Wednesday, November 19, 2014

He Makes Us Brave

Hello friends. It's early. Again. So bear with me. The babe was up for a good chunk of time last night because apparently all his pacifiers have gone the way of the Doh Doh and have subsequently disappeared off the face of the earth. So instead of gently getting him back to sleep when he woke up, I instead tore the house apart in search of plastic salvation. By the time I finally found one (under X-mans clothes on the floor of the bedroom) the little man had sufficiently screamed himself awake to the be up half the night. Follow up this glory tale of motherhood to 0515, when strange beeping and clashing of pans comes to me from the kitchen. Apparently it's Bot Bot's snack day for high school advisory and she forgot. So she was up making pumpkin cookies (thank you mom for leaving the mix and saving her bacon).

There are mornings, friends, when all you can do is hit the bold setting on your shiny new coffee pot (because it ASKS me if I want my coffee regular or bold! Oh sweet machine which is the proper 12 cups and not the inept 10 cups as our prior one had been! (It was an accidental 10 cup purchase. Never in our right minds would we have bought a 10 cup machine. Honestly I don't know why they even make them.)) and dig into the bible study that you've were so on top of for a week or two and have instead fallen waaaaayyyyy behind. So here I am, my new favorite coffee mugs (because I love red oh so much. Especially antique red, which is what the box from Costco says they are and they will go so nicely with my kitchen when we revive it from 1992.)

Babbling. Sorry. Sleepy. Moving on.

So anyway, I'm back in on of my favorite books-Esther, and doing one of my favorite studies-Love God Greatly. The funny thing is that I am quite literally months behind, but when I opened the daily study, I had left off on Wednesday, and when I opened my bible, both the right passages were book-marked. Funny how God works, eh? Anywho, read a little Esther 4 where she sends this message to her uncle, Mordecai after he tells her she must go speak with the king, lest their entire culture and race be wiped out from the kingdom:

"All the king's officials and the people of the royal provinces know that for any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned the king has but one law: that he be put to death. The only exception to this is for the king to extend the gold scepter to him and spare his life."

So basically she's saying, "Hey-unlce Mordi, this is gonna get me killed. Remember his first wife, Vashti? She just didn't want to join him for dinner and he booted her behind to the royal jail. You think little old me is going to be able to just waltz on into the royal court with the king and all his men and just ask that he not annihilate our people and he's going to be okay with that? Have you lost your mind?" (I may have taken some liberties with her thoughts, but I'm thinking my girl Esther would have had at least some of these racing through her mind.)

Did I tell you we've finally found a new church? (yes this will relate, I promise. My tired brain isn't making all the fast segue connections quite yet. Transitions may be a little bumpy this morning). Yeah, after years (read YEARS) of searching for one that we like-we've found it. The pastor is just real, you know? Tats and history and all. And his love for Jesus and the people he serves is evident. He's been talking about the flood, and really it's been an amazing study. Unlike any that I have ever heard before. Through out the study he's been paralleling the flood and the Savior, the destruction and the grace. A few weeks ago he spoke on how prior to Jesus coming, the flood was the wrath of God, taken out on an earth who was warned for 75 years, and refused to acknowledge God. The destruction did not come easily or lightly. It was painful and discouraging. Flash forward to Jesus. The man who when beaten and bruised and humiliated took the cross for us, and he asked God as he was praying to take this cup from him if there is any other way. But there wasn't. There was no other way for us to enter God's kingdom than through him. So Jesus took this symbolic cup, the one that held all of God's wrath and judgement for us. For Me. For You. And he drank it.

Dang. That's some powerful stuff right there. But here's the grace-because he is our perfect salvation, God sees us only through him. Jesus told us "No one comes to the Father but through me." Because we're pretty pitiful. But through the lens of Jesus-we are beautiful and pleasing to God's sight.

I can only imagine what Esther was feeling as she pushed open those doors to the royal courts. As all the men turned to look at her. Some I'm sure in shock. Other's perhaps smugly. And then her king. Was his face a mix of emotions? Caught between his own law and the love for this woman? I don't know. I can only imagine what it would have been like, but I'm sure you could have cut the tension with a knife. Or a scepter.

And that's what he did. The King extended his scepter to Esther and heard her request. She was allowed to come to him and speak her piece because he had extended her grace.

Jesus is our scepter, kids. It is through him that we God extends us the grace and the love to enter his presence. To sit at his feet. To speak to him. He is our eternal grace and salvation. He is our only hope to save our people, our nation. He makes us brave. That is a beautiful thing. Even on an early morning.



Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Give Thanks: Give Back

I've been absent from this blog for a bit. I've been working on my second novel and I'd like to share a little bit with you. The following two paragraphs are a sneak peak at my current work in progress. This book is about a little boy named Peter and his social worker, Julia. 


"I could feel Peter’s foot tap-tap-tap the back of my seat as we made our way out of town towards Jacob Phillip’s house. Normally this would drive me crazy and I was about to tell him so when I caught a glance of him in the rear-view mirror. He was sitting ramrod straight in his grey and black booster seat. In foster care, Peter’s foster parents should have received stipends to meet his physical needs, but often that money was spent elsewhere, and with a kid that moved around as much as Peter did, it was easily lost. This meant a trip to what was lovingly called “The Closet”. The foster kid’s closet is full of random articles of clothing and shoes and other outerwear that had been donated or handed down by other kids in the system. I had taken Peter there a number of times. The blue Seahawks jacket he had picked out of the foster kid’s closet last fall was pulling tight against his shoulders and his faded jeans had run ragged at what should have been the knees, but hit Peter more mid-shin. They were likely hand-me-downs also.

If by looking at his clothes you couldn’t tell something was off, you would by looking at his face. His dark blue eyes were smudged with the blue/purple markings of lack of sleep and his cheeks were hallowed out and pasty. When I looked closer I could see the fine movement of his jaw. He was grinding his teeth. His whole domineer was that of a ball of stress. His fingers we absently toying with the black garbage bag on the seat next to him, poking small holes in the exterior. Inside the bag was the entire contents of Peter’s little life. All of his clothes, shoes, toys and other personal belongings. The bag wasn’t even half full."

These two paragraphs are a sneak peak at my current work in progress. This book, my second novel, is about a little boy named Peter and his social worker, Julia. 

Did you know that for many kids in foster care, this is exactly how they move from place to place? Quickly, and with their belongings shoved into a plastic garbage bag. Can you imagine? Think of what this would do to your self-esteem. Not only are you being taken away from your home, or the place you've called home, again-but with everything you own, or at least as much as you can pack in the time your social worker gives you-shoved in a black garbage bag. 

It's not the social worker's fault. It's not the child's fault. So much gets missed in move to move when you have nowhere to put your things. This holiday season I'm hoping to make a difference in some kiddo's lives, and I'd love for you to join me. See we're so blessed. Like crazy blessed. And we'd like to pay it forward so this year my family and I are adopting one of the local Youth Homes and will be taking Christmas presents to them. Last weekend I hosted a Give Back party with Thirty One Things where guests could order a bag or other small item to donate or bring a gift to donate to the kids. Would you like to help? There are a multitude of things that can be donated, and if you're local, feel free to drop something off. If you're not local but you still want to help, please consider finding a group home in your area, or contact your County's Social Service's office and see what they need for donations.Or if you'd like to donate a bag, consider visiting my web-page and check out the Cinch Bags.  Make a difference in a kiddo's life this holiday season. It's worth it. I promise. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Five Minute Friday: Still

It is {almost} Friday. And I have missed this place with the sisterhood of #fmfparty. Tonight I join in again, linking up at Kate's Place where we have shared chocolate and stories and loved on each other. Come on over and join us, would you?

Prompt: Still

Go.


Dear Son,

Ours is not the typical relationship. I did not carry you in my body and catch my breath when I first felt you move. I was not there in the delivery room, catching you as you entered this world with curled fist and loud cry. I was not there at your first birthday. I did not fully appear in your life until you were three. Long after the synapses and sheaths of your brain were formed. Long after you'd determined safety and love the redemption or lack there of for both.

But I love you still.

I remember holding you in my arms and teaching you how to hold back. I've slept in your toddler bed, my arms wrapped 'round your tiny frame in an effort to show you my love. I've taken the kicks and scratches and pushes and pulls and angry words like a sword to my soul, because I know you don't mean them.

And I love you still.

My son. I've had intimate conversations with the principals and discipline officers and counselors, therapists and most recently the Sheriff. I've called in all the recruits that I can think of over these last four years, and I pray prayers of intercession over you daily. I pray for peace. I pray for love. I pray for you to understand how much we want you to be happy, and to feel our love cover you.

And I love you still.

I am terrified for your future. I am heartsick over your pain.

And I love you still.

And this is what I think you don't realize. That no matter how much you push or pull or fight, I will love you still. That no matter what you do or don't do or the choices you make, I will not be the one to leave. I will love you still.

Stop.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Early Mornings and Snow Fall

When I stumbled out of my room this morning, white caught my eye through the living room window. Today is the first snow. While I am far from ready to batten down the hatches and hunker down for full blown winter, there is something magical about waking up to snow for the first time each season. There is something so redemptive about it. It's like a constant reminder of the verse that says we are washed clean to become white as snow. I don't think anyone needs that more than  me.

It is early, friends. So early for this mamma who is not a morning person. I've made the coffee and have gulped it down like my life depends on it. But it is a good day. I just spoke with Angie Austin on Daybreak Radio about battling infertility and building our family through adoption. Her show was live at 0635 ET and here in the Big Sky State, that means 0435. It's early. But it was worth it.

I love talking about adoption. It is one of my most favorite things and my heart still aches for those who are waiting for their forever family. Some days I wish I could live in a big 'ole house on a big 'ole chunk of land and just fill it to the brim with kids. A safe place where they can run and play and fill their bellies and their souls. A place to call home, where they don't have to worry about shoving their belongings into a plastic garbage bag in preparation for just another move.

When our daughter came home with us for the first time, she was understandably quiet in the backseat of our car. I asked her if she was nervous and told her that it was okay if she was, that we were nervous too. But her answer broke my heart. She said that no, she wasn't nervous because she'd been adopted before. Sweet girl.

Sweet girl who hadn't been adopted but had been in different homes. I looked at my hubby and his tearful eyes mirrored my own. But how can a child understand this? How does a child fathom move after move after move, when as an adult I can't wrap my mind around it? They don't. They can't. And yet they do know that there is something sacred about the permanent.

For each of my three oldest, adoption day was a golden lamp that hung in their future. No matter their age, they knew that if they could reach that day, go through the ceremony and the steps, that life would be different. Standing in front of a judge would take away the suitcases and the bags that always meant change. But that didn't mean that there wouldn't be hard times.

It's been a rough week, friends. I had hoped to be in this place often this month as November is National Adoption month. I wanted to fill this page with stories and encouragement, but I've been lacking. There have been times in this life of motherhood when I've felt tested and stretched and pulled to breaking and this week has been one of those times. No one ever told me mommyhood was going to be so hard.

This morning on the radio I talked about hard days, but that looking back in retrospect it is so clear how God is so good, and he is. Even on those hard days. Because each day I can wake up and know that this is a new day, that his mercies run so deep they never end. And this is what I have to remember as a mom. That each day is a new day with new chances and new choices. For me and my kids.

I don't know what today will bring. I'm expecting a call from the school at some point and I know I will cringe and sigh at the number that plays on my screen. I've been told that this is Kingdom work, this motherhood. And I think that it is. What I've learned is that it doesn't matter if your kids are adopted or biological, sometimes things are just rough. I'm not the candy-coating type of girl. Adoption isn't easy. It isn't a band-aid fix for infertility and it doesn't come with perfect situations and there are parts of it that will break your heart.

This quote from Jody Ianders has always resonated with me. The magnitude of adoption is astounding.Adoption comes with strings attached. There will always be ties to birth families and biology. There will be easy questions and tough questions. There will be wounded hearts and broken pieces.  But there is also love. So much love. And there is hope for a new life and for a new chapter. Each day is a new beginning and each child deserves a family. At the end, that is what is important. We all want a loving home to call our own.

Here in a little bit, after the first pot of coffee is gone I'll go and wake up four children. Four kids who my body told me I would never have but my heart told me I would. One will pop out of bed like a Jack-in-the-box, two will crawl out of bed like me, and the babe will wake wanting breakfast first. I'll wait for them to realize that there is snow, and then let the excitement carry them for a bit. I'll hunt for jackets worn and lost in the last twelve hours. I'll track down hats and backpacks and lunch boxes and missing shoes. Then I'll watch as they head out the door and make the first tracks in the blanket of snow. They will carve their own path, these kids in an unlikely family. And one day I'll look back at all things we've been through and I'll see it again: God is so good.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Just Another White Girl

My news feed and blog feed are flooding right now with stories and posts and words that tell me that it's shameful to be who I am. That I am defined by a group whose skin caries the same tone as mine. And I feel as if I'm expected to sit down and take the slam after slam after slam on who I am and what I believe because to do otherwise would be wrong.  I was brought up in this world where it's not supposed to matter what the color of your skin is-that life is and God is and he loves each of us no matter how our skin turns in the sun. And yet, here I am lost in this world where I feel like I'm just trying to survive each day and I feel like I'm being told that because I'm white, I'm not okay.

Because I'm white I should step aside and let some one else take the page for a minute and let their words ring out and ring true and I wonder to myself, aren't these words on a page put down for all to read and see and hear and if not for the picture on the blog, who would know what color my skin is? Because I'm white I can't build my family and love on babies that don't share the same skin tone as I do. Because I'm white I'm not doing my job in this church family and leading the kingdom where it is supposed to go.

And isn't it not supposed to matter what color I am?

Isn't it not supposed to matter that I'm about as white as you're ever going to get. Isn't it supposed to matter that I'm living for my God and trying to make a better world and what happens to be blue is the color of my eyes and what happens to be red are my cheeks that flush at the notion that I should step down. Step aside. Because what isn't a battle of race and identity is just that.

Has it been lost and forgotten that I have been a servant. That I am a servant. Should I not go to places and serve where skin tone will not match my own because others should stand out there where they blend in instead? Should I not be where I am the minority, not because I've grown up in a life that is privileged and paid for the plane tickets, but because I worked three jobs and spoke with my church family and friends and scraped pennies so that I could pay to work in an area that needed help. Because while I was blessed with a family that loves me, we were not in the lap of luxury. Five kids and a stay at home mom meant a daddy who worked overtime and no extras. It wasn't a bad life and I'm not complaining, but because I'm white doesn't mean that I haven't worked since I was in seventh grade, or paid for my own schooling. I will be paying on student loans until I die. Because I chose to go to school, and nobody was paying for it but me. There is no poor white girl fund. There are no scholarships or loans designated only for white people who are struggling to make ends meet. Yet there are for so many different nationalities. But I can't say things like that. Apparently it makes me racist. Because what I've learned in this little life is that it's okay to stand up for anyone that isn't white, but it's not okay to stand up for ourselves.

Seriously. Is this not a talk about racism when I thought we were trying to talk about God and the kingdom and compassion and being a voice in the darkness because we speak through him and not through lips framed with freckles. Did he not say Come, ALL who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Not come in divisions of the White Christians and Black Christians and Asian Christians and Native Christians. But this is what I'm reading. The white church. The white Christians. And wow, what a division that is. Bringing up wounds and scars and tearing open the pain and heartbreak and prejudice. Because while I #WentThere and I prayed to #BringBackOurGirls and I work in an arena where I fight for #SocialJustice, I am being told that it's not okay. It's not enough-because I'm a part of the white Christians. 

I'm not naive. I know that racism is here, and as we are human I know that in areas it also filters into the church. I know that people do horrendous things to other people because of the color of their skin. And it's not okay. It's not right. But it's not right to tear down a ministry because the circuit leaders are pale skinned either-because their idea lead to something great and beautiful that brought others together from all over the world. Doesn't it just create more racism to note that those standing on the stage aren't the color you think they should be? Is it really that only the white Christians are chosen because it is an option of race? Is it really that pictures of white people are shown because that's what sells? Honestly, I don't think so. Because I've listened to some pretty dang good men and women speak, or read their words, or seen their pictures or heard their songs-and they weren't pale skinned like me. And maybe the difference is that I didn't pay attention to the color of their skin as a defining attribute of their character. Do some conversations need to be had? Absolutely. Are there differences in how we raise our children? Sadly, yes-in same ways there are. But does that make it right to name a whole group as wrong because of the color of their skin? There's the age old question.

The sad thing is that I will likely lose some followers, and maybe even friends because of this. Not because I've torn down another race-because I haven't. Not because I've spoken out against a specific group-because I haven't. But because I've spoken up for myself. For others in this group of White Christians that I've been lumped together with for no other reason than the color of my skin.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Pumpkin Spice Bread {Day 24}

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Fall means pumpkin. Those who know me best know that this is true in my life. See the pic a friend of mine posted to me on Facebook? Yep, pumpkin me up!

One of my favorite things to eat (because I don't like actually MAKING it) is pumpkin bread. Spread a little cream cheese on it and life is good! It's Bot Bot and Lil' Girl's favorite too. They would eat my pumpkin bread ALL DAY LONG. Girls after my own heart.

Yesterday I made a few loaves of it and the hubs took one to work today for an auction that they were having. The proceeds go towards the local Town Pump, which matches donations and sends it right on over to the Food Bank. He just messaged me and said that my little loaf went for $80! How awesome is that! The generosity of that goes hand in hand with this season is one of my favorite things. Ever.

Since some one seemed interested in the bread, I thought I'd share the recipe with you. Remember, I'm not so great at measuring things, so when it comes to the vanilla and the spices, I go by what looks best. The actual numbers I give you are an estimate. :) I also made my own oat flour. It's ridiculously easy. No really! I did it so you can too. I buy the giant box of Quaker Oats and Costco and just poured a couple cups into my blender, set it on "liquefy" and wham bam thank you ma'am oat flour!

And sorry about the pictures. I don't do a good job taking them while I cook, and this is what's left. :)

Without further adue, Marcy's Pumpkin Spice Bread. Enjoy!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.



Mix:

1 cup flour
1/2 c brown sugar
1 TBS baking powder
1/2 TBS cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp ginger
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 TBS vanilla
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
1/3 cup softened butter

Then add another cup of flour, I use oat.

Plop it into a loaf pan and let it cook for about an hour.

Cut yourself a big 'ole hunk of it, spread on a little cream cheese and enjoy with a cuppa!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Phone Calls and #Momdays {Day 22}

My phone hardly ever rings. When it does, typically it's one of three people: my hubby, my mom or my sister. Lately though there's a new number that's making the list. I know it by heart now and each time those numbers pop up on the shiny screen of my phone, I cringe. Yeah. That good. Guess who it is? I'll give you three chances.

Work? Nope.

The fans beating down my door? Nope.

Publisher's Clearing House? Oh wait, they knock on the door. And no.

It's the school. More pointedly-it's the Elementary School Principal. Yeah, he and I? We're on a first name basis now. And it's not a good thing.

The number popped up on my screen again today and the typical sense of dread coursed through my veins. It's hard to be cheery when you know bad news is on the other line. But I paint on a smile any way (they say it actually transfers to your voice) and I answered. Oh the temptation to let it go to voice mail! But here's my thought on calls from the principal: it's kind of like ripping of a band aid. Better to just do it and do it fast than let it linger in the voice mail box all day.

Fortunately this new principal is amazing. Putting the kids in a new school was a stress we weren't looking forward too and apparently we're past the honeymoon phase with X-Man. Now his true colors are shining through like a technicolor jukebox blasting in the second grade classroom. Only this music maker isn't playing good 'ole Patsy Cline and Johnny Cash. Though mamma feels like a weepin' willow and I've got a healthy fear of Folsom.

But I digress. This principal-he actually asked for my opinion. He was up for suggestions instead of trying to shove policy and love and logic down my throat. And the biggest thing-he told me not to be discouraged. That I have a great kid. And that the hubs and I are making a difference. For the first time a call from the principal actually made me cry good tears.

So all you parents out there-you know who you are. The ones that the school has on speed dial and the bus driver can tail your car like a race car driver-yes you.

I know you're frazzled. I call them #MomDays. Days and experiences you become intimate with when you've got munchkins flitting out into the world.  I know what you're thinking as you watch your kiddo walk out the door to wait at the bus stop. It usually goes something like this:splease please please PLEASE let him/her have a good day. And by good I mean please let me NOT get a call from the school. Am I right? Or maybe it's something like this: Well, there they go. All bets are off! 

Either way-I know what you're feeling. I know what you're thinking when that number pops up on the screen. But when it all comes down to it, here's the deal: You can't make their choices for them. No matter what tools you give them-they are going to make their own choices. Good or bad. And that's not on you. What is on you is this: YOU ARE MAKING A DIFFERENCE. A good one. An AMAZING one.

Why?

Because you show up. Each day. Every morning when that alarm clock goes off and you pour yourself a steaming cup of courage while you slather on the PB&J. You go to the conferences and the meetings. And you still take them to the park to blow off steam. Because even though there are consequences, there's still love. You reprimand, and then you remind them that they are smart. They have a big heart. And you know that they can make the right choices. Then you climb into bed and pray for a better day tomorrow.

And someday, that tomorrow will come. I promise. It may take awhile, but I can guarantee this: you will get there. Both of you. Because you're making a difference. And that difference lasts. Just remember that next time you get that phone call. And remember that you're not alone-I've got your back.