Monday, June 17, 2019

Certain Uncertainty

So during the time of all of my eye diagnosis, we have had other kids receive an  educational diagnoses and one going through a time of worry and stress (and John started his MBA, because of course there can't be only ONE big thing going on at the same time;). One of my kids has been seeing a great counselor to help process and learn how to handle stress. We have helped at home as much as we can, but with what I am going through currently, I decided now was a good season to outsource that discussion to a wise counselor! After the second or third session, she came home with a picture. The counselor, who is trained in both counseling and sports psychology, told her that athletes performance and progress comes in waves, you progress and then you plateau and go back into a learning or struggling place until you get another skill and your progress is on an upswing and so on. She told her that your emotions shouldn't "ride the waves" of your progress. Your feelings about yourself shouldn't follow the pink line of your peaks and valleys of performance. She said we want to work on getting you to this green line, your emotions are going to struggle as you have victories and defeats but they should only move minimally because how you feel about yourself shouldn't be dictated by your performance. Ideally, you would follow a straight line, the black line, and your feelings about yourself and confidence in who you are wouldn't be moved by your circumstance in your sport or at school or with what is going on in life.
Now this counselor is not a Christian counselor, but she revealed a Biblical truth to my daughter that I have been trying to teach her since she could walk. And bringing this lesson back up at a time in my life where there are some pretty big waves of disappointment, struggle, and shock was pretty timely for me as well. You see, I don't want to "ride the waves" of this diagnosis. I don't want every appointment to knock the wind out of me and put me down on the ground of despair or feeling crushed. Is it hard to hear bad news? Yes. I posted this just the other week. 
Another tough week of news about my diagnosis. A substantial amount of progression since 6 weeks ago. Talks of the doctor saying I may need to give my license up in the next few years. A line gone on the eye chart that wasn’t supposed to happen until later. A huge amount of vision gone in my peripheral with staggeringly small numbers remaining. This is news. Bad news. Heavy news. But still just news. “But what I have access to is a truth that transcends news. The restoration that is impossible with man’s limitations is always possible with a limitless God. Truth is what factors God unto the equation” -Lysa Terkeurst "It doesn’t  have to be this way". 
 I’m clinging to that truth as things start to fade or surprise me throughout the day. I’m enjoying another sunset, another blue sky day, my kids faces, but those things are not ultimate. He is. The man who gave up his very life so he could call me daughter. He is truth. The truth that he journeyed to a cross and was tortured so that I could have spiritual eyes to see him. The truth that he conquered death and then extended me an invitation to life, to really live, sight or no sight. That truth is worth it. And even though the news feels big and sad, he’s better. He’s steady. He’s good. He’s with me. And that truth carries me through. “He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord. His heart is steady; he will not be afraid”
Psalms 112:7-8a #letitbetrueofme
Big news is hard to handle and process and it can be sad and overwhelming and frustrating. I didn't want to hear that I may lose my ability to drive in the next 2 years or so. I didn't want to hear that it is progressing faster than they thought. That is a low point. But I don't want my feelings about my life to fluctuate with my circumstances. It is ok to grieve and be sad, and I have definitely had those days as I think of what I used to think the future would look like and what it may look like instead very soon. But bad news doesn't have to equal despair. It can hurt but it doesn't have to consume and crush. Jesus is my straight line. Because my identity is rooted in Him, I don't have to ride the waves of my circumstances. I can stay relatively steady as these waves come and go because what he says about me is TRUTH and this is just news. I am not the equivalent of my abilities or my sight. I am a daughter of God, who Jesus died to save, who is promised that I am upheld by an unchanging, unshakeable God with limitless wisdom and power. He is my straight line when my life is hard. He is  my straight line in victory. I look to him when I fall because he picks me up. I look to him when I succeed because it is Him in me that gives me any victory I may have. He is steady when I am not. He is unchanging when I feel like I'm blowing in the wind. He says I am enough, loved, able, powerful, treasured when I feel otherwise. 
Our pastor spoke this Sunday on root idols that cause our hearts to stumble. The four being Power, Control, Approval, and Pleasure. Power says I can do it on my own and I can succeed. Success is what drives me, my performance is what matters, I just need to be better than the person next to me. Control says I need things to happen my way, I can put in the right work and I should get the right result, things should go as I dream or as a plan. Approval says What people say about me is ultimate, I don't want for people to think bad of me, I don't want to feel low, I want to feel liked and accepted at all times. Pleasure says I deserve this good thing, I deserve happiness and comfort at every turn. I will go after my own ease and comfort because that is what life is about. These things are the root of so much pain and deceiving about what life with God can be. As I processed these, I know Control is my biggest struggle. I want things to ultimately work out like I hope they would. I want to parent my kids and be ensured they turn out how I want them to, I want to know what the next 5 and 10 year plan looks like and for it to go according to that. 
Blindness turns all these on their head. It attacks each one of these in varying degrees. Power? No, I am taking a low place, success will not come without major obstacles, my "performance" goes down because simple tasks now become insurmountable tasks. Control? No. My life, my diagnosis, my speed of progressing is completely out of my control. Soon I won't even be able to drive a car or grocery shop or sort laundry, much less have my life under “control”. Approval? No. Blindness is a disability that lowers your social standing. You are looked upon with pity or sympathy. People assume you are unable. Pleasure? Not as much, not like the world sees it, My ability to see is compromised, I can't enjoy a sunset or a beautiful landscape. I can't run with ease, I can't enjoy a beautiful afternoon drive. But these are illusions. These are what the world says is good, not what God says is eternal or ultimate. He has the power, he is in control, he gives me approval and acceptance regardless of my performance, and he is my source of pleasure and joy, not sight or anything that this world offers up as good. So I will keep on running after that steady line that Jesus offers. I’ll keep holding my ever changing emotions up to my never changing God and ask him to exchange it for truth. 

Friday, March 22, 2019

Not my will, but yours be done

Such hard words to utter, even harder to believe and put my full weight into. Its been a wild 2 months since my diagnosis. I have vacillated between full trust and gratitude, to grieving loss and wondering how my life will look at each stage. All the while, amazed by God and how he has sustained me and given me perspective and hope that can only come from him.
I got a call Wednesday that my gene results had come in. This was 2 weeks before I was expecting this call. I thought the days waiting for that call would be consumed with anticipation, but it was quickly pushed to the back burner of life and I occasionally wondered what would come of it and prayed that my gene would be identified and not one that hadn't been discovered yet.
As the kids got in the car from school Wednesday afternoon, an unknown local number called, which I typically ignore because I get so many telemarketing calls and the kids had just gotten in the car and were excitedly telling me about their day. Something inside prompted me to answer and sure enough it was my genetic counselor asking if now was a good time to share results. I was almost home so I parked on the neighborhood street and told the kids to get out and walk home as I pulled over to take notes. She mentioned the gene was found with certainty and I was beyond thankful. Then she told me, "your Retinitis Pigementosa has been caused by the gene USH2A". I have researched RP just enough to know that Usher's syndrome can be part of a diagnosis which also causes permanent and complete hearing loss. My heart sunk. Immediately life flashed ahead and I thought of trying to live life not only blind but also deaf. Those few seconds before she spoke again felt like minutes. She then explained that there are 3 strands within this gene and 2 of mine are "pathogenic" or disease causing, but my 3rd strand was intact, and that is the strand that causes the hearing loss part of the disorder. So there was absolutely no chance of any deafness progressing in my case.  One strand. One tiny part of a gene that was amazingly unaffected by the other two damaged strands. Miracle. She continued on to explain what this means for me and how people with this gene typically progress. The good news, she shared, was that this is a fairly common type of RP (10-15% of people with RP have this gene) so there is a lot of research for gene therapies being done with a sense of urgency. The other great news was this gene is recessive, so the kids would only be carriers, they would not get the disorder unless John had the same damaged copy of the gene and was a carrier and that was similar to a one in a million chance. The not so great news was that this gene is adult onset (obviously) but much quicker progressing than several of the others. In many other genes, complete loss of sight happens in your 55-70 year range, but this gene most people experience loss in their 40's. This felt like a punch in the stomach. I had spent the past 2 months accepting the fact that I would lose my sight just after the kids left the house, that my retirement years and grandparent years would be impacted, but just slow loss before that. This was new. It felt like a new diagnosis all together.  She mentioned how in that range my sight would go down to a 5 degree visual field (basically a pinhole) and even that would be blurred. 
She assured I would never go into "complete darkness" which is what most people assume blindness means, she said I would always be able to identify if it was sunny or night, if a light was on in a room or not, but that I would not see objects or faces, it would only be the contrast of light and dark. 
I sat stunned but typing each thing she said so I didn't forget. She said I would not notice weekly or monthly deterioration but probably every 6 months I would notice another layer of loss. There's obviously variation, even in the people with the same exact gene causing RP, and some people who are outliers that keep their vision longer and some that lose it even sooner. I checked out as she mentioned resources the county offers with learning to use a cane, disability and so forth. The message that shouted loudly was 'I am going blind, sooner than I thought by about 15 years'. I looked ahead and could see the kids playing in the house and getting their snacks. I wondered how much time I had left. My forties are just around the corner. 
That night I clicked into "go mode", sharing the info with family and picking up kids from practice and cooking dinner and helping with homework. I processed a little with John that night, but it still felt surreal, distant and unbelievable. The next morning I woke up and opened my eyes and it started to sink in. I was teary as I packed lunches and drove to school, I was teary as I drove to my workout, flooded with thoughts. My mind raced and I battled with trying to put truth over the lies and uncertainties I was hearing. I left the gym and got a text congratulating Reese for a great win at the state gymnastics meet and that she was surely headed for a college scholarship with such talent. I lost it. Right there on the backroads by my house I sobbed my way home. All of the what if's were becoming real. Would I even see her compete in college? How many more years would I get to watch her do the sport she loves? My plans of what the next 5, 10, 15, 20 years would look like felt shattered, uncertain, and laced with a ticking clock looming over me. I do not want to live this way. I do not want to evaluate my life in 6 month chunks anticipating the next layer of loss, wondering what I won't be able to see next month that I can see now. I begged God to take the clock away. And then verses flooded my mind. Psalm 90:12 So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Job 42:2 I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. Job 23:13-14 But he is unchangeable, and who can turn back his plans? What he desires, he does. For he will complete what he appoints for me, and many such plans he still has in store
This is not out of God's control, it is surely out of mine. As I have reflected on this, I think we often make plans as if we are entitled to tomorrow, next year, the next decade. We know death could happen at any time, but we live as if we will have long healthy lives with no pain or suffering. This is just not true. We live in a world that is literally unraveling, deteriorating, if I use the word she correlated with my sight. What we see is wasting away, our bodies are as well. I am not entitled to tomorrow. I am not entitled to my sight. I am not entitled to a  comfortable easy life. I wrote this post almost exactly two years ago. In it, I included this quote from Jay and Katherine Wolf "Do you want the gifts or the giver? Do you want deliverance from suffering and discomfort or do you want the Comforter himself? We believe the lie that if you follow and obey God into discomfort and out of what is "safe" then there will be blessings and reward for you and things will go well...but instead you've entered into discomfort and you're finding it's your new normal. How can suffering and joy coexist? In suffering, there is a death to life resurrection we get to witness, a picture of new life. In suffering, we anchor ourselves in the assurance of hope and joy in Jesus not in our circumstances. In American Christianity, we have bought into the lie that if it is good, then it cannot be hard. That goodness must exclude suffering. This is not true. In Jesus' upside down gospel good and hard totally coexist and weave together for our goodness and his glory"
 God help me to live in light of eternity. Help me to see this as a light and momentary affliction. Help me to live in gratitude of each moment you have given me as a gift of grace I do not deserve. Help me to suffer well. Help me to say, "not my will but yours". 
I am so amazed at the Psalmists in the Bible and even Jesus himself. God is not offended or put off by their cries for help. He welcomes it. Want to complain? Go for it. Wish it wasn't this way? I understand. Think its all too much? You can't see the whole picture. I am so thankful for the way God deals tenderly with us in suffering. I definitely had a huge ugly cry to him yesterday. Not this, its too much, its too soon, its not what I thought, but I want to see this, this and this, God bring a cure, give me your eyes to see this with. And there was comfort in that and peace given, and there was truth replied with, and tenderness. He holds it all together. Not a hair falls without his allowing it. My sight is under his complete control. He is a good father who withholds NO GOOD THING from his children (Psalm 84:11). Even pain in his hands is for my good, others good and his glory. He is not withholding my sight. 
A few weeks ago I was driving and praying and singing. I saw a picture in my mind of me walking blindfolded in front of the most beautiful landscape. Jesus was behind me, leading me and gently directing each step. I got closer to the rolling hills, deep canyons, beautiful mountains. And then he took off the blindfold. God is not taking my sight from me, he may allow blindness, but it is only to enhance and heighten my experience of him, of life, and of heaven. It is a gift he has entrusted to me. Just as I would blindfold my children and keep something amazing a complete surprise from them, he does with me. So God it is hard, I may want it a different way or not so soon, but I trust you. I even trust a blindfold in the hands of my good, perfect Father. 

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Give me eyes to see.

You never plan to hear bad news. Life feels normal until it's not anymore. For years I have had a hard time seeing at night. I thought it was because I have blue eyes or because I am not 20 anymore. I mentioned it casually to doctors along the way but nothing came of it other than some glasses for night driving. Fast forward to December of '18 and things started to change. I was tripping over stuff, running into my kids in the daytime, not seeing a child laying on the floor when I walked in the room. I noticed it was worse but again didn't think a thing of it. Until John did. And he said maybe an appointment would be good. So I get an appointment and think I'll just hear this is aging, you need glasses. I saw the panic rise in the doctors eyes as I failed test after test. I saw her perplexed look with how to tell me. More tests, calling in an ultrasound, needing to call in other doctors to look at scans. I figured things were getting serious. But when I pressed her for what she thought was going on I did not expect to hear potential brain tumor or genetic disorder leading to blindness. No one expects that on a Thursday.
Days swirled by while I waited to get in with a specialist. Only 6 of them, but it felt like 26. Anticipation was the major emotion, accompanied with a lot of peace amongst a few nagging 'what if's'. I knew God had walked me this far, he had been with me in Congo at my lowest of lows, he had been with me when I rolled my child back for surgery, or held my child grieving her past. I imagined having a conversation with God. If he asked me, "If you could go blind or have a brain tumor and the result would be people trusting me for the first time, your kids learning what dependence on me looks like, you finally focusing on what is eternal and not just seen, would you let me do it?" My resounding answer was yes. Now God did not ask this of me audibly I don't think, this was just my stream of consciousness. But all of it to say, I would GLADLY walk a hard road if it meant the result is closeness with Jesus. He promises trials in this world, there is no reason to be surprised by it, even if it is bad news on a Thursday morning.   But those 6 days did a lot in my heart. I put in concrete what I had always wondered: the words I would utter when suffering struck close to home. I trust you God, You are still good no matter what my circumstance is. I want to walk in your purposes and not just my own conveniences. You are worth the hard road. I want closeness with you more than I want comfort and ease. I've typed these things before, even on this blog, but now I was faced with a deeper question: if I believed in darkness what I said in the light.
6 days later, a cold Wednesday in January came and John and I saw the specialist. Many more tests, flashing lights, dark rooms, scans and pictures. Her face looked serious when she walked in with the results. She asked if I understood why I was there, what I had been seen for before, previous symptoms, each question getting more startling and alarmed, her tone growing serious with each second that passed. She explained in vague terms how the eye works when its healthy, only her voice insinuating the opposite for me. She explained how I had something from the day I was conceived, written into the fabric of my being, in and with me every day since. I felt a strange feeling, relief, comfort, preparedness, peace. I did ask her finally what she was talking about. A degenerative (progressively worsening) genetic eye disorder that  results in loss of sight (Retinitis Pigmentosa). She showed me pictures of where my peripheral vision is gone and can't be repaired (the black areas in the picture below) and she also explained things in this field are moving quickly with research and gene therapies even though no treatment is available yet. She explained blindness happens by first losing night vision, then peripheral until its tunnel vision and then tunnel closes, but you can still distinguish light from dark. I’ve currently lost 58% of my vision in one eye and 42% in the other. 
It was definitely a lot to take in but John and I felt calm. She even asked us, twice, how were we taking it so well and how were we so calm. There's really only one reason.
We grieve, with hope. We suffer, with purpose. We may feel alone and overwhelmed but we are most certainly not. A God who knit every strand of my DNA together, even this strand, knew this all along. And he waited in his grace until we were ready to show us one step at a time. That doesn't mean I haven't had thoughts of how not driving will be a challenge, or how not seeing my grandchildren with my eyes is sad, or how life will be with a physical challenge, but I am confident. Confident that he who began a good work in me will see it through to completion (Philippians 1:6). I am confident that he will work all these things together for my good and for his purposes (Romans 8:28). I know that in my suffering that he will give me an abundance of joy as his glory is revealed along this path (1 Peter 4:13). I am comforted as we walk this road and I know he will comfort others through the way I endure (2 Corinthians 1:4). I know this may be a time of grieving and hardship, and there will be more to come, but I know no circumstance can take away the joy I cling to in Christ, he will listen to my requests and make my joy complete in Him, not in the removal of the circumstance (John 16: 22-24). 
John and I talked that night about how life may be different but that God is constant and we are a team. I told him how I can now see how God ordained it all along that it was his grace that I got married young and had children young and had gotten to see my kids grow and experience life with them. All God's graces I do not deserve. 
The next day came and it was another meeting with another specialist. On the way to the appointment I received a call from the orthopedic I had taken my oldest to the night before. He explained that the rib we had X-rayed was not broken, but another one was previously broken but already healing. He continued, "Has your daughter ever had problems with her heart before?" No, not this. My heart sank. He explained on the X-ray they noticed her heart looked abnormal, a part of her heart was enlarged and that can be dangerous. I passed the information off to John and walked into my next eye appointment. I don't even remember the route I took to get to the Eye center. My mind was a flurry of information and questions and concerns. I prayed. I asked for help, for healing, for peace. I walked into the waiting room and was called back to see another Physician who assists the genetic specialist. He again took new scans and confirmed the diagnosis. He showed me the damage already done. I asked how quickly will this progress, how much time of sight do I have left. He answered "I am a man of faith and I believe God has ordained each step for you. This is not in your hands and you do not need to worry about it". I had asked for peace and He gave it, I asked for comfort and He gave it. This doctor proceeded to answer all of my questions and asked if he could pray with me. He prayed confidently that God entrusted this to me and will use it for his purposes, he asked that I take every opportunity to use it for my good and the good of others, he echoed my words that my confidence cannot be shaken, it is in the God who created the universe and every fiber of my being. Why should I be afraid when that God is by my side? 
That same day as the eye appointment and the call about my daughter, my sweet uncle passed away. A random trip and fall in a parking lot led to a bleed in the brain and he is now meeting Jesus face to face.
It has been one thing after another these two days. An overwhelming sadness and an imperturbable peace. This world is not my home. We were made for another. This life is temporary. We are not guaranteed tomorrow. 
I don't know if it was an error by the radiologist reading Reese's X-ray or the Lord answered my prayer of healing my daughter's heart, but today the cardiologist and radiologist could not find the enlarged artery, all was functioning normally. I am beyond amazed. 
What a week it has been. Have there been days where I have eaten an entire bowl of Jello Pudding? Yes:) Moments when I am sad that I may not get to see a child walk a stage or an aisle? Yes. But I have had a solid group of dear friends praying for me, holding up my arms, praying when I am too tired to, and giving me space to verbally vomit and point me back to truth. But not in a Christian cliche' way, no, in the pit with me, yanking me out, and spurring me on. 
I'm letting you in on my journey, as I process, as I pray, as I experience the ups and downs. I don't want attention or sympathy, but I want Jesus to be on display. I am sad at times but I am not afraid. I do not put my trust in things seen.  I do not know how all of this will play out for me as far as timing goes, but I know how my story ends. Jesus is still on the throne. 
It has been a whirlwind 8 days. And then I remembered a few weeks before all of this, when life felt normal and I was praying through what 2019 would hold. I scribbled down these notes as I journaled on 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 
"God help me not trust in things SEEN. Help me fix my thoughts and affections and trust on the eternal un-changing you. Not the easy quick-fix or temporarily beautiful. Lead my thoughts, desires and attention to you and your kingdom coming, not insulating my own kingdom that is literally dying. I want more of you and less of me. I want a faith that trusts you at every turn and EYES that focus on you."
You see the Lord heard that prayer on January 9th, 2019. I didn't know anything that was to come the following days but he did. He is answering it, in ways beyond my imagination. He is helping me to not trust the seen. He is helping me fix my gaze and attention on what is unchanging. He is slowly prying the kingdom I wrap my fingers around out of my hands and reminding me where I have been all along. He is showing me that my days are short and to live for what matters eternally. He is helping me to experience and grow a deep rooted faith that will trust him at every turn. He is giving me eyes that see him and focus on him. I'll keep taking each next step, eyes fixed on him. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Ramblings of a White mom with Black kids

(One of my friend groups in 6th grade)
My first encounter with my whiteness occurred my 6th grade year. We lived in Tampa and they were trying to integrate the schools (click the link for a great video explanation of redlining and current day segregation) so they were bussing our suburban neighborhood into the inner city. My mom gave me the choice if I wanted to switch to private school that year and I chose public. The first day of school was the first day I ever was the minority. It was a predominantly black school situated across from the housing projects of inner city Tampa. I remember not feeling afraid, just aware. I remember that year noticing the different ways teachers treated kids of different races. I was given the benefit of the doubt, they typically weren't. I could get away with talking in class, they got a consequence. Most of my friends were black. That year changed a lot in my heart. We got out of school frequently for shootings, the projects being on fire, etc. I remember thinking, this isn't fair.

Fast forward a few years, God set something deep in my heart for reconciliation. I remember strangely having a heart set for Africa. I wanted to move there, I wanted to adopt. In my sophomore year of college, I met my future husband John. He was the punter on the Auburn football team. His best friends were mostly black. His roommate was black. He grew up in Brazil and had a perspective on the world I found wildly interesting. I told him "Don't ask me to marry you if you don't want a multi-racial family"... we were engaged a few months later. Our first neighbors were black. I would have afternoon conversations with her that opened my eyes more to the black experience as an adult. She would tell me about bias in her job, bias she experienced while shopping or dating. I was shocked, and it hurt my heart for what she had experienced.

Fast forward a few years into our marriage, we had a 3 and 4 year old, lived in a suburb of Raleigh, and were looking at schools for our kids. We decided then that public was the route for us. We wanted our kids to see the world and all the differences in it. We wanted our school to be a place that represented the diversity of the world. We soon journeyed into international adoption from a Central African country. Bringing these two beautiful children into our family stretched me more than ever before. I educated myself on everything from moisturizer, to hair care, to adoption issues, poverty, struggles of a transracial adoptee, and raising children with trauma in their history. I pressed deeper into the black community for wisdom and advice. I intentionally expanded my community to embrace and authentically love people of color. I wanted our children to grow up with role models who looked like them. My own inadequacy grew as I am a white mom raising two black children. I don't know what it's like to be black, yet I am raising two black children.

As my kids got older, and I listened more to the black experience of society, it was no longer an "out there problem". It was my problem. It was my son who could've been shot while ringing a doorbell looking for directions. It was my son who could have been shot while being pulled over and reaching for his license. It was my daughter I would have to tell to be more cautious walking through a store. I grieved and feared as I realized I would have to raise my black son to be more careful in neighborhoods, driving, stores, etc. I realized my black son would most likely receive less of a second chance, more of a "guilty until proven innocent" mindset where my white son would most likely be given the benefit of the doubt and assumed "innocent until proven otherwise". My fear escalated and I reached out to moms of color and asked for wisdom. I didn't want to parent out of fear of who society would see my son to be, but yet the racial climate in society is clearly tense. How do I not teach my son to live afraid but at the same time realize he has to be more careful than his siblings when sitting down at a coffee shop or while driving a car? It honestly makes me sick, my heart truly laments what I have to tell my children as far as history of the black experience and the current status of race in America. It should make us all sick. This is not a "black people problem" it is all of our problem.
We have grown up hearing a narrative about race. We need to dig deep and explore the narrative we believe. We need to have ears to hear hard things. We need to repent of our own prejudiced hearts. We need to examine our thoughts and fears when it comes to people of a different skin tone. We need to build geniune relationships outside of people who only look like and think like us. 
The same evil that fueled the Holocaust is the same evil behind slavery, lynchings, Jim Crow laws: the essence that you take someone's humanness away, rejecting that they were equally made in the image of God as an expression of His beauty, and treat them as lower than an animal. There were centuries of oppression, injustice, murder, hatred. How do we think so wrongly that 60 years of "progress" in this racial injustice has changed centuries of hate? 
When a murder happens like Stephon Clark, Eric Garner, Charles Kinsey, why does the white community so often respond with questions about circumstance instead of empathy? Shouldn't loss of life be worth mourning no matter the circumstance? Shouldn't we take the time to listen why these instances spark fear in the heart of our black neighbors? Aren't we supposed to love our neighbor as ourself? The problem is our neighbors look a lot like us, only like us, and we have redefined neighbor to sameness. We are not reaching across our differences and asking questions, leaning in, listening, mourning with those who mourn. 
Explore the narrative you have lived and heard your whole life, where has it taken root in lies? Examine your community. A pastor at our church so wisely said, 'Uniformity is not unity'. The root of surrounding people who only look and think like you is self-love and selfishness. Lean into the discomfort. Fight for reconciliation. Explain race in a gospel centered way to your children, color-blindness is just another form of racism. They see color just like we do, so showcase it in all of the beauty God intended. Diversify your dolls, your bookcases, your discussions around the dinner table.
Is the ground level at the cross? Yes. Did Jesus die for this reconciliation? Yes. Is his blood enough to break down this racial hostility? Yes. Does he already have victory over the evil and hate that divide us? Yes. But we are still living in the in-between. The not yet. I feel like the disciples on Good Friday. That did not look or feel like victory to lose your savior who was supposed to bring peace and have victory over evil. That looked like defeat. 'Surely this isn't how it is supposed to end' they must've thought. 'You can't leave us like this Jesus', they must've felt. I thought you came for peace, I thought love covers a multitude of sins? Yes. It does. But his kingdom isn't on earth yet in its fullness. It isn't on earth as it is in heaven. Yet. So until that day comes I will keep raising my voice, using my privilege, against hate and injustice. I will fight for reconciliation, until Jesus brings it to completion, and thank God he will. But I have a role to play, and I will play my part no matter how I fumble through it, mess up, and move forward and then back again. My kids deserve it, the world desparately needs it.

Please look into these books and resources as you lean in to this topic.
A 3 part series on Race in America our church did: 
Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson
White Awake, by Daniel Hill
Under our Skin, Benjamin Watson
Oneness Embraced, Tony Evans
I'm Still here, Austin Channing Brown

Blog post on White Privilege 

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Into the Chaos

In my mind, Christmas should be this idyllic time of tradition, joy, merry-ness, time around with the kids in the evening discussing the joy and expectation of Advent-Christ coming into the world. But if I am honest, I am limping toward Christmas, tired, exhausted, confused, and feeling like I am in the midst of chaos. I feel so overwhelmed myself, that the idyllic picture is far from reality and then I feel more guilt and disappointment that I am not at a place to provide that for the kids. A toilet overflowed that ended up costing us thousands and weeks to fix, I have been sick for over a week, I have a child whose adoption trauma is highlighted around the holidays with food issues and grieving, the school has called twice for behavior issues and a concussion, we had an unforeseen financial thing happen that was not our fault but we were financially responsible,  I had to wait 2 weeks for a potential medical diagnosis that would have changed my life tremendously, the boy that I begged God to heal died, and then my plans for what I thought our future was looking like are being challenged,  and even today noticing a passport is expiring so close to such a special international trip that sent me all over the city getting documents and paying additional fees to rush the process. All that to say, life is chaotic right now. I am tired. I am disappointed. Things aren't playing out like I thought they should in certain areas. But that is where God shows up. That is advent.
My thoughts went to Mary this morning, at the end of her pregnancy with who was to be the Savior of the world, and just as she was getting close to delivery, they have to take an unforeseen trip that pulls her out of her plans and into chaos. Riding on a donkey for days and days, ending up with no where to stay. I can't imagine her thoughts as the innkeeper said there was no room. If I were her, I would think, "Seriously God? A stable? I thought you told me I was having your precious Son who would be the light of the world and rescue and redeem us? Something must be wrong here. This can't be the plan." But that is how God works. Out of the chaos he brings order. Out of the disappointment and brokenness, He brings his presence, Emmanuel, God WITH us. This precious savior was born in the nastiest of places, to parents dealing with shame and poverty, in a climate of political upheaval and danger. And his name was called God WITH us. He didn't come as the triumphant king everyone thought he would be. He didn't come with what looked like a happy ending wrapped in a bow. He came to a dirty stable and lived heading towards death on a cross.

That is the message God apparently has for me this advent. God doesn't owe me a life that works out the way I think it should. I think the happy ending is what I am promised, but it is not. My plans are not working out with a pretty bow wrapped around them. Things are messy and chaotic. But there He is, in the midst of it all, reminding me not to idealize the happy endings and perfect plans, but to find him in the chaos as he comes to bring order and peace and deep abiding joy beyond circumstance. It is what he has been doing since before creation, bringing life out of nothingness, bringing order out of chaos, resurrecting places that are dead and broken with beauty, giving us his presence in the midst of suffering. He is the reward. Not the negative medical diagnosis or the child with no pain. Emmanuel, Christ WITH us is enough.
"The Angel had said of Mary, "Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her" And this blessing isn't always what we think- the happy ending we wanted and the desires of our hearts fulfilled. Blessed is she who believes His promises. The blessing is different from blessing as the world sees it. It isn't an easy life or one of success. Blessing is, that as we find ourselves in a place that God has yet to explain, may never explain, a place or a life that doesn't line up with what we had in mind, He gives us a promise...It is the promise of Emmanuel, God with us. He will be here with us, our great reward" Katie Davis Majors, Daring to Hope. 
So maybe this Christmas isn't so Merry for you right now either. That is ok. Instead of being merry, I am simply looking for him. He is good even when life doesn't look it. When the package isn't tied up with the pretty bow, there he is. Reminding me He is for me, with me, working it all for my good. He reminds me to wait, to trust, to be expectant. The message of advent.
"And he shall be called, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

5 years together... A letter to Maran and Levi

Maran and Levi-
I cannot believe its been 5 years since we met your sweet faces in Congo. Those days are forever etched into my memory. Levi, all 11 pounds of you in your blue outfit and Maran, shy and quiet with that denim jumper 3 sizes too big tied around your small frame over a brown and orange sweatshirt in the 80 degree heat. It wasn't a magical moment by any standards for anyone to witness. There was no "mama!" shouted or running into my arms. It was a quiet and somber moment that none of us understood the magnitude of what we were entering into, and for you two especially a moment of fear and uncertainty.
So many people call you both "lucky". You are not lucky. You have walked through trauma no one should ever experience. Maran, you became a mother figure to your baby brother at 3 1/2. You carried him, cared for him, fed him, fought for him. Levi, at such a crucial time, you had the bond broken with the woman you knew as your nurturer and protector. This is tragic and if I could somehow heap your pain onto myself and remove it from your heart I would... or maybe I wouldn't. Maybe instead I will pray that this pain propels you into dependence on a perfect Father who would never leave or abandon you, the Savior who always provides, never lets you go hungry, always cares, always listens, always comforts. Maybe this pain and trauma is the very mess that becomes your greatest strength and greatest reminder of the rescue God has done in your life. Not through me, no, I am not your rescuer. He is. He reached down into the pain of loss and abandonment and called you His. 
I am no Savior, us adopting you has not given you a now pain free life. We  pray we can create an environment for you to grow, to heal, to get to know the real rescuer.

Your pain is real and it is something I have never experienced. I hope in my parenting I never minimize the weightiness of the grief that you experience. I realize I put so much pressure on myself to try and "heal your wounds" and as my wise counselor reminds me, I cannot hold your healing in my hands. I cannot parent you perfectly in a way that your grief melts away. I cannot make everything alright again. But, I will give my ALL to fight for you, to work with you, to grieve with you, to comfort you when you are sad or scared.  I am so far from perfect. I am sure some of the flawed ways I try to love you will actually hurt you. And I pray God covers that with his love and grace and uses those moments to show you HE is the only one who never fails or disappoints. 
I am so honored to be your mom. I share that title with another woman and I hope I can help you love and honor her too. I am beyond grateful for the love and life she gave you as she could. 

Levi, the other day at school, someone told you that you were just an orphan and that your real parents were probably dead and that you don't have a real family. My heart broke for you of those triggering words of hurt someone spoke over you. I did my best to comfort and remind you that you had two families who loved and did their best for you. Your identity is not an orphan, it is our precious son, it is a boy who God loves and calls his child. I know at age 1 you don't really have memories of Congo, of the orphanage, of your first family. I hope I can help you love your country, be proud of your history, and tell you about all the beauty and tragedy that exists in the place you were born. 
Maran, what a journey we have been on. Trust has been an ever changing, ever growing bond between us that takes work and effort and sacrifice and love. I remember those first days, where you would run from me, where we would wake up in the night and find you eating dry baby formula with your fingers because you didn't know if a meal was guaranteed the next day. You were a fighter from the beginning. It broke my heart to watch your skills of survival. It was a process over months and years to earn your trust to let go of your role as "mom" to Levi and trust me to be his caregiver. It was such a joy to watch you re-learn how to be a kid again, to play without worry. The hardest thing as a mom is to watch you grieve, I wish I could ease your burden. But I am so proud of the way you are relying on God through the pain and it is becoming your strength. Your joy and excitement for life challenges me to slow down and enjoy the small things. You are a servant hearted girl and I can't wait to see where God will take you in life, whether it is back to Congo to serve and love the country you came from, or working in a school, or fighting for justice as a lawyer (because you can argue with a fencepost and I am pretty sure that will take you far when harnessed for good ;), or being a mama to your own children. You will be a force for good, I just know it.
I am privileged to be called Mom to you both and it is a title I don't take lightly. I promise to hold your lives with open hands and trust your Creator to do the work he promises to do in your life. I love you with a fierce love and I can't wait to see the world changers you become. 
Happy 5 year forever family anniversary my loves,

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Pay it forward Moms!

One of the most painful, heart wrenching things I have ever done, is look in the face of a birth mother and weep with her that she had to make the impossible choice of giving up her children for preventable reasons. Reasons like poverty and treatable disease. Mothers chose life for their children when death was imminent.
Because of this experience, I will fight and I will give sacrificially toward family unification and orphan prevention. Can you imagine being a mother and walking your children to an orphanage because you were on death's door step? Or telling your children "Maybe we will have food tomorrow, I am sorry you are so hungry, I am too sick or unskilled to work"? This is reality for many mothers in East Africa. I don't know why I was born to privilege and live in a way with all my material needs met and other moms fight and suffer and make gut wrenching decisions to give their kids up or find another home for them, but this is my heart beat. There are over 163 Million orphans in the world right now, 11 million AIDS orphans. If 163 million families stepped up to the plate of adoption, in another generation there would be another tens of tens or hundred million more. Adoption is a worthy calling and one near and dear to my heart, yet it has to be coupled with orphan prevention to put a dent in the orphan crisis. I hate that two of my children know the pain of losing their first family. I hate to see them doubt our love and question their trust in the permanence of our family because they know abandonment and loss all to closely.
My 33rd birthday and Mother's day are the same day this year. I will be celebrated with hand made cards and gifts from our kids, while a mother on the other side of the world feels the sting of loss and brokenness. My kids will celebrate two mothers, the one who gave them life and the one who continues to journey with them.  God can take the most wretched of tragedy and weave it for beauty.
Please join me, as we approach Mother's Day, and my 33rd birthday, to sponsor a family in the CARE for AIDS program for 33$. It costs 300$ to take a family through the 9 month program. That is also the average cost of a Kenyan Funeral. Life or death. I want mothers to be able to stay alive, thrive, and fulfill their purpose of raising the next generation of world changers, not filling orphanages.

This is a choice you can be a part of. Sponsor a mother on the other side of the ocean, for the gift of life and keeping her family together. You can donate here.  Join me in sponsoring a family. It is the best 33$ investment you will ever make! 26,000 orphans prevented and counting!
You can also sponsor a family through the 9 month program for $300, or any amount donated helps!