Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Rewriting History

A few months ago, we had a caseworker visit for our sixteen-year old son who is in foster care. We were talking through some of the issues that come from having a child whose life has been full of trauma, and attempting to knit him into the fabric of our family, creating something entirely new. Our caseworker looked at me and said, "April, you have to understand that he came with a history book. And his history book says "Moms abuse you and Moms abandon you. And every time you show up, and every time you don't hurt him, but you help him instead, you're rewriting his history book."

"His history book says Moms abuse you and Moms abandon you...you're rewriting his history book."

Those words have been ringing in my ears and echoing in my heart since that day. I think of them when I interact with all of my children (not just the teenage son in question.) And I think of them when I interact with my husband, and friends, and extended family. Because we all have history books, don't we?

I talked here about how I preached a sermon at church in February. And shortly after, I spoke at a women's retreat. And since then, I've been working with our pastor on a few minor projects, getting his input and guidance on a big writing project, and being (constantly) encouraged to step out of my comfort zone, and really take on this big thing I feel God calling me to (even though I don't know exactly what it is yet.) He's been pushing me to think differently about myself, about the world around me, about the Word and how I interact with it.

At some point, I realized that he's rewriting my history book. Because my history book says "Pastors use you, abuse you, and discard you." And although I've had some good pastors in recent years, the chapters about the painful pastoral experiences I've had are long, and hard to read. They're even harder to share with others.

I was meditating on Ephesians 4:11-16 over the last few months and I have been pierced through the heart by this specific section (v. 14-16.)

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
I've often heard this passage used to talk about confronting sin in others. However, I think there's so much more to "speaking the truth in love." I think more often we actually need the people around us to speak the truth of the Gospel, the truth of God's Word to us. We need to be reminded where our strength and grace and mercy comes from. We need someone to speak the truth of right doctrine when we get a little lost, and speak the truth of our call to maturity in the faith when we find ourselves feeling lazy or falling into self-pity.

And we also need to speak the truth about what we see in others...the truth of their callings and identities in Christ. We all desperately need to be reminded that we are called to love others in ways that are specifically designed by God.  We need people who see the value that God has planted in our hearts and help us cultivate that so that we grow up "into him who is the head, into Christ." We need people who show us what it looks like to grow in our own gifts and abilities so that we look more and more like our big brother Jesus.

I am so grateful for the people in my life who are rewriting my history book. My prayer is that you have people in your life who will speak the truth in love, and help you rewrite your history book, as well.


Thursday, April 12, 2018

Growing Pains

A few weeks ago, my 8-year old daughter was going through a growth spurt. I knew it was coming a few weeks prior because she did the typical pre-growth spurt gorge. She was eating everything in the house! We couldn't send enough food for her school snack, and lunch, and after school snack. She would ask for a pre-dinner snack, eat dinner, and then eat more snacks...she was starving all the time! Then like a switch had been flipped, suddenly she had no appetite at all. But she was sleeping like crazy. She was hard to wake up in the morning (which is unusual for her), she was tired earlier in the evening. She was falling asleep in the car (VERY unusual for her!) and she was just generally cranky. She also had pains she'd never had before...pain behind her knees, in her elbows, muscle aches. It was a little over a week of this, and then she was back to normal. Back to normal, just an inch taller.

For ever since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through His workmanship [all His creation, the wonderful things that He has made], so that they [who fail to believe and trust in Him] are without excuse and without defense.
 Romans 1:20 (AMP)

I love this verse in Romans. It's the primary reason that I love nature study so much. When you study a creation, whether it be a piece of music, a painting, sculpture, or a literary work, you understand, at least a little bit, about the creator. And when we study Creation, we learn about our Creator, his invisible attributes, his eternal power, and divine nature. We learn about God's character through what he created. I was thinking about my daughter's growth spurt the other day, and this verse suddenly came flooding back to my mind. What does her growth spurt reveal about the way God works in us? 

I mentioned here that I spoke at my church in February. I also spoke at a women's retreat a few weeks after that. So the time from December to March was spent preparing for these two opportunities that God dropped in my lap. I had an insatiable appetite for the Word of God; I felt like I was starving and couldn't get enough! I was getting up early, staying up late, waking up in the middle of the night, and reading Scripture. I was journaling like crazy, trying to process all that I was taking in. I was reading books about the topics God planted in my heart for these two events, and having deep conversations with people I love about what God was revealing to me. I did little else outside of that, besides all my normal wife/parent duties...you know, my family still had to eat, and needed clean clothing. ;)

But then after the events, a switch flipped. Suddenly, I was tired. Not physically so much, but I didn't want to take as much in. I was still reading, but I had started re-reading the same passages (not a bad thing!) And I was having some growing pains. There were some things I'd learned during that season that I needed to put into practice, and some of that process was (and has continued to be) a bit painful. A bit achy.

When a child goes through a growth spurt, it's not in the "eating everything in sight" part where they're growing. It's actually that few weeks after, when they're sleeping so much. That's when everything they have taken in actually becomes flesh. It is transformed from fat, protein, and nutrients, into muscle mass, and bone. It's in the painful, resting time when they actually grow.

And I have seen that play out in my own heart. It wasn't in that first few months of the year when I was growing. It's now, in the growing pains, in the resting season, when Christ actually becomes fleshed out in me. When I develop spiritual muscle, and my spiritual bones lengthen, and I actually "grow up into him who is the head." This is when Christ becomes incarnated in me, when it hurts, and it stretches, and the scriptures that I took in move from theological, theoretical words only, and become life-transforming practical action, when the life I live actually begins to look like Jesus himself.

If you find yourself in a season of growing pains, take a  moment to rest, and recognize that this is part of God's process. Thank God for allowing you to grow up in him, to mature in the faith and become more like Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith. So, take heart...this season of pain doesn't last forever. And every day pursuing him is worth every bit of discomfort we experience along the way.


Thursday, February 15, 2018

Run with Endurance

This has been a hard week for me. Emotionally, spiritually, physically, mentally. A sinus infection, a situation with foster care, a busy schedule, car problems...it all piled up. But the biggest issue was that I preached at church Sunday, and can I just be honest? I was SO nervous leading up to it, but when I got there, I felt completely at peace. At peace that this was exactly where I am supposed to be, and who I am supposed to be in community with. and what I'm supposed to be doing. That God had orchestrated my life up to this point to share this story, at this time, with these people. That he had anointed me to invite people into the story that he's writing with my life. 

And yet, I fell apart afterwards. I've spent the entire week "introverting" because I was completely overwhelmed with the response. I was not mentally prepared for the people who came up to say that what I shared really ministered to them, or that they were impressed with my "sermon", or that I should expect God to use me more in this way because they really see that in me. I wasn't prepared for people to see value in me in this capacity. So through all the positive comments and encouragement from people who know and love me, all I heard was Shame's voice saying "Who do you think you are? You have no right to share this. You have no right to think you ought to stand up there and speak. You have no right to be used by God in this arena."

And then I was so frustrated with myself. Frustrated for struggling. Frustrated for butting up against shame and fear. Again. Didn't I just struggle with this 6 months ago? Why is this rearing its ugly head AGAIN?! How do I finally break free of it? If #thestruggleisreal then I've been living it for the last two years. And you know what? I'm tired of it. I'm tired of the battle with shame and fear.

I got bent out of shape that this thing "popped up" again because I forgot that I am being perfected. That I am being transformed. The Christian life is not a life of mini-goals, or deadlines, or finish lines. There is ONE finish line and we are running toward it, building endurance, crossing hurdles, being  perfected, and being conformed to the image of our Father.

The track star doesn't get frustrated when he comes to another hurdle, he just keeps running and jumps over it. He doesn't stop for a pity party and cry because he already jumped over one hurdle already. He just keeps running with endurance. 

So when the storms come (not if, but when), when the lies are revealed that I believe, when I struggle with sin or shame or fear, I can rejoice because God has another opportunity to have his perfect work in me. He's revealing another area where I can be more like Jesus, NOT through will power, but through HIS power that works mightily in me.

And he did. He did work mightily in me. He showed me the lies I believe that caused this reaction to the attention after my sermon. And he's setting me free, taking me from glory to glory IN HIM. That's the only place I want to be.


PS: And because I'm trying to be brave and embrace this new season that God is calling me into, click here to listen to what I shared on Sunday. ;)

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

One Little Word 2018

Random pictures from our family photo shoots this year ;)

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Wow, it has been a loooong time since I wrote here. If you don't follow me on Instagram, that's where I share our day-to-day life, and have been "mini-blogging." I love to write, but don't always have time to sit down at the laptop to share my heart. I'm jumping on tonight for a quick post...very little editing, just pouring my heart out for a few minutes.

We're quickly approaching 2018 and can I tell you, I'm pleased as punch? I'm SO ready for this next year! I believe there are some big things in store for our family, I believe God has some amazing things in store for his kids, and I'm excited to see what's coming next.

As I always do, I like to choose One Little Word for the year (click the link if you're not sure what that is.) And as God always does, he dropped the perfect word in my spirit a few days ago. My One Little Word for 2018 is

I have felt this word stirring in my soul for several months now, but the last few weeks, God has really been speaking to me about being faithful. Faithful to the story he's writing with my life. Faithful in my relationships. Faithful with my time. Faithful with the gifts he's placed within me. Faithful. My initial reaction was "God, I'm faithful! I don't cheat on my husband!" LOL But as I dug into the meaning of the word, I was taken aback. There was a far deeper, richer meaning to this word than I knew.

Faithful [feyth-fuh l] adjective
1. Strict or thorough in the performance of duty
          |a faithful worker
2. True to one's word, promises, vows, etc.
3. Steady in allegiance or affection; loyal; constant
          |faithful friends
4. Reliable, trusted, or believed
5. Adhering or true to fact, a standard, or an original; accurate
          |a faithful account; a faithful copy

I had been meditating on this verse for quite some time:

“If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities. And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven? And if you are not faithful with other people’s things, why should you be trusted with things of your own?" Luke 16: 10-12
In 2018, I want to be found faithful. I want to be faithful to my husband, yes, of course. But I want to be found a faithful steward of my health. All of my relationships. My home. My gifts and talents. The story God is writing with my life. I want to be faithful in all the little things that I think no one notices. Because HE notices. And if it's true that I live for an audience of One, then I want him to see me and know I'm faithful.

My One Little Word this year isn't about changing everything about how I live my life. It's simply about having intentional conversations with my Father God, asking him "Show me how to be faithful with this life you've given me. Show me how to be faithful with the laundry and the dinner, with my marriage and my children, with these gifts and this calling, with every little thing in my life. Show me how to glorify you in the midst of the mundane by being faithful with those things that no one else sees." And then creating space to listen and obey.

This year my word is FAITHFUL. What is your One Little Word?


Saturday, May 13, 2017

My Last Mother's Day

***The images in this post are quotes and scriptures that have resonated with my soul as my husband and I came to do the decision to be foster parents.***

It's not often that you stand at the brink of a new relationship and know it's going to end in pain. I don't think humans are engineered for that. Unless there's significant trauma, I don't believe that we go into a relationship believing the other person is going to leave us, or hurt us, or that it will end in heartache. And yet, that's where I am today. It's the Saturday before Mother's Day, and I have "all the feels" as they say, but mostly the uncomfortable ones.

My husband and I are going through foster training. We started our journey just a few months ago, bright eyed and full of optimism and hope. We stand to complete our training and (hopefully) be ready for placements by August. And yet here, on the brink of Mother's Day, I'm questioning. Questioning what next Mother's Day will look like. How many children will I have loved and said good bye to by that point? How many little ones will steal my heart, and then return home? The thought crossed my mind the other day that this is my last "normal" Mother's Day. It's my last Mother's Day as a Mama to just two beautiful girls that I birthed. The rest of "my" children are either in utero, or in a home that may be neglecting or abusing them. And that is heart wrenching.

I also think about their mothers. I think about how some Mama out there knows she's pregnant, but her inner pain is so deep that she can't resist the siren song of drugs or alcohol. I think about the Mama who knows she's pregnant and feels completely incapable of taking care of a little one. I think of the Mama who desperately wants her children, but poverty means she has to work double shifts, at the risk of neglecting those same children. I think of the Mama who has lived through horrific abuse herself and knows no other way to exist than to try to displace her own shame onto her children. I think of the Mama who sits in jail, unable to see her babies, but loving them so much it hurts. It's their Mother's Day too, a day filled with pain and heartache, insecurity and instability.

And I wonder...is my heart strong enough? Have I recovered enough from my own struggles to be able to walk beside these hurting families? Will I survive letting go when everything in me screams to hold on? Can I truly have open hands, an open table and an open heart?

I don't really have answers. And that's a hard thing for me to accept. I'm an idealist, and I want to believe the idea that the kids coming into our care will be just like our own, it's just their parents that are screwed up. I want to believe they won't have major behavioral problems, or physical remnants of prenatal drug and alcohol exposure. I want to believe they'll attach easily and it'll be only mildly uncomfortable to release them back into their capable parents' arms. But all of that is just the ideal. It's not reality. As that understanding deepens, my heart starts leaping in my chest and asking my brain, "Are you sure about this? Are you sure we're tough enough for this?" And when those questions get overwhelming, I have to do the only thing I know to do: pray. Pray for them to be safe, and pray for me to brave.

So I stand on this side of the pain, on this side of the heartache and I still say yes. I still say yes because I feel His heartbeat every time I think of a child who feels unwanted, unloved, and unseen. I feel His heartbeat every time I think of a mother and father who desperately love their children, but are incapable of giving them what they need. I feel His heartbeat every time I think of the Mama who is drowning in her own pain and pulling her children under the current with her. And I say yes, even if it means my own heart must break in the process. Maybe it's in the breaking that we become whole together.

I plan to write more extensively about our foster care journey as we progress through it. May I ask a favor? Please keep our family in your prayers. This is a scary journey, but one we feel called to and we covet your prayer covering for us, our bio children, our extended family and friends, and the children and families we are called to love.


Thursday, March 30, 2017

Broccoli Tomato Salad

I don't share a lot of recipes here because I'm the world's worst food photographer, but this is one of my family's favorite salads. How can you go wrong with broccoli, tomatoes, cheddar cheese, and bacon?! I served it alongside my favorite Green Chicken recipe from Nom Nom Paleo (and makes the perfect addition to a garden salad the next day...it just gets better and better!), and a garden salad. And corn because my daughter loves corn. She loves it so much that I didn't get to eat any of the corn you see on my plate, she stole it. ;)

Broccoli Tomato Salad

1 large head broccoli, cut into 1/2" florets
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup finely chopped red onion
8 oz. cheddar cheese, cubed
1/2 lb. bacon, cooked and crumble

Dressing Ingredients:
1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground pepper
3 Tbsp. white vinegar

In a large bowl, combine broccoli, tomatoes, onion, cheese, and bacon. Whisk together dressing ingredients until sugar and salt are dissolved. Pour over salad. Toss to coat veggies. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving.

If you make this, let me know! I'd love to know if you enjoy it as much as my family does!


Monday, March 13, 2017

Don't Fence Me In!

I mentioned recently that I should write a post about how much I despise labels. Well, this is it. This has been something brewing in my heart since 2000. I'm excited to dig into it with you all today.

As I shared on Friday, I've been a member of many different Facebook groups and message boards over the years. I've been in groups with topics ranging from art to parenting, from diet to natural living to homeschooling. Each online community has a lot of questions posted each day. Their actual questions may be something like, "Is this recipe pure/natural enough?" "Is this curriculum Charlotte Mason enough?" "Is my painting realistic enough?" "Was my discipline choice for my child good enough? The topics may vary, but once boiled down to their purest form, they are all asking the question "Am I enough?"

Label or Prison?
If we aren't careful, we can be defined by our labels. Our labels, which should serve to guide us, instead become walls that imprison us. We can become fearful of branching out into new territory because our label won't allow us. Instead of being free to experiment and explore this wide, beautiful world full of possibilities, we create mental jails where we grow stagnant. 

For instance, if I label myself as a Charlotte Mason homeschooler, I've handed those around me a yardstick with which they can measure my "enough-ness." Suddenly, if I choose to try a new approach that may not align entirely with Charlotte Mason philosophy, then someone can say, "Uh-oh, you're not Charlotte Mason enough!" If that bothers me, I can quickly shrink my life down to fit into that box that I (or others) have created. That label can become like a boa constrictor, tightening around my life until I can't expand and breathe.

Relationship Killers
I shared in this post how much Chasing Francis meant to me. I'd like to share a section out of that book that really spoke to my heart:

I don't want to be labeled at all. Labels are misleading. They objectify people. They are a form of relational laziness. We think that if we can nail a person's label, we've got them all figured out and we don't need to spend time getting to know who they really are...People are always a lot more complicated than their labels.

I LOVED this passage. It is exactly my heart beat, particularly in light of our current political dynamic. If someone claims the labels of Liberal, Conservative, Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, etc. then we think we know what they're about. We think we know what their values are, how they voted, what they believe and think about every current issue. But as Ian Morgan Cron said, people are a lot more complicated than their labels. And if I'm going to develop deep, meaningful, authentic, vulnerable relationships with people, then I can't whittle them down to fit the mold of a simple label. Don't I owe them more respect than that? Don't YOU want more respect than that?

If we aren't mindful about how we're utilizing labels, we can fall into "relational laziness", someone who labels people, decides if they're worthy of our time, attention, or love, and ultimately, misses out on a rich life. I'm obviously not talking about money here; I'm talking about a life made rich by experiences that stretch us, relationships that require the best of us. What could be a rich tapestry of relationships woven together by mutual respect ends up tattered rags. And all because we didn't take the time to look beyond the simple labels and get to know the people underneath. We are far more complicated, and infinitely more valuable, than a label could ever express. 

So, what do we do with these labels?
I could say trash them, but let's face it, that's not realistic. We will always attempt to label, quantify, and classify things, ideas, and people. It's in our nature. Instead, I propose that we should use labels are a jumping off place. Instead of seeing them as boxes that contain us, why don't we use them as engines to propel us onward?

What are the labels you've adopted for yourself or assigned to others? Are they accurate? Do you need to re-think how they apply to you? Are there new labels that would be more appropriate to your value system? Take some time to evaluate the labels in your life and decide if they're serving you or enslaving you. If it's the latter, it's time to let them go.