Hate Mail

photo credit: Today is a good day via photopin cc

photo credit: Today is a good day via photopin cc

The moment can come in the middle of the Costco parking lot. (Hypothetically speaking, of course.)

That moment when the line between keeping it together and losing it completely is a bit hazy and the behavior of one child is like a stack of hate mail sitting on your heart.

When you read the words of these imaginary letters they spew things like “you don’t know what you’re doing” and “here you go again” and “this will never stop” or “you can never change.”

These words sink deep and make a panic rise as you try to figure out just how to get that child out of the car in the middle of the Costco parking lot, when he’s having a temper tantrum and people are looking at you like they want to write a letter of their own.

Or in the moment when you feel like no soul in the world (or at least at the pool) wants to consider you a good friend. The kind of moment when you notice in aching clarity the laughter and smiles and girls night outs around you and you realize you’re just sitting on the side holding onto your kid’s goggles and the idea that the conversation you’re missing sounds very similar to “who invited you?”

I’m over at “Next Level Mama” today . . . continue reading here!

Do Not Fear What They Fear

 

photo credit: pepe50 via photopin cc
photo credit: pepe50 via photopin cc

We just returned from spending several days together with 2,500 people in line with our hearts. The Christian Alliance for Orphans gathers every year to discuss/plan/pray/act on behalf of the orphan and foster care crisis during their annual Summit. We were blessed to be there for the second year in a row–a tradition I now cherish.

These people gathered shoulder to shoulder with us in Nashville and we all but sang our throats dry and wept a little and held hands up to the sky. We attended seminars and heard speakers, soaked in scripture and furiously scribbled notes on paper. Many of us tweeted snippets of wisdom, blogged from pews, looked around at each other in awe of what was happening in that space. We heard story after story after story. We heard about victories. Many, many victories. We mourned setbacks. Stories that break your heart. Stories that mend them up again. Ones that penetrate your heart with beauty that can only come from a redemptive Savior. Ones that remind us never to stop listening to the stories.

We were rubbed raw with reality. In a good way. My husband and I kept looking at one another and without needing to utter words, we confirmed that we were called. We were refilled and refueled. Commissioned and convicted. Energized to continue, one foot in front of the other until our family’s open arms contain a child or children that need them.

But even when you know what God is calling you to do, it does not make it easy. The unknown is frightening. Internalizing stories–the sad, the brutal, the tell-me-it-isn’t-true stories–it’s enough to make anyone stumble or become afraid.

But our God, our God, knows the skin we wear. It’s no surprise He speaks to our fears throughout His Word.

But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.” (1 Peter 3:14)

Do not fear what they fear.

Do not fear what they fear.

Do not be frightened.

We are blessed.

This life–it is blessed but it’s not necessarily easy. But none of us are called to easy. We are called to a life that requires sacrifice and hard work. Not always fitting in or going with the flow. Sometimes limping. Sometimes being carried. Sometimes carrying others.

To whatever ministry we are called (the orphan, the needy, the widow, the foreigner, the stranger, the angry, the hurt, the unlovable, the frightened, the children, the elderly, our brothers, our sisters, all), we must be bold and courageous and unashamed by the blood and the muck and the dirtiness this world offers.

We must look into the eyes of those whom God loves, one at a time, and respond to the pain in this world. Run straight into it. 

This conference? A beautiful, stunning, heaven-sent reminder of a call. A call to all of us on this journey of showing Christ’s love to others. It takes on many forms but the result? It’s the same.

We are all called.

So, let’s remind each other. Let’s clasp hands with each other. Let’s run into it together with the end in mind. And respond to the pain, help others through it, help them learn to live again and love and be loved.

Let’s not fear what they fear. Let’s not. Let’s be a blessing and be blessed.

Swim, Baby, Swim

photo credit: Vegas ER via photopin cc

photo credit: Vegas ER via photopin cc

I vividly recall hiding behind the trees where Bigs couldn’t see me.  Only he wasn’t Bigs at the time. He was Smalls and I was holding Smaller in my arms. We were both attempting to reach a milestone. He was trying to learn to swim (or otherwise known as “Mom forcing the equivalent of waterboarding on her unsuspecting toddler”) and I was clumsily attempting to step back. No one felt good in this situation (except the baby in my arms who thought it was extremely exciting to be hiding in the bushes). I occasionally caught glimpses of the boy, hysterical, and anyone within a mile and a half could’ve heard him sobbing. My heart was doing cannonballs and jackknives into my stomach, only without the satisfying splash–just the free fall.

I remember it taking every ounce of my being to keep from swooping in and carrying him home.  I visualized a gang of invisible mommy warriors, holding my arms as if I were about to start a fight in an alleyway. Cool off, sister, I imagined them saying. So I stepped back, determined to beat down the tears that were wreaking havoc in my throat, and watched as my son battled one of his biggest fears. He couldn’t swim. And not only could he not swim but he feared it as I fear dancing in public or stepping on worms in the rain. I mean, fear with a capital F.

The water was as much the stormy Aegean to this boy as it was a balmy 90 degree private pool.  The beautiful surroundings meant nothing to him other than it was a place where he had no control, no choice and no mother to protect him.  As my child dipped underwater with his teacher time and time again, I could only pray that he would quickly make it through what I knew was one of the hardest things he’d had to tackle in his short life.  Who knew swimming lessons would be so hard? For both of us.

It’s a strange feeling to watch your child as they’re trying to hurdle one of life’s major milestones.  As you sit on the sidelines, your heart and your brain battle back and forth as to how you might react.  On one shoulder, your brain.  The proverbial smartypants.  This is the part of you that keeps you sane yet humble.  It convinces you that you’re doing the right thing by letting your child grow up and fight his own personal battles.  It’s also the part that makes you feel a little stupid for getting emotional at a swimming pool—face first in the bushes, no less.  On the other shoulder, your heart.  That old softie.  Equal parts raw nerves and fierce, mama bear instinct.  The heart is the one that wants to cry for the struggle your child’s going through while at the same time obliterating any animal/vegetable/mineral that makes him suffer.  A very confusing set of shoulders us mothers have.

The music of the swim instructor’s voice was like an undercurrent, slowly swirling around my boy. “I will keep you safe.  I will not let go of you.  Look at me and listen.  I will not let you go.”  While he struggled in the water, crying uncontrollably, he could not hear what she was saying.  He felt like he was sinking.  But she persevered, the music continued.  She finally broke through the fear and helped him understand the importance of listening to the one who was holding him safely in the palms of her hands.

Peter saw Jesus walking on the water.  “Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water to Jesus. But when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink. He cried, ‘Master, save me!’  Jesus didn’t hesitate.  He reached down and grabbed his hand.”  An amazing comfort in the midst of a storm. And He doesn’t even charge in half hour increments.

I recognized that Bigs and his major milestone struggles were only beginning.  Swimming was first.  Elementary school.  Riding the bus, riding a bike. Strengthening his gifts. Accepting his weaknesses.  Saying no.  Saying yes.  Finding his calling.  Finding his soul mate.  What about my own list?

I have my own swim lessons to take right about now. This writing, this soul-baring. The only reason I can pour my heart and soul into it is because He has poured His into me.  I may struggle but I know that I am in the grip of God.

Amazingly, once the boy hit lesson number three, he was swimming. It closely resembled my childhood dog, Murphy, sneaking a dip in the lake, but it was swimming nonetheless.  Instead of tears, pool water streaked his face. A huge step on the road of life’s many, many obstacles.  One milestone down, a million, four hundred to go. He was swimming, baby. I’d like to say that I am, too.