Sweet Sixteen

I don’t know you, baby girl, but I feel heavy-hearted for you. It’s not heavy-heartedness in the sense of pity because I don’t think you need or want pity. You are tough and strong; I can see it in your eyes. To pity you would be an insult to your character and courage.

This is not pity.

This is heavy-heartedness that comes with deep regret, deep disappointment, deep pain. This is the instinct that compels me to defend you because you’ve gone way too many years without a defender in this world.

This is the weight of responsibility that is, in some ways, not mine to bear. I mean, you are not in these circumstances as a result of my choices. That means this isn’t my responsibility, right?

It seems like a logical conclusion, but my heart beats out the lie of the logic.

You are carrying the weight right now, and you probably feel that you’re carrying it alone. You didn’t ask for this weight. It’s not a result of your own choices. You are burdened with loss upon loss upon loss, and you’re asked to stand beneath a weight that no human should have to bear.

I can’t save you, sweet girl. I can’t be your hero. I can’t fix all that’s broken. For goodness sake, I can’t even wrap my mind around all that is broken in and around your life.

One voice…one steady, droning voice says that can’t is the end. There’s obviously nothing more to say.

Lub dub

lub dub

lub dub lub dub lub dub lub dub

Like a strong and steady steam engine, my heart trudges on through the trauma, through the tears, through the tragedy, and the Engineer whispers into the night “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged…I am with you wherever you go…

Do you hear it, beautiful child? Do you hear the rhythm of hope that keeps time beneath the chaos?

I hear it. How then, can I entertain the lies of logic that say can’t wins and I’m not responsible anyway?

If many hands make light work, then why are so many of us standing by while the most precious among us carry it all?

I may not be able to bring a solution, but I am not called to stand by;

I am called to stand by you.

Three Years Ago Today…

Three years ago today, I paced the floor as nervous and nauseous as if I was getting ready to run a race.

Three years ago today, I fretted over what to wear to make sure I could snuggle two little strangers closely and make them feel safe and secure. I settled on a soft t-shirt and scarf.

Three years ago today, I sent my 12, 11, and 9 year old sons to school with the knowledge that they would come home to meet their baby sister and brother for the first time.

Three years ago today, I prayed and cried my anxiety to my own adoptive Father who reminded me to work WITH Him because His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matt 11:28-30).

Three years ago today, our foster training, planning, and preparation was given its first test in reality.

Three years ago today, we tried to make sense of confusion for two people with little to no ability to communicate.

Three years ago today, we watched the body of Christ in action as our family and friends rallied to offer help and support in the form of prayer, visits, texts and calls, offering rides for our kids, and bringing meals for our family during our adjustment time.

Three years ago today, I marveled at how a piece of paper and a very short visit from a caseworker could somehow dub us “qualified” to care for little humans we did not know.

Three years ago today, I learned to mix formula and got back in the saddle of parenting babies when I thought I had retired those reigns.

Three years ago today, I willingly conceded a nap-time battle, and a mealtime battle, and who-knows-how-many other battles to try to settle a little girl’s anxiety.

Three years ago today, I took selfies with our “new kids” and texted them to an anxious Daddy to say: “They’re here!”

Three years ago today, I read a letter from a heartbroken aunt who worried about where her niece and nephew would end up and who wanted to make sure I had all of the info about them that I would need to make a smooth transition.

Three years ago today, we began our commitment to love and to pray daily for the parents who gave these babies life.

Three years ago today, I watched my boys step into their big brother roles as if they were MADE for it.

Three years ago today, God used two sweet children to bust through our hearts, our lives, and our plans and to make us more willing to follow Him wherever He leads.

Three years ago today, we met our daughter and our son for the first time, but we did not know they would truly become “ours”. We did not know the rollercoaster of heartache and pain and joy that was ahead. We did not know their parents, their grandparents, their aunts and uncles. We did not know their CASA, their GAL, their DJO, their future Caseworkers, the judge. We did not know how to meet their needs, heal their hurts, or guide their hearts. We did not know. There was far more unknown to us than known at that point in time, but what we DID know surpassed it all: The Lord said “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2Cor 12:9)

Three years ago today, He met us in our weakness and we can say without question, we have witnessed HIS power.

Three years ago today, our babies came home and our lives were changed forever: to God be the glory!

Growth Mindset: Growing by Grace

This summer, I was blessed to be part of an amazing Writing Project “Summer Institute”. (Shameless plug: I HIGHLY encourage all of my teacher-friends – regardless of your subject area – to check for a similar opportunity near you. I guarantee you will not regret it.) During SI, I completed a research project where some of my research talked about “growth mindset”. I also had the chance to visit with a colleague there who had studied this idea in greater depth. Now, this concept is also the theme of the year at work, and I am being continually challenged to think differently. I don’t recall hearing the term before SI, so let me elaborate a bit in case it’s new to you too. Growth mindset focuses on the power of “YET”. What’s that mean? Well, when I attempt something and don’t succeed, I’m not stuck with failure, but simply recognize that I haven’t met my goal….yet. When I’m working with students on a concept that challenges them, I can give them the freedom to see that struggling to learn something doesn’t mean they’ll never master it. It just means they haven’t mastered it…yet.  For some, this feels like common-sense. For others, it is a needed breath of fresh air to revive the life that perfectionism has tried to smother out. Growth mindset is just what the name implies: a state of mind conducive to seeking growth in every way. Growth mindset says that I will not pursue perfection, but improvement in all that I do, and I’ll give others the grace to do the same. Now, if you’re like me and battle the lie of perfectionism daily, this is not an easy switch to flip. There are some areas of my life where my brain is still wired to believe that anything short of perfect is failure, but then…there’s the stuff that REALLY matters and this is where our family is learning, together, to embrace a growth mindset – to believe in the power of yet: foster care and adoption.

When the Lord led us into foster care in 2014, we only had a hint of what might lay in store for us. We knew we’d be stretched. We knew we’d be challenged. We knew we would not be perfect, but kids who need a safe and loving place to land don’t need perfection. They need love, and that we had (1John 4:19). One small yes after another, we journeyed into the Great-Unknown, completely unaware that we would never come back. Just ask anyone who has experienced the plight of orphans in any way. Those who have visited overseas orphanages and looked into the eyes of needy children will tell you they will never be the same. Those who have opened their homes to hurting families or to children in need through foster-care or other similar avenues will tell you they’ve been changed beyond recognition.

natalie-collins-177063

Stretched,

stretched,

stretched.

It’s like the growth that happens to our children. When I wasn’t looking, someone slipped human miracle-grow into my oldest sons’ water, and now they are men. They cannot go back. No amount of begging or pleading from me will turn them into little guys that I can pick up. In fact, it’s far more realistic for them to carry me at this point than the other way around. They have grown and it’s a beautiful thing. Sometimes we reminisce about the old days and for just a moment, I might wish we could go back, but the reality is, they are bigger and better than before and this is God’s design…growth.

The maturing of our children is very similar to the growth we have experienced as a family through foster-care and adoption. Not only did we grow in number, adding two to our family and adding many extended family members, but we’ve also grown and changed in how we view the world. We aren’t perfect, but we also aren’t looking to be “complete”. We know that He who began a good work in us will be faithful to complete it, but guess what?! As long as we are breathing, He is not finished with us. He will be faithful to complete His work, but He decides when it’s finished: not us.  There may have been a time when we said our family was complete. I’m not sure if we ever said it, but I am doubtful that we’ll ever say it again. It’s not that we’re crazy. It’s just that we’ve grown and been stretched beyond what we were before. There is no going back.

When the state said that we were “full” after we adopted our first foster-care placement, we cringed. How can we be “full” when we’ve just begun the journey? How can we be “full” when we’re willing participants and the need is still great? The next decision was whether to close our license or keep it open. Technically, our options for talking in additional children were limited at best…maybe unlikely or impossible. We could not un-see what we had seen. We could not imagine walking away from the training we had received and saying Mission Complete. By practical standards, we were at a roadblock, or maybe a closed door, but we know the God who led us here, and He is able.

This doesn’t mean that we know what comes next. We don’t: story of our lives. What we do know is that there is no better place to have a growth mindset than with our family. We know the Lord has placed us here and that we love because He first loved us. We agree with our friend Carla’s belief that there’s always room for one more at the table.

How ‘bout you?

Have you thought about what you can do to make a difference?

Maybe you have seen the need but just haven’t stepped forward….yet.

Photo credit/Thank you to Elijah Hail and Natalie Collins on Unsplash

Happy Birthday, Mr. Incredible

September 19, 2017

I started writing letters to you before you were even born. At that point, we did not know if you were a boy or a girl, but we dreamed of meeting you and filled our time completing silly quizzes with old wives’ tales trying to predict whether you would be Hunter or Kaitlyn. We decorated the nursery and spent evenings watching you kick and move under the ice cream bowl resting on my belly. (My poor rib-cage could attest to your soccer-player potential even then.) I wrote you letters expressing my love for you and my dreams of what life as a Momma would be like. ❤ You were a dream come true, my son. I know that sounds sweet and nostalgic, but for real…my dream came true the day you were born. 😊

I would have to look back at my letter-writing journal to tell you the date for certain, but sometime around April 2002, I had one of many crazy pregnancy dreams. Usually these dreams involved really weird things like seeing the entire outline of a baby body bulging from my stomach. Some nights, I dreamed you were a girl. Other nights, you were a boy, but the dream I’m talking about here is the one that involved nothing more than dreaming you would be born September 19th. I woke up and told Daddy about it. It was so strange to simply dream a date, so of course, I wrote about it in my journal. You were due September 24th and first-time moms rarely deliver early, so it was worth a laugh and a journal entry, and then life moved on.

When labor pains began late at night on September 18, the realization hit Daddy and I at about the same time. As we gathered our things to head to the hospital, I said, “Do you realize what this means?! This baby is coming on September 19th!” We were both amused and amazed. You really were a dream come true in every way.

We felt like we were in a scene from a sit-com as we sped into town headed for the hospital. Labor pains were well under way with only seconds between contractions, when we heard a siren and saw flashing lights swirling behind us. I rolled my eyes and laughed in between breaths. Daddy talked quickly and the officer was observant, so we weren’t stopped for long. Instead of keeping us, he called ahead to the hospital, and the labor and delivery nurses met us at the door, ready to begin providing care. In a few short hours, we went from not knowing what to expect to holding a beautiful, perfect baby boy in our arms. You even came with a “little boy hair-cut” as Mamaw called it, your dark tresses parting naturally in a typical manly “do”.

Just as you gave us our introduction to parenthood, you have introduced us to each new phase of raising children and you have filled them each with joy. Your enthusiasm and zest for life are contagious. You are tough, hard working, determined, driven, and talented. You give 100% in everything you commit yourself to, and you hold yourself and others to a high standard. You are a go-getter and there isn’t much you aren’t willing to try. I love your sense of adventure and your courage. Just this summer, we rode a 200 ft free-fall ride together, and I suspect that someday we’ll share our first sky-dive together.

Today’s adventure was taking you to complete your written test to earn your driving permit. I loved sharing high-fives, smiles, and hugs with you, and then quickly sending texts to Daddy and family to share the great news.

You are such an amazing young man, and as much as I adored you as an infant, a toddler, a little boy, and a pre-teen, each phase of your growth has only made me admire you more and be more grateful for God’s goodness and grace in your life and ours. For the past three years or so, you have had a passion for learning to understand and defend Christianity. You’ve studied God’s Word and learned from some of the greatest apologists around. You have a deeper understanding of what you believe than many adults, and you desire to live a life of obedience to Christ. You are a reader and a thinker: an articulate, intelligent young man. You’re also incredibly talented, playing guitar and clarinet and attempting to keep your great singing voice under wraps. You are a strong soccer player and a fast runner. As a freshman in high school you’ve taken on the challenge of two varsity sports concurrently (soccer and cross-country) while simultaneously serving in your school’s student council, participating in Klife, and competing in debate and marching band. You are eager to try it all because you love a challenge, and because you are focused, driven, and determined to prepare yourself for your future.  You’re also a big goof who will entertain your youngest siblings or your friends and will occasionally let down your walls completely, allowing your sense of humor to shine through. You amaze us, son.

We take great joy in being your parents, and we are grateful for the privilege of guiding you through life. Your fifteenth birthday has been a special one, complete with a surprise party with some pretty awesome friends and the driving experiences you’ve been dreaming of. Lots of dreams are coming true for you, sweet boy, and many are still yet to come. Regardless of the details of the future, you can rest assured that we’ll be standing by cheering you on and thanking the Lord for the gift of you. Happy Birthday, Baby!

3 John 1:4

Waiting

I know that feeling…
the feeling that people are waiting for you to fail.
You’ve taken on too much, they say.
It can’t be done.
It’s not possible.
The task before you is great.
The hard work and gut-wrenching effort required is not lost on you.
You are made of hard-work, determination, grit that others don’t fully understand.
You get it.
You know.
You believe you can do it anyway.
So do I.
So do I, Son.
I am not waiting for you to fail.
I am standing by to watch you FLY.
~Julie G.
September 6, 2017

Adoption Anniversary

Today was our Adoption Anniversary. It has been ONE YEAR since we took the vow that made our precious little ones “ours” forever, in a legal sense. How exactly does someone adequately celebrate an occasion like this?

We tried to decide what to name the day…”Adoptiversary” was my choice, but we discussed names like “Gotcha Day”, “Family Day”, and even “Pink Glitter Sparkle Day”  or “Twilight Sparkle Day”. Even though the big brothers got a laugh out of offering those suggestions to a wide-eyed, excited little girl, I assured them they would NOT want to be stuck with that title for life. 😊 We didn’t really settle on a great name, but we did decide on a fun way to celebrate. A wonderful local organization just happened to be offering a “Saddle Up” event for foster and adoptive families. Most of us put on jeans and everyone who could wore cowboy boots, and we headed to the farm. There were horses to ride and bounce houses to jump in for the littles, s’mores and snacks for the big guys and a fun family photo opportunity. We stayed until our allergies and our biggest kiddos had enough, and then we headed to the famous “Home of the Throwed Rolls” for a celebratory meal. As I sat in the waiting area with baby boy, a mom walked by carrying an infant who looked to be just a couple of months old. Cue the flashback. I told little man that’s about the size HE was when he came home to us and he grinned joyfully as I commented on how BIG he is now. “I bigger to ride the rollercoaster?!” He questioned for about the fiftieth time in the past week. 😊 (His current obsession is being big enough for the rides he was denied the last time we were at the amusement park. If sheer willpower could increase a boy’s height, he would be about 6 feet tall, for sure!)

My mind struggles to process all that the past few years have brought…the past year in particular as our family officially grew to 7. The kindness the Lord has shown us is simply mind-blowing. The privilege of parenting these kids overwhelms us in the most beautiful way, and the burden of pointing them to Christ and the Truth of His Word weighs on us as a treasured responsibility…the weight of gold: pure, solid, invaluable. These are not treasures laid up on earth where moth and rust corrupt (Matt 6:20), but rather heavenly treasures that cannot be stolen or destroyed. We pray our kids will give their lives to follow the One who gave His life for them; there is “no greater joy” than to hear that our “children are walking in the truth” (3 John 1:4).

A year ago, I cried on the way to the courtroom. I cried because I was so grateful the Lord had brought us to the place of adopting our babies. I cried because our fears had been overcome. I cried because my sister was not able to be there when she and her family had played such a HUGE part in welcoming our littles home and supporting us, while loving them. I cried because our parents, our church family, and our closest friends joined with us to celebrate and experience this occasion that was foreign territory to all of us.

Our Adoption Day was much like the birth of our biological children…we laughed, we cried, we tried to learn and understand the process that was new and different, we held our breath while we waited, we smiled nervously at friends and family who surrounded us, we took pictures, and ultimately, we marveled that “just like that” it was over and they were “ours”. I wish I could go back to it all and listen again. I wish I had a transcript of the words the judge said as he told us this legal and binding decision made it as though these children were born to us, with all the rights of biological son-ship. We already loved them in this way. To have the state officially seal our love with a binding decree, was simply overwhelming.

Though we love these children as if they were born to us, and no external clues would suggest that they weren’t, we still hold the beauty of their story close to our hearts. We tell them their story frequently and we’ve been privileged to maintain an open adoption with the biological family members who love them dearly. The past year has been different because we’ve no longer had monthly team meetings, or weekly in-home visits from workers supporting them. We’ve no longer had mandated weekly visitation, and we’ve no longer had to seek permission for routine decisions and care.

It has been freeing.

They are ours. We are family forever.

This is true in one sense, but really, they are God’s.

They have always been His. He is writing their story, and it is colored with His Goodness and Grace. He has gifted us the opportunity to be their parents, and no words – no amount of celebrating – can express our gratitude for this gift. This is amazing grace. ❤

Happy Birthday, Sunshine!

August 24, 2017

Today marks 12 years of you making people smile. Actually, you had us smiling before you were born. In fact, the day I found out about you, I laughed. I mean, what else could I do? I was HOLDING a baby AND pregnant with a baby? This was obviously God’s plan and I had NO idea how I could handle THREE babies, but I instantly loved you, and I laughed – in bewilderment and in joy.  Daddy and I had been trying to decide if our family was “complete” with two kids or if we wanted to have another. We weren’t sure. We had said “two” for years, but once we had two, I just wasn’t convinced that we should stop there. The truth was, I REALLY wanted another baby, and while Daddy and I were discussing what was best, I was also praying and asking the Lord for a child. The day we found out about you, I admitted this secret prayer to Daddy. I then playfully asked if I could pray for twins. He said NO! 😊

As you know, when we selected your name, we chose it for a number of reasons. First of all, it had been on our list of likes with your brothers as well. Second, your name comes from the third son of Jacob in the Bible and you were to be our third son. Finally, it means “joined in harmony” and this EXHAUSTED Momma of two very busy little toddlers REALLY needed you to join our crazy circus as harmoniously as possible. You did exactly that.

The one and only time you’ve ever been in a hurry in your life was on the day of your birth. You came quickly. Grammy didn’t make it in time for your delivery and the doctor almost missed it as well. Praise the Lord for his timing and the swift action to protect you from an issue with your umbilical cord. Once all was well, you were instantly a star. The hospital marketing department came to visit us to ask if we might be interested in being part of their photo-shoot for their commercials and other publications. We were thrilled to agree to your very first acting role. You played the part of a BEAUTIFUL newborn baby, and you played it brilliantly. The commercials aired for quite some time and the pictures remained on the hospital website for years to come.

As a little guy, you were very chill. You were content to sit and watch your surroundings for long periods of time. You seemed to be always watching and thinking – quietly learning from the big brothers who jabbered at you and for you. “Levi wants this…Levi doesn’t like that; he wants…” on and on they went translating your expressions and speaking for you.

Somehow time has slipped through our hands, and you are now an articulate young man who can speak for himself. You’re still not quick to do so, though. In fact, you’re pretty laid back about life in general and are not very naturally inclined to push for your own way. Hmm….joined in harmony. There it is again: your beautiful self, adding depth and life to the song of our family in your own subtle way.

The past few years have stretched, and challenged, and grown you. You have changed. We’ve watched the pressing and the heat refine your personality and bring out qualities of courage and endurance that we had not previously seen. Some challenges have come from your own body with dental surgeries, vision issues, attention concerns, and anxiousness (where Carribean-calmness used to dominate). Other changes have come from our family’s immersion into the world of foster care and adoption. You went from being the baby…the “caboose” as we called you, to being a big brother – a role we had not previously known you in. We had always commented on how sad it was that you loved babies the MOST, yet were the only boy who didn’t get to have a baby around. Little did we know what God had in store for us. You are an incredibly loving and attentive big brother. You love to protect, teach, and entertain your younger siblings, and there was never the slightest bit of resistance from you.

Entertaining is your outlet. You love to laugh and you love to make people laugh. You have overcome your tendencies to be literal in favor of embracing wit, puns, and good-natured sarcasm. I am proud. 😊 The days of you asking me to “please not tease” (as you did in your toddler years) have been replaced by you carefully teaching the youngest among us to embrace the fun as well.

You are smart, and gentle, and sensitive. You are strong and courageous. It seems that no matter what comes your way, you press on. You don’t like to be rushed, and you long for a laid-back world free of pressures and worry, but even so, you persevere with a sweet smile on your handsome face. You take new opportunities, face new challenges, and find things to laugh about at every turn. You are our book-reading, dog-loving, piano-playing, hard-working, kind-hearted ray of sunshine and we thank the Lord for the gift of you. Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday to “Momma’s Baby”

August 19, 2017

You are a brilliant, energetic, funny, witty three-year-old boy, and our time with you has FLOWN by! In your three-year life, you’ve experienced more than you even realize. Your life represents 1,096 days of God’s grace. It’s hard to believe that for 83 of those days, we did not know you. We weren’t there the day you were born. We weren’t able to protect you, comfort you, help to meet your needs. You were 83 days old when you entered our home, and even then, we did not know you were to be our son forever. We only knew that the Lord nudged our hearts towards you with a simple little word: yes.

I remember one of our first nights together. You were awake: first fussing for your bottle and then fussing because of your tummy troubles. My experience as Momma to two other reflux-babies taught me to hold you close and pat firmly to soothe you. You refused to be snuggled chest-to-chest and insisted, instead, on facing away from me. You trained me quickly with your shrill screams, and melted my heart with the sweetness of victory when you finally relaxed in my arms. I remember thinking how strange it was to KNOW that I was up in the middle of the night with another woman’s baby, and yet to have it feel perfectly right. It was God’s grace. I remember whispering my secret question to you, “Are you someone else’s baby??” I could not bring myself to ask what I really wanted to know…”Are you my son?”

Your baby days flew by, as all baby days do, and I found myself sometimes gripped with panic that I might be missing something. It’s hard to explain the feeling because I wasn’t missing anything. You were with us all the time. We saw each milestone, heard each laugh, treasured each moment, but we didn’t know if the “moments” were ours to keep or if we would someday wrap them up in a pretty package tied with heartache and send you “home” to another parent. I didn’t know if I was remembering enough, treasuring enough, doing enough…I didn’t know if you were going to stay, and I was missing you even as I was holding you.

Now here we are at your THIRD birthday. We celebrated your first two birthdays with you also, but this is the first one we’ve celebrated when we can fully, legally, officially say you are our son. What a gift!

You are a passionate, intelligent little man with tremendous athleticism. From the moment you began walking, you’ve been dribbling a soccer ball like you were born to play. You also throw a baseball, dribble and shoot the basketball, easily complete a full jump-stop, and throw and catch anything you can get your hands on. You admire “the brudders” (as you refer to them collectively) and you don’t hesitate  to keep up with them in whatever they are doing. They are your heroes, your protectors, and your friends. You also keep close tabs on big sis and enjoy talking and laughing together with your matching voices and similar giggles. You can make us smile at the drop of a hat and refuse to smile like no one I’ve ever known.  For over two years, we endured photo after photo with our own “Stonewall Jaxon” – refusing to crack a smile or humor us with a laugh. Just in the past few months, we discovered the joy you find in teasing and refusing to cooperate. Now, we use reverse psychology to get you to participate in what we want. “Don’t smile, Jaxon….whatever you do, don’t smile!” The result, of course, is the ornery grin that we know so well.

At this age, you are a fireball of opinionated, demanding independence with a side of sweetness. You are a Momma’s boy through and through, yet you’re tough and daring. You jump from high places and land – solid on your feet – with a proud, growling victory laugh.  You are determined to be “bigger” to ride the rollercoasters RIGHT NOW. You have no fear (which certainly heightens mine), and you can often be heard saying “I wanchew, Momma!” while reaching for me. You’re just days away from mastering potty-training and there’s not much “baby” left in you. You love to ride in Daddy’s truck, watch movies, play outside, line your cars up in a perfect row, play with the wooden trains, do puzzles, read books, play ball, and eat. You are a “hangry” fella, and if we find that there’s nothing we can do to settle your temper, we can almost always bring back our sweet baby with a bit of food to curb the rage.

We are so thankful for the privilege of watching you grow, helping you learn, and being your Momma and Daddy forever. We will never forget the day the Sovereignty of God placed you into our arms and allowed us the beautiful heartache of walking with you and your biological parents through the valley. As the song says, “You’re worth every fallen tear. You’re worth facing any fear.  You’re gonna know ALL my love, even if it’s not enough – enough to mend our broken hearts, but giving you all of me is where I’ll start” (Matt Hammitt – All of Me).

That is where we started, little man, and that is where we’ll stay…always and forever giving you all our love. Happy Birthday, baby boy! May this be your best year yet!

All of Me

Grace

Grace like sunshine

Grace like rain

Grace like rest amidst the pain

Grace in words

Grace in deed

Grace in meeting every need

Grace to give

Grace to grow

Grace to stay and grace to go

Grace for others

Grace for self

Grace for heart and mental health

Grace: the sweet taste that I savor

Grace: such undeserved favor

Grace to speak up

Grace to stand

Grace to lend a helping hand

Grace to dance

Grace to sing

Grace, sweet grace, in everything

~Julie Gayle Davis

June 28, 2017

Butterfly Baby

As I sit on this cool stone bench beside a lovely bronze woman, I can think of nothing but to tell your story. She has a collection of books and is deep in reading one, but I think she would stop to listen to yours, as it is one of the most beautiful I’ve read and certainly among the best I’ve played a role in. The butterfly sanctuary is nearby, but I don’t need to go there to understand the delicate beauty they show – the life lessons they reveal.

You, my dear, came to us so young and unrefined. You came confused and searching, both lost and found. We tried to scoop you up – to keep you from being trodden underfoot like a lone caterpillar in a big and busy world. You squirmed and wrestled, but as life and our Creator would have it, our home was your resting place: your time to cocoon.

“That’s a nice, quiet place,” notes the smiling gentleman as he walks by, taking care of his aged body and enjoying the beauty that brings me back to you.

“It is!” I reply with a smile, but I chuckle to myself thinking of how NOT quiet your cocoon was. Not quiet, and yet so perfectly peaceful. You and I, we were rolled into this tightness together, and though you seem to welcome them, I am pushed to panic in tight spaces. Together, and with the men and boys we love so much, we were squeezed and pressed by the fibers of foster care that I knew could be my undoing. I wept while you rested, and I prayed while you pushed. I fought the growth and the change like I always do. I wonder if the fight makes me appreciate the victory more: victory in submission, as my will dies to His. It’s such an ironic way to find victory. But you… you giggled through it. Just like when those manly brothers roll you into a blanket-burrito and carry you around taking turns gobbling you up…you smiled as if the pressing, the growth, and the change were just a game for us to enjoy together. Oh sweet baby girl, if only it had been a game.

If it was, it was the harshest kind where winners are losers and grief is the prize. At least that’s how it felt in the pressing.

Just when the cocoon threatened to take my very breath and all the grace within me, I caught a glimpse. I caught a look at the bigger picture that amazing Creator of ours was painting.

I saw you flutter.

I saw you struggle and flutter.

I saw your beauty: your delicate, marvelous beauty, and then I saw one of the most priceless glories my eyes have ever been privileged to behold.

My precious baby girl…sweet butterfly I now can call my own… I saw you fly.

I’m not sure if I’ve read the stories old bronze Anne is reading, but I am quite certain she would close them all to listen, if she could hear me telling yours.

Too Heavy to Bear

When it comes to weigh-ins, some days just tip the scale more than others. Yesterday seemed heavy. Do you ever have days like that? Days when you catch your breath just in time to have it knocked from your lungs again? For me, it’s not even always about my own “stuff”. Sometimes other people’s “stuff” gives me a hard reality check and brings me to my knees. I find myself wondering about grace in these moments.

Is there grace for even THIS? Is it enough?!

I know the answer. I know the truth. Still, sometimes I want to ask Him just to hear it again, afresh. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor 12:9)

Perfect power.

That’s what He has. Weakness? We’ve got it. BOY do we have it:

  • Lost jobs.
  • Unborn babies resting in heaven before they even lay in the arms of their waiting mommas and daddies.
  • Heartbreaking loss of loved ones.
  • Nervous anticipation of test results, meeting outcomes, interviews.
  • Broken families, hurting children.
  • Cancer.
  • Alzheimer’s.
  • Illness.
  • Dreams deferred.
  • Failure.

The list goes on and on.  The good news is –

So does the GRACE.

The world will tell you

“God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.”

“You are strong enough.”

Don’t believe it, friend. You feel weak and defeated because you are not strong enough. You are weary and worn, and you can’t bear to take another step. You can’t handle this. I can’t handle this.

So when you do take another step (even though you can’t), and when you do take another breath (even though your chest heaves a thousand pounds of weight to bring the air in), and when you do stand (in spite of your exhaustion),

just remember –

this is GRACE.

Jesus NEVER tells us that we can walk through this life without pain. He doesn’t promise not to give us anything we can’t handle. He doesn’t promise us prosperity or earthly wealth. He doesn’t say it won’t be hard. In fact, He assures us it will be. And then He invites us to rest…not to stop working – not to stop trudging through the “field” of pain, but to labor alongside THE ONE who can bear the weight we cannot bear.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden (weighed down), and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matt 11: 28-29, emphasis added)

Today, I am praying for weary and hurting friends. I am remembering that the weight is more than they (or I) can bear, and I am praying they will find rest for their souls.

GRACE and rest, my soul-weary friends.