Beautifully Broken

april blog 2016

During difficulties and trials people will often say things like “everything happens for a reason.” Or “all things work together for good…” While both of these statements are true, when you are in the midst of heartache or despair, they aren’t the easiest things to hear or see.

Many people I know have had to and currently are walking through some very dark places. There can be times when we feel caught in a pit and we can’t see a way out. As followers of Jesus, we are being refined every day to be more like Him. I have always imagined the refining process like being put into a pot of water. The heat is slowly turned up, and slowly the junk comes to the surface and we are refined. There have been times in my life when I asked God multiple times if He was using a chisel on me. I imagined Him with the chisel in hand, saying lets take off this whole piece here. It can be painful and often times lonely.  We can feel like we are being stripped of everything. And all that is left is God, and in those darkest places, He proves to be so faithful.

Remarkably it is during these seasons in my life I have witnessed more miracles big and small. There is something about trials and suffering that if we press into the Lord, He will demonstrate His love to us in incredible ways that we wouldn’t have otherwise been able to see. Many times the miracles come in the 11th hour and in both simple and profound ways. For me one such miracle was through an incredible song by Hillsong called Broken Vessels. Here are a few of the lines that really stand out:

“All these pieces, broken and scattered, in mercy gathered, mended and whole, empty handed, but not forsaken…you take our failure, you take our weakness, you set your treasure, in jars of clay, so take this heart, Lord, I’ll be your vessel, the world to see, your love in me.”

And there it was…a beautiful miracle in the brokenness… A gift though a song. You see, 2 Corinthians 4:7-9 says this: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed..”

The jars of clay are us, our bodies. Crafted together from dust by the Creator. And just like the potter, He shapes and forms us into vessels to demonstrate His love to the world. And as Jesus followers His light shines in us and through us.

Imagine with me a jar made of clay.

If you put a candle in it, where would the light shine? Through the top.

Now smash that jar of clay, and what happens? It breaks into a bunch of pieces. If we were to take all those pieces and glue them back together, we would be left with a jar with a bunch of cracks in it. And what would people say if they saw that jar? Would they think it had worth? Would they accept it? No, they would feel it was no longer useful and it would likely be discarded. And if the jar could share what would it say? Probably the same things. It probably would feel worthless.

I think that’s true for many of us as we walk through trials. We can feel so alone, abandoned. We wonder why.

But lets put the candle back into our broken jar and what happens?

Not only does the light come through the top but it shines all around through all the broken pieces.

I have learned that God in His mercy sometimes allows us to be broken. We may feel completely devastated and useless during the season of brokenness. But in His incredible mercy He gathers (if we let Him) all our broken pieces and puts them together. And in the end, our brokenness allows His light to shine even brighter through us. And we are broken vessels demonstrating God’s love to a world who so desperately needs Him.

Looking back over the different trials of life, I have come to a place of thankfulness. I thank God that He has allowed me to be broken. My faith has been strengthen and my prayer is my brokenness would be used for the sake of His Kingdom.

My hope for you is the next time you are going through a season of suffering that you will see that there is beauty in brokenness.

I’m Not The Hero

aug 26 blog

Did I really just say that?

The words leave my lips and I wish there was a string on the end that I could grab and pull them back in. But out they go, like a balloon floating up to the sky and I can’t take them back.

Just over a year ago, our daughter Ady came to be in our home forever. In those first moments and weeks I never could imagine that I would find myself a year later saying something I would regret. Or feeling frustrated and confused as I have many times.

Over the months that have followed since our little chickadee (my nickname for her) or cutie-pa-todie (daddy’s nickname for her) came to our family, we have learned the depth of her pain and loss in ways we never expected or planned. Hitting, spitting, kicking, screaming, manipulating, destroying, crying, inconsolable crying. The pain and hurt done to her has left her literally terrified to receive love. She is like a tornado of hurt, fear and deep pain.

Foster and Adoptive parents, I see you.
You heard an adoption story and your heart was touched.
You saw the pictures of children waiting in foster care.
You thought, we have so much.
We have more love to give, and it will be enough.
So you jumped in, laying so much down.
But over time you’ve learned love alone isn’t enough.
It takes time.
The daily grind is hard.
Maybe if you were to be honest, you’d admit that you’ve had moments of doubt.
What did we do?
Can I really do this?
You’ve thought of giving up…
Put that picture up on social media, not so pretty right?

I remember reminding God that rubber bands do snap. And as He always does, with love He reminded me I wasn’t going to snap. That I woke up today, put my feet on the floor again today, ready to love.

You know, when people first learn that you are adopting (or fostering), they think you are a hero. And yeah, when you spend years fighting for a child, you can even start to think you are bit heroic.

But I am not her hero.
Her Hero came over 2000 years ago.
He took on every sin and atrocity that was done to her.
He was her Father when she had none.
He was her comfort when she cried alone.
He is the one who rescues and redeems.
Her Hero can see through all the stains of her past.
He knows who she is, all her beautiful potential.
He is who will heal her, despite our shortcoming and mistakes along the way.

What a freeing idea. And what a privilege to be a part of her journey to get to see the miracles in her life that will come. Knowing that I don’t have to be the hero gives me so much hope.

So adoptive/foster parents, don’t give up. Breath deep in the freedom that you don’t have to be their hero, the Hero has got that covered. You just have to be there, pointing them to Him. Wake up another day, and tell that little one that they are loved. Even when their behaviors are unloveable. Pour your second cup of coffee and remind yourself that you too are loved, mistakes and all.

What a beautiful, messy, redemptive journey we get to be on.

Letters to Ady

ady 6th blog

Sweet Girl,

There’s so much to say. I’ve been putting it off because there’s so much that has happened, some is so painful, and some so glorious. But today’s your birthday and what better day than to start to share the story of how you became my daughter and I became your mom.

They say the best love is one that has been tested and yet endures. Our love is one that has been and continues to be tested.

Since I first met you four years ago, the journey has been one filled with joy and sadness. With plenty of hellos, and too many goodbyes.

When we first met, we had already begun the adoption process through Ethiopia. We told our adoption agency that we were looking to adopt a girl, under 5. Sierra Leone wasn’t an option, as adoption was pretty much impossible there. When I met you, to be honest, I protected a part of my heart from getting too close. I shut out any idea of you coming to live with our family.

On that first trip and meeting you, I was so drawn to you. Obviously because we sponsored you, but more so your spirit. So small, yet so smart and witty, so strong and determined. I dare not let my mind go to wondering what hell you had been through to make you that way. Instead, I admired your strength and courage. One of our first interactions was you sitting on my lap. Behind me was a room where we put all the fun things our team had brought to play with you and all the kids in the home. You told me to let you go in there. I said, “no, not yet” and you slapped me across the face. LOL, literally. I put you down, which you didn’t like and you proceeded to have a tantrum, I stepped over you and said “you’ll have to do better than that.” Time would show that as you struggled to break free from the hurts, you would do better than that to show me the depth of your pain.

We spent a lot of time together on that trip. For some reason on the last day I even let you draw with sharpie all over my arm. It made you happy, so I really didn’t care. You cried the day we said goodbye, and I tried to not let you into my heart for fear it would hurt too much. But you already made your place.

When I came home, we put your photo up on our fridge as our sponsored child for us to remember to pray for you. Your brothers and sister (especially your sister) insisted that you were the child we were adopting. I told them over and over again that they could call you their sister, but you were never coming to live in our home, that it just wasn’t possible. (“But with God, all things are possible.”) Somehow they just knew. I guess that is the childlike faith that Jesus spoke of.

It would take nearly 2 years, but God did do the impossible. In the months and years to come, I will write our story, the God story that brought us together. My hope is that it will help you to know that we loved you, but more importantly that your Father loves you so much. There is no other way to explain how you got here than Him. He worked miracle after miracle for you, His precious girl. My hope is that this story will encourage others to step out in faith and to be instruments of His healing to a broken world.

Today is a special day. Your first birthday here in our family. I will look at you with joy and awe of Him who has made you an orphan no more.

Happy 6th Birthday beautiful daughter,

Love,
Mom

The Place in Between

blogphoto april 29

Eight.

The number of times my feet stepped off one continent and onto another.
From paved roads, comfortable homes to red dirt streets and mud huts.
The journey is grueling.
Each time I am more and more unsettled.
How is that possible?
Is that peace?
Yes.
A holy discontent.
A longing for all things made new.
Home is no longer about a place, it is about people, my people.
Some of my people reside within the four walls of my physical home, others are 3000 miles away.
How do you reconcile the pain of leaving your kids?
Goodbye tears flow equally from your kids on both sides of the ocean.
Heart ripped out.
And broken again.
You never get used to it.
How can you?
In some ways it gets worse.
It gets harder.
How do you see children with bloated bellies and red hair from malnutrition one day and the next return to the land of abundance?
How do you follow children deep into the woods to the nastiest water source and return to an abundance of clean water?
How do you find a normal again?
You don’t.
And that’s ok.
We aren’t supposed to be settled.
We aren’t supposed to feel comfortable.
The more you love the more it hurts, but that’s good.
A love that has been tested and tested and perseveres despite all odds, that is the deepest, sweetest love.
But it comes at a cost.
The price is worth paying.
Eight.
So many times now that I am no longer sure where home is.
But I am learning its not either place.
Home is coming.
It is the place where He will right all wrongs, He will make all things new.
Till then I will fight.
Fight for the broken, the lost and forgotten.
Find those in the pit, covered and stained by everything that is broken.
Raise them up out of the ashes, and given them a crown of beauty.
Speak over them the promises and words of their Father.
I will fight.
I will find my place in the place in between.

Sidelined

sidelined

We’ve all heard it said “if the devil can’t make you bad, he will make you busy.” While I do agree that busyness can get us into trouble, I think there is something even more subtle and effective. Getting us to be sidelined, and out of the game, out of making a difference for the kingdom.

As a culture we are consumed with comparison. In fact, many marketing strategies are built on it. We all feel like we need that “it” item that every one else has. Social media is like gasoline to this fire. If only I had what he had. If only I had the opportunities that she had. If only this and if only that. Studies have even shown that social media can even contribute to depression, and I believe it’s because comparison can be so detrimental to our souls.

Recently, I’ve been having conversation with my friends about this topic. A friend said to me “I will never do amazing things for God, like go to Africa like you do.” I was shocked to hear this as I really respect this friend as an amazing woman of God. She is incredibly encouraging, funny and a wonderful mother. She is someone who seems so grounded and all together. And yet, she feels she’s less effective or important to the kingdom because she does not feel led to travel to Africa.

I looked at her and said, “and I look at you and how you care for your children and how thoughtful and encouraging you are to others, and I feel like I will never be like that.” I call myself “domestically challenged”, its just not my strong point, and sometimes I really beat myself up about it. Especially when we are invited to someone’s house and they cook and amazing meal, or when I see posts of moms doing crafts with their kids.

So did you catch what happened in my conversation with my friend? She’s looking at me, saying, “I will never do those things, I don’t measure up, I don’t matter as much.” And I am looking at her saying the same thing.

The comparison game can leave us paralyzed. It can sideline us. I believe we each have a unique God given purpose. But if we spend our time looking at others, comparing, wishing for their lives, feeling inadequate, we will miss what He has for us. In fact, we sideline ourselves.

We are all unique. God has given us each gifts and talents for use in His Kingdom. In addition, the scope of our influence is also God given, and looks different for each of us. Our purpose is to discover what He uniquely created us to do, and to serve him with all our hearts. We are all members of one team, each position may look different, but every position matters. We are a body, every part matters.

So yes, I do travel to Africa for my job. Not everyone can or wants to do that. And my friend has written me encouraging notes, and brought a meal for our family during a difficult time as she does for others. Without encouragement from people like that, people that do missions work would not be able to do what we do. We each matter.

Let’s fast-forward 100 years…. none of us will be here. We will all be in eternity. What will matter is what we did with what we specifically were given and asked to do. And whatever crowns and rewards we get, I believe our desire will be to lay them at His feet anyways, they aren’t for us. Our lives matter most in light of Him and His kingdom, not our small world.

Has comparison left you sidelined because you feel like your gifts aren’t as good or important as someone else’s? Get off the bench and get in the game. You matter to the team. Most importantly, you matter to the King.

Faith in the Waiting.

blogphoto FIW

“I miss you mommy.” The sound of that phrase coming from the voice and heart of a five year old would melt anyone’s heart. But when that missing has been going on day after day for 7 months, and your daughter is 3000 miles away the sound of it takes your breath away and hurts.

We are at the very last stage of our adoption. After three years of praying, learning, processing and paperwork we need one tiny piece of paper that says we can bring our daughter home. Around the final turn of the adoption journey, we’ve come up against another mountain. Call it a snag, extra step, roadblock, whatever you name it; it stands between us and our daughter coming home.

They say in adoption, that you hurry up and do a bunch of work and then you wait, and you wait some more. During the waiting I’ve kept myself busy buying clothes, redecorating the girls room, painting their bunk bed, etc. But when everything was done, there was nothing left to do but to wait, and then wait some more.

I hate waiting.

I’ve already admitted that I’m afraid of the quiet, and in the waiting there can be a lot of quiet. In the waiting there is a lot of opportunity for fear and doubt to set in…all the “what ifs”.  The truth is God uses the waiting to shape us, to refine us, to make us look at our motives and also to bring us lovingly to a place where all we are left with is to pray, to trust.

I am at the end of myself, the end of all the planning and all the doing. Now, its only God who can see it through. The funny thing is it has really been only Him all along. He’s been there in every step, working miracle after miracle. He’s got this. He’s holding us and He’s holding her. She was a daughter of the King before she was ours, before time began and His love will carry her through.

Today I took another step of faith; I bought our daughter a suitcase for the plane ride home. It may not seem like a big deal, but it is a huge step of faith for me. It’s my way of saying, God, no matter what obstacles I trust You to finish this work. It will sit in my room as a daily reminder that all my trust and hope must rest in Him.  I don’t know all the hows and whens about our adoption, but I just know He will see it through. There may be a mountain, but I know the Mountain Mover.

Are you in a season of waiting? How has your faith grown as a result?

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory…” Ephesians 3:20-21a

Compassion Scars

compassionscars

So what happens when we step into the mud? We get dirty, right? Have you ever stepped into someone else’s pain or problems and it causes you to get hurt or uncomfortable in some way?

This past Tuesday was a very difficult day. We are in what we hope is the final phase of our adoption, but we found out that our sweet adoptive daughter is sick. Sick in a country that has very little medical care. Sick in a country where diseases that have been almost completely eradicated from the US are commonplace. On top of all that, I found out that two of our kids in our children’s home are in the hospital very sick. The realization sets in that without our program being there and the wonderful sponsors of these two boys, they probably wouldn’t be alive right now and it’s a sobering reality.

I have ups and downs in this work we are doing. There are days of celebration like recently when we got the news that our primary school is fully funded. But there are a lot of days of heartache. Some days, like last Tuesday, you just wonder what else can happen, how much more can your heart take.

In a moment of quietness, God spoke something so clear. Our conversation went like this:

(Me)“God, I just don’t understand, we are just trying to help these kids, and its so painful, so overwhelming, how much more heartbreak can we take?”

(God) “What you are doing is an act of compassion, right?”

(Me) “Yes, yes it is.”

(God) “And compassion means to suffer with, to suffer alongside, right?”

(Me) “Yes, yes it does.”

(God) “So at what point, did you expect to step into suffering and not feel pain, to not become uncomfortable?”

(Me) “I see it now.”

(God) “Good, then let’s get on with it, follow me.”

I am not sure if it is a western culture thing, or just a human thing, but I know our tendency is towards comfort and away from pain. When it’s cold out, we put a coat on. When it’s hot out, we put the AC on. When our back hurts, we take a Motrin. We run from pain, hurt and confrontation. We all want to be comfortable.

Later in the week, we also learned of the unexpected death of a missionary we know. He spent many years serving God, choosing to follow Him over the life he could’ve had of comfort. I thought of him standing before Jesus. I do not think he in that moment said, “I wish I would’ve lived a more comfortable life.” I think its safe to say, looking into Jesus’ eyes, he was glad he laid it all down for Him.

So now, the challenge comes to you and me friend. We have a God who ran towards suffering, not away from it. When we see injustice, when we see people hurting will we take the easy way out and simply say, “I’m praying for you”? Or, will we embrace true compassion, one that choses to step into suffering and expose ourselves to potential pain and hurt?

Do we really want to step out of this life, into the next unscathed when others are suffering so much? I wanna leave this world with compassion scars, because the One I am following after has them, and I want my life to look like His. So let’s go, let’s get on with it.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

How have you stepped into someone’s pain to show true compassion? Has someone done that for you? I would love to hear your story. Let’s encourage each other with stories of hope.

 

Mushy Ground

april2blog

After a really extra long, extra cold winter here in Buffalo, spring has finally arrived!

Yesterday, I parked in my usual spot to pick up my munchkins from school. I started walking across the grass area I always do. This time though, I got really muddy. The ground was super soft and wet from all the melting snow. And it got me thinking…It’s usually after the first big thaw that the ground is the mushiest and messiest. The ground is super soft, and pliable, ready to receive the seeds in spring that will grow through summer and yield harvest in the fall. I think it’s how God uses difficulties and storms in our lives. After the winter and during the thaw:

  • We are the most pliable and soft to hear from God.
  • We are fertile soil for Him to plant in us what He is calling us to.
  • When we feel we are at our messiest, it’s the perfect time for God to shape us.
  • Many times the weeds are dead and there’s less competing to distract us from growth.

Life is all about seasons. For now, I find myself in a winter as I am waiting on God for our adoption, but there are signs that spring is coming!

If you are in the joy of summer, make sure you don’t allow the soil of your heart to harden and get you to a place where you aren’t relying on Him.

If you are in the harvest of fall, enjoy the blessing and fruit of how God is using you and immerse yourself in Him because you know another winter is coming.

If you find yourself in a cold, long winter, remember that spring is coming. Lean into Him in the long, cold nights.

And if you find yourself in the growth of spring, keep the soil of your heart soft so that God can mold you and plant in you Kingdom callings!

“For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!” 2 Corinthians 4:17

Are You Afraid of the Quiet?

mar2914blog

“Come to me all who are weary and heavy burdened and I will give you rest.” Jesus

Strangely while this gift from Jesus should seem like a relief, to me it has always felt like a punishment, like I had to be put in “time out.”

I’m learning I’m addicted to doing. I can’t sit still and I always need to be going. And while this can be a strength, there is always a dark side to our strengths, and for me it’s that I never rest. Well that catches up with you eventually, and after an extremely busy year both personally and at work I have crashed.

About two weeks ago all the doing caught up with me. For about a week tears flowed uncontrollably. I’m really not a crier so this was very strange and I felt like I was losing control.  I took some time to just sit and be still. And that’s where I realized I am afraid of the quiet. In the quiet we can’t mask our problems, our fears or our disappointments, it’s like someone shines a spotlight on them. And I dare say that is actually a good thing.

Here’s what I learned in the quiet:

  1. God’s not done with me. In fact I have a long way to go to be refined and become more like Jesus.
  2. Kingdom work goes on even while we rest. God invites us in and uses us, but its really not all going to fall apart without us.
  3. It is dishonoring to Him to not take care of ourselves physically.
  4. He loves us so much. HIS LOVE FOR US IS NOT DEPENDENT ON WHAT WE DO. He loves us simply because we are His. Wow, that is so freeing.

I took the past week off and stayed home and faced my fear of the quiet. I also decided that I was going to take my health seriously and switched to a week of all whole foods. I will talk more about that in another post. But lets just say the first four days were a real battle, but by the end of the week so much clarity and strength came.

What God taught me in the quiet is that while it brings Him glory when we serve Him with all we are and have, that it is also dishonoring to Him when we don’t take time and rest in Him. If we are to become more like Him, then we have to take the time in rest and reflection for Him to refresh us and speak to our hearts.

Are you weary from doing? Come into the quiet and rest, He is there waiting.

 

Bring Me That Horizon

BRING ME THAT HORIZON

“Bring me that horizon” is the last line Captain Jack Sparrow says at the end of Pirates of the Caribbean. After a squash-buckling journey, he at last is Captain once again of his beloved Black Pearl. Looking into his compass, and then to the horizon, he sets sail for his future.

I’ve been contemplating death a lot lately. Maybe it’s because of a vacation I just took with my family, and having more time to just think about life. Or maybe it’s because of the recent diagnoses of cancer in people around me. Or maybe because I recently took two trips to Sierra Leone and was once again face to face with extreme poverty, disease and death. Likely it’s a combination of all these things. But I will challenge you, that thinking about death from time to time is healthy. It helps focus us.

You see, what I am growing into is a desire is to live in the light that death is coming. Our lives are but a vapor; we are here today and gone tomorrow. And lately I’ve been saying I want to leave it all on the field. I want to love my husband and kids ardently, not missing one smile, one kiss, one moment to add value and life to who they are. I want to continue to discover and develop the gifts God has given me so I can be used for His kingdom. I desire to truly love my neighbor as I love myself. I want to stop sweating the little things that can so easily consume and weigh us down.

Live Fully. Love Greatly. Give Completely.

You see, we are on a ship, sailing through this ocean called life. But the ocean isn’t all there is, we are headed for a shore, but we cant see it because its off over the horizon. As a follower of Jesus, the shore I am heading for is Heaven. And the time spent on this sea of life is so short compared to an eternity on that shore. Sometimes the water is calm and peaceful and other times the waves are terrifying, and there are so many potential distractions along the way.

I challenge us today to keep our eyes on that horizon, because just over it, an eternity awaits. We have one journey on the sea of life, one chance to do all our King has asked of us.

Interestingly, sailors often use the horizon and a celestial body such as a sun in navigation to ensure they are on the right course. Perhaps if we keep our eyes on Jesus, the Son and what’s over the horizon, which is eternity to come, our journey through the seas of life will be intentional, focused and effective for His glory. And we will reach the shore with no regrets.

Kate