Advent: When Will Enough Be Enough? (Luke 11:29-32; Psalm 90; Isaiah 1:24-31)

I woke up this morning wishing for a magic pill of some sort. I do this from time to time when I’m tired of getting out of bed.  When varying degrees of chronic pain and fatigue cloud up a seemingly good morning, I want something that solves it ALL right now, once and for all.  I’ve thought the same thing for some of the stuff Jax goes through.  Why won’t God just make a way to make it right so we can move on with our lives?  

In Luke 11, Jesus seems exasperated while speaking with the crowds, realizing the seeming denseness of the people who surrounded Him.  He fed five thousand “plus” people with a few fish and a little bread (Luke 9:10ff) for goodness’ sake.  He raised a little girl back to life and healed a woman, all while walking down the street. What more do they need to see and hear to believe? 

Jesus taught them how to ask for what they need (Luke 11:1-13) and cast out demons (Luke 11:14ff) right there in front of them.  Not once.  Not just one. But again and again.  And these people, they’d been there, seen it all.  It was a magnificent display of God Being With Them and yet… here they are, once again, asking for yet another sign.  

When will enough be enough?

Jesus uses the story of Jonah to let them know they’ve SEEN what they need to see to believe.  What He wants them to do is realize what they have… God With Them walking the streets, teaching, healing, being present in their daily lives, even if their daily lives aren’t perfect. 

Jonah didn’t have to perform any signs for the People of Nineveh to have a change of heart.  He just had to show up in their city.  And here’s Jesus, someone Greater than Jonah (or anyone!) giving them all sorts of magnificent signs and miracles and still , it wasn’t enough for them to believe He was who He said He was? 

When will enough be enough? 

Funny that this passage popped up on a day I was wishing for #themagicpill.  (Not funny haha, but funny coincidence if I believed in coincidence)  Because it’s not every day I have trouble believing that God Is With Us in the hard and the good.  Most days, He strengthens me to carry out my responsibilities as wife, mother, friend, daughter, sister, pastor in ways I can’t even wrap my head around.  Some days I lay my head on my pillow and am so thankful that God almost literally held me upright, got me through.  And most days, as I ask Him to wrap Himself around my kiddos, that they’ll have peace and joy in their day, not anxiety and stress and frustration.  And many days He does just that, and I marvel that He has blessed them with His Presence even in the ordinary day to day of right now.  And when they are anxious or frustrated, God shows up in the middle of it all, and helps me and them navigate through. 

When will enough be enough? 

No, so far, in spite of desperate prayers, God hasn’t provided the magic pill to solve all our problems.  But He does show up, God With Us, in each and every moment, even when our lives feel desperate, maybe like that young couple walking around Bethlehem, seeking a place to rest and give birth.  

God showed up in this world as a baby when He didn’t have to.  But what a sign to us that God (INDEED!) wanted to be with us in our day to day.  What a way for God to show us that He’s Here, and He’s with us even when there’s tough things, even in the waiting and wondering, even when we’re tired of getting out of bed. 

We don’t need another sign.  We have a God Who Is With Us. 

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Happy Sweet 16, Jamie-Noel

It’s hard to believe if you were here, we’d be doing things like getting you ready for your driver’s test, planning a huge birthday party, preparing for grade 11.  I imagine you’d be working at camp over the summer and we’d miss you terribly, maybe even miss your birthday-day but celebrate with you when you came home to do laundry and sleep til it was time to go back for another week.  We can only imagine you playing the piano, or not, maybe you’d have your Dad’s love of gardening, and write, write, write like some days like your Mom feels like she has to, just to get it all out.  You’d probably be binge-watching something on Netfl!x and texting your friends.  I wonder if you’d be dating or if you’d be like your Mom and Dad were way back when, lots of friends, no one special.

We know that life with you would have been amazing and wonderful, but God had other plans.  He chose heaven for you before we ever met, and still, each year as we hang your special ornaments, we remember that He’s got you even though we don’t.

And you know what?  Mom and Dad are okay.  Great really.  God brought two extraordinary people into our lives in ways that, when we tell the stories, we can hardly believe how it happened ourselves.  And although we miss you still, and sometimes still work through stuff related to you not being here, we also know that we are stronger, wiser, more compassionate and resilient for having known you, and lost you, and received the precious gifts of two more children to know and love and care for as long as God gives us that privilege.

And it’s even so much more.  The people ~ families ~ that come with these children, not born of us, but still your sister and brother, well, they are extraordinary too.  As much as we long for you still, we know that our world has expanded exponentially because we were asked to step out of the comfort of what we knew to experience the world in other ways.  That’s what adoption, and knowing our kids’ other families have brought to us, so much that we never knew we needed to know, to be all we were created to be.

So Dear Sweet Child, we look forward to the day we get to see your face for the first time when you welcome us to heaven, hopefully still a little while from now.

But for now, Happy Sweet Sixteen, Our Jamie-Noel.

God is good.

Today I decided to garden.

The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail.

Dogs and I had breakfast and our walk after the kids went to school.  It’s what I always do, at least most mornings. I looked at my to-do list.

Baking.

Cleaning.

Errands.

Bookwork.

Writing.

Phone calls.

All stuff I should be doing.  It’s on the list after all.  Gardening wasn’t on the list for the day.  Did you hear that?  Gardening… was…NOT… in the plan for the day.

But what did I do? I let the dogs outside, and they were thrilled I was coming with them.  I pulled on my gloves, gathered the tools and headed to the closest flower bed that needed attention.  I spent the whole morning, and part of the evening out there, pulling weeds, watering, plucking dead flowers off of the plants growing beautifully in the sunshine.  I listened to music and drank tea.  And not once, did I return to that to-do list for the day.

What a rebel.

I’m learning, slowly, that I can’t just do all the time.  Though believe me there was plenty of weeds to be pulled, so I was doing, but remarkably enough, it didn’t feel as much like it would’ve had I been “doing” that to-do list.

Setting a boundary is hard.  Learning to take a breath and do what I love, what refreshes me, what fills me up, rather than what is required is hard.  It’s hard because of lifelong habits of trying to live up to expectations.  But the silly thing is when I think about it is, no one is here expecting me to get that list done.  I have the freedom, when kids are at school in the care of others, to make my time work for me.  So I chose to garden, which slowed me down and filled me up after several very busy of to=do lists, coping with chronic health concerns, missing Hubs, dealing with kidlet crises, going to appointments, waiting for answers, wondering, worrying about our future and the answers we have not yet received, the decisions yet to be made.

And I realized something as I slowed down, dug in the dirt, soaked in the sunshine, pups piled under a tree close. I realized that I was praying.  And thinking hopeful thoughts. And feeling more and more grateful for the time I have to pray and hope and garden. I realized that in that moment in the garden, I was ok.  That all would be okay, even if nothing or everything changed in our circumstances, even if we had to wait a little longer for answers and decisions…even if… even if…

I realized we would be okay.  When my brain stopped the worry-whirl, I saw God with me, giving us a life full of His Goodness even in the waiting, and wondering, and crises and cares.  He has been with us through it all.  This wasn’t our first time waiting for something…someone…

We would be okay…even if…

It reminded me of a passage in Isaiah, from chapter 58: ”

I will always show you where to go.
    I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places—
    firm muscles, strong bones.
You’ll be like a well-watered garden,
    a gurgling spring that never runs dry.
You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew,
    rebuild the foundations from out of your past.
You’ll be known as those who can fix anything,
    restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate,
    make the community livable again.

Just like I am there to water the flowers to make sure that they survive in the heat of summer…

Just like He carries me through each day even with the struggles of living sometimes…

He nurtures. He provides. He gives us a full life even when there’s tough stuff around. So just breathe… and garden, pray, be grateful and wait in hope. He’s working on the rubble.

 

Don’t Worry, Bloom!

“Why are you anxious about what you’ll wear? Consider the lilies. See how they grow. They don’t struggle or toil to be that beautiful … yet they are more lovely than royalty.  If that’s how God takes care of the flowers,  will he take care of you —you of little faith?  So do not worry.  Seek His Kingdom first.”  ~  Jesus (to those listening on the mountainside) as told by Matthew, His Disciple. 

Last night, TheFarmer (aka Hubs) finished putting in the carrots with the help of Emme.  We live in a small city, but as they say “you can take the farmer off the land…” (do they say that?) and for the last almost 10 years, #gardening has been a big part of life during the Spring, Summer and Fall here at our little urban homestead.

There’s weeding and hoeing and planting and watering.  Carrots. Potatoes. Beans. Corn. Tomatoes. Peppers. Cucumbers. Our strawberry patch and apple trees are blooming white. Raspberries will set on soon.  Purple petunias everywhere. Bleeding hearts blossoming. Peonies taking their time. Oh, and dandelions!  (I love them.  TheFarmer despises them!)

We planted this year, in this place we love, we call home, not a home of dreams, but a home we’ve made, together as a family.  Nine months ago we thought we wouldn’t put the garden in. We thought we’d have a For Sale sign in our yard and be one the move, forward with a big transition from our little homestead in the city to the country life, close to where Hubs works right now, close to his family, with room to grow more, and work together, no longer needing Hubs to be away so much.  Stuff of dreams for sure… almost too much of a dream.  Dare I say it would be stuff of miracles if it worked out, but who knows?  Maybe a miracle will happen.  We’ve waited.  We’ve trusted.  We’ve done our research, our parts.

But as we’ve discovered over the years, God’s Timing is His Own.  We’ve done our part to move forward on this possibility.  But it is taking time and if there’s something this Momma struggles with is blooming where she’s planted instead of worrying about things like… hey, where will the kiddos go to school? Will we get the money we should out of our house if we don’t sell in the Spring?  What happens if this plan falls through, if doors close? What will we do?  Will we find a faith community as beloved as ours here?  Will my kids make friends easily?  Can we really afford this?  What? Where? How?

Those questions.  That worry.  That’s not blooming.  That’s not letting God clothe us with His Peace and Grace as we wait. God’s time is His Own, and just like our little homestead, all planted, ready to bloom, it takes time for the seeds to germinate, to sprigs of green, to blossoms, to fruit. Time, and care, not worry and stress.

So I’ll bloom here for as long as I am here.  We’ll be okay, trusting God for tomorrow and whatever comes.  We’ll wait and watch for our little plants to grow. We’ll water and weed, and hopefully reap some of the harvest, knowing God has us here, right now, for His Timing is His Own.

So I’ll be over here, blooming.  Or trying to.

 

 

 

 

I See You: Reflecting on #MothersDay

Writer’s Note: This entry was first written in Spring 2007, It seems like a lifetime again, and yet, I read it through and know that even though I still have my Mother with me on earth, even though I love being my kids’ mother, I feel keenly the losses I’ve suffered, and I pray each day that what I’ve faced will always, always soften my heart for those who I know face the hard things too. I know I’m blessed but I think I would fail in making the most of my life experiences if I didn’t do the work of acknowledging the losses that many women feel in light of all the emphasis on mothering and Mother’s Day every year.
For some, even for me, even as I am privileged to be a Mother, it is a re-opening of a wound I/they work hard to heal, and I’ve come to realize, again through personal experience, and in knowing many women of character who have endured so much, that a huge part of getting through the heartache is for someone to say “I see you”.
And so that is what this is…

 “I see you”. 

I think the celebration of #Mothers is a wonderful necessity in our lives these days. I think a lot of mothers and their influence on their children and therefore on the world has been minimized to a desperate degree. With all the push in the culture towards a woman’s self-satisfaction in her career has overshadowed the immediate role of a person who is a Mother in the life of the child they parent. So celebrating Mothers is good, very good.  And I am blessed to know many exceptional mothers who give all for their children.  And I celebrate these women. 

But what about those who for whatever reason find this day painful, heartbreaking? 

I know women who avoid church like the plague on Mother’s Day Sunday because they know all it will do is highlight the fact that they’ve lost… whether it be a child due to premature death, stillbirth, miscarriage, or a child through adoption… or the dream of a child at all because of infertility or the single life. Or through custody disputes in divorce.

 And yes, children who’ve lost Mothers through any of these avenues as well. We celebrate Mothers, but I think we do a big injustice to other mothers (or people who long to be mothers) by only celebrating, and not taking a moment just to acknowledge that there is pain for many.

Through years of ministry and just plain life, I have met woman upon woman for whom this day is hard, and you would never know it.  They are women who are obviously parenting, but carried lost children in their hearts, and long for the day they will be reunited with their little ones born to heaven or living in another family.  No one would ever know their hearts are heavy by their appearance.  I know women who have lost many children before they were blessed to parent on earth, and they remember them.  I know women who have placed  children in another family, and miss their kids every…single…day.  I know women for whom childlessness is overwhelming, and they long for things to be different.  

For them and so many more living with disappointment and loss in their parenting life, Mother’s Day makes it all the more harder, just one more milestone they have to mark in their loss.  I have known women who struggle because mothering the children they love and are blessed to parent is not what they expected, often because their child has challenges that keep them from being able to express love in return.  For these, and so many more with very unique circumstances, this day is hard.  I see you.

 This definitely gets very personal too.  Our journey to our family includes having to “live through” the pain of infertility and pregnancy loss in front of everyone, and how we needed someone to stop and say “I see you, and you know, you can have a break on this day instead of preaching, leading…we understand you may be hurting”. No one ever did that. I don’t blame them because looking back, how could they know? 

But still, I don’t want that to happen to others now that I know how it feels. We were fortunate during that time to be surrounded by some amazing teens from our youth group, who seemed to be sensitive beyond their years to our pain, who most definitely said, “I see you”  and who celebrated us as people of influence in their lives. But not everyone has that.

 I know that in any given faith gathering this Mother’s Day, regardless of how large or small, there will be AT LEAST one (but most likely more, many, many more) women who have lost a child and no one knows about it. First mothers through adoption. Childless mothers through infertility. Single women who long for the chance to be a mother. Others who’ve lost babes through pregnancy loss. Or stillbirth. Or abortion. Or cancer. Or an accident. Or divorce.  I see you.

 Older women who have outlived their children.  Or live with regret over the breaks in relationship.  I see you.

 Children who have lost their Mothers. Through death. Through adoption. Through divorce. Against their will. Are we ready to remember them, to acknowledge that they might, most probably do, have pain on this day??? We never know who might be hurting even though on the outside, you can’t see it.  But I see you.

 So please celebrate, but as you do, remember the hurting mothers.  See them.  And say a prayer of of blessing and peace for them. 

Intro to #theEggshellLife, and #FASD

I sit here, and watch Jax run up the steps to go down the waterslide for the 99th (or so!) time in the last hour and my heart fairly bursts.  I watch him, my weary self, and wonder for the 199th time “where does he get his energy from?”  And then I’m thankful he’s smiling and giggling and screaming with life, and I enjoy this, what appears to be a typical family sharing a fun evening together, away from the every day of life.  I remember, this boy ~ and his big sister ~ is the joy of my heart, the reason I get up in the morning, and the long answer to our prayers to be parents.

And I also remember that this boy, just a couple hours before, completely melted down as we pulled into the hotel parking lot.  He didn’t like the “look” of the hotel. “The doors are on the outside Momma!” he screamed from the back seat, with big alligator tears rolling down his face.  I looked over at his Dad and sister and their downcast looks said it all.  “Not again” their eyes said.  We’ve been here before, many, many times, because with our son, we’ve been living what we’ve come to call “The Eggshell Life” since the day he joined our family as an infant.  Being with him and caring for him can parallel walking around on eggshells, watching what we say, how we say it, how we plan and live every day, because anything might set him off.

This boy ~ our Jax ~ has an #FASD, or Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.  This diagnosis wasn’t completely unexpected when he came to our family, yet it challenges our capacity as parents and a family every day. Jax has challenges in behaviors and relationships and learning that have forced us to make some hard choices about priorities for our family. His diagnosis has been heartbreaking as it would be for any parent who sees their child struggling with health issues.   The needs for his future are overwhelming if we think about the possibilities too much.

That afternoon, we sat together in the van, mini-holiday on hold, as Jax continued to refuse to consider that this hotel is where we were staying.  As my 10 year old son screamed and cried in the van, I did what I’ve learned to do after years of similar experiences.  I tried to calm my shaking heart and steady my voice, wondering like I have a hundred times before whether we made the right decision to leave home for this short family outing.   In the end, with time followed by a calmer conversation, Jax decided it was okay to at least “go check things out”.  Once he saw the big atrium with the pool and waterslide, and that he could see the waterslide from our room, he was ready to be there, meltdown forgotten, full speed ahead.  Not so much for his parents and sister, who were still shaken by it all, but then, that’s the “eggshell life” we live.

FASD is a spectrum of disabilities mostly hidden from the eyes of those not looking for it, and caused by a pregnant mother consuming alcohol sometime before the birth of her child.  Current research  shows maternal drinking is one of the leading preventable causes of birth defects and developmental disabilities in the western world.  There are no confirmed statistics of how many children are affected by an FASD, however, there are some places where it is documented as high as 5 out of every 100 births.  Other places, including among those that I work with in our local Fetal Alcohol Network, say they think it could be as high as 1 out of every 10 persons.  I share these stats because, in the world of adoption, where we don’t have complete control over what happens to the children who join our families before they are in our care, we may have to face the decision to open our lives up to the possibility that an FASD could affect our families.

But statistics aside, I also write this to reach out as a mom and advocate to say, if you are facing this hard choice and the challenges of the “eggshell life”, you are not alone.  FASD has become a very real consideration in many adoption experiences.  Many of us may be parenting a beautiful son or daughter who like mine, can be both maddening and miraculous, creative and charming, but also calculating and compulsive and constantly confusing, who is both explosive and engaging.  Your child, like mine, probably snuggles up for love one minute craving love and touch, then fights your help when they’re in crisis and they need the love and touch the most.

This may not be the life we expected, or planned for, but it is the family we have.  We absolutely adore Jax and all his quirky, unique and high spirited ways.  He is Jax.  He is who he is. We are fierce about advocating for him, and for our whole family’s needs.  But when we tell our story and talk about the hard parts, we always make sure people understand that we made a conscious and informed decision as a family in the adoption process to consider increased health risks in many areas, including potential prenatal exposure to substances.  It wasn’t an easy decision, but it felt like the right one for us.  Every family must make their own decision and understand what risks they are willing to consider.  But for us this is our life, and we’re grateful for it, and we’re doing the best we can, even while walking on eggshells.

Oh the Homework, and a Lesson in Learning Differently

So Jax has to learn French. It’s required. And boy oh boy, is it a challenge. Here’s some thoughts on homework for the differently thinking child (and their parent).
Instead of pulling your hair out, get them moving. Shout out to a dear friend whose kid sees the world differently too,  for the swing for Jax’s room. It came in handy once again as we were trying to learn some words for his French test tomorrow. He was swinging and since he was swinging, he wasn’t panicking over how hard it was for him. (Oh, and don’t get me started on the deficit my kids have in their American English only Mom trying to teach them French.)
But second, when a child has a brain that learns and retains differently, it could work better to study when they’re distracted. As in throwing nerf gun bullets at each other. This was how we marked each one we learned.
Third, yes, I sat in his room on the floor painstakingly going through every one with him. Sometimes it’s what it takes. It’s why I’m getting to the point I know I need to clear my schedule even more than I have already, so I can be more aware of what is needed and be available. I know I’m fortunate to be able to do that. Not every parent could. But I also know that we make an awful lot of sacrifices in our lives to make this space for our kids. Saying that out loud is a big deal to me, as I always feel like they get short changed because Mom is stressed and too busy. I hope it helps them.
And lastly, be okay to celebrate what your kid is good at. Jax may never be fluent in French and frankly, I’m okay with that. He is awesome at Math and spelling. He is also, fluent in humorous outtakes at just the right moment.
On the way to bed he needed to go to the bathroom. In typical boy humor he said, “I need to go peepee” just to get me going on using those words in front of a lady (fluent in humor, not manners)
And to keep it light I said, “Well, at least do it in French” to which he responded, “OK, I’ll go weewee, you know mom, as in oui-oui!” And we laughed and laughed and laughed.
Doing homework is a challenge, like just about everything else in life right now. But we made it through this night. He may not ace the test, but we ~ together ~ worked hard to do our best.
Be encouraged parents. You can do this without losing your mind. And this is what I will come back to, this writing, the next time I want to pull my hair out because I don’t know how to do the homework they’re working on.