Free Advice from a 40-Year Old

I bid farewell to my 30’s last week.

Some good-byes are difficult but not this one.

I have a new sense of freedom as I celebrate another year of life.

A friend recently asked me, “What do you feel free from?” Well, for many years, I wrestled with issues related to my identity, my dreams and goals and gifts, all while trying to please people who had their own ideas of who I should be.

I’m walking away from decades of giving permission to the poison whispered in my ears: “You’re not enough…You have nothing to offer…Do more and you’ll be accepted…Be ‘this’ and we’ll include you…Work harder…God expects more from you…You should be married by now…You should have kids by now…You’re just a SAHM…You should only be a SAHM…Be more perky and outgoing…Sit down and shut up…Rest is for the weak…Saying ‘no’ means you’re selfish and lazy…”

Toxins. All of them.

I’m in the recovery phase now, better prepared to resist the lies, feeling strong and free and well-loved by those who matter, especially the One who’s brought me to the BIG 4-0.

As I reflect on years past, I’m grateful for the growth and I’m ready to discover new lessons as I move forward in faith. In looking ahead, I offer a glimpse of what I’ve learned on the road to forty:

1. Embrace your personality and gifts. In my early twenties, I thought I was extroverted, that I adored all things people-y, and that I shouldn’t take a break from serving others. I got the sense from church and ministry culture that extroverts were more like Jesus so I tried to live with that persona. I shunned my own needs so I could serve others with endless energy, much like I imagined Jesus had served. Turns out, that’s just warped theology.

I didn’t know or like myself enough to set healthy boundaries with people who were more like leeches than actual humans. I let them suck my time and energy and manipulate my opinions and decisions because that’s what good little Christian girls do for people–for God.

Hearing oft misunderstood words like ‘ministry’ and ‘service’, and ‘sacrifice’, spoken by those in authority, pushed me to give in ways I never should have. Then I railed against my loved ones when I crumbled beneath the weight of my exhaustion and guilt. People-pleasing ‘for Jesus’ stole my joy, emotional health, and mental space.

The most revolutionary word I’ve learned in 40 years.

Through prayer, personal counseling, and time to heal, I’ve learned that the agendas of others do not determine my decisions or personality, that saying ‘no’ is revolutionary, and that my voice matters, too. I’ve finally embraced my introverted self, my INFJness and I’m stepping into my 40’s without feeling the need to please the ones who demand that I be their version of who God made me to be. 

In related news, if you aren’t familiar with the Enneagram, Google it–like yesterday.

2. Jesus is Love, Truth, and a bit of Mystery. He’s the Son of God who loves us completely and perfectly. He is fully divine yet fully human–a union my mind cannot grasp. The more I read of His character and life, the more questions I have and yet the more sure I am of His faithful love.

His practical care for the outcasts, those rejected by their culture and religion, those struggling with dark secrets and sin–even His enemies–both encourages and challenges me.

Do I love like that?

Do I love those who cannot return a favor?

How do I love the kid that bullies my daughter or mocks my son with Down syndrome?

How do I love without enabling a narcissist?

How does my faith in Jesus shape my ideas on war, poverty, crime, laws, justice, and all issues related to our humanity?

How do I live at peace with everyone–as far as it depends on me?

What does it mean specifically to love Jesus? And what does it mean to be loved by Him?

I wrestle with these questions and more. I’m learning to accept what I know to be true in His Word and I’m trusting that some mysteries may never be understood in my earthly life. And that’s okay. He doesn’t ask me to be certain–He asks me to trust.

3. Marriage can be fantastic–and maddening.

In 15 years of marriage, I’ve found that love is best served up through tiny, seemingly insignificant decisions to care for the one I married. It’s one big fat, selfless relationship and some days and seasons are really hard. I offer a few suggestions:

Listen to each other.

Be kind.

Try not to yell. It’s a waste of energy.

Don’t badmouth your spouse, especially publicly.  

Pray every day together.

Be honest about your needs.

Keep dating. Schedule dates no matter how tight your time and finances. Trade a night out with another couple. Or go cheap (like we do): put the kids to bed, move your phones out of sight, pour the wine, make the popcorn, and actually look at each other. Our rule: we don’t talk about the kids or the jobs. Talk about your personal and marital successes, failures, areas to improve, hopes and dreams–whatever.

Have lip synch competitions–add your kids or other families into the mix. These are gold, especially if your spouse has all the Petra songs memorized. I’m not naming names.

Laugh daily. Share hilarious stories or find YouTube videos of people fails. Watching people trip and fall and smash those perfect wedding cakes is strangely satisfying. Guaranteed to make you chuckle.

4. Parenting is more of an art than a science. Remember when you didn’t have kids and you held in your hands the most precious parenting advice? All those how-to’s made sense to you, didn’t they? And then you had kids and you just laughed and laughed because you realized you didn’t know jack.

There are great resources available today for those of us in the parenting trenches but one (or a hundred) books, classes, etc. will rarely be effective for every kid. We have a tween, an elementary kiddo, a preschooler with Down syndrome, and a toddler. I birthed our two oldest and we adopted our two youngest, who are the most beautiful biracial kids east of the Mississippi. I’m not biased AT ALL. Obviously, there is no one formula that works for our brood but we still access a variety of helpful books, podcasts, and classes because awareness and education are useful and effective in helping us along.

If you follow me on FB, you know the chaos that is our home. And you also know that I don’t have all the answers on parenting–not even a few–but I do know my kids and I have a sense of their current needs.

Here’s what I’ve learned in ten years of parenting:

  • Kids need freedom to make mistakes.
  • Kids need age-appropriate boundaries.
  • Kids need unconditional love.
  • Kids need connection.
  • Kids thrive with laughter.

The challenge to parenting my kids well is to love them unconditionally in ways that they understand, to know if/when to enforce healthy boundaries, and to maintain a connection to their hearts in the midst of discipline. It’s a tough gig some days.

 

As for the results? Well, I can’t predict the future or control their choices. Life has no guarantees so there’s no way to ensure that my hard work, effort, and prayers will take root or blow away in the wind. Will my cherubs become entitled, spoiled brats who think the world owes them something? Or will they credit their brilliant parents and stellar upbringing [insert sarcasm] when they win the Presidency, eradicate poverty, and find a cure for cancer? Stay tuned!

In the meantime, we read, laugh, play, dance, screw up, forgive, and pray together, while making time to explore our lives in light of God’s Truth. (And we watch America’s Funniest Home Videos online because I want their laughter to ring in my ears when they eventually fly the nest.)

5. A small group of friends is worth more than 100 acquaintances. I’m indebted to the tiny circle of people who truly get me. Author Sarah Bessey refers to this group as her ‘Somewheres’. Agreed.

I have a select few who know my besetting sins, tendencies, ‘secret’ failures, desires, and fears. They are my Somewheres–a safe place where I can hold out the refuse and humbly ask, “Will you help me work through this stuff?” And my Somewheres assure me of their presence, graciously help me to sift through the mess, and gently but boldly speak Truth when I most need to hear it.

My Somewheres have permission to challenge me. We share mutual trust, respect, and loyalty. They’ve seen the outtakes of my edited life and they’re still for me, consistently offering support through their presence, prayers, and hysterical GIFs. I highly recommend naming your Somewheres and connecting with them as much as possible.

 

6. Invest in your health. Find a sustainable exercise that you enjoy. I like road running. I crave the time outside to think and process and write essays in my head. Every drop of sweat is a stressor left along the road so that when I walk through the front door in all my sweaty funk, I’m better able to fulfill my roles.

I also *enjoy* (like one might *enjoy* a sledgehammer to the face) high intensity workouts with strength training. This is an effective winter alternative since I don’t run outside in temps below 40–it’s simply against my exercise religion.

As for proper nutrition, I aim to eat what fuels me and I enjoy the occasional treat that I find to be worth the calories. I still have more wobbly bits than I care to see but I feel strong and the scale numbers aren’t climbing.

Now, I’m gonna get bossy for a minute. PLEASE: Make that annual appointment with your doctor. Check your parts and moles in the shower. Get your blood drawn. Schedule the mammogram. Discover your triggers. Call that counselor (or trusted pastor/friend) to help you process your pain, trauma, loss, next step, or just to maintain your mental health. Discover the cause of your fatigue or strange symptoms. Pay attention to and take good care of the only body/mind/soul God gave you.

7. Work and dreams do not need to be mutually exclusive. Dreaming requires a certain level of faith and courage because often our dreams don’t put food on the table or pay off student loans–at least not right away. Dreams feel impractical when they don’t (yet) provide a sustainable living or health coverage. So, we take the job that we hate and feel our dreams begin to shrivel–but we’re getting paid and covering our expenses, right? Maybe we think, “It’ll get better. If I can just get through this time, then I’ll pursue what makes me come alive….” Maybe.

Maybe there’s a third way. Maybe we can take whatever job we need (or can find) for a season while also working toward our dreams.  

 

Author Frederick Buechner said, The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

What makes you deeply glad?

How can you employ your gifts and dreams in meaningful ways? How can you use your creativity and passion to help bring God’s Kingdom here? What would that look like specifically in your life?

I currently work as a SAHM–a mutual, intentional decision between Glendon and me. I realize our choice is a privilege that most families around the world cannot afford to consider because many are struggling just to survive. I know many families who’ve chosen to balance parenthood with their careers & dreams and they’re thriving. I also know families in which one spouse would like to work as a full-time parent (and all that comes with that choice) but the budget won’t allow for it. No matter what families decide, there are always pros and cons to consider.

While I’m grateful for the time and opportunity to be at home with my kids in this season, motherhood was never my ‘dream job’ nor my only dream. When I think of what brings me deep gladness, I imagine serving my readers with words that matter–and earning an income doing it. God gave this dream to me and I intend to use it as best I can, even with littles underfoot. For all of you looking for a third way: I get it and I hope that you can find a way to move toward your God-given dreams in ways that serve and heal and bring Truth to our world.

There are countless personal lessons that I simply could not make time or space for in one blog post. The ones listed have proven to be the most significant and life-shaping for me.

Here’s to another 40 years of deeper faith, more laughter, and bolder dreams.  

How about you?
What lessons have you learned through the years?
For those of you older than 40, what words of wisdom do you have for those of us following behind?
Would love to hear from you guys!

When It’s Hard to Love Our Neighbors

Determine Your Role: Part 3 of 3 in the LYN Series

When we left a quiet cabin in the woods for an old home in an active small town, my understanding of what it means to ‘love your neighbor as yourself’ shifted with the contents in our boxes. Living next door to people is nothing new for me but the level of proximity was an adjustment.

Home in the Poconos

For the past 3 years, we’ve shared a yard with our immediate neighbor, used a town parking lot space as our driveway, and met all kinds of characters in a 1-mile radius. We can look out our front windows and take note of who’s visiting the bank. In related news: I can hear your music playing when you roll up to the ATM. It’s okay, though–I like Bruce Springsteen. Good choice.

Our back door opens to an alley where kids (and adults) run helter skelter to beat the clock before karate class–their belts, bags, and shoes trailing behind them. I see tweens on bikes and skate boards roaming around after school and delivery trucks unloading their loot at the pharmacy.

As one who craves silence and total darkness for optimal sleep, I confess this move was a wake-up call to my petty expectations. Our picturesque lake view in the Poconos, where wildlife (and our kids) roamed freely, has morphed into concrete sidewalks and traffic laws.

Hiking in our ‘backyard’ with our older two

I’ve traded quiet hikes in the woods for animated walks with loud pick-ups, barking dogs, and Confederate flags that make me cringe.

Since our move, I’ve learned that our small town was once a KKK hot spot. Friends of mine remember the marches–led by angry cowards in white sheets and pointy hoods– just a few yards from our front porch. Current meetings are held less than 10 miles from our town.

Reading Luke 10:25-37 was easier when I only had to contend with a noisy camp guest or two. The command to love my neighbor as myself hardly seems difficult when those neighbors are beautiful black bears. Or when those neighbors share similar values and core beliefs. But here? Where the KKK uses my post office? Where white supremacists live and work? Where many imply that God is a white Republican and gun ownership is next to godliness? Loving my neighbor can feel impossible and I finally ‘get’ the scandalous nature of the Good Samaritan.

Easier-to-love neighbors (when they aren’t destroying trash cans)

As I’ve discovered my neighbors (part 1 of 3) and defined the love (part 2 of 3 ) written in Luke 10, I’ve also determined my specific role: to care for my neighbors next door and beyond–even when I struggle to relate. This means I wave to the white supremacist while humbly, peacefully helping him to see the beauty in our diverse family. This means I am friends with the poor around me and I get to join the local efforts crossing the socioeconomic barriers. This means I learn the names of my neighbors and find practical ways to remind them of their worth. This means I get to partner with my church and other organizations to effectively engage and support global efforts to reach those in desperate need.

 

 

Looking at this text through my current lens has required a shift in my perspective and a break in my heart. The Good Samaritan moves me to confess my resistance and lame excuses and trust God more fully as I’m pushed beyond my physical, emotional, or financial comfort.

“Why did you move?” they ask. “Why would you uproot your kids from that adorable stone cabin with a 5-minute commute and 6 weeks paid vacation accrued? Why would you abandon that beautiful lakeshore where your littles could catch salamanders in the spring, make new friends in the summer, collect rainbow leaves in the fall, and skate on the lake when winter arrives? Where words like ‘quiet’ and ‘safe’ and ‘fresh air’ were the best descriptors of your home environment? What were you thinking?”

 

View from our porch in the Poconos

Be assured: we were thinking. And praying. And wrestling with the unknowns and the mysterious leading of God. I do know this: it was time to relocate, despite the idyllic setting, comfortable living, easy commute, and quiet outdoor life. God had worked in us and through us in the Poconos and the time came for Him to work in and through us right here–in small town Maryland.

Some days, this area is more difficult to love. I struggle with the homogenized schools and churches and neighborhoods and how that culture affects our transracial family. I have legitimate concerns about the subtle–and not so subtle–racism, the proud insistence on flag worship, and the *angry* resistance and exclusion toward anyone who challenges the local status quo.

I am however, willing to listen and learn in the process.

I listen to the stories and I learn that my proximity to my neighbors–made in the image of God–reminds me of my need for a Love beyond myself. I can move from avoidance to genuine concern for their well-being because God has so loved me in my ugliness.

I listen to T, a man who plays guitar in pubs around the state as he continues to grieve the loss of his son to a deadly seizure.

I listen to J, an incredibly kind and generous man with an easy laugh despite the pain of his divorce and the recent, unexpected death of his infant grandchild.

I listen to A, chatting while she wrangles two tots as her other two ramble toward karate practice. We chuckle over our shared *obnoxious* passion for gardening and the chaos of parenthood.

I listen to M, a man rejected by his birth family, then abused by the foster care system. We talk about the pain of his loss, adoption, and the love of God–our Mother.

I listen to my kids’ friends, “I live with my mom and stepdad but I don’t like him…My mom is marrying her boyfriend but I don’t like him…My dad just went to jail…”

Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy.

In 3 short years, these checkered stories have become our friends. We welcome them into our home, we bake goodies for special occasions, we celebrate their birthdays and happy life events, and we surprise them with groceries. We tolerate the smell of tobacco and body odor because connection is more important than our particulars.

 

 

My proximity to my neighbors allows me the privilege of hearing their stories. Yes, it’s emotionally taxing. Yes, it feels like an interruption to my very full days. Yes, I struggle with the smell of mushroom farms and menthol. Yes, I miss the wildlife and the fresh air and the quiet.

But.

My life is richer. I see lost and broken people daily and I remember that in order to love my neighbor as myself, I must admit my own need for the One who loves me, too, and died to set us all free. I must move toward my neighbors, push beyond my comfort level, and work to help bind their wounds, bring Hope to their burdened lives, and love them as Christ has loved me.

 

Do you know your neighbors? Are you willing to listen and learn from them—even if their lives annoy or offend you? What does it look like for you to specifically love your neighbor in this season?

Your thoughts and questions are welcome.

For deeper study, here is a list of resources that have helped shape my perspective and understanding around this broad and often complex topic.

Books:

The Irresistible Revolution: Living as An Ordinary Radical by Shane Claiborne

The Awakening of Hope: Why We Practice A Common Faith by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove

The Wisdom of Stability: Rooting Faith in a Mobile Culture by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove

Love Does by Bob Goff

Falling Free by Shannan Martin

Simple Spirituality: Learning to See God in a Broken World by Christopher L. Heuertz

The Importance of Being Foolish: How to Think Like Jesus by Brennan Manning

Jesus and the Disinherited by Howard Thurman

Befriending the Stranger by Jean Vanier

The Wounded Healer by Henri J.M. Nouwen

Podcast: The most helpful podcast I have found on this topic is Love Thy Neighborhood with Jesse Eubanks. I have not listened to every episode but what I’ve heard so far is practical and thought-provoking.

 

My Kids Came Home: A Response to Parkland

My kids came home yesterday.

What a wonderful sound to hear the front door open, to see their backpacks and hearts brimming with stories about their day. Their presence is such a gift.

At dinner, we traded ‘love grams’ around the table, sharing the beauty we see in each other–the ways we bring joy to our home. (Lest you think we’re an above-average family, let me assure you that we also handled sibling conflict, attitude, and fussy tots. Carry on.)

An hour later, we learned that some kids in our country didn’t come home from school. Some parents didn’t get to hear stories from their kids yesterday. Like those in Parkland, FL–my beloved home state–where 17 students left for school and never returned to their families. More victims of another school rampage with an AR-15. On Ash Wednesday.

In the aftermath of this devastating loss, I huddled a little closer to my kids this morning. We talked again about their ALICE training at school, about the importance of listening to their teachers, how to recognize lonely/sad/angry students, and what to do when they hear the ‘pop-pop-pop’ in a public venue.

My 10 year-old said, “Mrs. E—– promised us that she’d get us all out first.” I swallowed a lump. What our amazing teachers must now consider between math and reading and permission slips is a sad commentary on the state of our country.

My 8 year-old, voice quivering, said, “Mom, I’m scared. What if a shooter comes in today?” I could offer no promises for his safety. I acknowledged his fears and we read again the promises in Scripture that Jesus is with us—that we can always trust Him, especially when we’re afraid.

I never expected I’d have to assure my kids that God is with them as they run for cover, dodging bullets with their classmates.

I do not believe our small town is exempt from this horror.

SO WHAT DO WE DO?

Pray. Absolutely. Always. As a person of faith, I pray for God to comfort the Parkland families in their deep sorrow this morning. I grieve with them and for them and for that beautiful community in south Florida. I pray for the teachers and faculty, for the policemen and first responders, the counselors offering emotional and mental support. I pray for wisdom and hope for the Parkland family as their shattered hearts mend and move forward.

I pray for protection over our schools–as I’m sure parents in Sandy Hook and Columbine and Parkland prayed. As I’m sure parents–in the other 18 school shootings in just 45 days this year–have prayed.

But we must also act. How?

How about some gun policy changes? God doesn’t just use prayer–He uses policy. Good gun laws in place can help protect the good of others. I realize this is not the only solution but it seems like a reasonable, proactive response.

Mass shootings are distinctly an American issue—seemingly allowed by Congress and the NRA and those who make money off of gun distribution. Someone, please tell me, what are civilians doing with AR-15s? In every school mass shooting in the past several years, this weapon has been involved. Why are they allowed in the hands of civilians? What purpose to they serve?

It’s no secret that America has a gun obsession. Heart problem? Yep, that, too. Maybe our hearts long for guns that we don’t need. Maybe we’re more concerned with control and rights and the feeling of power we get when we possess a rifle of this sort–in the name of self-protection. Maybe it’s like a drug hit.

Maybe we don’t need to set aside our ‘right to bear arms’ but maybe we need to set aside our ‘right to bear those kinds of arms’. Like assault rifles. Designed to kill as efficiently as possible. Is there no better way to spend our money? Education? Health care? Pro-life endeavors? Poverty?

If we’re to model the love of Christ or prove that we value life, then perhaps we need to lay down our right to power like He did. Isn’t that what love does? It sacrifices its own rights for the sake of another.

I’m beginning to believe we love our rights—our guns–more than we love our children.

For those looking to act, here are two organizations you can check out:

Everytown.org

http://demandtheban.org

When Love Moves Us To Compassion

Defining the Love in Luke 10:25-37:

Part 2 of 3 in the Love Your Neighbor Series

As most of you know, tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. What are your plans? A night out with friends? A date with your beloved? A special evening with your kids? Coffee and dessert with your neighbors? Netflix and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s? (Hey, don’t judge.)

I was once a cynic of the dreaded February 14th. In high school, I wore all black to protest this Hallmark scam and openly mocked the pink and red excess strewn about classrooms and stores. It felt so commercialized and ‘couple-y’. Basically–THE WORST. (Bitter, much?)

Time and perspective have mellowed me and I’ve grown to appreciate the chance to not only remember Saint Valentine but also to find creative ways to celebrate those I love.

In the spirit of this occasion, let’s define ‘love’, as seen in Luke 10:25-37. Last week we determined the meaning of neighbor. You can read that post here.

In this text, we find agape love, the kindness of God toward all people. Agape meets the needs of others regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, successes, failures, abilities, etc. It’s the kind of love that seeks the good of others as it reflects the love we have for ourselves.

But what does it mean to love our neighbors as ourselves? This verse implies that the followers of Christ were already loving themselves. But how do we do that? Is that selfish? Actually, no.

For clarity, let’s back up to the first command: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind.’ We cannot love our neighbors as ourselves until we receive (by grace) God’s love for us and respond with love toward Him.

But how do we love this personal God who has no needs? By trusting Him.

His love frees us to accept, by faith, the agape love revealed to mankind from Genesis to Revelation:

…I have loved you with an everlasting love

…I didn’t come to be served but to serve and to give my life as a ransom for you

…Greater love has no man than this: that he lay down his life for his friends

…I demonstrate My love for you in that while you were still sinning, I died for you

…Just as the Father loves Me, so I love you; abide in my love

…Nothing can separate you from My love

…I didn’t come to condemn you but to rescue you

…and on and on and on.

Scripture is full of examples that point to a Love that confuses the brilliant, angers the proud, and pursues the prodigal.

His love is endless, not bound by our success or failure, our ‘good’ deeds or those that shame us into hiding.

His love never wavers with our questions, never dims with our doubts.

His love was strong enough to endure the deadly bite of forbidden fruit and gracious enough to provide a redemptive way out of our darkness.

If I cannot trust this selfless love, how can I possibly love my neighbor as myself?

Simply put: I can’t. I’m too full of self-loathing and self-preservation to create space for sustainable compassion toward others.

How can I possibly bring the healing work of Christ to a wounded, needy world when I’m consumed with my own wounds and needs? Again: I can’t.

The late author and beautifully honest human, Brennan Manning, put it this way,

“The ability to love oneself is the root and foundation of our ability to love others and to love God. I can tolerate in others only what I can accept in myself.”

To love our neighbors as ourselves, we must accept God’s unconditional love for us, and respond with trust in His grace to make us new. We can be released from self-hatred and free to love Him and our neighbors, and we can see others as worthy because we’ve accepted His truth that we are worthy.

Jesus then tells the story of the good Samaritan to explain agape love. Ironically, the two religious men were poor examples on how to love our neighbors. They went out of their way to avoid the needs of a dying man.

I wonder if we’re prone to be like priests and Levites when we intentionally drive away from ‘those’ people in ‘that’ part of town.

When we politely wave to our lonely neighbor but don’t take the time to include him in our lives.

When we only consider buying homes in ‘safe’ neighborhoods with clubhouses and gates with passcodes.

When we choose homeschool or private school because ‘that public school is terrible’ and I want my kids to be ‘safe’.

When we send a shoebox across the ocean to a child trapped in poverty but we’re unwilling to connect with those in town who are also trapped in poverty.

When we volunteer at a soup kitchen but never take the time to get to know or welcome into our homes the ones who cannot afford their next meal.

When our social gatherings are limited to those who resemble our culture, skin tone, abilities, personality, and life choices.

Have our decisions been subtle ways to avoid rather than love our neighbors in need?

Have we traded proximity for a false sense of security?

Does our lifestyle reflect our faith in God or fear of man?

Jesus then gave the example of one who loved his neighbor as himself. The Samaritan cared very little for his personal safety or whether his deeds would be noticed by another traveler. He didn’t just glance at his fellow human and offer empty condolences, “I’m so sorry this happened to you. I send you good thoughts and prayers. Be well.”

Nope. He welcomed the *perceived* interruption, physical discomfort, financial loss, potential harm, and public judgment. This Samaritan–a social outcast rejected by the Jews–responded with mercy and restored dignity to a naked, bloodied human. The one hated by religious folks used his own resources to care for a dying man. He modeled the command to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Let us accept the perfect, sufficient love of God. May it open our eyes us to see others and love them as we love ourselves. And may we confess our fear and self-preservation and become restorers of dignity in our neighborhoods–and beyond.

When have you struggled to accept God’s love for you? How have you seen agape love at work in your life? How are you extending mercy and restoring dignity to your neighbors?

Next week, we’ll pull these posts together and determine our role in light of this command.

  1. Discover the Neighbor in Luke 10:25-37

  2. Define Love in Luke 10:25-37

  3. Determine our Role in light of Luke 10:25-37

 

 

Discover the Neighbor in Luke 10:25-37: Part 1 of 3 in this Love Your Neighbor series

I spent most of my childhood in central Florida and most of my adult life in Yankee territory. My neighbors have varied in culture, socioeconomic status, race, age, and religious affiliation. I’m grateful for their stories, the memories, and lessons along the way.

I learned that some neighbors will play soccer with you ALL.DAY.LONG. Some invite you over for sleepovers. Some have dogs that will hump your leg.

Some let you play their Nintendo games with such intensity that you forget the clock. Some are paranoid gun-owners with shifty eyes.

Some accidentally crash their car into your parked car when alcohol is driving. Some quietly watch from their windows while your dad screams in agony after a painful fall from a truck ramp.

Some join you on spying adventures. Some make you laugh so hard you wet your pants. Some speak English as their second language.

Some sheepishly give out canned baked beans at Halloween because they forgot to buy candy. Some steal your vine-ripened cherry tomatoes only to waste them on passing cars and bike tires.

Some live above you and snore. Some host loud weekend parties that last until 3 AM. Some are so kind and hilarious and present on the dark days that you want to be neighbors FOREVER.

Some show up at your front door with fresh blue crabs from the Bay. Some offer cookies and hugs and tender moments of shared grief.

Some pull out your gorgeous, took-you-forever-to-grow Gerber daisies and you want to smack those devilish hands but they’re children, after all. (Did they have to take ALL of them, though? I mean, really.)

Teaching a neighbor boy how to tell when tomatoes are ready to be picked.

Some knock on your door in need of money, a ride, an egg, a cup of sugar. Some help you load your sad Penske truck, their vision–and yours–blurred by tears and you wonder if you’ll ever recover from those painful goodbyes.

Some neighbors become lifelong friends. Others–just for a season.

To better understand what Jesus meant when He told His followers, “Love your neighbor as yourself”, I’ve put a stake in Luke 10:25-37, where we’ll camp out for the LYN series. In this post–and the next two–I hope to bring a little more clarity to this simple command.

In this particular text, we read about a lawyer–let’s call him ‘Lawyer’–who asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. As a justice meter and legal expert, Lawyer relies on his knowledge of the rules to challenge Teacher. Seeing Lawyer’s deeper motive, Jesus responds to the brilliant, proud academic, “What is written in the law? How does it read to you?” Lawyer answers by perfectly quoting the Torah: “YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND; AND YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.”

Jesus affirms his answer.

But the dissatisfied Lawyer continues, “And who is my neighbor?” Master of every jot and tittle, skilled in detailed contracts, Lawyer tries (but fails) to find a more thorough explanation that will justify his ‘good’ deeds and trick Teacher.

To help Lawyer with his limited perspective, Jesus tells the familiar story of The Good Samaritan: A man walking along a road is attacked and beaten by robbers. A priest and a Levite pass by–crossing over to the other side to avoid the bloodied, dying man. (We’ll address this in later posts.) Some scholars believe these two characters refused to help because the law prevented priests or Levites from ‘touching’ a dead person. They may also have been afraid of robbers using the ‘dead’ body as bait to lure more victims. Regardless of their rationale, self-preservation and fear of breaking a cultural law kept them from mercy.

The third traveler, a Samaritan–a member of the blended ethnic group, rejected and cursed by the Jews, viewed as an enemy and traitor–is the hero in this narrative. He chooses interruption over indifference, inconvenience over itinerary, and compassion over cultural norms. The Samaritan tends to the victim’s wounds, uses his own animal to carry the man to an inn, and pays for his stay and extended care.

In this passage, the Greek word for neighbor is plesion, meaning ‘outward nearness; whoever is physically close to us should be our concern.’ Jesus offered no other qualifiers for ‘neighbor’. Based on this text and its place in the broader frame of Scripture, ‘neighbor’ included everyone within reach. Followers of Jesus were to concern themselves with the poor, widows, orphans, prostitutes, tax collectors, those who were lame/mute/blind, those beyond the walls of their homes and beyond their own culture–like say, a beaten, bloodied man whose only connection to his ‘savior’ was a dusty road.

Lawyer’s questions seem more like excuses to avoid caring for those marked ‘okay to ignore’ by a culture steeped in religious tradition and ethnic superiority. When he finishes the story, Jesus asks Lawyer, “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?” Unable to find any more excuses, Lawyer replies, “The one who showed mercy to him.” Teacher admonishes Lawyer to do likewise.

Jesus removed the limits on who *should* receive compassion and graciously told a story that dismantled the man-made barriers between ‘us’ and ‘them’. He proved that mercy crosses ethnic, religious, and racial lines. Mercy gives permission to break the rules, push cultural boundaries, and disrupt social constructs in order to ‘love your neighbor’.

And He used a ‘dirty’ outcast from Samaria as the example for Lawyer to follow.

So, who are your neighbors? Who exists in proximity to you? Who are you ignoring or avoiding and why? Is mercy leading you to connect with those who differ from you or are you bound by fear and self-preservation? What social constructs need dismantled in your own life?

I welcome your thoughts on this passage–and any stories you’d like to share on discovering your neighbor.

Next week, we’ll explore part 2 of this Love Your Neighbor series:

  1. Discover the neighbor in Luke 10:25-37
  2. Define ‘love’ in Luke 10:25-37.
  3. Determine our role as it relates to Luke 10:25-27.

Biblical text taken from Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible, New American Standard Bible with Strong’s Dictionary and Concordance, c. 1990 by AMG International, Inc.

Featured image photo credit to Daniel Borup.

 

 

 

 

 

A Word about 2017 and A Word for 2018

“All we have to decide

is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

This famous quote by the wizard Gandalf, in the epic trilogy The Lord of the Rings, reminds me that time is both a gift and a choice. The scene unfolds as the hobbit Frodo laments the presence of The Ring and his role in having to return it to the region of Mordor. (You can watch the movie clip here.) Frodo says to Gandalf, “I wish The Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.” The wise wizard replies, “So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide.”

I relate to Frodo’s grief. I wish parts of 2017 had never happened. I wish I could have ignored the news, crawled into a hole, and disengaged from the vitriol on social media. I wish I could forget the hurtful comments, the passive aggressive remarks, the shocking hate from *Christians*.

I wish I didn’t need to initiate hard conversations with my kids about the N-word and other dehumanizing public remarks they’ve had to process in 2017.

I wish I didn’t have to explain to my kids why I wept with a black employee at Target who bore the brunt of a racist customer, “Where’d that white girl go? I don’t want a black person helping me.” 

I get it, Frodo. I wish none of this had happened.

Gandalf knows the burden Frodo carries and encourages him with this truth,

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

None of us were given a choice regarding the days and circumstances in which we live but Gandalf is right: we do have agency in how we use the time given to us.

My word for 2018 is time. Here’s how I plan to use it:

  1. My People:

Glendon. Just passed the fifteen year mark with The Hubs. I want to love him better and treasure the days. Here’s to more stories, more laughter, and more adventures.

Four Kids. I’ve been a parent for ten years and I confess: I grow weary of repeating myself, of correcting and training, of wiping noses and butts, of waking up at the most ungodly hours, of attitudes and bad habits that I thought we’d already mastered. With all the jackassery in this joint some days, I wonder if these people have forgotten or forsaken all that they’ve been taught. I ask God for supernatural strength to listen and connect, especially when the only logical response to all the nonsense is to hide in my closet with dark chocolate and a bottle of wine.

I do want to love them well–at least well enough so that in 20 years, I’m not the topic of conversation with their therapists. (I aim low, People.) I realize my four are more than complex humans to train. They are souls with dreams and hopes and hurts. I am so deeply grateful to be their mom, to help them navigate their brokenness in a broken world, while showing them what it means to love and be loved.

Friends. I’ve experienced a mutual drift with some friends this year, which has been tough for me, especially as an Enneagram 6. We’re The Loyalists. (For more on the Enneagram, click here.) I suspect the drift might be related to the current culture and political climate and the conservative evangelical response in the midst of it all.

I didn’t expect [white] *Christian* friends to refuse to connect or respond in anger after discovering our theological and/or socio-political differences.

I didn’t expect to be judged harshly for my stance on racial equality. I didn’t expect to be told that racism is politically motivated by the liberal media.

“You’ve got it all wrong, Katie. Your brown babies are so cute. They’re always welcome!”

That’s a nice sentiment but cute brown babies grow up to be objects of suspicion in cars, classrooms, work places, and convenient stores. They become less-thans who often feel enormous pressure to prove themselves worthy of existence in whitewashed America.

Lynching.

Slavery.

Redlining.

Mass incarceration of our black brothers and sisters.

Charlottesville.

Cornell University.

Peaceful protesters.

 

Am I–are we–to be silent on these important social, cultural, and personal issues in order to preserve the relationships of those outraged over our vision for racial equality? Should we limit social media to pictures and funny quips but avoid heavy topics, as some have suggested?

I didn’t expect to see the subtle racism, like a slip that fell below the *Christian* skirt. I wanted to turn away, to pretend I didn’t notice it peeking beneath the hem. Yet there it was–exposed. I can’t unsee it now. How do I trust  again after discovering the racism revealed by *Christian* friends I thought I knew?

I’ve emerged from 2017 a bit more guarded and wise in my relationships, humbled, and more committed to listen to and care for the marginalized. I see more clearly who I can trust and I remain committed to my small circle of authentic, diverse truth-tellers who value connection, challenge me when I need it, and encourage me to earnestly pray and work to bring His Kingdom here on earth, as it is in Heaven.

  1. My Passion:

I’m rounding the corner on 40 this year and I’m waving an enthusiastic goodbye to the decade of cankles, nursing, bottles, baby food, middle-of-the-night feedings, spit-up, and teething. The Ovaries and The Mental Health Coordinator have spoken and They all agree: “Your home is full with these four. It’s time to work on your other dreams.”

Duly noted.

I am no longer birthing or adopting human babies however, I do have another baby–shaped like a book–growing within–one that I hope to bring to life before the next decade. I’m using my time to craft more words, build my tribe, and sharpen my vision.

We’ve been given time and we get to choose how to use it. In 2018, I’m using it to invest in my people and my writing with greater intention.

How are you using your time in this new year?

Do you have a word for 2018? If so, I’d love to hear the story behind it.

 

What I’ve Discovered in Fifteen Years of Marriage

My husband and I have learned a lot about love and marriage since that hot August evening when he Put.A.Ring.On.It.

We had just returned from a week in Florida, where he met my *lively* family and had The Talk with my dad. Good thing Dad approved since Glendon already had the ring. Thank God for warranties, amiright?

Those cheeks & brown eyes. It’s like we were meant to be.

The night after we returned from that trip, Glendon *strongly suggested* that we go for a hike. At the time, we lived in central Pennsylvania where the Appalachian Trail runs along the top of a mountain that towered behind my apartment. Typically, I would have heartily agreed to his idea but I was weary from 20 hours on the road and certainly not in the mood to trudge up a steep, rocky mountain in the oppressive heat. Blisters and chafing were not on my to-do list.

With no need to impress this man who had witnessed my shortcomings over the past several months, I begrudgingly pulled on my socks and hiking boots. I muttered something about the weather and my fatigue and just wanting to read. Nothing—not even the comfort of my leather L.L. Beans–could lure me out of my toddler funk.

One of our many co-ed, co-led, youth backpacking trips.

The mile up the mountain was quiet, except for the sound of pounding boots, muffled at times by the moss-covered rocks and interrupted by my mumbling. As we scaled the top of the mountain and the ground leveled, I began to mellow. My grumbling turned to awe in the natural world around me. We walked single file along the uneven trail out to Table Rock, a well-known spot where huge, flat boulders provide stone seats for hikers to look out across the back side of the mountain and marvel at the scenery and sunrise.

Matching REI coats. We were so cool.

Save the occasional mosquito, we were the only signs of life in that calm, muggy place. Lost in thought, I leaned back against one of the boulders and took a few sips of cool water from my Nalgene. Glendon began to quote Ephesians 4, a Scripture passage we had chosen to memorize that summer. As he shared those meaningful words, all I could think was, “Well, crap. I’m crap. I don’t know these verses that well. I’m such a loser. Ugh.”

Then he got down on one knee, interrupted my mental self-loathing, and said, “This is what I want our lives to be. Will you marry me?”

Surprised and excited, I blurted out, “Yes!” The evening had shifted from a *forced*, sweaty mile march up rocky terrain to an unexpected, delightful proposal.

Sunkissed, young, rested. #vacation #nokidsyet

The hike back down the trail was much less dramatic. We reveled in our new status as fiancés, chatted about how to share our news with family & friends, and began to consider wedding dates and venues. Most of all, I silently marveled at this incredible man who wanted to commit to me. Forever.

Melbourne Beach, FL. December 2002

We’ve weathered quite a bit in the past 15 years: difficult decisions, loss of relationships, death, mental illness, painful goodbyes, loneliness, judgment, fear of the unknown, financial stress, misunderstandings, parenting four kids, two adoptions, special needs, and more.

Maybe you can relate. You’ve been married long enough to know that the initial euphoria of being together will eventually fade into morning breath, disagreements, long work days, financial stress, in-law drama, loss, parenting woes, unexpected hurt, and the need to forgive.

Maybe you’re struggling with the reality of your present situation or the pain of the past. Or both. You’re wondering whether you’ll ever recover from your financial or emotional ruin, whether the heartache of your marriage is worth your time and effort and prayers, or whether you even married the *right* person. As you’re sitting in the pile of rubble—of what used to be your wedded bliss, you might think, “It’d just be easier to rise and leave than to try to rebuild.”

Be assured: You’re not alone. Many couples I know and dearly love—couples who believe in the sanctity of marriage–can absolutely relate to those thoughts and feelings. I certainly can.

Leaning in, holding on, and listening: effective tools in the air and on the ground.

Some seasons have been undeniably difficult, painful, damaging. I remember thinking that I couldn’t do this marriage anymore—I didn’t want to. The miscommunication or lack of, the chronic issues that left us emotionally paralyzed, the brewing anger over decisions that didn’t feel mutual, the wondering if I really wanted this man—and all that he brought–for the rest of my life. These are not easy words to pen and I’m humbled to admit that at times, I have struggled to love Glendon well.

But.

Here we are. Counseling, emotional work, two stubborn hearts made willing by Grace, the love and support of a tiny, trusted circle of friends, and prayer have contributed to our healing. I can say that marriage has taught me more about our humanity and our Creator than any of my other adventures. This sacred journey has:

  • Driven me to my knees in prayer.
  • Heightened my awareness of my imperfections and tendency to sin.
  • Developed my empathy for struggling couples & deepened my compassion for couples who’ve chosen to separate.
  • Taught me the necessity of vulnerability, forgiveness, and laughter.
  • Opened my eyes wider to the beauty of God’s unconditional love.

Of course, we can learn these valuable lessons without marriage but God has worked His good in me through my commitment to Glendon.

Celebrating 10 years in Key West, FL 2012

I don’t know what waits for us down the road. I cannot (nor do I want to) predict the joys or sorrows, the beauty or ashes, the failures or triumphs.

I do know that we’ve grown to understand each other more fully. I do know that I love this man more deeply than I did when we stood before family and friends and vowed to be One. And I know I’m being refined in this marriage in ways I may not be otherwise.

Key West, FL 2012

I cannot imagine life without that surprise proposal in 2002. I’m grateful for the step of faith we took to say ‘yes’—to keep saying ‘yes’–to each other. I’m grateful for our countless adventures, the hard lessons learned, the hilarious stories, the beautiful friendships, and the four (usually) delightful kiddos we get to parent. I want to treasure—to keep treasuring—these gifts until our final earthly good-bye.

Thank you for choosing me these past 15 years, my Love. Here’s to another fifteen or more.

 

At Home for the Holidays: A Peek at How I Redefined Home

Welp. It’s that time of year when we gather with loved ones or at least the ones we’re related to, right? ‘Tis the season, when many of us will travel home to connect with family and friends near and far. We take time off of work so we can jingle all the way to the cookies and egg nog or whatever else we can shovel into our mouths to avoid THAT TOPIC with THAT PERSON. For better or worse, most of us are going home or being a home in the next few weeks.

These days, I’ve been mulling over the idea of home—how I define it and what it means to me at this stage in life. I am keenly aware that I’ve spent the past 20 years living far away from my own home in central Florida. As a college kid in the north, I was so grateful to return to the south for Christmas. A month off with my parents and sibs in the Sunshine State? Um, yes please. The chance to reconnect with good friends who knew me during the era of big bangs and bad skin? Bring it. A respite from the rigors of academia? Sign me up.

 

Central Florida Hiking. Hanging moss reminds me of home–and a bad perm in need of moisturizer.

 

In 2001, I took a job in the northeast, got married, and moved a few times. From Venezuela to Wisconsin, Pennsylvania to Florida, home is a fluid term for me, shifting with the places and faces that I’ve grown to know and love. Twenty-six homes in thirty-nine years. That’s right: I’ve lived in 26 homes in 39 years. Given all the moves and adjustments to different cultures and climates, accents and food, my ideas about the topic of home have morphed over time.

I no longer view home from a binary perspective. For me, home is not one place or another, these people or those people. It’s not limited to family or blood ties but more about a sense of belonging, usually found with certain people and in certain places.

Home is where mutual vulnerability is encouraged

and hospitality whispers, “You’re invited–just as you are.”

  • Home is certain people. Home is those who’ve welcomed me and provided a safe space for me to question and doubt and wrestle with theology and faith, culture and politics. Home is those who show up in the middle of my grief with chocolate, wine, and tissues. Home is those who accept the pain and anger, who sit in the ashes with me and rise when it’s time to stand again. Home is those who invite meaningful conversations and who, without pursed lips or eye rolls, patiently allow my juveniles to be juvenile. Home is those who embrace my melodramatic sense of humor, *occasional* sarcasm, and basic tomfoolery. Home is those who’ve made it clear through kind gestures and consistent contact that my presence in their lives matters. Home is those who’ve earned my trust, who gently speak the truth when I most need to hear it and invite me to do likewise. Being together is mutually life-giving. These are my people–and they’re scattered all over the world.

 

  • Home is certain places: Home is any physical place where I feel like I belong. Home is central Florida where I grew up, where my parents and 2 of my 4 siblings and their families live. Home is a dear friend’s house in western PA with coffee brewing, soup on the stove, and plenty of bread and laughter to go around. Home is the Appalachian Trail and the Susquehanna River, where I’ve been challenged and nurtured by rocky terrain and moving water. And for this Florida-raised kid, home is always the sound of waves breaking at dawn, the rough sand beneath my feet, and the familiar smell of sunscreen wafting through the salty air. These are my places, where I’m free to exist and explore.

 

Sunshine and palm trees=home.

 

 

Right now, home is North Walnut St., where I go to bed too late and wake up too early. It’s where I pack lunches and pour steaming water over fresh coffee grounds. It’s where I curl up in my favorite chair, content with a good book. It’s where I open my front door to kids asking to play, my neighbor offering a Schnitz pie, or some sad stranger looking for the funeral home. It’s where I work hard to craft words that matter. It’s where I sweep and scrub and dust and mow and change sheets and haul laundry. It’s where I tickle tiny toes, comfort broken hearts, and wipe runny noses. It’s where I hold growing children that have morphed from tiny bundles of pudge to oversized bean stalks with elbows and knees spilling over my lap. It’s where I snuggle and pray and argue with my Love. It’s where he and I laugh together at our favorite shows and weep over orphans, racism, broken community, and death.

While I adore my physical home in all of its 131 years of charm, I could pack up our simple life tomorrow, shed a few tears over this beautiful space, and still be home wherever I unload next. I say this not because I have no soul or because I’m numb to the pain of good-byes, but because home is less about a specific structure for me and more about the souls within its walls—and the souls I’ve collected along the way. I wouldn’t grieve the loss of this physical building per se, I’d grieve having to leave a small community I’ve come to know and love.

 

‘Wherever is your heart I call home.’ ~Brandi Carlile

 

I don’t know what home means to you, good readers. Maybe it’s immediate or extended family members or the home where you were raised. Maybe, like several wounded humans I know, you don’t feel accepted *as you are* with those who share your bloodlines. Maybe your home and the town where you were raised, are full of painful memories. Or maybe you live so far from your people that connecting over the holidays is an impossible task. Wherever or whoever you call home, I hope you can savor some time with those people and places that encourage mutual vulnerability and welcome you–just as you are.

And if you have nowhere to go, email me. I hear North Walnut St. is open. We’ll brew some coffee, eat some cookies, and share a million stories in front of the fire.

 

This is such a layered topic and I’d love to hear from you guys. Some questions to consider and respond to in the comments:

Who or where do you call home?

How would you define home?

What could you do to help someone else feel at ‘home’ this holiday season?

 

 

 

My List of Favorite Adoption Resources 2017

One of my favorite parts about adoption is the connections I’ve made with people all over the globe. I’ve come to know and appreciate a beautiful network of gracious truth-tellers doing hard, meaningful work with sustainable results in the adoption community.

If you are open to adoption/foster care or are looking for practical ways to support adoptive/foster families or want to know how your church can be more involved in reaching vulnerable children, please read on! And if you are none of those things, I’m gonna have to put on my Bossy Pants and tell you to read on anyway because there’s some good stuff here.

Below is a list of resources that have encouraged and provided practical help for our family and many others, as well. I’ve done the research and compilation for you. So, grab a cup of coffee, unless tea is your thing. Or soda. Or a wheatgrass smoothie. Whatever. Just get your beverage of choice.

Go on. I’ll wait…

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Now, have a seat at your desk or curl up in your favorite chair with your laptop and scroll down as you read.

See? Isn’t that easy? The bulk of the work is already done for you.

YOU’RE WELCOME.

 

ORGANIZATIONS:

  • Lifesong: “Seeks to mobilize the Church, where each member can provide a unique and special service [related to orphan care]: some to adopt, some to care, some to give.” Lifesong was instrumental in helping us to bring Sam home. They provided two matching grants—one personal matching grant and one church matching grant (our church had partnered with Lifesong). They are an amazing, generous organization.

 

  • Adopt US Kids: “A national project that supports child welfare systems and connects children in foster care with families.” Provides great information for starting the domestic adoption-from-foster-care process.

 

  • National Down Syndrome Adoption Network: Led by the kind and fearless Stephanie Thompson, the NDSAN seeks to provide a loving home for kids with Down syndrome. This organization matched us with our Sam. Stephanie continues to be a part of our lives and we feel privileged to call her ‘friend’.

 

  • Reece’s Rainbow: “The mission of Reece’s Rainbow is to advocate and find families for orphans with Down syndrome and other special needs by raising funds for adoption grants and promoting awareness through an online community, media communications, and other events.” This international organization informed me of the desperate need for kids with special needs to be adopted. If these kiddos don’t get adopted, many will age out of their orphanages and often get lost on the streets or left to languish in poorly run institutions.

 

  • Empowered to Connect: ETC is a ministry that works to connect, encourage, and equip families and churches by providing a supportive and authentic community that encourages families on their adoption/foster journey.

 

  • The Post Institute: This is a place where parents and professionals involved in the lives of our most vulnerable and challenging children can find effective solutions, education, and support. They offer educational materials and support services to help parents lead their families on a journey of healing the wounds of complex trauma.

 

Eden & Sam: Our best yes’s.

BLOGS/WEBSITES:

  • cherideejohnson.com. Adoptive parent and writer, Cheri Johnson offers wisdom and compassion to non-biological moms. She candidly shares her experiences and the hard truths of adoption while graciously offering hope for the tough seasons. She also provides practical suggestions for ways the local church can better relate to non-biological parents and offer ongoing support for them and their children. (Side note: Cheri has become a dear friend to me, a clear voice that I trust to point me to the Truth. She’s a real gem.)

 

  • confessionsofanadoptiveparent.com Mike & Kristin Berry’s passion is to encourage adoptive families “in the trenches”. They share and speak on a wide range of topics with the goal to offer hope and solidarity to adoptive and foster families.

 

  • sherrieeldridge.com Author and parent, Sherrie Eldridge, frequently writes from an adoptee perspective. She explores the topic of grief in adoption and reminds her readers of God’s deep love and acceptance. Sherrie is currently waiting to find out the identity of her birth father.

 

  • theadoptedlife.com This is my new fave, especially on the topic of transracial adoption. Angela Tucker, who is an adoptee, is the heartbeat behind this informative, thought-provoking space, where she endeavors to give adoptees a bigger voice in our culture. Angela & her husband filmed the documentary, Closure, in which Angela shares her challenging quest to find her birth family. It aired on Netflix. (Click on the link to watch the trailer.)

 

BOOKS FOR ADULTS:

  • The Primal Wound: Understanding the Adopted Child by Nancy Newton Verrier
  • Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Parents Knew by Sherrie Eldridge
  • Under His Wings Adoption Workbook: Truths to Heal Adopted, Orphaned, and Waiting Children’s Hearts by Sherrie Eldridge & Beth Willis Miller (both adoptees)
  • The Connected Child: Bring Hope & Healing to Your Adoptive Family by Dr. Karen Purvis
  • Handbook on Thriving As An Adoptive Family edited by David & Renee Sanford
  • From Fear to Love by Bryan Post
  • Being Adopted: The Lifelong Search for Self by Brodzinksy, Schecter, & Henig
  • Adoption Nation: How the Adoption Revolution is Transforming Our Familes—and America by Adam Pertman
  • Talking With Young Children About Adoption by Mary Watkins & Dr. Susan Fischer
  • The Lucky Few by Heather Avis

 

Sam reading to Eden, Are You My Mother?

 

BOOKS FOR YOUNG KIDS:

  • I’ll Never Let You Go by Smriti Prasadam-Halls, illustrated by Allison Brown
  • Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman
  • Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born by Jamie Lee Curtis, illustrated by Laura Cornell
  • Shaoey & Dot by Mary Beth & Steven Curtis Chapman
  • God Found Us You by Lisa Tawn Bergren

 

PODCASTS:

  • Tapestry’s Empowered to Connect
  • Honestly Adoption Podcast-Hosted by Mike & Kristin Berry

 

INSTAGRAM:

There are countless adoption-related Instagrammers! I follow just a few but find great value in what each has to share.

  • standforlife
  • theknottednest
  • adoptionshare
  • macymakesmyday
  • angieadoptee

 

This list, of course, is not exhaustive but it might help to get you started or lead you to consider a few more. With all the excessive noise on the Internet, I struggle with where to focus my time and attention when I’m interested in any topic, especially adoption. I hope I’ve been able to spare you a few hours.

What adoption/foster care resources have been helpful to you and your family?

Would love to hear from you—please share in the comments below!

Lessons from An Adoptive Parent

-Guest Post-

by Cheri Johnson

 

We adopted three children from Russian orphanages in 1997: two brothers and a girl (because I never had brothers and needed a girl to keep me sane—don’t ask me if that worked). They were ages 5, 7, and 8. In 2000 the adoption bug bit again, bringing us an older brother and sister, ages 11 and 14, also from a Russian orphanage.

 

 

 

Though none were diagnosed with special needs, ours struggled greatly with attachment issues, mild effects of fetal alcohol exposure, and the impact of several years of living in a world of other orphans. We expected it to take several months for them to adapt to life in our home, maybe even a few years. But that never happened. They had no framework on which to hang our American Christian family values. And we had no lens through which we could understand theirs.

 

 

We had some tough times. Many, many nights I lay awake wishing that somehow I could undo it all. But we also had some amazing times. Laughter around the dinner table. Camping. Traveling. Sports and plays and holidays. It’s good we took several pictures because sometimes I needed help remembering those wonderful moments.

As they reached adulthood, we had to tell each one it was time to move out. They weren’t moving forward in life, they were violating rule after rule, and bringing chaos to our home. This brought huge guilt to me as a mom. I felt like such a failure.

I am happy to report that now, twenty years after we began building our family, we have amazing relationships with each of our children. Our love for them, and theirs for us, is undeniable. I am one blessed mama. And, I am one proud grandma of eleven granddchildren.

 

 

One day, when all but our youngest had moved out, I asked the Lord, where the fruit was from all my extensive and exhausting efforts as a mom. I had emptied myself for my children but saw only futility. The Lord answered, “Maybe you’re looking in the wrong place. Maybe it’s not the fruit in them that you should look for, but the fruit in you.”

Oh so very true. I had grown immensely. The Lord had taught me so much and changed me profoundly. The things He’d taught me fit into three categories: truths about my children, about myself, and about God, Himself.

  1. About my children

Twenty years ago, we found little about attachment issues. But most of what I read highlight the extreme behaviors: pulling mom’s hair, spitting in her face, and yelling “You’re not my mom!” We experienced none of this. It took about three years for us to realize we actually were dealing with attachment issues. It took several more years for me to understand my children’s real needs, adjust my expectations, and learn what parenting jobs were mine and what were God’s. In time, I learned to cherish each child, their uniqueness, and the incredible gifts God had planted deep into their souls.

 

 

  1. About myself

I wasn’t a failure. Though I made mistakes, behaved more like a monster than a mom, and bowed to discouragement far too many times, I did a lot right, too.

I did love my children. When I’d read 1 Corinthians 13, that chapter that describes what love looks like, I felt like a miserable example. I was not patient and was frequently unkind. I often acted “unbecomingly” (NASB) and kept a mental record of the ways my children had wronged me. But when I read verse 7 where it says love, “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things,” I knew I loved my children. Because somehow, in spite of all our battles, I still believed in them. I still had hope. I refused to give up on the call God had placed on my life, convinced that if He called me, He’d be faithful to see the job done.

  1. About God

At one point, after spending several years trying to figure out my kids, I finally decided that I couldn’t read enough books to fully understand them. And even if there were books that explained them and told me what I should do, I didn’t have time to read them. And even if I had it all figured out, deep inside I knew it still wouldn’t be enough.

1 Corinthians 13:2 says, even if I “… know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing” (NASB). Absolutely nothing!

I knew the only way to parent my children as God would have me, was to have His Father heart for them. The only way I knew to do that was to simply marinate in Him. Sit and soak. In Him.

Jesus said, “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father” (John 14:9). So I began reading books about the person of Jesus. One of my favorites was Ann Spangler’s devotional, Praying the Names of Jesus. For the next several years, I began discovering that when I felt alone, Jesus was my Friend. When all seemed dark, He was my Bright Morning Star. When I needed guidance, He was my Good Shepherd. When I felt inadequate, He was the Father to the Fatherless.

Jesus became dear to me. So much so that I can’t even find the words to describe Him. Nor figure out how to quit talking about Him in the word limit Katie has given me. So, I’ll leave you with this. Everything that Jesus is, He is for me, and for you. Whatever we need, He doesn’t just wave His mighty hand and fill that need, He steps into it and sweetly satiates us with His very person.

 

 

Cheri is a writer and speaker, wife, adoptive mom of five, and grandma of eleven. Equipped by over twenty years with her own children, and hundreds of hours with other nonbiological moms, she leads wounded and weary women in discovering God’s heart for them and for their children. You can connect with her on social media via her website, Facebook, and Instagram.

http://cherideejohnson.com/

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