Sunday, September 28, 2008

To Remember September

I love September. This ninth month promises some our first few grab-a-sweater mornings. I also get to celebrate my birthday although I am about ready to start skipping those altogether. And thanks to my family of origin, I always look forward to college football—namely the Georgia Bulldogs. (My family had absolutely nothing to do with the Bulldogs- just the football part.) However, my greatest affection for this month goes much deeper than any temperature or football game. After 6 years of living through the roller coaster of infertility, it was in the month of September that God began allowing us to see how He would put our family together. It was September when we found out about a young girl who was making the selfless choice of placing the baby she was carrying with two hopeful parents and we began praying that would be us. It was September when I first met the precious young lady who would give birth to our son. Each year as I turn the calendar pages over to this particular month, I can’t help but remember God’s faithfulness to me as a twenty something year old who had a deep desire to be a Mom. In September, I was living in hopeful days.

By that first September (2001), we had already been matched with a birthmother who a few weeks later changed her mind. I was forced, again, to look hard at what the Lord had been teaching me over the past few years. It seemed during this time all my Bible studies and any speaker I got to hear seemed to be challenging me in what I believed about God- not if I believed IN HIM but if I believed HIM. Did I truly believe His Word and what it said to me? Did I believe that He really loved me- not just the world but ME and that He was good? I also had personalized a Psalm a few years back on one of my favorite things in the world—an index card. It was based on the psalm that every other line is “but His love endures forever” so I wrote this: “We may never have close friends, but His love endures forever. We may never be financially comfortable, but His love endures forever. We may never have a great church, but His love endures forever. We may never have children, but His love endures forever.” Granted, I didn’t like writing this or reading this on occasion but there was a comfort to me knowing that experiencing His enduring love for the rest of my days was the worst thing that could happen. If I could just rest in it, I would be completely satisfied- children or not. Not forgetting this and not stepping off of the foundation of “God is good” was monumental for me.

September brought exciting phone calls from the adoption agency, the first information about the girl that would place her most precious treasure with us, mine and Jeff’s conversations of wonder, dreams, and hope, prayers of thanksgiving, prayers of protection for our potential child we had just found out about, and the anticipation of meeting the birthmother and her family. Of course, with that, came lots of questions, swarms of butterflies, a myriad of specific requests of the Lord, the discipline of handing our anxieties back over to Him—again and again and again, the disarming feeling of being out of control and the soothing, life giving balm of His Word. Things like Job 2:10, “Shall we accept good from God and not trouble?” 2 Chronicles 7:3, “He is GOOD and His love endures forever.” Psalm 31:19, “How great is your goodness, which You have stored up for those who fear You, which You bestow in the sight of men on those who take refuge in You.” And Psalm 31:1, “Lord, I trust in You alone. You are the God who always does what is right.” No nervousness we felt could stand up to that. We truly did not want to miss Him or anything He had for us in this journey. We continued to ask Him for whatever that was.

Our sweet Julia came four months later. Parenthood washed over us in a most refreshing way. We felt His favor, His hand. Years of waiting. Years of wondering. Years of seeking the Lord for ONE desire. And He chose to fulfill it.

Two Septembers later (2003): After a couple of long phone conversations, Jeff and I made a trip to Austin to meet the remarkable young lady who would become Brighton’s birthmother. I was giddy with excitement and nauseous with nervousness. Jeff had been praying for a son and so that September, God, again, began showing us how He would graft in the next little branch on our family tree. I enjoyed many visits with this strong and kind young lady who fast became a friend. She was refreshingly honest and completely interesting and I felt I could trust her decision regarding this huge matter of our hearts. (Hers and ours) But again, our faith had to be in the One who knits families together and the One we had found to be good and trustworthy all the years we had known Him. Thoughts and emotions played out much the same as two years before. We began asking the Lord for some of the same things regarding Brighton’s birth and adoption. Looking back, I truly did “ask for the moon”. I guess when you are desperate for Him to come through for you, you ask for anything. I was, so I did.

Only one month later, we welcomed Brighton into our family-- a good 3 weeks earlier than we expected. In His kindness, God took almost a whole month off of the excruciating wait. We had a son and our 21 month old, Julia, had a much anticipated “Baby Brother Brighton”.

I love September. I love remembering God’s goodness and His faithfulness to our family. I can say without any hesitation whatsoever that the Lord granted us our every request in regards to both births and both adoptions. He even threw in some pretty amazing extras. He didn’t have to and what if he didn’t? What if He didn’t say “yes” to any of our requests? Well, here is my prayer-- that whatever wonderful or horrific thing I come to experience in my life that it would be filtered through my limited knowledge of His vast love for me and His goodness—to remember two wonderful, hopeful, unparalleled Septembers. There is a quote I found that I had written down sometime during those six years of waiting and it says, “Until we can come face to face with the deepest, darkest fact of life WITHOUT DAMAGING OUR VIEW OF GOD’S CHARACTER, we do not yet know Him.” Years later, it still makes me say, “Whoa”. I want to know Him whether it is “September” or not. When life is “deep and dark” I don’t want my view of Him to be damaged. I truly feel if we don’t fully believe that our God is good, we don’t have much. Eventually, because life is life, our faith will be hit hard and the world won’t see that we as Christians are any different.

Let’s choose to believe what His Word says to us—that He loves us like no other and that everything He does is good.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Contrast

My day couldn’t have ended more differently than it began. My friend Nikki and I took on the job of offering hospitality to some of the people involved in the Men at the Cross event last weekend. We ran errands, served meals, and offered our help in a myriad of ways. Even with a couple of surprises and with some frustrating moments, Nik and I figured it out, held it together and got it done. (There will be a point to my making us sound so efficient.) I got to add to my list of “Why I love Starbucks” after forgetting one minor detail as I tried to brew coffee for 35 in my huge pot. The end result resembled warm weak tea. They promptly got me out of my coffee-less mess. (not to mention CAFFEINE-less) Once breakfast was set with the familiar cardboard coffee containers and white and green paper cups, we stationed ourselves at our post in the bowels of Will Rogers to be available if anyone needed anything. We were in our element and having a ball.

Every few minutes we would run up the stairs to take a peek from the darkness of side stage at what was going on. The whole event was geared towards discipleship and finding a “Timothy” to disciple. However, out of the nearly 2000 men that attended, 380 men gave their lives to Christ for the first time on Saturday. Lives changed. Families changed. Churches changed. Communities changed. Their search for the “Something” was over. Christ found. Completely satisfied.

Fast forward 5 hours later. Jeff and I were off to see the Eagles at the American Airlines Center. Everyone I have told that to has said, “Who?” (like they don’t know who the Eagles are) I am not sure, but I think it just sounds funny coming out of my mouth. I am “one of those” who had the Amy Grant “Straight Ahead” RECORD and also the Michael W. Smith album with him crawling on the same argyle pattern he was wearing. A few years later, I thought the world was going to come to an end when Amy came out with her “Unguarded” album. My music horizons have expanded somewhat since I was 13. I know Eagles music (Who doesn’t?) and I like it but it never has been my genre of choice. However, Jeff has two older brothers by at least eight years so he’s heard the Eagles since he lost his first tooth. The only two secular artists I have ever heard Jeff mention that he would like to see in concert are James Taylor and the Eagles. When I heard about the concert, I thought tickets would be a great anniversary gift even though the weekend of the concert was already pretty full.

On our way to Dallas, we created our own little drama when we realized we left the tickets at home. I got to hear Jeff use his most colorful expletive, “Crud!” (Or was it “Golly-doodle”?). Thankfully, since we ordered online, they had record of it and printed out two more tickets. Right before the music started, we settled into our budget friendly seats. Picture really high and very strange angles in relation to the stage. We would have a perfect view of who had hair implants and who did not. Here are the positive things about our seats: we could see the screen--- from the back, the cost of the seats didn’t dig into our grocery budget and we could hear the music just fine.

During the first 30 minutes, some displays of lost inhibitions were taking center stage around us- actually right beside us. Security guards were summoned, grown professional men were ushered out, women were told to cool it and I began to feel a little out of place. The more displays I saw, the more I realized I didn’t get out very often. It was then I began to think about how different this experience was from my morning.

After an hour of playing, the classic band took a break. We walked around to let Jeff unfold his legs a while (and recover from altitude sickness). After talking to my hero, the security guard, about the concert, the hurricane and college football, we found ourselves being escorted to box seats on the Platinum level. I know. Crazy. We actually could see the front of the stage, Don Henley’s face, and all the fun graphics we had been missing! As we enjoyed the last 2 hours of the concert, I saw much of the same antics going on in the box--people doing things they hadn’t done since the prom or the locker room or maybe just the weekend before. They were lost just like the people I was sitting with in the outer galaxy of the American Airlines Center. The “box people” were calmer, more contained, but they were still searching for “Something”. Concert over. Nothing changed. Nothing found. Still looking.

The contrast of my day spurred my thoughts on in many different directions. Men at the Cross participants left challenged and 380 left with their eternal destiny solidified. The people at the Eagles concert left having heard some entertaining music. At Men at the Cross, Steven Curtis Chapman offered passionate praises to the God who “gives and takes away” three months after tragically losing his 4 year old daughter. The Eagles sang songs that made them a lot of money over the last 3 decades. Saturday morning, I was actively involved, looking for opportunities to serve, praying for the men to be changed and inspired, offering words of encouragement when needed, and initiating conversations. It was familiar and I was comfortable. Regretfully, Saturday night, I was only a spectator. I was not in my element and I was not "figuring it out".

Jesus surrounded Himself with both types of people I was with on Saturday and loved them all the same. The difference is that Jesus would have known what to do with the woman that melted into a puddle of tears beside me because she thought her friends had left her when, in fact, they had just gone to get more beer. He would have known what to do with the lone woman who was passed out in the box as we left our nice new seats. I THOUGHT about it as I sat and as I walked by, but not for long enough. Where was my helpful, encouraging self of just a few hours earlier?


There is where my heart needs to be—figuring out how to minister when I am not in my “element” being so efficient and figuring out how to love them in their element. We love because He first loved us. I John 4:19

Monday, September 15, 2008

Psalm 121: A Post from Katherine Sasser

I got an email from a friend today and I couldn’t help but think of a few of you who, for some reason, read this blog from time to time. I knew it would encourage you, challenge you and inspire you. I asked Katherine if I could post it for that very reason. I have now known her for several years and could say lots of sweet things about her, but this post will tell you all you need to know about Katherine and her beautiful heart. She began the email like this:

Psalm 121
I raise my eyes toward the mountains.
Where will my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not allow your foot to slip; your Protector will not slumber.
Indeed, the Protector of Israel does not slumber or sleep.
The LORD protects you; the LORD is a shelter right by your side.
The sun will not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.
The LORD will protect you from all harm; He will protect your life.
The LORD will protect your coming and going both now and forever.

As I spend time in God's word this morning, this Psalm is today's focus in the study I am doing. True to His nature, God has timed it perfectly for my eyes to drink in these words. Our family had a near-tragic experience yesterday that has left me emotionally spent and mentally battling the unthinkable. I spent some time last night processing what happened by writing out my account of the event. I have shared it with you below so that you will know what happened, and to give honor, glory, thanksgiving, and praise to the God who protects.

Sunday, September 14, 2008
I thought our son had been killed today. It was around 4:00 in the afternoon. Annie and Jake were outside riding big-wheels on the sidewalk in front of our house. I was browsing on-line for Norah’s first birthday dress, casually watching them through the front window. Timm had picked up Norah and had just walked outside to check on the other kids. Something stirred me to get up. I began to feel an odd emotion…an unusual mix of sadness and uneasiness. I decided to go outside too. As I reached to open the front door I heard Timm yell and then saw him begin to sprint down the sidewalk. His tone was horrifying. He was screaming with all his strength louder and louder, “No! Stop! No! Move! No!” The progression of his words and his escalating tone could only mean one thing. He was watching Jake being hit by a car that could not see him. In an instant I was running down the sidewalk and heard myself scream, “Nooooooo!” I could not see where Jake was or what had happened, but I could see that Timm had stopped two doors down at the house of our close friends. In the 50 feet from our house to theirs I had prepared to find my son crushed, broken, bleeding, trapped, mangled, gone. But instead I found him sitting on the curb disheveled and crying. His pants were dirty, his ankle bruised and swollen. I sat on the curb and scooped him up asking him what hurt. He pointed to his ankle. I looked him over, had him wiggle his foot. I asked him if he felt OK, if anything else hurt. The neighbors had come out by this time to see what was wrong. Timm was attending to our friend who had been driving the car. I could not take my arms off of Jake, and we sat on the curb for a few minutes. The seat of his big-wheel was broken off, but that was the worst of the damage. He seemed fine, and after everyone was taken care of we started home.
Once inside our house and in the privacy of our guest room, I broke down. I fell to my knees and could not hold back the sobs. I wept harder than I have wept in a long time and from a place in my heart that I did not know existed until that moment. I’m not sure if ever in my life I’ve felt stronger waves of gratitude and relief. The only words I could form in my mind were, “Thank you for not taking him. Thank you for not taking him.” Beyond that I could only groan from the depths of my being to express the indescribable ache of emotion that filled my heart. Terror mixed with delight. Fear mingled with joy. Anger then relief. I was as undone as I’ve ever been. I wept out of horror at the thought of what almost happened, what could have been. I found myself physically ill at the thought of how close our family came to touching the unthinkable.
When Timm joined me, I asked him to describe the series of events. He said Jake had stopped at the edge of our friend's driveway. The wife began backing out, but could not see Jake. Timm had turned to look for Jake just as the car was beginning to back out. Because of the distance, Timm could not tell how close Jake was to the driveway, but he knew the driver could not see him. He immediately began running and screaming trying to get her attention. She saw Timm and stopped. He got there just as the back wheel of her car was beginning to roll Jake and the big-wheel into the street. Jake was pushed off his big-wheel and scraped the right side of his body.
I was sure my child had been killed as I flew down that sidewalk today. I had never heard my husband scream so desperately. The scene felt like something awful I had watched out of a tragic film. As I ran I felt my heart fill up with grief even before I reached him. And then I arrived and found him very much alive and in good condition. I so quickly thought I had lost him that the gift of holding him on the curb was one of the sweetest I’ve known. All evening I kept imagining how the lens of life would be altered if a few tiny details had been different. If something tragic had happened yesterday I would ache to have Jake back in my arms, to be able to hold him, talk to him, play with him, watch him, laugh with him. I would long for more days and opportunities to appreciate all the wonderfully unique things I love about my son. I would deeply mourn the loss of time spent enjoying and mothering my little boy. And because of God’s great mercy and protection, and for no reason other than He willed it to be so, I get to do all of these things for at least another day.
To put it lightly, my perspective on mothering has changed. I can’t imagine ever taking for granted the days I have been given to enjoy each of my children. Nor will I see hard days at home with them as burdens I have to bear until they outgrow their childish ways. If Jake had been killed, I would have given anything to have back even the most challenging days with him. Even hard days are a gift. I get to hold his hand, see his smile, hear his voice, watch him play. We got to fix pancakes together tonight, and sit next to each other while we ate dinner. I got to kiss him good night, tuck him in, and sing him a song. Today all of that could have been over. It could have been my last day with him, but instead it was a day of emotional gratitude that will be tucked away in my heart for years to come. I’m not sure I’ll ever look at Jake the same way, or Annie, or Norah, or Timm.
I know God is sovereign. I know He is good. And I know both of these things would still be true even if Jake had not been OK. I also know that it is the grace of God alone that protected my son from being injured or killed. What keeps bringing me to tears is the realization of just how close we came to losing him. What if Jake had stopped six inches closer to the driveway, or if Timm had waited 30 seconds later to go outside, or if the driver had turned on the radio and didn’t hear Timm screaming…then what? What would I have done if my son had been killed by our friend backing out of her driveway? How would I have survived? These questions that keep haunting my mind and leading me down paths of fear and despair are answered so beautifully by the truth of God's word, "The LORD protects you." Even if something bad had happened, He would protect me, hold me, sustain me. Today he physically protected Jake. Today He also emotionally protected me and Timm from unimaginable loss. He protected Annie from knowing tragedy at such a young age. He protected Norah from never remembering her older brother. He protected our neighbor from a mountain of heartache and guilt. He protected Luke, Beckett, Brighton, and Graham from having to face the loss of a play-mate. He protected our extended family and close friends from walking down a terrible road with us. God was not asleep yesterday at 4:00. He was hovering, tucking all of us under his wing, carefully and intimately holding all things together.
Yesterday evening as I held Jake in my lap, rocking him and crying, I struggled to find four-year-old-words to express how I felt. When he saw my tears he asked, “Mommy, why are you doing that?” All I could do was hold his face, look in his eyes, and say, “Because I love you so much. Do you know that I love you? I do. All of my heart loves all of you and always will.”
Father, thank you for saving my child from injury and death today. Thank you for being the God that does not slumber or sleep, that protects our ways, that does not allow my foot to slip. Thank you for keeping Jake safe in the face of danger and for allowing him to walk safely home. Thank you for opening my eyes to see each day with him as a gift and for entrusting me with his life while he is on this earth. Impress on his precious heart your deep love for him.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Christ and Cookies

Last night, I shared a meal with a group of ladies whom I love. As I sat with them around the dining room table trying to keep up with the ongoing, ever-morphing conversation, I found myself having a hard time coming up with significant words to add to their lively banter. In the span of about two and a half hours, we touched on everything from politics to hair color- and coincidentally, I don’t think the two have ever been so closely related in our nation’s history.

We are an eclectic bunch. We are not all from Texas. We don’t attend the same church. Our husband’s professions couldn’t be more different. We have one darling single girl who is waiting incredibly well. We have Moms with kids in preschool, no school, public school, home school, private school and even college. Our ages range from BARELY 30 to mid 40’s. Sitting around the table at a loss for words (a rare occasion for me), I thought about how I “happened” into this group and how I have found much to respect about each one of them. My favorite point of admiration is that each of them, at some point, chose to make their family top priority. For some, this decision was not a huge deal. For some, it was, but nonetheless, when Baby #1, or some cases Baby #2, made the grand entrance, they walked away from "full-time" positions in skill affirming jobs choosing the truly full-time, not so esteemed job of making home which includes everything from making potentially life altering decisions for people to learning which brand of band-aids really stick to finding the absolute yummiest chocolate chip cookie recipe. You’ve seen the list. Not so glamorous. Not much on it that would cause someone to say, “Wow. You are amazing.” Not likely the skills that would land you on the cover of your favorite magazine or in the hot seat with Barbara Walters. What I do know is that our decision to be at home, more than not, in order to make a home for our family to enjoy, to raise our children and to be available for them (all on the foundation of Christ) will bless our family for generations to come. We truly have no idea what the impact of what we have chosen to do will be on our family that follows. No idea. When it comes to passing on our faith to our children, there is no measuring the impact. One of the ladies around the table just sent her beautiful 18 year old to college. This young lady has been faithful to walk the road less traveled modeled by her parents and the best part, she still adores and enjoys her parents! Her foundation in Christ is strong and secure. For these parents, at this stage of the game, what more could they want? Absolutely nothing. Impact made. Invaluable.

Everything in me believes that my being available for nearly every sporadic conversation that happens while passing through with the laundry basket propped on my hip, while answering emails, while cutting up broccoli for dinner, while driving them all over the county, while trying to make sense out of the family calendar, while admiring their Crayola creations is significant —added up over days, weeks, months, years—it makes up their little life and it is absolutely significant. My job is of the utmost importance- a highly esteemed position in the eyes of God. Sounds funny, I know, but the ONLY reason it sounds funny is because we don’t hear it often enough. We hear something else from the culture in which we find ourselves immersed and it makes us flounder in our belief that God gave us one of the most significant roles on the planet--a Mother. No one, and I mean no one, can BE for our children what they need. I am WHO Julia and Brighton need. As I submit myself to God, He will carry out the work through me somehow, but again, availability is a key. Certainly, someone might can “do” for them what they need, but, even then, they may not know who likes ham, who likes turkey, who likes crust, who doesn’t, who likes their sandwich cut into triangles, who likes squares, who wants their apple peeled, who doesn’t-- and that is just the column under "food". Who cares, you say? Gotten it wrong lately? Big, big deal. Somehow, "Mom" doing it makes all the difference.

So Moms, between sharing Christ and serving up your best cookies, keep your chin up. We are accomplishing great things- things unimaginable but also unattainable without Christ. The mantle of homemaking and mothering is beautiful and intricate. It is an honored, colorful cloak—one worthy of aspiration for us and for our daughters. Our role is critical and God ordained. Let us live it fully and to the glory of God.






(I know for some of you, the greatest desire of your heart is to be home with your kids, but for some reason or another, it is not reality yet. I encourage you to keep praying, keep hoping that He will show You how. Don't give up because it is more than worth the asking and the waiting. The reward is eternal.)