My Mental Floss Re: Election 2016

I’m going to ask the reader for a favor: Please be gentle with me. God has given me the wiring to write my feelings and to process out loud, as it were. And so I am. I’m blogging rather than journaling privately in case this resonates with even one person. But I’m indulging myself–I realize this–as these are my feelings.

In her book, Unglued, Lysa TerKeurst talks says the following, which I believe to be absolute wisdom – and part of being an adult with a fully functioning frontal lobe.

“Feelings are indicators, not dictators. They can indicate where your heart is in the moment, but that doesn’t mean they have the right to dictate your behavior and boss you around. You are more than the sum total of your feelings and perfectly capable of that little gift . . . called self-control.

Many are celebrating, and nearly as many are in shock. The world is watching Americans. We have an opportunity to rise or fall as a country. I pray that we rise to the occasion. As I move forward as one of the only 20% of white evangelical voters who did not vote for our President-Elect, I am hanging on to the knowledge that I get to choose how to behave in the aftermath of the election, and as our country moves forward with new leadership.

Today, for me, mostly that means mourning with those who mourn.

Here are a few feelings that I’m having and the corresponding behaviors which I’m choosing to employ:

Feeling: I never thought I’d feel grateful that the little girls we love so much are not with us to have to panic about their citizen status, and wonder if they’d be “sent back”, an experience so many of my friends who are adoptive parents are facing.

Behavior: I will pray for and embrace those who are mourning, specifically for those who have internationally adopted children.

Feeling: I never thought I’d feel ashamed to be a white evangelical voter.

Behavior: I will earnestly try to abide in Jesus, and live like He did–eschewing religion for loving the “least of these”. I know I will make mistakes, so I’ll need to do this daily, hour by hour, moment by moment.

Feeling: I am gut-punched for the: non-white Americans, Muslim Americans, LGBTQ Americans, women, people with disabilities, refugees, and poor Americans.

Behavior: I get to love everyone as Jesus loved them.  I will do my best to realize the power of my white, Christian privilege, and to listen well to those without it, since they matter just as much to God as I do.

Feeling: I am so sad that so many of my family and friends voted for Trump.

Behavior: The election is over. Trump has won. I will be loving and gracious to my family and friends, and will work to be the voice of love and reconciliation. These are not my enemies; they are family and friends, whom I respect and love for so much more than their political views. Voting is a privilege. I was able to have my voice heard. It wasn’t as loud as other voices, but it was heard–and I am grateful for that.

Feeling: I am worried for our country on so many levels.

Behavior: I will cast these worries upon the Lord, and move forward. I will be the American ambassador I’d like to see. And yes, I will pray for our new President-Elect, and his decisions regarding his cabinet, justices, etc. And? I will become even more aware and active in my local elections, where I can make more of a difference in my community.

Soli Deo Gloria!

 

Everything and Nothing

Anyone out there wear glasses? If so, do you remember how you felt when you put on your first pair of glasses and suddenly the blobs on the trees were leaves, and they were all sorts of colors of green, and had distinct borders and you could see them flutter individually?

Or maybe you have an experience where you’ve worn cheap, flat soled shoes for so many years, and when you put on a pair of well made, arch supporting shoes, your feet don’t even feel like they belong to you?

Or, especially in the wintertime, do you ever recall living with the grey for so long that when sunny skies visit, you almost cry out with gratitude (not to mention energy)?

In my examples above, there’s no REAL lack. Indeed, someone who wears prescription glasses might say she’s “blind without her glasses”;  but generally speaking, those of us who need glasses aren’t blind. We just don’t see as clearly as we’d like to. We’ve all worn flat sandals or tennies, and can state (especially knowing that there are people without even one pair of shoes) that though not ideal, those shoes are good enough for most days. And, as someone who lives in the Seattle area, I will also admit that it is possible to survive our grey winters without a sunny vacation in the midst of them (ahem, barely).

Sometimes good enough is good enough. It’s our portion. Our peace and contentment lie in giving thanks for the good enough. The Lord doesn’t promise an easy life; instead, He promises that those who love Him will have an abundant one.

And sometimes, God just lavishes miraculous blessing and healing upon us for no other discernible reason (to us) than we’re His kids and he loves us.

I’m writing because I want to share what God healed in me. He healed a part of me that I really had no idea was broken, as it had been under good enough repair for years.

Jehovah Rapha healed my heart.

My son had a birthday party yesterday. He had five friends over for lunch and gaming, and my husband and I fixed all the usual fare: burgers, dogs, chicken, and of course, a cookies and cream birthday cake. The party began just after noon, and the last guest left last night at 11:30. Oh, and there were even nerdy gaming presents. Which so delighted my son to receive and his friends to give.

My son is 20, and this was his first party in about 10 years. But let’s just call it a get together, okay? Because that sounds more cool.

Because of his wicked amazing intelligence and some social differences due to his being on the autism spectrum, making and holding onto friends, especially those his age, has been difficult. Over the years, each time his birthday rolls around, he’s faced with the recent memory of his (typically developing) sister’s party of the month before, while my husband and I try feverishly to make his day special, too–to make up for the lack of friends in his life. But he’s smart. He knows that one can’t get blood out of a turnip (thank you Mum and Grum for my colloquialisms), and that we have a limited resource from which to pull folks for celebrating. And the tears I have cried over this could fill a lake.

However, God has been faithful. Even in the super lean friend years, we have always had a former teacher (who is a dear friend), a kind adult friend, or a family member who has stepped forward to help make the day a memorable one for our son. But it’s not the same as just having your people over and doing your thing and enjoying the easy conversation and company. And that’s just what he did. In fact, after the last guest left and our son came up to say goodnight, I asked how it went. After all, we’re not talking about the biggest extrovert on the personality spectrum.  Eleven and a half hours of socializing is a LOT, for anyone. He told us he had a great time.  I asked him what they talked about.

“Everything and nothing.”

Sounds just about perfect to me.  Thank you God for loving  this kid so much. And for loving me, too. Jehovah Rapha. The God who heals.

SDG!

 

Steward this!

Because I’m not (yet? ever?) a regular blogger, with a schedule to keep, I tend to write only when the urge overwhelms me to do so. Therefore, it’s likely I won’t be monetizing this little piece of the internet any time soon. Ha! But that’s okay. For now, I will continue to share my musings as they come to mind and threaten to consume my day if I don’t get them out.

If you’ve read any of my posts at Jewels for any length of time, you know that my family has been through a season of longing and loss. However, let me take this time to publicly thank God for the air in my lungs and the gift that is each new day. Regardless of our family’s pain, the blessings in our days far outweigh any burden. And, as you might guess, we’re looking at burdens a little differently, now, too…almost as blessings which bring us closer to the image of God.

Today, I woke up with the following on my heart and mind: Mary. Stewardship. Crud.

I’m a little puzzled as to why Mary (the mother of Jesus) has come to mind so much to me, lately, but she has. This would not surprise me if I were a Catholic believer, but as I am a Protestant girl, I’m used to giving Mary her due (so to speak) only around Christmastime, and perhaps a little bit at Easter, when Jesus told John to take care of her. But I’ve been thinking of two things with regard to Mary:

  • The fact that she freaked out when she saw Gabriel, because: who wouldn’t? But that, teenager or not, she trusted God enough to give up the stewardship of her life as it was, and let herself become the steward of something so much bigger. Mind-blowingly bigger.
  • The fact that MUCH crud came with her decision to trust in God’s plans for her.

In Mary’s time, Joseph had every right to publicly humiliate her, and to even have her stoned to death. As a woman and a mother of a teenage daughter, I can’t imagine what or how Mary told her parents about her pregnancy. I can’t imagine how she held her head high despite the cultural and societal norms around her. I don’t know about you, but to my shame, I am less apt, in my world of comfort, to not only tell the Lord to have His way with me, but to also sing a song of rejoicing regardless of the discomfort and danger included in those plans. Man, I (and most of us Americans) love my (our) comfort. Not a fan of crud. And yet, this side of Heaven, much crud often accompanies our decisions to follow God’s leading in our life. Loneliness. Suffering. Persecution. Loss. Death.

There are so few ways, sadly, in which I am like Mary, and I’d like to change that. Mary had a simple, deep, abiding faith. She knew God loved her and knew His ways were always good. Therefore, the decision to believe Gabriel and submit herself to God was simple, if not easy. It couldn’t have been. At the very least, she gave birth in gross circumstances, and at most, 33 years later, she witnessed her son die a gruesome, undeserved death. In between, she had to contend with raising a kid whom she had to wonder about. Jesus never sinned, but I’m sure raising Him was challenging.Obviously, I have no idea, but these are some of the things I think about. I wonder, though, if there ever was a better steward of one’s life than Mary. I’m challenged by her humility and precious faith. I wonder what, exactly, she pondered in that heart of hers.

“You are blessed because you believed the Lord would do what He said.” ~ Luke 1:45

Do I praise the Lord always, knowing that He is always good, never changes, and works all things for good for those who recognize Him as Lord and Savior? Do I steward all He has given me – yes, even the crud – as a precious gift in the tapestry of the plans He has for me/my family? Or, am I cynical – thinking or saying, “Of course this or that didn’t go our way because, of course.”? Do I grow weary of doing good, focusing on my own strength and influence, rather than His? May God forgive me, as I confess that too often I don’t live in alliance with my beliefs. Forgive my cynicism and poor attitude, Jesus. Please. And please help me to steward my life in obedient submission to You and Your great plans for me.  May my little life here in suburban Seattle Washington be nothing if not a vessel to draw others near Your amazing, saving grace.  Soli Deo Gloria!

Mary’s Song

46 And Mary said:

 

The Most Wonderful Place

Recently, I headed back to the state of my birth to say a final good-bye to a dear family member, my beloved aunt. Though sorry for the reason and quick timing of my visit, I was glad to go celebrate my aunt’s incredible life, while also being afforded the opportunity to make a visit to see my grandmother, “Grum”. My aunt saw neither the luxury, nor the the pitfalls of reaching old age, and, I’d reckon that my grandmother, nearly 90, and one who has said so many good-byes, wonders why she’s still on this side of Heaven. Life is sure hard to figure, sometimes.

While I was visiting with Grum, I offered to take her out to breakfast, and she agreed, as long as I didn’t show up “too early”. We agreed upon 9:30, and I arrived at 10. It was perfect. After her nursing assistant and I figured out how to put down the seat in my rental car and get her wheelchair situated, off we went to Perkins for breakfast. During my wonder years, when she lived with my mom and me, she often made me breakfast. I can’t tell you the last time we shared breakfast together. It’s been a long time. We chatted between sips of coffee and bites of delicious cinnamon roll French toast (me) and bacon, eggs, and toast (her). We considered ordering some pie to go, but we were too full.

Over breakfast, Grum had mentioned a previous visit to Walmart and how she had enjoyed just getting out and looking at all of the things in the store (she is a woman, after all. :)). When I told her I’d be happy to take her to Walmart, she said, Oh, really?!  That’d be wonderful!”

And so we headed to The Most Wonderful Place in the world at that moment – Walmart. Despite one wee mishap where I couldn’t quite find her for a while after I got back from the restroom (!), we had a lovely time. She doesn’t complain about living in the nursing home, but she did mention how going to the store and seeing all the colors was so enjoyable. We ambled, me on foot, and she on her scooter, up and down the aisles, looking for nothing in particular, except for maybe a little organizational gadget here, and some candy or coffee creamer there.

As we returned to the nursing home and put away her wares, I felt a little melancholy. I mean, I may never have this experience with Grum again. However, spending those few hours together also filled me with JOY.

Joy amidst the sadness of the occasion which brought me to the Midwest.

Joy in appreciating the sacred, holy treasures found in the humble, mundane parts of life.

Joy in knowing that the strong women in my life have shaped me into who I am today, and who my daughter will be tomorrow.

Joy in realizing that The Most Wonderful Place, whether humble or grand, is always a place where love grows.

May you, Dear Reader, find your joy in The Most Wonderful Place.

SDG!!! xxxooo

When God Says No, Part 2: Processing

I’m still processing the feelings of loss re: our adoption. I suppose on one level or another, I always will. As with others who have lived through any type of loss, I’m sure my questions aren’t novel:

  • Did we/I do something to cause the failure?
  • Is there anything we/I could have done differently which would have resulted in a different outcome?
  • If God loves the orphan, why would adoption have soooo many roadblocks? Isn’t this what He wants? Did we/I hear Him wrong?

I wrote about God’s sovereignty and ultimate control of the adoption (and the world) in my last post. I’ve noticed that my above questions have nothing to do with His sovereignty, though, but with my lack of control in our situation. Hmmm…I say and believe that God is sovereign, but it’s pretty clear that I wanted to control the outcome of this situation according to my plans.

Perhaps better questions would be:

My first questions aren’t bad questions, IMHO. However, the second set of questions put the focus back where it belongs, which is with God and His purposes, rather than me and my purposes. I’m not saying that this clears up all of my sadness and makes me feel all sunshiny and glad, but working though this first layer of grief and finding some perspective under God’s gentle yoke is freeing. I’m giving myself permission to do my part and not God’s (yes, I’m a recovering control freak – anyone feel me?). Our failed adoption is still so sad, unfair, and unreal to me; and it’s likely that I won’t understand the reasoning behind God’s work regarding us and our daughters until I see Him face to face.

God answered my prayers re: our adoption.

He said “no”. Or perhaps, “Not the way you were thinking, but the way I was envisioning, Gretchen.”

I need to honor that answer. Remaining in a lament of “it’s not fair!” is not only exhausting, but futile. I’m called to live in a higher level of truth and peace, given by a God who loves us all more than we can imagine. So, I’m pulling up my big girl britches, a day at a time, and will endeavor to stop reasoning as one who doesn’t know Jesus, while standing firmly upon the truth of His mercy, grace, provision, patience, and boundless love.

I’d love to know how you gain your perspective after or during loss and grief. Do you ask questions? If so, what do you find yourself asking?

SDG!

Gretchen

When God Says No

God said no to a huge dream and long term part of our lives, recently. He said no to allowing our adopted children to be united with us.

Was it Him saying no? Or was the no due to some soulless fool(s) in a US government agency?

I believe the answer is: yes.

I’m no Biblical scholar, but I do read my Bible, and from what I gather, as well as what I’ve learned from those much more adept at interpreting Scripture than I, is that God is sovereign. This means He rules over the world and everything in it. He is the great I Am. He bows to no one, and He created the universe and everyone in it. He made everything with perfect love and in perfect unity. In His perfection, and because of the value He places on a personal relationship with us, He gives us the free will to love Him back, as well as the free will to live out the consequences of our choices – which include those choices which separate us from His holiness (a.k.a. sin). Indeed, we continue to live with generational brokenness of the Original sin, which initially separated us from God.

But the amazing news is, He never gave up on us, and seeks us, still! He love/s/d us enough to sacrifice His one and only son to make us right with him. In other words, through Jesus’ justifying, reconciling death on the cross, we again became holy, and worthy of the relationship with Father God that humanity had previously thrown away. Even after His great sacrifice, God still gives all of us the free will to choose the gift of salvation (a right relationship with Him), or we may continue “doing whatever was right in (our) their own eyes.” But here’s the catch – the tension, if you will – this side of Heaven:  Even if we’ve chosen to love Him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, the world (and this includes our bodies and all that which was affected by the Fall) continues to be broken, corrupt, and bleeding from sin, and will be until Jesus returns one day. So, we are holy creatures living in an unholy land.

Darn it.

In this unholy land, where brokenness not only occurs, but often flourishes, it can seem like death, disease, war, prejudice, and general heartbreak get the upper hand. In fact our fight isn’t simply against flesh and blood, but against evil forces and principalities. In our current earthly home, things are liable to stink like a festering turd blossom for a while. But in our home on the New Earth, evil will NEVER have the upper hand, all will once again be unified, and every tear will be wiped away because we’ll be walking in perfect relationship with the Lord. I.am.living.for.this.day!

Okay, so if God is sovereign, why do wars happen? Why does cancer occur?  Why aren’t our children home where they belong?  What kind of God would allow__________??! I know that question. I’ve asked it myself. Earlier this week, I was responding to my son about this very topic.  The kind of God that allows __________ to happen is the kind who gives us the free will to love and do the right thing, as opposed to the kind who enslaves and insists upon His will. Due to choice upon choice given to sin, this world has become broken. So my best guess as to why our children aren’t home isn’t that God doesn’t want them to come home. In fact, He probably would have PREFERRED that they stay with their original family – but decision after decision was made before and after those children were even born which has yielded consequences, both “fair” and “unfair” which we and they deal with today. I have remind myself that we are the second best situation for our adopted children. I am thankful for adoption, and I believe in adoption (obviously), but the need for taking care of widows and orphans originally came due to the fall of mankind. Before the fall, there was perfect peace – no death, no illness, no abandonment, no poverty,no unmet need. Adam and Eve had all they needed, including a walking, talking, perfect relationship with their Creator/Father/God. We had no need to be adopted into God’s family because we already WERE a family.

Okay, so when God says no, what should we do?

Honestly, guys, I don’t know. I’m just muddling through my loss and grief, but here’s what I’m doing, and glory be to God if it helps another:

  1. I’m leaning in, rather than pulling away. Because even though God allowed this turn of events to unfold this way – a way which seems to make no sense and in a way that hurts my heart and brings me to my knees, I’m going to trust Him with my heart and all of my emotions and needs. Why? Because He’s still a good and perfect God. Probably a year ago, a dear friend prayed with me about our adoption, and she said, “So really, we have to decide whether we trust God or not with this adoption, right?” And that includes trusting Him with a no.
  2. I’m reflecting on my own experience as a parent, and honoring the fact that sometimes children can’t see what their parents can see, and parents make difficult decisions in order to protect their children. Wouldn’t I be insulting my Father if I thought He was less of a parent than I?
  3. I’m no Mary, but I’m doing my best to treasure and ponder all of these things in my heart. I would be honored to be the Lord’s hand-servant. May His will be done. Maybe our story will help someone, even if that help means that we simply learn better to mourn with those who are mourning. Maybe while I ponder, I’ll see things from a different angle, a more accurate perspective, or maybe I won’t, but I’ll keep looking – with eyes up and open hands.

I would love to hear what you have done when God says no. Please feel free to share in the comments. Blessings!

Soli Deo Gloria!

Gretchen

Choosing Joy When I’d Rather Pull The Covers Over My Head

Rough week.

I knew it would be. Not in the self-fulfilling prophecy way, I hope, but just in the way that you know that you know that you know that things are just going to be hard. And today, if I’m being totally honest, I really would rather pull the covers over my head, and stay in my favorite cocoon of bed, TV, books, warm coffee/tea, and dogs (well, ONE dog. The other one is probably one of the reasons I want to take to my bed. HA! But that’s a story for another day).

Two years ago today, two precious little girls, born to an incredible mother, on another continent, were legally given our last name.  We officially (at least in the eyes of Ghanaian law) became second and forever parents to them, and our amazing, biological kids became siblings to their two little sisters.

I cannot adequately describe the unrequited JOY in my heart at being able to share with our friends and family that yes! Finally, we were a family of six! Lovely “getting ready” showers thrown and attended by my beautiful friends, who had prayed for us at every step. It seemed a foregone conclusion that we’d have the girls home by late summer/early fall at the latest.  A flurry of activity commenced as we read all the books, prepared the room, and of course, bought coming to America and Christmas outfits (because: girls!). Also, our minds raced in anticipation of all the new decisions. What would we do about school? Would there be an airport party? How long would we cocoon (adoption term: essentially ignore the world for the first weeks the children are home)? Would we use our pediatrician that we had used for the other kids, or would we go to the International Adoption Clinic at the UW? We had the talks with our older kids – what to do if they felt unwanted or overwhelmed by the attention given the girls. We explained to them about bonding. Told them how proud we were, and how much we would need their help – and how much the girls were looking forward to having a big sister and big brother.

And then, their Ghanaian passports in hand, we waited upon our government to tell us when we could go pick our daughters up and bring them home.

Except, it  hasn’t worked out.  The government has (so far) said no.

What?

So…we regrouped. We fought and fought some more. And, two years after we were told they were part of our family, we continue to fight. Because they ARE part of our family.

Although this post may not seem encouraging, I mean it to speak truth and encouragement to you (and, honestly, to me). Here’s what I see, and why I’m able to choose joy:

My mother’s heart is broken. Broken for our biological children. Broken for these two little girls who have already suffered more loss and pain than most of us can imagine. Broken at all the days we’ve lost, 730, but who’s counting? Me.

But God is with me.

And God is with them. All of our children are safe and know they are loved, no matter where they reside.

My heart is broken for my dear husband who has been a hero during these last two years and proves over and over again what it means to be a good father.

But God is with me. And He sees.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18 NIV)

I am so stinkin’ angry at our government.

But God is with me. And I hope He’s mad, too. Ha!

14 The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:14 NIV)

 “In your anger do not sin”[a]: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. (Ephesians 4:26-27 NIV)

I am fearful that this will not end with our family under one roof.

But God is with me.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7 NIV)

Not only so, but we[a] also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. (Romans 5:3-5)

I believe He is sovereign. I believe He knows what is best for all of us. I also know we live in a broken world, and this side of Heaven, things will not always be fixed in the way that we would like, because this world is full of people who have God’s gift of free will, and they choose poorly.

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28 NIV)

This eternal perspective is everything to me, friends. Everything. Because I also believe that each day on Earth is a gift for which I’ll be held to account in Heaven. Did I love God and others well despite all the worldly crap which rained down? Doing all I can do ensure the answer is YES!

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment.39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:36-40 NIV)

So, today, when I’d rather stay in bed ALL day. I will get up, putter with my husband, enjoy the day with the kids who are here, take the impossible puppy to obedience school, and take a delicious nap. And tonight? I’ll dance it out at a hole in the wall pub. I’ll be the white-middle-aged-woman jiving to the tunes of my dear friend’s band. Huzzah! God is good. All the time. All the time, God is good.

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10)

Soli Deo Gloria! xxxooo

Top 25 Reasons My Heart Beats For Yours

Okay, I’ll buy that some of our moments are best kept private.  But, I think some of the best moments are those which you would shout about from any rooftop.  My dear husband and I will celebrate 25 years of marriage on June 2, of this year, Lord willing. But, as today is the only day promised to me, and today IS Valentine’s Day, I’m here to shout off the rooftops of the internets.🙂

Doug, here, in no particular order are the Top 25 Reasons My Heart Beats For Yours:

  1. We’ve enjoyed playing being each other’s Valentines for 30 years.  That says something about commitment.  Even dumb, you’re too young to date so seriously/get married commitment, like ours.
  2. Because you got me through high school chemistry.
  3. Because even though you and I differ on matters of faith, you have never once made me feel unsupported in mine or less than for thinking the way I think.
  4. Because you call me and wonder where I’ve gone if I run for a quick errand without saying goodbye, first. Even if I’m just trying not to bother you while you work.
  5. Because you cried for me when my mom died, and took care of all the stuff, so I could just grieve.
  6. Because you like sophomoric humor and movies I can’t stand, like Borat and JackA$$, but because you also love movies like Notting Hill and watch Love Actually on a yearly basis with me.
  7. Because you’ve taken me to see Steel Magnolias, the play.
  8. Because you took my freshman in college bleeding heart spirit to a prairie dog rescue one weekend as our date.
  9. Because you love our animals and are as crazy about them as I am.  You make fun of me for it, but I’ve seen your tears after each one has crossed over the Rainbow Bridge.  You, my love, are a softy and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
  10. Because yours was the Qtip hat we followed on parade route in marching band (because it was the tallest). And because you were the guy in the sweet sky blue marching band outfit and bolo tie, playing in support of our Buffs (who USED to play Orange Bowl football)
  11. Because without you, there would be no David, Jenny, Mary, or Comfort in our lives.
  12. Because you force us to get out of ruts, but allow me to remain in a few of them, too (e.g. Azul, and my aforementioned movie addictions).
  13. Because you like TV as much as I do.
  14. Because you go to middle aged yoga with me.  “No judgement, no competition, no expectations.”
  15. Because our favorite yoga pose is the corpse pose.
  16. Because no one works harder to ensure that ALL of our children have exactly what they need, whether a physical need, or an emotional one.  Our daughters have been taught that they are precious, intelligent, and worth being treated well, and our son has been taught how to be a selfless, hard-working, Monty Python quoting, historical game playing man.
  17. Because even though you’re not a hearts and flowers guy in the most traditional, boldly stated sense, you’re a romantic.
  18. Because you’re a good son.
  19. Because you’re the funniest guy I know.  And the smartest.  And the cutest.
  20. Because even when we fight, we fight fair.  It took a while to get there, when we were more wild and selfish, but I believe God has sanded away so many of our sharp edges, and will continue to do so.
  21. Because you get on a plane for 6+ hours twice a week, for about 25 weeks of the year, after having had 2 back surgeries, and eleventy million nights away from your family in a hotel room, and you connect with us every.single.day.
  22. Because you understand that you are talented at so many things, but kind of a mess when it comes to handiwork, so you let us call in people who are experts.
  23. Because this adoption has been a stupid, cruel, obscene joke, but you know that our girls are not. You know that they’re worth fighting for, and by God, you have fought with our money, your time, and your bravery, going to places that people can’t even imagine, in order to get this done.
  24. Because you show me you love me every.single.day. How? Because you tell me, you give great back scratches, and you treat me like the queen of your castle, even though I’m sometimes a tiny bit demanding and can run a teensy bit late.
  25. Because you’re mine, Valentine.

I love you, Doug, and I’m grateful for every moment we’ve been given.  Let’s focus on getting really healthy together, so that we can celebrate many more days together.  Oops, better wrap this up.  We’ve got yoga in 30 min, and you like us to be early so we can be in the back. I can do that.

SDG!!!

OK, I said it. I’m angry.

“525,600 minutes” is part of the lyrics to one of my favorite songs, Seasons of Love, from the production, Rent.  If you haven’t heard the song, we can still be friends.  Simply go NOW listen, here.

I guess that song and Ms. Melton’s post about anger, here, are the inspiration of my post today.

A year ago, today, we were anxiously awaiting our girls’ visa interview.  For those of you who might not know, here’s a quick catch up:  We were matched with a darling pair of sibling girls from Ghana on January 10th, 2013. We adopted them in Ghana, effective May 16, 2013.  Ever since then, we’ve been fighting to bring them home.

Yep, we were thinking…Visa interview on Tue.  Visa print on Friday.  Home the following week. Holla! and Relief! After all, it had been such a fight with our government to prove what we needed to prove, but we did just that, so we just knew we’d be sail right through their visa interview, and the girls would come home to be with their family who already loved them to the moon and back.  Home for the fall harvest, for trick-or-treating, for Thanksgiving, for birthdays, for Christmas, for morning cuddles and goodnight kisses.  Happened for so many others before us, so why not us?  The big kids were prepped and ready.  We had arranged care for them.  We had painted the girls’ room.  Had put little pairs of undies and socks and clothing in drawers. Had painted beds, and covered them in matching quilts.  Had hoped and dreamed for this moment, and it appeared as though the dream would come true any minute!  Man, we were so excited!  Nervous.  Giddy.  Grateful.

And then.

No visas issued.

What?

Wait.  What?

Why?

Denied.

OK.  So…these are our children, so we put on our armor and fought.  We fought through one denial, then another, and at last another.

We are now appealing the ridiculousness a third time.  With lawyers, with tireless trips to Ghana to collect evidence.  With hugs and words spoken to two little girls who don’t understand why they aren’t with their siblings in America.  With common sense.  With love. With anger.

I am angry and heartbroken.

Angry at the fact that adopted children aren’t given the same rights as biological children.

Angry that no one at USCIS or the Embassy seems to care that if these children don’t come home, they won’t have a home.

Angry that my Senator’s office doesn’t seem to give a damn about these little girls.  Truly.  Their lack of advocacy really makes me wonder why I bothered contacting them.  They, along with USCIS and our Embassy have reduced my faith in our government to an all time low.  But whatever, the girls can’t vote or pay taxes, yet, so they don’t really matter as much as adults or the other kids who are allowed to cross the border to open arms.  Sorry.  Sarcasm.  I am grateful that we’re kind to the children who are undocumented refugees in our country.  Shame that the same mercy and grace isn’t extended to our own citizens who are trying to, you know, do.the.right.thing.and.bring.their.children.home.legally.

Angry that anyone would think that my husband and I would have ANYTHING but the utmost care and love and concern for these babies.  My God, we have turned our world upside down for them,using practically every last resource available to us, because they are our children. Why can’t they come home?

Angry that my Ghanaian daughters’ own birth mother wishes for them to come to our family.  She has embraced us.  Given her blessing, because she CANNOT care for them.  These are her wishes.  People adopt kids all the time in America when their parents surrender them.  Each time we bug her for more information, pressing her for this detail or that, we dishonor her decision as a parent.

Angry that there is a chance that all of this fighting will have been in vain.  Though I am beyond grateful that they are in a safe, loving environment, they are not home.

What do I do with all of this anger, which I believe to be a righteous one? Well, I will continue to fight.  But I will also listen to that still, small voice who tells me not to sin in my anger, because I know my fight is not against flesh and blood.  I will (probably daily) repent of my resentment towards my government, and ask for forgiveness. I will continue to write emails, make phone calls, and do everything in my power to bring home our daughters. When I’m at the loneliest in this battle, I will go to the One who gives exchanges my burden for His, and who gives me rest.  I will repent of the little bit of hate I have for each day that they aren’t home.  Each day is a gift, and not promised. I know this. I need to live it in gratitude.  That’s part of the reason I decorated my house for fall. I need to be fully present and alive for the ones who ARE home–who need, who feel as ripped off as I do, who want like anything for their sisters/daughters to be safe and loved and home.

Why did I write this down?  I think I wrote it because I needed a place.  A place to say it all, to vomit it all out, and  to see the words on the screen which validate the mess I’m feeling.  There are only so many times I can tell my friends that I’m sad that the girls aren’t home. I know they love me, and they are spectacular, but this isn’t their story, it’s mine. There are only so many days I can lay with the covers over my head.  At the end of the day, I trust God. I do. I trust him with my anger. With my family. I trust Him with my broken heart. With the fact that I must live in tension – analogous somewhat to the tension between Heaven and Earth – between the family in my heart, and the family in my home. I trust in Him to show me how to take my next steps. To make a way, no matter what.  Because I know He loves these little girls more than I could, and he loves the rest of us that much, too.  I live in that grace.  And that makes me a little less angry.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.  Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV)

Soli Deo Gloria!

Confessions Of A Lunch Note Writer

My homegrown children are 16 and 18. I have packed approximately eleventy-million lunches over the course of their lifetimes.  Each June, as the end of the school year draws nigh, I always feel giddy at the prospect of a summertime sans worrying about little baggies and lost ice packs. Because I loathe packing lunches.  Always have.  So, right now, you might be saying to yourself, “Self, I wonder why Gretchen feels the need to pack her kids’ lunches when they each have two hands and opposable thumbs.”  Sometimes I wonder that, too. Some might even think I’m stifling my kids’ independence by completing a task which is more than within their power to complete on their own.  Sometimes, I do get bitter about the daily grind, and have my kids eat hot lunch, or insist they make their own lunches. Because, often times, I’m more about my convenience and comfort than that of others’.  Let’s file that under: something God and I are working on.

I know that D and J can pack their own lunches. They’ll be doing so for the rest of their lives.

But when they pack their own lunches, they won’t get a lunch note from me.  At this point, I’m down to just packing my daughter’s lunch. Each day, I include a note with some sort of encouragement, silliness, or even an occasional Bible verse. My daughter often gives me a hard time with the fact that I pack lunch notes.  But she doesn’t want me to stop.  I’ve asked.

“I used to hide them from my friends when I was in middle school, Mom, but I always loved them, and I kept a few of my favorites.”

Now, when she gets a lunch note, it makes her chuckle.  I think she shares the weirdness with her friends at times, and they have a giggle at my expense.  And this doesn’t bother me at all.  With 30 seconds,  3×5 notecard, a pen, and (more often than not) random stickers, I’ve connected to her in a small way.  I believe the adage which says we’re to give our children roots to stay safely grounded and wings to soar into their future.  One might think that given that she’s less than 2 years from being ready to fledge, I’d be working harder on the wings portion of this task.

Nah. I’m confident of her wings. I want her to be confident of her roots.

We will always be rooting (no pun intended) for her, will always love her, and will always be in her corner, a soft spot on which to land.  Young adulthood is scary. My daughter and her cohorts have so much more pressure and so many more distractions than 29 years ago, when I was 16. Truly.  So, if I can spend 10 minutes in connecting with her via packing her lunch, knowing that I might make her smile or roll her eyes in an otherwise mundane or rough day, I’m all for that.

Connection.  It’s the reason I’m no longer phased by having her friends drop by for dinner, and here’s a tangent, which I’m going to include in this post, just because I can:  I used to think it rude to have her friends stay for dinner w/o an express invitation to do so – because I was raised to be home by 5 pm.  Never was I to make someone feel they had to feed me by hanging around their house at the dinner hour.  So, to my eternal shame, I often resented the extra effort required to cook for more people than for whom I had planned, even though I love her friends dearly.  Today’s youth are often driving hither and yon to jobs, activities, and have homework, and getting home for a 5 pm dinner every.single.night. just isn’t going to happen. I believe the Lord spoke quietly to me and changed my heart – actually just recently on this topic, and I’m so grateful He did.

“What if you looked at it as a blessing, rather than a pain in the neck to feed my sheep?”

What? See what He did there?  He gently convicted my heart of my selfishness. Here’s another opportunity to give my girl (and her friends) roots.  What a blessing!  I’m home.  I’m cooking anyway. Truly, what’s the bother? I can eat less, if needed. How had I not thought about this before?  Because inherently selfish. What a gracious God I serve, who is so long-suffering and patient when I’m stiff-necked and stubborn. I stand overwhelmed with gratitude at how this loving God knows exactly how, given our strengths and flaws, we can communicate best with our families to establish, maintain, and flourish in connection with them.

Maybe you’re not a lunch note writer or much of a meal maker.  That’s cool.  What little things do you do with your family to maintain connection when they’re not with you?

17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. (John 21:17, NIV)

Soli Deo Gloria! GJH