us.” – Margie Haack, “Hospitality Notes” – Notes from Toad Hall, Issue #2, 2012

Once again, a sermon has challenged me in ways that really push me to the edges of my comfort zone.  I left church today feeling not only convicted that the message was right, but challenged to consciously and intentionally embrace a radical brand of hospitality, and it is something that is not easy for me…at all.

Some back story:

I did not experience, during my growing up years, an open door policy in our home for guests.  There were social gatherings…mostly in the form of periodic sabbath meals (scrupulously planned and executed), family gatherings, and some afternoon visiting that is (inevitably) part of the life of a pastor’s family.  When I was old enough to spend afternoons with friends, and had the permission to do so, I almost always wanted to spend the time in their homes.  To have them in my home was fairly often a stressful occasion.  It wasn’t particularly fun (for me), drinks were not usually offered (which embarrassed me), snacks were never offered (which also embarrassed me), and I often felt this shadow of trouble looming over me…one which would as frequently as not come to fruition after my friends went home, at which time I would be in trouble for whatever infraction I (we) had committed.  Being in trouble was nothing new.  I was always in trouble, but to feel that cloud hanging over me when I was hanging with friends was frustrating and infuriating.  This was not an environment that I enjoyed, much less an environment in which I wanted to socialize with my friends.  Is it any wonder that, when I realized this wasn’t the environment in many friends’ homes, that I preferred to go there?

The sermon today was not the first time I have felt wholly convicted about what I want my home to be.  My husband and I have talked often and long about our desire to have our home be a warm, inviting, and comfortable place for friends and family.  We have talked at length about my desire (and his need) to have an open door policy on our home.  We want (and he needs) to gather here often with friends, to minister to others through food & drink, cigars & conversation, golf & games, music & movies, laughter & tears.  Hell, I need it too.

Come on in. Set a spell.

Perhaps more importantly, though, we both want (and I need) to have our home be a place our child (and eventually children) want to be.  I want him (them) to want to be here, to want to bring their friends here, to want to open our home to others for parties, study groups, movie nights, sleep overs, play dates, pick up golf, jam sessions, impromptu dinners, book clubs, and any number of other activities that we have yet to experience.  We want (and I need) for our child(ren) to know that they…and their friends…can come to us anytime for anything,  talk to us about whatever is on their hearts, can call us whenever they need help, can know that we are always available to them, because no matter what, we love them.

The hard part is feeling (knowing?) that I’m working against biology here.  I am hardwired to want my home to be my safe haven, impenetrable by outsiders, my warm nest in the midst of a cold world.  When my husband suggests we have a party, my natural reaction is resistance…not because I don’t want to be with our friends, but because “I have too much to do, the house is a mess, I haven’t cleaned the bathrooms, there’s a pile of laundry in the living room, there are dishes in the sink, toys are everywhere, I need to practice, I’m tired…” So he asks when, and I say when the house is clean, and straight, and we’ve finished this, that or the next thing…”  SO not the way I want to be, but I so often let the introverted part of me win.

Why do you think it’s called radical hospitality?  It’s radical because it is outside of our comfort zones.  It’s radical because it’s not about having a perfect house, perfect food, and perfectly planned activities.  It’s radical because we are called to throw caution to the wind, to invite our friends…our fellow sojourners in this life…to eat, to drink, to be merry, and to really commune together.  That is so hard for me, but I am convicted that it is what I am called to do.  It is what we are all called to do.

So today we did it.  With laundry in the living room, dishes in the sink, toys all over, and no menu plan, we opened our home to friends.

The best compliment we ever received was from a college aged nephew, who remarked to us on one of his many trips to our home that he loved coming there because it was like going home.  High praise indeed, and praise that I have not lived up to in the radical manner that God has called me to.  Today my conviction is renewed, and starting today, I am striving once again toward that goal.

April 14 (M)…Mental (A)Musings from a Mad Mind (a Random Selection)

I don’t know why, but any time I think of cows, my mad mind always things “moo-cows.”  Always.  Sometimes I even say it out loud.

Cute!

Not cute!

I think muumuus, in their appropriate Hawaiian setting, are perfectly fine.  They are indigenous to the locale.  However, they have been madly misappropriated as a somehow appropriate plus-sized fashion necessity.  Being of a zaftig nature myself, can I offer a resounding objection to this trend.  Comfy they may be, but outside of Hawaii, please can we just leave them in the closet??

Those who meddle really miff this mad woman.  Those with mettle do not.  I know members of both extractions…guess who I hang out with?

Mmm, Mmm, Good!  Best branding EVER for Campbell’s Soup.  Best caption for this photo (credit People of Walmart for that)?  Not so much…

Mandi…a forever friend I miss a ton.  2000 miles of US geography, kiddos, and myriad responsibilities does not make it easy to visit…or frankly, to even chat on the phone very often.  No matter, because we pick up where we left off before…every time…which is what forever friendship always is.

Speaking of myriad, how is it that this particular word gets misused so much?  Short lesson:  myriad (adj) means innumerable, multitudinous, incalculable, immeasurable, numerous.  Therefore, “a myriad of (insert plural noun of choice)” is not correct.  You wouldn’t say “a numerous of …” or “a multitudinous of …” or “an incalculable of …”  Correct usage is “myriad (insert plural noun of choice).”  Like myriad responsibilities, for instance, which keep friends from being in touch as much as they would like to be.  OK, end of lesson.  It really is the little things in life… 😀

Momentary political tangent:  Minimum wage does not help the economy, and it does not make jobs more plentiful.  It does just the opposite, because the higher the minimum wage that is required per employee, the fewer employees that can be hired. For those looking for jobs, these circumstances are inconducive to success.  The market can regulate minimum wage adequately and fairly, but it is not permitted to do so (thanks to ubiquitous government interference and regulation).  This maddens me.  End of tangent.

Does MySpace still exist?

Mangos are melt-in-your-mouth delicious.

The best and most special name I have EVER had…EVER…is Mommy!  The best and most special job I’ve ever had is Mommy!  Well, wife too, but in my case, that’s implied. 🙂

Many, many thanks to my parents for passing along the love of reading to me.  It is one of my favorite pastimes (after…or maybe equal to writing), so let me share some of my favorite M authors:  Monica McInerney (marvelously fun Australian author); Mark Twain (no list is complete without him); Pamela Morsi (fun Southern author); Marina Lewycka (of A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian fame…funny little book), Cormac McCarthy (just read his stuff!); Mary Alice Monroe (great summer reading), Daphne du Maurier (Rebecca is perhaps the best gothic murder mystery I have ever read); Maurice Sendak (one of my very favorite children’s authors).

Making time to do the hair for my lovely friend WomanNeverSleeps‘ beautiful daughter on the day of her prom…my pleasure.  And a small example of the miraculous covenant that binds the body of Christ.  When help is needed, there is always someone to call, someone who can, someone who will.  It’s not always me, but it is today, and it is indeed my pleasure.