It’s not uncommon to hear a cackle here, a cackle there, a cackling throughout the day as our free range flock visits the coop to lay an egg. I love to hear them gently announcing the prize for their hard work. Often times, Elvis, our kind-hearted and only free-ranging rooster, will lead a few hens in a chorus of support for the happy egg layer. The egg song is heard often and unobtrusively. Until tonight.

In one of our smaller coops is a very special flock. It’s a coop full of 9 silkies. They are fluffy, they are docile, and they are the teddy bears and lap dogs of chickendom.  They cuddle by day and huddle by night, confined to the safety of their coop and run. These young pullets and cockerels are the highlight of my flock and my friends and family love to gander at these lovely little puff balls. These puffy fluffy little sweethearts often don’t lay until at least a year, according to my research. So they’ve got a ways to go, or so I thought.

Suddenly, in an instant, an absolute ruckus rang across the chicken yard from the cozy coop just out the back door to the free range flock’s house on the other side of the goat pen. I flew to the window to see every chicken in sight had joined in this very egcited egg song. The breeding coops were singing their hearts out, the bantams and the cochins, the speckled sussex and the Easter Eggers, all singing along while the free rangers were crooning at the top of the their beaks. Every chicken near and far rejoicing because 1 small silkie laid an egg.

I could learn a lot from a chicken. Romans 12:15 (NLT) says be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Yeah, on Facebook, it’s easy to show happy and easy to shop weeping, but what about those real days where your friend is giddy over her promotion – the one you didn’t get? Or when my child excitedly built their 457th lego castle that day? Or the friend that is still sighing over the breakup or the loss?

We could learn a lot from a chicken. 

We need to learn to celebrate, even when we don’t feel like it. We need to learn to show empathy, even when our heart isn’t on straight. So we swallow and choke down that pride of ours, and we set aside our broken dreams or our elated hopes and we sing that egg song or we sing that song of mourning. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. It isn’t always easy, but it is always the loving thing to do.

Cackle along, my friends. Cackle along.

Dirt.

I find it splattered on the knees of little pairs of blue jeans and caked on the bottoms of little shoes, ground into the carpet and scattered across the foyer floor.

Dirt.

It’s not that exciting, really. It’s just dirt, it gets washed out, wiped up, swept away, and scrubbed clean. You might not even notice it, unless you don’t have good dirt. Around, the soil is a hard clay clumpy kind of dirt. The water jsut pools and kinds of runs off; it doesn’t soak in deep until it floods. And in the gardens, we have to fix our dirt. So we pile on the compost and we pile on the manure and we pile on the straw and then we set the chickens loose to dig and dig and turn that clumpy clay dirt into rich, healthy soil. And this doesn’t happen overnight, but it’s a process of years of working that dirt until it becomes a life-giving source of nutrients and moisture.

And Jesus said our hearts are just like the dirt when He told His story about the sower planting seeds. The seeds that fell on top of the well-worn path were snatched away by the birds; those seeds never had a chance to grow. And the seeds that fell on the gravel shot up fast, but the lack of roots and the lack of dirt couldn’t sustain the growth. And those tender shoots couldn’t withstand the wind or the storm. And the seeds that fell among the thorny weeds grew up strong but were quickly choked away. But the seeds that were sown into rich, healthy soil grew big and strong and produced much fruit. And if the seeds are like God’s Word, and our hearts are like that dirt, which one are you? Is your seed being stolen away by the distractions of this world or by the devil himself? Is your seed sown into gravel, where you don’t have a strong foundation to withstand the wind and the rain? Or is your seed being choked out by the thorny worries and cares and pleasures of this world?

I hope your seed is sown in good dirt. I hope you’ve worked your soil, and screened out all the rocks, pulled up all the thorny weeds, and fertilized with compost and worm castings and lots of manure. And I hope your seed grows up big and strong and that you can produce fruit, the kind that can only come from being rooted deeply in the Word of God and watered by the love of the Savior.

Dirt. It’s just dirt, but it changes everything. I’m going to work on my dirt.

 

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  1. Get some sun!
  2. Take a brisk walk.
  3. Go for the gabfest.
  4. Be kind to someone else.
  5. Make music.
  6. Preferably with children. Especially your own.
  7. Clean out a cabinet.
  8. Donate clothes you don’t need.
  9. Take dog food to an animal shelter.
  10. Read a book.
  11. Meditate on your favorite Bible verse.
  12. Take dog food to an animal shelter.
  13. Sing a song to God.image
  14. Make a list of blessings. All of them. Hang it up.
  15. Offer to clean house, make meals, or babysit for a new mom.
  16. Bring puzzles to a nursing home. Stay long enough to put one together.
  17. Eat chocolate alone.
  18. Eat kale with a friend.
  19. Take slow, deep breaths and let go of all the tension.
  20. Exercise! Even for 5 minutes.
  21. Create a sacred space in your house – a cozy spot for prayer, Bible reading, or whatever.
  22. Craft.
  23. Sail paper airplanes with kids in the neighborhood.
  24. Take flowers to a lonely widow.
  25. Diffuse frankincense essential oil.12718245_10209123865354261_6862987505419495670_n
  26. Sit by the fire and listen to it crackle, breathe in the scent of smoke, and relax.
  27. Plant flowers.
  28. Set up a bird feeder.
  29. Talk to chickens. Or guinea pigs. Or puppy dogs.
  30. Take a nap!
  31. Drive with the windows down.
  32. Have relay races with your kids.
  33. Handwrite a letter to a friend or family member.
  34. Tell knock knock jokes to elementary students.
  35. Create a dance party for your family.
  36. Paint your nails a crazy color.
  37. Tell God all the things you love about Him.
  38. Tell your spouse all the things you love about them.
  39. Tell your children you’re proud of them.
  40. Learn a yoga pose.
  41. Try something new – art, music, archery – no matter how old you are.IMG_0255
  42. Write a love letter to your significant other.
  43. Write a love letter to God.
  44. Write a love letter to yourself, detailing all the great parts that make up you.
  45. Spend some time reading your Bible, and ask God to speak to you.
  46. Drink a great cup of coffee.
  47. Read some awesome blogs (see the blogroll for ideas).
  48. Send a digital gift card to a friend for no reason.
  49. Buy your groceries at a farmer’s market.
  50. Plan a vegetable garden, or at least a vegetable plant.
  51. Write a song, even if you’re not a musician.
  52. Turn your phone off and enjoy the peace and quiet.12274560_10208341969687358_974294269506600596_n
  53. Research a Bible character or story. Ask God to help you apply it to your life.
  54. Take funny selfies and text them to unsuspecting friends.
  55. Throw your kids a tea party with tea sandwiches and tiny cups of juice.
  56. Watch ridiculous facebook or youtube videos.
  57. Try a new recipe.
  58. Start a blog and write about your favorite things.
  59. Hold a mock photo shoot with your children or pets. Order the prints from Snapfish.
  60. Ride a bike.
  61. Forgive someone who has hurt you.
  62. Forgive yourself.
  63. Pray for people you don’t like. Pray for people who do.
  64. Ask Siri to show you how to beat box.IMG_0166
  65. Sit in silence and listen to God.
  66. Sponsor a child from World Vision.
  67. Mow your neighbor’s lawn.
  68. Make a list of things that make you happy. Pick one and do it.
  69. Set a timer and then clean something.
  70. Buy a box of Joe for the teacher’s at your kids’ school.
  71. Make fried bananas.
  72. Ask God to give you joy.
  73. Scroll up and sign up for the newsletter on this blog.
  74. Plan your dream vacation, even if it’s 5 or 10 years down the road.
  75. Start saving for it. Every penny counts.
  76. Buy pizza for a foster family.
  77. Adopt a dog. Or a gold fish.image
  78. Go to a foster care informational meeting and find out how you can help children in care.
  79. Make a list of things that bring you joy. Do at least one a day.
  80. Set up your living room like a movie theater. Eat popcorn and watch a favorite movies.
  81. Find a Bible reading plan at biblegateway.com. Then use it.
  82. Look for God’s hand in nature.
  83. Look for God’s hand in your life.
  84. Do someone else’s chores without them knowing.
  85. Make your kids beds while they are at school.
  86. Sneak little notes into your loved ones’ lunch boxes.
  87. Sell something and use the money to help someone else.10402817_10209321482294561_5875413210361805778_n
  88. Eat a nutritious breakfast – even if it’s dinner time.
  89. Make fresh salsa.
  90. Eat off of the good china.
  91. Daydream.
  92. Plan your garden.
  93. Doodle.
  94. Facetime someone.
  95. Listen to the bird’s sing.
  96. Ask your family questions about their likes and dislikes.
  97. Start a new hobby.
  98. Go outside and gaze at the stars after dark.
  99. Plant a tree.
  100. Share this blog post!

How can I be beautiful?299151_2631227900455_1240598665_n

Peering, squinting, staring, turning, looking and sucking it in all at once and holding up my head, and pushing out my chest and tightening up those abs and turning in my tailbone doesn’t help me, cannot make me see that beauty in my reflection or let me look at me with satisfaction and or gaze happily, with joy, at the amazing body God has given to do good works for Him when my ridiculous, sticky fingerprinted mirror cannot airbrush out my blemishes, or photoshop more thinness to my thighs? Why can’t it just adjust the the ruddy in my cheeks or smooth away the dimply skin that comprises my back side? How can I walk with head held high, and skipping steps, and lightness in my soul when I cannot come close to the beauty I think that I should be? How can I be beautiful at all?

When am I beautiful?

Can I truly leave the house and gain respect only if and when my face has been painted and colored and smoothed, with just the right amount of sparkle and shimmer in just the right places and all the right shades?  Am I only beautiful with highlighter dusted on the bones of my cheeks and bronzer squaring up the lines of my jaw? When I’ve waxed and washed away the things that don’t belong? Do I only look good when the clothes that I wear slim my shape, and boost my curves, and hide the hideousness of imperfections? When can I be beautiful at all?

I am tangled up and caught in a growing, looming battle for perfection in my looks, a vanity that runs too deep to quell with just a tube of lipstick or highlights in my hair. I am a body shamer.

I am conflicted in my inner me as I look at you and feel ashamed. I will never measure the size of your thighs, or the width of your calves or the span of your backside when you walk by and I cannot bear to calculate the angles on your face or imagine the number on the inside of your skinny jeans or crane my neck to look for muffin tops or dumpling rolls or little bits of fluff poking out from under your shirt.  I’ll never say that you’re too fat, that you’re too thin, or something’s just not right about how your glorious perfect body appears before me. And I won’t call out a Hollywood celeb if they’ve got a dimple of cellulite on their left butt cheek or an outfit that belonged to yesterday’s style or a top that isn’t cut low enough to show off all the goods.

But still, I am a body shamer.

Gratuitous workout selfie.
Gratuitous workout selfie.

I shame my veiny legs from a pregnancy that wasn’t long enough and I had to lie too still for too long and left me with scars I hide and streaks I loathe and weakened abs that could never be the same and a sweet perfect little boy who is nearly 9, and I shame my crooked hip that makes a funny lump of fat stick out on just one side, and I shame my uneven skin, and too-big ribs, and I shame my lack of a pretty waist and without wearing all the right clothes and all the right makeup and just the right hair all of the time to hide what I think is imperfect when you see me, I am ashamed.

But until I learn and live and know that I measure up just exactly how I am; until I learn that I am beautiful in the now and the then, and until I love myself for every part of me that is good, that works hard, that carries small children and cooks nutritious food, and that works  to mend breaking hearts and share Jesus and kiss booboos and feed chickens… until I love myself enough to stop hiding behind long pants and thick shirts and black eyeliner and cute shoes and trendy things, until I am happy with the me that makes up myself than I am a self-righteous contributor to all that is body shaming. If cannot let myself be less than perfect than I, yes I, am a contributor to all that demands perfection and thinness and thick hair and great skin and high heels and great gams and tight bottoms and anti-aging in glorious amazing women.

God doesn’t ask us to be perfect on the outsides, He rejoices over us because we are His; He loves us.

I am a body shamer. And the body shaming must stop.

 

 

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You went to church, yesterday, didn’t you?

On that unbelievable day that we get to celebrate Easter, the day of our risen Savior,  you went to church. And you sang glorious Easter IMG_0592songs, perhaps heard the heart-pumping strains of Hallelujah, rejoiced in the alleluias, adored the chiffon and the bows and the satin on the little tiny tots with their chocolaty mustaches and bunny stuffies and and fist-bumped your way through the greeting and the celebrating and the empty tomb and the awesomeness of the day. And you heard an inspiring sermon about the earth quake and the soldiers scared to death and that Jesus breaking out of that tomb and perhaps a lovely solo or two, and the musicians played their very bestest and the pastors preached their hearts completely out of their chests and it was really really an awesome spiritual holy day. And you were thrilled with your delicious Easter dinner and then when you couldn’t possibly eat another bite you snuck a few chocolate bunnies from the Easter baskets when no one was looking and then you later collapsed in your bed, happy, full, and content with the risen Lord and the Easter bunny and the church service and the happy, happy children and it was still an awesome, maybe even perfect day. And it deserves the very best of celebrating, it needs a give it all you got because it is the most amazing day of the year kind  of a celebration, this Easter day that we celebrate our risen Savior.

And then there was Monday.

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And Monday hits like a dump load of broken up bricks because the festivities are done, and everyone is reeling from their chocolate bunny hangovers and crankily seeking out their sugar fix and you can’t hear that glorious music ringing in your ears anymore and the chocolate bunnies are gone and the leftovers are just left over and the Easter grass is strewn around and the foil wrappers are ground into the carpets and the toys are already breaking and you are so exhausted from all of that fun. And the risen Lord was so so yesterday and His death defiance fades into the background and life hits you really hard right there in the here and the now and the gut. And pretty soon it’s back to work and back to school and back to the drudgery of life and back to our budgets and our dirty dishes and wiping runny noses and everything else that drags us down when the Easter high has gone away. And Easter has come and gone and nothing is really any different or better it’s just dull and dingy in the light of all that celebrating.

But Easter living isn’t one day a year.

Easter living is in the heartbreak, those cold hard days when the emptiness of your arms makes your very bones ache and you cry for your IMG_0606dad or your husband or your favorite grandpa but they aren’t there so you find rest in the only place you can, in those stretched wide arms of your risen Lord with the nail holes and the scars. And Easter living is in the tension of your company, so close to breaking apart that it keeps your eyes open throughout the night but you can find your rest deep in the soft kind eyes of the risen Savior.  And Easter living is in the mounds of laundry that overwhelm your laundry room day after day after every single cotton picking day and you feel like you can’t do one spiritually important thing because laundry. Because work. Because kids. Because grief. Because everyone else’s family Facebook pictures are happier, more perfect, and more than you think yours are. Because chocolate bunny hangovers remind you that there are too many days in the year that aren’t really awesome, maybe even perfect fist-pumping Easter Sundays.

But Easter living isn’t one day a year.

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And in the days of the heartbreak, and the cold, and the laundry, and the grief, and the Facebook pictures and the empty Easter baskets we find the real meaning in the Easter celebrating. Because when the rejoicing has passed and there is nothing left but the chocolate bunny hangover we find that the risen Savior is still just as real, and His welcoming arms are still waiting, still stretched wide with those unmistakable nail holes and those holy scars. And instead of high-fiving those reached out hands for accomplishing that act of death defiance we run straight and hard into them because there is no place left to go and that’s ok because we are still just as welcome right there in those open wide arms. And whether it’s the first place we look or the last place we turn there is still the love of a Savior who was willing give up His very own life even for our daily drudgery with the laundry and the Facebook and the chocolate bunny hangover. Easter living is the promise that the God who defied death is very much alive and the God who defied death is within our grasp and the God who defied death wants us to grasp for Him. And Easter living isn’t just in the resounding trumpet but also the tiny whisper of hope He speaks to our weary souls when we start to let the resurrection break forth into our dingy dull places and our laundry and our Facebook and our grief-stricken places and our chocolate bunny  hangovers.

 


There was that hard time,  when my son was tiny, and frail, and his IMG_0201premature 2 1/2 pounds of life didn’t come with any sort of a lifetime guarantee, and I didn’t know how his desperate lungs could fill themselves with air even just one more time. It was hard to find my hope because I thought my hope was lost. And I needed that nurse who offered me her hope that he was going to be just fine.  She propped me up with all of the hope that was her own so I could be every bit of mommy that his tiny body, heart, lungs, and soul could need to get him through that one very hard day in a series of hard, hard days. Her hope was never false – it was everything I needed to hang on to in that moment, on that one very hard day. And today he is just fine and 8 years strong and smart and full of love and life and a beacon of hope beyond anything we could have ever even hoped for.

IMG_0180And I want to be a hope bearer, too. I want to bring hope to someone else because I’ve been in that place and I know that feeling, that one singular desperate ache, the emptiness, the lonely need, to find someone else who can possibly ever hope on my behalf when I’ve just plum ran out of every bit of hope that I ever thought I had. I know what it is when you try to muster up all the hope that you can find and come up with none to get you through that really hard day in a series of hard, hard days.


May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 5:13, NIV 


Sometimes, its easy to see hope in every little place; sometimes, hope is elusive. We know it’s out there, somewhere, but we can’t quite get a grasp of it. And if we catch it by the tailfeathers, maybe we’re afraid to hang on to it for dear life, because, what if that thing we caught is not really a hope at all, but a forgery of falseness that leads us daringly away from our tenuous reality only to dash us on the rocks below.

But I say hope is hope, and if it gives you something to cling to tightly, something to grasp even if it is no more than a handle to pull yourself out of the deepening water, then it cannot possibly be false hope because it is real and it is tangible and it is giving you what you need to make it through that hard moment on that hard day. And I say Jesus doesn’t want you not to hope because the Bible says that our God is the God of hope and He wants you to overflow with hope so that you have enough for you and enough to prop up the person next to you, too. And I want to be that hope-bearer, too.

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And sometimes, sometimes, I hear a tiny chirp of hope in the peeping of the baby chicks nestled safely in my library. And some moments, some days, I watch it grow before my eyes as tiny shoots of kale and broccoli break out of plump little dollops of dirt. And some days, some weeks, I smell a hint of hope in the air as winter’s gasping fades away into the sweet sweet baby breath of spring. My burgeoning homestead shows me there is hope, reminds me when I lose my hope, that Jesus is all of the hope.

It is the possibility of a better, healthier future. It is the summer harvest coming soon, with an unending supply of sun-warmed tomatoes, and delicious zucchinis, and melons snuggled in the dirt. It is the gleam in the eyes of my aging house kitty, invigorated by the joys of spring air seeping in through opened windows. It is the sound of laughter as my children roll haphazardly down the clovered hill, landing willy nilly, belly up, and head over feet trying to find the bottom fastest.

My sweet little baby homestead shows me my hope because it is the footprint of a Creator who came to give us all Hope in the form of a baby, born to suffer, and die, and raise again so He can be our everlasting hope, our one true hope, our greatest, our only Hope. And I have precious little to offer you, friend, but I can walk alongside you on my little patch of dirt and offer you what hope I have. And I can hand you baby chicks to cuddle in your empty arms or playful children needing to be tagged in the warmth of the sun. And I can pass you the freshest eggs, and maybe they will be help you find your hope and show you there is hope so you can remember all of the baby miracles and great big miracles that the God of Hope can do.

But I can do a little better, I can help you plant some seeds in a pot, or a mug, or an old egg carton filled with dirt. And I can introduce you to the One who really is our Hope, and IMG_0209together we can water those teeny tiny seeds of hope and place them in just so, so that as the sun shines on those little seeds and creates a miracle that makes them grow, His love can shine bright right on that broken heart you carry and make a miracle of hope to grow, right there, right here, right when you need it most on this day, this hard day in a series of hard, hard days.

I want to be a hope-bearer, too.


 

“Hope” is the thing with feathersimage

BY EMILY DICKINSON

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.

Source: The Poems of Emily Dickinson Edited by R. W. Franklin (Harvard University Press, 1999)

 

imageLife gets a little too heavy sometimes, when the bills roll in faster than the paychecks do, and the babies aren’t sleeping at night because of stuffed up little noses, and I can’t control the hurt that’s haunting my heart over the pain my loved ones bravely face, and then the laundry mounds up high and it’s just the last straw in an overwhelming pile of straws after staying up late drawing puppies for a 2nd grade diorama, and I stop and wonder, where is God in all of this? Where is He when I can’t keep up with the life that I created and the circumstances that I didn’t? Oh, in my head, I definitely, pridefully, know the answer.  He’s right here. He never left. And He never will. But sometimes it takes my soul a little longer to catch on to when my head once learned all the right answers in Sunday School, so I squirm in my spot and whine about life and finally, finally, seek out ways that help me feel closer to Him.

And I start to remember that all of us here in the northern hemisphere are pretty Vitamin D deficient, which leads to fatigue, and fatigue to overeating, and overeating to a bit of depression when the winter gets deep and dark. And it’s no wonder that all we want to do is sit on our sofas eating cookies and dozing off when the heaviness of life gets a little to weighty to bear and makes me feel far away from God.

So instead of reaching for the choimagecolate I reach for a doorknob and step out into the sunshine so I can look for signs of life in the outdoors, signs of hope, signs of lighter and brighter days. And it is there that I relearn my favorite life lesson that God has revealed Himself through His incredible undeniable creation. And I start to see His hand in a freshly budded leaf, and hear His voice in the delicate song of a robin, and He whispers to me softly through the whispering of the woods and my soul starts to catch on that God is with me and I was simply looking in the wrong place.

cropped-IMG_7754.jpgAnd I remember that when God created this earth, He spoke and made it out of nothing. From nothing, not from dirt or mass or matter or even so much as an atom or electron, from nothing His words brought forth life, the life that now tentatively pokes its way up and out of the frozen ground, and flits about snatching worms out of muddy spots, and shows that winter doesn’t last forever. It’s just a season and if God can create everything we have ever known from absolutely nothing, ex nihilo, nothing at all, than surely He can help fresh, new life poke through my frozen heart and refresh the staleness that has been my spirit in the harshness of the winter days.

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And that is what I love the most about my budding homestead, that every inch of every acre reveals a little bit of God’s unfathomable creativity, His mindfulness of every detail, His penchant for variety, His love of life and newness and spring after the winter and most of all, His love and His nearness for me. And every blistered hand from raking and every aching back from sowing, and every tiny squeal of delight from tiny humans gathering eggs or chasing chickens is an opportunity, a possibility, and the unbelievable ability to work alongside of our Creator to bring forth life where there wasn’t life before; it is the means to tend, and nurture, and experience miracles that are tiny and miracles we’ve never seen before, and a way in which we can learn to love and adore and learn to be loved and adored as we hear His whispers in the woods and feel His nearness in the sun and sense His breath breathe new life into our very souls.

And it doesn’t matter if you’re in the city or the country or in the in between, if you feel like God is far away I can promise you He’s not. I know it in my prideful head from Sunday School but I am daily learning it in my soul that God is close even when I worry that He is not, and we can learn this daily lesson together, one tentative step, one chicken egg, one blooming budding growing stem at a time.

And maybe you don’t have an acre, maybe it’s just a backyard spot, or a sun speckled window with a little room for a bowl or even just a potato where you can plant a seed and call it a homestead of your very own. And as the seed pokes it’s tender stem through the ground of that pot that is your very own homestead you can see and learn and know that the very same God who spoke into life lacey soft petals and stormy weather strong trunks of trees and green and plush blades of grass and singing birds and chicken eggs is the very same God that got down in the dirt of the earth and fashioned you with His very own hand (Genesis 2). And that my friend is hope and joy and love and closeness and may we never forget the holy God who got His hands dirty in the earth- for us.

And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.

Hebrews 11:6, NLT

 

I didn’t set out to become a foster mom. It simply wasn’t on my radar for a very long time. It was only after our Chinese adoption agency closed mid-adoption and our biological son was born extremely premature that we considered Foster to adopt for our family. And we’ve never looked back. It was – and is- the right choice.

But Foster care is not what you think.

I’ve heard a lot of difficult comments and been asked a plethora of personal, uncomfortable questions, which tells me that most people don’t really understand what Foster care is all about. I’ve been stigmatized and judged. And so have my children and other children who were unlucky enough to find themselves in ‘the system.’ My children and others who are completely innocent of what their biological parents have or haven’t done. Children who deserve the same respect and love and fair chances that any other child receives. Children who deserve to have privacy about their situation because some day they will be an adult who has no option but to grapple with the choices that their birth parents made or didn’t make. Children whose health and hurts and abilities are not for public inspection, just like your own children. Children who are not bad because of where they come from. Children who are definitely not unwanted or unloved.

Foster care is NOT loving someone else’s child. Foster care is welcoming a child into your family and making them your own, for as little or as long as they are a part of your household. Foster care is not all runaways and shoplifting and lost kids and police reports and bad news from teachers. Foster care is offering a safe place to grow and learn through the day to day workings of a family who isn’t perfect. Foster care is being to willing to love no matter what the cost. It is being willing to accept the grief of a child who has lost their home, their belongings, their family, their parents, their everything they have ever known or loved. It is advocating for someone who can’t do it themselves, filling out a few papers, following a few rules, and giving a few reports. But that’s not all.

Foster care is joy and triumph over a tiny human learning how to love and trust and become everything they were meant to be. It is picking up the broken pieces and putting them back together again. It is offering grace and hope and kindness to birth parents who perhaps made bad choices and mistakes and who still love their child very very much. It is offering grace and hope and kindness to children who didn’t have everything they needed and don’t know any other way to act.

Foster care is being the hands and feet of Jesus in a very broken world. Foster care is showing the world just how much Jesus loves children, even the children that the world might see as less than, because God sees them as worth dying for.

Foster care is your responsibility and it is mine.

Foster care is changing the world. One child at a time.

 

My ‘normal’ state of being is a happy contendedness. How I feel when all is well, life is normal, and I am simply feeling pleasant.  It is where I feel most like myself, with an inner calm and a sense of excitement about what life will bring. It is my happy. It’s usually accompanied by coffee.

Only most people would probably agree, my life is far from normal. My family size is definitely not normal – an almost 20 year marriage and 6 kids (a combination of biological, adopted, and fostered) under the age of 9. My dream  profession, also not normal. My deepest desire and calling is to be a pastor. My lifestyle – not typical – trying to build a miniature farm on a suburban 3 acre lot. My preferred food plan – clean/Paleo with an occasional cupcake – is not for everyone. My love of chickens, and cats, and baby everything. My passion for foster care and special needs. My love of fitness and essential oils. My excessive furniture rearranging. My penchant for dreaming up possiblities. My collection of books, both physical and electronic. And my need for creative expression through music and writing, well, OK, that might be the most normal thing about me. These are all of the things that are a part of who I am, whether they are normal or not. And they are the things that bring me to my happy.image

But sometimes, I simply lose my happy. I’m not talking about clinical depression here. Not grief, not chemical imbalances. Sometimes, I simply cease to be happy. Maybe it’s when I feel stuck and the possiblities for moving forward have been exhausted. Maybe it’s when I’m taking on too much at once, when I allow the mommy guilt to build up and set in. If you have a child, you know all about that mommy/daddy guilt. Maybe it’s the state of my budget (red), or when I feel like I’m not accomplished enough for a person of my age (kind of old), when I’m overtired, or when I think everyone else has it better. There – I said it. Comparison.

Comparison. It kills my joy. It steals my happy. It makes me cease to be me because I’m looking outward, wanting to be someone else. I’m pretty sure that this part is normal because a lovely friend – who happens to share a lot of the things of life that I love -reminded me that research studies have shown that Facebook causes depression. Facebook. A freaking website, where we all – in college dorm style – share our breakfasts, heartbreaks, triumphs, vacation pictures, job changes, children, and dirty laundry. All in the same place. All at the same time. It is a caucaphony of life’s stuff. And then we look to see if each other’s best moments are better than our own. Facebook is fun, but Facebook sometimes steals my happy.

But if facebook steals the happy, did you know that exercise restores it? Somehow, exercise brings out some feel good endorphins, causing us to feel happy. Today, I did Pilates from Daily Burn. And it was tough, not because this intermediate level, 19 minute, core strength workout was so hard, but because I was simultaneously managing 2 toddlers who were climbing, throwing, shouting, hiding, singing, playing, dumping, and crashing all around me while I was trying to get 19 minutes to do something to make myself happy. And in that moment, I didn’t feel very happy. It tested the limits of my inner sanctum, but I did it anyway because I know that even though it was difficult in the moment, over the course of the day that little workout would help me to restore my happy, as well as burn fat, get stronger, and seriously stand up straight like my mother used to say. (Guess what – standing up straight can help you feel more… happy).

Other things that help me restore my happy – sleep! Oh how I need sleep, and I also crave alone time with God (but I am never ever alone), taking pictures of my 31 (yes, 31, you have a problem with 31?) chickens, dreaming about the next step in building my homestead (hoop house, goat house, or just a plain old bird house), rearranging the furniture, playing with my 6 children, and blogging during their nap. At least, I pray-plead daily that they really really take a nap.

So if you’ve lost your happy – (not a depression or grief type of lost your happy), but more of a daily grind got you down kind of lost your happy – consider this. Shut off the phone. Close the computer screen. Grab the kids. Go for a walk. And then move the sofa. It will get you moving forward towards your happy.

 

 

imageA heavy darkness seems to pervade these January days, like a chill that hits the bones of my soul. Only some of that darkness belongs to the early sunset and shortened days, some a dark shadow cast by the brightness of the Christmas season that has just passed. Doesn’t the dimness seem to rise up as the sparkle of the Christmas lights come down? House by house, and yard by yard, the Christmas brightness simply goes dark. My Christmas decorations have been put away, ornaments hidden in their protective crates,  the dying tree sentenced to the compost pile, and the stockings stuffed in boxes instead of stuffed with surprises. The boughs of greens have withered away, leaving a straggling needle or two in their places. The twinkling lights have all gone dark, save one. I wasn’t ready for the darkness. I left the snowflake shining on the porch, a gleading reminder of fun filled days and Christmas joy.

When I awoke in the middle of the night, the house was flooded in the cool blue light of that last holiday decoration, filtering through the bay window and seeping across the floor. A few sparkles glittered in my room and down the hall. The children’s rooms seemed bright in spite of the deep winter dark. It was tranquil in the sweet blue light, the house warmed by the last of the fire’s embers while I checked on little children tucked up dreamily in their beds.

Even the smallest of lights can chase away the deepest dark. Isn’t that what we are called to be? Just a little light, passing peace and warmth in the dark and the chill. It doesn’t take a spotlight to brighten up the dark, but the quiet, gentle embers of a soul warmed by the love of the Messiah. It is the love from Christ that fuels our light and stands guard against the dark, a beacon that is our eternal hope and unquenchable joy.  His love that connects us,  fills us, strengthens us and reflects through us. His love is our light and today I’m plugging in.

Shine bright, little light, shine bright.